Monday, November 17, 2014

Happy Hallowgivamas

Do you remember when there was a holiday between Halloween and Christmas? It was called "Thanksgiving" and it was one of my favorites.

Halloween was always fun because you got to dress up and beg strangers for candy. At Christmas, when you weren't celebrating the birth of Christ, you thought about Santa and stockings and gifts to give and receive.

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell, 1943

But Thanksgiving was a great buffer between these two holidays. It had all of the food and fellowship without the commercialism and trappings. You celebrated the season of autumn. You traveled to relatives' homes or invited them to yours. It was a time to catch up, to visit, to see how the kids have grown. You ate complicated, fancy fare that wasn't normally enjoyed the rest of the year:  cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, a smorgasbord of salads, vegetables, and desserts, and in the center of it all, a golden brown, cooked-to-perfection turkey. 

Other than the cooking of the aforementioned spread, it was a simple holiday. You awoke, you traveled as far as the host and hostess' home or your own dining room, you ate, then you sat around and visited until you could escape to a suitable nap location. Following a tryptophan-induced coma, you scavenged another meal from the abundant leftovers. The most daunting chore following this holiday was cleaning the kitchen and washing every fork, spoon, glass, plate and platter in the house. There were no decorations to put up and take down. Ladders and step stools were not required of this holiday, nor multiple trips to the attic or basement. That was reserved for the next holiday, Christmas, and we would begin decorating for it in the next week because Christmas was about a month away. The truly gung-ho revelers would dedicate the day after Thanksgiving to decking their halls.

These days, that day after Thanksgiving is called "Black Friday" and it's known as the official start to the Christmas shopping season. That's not true, though, these days, as I've been seeing Black Friday deals advertised and have already previewed Black Friday ads and it's only November 17. A few years ago, stores began opening their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving so you could have a full 24-hours to shop on Black Friday. That has now crept in a little more and many stores are now opening on Thanksgiving night and even afternoon, allowing you to shop even earlier and trimming just a little bit more significance off the Thanksgiving holiday.

When I was doing a little last minute Halloween costume shopping around October 29th, I realized that all of the Halloween section in the store had already been marked down and they were clearing the way for Christmas to push in. It made me sad and I wanted to find someone and tell them they'd forgotten Thanksgiving. I realize it's not a big money-maker in retail land, but it's important to me and I hope to others.

How did Christmas get so big that we're in such a hurry to celebrate it? And, more importantly, have we completely lost sight of the true reason for the season? Approximately 2,016-2,021 years ago, we did not have door busters, Cyber Monday, or companies who would put up lights and decorations for you. In fact, it was over 300 years later before there was even the notion of Christmas.

I admit that I, too, have found myself caught up in the frenzy this year. This is one of those calendar years where we only have three weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's easy to think of all of those tubs up in the attic and all of your halls that need decking and feel like you want to maximize the time you get to enjoy the decorations and reap the benefits from your labor. I don't want Christmas to be a shuffle, and I definitely don't want Thanksgiving to get lost in it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Grumpy is the New Accountable

There has always been a group of Moms at school whom the staff and even fellow parents referred to as sour pusses, grumpy grumpersons. They would constantly have a scowl on their face, stomp around, and even when you'd smile and greet them, they'd mumble back a sorry excuse for a response and just seemed dismal and eternally dissatisfied. I always tried to give these people the benefit of the doubt and chalk up their behavior to a bad day. But how many bad days can one person have?

I’ve realized that I’m becoming this person and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t know if it’s just the people at my kid’s school or the world at large, but I feel constantly disappointed and let down by mankind. Are my standards too high? Or are we all really going to Hell in a hand basket?

Last week, a couple of teachers started a Bible study for girls before school. I was so excited by this opportunity and was equally excited when my daughter showed interest in it and signed up. I’ve prayed for the teachers and their leadership and also for the girls and that their hearts and minds will be fully open to receive and comprehend everything that God speaks to them during this time.

