Wednesday, June 29, 2011


When I was a little girl, I was pretty enthusiastic about everything.  Some people that know me well are quite aware that I haven't really outgrown this at all.  Through the years, I've learned how to handle that tendency to want to start making plans and putting a plan into motion by keeping it to myself.  I've learned that uber-planning with a side order of detailed lists and a ridiculous amount of detail tends to scare people.

So, on the inside I might be jumping up and down, but on the outside...not so much.  I've tried to be excited about whatever it is without going overboard.  Of course, everyone's definition of "overboard" is different.  There are some people that I know and love who are so over the top that I just grab onto their apron strings and hold on for dear life.  These are the women who can pull together a party, tea, shower, debut or "sip-and-see" with such aplomb that Southern Living could derive inspiration instead of the other way around.  But their expertise is not only in the conception of an is in the execution of it as well.  They hear good news...get excited...and then plan and pull off the perfect party.  I like to think of this as "captive" enthusiasm.  Think "laser" and you'll pretty much see how this comes off.  They take something powerful and use it skillfully to accomplish what they want done. 

I'm less like a laser and more like a random lightning storm.  Powerful...agreed.  But pretty much all over the place. There's a lot of light and brilliance...but there's also the occasional power outage or something gets hit and catches on fire.  The storms are also incredibly difficult to predict.

My mother says that when I was little I used to build things up so much in my imagination that the reality of the situation when it finally arrived never quite met my expectations.  I was the kid who thought something up and then tried to make it happen.  Shockingly, it worked in a lot of cases.  But most of the time I found that there were huge gaps of reality missing or that people didn't share my enthusiasm in most areas.  At worst...I had to learn to deal with things not working out well.  At came somewhat close to what I had hoped for.

Let's just say that I found out that the worst needed to be planned for and anticipated so that I could avoid curling up in the fetal position on the couch with a half gallon of ice cream and a spoon.

Not that I haven't actually done that when I'm happy.    Because I totally have.

Anyway, as I went into the working world I found that this pattern of high hopes was really great and a real drag at the same time.  I'd get excited about something I was selling or a loan I wanted to do for a customer but had to get it through the approval process.  At one institution I worked for, this meant that I had to get it past the Credit Administrator from the third circle of Hades.  Since he is no longer with us, I can only hope that his heart was right.  If not, I can't imagine what job he has working for Satan, Inc.  Probably the same one.

Anyway, after surviving him for five years, I did eventually learn to control my enthusiasm.  In other words, I learned to condense it from a 24 page offering report to something far shorter and less repetitive.  I wrote every word with a careful eye on what he would find and pin me to the wall some insect in a shadow box.  Needless to say, I learned how to cut to the chase, figured out how to protect the bank and do something better for the customer than my competition was doing, and was able to keep the desire to beat him about the face under control.  I could even seethe and smile simultaneously. 

When I left there, I fought the impulse to send him a thank you note for making my life so difficult.  I shouldn't have..and should have taken the time to do so.  He died at a fairly young age, relatively speaking, within six months of when I left the bank.  I am sure that he didn't know that I appreciated the training via fire that he gave me that has made it possible to do the job I do today.  I'm equally sure that he couldn't have cared less had he known.  So perhaps it is just as well.

Because of my desire to do a good job and the obstacles that were in front of me, a coworker of mine used to say that if they named a church after me it would be called "Our Lady of Perpetual Disappointment."  That is painfully close to the truth.

Enthusiasm with a great outcome is magical.  Enthusiasm with a poor outcome turns into disappointment.
I've spent a lot of time in my life being disappointed.  And that is in a word...ridiculous.

I think the reason that a lot of people lack enthusiasm is because they've spent a lot of their lives putting their "light under a bushel," so to speak.   Two common drivers of behavior are the need to be included...and the need to be significant in some way.   Most people will tone down their personalities or behave in a manner externally that is inconsistent with how they feel inside to be included.  I know I have.

At some point in time, we all face that place where we have to decide if we want to be what God created us to be, or if we want to be popular.  Sometimes we can be both.  That's fun.

There is so much that we can get enthusiastic about in life.  I get excited when someone tells me good news, when something goes better than expected, or when I am pleasantly surprised.  Other times, I just try to dream up things that will make people happy if I am able to pull it together.  It can be as simple as offering something to someone or doing something more than other people expect.  Maybe it brings them joy...I'm not always sure.  But I do know that it makes me happy...which only encourages me to look for something else to get excited about.

Enthusiastic people are usually a lot of fun to be around.  I use the term "usually" because there is a subset of the group that gets excited about everything.  Over time, we no longer know what they are truly enthusiastic we tend to start overlooking things a little bit...because we've been down that road before.  I don't know about you...but in this economy...I'm up for all of the enthusiasm I can find. 

So, here's a short list of what I am enthusiastic about right now:

My sister, nephew, niece, daughter and mother will be here this weekend, and I've enjoyed having my in-laws here this week.

I'm on vacation Friday, Monday and Tuesday.

New sandals.


Guacamole that I am making with my friend Beve's recipe.

A book that Libbie mailed me that I am thoroughly enjoying.

Big Dave and I are about to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary on July 7th.

The Foo Fighters poster on the back of the door in my office at work.

The fact that I just made $107 on eBay for selling stuff I no longer need.

My son is feeling better.

The sorority recommendation letters that I was asked to write have all been mailed.

The bills for July have been paid.

My Sunday School class.

SEC football will be back in about 60 days.

Jesus loves me.

Life is good.

The fact that you have taken the time to read this blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Company's Coming

This week has been pretty busy because I have company coming.  I can't speak to how guest preparation is handled in other parts of the country, but I can definitely speak to how it is handled in the South.  We consider "company" to be something that demands a clean house, a planned menu, and some special touches to make our guests feel welcome.  After all, if someone is taking the time to come to our home to visit us, then the least we can do is make it a pleasant experience.  I mean, our "Southern Hospitality" is legendary, right?

