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Vive la Paix

November 23, 2015

For my sixteenth birthday, my dad took me to Paris. I’d taken French for a couple of years at the time, and though I wasn’t fluent, I loved the language and spoke it pretty well. I understood it fluently but was afraid to converse. We were warned about Parisians not caring for Americans. If we looked like we were struggling with French, they’d know we were American. Understandably intimidated, I brushed up on my key phrases and made a deal with my dad. I’d tell him what to say, and he’d do the talking.We climbed La Tour Eiffel and ordered “deux cocas, s’il vous plait.” We shopped a little and ate quiche in the café next to the Louvre. I sat at the sidewalk tables and watched the glamorous women smoking cigarettes and speaking French so quickly I could hardly keep up. Surely they were talking about something fancier than what to cook for dinner or their kids’ tennis lessons. It’s French. They only discuss fancy things.

We got lost once, screaming at each other in English. Dad was sure he knew where we were. I was pointing to the map, sure he was wrong. I was right. We eventually found our way, though I can’t remember where we were headed. Dinner was steak frites. Breakfast was an éclair and café au lait. Lunch was anything on a baguette, likely ham and butter. I drank only Le Coca (Cola), mostly because it was all I knew to request. With “don’t eat horse” precautions given before we left town, I was afraid to mispronounce anything. I wasn’t interested in a glass of horse.

It was a lovely trip. Magical, really. Paris is a magical place. The people weren’t rude. If they didn’t like us, we never knew it. Several even told me they were proud of my French and enjoyed that I was trying. We made it out of the country completely unscathed. If anything, I’ve longed to return.

The news out of Paris last weekend was devastating. Innocent lives were lost, and senses of security forever broken. It’s not that Paris deserved it any more or less than any other place. For me, Paris held the magic. For so many more, it was their home. The magic of a meal cooked by grandmother or laughter with a little brother. Taken away. 9/11 felt the same to the US. Buildings we went in and out of, without pause, became places of absolute fear. When it happens, and it does happen, it’s not fair. Unsuspecting, innocent people, caught off guard and changed forever. Terrorism takes away the magic.

I’m not sure what to do about it all. It feels hopeless at times. Fear is consuming. If you pray, you should pray. Pray for innocent lives, lost because of hate and anger. Even the simplest of magic, gone because of the most selfish of actions. If you don’t pray, meditate or send good juju. None of it can hurt. When peace prevails, and it will prevail, the magic will be restored. Slowly but surely, it’ll come back.

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 11/19/15

Cowgirl Sparkly Drunk Girl with Wings (and other creative costume ideas) 

October 29, 2015

My kids love Halloween. They’ve always loved playing dress up, so it’s a natural fit. Rather than being in to Legos, The Boy loved capes and masks. His imagination would make any crappy accessory seem real. The first Phantom of the Opera mask he had was made of cardboard and a hair rubber band. His four year old self saw the real thing. The Girl went through a princess phase, but it was short lived. She likes more realistic things like an artist, a camp counselor, a chef, a fashion model, and a cowgirl-sparkly-witch-kitty.Wait. What? When she was three, she was a kitty for Halloween. That lasted until she was 4. I’m not necessarily a cat person, but her little chubby baby face made the sweetest kitty. The next year, she became sparkly kitty. When she asked to affix her cat ears to a pink cowgirl hat, I didn’t complain. Cowgirl Sparkly Kitty. After that, we bought a witches hat and sadly thought the sparkly kitty was no more. She came up with the brilliant idea to turn her cat-cowgirl hat into a cat-cowgirl-witch hat. Cowgirl Sparkly Witch Kitty.

It’s something our friends look forward to seeing. What new layer will she add? Last year, there was brief talk of the death of Sparkly Kitty. It was fleeting, thank goodness. She went as Cowgirl Sparkly Witch Zombie Kitty, complete with bloody bandages wrapped around her black, sparkly tail.

The Boy’s costumes have been more on the straight and narrow. He’s been Superman and Peter Pan. Last year, he was a werewolf and the year before a vampire. One year, I let him get one of those and entirely uncreative costumes that has a flat plastic mask and a flammable jumpsuit. That might’ve been his happiest Halloween to date.

