My mama’s driving this crazy train (2/6/2013)

I love my Mama. I do.

But if there is one person who can get me on the busy end of a hissie fit, it’s that woman.

I know she means well. I know she cares. And I know that me being an only child is part of why she worries about stuff like she does.

I also know one day, I will probably be that way about Cole – I am a hovering worry-wart of a mother now as it is.

But I am 40 years old. I think she can “let go” a little.

Or at least take a nerve pill.

For instance, I sometimes hate talking on the phone. I admit, as horrible as it is, that there are times I would much rather text.

There are also times I just want to be a hermit and hide and not talk or text or anything. I just want to be with Cole and have some downtime and enjoy the day.

That drives Mama nuts. Especially if I turn the phone completely off.

Two hours later, there are seven missed calls, with only a minute separating them, followed by two texts.

“Are you OK?” is the first one. The second one is more of a threat. “If you don’t answer this phone right now, I am calling the sheriff.”

One of the missed calls includes a voicemail with her ordering me to “Pick up this phone this instant! I know you hear me.”

She worries. Did I get home from the grocery store OK?

Yes, it is only 12 miles from home.

Did Cole have a good day at school? What did he learn? What did he eat for lunch? He was at the doctor last week – is he better? Did he have a fever? Did he take all of his antibiotic?

Did you get your car fixed? Did you pay that bill you told me about?

Did you see that commercial for the new dog breath freshener – I know a little Border collie who could use it. Is it safe for dogs?

Did you see the dog treats that were killing dogs – y’all don’t get those do you?

These are all the kinds of things Mama worries about. These are all the kinds of things she drives me crazy about, and needs to know and be updated on multiple times a day.

She worries. I get that. I do. Keep in mind, again, I am 40 years old.

As painful as it is to type that, I also think it is kind of ridiculous that my mama thinks I have been abducted and will be on the back of a milk carton.

“Worrying is praying for what you don’t want,” I tell her.

“It is not; I am not praying for anything bad. I just worry,” is her indignant, yet concerned, reply.

The calls and her nonstop worrying drive me crazy. I feel like she watches over me more now than when I was a child. Oh she worried when I was a child, but I lived in her house – there was more control then than there is now, when I am hours away and she can’t physically see that all I am doing is sitting in the living room, watching a rerun of “The Cosby Show.”

In between worrying, she’s telling me what I need to do.

Again, 40 here.

“Cole, I give you permission to put me in an old people home if I act like this when you are grown,” I tell my son.

“Nennies just worries, Mama,” he says, giving me a squeeze. He’s a far more empathetic soul than I am.

“She needs a serotonin uptake inhibitor,” I mutter to myself.

Cole just doesn’t know how once, when married to my ex-husband, he had gone out of town.

I had gone to dinner with some friends and then to the bookstore at the mall. It was maybe 11:15 p.m. when I got home.

The carport light was on, indicating someone had been at the house.

A burglar? No. A sheriff’s deputy, who had been sent out there thanks to Mama calling them, thinking I had been the victim of some random crime. There were 40 missed calls on my phone, with three messages, as this was long before cell phones were the norm.

The first one was Mama saying I needed to call her right now. Kind of hard to do, seeing as I wasn’t home.

The second was Granny telling me Mama was going extra crazy and had already chain- smoked three packs of cigarettes and was on her way to buy more.

“Call your mother; I can’t breathe.”

The final message was a dispatch officer I knew from 911, since I worked for the public defender’s office at the time.

“Sudie, your Mama is about to put out an APB on your tail if you don’t call her. We’re sending someone over there to make sure you are OK because we don’t want your mama calling us back. Call her.”

It took months to live that down.

“She’s nuts,” I will say to Lamar. He doesn’t say a word, knowing there’s potential for me to carry the crazy-gene.

I vow to limit the amount of time I talk to her on the phone. But as soon as I pick Cole up, she’s calling.

“Do you have Cole?” she wants to know.

“Yes,” I say with a sigh.

Questions follow – a mountain of worried, concerned questions.

“Mama, I gotta go,” I say, standing at the register in the convenience store, getting ready to pay for a sports drink and a bag of popcorn. I hang up with an exasperated sigh.

“Your mother?” the cashier asks.

I nod.

“She’s getting on my nerves,” I say more to myself than the woman.