My sister, niece, nephew and mother will be here on Friday.  I have known this for the past six months.  About six weeks ago, I started actually preparing to get this home in shape.  I've been through drawers that needed to be cleaned out.  I've cleaned and weeded out the spice cabinet, pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.  The cabinets have been wiped down, the laundry room has been reorganized, and I cleaned off my scrapbooking table after months of having it look like a memorial shrine without the candles.  I suppose it was a shrine of my procrastination.

I even cleaned out Brian's room and removed all items that he has not cared about in the current decade.  All of the school uniforms, old magazines, candy from Halloween (yes, it is almost July) and at least seven years' worth of air soft bb pellets were scooped up and sent off in many, MANY garbage bags. 

But it still isn't done, of course.

Never mind that we spend three weeks screaming at everyone in the house who actually lives here full-time because they leave their flip flops in the family room or a bowl with dried Cheerios in the sink instead of the dishwasher.  I suppose I've acted like this hasn't been happening since at least 1994 with Brian.  While Big Dave is naturally neat...he has a few bad habits that have been giving me the feeling that I'm living in a sequel of "Groundhog Day." 

Every night, I will remove a hat or visor from the living room couch and take it to his closet.  After he does the dishes, they will be left to the right side of the sink to "dry."  I will have to put them away if I want the countertop cleaned off.  And speaking of clean counters...after I recently got the laundry room countertop cleaned off for the first time since Thanksgiving 2010, Big Dave decided that our kitchen countertops were too he moved our appliances into that nice clean space.  He has also decided that we don't need our toaster anymore since it is redundant (we have a toaster oven as well).  I did manage to keep the can opener even though more often than not, he will use the manual one that is in the drawer.  No, I didn't kick him in the head over being retentive about his countertops while cluttering up mine...but I did think about it.

My refrigerator is stacked up with all sorts of options for our dining pleasure.  It is also full of styrofoam containers of Brian's half-eaten food.  He hasn't had an appetite in a week, and that means that he has been eating a little of this or a little of that and leaving the rest in the refrigerator. 

We've also had Big Dave's parents here this week visiting from Auburn.  They are staying in their camper out in the driveway.  They do this every so often.  Not frequently enough to get the Homeowners' Association all fired up...which is good.  Only in the South would your in-laws come to stay with you...but not come to stay with you at the same time.  I'm still on meal duty and we do have time to visit each night...and they get the run of the house during the day when we aren't here.  On the other hand, the addition of the camper may have jacked our White Trash Score up to the "Danger, Will Robinson!" level...but hopefully not since we did get rid of the 1998 Ford Explorer that occupied the same spot for the past 2 1/2 years.

In three days, none of this will matter.  I will have pulled it off...or I'll be apologizing every other breath.  My sister doesn't really care, and my mother seriously doesn't either.  They are just happy that they have somewhere to come where someone else is putting meals on the table and getting up with little people at the buttcrack of dawn.  That "someone else"  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't know why I am unable to get my house straightened out...but I think it is because we are constantly evolving as a family.  Jill has been coming and going as the school calendar dictates for the past three years.  She sometimes comes home fairly often and then other times seems to be content to be far, far away in her ivory tower in Tuscaloosa.  This July, she will bring home a lot of "stuff" that she has had in her apartment as she is moving into the sorority house where there is far less room than she has become accustomed to...and far more people.  She's actually pretty excited about having a lot of people around...and the convenience of being able to just walk out the front door and up the street to class will be a huge bonus.  I think she'll have a fun year. 

Dealing with her load o'stuff in late July will NOT be fun.

I guess I'd better get back to doing something productive so that I can stress less and enjoy more.  I also have to put together an Easter egg hunt for my nephew and niece and we're having Cinco de Mayo, their birthdays, Valentines' Day as well as the Fourth of July while they are here.  Why not?  It keeps us all entertained.

And honestly...isn't that the main idea?  Just having time together to enjoy each other's company?  I think so.  But it sure seems nicer when I don't have to apologize for the house looking like we've been watching endless reality shows instead of trying to pull it together. 

So, off I go to sweep up the 63 crickets who have shown up since this morning, put away the dishes "drying" on the side of the sink, move Jill's textbooks that I haven't made time to load on, and the picture of the kids when they were little that is sitting here needing a frame. 

It's time.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ramblings on Irony and Life

Several years ago, there was a song by Alanis Morissette called "Ironic" that was on the radio every fifteen minutes.  I enjoyed Alanis' music, if truth be told, and found her angst to be singing to that part of me that really wants to say what I'm thinking but often don't trust myself enough to keep my cool.  Oh, I'd rehash it in my mind eight hundred times...but I'd let the whole confrontation thing go. 

As I've gotten older, I've totally gotten over that.  As someone once told me, "there's more room outside than in..." and so I let it fly when it needs to go airborne.  I've actually named this part of my personality "Towanda" after the character in "Fried Green Tomatoes" as "she" normally appears after I've tried desperately to hold it together...but cannot...because I've either been disrespected, ignored, or ripped off.  Towanda  has a tendency to tell off smart aleck girls with braids in the Publix deli, people working in the Customer (Dis)Service Department at FTD, and any number of people who can't seem to find the ability to do what I deem to be logical.  Oh, I'm not perfect, but I do have a pretty keen idea when I am getting the "bohica" treatment.

And by the way, the person who I would most like to channel when I am in this mode is Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker in the "Designing Women" television show.  Julia was a lady, but she would reach a certain point where someone needed an adjustment of some kind.  Usually it involved chewing someone a new one in a way that was clear and to the point...and left no confusion whatsoever as to what needed to be said.  I'm no Julia...but I try.  I'm more like a combination of Julia Sugarbaker and Rosanne Barr. 

As you can well imagine...this is not always pretty.

Because if there is one thing that I know as I wade through the current economic is that this attitude of "whatever" on the part of salespeople and customer service personnel that was so prevalent just a few short years seriously out of place.  I used to tolerate it and seethe I just keep talking to people until they make it right.  I don't mean to be cranky...I'm just tired of people being stupid.

