Thursday, February 27, 2014

Math Whiz

I don’t remember having a math tutor in high school.

In junior high I was in a higher-level math program.  Back then that meant pre-algebra in seventh grade, then algebra I in eighth, geometry in ninth, and algebra II in tenth.  Then you took trig and pre-calc in eleventh, and calculus in twelfth.

I started struggling in ninth.  Everybody said that geometry would be easy – after all, it’s just shapes.  But geometric proofs boggled my mind, and I squeaked by with a C on my report card.

Then came Algebra II.

The teacher was a stern man who intimidated me.  He taught very fast and from the beginning I couldn’t keep up.  I remember asking for help, but not really understanding.  I was too scared of him and embarrassed to admit it.  I felt so dumb.

Homework was a nightmare.  I sat at the kitchen table with my dad, who was good in math, having studied engineering.  He knew what he was doing, but I couldn’t be taught.  Every homework session ended with me in tears.

I trudged along in class, hating it, hating the teacher, hating myself for being so stupid.  I knew I didn’t belong in the class but hoped that one day the information would click.

It never clicked.  Eventually I stopped asking for help. 

And I failed every test. 

I was on my way to earning an F on my report card.  The rest of my grades were As and Bs.

My parents intervened, something that never happened in school before.  They met with teachers and counselors and arranged it so I would audit the class – stay in class and do the homework and tests but receive no grade.  I would also retake Algebra II the next school year under a different teacher.  Relief.

They hired a tutor to help me.  In a conversation I had with my parents years later, they mentioned a name I didn’t recognize. When I admitted that I didn’t know who they were talking about, my mom was surprised that I didn’t remember my math tutor.  How I remember something that happened when I was four but not when I was 15 and struggling in Algebra mystifies me.   

In eleventh grade, I aced Algebra II.  I went on to do okay in trig and pre-calc in twelfth.  As a psychology student in college and grad school I feared math, taking only the basic requirements.  The math of psychology is statistics.  I made a habit of torturing my stats professor by saying “I hate statistics” when I went to him for help.  Later in my job I spent the bulk of every work day analyzing statistics. 

I’ve long let go of my animosity toward math.  I’ve relearned a lot of what I had forgotten by helping my kids with their math homework.  I found that although it's still not my strongest subject, I really am not hopeless at it.  I even use Algebra when my son asks me to help him with his homework.  It isn’t often, because our study sessions end poorly, just like the ones I had with my dad. 

With me in tears.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt 5:  Your least favorite subject in school.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

At A Loss

I’ve been busy doing these days, and I haven’t had time to think.

I hate that.

Thinking is my jam.  I can think a morning away and sometimes, sometimes, I will write out those thoughts for you fine people to read.

But recently, I haven’t been thinking about anything.

And I’m at a loss for what to write about.

Should I write about how I spent the last few mornings watching saved episodes of Girls and Downton Abbey, and that I’m planning on doing the same with Shameless and Parenthood later today and this week?  Should I write about how I really love having a cat around to warm my lap when I am still, even though he only did that once, and all the other times that I stroke his fur he rears back and bites my hand?  Should I write about how we went to a basketball game and my kids got on the Jumbotron and that my girlfriend and I sat in our seats and shared what we saw on our phones and laughed and talked instead of really watch the game except to yell “C’MON, MAN!” when the players missed their free throws and cheer when they made them?  And that our kids have all the teeth appointments this week and if I’m not picking them up from school every day, I’m dropping them off early for something or taking them later?  How about that my husband and I were on a 10-day detox cleanse and I bailed out early because I didn’t feel good?  What about the fact that not only am I tired with winter, I’m tired of everybody talking about how they are tired with winter?  Should I write about how I got my hair done for the first time in three months and It. Was. Heaven?

Busynesss begets doing and little to no thinking.  Busyness reminds me of the olden days that were filled with activities instead of thinking.  And when I think of the olden days, I think of when the kids were little and I was younger, and when I think about that, I get a little wistful and I miss them, and I miss me.  And I don’t want to miss their littleness and my youngness.  I want to love their tween- and teen-ness, and my 40-ness.  And to tell you the truth, the olden days around here weren’t really all that worthy of wistfulness.