It is supposed to be before school on Thursdays, from 7:00-7:30. Today, I had volunteered to bring breakfast for the group, at the risk of taking on too much. I set the alarm early this morning. By 5:30, there were muffins in the ovens and I was counting out and packing up the right number of cups for OJ and little plastic spoons for fresh fruit and plates. The kitchen was alive and I danced around like an orchestra director:  stir this, stick a toothpick in that, take those out and put these in.

In the meantime, I got dinner going in a crockpot, threw some clothes in the dryer, made sure Little Bit was awake on time, cuddled with her for a minute, and made lunch. I gave the five-minute-until-we-walk-out warning and went to brush my hair and teeth. Then I realized the pets weren’t staring at me because of unconditional love as much as their bowls were empty and they were ready for breakfast. My daughter came out and needed help which took my remaining hair and teeth brushing time but it’s a small price to pay and I’m glad to do it. We dashed out the door going over study points one last time for a test today and with me looking like a pack mule. As I quizzed her on state capitals, I went over my mental checklist.

We arrived at school with two minutes to spare. Plenty of time to park illegally in the drive, run the goods in, throw them out on a table, give my girl her morning hug and blessing and inquire as to the spelling of “Annapolis” one last time as I walked away. Instead of being greeted by a smiling (and maybe just a teeny bit appreciative) teacher, we were met with a dark hallway and the distant hum of a custodian and her vacuum. We turned the corner for the designated Bible study classroom and found it locked and dark. It was now 7:00 on the dot, the time when this activity was supposed to start.

For the next 10 minutes, we stood out in the hall, greeting passing teachers, arriving Bible study group members, and holding our basket of breakfast goodies. At 7:10, one of the Bible study leaders arrived, but she was not the one who had the key to the classroom. Knowing I was risking incurring the wrath of the traffic nazis out front, I unceremoniously dumped my breakfast spread on the floor outside of the still-locked classroom, and bid farewell to the group of eight or 10 girls now assembled for this activity which was not yet started and a third of the way over.

I left feeling betrayed. I held up my end of the bargain. Look at me. My hair’s not brushed, I have flour on me, and there are fresh muffins, for goodness sakes. Yes, I could have grabbed some at the grocery but I made fresh ones. I got here on time. I did my part. I’m mad. And I’m hurt. It may sound a bit dramatic, but we all have a part to play. I played mine and am often left feeling like others don’t take theirs as seriously.

Yes, I know things happen. Life happens. Cars don’t start and alarms don’t go off when you thought you set them. Kids get sick. Traffic. I get that. But it just seems like more and more, we, as humans, are slacking on punctuality. I guess it’s going the way of other social etiquette:  hand-written thank you notes and responding in a timely manner to party invitations. There’s a small part of me that thinks, “well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” But I know deep down I don’t want to join them. I couldn’t if I tried. I want to make them want the same thing I do: for us to all play our part. To show up. On time.

As I left the building, the principal was walking in. I’ve never seen the man without a smile on his face and he greets everyone he sees with a smile and by name. Bless him. But as he called out “Good morning!” to me, all I could think was, “what’s so good about it?” and all I could muster was a faint “hmm, hey there.” As I stomped to my car, that’s when it hit me. Every time that man sees me, I’m mad about something or someone. I’m disappointed in the human race and someone’s behavior. But I don’t want to be inducted into the grumpy grumperson’s club. I can’t be responsible for every, single person’s bad behavior nor take it personally. So, starting today, I’m going to make a concerted effort - give it my best shot - to beat them without joining them. But I’ll go to my grave chanting this mantra:

Early is on time. On time is late. Late is not acceptable.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Stayin' Alive

“Papa Collins would have been 112 today,” Mom said one year when I was an insolent and (self-proclaimed) omniscient 13-year-old. “Yeah? And Methuselah would be a million,” I replied. (Best educated guess, in 1987, Methuselah would have been 5,206.) Okay, so I wasn’t actually omniscient.

