Thursday, October 29, 2015

When Ronnie Met Sandy

Billy Crystal once said in the great movie When Harry Met Sally, “Men can never really be friends with women.” The implication? Men’s motivations tend to get in the way. But but by the end of the movie, Harry transforms and best friends Harry and Sally become. More importantly, happily married they end up. We assume anyway. There never was a sequel.

Mom always told me the key ingredient in a good marriage was humor. Dad never gave me advice on the making of a good marriage. But we did watch The Bold and Beautiful together. I learned quite a bit from that.

When a child looks back and mostly remembers joy, laughter, and a sense of security, a couple should feel a sense of accomplishment about their time together. There’s a reason I still hang around the house at the ripe old age of 46. The home I grew up in valued knowledge, generosity, work ethic, and comedy. All of these values were easily found in a bean field, at the kitchen table, or watching Saturday Night Live.

Fifty years! What a gift you have given us by celebrating fifty years of marriage. Thank you for enjoying each other’s differences, finding joy in the world together, and passing it on to the ones you love the most.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Profile of a Trick-or-Treater

As a country-dweller, I don't usually have the pleasure of handing out treats on Halloween. But thanks to Harvest Fest and my mother's shop on the square, I found myself in the fray of costume-adorning fiends last weekend. Not only did I find it FANTASTICALLY FUN, but I also found it to be a great study in sociology. Here are my findings.

Treat beggars can be divided into categories. Methinks these categories could possibly be indicators of one's future. Seriously. I think I saw glimpses of bankers, thespians, and, of course, robbers–sometimes all in the same clan. My classifications are fairly broad. But I think they're comprehensive.

The Sifter: This is the kid who holds up the line, digging through every kind of candy, or every flavor  to find the one she wants. "Do you have watermelon?" Even though there are twenty kids behind her, and her mom knows there are TWENTY KIDS BEHIND HER, you sift through the basket, looking for that elusive piece of watermelon candy. Why don't you take this yummy piece of Reese's I'm planting in front of you?I think to myself as she nonchalantly brushes it aside.  But then it's found! She nods knowingly at me as if to say, "I knew you could do it."  Her mother says, "What do you say?" But she doesn't need to say anything. She knows her presence was thanks enough. She's the girl who knows what she wants and how to get it. She'll let no one deter her vision. Forget Arendelle, this little Elsa will obviously be CEO of JP Morgan someday.

The Grabber: Two handfuls, five scoops–or as many as can be managed before Mom says, "STOP! THAT'S ENOUGH!" And then two more scoops after that. The little fish obviously thinks diabetes is an achievement to attain, or is quite possibly running an illegal candy shop and plans to sell his stash for pure profit. There might be some issues with this one's future. Despite the impressive display of dexterity with those fins. I'm just saying. This one's probably bound for someplace like...Etsy.

The Trickster: The only real trick we experienced this weekend were the repeat beggars. Obviously, we handled it. No damage was done in giving out the extra candy. The Trickster is really on the same page as the Grabber. Yet, the Trickster is smooth. She approaches, for a second or third time, with her costume slightly altered (a Scream mask, this time without the blood...), then she asks all politely, "Can I have one or two?" Of course it works! We know what she's doing, but what grouch shuts off candy for a kid? Especially one with a bloody Scream mask. (I won't speculate on the Trickster's future. Lots of options here.)

The Rule Follower: I wonder if Rule-Followers really have any fun at all on Halloween. I mean, they probably say they have fun because they think they are supposed to have fun. But there's a certain, tortured look on these souls. Their costumes are immaculate–and they are still wearing their hats or masks, otherwise, well, you know, it wouldn't be right. But what's most amusing about this group of kids is their willingness to communicate their values to the "other" kids. "Only take one piece!" "You already took one!" But really, they are a perfectly polite group of kids. After gingerly taking the top piece of candy, whether they like it or not, they look up to ensure their gratitude is noticed. "Thank you." It's sadly adorable. These kids will all be bankers someday. Most likely compliance officers.

