Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It was Kenner! It was Fun! Ber-awk!

I love shopping for toys.  I can wander up and down the aisles of Toy-R-Us for hours studying GI Joe accessory sets, play food for play kitchens, and Disney Pixar action figures.  I miss buying toys for little boys.  I miss the toys that I had as a little girl.  I enjoy examing how popular toys from "back in the day" have gone through a sort of metamorphosis over the years.

Here we have Barbie's original midcentury modern bachelorette pad.  For some strange reason, Santa left this amazing cardboard structure complete with little cardboard "couch cushion" discs under the tree with my sister, Kathy's, name on it.  Kathy was a self-declared "boygirl" who tromped up and down East Neal Street wearing red polyester pajamas, cowboy boots and a holster handy with a 6-shooter.  On Christmas morning after spying the Dream House with the wrong name on it, I looked at my mom with a wrinkled nose on my disappointed face.  "I'm sure that Kathy will be happy to share her Dream House with you!" she chimed.  My jaw dropped.  Share the Dream House with Little Boygirl?  Someone shoot me now!  Even Kathy looked confused by the presence of the Barbie house that had NOT been on her list.  As an adult, I have reasoned that after Santa had all the toys stacked under the tree, he did a little bit of "equalizing."  Can you tell that I'm still a bit emotionally scarred?

Santa must have taken the Three Little Pigs' housing debacles to heart when he redesigned Barbie's new home dubbing it a town house.  It wasn't until I saw this 3-story wonder that I realized the "Kathy's" Dream House had no kitchen.  Our helmet-haired, red-headed Barbie didn't have time to cook.  She was too busy speeding away in evening attire to hot night spots in her red convertible with Ken.  And, she never, ever had to go to the bathroom.   Since she didn't eat, she probably had no use for a powder room anyway.  Are you kidding me?  She had too much trouble pulling on those tight pants in the first place.  No way was she going to waste precious time and effort taking potty breaks.

One year, Santa left each of us a Kenner Sparkle Paint set.  I can't remember which sets he left for the three of us, but you can pretty much bet that Kathy's was the "5 Pictures of Superman" set.  What I do remember is the little tubs of glitter - "emerald," "ruby," "sapphire."  They had me at "PAINT PICTURES THAT SPARKLE LIKE JEWELS."  I'm sure that my art teacher mother cringed when she purchased those sets on Santa's behalf from one of the 3 toy shelves the back of Western Auto on the square in Carthage, Texas.  She often reminded us that "original" artworks - crayon drawings on thin manila paper - were more creative than covering a coloring book drawing with glue and glitter.  My reply?  "It's Kenner!  It's FUN ber-awk!"

Kenner's Mascot, Gooney Bird
The other day, I saw a commercial for Crayola's new Color Wonder toy.  I'll let the Crayola people explain it to you:

Bring Color Wonder creations to life - with sounds! This interactive coloring pad lets you choose from 60 sound effects and place them anywhere on any Color Wonder coloring page! Create endless sound combinations that play back when you color your picture!
The Interactive Drawing Base comes with 6 sound icon cards (total of 60 sounds), 5 Color Wonder Mini Markers, 12 pages of pre-printed Color Wonder art and 6 sheets of blank Color Wonder Paper. 

But, it doesn't sparkle.  Not one little bit.  I didn't need pictures that talked to me.  I did my own voice-overs for my Sparkle paint creations.  I made up little songs as well as snappy dialogue.  Mr. McGoo would glisten as I mimicked him, "HA!  Top of the morning to you, young lady!  Heh, heh, heh!  McGoo's the name!"  The human child's voice is way better than some new-fangled "sound icon card."  Back in the 60's, a "Color Wonder set" was a box of 64  unbroken crayons.  Does an old-fashioned fresh 64-pack of crayons thrill a child's heart in the year 2010?  I wonder, and I doubt.

As I recall, the only toys that had to be plugged into a wall socket were Kirk's vibrating football game, my Easy Bake oven, and Kathy's Creepy Crawler Thingmaker.  Our stick horses' hooves clattered with the clicking sounds made out of the sides of our mouths.  My brother's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots had sound effects - the sound of plastic whacking plastic. 

I need to head to Toys-R-Us to select toys for the Salvation Army Christmas tree at our church.  I chose 2 young boys and one little girl.  I skipped over the requests for Ipods and Xboxes.  I went straight for the kids who wanted good, old-fashioned toys.  Juan wants Superman toys, and Julian hopes to receive "pirate toys."  Sweet little Ana simply wants to be a princess.  I wish that I could actually sit down on the floor alongside with each child for a while to play.  "Shewwwwwwwwwww!  Here comes Batman to the rescue!!!"  "Ahoy maties!  Shiver me timbers!"  "Look!  Here comes the prince!  I can tell by the twinkle in his eye that he thinks you're beautiful!  He wants to marry you!  You'll live happily ever after!!"

Off I skip to TRU!  La-le-la-le-laaaaaa!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Newest Facebook Friend, Henry Henrington

I guess I'm paying for all the times that I said, "I'm not your friend!  I'm your MOTHER!!"  My sons have ignored all of my "friend" requests on Facebook.  I'm embarrassed to add that one of my sons has actually "friended" a couple of his friend's moms.  While they were home for Thanksgiving, I tried to cajole them into allowing me entrance into their Facebook worlds.  Eye rolls.  Then, I dug deeper.  "Let me know when you're mature enough to friend me.  A lot of my friends' kids, who are your age...or YOUNGER, have friended their moms.  Just sayin.'"

Yesterday at around 5:30, I received a friend request from Henry Henrington.  Hmmm.  Who the heck is Henry Henrington?  It is not unusual to get friend requests from complete strangers...friends of friends of friends or complete, total, from-a-different-country strangers.  But Henry Henrington?  I looked more closely at his profile picture, then it dawned on me where I had met Henry.  He used to live in the back bedroom closet at my mother's house.  He was one of those weird, scary items I dug out when we were clearing out Mom's house.  