I didn’t understand, at least as a teenager, why one would play this seemingly futile and borderline macabre game of marking someone’s birthday as if they were still here. 

Papa was very tall. Pictures attested to that fact, but I’d also heard how his wife, Mary Ellen (or Mama Collins), a bit more vertically challenged, would stand under his stretched out arm with plenty of clearance. He loved the Lord and knew the Bible intimately, but he didn’t like to go to church. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a love of the written word, he always had a stack of books by his armchair. As a profession, he was a carpenter, a handyman, and made a living for several years digging storm shelters for people, right here in middle Tennessee.  Rarely was he seen without his trusty pipe. He had seven children, four of whom lived passed birth, and one of them was my Mom’s Mom, my maternal grandmother. Papa Collins was Mom’s maternal grandfather.

Every year, we’d play this game. “So and so would have been ____ tomorrow.” It, like many of the things my mother did, drove me insane. It seemed pointless. Oh, but she got the last laugh. Several times over. Because, now that she’s gone, you better believe I play that game on her birthday. Why? Maybe it’s wishful thinking. Maybe it’s a way of keeping a memory alive and passing down genealogical information to the next generation.

Papa (John Calvin Collins) died in 1951, so I never knew him. Yet, in part because of stories kept alive and passed down, I feel like I did. So, yes, I will open time capsules of memories and stories and share them. And I can only hope, one day, someone will keep my memory alive.

I awoke yesterday morning, October 5, 2014, and you know what my first thought was? It's my Mema's birthday. Hmm. She would have been 102.

Collins Family, (c) 1947
(L-R) Myrtle Collins, Bessie Collins, Anna Bell Collins Bennett (my Mema), Felix Bennett (my Papa), Mary Evelyn McGowan Collins (John's wife), Gene Collins (the only boy), and John Calvin (Papa) Collins. A cousin is peeking from the back. And the little girl in the front? That's my Mom, Patricia Ann Bennett Eagan.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bigger is Better in Boyland

" A great man is always willing to be little."                                                                      -Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Boyland (population:  all dudes), everyone knows bigger is better. Bigger homes, bigger cars with bigger engines, bigger peckers (and, really, all forms of backyard wildlife)...small just won't do here.

Case in point:  when my favorite resident of Boyland, my sunshine, my husband, makes a sandwich, he seeks out this knife to spread his mayo on the bread

even though it's not dishwasher-safe and despite the fact that we have a whole drawer full of these,

which are happy to run through the magic clean dish box.

So, that's why I laughed to myself and commiserated while reading this article about an NBC reporter who recently had to make an ER visit after a failed attempt to open a bottle of wine.

What was he using to remove the foil wrapper over the cork?

Well, this, of course:

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."                                                                                                       -Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Generation More

Last night, as my daughter's cheerleading practice wrapped up, I overheard the coach yelling, "now girls, you have two things to do this week..." My immediate thought was, "oh, great, more work - for both of us." Then I chuckled to myself thinking "two things? Try two hundred things." And it's mostly my own doing. It wasn't my sweet daughter who came to me and said, "Mommy, I'd like to be well-rounded. Will you sign me up for any and everything you hear about?"

The sad thing is that, when compared to some of her peers, she has a pretty light schedule.

MONDAY:  tennis lessons
TUESDAY:  cheerleading practice
WEDNESDAY:  piano lessons
SATURDAY:  cheerleading, basketball
SUNDAY:  basketball practice

OK, so in writing, that doesn't look too bad. But let's throw in some homework. Here's an average week:

MONDAY:  tennis lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, practice piano
TUESDAY:  cheerleading practice, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test on Thursday
WEDNESDAY:  piano lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test tomorrow
THURSDAY: 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test tomorrow
SATURDAY:  cheerleading, basketball
SUNDAY:  basketball practice, practice piano

Then, you gotta have some chores at home, right?

