My Not-So-Typical Christmas Tradition

Christmas.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.  I love the beautiful decorations, the food, the parties, the food, the excitement of opening presents, and of course, more food.

Growing up, December was always a special time for me.  We would decorate our tree on my father’s birthday, December 9, (and many years later would celebrate my son’s birth on that same day!), and then we would celebrate my mother’s Christmas Day birthday.  My grandfather used to tell us the story of how Santa Claus brought my mother down the chimney to him, which, as a child, made me extremely jealous.

Christmas was full of love and happiness.  I was blessed!

Then, the unthinkable happened to my fantasy Christmas:  I got divorced.  Not just some easy-peasy, that-was-mine-this-is-yours divorce, but the “I kind of wish he’d get hit by a bus” divorce.

In an instant, my holidays were totally disrupted.  Suddenly, I only had my son with me for the first half of Christmas vacation, after which he would go to his father’s house at noon on Christmas Day.  Then he would return home after New Year’s Day.  It was agonizing.

One day, while visiting my eighty-something-year-old grandmother, she asked why I hated my ex so much.  I explained all of the reasons, and she listened quietly before saying, “What does it matter?  You’re divorced, but you have a child that loves you both and needs you to get along, especially now that the holidays are close.”

So, I went back home feeling like a first grader who just got scolded, and spoke with my ex.  After deciding to meet at the library (so we couldn’t yell at each other), we had a much-needed, long discussion.  For the first time since our divorce, we both agreed that we needed to put aside our differences and be parents to our son.  Civility wasn’t always easy, but we did it.

By then, he had married a very sweet lady and had a precious daughter, and one day, my son made a comment of how hard it was having to split his time between his parents on Christmas.  He wanted to spend time with us all, but having a big Christmas lunch at my house, followed by a big Christmas dinner at his dad’s house was just too much for him.

So, after great thought, and a few glasses of chardonnay, I reluctantly invited them over for Christmas lunch one year.

I know, I know….I can just hear many of you now saying, “I could never do that!”  But, let me tell you, when you know you’re doing something for your child, you can literally do ANYTHING.  It wasn’t easy, and there were times during dinner that I was tempted to stab my ex with a fork…but I digress.

It worked.

And just like that, we began a new Christmas tradition.  Each year, we would all have Christmas lunch together:  my son and his sister, my ex and his wife, my parents and grandmother.  When I remarried many years later, my sweet and understanding husband accepted our arrangement like it was no big deal. He saw that it was a good thing and welcomed my ex and his family into our house like they were old friends.

A few years have passed since we shared our last Christmas together.  Our son is nearly 23-years-old, and is venturing out as a young man, with a wonderful girlfriend who I hope will become part of our family one day.  My father passed away last year, and my mother moved to live with my 97-year-old grandmother.

Christmases are different, but I will be forever grateful for those wise words encouraging us to set aside our anger, forgive past mistakes, and put our child first.

After all, isn’t that what the holidays are really about?

 

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Going Home

One hundred years ago, a little baby girl named Mary Evelyn Gunn, known to her family as Aunt Sissy, was born in a big white house in Enterprise, Mississippi. She was the beloved sister of her five brothers (two older and three younger), one of whom was my grandfather, Frank Carlton Gunn, affectionally called Bubba.

Riverside Plantation

Riverside Plantation

Little did her family know then, how many lives she would touch in her life time.

Many of those family members gathered this past weekend to celebrate her life and her 100th birthday at that same white house, named Riverside Plantation.

All week, I had stressed over how I was going to manage making it from Atlanta to Enterprise to join in the celebration. My husband is in the process of getting his masters and had a huge project due and we realized it would be too risky for him to make the trip in case he couldn’t finish his work on time.

At the last minute, my son and his girlfriend decided to drive up from college in south Georgia to make the trip with me. He had never seen the old home place but had heard about it for years. I welcomed the company and was thrilled that they wanted to be a part of the occasion.

As we pulled into the grassy yard, Riverside stood tall and proud, albeit a bit weathered. Two tall white columns flanked both sides of the front porch, welcoming visitors into the foyer. Built in the early to mid-1800’s, it has seen better days but the sight of it still overwhelmed me. I had been to the place only twice before, but this time, I was older and truly appreciated and understood where I came from. Two chimneys flanked both sides of the house. The green shutters had faded as had the once bright red door, but the beautiful decorative transom windows were still intact. I could hear the squeals and laughter from children who were playing on the balcony above the front steps.