Good heavens...I sound more and more like Maxine (of Hallmark fame) every day.

Sadly, in spite of improvements to customer service that most companies have drilled into their front line people, there's still plenty to get all riled up about like I did tonight when I found that the English toffee pieces that were allegedly in my Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream were MIA.  I sent an e-mail that covered my displeasure in great detail.  I assume that someone will be having a "Happy Friday! over that one.

Here's Alanis, if you were in an alternate universe, had sworn off MTV, or were just simply sleep deprived during the 1990s.  Actually, I was pretty much "all of the above."  (Fun fact: Taylor Hawkins...the current drummer for FOO FIGHTERS was Alanis' drummer during her heyday.)

I have found that a lot of what happens to it lousy customer service, wonderful surprises, or just stopping as I do a dozen times a day and think "Really? can most definitely be filed under the heading "ironic."  We it karma, coincidence, serendipity or God's sense of humor...but life does have some funny twists and turns sometimes.

I've been attempting to get with the program lately...and have kept the house neat since I've had great difficulty staying disciplined on any eating or in my pledge to keep my car vacuumed out.  Right now, I do believe that I could improve my gas mileage by simply vacuuming.  I'm so serious.

Anyway, I've found that when I start trying to improve in one area of my life, the rest of the areas take it as a personal challenge to see if they can drive me into a rage, despair, or facedown into a bag of mini Reese's peanut butter cups that I was saving for my sister who will be here next week but she'll never know because I have time to replace them.  Whoops.  Yeah.

The house is cleaner than Big Dave will find a reason to completely trash the garage.  My clothes are clean and put it will be a great time to change out my closet.  I have finally cleaned off my scrapbooking I'll be dragging it all out tomorrow to work on it.

Yes, ironic, isn't it?

Or just insane.  I haven't decided which.

For the past week, one of my coworkers has called me to ask me for something positive that I can share that I'm happy about.  This has actually been a lot of fun...because my reports have been as random as reporting that Big Dave sold the Ford Explorer that has sat in our driveway with a broken axle for the past two and a half years (for $200) to sharing that my laundry was done.  Both were incredibly big deals to me.  I'm a list person, you know.

Maybe that is the secret, though.  Just being content with what "is" instead of "what should be if we had a live-in maid, cook, a decorator on speed dial, a metabolism that let us burn calories at the speed of light, enough money to do all that we want to do, and a personal secretary, shopper, and trainer."  I mean - seriously - we can't all be Oprah. 

I'm going to take it a little easier on myself in the coming months.  Life can be difficult if we strive to make it perfect.  It isn't meant to be, and all of our effort can be incredibly frustrating and empty if we focus on what isn't perfect.  Like my dining room table, car floorboard, closet, and figure.

I think that is really the irony of life.

We know we only pass through once...unless we're Shirley MacLaine, of course...and we want to make the most of it.  So we strive, busy ourselves, and try to move it forward...push it along.  M.u.s.t.  s.u.c.c.e.e.d.  The real joy comes when we just accept where we are, find the really neat things that probably don't mean a thing to anyone else but us, and are just grateful for what we have.  I realize that I talk about this an awful lot...but I suppose that one of the most important truths I know is that being grateful is not a natural state of being for most people. 

Especially me.  That's why I have to remind myself to be grateful every day that I draw breath.

So, enjoy the little things that make you laugh, roll your eyes, or do the happy dance.  If you are doing any of are keeping it real.  Real is good.  Very good.

Keep up with those little things and try to give yourself permission to let some of the things go that have been on your "to-do list" so long that you think they were originally written on the walls of a cave.  Try not to drive yourself nuts. 

And back away from the mini Reese's cups...slowly...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Errands With Big Dave

I have worked full-time since 1985.  Other than two maternity leaves of seven weeks each (because I had my babies pre-Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)...and quite frankly just at the advent of the "birthing suite" it was indeed back in medieval times)...I've worked 40 hours a week.  Because of this, I have come to regard vacation days, holidays and weekends as very valuable commodities. 

Normally on Saturday morning I sleep late (until 7:00 a.m.) and then putter around until about 9:00 a.m. doing whatever I want to do.  Usually it is a trip to the Farmers' Market, making pancakes, checking my e-mail, and catching up on whatever has elapsed online in the eight or so hours that I've been asleep.  Occasionally I write, play with the dogs, or just enjoy the quiet of my house.  It is my little version of nirvana.

So, today started well...and I was sitting here thinking of the few things I needed to pick up to make banana pudding for the Fathers' Day gathering tomorrow and of course I remembered the coupon for the twenty-five cents a pound (up to 4 pounds!) organic bananas at EarthFare that has been burning a hole in my Ziploc coupon organizer.  I also thought it would be great if I could see if the guy around the corner on Pike Road (yes, I live in a town called Pike Road that was named after the road that runs through part of it because this IS Alabama, you know) who sets up a grill and sells chicken halves and slabs of ribs was there so I could have lunch handled.  You know...the basic "Hey it's Saturday...let's enjoy our fun day!" routine. 

And then I thought it would be fun (this was my first mistake) to see if Big Dave wanted to join me on my errands.  I mean...we're officially "empty nesters" this August...even though the last bird out of the nest is actually staying in the nest for at least another year.  Since we have usually done everything as random units within the family structure (ie. Jill and I will shop together, Big Dave and Brian like to work on the cars, Brian likes me to make endless pitchers of sweet tea for him, and Jill and her Dad like to just hang out and talk)...I thought it would be good for Big Dave to spend more time doing things with me that I handle for the family just so we could spend a little time together.

Great plan.  Horrible idea.

