Naming the puppy (4/3/2013)

There was an unspoken law at my house growing up for every stray critter that managed to find its way in our yard. Once my uncle Bobby named it, it was ours. If the animal made it to day two without Bobby sticking some name on it, we were safe according to Granny.

Of course, no animal made it beyond a few hours, let alone two days.

When a lab mix showed up in our yard one day, Bobby planned on taking her to the shelter. We didn’t ‘need’ another animal, Granny had told us.

I was already the original crazy cat lady, with double digit felines thanks to having three show up within a matter of months, all three pregnant with half a dozen kittens.

Bobby called the shelter to see what to do if you wanted to bring in a stray that showed up at your house. He was told they would accept her, but if no one claimed her within three days, she would be euthanized.

I was heartbroken – so was Bobby.

In the middle of the night, I heard the little black puppy crying in her crate in the den.

“It’s OK, Queenie,” I heard my uncle say to the dog. That’s all I needed to hear. I knew she wasn’t going anywhere; my Uncle Bobby had already named her.

I know I am a sucker when it comes to anything with fur and four legs. When I was an officer with the humane society, Lamar lived in fear that I would bring home everything I could fit in my car.

I admit, I was tempted on several occasions.

Twice, I have brought home puppies unannounced.

The first time was Pumpkin, the border collie that I adopted from a shelter. This was two months after our oldest Shepherd had died and Lamar was not happy with me. Furious may be a better description. He didn’t speak to me for two weeks. He got over it and Pumpkin is one of the sweetest dogs I have ever had.

The second time was last week.

I had gone by the store to get dog food and saw the SUV at the lower end of the parking lot, tailgate open. A cardboard box sat on the pavement while the lady standing outside of the vehicle held a big ball of black fluffy fur.

“Keep driving,” Mama said. I was on the cell phone with her when I spotted the puppies.

“I am, Mama,” I told her. “I have to get dog food anyway.”

I hurried into the store to get the few things I needed and miraculously got out in record time. After I loaded the trunk, I glanced down the aisle to see if the puppies were still there. They were.

I’ll just look at them, I told myself, in case I hear of anyone who needs a puppy. And they had looked like German Shepherd mix pups on that first glance.

The lady with the fuzzy black puppy saw me and spotted me for the sucker I am; she recognized my car from earlier when I had drove by slowly.

“Free puppies!” the lady said when I rolled the window down.

I commented on how cute the one was she held; it looked like a fluffball on steroids. I didn’t ask to hold it though, I knew better.

“He is a total snuggler too,” she said, giving me the puppy pitch. “So loving, very affectionate. His brother is too,” she pointed to a less fluffy, but equally as adorable black puppy with tan markings. He looked even more like a Shepherd.

“I bet,” I said, but knew I had my out. “They are beautiful. Such a shame you just have boys, my male Shepherd is nearly 14 and I don’t want him getting into Alpha battles with a younger male.”

I was kind of disappointed.

“There was only one female and she’s the runt,” the lady said and almost on cue, her friend reached into the box and pulled her out, this tiny tan with black shadings little puppy. She was the tiniest little thing I have ever seen. We made eye contact instantly.

“Can I hold her?” I asked.

The friend handed her to me through the window, all adorable softness and puppy breathe. The lady with the fluffy puppy was talking to another lady who pulled up to look at the puppies. Her friend had moved back to the tailgate to try to avoid the wind. It was me and maybe a pound of cuddly preciousness.

I knew Lamar would not be happy with me; on the other hand, Cole would be thoroughly delighted.

I had four dogs already – three of them seniors. Our pack was established but should be at the point of not being upset over a little puppy. Besides, my philosophy has always been “what’s one more?”

The puppy cuddled against my chest, looked up at me and sighed.

“I’m going to take her,” I told the friend. “Tell the other lady I said thanks.”

I was going to be divorced, I knew it. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming. Lamar was not happy with me. He’s still not happy about it. I don’t care. He’s mad, but he will get glad again.

Before I got out of the parking lot, she was already mine and I named her Angel.

 

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/11824/

Running with the big dogs (4/10/2013)

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It had been a long time since I had a puppy and I forgot how much work they are. Middle of the night feedings and potty outings, crying incessantly. I think comparing them to a newborn would be reasonable.

I was on night five of no sleep – Angel the parking lot pup would wake me up at 1 a.m., wanting to play after sleeping all day. I was exhausted.