I thought of my grandfather and my great-uncles and Aunt Sissy as they played in the front yard as children. They had climbed the trees, worked in the garden, tended to the livestock, and swam in the Chunky River nearby. I was confident that if I listened hard enough, I could probably hear the ringing of the dinner bell and the voice of my great-great grandmother calling everyone inside the house for dinner.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

As we walked in, Aunt Sissy sat in a chair in the very room that she was born in, grinning as those who came to celebrate with her stopped to wish her Happy Birthday.

The hardwood floors creaked as people walked around, soaking in the history that has made up the house, wishing the walls could tell us stories of those who lived here. Before the Civil War, the house was owned by a man who was a Mason. When Union soldiers took over the house, they found a box (supposedly full of valuables) wrapped in Masonic papers. With many Union soldiers also being Masons, they stood by their vow to never cause harm to a fellow Mason, thereby ordering the other soldiers not to burn the house or steal anything. They then turned the home into Union headquarters, where they planned the Battle of Vicksburg from the front parlor. The home is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is a book called Riverside Remembered by Wallace Neal Briggs, Aunt Sissy’s cousin, who everyone called “Buster.” His story tells about the times he visited his beloved Riverside, starting when he was only six years-old. For those of us who were not around during that time, it has been a beautiful way to learn about Mammy and Pappy, my great-great-grandparents, along with Allie and Cally, my great-grandparents. I have also learned about my grandfather as a young man, before he met my grandmother. What a rare gift to be able to treasure events in his life long after they occurred!

In addition, the book tells about Mattie Riley and her son Leroy, their black neighbors who helped at the house who were really just part of the family. Sissy and Mattie were especially close, since Mattie had taken care of her since she was a child.

One of the most cherished moments was when Mattie’s grandson, Floyd, arrived at the celebration and handed a photograph of Mattie to Sissy. I wish I could have frozen in time the moment Aunt Sissy saw the photograph – her delighted expression clearly showed the love she had for her and how much she missed her.

Throughout the day, all of the family laughed and told stories of parents and kids and simply loved being there. I hope Aunt Sissy looked around and realized that the people who were there, were there because of HER family – each one of us being a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin or other relative.

I watched my father laugh with his brother and sisters. I watched my son and nephews look for rusty old railroad spikes by the Chunky River. I laughed with my cousins, some of whom I had not seen in over 25 years.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather's) kids - Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather’s) kids – Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

And as the children of my cousins ran through the house and people mingled about sipping coffee and eating birthday cake, I felt the house shake. Some would think that a 150+ year-old home shaking wouldn’t be a good thing, but I felt otherwise.

To me, it felt as if the home was happy and giggling because after way too many years, it was once again full of the love, laughter and life of the Gunn family.

Sunday Morning Bliss

When I was a little girl, I went to church every Sunday with my parents. Church, for me, is pretty important for obvious reasons, but what I really love, is that every time I smell the inside of the church I attend with my husband, as I walk through the door, I am flooded by memories.

But not of this church.

Or my parent’s church.

But my grandmother’s church.

A little country church that my grandmother has gone to her entire life. A church where, as a little girl, she would sneak in and swim in the baptismal pool behind the church on scorching hot Mississippi summer days.

A church that my grandfather helped renovate and rebuild many years later.

A place where I feel closer to God than any place on earth, and can still feel my grandfather’s calloused brick mason’s hands as he would lead me inside. I can still see the mud on my little white, lace trimmed gloves, and I can still feel the weight of my little patent leather pocketbook that I would fill up with dozens of pretty rocks that I would find out in the gravel parking lot before the service.Screen Saver 427

I can still hear my sweet grandmother singing “Just as I Am” so terribly off-key that, even as a child, I knew those notes were definitely not right.

I can still hear Brother Floyd’s booming voice as he taught about Heaven and Hell from the pulpit, making me jump when his voice would get louder and louder as he was making his point.

And I can feel the hardness of the wooden pew as I would adjust and readjust to keep my butt cheeks from going to sleep. I am convinced people made those pews so uncomfortable simply so that no one would fall asleep during the service.

