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be the miracle – check your boobs

October 15, 2014

mobile Looking for something to do this weekend? You don’t have to train for it, and it won’t even take all day. If you give up a few hours of your Saturday, you could save the life of a woman in our community. Makes you feel powerful, right? It’s easy.

The Miracle Mile walk, which is a laid-back, fun walk (remember me? I tried running once. It didn’t work), supports local efforts to educate and screen women in the CSRA for breast cancer. With early detection, survival rates are better than 95%. So what gives? Only 44% of women in our area get regular mammograms.

You need a yearly mammogram, ladies. Men, you should check yourselves, too. Although instances in females are much more prevalent, breast cancer isn’t gender exclusive. Don’t have insurance? There’s even a Mobile Mammography unit, which travels to various locations in Richmond, Columbia, and outlying counties, providing uninsured women with the necessary screenings. In 2014 alone,  11 women have been diagnosed in the Mobile Unit. That’s 11 women who might not have been screened otherwise. In 2013, a total of 5,563 mammograms were performed in every county of the CSRA.

If you walk (and raise a bunch of money!), you probably want to know exactly where the money goes. It stays here. In Augusta. 100% of all dollars collected will help maintain and staff the Mobile Mammo unit and benefit our region’s only accredited Breast Health Center, which is located on the University Hospital campus. They provide diagnostic testing, education, and treatment options for breast cancer patients.

Need a reason to walk?

The statistic says that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s profound, y’all. In my small office of 7 women, we’ve already had one. I’m sure you all know at least one person who’s gone through treatment. There are thousands of reasons to walk.

This soapbox is for my friend Debbie. She died in February, after a long, hard battle with this nasty disease. We still miss her every day. I’ll stay on the soapbox for all the future Debbies, who will be sick through chemo, lose their hair, and recover from surgeries.

So this week, when you’re making plans, check out The walk is Saturday October 18th. It’s easy to register, and it doesn’t cost a thing. The amount you raise is entirely up to you (though the boobs are counting on ya). There are some sweet bright pink t-shirts, too.

I’ll be walking for Debbie. I’ll also be walking for everyone who will be diagnosed in the Mobile Mammo unit this year. More info and awareness = less fear. That’s it. Let’s all help put an end to the fear. Join me and the ten thousand other people who will be walking that day. Little ol’ you can make a big difference. You can save a life, people!

pink ribbonOriginally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA 10/9/14

Like a good bra…

October 1, 2014

bluebraThe Girl had her first major run in with a mean girl last week. We knew she would be fine, but for a few days, she was deeply hurt by the actions of her classmate. She was forgiving but not sure they’d be friends. I think that’s fair.
People asked if I wanted her moved away from the mean girl. Here’s the deal, people. Mean people are everywhere. You don’t like everyone, and not everyone likes you. It’s called life, and even our precious little children must learn to cope. We can shelter them all we want, but mean people are everywhere, and they suck.
I’ve heard story after story of girls being left out by entire groups of peers, blatantly omitted from activities and playdates. I’ve heard about the horribleness of middle school, but these are young girls. Girls whose mothers still have to arrange such things and drive them from place to place.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If your kid is mean, it’s probably your fault. I’m sure that’s hard for most parents out there to hear. In extreme medical circumstances, you get a pass. Otherwise, it’s your job to raise them to be kind, polite, respectful human beings. Seriously. No matter what.
Don’t get me wrong. Some things will slip through the cracks. No child is perfect (well, except mine, of course. And maybe my niece), and no matter how many times we remind them to say their pleases and thank yous, sometimes, they just forget. They’re just kids, after all.
I’m looking at the big picture here.
I think it’s time for us all (yes, YOU) to sit down with our children and remind them. It’s a basic message: be nice to each other.
The root of it all is jealousy. Goodness knows, I remember being so envious of Margaret St. Jean and her big perky boobs. She had them before anyone else. I was so far behind in that department, I was picked on for not wearing a bra. I didn’t need a bra, of course, but that one girl still ran her finger down my back, reminding me of the missing clasp. Despite all that, I was never mean to Ms. St. Jean.
So about this jealousy thing. I get it. It’s hard not to get sucked into everyday comparisons of houses, friends, social calendars, cars, or whatever. You name it. Someone’s got it better. It’s impossible to compete.
I’ve been warned about middle school. The girls become even more ruthless. Sixth graders must develop a thick skin to keep up. Hey, I’m all about a thick skin. It’s probably pretty handy for thwarting the occasional break up, job loss, death, argument with a friend, or whatever else real life hands us along the way.
What if, though, what IF? What if, in addition to developing a tough exterior, we teach our girls confidence and self worth? With more of that, there’s less of the other. If she feels valuable, she won’t need to hate that girl because she has nicer shoes. It simply won’t matter if she likes who she is. As a result, she’ll like what she has.
It’s a lofty goal. We can’t end jealousy forever. But still, there’s so much work to be done. We have a mess of broken, angry girls. Can we teach them to be more tolerant and respectful of one another?
It lasts too, ladies. Grown women acting like children, gossiping and berating, is commonplace these days.
Although it makes me sad to think of future encounters my girl (and yours) will have with the mean ones, I’m optimistic. When confronted with the issue this week, mine said, “I may not want to be her friend right away, but I forgive her.” That’s a start. We talked about reasons people are hurtful. I can only hope she’ll remember how she felt, and think twice before making anyone else feel the same. If not, I’ll be here to remind her.
Let’s work on sweetening up our girls. Teach them to be supportive and stand up on their own (like that bra!), and maybe their friends will follow suit. I’m in if you are. Dads are welcome too. Cheers to raising (and wearing) good bras.

Originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on September 25, 2014

And many more…

September 22, 2014

us1998People often ask married couples how they got together. Every married couple has a story. From high school football games to late night trysts in a bar, we all started somewhere didn’t we?
For some reason, our story has come up quite a bit recently. It must be the time of year. As I type, it’s his birthday. We didn’t meet on his birthday, but, well, okay. I thought you’d never ask. I’ll tell you.
Friends of mine kept telling me we should meet. “You’ll really like him,” they’d say. “I can’t believe y’all haven’t met yet!” I remember hearing that his granddaddy died. This unknown grandfather, belonging to the nearly mythical guy who lived in the apartment behind ours. Who was he?
One night, it happened. I heard someone say, “Hey Jenny! This is Brice!” I promise y’all, there was a halo of bright light surrounding him, as he slowly came outside from their kitchen. It was probably the brightness of the fluorescent lights coupled with the dark night. His speed was probably muddled with bourbon, but let me have my moment. I’ll remember it my way.
I had a boyfriend at the time, and we were very much in love, so friends we would remain. We studied together often. Both English majors who loved to read, there was always plenty to discuss. We talked about names for our future children, though we clearly wouldn’t be having them together. I spent the night at his house, and him at mine, but we were nothing more than two close friends.
We took this biology class together, and although I studied my tail off, he didn’t. He’d do the crossword in the student newspaper, close his eyes, and go to sleep. I paid attention, took notes, purchased the notes, and read the chapters. He swore upside down and sideways he’d get a B in the class. What? No way. Not possible.
I was so sure of this impossibility, I placed a bet. If he made a B in the class and could afford a plane ticket, I’d pay for an entire weekend in NYC. We shook hands. I left for the summer. Days later, I got the call: “Did you get your grades? I got a B!” Because we were waiting for a paper copy to be mailed, like with a stamp, I hadn’t seen mine yet. He bought a ticket.
Living with my dad in the city, we only had two bedrooms. I assured him that this relationship was benign, and we’d both sleep in my room. There was a sleeper sofa and a chair that folded into a twin bed. We’d each take one. And we did. We spent the whole weekend walking around the city, celebrating the fireworks on the 4th of July, talking about life and everything else. He met my friends, who marveled at his deep southern drawl.
I realized something that weekend, though I didn’t figure it out until weeks later. I didn’t want to marry my boyfriend. I wanted to marry my best friend. I came back to the south, turning down a fancy job in New York. If I was to marry this southern guy, I had to come back to the south.
I broke up with my boyfriend, but I didn’t exactly have the guts to make the first move with this best friend. Apparently he didn’t have the guts either. All it took was a 21st birthday (his) to give him the courage (beer) he needed.
That night, we were out with friends, and it was late. Someone said “who can take him home? His house is so out of the way.” As we’d done so many times before, we both went back to my place. I tucked him in on the couch and started to head to bed. Suddenly, he was making that first move. He told me to trust him. Um, no sir. You don’t trust a man on his 21st birthday. I told him to go to sleep.
As it turns out, he is a man of his word. We talked about it the next day, and the kiss was intentional and would be repeated many times and without bourbon. We feared ruining our friendship but risked it anyway. Most everyone, including his parents, said, “It’s about time,” when we told them about our status change.
Now in our 17th year, he’s still my best friend. I never saw that report card, proving his B in biology, but if he made anything lower, I don’t wanna know. I’ll just trust him. It’s worked for me before. Cheers to that birthday all those years ago, when everything became forever.1484200_10152120810081070_1931258819_n

Originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 9/18/14

Just Twerk It

September 2, 2014

Some weeks, believe it or not, I find myself at a loss for words. For those of you who dislike my words, you’re probably wishing it would happen more often. Often, I even wish it would happen more often. Am I the only one who tires of her own voice?
This week is one of those. I haven’t had the time to be aware enough of the “funny things.” The things people say “only happen” to me. As I’ve said dozens of times, they don’t just happen to me. I just happen to notice.
Since you’re here, and now that I think about it, a funny thing did happen to me this week. I don’t plan on regularly sharing my conversations with my son regarding his teenage years, but I asked his permission on this one. Trust me. I won’t be documenting his bodily changes and our sex talks for all to see. Not only is it not all that interesting, but it’s none of your dadgum business. I mean that in the nicest of ways.
The Boy asked me why our puppy, who is now about six months old, twerks when he is trying to show dominance. Huh? What are you talking about, dude?
I investigated. “Boy, what do you mean, he twerks?” I’m not only confused by the fact that The Boy, an ultra conservative dancer, even knows the dance move, but when in the actual hell has my little puppy twerked?
“Well, you say that it isn’t great when Teddy makes that back-forth-back-forth motion after he wraps his arms around your leg. I don’t see it as dominance, but it’s weird.” Indeed. He’s seen the America’s Funniest Videos about such things, but until now, it went right over his head.
He’s never been an asker of whys. It’s partly due to the fact that he already knows the answer, and he knows I don’t. Years ago, when he was around four, he asked the biology questions related to reproduction. Actually, he told me what he read in his children’s encyclopedia, and I confirmed. It was all science then.
My naivety had me believing it still was.
The questions are different now, though. To preserve his privacy, I’ll spare you the specifics. “Ok, buddy. That twerking you’re seeing isn’t really twerking. Teddy is almost a teenager, so he is, um, well, making motions similar to the ones he’d make if he was making puppies with a female dog.” We talked a little more, relating it to humans and other mammals.
“You mean it’s like doin’ it?” Blink. Blink.
“That’s not the clinical term, kiddo, but yes. I’m glad you asked. Do you have any questions?”
I’m not afraid to talk to my kids about life and all that, but I was admittedly relieved when it looked like things were wrapping up. I was sweating. It’s not awful, and I want them to be informed, but while he found it entertaining, I panicked a little. Are we really here? Apparently, we are.
On the bright side, The Boy now knows that it might be a good idea to push Teddy off, should he get friendly with (read: hump) a guest’s leg. It’s not a behavior we’d like to encourage. Unfortunately, for all y’all with kids, he has a self imposed mental image of you “doing it.” Twerk it, people.