MONDAY:  tennis lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, practice piano
TUESDAY:  cheerleading practice, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test on Thursday, help with pets
WEDNESDAY:  piano lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test tomorrow, help with pets
THURSDAY: 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test tomorrow
SATURDAY:  cheerleading, basketball, help with laundry
SUNDAY:  basketball practice, practice piano, clean hamster's cage, tidy room, help with dinner

Not to mention, Church on Sunday, friends' birthday parties, play dates, brushing your teeth and washing your face twice a day, reading the Bible, and getting exercise.

The kid sleeps an average of 9.5 hours each night, so that whittles the number of waking hours she has to just a little over 100 hours each week. Yes, there are times I get frustrated. Have you practiced piano? Have you cleaned the hamster's cage? I  didn't want a rat. I  didn't promise I'd clean that cage every week if I could get a hamster. No, m'am. That was you. But then I remember that she's just a kid. And she's learning. Learning to juggle, which, sadly, is a life skill. The times I wonder if we've overloaded her, all I have to do is look at my own weekly schedule to realize for what she's being trained -- being an adult one day. An adult in a hectic, fast-paced, go get 'em world.

That reminds me...I've gotta run.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Not Forgetting to Remember

So this happened last night. I found myself at a monthly meeting of a group for which I hold a place on their board. There were 16 of us in attendance last night. It's just once per month and I do care about the organization or else I wouldn't be there in the first place. However, it's one of those things you dread, you can make excuses why not to go, you watch the clock and think, at times, this is never going to end. It's mostly women, and women have a way of talking too much. It's just a gender flaw, I believe.

So, I'm in this meeting last night, anxiously watching the clock and taking some assurance and relief in that it seems to be winding down. The speaker wraps up, thanks everyone for coming and people start getting up to a symphony of jingling keys and chairs being pushed back across a linoleum floor. The exit is in clear site and I'm already in the car in my mind. Then the leader of the group asks everyone to stop and gather in a circle before we leave. "Nooooo! I was so close," I thought.

We assembled fairly quickly, then she said with a full heart and cracking voice, "I thought maybe we could all just take a moment to remember this day and maybe we can all go around and share what this day means to us." Lord, help me.

She kicked it off. She was not in NYC that day, 13 years ago, she didn't know anyone directly or indirectly affected by the tragedy. She just felt like she wanted to commemorate the day so she prattled on about how she'd visited New York some 30 years ago and managed to bring that nearly unrelated story back around to her current day angst and anxiety.

9/11 Memorial

As the rest of those of us gathered shared our stories, my heart softened and I listened, truly listened, to what people were saying. One woman was working and living in Manhattan that day. She was blocks away and wondered if she was next. Another had a relative who was a flight attendant and they were not able to verify this person's whereabouts or safety for more than a day. A younger member shared how she was in high school and provided a glimpse into what our youth experienced and felt. An older member equated it to Pearl Harbor, though she wasn't around for that first attack on U.S. soil. Unfortunately, one woman over-shared and told how she and her husband did the only thing they knew to do and, yadda yadda, "our third child was born nine months later." Several people made the comment that this is our (this generation's) version of "where were you when JFK was assassinated?" I even shared my own story, which isn't great or particularly touching, but goes like this:

I went to work that day. Just like it was a normal day. And when I went home at the end of the day, I stopped and did something fairly pedestrian and normal. I got gas. The closest station to my home still provided the option of "full service." For all of you young people, gas stations used to only be "full service." You'd pull up and an attendant would pump your gas, check your oil, wash your windows and maybe even check your tire pressure. Then, stations started offering the option for you to skip this service and do it yourself. Thus, you had the option of "full service" or "self service." Full service eventually faded into a memory, but this particular station held onto it. A little too tightly, if you ask me. I've never been much of a women's libber, but for whatever reason I took offense when they would see me and dash out, trying to wrestle the gas pump from me. I'd wave them off and deliver a quick, curt "I've got it...thank you!" to try to head them off. But on 9/11/01, I stopped to get gas. I got out and began unscrewing my gas cap. An employee started walking out of the building towards me. As he arrived, I mumbled, "I'm fine" and, as he took the pump from my hand and proceeded to fill my car, we both just stood there. The sky was a beautiful, bright blue, hardly a cloud to be seen. And it was silent. I've never given much mind to airplanes flying overhead, but I'll always remember the stillness of that day. He finished, I thanked him, and he said, "no beats standing in there staring at the TV." And we hugged. Total, complete strangers. It was our way of saying "we're gonna be OK" days before people started shouting"U.S.A! U.S.A!" and a good while before we were remotely sure.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Can Believe It's Not Butter

