Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Daily Dose of Happy

I spent 10 years in Birmingham, AL and returned to Texas about 5 years ago. While in the sweet 'Ham, I made the dearest of friends. One of these folks is my buddy, Christopher Davis. He was the illustrator and designer for Southern Living Magazine at the same time I was a travel writer.

Let me tell you about this fella. First of all, and perhaps the most important, you will NEVER meet a nicer, more kind-hearted individual. In all the years I have known him and worked with him, I've never seen him be anything, but cheerful. Which makes sense, considering he spends part of his life as an improv comedian for Extemporaneous Theatre Company and Ugly Baby Improv, as well as hosts Fresh Ground Comics, a monthly stand-up comedy show. So, yes, he's also funny. Like, super funny.

He's also an insanely talented artist. His big draw is Drawdog. He does custom portraits of your pet (it doesn't have to be a dog), adorable platapus sculptures and drawings of nature. He can draw and paint and sculpt anything.


I am not the only one who finds him insanely talented. He's got a following. Like, lots of people absolutely dig everything he does, be it drawing a pet or making you laugh. He was recently the speaker at TED Talk. Ummm, BIG DEAL.

Chris does TED Talk

I spoke with Christopher recently and told him of some family health struggles and told him it's been rough going lately. Soon after, I received a package in the mail. It was like being sent sunshine, rainbows, Diet Coke and a new pair of shoes (with a high wedge) -- in a manilla envelope (that was decorated, too).

In other words, it was like getting a pile of HAPPY (unlike the usual bills, catalogs and credit card offers the mail usually delivers).

These amazing little happy faces hang in my kitchen, across from the sink, where I sadly spend a lot of my time. Every single time I look at them, multiple times per day, I am reminded that there this a lot to be happy about in life. Including great friends, even if they are far away.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Meet You Downstairs

It was "Throwback Thursday" yesterday. I've never thrown back. But, I was however, thrown back by a dear friend. She posted a long-ago photo of me and my dear friends during lunchtime. This lunchtime was not simply a time to eat. For the many years I was a travel writer at Southern Living Magazine, when in town and not on the road, lunch was spent in the cafeteria with "my ladies" and we solved it all. We talked of our home lives, kids, parents, missed deadlines, politics, sadness, accomplishments, movies and television. We discussed ailing loved ones and pets, household issues and the weather. My husband went to war and they were my rock. I got pregnant, and again, this group lead me through it. Some of us told jokes. Others, namely me, didn't usually get these jokes. They blamed it on my youth (at the time) and my hair color (out of a bottle). Still, yesterday, friends, one of my buddies posted a photo on Facebook that brought it all back.

First off, I never had dearer friends, more inspiring mentors or more fabulous adventures. Of course, there were days. Deadlines (ugh), corporate stuff (for lack of a better word), and long hours. I lost an 18-year-old dog, I sent my husband to war and didn't talk to him for 8 months, and I even got secretly married. But, when I think back, I remember my friends and the other "stuff" has faded. When I throw Thursday back to wherever it is intended to be thrown, I think of these ladies, my friends.

One has gone to live in Heaven, but I still hear her laugh and miss her red-headed feistiness. Another birthed twins many years ago, and still when I see a Snickers Bar, I think of her. She had diabetes while pregnant and all she wanted after popping out that boy and girl was a dang Snickers. I think of my mentor, and hero, who took me on my first travel writing adventure and coached me through every big story I had. Another one of my ladies carries a deep southern drawl and has more stories about her momma, daddy and choir and taught me about description and kindness. There was also one who simply told me to remember to "rock you babies as long as they'll let you" and "Be. Here. Now." And then there's my Juana. I'm not a good enough writer to do her justice. Just let me tell you this, if you ever want to feel loved, talk to her. You ever want to feel understood, she's the one. And if you ever want to read words that make you feel as if you have been transported to the place, she's got them. One of the finest writers with the most wicked sense of humor... Juana.