If she wasn’t waking me up to play in the middle of the night, she was having a fit about being in the crate.

“The beagle was easier to train than you,” I mumbled one night at around 2 a.m. A harsh reality, but the truth hurts.

Angel promptly gave me a puppy breath kiss.

I thought I was going to lose my mind. Maybe I was just too old for this. Cole wasn’t this much work as a newborn and heck, let’s face it, thanks to Pampers, a baby doesn’t have to go outside in the dark to potty in the middle of the night.

I was sleep deprived, exhausted and wondering if I had forgotten everything about raising a puppy.

The evil beagle had loved her crate, often seeking its solace when company came over she didn’t like. She even was known to pull the door shut when it was someone she was particularly un-fond of.

But Angel hated the crate, screaming the whole night through. The only time she was not whining, crying and screaming – yes, screaming – was when I put her in the bed with me, only to find her attacking my head initiating play in the early morning hours.

“She’s an angel by day, a little devil by night,” I told Mama. “I haven’t slept in nearly a week, Mama. If it weren’t for venti breve lattes, I would not be able to function.”

Mama didn’t feel much sympathy for me. She thought I had a cute little adorable puppy and should have known better about the fact I would not sleep for a few months.

“Didn’t Pumpkin keep you up?” she asked. “And Pepper?”

“Pumpkin did, until I fell on her in the rain. Pepper surprisingly enough was great at night. She wanted everyone to go to bed and leave her alone.”

Mama had bunked with Pepper before and knew the Evil Beagle meant business about bed time. “Can you put a clock wrapped in a towel in there with her?” Mama suggested.

No, that would not work. Nothing worked.

I had come to dread bedtime. I would have rather squeezed into the crate with her to keep her from crying all night.

Then something miraculously happened on night six.

Angel fell asleep on one of the big dog’s beds, her tiny little body stretched out on the pillow all puppified cuteness.

“Should we wake her?” I asked Cole.

Cole watched her for a quick moment.

“No, let’s leave her there,” he said.

Would she be OK? I wondered. What would she do if she woke up? What would the big dogs do? Would she sleep out there all night?

I went to bed, not sleeping fully, anticipating a puppy whine in the middle of the night.

Nothing.

Until Pumpkin woke me at 5 a.m. letting me know the puppy was ready to go out.

Angel rolled off the doggie bed, tail curled up like a victory flag and weeble wobbled her cute little self to me, so proud she had slept on the pillow all night. Out we went, retreating inside to get some water and breakfast.

And I had something that kind of resembled a nights rest.

When the big dogs were ready to go out, she ran behind them, or she let us know she needed to go out by scratching the mudroom door. It was clear she was already potty trained and even learned how to sit and shake.

The evil beagle barked at her and after Angel ducked behind my feet, she bravely hoisted her tail in the air and approached the hound with triumphant defiance. Her cute approach made Pepper stop barking. It was clear Angel was quite proud of herself.

“How’s Angel doing?” Mama asked later.

I gave her the recap of Angel’s accomplishments, not neglecting to point how smart she is.

“Well, you know what they say, if you can’t run with the big dogs, you gotta stay on the porch,” Mama said, a laugh growing.

At 7 weeks old and probably barely weighing a pound, Angel was not only running with the big dogs she was holding her own. And I, I was finally getting to sleep through the night.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/11856/

The Mama Manifesto (4/17/2013)

Children learn a lot more by what they see us doing than what we tell them. I can tell Cole all day long the things he shouldn’t do, but it’s my example he’s watching. I don’t want him to follow my example, but to be better than I am at this game of life. I started thinking of the things I would want for his guidelines.

My list of things he shouldn’t do is pretty long and full of no’s that hinder more than they help. After much reflection, I decided that is not a fun way to live your life.

So I started to think of how I wanted my child to live his life, things that I wished for him to understand that may make life richer. Or, at the least, the life I want him to lead.

• Be kind to everyone. Those that are particularly hard to be kind to, be even more so. They are usually the ones that need the kindness the most.

• Some days, you need to just goof off and not worry about the ‘to-do’ list. We have things that we have to do – some days, we should do what we want to do.

When we leave this world we aren’t going to think we wished we had done more laundry, but will have wished we had ice cream in the park with our children more.

• Appreciate your family. They may be crazy, and you may wonder what karmic wrong you are paying for by being related to them, but in the end sometimes family is all you have.

And on the other hand, just because someone’s related to you doesn’t mean you will like them.