So it’s okay.  Even a thinker needs rest from thinking now and then.  Even if the rest means that you’re watching TV in the morning instead of thinking and writing, which would normally bring crushing guilt with a side of self-loathing.  Even if the rest means that you are saving your energy for the hours ahead that you will be running and doing.

So I’m going to enjoy that rest.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Choosing to Be An Olympian

The 2014 Winter Olympics are almost over.


I haven’t really watched.  I don’t ever really watch.  I know that this year they are in Sochi, and that, I don’t know, the city wasn’t really ready for this event or something? Whatever.  I’m not a fan.

Because The Olympics are sports, and they’re on TV, and, yeah.  Meh.

I sort of enjoy watching the morning news shows cover the Olympics, because it usually means that one or more of the anchors are getting into some pretty silly outfits and trying out the sport that they are covering, and it’s kind of cool to see the Olympic athletes interviewed because this is their time in the spotlight, and they talk about how they gave up their lives for this moment, and sometimes their moms are on and everybody cries and it’s a huge lovefest and the network ratings go through the roof and there is an audible sigh coming from the show producers.

Other than that, I don’t really follow the events.  I think the last time I really sat down to watch an Olympics was the opening ceremony for the summer Olympics in Beijing.  Before that, I don’t know.  I didn’t even realize that the last Winter Olympics was in Vancouver.  I vaguely remember when Atlanta hosted them.  I actually had to look up a list of all the places that hosted them in my lifetime, and I was surprised to remember that they were in England and Italy recently. 

I know.  I’m hardly someone who should write about the Olympics at all. 

But I’m going to.  Specifically, I want to talk about the Olympic sports I think I’d like to try.

I think Bobsled would be nice.  After all, you’re in a sled, and you’re going fast, and you have a partner, so if something goes wrong you can blame your partner for ruining your life.  And I kind of get the feeling that weight and fitness is not an issue.  More weight in the sled means faster to the finish line, yes?  Plus the event is over in like 15 seconds and you get the ride of your life while you’re there.  But there’s the possibility of crashing.  So, yeah.  Maybe not.

Let’s talk about Skeleton for a moment, an event that I actually did watch for about two seconds when it was televised.  This is an event where the athletes take a running start and hurl themselves face down on a thin sled and careen downhill at 90 miles an hour, chin just inches from a slab of ice.  That sounds exhilarating, pass the Depends.

Forget about figure skating.  While I think it sounds romantic to dress up and be a pretty pretty princess to glide on the ice and have flower bouquets chucked at my head, holy crap those ice skaters have it tough.  They are like the kept women of the Olympics, groomed and raised to be the best, and all it takes is tripping over your toes once and your career is over.  Who needs that noise?

A skiing and snowboarding lifestyle sounds super cool, but I don’t like the snow.  Or jumping and flipping in the air not really knowing if I’ll land on my feet or my head or into a tree or on the edge of something called a Half-Pipe, which is basically a deep bowl with straight up vertical sides.  Half-Pipe, really.  They should call it Full-On Injury Apparatus.

Now that I think of it, all these sports are played in the cold, aren’t they?  Most are OUTSIDE.  On ice, where it’s cold, and where I have to wear all kinds of cold weather gear like gloves and hats and boots and puffy coats and goggles that cover your face?

Yeah.  I’m out.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #3:
If you had to choose a sport to compete in the Winter Olympics,
which sport would you choose and why?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Standing In

We are cat-sitting.

We are not currently pet owners, for no other reason than I don’t really like having pets.

The reason is two-fold.  First, I don’t really believe in keeping animals solely for my own pleasure.  I sort of feel bad for the pets.  They can’t talk to anyone or go to the store or meet friends for lunch.  There’s no Cat’s Night Out on Thursday nights.  They don’t decide where to go on vacation.   They can’t play the lottery or shop for clothing.  They can’t drive or fall in love or go to school.  They don’t even know who Jimmy Fallon is.

We also don’t have pets because you have to take care of pets.  You have to feed them, make sure they have somewhere to poop and pee, wash them off when they get dirty, and make sure they have what they need when you go away (or take them along with you).  You have to sort of cater to them.  They need you.

