Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I've been down for the past day or so with some kind of bizarre virus. It feels somewhat like Rip Van Winkle tinged with former football lineman feels at age 50 with a side order of post nasal drip to complete the ensemble. Yeah, I feel just awesome (not). On the bright side, I've slept so much that I am trying just to stay awake now so I won't wake up at 3:00 a.m. and be stuck watching episodes of "Family Matters." Been there, done that, would prefer to retain my sanity. What's left of it, anyway.

I know...stop whining.

On a happier note, I'm pleased that today is the last day of what has proven to be a dreadfully stressful month. Oh, it has had its high points (Rush, my niece's shower, vacation days, gardenias) and its low points (heinous customer service at just about every place I went, $2,300 in car repair bills (three cars), heat that was inescapable (except for my office which was positively arctic the entire month), and the retirement of my patience.)

The retirement of my patience was an awesome thing to behold. Awesome in a "shock and awe" way - just to be clear - as opposed to a "yay!" kind of way. Because had my patience not been unavailable, I might not have found it necessary to have "discussions" with representatives from Kirkland's, Alabama Power, Capital One, Comcast, Auburn University Montgomery and the apartment complex that my daughter vacated a month ago just to name a few. The score (from this group anyway) is officially: Money sucking (or just sucking...period) entities - 4, the jury's still out because they are trying not to suck - 2, Karen - 0.

Julia Sugarbaker, I am not. She was tactful and ladylike but got her point across by only chewing someone a new one when that someone had been given every opportunity not to be a bonehead. After running up on Julia, folks figured out that they might want to change their ways like...immediately...or risk being told in no uncertain terms exactly what she thought of them. And although I have had moments of Julia-ness, I am more often than not like her redneck third cousin or something.

Which takes on a completely different air...if you know what I mean.

I launched into a ten minute "discussion" today with the apartment complex about the lack of wisdom in failing to return our deposits in a timely manner...for the third time. An apartment complex can advertise, promote, and have giveaways galore, but if you mess with a group of Mamas and their money, you may as well be setting fire to your advertising budget. That's what I explained to a pass-the-buck-by-blaming-it-on-corporate type named Lisa this afternoon in a very nice way without yelling loud enough for them to hear me in the lobby. I mentioned that it was against the law to continue to hold our deposits, and that I sincerely hoped that I received it pronto because I spent it like a month ago and the Visa bill is calling my name. And when it starts calling, it wants to charge you something heinous like 17.99% interest if you fail to answer. I told her that if I didn't receive it by Thursday, I'd be back on my broom.

She seemed to sincerely hope that I'd receive it by Thursday. I'll give her that.

Speaking of Visa, I honestly do not wish to call Capital One again and yell at those Philistines about jacking up my interest rate when I haven't been late like EVER. I've already had that privilege once this month when I happened to actually read the interest rate section of the bill. Using the Vikings in their ads was probably not as big a stretch as one might imagine. Don't believe me? Call their customer lack-of-service department. You'll want to grab weaponry and go to swinging it. I promise. I know I did.

Another "discussion" this month was about cable pricing for my college student that starts at a ridiculous introductory rate of $87.51 a month (basic cable and internet) that creeps upwards after six months when the "promotional rate" wears off. Great. Just great. Not that the person I was talking to cared about my opinion, but I think I'll be calling Comcast every few weeks just to whine about the fact that they are ignorant. Just for sport.

The Kirkland's "discussion" was actually a full-blown fit that ended up being a twenty minute conversation with the District Manager about a serious lack of basic customer service in their local store. Granted, the manager was about a gazillion months pregnant and two of the whiniest women I've ever witnessed had just worn her out over a price adjustment, but whatever. I put some things behind the counter that some creature of efficiency found necessary to put back on the floor before I could sashay up there to pay for them. Nothing annoys me more than trying to remember what it was that I just thought I had to have but absolutely cannot.

Oh, the district manager seemed to understand my rant, but there has been zero noticeable change in the performance of the employees in that store. Yes, I continued to patronize the store...because Lord knows I must have those items that are so incredibly cheap that they might not survive the drive home before they shatter. (Been there, returned that.) But to save myself from another run-in with the expectant mother, I took Big Dave in with me so that I'd behave...or I'd at least have a witness.

I don't know what the big deal with me and corporate entities is this month. I'm not really difficult to please, actually. Just give me a coupon and something decent to buy, and I'm fairly rational. However, if you want to see truly irrational...just give me a coupon and something I want to buy, and then try to give me an excuse as to why you won't honor the coupon.

I won't even attempt to describe that particular horror. Just ask my kids. They'll be in therapy over it someday.

Well, I am looking ahead to better days. I am hoping that August was an abberation. Guess I'll find out tomorrow when I order something from L.L. Bean. And who knows? Maybe that deposit check will miraculously find itself in my mailbox tomorrow afternoon. After all, I have to mail in that Visa bill. Here's hoping...

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Today is a new day. The sun is shining, I wasn't awakened in the night with any tragic news, and I'll be getting ready in a few minutes to go to work. It's a typical day in my life, and I have two choices about how I view it. I can look at it as a boring, mundane annoyance, or I can be grateful that all is well.

There's nothing particularly awesome about getting up at 5:30 a.m. after a good night's sleep, unless you have been up until all hours with a sick child, are worried about how you'll pay your bills, or have just been sucker punched with bad news from the doctor. See? It is all a matter of perspective.

The problem that most of us have is that we tend to focus more on what is not going well in our lives than what actually is. I think that it is part of the way that we are wired...all wanting to be living in Eden rather than out here east of it.

Just in the past few weeks I have received knowledge of two friends with cancer (good news followed the surgeries...so that's wonderful), a friend who lost her mother, a friend who moved from an area she's lived in most of her life to follow her husband's job, an accident that banged up several young people (nobody was fatally wounded which is a miracle), and numerous people who are unhappy for one reason or another.

I've actually been whining about car trouble, a slow period of work for Big Dave, my bedroom which is perpetually messy, and my inability to discipline myself in a couple areas of my life. I need to just shut up already.

The truth is...all of us have things in our life that we'd like to change. We'd like to have more expendable income, to travel, to have more free time, or to have a burden removed from our lives. Who wouldn't? But we really need to be paying attention to what is going well more than we actually do.

We take for granted the fact that we can do much of what we want to do. But instead of being grateful for our freedom, our stocked pantries, our jobs, our health, and our families, we are more concerned about the twenty (or eighty) pounds we'd like to lose, the fact that our children aren't performing to our perceived notions of their ability, the rooms in our house that need repainting, and anything else that is not meeting our standards.