First of all, Big Dave is not a shopper.  The man hasn't purchased any clothing for himself since 1983 with only a few exceptions.  Once, when I went on a laundry strike he blew into WalMart and bought himself some underwear and some tee shirts until he could get to the washer.  He also buys his own shoes (when he isn't taking Brian's hand-me-downs because he only buys shoes when the moon is in Capricorn, is blue, or something equally random.)  On another occasion, he forgot to pack tee shirts for a trip to the beach (did I mention that his "suitcase" is a Winn-Dixie disposable plastic grocery sack?)...and had to go to Target at Pier Park in Panama City to purchase a couple.  He got two of the most hideous shirts you can imagine (one has a Buddha on it and something about sushi) off the clearance rack. 

Okay, okay, I'll give him bonus points for shopping off the clearance rack and accomplishing his purchase in under five minutes.  I will, however, subtract points for not caring that the shirts were heinous.

Secondly, Big Dave does not give a rat's behind about the economics of shopping.  Traveling to multiple stores (that sell the same items) makes about as much sense to him as owning 57 different types of wrenches does to me.  Which is...not at all.  Oh, he loves it when I bring home a deal and tell him about it (Okay, "loves" is a bit overstated...let's go with "doesn't glaze over" instead.)  He just doesn't particularly want to participate in any of that deal-hunting stuff.

The hook I used to get him to agree to this arrangement was that I wanted to take him to breakfast.  His choice of place.  I mean, hey, after IS Fathers' Day weekend and all that.

The first place we went was closed.  Maybe it never opens at breakfast.  I honestly don't know.  It just sounded like a good idea to him that turned into a "Well, let's go with Plan B..."  We went on to Chappy's Deli a mile or so away and then sat down to order.

I ordered the "Heart Smart" omelet and a cup of coffee.  Big Dave got the "Sampler Platter" which consisted of three eggs, hash browns, bacon, a biscuit and gravy and a blueberry pancake.  He took a piece of my wheat toast...and I took a bite or two of his pancake and biscuit.  The food was good, and our server was very attentive and was all about refilling my coffee.  All was well until...

I realized that I failed to use the word "decaf" in front of the word "coffee" and the sudden kick of the caffeine along with the bite or two of his pancake made me surprisingly verbal.  He, of course, like most men...LOVED that (not).  We discussed every topic I could think of in a five minute interval as I finished my third (?) cup of coffee. 

I paid the bill, we got in the car and then went across the street to Winn-Dixie.  He had already groaned about the grocery store part of this excursion because past experience has taught him that I am almost never quick about this particular errand.  But not today.  I only needed a few items and figured I'd be in and out in no time.  And we would have been...

Naturally, they were out of instant vanilla pudding because GEE...apparently everyone else's Dad wants banana pudding too...or the stocker for the vanilla pudding was AWOL.  In addition to my few items, I figured "Hey, while I'm here..."  I'll use the "buy one get one free" Alpo coupon I got Wednesday night and was pleased to note that the A-1 (on "BOGO") was restocked (they were out on Wednesday night when I shopped). 

After less than ten minutes, we got in line, and then I went to the customer service desk with my receipt from Wednesday to get the purchase price of one of the Crystal Light canisters I bought refunded because it was supposed to be "BOGO" and they didn't take it off my receipt.  (Yes, I actually do audit my grocery receipts because I'm a nerd.)  He enjoyed standing there while that was accomplished.  A lot.

He figured that we were finished and that he was free....but I reminded him about the EarthFare coupon.  This was part of the original disclosure of potential errands when we left the house, and I felt that it was within my rights to request that we stop there.  We drove the three or so miles over and got our two lobster tails for five dollars deal, four pounds of bananas for a quarter/pound and a box of cereal for a dollar.  I had coupons...and buddy, I intended to use them.  Simple, right?

Of course not.

The cereal Big Dave chose was (of course) NOT one of the ones on the "special"...and so I wanted him to switch it for one that was.  There were four people behind us in he didn't want to take the thirty seconds it would have taken for him to sprint over there and bring another one back.  I, of course, just wanted my deal!  (And people in hell want ice water, too.  We were equally likely to get what we wanted.)

The cashier saw that this was not going to end she tore off the cereal coupon and handed it back to me.  It expires the odds of me getting back over there are slim to none.  It will cost me at least $2 in gas to go back over there to redeem it.  Dang it.

At that point I was not happy...but not as "not happy" as Big Dave was when he realized that we had to go back to Publix to track down the Jello vanilla pudding mix.  He didn't understand why EarthFare didn't sell Jello and why I didn't just buy it there.  I told him that they probably did...but it was likely organic and priced at three times what a box of standard Jello pudding mix would be. 

Yes, his look of "SO?" was amazingly annoying.  You do understand that if I had been driving this train, I would have gone to Publix right after Winn-Dixie because it is in the shopping center next door.  Oh, but no.

We got back in the car and headed for Publix.  He was breathing hard by this know...that exhaling that they do when they are annoyed and think that you are moronic for going to three different grocery stores to save $1.79.  Okay, I'll give him that...but does he not know that getting something for almost nothing is the thrill of the hunt?  Who cares if you burn $3.00 worth of gas to save $1.79? 

Apparently I don't.  And he does.

But he relented.  He headed out of Eastchase and hung a right to go to the Publix at the end of Taylor Road (three miles away) instead of going left to go to the regular Publix (a mile away) because he "Didn't think about it."  Yeah, okay.

The fact that I pointed this out resulted in more huffing and eye-rolling followed by a "What does it matter?"  He did an illegal U-turn (the sign was clearly there but he cared not) and went back to the Publix that made more sense because he realized that I was right.  He hates it when this happens, by the way. 

During that brief one mile journey, the frustration the two of us were experiencing turned into those "always" and "never" words and raised voices and a promise never to engage him in this particular exercise ever again.  E.V.E.R. again.

We got to Publix...I hopped out...bought the pudding and got back in the car.  Time elapsed: four minutes.

I then told him that we should have gotten the milk for the pudding at Costco while we were over there (by EarthFare)...but he didn't want to hear that at the time because he was too busy explaining why he didn't want to do what I asked (the cereal) in EarthFare.  So, after Publix, we went back to Costco (in silence) and he finally parked the car. 