A funny thing happened on the way to the toll booth…

August 26, 2014

toolboothThe Kids and I went on an unexpected road trip to Florida last weekend. I don’t mean to be vague. We went to my grandmother’s funeral. She lived a good 89 years, so it wasn’t an especially sad affair, but of course she will be missed.
Back to that road trip. We spent a good bit of time on the Florida Turnpike. Have you been there? It’s a toll road. It’d been a long time since I’d traveled that stretch of very well manicured pavement. There are toll booths every few minutes. Seriously. I kept hearing AGAIN? from the backseat every time we stopped to pay another dollar or more.
It’s annoying, but the road is nice. We weren’t in much of a hurry, so besides spending The Boy’s college fund on tolls, we didn’t mind stopping to pay.
The traffic flows surprisingly well through the booths, especially if you have the fast pass thingy. Not being residents of Florida, we did not. Thank goodness I happened to have cash.
As an aside, what the heck happens if you don’t have cash? Most of the time, I’ll have a few quarters at the most, and definitely not enough to get us through 5 toll booths. They didn’t accept cards. I asked.
We were approaching our third or fourth booth, and the traffic was unusually congested. There were what appeared to be 4 lanes of traffic, including a few tallish trucks, which prevented me from seeing the booths themselves. I got in the far left lane and waited my turn.
Crap. As we got closer, I realized I was a victim of following the leader. I was a sheep. My lane was simply trying to merge with the one next to it, because the booth ahead was empty. Crap.
I hate a traffic cheater, so I’d never intentionally be one. I’ve prevented such cheaters from merging after they cheat. I knew it was risky, but I started to merge anyway. The girl a couple of cars up and one lane over wasn’t having it. She did what a lot of people will do. She pulled up to the car in front of her, her bumper nearly touching his, and kept the van in front of me from getting over. The van was bigger, so he won.
She leaned out of her window, big smile on her face, and shook her pointer finger at me like an old schoolmarm. Huh. She was mocking me. To be fair, I get it. I’d think I was cheating, too. Her gestures became a little less, well, kid-friendly as I was contemplating my next move. Clearly, she wasn’t letting me in. I waved and smiled.
I desperately glanced at the car next to me. The gentleman driving with what I would assume to be his spouse or significant other (sister? Friend? I try to be inclusive) saw me, nodded, and waved me in. I was admittedly surprised. I waved back enthusiastically as I was merging, and I waved again after I was settled in my new lane. We love the Guy Who Let Us In (GWLUI).
It wasn’t a hassle for him to let me in. He might have to wait 30 seconds longer because I was in front of him. If crazy schoolmarm girl wanted to go first, so be it. We’re both gonna get from point A to B. I’m not fighting her on it. We can’t both fit, so she can go first.
It taught me something. Most cheaters are cheaters, but every once in awhile they might have a good reason for cutting in line. Who am I to try to figure that out? Assume positive intentions. In the case of the GWLUI, it’ll get your $1.25 toll paid by the grateful Mama you let into your lane.

Rules are made to be broken. (??)

August 14, 2014

kidsI’m coming to you in advance, asking for forgiveness. I’ve got back to school brain. I haven’t been officially diagnosed, and it’s a manageable case, but I’m suffering nonetheless. Everyone else is, too. My brain seems to be locked in a semi constant state of chaos. My brain is only operating in brief, list-like thoughts.

I miss summer. It’s only been a week, but let’s go back. Although the final weeks were busier than I’d have liked, I miss when we weren’t rushing to school early for Hall Monitor duty. Dance started the first week. Piano starts soon. We keep a minimally overscheduled schedule, but it gets nuts from time to time.

I’m glad my kids are back in school. Parenting is confusing like that. Y’all know I love my kids, but Lordy pete. I don’t miss the fighting. To be fair, The Boy doesn’t necessarily start fights. He does terrible things to his sister, which makes her terribly upset. He touches her and looks at her. He doesn’t just look at her. He looks at her like that. He’s smiling the whole time. At least he’s having a good time.

This summer required a revised set of house rules. The Kids are getting older. It seemed we were well overdue:

First, absolutely no touching, unless it is clearly and unquestionably a hug or an accident. You’d think I was being clear, but accidents are often hard to determine. You know the drill. You whip the wet towel close enough to your sister’s leg, missing every time but one. “It was an accident,” doesn’t work when she’s crying over the softball sized welt on her calf. Some things just aren’t accidents. Hugging only counts when you’re actually, well, hugging. No pushing allowed.

If your sister screams, you’re probably gonna get in trouble. As a former kid, I fully realize that she just removed your arm with a dull, rusty knife, but I can’t take the screaming.

Your brother is older, and therefore his rules are different. It’s that simple, and I’m not going to debate his later bed time each and every school night. When he turns 16 he will drive. You will be 14 and will not. It’s time for you to learn it: life is not fair.

For the most part, I don’t care why it’s happening. Please don’t tell me every little thing that he just did which is now requiring you to tattle. I just want you to stop.

You’ve finally figured out that “we’ll see” can mean whatever I want it to mean. Sometimes, I’m just buying time, because I don’t feel like telling you “no” yet. It’s my privilege and pleasure.

“No” really does mean “no.” For the life of me, I can’t figure out who taught you otherwise. Don’t ask again and again, expecting different results. If you’ve asked, and I’ve answered, we’re done here. In the words of a dear friend, “Can’t grant.”

While we’re on it, this all might go more smoothly if you don’t ask for ridiculous things. “No, you can’t have ice cream. Dinner is on the table.” See how silly that sounds?

Don’t ever ask if a friend can spend the night, if that friend is standing with you. I’ll always say no.

I know you are growing very, very tired of hearing me repeat myself. Rest assured; I don’t do it for kicks. Saying “please empty your laundry basket” eleventy billion times per day isn’t my idea of a picnic. If there’s some other language I can learn to expedite this process, please clue me in. Rosetta stone is expensive, but I hear it’s worth it.

