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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Singing Road Trip... the best form of kid torture EVER!!!

We had just finished packing up the car, our Grey Traverse stuffed to the rim with dogs, bikes, the kid, and the numerous beach supplies needed for a week's stay in Gulf Shores. I was happy that the morning had been smooth and relaxed. We had managed to shove off at the planned time with no extra packing stress.

Just as the dirt road turned into pavement the voice floated up from the backseat. "Mama, can I have your phone?" I rolled my eyes. Once again we were not on the road more than three seconds before Senia Mae wanted to plant her face in the screen, getting completely sucked into the vacuum effect of electronic stimulation. What ever happened to families talking to each other during long drives. Didn't kids play I Spy or the Alphabet game anymore?

"Kara, it's going to be a seven hour drive," Kim said.

Most days I would push the family talking argument, trying to treasure the lost trove of Americana, but that day I just handed the phone back. Here we go, I thought to myself as I flipped on SiriusXM radio channel 15, The Pulse! Suddenly over the airwaves I heard the voice of Katie Couric announcing she was live on the air with Steve Perry of Journey and was going to spend the next full hour discussing his disappearance from the public eye over the last thirty years.

"Whaaaaat?" I yelled out in excitement as I raised my hand across the middle console to give Kim a high five. "I loooooove Steve Perry!"

Closing my eyes I could still see Steve Perry's smooth black hair and chiseled chin on the faded cover of Tiger Beat Magazine. That ripped cover remained plastered to the wall beside my bed until the mid-eighties. It was going to be a great day, I could feel it. Leaning forward I turned the volume knob up higher, drowning out the Monster High voices coming from the backseat.

"Even his own grandfather believed the rumor about him having throat cancer," I said, turning to Kim, my ears desperately hanging on every word that came out of the speakers.

"That's unbelievable," Kim replied. "Must be crazy living in the spotlight like that."

After a few minutes Katie said they were going to take a short break. I so wanted to be taking her place in that interview. She left us with Steve Perry's smokey voice belting, "I should've been gone... knowing how I made you feel..."

I screamed like an excited schoolgirl going to the eighth-grade semi-formal. Kim and I started swaying left to right in unison with the pulsating bass as he moaned, "Oh I must have been a dreamer..."

"Dream of Gold" Kim and I both sung back-up, wailing at the top of our lungs as the car rocked back and forth, bike tires spinning on the rear rack. We could have easily been Wayne and Garth cruising around town in a Pacer or Melissa McCarthy singing the Milkshake song during the car scene of Identity Thief.

"You guys know all the words to this song?" Senia Mae asked after we both belted out "You'd be better off alone... if I'm not who you thought I'd be..."

"Of course," I said. "I've had Journey's Greatest Hits on cassette, CD, and on iTunes. Even though this was his solo album."

"We love this music," Kim added. "I had this record on 45."

"Yes, I can tell," Senia Mae said with a cake-thick layer of sarcasm. "Do you think you can turn it down? I can hardly hear my video."

"That's what headphones are for," I piped in happily as a deep grunt came from the backseat.

"How long is this guy going to be on?" she asked.

"Hopefully the whole seven hours!" Kim said excitedly. "But more like sixty minutes."

"Sixty minutes? That's a long time..." Senia Mae groaned as Kim and I busted out laughing in the front seat, realizing that this was the best form of kid torture ever.

Thinking of all the countless hours I've had to listen to those annoying YouTube videos where the kids are screeching in pretend baby voices, this moment in time was absolutely priceless. We may not be day trippers but we definitely ARE fun Road Trippers!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Mama, It's Just TOO MUCH!

Sitting in the salon chair yesterday, my stylist mentioned the stress of planning her daughter's birthday party after the last two years coincided with trips to Walt Disney World. "Now my daughter expects every birthday party to be at Disney World," she sighed as she rolled her eyes with a look of exasperation.

"You've set the bar pretty high. It's hard to compete with the magic of Disney. How 'bout a bouncy house?"

"That's what we're planning for this year," she said.

"We thought we had the same trouble with Senia Mae's party last year," I said as she snip-snipped and my curly locks floated down the the floor. "I'd tell her: Senia Mae we need to decide where your party is going to be so we can send out the invites in advance. You know what she said?"

"Mama, this is all just TOO MUCH!"

"What do you mean too much? You sound like a Grandma!"

"You know deciding who can come and who not to invite... it's just stressful. Can it just be the three of us?"

I didn't tell her I'd love to save the hundreds of dollars to costs to throw a big party! I said, "Sure. We can have lunch at American Girl and how about getting a hotel room with an indoor pool?" She was thrilled about staying in a hotel. In her mind very few things compared to the importance of a hotel stay.

Later on when someone asked what she was doing for her birthday Senia Mae said,"we're going on vacation."

"Oh, to where?" they asked.

"Senia Mae spouted off proudly, "Alpharetta."

"Oh you're going on a nice vacation to Alpharetta!" What makes this so funny is that Alpharetta is about a twenty minute trip, two towns over from where we live. So we looked like real big spenders taking our kid on a birthday vacation in Alpharetta! The important thing was that she loved her special birthday with just her moms and that in itself made the voyage to Alpharetta worth the trip!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Number two? Lucky you.