What I mean by "finally" is that Big Dave loves to check out all available parking spaces in any given parking lot, pass by the ones that are clearly good spots, and opt for one that he can "pull through" because "who wants to back up in a parking lot when you don't have to?"  Answer: Me...if the spot is by the door and not three miles north of east Egypt.  Especially if I haven't passed the great spot twice on our way to a clearly inferior spot.

No, I'm not bitter.

So we go inside and I purchase milk, eggs, strawberries, romaine lettuce and sour cream.  It took me six minutes to gather all of this...primarily because I had to walk the entire perimeter of the store.  Thankfully they weren't sampling yet...or we'd still be in the store.  I'm so not kidding.

Big Dave is the sample people's nightmare.  He eats everything and never buys anything they are sampling.  Ever.  He tells them that he has to "ask his wife about that."  Yeah, they love me too just for being related to him.  He believes that he should get more than $100 worth of samples every year because that's what we pay for our membership.  Let's just say that he probably gets about $100 a month.  Sometimes he blows through there at lunch, buys a coke for fifty-nine cents, eats samples...and leaves.  He's full...there's no tip...and all is well, right?  In Big Dave's world it is.

He saw me headed for the register, but was apparently distracted by something pretty and shiny in the tool or lawn and garden area.  He was no longer behind me, but I went on to checkout...fairly certain that he was sick of Costco and ready to go on about his merry way.  (Especially because they weren't sampling.) 

I texted him that I was "at checkout" and then proceeded, paid and waited (and waited...) so that he could see me and we could walk out together.  Seven minutes later, he still hadn't shown up, and so I decided to go on to the car and sent him the text message "in the car." 

Four minutes after that, he drags his passive-aggressive self out the door.  Never mind that I've been sitting in the car sweltering while a guy in a minivan next door wrestles with a child seat and takes forty forevers putting a stroller together.  I can't open my door because he is standing where my door would open.  I didn't see my life flash before my eyes or anything, but it was a wee bit uncomfortable.

Okay, the word "sauna" would be an understatement. 

And the eleven minutes that I waited on Mr. Passive-Aggressive to sashay on out?  Oh, I didn't mind that at all.  Nah.  I lost something like four pounds of fluids waiting on there's that.

We left there and went home to put away our purchases.  It was a quiet ride home.  The highlight was that the Foo Fighters song "Rope" came on the radio.  Yeah, I wanted a rope about right then...and a tall tree.

After unloading the car, we decided to go to the little "Marketplace" thing around the corner to pick up our chicken and ribs.  We ended up purchasing some okra, cucumbers, lantana, and a tee shirt and got a tour of what they are going to do with the building.  It was a degree or two above Hades Lite and by this time I looked like Steven Tyler/Dave Grohl/Mick Jagger after a particularly long set. 

Did I mention that I wanted a red and a yellow lantana and he wanted two red ones?  I didn't?

We got home, ate some ribs, cooled down, and - of course - Big Dave is Mr. Happy again.   He doesn't hold a grudge.  He's just glad that all that "togetherness" is over.

Or is it?

After lunch, I realized that I had forgotten to purchase the Cool Whip for the banana pudding.  Cool Whip is not one of those things you can substitute easily.  I mean, who has time to whip all of that hydrogenated oil into a frenzy?  Answer: Not me.

A few minutes ago he left (shockingly, he didn't invite me to join him) to take a truckload of cardboard and old shutters from a job he was working on this week to Mr. Trash Truck as an alternative to leaving them on the trailer in the driveway so that we can push that whole "white trash" envelope again.  (The broken swing on the porch - the victim of a recent wind storm...okay...two months ago, the broken down white Explorer, the dilapidated basketball goal, and the fact that we still haven't regraveled the driveway keep us close enough to that edge with no additional assistance, but I digress...)  He also had to pop in and pay his Home Depot bill although he spends at least as much time there as he does at home.  A special trip to simply pay the bill was necessary because that makes perfect sense apparently.

And then I heard my phone ding. 

He texted me to inquire how much Cool Whip I needed so that he could purchase it on his way home. 

He's forgiven.  I'll quit pouting at some point in time today.  Maybe.

From this exercise I have learned that I will no longer ask Big Dave to run errands with me.  If he chooses to go along...fine.  Another day of "errand running" like this and we'll risk showing up in Ladies' Home Journal in the "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" column.  I have also learned that no matter how mad I get with this man...he will get over it a lot quicker than I do.  This, of course, makes me mad just knowing it.

Maybe the secret to being empty nesters is not doing everything together...especially when we never really have.  I will always like different music, movies, and leisure activities than he does.  And that's fine.  He will never understand the logic of going to multiple grocery stores any more than I understand why he drinks his coffee black because dolling it up (or in my words..."making it taste like something other than petroleum") is "Too much trouble." 

Maybe I'll just wait and let him volunteer to go along with me at some point in that he will know going in that he may or may not be utilizing his time wisely.  That will also spare me the overriding urge to kick him in the head.

In the meantime...I won't be sitting here turning blue from holding my breath waiting for him to ask.  And if you happen to see us out together running errands or afraid.  Be very afraid.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On Cleaning

Two of the most amazing offshoots of difficulties in my life are that I tend to be more neat when I am most if being organized provides me some kind of control over something...and that I tend to clean like a whirling dervish when I'm angry.  (I'm not exactly sure what a "whirling dervish" is...but I picked it up somewhere and I assume it is something like the character Taz). 

You can generally tell something about my emotional state if you just drop by my house at any given time.  If you see a half finished project on the dining room table, a few dishes in the sink, a pile of items to go to Goodwill and some laundry in the dryer waiting to be folded...all is well.

Then again...if I'm completing projects at the speed of Mach 1, the spiders pack up and move back outside, the sink is empty, and the bathrooms are spotless...that's a dead giveaway that something is rotten in Denmark.  On the bright side...I can guarantee you that nothing is rotten in my refrigerator, pantry or trash there's that.