In truth, there wasn't one kid I didn't lose my heart to just a little bit. No matter what the origins, Halloween has become a strangely celebratory holiday–for all ages. It's fun. It's strange. It can be spooky. But mostly, I think, it's a great way to celebrate our individuality.

Mom and Star Wars Fanboys. The kids loved us.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Destination of a Boy

Today my coworker friend sent me an email with the header: You’re gonna love this. Stars Wars has been selected as theme for the Harvest Fest this year. My heart lifted as a pic of the familiar logo and a costumed Luke and Lea came into view. Then I felt a little sad. Oh yeah. My kids are big now. Teenagers. A Darth-Cole might be more eerie than cute.

Not that my 14-year-old isn't still cute. He is. But he’s stepping out of...boyhood. I’m now a dwarf next to him. Lengthwise anyway. (Still got him on girth.) His once sweet, animated voice has migrated into a lower, monotone decibel. Car singing is a joy. Imagine Steven Wright doing Katie Perry. But the thing that worries me? This bit of cleverness that's steeping in. I'm not talking textbook academic-clever. I'm talking about the intricacy of his stories. In other words, lies. Lies getting more difficult to detect. For example...

It’s 9:00 and he decides to retire.

"So early?" I ask with a bit of suspicion. (I'm not completely clueless. Insomniac kid heads to bed at 9:00....potential miscreant behavior ahead.)  But then he says...

"Gonna read."

"Well! Okay!" I say with a proud smile. My lessons on "how reading will make him great" are starting to sink in!

"Don't stay up too long!" I say, but not really meaning it. Would I really reprimand him for staying up until midnight for reading? Heck no.

After he heads down, I get to thinking. Have I seen Cole with a book lately? The kid painfully relates every part of every book he reads. I'm thinking I haven't heard anything of the sort.

When I decide to sneak downstairs to his bedroom to confirm his bookish pursuits, I discover he has not lied to me. He is reading. A Fantasy Football update on his iPhone. He needs to, I am informed. No longer can he research Fantasy Football at school. He and Jordan got it banned. 

At least he accomplished something this year.

He asked me the other day if his study hall teacher had called me. I said "No, why?" He only replied with a "Oh good." When I pried, he only said, "If you didn't get a call, it was nothing." Then he whipped up a smile, eyes all glimmering. I have a feeling the kid could be dangerously furtive.

But he’s not all grown up. Nor is he completely sneaky. I still relish in every bit of his boyishness.
  • He still favors kicking and shooting balls. More than anything in the world, it seems. I’m assuming this will change any minute and he'll be compelled to become an astute student. 
  • So far, his daily body inspections have not indicated any underarm hair. 
  • He tattles on his college-aged sister like a little kid. Just this weekend he mentioned her “going-ons” at college from her one of her SnapChat stories. When I tried to see them on my SnapChat, I couldn’t. Cole explained I had been blocked, but he was more than happy to share with me. (On a side note, my daughter explained her blocking of me was an act of love—a need for maternal separation. She's getting so smart in college.) 
So tonight I told Cole about the Harvest Fest theme, expecting a teenagey "too cool for that" type response. My heart leapt a little when his eyes grew wide and said, "Awesome! Can't wait to tell Matt."

Strong, stays the Force in the heart of a boy.
A long time ago, in a galaxy not very far away...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Departure Grief

Here we come Alex!
It’s been just over two weeks since the dropoff and here’s what I know.

Forget wrinkles and achy joints. The worst part of getting old is taking your kids to college.

Yeah, I know. This is why you raise your kids—to be independent and find their way in the world. Blah. Blah. Blah. I simply want my little girl back. The little girl with the big brown, curious eyes and bobbed haircut. The five-year-old, asking me to read Olivia for the billionth time. I'll tell you what I would NOT do if I could back in time: I wouldn’t sigh about rehashing the clever little pig's mischiefs. Nor would I calculate all the tasks required to uphold an averagely-kept house. Nope. I'd let the laundry go undone! I'd leave the dishes sit on the counter! I might even allow the pets to puke on the carpet without throwing a tantrum. Maybe.