The lady nods, understanding my plight.

“Calling you all the time, wanting to know what you’re doing, getting all up in your business, even though you’re grown.”

“Yes,” I respond.

“Exactly. It’s ridiculous.”

The lady handed me my change.

“I hear ya. My Mama did the exact same thing,” she said. “You enjoy that while you’ve got it,” she smiled at me, faintly.

“What I wouldn’t give to have her driving me crazy again.”

She’s right. One day, I will miss it too.

The sweetest of hearts (2/13/2013) Valentine’s 2013 Column

Love is in the air and all around us. Of course it is – tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Or the day some women get to shove it in other’s faces that their guys are more romantic than theirs.

I have lamented that I am not a romantic at heart; I yearn to be, would love to get caught up in the hoopla; maybe it’s because I have never been the object of affection that would be in a romantic comedy.

I would be cast in the Rosie O’Donnell role not Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock.

So maybe that is why I would rather hide on Feb. 14 than to see everyone posting their flowers, jewelry and big heart shaped boxes of candy they receive on Facebook.

That’s the only good thing about Valentine’s Day – the candy, and right now, I can’t even think of any particular candy that makes this day special except those little candy hearts and I am not too fond of them because you get a hold of a bad one and it can nearly break an incisor.

My child loves Valentine’s Day though. How did this happen? Because this child is all about love.

“Mama, make sure you get the good Valentine’s,” he will tell me when he hands me the class list.

“Get two boxes maybe. I want to make sure there’s cards that are appropriate for all the girls.”

He worries that all the girls have cards that are nice. He doesn’t want anyone to be left out and wants them all to feel equally like princesses. I nod, dreading having to venture down the heart bedecked aisles at the store.

But Cole is all about Valentine’s Day. He loves giving the cards, seeing the smiles and sharing candy with his friends. He saves his cards from Valentine’s past, knowing who gave him what and wanting to cherish it forever.

He is a romantic at heart, with a sense of chivalry that died years ago, opening doors, pulling out chairs.

“Ladies first,” he will say, with a sweep of his arm as he ushers me in to a restaurant.

Granted, he’s been taught to be a gentleman, but he takes great pride in it.

He’s got a love for love and making everyone feel special. Even as I sit in the recliner, with my hair in a ponytail, wearing sweats, an Alabama hoodie, and no makeup, my child will look at me and say sincerely, “I have the prettiest Mama in the whole wide world.”

Only two people can think you are pretty when you at your unprettiest – one’s your own mama and the other’s your child, who loves his mama.

“I don’t know where he gets it from,” I tell Mama, commenting on how my son tries to make everyone feel so loved and cherished.

“He’s just a romantic at heart and he is all about Valentine’s Day.”

“Maybe he takes after his father?” Mama muses, suppressing a giggle.

Dirty pool, old gal, I think to myself.

She knows darn well that man is in the running for worst Valentine gift giver ever.

I am actually surprised he hasn’t done something like made the handmade coupons for foot rubs or doing the dishes and thought it was original.

I think the only reason Lamar hasn’t done that is he would have to get the construction paper, stapler and markers out of my office – a dead giveaway as to what he was doing.

“Don’t you love Valentine’s Day?” Cole asked, looking through a bag of Valentine’s candy for one more chocolate.

I frown.

“If you do,” I reply.

How do you crush the Valentine spirit of someone who’s so in love with the day celebrating love?

“I do. But you should tell people you love them every day, not just on Valentine’s Day,” he said, sincerely. “It’s important that people know they are loved and important every day. Don’t you think so, Mama?”

I agreed. Such a sweet, tender little heart, I thought.

Later that evening, after homework and dinner, baths and everything done, I went in my office to shut everything down. On my keyboard was a folded piece of paper, with a gigantic heart on the front fold.

I smiled, picking it up to read as a chocolate heart fell out.

“YOU are my heart,” the magic marker handwriting proclaimed. “And will always be my best girl.”

And that handmade note, full of love and the last chocolate, was far better than anything from Hallmark.

Not quite smart enough for second grade math (2/20/2013)

Math is not one of my strong suits. When I was in grade school, I always preferred English, literature and science – namely because chemistry meant I had the opportunity to blow something up or at the least, start a fire.