I suppose that all of us want to control our environment when we feel a little helpless.  I know I do.  It just makes me feel better to get some small whiff of satisfaction from actually doing something that I would normally consider drudgery. 

Some people have a natural bent for cleanliness, order and organization...and they thrive in that environment.  Someone I have worked with at some point in time (I'm not telling...) is so particular about everything being in its place that we would receive memos about just about anything that wasn't perfect in the common areas.  Memos about things like putting paper towels in the trash can instead of the floor (the can got full quickly and nobody wanted to mash it down...after the second memo...and a not-so-favorable response...we got a bigger trashcan), cleaning up the kitchen (we all have different standards of what constitues "clean" in case you were wondering), or leaving boxes of papers that needed to to go storage in the way (actually not in the way...but in the line of vision).  Even on my best day of being a cleaning diva...I am NEVER this retentive.

Others of us have a more casual attitude about it.  We want everything to be clean...but we don't freak out if someone leaves a glass on the counter rather than in the sink or the dishwasher where it belongs.  This is normally where I fall...but here lately...I've been yelling about these little infractions.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum are those beings who don't give a rat's behind if they live in squalor...unless, of course, they actually SEE a rat.  Then they clean.  In a way.

Although most of the things in my house have a "home"...a great many of them do not.  I tend to get on a tear from time to time and get a lot of things organized.  When I do, that normally results in me moving some of what has to go to another area so that I can fully enjoy my new cleaned out space.  You know that whole matter can be moved but not destroyed principle?  It totally applies with cleaning out closets and the like.  The only way to get rid of it is to bag it up for Goodwill, throw it away or eBay it.  Denial that it is still with us...albeit in another room...does not count.  Trust me on this.

I've been doing a lot of eBaying lately...relatively speaking that is.  I have been selling Brian's clothes since he only wore the ones I bought last year for about fifteen minutes before he outgrew them.  I also found a couple of pairs of shoes that Jill thought were a good idea...but weren't...and a couple of other random items.  Yes, it is a lot of trouble for what I actually end up with...but it does add up over time.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.

I've also loaded up all of his old school uniforms to give to a friend, donated books to the school library, had a load of stuff taken to Goodwill (by a friend of Jill's), and took a stack of magazines to the Mortgage Department at work.  I won't even count the bags of junk that have left this house.  All of these are positive developments.  The staying up late to finish something, the insistence that something stay clean, and the stressing to find something to "move forward" can be a bit unnerving.  I don't know what I'm striving for...some kind of Martha Stewart nirvana, I suppose.

Housecleaning has never been one of my favorite activities.  I never really mastered it and honestly do not recall anyone ever doing any housework in my presence when I was growing up.  Oh, I'm sure that they did...but I was probably outside playing war or roller bat and honestly didn't notice.  When I turned fourteen and was handed a set of sheets to put on a bed...I was completely baffled.  I remember learning how to make hospital corners so that the sheet wouldn't come up from the bottom.  I made my bed most mornings (although it normally looked like someone was still asleep under the covers)...but I had never grasped that whole "changing of the sheets" routine. 

I learned to cook by trial and error (emphasis on error) as a new bride and I'm quite sure that I wasn't introduced to the concept of a toilet brush until I was married, either.  Thankfully, Big Dave is neater than I am and had been exposed to the wonders of sweeping, mopping and dusting....things I knew not of.  But even he has a dark side.  He won't throw anything away unless I stand there with a bag in my hands.

And then there's the whining.  I usually tell him to shut up.

Although I've never really been a great housekeeper, I did learn that I could clean a house far better when I was angry about something.  I suppose it is a kind of release to whip something into submission...even if it is the ring in the garden tub or the gradu that collects around the outside of the toilet bowl.  

I was first introduced to the concept of cleaning while angry on my 23rd birthday.  Big Dave was playing softball and whatever team he was playing with lost the first game early in the day.  He apparently found a pay phone and gave me this information.  He figured he'd be home no later than dinnertime.  However, as luck would have it...they didn't lose the second game until about 9:00 that night.  And then they had to drive back from whatever ingrown-hair-on-the-rump-of-humanity-the-size-of-a-freckle locale where they were playing.  They didn't win the tournament, either.  Frankly, I was glad.

By 10:00 that night, I had locked called everyone I knew who might know where he was and locked myself in the bedroom.  The clean bedroom in the clean apartment.  He slipped a card under the door when he got home.  One of those generic birthday cards that has two champagne glasses clinking on the front with the word "Cheers..." on it and "Happy Birthday to my wife..." on the inside.  Classy.  I'm fairly certain that he slept on the floor that night.

Good times.

I'm happy that my house is more organized and that I'm not mortified at all that is undone.  I have, unfortunately, become the "Mess Nazi" and I may or may not have threatened to deport some of the residents of this house.  A certain shih tzu (who shall  remain nameless) will be spending her nights outdoors if I find one more "gift" in my living room.  I've also awakened one of the male members of this household up at 7:15 a.m. to put a pair of boxers that were left on the floor in his laundry basket.  I may or may not have been yelling at the time. 

Okay, I was.

Hopefully, life will not be as stressful as it has been over the coming weeks.  It may be though...and if it is...that's fine.  I'll deal.  At least I'll be comforted by the knowledge that my house will be clean.  My sister and her children will be here in two weeks.  Maybe someone will tick me off between now and then and I can get it looking shipshape. 

And while I hope not...I do love a clean house...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


If you are a pet owner and bathe your dogs at know that as soon as the bath is over, your precious is going to run all over the house with more energy and enthusiasm than is characteristic.  I don't know if it is the invigorating feeling of knowing that they no longer smell like "dog" for a brief point in time or if they are just so happy that the bath is actually over...but my two sprint through the house like they are all jacked up on Diet Mountain Dew and Skittles.

