Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Funny from Hannah

As I was tucking Hannah (grade 4) in just a little while ago, she was begging me to let her stay home from school tomorrow. She "hates school." I asked why she hated school and she answered, "It's Mrs Hetland. She's obsessed with fractions."


April is Poetry Month

The month is almost over and I haven't honored poetry.

My all time favorite piece of poetry is this one:

Roses can say 'I love you,'
Orchids can enthrall,
But a weed bouquet in a chubby fist,
Oh my, that says it all.

I would love to credit the one who penned that but I have no idea who she is (was?). My days as recipient of weed bouquets from chubby fists, are quickly coming to an end. My girls are growing up and not "into" picking me flowers as they were in recent years. But those memories are precious to me and I'll never forget them.

I remember with clarity the guilt I felt when Hannah caught me trying to kill the dandelions in the yard. They were her yellow garden patch and she was shocked when she found me destroying them. Oh I felt badly.

Her little bouquets came with such regularity that I bought a tiny little vase to showcase her weedy expressions of love. Ironically, that vase broke last summer. I was sad to say goodbye to it as I recognized I probably wouldn't need to replace it. The little bouquets weren't arriving like they had in years past and I knew an era was ending and a new one beginning. Sigh.....

A poem I recite regularly is taken from a book of poetry Rachael and Hannah had when they were wee ones. This poem has stayed with me long since the pages of that book fell apart. This one is by Dale Evans Rogers.

Thank You God for this new day,
And for the time to work and play.
Please be with us all day long,
In every story, game, or song.
May all the happy things we do,
Make You our Father happy too.

I say this poem as a little prayer on days when I find myself dashing out the door without having prayed "properly." It's also a prayer I can say first thing in the morning when I'm still sleepy-eyed and not thinking too clearly. It has served me well over the past 10 years.

So, these are not Tennyson or Elliot or Whitman, but I can appreciate their simple poignancy. I hope they make you smile.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hurray for Womanhood

My friend Deby sent me these yesterday. I hope you chuckle. I did.

No fashion faux pas we make, could ever rival the Speedo.

We don't have to pass gas to amuse ourselves.

We can congratulate our teammate without ever touching her rear end.

We never have to reach down every so often to make sure our privates are still there.

We can talk to the opposite sex without having to picture them naked.

If we marry someone 20 years younger, we are aware that we will look like an idiot

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Jobs and Frodo

I'm flying kind of high today. I got a $.40 per hour raise. That was kind of cool. I also got very good to outstanding on my performance review. The highest in the store. Yippee!

That's all good and fine, but the really good news is that I quit cake decorating purgatory. I am so happy. I must admit I am disappointed with myself for not fulfilling my commitment (to myself and Gordon) to work at it to the end of the school year. But surely the world's a better place without me wielding a bag of buttercream frosting.

Senor Frodo, our manly little Chihuahua, is on the lookout for a nice little Senorita. It seems he is in the babino-making mood. When he attacks Lucy (or a pillow) we say naughty Mexican things. Never mind that our Mexican is hardly better than our Somalian. "Senor Frodo, go to your own le casa to do that." Senor, give it a siesta!"

When he squints in the sun, Hannah says he's saying, "Get me my sombrerro, will you?"

Our little Frodo keeps us amused.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Welcome to our world, Jocelyn

Jocelyn Nicole

the newest family member; my great niece

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The Day I Saw Mama Naked

I was raised in a modest home, and my own home now is a modest one. My children don’t typically see me naked, and I am quite comfortable with that choice and I am confident they are too.

My mother was of the modest persuasion herself. I saw her in her bra and panties on occasion, but never naked - except once.

My mom had severe ear infections as a little girl. Her hearing was permanently damaged. She continually struggled with whirling noises in her ears and an inability to recognize where noise was coming from.

One sweaty summer day after gardening, my mom took a bath. As she sat in the bathtub, she began to hear a whishing rumble. Terrified that the 1000 gallon butane tank underneath the bathroom window was about to explode, killing all of her children, she hurdled out of the bathtub and ran through the house collecting her children. Seeing our wet, naked mom run through the house hollering “Hurry, hurry,” made us acutely aware of the impending danger.

Mama herded us like a panicking hen, clucking, “Hurry, hurry, the house is about to blow up.” Since her teeth were in the little blue Polident cup in the bathroom, it sounded more like, ”Hurry, hurry, de houth is abouth to bow up.”

Wide eyed, we ran outside. My 8-year-old sister Stacie cried, “Oooohhh, are we gonna die? Are we gonna die?” We scrambled like obedient chicks under our mother’s outstretched arms to safety in the old green Matador. There, we waited for the destruction.