Chances are, your family will contain a few of the people you will dislike the most. Refer back to the first tenet. They probably need it more than the rest.

• If you have one friend that you can count on, hold on to them.

Friendship is just like any other relationship. You both have to put something into it. You may not always see eye to eye but having a true friend is priceless.

If you have more than one, then you are blessed and if you have more than two you are luckier than you deserve. I am humbly honored to be far luckier than I deserve to be.

• Don’t tell lies. It’s exhausting and you usually get caught. Be honest and be sincere. People may not know when you lie to them, but they will know when you are genuine. And you’ll know when you do both.

• Don’t forget your raisin’ – ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are necessities in life, as are all genteel manners. Doesn’t matter where you’re from, manners will help get you where you are going.

• Eat dessert first. My uncle Bobby used to tell me to eat my hot fudge sundae that came with my kids meal from Dairy Queen before I ate my cheeseburger. He was the first adult that told me to do that.

I asked him why once. His answer, like my uncle, was uncomplicated. “It will melt if you wait and it won’t taste good when it’s melted. Besides, you’re going to eat it anyway so go ahead and eat it first. That way you won’t be full up on the other food.” No wiser man has ever lived.

• Buy the shoes. Or the toy, or whatever it is that you think you absolutely have to have. Seriously. I have regretted not buying a pair of shoes more than I have ever regretted buying a pair. In fact, I don’t think I have ever really regretted buying a pair of shoes ­- even if they didn’t fit, I have always been able to give them to someone who enjoyed them.

My sister-friend Sara Jean exemplified this recently, buying a pair of ruby red heels. They were gifted to me a few weeks later.

“They had Sudie Mae written all over them and I knew they would be yours when I bought them, but I had to wear me a pair of red heels for a day.”

• Last but not least, turn off the T.V. and just talk. You can learn more about life and what’s affecting your child in a 30 minute conversation than you can in a whole day of watching the news or the History channel. Play card games. Listen to music – all different kinds of music from classical to show tunes. But tune into your child and find out what’s going on in their world. If you talk to them when they are young, those teenage conversations will flow a little easier.

I know there’s times I mess up. I know there’s times I lose my patience, and forget the very things I vow I would never do or say. There’s times I even think I am a failure as a parent. But I remind myself of what my lifelong friend Jane told me the day Cole was born: ‘‘Whatever you do, do it out of love and you’ll never go wrong.”

Love has been what has guided me as a parent and maybe if I can pass that on to Cole, the other tenets will all fall into place.

Because maybe, just maybe, love is what it’s all about anyway.

 

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/11874/

Mama in Wonderland (5/1/2013)

One of my biggest pet peeves is someone being late. So why I am constantly late getting my child to school, I have no idea.

I was never late when he was smaller. As soon as I was ready, I could get him ready, fed and then stick him in his car seat, pop the binky-plug in and be on my way.
Now, there’s missing Bakugans and Hexbugs that he cannot step on the playground without, homework to be found, and an inevitable form that he remembered at the last minute that I have to sign.

I am smart enough to read thoroughly any form that my child thrusts in front of me, demanding a signature like I am reviewing a legal document.
I am not blaming Cole by any means.

I honestly think there is a rabbit hole similar to the one in “Alice in Wonderland” that creates some time-space continuum that makes the time from 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. fly by in a blink.

That 30 minute window has the voracious speed that Sunday goes by with when one dreads Monday.

And I am constantly like the White Rabbit, dashing around, watching the clock, exclaiming I am late, I am late, for a very important date!

How am I always late? I wake at 5 a.m., ease into the morning with my extra dark and extra strong coffee.

I get showered, throw curlers in my hair and have even dismissed the sacred rule of letting moisturizer set before I apply foundation.

I glance at the clock and realize it’s 6:45 – time for Cole to wake.

This can take some cajoling.

The tactics of screaming for him to wake up do not work.
Luring him with the scent of cinnamon rolls baking however can help him emerge from the bed.
He gets his bath; I get his clothes ready.

It’s amazing how laundry that was put away a few days before is now MIA.

And if you haven’t matched socks, forget it.

That’s a 10 minute search to find two that match.

By the time I have finally returned to finish getting ready, he’s out of the tub and wanting breakfast.

I forget the important stuff like a glass of milk to go with the cinnamon roll. And did I mention I burned my fingers getting the cinnamon rolls out? Even SuperMom needs an oven mitt.

“Do we have any chocolate syrup to go in the milk?”

“No.”