In college, I changed majors twice because of the math requirement. Heck, I actually ended up commuting to Mercer when I lived 20 minutes from Athens simply because I could avoid a statistics class at U.G.A. Mama reminds me of this every time she pays her portion of my student loans.

My bank even knows I am numerically challenged. I thought I had balanced my check book once and was delightfully surprised to discover I had a considerable bit of money left in my account that I had not expected. I did what any smart 30-something with a bit of padding in her bank account would do – I went shoe shopping.

Two days later, one of the women from the bank called and let me know I was horribly overdrawn.

“I had money two days ago,” was my defense.

“Sudie, your car payment and your insurance had not posted. You are now overdrawn. Did you really spend $659 at Mansour’s?”

Mansour’s was this gorgeous specialty store that had the best shoe department ever. People would fly in from all over for their shoe sales. I lived three miles away – how could I not go?

“Yes,” I whimpered.

“You are going to need to take the shoes back,” was the banker’s reply. “I am guessing it was shoes. It was shoes, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” I affirmed.

I didn’t take the shoes back but I did learn an important lesson. The people at the bank were better at balancing my check book than I was. Knowing I was mathematically challenged, they actually didn’t mind doing it for me. It was less painful for everyone involved.

Beyond balancing my checkbook, I haven’t really had to use a whole lot of math. Geometry seriously made a synaptic gap in my brain misfire and no, I have not used algebra since I had to take it in college. With the convenience of calculators even in our phones, I haven’t even had to use my fingers in a while.

Until Cole hit second grade.

Given my child’s quick wit and fast take on things, I knew my little grasshopper would surpass this wise teacher of a mother quickly.

All it took was one assignment of homework to show me, I am officially not smart enough to be his mother.

Regrouping – we called it ‘borrowing’ -made another synaptic gap in my brain misfire. Subtracting three digit numbers? I don’t remember doing this stuff (and I use that term very loosely; I have another term I prefer) until about fourth grade. Maybe fifth.

“Cole, I don’t know if I am doing this right,” I told him, looking at the page full of numbers. Was it OK for an adult to cry over second-grade math?

“Mama – what are you doing?” he exclaimed, watching me do the problem the way I was taught 30 years ago.

“I am doing it the way I know how,” I answered.

He shook his head. “No, that is not right.”

“Then how do you do it?” I cried.

“I can’t remember but it is not the way you are doing it!”

The examples on the page confused me even more.

“Cole, I hate to say it, but you’re on your own,” I said, probably renouncing any future Mother of the Year awards.

He sighed and furrowed his brow, studying the page furiously as he figured out how to do it – on his own, no help from Mama.

“I can’t do second-grade math,” I admitted to Mama the next day.

I doubt she was surprised at this; I probably couldn’t do it when I was in second grade.

“Can Cole?” she asked.

“I guess he can. He did it.”

“What was it exactly?” Mama asked.

“I don’t know, Mama,” I began. “It was subtraction.”

Mama was oddly quiet. “It was … subtraction?” she questioned.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Oh. Oh my,” she said. “So it was just subtracting?”

“Yes, Mama,” I said.

She didn’t understand that it involved regrouping and three digits.

“Well, that new fangled math will get you every time. They changed it on me when you were in school. But look on the bright side, this is just subtraction, it’s not like it’s algebra. When are they are gonna learn algebra?”

I wasn’t sure – but with my luck, it will be any day now. And putting x, y and z into this newfangled math will surely be the end of me.

And you will call him ‘son’ (2/27/2013)

The he’ing and she’ing started in Pre-K and a beautiful little angelic looking blonde announced to me she and Cole were to be married.

“You have plenty of time to worry about getting married, Miss Mo,” I told her. “You both have college, he has vet school to attend. This is a long way off.”

She knew that and they had some issues to work out – Cole wants 10 children for some strange reason and Mo blatantly eats pork in front of him, declaring with a succulent tone that “Piggie was delicious.”

Cole was stricken.

Whether or not there will be any impending nuptials in a couple of decades, they have remained the dearest of friends, our families becoming close friends as well.

“Sister, you know I would love for Cole to be my son-in-law,” Mo’s mama, Angie has told me. “I love that little boy of yours. And you know I’d love to have you as family, too. It feels like you already are.”

I feel the same way. I love the whole family and that includes the grandparents on both sides.

“Ain’t never gonna happen,” Mama said, shaking her head.