They are like children (and husbands) that way.

And I have had enough of that.

Recently I am experiencing the feeling of being unneeded, a feeling that is really apparent this winter because we’ve all been stuck inside together for 624 days.  I putter around the house and put things away.  I fold laundry and make dinner and empty the dishwasher.  I don’t have to.  Anyone else in this house can do these things. 

It’s wholly incredible.

* * *

This cat is cute.  He’s also entertaining.  He stretches languidly, then falls off the piano.  He carries a toy chili pepper around in his mouth.  He sits on a stool at the counter and peeks over the top when I prepare meals.  He prrrps when we fill his bowl with his disgusting food and he naps in the sunlight that pours through the window.  Just looking at him relaxes me.

But he poops in his litterbox immediately after we clean it.  My husband is allergic to his fur.  He continues to walk on all the tables even after we shoo him away.  We are on alert for open doors to the outside or closed doors to the basement where his box is.  He bites our hands when we pet him and he pounces on our feet when we walk by.  He wakes my daughter up at four in the morning by jumping and running and eating her hair.

But we like having him.  I think he likes us.  He’s easy; we’re happy.  It’s a treat to have him.

And he will go home, leaving us without a pet once again.  And I will go back to not really being needed.

Which is just fine.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Three Kids

I’m the wife who complains that her husband doesn’t know where anything in the house is, who gets sick of turning his clothing right side out when folding, who rolls her eyes when he asks if we have any soap, batteries, gloves, butter.  I sigh because his idea of a great song is anything by Taylor Swift or Flo Rida, same as our ten-year-old.  I grumble that he finds televised sports entertaining and holds out hope that I do, too.


I joke that he is my third kid.  I decide what he eats and I make sure he has clean clothes to wear.  I ensure that his living space is clean and comfortable.  I taught him that the Shake from the Shake ‘n’ Bake cannot be refrigerated and reused next month, how to clean a bathroom, that children need to be given lessons repeatedly before they learn.  I gently remind him the difference between “wander” and “wonder” and that he might consider saying “ain’t” a little less than he does.  I continue to teach him basic skills I can’t believe he doesn’t know already.


He is the one with the job that makes money to support our family.  He handles our taxes.  He fixes the smoke detector when it chirps, the dishwasher when it fills up, and takes care of any utility issues we have.  He mows the lawn in the spring and summer, rakes the leaves in the fall, and shovels the snow in the winter.  He builds shelving systems out of planks of wood.  He makes most of our social plans.  When we go out he breaks the ice with people.  When he is away, I toss and turn at night.  When he is home, I sleep like a baby.


I am the one without a plan, a schedule.  I screw up every hotel reservation I make.  I don’t understand financial terms or how health insurance works.  When I have a problem, I run to him for advice.  When we have to leave at 9:30, I am ready at ten.  When we make vacation plans, I sit around idly as he does all the work and makes all the decisions, and I nod my head as he asks if the dates are okay.  Sometimes they’re not.  When we go places together, he drives.  I am inept at directions and measurements.  Like, I can’t read a measuring tape.

I joke that he’s my third kid.  

But I’m pretty sure that I am his.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Old School Blogging: Valentine’s Day Edition

Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life is at it again with Old School Blogging!  This time she has partnered with Tamara of Tamara (Like) Camera (I love saying the name of her blog - do it, you won't be sorry) for a special Valentine’s Day edition of #OSBlog.

I have to admit that Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday of all time.  I want to love it.  I do.  Paper hearts and chocolate and professions of love and all that.  It’s a simple little holiday.  I love love.  Why not have a day to celebrate it?  But there are some things about Valentine’s Day that are just plain annoying.  These things sort of ruin the love for me.  So step it up, people.  Let’s be better about VD.

Anyway, Elaine and Tamara asked some questions about Valentine’s Day that I figured might get me more in the mood for celebrating the big day, even though I haven’t done one thing for it and I need to get my act together already.  Here we go!