Diane was 14. She was in the driver’s seat. Mom, her hair and body dripping with bath water, stood bravely beside the car pondering what to do next. I was the youngest; I was 6. I perched on the edge of the front seat, hands on the dashboard, straining to get a good view. We girls were quiet and motionless. Michael, my 10-year-old brother who was assuredly uncomfortable with the situation, particularly our naked mom standing beside the car, looked anxiously up and down the dusty country road. He was far more concerned about a car coming than the house blowing up. He whimpered, “Are you sure it’s gonna blow?” Mama didn’t answer.

Stacie, sitting up straight and pensive, ventured, “I don’t hear anything.” Again, Mama didn’t respond.

I trusted my mom; if she said she heard the silver tank in our backyard about to blow up, I believed her.

After several minutes of no kaboom, Mama went to the barb-wired fence between the car and the house and valiantly lumbered over. Diane let out a guttural groan, “Ughhhhh”, as she slunk down behind the steering wheel.

Stacie, sure an explosion was imminent, and so adoring of Mama, hung her body out the window, and in her typical worried fashion, sang woefully, “Ooohhh, Maaamaaaa, huuurrrryyy.”

Michael was getting more anxious as the moments wore on. “I don’t think she knows what she’s talking about,” he confided, as he looked first right then left, still on the lookout for unlikely traffic.

Mama courageously went to the threatening butane tank, and pressed her head down to the valves. Stacie, her lanky body still hanging out the window, yelled, “Maamaaa, noooo!”

Our buxom mom started walking toward us. Her fearful expression gave way to one of self-consciousness. She gave us a gummy grin and shrugged her shoulders. Her toothless smile assured us there wasn’t going to be any explosion.

“Can we get out?” Diane asked.

Mama squirmed. She had more body parts she wanted to cover, than she had arms.

Finally Mama meekly said, “You can geth outh of the car. I donth think de houth is going to bow up.”

Relieved, we went in the house to find a flooded kitchen. Water was gushing out the hot water tank, making a whishing rumble sound, - at least to our hearing impaired mom that’s what it sounded like.

Mama squatted to push the awry pipe back into place. This proved more difficult than she thought. She grunted, pushed, and jerked, her full figure jiggling and bouncing, without much success. In a sudden flash of awareness, she sheepishly said to Diane, “Here, you hold thith while I go geth some coths on.”

Diane retorted, “I wish you would.”

The image of my mom walking around naked is indelibly seared into my mind. Now that I’m a mom, I understand the kind of love that would be willing to do that. However, I never go into the bath or shower without a robe an arm’s length away. I can thank my mom for that.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006


Deborah and her Interest Fair Project
Harry the Hamster.

Rachael and her project, Ancient Kings.

I went to bed much later than the girls last night. I tucked them all into their own beds, but when I went to bed, this is what I found. Yesterday some dingbat at school told them about demons and how they sometimes attack you and choke you to death while you sleep. I guess Mom and Dad's bed felt much safer and secure.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

My Day in Court

I had to go to court as a witness yesterday. It was a cultural experience. Never mind that the accused was pitiful and I didn't want to see her thrown in jail, (she got a $2800 fine and 36 months suspended license) the remarkable thing to me was the leftover English tradition.

To be quite honest, I wasn't just appalled, I was mildly offended. Maybe I should back up a little. Bear with me as I bring these stories together. A couple years ago, I began to admire some of the Catholic traditions and the respect expected in their chapels. I went to mass on several occasions and I also went to pray in a few Catholic chapels when nothing was happening. Others, good Catholics I presume, would sometimes enter the sanctuary and bow before the crucifix before they took a seat. They sat and prayed a while and then when the would exit, they would bow again before the crucifix.

I was truly impressed with the reverence expressed. Several times, all alone in those chapels, I wanted to bow before the crucifix as an expression of worship. At my church once we had a wonderful service about the cross. When we went up to take communion, once again I wanted to bow before the cross as a symbol of thanksgiving.

A lady who was a fairly new Christian who grew up Catholic bowed before the cross as she approached it. I wanted so badly to feel the freedom to do the same. Her Catholic upbringing, however skewed it was, allowed her that freedom, where my Baptist upbringing made it so foreign to me. I wanted to offer my bow of worship, but fear of what others thought of me prevailed. I didn't bow. And all those times in the chapels when I felt a powerful desire to bow, I never did it.

Yesterday at court, I was startled as the lawyers began to enter. They bowed before the judge. Before they left the courtroom, they bowed again. It was just like the Catholic tradition of bowing before the crucifix, but it was the judge they bowed before. I realize they were performing a ritual to show respect to justice and it wasn't really bowing to the judge. It was bowing to the justice system the judge represented. It was a mere symbol of submission and respect. But given my experience with desiring to bow before the cross and being unable to, I was offended.

And THEN this happened: As lawyers approached the bench or began to present their case, it always started with, "Your Worship." I literally could not believe it.