Henry Taking a Study Break
She'd had this "doll" for YEARS.  He is part Raggedy Andy and part Chucky.  He came out to play at Halloween sporting a creepy, green-faced witch mask and during Baylor Homecoming Weekend wearing a green and yellow windbreaker that was 10 sizes too big.  (I know...I know...we got her to Raider Ranch as soon as we could.)  Hoping that Mom would see fit to pass the doll along to a "needy" child, I convinced Reed that he might have some fun with it in the dorm.  He shrugged and threw it in the back of his car.  Thus, Henry Henrington was born this fall in Penland Hall.  Now, he wanders the second floor looking for ways to scare unsuspecting freshman.  He likes to pose casually in unexpected places...just staring and waiting.  Oh, the fun Henry has when his victim turns around his desk chair and screams like a little girl!   

Once I realized my connection with Henry, I quickly and enthusiastically responded to his friend request.  I'm going to keep up with Reed via Henry since they seem to share a dorm room.  Hopefully, Henry will be forthcoming about Reed's study and hygiene habits or lack thereof.  Yep.  Old Henry and I are going to be great, great buddies.  I may even send him a goodie box for finals.

Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to get a friend request from my middle child, Bryce.  Aha!...I thought.  The old "mature enough to friend me" comment had woven some magic in cyberspace!  I felt so pleased with myself.  Then, I clicked on "confirm friend."  My bubble was burst.  Bryce had re-established  his Facebook page to make it "parent friendly."  He has 3 friends thus far:  Reed, Henry Henrington, and me.  His profile picture is an ancient family picture taken one summer when we went horseback riding in Estes Park.  It's a wholesome, unblemished page with absolutely nothing newsy to peruse.  I complimented Bryce on being a hilarious little wisen-heimer.

From my oldest child, no response to my friendship request.  In his defense I will say that he wasn't here last weekend to benefit from my "mature enough" bully talk.  I guess the best that I can hope for  is that someday I will be cool enough to be friended by my own offspring.  I can just imagine the satisfying feeling that will come when they click "like" in response to all my newsfeed comments.  "Sitting here in my robe eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut."  Like!  "Alan and I are having cereal for supper."  Like!  "I 'heart' my 3 sons!"  Like!

I'm off to share newsy tidbits wall-to-wall with Henry Henrington.  He has always been a really good listener.  Like!

Fat Monday

Since late September, I craved the calories of Thanksgiving.  I closed my eyes and envisioned a 15 pound turkey roasted to perfection sitting atop a nest of parsley on a large platter.  I poured over recipe books trying to find new ways to snazz up the traditional green beans and mashed potatoes.  Then, last week I made a meticulous grocery list with the items listed in the order of the store aisles:  produce, condiments, canned goods...  Alan and I made a special trip to the store one evening and wandered the aisles together each throwing little extra items into our cart that were totally unnecessary impulse buys.  It was a festive occasion, indeed.

Last Thursday, we crowded into our kitchen with Mimi and Nana all day long slaving over the hot stove.  Alan washed the dirty pots and pans as fast as we shoved them in his direction.  We, in turn, took the clean pans and put them back to work on the stove.  It was almost like we had one conveyor belt of dishes head towards the post and another heading back into the war zone.  We nibbled and tasted and nibbled some more.  "Too much sage?"  "Does this need more salt?"  "You should totally add more butter to that!"  

Today as I sit with my arms resting on the platform of my belly, I couldn't be paid $1000 to eat another morsel of shoepeg corn casserole or pecan pie.  I can eat Mexican food twice a week for the rest of my days, but, it will be close to 365 days before I can eat another plate of Thanksgiving feast fare.  I sent leftovers home with Alan's mom and my mom.  Alan's mom took home the turkey carcass for broth-making after I assured her that a carcass left at my house was a carcass headed to the dumpster.  The boys declined our offer to send them back to Baylor with an uncut pumpkin pie and a frozen brick of dressing.  There were no takers for the remnants of Brussels sprouts with toasted pecans.  My refrigerator shelves are bare except for a few hoarded black olives and some sweet pickled gherkins.

Every year on the Monday after Thanksgiving, I cry "uncle" and swear that I'm going to head to the gym for two-a-day workouts.  Yessiree.  I go to bed on the eve of "Fat Monday," with fixed determination.  I will work out.  I will work out.  I will work out.  This morning at 7:30, Alan woke me with a kiss before he  headed out the door to work.  I stumbled out of bed sore from decorating every nook and cranny of our home for Christmas over the weekend.  Glancing in the bathroom mirror at my bedhead and puffy figure, I realized that the Prince's kiss did not awaken a Princess.  Nope.  Just me.  On Fat Monday.  Staring eyeball to eyeball at the mess of me in the mirror, I sighed and shrugged.  Alan's birthday is this week.  His mom's birthday is next week.  Our 31st anniversary is the next week.  Then, Christmas.  Nope.  It's definitely a bad time to begin sweating at Bodyworks.

So, here I sit at my computer in my blue and white seersucker robe, barefoot, with morning breath.  Still full as a tick from the plate of turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce that I choked down last night in front of the TV, I have decided to forego my bowl of Total until at least 9:30AM.  I'll nosh on Lean Cuisine spaghetti with meat sauce around 1:30PM.  Let's see...dinner...dinner...dinner?  Something with black olives and sweet gherkins to be sure.  For now, I'm going to power walk to my bathroom for a hot shower to limber up my sore muscles.  Then, I'll make a meticulous grocery list and head back to United for a cart full of food so that we can make it through the week.  Maybe I'll even pick up a few impulse buys like Slice and Bake sugar cookies with magic middles that look like reindeer.  

Fat Monday, I'll do you proud. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gyrating Santa Playing Kenny G on the Sax

When my 84 year old little mother gets an idea in her head, she begins to drum the beat of the thought into the heads of all those around her, be they family members or innocent bystanders.  Yesterday's thought:  What happened to the hip-gyrating Santa playing Kenny G's version of Jingle Bells on a saxophone?  The "what happened to" card has been dealt approximately 5,432 times since we moved her from her home in Waco to her apartment at Raider Ranch.  "What happened to the tablecloth my mother hand-crocheted that she was SOOO proud of?"  "What happened to all my pretty pillowcases?"  "What happened to my dancing shoes?"  "What happened to that set of recipe books?  You know...there was one for meat, one for desserts, and one for appetizers.  There were at least five books in that set!"  When I hear the tiniest beginnings of the question, "What hap...," I cringe deep down inside.  The inquisition cometh.