I don't know if it was the full summer of sun scorching or the fact our internal clockwork is messed up because school starts twenty minutes later this year, but even after four weeks in session the Zajac family can't seem to get into the proper flow of fall.

Yesterday morning I was thrilled as I peeked around the corner and saw Senia Mae completely dressed and fixing her hair thirty minutes before we had to leave. Thinking that all technical difficulties had been avoided, I took the rare occasion to focus merely on getting myself ready for work. Big Mistake.

After finishing my hair and makeup, packing up her lunch, and filling my Yeti to the rim with piping hot coffee, I headed around the corner towards Senia Mae's room.

"Senia Mae, it's 7:45... time to leave for school," I called out happily.

"Just a minute," I heard in a muffled voice.

"Where are you?" I asked.

"In the bathroom."

"Well honey it's time to go," I added as I turned the knob on the bathroom door only to find my daughter sitting completely naked on the toilet, shorts, shirt, shoes and socks scattered across the aqua colored tile. Trying not to let her see my sudden flare of anger as I realized that ONCE AGAIN she wasn't ready, I faked my empathetic voice. "What's going on? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I just had to go the bathroom," she said.

"So you're not sick?"

"Nope," she said. My immediate thought was why she hadn't gone to the bathroom twenty minutes earlier when I heard her singing and playing with her new LOL doll.

"Senia Mae," I said trying to calm the irritation in my voice, "You were all ready for school thirty minutes ago. If you had to suddenly go to the bathroom, why is it that you came in fully dressed and now you are completely naked?"

"Mama," she said, looking so hurt that I didn't just automatically know the answer, "I had to go POOP!"

Some people have the ability to remain clothed AND have a bowel movement, I whispered to myself as I shut the door in defeat. Apparently that is not the case with us. So instead of a stress free morning we ended up speeding to school, screeching into the parking lot, and landing right in front of the double doors at 8:10... just as the bell rang. Maybe we'll have better luck next week!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Inventor of Personal Water Receptacles

An excerpt from my memoir: The Significance of Curly Hair


My best friend Laura lived directly across California Road on the opposite end of the cul-de-sac. We spent nearly every waking minute together. Whether it was playing Barbies, riding bikes, or rolling down the hill until we almost threw up, we were practically conjoined twins. One exceptionally sweltering day we were caught up complaining about the heat and why we could never have a pool. While most days our burning desires were pacified by skipping through the lawn sprinkler while singing at the top of our lungs, this day was different. Skipping and singing was not going to be good enough. We needed more water. As Gram came around the corner of the house carrying her garden whip-it, we confronted her with the question that every kid bugs their parents with summer after summer.

“Why can’t we have a pool?” I said pouting, looking like I had just taken a huge bite of crab apple salad. Without even batting an eye Gram came up with a witty response, it was so quick that it seemed as if the words were just resting on her tongue waiting for us to ask.

“Why do you need a pool,” she said with that glimmer of magic that made her eyes dance when she knew she was coming up with something really good, “when you can each have your own personal swimming receptacles?” Laura and I stared at her in wonder, hopeful with possibility and grateful that we were finally being heard. Both of us eight year old, twig legged, tangled haired girls looked up at her with bottom lips sticking out, as we listened intently to the fabulous, yet fantastical description of these personal swimming receptacles. They were round, chest high, and held enough water to cover our shoulders. “It’s like having your own pool all to yourself,” Gram said with such enthusiasm that we needed to know exactly where to get them.

Laura and I both agreed that the receptacles were exactly what we were looking for, possibly the only things that would let us survive the excruciatingly hot day that still included many more blistering hours. Nodding to each other in unison, we asked Gram to explain one more time where exactly they were located, because she made it absolutely clear that we already had them and we could be swimming within minutes.

“Oh yes, they’re right there behind the house, in between the hose and the bulkhead,” she said pointing towards the water spigot. Her voice remained steady and serious as she turned away from us, heading back inside the house. My last two toes caught a few pieces of tall clover in between them as we quickly pivoted one hundred and eighty degrees and ran at a full sprint to the back of the house. In my head I imagined they looked like those see through plastic dunk tanks you hit with baseballs at the carnival. Scanning the back of the house from left to right I didn’t see anything big and clear and plastic. I looked between the hose and the bulkhead. There were no receptacles. Maybe she meant inside the bulkhead. Laura and I stood on the gray painted plywood doors, chipping from years of weather, and pulled on the metal handles with all of the strength we could muster. The doors didn’t budge.

“Do you see them?” I asked Laura as I started to get frustrated. She shook her head. Jumping off the bulkhead we decided to look behind the house one last time, uncovering the hose, two brown rubber trash barrels, a shovel, and three milk jugs with twigs in them. Where were the personal water receptacles? We stormed back to the screened door demanding an answer.

Gram met us at the door as she dabbed her forehead with a cool cloth, the neck of her blue tank top moist with sweat after whacking down weeds with her whip-it. “We can’t find them. They’re not there,” I said abruptly, looking directly into her eyes through the screened door. We both informed her that they were nowhere to be found, we had looked three times.