“Why not? You should never run out of chocolate syrup.”

Point taken.

It’s now 7:04 a.m. and if I had a bottle of chocolate syrup I would probably be main-lining it.

I trip over a dog as I try to go back to finish getting ready.

I apologize and out of guilt, find a dog biscuit for the critter.

I coat my lashes with mascara, poking myself in one eye, and rip the curlers from my hair.

I don’t know what I am going to wear other than jeans and whichever blouse I can find.

I realize there’s something I need in the bathroom but Lamar is already in there.

It’s now 7:37 – where did those minutes go?

Did it really take me that long to do those few things?

“Time to go!”

I call for Cole who has wandered into the bedroom to watch a cartoon.

“Let me get my shoes on!” he says.

Followed by: “Mama, where’s my shoes?”

“Probably wherever you left them!”

“I can’t find them.”

I have to locate two shoes.

One is usually nowhere near where the other one was.

I am still wearing my fuzzy green Angry Bird pig bedroom slippers and a pair of jeans and now my clean black shirt has dog hair on it because I had to get down on my hands and knees and dig under the couch looking for missing shoes.

On a positive note, I found the missing remote to the stereo.

It is now 7:45.

“We’re late!”

I yell to no one in particular as I herd Cole to the car. “Mama, I gotta -“

“No, you don’t. You gotta get in the car and we’ve gotta go.”

“I need my bookbag!” he remembers as he buckles his seat belt in the back seat.
“I’ll get it,” I mutter.

I have forgotten my cell and have to go back in anyway.

“We are so late, we are always so late,” I say under my breath.

“You sound like that character in ‘Alice in Wonderland,'” Cole says from the back seat.

“I feel like that character in ‘Alice in Wonderland,'” I say.

I pull out of the driveway and look at the clock.

It’s now 7:52.

It takes me anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes to get to school, and that doesn’t factor in the stray and random cows that may decide to leave pasture and hang out in the road.
Of course, I get behind some tractor that is on the road. He’s going about 10 miles an hour on a no-pass zone, out for a leisurely little drive at 8 a.m.

By the time I get to school, I have created new cuss words in my head, had two episodes of road rage and need a venti breve latte with a shot of valium.
By the time we get inside the lobby, I smile sheepishly at the sweet ladies in the office.

They probably think I am terrible for always being late but they are always so understanding and kind.

Of course, if I ever get Cole there on time, they may announce it over the loudspeaker.
I sign the tardy sign in sheet.

When I get to reason, instead of putting ‘late’ like the other moms do, I put my variations of the truth: it’s a day that ends in a ‘y’, it’s Monday, couldn’t find my panty girdle.

All things that happen.

All things that make me late.

I wave my goodbye, thankful that at least in this Wonderland, there’s no Queen to behead me for being late.

I would have lost my head a long time ago.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/11978/

Sometimes you’re the windshield,sometimes the bug (5/8/2013)

Everyone has disappointments. It’s a part of life and sometimes those disappointments can offer us many learning experiences.

Or, at least, that’s the little Hallmark-coated lie we tell ourselves after the fact.

We can handle those disappointments a little bit better as adults. We tell ourselves that there’s a reason things happen, and that reason will reveal itself later and we may even be glad in retrospect.

Again – lie.

We justify that for every door that closes, another one opens and choke down some cheesecake and try to not make those disappointments be as a big of a deal as they are.

Another bunch of fat, hairy lies.

“Are you OK?” Mama will ask.

“Yup,” I lie.

Even over the phone, Mama can hear my eyes watering as they do when I try to tell a fib.

“Um hmm. I don’t believe you,” she will say. “What’s wrong?”

I avoid her question. Sometimes you don’t want to tell your mother, even when she’s the only one you can really talk to. Even if she tells me “I told you so” or that I should have done things differently, if I tell her those secret hurts they suddenly become … real.

And mamas will want to do what mamas do best – fix things.

When I was younger, any time something didn’t happen the way I thought it would, Mama jumped to my defense, ready to go to war to vindicate her Kitten.

Things were fixed. It was a conspiracy of X-files proportions.

Did that make me feel any better? Not really; again – lies. That was Mama acting out of anger, trying to make me feel better.

Then one day, I was a lot older, maybe in college even, and something happened. I can’t even remember what it was, but I finally broke down and told Mama.

“Well, Kitten, you can’t win them all. Sometimes, you gotta be the bug.”

“The what?”