Some of you (the few, the proud, the followers) might have notice this blog on hiatus. The break was merely due to my grief. The perpetual lump in my throat and swirl about my guts as I ponder what's going on in my college-bound daughter's world. Everyone keeps asking me how’s she doing? I think to myself, How’s she doing? I DON'T KNOW FOR SURE! GHEESH. THANKS FOR REMINDING ME SHE'S GONE!  

I have an inkling she's adjusted well. Clambered into to her new college life by jumping off the high dive. It’s me they should be asking about. How are YOU doing, mother of student? 

I guess I’m coping. I think about her all the time...probably too much. I wonder if she misses her family as much as we miss her. I’ve reached out to her a few times (quite a few times as she has pointed out), hoping we could Facetime. Apparently, I’m catching her at bad times. Almost always a bad time. Two days ago she said she’d call me back later. I’m still waiting for that call. It’s like I’m in high school again, waiting for the boy to ask me to a dance. And he's just not interested in the nerdy bookworm.

In three days, we reunite—to celebrate the opening season of the Hawk’s football season. But really? It will be a celebration of my endurance. My ability to step away from one of my most favorite people in the world and let her mess up her room without me saying a word about it. Really, I won't. We can simply talk about cool stuff. Like English literature classes. Or if anyone has tempted her to taste a beer. That happened to me once in college.


As I was finishing this blog, I received that call from Alex. Eerie, huh? (She didn't recall she was to call me back a few days ago. Kids!) Anyway, hearing her voice instantly lifted my spirit. And as we talked, it quickly became evident, that my role of mother wouldn't be going away anytime soon.

Maybe I'll bring Olivia with me this weekend.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bird Brain and Nest Theory

So the other day I went to throw the towels in the dryer. But when I looked in the washing machine, there wasn't one single piece of fabric to be fluffed. I had ran the cycle, but forgot to add the soiled linens. And I had just been discussing (boasting really) on our frugal use of detergent. Never mind I just wasted a whole bunch of water.

Yeah. I'm scattered lately.

Every night in bed, I catch myself just before falling asleep, heart palpitating. Sometimes I get up and start walking around for no apparent reason. My husband asks me what I'm doing. I usually don't know.

I'm forgetting something! Something important! Something more than a load of laundry. I just don't know what it is.

Alex starts college next week.

We went on a girls' shopping trip yesterday. My plan was to leave her some profound, imparting wisdom. But I just blanked. I couldn't come up with anything she doesn't already know.

Get rest.
Be involved.
Know your limits.
Brush your teeth. No, I did not say that. But I will.

She told me her godmother stopped by the other day and gave her great advice on handling herself at parties. Thank god for godmothers. I forgot that she might get invited to a party.

Alright. Enough. The girl is ready. She's beautiful, brilliant and ready to soar....I think her mama will be just fine as long as her soaring routes her back home once in a while.
Ready to Take on World.
Good Lord. This really is going to happen. She really is going to college. It hasn't seemed real. And now we're packing and Cole has dibs on the bed.

At this point, I feel my best use is quit doing laundry and admire photos of my daughter. And of course, thank God for my blessings.


Monday, August 3, 2015


In Seth McFarlane's award winning movie, A Million Ways to Die the West, there's a rumor of a man (from Texas) who actually smiled for a photograph. Sobriety defined decorum in the Old West, apparently. Otherwise, you just might appear a lunatic. Imagine being skeptical of a smiler for the camera! In this age of photo bombs and selfies! Certainly, how good for times to have changed, allowing for folly and joy.