“I saw them there earlier, let me come with you and maybe we can find them together,” she said as her voice crackled slightly, trying to maintain her serious tone and not laugh. Laura and I turned around and sped down the five concrete steps with Gram in tow.

“See, there’s nothing there,” I said pointing to the back of the house, dragging Gram up close so she could see with her own eyes that we were not skipping over anything. We had thoroughly scoured the exterior of the house, the personal water receptacles were not there. Gram smiled as she walked up next to the bulkhead, grabbing the two brown Rubbermaid trash barrels by their handles and flipping them over.

“Here they are right where I said they were.” She pointed proudly at the barrels.

“But those are trash barrels,” I said, “You said these were personal water receptacles.” My disappointment was building as I crossed my arms and stuck one hip out, temporarily annoyed at the ridiculous idea of swimming in trash barrels.

“All we have to do is rinse any loose grass clippings out of these barrels and they are perfectly clean. We’ll carry them down to the bottom of the hill, sit them in the sun and fill them with water. You will each have your own personal water receptacle, much better than any pool you’d have to share.” Gram walked off carrying the barrels with us following like slugs. “Bring the hose down with you.”

Laura and I tugged at the hose, each carrying three or four connected ringlets down to the bottom of the hill. When we reached Gram we handed over the hose and I sprinted back to the spigot to turn the water on, still skeptical of the idea of a trashy pool. Gram quickly rinsed a few strands of loose grass from the barrels and all three of us agreed that they looked good as new. She lined them up side by side and filled them each half full with water, placing a cinder block in between the barrels to use as a step to get in and out.

I had Laura try it first; she was always a good Guinea Pig. Watching her skinny leg slide over the rim and into the water, I saw her eyebrows lift in pleasant surprise as her smile widened. “It’s great,” she said as she plunged her body up and down, “You should try it.” I reluctantly followed, still wanting to be upset but unable to keep the pout on my face. The cool water felt so refreshingly wonderful that before we even realized it, we were springing up and down in our personal water receptacles, singing, squealing, and having a big time. We jumped up and down and in and out, over and over and over again. We were having so much fun that we didn’t even notice that Gram went back to the house until she returned with a plastic flowered serving tray and two paper cups filled with Lipton Instant iced tea.

“You must be getting thirsty with all this exciting activity,” she said in that I-told-you- so tone, handing over the cups as we gulped ravenously. Laura and I were bubbling over with delight, having absolutely no recollection of our sour moods thirty minutes prior.

“These water receptacles are the best ever. I can’t believe we didn’t think of this earlier,” Laura said as she spun around in her tub. “Oh and thanks for the iced tea. We’re really workin’ hard out here.” Gram turned around then, letting us delight in our summertime glory, pleased at her accomplishment of the day. The joys and simplicities of life peaked that day, teaching me first hand a valuable life lesson: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If no lemons are available then iced tea will always do.

Angela, Laura, and I in Gram's garden 1976

Gram and I, Christmas 2003

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

I'll Be Seeing You... If Only In My Dreams

This title of this post was written in a love letter from my Grandfather to my Grandmother in April 1945 when he was still serving active duty in the Air Force. I never met him, he passed back in 1957, but the loss of my Grandmother, who's traumatic death happened suddenly ten years ago, left me feeling as if I had severed off my right arm. There are certain days I feel more positive about her being gone, but even after a decade our entire family feels the emptiness of her absence.

Last week we had the pleasure of having my sister's four children down for a cousin's camp week at the lake. I have no doubt that Gram was looking over us, happy to see her great grandchildren making family memories that will last a lifetime.

Needless to say after a week of entertaining five kids, utter exhaustion had set in for the adults. Last night Senia Mae crept into our bed claiming to have a belly ache but I knew it was really because she missed us after focusing so much attention on her cousins!

Our queen sized bed used to be large enough to house our family of three, but with a long-legged eight year old who still ends up sleeping in the H position, someone usually gets the boot. Last night it was me who ended up on the couch.

I chose to lie flat instead of trying to get sleep in the automatic recliner. The sensation of my right arm tingling and going numb kept me from entering a deep sleep but allowed me to have a vivid dream about Gram. In the dream my mother and I were near her and she told us she was going to die. I felt the gripping panic I had felt during her actual death and somehow she calmed me, saying I should not worry and that she will visit me on Wednesdays.

When I awoke I felt as if she had really visited me in my dream and ran over to the stack of books I keep next to my bed, gabbing an old favorite, "Ask the Dream Doctor."

Quickly flipping to the chapter on dream encounters with the already deceased, I read that up to 50% of people believe that they actually can be contacted by loved ones who have died because of the trance-like state of mind during dreaming. Closing my eyes, I hoped it was so. What I missed was having one more conversation with my beloved grandmother.

On page 117 Charles Lambert McPhee states,
"The gift that death bestows upon the living is the awareness that our hours in the sun, genuinely, are fleeting. In death's shadow we learn that every day is a good day to smell the roses, to perform a kind act, to contact an old friend, to breathe deep in the ocean of life. By providing contrast, death sharpens our vision of the miracle of life."