But church wasn’t always entertaining for a child, so I would find ways to amuse myself. I’d draw on the bulletin that was handed to my mother as we walked in the sanctuary. I would play “I Spy” with myself and try to go through the entire alphabet trying to match items with letters.

Or, as I did one particular Sunday morning, got up from the front pew and proceeded to do somersaults down the center of the aisle. My mother was mortified, and my grandmother, who was also the organist, just laughed.

Luckily, this was also a church where 99% of the congregants are related to me somehow because the town is so small, so no one was really surprised when I did that.

As an adult, I no longer do somersaults down the aisle (although there ARE a few rocks in my purse), but I have come to realize that no matter where I go, or what church I attend, I know my love for the church started there.

And that is a very good memory, indeed.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Where did the summer go? It seems that school was released last week! Where did all of the lazy days by the pool go? Why is it still dark outside when I’m getting up? When did we get back from vacation? How do I work my alarm clock?

That’s right. School starts today and all of the kiddos are going back.

Kids are complaining and mumbling about how life sucks, and how tired they are, and that the first day of school just happens to be the worst day of the WHOLE YEAR.

The obnoxious buzzing of the alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m. It’s the butt-crack of dawn and time to get my step-son up for the first day of school.

I shuffle into the bathroom and turn on the light. Good grief. I feel like a Gremlin. Bright light! Bright light! It’s so bright that it actually hurts. I take a horrifying glance at my reflection in the mirror. I look like I’ve been electrocuted. I really don’t like early mornings.

I have to force myself up the stairs to his room, knock on the door and turn on the light. Now he feels like a Gremlin.

He growls at me.

I sleep-walk into the kitchen and make a quick breakfast for him even though he says he doesn’t want much to eat. I pack a brown-bag lunch full of fruit, cheese, chips, yogurt, and a chocolate bar (I’m not a health food nut – he just has food allergies) and put it by his book bag.

Last night, I made sure new gym clothes were tucked away in his backpack. What seems like ten-thousand dollars-worth of school supplies have been placed in bags to be taken straight to the teacher’s desk. We almost needed to take out a small equity loan to cover the cost of all the supplies the school required this year. How he is going to carry all of this mess is beyond me.

His school uniform has already been washed and pressed. Socks and brand new shoes are placed by the bedroom door.

I confirm that his teeth are brushed, his shirt is tucked in, and his hair doesn’t show any signs of bedhead.

We jump in the car and head over to the school. It seems that every person in the city is in the car rider line today. Hopefully I won’t get in a wreck because I literally just pulled on a pair of shorts and tucked my night shirt into them. It’s going to be A-W-K-W-A-R-D if someone sees me.

He gets out of the car, tells me “bye,” and heads into the building.

Yep.

School started today, and for me and 99% of other parents out there, it’s THE BEST DAY EVER.

And since I’ve been done with school for years now, you know what that also means?

I get to go back to bed!

I’m Not Walking – I’m Just Running Very Slowly

Saturday was the kind of day that makes you smile.

Dale and I woke up early to participate in a 5k fundraiser for Tripp Halstead, a local child who was severely injured last October when a tree branch fell on him.

We got up around 6:30 AM to begin getting ready. Those of you who know me already know that I am NOT a morning person, and 6:30 comes quickly when you normally go to bed around 1 AM.

Dale gulped some coffee. I shoved a pack of chocolate chip Little Bites muffins down my belly and we headed out the door.

Since I had my stitches out from my Melanoma back in March, my doctor had told me to take it easy on the running because I could still damage my scar for up to a year after surgery. I have been walking on the “dreadmill” and through the neighborhood when I haven’t been worried about melting, but I only got the okay from my doctor to start running again about three weeks ago.

I have competed in nine triathlons and numerous 5k races, but I was about to find out how not being able to run for three months had taken a toll on my body…and my ego.

I knew I would probably be a slow runner so I went to the back of the crowd and waited for the race to start.

The whistle blew. People started moving. Some people were walking, some were jogging. My headset started spitting out my favorite 80’s tunes and I slowly started to run. IMG_6531

Mile one came and went. I looked down at my pedometer. I was running at a pace of 13 minutes per mile. So far, so good.

