Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 11th – In Retrospect


Even after thirty years in a dysfunctional relationship, I missed being married.
I was sad, lonely, and lost.
My kids were all grown and gone, and even the family dog had died.        
I was in the middle of teaching a poetry lesson to a group of high school juniors when the teacher next door came running into my classroom, yelling for me to turn on my TV.  A plane had just crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City.
Our country was being attacked by terrorists.
For the rest of the school day the whole school, the whole nation, watched as all hell broke loose on our safe, complacent world.  It was Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Purgatory all rolled into one.
I don’t remember getting home, but I do remember assuring my three kids (all in their early twenties back then) that if worse came to worst, we would all gather at my house, we would all live under one roof, and we would all look out for and protect each other.
I remember checking on the two useless “rifles” we kept in the back closet and registering the kind of ammo I needed to go out and buy.
I called my estranged husband (our divorce would not become final for another three months) and asked him to come home and help me comfort and protect our kids, but he told me I was more than capable of taking care of them and myself.  He was where he needed to be.
If it’s true that we acquire wisdom with age, I learned that day that when the moment of greatest need presents itself in your life, you will learn the true heft of your character and of those around you.  You will clearly see what is important and what isn’t, who you love and to what extent you will go to protect them, and how determined and unselfish you truly are. 

On September 11th, I sing the praises of the heroes that died that day.  They showed us how heroes live and how heroes die.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Do Unto Others


My husband and his sons rented a salt water fishing boat for the day off the Texas coast.  The captain took their money but griped about the cold, rainy weather the whole time they were out fishing.  He wanted to cut the fishing trip short and said so. My men ignored him and enjoyed their day, returning with stories about the grumpy captain, the fish they almost caught, and how their dad kept tossing his cookies over the side of the boat for the majority of the time.
          Why do people work at jobs where they do not like what they do and do not like their clients?
          I have known teachers who hate children, doctors who turn their noses at their sick patients, and sales clerks who get upset when a customer asks for help.
          My advice to all these unhappy people:  quit your job and go find one that fits your personality. And good luck.
          Captain Ahab took the money when my men went fishing.  At the price they paid for his service, it should have come with a smile.  All those teachers who emulate Professor Umbridge as their patron saint should return their teacher retirement checks, and any medical professional with a Dr. Jekyll bedside manner should worry about the day the tables turn and they need the service their clients provide.
          Moral of the story/blog:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Writer Looking for Room to Let


Now that I bought my fancy-schmancy, portable laptop, I need a cool-schmool place to write my ever elusive novel that has yet to see the light of day.
I looked up “places where famous and filthy-rich authors” have written their novels, and it seems I have been doing it all wrong.  No wonder I have not been discovered by the powers that be. I was chained to the house using my old, trusty PC.
It seems famous authors hang out in cafés, coffee shops, and bars, and when it comes to launching their first book, they hold their debuts at these places, giving them well-deserved praise for boosting their muse.  The atmosphere at these cafés created memorable characters, the strong aroma of Colombian brew at the coffee shops evoked passionate plots, and imbibing hard liquor loosened the lexicon.  
I am looking for a cool schmool place to write my novel AND be seen by the adoring public.  I cannot afford much, so there will be no renting of solitary hotel rooms, relaxing condos on the beach, or interminable train rides with romantic vistas. 
I need some place free, like the new city library, but it is still being built.  I would stake a spot at a bookstore but try finding one of those these days, and it is not the same dragging a bean bag over from the furniture department at Walmart every day and squatting by their book and magazine section.
Someone suggested I might as well stay home.  All my resources would be readily available at my house – all the coffee I want, lots of pens and paper, free secured Wi-Fi.  I could lock myself in an empty bedroom, or sit out on the porch and enjoy the garden, or loll in bed while I dream up people and plots. 
Uh, no.  The key to this new plan is the need to be seen by the adoring public while hard at work, besides I live in the wilds, and I fear Zika and chiggers and UV rays.  And the moment I loll in bed I fall asleep.   
So I have decided to write my best-seller-about-to-be-made-into-a-movie at the Whataburger down the street.  What better place to get the juices flowing but at a local burger palace?  Think about it.  I can type away to the tantalizing smell of burgers and onions and French fries frying.  I can loosen my fingers while also loosening my belt.  I can study human nature while people decide meal choices and whether or not to go with the Fancy Ketchup or the Spicy.