Senia Mae woke up to see me reading the dream book with tears flowing steadily down my cheeks.

"Mama, what happened?" she asked.

"Oh, I had a dream about Gram," I said. "I miss her so much, but she told me she's going to visit me on Wednesdays. It kind of makes me feel better. I think I might write about it."

"Mama, aren't you afraid that if you talk about it your dream won't come true?"

"No,baby," I say as I rub my hand over her sleepy forehead, "It already has come true."







Saturday, June 2, 2018

Princesses Never Retire...They Just Reformat!

I walked into the bathroom to find my little princess perched on the throne, Elsa's glittery chiffon 'Ice Queen' ensemble lying in a heap below her dangling feet. This came as a surprise because earlier last year when I asked if she still liked being a princess she had promptly reminded me that she was now eight and into Monster High. I made a mental note. Point taken.

"Mama, I'm going to wear a dress every day this summer," Senia Mae said.

"Is that so," I said as I leaned over the sink to examine a few straggling hairs poking out of my right eyebrow. "Why do you want to wear a dress every day?"

"Just because I want to," she said. "I like being fancy." And fancy she was. Kim and I have always joked that when Senia Mae was born she came out with a poof of glitter.

"Mama come here," she said. "Do you know what a butterfly kiss is?"

"Of course I do," I said as I bent over her little body and gently rubbed my nose against hers. "Like that, right?"

"No, that's an Eskimo kiss." She then turned her head to the right brought her face closer to mine, and giggled as she fluttered her long arched eyelashes until they tickled the ends of my own eyelashes. "THAT'S a butterfly kiss." At that moment there was a peace in my heart that is unlike anything else I have experienced before parenthood.

I can't say I look forward to days no longer filled with the simplistic wonder of a child's imagination. The mere thought of this going away makes my heart ache just a little. Although I'm sure recitals, graduations, proms, and (gulp) weddings will be major milestones in our lives; the little stuff, the days of childhood innocence, the days of wrinkled chiffon dresses and butterfly kisses, are really the days I want to make sure I never forget.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Becoming Those Sisters Again

The sweet “sirens” of caffeine addiction were calling out to me as I poured my second cup of coffee, realizing that it was time to wake up Farts, a nickname I had given my sister when we were kids. When she was really little she used to sit on my father’s lap and watch TV. My dad was not at all discreet about his bodily functions, so he would let one rip and start laughing right before Kristy said, “Dad, I LIKE farts!” Of course as an American, beer drinking, Three Stooges loving, blue collar working male, he found the comment absolutely hilarious, connecting with his prima donna toddler on a whole new level.

Kristy and I used to play an old version of Jeopardy on the home computer, back when an Intel 386 was as close to lightning speed as we could possibly imagine. We had to name our own contestants and I would always sneak in her contestant’s name before I called her down to play. As soon as she sat down, the cartoon version of Alex Trebek would say, “OK, Farts, pick your first answer,” and I would burst out laughing. She would sit there giving me that “this is SO unfair” glare, gritting her teeth as she sat next to me fuming mad, but continuing to play anyway, because restarting the game could take up to twenty minutes.

*****

I headed up the stairs with the intention of rising my mother and sister. They were both overly exhausted and probably could have slept all day, no one eager to confront the next task: going over the details of Gram’s funeral. The door to my parents’ room was slightly ajar and I could see my mother sleeping on her side through the crack. I gave a soft knock as I nudged it open so she wouldn’t be frightened. She struggled for a second, trying to appear more awake than she really was.

“We have to leave in an hour.” I whispered. She nodded in response and I backed out of the room recognizing the role reversal that at some point happens between parents and children.

Kristy appeared in her doorway like a more attractive, female version of Archie Bunker, slow moving and groggy, before I had made my way across the hall to wake her.

“You didn’t need to be woken up after all,” I joked.

“Yeah, who would want to miss this,” she smirked and shuffled towards the bathroom.

None of us were what you would call “morning people,” we woke very slowly, moving about with a slightly forward leaning gait and foot shuffle, not speaking in full sentences for at least the first thirty minutes. Gram and Kim were the exceptions. As far back as I can remember, Gram was alert and ready to go before sunrise, maybe because that was the only time of day a widowed mother of four had an actual moment of solitude.

*****

When I was about seven years old, McDonalds introduced their first line of refillable plastic coffee mugs. For some reason, Gram thought these new mugs were just awesome. If you arrived at the restaurant before 6 in the morning, for the early bird special, you would receive a free travel mug with the purchase of breakfast. Since the family only had one car, and neither my Mom nor Dad worked weekend mornings, we were guaranteed the use of the car both Saturdays and Sundays.

Gram and I would wake up at 5:30 a.m., making sure that we were silent enough not to wake Kristy. It was fairly easy since Gram and I shared a double bed. We would have our clothes ready the night before, carefully planning our escape from the house without anyone else knowing.

If splitting a plate of sausage and pancakes wasn’t exhilarating enough on its own, being the secret accomplice in deceiving my sleeping sister was enough to make this seven-year-old feel ecstatic. I remember the pride I felt when we shared our “secret breakfasts,” moments that were just ours. During those stolen meals, I had won the daily battle of “who gets Gram,” an unspoken possessive power struggle between Kristy and me throughout our childhood. We were always pulling Gram in opposite directions, hoping she’d secretly like one of us better. Fortunately she had enough love to divide between us equally, and solved the problem by making each one of us feel like we were individually getting more than the other.

