Been Away!

Dear Readers,

Please let me apologize for the delay in my recent postings! My sweet husband encouraged me to evolve my blog posts and write a novel. I have finally finished it and it is now being edited and will hopefully soon be on it’s way to publishing. I will let you all know when it’s ready!

Thank you for your sweet notes telling me that you’ve missed my weekly posts. I should be back very soon (and will probably write one about my recent fantastic weekend at a family reunion!)

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Camping Chaos

This past weekend, Dale and I went camping at our favorite place in the North Georgia Mountains.

We wanted to go a few times over the summer, but with all of the rain that we had, we cancelled our plans each time.

Then, the Weather Channel finally predicted a dry weekend, so we planned and prepared to go.

It seems that each time I have ever been camping, something completely funny has happened.

The first funny memory I have is when I went camping with my parents and Aunt and cousins when I was a little girl. We were all in bed sleeping, when we heard a loud racket. My father looked out the window of the camper and saw raccoons feeding on the cake that we had accidentally left out on the picnic table. From then on, it became known throughout our family as the “coon cake” story.

When I was in college, my sister and I went camping with her fiancé and his friend. We knew they were going to play tricks on us – plastic spiders, plastic snakes, etc. So we decided to “one up” them. Years before, our parents had gotten an album of “The Mating Call of the Wolves” as a gag gift. This was, of course, back when we had cassette tapes. We decided to fast forward a blank tape three-quarters of the way through, and then we recorded the wolves howling.

When we crawled in the tent that night, I pushed “play” on the tape player and we got in our sleeping bags to go to sleep. Thirty minutes later, the first “wolf” started howling.

We all sat up. “What the heck was that?” my sister asked. I had to stifle my giggle by burying my face in my pillow so as not to spoil the trick.

“Sounds like wild dogs.” The guys started looking out the zippered windows of the tent. (We had made the guys sleep on the outside edge of the tent because we figured if something attacked the tent, it would get them first.)

“Do you,” I gasped, “think they,” I gasped again, “can get,” gasp, “in the tent???” My sister and I were in tears because we were laughing so hard, but they guys totally missed it. They thought we were crying because we were scared.

“Sounds like they are on the other side of the creek,“ they said. “Maybe we can make a run for the car,” not understanding that the whining and barking was coming from RIGHT INSIDE THE TENT.

After ten more minutes of the guys trying to figure out how to get us to safety, they caught on. Their response? No escorted middle-of–the-night trips to the bathroom. Cathy and I were on our own.

Fast forward to 2008. I took my son, Matthew and several of his hockey buddies camping – two of whom had never been camping before. Besides the typical gross boy stories, my favorite part of the weekend was when they climbed in the creek below the hiking trail. Matthew had gotten an electronic device that played sounds of wild animals, and they would play barks and growls of fox and bears as people would walk above them on the hiking trail. I sat by the campfire watching and laughing hysterically as people would frantically look around trying to see if an animal was nearby.

Then, that leads me to this weekend’s camping trip with my sweet husband. It was our anniversary, so we looked forward to sitting around the fire sipping on wine, and just enjoying the quiet. The entire trip was so peaceful…until about 3 A.M. when an owl started hooting right outside our tent and woke me up. I could have easily gone back to sleep, until I noticed that our normally two-foot high air mattress was now so deflated that I could feel the rocks and sticks underneath the tent, stabbing me in my hip. photo_1

Besides the fact that Dale and I were so squished together that it seemed we had eaten magnets for dinner, we probably looked like two hotdogs in a bun. I started giggling and woke Dale up, who then proceeded to turn over and as his body weight adjusted the air in the mattress, I was catapulted off the other side.

So even though we both woke up each with a wickedly sore back and bags under our eyes from lack of sleep, I can’t wait until our next camping excursion.

Just to see what funny thing happens.

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!

Toughness Comes In Many Colors

I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy. I love camping and working on my house. I still like manicures and makeup and I love the color pink so I guess I’m a bit of a girly girl as well.

My step daughter recently decided that she didn’t want to wear pink anymore because she didn’t want to look like a little girl. She’s 12.