Of course, I pretty much get the same thing from them if they figure out that the invisible fence is REALLY in..."not working."  Occasionally the batteries in their collars run down, or Big Dave cuts the wire somehow while mowing the grass and they don't get the "beep" or the warning buzz...and off they go.  Bear in mind that the wires to the fence have been cut and spliced more often than Joan the fence actually being on or not is generally a crapshoot.  Most of the time, they never know.

Rebel usually avoids the edges because he isn't entirely sure where he stood last time that the fence lit him up.  In his little canine brain...we are all trying to kill he just stays as far away from the perimeters of the beeping as he can so that he doesn't go postal.  Dixie, on the other hand, will sit at the edge of the fence's boundaries and attempt to run her collar battery down by sitting where the collar will beep but doesn't shock her.  I swear she knows.  We actually yell at her more for doing this than attempting to leave the yard.  If they do leave the is to go next door and romp around at "Miss Vicki's" house with her two dogs and act like they never want to come back home.  Ever.

There is something about being unleashed.  That feeling that you are running toward Lord knows what...but not because someone or something is chasing you.  Just getting out of your comfort zone and blasting away toward something new and exciting just because it is out there...and you can.

Don't get me wrong.  I am a huge fan of the status quo and I have a deep appreciation for people who have helped me get from point A to point B in life.  I take nothing for granted because I know how quickly life can turn on a dime.  But every now and again...I just want to head out in one direction or another just for the change of scenery.

I suppose that everyone is like that to some degree.  We all have these ideas of what we want to do in life based on our gifts, talents and abilities.  By the way, those aren't really the same thing, you know.  Okay, maybe they are in some thesaurus...but not in my world.

"Gifts" are something unique to us that other people recognize and encourage us to use but we don't always understand what it is other people are seeing because we have done absolutely nothing to acquire whatever it is that other people think is so special.  Gifts are God-given...and as such...should be employed as He directs.  "Talents" are something that we have a greater than average inclination in once we explore it...most often because we enjoy it...but are different from "gifts" in that we have to work at it a bit.  We may be talented...but we have to work to showcase that talent.  "Abilities" are something that we possess naturally but that require something of us...time, training, work, or all of the fully employ.  It is all about converting raw material into something unique and wonderful.

Just as an example:  I have the ability to spell well.  I have a talent for writing.  I have a gift for putting something that impresses me into words that other people can relate to easily.  (Or so I'm told.  I had to study spelling words to be proficient.  I have to write - practice - to get better.  I do write the way that I do because God chose to give me that gift.)

Or my mother: She has the ability to memorize lines easily.  She has a talent for acting.  She has a gift for fully embracing the character that you get all into the production.  (She is truly wonderful, by the way.)

You know how you figure out the difference?  People tell you.  They will either promote, appreciate, or admire what it is that you do.  If you have to do most of your promotion...then at is a talent. 

Being unleashed is a wonderful feeling.  It is invigorating and freeing and awesome.  But eventually...someone is going to get the leash, put it on your collar, fuss at you a little bit, and take you back to where you belong.

At least that's the way it works for Dixie and Rebel.  And...sadly...for most of us. 

All of us need people in our lives who give us the freedom to that we can discover our gifts, talents and abilities.  If we think back...we can remember those people who told us we were smart, funny, talented, or able to be more than we thought we could...or they'd enrourage us to overcome something that in retrospect was at a critical time along the way.

And if we know people - and all of us do - we have the ability to see something great in each of our friends.  We can promote, support, and help them grow into whatever it is God has planned for them. After all...that's one of the main reasons we exist.  We're here to help each other.

Maybe you need to be unleashed...and  need to know that folks have your back.  Or perhaps you just need to know that someone cares enough about you to make sure that you find your way home if you ran ahead of everyone a long time ago.  Whatever it is...I hope that you get as excited about your life and what is in store for you as my two dogs are after a bath or a brief visit to Miss Vicki's. 

Hopefully, even more so.  Although they do get pretty excited about all that...

Go ahead...give it a go.  See what happens. 

That's what I'll be doing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


It is June...and it is hot.  H-O-T. 

Not "global warming" hot...just good ol' Southern "Hades lite."   Usually we folks down South get this sometime around the 4th of July...but this year...we're getting to experience the magic of the twin discomforts of heat and humidity at recordbreaking intensity.  Yay us (not).

Having lived in the South for most of my life, "hot" is as familiar to me as a favorite pair of flip flops.  But it IS a bit unusual to feel like I could cook dinner on the concrete on the patio without the benefit of a grill this early in the season.  By August?  Absolutely. In a normal year (of which this one apparently is not) June is the time of blue skies and lower humidity.  July is the month where it is beautiful in the morning and rains every afternoon.  August is the month that makes you want to move to Minnesota or Maine or Manitoba. 

Anywhere but here.

In years past, June has been one of my favorite months.  I is summer!  No school!  It is wonderful! 

This year...yep, it's summer all right.  We're into triple digits on the thermometer not to mention the heat index.  Ergo, the jury is still out on the "wonderful." 

I'm quite frankly afraid to move too much for fear that I'll look like I've been working out.  Not that this is a bad thing...unless I am just trying to walk across the parking lot to go to work or into church.  I've already had more than one person accuse me of having a flash because I look "hot."  That's special, don't you think?  Especially since one of them was someone Big Dave and I work with on the first Sunday breakfast crew at church.  He was trying to convince me to get in the cooler for a few minutes until it passed. 

He's not married, by the way.  Shocking, right?

Oh, I'd love to look "hot" all right...but not the hot that you look like when you work in a steel mill as a welder. Apparently, that is all that I am capable of anymore.

The pool that we pour money into so that we can have a lovely cool swim has pretty much betrayed me as well..  Mine is currently hot enough to boil rice. If you don't mind suicidal bugs in your rice, that is.  Our pool has a small collection of random dead bugs that just decided that flying around in this heat was just totally not worth the effort.  I totally get that.

You know that it is summer when all (and I do mean ALL) attempts at high fashion (or anything even remotely resembling fashion) are abandoned, as folks go into survival mode.  Women are out in force with arm flab flapping, cellulite showing, and toes bared.  It comes down to a choice: wear just enough clothes to be decent and avoid arrest...or become a victim of spontaneous combustion. 