So, I don't blog much. In fact, I am a blogging failure. But this Throwback thing has had me thinking so much about how friends might be far, but they are never forgotten. No photos or cartoons here, folks. This is it this time. Cheers, to my Birmingham gals. Miss our lunches.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Pinocchio Summer

My daughter got out of school TODAY, at 3 p.m. It's not even bedtime yet and I have already noticed a shameful pattern.

We were barely in the car and immediately, she wanted to know if we could have a neighborhood kid over to play. Without thinking, I replied, "Oh, sweetie, they were leaving town right after school pick up." She asked me without taking a breath, and I replied in the same manner. Quick and swift. The difference was that my response to her question was a big, fat lie. Yes, I lied to my kid. To her face. Without blinking. Without flinching. I was bold, I was confident, and I even looked her in the eye, and I lied.

Don't get me wrong, I like the neighborhood friend. Still I didn't even flinch when it came to telling a tall tale. It came quite naturally and comfortably, in fact. Truth is, though, my daughter's friend is no more out of town than Lindsey Lohan is sober. Pretty much, not a chance.

This got me thinking ... Why did I throw out that lie? What gives? Then I realized one sad fact: this isn't the first time.

Yesterday, my little boy wanted to go to the park. At 7:30 a.m. I was out of Diet Coke (back on that wagon, or is it off?) and hadn't made the run through the Golden Arches. So, a trip to the park before 8 a.m. wasn't an option. Before my son could even ask a second time, I blurted, "Sorry, Bud, the park doesn't open until 10. Let me show you 10 a.m. on the clock and then you'll know when we can go." Dear. Me.

I don't know what it is. Perhaps it's the fact that homework and crazy schedules have owned us for 9 months and finally we can just be. Just be lazy and do nothing. A break from school projects and reading lists and math problems. Time to just relax.

The problem is that kids don't relax and do nothing well, now do they? No. Kids need activities. Constant activities. They want to go, go, go, see, see, see. And, folks, me and activities are not BFF right now. It's hot and heat makes Mama cranky. As in, more cranky than usual. I don't like bugs, I fear sunburns, I loathe sweating. Plus I live in Texas. So, if I am outside, this wonderful trio isn't just a possibility, it's a promise. In the Lone Star State, mosquitos are the size of armadillos, the heat reaches 145 degrees (on a good day), and sweat pools in, oh I best stop without detailing those crevices. Let's just say, it's a good idea to carry a hankie to wipe your brow from mid-May to mid-October.

So, technically my summer began today. And, I've already told two pretty decent lies to my children. Not a proud moment, but also, one I don't see changing. In fact, I see myself as a card-carrying, full-fledged  SUMMER LIAR.

What I envision: The kids will ask to go to some fancy waterpark brimming with E. Coli and exposed flesh (not mine, as I haven't bared above my knees since 1987). They'll see a flashy commercial on television (because they'll be parked in front of it a lot), and they'll beg to go. I mean, BEG.  I'll pretend to look up the waterpark on the computer. Lots of typing, tons of searching. I'll find it. "That sounds like fun!" After researching this amazing attraction, I'll find it had to unexpectedly close for the summer. "So sorry kids. No waterpark. I was really excited, too. Ugh!" And, instead, we'll go to the nice, cold movie theater.

On another occassion, the kids will want to go to the zoo. Here's the thing. I like the zoo. I love animals. The catch is that I do NOT like the zoo, wait for it ... IN. THE. SUMMER. It's hot (did I mention the 215 degree weather?) and animals smell when it's cold outside. When it's blazing, it's like stepping in a sewage tank. And paying admission to attend. It's not an option. So when asked, I can imagine a response of, "Don't you remember last year, the zoo takes a summer break just like the schools. Remember?" Evil. Horrible. Terrible. But, honestly, this is what is going to happen.