How do you typically celebrate Valentine's Day?  My husband wakes me up with a tray of cookies and cakes and a steaming pot of French press coffee, which I consume leisurely as he massages my neck and feet simultaneously.  Then I take a nap.  He leaves with the children for a few hours, having hired a staff to get me ready for the day.  They always provide me a whole new wardrobe from the best designers, and I have lost ten pounds overnight and everything fits perfectly.  A beauty team does my hair and nails and buffs my skin to a youthful glow.  My family comes back and we enjoy a gorgeous lunch.  We spend the afternoon at the theater and laugh and all get along perfectly, exchanging gifts and telling stories and having a wonderful time.  We come home and the house is sparkling clean and everything that is broken or worn is fixed and/or replaced.  There is a piece of new art on the wall.  Dinner has already been made for the kids.  Keith and I go out to a fabulous restaurant and all our favorite people are there and we have dinner and dance until midnight.  There’s usually a celebrity or two there, and the party is always on the house. We go home and kiss the children goodnight, and I get ready for bed and there is a piece of diamond jewelry on my pillow.  I drift off to sleep and nobody touches me or breathes on me at all.

Do you like to get A) chocolates  B) flowers  C) a sweet card or  D) ALL OF THE ABOVE?  Yes.

Would you consider yourself a "cuddler"?  If not, would you at least cuddle on Valentine's Day?  I am not a cuddler.  Please don’t touch me.  Except for those times when I want to cuddle with you.  Please don’t touch me.

What is your favorite movie about love or with a love story?  I love romantic movies, especially romantic comedies.  My favorite is The Notebook, of course, mainly for the Ryan Gosling factor, but also because I like happy endings.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

Do you believe in "love at first sight"?  Did it happen to you?  I totally think that there can be an immediate connection between people.  Sometimes, you just click at first glance.  It didn’t happen to me, but it happened to my husband, with me.  Obviously.

Do you believe love can conquer all things?  No.  I believe that hard work can conquer a lot, but even then, not everything.  Keeping love afloat is hard work.  Did you hear me?  HARD WORK.

What is ONE of the main things you love about your S.O. (significant other)?  I love that he’s a kind person.  I love that he wants to do what’s right all the time.  I love that he puts up with my shenanigans. That's three, but they're all kind of the same, hmmmmm?

If you could have the perfect Valentine date what would you and your loved one do?  I have the perfect Valentine date every year.  Please read my answer to the first question.

Tell me about your first crush!  Oh boy.  This is going to be embarrassing, because there are probably people who will read this who know this person.  His name was Tim, and I met him in kindergarten Sunday School, and I remember thinking he was the cutest boy I had ever seen in my whole life.  Later we went to school together and I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world to go to school with him.  Dark hair, dark eyes.  Total babe.

Do you have any embarrassing or horror dating stories? Everything I do is embarrassing.  Next.

Favorite flower? Tulip.  No – rose.  No – peony.  No – lilac.  No – jasmine.  No – lily of the valley. 

What's the first type of chocolate you hope for when you reach into a box of chocolates?  If you get me anything other than caramel then I’m positive that you don’t love me enough.  If it's not milk chocolate then you're dead to me.

Favorite love song?  I love 1970s folk music, so I’m going to say Paul Revere by the Beastie Boys.  Either that, or Feel Like Makin’ Love by Bad Company.  No, wait.  My favorite love song is Moves Like Jagger.  No, wait. It's Is That All There Is? By Peggy Lee. Sing it, Peggy.

What is the best breakup song?  I’m serious about breakup songs.  For No One by The Beatles.  I used to hole up in my room as a kid and play this song over and over, almost like I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could break up with someone and play this song and sob.  I was a dark little kid.  

Favorite celebrity couple?  Me and Christian Bale.  What?

Overall, are you pro- or anti- Valentine's Day?  I love Valentine’s Day because I get a kick out of referring to VD all day long.  I hate Valentine’s Day because of elementary school and the neverending saga about parties at school and by the time we get around to buying Valentines all that’s left are Transformers from 2008 and ones with lollipops and we aren’t allowed to send food into school anymore so now we’re stuck with all these lollipops and my kids bring home 15 pieces of junk and it all goes right into the garbage.  I also hate it because VD becomes all about sex. OMG so much pressure about sex.  It makes my head explode.