I think that I'm going to change my perspective today. I'm going to remember the joy that I had when I first accepted the job I have...and be grateful that I have one. I'm going to look at my life as the wonderful combination of people, places, experiences and craziness that it is from day to day. I'm blessed in so many ways, and I need to remember that. Not just occasionally...but every moment.

When something tragic happens, we usually are overcome with remorse about how we could have done more, been a better friend, or appreciated the person a little bit more. Perhaps a lot more. One of the things I've been careful to teach my children is that you need to spend time with people that are older because you can't take for granted that they will always be there. Not every relationship in our lives will be what we want it to be. I've accepted that about my life in a few instances, and I think that everyone is happier because of it.

A few years ago I was touched by a sermon at church and sent letters to various people thanking them for the influence that they had in my life. I've also tried to do that whenever I've been led to since that time. I have changed a lot through the years and probably took a lot longer to grow up than I should have, and I'm no doubt not through growing up quite yet. But I didn't do it alone. A lot of people helped me get through, over, and beyond the messes I made, the wrong turns I took, and the opportunities I squandered.

Today, look at your life and be grateful for what is going well. If you are having health issues...be happy for the people who have expressed love and encouragement to you. If you are grieving...know that you were blessed by having a relationship that shaped you into the incredible person that you are. If you are worried...focus on all of the times that you miraculously pulled through something at the last minute by the grace of God, because in my experience He works on a far better timetable than our own. If you are frustrated with your children...be happy that you have them...so many people who wanted to be parents aren't for one reason or another.

Two people can look at the same situation and draw vastly different conclusions. Maybe you need to call that friend who paints things in a way that lifts you up today. We all have them...we just don't call them because we'd rather wallow in self-pity for some unspeakable reason.

I don't know if life will wear down my good intentions today, but I hope not. I have an awful lot to be grateful for, and I'm going to start acting like it. Even if today brings a whole host of problems. After all, God has seen me through this far...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

(More) Whining About August

I like to think of myself as a rational person. This has not always been the case, and I'm sure that there are moments when I'll delve into being slightly illogical. Oh, who am I trying to kid? I'm 47, I'm from the South, and I'm female. Of COURSE I'm going to have flashes of craziness (and other things). It's my birthright.

I have been astounded during the month of August because I've thought it was a weird month. Well, it's the 21st day of this long, hot and ridiculous month, and it's still bizarre. Oh, most of the time I can handle things that are different, difficult, or even distorted, but this month has been the mother of all weirdness. I am waiting for the Oompa Loompas to break into song at any moment.

At first, I thought it was just because I was tired. No. I've caught up on my sleep and then some. I've rested. Granted, experiencing Rush for five days straight at my age was something I should not have attempted unmedicated. But I did...and it ended okay...so I'm over it.

I've eaten some foods I'd formerly forsaken because I thought it might be some bizarre vitamin deciciency or something. Alas, NO. Now I have to go back through detox (caffeine) after spending several days hyped up on coffee in Tuscaloosa to simply keep from freezing to death in the Phi Mu house. Yeah, they keep it cold because during the Rush parties there are hundreds of girls in there. Normally, my "personal summers" make this a non-issue. However, I had not spent extended time in Arctic temperatures since May 2006 in London (a long story) and in my sleep-deprived state...I folded like a cheap stadium chair.

I've even cleaned up a lot of things because I thought a little more order in my life was well...in order. That didn't help. And retail therapy is not an option until sometime in 2012...after Jill graduates. If then.

It is simply that life is just too entirely weird for words right now.

Case in point: I just opened my "Annual Progress Report" from my friends at World Vision. I've been sponsoring a child since he was 12 years old. I suppose it's been awhile, though...because his latest report says he's not in school because he is married. MARRIED? Shouldn't that make him ineligible for the program? I'm thinking so...but apparently not. At least they didn't send me a "special appeal" for a wedding present...so there's THAT.

I've also watched two of the most horrible movies ever over the past 48 hours. Both had decent actors and should have been really good. I'm thinking of storming the gates of DISH Network to demand a refund. I personally want to slap Ewan MacGregor and John Cusack for making these movies. Like really hard. I'll be slapping myself next month when they show up on the monthly bill.

I opened my mail and found out that Alabama Power has increased my "budget billing" by $56 a month because I tried to avoid being a victim of spontaneous combustion by daring to turn on my air conditioning this summer. I hate to whine, but with this unbelievable heat...we could actually save energy by just grilling on the patio. No grill necessary...just slap it on the concrete. I intend to not turn on my heat until I can see my breath inside the house this winter just to get some of my money back.

We have had three of the five cars we own in the shop this month. One just passed out from the heat, another had a hose explode, and the third had something catch fire in the steering column. The common denominator? The heat. And the fact that we drive cars that are just one step up from beaters because that's the way we roll. Well, more correctly, that's the way we would be rolling if the cars were operational. But I digress...

I suppose that I'm blaming everything on either the heat...or the fact that it is August. Somehow, in my world at least, this just seems like the right thing to do. I'm ready for a month for everything to be better than I expect...or at least normal.

I've tried to hold on to the good things that have worked out...the peanut butter cupcakes that I made Brian that he actually ate...seeing my mother in a play (she was awesome as usual)...making good on a promise to visit the in-laws in the "new" place they moved over a year ago (they usually come here to visit)...I've gained no weight (lost none either, but that's about to change)...Phi Mu got an awesome pledge class...and both of my children appear to be happy.

That last one is a really big deal, by the way.

And as my friend says..."a mother is only as happy as her most unhappy child." Truer words were never spoken. Well, I can only assume that Jill is happy. I rarely talk to her now that she is back in her happy place (Tuscaloosa, Alabama). But she has a good schedule, a lot of activities on her calendar, and a really cute boyfriend. I think that other than her car trouble...the worst thing in her life right now is that her iTunes is lost somewhere in the bowels of her computer and she can't figure out how to retrieve it.

Brian has been feeling a little under the weather for the past two weeks...but he loves his schedule and he isn't far enough along in school this year to be stressed out about anything. Well, he DOES have an Economics test tomorrow, but he has deluded himself into thinking that he understands it.

I'm trying to look for the silver lining, by the way.

In two weeks, SEC football will be on, the heat should have relented somewhat, and we should all be in some kind of rhythm. All of the cars will hopefully be running, and Big Dave will probably be very busy again. He needs to be...we have car repair bills that are ridiculous...but not as expensive as car payments or insurance on cars that are actually worth something.

See, I'm really trying.