When we got up to leave, (I was with my neighbor), he turned and bowed. He waited a split second for me to bow. I was appalled that I was expected to bow. I did not. I sped my gait afraid the judge would rebuke me. Of course he did not.

So that was my day in court. Addressing the judge as "Your Worship" and bowing before him was way more than I was willing to do. Stacie said I should have said, "this is the wrooooong denomination."


Growing Up

When my nephew CJ was a small fry, he didn't want to grow up. When asked why, he responded, "grown-ups just sit around, drink coffee, and talk." That certainly didn't look fun to him.

Well, Hannah surprised me yesterday with a not wanting to grow-up comment. "I don't want to grow up," she said. When I asked why, she grimmaced and said, "I don't want to get bum hairs."

Several years ago when Christopher was going through puberty, he proudly showed me his armpit hair. There were 4 or 5, and he started pretending he had named them. Rattling off names as fast as he could think of them, he said, "This is Huey, this one's Dewey, this one's Louie, and this one," he stammered as he tried to quickly rhyme a 4th words, "Is Pubie."

Before he had a chance to amend his mistake, I offered, "I do believe Pubie's lost."

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The mind of a child

What I was a very young child, I had 3 aspirations. I wanted to work at Union Bank so I could smile all day and dress pretty. Stacie and I use to play like the ladies at the Bank. We put on silly smiles and smiled, smiled, smiled, just for the fun of smiling. We played "Mail Call, Mail Call, 4th Street Mail Call." I have no idea where we got that game; I suppose it was a Stacie/Valerie original. One of us would take a slew of discarded junk mail and stand in the back freezer room and yell, "Mail Call, Mail Call, 4th Street Mail Call." The other, a resident of 4th Street, would come out of her house (the bedroom) and make her way down 4th Street (the hall) to collect her mail. When she arrived at the postal counter (a piece of broken sheetrock), we would make small talk about the kids, the family, the weather, and of course the job at Union Bank. We played this game with smiling fervor.

My second aspiration was to buy the big yellow brick house across from the old hospital. I don't remember thinking the house was that wonderful, (although it definitely would have been a step-up from the house I was used to). The big draw for me was living across the street from the vending machines in the hospital. That seemed like the life for me. I loved when people got sick and went into the hospital. Those vending machines were my idea of heaven.

(Hannah recently told me that when she was little, she thought that heaven would be a place where there was a great big bowl of candy and you could have as much as you wanted. When she was even younger than that, she thought it was all about bubble gum. She doesn't remember that though.)

My third childhood aspiration was to shake my kids like Mrs Heath shook her son Kenny in church when he made a peep. Poor kid. And to think I glamorized shaking a kid.

So the good life consisted of smiling while I worked at Union Bank, coming home to the Emerson house across the street from the hospital vending machines, and faithfully attending church so I could shake my kids. I bet there is a lot of insight in my psyche in those childhood dreams.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Allow me to brag and then allow me to wallow

Interest Fair
2nd Place Winner

Well, well, well, I don't mean to brag, but (picture me snorting like Barney on Andy Griffith), but my Hannah won second place in the interest fair at school. It was such a cute display and she put her heart and soul in it. It was soooo Hannah.

Rachael's looked nice too. Deborah's display board kept falling over, but Harry the hamster was a big hit. Kids are so smart these days. There were displays that boggled my mind. Smart, creative, artistic, and elaborate.

Attendees voted on the best displays. First, Second, and Honorable Mention in three age divisions were the voting options. As Gordon and I made our way around the gym, we were impressed with the many displays. I voted for all my girls I must admit. Gordon, on the other hand, was more methodical. He stood thoughtfully in front of each display he was considering. I was like a dripping faucet behind him: "You can't vote for him, he tripped Deborah on purpose last year." You can't vote for her, she laughed when Rachael auditioned for the solo." "He is really a mean kid, don't vote for him." "She's a brat, don't vote for her." "Oh looky there, her Mom did a fine job on that one." Finally Gordon turned around and asked me to leave him alone. But "truth" prevailed anyway and Hannah won Second Place. She deserved it.

I do not mean to wallow in self pity, but I loath my new job. I'm no good at it and there is no other way to say it. Yes, my cakes look sick. I thought it would be easy, and I guess it is for most people. One girl said, "Any idiot can do this, Val." But it doesn't come easily for me. I am to cake decorating what I am to dancing and drawing. I just can't get it. I am "challenged." I came home today and cried. I committed to Gordon to keep it up till school's out, but I'm bordering on depression over the whole stupid thing.

I can decorate a cake as a homemaker and be happy with it. Even today I made decorated cupcakes for Rachael's teacher's birthday, and they were precious. But I don't think I've got the ability to ever be a professional. I'm comfortable with my ability as an amateur. I wish I'd never gone down this stupid professional decorator path. I feel like a retard. I must have heard 10 times today, "why are you doing it that way? I showed you how to do this already." Even my adoring husband looked at my red velvet cakes and asked what the red blob on the top was. It was a rose bud, but no one could possibly know.