When the five people could no longer comfortably fit in the four-room cottage, my parents doubled the size of the house by adding a second floor. The new upstairs had three bedrooms as well as a second full bathroom and compared to the tight living quarters I had been used to, I remember feeling as if we now lived in a mansion. My parents had the master bedroom, while Gram and Kristy got twin beds and moved into the larger of the other two bedrooms. My room was a little bit smaller but came with all the privacy a nine year old would require.

Having my own room was a great idea in theory, but deep down I was insanely jealous of my sister sharing her room with Gram, because I was the oldest and thought Gram was all mine. I came up with a fantastic way to trick my sister out of having Gram and Gram must have found it fun because she went right along with it. The nightly plan unfolded like this: Gram would pretend to go to bed in Kristy’s room, going as far as getting under the covers and faking sleep. When she was absolutely sure that my sister was sleeping, I gave her strict orders to silently tiptoe into my room and spend the rest of the night in my bed. I even kept one of Gram’s favorite feather pillows in my room to make the trip more enticing. To avoid any conflict between her granddaughters, she would have to wake very early and return back to her other bed. I don’t remember how long this crazy routine actually went on, but I imagine that it meant as much to her as it meant to us and on the life long list of things that really matter, it was worth all of the trouble.

*****

If she wasn’t mad at me for teasing her, Kristy and I would sit together at the top of the hallway stairs, playing Uno or Barbie dolls, sometimes just talking and enjoying being with each other. In my room we would make a tent out of blankets, draping them from the brass footboard and hiding underneath, spending the night cuddled up in a ball as we shone our shiny metal flashlights on the wall, making shadow figures and giggling while trying to scare each other. It was easy to get the spooks as I told stories of the lonely old ghost woman who cried out in the night, “Who stole my golden arm?” making the sound of wind whooshing and tapping on the blanket as my sister jumped out of her skin.

On schooldays Kristy would come into my room before she left the house and ask my opinion on her outfit. Some days I would not pay close attention, mumbling that her dress was fine as I focused on something else. I was a teenager with a bustling social life, busy focusing on who had broken up at school and what our clique was doing on Friday night. I had more important things than my little sister’s wardrobe to focus on.

“What do you think of this?” she’d ask as I blew her off, looking for my other pink Converse All Star high top under the bed.

“Yeah, that’s good.” I said in an unconvincing tone, still not giving her my full attention.

“Would you wear it?” she spat back, her hands perched on her hips with her lower lip stuck out, intensely waiting on my response as if I was the fashion mogul of the world and my opinion would make or break the outcome of the day. If I said no, or even implied it with a smirk, there would be thirty more minutes of rummaging through the closet for the appropriate attire of the day, tops, skirts, and leggings strewn every which way all over the floor, looking as if someone had been on a crazed rampage searching the closets for hidden treasure. Eventually I would give in, going in her room and offering up advice. “You can’t wear a tight fitting shirt with tight fitting pants. If you want to wear those leggings than you need a shirt that is kind of loose. It’s the rules. Here, try this one.” When she left the house, she left feeling confident. Secretly I was, too, but would never admit that the older sister liked playing dress up with a real Barbie.

My mom would do Kristy’s hair with the back down and a ponytail at an angle on one side, kind of like Punky Brewster. What Mom didn’t realize was that by the third or fourth grade the Punky Brewster look could put a huge target on Kristy’s back. With that hairdo and the large round blue glasses she wore, my poor little sister had no chance of being one of the cool kids at school, even though Mom and Betty swore that they read the fashion magazines and these styles where what everyone else was wearing. I was never fully sure that they were reading the “current” fashions. Having been the different kid for years, I knew on a deep level that school taunting to some could be considered “character building,” but I didn’t want her getting picked on like I did and would sneak my sister in to my room to re-do her hair, letting it down and brushing it out, using the curling iron to give it a little extra body. It gave her a more mature and sophisticated look rather than like she was going to ask to join the Double Dutch game.

“There ya go….” I would say as I finished up, running my fingers through the base to separate the curls. We did this routine a few times a week. Sitting on the bench of my walnut armoire, I watched her confidence grow as she viewed her reflection in the mirror. Her face lit up as she thanked me and ran off. Since I was cool in her eyes, whatever I did was obviously superior to anything she or Mom could do.

*****

Mom told me that when I left for college Kristy cried every day and slept in my bed for four weeks. I thought our relationship would always stay the same, even though I wasn’t around as much; we could talk on the phone and visit every few months, but somehow that wasn’t enough. We grew apart and she started to close herself off. Looking back I think I acted as a sort of buffer amidst the oil and water relationship between my sister and mother. I wondered if on some level she felt like I abandoned her, leaving her there to fight all the battles on her own. We had always been a team, she and I, taking it on together.