If someone did that "Say Anything" boombox thing outside your window, would you be into it, or call the police? Dude.  If some guy had a boombox outside my window I would be checking my garage for a time machine, because I’m pretty sure they don’t even make boomboxes anymore.  And what would this person be playing on it?  A cassette?  Do they still make them?  Can this person come with me to Antiques Roadshow?

First thing you notice about the object of your affection? Clean hands, pants, and mouth.  If he’s been eating Doritos I don’t want to know about it.

What's the best thing you've ever gotten for Valentine's Day?   I remember one Valentine’s Day growing up and I came home and there were like 25 helium balloons floating on the ceiling.  I never forgot that – balloons were such a treat, and it was so unexpected.  I tried to duplicate the magic for my kids one year and they were all I WANT THIS BALLOON NO I WANT THAT BALLOON and they fought over all the balloons and it sucked.  These days I love Valentine’s Day cards, especially the ones my kids make.  That, and all the diamonds I receive.  Naturally.

So there you have it – my answers to Elaine and Tamara’s #OSB for February!  It was fun, and kind of put me in the mood for the holiday, even though it isn’t my most favorite.  I hope you enjoyed reading my answers.  Feel free to adopt the questions yourself, and post them on your blog for Valentine’s Day!  After all, VD is always better when it’s shared among friends.  Don’t forget to link up!  For extra fun, tweet it up with @elainea and @TamaraCamPhoto using #OSBlog!  Wheeee!

Happy VD!


Have you entered to win a copy of Sonia Marsh’s Freeways to Flip-Flops yet?  Sonia has graciously offered to send two lucky readers of my blog a copy of her amazing memoir. 

Go here to read my review and enter for a chance to win the book!  Hurry up, because the giveaway ends Friday!  It’s so easy; I promise you don’t have to promise your first-born or anything to enter. 

My goodness, no.  We definitely don’t need another child in this house.

Good luck!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Wall

You guys.  I hit the wall.

Maybe it’s the winter blues, caused by all the snow DEAR GOD, ALL THE SNOW.  Maybe it’s my age.  Maybe it’s because I never leave the house because the people here, they need me.

For everything.

In this house I’m the touchstone, the one who knows all.  The general, the one who barks orders and commands, the end all and be all to their litany of needs and inquiries.

I’ve written before about being bombarded with questions.  My husband, The Inquisitor, can drive me to near lunacy with his conversational style that is comprised solely of questions.  What are you doing?  What are your plans? What are the kids doing?  What are their plans?  What is everyone in the world doing?  What are their plans?

My response to all the needs borders on the terse “I don’t know” to the lengthy lecture.  Yesterday was a time for the latter, as I dove into a tirade in the car on the way to church (because really, there is no better time to unload all your annoyances than on the way to a place of worship – leave your baggage in the car and heaped onto your family member’s heads is my motto) about how I’m done.  Done with being the nag.  Done with reminding people to practice basic hygiene.  Done with answering questions that people can answer themselves.  Done with telling children to do their homework, eat healthy snacks, put their clean clothes away, wear a coat outside because it’s winter for the love of everything holy, do you not see the six-foot piles of snow EVERYWHERE?!?!?

I am done with Being Mommy.

Yeah.  It was not one of the nicest things I’ve ever said.

And it’s ridiculous.  This is the role I have assumed.  My children will look to me for guidance and for the answers to the questions of life until the day I enter heaven.  They will wait for me to tell them to do things like take a shower and hang their coats up until they leave this house.  They will ask

What is there to eat?

What do I wear for practice?

What time are we leaving?

How long is this going to take?

Can you get me a glass?

Can you get me a plate?

Can you get me a fork?

Can you throw this away?

Do I have to take out the garbage today?

Can I have a friend over?

Are you going to bed?

Do I have to go to bed?

What are we having for dinner?

Do we have any milk?

Where is my shirt?

Can you wake me up?

Do I have to go?

Can you help me with this?

Can you do this for me?

Should I wear long sleeves or short sleeves?

until they are gone.

And then I will be here.  By myself.