Tomorrow is a day I've been mildly dreading for months. I was subpoenaed as a witness to a hit and run by a drunk driver. I have dreaded tomorrow, but now that it will pull me away from buttercream icing, I am happy to testify and wish I could do it more often.

Today the girls found a pathetic cat and brought it home. (We have a reputation as animal rescuers and have saved many a pet from a lonely death.) This poor cat couldn't stand up. Its nose was partially missing and its ears too. It was so pitiful. We wrapped him up and took him to the pound. The lady who admitted him like to have scared us silly. "You need to go home right away, bathe and put your clothes in the wash on the hot cycle." And that is precisely what we did. An hour later we phoned to find out what happened to the poor cat and they had euthanized it. They said it had a number of things wrong with it.

That little experience made me so thankful to be in a civilized and humane society that deals with those things in a compassionate way. I was so proud that my girls cared and that we played a roll in ending its awful life in a loving manner. I hate the idea of what may have happened had we not rescued it.

That reminds me of a magpie that the girls rescued once. A magpie is a scavenger bird. This bird, they promptly named her Maggie, had a broken wing and a broken leg. It too was pitiful. We made a make shift home for it in the backyard. The girls fed it and tried to nurse it back to health. On about day 2 of this operation, we had a church picnic. On the way to the picnic, it started to downpour and Hannah and Deborah began to wail, "WHAT ABOUT MAGGIE?" I turned the van around and drove home. The girls got some towels to wrap Maggie in and away we went with Maggie with us. Because magpies are not an esteemed bird, she had to stay in the van. But because I kept going to the van and checking on the bird, everyone knew about it. This led to a conversation. A church friend mentioned that they found a presumably orphaned rabbit and had thought about calling us. I was kind of puzzled that she would think about calling us about this orphaned rabbit. Kind of confused I asked her why she thought about calling me. A friend across the table answered the obvious that I had missed. She said, "Valerie, you have a magpie in your van." She was pointing out that we have a reputation of rescuing the oppressed. After she said it, it made good sense to me.

Maggie lasted a couple more days and then died. The girls buried her, built a cross out of sticks, and wrote an epitath on the rocks on top of her grave. Hannah wrote and recited a poem about Maggie at the burial. It was moving, even if it was all about a Magpie.

Sweet, sweet kids I have!

If you don't hear from me for a few days you can assume I'm rolled up in the fetal position, rocking gently back and forth. But I will return. I will rebound.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

The Week in Review

Well, life continues and it consists of highs and lows. This weeks highlights:

We went shopping and everyone got some new clothes. The girls all had money and it was fascinating watching Rachael budget and be a conscientious shopper. I was sobered to find that Rachael had to buy blouses in the ladies department. I can't believe it, she is growing up so fast. Hannah, who presently loves the grungy look and places utmost importance on comfort, "couldn't find" anything she liked. In reality, she's comfortable with all her clothes and doesn't see the need for any more. Gordon, on the other hand, HATES the comfortable look that Hannah loves. So once she "couldn't find" anything to buy, he went and found some things for her. He threw her cherished fuzzy jacket in the garbage at the store after he bought her a new fuzzy. I was with Hannah on that one. I like her old fuzzy more than her new one and simply can't understand why he threw it away. Deborah found a number of things she wanted, but could only buy 2 things. She was sad. After clothes shopping, we went to Dollarama, an amazing dollar store, and the girls finished off their shopping. They love Dollarama and live from allowance day to allowance day.

I finished my cake decorator's training and now live from mild panic attack to the next mild panic attack. I fear customers coming to me and pointing to pictures in the cake book and saying, "I want that one in 1 hour." I can do some things, but "please don't ask me for the Christening cake, or the Barbie, or the Bob the Builder, or the Dora the Explorer, or Harry Potter,.... or anything else out of the book. I don't know how to do them. Please don't even look at me while I'm working." All my writing on cakes is crooked and silly looking. My roses look like cacti and my pansies look like butt holes. Oooooohhhhh, why did I ever do this???????

The girls have each finished their projects for their school's interest fair for Wednesday night. Rachael's project is about ancient kings and pharoahs. Rachael has had an enormous interest in Egyptian things for a couple years. I wonder if that interest will turn into something. Hannah's project is on dogs and it's adorable. Deborah's is on her hamster Harry. I'm curious to see how all their projects compare to the other kids'. I'm proud of all their work.

