Thursday, April 15, 2021

Gonna Party Like It's My Birthday...('cause it is)

Knowing my birthday was coming up, someone at work asked me what my favorite age has been thus far. I responded with a quick, “oh, I’d have to think about that one!” but I will say that question stuck with me long after we parted ways. Perhaps she was being clever and trying to ask discreetly how old I am. I’m young (or old) enough that I don’t care who knows my age. I’m turning 47 tomorrow. There you go, Debbie, and anyone else who is curious. I have always prided myself on living in the moment and doing my best to appreciate as many steps and breaths along the way as I could. It occurred to me that Debbie’s question might have multiple correct answers.

There was the original birth day — the day I was born. That was April 16, 1974. Richard Nixon was president and had a few more months in office before his resignation. As my parents were driving to Baptist Hospital in Nashville (and it will always be Baptist Hospital to me and the legions of people born there), they likely listened to Elton John and Cat Stevens and The Hollies on the radio in their blue Oldsmobile Cutlass. Box office classics included Blazing Saddles, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, arguably the finest sequel ever made, Godfather II. As they wheeled Mom back, Daddy likely sat in the waiting room, smoking, and reading headlines about the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the Vietnam war winding down, and the upcoming Rumble in the Jungle. 

Eagan, Party of 3

I had the requisite McDonald’s birthday party when I was maybe six years old. You knew you’d arrived when you either had or got to attend a McDonald’s birthday party. You got to go in the exclusive party room. There were paper hats and those little packages of shortbread cookies and fried pies with apple-flavored lava inside. And one of the characters would come out to delight you and your guests and have pictures taken. I seem to recall Grimace being on hand, mostly because I’ve spent the rest of my life wondering what Grimace is.

Seriously, what is it?

Ask any of my childhood friends to this day, and they will regale you with stories of my third-grade birthday party at Swensen’s. Swensen’s was a Nashville restaurant that served burgers and ice cream. I just looked them up and there are still a handful of Swensen locations in Florida, Texas and California. I have vague memories of sitting at a long table with all of my classmates, laughing and eating ice cream sundaes. But, through the years, I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and recounted how much fun they had at that birthday party. Sadly, that wouldn’t be my last birthday where my guests remembered more details than me. Or, when I made an ass of myself with some ice cream.

For my Sweet Sixteen, my parents staged an elaborate surprise picnic for me at a local park. As most surprise birthdays go, the planners are so bogged down in keeping the surprise that they fail to acknowledge the day at all, leaving the honoree feeling utterly shunned and forgotten. All was forgiven, I suppose, when we arrived at a picnic pavilion decorated to the hilt and flocked with a “This is Your Life” quality cast of characters including friends, family, former teachers, and old neighbors. There was a bonfire and weenie roast and the kids played volleyball and ran around the adjacent woods. Party favors included candy, yo-yo’s and ticks.

I’m sure I did something for my 21st birthday, but nothing comes to mind just now.

For my 30th, I was pregnant and Mangrum threw a surprise party for me at a local restaurant. Mom was in the hospital and it wasn’t looking good. In fact, following the party, I went to her house and cleaned their bathrooms in preparation for visitors to be stopping by in the coming days. She rallied and would hang in there for a few more months. It was a definitely a time of uncertainty and hellos and goodbyes. 

Happy 30th

My 40s were ushered in with a Sips n’ Strokes party. A limo picked up a few girlfriends and me for a night of wine and painting. Through the course of the evening, I had aspirations of being an artist, opening up a Sips n’ Strokes franchise, helping our limo driver, Byron, reconnect with his estranged brother, and, finally, making the room less spinny. You know what they say…you can’t paint in your 40s like you did in your 20s.

At least I didn't cut off my ear.

My best birthdays, though, will always be the ones that include my favorite things: fruit tea, my favorite people, a walk at Radnor, quiet time in my soft clothes and a high-quality white cake with Breyer’s chocolate ice cream. When it comes down to it, I’m a simple girl.

Thank you in advance for the birthday messages on Facebook. I will respond to each and every one of them and say a prayer for you. If we’re friends on FB, I’ve prayed for you before, but know, as always, you’ll get a personal response tomorrow and a special prayer.