I don’t go all out or anything, and I’ve never gotten a costume idea from Pinterest. I’ve only made one costume in my years as a Halloween parent. By make, I mean I ironed a Tinkerbell patch to a white t-shirt and tied together some green tulle to make a skirt. I don’t count makeup as a difficult part of costume assembly. Remember when everyone was in A Christmas Carol? They all wore eyeliner for a week.

Much to the dismay of, well, everyone we tell, The Boy wants to be Zipperface. It’s nasty. He’s asked for a couple of years, and quite frankly, I’m excited about a make-up only costume. I’m also excited that he still wants to trick or treat. The candy is a motivating factor, I’m certain. He’s not looking for circus peanuts and Bit-O-Honeys. He was the Reeses. I make sure to search both candy bags for dangerous (read: delicious Butterfinger) candies. Safety first.

I’ve been sworn to secrecy regarding her newest layer. Just know this: it’s good. I’ll update y’all later. Since the sun is down when we trick-or-treat, his nasty costume won’t be too obnoxious. If he starts scaring the neighbors, there’s a good chance they won’t recognize me.

It’s not because I’ll be in costume. I’m a bit of a bad sport about getting into a costume. I love a fancy dress or bright pink wig. I’ve been known to show up at a party as Drunk Girl with Wings. Glass of wine, pair of wings. Stop judging. That was pre-kids. Now I forget the wings altogether.

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA

Growing Pains

October 20, 2015

IMG_8438Talking to a new friend today, I was telling her how busy this particular day was. We had to be at this place and that, I needed to be somewhere else, and although I was sure we’d get it all together, it was going to be a little nuts. 

She agreed and understood, recalling the busy days parenting active children. She lamented and reminisced, giving me examples of her busiest days. I nodded reading her email.

As we wrapped up the conversation, she reminded me that it all passes too quickly. Before I know it, they’ll both be grown, out of college and married. She practically apologized for the cliché nature of her words, but I knew exactly what she meant.

Talking to an old fiend earlier in the day, we marveled at the fact that our littlest would turn ten this school year. We’ve been there before. We both have older kids, too. We get that years pass and kids grow older.

I didn’t expect it to happen to my child, though. Somehow the sands of time would skip us.

It all seems possible, until you catch a glimpse of that chubby faced toddler in the frame on the bookshelf. When you find a box of little baby teeth, you clearly recall the toothless grin that was both awkward and adorable.

If I could, I’d go back to those days. Not permanently, of course. Just long enough for a quick hug. Maybe a little snuggle and a big deep breath filled with familiar baby smells.

We’re in a good place. They make their own breakfast most days. The boy can cook a mean quesadilla. We’ve almost entirely outgrown babysitters, and The Girl knows the exact coffee to creamer ratio and which mug makes it taste the best. Naps are of the past. I should clarify. Naps for kids are long gone. I get naps more frequently, since there’s no danger of a kid drinking bleach or taking a sharpie to the walls.

Their independence is appreciated, but these days I cling to her hand a little longer, even if she wants to let go. They speak, and I stop to listen. He says something profound and teaches me something. She is optimistic and happy, as only a 9.5 year old little girl can be. She still thinks I’m wonderful.

My mom friends and I no longer spend our time on potty training tips, but we lament about the passing years. To those who went before me, you were right: it does go too quickly. You can’t get it back. You won’t necessarily want to get it all back. I can live without the temper tantrum she once had at the soccer field. She held on to my leg, screaming bloody murder, while I dragged her to the car. He cussed out loud, right in the middle of the grocery store. I never got to apologize to the sweet old lady who heard him. She smiled, though. She got it.

I think you’re too bogged down by schedules and new siblings and “is it organic” to move more slowly when they’re little, but you can’t help it. Someday, you’ll be near 10, too. You’ll wonder why they smell so bad and where they learned to talk to their parents like that. You’ll find out how expensive braces are and that an iPhone is more essential than you ever imagined.

Remember the ones who told you “life is short.” Yours may be ten, but theirs are out of college and getting married. Theirs can also buy wine for them. That’s a milestone worth looking forward to. Cheers!325869_10150521990556070_1225192933_o

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA

Be patient, Patient.