“The windshield. Someone’s gotta be the windshield, and someone’s gotta be the bug. Today, it was your turn to be the bug.”

Personally, I didn’t think anyone won in that analogy. The windshield ended up with a big old dead bug splatted on it but apparently being the windshield was the better of the two.

I learned I couldn’t always win them all, or get everything I wanted. No, I am not going to lie and tell you it helped develop some character depth within me, but it did maybe help me clarify what I really wanted.

But being OK with disappointment is all fine and dandy until it’s your child who’s disappointed. Then I know exactly how Mama felt as I react with my own protests of unfairness.

Cole has even learned like I did, to be weary of what he shares. He doesn’t want Mama to unleash the locusts.

That’s not how I really want to handle things with my child. I don’t want to be that parent that every time he doesn’t get his way, I strong arm someone until they cave. I’ve seen parents do that and it’s tacky, not to mention offers nothing for the child.

But here was my child, disappointed and shoulders slumped about something the other day. I was torn – do I inquire and find out what happened, or do I let him handle it on his own? He is just 8; keep in mind, I am 40 and there’s times I wish I could get Mama to handle a few battles or two.

“When he’s 40 and doesn’t like what happened at work, I won’t be able to go talk to the president of the company and complain,” I tried to rationalize my thoughts to Lamar.

“Of course you will,” he whispered. I still heard him.

But I wanted to make sure my child was OK -deep down, in the seat of his soul, that whatever had troubled him, was going to be OK.

When I had the answers I needed, I felt a sense of relief. It wasn’t going to change things, but at least I knew and could maybe help him process things.

“Are you still disappointed about how things worked out?” I asked him later.

He thought for a moment and nodded.

“You know you won’t always necessarily win everything, right? You may not always make the team, you may not always get the award you want – I believe you are capable of doing those things, but I just want you to know there may be times you don’t.”

He nodded, I could tell not liking what he was hearing. I don’t blame him.

“Have you ever not gotten something you wanted, really bad, Mama?” he asked.

“Oh Cole, that’s going to be on my tombstone,” I laughed to myself. “You know what Nennie would tell me when something like this happened?”

He shook his head. “She’d say sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”

“What does that mean exactly?” he asked.

“It means, you are going to be just fine.”

 

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/12070/

The legend of Callahan (5/15/2013)

“Mama, do you like cats?” Cole asked one day. This was shortly after I had brought the latest puppy home a few weeks ago.

“I love cats,” I answered.

“Then why don’t we have one?” he inquired.

“Well, we’ve got the dogs and Roubaix is not exactly cat-friendly.”

Plus, where would we put the litter box? I wondered.

“When’s the last time you had a cat?” Cole asked.

“Years ago. It was Callahan.”

This was an animal I had in my pre-Cole days and he wanted to know all about it.

“Callahan was this little alley cat that I found one day, sitting on the steps outside of the building I worked in. He was the scraggliest cat ever,” I began.

To be honest, there was nothing cute about this scrawny stray tiger-striped kitten. He wasn’t even cuddly. Feral would probably be a closer description.

I had scooped him up and taken him into to where I worked, and was promptly told I couldn’t bring that critter in there. So the ratty looking kitten was taken to a friend of mine’s store a few blocks over to be cat-sat until I got off.

“What is it?” she asked when I handed her the kitten.

“It’s a kitten,” I had replied.

My friend held the creature up and inspected it. “Are you sure? I think this is some kind of alley rat.”

She frowned and found a box for him as she put him in her bathroom, closing the door to keep him secluded.

The ex was not happy when he saw the cat either. Not that I blame him. The reason I had not brought any of my cats from home when we married was because he was supposedly allergic. I had already decided if it came down to this scraggly alley kitten and the then present husband, I was choosing the kitten.

“Why did you bring this god-forsaken thing home?” he asked.

“It needed a home.”

“That thing is not staying in this house and you should not have brought it home without asking. It can go in the shed.” I think he muttered something about how the both of us would be in need of a new residence as he went down the hall. He must have momentarily forgot who buttered his toast each morning.

The kitten spent the night in the shed, which was insulated and air conditioned and actually would have been a perfect little sub-let for the ex to live in. When I checked on him the next morning, he seemed less skittish about being held.

“Don’t let that cat in the house,” I was ordered.

And since being told to do or not do something yields an almost feline-like response from me, I brought the cat inside with me.

“I’m allergic,” the ex reminded me.