I grew up in a nice, Southern home that would make Paula Deen proud. We used butter. A lot. In the kitchen, food was prepared under the mantra "if a tablespoon is good, then 2 sticks must be great!" One of my all-time favorite "snacks" to this day is a good, hot piece of cornbread with a fresh, cold pat of butter pushed inside its warm center so it melts into all the cracks and crevices. I can taste it now.

Our preferred brand was Land O' Lakes. Something about that nice, Native American lady on the package just intimated quality.

When eating out in restaurants, back in the day, you'd often receive a perfect little pat of butter wedged between a slightly larger square of cardboard and a little square of waxed paper. Then we went to tiny little plastic tubs with a foil lid:

And now you get a rectangle of butter in a wrapper:

But even in my day, butter substitutes crept onto the tables of America, claiming to be a healthier alternative to plain, old butter. I never liked the taste of margarine and, if push came to shove, I'd go without anything rather than trying to use it as a substitute for my beloved butter. It doesn't melt the same and it definitely doesn't taste the same. I stumbled upon this article today about the history of margarine and it got me thinking...thinking about our natural ability to sniff (or taste) out danger. And also thinking about a pan of cornbread. Excuse me.

"Pass The Butter ... Please"

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.

It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow coloring and sold it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavorings....

DO YOU KNOW the difference between margarine and butter?

Both have the same amount of calories. Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine.

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.

Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and only because they are added!

Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.

Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years .

And now, for Margarine..

Very high in trans fatty acids.

Triples risk of coronary heart disease.

Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

Increases the risk of cancers up to five times.

Lowers quality of breast milk

Decreases immune response.

Decreases insulin response.

And here's the most disturbing fact...

Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC... and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT.

These facts alone were enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).

Open a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will notice a couple of things:

* no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)

* it does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow.

Why? Because it is nearly plastic . Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?

"For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife."
--Proverbs 30:33

Monday, September 8, 2014

Safety Net

At my child’s school, except for the very youngest children, all of the students have iPads. They leave them at school through fourth grade. In fifth grade, they begin carrying their iPad with them to classes and home and back. Once this begins, it is literally and figuratively in their hands. If they drop it or lose it, they (or their parents) are responsible for repairing or replacing it. They’re also responsible for remembering to save their work frequently and to keep the device charged.

I was speaking with a friend the other day, the mother of a fifth grade student, and I asked how things were going. She replied that the night before, she was heading to bed and looked over and realized her child had not plugged in their iPad to charge. Feeling conflicted about what to do, she wavered between plugging it in and letting her child see that green bar and “100%” battery status in the morning, or doing something that is just gut-wrenching and incredibly hard – allowing her child to fail.

I won’t leave you hanging here. She confided in me that she peeked at the battery status and saw that it was 80%. “Had it been close to running out,” she said, “I probably would have plugged it in and let it charge and then told her this morning what I’d done and remind her that she needs to be careful about that.” Instead, my friend walked away. It was still near 80% in the morning, and, when the child realized she’d forgotten to charge it, she was horrified.

As my friend regaled me with this story, I thought to myself, “how would I have handled this situation?” It’s true. We want our kids to not just survive, but thrive. We want them to not just succeed, but to exceed. We push, push, push. We teach what we think the teacher hasn’t taught. We coach from the sidelines.