October 13, 2015

loveAs I’ve said before, waiting rooms are great for people watching. You might not think of them as interesting places, but if you pay attention, you’ll see what I mean.

Because it’s mostly quiet, there might be a false sense of privacy. Like, since we speak in hushed tones, we are only partly visible. Not only that, but if anyone talks in a regular voice, it seems especially loud. Often, I get to see people embarrass themselves. Other times, what I’m looking for is much more subtle.

Enter the sweet old couple. They are arguing. It’s a gentle argue, one that comes after decades of marriage, when you’ve learned there’s no reason to yell. Simple, pointed phrases and actions will deliver your point.

He says, “why are we still waiting? I’ll ask. This always takes forever.”

She says, “We’ve only been here five minutes, honey. Let’s give it another minute.”

He says, “I know how this goes. We’ll still be sitting here in half an hour, and you’ll tell me to wait yet another minute. I’m going to the bathroom, and when I get back, I’m asking that girl back there when we get to go.”

He goes to the bathroom. As quickly as he exits, she marches up to “that girl” behind the glass and warns her that he is growing impatient and doesn’t mean to be as ugly as he sounds. I wonder why she doesn’t seek answers, therefore avoiding his contact with that girl altogether, but she has her reasons.

It’s clear he likes taking charge. Unfortunately, it’s also clear that old age might’ve robbed him of patience when it comes to waiting in rooms. I get it. I have those days, too.

He comes back from the bathroom and goes straight to that girl behind the glass. He bypasses his wife completely, but never fear, she is right on his heels. “Excuse me, I know you people are closing soon, so will we even been seen today?” or something like that. That girl behind the glass, appropriately prepared, winks at his wife and assures him he will be seen before they leave. He’s satisfied.

He sits back down with his wife, who pats his leg and thanks him for checking on their appointment time. She thanked him. He took care of her, just like he always has. This time, she took care of him, too.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed this couple that day. Several others smiled as she patted his leg. I reflected on similar acts in my own marriage. When I was in labor with The Boy, I was temporarily unhappy with this particular nurse. Some might say I sent her out of the room. She would eventually become my favorite, but something about her “you’re staying and will need an IV” rubbed hormonal me the wrong way. I was mildly upset. I felt mildly upset, but I’m absolutely sure my delivery didn’t reflect my mood.

A few minutes later, the nurse came back in, with my doctor and calmly told me that she was sorry to have left me out of the loop, but the baby was ready to come. If I’d like, I could have an IV and later an epidural. I didn’t know it then, but my husband had gone to the hallway and smoothed things over. He didn’t take credit for it immediately. As a matter of fact, I went on and on about the nurse and how I, pregnant and temporarily crazy lady, had really made her listen. He smiled and patted my leg.

I quickly left my marriage-is-so-dreamy state, as my child emerged from his appointment. It was phase one of tooth removal in preparation for braces, and his mouth was overflowing with bloody gauze. He shook his tooth-filled plastic treasure box for all to hear. “Hey Girl!” He shouted to his sister. He was still delirious from surgery. “Look at all theth teeth!” His tongue was swollen and mouth nasty. The room turned to look. Patients laughed with fear and apprehension. Their parents nodded at the humor. The sweet old couple looked at each other, reminded of their once-small children. The woman patted my leg. What she said wasn’t new, but it stuck with me. “The days are long but the years are short. Have patience and purpose. Love your husband and show your kids that love. That love will teach them everything they need to know.”

** Originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA on September 24, 2015

to my son’s teachers (and many more)

May 27, 2015

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Do you remember all of your teachers? What about their names? Until I started thinking about it today, I thought I did. I can recall specific things about almost all of my teachers through 8th grade. Once I get to high school, it gets a little jumbled.

Mrs. Gentry, my kindergarten teacher was sweet and traditional. I don’t remember her being all that fun, per se, but she was gentle. She got onto me for coloring outside the lines and really didn’t like it when I colored every few faces yellow in our class photo. I mentioned something about the picture needing more lighting effects, so I added them myself.

First and second grades are a little hazy. I’m pretty Mrs. Bonner taught first grade. My memory of her is likened to Miss Nelson (the one who went missing in the children’s book). I had a piano teacher named Sally Small in second grade. She signed her capital S as a treble clef every time.