However, this is next to impossible to do while watching "Cops" and seeing the po-po wrestle a python out of somebody's backyard in Florida. Or to the show they just flipped to with a guy named "Junior" who is "gator-huntin'" in the Everglades on the History Channel ("Swamp Men"). He is not only missing language skills...but apparently several teeth. The men in my family are determined to push me over the edge. It won't take much tonight.

So, I'm about to head off to bed. I'm going to the land of Nyquil because my allergies are acting up to make this month even more delightful than it already is. Ragweed, no doubt.

I just hope that I can maintain the house for the next week because we have a bridal shower for my niece here this Sunday. Let's just hope that we don't have any drama...like a ladybug invasion, a tablecloth malfunction, or a tornado. Frankly, none of these would surprise me a bit.

After all...this IS the South and it IS August.

Come on September...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thin Lines

One of the most interesting things in life is the margin between one extreme and another. I believe that it is more commonly referred to as a "thin line" because at various times in my life I've been accused of walking it. I used to think of it as a tightrope that had to be precariously balanced...with pleasing others on one side and pleasing myself on the other. Of doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing. I used to believe that it depends on the situation.

I no longer do.

Oh, there are thin lines that have been wide enough to run a Freightliner on and others that are almost invisible. The trick is being able to figure out where the line actually is and then trying to stay on the right side of it lest you be smited.

Some of us were born with an absolute inability to know when we are headed for trouble. Others seem to have an inner intuition about bad situations and pull the ripcord at just the right moment. The rest of us lie somewhere in between in one of the foxholes of life. Maybe we spend an extraordinary amount of time forgiving ourselves for being different. Or we have to heal from mistakes made because we were ignorant of the law of cause and effect.

Sometimes we just never knew that such a line existed.

Since I am generally prone to being in the outfield turning cartwheels when I'm unexpectedly getting closer to the edge of reason, I understand when people sometimes mess up by ending up in enemy territory. And then there are those times when we think that all is well and suddenly we are transported to a place that we'd really rather not be...and certainly don't want to stay. We just need a guide to get us out...and to reassure us that everybody misses the mark from time to time.

See, contrary to popular belief, sometimes there is a thin line between pleasure and pain, between happiness and sadness, and between great and tragic. It just tends to vary from time to time and from person to person. And those who instinctively know the right side to be on, who never struggle to figure certain things out, and who have that keen sense of train wreck avoidance...sometimes are blissfully unaware that there was ever a line there at all.

Which is totally awesome for them...but it makes it exceedingly difficult for them to relate to those who are not as fortunate.

Yet, the majority of us know something about thin lines. We know that the difference between sparing someone's feelings and telling a lie...is a thin line. We understand that being passionately in love and being a stalker...is a short distance. We are aware that doing the right thing and throwing somebody under the bus to do so...is another thin line. It all depends on the situation and the interpretation of it. In other words, it depends on which side of the line you are on.

Isn't it good to know that we have a handbook to get us through life? I mean, there are a lot of things that we have to figure out for ourselves, that are personal preferences, or are just not going to go the way that we expect...but for everything else...we're golden. We have the ability to figure out the great mysteries of our lives by just consulting the Bible and accessing an open line of communication through prayer if we are just willing to take the time. Over time, we see the big picture more clearly...and we learn the boundaries and why they are there.

That doesn't mean that we won't make mistakes...we will. It just means that we can get back in the game faster and back on the straight and narrow path instead of the long and winding road.

Much of the time, though, we'd rather try to figure it out in our own strength by walking the tightrope, denying the foot fault, or at worst...staying frozen to avoid impending disaster. In short...we think we know better and we trust our instincts.

You know...those instincts that got us out in the wilderness in the first place. Without a compass...and other provisions.

I've found that when I am in those times when I'm walking a thin line...it is good to check the guidebook. To see what boneheaded mistakes people made that I can benefit from not repeating. To see that failure isn't fatal...and that life isn't always fair. That favoritism exists and can be absolutely random. To know that although I don't deserve a second or third or fiftieth chance...that I may just receive one anyway. That people sacrifice to the point of death so that I can live and move and draw breath with a confidence that life will not always be this hard.

There is a thin life between belief and unbelief. A lot of people that I know choose the latter because they have no real understanding of how beneficial it is to live with the knowledge that overall...life makes sense. Sometimes in awful and raw and real ways. And those little details that do not appear to line up will eventually be revealed to us when we are able to process and understand the master plan. Or more specifically...the Master's plan.

At points in time we all have to walk the line...and whichever side of the line we choose to land will determine the kind of life we will have. Other times, we are forced into a path that is not of our own choosing. We know that things should be better...but they are not. We know that we have squandered opportunities and our parents' money. We regret unkind words, bad behavior, and decisions of our youth. Until I got older, I never realized the everybody pretty much regrets something.

And everyone has thin lines of his or her own to walk.

So, get out there and live your life to the best of your ability. You can't do it alone, by the way, just in case you are trying. That's the way it is designed here. All of us trying to figure it out collectively. Consult the rulebook, love with all your heart...and just put one foot in front of the other.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Life Lessons

A few weeks ago, I was driving back from Troy and was passed by a truck with about a dozen crushed cars on its bed. I thought about how at some point in time, those cars made someone excited as they sat on a lot somewhere...bright, shiny, and expensive. They might have once sported a bright red ribbon on Christmas morning, or carried friends along as they "went riding around" singing to the vocal stylings of hair bands...or transported newly graduated teenagers to college.

Seeing these with their sad little crushed bodies did remind me, though, that time changes all. Perhaps the same model year cars are being lovingly restored in a garage somewhere else in the country, or are kept covered in an old barn because someone can't part with it and the memories that it holds.

Sadly, people age, traditions are forgotten, styles change, and technology brings obsolescence. It is just part of the circle of life. Kids grow up, graduate, marry, and become parents. Parents raise, pray, manage, and try to retain a vestige of the kids they once were...even if it is ridiculous. I see this as one of the sole purposes of spandex in this life.

Holding on explains why some of the acts we were rocking out to twenty-five years ago are still on the road today and why we will pay an exhorbitant sum of money to see them do so. It also explains why "cougars" are still on the prowl and why the cosmetic surgery industry is thriving.

Sometimes people feel a bit like one of those cars on the truck today. Like they've outlived their usefulness in a couple areas of life. I won't delve into that deep well because it is impossible to understand anyway. Why it is that some people are valued and appreciated, and others are used up and sold for scrap? Sometimes we think that we are valuable and ready to roll...and we find that we're rolling all right...on the top of a truck.

So, here are a few things I'd like to say as I roll down the highway of life. In many ways, I'm still bright and shiny...but in a few ways I would REALLY like to reverse the odometer.