There’s a fine line there between supporting them  to excel and pushing them forcibly to succeed.  I hope, as I’m given opportunities, that I’m supportive. No more. No less.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Can We Talk?

To commemorate the life of Joan Rivers, who passed away yesterday, I'd like to say a few words. It's not that I was a huge fan. I actually found her loud, Brooklyn accent and the extreme plastic surgery quite unappealing. But, once you dug down to the person within -- deep, deep down -- you saw someone whom I like to believe was genuine and funny and those are two traits that are just unfortunately all too uncommon these days.

She said the things a lot of us just think. And got away with a lot of it. That's admirable.

I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.
She ticked a lot of celebrities off through the years by calling them out, putting their cards on the proverbial table for them, and helping bring them down a notch or two to reality. Good for her.

But she also had some quips, that, like all good humor, have a good dose of truth in them. On life:

I enjoy life when things are happening. I don't care if it's good things or bad things. That means you're alive.

Life is very tough. If you don't laugh, it's tough.

Thank you for the laughs, Joan. Now you can critique what the angels are wearing.

Excuse me. 

What? I'm writing a blog here. Oh, she's Jewish? Hmm. Ok, well it still works. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Good Read

This morning, I was reading an article from Reader's Digest which detailed how to be interesting, specifically in social settings. It suggested tips such as "listen more than you speak," "emulate those whom you find interesting," and "find something interesting about yourself and be able to succinctly explain it." All great tips. Another piece of advice was to be well-read. It then linked to their list of "14 Books You Really Should Have Read by Now."

1. The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
3. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
4. Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
5. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
6. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Marie Remarque
7. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
8. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
9. Native Son, Richard Wright
10. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
11. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
12. A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor
13. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
14. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

Now, some of these I was forced to read, and did so reluctantly, with what could only be described as a closed mind. A couple others, I have attempted to read as an adult and just could not plod through their pages. I will give it a solid, old school try, though.

There is one on the list, critically-acclaimed, that I just despised. I actually lost a friend over this book as she recommended it highly and, after consuming it, I thought "can I be friends with someone who actually enjoyed this book?" The answer revealed itself mere months later when the friendship evaporated quite organically. Have you ever worn an itchy sweater but didn't realize just how irritating it was until you had long since departed your house and there was no going back? You may have found yourself staring at the clock, hearing the second hand tick off hollow echoes, counting the seconds until you could tear that sweater from your body and throw it out the window on your drive home. Well, that's what this book was like. You've heard of a "page-turner?" This one was certainly a page-turner. With each page I turned, I drew consolation that it was one less page to read and one step closer to the end.

As for the other lucky 13, I vow here and now to go through and give them each another go. Even War and Peace, otherwise known as War: What is it Good For?

(Absolutely nothing.)

Say it again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Open Letter to Naked Girls

An open letter to Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and countless other victims (current and future­) who are targets of hackers who break into personal computers, steal nude photos, then leak them to the public:

You know one way to keep indelicate pictures of yourself from being hacked and leaked on the internet for all to see? Get ready….don’t take indelicate pictures of yourself in the first place. Sounds simple, right?

Yes, I understand, you’re young and fabulous and you might understand that despite your stellar genetics and extreme medical interventions, that your body will age and you want to remember what it once looked like. I get it. I’m guilty of standing in front of the mirror, squeezing, lifting, squinting, and manipulating body parts to remember what they once looked like. But never have I thought, “oh, I’m going to go pull out those pictures I took 20 years ago.”

First off, it’s tacky. But a better reason is this:  you can’t turn back time. You shouldn’t spend any of the precious time you have looking in the rear-view mirror. Best case, you miss something really cool up ahead. Worst case? You make a mess of the present and future by dwelling on the past.