“It could,” I disagreed.

“Nope,” Mama said. “No, the boy Mo will marry is going to be the one that will make Angie’s skin crawl. Not one she adores. Trust me, I speak from experience.”

That she does.

The first time Mama laid eyes on the ex, she knew two things: One, his hairstyle – with it long over one eye like he was Robert Smith from The Cure – made her nauseous; two, she had an instant dislike for him that she had never had before, which meant he would probably be the one to take her Kitten away.

Over the course of seven years, Mama prayed for us to break up, finding hope in every angry phone call that ended with me slamming down a receiver, waiting for me to tell him to take a hike.

Every tear I shed, Mama would declare there were more and better fish in the sea and I would find someone deserving of me. She could tick off all the reasons she didn’t care for him without dropping the ash off her Virginia Slim.

“He’s arrogant, egotistical, elitist and boring,” were a few at the top of the list. “And he needs to go to a barber shop and get that one-eye bang cut.”

One nasty argument involved whether or not animals had souls and went to Heaven ended with me yelling at him that he was everything my Mama thought and more – me obviously believing that my 17 cats all had souls and were Heaven bound to that giant sandbox in the sky when they passed. The ex told me there were no animals in heaven and they were soulless creatures. We fought for 20 minutes. When I emerged from my room, Mama pretended to be engrossed in her crossword puzzle.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“I gotta get ready, we have a date.”

“You’re going out with that cretin when he doesn’t think my Bennie’s going to heaven?” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe you didn’t break up with him – you obviously have nothing in common.”

A few years later, he proposed. I accepted. Mama rolled her eyes and promptly lit another Virginia Slim.

A few weeks later, we had a fight, and I told him where he could put that chintzy diamond ring.

Then I was begging my girlfriend Erin to drive me to where he was camping so I could eat crow and apologize. I think Mama lit two Virginia Slims at once.

On the morning of our wedding, Mama woke me up with “I will give you $10,000 to not go through with this.”

I frowned at her.

“You don’t have $10,000.”

“I can get it. Don’t worry about how, but I can. And I will. It’s not too late.”

After the wedding, the ex asked her if she was going to come up from the reception to throw bird seed at us, she told him she’d “love to throw something at him.”

We won’t get into how he was threatened with bodily harm by about three other people, one of them being the husband of my kindergarten teacher.

When we divorced four years later, Mama wasn’t exactly happy but she wasn’t exactly sad either.

“I know you are upset, so I am reserving my I told you so, but know it’s coming,” was how she answered the phone when I called her.

My uncle had told her.

We hadn’t spoke for a few weeks because of a fight involving the ex. But Bobby had called and I told him we were getting divorced. All Bobby wanted to know was if I was getting custody of that “Evil Beagle.”

“Maybe if I had tried to like him, you wouldn’t have married him,” Mama said one day. “Who am I kidding? Maybe if I had pretended to like him, you wouldn’t have been so dogged determined to marry him. But no, every time I said something about him, you were that more determined you were gonna marry him.”

A year or so later, a friend of mine called me up, wanting to go to lunch. She was upset and needed to talk.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I will tell you over lunch,” she said. I could hear the hurt, the anguish in her voice and immediately thought the worst.

We met at our usual place to have poppy seed chicken.

“It’s my daughter,” she began. “She’s seeing this boy and I cannot stand him. I mean, he is so slick and so greasy and so swarmy I could scream. I want to take a paper towel to his hair to get the gel out. I have never wanted to punch someone so hard in my life!”

I shook my head and sipped my lemonade.

“Girl, you better get to liking him or you know what’s gonna happen?

“You gonna be callin’ him son.”

And guess what? She did.

Every daughter’s nightmare, turning into Mama (3/6/2013)

My friend Ashley posted one of those funny photos on Facebook the other day that made me laugh – until I realized how true it was.

It read: “Sometimes when I open my mouth, my mother comes out.”

Oh sweet, sweet son of a biscuit eater.

That ain’t even funny if you think about it.

I was flooded with all those pithy comments Mama gave me over the years that made me want to scream.

“I’m the mother, that’s the only reason you need.”

“Because I said so.”

When a movie by the same title came out a few years ago, I wondered if someone had made a movie about my life without my consent.

“If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you want to do that too?”