We spent three weeks in August preparing Mom for the big move to Lubbock by sorting through every empty butter tub, piece of jewelry, and gardening tool determining what would happen to each item.  Here is a breakdown of the "What Will Happen" options:
  • Take to Raider Ranch apartment
  • Take to Carolyn's house
  • Pass down to a grandchild
  • Pass down to a relative
  • Give to a neighbor
  • Sell in the Estate Sale
  • Give to the housekeeper
  • Hide in the back of a closet so that it would "accidentally" get sold in the Estate Sale (my own private category, the items that I later referred to as "Dang Those Movers" casualties)
There were "What Will Happen" piles labeled and scattered throughout the house.  I tried to convince Mom to take only her most beautiful and prized possessions to her new, very small apartment.  Turns out she saw beauty in and highly prized 95% of the items we were trying to cull through.

Another piece of this equation is the fact that my mom is an "Indian Giver."  I know, I know...the term "Indian Giver" is not politically correct, and I apologize to each and every Indian for my lack of a better title.  But, she is one.  All year long, my mother stockpiles gifts for loved ones whenever she finds "treasures" that a particular person will "just LOVE."  Case in point - the gyrating Santa playing the Kenny G version of Jingle Bells on a saxophone.  This lovely little item was purchased several years ago for my cousin, Sherry.  It reminded Mom of my Uncle Bill who passed away 12 years ago.   He was the family's sax player.  Once purchased - probably at half price the week after the previous Christmas - Mom tucked Sherry's gift away in her gift closet with a satisfied smile.  When the very next Christmas rolled around, Mom decided that this novelty Santa was so cute that she just HAD to keep it.  "I'll give it to Sherry just before I go to heaven!"

This Santa is very simular to the one Mom is mourning...

As we were going through Mom's Christmas decorations in August, I set Sax Santa aside next to the animated Snowman that pounded out Christmas tunes on a plastic upright piano.  I convinced - or thought I had convinced - Mom that Sherry would be proud and honored to have Sax Santa bestowed upon her in honor of the auspicious occasion of Mom's Long-Awaited Move to Lubbock.  Biting her lower lip she gave a long look at the jolly little fellow and finally murmured, "OOOOOOOkay," in a most uncertain manner.  I felt like I was trying to talk her into euthanizing a perfectly healthy puppy.  Quickly changing the subject, I exclaimed, "Won't Wanda be proud to add that piano playing snowman to her collection of snowmen!  Yes, indeed!  She'll be tickled to death!"

Which brings me to yesterday.  Bryce went to pick up Mom just after lunch so that she could help with the Thanksgiving dinner preparations.  In the car on the way over Mom chatted away.  "I wish I could find my Kenny G Santa!  We don't know where it is!  I bought it a few years ago for Sherry, but, it was so cute that I kept it.  It was one of my FAVORITE Christmas decorations!"  In the dining room as she and I set the table, "I wish I could find my Kenny G. Santa!  We don't know where it is!  I bought it a few years ago for Sherry, but, it was so cute that I kept it.  It was one of my FAVORITE Christmas decorations!"  She brought it up again while she was drying the piles of pots and pans.  Again as we enjoyed our dinner.  One last time as she was buttoning up her coat for the return trip to Raider Ranch.

Why has my mother mentioned Kenny G Santa SO many times?  A tad of dementia?  A subtle form of payback for the "loss" of the beloved item?  Or, a well-crafted plan of mental abuse patterned after Chinese water torture.  (My apologies to the Chinese.)  Alan and I actually discussed each possibility yesterday sometime between putting the bird in the oven and cutting the pumpkin pie.  Whatever her intention, we got the message - loud and clear.  Sherry is about to get a phone call from a desperate cousin.  "I'm begging you...please...give Saxophone Santa back to Mimi!!  I will BUY it from you!  I will get you a gyrating one-man-band Santa that plays every Johnny Mathis Christmas tune known to man!  Just give Santa back!  With God as my witness, I will do everything in my power to make all of your Christmas dreams come true!"

Alan and I just returned from a quick trip to Home Depot.  Right as we walked through the Depot's sliding doors, Alan exclaimed, "Hey, look!!"  Just to the left of the door were some shelves overflowing with Christmas gimmick decorations including a Sax Playing Santa.  I grabbed one up and turned it on.  Not Kenny G.  Not Jingle Bells.  I actually stood there listening to her voice in my brain, "This one is really cute, but, I wish I could find my Kenny G Santa!  We don't know where it is!  I bought it a few years ago for Sherry, but, it was so cute that I kept it.  It was one of my FAVORITE Christmas decorations!"

As a consolation prize, we bought her an animated Santa hat that gyrates to the tune of Feliz Navidad.  She can alternate wearing it and her favorite red French beret to dinner at the Ranch.  It is cute.  She is cute.  It's all cute, cute, cute.  My guess is that she will love the new hat.  My other guess is that she will regift it before the clock strikes midnight.  I can hear her now.  "My housekeeper, Modesta, has really missed me since I moved from Waco!  She'll LOVE this Santa hat because she speaks Spanish!"

On Dasher!  On Dancer!  On Donder!  On Kenny G!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ahhh. Thanksgiving.

Just before supper last night, Alan and I took a walk down our alley pretending that we strolling down a country lane in Vermont.  There are very few, if any, places in Lubbock where the trees form a canopy over the street.  There at the curve of our alley just before it meets up with Elkhart Avenue stands a royal tent of fiery reds, oranges, and yellows.  At 5:30 yesterday afternoon, these brilliant standards were backlit by a deep azure sunset painted with bold fuchsia stripes stemming from a dazzling golden center.  As we meandered along the dumpster-lined path holding hands, Alan remarked that people travel from all over the country to witness the grandeur of the famed fall foliage of the East coast, when all they really need to do is take a quiet walk down an alley on the Llano Estacado of the Texas Panhandle.  Standing there in the quiet chill of the evening amidst our tiny patch of Autumn splendor, we basked in a moment of peace and deep satisfaction.