1. If you ever say "I'll never do that..." prepare to be surprised. Even if you don't succumb, you'll be presented with the opportunity to eat your words. Sometimes this happens through your children...

2. Speaking of eating...you may as well face the fact that at some point in time...you'll have to watch what you eat. If you are used to being able to say "yes!" with gusto when the dessert cart is rolled around, you may find that you may need a cart to move around if you don't put down the fork.

3. Eye color is generally unchangeable - although it can be done with the help of contact lenses. Hair color - or its existence - is endlessly changing.

4. There are some things that you'll be able to do with virtually no effort. There are some things that you can take lessons for, try repeatedly, and still fail at miserably. Try to appreciate your gifts. The very thing you take for granted may be something that someone else appreciates immensely. Your gifts are meant to bring you and those around you joy in this life.

5. Be kind. The older you get, the more you're going to appreciate nice people. Plus, you will also have less patience...so being kind may help people give you the benefit of the doubt.

6. Quit worrying. After all...you've made it this far. Life is going to turn out the way it is meant to turn out. You should strive to do your best, but you should also understand that sometimes the most colossal failures lead to something quite awesome. You just have to look for the silver lining. It's there. Somewhere.

7. Let it go. So you didn't get the cards you wanted, the life you expected, or the dreams you followed fulfilled. Your dreams are just the starting point. So, something went horribly wrong? Regroup and march forward. Seriously...it's time.

8. As long as you are breathing...there's still a purpose for your life. That also goes for everybody else. Even those people who drive you absolutely nuts.

9. You have to enjoy life. The occasional Little Debbie or a weekend away from home is mandatory. Everyone needs something to look forward to...

10. Look back and smile...look forward and hope...look around...and love.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Odd Month - August

This has been an odd month. And who knows? It may just be the theme for August. After a month of living like a mixer on the highest speed in July...I entered August with high hopes of some rest, being refreshed, and reorganizing. Yeah, right.

It's going to be more like trying to figure out which end is up. Pretty much like every other month of my existence. Except this month has a touch of weirdness swirled in that has had me looking around to see if I'm being "Punk'd".

A few months ago, I bought a "Sunshine Certificate" while lunching with a friend which entitled me to four services at a local spa for $50. I pretty much thought it sounded too good to be true...but apparently not. The certificate was set to expire on August 15th, so I picked up the phone and scheduled them all within two weeks because you know that the three months I had to actually use these services just didn't motivate me to dial. Knowing that the end was near (and the fact that I hate wasting money) overrode my laziness (and discomfort)...so I broke down and picked up the phone to call.

My first service was an eyebrow wax...which is normally not a bad experience...unless you've neglected to do this for a year or so. If you have...then it is quite painful. But the girl did a good job, and I moved quickly onto the second service...the "de-mullet-ication."

A recent haircut before the Ball left me with what can only be described as a mullet. Hanging lower because I didn't want a lot cut off of the bottom turned out to be a really bad idea in the world of hair. The mullet was also unhighlighted...which gave me a bizarre old-school Christina Aguilera thing going on. When the tellers were complimenting my two-tone look, and one of my high school friends said "I normally don't like hair like that, but it looks good on you..." I was like..."waiter, check please."

The mullet. No. Just no.

So I thought I'd use the haircut included in the package to transform me from looking like Billy Ray Cyrus's unfortunate older sister or something equally tragic to something resembling the real me (whatever that is).

It worked. The stylist was not only hysterical, but he actually cut it beautifully and then dried my hair so that it looked good. Most of the time when I get "styled" I end up looking like somebody's MeeMaw. And I don't mean that in a good way, either.

I am told that I have "good hair" which must mean something to hairdressers because I hear it a lot. Maybe you do too. Maybe it is just one big fabrication so that we will come back and spend a ridiculous amount of money getting "beautified" or "our hair did"...which both totally crack me up by the way. In my eyes, if good hair means that it has a mind of its own, gets big in humidity, and never looks the same two days in a row...then I have good hair. Somehow, I think not.

The following week I went for my third service - a "body elixer." This was a real step-out for me because A) Somebody was going to be touching me that I didn't know and B) There was some degree of nakedness involved. I normally can't handle either of these independently...but together? Let's just say that I considered it a growth experience. (And yes, I wore a bathing suit because I'm weird like that. I thought it was tragic enough that she got to see my cellulite.)

After exfoliating my arms and legs and rinsing it off, she pulled out this fire hose and went to blasting me with it while I was lying facedown on a table with my head through a hole in it. After I got over the initial sensation of drowning and the stress of the knowledge that I was going to look like a drowned raccoon upon completion of this service...it was quite soothing.

The next day I got a facial and nearly fell asleep as she put warm rags all over my face. I'm thinking that I'd love to have one of those rag warmer things at my house because that's really the only part of a facial that I actually enjoy. The rest of it makes my nose itch and I have to sit there forcing myself to not touch my face. I know! I'm so weird.

Last week I was in Tuscaloosa working behind the scenes at Rush parties. I know no more about how it all works now than I did before I got there, but I really did have a lot of fun with the other Moms. I also learned that I really like Jill's sorority sisters. They are truly awesome girls! The Moms were hilarious, and I realized that I have a real knack for opening (coke) bottles. Almost in a Tom Cruise in "Cocktail" kind of way. Nice to know that I am finding undiscovered skill sets at the age of 47.

Earlier in the same week, I made a name for myself with employees of Capital One and Kirkland's in two separate altercations. I would elaborate, but these weren't my finest Proverbs 31 woman moments. I was more like the chick on "Operation Repo" with the tattoos and bad dye job who probably has a pit bull somewhere in her lineage.

This week has already been off. I wouldn't be surprised to see flying monkeys in the bank lobby tomorrow. And NO, I have not been drinking. I'm just that tired.

I'm looking ahead to cooler weather, SEC football, and a return to normalcy. I'll let you know if I ever figure out exactly what "normal" is for me. I just know that it certainly isn't the month of August. Not so far anyway. I have high hopes for September, though! Bring it on.


Just yesterday, she was demanding food every three hours, making me rock her to sleep, and arguing the merits (every morning) of wearing pink and red together. She danced in recitals, cheered for her high school team, and went to Prom. She graduated, survived Rush, and now has an apartment of her own that she is driving me nuts to decorate to her standards.

Explain to me how THAT happened so fast. I feel like a time traveler.

I've invested years of my life shuttling her from one place to another, held her hand, and dried her tears. There have been times when I've wanted to put a sign around her neck that said "free to a good home" and other times when she has taken my breath away and stolen my heart again and again.