“I am the Captain of your ship.”

That one made me particularly grit my teeth for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t have a ship.

I once popped back with, “Then I am the Admiral,” after learning a limited knowledge of naval rankings thanks to “Star Trek.”

Mama smirked and retorted: “The admiral doesn’t have any power if the ship is at sea, Kitten, and we’re at sea.”

I still hate that phrase – she still says it too.

There’s other phrases she used over the years, some worse, with varying degrees of annoying; I just cannot remember all of them.

I attribute it to some kind of denial or personal mental defense mechanism so I won’t suffer a rebellious reaction if I hear the words uttered somewhere.

I swore I would never, not ever, say anything as inane as the things that dripped off Mama’s lips in between sips of Diet Coke.

I would not use those kinds of annoying little phrases that would embarrass my child or make him cringe.

But oh, how wrong I was, how wrong I have been.

I have said variations of those comments, said two of them verbatim and even made up a few of my own.

“Why can’t I do that?” Cole has cried.

“Because I said so!”

“Why do I have to pick up my room?”

“I’m your mother and that’s all you need to know.”

Sweet, sweet son of a biscuit eater. I am my mother.

All I need is the red hair and the Virginia Slim 120.

Mama finds it quite humorous that I have resorted to using the word warfare.

“I thought you were never going to say anything remotely close to those silly little phrases I used,” she giggled. “You would get so upset over the tiniest of phrases. You remember? Have you said that one to Cole yet?”

“No, and I won’t. I still hate that phrase.”

“What phrase? That I am the captain of your ship?” she giggled at her own craftiness.

But I have my own crafty comebacks now.

“That is just downright evil that you still throw those sayings around -that’s something Granny would do. You are getting to be more and more like that old woman every day.”

Mama gasped.

I just did the unthinkable, the most dreaded phrase any woman wants to hear: They are acting like their mother.

It’s one thing if we suspect that we are becoming our mothers; it’s another to have someone point it out to us.

I had gotten her. Finally.

Feeling confident in my newfangled upperhand of the situation, I ordered Cole it was time to do his homework.

“Please give me a few more minutes. I am playing,” he said.

He was so engrossed in whatever he was doing, he didn’t even look up.

“No, Cole, it’s getting late. Go do it now.”

“Mama, I said not right now – I am playing!” he implored.

“Cole, I am the boss, you need to do your homework now.” I emphasized the now.

“You are not the boss,” Cole said, growing irritated. “You’re not my boss, you’re not anybody’s boss. You’re not even the boss of the dogs.”

“Cole, I am more than the boss – I am the Alpha and the Omega of your little hinney and you better go get the homework started right now.”

Cole drew his little chin up in triumphant defiance. “You are not the Alpha and Omega; only God is that. You are just Mama.”

I had no come back for that – how do you argue with a then 5-year old that you are not God, you’re just Mama. My confidence had now slipped and I was defeated.

I was now officially Mama.

At least that isn’t as bad as being Granny.

A well-behaved child in a Honey Boo-Boo world (9/25/13)

After working in retail for a number of years, I swore, if I ever had a child he would not behave the way a majority of children do when they enter a store.

Of course, when you aren’t a parent, you also know everything there is to parenting and can accurately pinpoint the errors the parents are making. But I don’t think you need to be Dr. Spock to know dragging a hungry child out to a store two hours after their missed nap time is not wise. Nor is it wise to think because you are missing work because the child is home sick it’s a good excuse to go get a makeover with the child in tow.

No, I swore, if and when, I had a child, they would not act like that. And if they did, they would get their taters tore up.

With the exception of maybe two occasions, Cole has been well-behaved when we have gone shopping. Even when we go to Walmart, which seems to bring out the worst in children for some odd reason. Mama swears they pipe in some kind of subliminal messaging to make the children go wild in there. Maybe they do. I have seen children do a complete 180 as soon as they were greeted.

In fact, one of the occasions was in the big box store. A 2-year old Cole strapped in the buggy seat, proceeded to grab at everything his hands could reach. He had his first warning; the second was weighed with: “You do it again and I will take you home to your father and come back by myself. Do you understand?”

He nodded, but saw the buggy loaded down with laundry detergent, fabric softener and other much needed things and thought I was bluffing. The hands went out again. I yanked my bag up to my shoulder and grabbed him in the universal “mama hauling tater” position and tried to hoist him out of the seat.