The north wind blew into town last night leaving a frosty, gray Thanksgiving morning.  Reluctantly slipping from the warm cocoon of my covers, I tiptoed into the kitchen to check on the turkey brining in the Wheelie Cooler in the corner of my kitchen.  It was still there.  Slowly, the house began to wake sending sleepy-eyed boys shuffling towards the promise of hot pancakes drenched in maple syrup.  As I sit here typing, their voices are softly rumbling over the hum of the "pregame" Macy's Thanksgiving Parade hoopla on TV.  Several times Alan has peeked his head in to ask where he might find ingredients that have been stored on the same shelf since we set up housekeeping in this house 18 years ago.  Bryce stopped in a minute ago and asked, "Are you blogging?"  Alan followed him in here to show him the nifty Clap-On-Clap-Off Christmas garland encircling the window.  His hands cannot produce the proper pitch needed to communicate "on," so I wheeled my desk chair around and offered up a couple of my feminine higher pitched claps that the garland welcomed with a twinkle of red lights.  With a "See, Bryce!?" and a "Cool!" they left me to my keyboard.

Sitting here in the glow of a Christmas garland dotted with Coca Cola ornaments with our cuddle-craving cat, Lily, pacing back and forth between me and my computer screen meowing a "come hither" meow, I feel safe, loved, and peaceful.  My Baylor boys are home.  I can feel their presence once again.  Later today, we will call Jonathan who is spending this Thanksgiving in Chicago.  Even though he was home just a couple of weekends ago, I can feel a lump gathering in my throat at the thought of the empty place at our Thanksgiving table.  My only comfort is the fact that he doesn't particularly enjoy the traditional foods of the day. 

My reverie has been broken.  "Hey, Carolyn!  The parade is starting!  Come in here with the family!"  Bryce just came with a big bowl of pumpkin pie filling for me to admire, "Smell this, Mom!"  

Ahhh.  Thanksgiving.  I'm off to savor the day.  How blessed I am.  God is good.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, friends!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I have my eye on a new career.  I can work from home every day in my pajamas.  I'm not sure how the pay works, but I can't wait to find out.  I aspire to be a Spam-Blocker Vocabulary Generator Technician - known in the business as  "Splock Techs."

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term "spam-blocker":  Spam-blockers are those hard to read wavy words that one must enter when signing up for just about anything on the web. 

woof Tomb
PauNchy tree
gaLaxy schRub
murk splendor
fewn higGle

I have been working up a repertoire to submit with my resume.  I have created categories and themes in order to heighten the thrill of the spam-blocking experience.  Below are some samplings of my creations from a few of my collections:

  • Autumn SplendorFoOtball bLupers, Kotton GinNin' tYMe, 4 aLaRm cHiLi  
  • Havin' a BallBoWLing4 KAsh, linE of scRim Age, 3 UP 3 DoWn
  • Holiday MagicfranKinceNse 'n' Myrrh, tRim dA tReE, CaLoRiES gUh-Lore
  • Ladies Who Lunch - sAlad DreSsing on thu sIDE, WaTEr wit LiM oN, HoW mUch Is mY ParT O dA biLL?
  • Oldies But Goodies - i WAnna hoLd uR HaNd, 3 DawG niTE, bLU suH-WaDe sHooz

I especially enjoy the audio version of the blockers.  After simply clicking on the audio button, a fascinating recording begins.  It begins with some very distracting "white noise" like radio static underneath which a voice quietly lists a few words like "orange, cake, driveway, bird."  It's awesome!  Not to mention entertaining!  The possibilities are endless...

  • Screeching tires followed by a crash with the words (spoken by a frantic woman) "call," "you," "right," and "back."
  • Crunchy popcorn chomping and straw slurping noises with "I," "don't," "know," "nothing," "about," "birthin'," "babies," "Miss," and "Scarlet" whispered underneath the noshing noises by a woman with a slow Southern drawl.
  • Doors slamming, cabinets opening and closing, and feet stomping back and forth coupled with a man's frustrated voice yelling "has," "anyone," "seen," "my," "blankety," "blank," and "keys."
  • Little boys laughing hysterically accompanied by the whirring sounds of a small kitchen appliance with an angry female voice exclaiming "put," "the," "lid," "on," "the," "blender!" 
I have decided to create my own company dedicated to spam blocker creativity.  My company will be called "miGht aS WeLL hAve fUn whiLE U JumP thrOUgh ThiS hOOP."  "MAWHFWUJTTH" [mof-wooj-thu] for short. 

The next time you enter in your information on a website or try to participate in an online poll, and you see an entertaining phrase like "WhuZ uP doC?," know that I'm living my dream. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pansy Day

A few weeks ago, I took my mother on a pansy purchasing expedition.  Miss Helen had been after me to take her to a nursery to purchase pansies to plant in pots on her porch.  She was dreaming of a trip to a huge local nursery where the plants are all locally grown so that she could discuss the growing seasons of phlox and sweet peas with an "expert."  I was thinking that a quick trip to Lowes would do the trick.  When I told her of my diabolical plan to dash to a "hardware" store to purchase her pansies she paused for a moment and gave me a quick, "Hmm."  Wait for it...wait for it...  "I guess that would be OK."  My response?  "Great!  Get in the car!"

Pangs of guilt rippled through my heart as we pulled into the Lowes parking lot.  "Mom, I get bedding plants here ALL the time.  They have great plants and great prices!"  Her response?  "Hmm."  The pangs became more gripping.  On the way into the nursery area of the store, I commandeered a large rolling "flatbed" that she could load up with bedding plants.  "Show me where the pansies are," she commanded.  With a sweeping glance of the rows of bedding plants, the pangs became downright stabbing when I noticed that there were very few pansies left behind from the previous sunny pansy-planting weekend.  I hoped that her sweet little legally blind grey-blue eyes had not taken in the same sad state of affairs.  "I see some!  Follow me!" I sang out pushing the cart towards the purples, yellows, and whites.