“Oh, take an allergy pill and get over it,” I said. “How could this tiny little cat possibly bother anything?” How wrong I would be.

“What are you naming that thing?” he asked, eyeing him with arrogant disdain.

“Callahan,” I announced, sticking my chin out in defiant victory that the snob I was married to acknowledged the addition of the cat. “Dirty Harry Callahan or just Callahan for short.”

The tiger-striped stray lived up to his name, and held a mutual dislike for the ex.

Daily, that cat sought out ways to torment that man.

First, it was simple annoyances, like knocking things off his dresser.

“He gets on your antique sideboard when you’re not here,” the ex told me one day.

“He doesn’t knock anything off.”

“He will.”

“No, he won’t,” I said. “He likes me.”

Truth was, I don’t think the cat liked anyone, but he lived to make the ex’s life miserable.

He knocked one of the ex’s collectible coffee mugs off one night, shattering it to pieces. That thing was never going to be worth more than the $12.99 he paid for it anyway, but you would have thought the cat just broke the Holy Grail.

Callahan loved to sneak into the bedroom where he would climb under the cover and make biscuits on the ex’s posterior.

Callahan was even sneaky enough to plot his attacks for when the ex was in the shower, pulling his litter box over to the very spot where he would step out, head shrouded by a towel. Screams and bad words followed.

I had no sympathy for him.

After the first week of this happening you would think he would have caught on. But the ex didn’t. Nor did he learn to put his toothbrush in the medicine cabinet, which Callahan liked to mark as his territory.

The ex brought Pepper home to me one day, as a compromise, hoping I would concede the cat in order to have the dog. I kept both until Pepper decided Callahan was her personal chew toy and the cat, sneaky and mean as he was, didn’t have the smarts to not get on Pep’s crate with appendages within biting range.

Callahan went to live at a neighbor’s farm where he had a slew of animals and new people to torment as proved by attacking the neighbor’s son when he came to get him.

“So Callahan hated your first husband?” Cole asked.

I shrugged. “The cat didn’t like anyone, baby.”

“Pepper didn’t like him either,” he continued. “And Jackie, you got Jackie while you were married to him too, right?”

Jackie was my grey-pied cockatiel. She loved to use his head for target practice.

“Why didn’t any of your animals like him?” Cole asked.

“Cole, you will find animals and children are usually pretty good judges of character,” was my reply.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/12112/

It truly takes a village (5/22/2013)

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(First day of 3rd grade)

 

“I don’t like change,” Cole said solemnly one day. “I’m like a cat that way.”

No, he doesn’t like change; I really don’t either. Not too many people I know do like change, but change is inevitable.

And change is a-coming.

When he walks out of his school – the school he has attended since kindergarten – this Friday, he won’t be returning in the fall. Third grade will be in a different and new school come August.

He knows this already, we have already been to the open house at his new school. He’s excited and liked the school and the teachers. But like he said, he doesn’t like change. And like I said, I don’t either.

I felt a little bit nostalgic the other day, so I pulled out some photos of Cole from kindergarten. I couldn’t believe how much he had changed, how much he had grown. It pulled at my heartstrings more than a wee bit.

I thought of how much he had evolved and the things he had learned, challenges he had overcome and how he was growing up to be just what I wanted him to be – a kind-hearted, compassionate person. And I also realized that there had been so many other women who have touched my son’s life over the past three years and knew it was going to be hard for both of us to leave them.

I’ve always believed that the truly great teachers were ‘called’ to teach and Cole has been fortunate to have had some ladies that I know must have wings and halos they hang on their nightstands each night.

I thought of how these women had encouraged him, helped him, and celebrated every milestone along the way with the both of us.

I thought of how my shy little boy would come home excited over being picked to have a role in a program. How each one of his teachers brought out different, wonderful traits in my child and nurtured those traits fully.

A few teachers, he had since his first day there. It was going to be hard for him to not see those familiar, smiling faces next year. Even some of the teachers whose class he hadn’t been in knew his name in the hall.

It was going to be hard for me, too. Maybe harder. These precious women had become my allies, my friends. They patiently tolerated my neurotic style of mothering, my questions, my worries and fears. What I was worried about, I am still not sure other than I think I have a child so worry is top of the job description.

I don’t know anyone at the new school, didn’t know any of the teachers – would they understand that I am a chronic worry-wart and a tad bit overprotective? Would I be able to walk Cole in each morning or did they frown over that. Am I going to like the people? Were they going to like me?