“No! No! I be good! I be good! No go!”

More than anything, that child was not going to stay home with his father when Mama was out in some store buying who knew what – there may be chocolate or donuts involved.

So we stayed. And he was good, asking me throughout the remainder of the trip, “I good?”

I would give him a stern look before affirming he was behaving.

The other offense that comes to mind was when he almost didn’t get Piggie.

He had been dragged out of the grocery store, literally kicking and screaming by his father over the plush pig. I told the cashier some people needed to learn how to control their children better but at least that man had the common sense to drag the child out of the store. Of course, when I heard why he was having the fit, we had to get the pig. I can understand a fit over a pig.

Now that I am a parent I have a little more wisdom and don’t get quite as irritated over a child- fit in a store. They do shock Cole though.

“Mama, did you see that?” he asked as he witnessed a child have a colossal fit one day. It was epic.

I mean, seriously – that child needed an award for the biggest fit thrown in a public place ever. I think her mama wanted the floor to open up and swallow her into the abyss.

Surely, even if it was a dark and dank abyss it wouldn’t be as bad as the stares she was receiving while her daughter had her epic breakdown, tater in the air.

“What is wrong with her?” he asked.

I didn’t know.

“Did I ever act like that?” he wanted to know.

Oh heavens no, I told him.

He was relieved, eyes about to pop out of his head at the display.

“Is that how Honey Boo Boo acts?”

I wasn’t sure.

Then Friday, as my groceries were wrung up, Cole ran up to me, asking me for a quarter. I dug into my bag, not sure if I had any quarters. I found one but it was a state quarter.

“It’s Montana,” I showed him.

“Oh, that’s too neat to use,” he said, placing it back in my bag. “If you don’t have another one, it’s OK.”

I dug a little deeper to find one and while on my expedition, the young man who was bagging the groceries struck up a conversation with Cole. I found one.

“Oh, thank you, Mama!” he squealed and gave me a hug to go get his gumball.

“He is awesome,” the young man said to me. “Seriously. He is just awesome.”

I smiled and said thank you – he was just being Cole.

The cashier nodded.

“Yes, ma’am, he is. You’ve done a great job. He was so polite.”

“I think he’s a good kid,” I agreed.

“You have no idea how many children we have come in here that pitch fits and God forbid if they are told no,” the young man explained. “We don’t get a lot of kids like him in here. I guess they think they need to act like they are on reality T.V. or something.”

The cashier nodded.

“He was a joy. So thank you. And you must have been raised right yourself, so thank your mama too.”

In our Honey Boo Boo world, a well-behaved child is truly a rarity these days.

Take a dog’s approach to life (3/13/2013)



I wish I were more like my Border collie.

Really, I do.

She is the happiest soul I have ever met.

Pumpkin has zero worries, is always happy to see everyone, and never gets upset – she’s quick to forgive even after the Evil Beagle has attacked her over nothing. Of course, Pepper can either cuddle to make up for her poor manners or Pumpkin will sit on that rotten little hound’s head, either one works for the Border collie.

She’s the first one to greet me in the morning, putting her sweet face in my lap as I drink my coffee, tail wagging, waiting for her petting.

She demands the attention she wants, giving you a soft reprimanding bark if you don’t notice her at first; the bark becomes more stern the longer the delay until she eventually paws you and gives you a head tilt that says ‘I adore you and you better love me back, dingdangit.’

She takes constructive criticism well, not taking it personally when she gets on Venus’ nerves and the blind old gal has to snarl at her to calm her down for getting too rambunctious.

Unlike Pepper who starts the dinner howl at 4 p.m., reminding us it’s feeding time – she has never missed a meal in her 14 years mind you – Pumpkin doesn’t worry if she’s going to be fed. As long as she’s been here, she’s had a bowl full of kibble and Milk-Bones every day of her life. No need to fret and pitch a canine hissie like the beagle.

If anything, she is always so happy and grateful to see her little bowl, that she would rather thank us with puppy kisses than eat. You don’t have to worry about losing a digit if you try to offer her a treat either. With the other three, an overzealous chomp is always a possibility.

“If we want to truly know how to be, we should aim to be more like Pumpkin,” I said to Cole one day.