Again, I'd love to say I feel guilty about this pattern of untruths. It would clearly make me a better person. But, honestly, I feel just fine about lying to my children. Look, I have their best interest in mind at all times, but summer didn't used to be a time when you had to "have a plan." Kids used to just play all day. Period. We didn't have to have a scheduled camp or activity. We didn't have to do a project or a craft. You had one such event about one time during the summer. The rest of the three months you were on your own. Good luck, kiddo. Catch some bugs. Roll around in the mud. Climb a tree. Perhaps I am painting a sad childhood of my own, but I don't remember it being anything but fun and dirty, and unscheduled. So, for my kids, I'll toss in a trip to a museum and a scheduled outing here and there. But, for the most part, my kids will be required to just be kids. And I plan on lying until my nose grows a mile long to make this happen.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Happy Days Are Here Again!

So... my car broke. $850. We fixed it (or paid to have it fixed) then shelled out another $300 (car done broke again). A few days later, the air conditioning at home quits. Is any of it covered under warranty or insurance? No. So, today, we have committed to buying a new air conditioning unit. My point? All I have done lately is complain and moan about the issues around my house (and state of transportation). I am sick of myself. Thus, I am going to list some things that truly make me happy. In no particular order, so please don't read into that ...

1. A brand, spankin' new lip gloss. Doesn't take Sephora level. I am good with something from CVS or Target or even Walmart. Just a new lip gloss. For the one guy reading this (my poor dad who feels obligated), you can't understand, so don't try.

2. Listening to Bill Cosby talk. He was recently on Jimmy Fallon (who, by the way, makes me super happy) and could have been reading a Sears catalog, still he made me smile. Oddly enough, he doesn't even have to talk. He moves, and I smile or laugh. Hello, Friend, pass the Jello.

3. The color turquoise. I painted my front door (well, okay, I paid someone to paint...) this color. I love it. Jewelry, paint or a lamp, you name it, if it's this color, I am happy.

4. Getting my hair done. Specifically, my roots. Yes, I am a natural blonde.

5. A good book. Okay, so this seems lame in between something like lip gloss and paint and celebrities, but, I am telling the truth. Again, I write this to remind myself I am not always Debbie Downer. A good book is an absolute delight to me. I don't do the fancy kind on the IPad or computer or whatever you kids are selling these days. I buy books, or get them at the library. That's that building where you can check out books ... ah, hell, call me if you don't know what a library is. Point is ... I love words. I love reading a new book, or revisiting an oldie. I love the shelves and the quiet of a library. Mark Childress, Fannie Flagg, Kinky Freedman ... give me a few words from these Southern friends and I am happy.

6. I also love magazine day at home. This is the day that my magazine subscriptions arrive in the mailbox. US Weekly arrives every week, don't judge. Garden & Gun is a literary gem. All the others, with these, are welcomed with open palms. I love me some magazines. IN PRINT. Not on some fancy notepad, by the way. Old school? Yes. Magazines rock.

7. Pink tulips.

8. Justin Timberlake. Stop your judging. I think he's great and he dances well and he's a great actor and he can sing and he's funny. You are making me write in a run-on sentence to defend myself for this, so stop. I love Justin Timberlake. So there.

9. Shoes with a wedge. I like feeling taller than I am. Don't judge unless you are 5"2. Then, bring it.

10. McDonald's Diet Coke. Stop, Health Nuts. I tried. I don't every single day. But, most, I do. I love it and it makes me happy. It's happiness for $1.08. Please lecture me another day. I know if I poured it on my car engine, it would come out clean. But, fact is, many days, my car engine sucks. My Diet Coke doesn't. It's always the same, always $1.08. My car breaks, and my air conditioning won't come on. Let me have this one thing. I know it's killing me, but so is the air and the pesticides, so stop right there.

For you kind readers who actually read this and are now saying to yourself, "That's it?" Well, hold up. Yes, I am so happy with my husband, kids, parents and grandparents. I love Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday, and I am grateful for our health and our home and blah, blah, blah. This wasn't meant to be some deep, soul-searching list. I just realized that all I had been doing was whining and moaning and decided to nip it. And, with that said, Barney Fife makes me happy.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reality, It's Not as Bad as it Feels ...

Hi there, Folks ...

Today, I had both kids with me, home, sick from school. The girl had fever last night so I didn't question the ailment. The little had "arm pain," but I was too lazy to take him to daycare since the girl was home. Major. Mom. Fail. That said, by 1 p.m. I had the 3-year-old, Hud, running into the living room yelling, "Shit, shit, shit! Is this a bad word? Shit, shit, shit!" Please don't be offended, gentle readers. I report the facts as they occurred. My day was made for the books.