Mile two came and I noticed that my legs were really getting heavy. Did I somehow contract polio this morning?

What the heck??

Was I carrying $50 in change in my pockets or something? It was getting harder and harder to put one foot in front of the other.

I checked my pedometer again.

Good. At least I was getting close to three miles.

And that’s when it happened.

A rush of people came up from behind me and blew right past me like I was standing still. Two moms were pushing strollers…one with TWINS in it. They were chatting away like they were sitting at a coffee shop while I was gasping for breath and sort of making choking and gurgling sounds. My face was so hot I thought I might spontaneously combust at any moment.

Suddenly, up ahead, I saw it. It was as if the heavens opened up and the sun started to shine down.

It was the golden arch of the finish line.

I picked up the pace. Woo-hoo!!! I was back to being a runner. It took everything I had not to punch myself in the shoulder in a “way to go” fashion. I was so proud of myself!

That is, until a seven-year-old girl with pigtails and pink “Hello Kitty” sneakers flew past me like the finish line was an ice cream truck and she had some dollars to spend.

Yep.

I have some serious training to do.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

For the past three weekends that the kids have been at our house, we have had
nothing but torrential rain. It has rained so much that I think i saw Edward and Bella Cullen from Seattle checking out the house for sale next door to use as a vacation home.

It’s bad. I need sunshine.

Since we are a very active family, we normally are outside throwing the
football, hiking a random mountain or kayaking down a river. This month though, the kids have been hanging out in their rooms, plastered to their computer screens, coming out only to eat and then return to their bat caves.

After 36 hours of nonstop rain, we decided to take the kids to the local
trampoline park so even if they couldn’t get vitamin D, they could at least get some exercise. (A trampoline park, by the way, is a huge building filled with side-by-side trampolines so hundreds of kids can be jumping in one area at the same time.)

As we walked into the building I am immediately overwhelmed by the stench of
dirty kid sweat mixed with stale popcorn, and the high pitched screams of excited children.

Did I remember to take my blood pressure medicine today?

We move slowly through the line to pick up shoes. Now I always thought bowling shoes were disgusting but then I was introduced to the petri dish family of trampoline shoes. With bowling shoes, the wearer walks up and throws a ball down a wooden lane. Not much sweat involved.

However.

With trampoline shoes, the wearer is jumping, running, etc. as sweat builds up inside so badly so that when the wearer attempts to remove his or her socks, they literally have to peel them off their foot.

The other option is for the jumper to go barefoot.photo

Yes. Barefoot.

No socks.

I feel the little hairs on my neck starting to stand on end.

I sit back and watch hundreds of kids jumping around, standing in line at the
concession stand, or walking into the bathroom either wearing their sweaty
sponge shoes or their bare feet.

It reminds me of those kid play areas at fast food restaurants. You know what I’m talking about…the microbiology study that is disguised as a fun looking ball-pit that the kids can jump in. Isn’t that what every parent wants? For their children to dive into a method of multiplying microbial organisms?

The bile starts to rise in my throat.

It appears that every child is either part of a birthday group or the birthday child herself. Kids are screaming; parents look confused. It’s like a hillbilly circus without the social graces of a hillbilly.

Older girls walking around in their short-shorts that put Daisy Dukes to shame, putting the “tramp” in “trampoline park”. It’s a little more than just shocking. I mean the place has a dress code for people’s feet but they don’t care if a person’s butt is hanging out?

I watch the clock like a hawk. Only 35 minutes to go. I look away for a second and look back. 37 minutes now? How did that happen?

Finally the whistle blows and the jumping session is over. The kids run over to us begging for water. They take off their trampoline shoes and I take them by the laces. I carefully walk as if I’m holding an unstable bomb and toss them up on the counter, careful not to let them touch me.

I ask for open hands and immediately squirt on a little extra-than-normal size glob of hand sanitizer. Me? I want to bathe in it.

We fall into the slow flow of people who are also leaving because their session is over. Endorphins run amuck throughout the children who have been bouncing non-stop for the past hour.

A group of little girls squeal right next to me piercing my eardrums. I think I may have hearing damage.

And as we get in the car to go home, I start to wonder why it doesn’t seem to bother the kids that they are now covered in millions of prokaryotic microorganisms.