And, to know me is to love me and if you know and love me, you know I know and love animals. If you have some extra change in your pocket, please consider throwing it at Critter Calvary Rescue. They rescue pups from some of Tennessee's high-kill animal shelters and help find them their fur-ever homes. Because of them, we've had the honor of living with some of God's best angels right here on Earth.

And now…fruit tea. Cheers!

My first home. And my first ride.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Happy Birthday, Mama

If you know me, you know I'm not sentimental. I don't have Christmas tree ornaments or stepping stones that say "Because someone we love is in Heaven, there's a little bit of Heaven in our home." I don't relentlessly post about how much I miss my Mom. In fact, in the almost 17 years she's been gone, I don't speak of her often, though not many days go by when I don't think of her, talk to her, or catch glimpses of her in a stranger, my daughter, or even my own self. So, today, on what would have been her 79th birthday, don't look for any "wishing you a happy birthday in Heaven" post from me. I will, though, share just a few pictures and memories in honor of my mama.

Wedding, June 18, 1966

Though I used to joke with her about how old she was, they actually did have color photos when she and Daddy were married. They'd asked a friend of the family or relative to be their photographer and he chose to shoot their wedding on black and while film because it was classic and pure and truer to the art of photography. Mom never forgave him and despised her wedding pictures from this day forward. She kept this cream colored album that contained maybe 20 pictures total that comprised ALL of their wedding photos hidden in a drawer and would say, "uggh, what is that doing out?" when she'd walk by and see me leafing through it. I always thought I'd wear her dress one day. When the time came around for my own wedding, I realized I didn't want my wedding dress to be either "borrowed" or "something old." That and I'm pretty sure I couldn't have zipped her dress. 

Thom, Valerie & Pat, 1978

This was originally part of a photo strip from a photo booth but somehow this is the only remaining picture from that event. I love it because Mom and Daddy look so young and happy and baby Valerie...well, I pretty much look the same today in most photos. Some combination of RBF and mild confusion. People often ask me what it was like being an only child. Was it lonely? Did I get bored? Did I miss having siblings? Yes, sometimes it was lonely. Yes, like any kid, I occasionally got bored. No, it's hard to miss something you've never experienced. Although, strangely, I always longed for and even asked for an older brother. These two made life fun 'round the clock. Maybe they were worried about paying bills and were tired from working at their jobs but I never saw that. I always had someone to cuddle with, to sit in their lap, to read to me, to play a game.

February 24, 1980

This was on Mom's birthday, 41 years ago, at my grandparents' house. Mom lived for four things:  traveling, going out to eat, the weekend, and birthday celebrations. She was a bit like Garfield. Maybe it was being raised by Depression-era parents and not having much growing up. But birthdays -- hers, mine, anyone, really - were a HUGE deal. There was the requisite Becker's cake (seen pictured above) and ice cream, and we usually pulled out the good dishes.

Wedding of a friend's child, 1998

This is how I'll remember her...smiling, with Daddy, enjoying being with friends, hair just so and fresh lipstick. People have asked me through the years what I would say if she and I could talk once more. It's a bizarre question, really. I mean, depending on the circumstances, I might say a not nice word followed by "you scared me!" or I might say, "is this Heaven?" But truthfully, I would probably make up some excuse as to why I wasn't wearing lipstick. She would put on a fresh coat just to go check the mail so she would not understand why I wear lipstick maybe once a month and even less now because of stupid COVID and these dang-blasted masks. Mom was ahead of her time. She used to drive me crazy when we'd go out to dinner and we'd sit down and she'd whip out a little spray bottle of hand sanitizer and do her hands, the menu and the table. She was regularly ahead of her time.

So, in recap, don't be sad for me because I lost my Mom when I was 30. Be happy that I had her for three decades. Don't be sad for Bird because she never knew Mom. She knows her really well. And, if you still have your mama, stop reading this and give her a call or shoot her a text just to say hi, just because you can. And it will totally make her day.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Mountain Mama

Dolly Parton and I have a lot in common. The commonalities I’m willing to acknowledge publicly include an appreciation for books, a no nonsense approach to going about one’s life, and a deep revere for her birthplace, the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. As a Nashville native, we headed to the mountains like people in California head to the beach or people in NYC head to the Hamptons. It was a favorite destination for weekend getaways and longer vacations.