So... let me rewind. My daughter had fever last night, so when she wasn't well today, I told her she must stay home. The little then followed suit and REFUSED to do to daycare (which he only attends Tuesdays and Thursdays, mind you).  All was well, until the afternoon hours. They watched movies, ate ice cream and relaxed. It was a typical sick day. Until I was actually needed elsewhere. I mean, as an ADULT and not just as MOM. I had a work issue arise (yes, I do, at times, actually try to WORK), and asked the daughter, the older sibling, to keep things "under control." Give me 15 minutes," I said. She did. I should have been specific. I mean, I should have been beyond clear. Like, CRYSTAL CLEAR.

Today. What a day. As an only child, I don't typically "get" the whole sibling rivalry thing. I have step-siblings who are now considered my true siblings, but I didn't grow up with the stuff I am witnessing. Fact is, the elder sibling DARED the younger to "make your room messier than ever." Yes, she told him to turn his area into a war zone. I had no idea that was happening until, well, until I SAW it.

When I finally saw what was going on, my first panic attack hit. Like first panic attack ever. EVER. Sweating. Heat. Drippy palms. Cotton mouth. Walls closing in. Vomit ... soon. I am no clean freak, but this was, well, NOT RIGHT. This was so bad. Kids acting like raccoons in heat, attacking everything in sight, and me, trying to understand it all. It was chaos. And I was NOT in control.

The hanging clothing from the rods in the closet, all off rods and on the floor. The shelves of books, cleared and books, on floor. The drawers full of folded clothes, empty, with all, on floor. The cover of the Matchbox cars case, ripped off (like an inmate tearing away at the bars on his cell). People, things here got nasty today. You see a trend? All was... ON. THE. FLOOR. Today, I saw the Lord of the Flies brought to life.

The rest of the afternoon was terrible. Yes, it got worse. I called my husband and begged him to return home. Not a.s.a.p., but sooner. I paced. I picked my nails and prayed. Husband got home, lectures were given, electronics removed (until further notice), all toys in garage. No television for a week. No Internet. No fun or frivolity ... until further notice. Did the littles understand the punishment? I have no idea ... All I know is that I am trying, with my husband, to raise decent, kind people.

I found myself in serious prayer (instead of light-hearted prayer), begging the Lord to not repeat today. I asked for obedient children, as well as patience for me and my husband. I asked for kindness for these siblings, since the older sister clearly set up the younger brother, when she told him to ruin his room, for the fun of it.

I walked away, knowing my children would soon be dreaming of sugarplums, dancing in their heads. Then, reality hit. It hit. I realized the truth...

Our prayers are so silly. My family has no Cancer (knock wood). We have a supportive family. We have a mom, a dad, 2 kids and 3 dogs (and even 2 frogs). We are beyond blessed. Yes, we have a pair of pants and 2 shirts stuffed down the kiddo toilet. But, let's be real. We HAVE a kiddo toilet. We don't have one. We have 3 in this house. So one is crammed with toddler clothing. We got 2 toilets to spare. My kid's bookshelves are bare. Not because we don't have books. We do (Thank you, Jesus.). They are bare because my maniac children decided to act like prison inmates instead of children sometimes.

Tonight, I am annoyed with my kids. They are in BIG trouble. Like, SUPER BIG. But, when praying with them before bed, it hit me ... My prayers for order and discipline need to disappear. My prayers need to be of thanks. Today was a big pile of shit, to quote my 3-year-old son. Still, what a blessing. Yep. I got 2 healthy kids and one super husband. Plus, I have a mom, a dad, a mother-in-law, a father-in-law and a few grandparents. And we have friends. But, most importantly, we have each other. Yes, we are down a toilet, as it is stuffed with toddler size 3 clothing. But, we are still blessed.

And, no, I haven't blogged in a year or so. Whatever. I've been busy, People. I got toilets to unclog. Don'd judge.