I've changed my theology of late. Up until very recently, I thought a pastor was "called" and you shouldn't ever fire one, but rather leave the church if you couldn't go along with his way of pastoring. Well, seeing where our church is today sure makes me wish we would have fired the pastor several years ago before he drove off 75% of the church. Now that he's gone, the truth has come out and oh what a fool I was supporting him. I'm so sorry. I feel so guilty. I'm plagued by memories of my own support of him. I use to imagine that I was discerning, but I've decided I'm not. I'm actually pretty easily snowed. I've been snowed severely two times in my life and this whole ordeal was one of them. Yuk, yuk, yuk. Forgive me for ranting.

Well I have my own assignment to work on, so I must boogie. I've enjoyed the day off with my family, but tomorrow I'm back to selling wicker furniture and candles. Good night.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Bad Choice

While your day may have been normal and ordinary, mine was not. While you may have done "business as usual" I was up here growing balls. Here's what happened: I woke up this morning very tired and sporting the same headache I've had all week. So, regrettably, I called in sick and went back to bed. I had another hour of very lousy, guilt-ridden sleep. I got up to pray and relieve some guilt. I told God all that was bothering me and tried very hard to rationalize having lied. But no matter how I sliced it, I was going to feel lousy and miserable until I did the right thing.

I wrote a card to my boss apologizing for lying to her. I tried to get Gordon to deliver it, but he refused to do my dirty work. (I thought that's what men were supposed to do.) I hand delivered the card myself. Oh Lord, it was hard, but I did it. My boss was very very gracious to me. I had to muster up a lot of courage and humility to do that, but I was so glad I did. After that, I actually enjoyed my day off.

While your day may have unfolded normally, I grew up a lot today.


Dream Jobs

This morning as I sat drinking my coffee and staring out the window in partial comatose, I saw something that made me smile even in my morning condition. A garbage collecting truck - the driver clearly disoriented because garbage trucks shouldn't be passing in front of my house - sped by with 2 men riding shotgun on the truck's stoop at the back.

Why did this make me smile? When my nephew Randy was a little boy, he dreamed of being a garbage collector so he could ride on the back of a garbage truck. My Stephanie had lofty aspirations too. She wanted to be a car-hop at Sonic.

Once at Sonic, Diane jokingly made a derogatory remark about Stephanie wanting to work for Sonic. I countered her with, "this from the mother whose son wants to be the trash man."

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Happy Birthday Debbie

This week my best friend--also the friend I've had the longest-- turns 44. I can hardly believe how old she's gotten. :-)

Debbie and I became friends years ago through our husbands. Steve and Kent were best friends, so after Kent and I married, she and I were sort of forced into friendship. Truthfully, I tolerated her at first. She was too forceful for my taste. On occasion I called her a Yankee and I didn't mean it nicely. (She's from Iowa, and Iowa is north of the Mason Dixon, you know.)

Being forceful, she forced her way into my life. I was aloof and snotty and she was jovial and gregarious. When we ended up on the same block--simply a few houses from each other-- I began to love her and appreciate her. She accepted me for who I was, only occasionally calling me a snot. I eventually came to find her forceful, bossy way refreshing.

We've said over the years that we had "community" before it became a popular subject. Unfortunately neither of us knew back then just how good we had it. How many people can walk to their best friend's house in 2 minutes? How many people can feel comfortable chatting in the living room while the other irons? How convenient is it when you can make a phone call and say, "we're ordering Sonic. Ya want anything?" I'd give nearly anything to have that kind of "community" now. But she's in Florida and I'm in Canada.

Debbie is hilarious, laughs easily, doesn't take herself too seriously. She's commited, good, and kind. She's also quirky. I've never been big into the ironing scene, but Debbie use to iron everything. To me that requires a lot of attention to detail. So how could someone who is so detailed in ironing totally miss obvious details in other areas? One time I recall 4 jugs of milk sitting on her table, all of them sour and curdled. That night as Kent and I walked home, he said, "there was another jug of sour milk on the table tonight." (There had been only 3 the previous visit.) He sighed, "I've been thinking, maybe we shouldn't eat her cooking anymore." Debbie and I still laugh at that one.

Once she and I got it in our heads that we could make a killin' by having a booth at a craft sale. We rented a space for Lum and Abner's craft sale in the park. Over the next weeks (months?), we sanded, stained, and painted a bajillion geese that said, "I Love Country," cutting boards with roosters on them, and dozens of colorful wooden tulips. We were proud of our acomplishments. The night before the craft sale started, we loaded our boxes with care. As we knelt on the floor wrapping our hand-crafted valuables, Debbie informed, "I figured it up. If I sale everything I've made, I'll make $435."

The next 2 days held nothing but humiliation for us. Hundreds of folks looked at our crafts, and moved on. We sold nothing all weekend but one cutting board, and it was to my sympathizing kind mother-in-law. We were so embarrassed and quickly gave up the craft business.