Cole watched her chase after a squirrel across the yard. “Mama, we’re supposed to try to herd up squirrels?”

“No, Cole,” I began, “Just look at how happy and thankful she is. She knows she was rescued and that she has a home, a family that loves her, a pack. She is perfectly content. We should try to be more like that.”

The Border collie returned, triumphant at chasing the squirrel up a tree and laid down in the grass next to Venus, who gave her a nuzzle.

“Really, all we need to know about how to deal with life, we can learn from dogs,” I continued.

“Be happy when you see someone – even when we just go to the store, they are always so happy to see us. It may be an hour to us, but to them, that’s forever. We need to not hold grudges. We need to appreciate what we have, play when we can, take naps often and be more loyal.”

Cole nodded, letting it all sink in, the simple truths of what I was saying, watching the dogs laze in the sun.

“You’re right, Mama,” he said. “They do all that, don’t they?”

“They do. If we want to know how to live life, we should just think, how would a dog handle this situation? Dogs are just pure souls. They don’t have the agendas, the ulterior motives humans do.”

No sooner than I had said that, Pepper marched up to Roubaix as he relaxed in the sun and gave him a stern, aggressive bark.

Roubaix’s head snapped back, wondering what her reproach was about. She pointed her face right in his, ignorant to the fact her whole body is not as big as his head, and barked again. With a shake of his head, he pulled himself up from his nap spot and studied the Evil Beagle. He gave her a sniff and then let out a gruff cough; she evidently reeked of beagle stink. He gingerly licked the top of her head, which caused her even further annoyance and she bulged an eye out at him and growled.

“Mama, what do you think he’s going to do? Is he going to hurt her?” Cole asked, worried.

“No, son,” I began. “I have never seen Roubaix hurt that fool dog ever. He’s the bigger dog, and he knows it. He will just walk away.”

Just as we thought he was going to do just that, he turned to walk away, but not before he lifted his leg. Right on that evil little beagle.

Cole giggled.

Well, that pretty much sums up the dog’s philosophy: If you can’t eat it, or play with it, just walk away. But not before heisting your leg.

Sticks and stones really not that bad (3/20/2013)

There are a few words that my child knows I will not tolerate being uttered.

Fat. Stupid. Retarded. Hate. Ugly.

There may be a few more, but I can’t remember them offhand. For the most part I usually only hear these offensive words slip out when my child is repeating something he heard.

And one day, he repeated the mother load – all of the words in one paragraph – because he heard another child say all these words describing another child.

“Why are these words so hurtful, Mama?” he asked. “They say sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. But those aren’t kind words.”

How do you explain something to a child, when most adults don’t even get it?

I didn’t know how to tell him some people are insensitive, don’t realize nor care how hurtful the words they say are or think it’s funny to make others feel bad.

And sometimes people are just mean.

I hate the word fat because I have been called that before. It was no great mystery to me that I was a fat kid.

Mama and Granny had the hardest time finding me clothes because of my weeble wobble shape, until Granny announced Sears had a “Pretty Plus” and “Husky” section.

Not exactly words you wanted to see on your size label when you were a 10-year-old girl.

It didn’t help when Granny would holler across the store that she couldn’t find corduroys big enough to fit me. I am pretty sure there was a legal weight limit in the early ’80s for corduroys anyway.

Ugly is in the same word pain family as fat. It’s being hypercritical of someone’s appearance and making fun of something that is purely subjective. I think everyone has their own beauty – something that comes from inside, an inner light – regardless of what they may think they see in a mirror. Their souls make them beautiful. And I have seen people that were traditionally attractive reveal their true selves to be downright unpretty.

Retarded and stupid are just insults when people can’t think of more creative words. Hearing someone label another with these phrases is disgusting and upsetting. I find them particularly reprehensible when they are directed at a person who maybe struggles with learning or emotional disorders. I’ve never heard stupid stated without an undercurrent of negativity. No one likes to be made to feel less than worthy in any capacity.

To say you hate someone is one of the most abhorrent things you can say. Hate’s pretty strong and even as angry and mad as I have been at people -some who probably were worthy of hate – I never could bring myself to say I hate them.

These tomes, these mere words are cruel descriptions that are flung without conscious regard to how they hurt.

Once they are released from our lips, they can never be taken back. And we never know what damage these thoughtless words may leave in their wake.