Third grade was Mrs. Nichols. Sherida Nichols. I remember her full name mostly because her handwriting was neat as a pin. I practiced writing like her every day.

In 4th grade, Mrs. Weseman defended me when I asked a kid to stop harassing me. He told on me for calling him an ass. I called him an elephant, and while I’m not sure where I was going with that, we both got in trouble. I had to face the corner for 10 minutes. I counted the cinderblocks until it was time for recess.

Mrs. Manguno, my fifth grade teacher, was one of the most beautiful ladies I’d ever seen. She had big hair, which she must’ve taken the time to curl every day, and her teeth were perfect – like Chicklets gum. I had to tell her about the red lipstick on her teeth often, and she’d laugh, rub it off, and hug me for my honesty. I started shaving my legs that year. She gave me a speech about being too young, but I felt so grown. It was the first year of real crushes and love notes. Check yes or no.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember things they taught me, if we’re talking about math, science, or language arts. Middle school and high school memories are more like that. I hated math, so anyone who had to teach me numbers was doomed from the start. As lover of all books, my English teachers were almost always my favorite.

As my son is wrapping up his six years at Lake Forest Hills Elementary, I pass his former teachers in the hall and remember the support and joy they’ve given him through the years. First tooth pulled, hundreds of books read, thousands of PAY ATTENTION, BOYs. His PE teacher once said “Do you know how many times per day I say his name, trying to get him to tune in?”  I told him to multiply that times his age, and yes. We’ve been there.

A love for learning comes easily for The Boy, though a love for school was once a struggle. I feel for the teachers who tried to engage him. I’m more thankful for the efforts. We’ve not had a bad teacher yet, and for that, I’m forever grateful. As he goes on to middle school (boo hoo), he may not remember what they taught, but he’ll remember how they taught it.

For all of his teachers: please know this. You are appreciated. You spent more time with him than I did, and he loved every one of you. For all the other teachers: please know this. You are appreciated. Parents yell at you, criticize grades given, and question your methods. The standards to which you are held each day requires more work than dollars paid. Most of us get it, though. You work hard, and you work for our kids.

Here’s to the teachers. Hats off and a glass of bubbly. It’s summer! Cheers!


*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 5/21/15

on marriage: after 13 years

May 19, 2015

“The longest sentence you can form with two words is ‘I do.”  – H. L. Mencken

Funny, right? People love to joke about how miserable marriage is. For some, that’s true. There are plenty of couples living in unhappy marriages. It’s fun to joke about. Women are total pains, constantly nagging and complaining. Men are the cause of it all, what with their laziness and constant passing of gases. Kids further complicate things. They’re dirty and time consuming, to say the least. Let’s not forget imposing mothers in law. Marriage is like jail.

If it’s so bad, why do we even bother?

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s companionship. Having someone around at the end of every day, saying goodnight and “I love you.” When you have a bad day, they’re there, with a hug and a cold beer. If there’s something to celebrate, “Cheers” is just inside your own front door.

Parenting would be hard without help. I’m not saying it can’t be done alone. I have many single friends, and I’m in constant amazement of their strength and patience. It’s easier with help, though. If the kids are driving me crazy, he gets them. He needs a break? They’re all mine. He takes them camping, and I’m teaching them to cook. Divide and conquer. When we’re all together at the theater, out to dinner, or watching a movie at home, there’s nothing better.

Sure, he drives me nuts, and Lord knows how annoying I can be. He can’t load the dishwasher. I know, I know. Be glad he does it at all. I am glad. I also sneak behind him and rearrange everything, because I can fit twice as much stuff in there. I’m not a great keeper of house. I get by, but I don’t particularly like it. Fortunately, I do most of the cooking, and she who cooks does not clean. The list of things we dislike about one another is probably longer than we’d care to admit.

When he leaves town for a weekend, I don’t mind. Sometimes I look forward to having the house to myself. I’m always excited when he comes home. I’m fairly certain he doesn’t mind when I get out of town for a few days, especially now that our kids don’t require diaper changes and constant supervision. I hear people complain about their marriages, and I wonder if they think it’s funny, or if it’s really that bad.