When I pester you about this being “your only sister” or “the only brother you’ll ever have,” I’m not trying to depress you. Y’all will need each other someday, when I’m gone. You’ll be surprised when you’re suddenly real friends. Right now, while you’re telling each other to BE QUIET YOU ARE SO ANNOYING, it’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.

Addendum: Just as y’all started to get good at this, we went back to school. The all too soon arrival of August. I heard y’all talked on the playground, and I hope you were kind. Always look out for each other. NO. That doesn’t mean watch his every move, hoping he screws up so you have a chance to tattle. Just love one another. If you absolutely cannot, at least try to whisper. We wouldn’t want to draw attention to any questionable behavior. Of course, my perfect angel children would never, ever have to worry about that.

College is So Much More than a Lecture Hall

August 11, 2014

ramen19 years ago, I was packing for college.
19 years ago, I knew so much more than I know now. With each passing year, I’m happier to admit that I am, in fact, clueless. Academic advisors in Athens were plentiful, but no one ever told me this stuff. Maybe I just didn’t hear them.
Ramen noodles are a complete meal. So are instant mashed potatoes. Kraft mac and cheese can definitely be made without milk. If you have milk, you can live for weeks on cereal alone.
The $6 cab fare is always worth it. If the school bus system has a Family Housing (for example) bus that goes downtown, you can take that, too. It’s free. Be aware of the schedules. They don’t run all night.
The free t-shirt they give you for signing up for a credit card isn’t really free. It comes with a hefty 17% monthly interest rate. It doesn’t matter that the cute card has your college mascot on it. It will still get you in trouble. Stick with cash.
Living on a budget is possible. Low checking account balances enhance creative thinking skills. It’s also possible to work, go to class, and still have a life.
Check the couch cushions. Once, we found almost $10 in change in there.
Even if you’re going home for the holidays, get a Christmas tree. A potted plant can be decorated on limited funds.
Moving every year isn’t that uncommon. It doesn’t ever get easier. You can get packing boxes for free at the liquor store. Getting the security deposit back is totally worth the effort.
If you’re lucky, you’ll make forever friends. High school friends will always matter, but late-night porch talks after $1 beer night are the ties that bind. Are there still places that sell beer for $1? Remember when we had nickel night?
Even the best of friends don’t make perfect roommates. I’m incredibly messy. I tried to at least do the dishes. I kept my bedroom door closed most of the time.
Sharing clothes with your roommates is expected. Taking clothes without asking and wearing them to a smoky bar isn’t. You will get caught, and the rest of the apartment will talk about you.
Fights between roommates can be settled with a box of wine.
Just because she goes out with you doesn’t mean she wants to spend the night.
The first guy you date probably won’t become your husband.
I knew three people who got dogs in college and actually took care of them. As a general rule, wait until graduation. Your parents only recently got rid of you. They probably don’t want your dog.
Joining a sorority or fraternity isn’t mandatory or necessary, even in The South.
Promising to cook fried chicken for your boyfriend is a lofty goal. It isn’t as easy as it looks on TV, and unless the oil is the perfect temperature, the chicken will still be bloody when you go to serve it. Practice first, or stick to the basics. After eating ramen for the past three nights, he’ll be impressed by a Stouffer’s lasagna and bagged salad.
Sign up for 8:00 am classes as a last resort only. If you can avoid Fridays altogether, I highly recommend it. Trust me. Attendance policies are no joke.
Skipping class on the first sunny day in the spring is not only acceptable, it’s required.
Every year, take at least two classes not required by your major. You might be surprised.
Don’t feel pressured to declare a major on the first day of classes. And yes, you can change your mind.
Your parents don’t have to know about the cash refund for returning your textbooks. Consider it a bonus. Buy milk.
Have fun, but don’t get sent home. Remember the dog? They don’t want you back, either. Mom and Dad have been looking forward to this for years.
They’ll cry when you leave. They’re sad and proud. They’ll celebrate your absence. During holiday breaks, they’ll tell everyone you’re coming home. They might seem crazy. The day your first child is born, it will all make sense.
I don’t have regrets. Ok, I kind of wish my friend hadn’t prank called my high school boyfriend – did you know you can go to jail for that? Otherwise, I’d do it all again. My only complaint is that I can’t. Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. The rest of your life is an 8am class. Attendance mandatory.


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