So, whether it was a publicity stunt or a true invasion of privacy, let this be a lesson to all the young fools out there who think “it won’t happen to me.” In a world where one constantly has to choose between dumb and smart decisions, I tell you, two dummies does not a smarty make. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just Call Me "Holly Hughes"

I'm a germaphobe. Well, that's what society likes to call me. In my mind, I'm just pragmatic. In my comfortable, black and white world, germs make people sick so by avoiding germs and sick people, I greatly increase my chances of remaining well.

In public restrooms, I am a pro at getting in and out, reconnaisance style, without touching any surface other than my own. I transform into a lithe contortionist, opening doors with my foot, locking and unlocking stall doors with my elbow, hovering like a ninja over the toilet, and flushing with my foot (even in the situations where it's a malfunctioning auto-flush and the only way to flush is pressing a tiny button on the back of the tank). While exiting, I'll quickly survey the sink/soap/towel situation and determine whether to wash up or hit the Purell. Then getting out the door without touching it is a final challenge. If possible, I wait for someone to go ahead of me and slip out behind them, letting them take one for the team. When alone, I'll use a paper towel, my elbow, my foot, or, worst-case, the bottom of my shirt, to open the door. I also hold my breath a large portion of the time so, when I do emerge, I can be seen sucking in a new, fresh breath.

I find myself holding my breath when in crowds, anytime I see or hear someone coughing or sneezing, and in restaurants when someone walks quickly by my table.

In the grocery store, I immediately use one of the provided wipes and give my cart a once-over as if it had just hauled a sick donkey.

At home, I use disinfectant wipes and Lysol on door knobs, phones, light switches, and remote controls year-round, not just during cold and flu season.

In hotels, I take wipes and hit the remote control (deemed one of the dirtiest objects in the world, by the way) and the bathroom before I ever open a suitcase. And I never use the glasses they put out with the little paper covers. I saw a 20/20 undercover story once where the housekeeping staff was seen using the same rag to wipe the dresser, the nightstand, the bathroom, then dumped out a used glass and wiped it inside and out with that rag and popped on a new, little paper cover. No, thank you.

If given the choice in restaurants, I prefer plastic/disposable cups and cutlery.

I find the smell of hand sanitizer comforting.

Some misconceptions about germaphobes, or, as I like to call us, "germ averse normal, rational people,” include:
-         “Your house must be spotless.” Ha. You make me laugh. No, I’m a normal person. There’s underwear in the floor. The hamper and/or kitchen sink are piled up. One of the cats has probably thrown up somewhere and I won’t find it for a couple more days. But, by golly, my door knobs are clean.
-         “Germs are good for you. You’re actually doing yourself a disservice by avoiding them.”  I respectfully disagree. I have been subjected to plenty of germs…I’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese.”
-         “People will think you’re crazy.” I’m OK with that. I think they’re all sick, so we’re kind of even.

So, if one day, you find me picking up everything with a Kleenex, sitting naked in the dark for four months, and eating only chocolate and chicken*, well, the least you can do is strap on a face mask before coming in to talk to me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Double Digit Day

My baby girl is 10 today. Ten. Double digits. One decade. How is it just yesterday, my doctor was giving her condolences on Mom’s passing and preparing me that high-stress and grief can bring on early labor? Little did I know back then, as we sailed right by the due date and planned your eviction, that it would be the first of many times I would have to push you out the door, saying “come on! We’re gonna be late! Let’s go!” 

Little did I know, when you came out with paper-thin yet crazy sharp fingernails, your face scratched, that I would overcome my fear of cutting your whole, little finger off, and have since clipped nails, at times, while reaching in the backseat without looking. 

How unprepared I was to fall in love with you at first sight. In the hospital, the nurses wheeled you away the first night so Daddy and I could rest. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, walking down the long, still hallway to the nursery, and getting buzzed in. “Can I hold her,” I asked. “Of course you can.” There were several babies in little plastic tubs, but over to the side, my sweet little bundle of a cooing blanket swung back and forth in a baby swing. “You may want to get you one of those if you don’t have one…she seems to like that swing,” the nurse told me. We made it about two days at home before running out and buying the best-looking swing we could find as it was the only way you would settle down and rest. 