She's my daughter. And she is grown. Or at least she's closer to that than anything else.

Sometimes we fight, and she wishes that she had been given one of those mothers that writes checks, wants no information, and turns her head instead of doing the difficult work of expecting better from her than she expects from herself. Other times, she invites me to be a part of her life, and is angry if I decline because I know that in this particular case or that one that she needs to stand on her own. It is a dance that we do along with other mothers throughout the world. A unique, magical, insane dance that nobody else can follow. It is frustrating, heartwrenching, and special simultaneously. I wouldn't trade it for anything, though.

The problem that most of us have is balancing the needs of the unique but wonderful daughter we've been given with our own expectations and our knowledge base. She heads off in a direction...and we already know where she is going and how it is likely to end up. Sometimes she'll surprise us by wanting more for herself than we dare dream. But other times, we know that there is more out there for her, and she refuses to budge. I hate it when that happens, because we know that one day she is likely to ask us "why didn't you make me do that?" And our answer will not be adequate.

Sometimes the relationship between us is strained and ridiculous. She knows which buttons to push, and we normally respond exactly as she thinks we will. A vicious cycle is born, and carries on throughout our lifetimes. We are afraid of losing the relationship, but there are times when we'd love a vacation from it as well. We want to be there for the special moments, yet we want to have the confidence that she will choose well. We want to honor her choices, but we also want to keep her out of the deep water where she can easily get caught in the undertow. We want to be the mother that she wants us to be, but even more than that, we want to be the mother she needs.

It's a desperate struggle from day one forward. A struggle that they never really understand until someone places their firstborn in their arms.

So, as I reflect on the fact that my daughter is back at college for another year...in that dream state between childhood and being on her own...I sit here and hope that it all turns out well. I hope that she will want me in her life and will listen to me about the truly important things. What she will wear, how she performs in school, what activities she is involved in, and who her friends are may be the big questions of the day...but I'm more concerned with the much larger ones. Like who she will end up with one day. Where she will permanently call home. That her life is spiritually healthy. That she not form bad habits that will plague her life. So far...so good.

We never know how much time we have to make an impression. There are forces outside of us that are strong and wily and dangerous. Her heart can be stolen away, and we know that we would trudge through the gates of Hades to get it back. Some of us already have.

Our daughters are a gift from God. He plants dreams in our hearts for them, and gives us the tools that we need to get through the journey. But he also gives us moments...little pieces of time that adhere to our hearts and minds. We look at the amazing women that they are becoming and we see a little reflection of the generations of women who raised us in them, and we also see something incredibly wonderful that is their own contribution.

At this point in time, I am thinking about all of those times I sat and read a book, brushed her hair, and listened to whatever the latest drama was in her life. I realize that I have captured a lot of her moments on film, but not nearly enough of them in my heart to suit me. And my time of being able to make more memories is dwindling. She wants to go her own way now...and I cannot be a part of everything that she does. I recognize that, and I'm grateful for the pieces of time that I am granted. But it took me twenty years to figure out how to mother this child, and it is difficult to know what to do with that now that she doesn't require so much of me anymore.

So, those of you out there with young daughters that you'd love to have a moment's peace from...put down your to-do list and indulge yourself in their worlds. For those of you who - like me - are in that stage where they love you but they aren't exactly thrilled to spend extended time with you - try to realize that for better or worse...nobody can replace your influence in her life. And trust her, because after all, she's her mother's daughter. She will find her way, will choose the love of her life and will be fine. At least...I sincerely hope so.

Monday, August 9, 2010

So Another School Year Is About To Begin...

A week or so ago Jill and her roommates vacated the home away from home that they occupied during sophomore year. I somehow escaped that noose, because I'd been off about half of the month of July already and will be in Tuscaloosa for three days in August during Rush Week. However, I'm living smack dab in the middle of the overflow of abundance that represents her "stuff" that she must absolutely, positively have in her space to make it seem like home.

Yay me (not).

This explosion of "stuff" is a little foreign to me. I lived in the dorms all four years of college...and dorms...by design...didn't lend themselves to being crammed full of stuff that would be nice to have but wasn't absolutely necessary. My summers were a little more on the vagabond side...so if it didn't fit in the Comet or the Chevette...well, I didn't need it. For our freshman year, my roommate and I coordinated everything bedding-wise. We lasted through the first semester. After that...it was no long coordinated...it just had to be somewhat comfortable...and easily transportable.

Oh, times have changed. Now the bedding has a hypoallergenic cover on the mattress, a mattress pad, a featherbed cover, sheets, comforter and matching shams (regular and European), a dust ruffle, throw pillows, a body pillow, ergonomically correct pillows (for back, side, or stomach sleepers) and a coordinating throw at the bottom of the bed.

Last year, the girls had new furniture that actually matched, a rug, art, lamps, a full kitchen stocked with pots, pans, plates, cups, utensils, a KitchenAid standing mixer, cute signs, and a full functioning oven, stove, microwave, dishwasher, sink, pantry, and a linen closet. That is certainly a far cry from my hot pot and the toaster oven my suitemate owned.

The girls' bedrooms that looked as though it could have been photographed for Southern Living's College Edition (if such a thing existed.) One had an Audrey Hepburn inspired sophisticated chic room, another had a Hollister-like designer beach room, the third had bedding from Anthropologie (with a coordinated paint color on the walls) while Jill's room was about as Phi Mu pink as humanly possible with a lot of white thrown in to break it all up.

Each of the girls had her own bathroom in the house. A full bathroom...sink, toilet and tub/shower. They had cable TV, a DVR, a security system, and efficient heating and air conditioning. No laundromat either...they had a washer and dryer (new, of course) right upstairs.

The place where they lived was brand spanking new, was absolutely precious, and had a two acre pool just outside their door. The clubhouse was a few steps away. It had a golf simulation game and a movie theater in it.

Poor babies.

Yeah, it made me want to go back to college. Seriously.

I believe that this place was conceived and underway before the economy turned sour. The rent price was reasonable, but its location several miles off campus meant that a lot of the kids moved out this year in search of a place within walking distance of class. I know that Jill's group did. Two are moving into the Phi Mu house, and the other two are living pretty close to campus. I like this in that we will have somewhere to park for the home games.

Roll Tide and all that.

Two years from now, though, these girls - and all of their friends who are living the college dream in relative comfort - will have to get out into the big world and see just how good they had it. I worry that we did them a great disservice by making the home away from home a little too much like home. Or even better than home in some ways. Hopefully not. Worst case scenario...they will end up in graduate school, with roommates, or back at home.