At least our toenails are painted.  So there's that. 

Unpainted toenails, excessive cleavage and a thong sticking out from the top of your pants are about the only three things guaranteed to make other Southern women talk about you in the summer.  Or quite frankly...anytime.  You can weigh a lot and put on a bikini and nobody is going to care.  Don't believe me?  Head to Gulf Shores, Alabama or Panama City Beach, Florida and see if I'm lying.  Yeah, we'll still snicker when somebody's PawPaw sashays by with dark socks on with a Speedo, but we've pretty much accepted that Southern women who want to be at the beach honestly do not care if they need to be in a bathing suit or not.  We figure if it doesn't bother them...then live and let live.

Speedos?  No.  Just no.  Unless you are winning gold medals and I'm hearing the National Anthem while you waive your roses from the podium and the announcer is telling us your backstory.  You win a can wear a Speedo.  Otherwise, no.

I'm not entirely sure what the rest of this summer has in store for us.  It could be one of those wacky years that stays ridiculously hot for months.  I'm somehow thinking that it is some kind of karma for all of us here in the South collectively laughing about global warming because most of us believe it is a giant crock of hooey. 

Or maybe its just me.

Perhaps the heat will break in a week or so and give us a few days of relief.  Right now it seems a bit doubtful...but you never know.  I feel like it has been summer forever, and we haven't actually officially made it to June 21st yet. 

This cannot be good.

So, when you go to bed sure to thank God for air conditioning, ice, and sandals.  I know I will.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Time Out

I don't know about you, but there are some times in life that just seem to warrant a time out.  When our children were little and they had turned from being the angelic creatures that we convinced ourselves they were into something slightly Linda Blair-ish (obviously a tendency inherited from the other side of the family)...we'd put them in time out.  This time out gave them a chance to think about their behavior, to cool down, or just to keep us from putting them on the porch with a sign reading "free to a good home."

Jill wasn't a big fan of "time out."  She'd crawl all over the chair, would whine incessantly, and would sometimes want to just skip that whole thing and go straight for the spanking to get it over with.  That's generally been her way.  Brian, on the other hand, was rarely sent to time out because the worst thing he did as a little guy was disassemble anything he could get his hands on...and just leave it there.  Putting him in time out in his room generally meant that whatever mess was in there...was about to be multiplied tenfold.

I know that in sports...teams take a "time out" to reorganize the game plan, give people a chance to breathe, or make someone (like a kicker) think too much about what has to be done.  Oh, and give the network time to show another fifty commercials that we've already seen at least five times each during the broadcast.

People in academia take sabbaticals...well, because they can.  They use the time to research, think, and write articles that apparently impress people who are all into that sort of thing.  Like the people who give government grants to study such important things such as how feral camel flatulence is contributing to global warming. 

Or, quite frankly, "global warming" period.  I personally think that God is in I can't really believe that hairspray has put a hole in the ozone layer or that driving my car with what is apparently gold laced gasoline is responsible for everything.  That really gives "man" too much power, don't you think?   But then again...considering my mother's usage of Adorn hair spray during my childhood...I suppose at least it is possible.  I just hope that there aren't congressional hearings on Adorn or anything...because I'd most definitely have to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks to hear that one on C-SPAN.  I still have visions that one of these attorneys who does class-action lawsuits is going to flash up on the TV one day with something like

"Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with inability to remember anything, to breathe, or have you sprouted a second head?  Was it due to your mother's excessive use of Adorn hairspray during the 1970s?  If so, please call 1-800-NO2-ADORN immediately.  You may be entitled to a settlement.  That's 1-800-NO2-ADORN."  And no, I don't have a second head.  The one I have is just big.  Ask my mother.  I've heard about this for the past 48 years now.

And of course, the fact that the South is experiencing weather that can only be described as "Hades Lite" right June...instead of August.  I'll take the hot weather, though, over the string of tornadoes that caused such devastation this past Spring.  Devastation that I actually saw yesterday in Tuscaloosa.  Granted, a lot of the rubble has been knocked down and is being hauled off right now...but it was pretty unreal.  It reminded me how blessed we were that Jill was a mile or so away from it...even though that was scary close.  She got her "time out" from all of the insanity that was involved in getting people out of there and came home in May.  After a month of us, she needed a "time out" again...and is back up there.  Smart girl.

Anyway, I've been having a "time out" of my own lately, which is why I haven't been writing.  I had exhausted myself with activity, was really stressed out with some personal issues, and was apparently low on B vitamins.  The first problem has been rectified by doing things around the house that needed doing, watching the Foo Fighters "Back and Forth" documentary 23 times, and having both children out of this house.  The issues are resolving themselves, and they are what they are.  And I've been popping B-12 and B-6 capsules every day for the past few days...which has helped...a lot.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who wish that they could take a "time out" for just a little while.  People with young, special needs, or ill children.  Folks who are caregivers for aging parents or other special friends.  People going through chemotherapy, divorces, unplanned job losses, bankruptcies, storm related issues, or just a season in life that

If you can, find something to hold onto that brings you joy.  Take mini "time outs" so that you can rest.  Let someone else carry the load for you for a little while if they offer.  And if all else fails...just take a self imposed vacation from life.  Just do what you have to do and nothing else.  Breathe, eat, sleep, work and care for whoever is depending on you and let the rest of it go.

That's what I've been doing for the past few weeks...but I'm out of "time out" now.  I'm feeling much better after two months of senior party chairing-Baccalaureate-graduation-tornado a mile from my daughter in Tuscaloosa-letter received in the mail that was awful-bills-getting clothes for son who has outgrown everything and was headed to France-cleaning out his room while he was gone-work on overdrive-hot weather-need to lose weight again-did I mention money?-and probably a lot of things I'm not mentioning stuff that needed to be worked through before I sat here to write again.

But I'm back.  Hope you are too.