Approaching the small selection, I tried to justify my need for expediency by thinking about the fact that she only needed about 8 plants to fill the predestined two terra cotta pots on her porch.  "How many pansies do you think you'll need?!"  "Hmm.  I need to see how big the plants are before I decide."  Instinctively, I begin my deep breathing exercises.  "Ooookay.  Would you rather have 4 big plants or 8 small ones?"  "Hmm.  Which ones do you think are the prettiest?" she inquired.  Breath in slowly.  Out slowly.  "The purple ones with yellow centers are pretty spectacular!"  "Hmm.  Get me one of those."  Innnnnn.  Ouuuuut.  "Just one?! Don't you need more than that?"  "Yes.  But I want them to all be different colors."  I decided to simply surrender to the task.  To be in that moment.  To cast all my cares on Jesus.  To be the daughter my mother deserved.

Scouring every pansy plant - big, small, white, purple, yellow - I helped Mom gather up the best of the puny assortment.  Standing back, we admired the mix of subtle pansy nuances of color. My thought?  Done!  She said?  "What about some kale?"  I switched from stress reduction breathing techniques to full-on natural childbirth "heee-heee-hoooos."  My mind jumped out of "the moment" to thoughts of my messy house and piles of laundry.  I closed my eyes and silently chanted:  "Be in this moment.  What is more important than time with Mom?  Be in this moment.  What is more important than time with Mom?"  

I quickly scanned the bedding plant tables of kale.  Most of the tables were empty or had small bits of assorted plants - none of which are kale.  "Nope!  Don't see any!  Are you ready to check out?!"  "Hmm.  I'll ask someone who works here if they have any."  Heee.  Heee.  Hoooooo.  Feeling a flair up of guilt pangs, I made one more visual sweep of the area.  There - two rows away on the far end of the table - were about seven lonely kale plants.  "Wait, Mom!  I see 'em!  Follow me!"

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the handful of plants were pretty scrappy looking.  I heard God's still small voice within me ask, "Are you doing your very best for the mother who slaved hours into the night over her sewing machine making all of your school clothes?  The mother who came home from a long day of teaching 6th graders and whipped up a supper of fried pork chops, rice, green beans and gravy?"  Like a child I lowered my eyes, and silently answered in a tiny voice, "No, Sir."  (I decided it would be best not to mention the fact that the green beans were canned.)  "Hmm," He replied.  That "hmm" was a parental "hmm" that sent me to a place of silent contrition.  "Hey, Mom.  These plants are pretty puny.  How's about we head over to Ivey Gardens to see how their pansies and kale look?!  We can stop by Sonic on the way!  You can get a corny dog and a lemon-berry slush!"  She smiled and said, "These will be just fine!  Pick out a couple of good ones for me!"  Peeling off the brown leaves, I finally narrowed the contestants down to two.  Plopping them onto the cart next to the pansies, I headed towards the check out counter.

As I neared the check out line, I looked back to see if Mom was keeping up with me.  She was gone.  Heeee.  Heeee.  Hoooo.  I wheel my cart around and begin trying to spot her little red beret amongst the greenery.  I found her.  She was over by the shrubbery chatting with a red-vested Lowes employee.  I pulled up beside them just in time to hear her ask, "What time of year do you plant stock in Lubbock?"  "I don't know, Ma'am.  Let me get Shelly. She should know."  So, there we stand.  Waiting for someone named Shelley She-Should-Know.  Who, like her associate would most likely have no clue about what "stock" is.  Time passes s-l-o-w-l-y.  Finally, a red-vested lady ambles by.  "Hey, Shelly!  I've been trying to page you," yawns the red-vested guy.  "Oh, I was on my break.  What do you need?"  "This lady here has a question for you."  Sure enough.  Shelly She-Should-Know was unfamiliar with her flora and fauna.  

"Hmm, I guess we'll have to go to Ivey Gardens later this week.  I need to find out when you plant stock in West Texas!" Mom announced as I loaded up her plants into the back of my Suburban.  My neck stiffened as I began humming Amazing Grace.  Mom joined in singing in the soft voice of her dotage.  "Wa-as blind, bu-ut now...I seeeeee."

God bless you, precious Little Mother.  There will be kale and pansies aplenty in Heaven.  Stock will bloom year round in colors as rich and as beautiful as you. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bonket and Bobo

This work of art by big brother, Jonathan ("Ja-sha"), was among the many sentimental items featured on Bryce's high school senior table.  Entitled, "By By bobo," it depicts 5-year-old Superman Bryce flying far above the earth and the sun.  Floating gracefully beneath him into the final frontier is Bobo, Bryce's beloved blankie.  Note the careful attention to detail respectfully given to Bobo  This detail reveals the understood extension-of-Bryce status that Bobo held in our household.  The juxtaposition of the strength of Superman releasing the comfort of Bobo was meant to represent the big boy status of a brother ready to embark on a new adventure - all day Kindergarten.  Beneath the drawing, Bryce's old pals lay in state awaiting the shuffling passersby during the post-graduation reception.

I am still kicking myself for concocting a plan to wean Bryce from his Bobo to spare him the disparaging remarks he might have heard during Kindergarten nap time as he cuddled with his soft reminder of home.  He was a shy child who carefully observed people before letting them into his Superman world of creativity, loyalty, and camaraderie.  Bobo was his protector.  His safe place.  His hiding place.  This strategy to extricate this lifelong buddy from our soon-to-be-man-child was based on the theory that if the sneers of five year old bullies didn't ruin his self-esteem, the wiry web of extensive orthodontics would.

His older-by-17-months brother, Jonathan, came bounding into the world shunning pacifiers and baby blankies.  He much preferred the comfort of being rocked in the wee hours by his sleep deprived parents.  The term "self-soothing" never applied to this headstrong, bright firstborn.  Oh, no.  He totally bypassed the instruments of self-soothing and marched straight towards "'Poptot,' NOW!"    