I'd really like to avoid that whole "back at home" part though. I miss her terribly while she is away...but I just don't think I'm up to a constant rendition of just how incredibly boring things are around here. Because we've been working really hard to perfect this whole "boring" thing, you know.

I got married six weeks after I graduated from college. My response to having to figure out where to live after graduation was to find a roommate in the form of a husband. Big Dave was an excellent choice. He's far neater than I am, and he likes to mow the grass and clean the pool. He's neater than I am, does dishes without whining, and irons for me some mornings. Other than his affinity for truly bad television and the fact that he's out like a light by 9 p.m...Big Dave totally rocks.

Today's kids think that they need to have time to be "young" before they get married, and perhaps some people do. Marriage isn't easy no matter how old or young you are. We are constantly evolving, you know. But in an attempt to make sure that young people have "found ourselves" before they take a trip down the aisle, we have allowed them to be irresponsible far longer than we thought ever thought we would. We may even feel a little guilty about that.

I think that the current economy is going to cause a lot of kids coming out of school to think about postponing marriage to sow some oats a little harder than in prior years, and maybe that's a good thing.

Or maybe not.

I just know that waiting to get married dramatically increases the chances that they will end up mired in debt...or back at home.


Today, I had a conversation with a father whose freshman son is beginning college this Fall at Alabama. Two years ago, we paid almost half of what he is paying for "board." Wow. That's quite the increase in two short years. Wonder what it will look like when Brian takes off next Fall. I'm thinking that his staying put for his first year is quite an excellent idea. He's a senior. Which seems quite impossible to me.

And I can't believe that Jill is beginning her junior year. It seems like yesterday that we were buying all of the coordinating bedding with her roommate her freshman year and wearing out the Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons. This week two years ago I was stressing out beyond belief because I had absolutely no idea what Rush at a big university might be like for her.

Luckily, it was an awesome experience. My nerves healed the day that I saw her being photographed with her gorgeous new sorority sisters on the steps of the Phi Mu house. Like healed instantly. I felt better knowing that she was not only my daughter...but my sister as well. (And yes, that does sound a little creepy, but you know what I mean.)

As parents, we can give them the relative comfort of campus living, the strong support of a loving family, and exposure to many different benefits that we might have been denied...but we can only do so much. What their experience turns out to be is of their own making...and within the fabric of God's plan. They actually have to study, to dream, and to prepare for that day that they walk across a stage in a cap and gown and they are unleashed upon the world to make their unique mark in it.

Thankfully, I still have some time to reflect on that.

So, I hope that they will all enjoy the return to campus for the Fall. Such an exciting time for the college kids...and for those of us with living rooms that look like a Salvation Army drop-off point or the Island of Misfit Items. I am looking forward to visiting my girl on Bid Day...and Game Day Saturdays this Fall. And you know what? I can't wait!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Last night, I cooked myself into what I consider "oblivion." Defined...that meant that I had an aggressive list of potential dishes that I wanted to prepare and a fairly short timeframe in which to get it all done. I eventually went to bed at approximately 1:30 a.m. after cooking two chicken tetrazzinis, a Hershey chocolate pound cake, some Chinese chicken salad, and a batch of modified chocolate chip cookies that contain more "stuff" in them than one might believe is calorically possible.

I did all of this to transport some of it up to Tuscaloosa (University of Alabama) where my oldest child is in the throes of Rush Workshop and not exactly loving life right now. I wanted to cook because it makes me feel better as a mother knowing that there is food that I took the time to prepare within easy reach. She didn't ask for this...and she will be pretty upset that I've brought sweets in her house when she is too busy to get to the gym. Hopefully, she'll share the bounty and I won't have to listen to too much whining.

But as I stood at the stove last night, I realized that providing food to make her feel better wasn't my only motivation. I suppose preparing food touches on all of the love languages except "words of affirmation" - which is (naturally) Jill's primary one. But it is definitely service, quality time, gifts, and physical touch. Perhaps that's why most of us associate food with love on some level. Who knows?

I thought about it last night as I weighed the merits of what I had set out to do, and why I was actually doing it. I realized that there were many reasons I was actually in the kitchen whipping ingredients together and questioning my sanity for embarking on this journey at 8:00 p.m.

The first was the obvious...and that is that I really do like the idea of providing a treat for my child that will give her something to look forward to at a time that is not particularly pleasant for her. We women have an innate belief that a casserole will somehow ease the pain of whatever is afflicting someone. When someone dies...we take a dish for the family. When a baby is born...we take a meal by for the new parents so that the new Mama doesn't have to get off of the doughnut (or move her pillow) and deal with feeding people in her sleep deprived state. When someone has endured a move...we stand on their doorstep with a bundt cake or brownies to welcome them to the neighborhood. In Jill's case, Rush workshop has been like a 144 hour labor (6 days). She can't handle all of that "togetherness" day in and day out. She also moved to her new apartment this week...without me because I'm staying for a few days next week...so I'm all over the whole cooking thing because I somehow believe that she deserves it.

Another reason was that I wanted to provide some food for her to share with her roommate...and the boyfriend. I tend to cook for people that I like...and the fact that I made some cookies specifically for him must mean that he has won me over...which has not happened in a very long time. If there has been one thing I hoped and prayed for...it was that I like the people my children date or befriend. I see this as a very good sign.

The final reason is that I suppose I've been a quart low on praise lately. I know that's self-serving and all, but sometimes you just want to know that your offerings matter to someone in this world. Some people get their affirmation from their work or in using their God-given talents. I also know that the true sources of affirmation is from God alone. However, there are times when you just want one of His fellow creatures to remind you that you are special to them in some small way as well.

Which is why I dearly love cooking for college students. Most college students I know are extremely grateful for homecooked food. Not necessarily because they appreciate the time and effort that went into it -but because that is one less meal that they have to think about...or purchase from a drive-thru. They are also very liberal with the praise...because they just know that whatever you make is probably better than what they can do with their limited knowledge...and budgets.

I used to hear the old adage "the best way to a man's heart...is through his stomach." I suppose for some women...that has been gospel. For me, the learning curve was so initially so steep that I lost any hope of being a phenomenal cook. But after twenty-five years of trying...I've finally built a fair volume of dishes that I do well, and a few that even knock it out of the park when served to the right group. The fact that my husband is not among these fans (he thinks I am a "safe" cook) stings a little...but it obviously hasn't stopped me from trying to improve.

As a young bride, I once invited my husband's family (about nine of us at the time) for my first venture into cooking for others. I made lasagna. There was enough encouragement that night to propel me into trying other things...and I have...with the majority of it involving chicken in some form or fashion or large quantities of sugar. But the truth is...if I really like you...I'll make lasagna...and will follow that up with dessert.