I can tolerate some swear words better than I can these words. These words make my heart heavy and make me feel icky, especially when they are used to characterize someone.

How would we feel if those words were directed at us?

Use words to describe things, not people.

Wouldn’t it be better to say we hate the circumstances, or that a disease like cancer is too stupid to spread?

Why not try describing people, each other, with kindness and the spirit that we want someone to use when talking about us.

Sticks and stones may break bones and words may never hurt us, but they can leave scars that last a lifetime.

Personally, I’d take the sticks and stones any day.

Middle of a mid-life crisis (3/27/2013)

I think when I turned 40, something happened.

Not to my posterior either – that happened a long time before I hit the big 4-0.

No, whatever the ‘something’ was, it was something more complicated than anything gravity has done to my tater.

I think I had an epiphany.

I reflected back on my life, where I thought I would be at the age of 40, what I would have accomplished, what I would have done. I was sorely disappointed. A lot of the things I had just knew I was going to do I had not even made the first step towards.

Only one thing had happened that I had previously planned on my life itinerary and that was to be a mother; kind of ironic since that happened after a handful of doctors told me it was not going to ever happen.

When had I mapped out this course for my life? I wondered to myself. Oh that’s right, I remembered, when I was an unrealistic 20-something in college, thinking that life was going to go the way I thought it would, not planning for any missteps or bumps along the way.

How did I let all this time slip away unnoticed? What had I done, or not done?

There were definitely a few things that made me frown and think the situations could have been handled differently, but not the way most would think.

The 40-year-old woman was definitely not the same 20-something year old who had dreamed all these dreams of grandeur.

If anything, I like that 20-something me a lot better. She was surer, bolder and more confident than this 40-something was.

The 20-something me didn’t take half the junk the newly 40-year-old me did. She stood up for herself and every underdog that needed defending. This one now barely has the energy to fight traffic. I was so far in the middle of my pity party for one, I was starting to sound like a character Anne Hathaway would play in the musical.

So I wondered what the 20-something me would have done.

For one, she wouldn’t sit around and whine about it. No, that younger generation me detested whining from herself or anyone else. She would have figured out what needed to be done and do it. So I did.

“Mama, I am going back to school.”

“Wonderful! When are you starting law school?” was her reply.

“Not law school,” I began. “That’s your dream; not mine. I’m going to do what I said I was going to do 16 years ago. I’m going to get my PhD in psychology.”

Even though her Kitten wasn’t going to be a lawyer, Mama was supportive.

The only reason she ever thought I should have been an attorney was because she said not only could I argue with her until I won, I could hold my own against Granny, both of us tying up verbally like a bunch of feral cats.

“How long will it take?” Mama asked.

“Two years for my master’s and three to four for the doctorate,” I answered.

“So you’ll be 45 when you get done?”

Math may not be one of Mama’s strengths but she did that one with a quickness. I knew what she was thinking.

That’s a little late to go back to school, start a second career. Maybe it is. It was something I had on my 20-something “To Accomplish” list that I never did.

“The time is going to go by regardless,” I said. “I’d rather be 45 or 46 or even 47 and say I completed my doctorate than say I am that old and haven’t done what I wanted to do with my life.”

Mama’s silence warned me what was coming next. She ticked off all the things she thought I had started or tried, or talked about and then I said “eh” and didn’t follow through with.

I assured her by telling her, yet again, this was the original plan – and I had already registered for my first class.

“Alright,” was all she said.

Surely, I didn’t need her approval for my choice of mid-life crisis did I?

It was like I had it – I know she would be proud of me in whatever I did, but it would be a little more affirming if I had the whoopin’ and the hollerin’.

Then a friend sent me a link to a story a few days later. I skimmed the story briefly, catching the details that a scientist thought we were going to live to be 150 and eventually, 1,000 years old.

I don’t know if I want to live that long. That’s too much wrinkle cream to buy and I don’t want to see how Spanx evolve for a body that old.

Another news site claimed that 75 is the new 30. It used to be 40 is the new 30, but scientists or someone is pushing that age further out. I don’t even know what 40 is considered now.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I am not having a mid-life crisis after all.

Maybe I am revisiting my adolescence which would explain, well, a lot of things. The pimples that come along with wrinkles for one.

Or maybe, it’s just putting me right where I need to be.