His younger-by-three-years brother, Reed, was born into our family just happy to be here.  As a toddler, he found his comfort in his ever-faithful companion, Bonket.  As the experienced mother of his older brothers, I made no mention of potty training or the evils that lurked around every corner waiting to attack little boys dragging blankies into battle.  I have no memory of a plan to lure him from his Bonket.  Nor do I remember ever plying him with M&Ms to pee on the potty.  One day wearing big boy underwear, he just skipped out the door with a 6-shooter and Indian headdress.  "Heew I come!  You betta run!"

Bryce's Bobo was with him at all times until the day it was carried into another galaxy by Superman.  He wore it as a turban.  He had me tie it around his neck like a cowboy kerchief.  It was scented with his peanut-buttery-oreo-cookie  saliva and his sweaty-little-boy perfume.  Taking it from the drier warm and scented with Tide, I loved to hold it to my face to breathe in the fragrance of the innocence and sweetness of my son who was standing there waiting to greet his long lost friend.

Bryce, indeed, survived Kindergarten without Bobo.  He is now a strong, studious college boy.  As I pack up the "Finals Survival Kits" containing cookies, beef jerky, and Sour Patch Kids for my three sons next week, I may just go into Bryce's room and release Bobo from the depths of the cedar chest where it rests for time eternal.  I wonder if Bryce would roll his eyes at the sight of the ragged, still soft blankie.  Or, would he gather it up into his hands and bury his head in the memory of their friendship?  If no one is looking, I'm betting on the latter response.  "Hey, Bobo!  Come sit with me while I trudge through my Brit Lit notes."

Oh, ye mothers of babes in arms, when the time comes that peer pressure brings about the impending doom of your child's lovie, call me.  I will convince you otherwise.   


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Conversations with Boys: Good, Nope, Fine.

"Hey!  It's Mom!  I've been missing you!  How have you been?!"
"Anything interesting going on in your world?"
"How are your classes?"
"How are your grades?"
"Uhhh.  OK, I guess."
"Tell me what you've been up to lately!"
"Same old, same old.  Mostly just studying."

The above is a representative sample of my phone calls to any of my sons.  I try not to pummel them with text messages or phone calls, but I am starving to death for any word regarding their health and well-being.  Oh, the jealousy that plagues me when lunch with a friend is interrupted because her daughter has called to gab about the cute shoes she found to wear to the fraternity mixer.  "I always try to answer when she calls!  I want her to know that I'm here for her if she needs to cry about a bad haircut or to tell me about the brownies she made for her boyfriend."  I nod and smile in pretend understanding.  "Oh, don't I know how THAT is!  Any time my boys call...I want to make sure that I answer on the double!!"  I omit the part about how the boys initiate phone contact for business purposes only.  "What am I supposed to do about this water bill?"  "Is it OK if I charge some concert tickets on my Visa?"

I'm no stranger to this "economy of words."  I know that if one of my sons has something important to say, he will say it.  Eventually.  Via a text message.   I could probably extract more news from them at the dinner table if I spelled out questions in Alpha-Bit cereal and requested that they respond by drumming words out in morse code using a fork and a spoon.  They don't seem to mind "spelling out" newsy tidbits.  It's the talking that gets in the way.

Sometimes when they are all three home for a holiday or school break, I overhear them laughing back in Bryce's room which is their favorite place to congregate probably by virtue of the fact that it's the farthest from my lair, the kitchen.  I love to tiptoe up to the door just to savor their easy conversation with each other.  They have slowly matured from squabbling I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I little boys to conversational young adults.  Most of the time, I don't even understand the topics of discussion.  Woofers and tweeters are as foreign to me as the musical groups they follow like Monsters of Folk and the Avett Brothers.  

When Jonathan and Bryce were preschoolers, they shared a bedroom.  One night about 30 minutes after I had tucked them in, I overheard them having a solemn discussion.  Walking slowly up to their door so that my knees wouldn't make any kind of telltale popping noises, I eased in close to listen in on their chat.  They were trying to figure out who was "the best" - Superman or Batman.  Bryce was pro-Superman.  Jonathan put his money on Batman.  They stated their cases very seriously, and, yes, very convincingly.

The following  will provide the appropriate background music for their conversation:

Jonathan:  Bryce, Batman has tons of cool weapons that can kill bad guys.  Superman doesn't have ANY weapons.  He just kicks and hits people.  Anybody can kick and hit.

Bryce:  But, Supaman is weally, weally stwong.  He can kick and hit weally hawd.

Jonathan:  Yeah, but guns can kill a bad guy quicker than kicking and hitting.

Bryce:  If Supaman wants to, he can just pick the bad guy up and frow him way away.

Jonathan: Yeah but, the bad guy can just run back and keep doing bad stuff.

Bryce:  Batman doesn't have any supapowas.  If he can't weach his weapons, he can get kiwled.

Jonathan:  He can jump into his Batmobile and escape, Bryce!  Superman doesn't even have a car.

Bryce:  Supaman is way better than a stupid caw 'cause he can FLY.  He can fly all the way up to heaven and see Jesus if he wants to!

Hearing that, I secretly declared Bryce the winner of the debate.  I decided not to enlighten him on the whole "one way ticket" trip to heaven concept.  In fact, I decided not to enter into the conversation at all.  I tiptoed away feeling happy that the boys were whispering together and building a relationship that will last a lifetime.  Unless, of course, one of them becomes a superhero and the other one takes up a life of crime.  Then, things might get really interesting around the Thanksgiving table.

From now on, when I lunch with friends who have daughters, I'm going to fake cell phone conversations with my sons.  "Oh, sorry!  I need to get this!  You know how it is!... [smiling eye roll]  Hey, baby!  Oh, nothing...just having lunch with DeeAnn and Linda!  No, it's OK.  Go ahead and tell me!  Are you kidding?!  No!  Really?!  [wink and grin]  Is that right?!  How did you feel about that?!  I totally understand!  That's so interesting!  Well...I'd better get back to my lunch.  I'll call you back later, and we can discuss this interesting news - IN DETAIL!  Love you!  Bub-bye!" 