Many moons ago...while I was learning to cook, I stood at my mother-in-law and sister-in-law's elbows while they prepared food for a crowd of fourteen (or more) people. As a result, big groups don't scare me at all. In fact, I actually prefer it. Which is probably the reason why everytime I cook...it is a major production with multiple dishes and hours invested in preparation. I suppose that it just feels normal to me.

My mother and grandmother felt that food was sustinance for the body. They prepared wonderful food in smaller portions so there were very few leftovers except on special occasions. I grew up with a homecooked meal almost every night...but without a true appreciation for the effort that they expended to put it on the table day in and day out after working full-time jobs all day. I hope my mother is reading this and knows how much I appreciate that now.

Our family did not allow the kitchen to be a place of exploration or fellowship...and as a result, I missed out on some of the adventures in the kitchen that my friends had with their family members. The way I grew up...it was a one-woman show most of the time. That's fine...and I don't think I've done a whole lot to break that cycle in our family.

Food is necessary for life. Without food...we don't survive. Much of the richness of our experience is because of the presence of food...a night out, a backyard barbecue...or a gathering around appetizers in the kitchen with friends and family. It can be a holy experience like communion or the rapturous delight of an excellent peanut butter fudge cake on your birthday. It may be a full-scale production like Thanksgiving...or a simple ham sandwich with the crusts cut off and an ice cold glass of milk. I suppose in my experience...we express love to the people in our lives by providing food for them to enjoy.

I am also finding that - for me at least - food is a way for me to communicate certain feelings I have in a way that isn't overwhelming yet is somehow appropriate.

"I like you." (So, I'm making your favorite foods.)

"I'm so sorry for your loss." (And I don't want you to have to expend energy feeding all of these guests who are mourning with you.)

"I know these are your favorite." (Because you matter enough for me to have noted this.)

"You matter more than the sleep I'll forego so that I can put this casserole in your freezer." (Because you are my child...and I love you.)

"Welcome home!" (Because you have made the effort to visit...I want to make it worth your while.)

"You just relax." (And heat this up when you feel like eating.)

So, today I will drive up with a friend to the University of Alabama to see my baby girl's new apartment and watch her sisters perform a Rush skit with a cake plate on my lap and casseroles and cookies in a bag in the floorboard. She will hear that her Mom loves her in the language that I speak fairly well..."casserole". Her Dad and brother will be at home removing the foil from their chicken tetrazzini I prepared last night while I am gone. And hopefully they will know that I love them as well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sorority Rush

Don't worry...I'm not going to talk about any great secrets of the universe...it's just that it is 'tis the season for all things Rush...and it is on my mind today. For those of you who did not go the sorority route, you may not really understand what the big deal is, and why all of the stress. Well, let's see if I can put it in perspective.

Sorority Rush is now known as "Recruitment." Whatever. It is a weeklong journey of meeting an untold number of people, choosing and being chosen, and ending up with a group of girls that are instantly labeled your "sisters." Much like your family of origin, you will find that you will relate to a number of them, will have distinct and fun memories with the majority of them, and will have a few that will get on your last nerve. Possibly one or two that will make you wonder how in the world they got into the family.

Just a little microcosm of real life.

At the big universities, there are over a thousand girls that go through. There are generally less than twenty sororities. So, do the math. You have less than a week to get from the starting number to the final number. But, it somehow happens. Year in...and year out.

The fact that there is no way to form a meaningful relationship with anyone in 45 minutes means that there is an awful lot that goes on prior to anyone ever opening the first door at the first house. Letters of recommendation are sent, Facebook is checked, and girls and fraternity guys from each respective hometown are consulted.

What they are looking for varies from group to group, but what they are mostly in search of is like minded girls with sterling reputations, the ability to meet the dues without having to be nagged or threatened, a high likelihood that they will be there for four years (and thus have a high retention rate so that the bills of the group get paid), and have some capacity for attracting future members.

Does that mean that any given group misses out on some really great girls? Absolutely. Again, it is impossible to really get to know someone in such a short period of time. The obvious indicators are checked...grades, activities, looks, personality, and character. Not necessarily in that order.

Today's participants in recruitment come from far flung places where it is sometimes impossible to discover any shenanigans that they got into in high school. It is equally difficult to predict how they will perform in college without their Mama there to get them up, tell them who to date, and to stay away from the beer funnel. But there is a huge vetting process, and it is my personal belief that it all shakes down exactly as it should. It is hard to convince girls of this, though, when their first choice drops them for no particular reason or when the girls who were so nice the day before didn't want them to come back the following day. Chances are...it was just because the girls felt that she was headed in another direction, and they needed to focus on those girls that they thought were headed theirs.

Back in the day, being a "legacy" to a sorority meant that you had an above average chance of getting in. Now, that isn't necessarily the case. Girls often have multiple legacies...Mama was in this sorority, Grandma was in that one, and Big Sister was something entirely different. It gets confusing. The "feel" of a sorority differs from campus to campus...so what worked for one family member might not work for others. The sorority wants to fairly look at each of its legacies because nothing makes an alum more fired up (and unlikely to donate to the sorority throughout her life) than having her baby girl dropped from her sorority at Rush. By the same token, there are now generally more legacies than spots in a pledge class...so something's gotta give. The best advice I've heard for girls who have a legacy that they don't necessarily want...is for them to go ahead and drop that sorority when they have a chance. That act will remove all doubt for the rest of the sororities. It's risky...but I've seen it work.

It's a real balancing act. All the way around.

But as for the mothers who are watching their daughters go through the process, it is particularly brutal. Mama wants her to have what is labeled a "good rush". A "good rush" is where she gets to go to the maximum number of parties allotted, and ends up where she wants to be. Sometimes it works out that way...and sometimes it doesn't.

I've seen instances of great girls who were cut from here or there because everyone thought that they wanted this group or that one. Why waste your time trying to pledge a girl who is set on being somewhere else? I've also seen girls who were so quiet that they somehow got lost in the shuffle or had an extraordinary number of girls coming out of their high school that they somehow got overlooked.

I've also heard of girls who start the process and realize as they go through that it is totally not for them. Others who made a mistake somewhere along the way that was public enough for the girls in the house to not want to take a chance that it will repeat itself.

The bottom line is...how it all happens...and works out...is one of the great mysteries of life. Because it usually does work out. The majority of the girls are thrilled on Bid Day.