One thing I love about visiting the smokies is that no two trips are exactly the same. There’s always a new restaurant popping up, you might see different wildlife on different visits, and the scenery- the breathtaking, jaw-dropping, amazing views change not only with the seasons but with weather patterns and from month to month and day to day. 

Driving in, we often take back roads and this is my second-favorite scenery. This slice of Americana offers a glimpse into the daily lives of people who have lived in the same area for generations and generations and are just busy doing life. I think of them as my state cousins, living and working just a few hours down the road.

For me, visiting this place, with the people I love, is pushing a great big “reset” button  I sleep better, I breath more deeply, cares and worries slip away and I’m a child again, looking for bears and wondering if it’s too early to eat some fudge. I have to sign off now as it’s time for pancakes. Happy Fall, y’all!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

I'm Coming Out

Tomorrow marks the end of my quarantine. That is, until my governor decides to change his current path of willy-nilliness and halfway addressing current issues and supports the shelter in place effort so many other states have already employed and countless healthcare providers have strongly recommended as a way of truly flattening the blasted curve.

Politics aside, my period of quarantine ends tomorrow when I return to my job after being on an involuntary, two-week quarantine because I was around someone who was around someone who was around someone who tested positive for COVID-19. You read that right. On March 13, I was sent home from my job because of a third-degree exposure. As a textbook introvert, I did not look this gift horse in the mouth, but, rather, ran home and yanked off my bra, slipped on my soft clothes, threw my hair in a bun and didn’t look back. For two glorious weeks.

The first week was my child’s spring break. We watched Netflix and made cookies and played games and went for walks. It was like a warmer Christmas break and one without all of the materialism and decorations to put away.

This past week, my child began remote classroom with her school. As she sat at a desk in front of a computer for 8+ hours per day, I did my best to give her space and peace and quiet by holing away in my bedroom, snacking, watching Gilmore Girls and Fantasy Island and Nat Geo and HGTV, and, when all else failed, taking long naps. It was glorious.

I saw this meme and it really resonated.

No, it didn’t catapult me into action, but it resonated. Yes, I flipped my closet from cold to warm season clothes. I listed some pieces on Buy/Sell/Trade and Poshmark. I organized the pantry and laundry room and tidied the fridge. I put the dry cleaning away. I even found a website called DuoLingo that is a free language learning site. I decided to brush up on my French skills. I am now back to intermediate level and can order two croissants in a bakery again. What’s still lingering on my to do list that I just didn’t quite get to? Well, the same things that have been there for six months or more:  dust bathroom light fixture, dust baseboards, deep clean this and organize that.

I’ll tell you what I learned during this experience:

  • My days started much like they did in my PC (pre-Corona) life:  coffee, pets, couch, devotional, news, scrolling FB and Insta.
  • I’m really good at napping. I mean, seriously good.
  • I love my family and they love me. There is some sound wisdom, though, in the statement “distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
  • Whether home all day during quarantine or coming home after a long day at work, I am a classic “early to bed” girl.
  • I miss and apparently need routines.
  • I love being around my pets all day. I think they shared the sentiment.
  • I’ll state again, I have mad napping skills. I mean, I could maybe give a Ted Talk.

And the biggest discovery I’m taking away from this whole thing is riddled with common sense and I’m sure everyone else has been doing this all along but it’s new to me so I’m sharing it in case just one of you isn’t already doing this:

I run the dishwasher every night. Now those of you who aren’t third generation only children may be thinking, “well, duh.” But it’s just three of us here. And what used to happen was I would tidy the kitchen at night and look at the dirty dishes and think, “well, it’s not enough to fill the dishwasher so I’ll just wait to run it.”  What would inevitably happen, though, would be the next night, more dishes would appear and they wouldn’t all fit in the dishwasher so I would get caught in an endless cycle of the washer being full and the sink having dirty dishes in it. Now, I run the dishwasher every night. Now, no, I’m not going to run it with a plate and a glass in it but if it’s more than half full, it gets the green light. The average dishwasher uses 4 gallons of water, so I figure this exercise is worth my happiness and mental wellness.