I tried to explain to her that there is nothing wrong with wearing pink and that you can still assert plenty of toughness when wearing it.

I told her about one of the best concerts I have ever attended – the Metallica concert. My dear friend, Kim, and I were standing in line, waiting to get in the arena. An older gentleman that worked for the arena was walking up and down the line asking to view inside people’s purses (just in case they were trying to smuggle in booze or guns). He walked by, checked my purse and went on down the line. A few minutes later he came back up the line and asked to check my purse again.

The third time he walked by and asked to see in my purse I started to wonder if maybe I had some underwear in my purse or maybe someone had stashed a Playboy in there. Finally, Kim, who was wearing the standard blue jeans and black shirt – attire that you would expect to see at a Metallica concert, said “Do you not recognize the fact that you have checked her purse two times already??!? She is
the ONLY person at this entire concert in PINK!”

Yep. You can wear pink and still be cool enough to go to a Metallica concert.

Recently, we took Bailey to the shooting range so that she could target shoot with a 22. Again, she had refused to wear pink that day, but she still had to wear my ear protection – which happen to be hot pink. She said she didn’t feel tough enough wearing the pink earplugs…that was until she saw my target covered in holes and me in a pink shirt and pink sound suppressors.

So yes, whether you’re rocking out to Metallica or shooting a 9 mm handgun, just remember, toughness comes in many colors. It just depends on how you wear it.

Just ask this little guy. And he’s wearing green. photo(18)

When in Key West, Beware of the Gherkin Patch

I have a tiny bladder. It’s kind if embarrassing to admit this, but since it has to deal with the rest of this story, so be it.

I have to go so much that my brother-in-law, who is a urologist, thought I might be diabetic. Considering my love for sweets, all things mostly made of carbs, and the fact that I’m a self-called starchitarian (the bready sister to being a vegetarian), it made perfect sense.

The other reason could be because of how much water I drink a day. I drink a LOT of water.

Dale has gotten quite used to my pee-pee dance movements and knows exactly when he needs to help me find a place to go.

Today, we were by the pool at our hotel in Key West, when nature called. I had just downed an entire bottle of SmartWater (I’m not sure that stuff really works because I actually feel kinda stupid for paying $3 for a bottle of water) when I realized I needed to GO.

I was about to pop and the long walk back to our room seemed like the distance of a half marathon. I asked one of the ladies if there was a restroom nearby.

“Sure. It’s upstairs on the top deck”.

I jumped up, put on my flip flops and bolted up the stairs…completely missing the sign that said “Clothing Optional Deck.”

Just so you know, clothing is not optional for me. It’s actually pretty much a requirement. I mean, I even jump in the pool at least wearing a bathing suit – sometimes even with one of those sun shirts on. Clothing for me isn’t optional. It’s a necessity.

However, for the folks hanging out on the “clothing optional deck,” it was VERY much an option for them.

A couple of them giggled at my obvious discomfort as I choked on air when I realized where I was. Men who were clearly registered AARP members were letting it “all hang out.” The sheer amount of women’s boobs just flopping around put a strip club to shame. (Okay. Maybe I’m jealous because my boobs don’t flop. They are so small they don’t move at ALL) but that is completely beside the point.

Regardless, seeing boobs and everything else out in the open when all I wanted to do was find a bathroom really messed me up. I tried being discreet but ended up looking like Stevie Wonder while trying to open the bathroom door.

“My eyes! My eyes!” I thought, thinking I might have damaged my retinas.

After I did my business I sat in the stall a few more minutes trying to figure out how to get out of there without making another scene of myself. I pulled my hat way down over my face like the character “Dumb Donald” from Fat Albert, put on my glasses, flew out the door and beelined it towards the stairs.

Dale asked me where I had been for so long and I told him I got held up in the gherkin patch that doubled as a nude sun deck upstairs.

Dale doubled over with laughter. After a while my blood pressure finally returned to normal but the red in my face stayed…and it wasn’t from sunburn.

So even though I didn’t show my girlie parts on the sun deck today, I’m not going to be at the pool tomorrow. I think I’ll head on over to the beach instead.