Not everyone, though. You can see it in their faces. Those who are happy versus those who are walking behind their pledge class on the cell phone with their jersey over their shoulder instead of on...looking lost. I feel for these girls, but I also know that if they put the phone away, pull on their jerseys and catch up to their new sisters that they will find that it really is okay.

When I was in college, Bid Day was referred to as "Squeal Day." This was a more apt description...because there is an awful lot of squealing going on. There still is.

For the Mamas who are going through this on the other end of a phone line, it is torturous. They want to ask questions...but shouldn't. They want to understand why Precious got dropped from this house or that one, but there really IS no explanation that will suffice. They want to call and figure out what it all means...but to do so would tip their hand. And the one thing that a Mama with a girl going through Rush has to do is play her cards close to the vest. With competition for spots that fierce...it is best that she not indicate which way her daughter is leaning. There's time to confess all of this after the fact. The sororities will figure it all out on their own...for better or worse.

The girls in the houses are exhausted because they've not only had Rush Week to contend with...but the week before as well. Rush Workshop is a time of preparation. Kind of like battening down the hatches. But seriously, when you get all of that estrogen in one place for two weeks, you'll end up with a couple of girls seriously running for the title of "Rush-zilla". It happens. During Rush, the sorority girls have several more parties than the rushees, and at the end of the day, they have smiled so much and made so much conversation, that they just long to be alone. Oh, but no. There's at least four hours of discussions left to go.

Or longer. Ah, the joy of Rush.

After all of the parties have been attended - each with fewer girls, longer, and more serious in nature - Bid Day comes.

Frankly, it doesn't come soon enough to suit most everyone.

Just the night before, the girls have made their final selections, and the sororities have done the same. Everyone is trying to figure out who did what, but nobody really knows until...

The cards are opened, the cheer goes up, and the girls are lined up. Then, they run to their new houses in their jerseys, and the fun begins.

Sorority rush is an important rite of passage if a girl chooses to go that way. Not everyone does...and that's fine. But for those who do...there's nothing quite like it. The work that goes into planning for the next pledge class is nothing short of amazing, and looking at the bid list after the fact shows that most of them end up exactly where they should.

And all is well...until next year.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Taking a Breath

This morning, I got up before the chickens, and am sitting here listening to the vocal stylings of a cricket...unfortunately...in my house. I am not particularly superstitious, but I don't kill crickets. Since I also don't handle crickets to actually get them out of my house, I suppose that he and I have somewhat of an understanding.

In the early hours...when I wake up before I am supposed to...I often have something that is on my mind. Today that seems to be the case, I suppose. We're at the beginning of a new month, I have a lot in front of me at work today, and I have finally accepted the fact that Jill is back in Tuscaloosa for another school year. Recruitment (rush) workshop starts today...and then she moves into her new apartment this week. She left last Thursday...and spent the past few days moving various people into their new spaces. I cannot believe that she is now beginning her junior year of college. It seems like yesterday that we were moving her in for her freshman year. And then her sophomore year. It really does go by fast. Next year, I could be dropping both of my children at college unless Brian stays home his first year to attend a local college (hopefully on scholarship) as he is considering doing right now.

But what is on my mind today (other than this apparently ticked of cricket that is like seriously LOUD) is the fact that I'm getting that incredibly annoying letdown feeling that often comes after a really busy season of activity. Kind of like the day after Christmas or something. I've rushed and spent myself into oblivion, and I'm really too tired to reflect on how much we enjoyed everything...or to clean up the rest of the mess. I've told myself that I'm not doing anything until Big Dave loads up her stuff on Wednesday and gets it out of my living room. Then I will have a place to put all of the "stuff" that has been in her room...and my room...for the majority of the summer so I can sort it out and figure out what to do with it.

I've been so incredibly busy for the past month that I've not nurtured friendships properly, have not rested enough, and have been focused on so many things at once, that I hardly feel that I am doing anything adequately...much less well.

But now I have no will to finish the job. This is so unlike me. I want everything straight and in its place...but I'm also equally content to just step over it for now.

I'm not depressed or anything. I actually have a lot to look forward to...a few days in Tuscaloosa with Jill during Rush Week, a busy week at work (which will make it pass quickly), a bridal shower at the end of the month for my sweet niece who is getting married in October, and of course...SEC Football. I suppose that life is like that. Seasons of ridiculous activity followed by periods where we want to curl up and sleep for three days...or a week. But there is always something to look forward to...always something just around the corner.

So today I am going to just pull myself up to do just what is in front of me today. I know that I have to get my house in order...laundry washed...bills paid...sleep deficit addressed. This feeling of being overindulged with entertainment and activity will end soon enough...and will gel into the fond memories of the Summer of 2010.

A summer when I walked on the beach discussing my kid sister's upcoming nuptuals with her.

When I watched my precious niece and nephew snorkel around my swimming pool and greet me with enthusiastic requests for more "sweet tea."

When I spent a weekend in Pine Mountain, Georgia with girls I knew when I was young...including actually learning the "electric slide" and joining in some karaoke...which means that I can mark that off of the "bucket list."

When I watched my daughter with a new boyfriend who just makes her happy along with realizing that she has good friends all over the southeast that she met at University of Alabama...as well as those from home.

When I saw my son achieve a good score on his ACT and a start displaying a sense of maturity which signals that he too will one day leave my home.

When I watched my beautiful daughter on the arm of her Daddy curtseying to a crowd of friends and family as a debutante. Her sweet friends were presented with her, and others friends were there to witness it all.

When I spent time with friends who remind me of the best things that life has to offer.

When I helped a friend attack her "upstairs" so that she could open her home to a young girl who needed a place to stay.

And when I heard one of the Rush songs sung by a choir of girls twenty six generations of Phi Mus removed from me...and got chill bumps on my arm remembering my younger self.

And now as I sit here preparing to move my daughter (again), wait to take my son to purchase new school uniforms because he has outgrown everything, and eagerly anticipate Rush week...when I'll be staying in Tuscaloosa for a mini-vacation.

I just love mini-vacations.

I just stepped outside a few minutes ago because my dogs were insisting that they be let back in...and pulled two gardenia blooms off of the bushes outside my window. My gardenias have bloomed twice each year...once in May and in August since my grandmother died in 2004. Her birthday was August 5th. She is also on my mind today. Actually, she is on my mind most days at some point.

In a few days, the cricket will probably be quiet, and my life will have settled back into its normal routine. That comforts me somewhat...but also makes me feel a little sad. Sometimes life comes at us so fast that we can scarcely take it all in. I suppose that's where I've been lately...and I am looking forward to a little room to breathe.

After all...Christmas will be here before we know it.