Debbie and I were always scheming to find ways to make money. We had a couple garage sales, and we did well on them. The last one we had I wore a new underwire bra that felt like it was cutting me. I went inside to take it off for a spell to get some relief. I had no more gotten the bra off when Debbie bolted through the backdoor like a maniac screaming indiscernable craziness. "GET OUT THERE! Oh Dear Jesus, help me! GET OUT THERE! Jesus, help me. GET OUT THERE! John, Dora, and Cora are out there. GO, GET OUT THERE!"

I was clearly "in the dark" why she couldn't face these older folks from church, but I was not about to go outside without a bra on. She screamed again, "GET OUT THERE!" and I screamed back, "I DON'T HAVE A BRA ON. I CAN'T GO OUT THERE." We screamed at each other like crazy women; I'm sure our 3 shoppers could hear us. Debbie calmed down enough to beg instead of yell. "Please, you've got to go out there. All the wedding gifts they gave us are out there."

I don't recall how it came to be, but we both ended up out there. John, Dora, and Cora bought all the gifts they'd given Debbie as wedding presents and they went to Debbie to pay for them. When they drove off, we nearly died laughing.

Debbie was like a second mom to Stephanie. Stephanie called Steve and Debbie, "Uncle Stoobie" and "Aunt Doobie." Debbie would have gladly taken Stephanie off my hands. They loved each other very much.

Now Debbie is a mom. Katie, Caleb, and Carly are very blessed to have a mom just like Debbie. And it goes without saying that Steve is amazingly blessed to have Debbie for a wife.

I wish we still lived down the street from each other. I'd love for our kids to grow up together. I'd love to watch her iron again. I'd love to go get Sonic burgers together again. What I wouldn't give to have that "community" again. She was a great friend to me--the best I've ever had. I'm so glad to have her in my life although it's a lot different now that we have thousands of miles between us.

Debbie I hope you have a GREAT birthday. I want to be just like you when I'm your age. :-)))) I love you.

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Another Gordon Moment

Last night Gordon and I were discussing the recent near-demise of our church. A segment of the people in our church, mostly women, want to have a "closure meeting" where we all air our feelings about the recent abuse from, and subsequent dismissal of, the pastor. As these folks have persisted in requesting this type of meeting, the chairman of the board has been equally as dismissive of the idea. He is a retired businessman and quite professional.

As Gordon and I hashed out the different ideas, Gordon concluded, "yeah, to a business man, I guess the idea of a 'closure meeting' is pretty demented." Then he conducted his own mini-version of a 'closure meeting' in the business world: "We fired Joe. Anyone else here have a problem with Joe? Let's talk about how we feel about Joe."

Is that funny to anyone else? I laughed.

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In the Backwoods

When Stacie and I were teenagers, probably 14 and 16, we went to see new friends who lived way, way out in the country. We got terribly lost and were on the backroads of the backroads. In desperation, we took a hilly, rutted driveway to seek help on how to get back to a main road.

At the end of the driveway, we found a dilapidated trailer and a number of barking dogs. As we sized up the situation, a skinny wild-haired old woman came out of the trailer and stood looking at us while she yelled at her dogs. Hesitantly, we stepped out of the car and approached her. As we got close to the lady, we saw horrifying evidence that all people are not created equal. As she smiled kindly at us, she revealed her pathetically bad teeth. They jutted north, south, east, and west. I can nearly assure you that you've never seen teeth nearly as bad.

I have a strange compulsion that I've carried with me throughout my life. Based in my private insecurities revolving around my toes, I always "check out the toes" of new acquaintances. Since this lady wore no shoes, this was very simple. As I pulled my eyes away from her teeth, I was equally as horrified by her toes as I was with her teeth. They too jutted in every direction and each wore a dingy yellow, pyramid shaped, thick, grotesque nail. Up until that moment, I thought I had the worst toes in the world. Suddenly, I was thankful for my minor foot disorders.

Stacie and the lady got it sorted out who we were, who we belonged to, our relatives, and where they lived, all while I stared at this poor woman's toes.

Pointed in the right direction again, Stacie and I bid her our thanks for her time and directions and got back in the car. As soon as the doors were closed, we both bursts out our shock, sympathy, and disbelief. "Did you see her teeth?,"Stacie asked. At the exact same moment, I was saying, "Did you see her toes?" Stacie answered, "See her toes? I was too busy wondering how she eats with those teeth to look down at her toes!"

I'm sure we eventually found our way to a main road. Call me shallow, but I remember nothing else about that day other than that poor old kind woman, her living conditions, her teeth, and her toes.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

My Niece Mindi

Mindi and Julian December 2005

Mindi. Of all my nieces and nephews I have the most memories of Mindi and CJ. I was around them from the day they were born. They were so much a part of my own youth, that in many ways they were like much younger siblings. They were always around, so I have a number of memories and have enjoyed recollecting over the past few days.