I googled Superman's powers and abilities and have listed them below.
  1. Superhuman strength
  2. Invulnerability
  3. Flight
  4. Superhuman speed
  5. X-ray vision
  6. Heat vision
  7. Super breath*
  8. Super hearing*
  9. Superhuman vision
  10. Superhuman olfaction
  11. Eidetic memory*
*These 3 super powers alone made him a hit with the ladies.  Throw in super conversationalist and women would have been begging him to father their children.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sharing a Cup of Earl Grey with Homer Simpson Santa

On Saturday, I began the March to the Manger.  That is a noble way of saying that I started decorating for Christmas.  I know.  I know.  Thanksgiving is still days away.  I just can't help myself.  Unlike Martha Stewart who has assistants and aides who ask "How high?" when she commands them to jump, I bedazzle our home all by my lonesome.  Not that I mind.  In fact, I rather prefer it. I have created a Christmas Kingdom that only I can recreate every year.  It's like the mysterious Scottish village, Brigadoon.  It appears once every 360-odd days and lasts but a while.  Then, poof!  It's gone.  And, it's magical.

So far, I have fluffed 8 new garlands and carefully wound Christmas lights around each.  My collection of nativity sets is on display in the sunroom.  I have decorated Reed's room and the garlands surrounding his window.  Years ago, he chose snowmen as the them for his tree.  So, the tree and garlands are now thick with icicles, snowflakes, and snow people.  Jonathan's Coca Cola ornaments have been carefully placed in the around the window in the his room.  I'm almost finished with the knee-hugger elf garlands around the window in Bryce's room.  His collection of Old World glass ornaments will dangle from garland around my bedroom window.  The pockets of my apron are filled with floral wire, nails, wire cutters and scissors.  Fake pine needles are carpeting the floor.  

Way back in the day, the boys half-heartedly helped me decorate the "big" Christmas tree.  We began the evening with their one of their favorite meals, "Snack Supper."  Bribing them with brie, goat cheese, a selection of Boar's Head cold-cuts, and a steaming platter of Little Smokie sausages, I tried to make tree decorating a fun, festive family occasion.  Their eyes lit up at the site of the smorgasbord of high dollar snacks.  With Johnny Mathis softly crooning about roasting chestnuts over an open fire, I led them into the living room filling their minds with promises of a chocolate fondue feast later in the evening.  Certain that I had set the stage for a Norman Rockwell-ian, Kodak Momentous, Martha Stewart-esque  occasion, I encouraged the boys to open the boxes of ornaments and commence to beautifying the tree.

Alan and I have been collecting Santa ornaments since we were newlyweds.  We have San Francisco Santas hanging out of tiny cable cars, Santas on skis from Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, high-kicking Radio City Rockets dressed in sparkly Santa costumes, and sun drenched bathing suit clad Santas from Florida.  All of the Santas have the date and place of purchase carefully written in Sharpie on their backsides.  The birth of each boy is commemorated with a special Santa bearing his name and birth date.  Each handpicked ornament evokes a memory of some special time, some special place (not including the "filler" Santas relegated to the back of the tree).

Let's see...let me think.  It might have been the time that Reed lined up 22 red ball ornaments on one limb of the tree.  Or, was it the year that Jonathan dropped the 1979 Norman Rockwell Santa ornament that was given to us as a wedding gift breaking his legs off at the knee?  No, wait...I think that it was the episode in which Bryce violently shook the 1989-Anniversary-Trip-to-Paris tiny snow globe to create a blizzard for the poor little Pierre Noel inside and instead sent it flying across the living room.  Hmmm.  When was it...when was it...oh, I remember!  It was the year that I cracked under the pressure of  all the whining.  "Do we have to put ALL of the ornaments on the tree this year?"  "Can we quit decorating now?  The tree looks good enough as it is."  "My arms are tired."  "Can we watch The Simpsons while we decorate?"  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.   Yes, my sons.  You may stop decorating.  Now and forevermore.

As the token female family member, the sentimental journey of holiday decorating falls squarely upon my shoulders.  Truth be told, I rather prefer traveling alone down Lackey Family Memory Lane.  Carefully, lovingly unwrapping each treasure while watching the Christmas 2010 line up of Hallmark movies ("Moonlight and Mistletoe," "Mrs. Miracle," and "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year") has become my own personal tradition.  My eyes sparkle with tears as I untuck each sentimental Santa from it's tissue paper bed.  I weep as the movie's grumpy grandpa is reunited with his estranged children by some mysterious angelic stranger just as the church bells chime on Christmas Eve.  Pouring myself another cup of Earl Grey and nibbling on Sun Chips, I close my eyes and envision the exact moment in time that the Homer-Simpson-Santa-poking-his-head-out-of-the-middle-of-a-doughnut ornament was purchased in that little Christmas shop one Estes Park, Colorado summer afternoon.  Doh!

Ahhh.  I hear the sweet siren's call of the stacks of plastic tubs of Christmas Past awaiting me and the Magna Cart dolly.  I must go to them.  I must release the treasures that have waited patiently, like the Scottish village, Brigadoon, for the time of year when they magically come to life.  We shall share a cup of Earl Grey in the glow of the Samsung TV in the living room as we watch three orphan boys receive the best Christmas gift they've ever known - a family - on the Hallmark channel.  We are dear, old friends, these treasures and me.  Together we will while away the afternoon reminiscing about the Christmases of little bright eyed boys.  Our shared history is a comfort, indeed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Counting of the Olives

Finally, it feels like fall in Lubbock, TX.  This morning the sky is gray and a bit of sleet has been dancing on my porch.  The leaves have almost reached their peak of deep golds and ruby reds. The November air feels crisp and clean.  Grocers are pushing the chicken legs to one side in their refrigerated poultry bins making way for mountains of plump frozen gobblers.  The produce managers are carefully stacking the Fujis, the Honeycrisps, and the Jonathans.  They've set up special displays of cashews, pecans, and walnuts, both shelled and unshelled.  The obligatory end cap of Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, Corn Chex and mixed nuts has been made handy for the shoppers who have a hankering for Texas Trash.