Then I remember that a long time ago, I was also a kid, who was unaware of the dangers lurking in a ball pit.

Long before I became a mom.

Prom Night-Mares

It’s Springtime and you know what that means…it’s prom season. (Cringe!!!)

Dale and I went out to dinner recently and we noticed several couples who were dressed up and heading out to the prom.

I couldn’t help staring at some of the girls, wondering to myself, “Where did these girls get these dresses? Ho’s R Us??” Where were the parents when these dresses were being picked out? Are they really okay with this?

“Oh, honey, you look so beautiful! Now just be sure not to bend over or else your boobs and your butt are going to pop out at the same time. And just remember, you’re Mama’s sweet baby girl!”

I felt like we were in the middle of a underage porn convention.

My dad would have: 1) never bought me such a dress, 2) never allowed me out of the house had I actually somehow purchased such a dress, and 3) probably have sent me to a strict Catholic boarding school (even though we are Baptist) just for even thinking of wearing something like that.

Okay. So maybe I grew up in the 80’s where your entire body was covered in either lace or bows or satin, sometimes all three at the same time. Some dresses even were “Victorian” style, with lace all the way up to the chin. (My dad loved those). It was “totally” in style and I can assure you, no one was offended at our dresses!

Compared to what many girls are wearing now days, I looked like I was going to an Amish Barn Dance instead of the prom.

HHS Prom,  May 1986.  (I have to hide my friends faces or they will probably never speak to me again.)

HHS Prom, May 1986. (I have to hide my friends faces or they will probably never speak to me again.)

What’s with these new dresses?

What’s with the weird cut outs around the stomach?

Or the dresses that are open in the back all the way down to their butt cracks?

Or the hemlines that are so short they look ready for a gynecologist visit? I mean, seriously, girls! We don’t want to see your no-no parts.

I’ve come to the realization that some of these dress choices are the gateway for someone who will one day be trying out for the TV reality show, “Teen Moms” or worse, anything with the Kardashians in it.

And the shoes…oh dear, the shoes. If you are going to buy and attempt to wear shoes that are 6” high, please practice walking in them a few times so that you don’t look like you have unbendable plastic Barbie legs when you’re walking. It’s not attractive.

So now let’s talk about the makeup. I know the makeup in the 80’s was bad so I probably shouldn’t criticize the current generation’s makeup. They too will probably have to remove their makeup with the help of a chisel and a blow torch. I’ll admit it, but that is the ONLY similarity.

Why are they trying so hard to look like adults? I can assure you that I don’t actually KNOW any adults
who dress this way, but then again, I don’t hang out at strip clubs.

I’ve got to tell you…I sometimes really miss the fashion of years gone by. They left PLENTY to the imagination and most guys weren’t going to try to navigate through the layers and layers of stiff crinoline skirts and taffeta, so it was sort of like a fabric chastity belt.

Now I know that just because a girl dresses in a way that us 80’s kids used to call “easy”, doesn’t necessarily mean they ARE “easy.” But if a girl isn’t “easy” then why in the world would she (or her parents) want everyone to THINK she’s “easy” by the way she’s dressed? Make sense?

Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe I’m just like my Dad, which I’m perfectly okay with. But I am quite confident that my step-daughter will not be looking like a hoochie mama when she goes to her first dance.

Not only because her dad won’t let her dress like one, but because her dad isn’t going to let her date until she’s 35.

Living In Sibling Harmony

My stepson, Austin, and stepdaughter, Bailey, are spending spring break at our house this year. We had hoped to be able to go to the coast for a few days, but work and weather have a way of taking priority over vacation time, so we are spending spring break at home this week.

No worries. Austin and Bailey have absolutely no problem with staying at home and playing on their computers. Both are whiz-kids when it comes to computers and when they start saying stuff like “servers”, “mods”, “jar files”, etc. , to me, it sounds like they are from another planet.

What has really impressed me this week, however, is how well they have gotten along. Austin lives with us full time, and Bailey lives with her mom. The way we have worked out visitation, the kids get to see each other every weekend and every day during the summer.

And they actually like each other.photo(74)

Without us having to ask him, Austin has been helping Bailey get her “Minecraft servers” set up…whatever the heck that means.