As we drove away from the hospital on our way home, we made it about two blocks when I asked Daddy to pull over and I jumped out and sat in the backseat with you for the duration of the trip. Call me a “helicopter parent” and I’ll wear the badge proudly. 

As you grew, we celebrated milestones…first smile, first laugh, crawling, walking, eating people food. As you grew, so did our confidence. We took you to the playground and delighted in your squeals of laughter on the baby swings. We went on a trip and you swam in a hotel pool. We took you to the petri dish known as Chuck E. Cheese. Our first trip to the Zoo, we felt like real parents. Loaded down with a stroller and a diaper bag, snacks and bottles and plenty of extra diapers, we just about forgot you as we headed in from the parking lot. Lucky for us, the playground is right at the entrance. By the time we made it there, it was time for a meal, you swang for a little bit and then it was nap time, so we headed home, having seen zero animals on our first visit. 

You went nowhere without your trusty friend, Puppers. At dinner, he was crammed into your highchair beside you. In the car, he shared your car seat. At bedtime, he assumed his place by your pillow. And when you were on the move, whether we were leaving the house for a day of errands or just playing in the living room, he stayed neatly tucked under your arm. Puppers has been spilled on, thrown up on, nibbled by a goat, drooled on, left in shopping carts, and nearly left at countless hotels and grandparents’ homes. He’s flown to Texas and Florida and the Bahamas and, to this day, has his place in your room and in your life.

Although you’ve grown out of breakfast, our bed is still one of your favorite places to hang out.
Through the years, people have asked Daddy and me why we only had one child or if we had plans for more. Sometimes we’d joke that you were perfect so we didn’t want to press our luck with another one. The truth is, we just felt complete after you joined us and never felt like we needed anything, or anyone, more. We (and you) have been blessed by your cousins and are so glad you all are close to one another and live closely, too. They’ve been great buddies through the years.

People have asked whether you're a Daddy's Girl or Mama's Baby. I'm happy to say that you do a terrific job splitting your time equally. What's not equal is the number of photos. :) Guess I need to come out from behind the camera more often.

When asked what you want to be when you grow up, there are usually some rotating professions (Mommy, teacher, singer) but one which always makes the list is veterinarian. You've always had a love of animals and you seem to have a way with almost every one you encounter. Our pets have found a good playmate in you and, in return, offer their undying loyalty and protection.

Before I go any further, I will stop to say it hasn't all been rainbows and unicorns. You've had your moments, for sure, and tried our patience right to the very limit. We sailed through your "twos" and thought, "well, that wasn't so terrible," but then there were rough patches in the "threes," "fours," well, you catch my drift. As you got older, we got a little (emphasis on "little") wiser. We realized how to work schedules around your sleeping and eating timetable. We learned to better recognize warning signs that you were tired, over-stimulated, or on the verge of a meltdown. Occasionally, it would sneak up on us and we'd just hold on to whatever we could grab and ride it out.

At times, I would find myself feeling sorry for you because you've grown up only having three grandparents. It took me a while to become less pessimistic and see a cheerier outlook:  you have three grandparents! And they're all pretty awesome. They live nearby, we see them often, and they've all been very involved in your life. How many people get the opportunity to say that?


Through the years, I've had well-intentioned friends comment "it's such a shame Calleigh didn't know your Mom."  Au contraire! There is no doubt you know Grandmama. I've done a good job of telling stories and keeping her memory alive, but you have had a special tie that trumped anything I could do. From the time you were very small and could speak, you would talk about "the angels" and one, in particular, who wears a blue dress and has "white" hair. Before you could speak, we'd hear you giggling in your room when you were alone, or looking up and reaching for something invisible to us. As you grew, you were able to describe what you saw more. This picture was one of your first attempts at explaining it to us:

"This is me, you, Daddy and Grandmama."

In closing, I will say something that I tell you every night as I've done for the last 10 years:  "You make each day special just by being in it."