When Fall tiptoes up to my door, my mouth begins to water.  For black olives and Brussels sprouts.  Then, I begin to think of my sister, Kathy, who went to heaven twelve years ago.  Way back in the days of yore, we began a family tradition that was born out of an episode of teasing-turned-to-cat-fighting.  

Our mother created splendid family holiday dinners.  Aunts, uncles and cousins gathered at our house from miles around to sit at her lace tablecloth, bone china, candlelit holiday feasts.  Each family brought their own specialties to the table, but it was my mother who presented the grand roast turkey, black olives and Brussels sprouts.

Stretching and yawning in our shared double bed, Kathy and I awoke on Thanksgiving morning to the rich aroma of a roasting turkey and the hum of the Macy's parade on the TV in the living room.  Quicker than our bare feet could touch the cold hardwood floor one of us would exclaim, "I call opening the olives!"  To which the other would cry, "No fair!  You got olives last year!  It's my turn!"  Racing into the kitchen, we playfully wrestled our way to the gadget drawer where the all-powerful hand crank can opener lay waiting.  To the victor belonged the spoils.

Kathy and I both craved the taste of extra large, juicy canned black olives during the "off season" from January until November.  By Thanksgiving, we had worked ourselves into a black olive feeding frenzy.  "Helping" Mom in the kitchen was the ticket to being the first to sample the coveted tender olive morsels.  Out of this race to the kitchen was born the tradition known as "Counting Out the Olives" which was orchestrated by a mother in need of a peace on earth and good will between sisters.  Once the olive tray was filled - "Girrrrrls, you can fit more olives on that tray!"  "OOOO-K." - we were allowed to divvy up the black jewels left floating in the olive can.  "One-for-you-one-for-me-one-for-you-two-for-me!"  As we stood in the kitchen in our nightgowns sharing our plunder, Mom would quickly cover the olive tray tightly with Saran Wrap and declare them off limits until after the Thanksgiving feast's blessing.

After savoring each salt-cured beauty, we tiptoed out of the kitchen to avoid any other kitchen "help" that Mom might shoulder upon us.  Dragging our pillows and blankets into the living room, we snuggled up on the floor in front of the TV and waited for the performance of the Radio City Rockets in front of Macy's.

Oh, how I miss my sister when I see a can of black olives.  I wish I could buy 100 cans of them, grab a couple of handcrank can openers, and sit at the kitchen table counting and laughing with Kathy.  My heart aches to have one more Thanksgiving meal with her.  Oh, to sit at the table laid with Mom's lace tablecloth, bone china, and sterling.  I can just see us with our chins ducked during Uncle Jimmy's long prayer of thanks eyeing the crudites platter waiting for the first syllable of the "Amen."  Then, we would spy the steaming bowl of Brussels sprouts.  "I call it!"  "Girls, let everyone have some Brussels sprouts.  Then, you can count out the rest!"

Brussels sprouts and black olives.  They always make me miss my sweet sister.   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanks, But, No Thanking to You

To the person who sent me the email below:

Dear Mr. Willy,
While I'm touched that the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization has taken an interest in "what happen" to me "since some years ago till now," I can't for the life of me remember what actually happened to me.  Hmmm.  Benin...Benin...Benin.  Nope.  Nothing rings a bell.  

Believe you me, I could really dance to the tune of $1.8 million U.S. dollars right about now.  However, I think that the money would be better served if it was donated to some worthy cause.  I hereby authorize you to donate every last dime of the $1.8 million to the SPOGG (The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar) chapter in your hometown.

You can go ahead and release the "anchors of the criminal act."  Tell them that I said, "No harm done.  It's all good."  I bear no grudges.  I am just grateful to know that someone in the Federal Republic of Benin has my back.

While your whole email was quite entertaining to read, I have highlighted the especially interesting snippets. 

In answer to the question "May God be with you and your family?":  Yes.  He is with me and my family.  24-7.  365.

My best regards to you and your staff at the Contact Payment Office as well as your buddies  at Zenith Bank.

Jane Doe Lackley
Anywhere, USA


We are very sorry for what happen to you since some years ago till now , Series of  meetings have been held over the past 2 weeks with the secretary general of the United Nations Organization. This ended 3 days ago. It is obvious that you have not received your fund which is to the tune of ($1.8 million) u.s dollars due to past corrupt Governmental Officials who almost held the fund to themselves for theirselfish reason and some individuals who have taken advantage of your fund all in an attempt to swindle your fund which has led to so many losses from your end and unnecessary delay in the receipt of your fund.

I want you to read this mail properly and do understand the reason why we are today to notify this payment to you, well the government of this country the FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF BENIN has found out that you have been one of victims according to the record of the file which has been brought to us and they have arrested those who are anchored in that criminal act.
So since last two weeks after the meeting we have made arrangement with ZENTH BANK BENIN REPUBLIC  on how to transfer your money into your bank account directly to your country and note that the total amount of money which the bank is going to transfer is ($1.8 million)u.s dollars only, and you are required  to contact the zenith bank immediately with your banking information so that the manager will transfer your funds  into your bank account.

Bellow is the information need
Your full name.............
Home address...................
Full banking information...........
Swift code............................
Name of country......................
Name of bank..........................
Account number.........................
Routing number.........................
YOUR PHONE NUMBER ................

Be informed that we have paid the bank for the open of international account fee for you. Now listen to me to avoid any mistake the only money in which you are required  from you which you must pay to the ZENTH BANK is wiretransfer fee which is only $125.00 to transfer your funds directly into your bank account in your country,

Therefore,try to contact the bank through this information.. Mr.WILLAMS DAVID / ZENTHBANK PLC  manager.Email:(zenithbankplc15@rocketmail.com)  please make sure you follow bankmanager's instruction and forward all your bank account detail where the said fund will be transferring  into and your current telephone number. This is the information the bank manager need from you.

Bear it in mind that the only money that remain which you must pay to the zenith bank is wire transfer fee which is only $125.00
May God be with you and your family?


Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...