Bailey will walk upstairs, ask for his help and 10 minutes later, he arrives at her door, ready to help.

When I was a little girl, my older sister, Cathy and I did not have this same type of relationship.
I was the pesky little sister who always wanted to do whatever my older sister and her friends were doing. If they wouldn’t let me play with them, I would instigate situations that would get them in trouble with my mom.4887_94838426098_894094_n

Yes. I was a pain in the butt.

And they would get me back.

“Hey Dana! There’s a SURPRISE for you in the water hose!!!”

As I would pick up the water hose, I would put it up to my eye to look inside…and they would turn on the water. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my eyesight.

Or, they would act like they were eating persimmons from the tree in our yard and they would say how yummy they were, so I’d pick one up and bite into it.

But it wasn’t yummy.

It was bitter and sour and made my tongue turn black and it felt like my mouth was turning inside out.

But I know my sister loves me and was only doing what older sisters do to their younger sisters. She is the person I call when I’m happy or sad, if I need to vent, or just need a sympathetic ear…and I love her.

So as I watch Austin and Bailey laugh and chase each other while we are running at the park I realize that they have a blessed relationship that hopefully will stand the test of teenager-hood, of which Austin has recently entered.

I know there will be times when they won’t always get along, but if they end up with the same kind of relationship that I have with my sister, they will be very fortunate kids indeed.

Even if they didn’t make each other eat persimmons.

Crying On The Shoulder Of The Road

Last month, we decided to take the kids up to Gatlinburg, TN for a weekend mini-vacation. Hopefully we would see some snow like we did three years ago. We had woken up the morning after we arrived to find everything covered in snow. It certainly would be fun if it snowed, but we knew we would still have fun even if it didn’t. (Hey – we live in the South and didn’t even get a dusting here this year. We get excited about seeing snow!)

We got up early, loaded up our SUV with kids, pillows, blankets, suitcases, phone chargers and iPads.
We were ready to go. I like driving, so I hopped in the drivers seat and we took off.

We had been on the road for about an hour when the “Check Engine” light came on.

I mentioned it to Dale but he didn’t seem too nervous about it. Our SUV is 11 years old, so lights come on and off all of the time. The “Check Engine” light being one of them. But this time it stayed on.

We had just crossed into North Carolina when I asked Dale if he could drive for a while so I could shut my eyes. Since I was up packing into the wee hours of the morning the night before, I was a little groggy and needed a quick power nap.

Less than five minutes after we switched drivers and just as I was starting to doze off, it felt like Dale was tapping the brakes – while going up a hill.

“WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING????” I hissed. I was tired, and when I’m tired, it’s no time for jokes.

“I’m not doing anything!” Dale said. “Something is wrong with the car.”

Now since he is always playing jokes on me – making it seem like we have a flat tire, or we are out of gas, etc., I usually don’t worry too much. But this time he was serious.

We pulled over on the side of the road. In the middle of NOWHERE.

I wanted to cry. It was cold outside. I was exhausted. I REALLY needed a nap. Except now we were stuck. I knew that the hill we were heading up lead into more of nowhere. If we could turn around and coast back down the hill, I remembered seeing a mechanic shop somewhere before we switched drivers.

Dale turned the car around and we rolled down the hill.

As if Heaven opened up and a stream of light shone down with Angels singing, suddenly, right in front of us, was a mechanic shop. And it was open on a Saturday. Hallelujah!

We rolled in the lot and a guy who looked eerily familiar like someone from the movie “Deliverance” came over to check on us. My first instinct was to lock the doors but it turned out, the look was the only similarity. This gentleman was genuinely kind and concerned that we were headed out of town and were now stuck at a garage.

He put his other works in progress on hold and helped us out.

Unfortunately, he finally realized that the truck was going to need a part – a part that they didn’t keep in stock, and wouldn’t be available until Tuesday. The mechanic called the local rent-a-car company so that we could get back on the road.

One of the interesting things about breaking down in nowhere was that the only rent-a-car company was called “Rent-a-Wreck…and it was, in fact…a wreck.

We headed out in a 2003 (yes, it was 10 years old) Chevrolet Cavalier (no, they don’t even make those cars anymore) with 140,000 miles on it. It shook if it got over 60 MPH and it smelled like dirty feet. I would not be surprised if a body had been transported in the trunk at some point.