I hated that I missed being an active part of her teenage years, but I was 5 ½ years older, and at that age the difference was tremendous. When I was available again, after chiropractic school, it was too late, that space in her heart had been replaced. She had found Matt and gave all the trust she had in me to him. Nowadays we could go months without talking, and even though we got along great when we were together, those occasions were so rare that our relationship didn’t have the same strength. I wasn’t the one she called when she needed an open ear, and I hated that my leaving in 1994 had caused such irreversible damage. It seemed like she no longer needed me.

In Atlanta, I lived far enough away that I could consume myself in other things, pretending that the emotional distance between us didn’t hurt as badly as it did. That is until I met Kim and witnessed the closeness she shared with her Mom and three sisters. Even though they all lived in separate states, they managed to talk several times a week, keeping active in each other’s lives. If one happened to visit without the others, they would call all day, their excitement traveling over the phone line as they checked in, making sure whomever made the flight, jealous of what they were missing even if it only involved sitting around the table and catching up. They all appreciated the time they spent together and their closeness had value. I wanted to feel that again with Kristy.

It was rare that my sister and I were both home without our spouses, reminding me of the forgotten dynamics of our relationship that got tossed aside in the busyness of our adult lives. Somehow time changed us, affecting things I usually don’t have the nerve to bring up when we are actually talking. But right then we were those sisters again, Farts and Doobla, the girls helping to hold the family together.



Friday, March 23, 2018

Bang Your Head...The Princess Has Awoken

In my forty-four years I have learned that there are only two types of people in the morning: the ones who are morning people and the others who are clearly NOT morning people. These two types of personalities can happily coexist but it does require a delicate push/pull dance from both sides. Clearly in our home today the morning people took over the entire dance and grabbed the microphones.

I'm not going to say she's a slug... but Senia Mae, like myself, is NOT a morning person. She moves at the pace of a turtle until she is completely awake. This morning Kim had the pleasure of rising the princess, of which the first three gentle attempts were a complete failure.

Mommy Kim, with her morning person ingenuity, thought giving Senia Mae a little extra incentive might work. She hit the volume on her phone up as loud as it would go and started blaring, "Bang Your Head... Metal health will drive you MAD" by Quiet Riot and secretly snuck out of the room.

A few minutes later a lower lip out, pouty child sat on the kitchen bar stool angrily glaring at her now cold scrambled eggs. Kim was dancing around the kitchen, ignoring the grumpy lump sitting on the stool who now was so mad that there was a tear welling up in the corner of her right eye. Kim had now moved on to AC/DC's Thunderstruck, trying to mimic Angus Young's little leg shuffle as she grabbed the peanut butter for Senia Mae's lunch.

"I DON'T LIKE TO WAKE UP TO ROCK N' ROLL," Senia Mae grumbled, in a voice similar to the father on The Christmas Story when he said "You used all the glue on purpose!" I froze in my tracks hearing those words, for I, like Eric Clapton, have a rock n' roll heart. This clearly did not affect Kim because she continued to happily skip around the kitchen.

"Young Lady," I said in a mock authoritarian voice, "It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n' roll..." Senia Mae looked at me totally baffled but before she could respond with any more anti-rock semantics I forked a piece of syrup drenched waffle into her mouth. "I'm sorry, but this is a rock n' roll home." I turned around so she wouldn't see me laughing as I was trying to lighten her mood.

Just then Kim pulled up the last scene from Jack Black's School of Rock. "Just look at these kids'" I said as they're playing It's A Long Way To The Top for the battle of the bands while rolling the credits. The camera then shifts to the School of Rock sign that reads: After School Program 3:00-4:30 Rock On... 4:30-6:00 Advanced Rock. Senia Mae took the phone into her room while she got dressed and came out singing "Shoo be doo be doo bee" with the back up singers.

"Now THAT'S a better attitude," I said as I kissed her forehead and guided her out the door. Parenting can just be so HARD sometimes!

Since we got the whole rock n' roll thing settled I wonder if she'd like to wake up to a drum solo Monday morning? Guess I'd better ask first! All you parents out there... how do you wake up your sleeping zombies? Drop me a line, I'd love to know!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Forty years later...Thank you, Santa!

It was Christmas 1977, the middle of a decade that flourished on the mindset that bigger is definitely better. The world cried as they watched the funeral of their larger than life icon, Elvis Presley. Gram's Chevrolet Caprice came standard with a 454 engine and a back seat the size of a double bed. My enormous but stylish bell bottoms got stuck in my bicycle chain daily until I learned how to keep them contained with rubber bands around my ankles. Yep, we were living large for sure.

That year I asked Santa for a small palm-sized television so I could watch my favorite cartoons on the bus as I rode to school. My creative little mind yearned for the exact opposite of everything gigantic in the 70s. Little did I know back then.

The jolly, white bearded man turned towards me with an extremely serious expression, as if I were insane for even considering that a small, TV-like device could ever be possible. I thought elves could make anything.
Santa was courteous enough to leave me a note on the chalkboard that read, "In the North Pole we just don't have the resources," but hoped I would be satisfied with him leaving the family a present... our first color television. I was thrilled.

Flash forward forty years. I am completely immersed in adulthood stress with a list of chores as long as my arm. This morning I'm sitting in an uncomfortably hard chair in a room over scented by car fresheners smelling like a cheap flower explosion as I wait on an oil change.