I've been thinking about the topic of smiling a lot lately. It began when I met a group of my mother's friends the other day and was struck by one lady in particular. She wore one of those smiles that made you melt inside and I immediately felt special to know her. All of the ladies were friendly, but her inviting smile was like a soulful, unspoken welcoming. I can attest she made my whole day brighter.

Research shows a smile can activate endorphins within the giver and the receiver. Yeah, I just made that up. But doesn't it seem right? No matter, who could deny the warm fuzzy when someone, anyone, presents you a sincere happy face? It feels like eating ice cream, without the calories.

One day a coworker and I were talking about giving presentations to groups. As bankers, we often have to give information on some pretty dry topics. We do our best to keep the audience engaged. But it doesn't always work, no matter how dazzling deposit compliance or human resources can be. I do become amused, of course, by the sleepers. They have mastered sleep with open eyes. Then there are the scowlers–the "I don't care what you are saying and I don't care what you are telling me" people. Or at least that's what their expressions insinuate. My coworker has given them the benefit of the doubt. She doesn't believe they actually think those things, but has diagnosed them with "resting bitch face."

Resting Bitch Face |restingbichfās|
A crabby facial expression, projected by an unsuspecting person or non-expressive animal. 
Hmm. One of these needs a smiling lesson...

But there is always that tiny group of smiling nodders. You know the type. You love them! You can't take your eyes off them...because you know they're rooting for you!

A nodding smiler. That's who I want to be. It's who I want my kids to be. The type of person who will always root for you.

Award-winning Smiles

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Power of Indecision

What should we eat?
Where should we go?
What should we watch?

Simple questions. Yet. We approach them as if considering the next brilliant chess move. Our family does anyway.

Let me begin with some history, so you get some sense of our household dynamics.

I learned early on that flexibility would be a non-negotiable on the farm. (It should've have occurred to me when the first call for a date didn't come for three weeks after meeting Doug. The story is he had some beans to plant...) As our relationship became more serious, I noticed activities took a backseat to harvest, planting, spraying, etc. I discovered that planning any particular activity was often a lesson in futility. Doug's trademark response, "We'll have to see once" was a euphemism for "don't plan anything."

And it's fine–especially for a reader! But the easiest activities to plan at the last minute are eating and watching movies. Those habits tend to define our family.

Anyway, back to how we make come to any decision. "Compromise"probably doesn't quite cover it. I have realized Doug's "indecisiveness" tends to work for him quite brilliantly. Doug will tell you he never makes the call when it comes to choosing a place to eat or when it comes to choosing a movie to watch. That's because our conversations go something like this:

Me    What should we watch tonight?
He     I don't care. What do you want to watch?
Me    Really? You really want me to choose?

A pause.

He    Sure. Just choose something good.
Me    Midnight in Paris.
He    I said something good.
Me    So what do you want to watch?
He    I don't care.
Me   You do care! How about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? You've Got Mail?

A pause.

Me    Or Trouble with Curve?
He    Ok. We can watch Trouble with the Curve.

Baseball movies are never rejected.

So the next movie night comes around. Doug will comment how it's his turn to choose since I selected Trouble with the Curve.  (Ha!) Someone like Jason Bourne will adorn the screen.

As for the next movie night? See the conversation above, slightly different movie options. I bought Slumdog Millionaire a few years ago, but haven't seen it yet because my husband pinches his face every time I suggest it. He mentions I can watch it during planting or harvest. But I'm in the camp of "movies are no fun to watch by yourself!" Maybe I'll attempt Doug's "indecisive" strategy on him. Somehow I think it'll fail miserably.

Certainly, there are always those nights when there is absolutely no agreeing on a DVD. That's when we turn to the worst place in the universe for the indecisive: Netflix. Why, you ask, would we do that to ourselves? Flick through the abyss of movie and TV show options?

Two reasons. There's always that glimmer of hope we'll find something to agree upon. And, of course,  Quentin Tarantino. There's always Quentin Tarantino.