But it was a car that worked when ours didn’t.

A week later, our SUV was repaired and we were told we could come pick up it up.

So, our “inexpensive” weekend getaway with the kids ended up costing about $1,300 more than originally planned. But we all had a blast, even if it didn’t snow. The kids (and Dale!) played Magi-Quest; we rode go-carts in the freezing cold; and we watched not-yet-released movies while snuggled up in our hotel beds.photo(73)

It was then that I suddenly realized that no matter what the final cost of the trip was, these memories actually were….

Priceless.

Just Call Me Grace-Fall

I’m a klutz. It’s embarrassing but it’s true. I try to be so careful so that no one sees me being a klutz but it happens anyway.

I think it started when I was a child. I was always covered in Band-aids and bruises. If I was on the playground, I was the kid crying at the bottom of the slide because I didn’t know how to stop myself from flying off the end and landing face first in the dirt.

TIMBER!!!!  (This clearly was going to end badly...)

TIMBER!!!! (This clearly was going to end badly…)

When I was very small, my dad was cementing the four corners of our swing set into the ground so that it wouldn’t tip over when we were on the swings. My mom had just bought me a pair of $35 Forrest Gump-like corrective shoes. Now to me, $35 is a lot of money, but I can assure you that $35 back in 1969 was TRULY a lot of money.

So my parents weren’t too happy when I stepped into the hole and went up to my knee in cement, completely ruining my brand new shoe.

My cement shoe

My cement shoe

Dinnertime was equally as difficult for me. I regularly dropped my plate, or more often than not, spilled my drink all over the kitchen table. Sippy cups were invented because of children like me.

I broke my wrist when I was a sophomore in college. I was a little sister for the SAE Fraternity, and we were working on a roast of the brothers. As we were sitting in the library of the house, I saw one of the brothers that I needed to talk to walking by the front windows. I ran out of the house and slipped, landing on my hand.

Keep in mind, this was the fabulous fashion time frame where full prairie skirts were in style. When I slipped, my full skirt swooped up and landed over my head like a parachute so I was sitting in my underwear on the front lawn of the fraternity house.

While the guys were at dinner.

Looking out the window at me.

By the time I got over my utter horror of the situation, I realized my arm was hurting a little bit. When I looked at it, it was already twice its normal size. And it was turning purple.

Yep it was broken.

On a side note…One of the upsides of being a SAE little sister and breaking my wrist at the fraternity house is that the brothers sent one of the pledges over every few days to wash my hair for me. I may have milked that one a little longer than necessary but seriously, who is going to complain about having their hair washed by a bunch of good looking guys? Helloooo. I may be blonde, but I’m not stupid!

At least I got it honest...check out my mom's foot after being cut by a stingray

At least I got it honest…check out my mom’s foot after being cut by a stingray

Years later, I was in the parking lot of my office building, and as usual, I was checking e-mail on my phone instead of watching where I was walking. I had the great luck of stepping into the only pothole in the entire parking lot. A 6” x 6” hole, resulting in the most unladylike fall.

I was, however, back up just as quickly as I fell, and the only proof of my embarrassing mishap was a ripped skirt and two very badly skinned knees.

I glanced around the parking lot. Whew. No one saw me. At least that’s what I thought until I walked into the building and two of my co-workers were clapping.

Yep. Just call me Grace-fall.

Four years ago my klutziness came to a head when I stepped off a four-inch curb and BROKE MY FOOT. Yes, you read that correctly. As I was walking down the sidewalk, a dog came running up behind me. As I turned to look over my shoulder I stepped down and CRUNCH…that was all it took. I was on crutches until I realized I could do more damage to myself with them than if I were carrying a sword.

I finally got put into a boot that made me feel like a lopsided giant. There’s simply no way to be ladylike when you’re wearing a 50-ton piece of plastic strapped to your foot with industrial strength Velcro.

The boot on one foot, along with a slingback on the other foot. Clomp. Click. Clomp. Click.

Now I’m taking vitamins and calcium like Tic-Tacs because I’m kind of terrified that as I get older and my bones get more brittle, I’m going to break my hand by opening a bottle of wine.

But you know what?

I think that just might be worth it.