Some marriages don’t work. I think most can, with some effort. It doesn’t simply fall into place. There are highs and lows. Sometimes we connect and see eye to eye, and others we can’t get it together. If there’s a “divorce isn’t an option” attitude, I promise it’s easier. We don’t walk out the door when we’re mad. Keeping in mind our common goal makes the little things more tolerable. I hope he feels the same about my moods.

Our 13th anniversary was a few days ago. We celebrated at home, with our kids. We’ll find a time for a nice dinner out, but this year, that’s how it went. They cooked for us, waited on us, bought us flowers, and made us take anniversary pictures. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not perfect, but it’s us. You’d be hard pressed to find perfect.

Fine. Maybe this is a sentence. I’m willing to serve it to the fullest extent. I stay because I like it here. Oh yeah, and I love him. We aren’t prisoners. The stereotypes are sometimes true, and it’s not for everyone, but marriage is actually (gasp!) enjoyable. We’re good. Happy anniversary to us. Cheers to many, many more!

“People stay married because they want to. Not because the doors are locked.” – Paul Newman


*Originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 5/14/15

She was a damn good dog

May 5, 2015


 For the second time since we got married, we had to say goodbye to a dog. Making the decision for vet-assisted pet death is sometimes easier than others, but it’s no walk in the park. It’s usually the right and best option, but it can’t help but seem a little wrong. I don’t tell you that for sympathy, but I know how many of you understand.

It’s sad that she’s gone. The house is quiet. We got her when she was about one, and she stayed with us for fourteen years. That’s a long time, and she had a better than average life. She loved loaves of bread and leftover Mexican food. She hated baths but hated thunderstorms even more. She got in the tub with the first dark cloud. 

We got her as a companion to our first pup, Sam. He had anxiety that caused some rather disturbing bodily responses (read: lots of poop), and the vet recommended we get a second dog. There was a sale going on at Animal Services that very weekend. 

A sale? Yep. It was a last ditch effort to find homes for dogs scheduled for euthanasia. They used a spray paint system for decoding which dogs would be adopted with what discount. A hot pink stripe on the fur meant 20% off, yellow 40%, and red let would be adopters know the dog had heart worm. It was a sad, sad sight. So many dogs. It was nearly impossible to choose just one.

I can’t remember who found whom, but she was extra shy. She was the nicest dog in the whole place. She didn’t jump up, her tail wagged a little, and she sniffed with caution. They’d named her Zelda. We named her Lizzy. No offense to any other Zeldasout there. 

We never had to house train her. She did whatever Sam did. Until she was sick and dying, she didn’t go to the bathroom in the house. She learned to sit, shake, and lay down. Again, all figured out by watching Sam. She didn’t eat shoes or underwear, and she never tried to get on the furniture. 

She had a way of sneaking her head right up under your hand, not matter how inconvenient or awkward. We’d warn her victims: if you pet her once, be prepared to do it for an hour. She always wanted to be on the porch with us. It seemed like she hated the mailman, or anyone else who came in the driveway, with her ridge hair on end and a semi ferocious bark, but she was all talk. She was great watchdog. 

Over the past month, we noticed swelling in her leg, and she had a little trouble getting around. Her tail still wagged. Occasionally, we’d carry her up the stairs, just so she wouldn’t have to work so hard. We chalked it up to arthritis and old age. A vet visit during Masters week confirmed bone cancer. She came home with pain meds and a promise to keep her comfortable. 

She spent the last week eating steak wrapped opiates. We told her she was loved. Her tail still wagged. 

If you’re considering getting a dog, look into adoption. If you adopt at Animal Services in Richmond County, the adoption fees aren’t more than $75, and that includes basic vaccines, micro chipping, and spay/neuter services. Not listed on the website but also included is unending loyalty. That, my friends, is worth more than any adoption fee. 

Lizzy’s buried at the lake, next to her buddy, Sam. The last time I saw her, I hugged her frail body and promised her she’d been a damn good dog. She wasn’t the prettiest one we’d ever seen, but she was always grateful. She knew she had a good life. She probably never completely understood just how good she made ours.

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA


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