I may be deluded, but I am of the opinion that Mindi is a lot like me; certainly the most like me of my nieces. Beautiful, cleaver, witty, fun-loving,... ok, enough about me, this is supposed to be about Mindi. :-)

Mindi was a very loved little girl and wonderfully secure with her place in the world. She would walk into our house on the farm with a look that said, "I'm here! You can all be happy now." I remember one time in particular that she wore that look into the house. She wore a royal blue corduroy dress with a white blouse underneath. She was all dressed up and couldn't wait to show us her new dress. She had such a beautiful face; very full cheeks, dark skin, thick nose, brown eyes that sparkled. Everything was perfect except her hair. She had 2 crowns in her hair which made for a challenge. The face was always beautiful, but the hair wasn't as cooperative. It went in every direction at once.

Ornery, she was very ornery. She was the sweetest thing on earth until she didn't get what she wanted, and then she screamed like the dickens and kicked too. She loved WalMart and pitched a walleyed fit when she didn't get a treat. To this day, I periodically imitate Mindi's toddler version of her beloved hangout. She called it "WullMerts," and sometimes I still do just because I thought it was so cute.

One phrase that has stuck with me through the years is her happy proclamation, "When my Momma gets some dollars, we're goin' to WullMerts." That memory leads me to another. With her white blouse tucked in her blue jeans, she struggled to get a treasure out of her pocket to show us. "I have dollars," she bragged.

She often spent time with Pop at the chicken house and in the fields. One particular time, conflicting schedules dictated that Mindi spend the whole day "on the farm" with Pop. She was exhausted at day's end. Not just exhausted, but extraordinarily exhausted. When we gathered for supper, Mindi was put in the bathtub. Famished, she came into the kitchen wrapped in a towel and her wet hair stuck to her head. Mimi was beside the stove peeling boiled eggs and Mindi asked for a bite. When Mimi said it was ok, Mindi responded with, "Put it in my mouth please." She was so exhausted that putting something in her own mouth seemed too hard to do herself. Supper that night had all the loving folks making sure Mindi's life was as unstressful as possible.

Like I said earlier, Mindi was adept at throwing fits when circumstances called for it. Once Pop took her to the grocery store with him and then refused to buy her a treat. Her fit was short-lived as she knew it was fruitless, but the bee in her bonnet was buzzing around furiously for hours. She was in a real snit. Cranky, grumpy, and impossible to please. Mimi tried a number of times to get her to tell what was bothering her, but Mindi kept quiet about the cause of her bitter mood. Mimi moved on with her chores and quit asking Mindi what was bothering her. Suddenly, unprovoked, Mindi burst out in frustration: "Pop didn't buy me any candy and that's IT!" By saying "that's it," she didn't mean, "that's what's bothering me," she meant, "he is no longer my grandpa, all ties are severed." She was seriously on the outs with Pop.

Now about how Mindi is like me. I have seen several expressions of hers that make me think, "oh my goodness, that looked like me." When she was a teenager, unfortunately I was in Canada, but I heard that she had a few "attitudes" like me. I gathered it wasn't a good thing. Mindi dabbles in the arts in the same ways I do. Our interests vary, but we each have a healthy appreciation for artsy type of things, and pursue the interests we have with a fair amount of passion.

I thoroughly enjoy Mindi. She's no longer that little girl I wrote about. She's a woman, a beautiful woman. Her hair finally cooperates and one would never know it was ever an issue. She's a mother, wife, photographer, writer, friend and a number of things I'm sure I don't know about. But I know she is delightful, a good communicator, funny, and smart. Mindi Rae, I love you as much as I did when you were a tot sitting on your mom's lap "steering" as she drove. You were precious then and you are just as precious now.

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Happy Spring & Lucy is 2

Salutations! Spring has arrived in the Great White North and I LOVE it. I walked around the yard this morning before work and was pleasantly surprised to find tulip and lily shoots in abundance. Spring! Is there anyone who doesn't love it? Furthermore, later today we got a little rain shower. Do you know how cool it is when the moisture comes in the form of rain rather than white fluffs? Simply invigorating.

My cake decorating adventure is pretty cool. I worked 36 hours this week and will have another busy training week next week. After that I will be a "professional cake decorator." Pretty cool. Today I brought home (and paid for) a lemon supreme cake that I made. When Hannah saw it, she hugged me. She loves to see me learn new things. She is so artsy and loves new creations in whatever form they take. She's so sweet that way.

My beloved Lucy is 2-years-old now. For your pleasure and mine, I'm sharing a few pictures of her sweet little life.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

My Niece Amy

My Niece Amy
(picture courtesy of Mindi)

Well I had just about decided that either no one reads this blog anymore, or else I scare people away with my recollections. Thankfully my niece Amy (youngest daughter of my brother) let me know that she reads this, whether anyone else does or not. So where shall I begin?