Then I realized I hadn’t known anyone when he began kindergarten and it had turned out to be better than I could have thought.

“I’m going to miss my teachers, Mama,” he said again just this weekend. “They’ve been a part of my life and I don’t like saying goodbye.”

I understood. I was going to miss them too. I promised him I would take him back to visit from time to time, so we both could stay in touch with these special people that had come into our lives and for a few short years, been part of this process of learning, life and growing up.

And it occurred to me, in the most beautiful of ways, that it does indeed take a village to raise a child. And both Cole and myself had been all the better for being a part of it.

 

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/12142/

Invoking ‘Julia’ (5/29/2013)

Growing up in the ’80s meant I had the fashion horrors of Reebok hightops with leggings and torn sweatshirts to make me look like Jennifer Beals in ‘Flashdance.’

The ’80s also gave us some of the best sitcoms ever: “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show” and “Designing Women.”

Who couldn’t like “Designing Women?”

It was set in Atlanta and Suzanne Sugarbaker even had a pig named Noel she took to Dairy Queen in her convertible.

“Your mama is just like that mean one,” Granny stated matter-of-factly one day while we watched the program.

“What mean one?” I asked, all teenage chubbiness and side ponytail with my neon green plastic bracelets. “You mean Julia?”

Granny nodded.

“Julia’s not mean,” I said.

Granny rolled her eyes at me.

“She’s mean as a rattler. You can’t see it because she’s just like your mama. And you are just as cussed mean yourself, little ‘un.”

I was maybe 16 when Granny made this proclamation. I think I was far from mean. Fashionably challenged and maybe a smart-mouth, non-car owning teenager, but I wasn’t mean. And neither was Mama.

“Mama’s not mean,” I protested.

“She is too. How many store clerks has she ripped a new one? Just like that Julia Sugarbaker character.”

True. Once I had bought a pretty sundress at a store, but when I got it home, I noticed a hole in the side seam.

Mama took me back to return it the next day, and of course, I couldn’t find the receipt. The store manager told me he would not even let me exchange it without the receipt and my driver’s license, which I didn’t have. I was only 15.

I had gone back to the car and told Mama what the store manager had said. She got out of her car and marched in to the store like she was going to war, not even bothering to put out her Virginia Slim 120.

“You didn’t need her driver’s license when you sold it to her not even 24 hours ago!” she had exclaimed to the store manager, who cowered behind the counter.

The man was a good foot taller than Mama, but Mama’s redheaded Irish had been fired up and she was not backing down.

The man gave me money back and promised me a discount off a future purchase to which Mama told him we’d never darken their door ever again.

I think I snuck in there a few weeks later when they had a sale, but I didn’t tell Mama.

“When your Mama gets on one of her tears, she’s worse than that woman,” Granny continued. “She gets all fired up about something and she tells people off – she don’t even do it right with bad words, she does it all fancy pant-cy with her big words. Just like Julia Sugarbaker.”

Again, true. Mama can shame-face curse you out – making you feel like you’re about as tall as a ladybug when she gets done. Usually it has to do with how you are morally incomprehensibly wrong and asinine.

She’s even been known to throw in a few biblical quotes for added character demoralization.

But from what I had witnessed in my youth, Mama always stood up for what she believed in, she always defended those in her life that were unable to defend themselves and the few times I saw her get really wound up usually involved me or another family member – even that mean old woman who birthed her and was claiming her to be like a TV character Dixie Carter played.

“You’re just like her, too,” Granny repeated, as if that was a bad thing.

“Funny, Mama says I am just like you,” I said.

The thought still makes me shudder.

Mama didn’t care that Granny said she was like Julia Sugarbaker. I think she kind of liked the comparison because Julia was her favorite.

“I think she is just a caricature of the strong, outspoken Southern woman,” Mama declared. “I think that’s what all good characters are – exaggerations of who they truly represent. We all have a little Julia Sugarbaker in us.”

Maybe so.

Granny was right, I do have a tendency to stand up for the underdogs and try to protect those who can’t protect themselves.

But I have not gotten really fired up in a long time. If anything, I feel like my fire has been doused sometimes.

I told Mama one day that I felt like I had taken a lot of bovine waste for long enough but didn’t know how to handle it.

“You know what you need to do?” she asked.

I didn’t have a clue.

“Kitten, you need to invoke that inner Julia – ask yourself what would Julia Sugarbaker do? And you will have your answer.”

Mama, as usual, was absolutely right.