Because I’d much rather my skin blister from running through scalding hot sand to get to the bathroom than have to ever witness another wiener roast.

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The Often Hilarious Miscommunication of Texting

I recently realized that my phone doesn’t ring any more. It just “pings.” That is, I only notice my phone when I’m getting a text message. I actually dislike talking on the phone so I don’t really mind it when someone texts me instead of calls me.

But there are lots problems with texting. Just ask my friend, who texted her husband a sexy message about what she wanted to do with him after he got home from work.

Problem was, she didn’t text her husband.

She texted her best friend’s husband.

And she found out about her error when he texted her back. Fortunately, he found the whole thing hilarious and didn’t text her back with some skeevy and perverted response.

My problem with texting seems to be the “auto-correct” feature, where the phone thinks you have misspelled a word and changes it to one it thinks you are trying to write.

One evening, I was sending a text to a friend about a triathlon I was participating in, and I suggested that she sign up as well. It was called the “Acworth Women’s Triathlon.” However, the autocorrect feature decided that Acworth was a misspelling, and changed the word to “scrotum.” So the text that she got indicated that I was participating in the “Scrotum Triathlon.”

You can imagine our hysterical laughter when she sent me a reply that she wasn’t sure that was a triathlon she wanted to participate in, but she found it ballsy that I was going to do it.

I have learned that before sending a text message, I need to read it thoroughly to ensure there are no mistaken auto-corrections.

photo(2)And then, there is my mother, who just got an iPhone about a year ago. We introduced her to texting and were thrilled that she actually caught on rather quickly. She picked up the texting lingo and abbreviations, and uses LOL (laugh out loud) often. However, sometimes she would send me cryptic messages that I couldn’t understand. Come to find out, she was just making stuff up.

It’s sort of like the girl who sent her mother a text with some news from college. Her mother replied with “WTF.” The daughter was horrified that her mother would reply with such vulgarity, and responded back to her mom, “I’m not sure WTF means what you think it means. What DO you think it means?”

To which her mother replied, “Well that’s fantastic!”

(For those who are not in the texting world, WTF does NOT mean “Well that’s fantastic!”)

The lesson here is that whether you are a novice or veteran text messager, just be sure to read what you are sending and also confirm it’s going to the right person.

Otherwise, that message you are trying to send to your friend saying you are ditching work so you can hit the lake might actually end up going to your boss.

And then you might get a reply of “WTF?”, and no, that wouldn’t be fantastic.

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.

The Strongest Man In The World

Nope. He’s not lifting cars off trapped people or flying through the universe saving the planet from stray asteroids.

He’s fighting cancer right this very moment.

And he is going to win.

My dad. My superhero.

My father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the blood, in December 2011. In May 2012, he underwent a stem cell transplant. In February 2013, it failed.

But that did not stop my dad. He immediately started a clinical trial, which turned out to be too hard on his body. So after being admitted to the hospital last week, he began a 96 hour aggressive chemo treatment to knock the cancer out.

Now, my dad is notoriously stubborn.

My favorite picture of my dad.  Summer 1970

My favorite picture of my dad. Summer 1970

Just ask my mom.

Or my sister.

Or me.

Last week, he refused to go to the emergency room even though he was feeling terrible. (Turns out, he had pneumonia!) The nurse came in and fussed at him for not heading to the hospital sooner, even though we had all begged him to go.

My mother said he sat there and patiently listened to the nurse as she ranted and raved about how if he had waited much longer before coming in, he could have passed the point of them being able to help him.

When she was finished, my father said, “You know, I’m a retired Colonel in the Army. I’ve been chewed out by drill sergeants and superior officers, but ma’am, I must say, YOU are second to none.”

Under normal circumstances, my dad’s stubbornness would get under my skin like a blood-thirsty tick, but being up against this cancerous kryptonite, it has actually come in handy. He is digging his heels in and is not letting the cancer get the best of him.

And I am thankful that he has superhero strength, and stubbornness as well to fight this villain and to get us all through this.

But I’m still wondering…how does he hide his cape under his hospital gown?

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.