When my first book and its movie rights are sold, I will hold my book launch at MY Whataburger to thank them for their muse, and to thank my adoring public for their loyalty, I will treat everyone to free fries, one small bag to each person who shows up.  The choice of ketchup will be up to them.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bonus Babies

Eight years ago, my daughter fell in love and married a single dad who alone was raising his two elementary-age children, a little girl and her younger brother.  My grandbaby count doubled from two to four overnight. 
With Christmas around the corner, HB and I did not hesitate about adding them to our Christmas list, but we were surprised when others did.
Our families are blended.  We were ALL married, divorced, and married again, and the innocents in all this drama are the children.  HoneyBunch and I decided to look at it from the perspective of the child and not from the ex-in-laws.
We would never separate the grandchildren we acquired through birth from those we acquired as a bonus. God entrusted us with this gift, and we honor it.
Our daughter added to her family with two little boys, and one year after that, my youngest son introduced me to his fiancé and her son.  We added him to our Christmas list, jotted his birthday into our calendar, and considered ourselves blessed once again. At that point we had seven little grands to spoil.
Since then we have added three more birth babies into the motley crew we call family.  Those who have not seen me in the last few years wonder where HoneyBunch and I acquired so many grandbabies in so little time. 

Believe me; we had nothing to do with it.  HB and I just smile and enjoy being grandparents to our growing family. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

It’s That Time of Year

Parents are frantically running around, waving their credit cards in the air, trying to get their children ready for school.  I don’t envy them.  That was me for nineteen years, and it all had to be done on a teacher’s salary.
          I learned early to be resourceful.  I spaced out doctor and dentist and optometrist appointments throughout the summer, sometimes starting that huge expenditure the week after school ended in May.  I did the same when upgrading their wardrobes.  I bought them nice jeans and shirts, underwear and shoes throughout the summer, and we used the back to school sales for only a few new items. Hand me downs were acceptable, so my kids often swapped clothes, and even I inherited rock band t-shirts that no one else wanted.  
I made my three bring back all their unused school supplies instead of donating them to their teachers or throwing them in the school dumpster.  They were horrified that I saved their old rulers, protractors and compasses, those little watercolor cases, and usable markers and pens. I even salvaged clean paper out of old composition books and ring binders.  They soon learned that my thrift freed money we could later use on cooler stuff, like name brand shoes, shirts, jeans, and the latest hairstyles.
          I stretched my teacher paycheck further than a politician stretches the truth by hoarding extra school supplies during back to school sales, knowing that reams of notebook paper would cost ten times more come January.
          I became a Coupon Master. I always used a grocery list and clipped coupons (still do). Anyone who has ever raised teenagers knows that without the grace of coupons, shampoos, hair gels, and pimple creams cost a fortune, leaving little else to spend on food.
Our menus fluctuated with our schedules. We made easy meals on busy evenings and saved the more complicated for evenings where we had longer prep times. When school activities took over our lives, our “basic four group” was made up of fast food - hamburgers, pizzas, tacos, or fried chicken. I offer no apology for that. We were on survival mode during those years.  
My three lived with a list making, calendar checking teacher/mama.  They sat at the kitchen table every evening and did their homework while I made dinner. And if they dared to complain they didn’t have any, I made them organize their backpacks and read to me for an hour, usually from the textbook of the class they had the lowest grade.  Funny how that always prompted them to remember some forgotten assignment they HAD to do.    
I expected them to read during the summer to earn privileges. They had chores and regular wake up times and bedtimes, though in the summer and holidays they ran a little later than during school days. A week or two before school started, we would go back to their regular school year bedtime schedule so that their internal clocks would start to reset.
And every night before bed, they prepped for the next day, setting their backpacks by the back door, choosing their school clothes, and double checking if they needed money or a sack lunch, a clean spirit shirt, or an ironed uniform.
It sounds like a lot of structure, but I wasn’t a total ogre. Getting their homework done, preparing for the next day, and doing their chores, usually took an hour every evening.  After that, they had free time until lights out.    
I watch them now with their own families.  I see them do some of the same things I did with them.  Their kids have chores and are encouraged to have after school activities and read books and make decisions.  It pleases me to see them involved in raising their children. The shared responsibility and the struggle of working together is what makes it all worthwhile.