I’m going back out there tomorrow. I won’t lie -- I'm scared. I’m not really scared about getting sick myself, but I’m really scared about bringing it home to my loves. So, as exciting as it will be to bring a paycheck home again, I pray that’s all I bring. Y’all stay well out there. No hoarding paper products or baby piglets or whatever the next “it” item is, okay?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Tales of a co-worker

I saw a meme the other day that suggested, for a quick laugh, that you should replace the phrase “my dog” with “my co-worker” since many are working from home these days. You then were encouraged to plug in all of the activities/adventures of your pet in place of a co-worker during these strange Corona Virus times.

I don’t have the ability, at this time at least, to work from home so I’m just doing some of my other jobs which include being wife, mother, daughter, pet owner, maid, laundress, decorator, tv watcher and napper.

With that said, here’s my co-worker, Penny:

  • My co-worker just pulled a sock out of the laundry and brought it into another room to chew on it. 
  • My co-worker just took a dump in the dining room because it’s raining outside.
  • My co-worker has asked me several times if it’s time for dinner. My answer was, “no, not for a couple of hours still.”
  • My co-worker just spent a long time licking her foot.
  • My co-worker is fast asleep. And is apparently having a dream about chasing a bunny.
  • My co-worker tooted and then acted like nothing happened.
  • My co-worker routinely asks for belly rubs.
  • My co-worker is looking out the window at some squirrels.
  • My co-worker just licked a place on the floor.
  • My co-worker just tried to get in the trash until I caught her and redirected her.
  • My co-worker got in a stand-off with a cat at the water cooler.
  • My co-worker likes her ears rubbed.
  • I just trimmed my co-worker’s nails. I might clean her ears later.
  • Took my co-worker for a walk this morning. She peed in every single person’s yard we passed.
  • My co-worker just asked to go out. I asked her not to dig in the mulch and get muddy.
  • My co-worker just watched a dog on TV with intense curiosity.
  • When I eat, my co-worker sits very closely and stares while licking her lips.
  • My co-worker just tooted and then seemed scared by what had just happened.

Good luck during these uncertain times. I’d love to hear about your co-workers. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face and be well, my friends.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Insomnia: a Haiku


Sleep eludes me now
But somehow that will all change
In the afternoon

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Hope in Little Rock: Day 3

Day 3 had us stopping by the Clinton Presidential Library before heading home. Now, one of the greatest things about Man and me is that we do not agree on everything -- particularly politics -- but we've never let that get in the way of a perfectly good friendship. Washington, we are here to answer your questions when you're ready.

First, as we were entering the museum, a tandem bike race passed us. Have you ever?

This is my kind of math. Show your work.

You can take the girl away from editing but you can't take the editor away from the girl. My eyes are constantly looking for an error - call me a glass half empty kind of girl. But I did immediately spot that Hillary's name was misspelled on one of her badges. Seriously, people?

Even I can admit he wasn't all bad. One of the first bills he signed was the FMLA allowing people to take off work following the birth or adoption of a baby.

He was one in a succession of presidents who proudly showed off his four-legged relatives.

Pictures weren't allowed in the replica of the Oval Office [insert eye roll] but on the coffee table between the two couches was a piece of moon rock gifted to Clinton by Neil Armstrong. Now, don't ask me if this was all on the up and up. I can't help but think this wasn't truly Neil's to be gifting in the first place. Nor, however, is it NASA's but they currently maintain ownership of it. Anyway, the moon rock sat there and President Clinton was known to point it out during particularly heated discussions and say, "You see this rock, it's been here for 3.6 million years, so let's all calm down. We're just passing through here and it's going to be fine."

On the way out, we were forced to enjoy an art installation by an artist who makes art from trash and debris that has floated up on the coast of Oregon. As we exited, there was a place where you could fill out a little card and write what you are doing to save the environment. Several people said "I'm quitting using plastic straws." But this one jumped out at me. I'm not sure she was quite on point with the whole assignment, but I liked her words all the same.

Then outside, on our way to the parking lot, there was this little gem tucked into the grounds. When Anne Frank was locked in her apartment hiding place for two years, they had only a small window that looked out into the world. From this window, she could see the sky and a bit of a tree that grew outside that apartment. The tree outlived Anne and survived for many years following the end of the war. It took ill, though, just in the last few years and died. They were able to salvage just a few saplings from the tree and the Clinton Library was honored to received one of these saplings so that her tree could live on and continue to inspire and provide hope to those who saw it.