On September 4, 1985 my niece Amy made her debut at the DeQueen Hospital. It was an eventful night for me. I had a rip-roaring fight with my husband. You know, one of those fights that you remember 21 years later. Yes it was a doozy. When most people were asleep, except those at marital odds, I got a call that Amy was on her way. I jumped in my car and headed south to DeQueen. I imagined sitting in the waiting room for a while with other family members while labor and delivery commenced. It was not to be. When I walked in the hospital, I saw Meme smiling from ear to ear and I knew that "someone" had arrived. "It's a girl," Meme said and took me to the window to see Amy. For the first time in my life I saw a baby wearing that white coat of stuff that babies are sometimes born with. (I'd love to sound intelligent and name that stuff, but for the life of me I can't remember what that substance is called.) I had never seen anything like it and was kind of alarmed. I was informed immediately that it would go away, and must admit, I was glad to know it. Shortly thereafter I went into Lawana's room and learned that Baby's name was Amy Nicole.

When Amy nursed, surely she embarrassed her mom more than a few times, as she nursed louder than any child I've ever know. "Sluuurp, sluuurp, sluuurp," in a ravenous fashion. This went on for months. Lawana could never feed Amy discreetly. Amy announced in a most definite way what was going on.

Amy always had a ready wide mouthed grin for everyone. It seemed she had a special spot for Pabob. She adored him, and he adored her back. Who couldn't adore someone who adored you so? Amy and Stephanie were 6 months apart and Amy was somewhat possessive of Pabob. Once when she got to Meme and Pabob's house, she came in to discover Pabob on the floor with Stephanie. Amy was not forgiving of catching him in the act of playing with another. We were terribly amused with her snubbing him - the one she loved so much - the rest of the evening.

When she was around 2, she began to talk incessantly. Coming from Stephanie's mother, that is saying a lot. Stephanie was a big talker, but in certain situations, Amy could talk a blue streak, that even Stephanie was silenced by. One particular time, several of the cousins were playing together and Amy was dominating the conversation. Meme playfully asked Amy if her mommy and daddy ever told her that she talked a lot. Without missing a beat, Amy matter-of-factly informed, "Yes, my Daddy says, 'Amy Shuuuut Up.'" (He said it kindly, and her tone reflected that.)

When she was a little older, probably around 4, she developed the pout that she perfected to a degree that I still imitate it. I bet she would never guess that I have a 4-year-old pout that she taught me. When Amy's feelings were hurt, she would bow her head ever so slightly, slowly bring her index finger to her lips, and look at you under her eyebrows. It was an "Amy only" thing, that I've never seen another child do.

Amy has a beautiful voice and always has. While the rest of us came off sounding like we were from Arkansas, Amy always sounded like a Southern Belle, not a hick. I used to try to sound like her, but it was impossible. While she could sound so beautiful, I sounded country.

When I moved to Canada, Amy tried valiantly to keep in touch. She gave an amazing effort for a 7-year-old. I still have sweet letters that she wrote me and they meant so much to me back in the days when my life was crumbling down around me. She said this line that has stuck with me over the years. The poor English I thought was so cute, along with the implication that she really understood something I'm still grappling to understand 13 years later. Referring to Stephanie, she wrote, "Bless her heart, she just don't understand." Very thoughtful and kind sentiments from a 7-year-old, don't you agree?

And as is the habit of all my nieces and nephews, Amy grew up while I was far far away. Now she is preparing for a new journey in life - Motherhood. Within a couple weeks, Amy will deliver Baby Jocelyn. I know Jocelyn will be beautiful just like her mommy. Amy is a beautiful, beautiful woman. (For Amy's sake I hope Jocelyn nurses more gingerly than her mommy did. :-)
Amy I love you. You kind of got out of the habit of writing me, but I still love letters. Miles and miles are between us, but I have a number of memories of your sweetness, gentleness, and acceptance. I wish I could see more of you. How about you, Salomon, and Baby Jocelyn visiting the relatives in Canada? I'd love to see you and have some one on one time with you.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Pope's Death

This pope who had taught so many people around the world how to live was also teaching in those moments how a person can die.

"Death is sad," Dziwisz said. "But his death was beautiful, because he believed in where he was going -- to meet God."

For those in the bedroom, it was not a time of grief. Instead, they sang a hymn of thanksgiving. "When we saw that his heart wasn't beating anymore, we didn't cry," said Dziwisz. "We sang, 'Te Deum laudamus,' thanking God for his life, for his accomplishments and for being able to stay with him until the end."

The above came from, my regular news source. I thought it was beautiful. I doubt if thousands are gathered outside my house as I'm dying, but I hope the few with me will be able to say something sort of like the above about me. And if they can't say it honestly about me, I hope for the sake of my memory, they'll lie.