Today I have a palm-sized iPhone 7 plus in my hand. I hit the home button and get a Yahoo finance alert that says, "Morning brief: Dow recorded largest single-day point decline in history." Fortunately in 2018 I have the choice to either watch as my financial future crumbles right in front of my eyes or I can put on my earbuds and open up my new Boomerang from Cartoon Network app.
Flintstones... Meet the Flintstones...They're the Modern Stone-Age Family...From the Town of Bedrock...It's a Place Right Out of History. I'm already feeling more positive about the day.

Who says you can't always get what you want? Sometimes it's all about the timing. Thank you, Santa, better late than never.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Chickens are On Strike

"Put eggs on the grocery list," Kim says this morning while I'm pouring myself my first cup of coffee. The list is written on a piece of scrap paper that sits on a wooden stand right next to my beloved Bunn O Matic.

"I don't think buying eggs is necessary, we have chickens for that," I say, while trying to come up with a quick chicken defense.

"Have you looked in the refrigerator lately? I think the chickens are on strike."
It is true, lately the consistency of egg laying has been a little... well... inconsistent. I relate it to the stress caused after a neighborhood dog attacked our flock last November, killing Brownie, my favorite Rhode Island Red and severely de-feathering Sunflower the Americana. Between that and the last month of below freezing temperatures I'm ready to pack up this entire herd and head down to Key West, where the sun is always shining and humans, chickens, and other animals seem to naturally co-exist.

"You know it's been a stressful winter on all of us, not just the ladies," I say. I've always called our chickens the ladies because they feel like they're part of us, especially when they fly up to the kitchen window and peer inside, looking as if they are wondering, "What's cooking in there?" Don't worry, it's not chicken.

"I think we just need to give them a little more time."

"Time to what? The whole reason we have chickens is to have fresh eggs, they're not keeping up with their end of the bargain," Kim says. "Why do you have to take it so personally anyway? This is only the second or third dozen eggs we've had to buy in like three years." She was right. Until recently, we always had an abundance of eggs.

Several years ago, when I was trying to convince Kim how great it would be to have pet chickens, part of my seductive sales pitch was, 'Just consider how much money we spend every week on organic, free range eggs... and the cost is just going to increase.' I sounded like a 1950's door to door saleswoman, but I was ready to be a farmer and I knew had to raise the persuasive bar.

"For some reason buying eggs makes me feel like I am cheating the ladies in some weird sort of way. It's crazy, I know."

"Crazy indeed," Kim adds.

So today I bought a dozen organic, free range eggs at Kroger for $3.79. I didn't tell the ladies, I merely snuck the eggs into the house while they weren't looking. Afterwards I went into the coop and made their nesting boxes more attractive with fresh shavings and several ceramic eggs to get them in the mood. For now I'm just going to keep reading
and hope to see a blue egg in the nest tomorrow morning.

If you have any good ideas I would love to hear them!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Long and Short of Things

"Those new sweatpants your mom bought Senia Mae are almost too small," Kim said as she pulled a colored load out of the dryer. "Do you think she knows she got her a 6x?"

"You know how my mom is with sizes," I said while rolling my eyes.

Recently, well maybe not so recently, my baby weight has returned and is now mixed with hormonal peri-menopause. So, after years of having almost identical body shapes, my mother and I are no longer able to share the same clothes. She is now two to three sizes smaller than me, which would be not be a problem if it wasn't made into such a spectacle when we are together.

A few months ago we happened to be clothes shopping. My mother turned to me and shouted, "Do you think this comes in a small or extra small?" I had to warn her that she might want to talk more softly because an average shaped woman is going to want to yank on her ponytail in frustration when they overhear that all of the sizes are "just too big."

My side of the family has an obsession with all things small and being small and staying small... forever. At some point in my life I would like to be able to look at myself in the mirror and be happy with what I saw in the reflection, whatever size I am. The weight obsession is a constant struggle, one that I am trying not to pass down to my daughter who is perfect just the way she is.

"Senia Mae is almost 8. We haven't bought a 6x in two years," Kim said.

"I don't know. Maybe she thought Senia Mae is still extra small," I said, eye-balling the length of the sweatpants while holding them up in the air. "At least they're not super short."

"Yet," Kim said. "She'll be outgrowing them in a month. I'll ask your mom about them tonight."

Later that evening I sat down next to Mom. "Did you know that running suit you bought Senia Mae was a 6x? She's practically outgrown it already."

"No way," Mom said. "I'm pretty sure I got all the kids the right sizes."

When my parents visit my sister's family in North Carolina Mom runs with all five grandchildren. The kids love it and call their group 'Grammy's Running Club.' Over the holidays Grammy got each of the three boys and the two girls matching running suits for the club.

"Did you check the size of the top?" Mom asked.

"You know, I didn't even think about that," I said.

"I'll call Kristy and see if Morgan has the right size since their suits are almost identical," Mom said. Morgan is a year and a half younger and one size smaller than Senia Mae.