 

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/12194/

For the love of things old (6/5/13)

There is just something about the musty smell of an antique store, seeing the various displays of well-loved, weathered and possibly highly valuable items that were once someone’s prized possessions.

Glassware and dishes are my favorites. I have been forbidden to bring anything else home. I am running out of room and the forbidder will inevitably break it anyway. It doesn’t really stop me. Plus, glassware is in my antique budget.

“Why do we love old stuff so?” Cole asked as he scanned the many cluttered shelves in a store one rainy Saturday afternoon.

“It has more character than new stuff,” was my answer.

“And it wasn’t made in China?” he inquired, checking the mark on the bottom of a plate.

“Right. It wasn’t made in China.”

Cole is my frequent antiquing buddy, willing to spend hours pouring through the various stores, in search of something that catches our fancy. He even knows how much he’s willing to spend on an antique typewriter, telling one antique store owner he has been pricing them and hers was a good price but out of his allowance range.

The first time I ran into an antique store with my child, he was much younger and I thought for sure we would be asked to pay a few hundred bucks for something that had been broken and then asked to leave and never, not ever, return.

Even at 3, he did surprisingly well and the only thing that was broken was by my big purse swinging into a small table of glass. I wasn’t asked to pay, I just had the reproachable glare of a snooty emaciated store clerk who didn’t understand the need to tote a purse big enough to carry a compact car.

“What’s the oldest thing we have?” Cole asked as he continued to look through the store with a keen eye. He loves history and will watch “American Pickers” for hours to see the swag Mike and Frank score.

“Granny.”

My child gave me a disapproving look at my disrespect.

“That’s not nice,” he scolded. “What is the oldest thing we have?”

“My sideboard,” I answered without hesitation.

I am not sure how old it is but it had been my great-grandmother’s, given to her by a neighbor when Granny Fanny’s house burned down as a young mother – the neighbor was going into a nursing home and had been very elderly. We don’t know if it had been in her family before her or if she was the first one to own it. She couldn’t take it with her, so Granny Fanny was the recipient of it.

It had been coated in a thick hideous drab brown paint when Granny brought it home after her mother passed away. That mean old woman had been 93 and had been the owner of the sideboard for probably 60 years at least. This was in the early 1900s, not sure of the exact year.

It sat in our little white house for years, all drab brown and ugly. We only figured it had some worth when Granny’s brother said he’d take it off her hands.

Granny’s oldest brother was one of the craftiest people any of us knew. When he expressed an interest in it, I knew something was up. I told Granny I wanted the old dilapidated thing.

The ex’s father restored it for me as a wedding gift. It took him days to just get the hideous thick drab brown paint off and I am sure he lost a few sinus membranes in the process.

When he finished, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

The original finish underneath the drab brown paint was the most gorgeous deep wood I had seen – I wasn’t sure if it was cherry or mahogany.

One of the doors was still a little bit loose, but like other antiques, it gave the piece character. There was something about knowing that one piece of furniture that had lovingly held a place of prominence where ever I had lived, had once belonged to my great-grandmother.

While I am not one that puts much emphasis on material things – they are just things, after all – there was something solid in knowing that one piece had once been where Granny Fanny sat her cake plate piled high with tea cakes, put out platters of biscuits for everyone before they hit the fields to work or displayed her coconut cake for Sunday dessert.

It had been graciously given to a tough young Fanny as she tried to rebuild her home for her family after a fire had taken just about everything. Instead of it being put in a special room for display, this sideboard served a utilitarian purpose – it was used and enjoyed. It saw the happenings of the families it had been owned by and it had been involved in the day to day lives. Unlike many antiques that are put up on a shelf or on display, it was not made to be looked at; it was made to be used.

“You mean the sideboard you have next to the table?” he asked.

I nodded.

“But Mama, you use that all the time – it’s old. Aren’t you supposed to put stuff like that up where you don’t touch it or use it?”

“No, it’s meant to be used.”

Like all the other precious treasures in our lives, those things are meant to be enjoyed on a daily basis.

 

http://www.dawsonnews.com/archives/12236/

Cole with Piggie 2.0

Cole with Piggie 2.0

His delight was evident when Piggie 2.0 finally arrived in the mail! This is how Piggie originally looked, all those years ago, before he had been well-loved and had battled with the border collie. Piggie 2.0, Piggie, Piggie 52, and all the pigs of Piglandia are all as happy as pigs in mud.

(not sure why the photos won’t post with the pics!)