I don’t know that I want to think about that.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island – A Review

I always fancied myself a traveler, an adventurer, one who can pack a bag and jet off to anywhere on a moment’s notice.

I’m not so much like that in real life.  Just in my own little fantasy world.  In real life I stress out over a trip so much until I almost hate the fact that I have to go at all.  Do the laundry, stop the mail, empty the fridge, lock the windows, tie up hundreds of loose ends.  It’s the result of being in charge of everything.  It’s also the result of perfectionism and a touch of compulsivity.

I like to see different places.  I like to jump on a plane or take a long drive and see what things look like in other areas. I like to step outside my little world and see the larger one out there.  I always take it one step further and envision myself living there.

Have you ever wanted to live somewhere else?  I mean not vacation there, but really live there?  This is how I like to vacation.  Rent a house, shop for food, pretend like I’m a local, even if it’s just for a week.  I prefer to stay for a while so that I can taste what it may be like to live at my vacation spot.  I like to see what homes go for, what people do for a living there, check out the local flavor, entertainment, shopping malls, bowling alleys.

Okay.  Maybe not bowling alleys.  But the rest – yeah.  I totally think about living there.

So when I was offered the opportunity to read and review Sonia Marsh’s memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island, I jumped at the chance to read about what it really would be like to live in an idyllic place.

Written like a novel packed with action and emotion, this book introduces us to Sonia, a true adventurer.  Raised all over the world, she settled in Orange County, California with her husband, Duke, and had three sons.  Over time, the pressures of the area got to them – Duke worked at a high stress job complete with nightmarish commute, and they began having some problems with their eldest son.  Desperate to change the toxic environment that they believed contributed to their family troubles, they conceived a plan: move to tropical Belize, slow down the pace of life, get back to basics and come together as a family once again.  They wanted to find their paradise.

So they did.  Selling everything they had, they bought a home in Belize, enrolled their sons in school, and made paradise their home.  They found doctors and dentists.  Made friends.  Adopted a slower pace.  They lived there.

There were bumps.  Adapting to island life was not without its trials for a family used to the fast pace of southern California.  They discovered that everything was made more difficult due to the level of development in Belize.  They were made to realize that although they lived there and owned property, they were not truly regarded as locals.  The physical challenges of the area –  hurricanes, getting around by boat, invasive wildlife, pervasive heat and humidity – all made life more of an adventure than any of them had bargained for, but along the way, Sonia’s family did exactly what she dreamed: they became closer.  Her boys found value in their family once again.  Her marriage was tested and strengthened. 

Sonia’s book, a retelling of her family’s year in Belize, reads part action novel, part memoir.  She reels you in at the beginning with a story of how her family dealt with a hurricane, and then takes you back to the events that led to her family’s relocation.  I found myself relating to Sonia as she shares her own grief and fear over her son’s increasing rebelliousness and misbehavior, and admiring her fortitude and resourcefulness as she and her husband navigate an adventure that ended up being the best thing that happened to all of them.

Sonia’s paradise – blue skies, clear ocean, white sand and palm trees – is beautifully described, and I grew to love the lifestyle she and her family shared with the friendly locals and fellow expats as they slowed down to uncover what matters.  Her life there filled my need to know what it would be like to live “on vacation,” but her story also showed me that life continues on no matter where we live.  She shares the high points and the lows with equal honesty, lest we think that moving to paradise means that life’s troubles are left behind.

By the end of the book I felt like I knew Sonia and her family.  I was invested in their relationships and was interested to know how their year in Belize had changed them individually and as a family.  Sonia reflects on their year abroad with fondness and honesty, grateful for the opportunity to live there.  I was grateful for the chance to see how a dramatic lifestyle change could impact a family.  

In the end, I realized that they found their paradise.

And now you can, too!

Sonia has generously offered to give a copy of Freeways to Flip-Flops away to one lucky reader of my blog.  Simply enter below in the Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win a copy of this interesting story. Enter more times for more chances to win!



I was given a copy of Sonia Marsh’s 
Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island
to read for review.  All ideas and opinions about the book are my own.

Don't want to wait to see if you've won the giveaway?  Buy the book on Amazon.

