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.


          

Monday, August 1, 2016

Friend Request


As a child, my playmates were my older brother and younger sister, my cousins, and the neighborhood kids.  I didn’t have a best friend until the fourth grade.
          Delma walked up to me one day during recess and announced we were best pals.  I was stunned and delighted.  Someone who wasn’t related to me liked me.  She didn’t need me to play third base or be “it.” She just liked me. This was new territory for me.
          Delma showed me the best bud basics.  She saved me a place in the cafeteria.  She sought me out at recess.  We swapped school pictures and the Valentine cards reserved for “best friends.” She talked to me about boys, her family, and her favorite things; and as my confidence grew, I reciprocated her kindness.
          At the end of fourth grade, she told me she would not be returning to our parochial elementary.  Her parents found it too expensive and she was going to public school.  I was broken hearted.  I was losing my one and only best friend.
          When I told my grandmother, she smiled and hugged me.  She told me I would never want for friends, but I doubted that to be true.  I have always been reticent when it comes to making friends.  It’s like that “Friend Request” on Facebook.  The risk of being ignored, declined, or unworthy is painful. 

I never heard from Delma again but I have thought of her often.  I would like to thank her for her vote of confidence.  I would like to thank her for her kindness and friendship.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Losing a Child

July 25, 2012

I lost a grandson a few weeks ago.  His death was caused by a freak household accident that claimed his life within hours.  No one had time to do more than react and pray for the best.
For once in my life I had no words of wisdom for my daughter, no remedy or solution that would make everything better.  I stood by while she heard the words no parent ever wants to hear – her child, her baby, was not responding to everything the trauma medical team was  frantically trying. 
Her twenty-two-month-old child was dying.
One moment her fearless little boy was bombing around the house playing and climbing on furniture, the next he was injured and quiet. What should have been a boo-boo made better with mommy kisses, ended up a fatality.
I try not to relive the horror of that night, but I struggle to sleep.  I wait until my eyes close from exhaustion and I wake a few hours later with a start.  Sadness and fear chase me in my dreams.
I do not dare imagine what goes through my daughter and my son-in-law’s dreams.  They were there.  They saw the baby’s injury a second after it happened.
I’ve lost weight, something that has eluded me for years even though I faithfully follow a diet and exercise at every opportunity.  I am hungry but after a few bites I cannot force myself to eat any more.  What I do ingest does not stay for long.    
I’ve watched my daughter leave behind a full plate of food on the table.
I know that the stages of grief are recursive, that right when you think you are progressing well onto the next stage you fall back onto the first step all over again. There must be a different set of rules of recovery when one loses a child.  Maybe there isn’t any. The universe as you know it has been turned upside down.
Death should come after one has lead a long, full life.  Death should be top-down and not robbing us of babies who have yet learned to create full sentences, tie their shoes, or use the potty like a big boy.
I believe in a good God and in an afterlife.  That is some comfort, but it does not assuage the huge loss and the extreme regret we all feel.  My daughter’s house is full of his and his three-and-a-half-year-old brother’s toys.  His sister and brothers call out his name in play, and his parents set an extra plate at the dinner table before remembering there is one less in the house.   

Our guilt is blanketed in “what ifs” and “only ifs,” but these do not change what happened – one fearless little boy left us all stunned in disbelief, frozen in our pain, cowering at the tragedy we all witnessed.