"Yep, Kristy said Morgan's pants are a size 7/8 and her top is a 6x. They must have got switched in the laundry when we were up there a few weeks ago. I knew I wasn't completely losing it."

The moral of the story?

When multiple kids have the same clothes in different sizes make sure you pack up YOUR OWN kid's clothes BEFORE you start blaming your own insecurities on your innocent mother! Sorry Mom!





Sunday, January 7, 2018

3rd and Inches

Picture it: January 4th, 2018 in North Georgia. The East Coast is getting plummeted by what meteorologists have labeled a "bomb cyclone," a mammoth storm bringing frigid temperatures and arctic blast weather. Fortunately in this part of Georgia we didn't get hit with any snow, but the well below freezing temperatures made it feel like Queen Elsa had gotten more than a little bit angry with us.

My parents hoped to avoid the arctic chill by taking Senia Mae to Universal Studios, but even in Orlando it was a chilly forty- six degrees. Our car has a built in DVD player so we let my parents drive our SUV to Florida and I decided I could tool around in our old truck for a couple of days.

Under normal conditions we take the truck out at least once a week to keep it running well, but over Christmas we had to make extra room in the driveway for guests and parked the truck in the woods up by the road. It was already pitch dark when we moved the truck so we pulled it into the space facing two trees and a five foot high woodpile instead of backing it in like we usually do. Yesterday when I tried to crank the engine, not a single sound came from under the hood. The arctic blast had frozen the life out of our old truck battery.

Because of the way the truck had been maneuvered into the tight slip in the woods, there was no way to pull another car anywhere close to the engine for a jump start. My only option was plugging up the battery charger, which was a good choice except that it required electricity. The nearest outlet was about the length of a football field away from the hood of the truck.

"I can do this," I said to myself as I headed to the storage shed. The two remaining extension cords were six-foot candy cane striped cords I had gotten in last year's clearance sale at Walmart. They were the only ones currently not in use either for Christmas decorations or to keep something from freezing in the frigid cold.

I couldn't unplug the heater keeping the well pump from icing over or the cord for the heat lamp to the hen house, but we could do without the light up Santa on the porch. Even though that drop cord was probably fifty feet, sixty-two feet of cord was still not going to be enough. Remembering the last time I used the battery charger was on the dock last summer, I ran down to the boat and found the charger tucked away in a compartment with a twenty-five foot extension cord. Bonus points... I was making headway.

My hands burned in the bitter cold as I lugged the two extension cords and battery charger up the thirty stairs dropping them by the electrical outlet in the driveway. I eye-balled the length of the four cords I had piled up then looked up the hill to the truck in the distance realizing I was still going to come up short.

Years ago, during a bad breakup, my crazy ex had said, "I came into this relationship with ten extension cords..." as we were dividing up the house stuff. My initial reaction was "who the heck counts extension cords?" but I sure wish I had fought harder for them now. Heading back down to the basement, I rummaged through some boxes in the utility closet and found one more fifteen foot cord.
The two candy cane cords made it from the outlet half way across the width of the driveway. I then attached the fifteen foot orange cord and tossed it across the rest of the driveway. Instead of climbing up the steep embankment, I carried the other two cords and the charger along the edge of the drive and started at the engine of the truck.

The charger itself had about two feet of cord, so I clamped the red and black posts and laid the charger on the edge of the truck. Tossing the first drop cord over the five-foot high wood pile, I carefully navigated through the briars in what seemed like the shortest path to the electric outlet. The second cord seemed like it was going to be plenty long enough as I tossed it down the embankment towards the open end of the orange cord in the driveway. All I had to do was walk back down the hill and put the ends together.

When I got back to the driveway, what looked like plenty of cord was probably the same illusion that baffles football players after third down when the chains come out and measure third and inches. I could hold both cords, one in the left hand and one in the right, it was so close. But even with a good tug on the line, there just wasn't enough leeway to connect them together.

I ran back up to the truck to see how I could stretch a few more inches out of the already taught line. Grabbing a knee high camping table, I placed it halfway between the hood of the truck and the woodpile then stretched the cable of the charger enough so it reached the table. Hopefully this would be enough. When I pulled the two cords together I lacked about a half of an inch. A swift tug on the cord running up the hill allowed me enough lag to plug the cords together, leaving a spot in the middle slightly suspended in the air. Finally the crazy debacle was over.

A few hours later I checked on the battery. I turned the key to find lights turning on and dinging on the dashboard, but the engine wouldn't turn over. It went into the passive theft-deterrent mode as a safety precaution. The last time the truck battery lost power it took me over an hour to figure out how to disengage the high tech security feature of the truck. I had written the sequence down and kept it in the glove box.

All I had to do was hit unlock on the key less entry fob, place the key in the ignition, turn it slightly, press and hold the valet button under the steering column for at least five seconds and then the security system should disengage. Simple enough. I fumble through the cup holder with the spare change to find the keys. When I hit the unlock button on the fob nothing happened. I hit it a second, third, then fourth time with no results.

"Nooooooooooo," I whined as I laid my head on the steering wheel, disgruntled and disgusted. Of course, the battery of the key fob was dead too. Thanks Elsa. I may as well buy a couple more extension cords while I'm picking up new batteries for the key fob!