Find Sonia Marsh at her blog Gutsy Living, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I did not grow up fancy.

My parents were high school sweethearts in a tiny rural town.  My dad worked for his dad, and took over Granddad’s natural gas well business when he died.  My parents were both 24 years old when that happened.

By then they had two kids.  By the time they were thirty they had another.  They went from living in a trailer to living in an old farmhouse that they eventually gutted and had remodeled from basement to attic.

They worked hard – my dad was always up and out of the house before dawn, and came home at six for dinner.   Mom spent time with Grandma in the office, doing billing and payroll and collecting time sheets.  I went to sleep every night smelling cigarette smoke as Dad made work calls. 

My childhood was spent in this tiny rural life, walking across a muddy yard to be thrown in the back of the pickup as Dad hauled dirt, or tree branches, or rotten apples that had fallen from the trees in the backyard.  We spent Sundays driving our red station wagon along country roads to check gas well sites.  My brother and I played in the creek just below our house and watched the hole being dug for our swimming pool.

Our family all lived nearby.  My parents knew everyone, and they knew us.  The people we knew didn’t vary, and we rarely saw a stranger.

We saw strangers when we went to the city, a rare occasion that warranted dressing up and eating out and seeing a show where performers sang and danced and we sat in velvet seats and ate candy from a box during intermission while my parents drank small drinks with little straws.  I felt fancy then.

We would drive an hour away from our small rural life to this glittering place where all sorts of strangers milled around us, people we didn’t see because we were rural people who only saw lights and big buildings and a place where a young man would take the keys to your car and park it for you.

I was all dressed up and riding in the back back of our red station wagon on one occasion.  My mom and dad and brother were out of the car already when the keys were handed over to the valet.  I was pretty little, and navigating the jump seat was more difficult when wearing a dress and trying to keep your underwear hidden.

The car took off, and I remember falling out of the car but not on the ground.

There was a stranger.

He was a black man, the first one I remember seeing that was not on television.  In my memory he was scruffy and grey-haired and smelled like old cigarettes and musty clothes that needed washing.  As his strong arms held me, I heard him yelling “THE BABY!  THE BABY!”  The car stopped suddenly, and he continued to admonish the young valet who by now was out of the car, getting a tongue-lashing from this angel. “YOU COULD HAVE KILLED THIS BABY!”

As my mom and dad ran to collect me and several sickened apologies from the valet, the stranger hugged me tight and patted my head to make sure I was okay before he handed me over and chatted with my parents, all dressed up but not so fancy people who were just out with their young family to see a show.  My dad shook his hand and my parents thanked him for saving me.  

To this day I thank him, too.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #5: A time a stranger helped you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I keep it on the mantel

This winter our school has been shut down approximately 90,000 days for bad weather.  We’ve had school cancellations for snow and cold, and today, ice.

Ninety thousand days.  Additionally, there are three hundred billion cubic yards of snow piled up in our yard that has been there for three thousand years.

When the roads are bad we don’t go to the mall, the movies, nor even to Target.  We stay in all day.

My kids and I are home together. 

On sunny days after the snow is done falling, the kids ask to put on their winter gear so they can go outside.  I always say yes. Sometimes I suggest the option of them going outside.  They always agree.

When they were little I would suggest things to do so we could keep busy together.  I made snacks and lunch and mugs of hot chocolate until I organized games and Lego and Polly Pockets marathons.  I would bundle the three of us up for a half hour of playtime in the snow.  We snuggled on the couch and watched movies and ate popcorn and candy. 

Now that they are older they hole up in the basement and play video games that other parents refuse to let their children play and watch TV that they’ve seen a thousand times before and stay in their pajamas and they ask for pancakes and I tell them how to make pancakes.

And I do all the things that I do when they are at school and my day really doesn’t change. 

I don’t even sleep in, because I like getting up early because they don’t get me up early anymore.  It’s their turn to sleep in.

Then they have friends over and go to friends’ houses and my guilt buries itself under my relief for another snow/cold/ice day.

Because they are occupied.  And my conscience doesn’t nag at me anymore.  And my #1 Mom status is restored and I can proudly display my World's Best Mom trophy again.

Until day 90,001.