A mid-life clothing crisis (April 29, 2015)

Slowly, surely, I have been in the process of cleaning out my closet.

I was kind of amazed at the things I used to wear.

Some things were old and outdated – and if they do come back in style, someone should protest.

The best way to describe some of my clothing choices had to have been “trendy” and on “huge markdown rack.”

Some things were too small.

And some things were just bad.

There was a pair of Daisy Duke blue jean shorts I wore at some point.

Why, I don’t know. They didn’t look the least bit flattering.

Several skirts were tossed in the pile that were way too short.

“Did you ever wear these?” Lamar asked, picking up the tiny swaths of clothing.

I did.

Granted, it was when I was much younger and “Ally McBeal” was popular.

There’s no way I would wear them now.

I probably shouldn’t have then, but I was in my mid-to-late 20s and a lot thinner.

That’s my excuse for a lot of my mistakes – I was in my 20s and I was thinner. But age and weight can’t be blamed for everything.

Granny used to get her hackles up about Cher’s outfits, saying how she paraded around nearly naked and she thought that was beyond atrocious.

“If I looked like Cher, I’d probably go around in my undies and fishnet,” Mama said.

At the time, Mama was probably in her early 60s and beginning to get fluffy.

Granny had snorted at us and declared it just deplorable, for a grown woman to go around nearly naked.

“Her and Madonna – always gotta be showing something,” Granny had declared. “It’s disgusting.”

I saw Madonna on the cover of a magazine the other day. She had on a corset and pantyhose. I think she’s 56. She still looks good. If I looked like her, I’d maybe hope someone would put me on the cover of a magazine.

Does that mean she should be wearing her unmentionables for all to see?

Maybe not. But she is a celebrity.

Her livelihood depends on her being a tad bit over the top.

Granny would say she was 56 and needed to start dressing more respectable.

At what point do we as women say we are too old to wear some things?

I mean, I am not Madonna but some things just do not need to be worn in public regardless of age.

I used to think if it fit, it was fine. As I have gotten older, I’ve learned being able to squeeze into something didn’t mean it should be worn.

Not just to spare the eyes of the general populous either; have you ever been impaled by a too-tight pair of jeans? No one needs to witness that.

Some of my clothes no longer fit and even if I got back that size, I had enough self-respect to not wear them.

Like the cow-print suede skirt I don’t know what to do with – why did I even buy that?

But here I am, in my early 40s and I am wondering what I should be wearing.

I’ve traded in those short skirts for jeans and leggings, and instead of a fitted blouse, I prefer layered, soft t-shirts.

The softer the better. I am scared that comfort is now a factor in clothing purchases.

I am not sure if jeans and leggings are age appropriate, but that’s what I am wearing. And before someone tells me leggings are not britches, they are worn under a tunic.

I am not in a world that wears suits or hose anymore, so I can dress pretty much like a grown up five-year-old, minus the matching Garanimal characters.

I’ve seen some women who tried to dress way younger than their years, with mini-skirts, cowboy boots and tank tops. I didn’t know what to think of the grandma I saw wearing her ensemble other than she must have tremendous confidence.

Not every grandmother’s wardrobe requirements includes elastic waistbands like my Mama’s, just like not everyone is Madonna.

But trying to know what to wear is such a challenge for women after they reach some unknown age-post grad, post-baby, and pre-nursing home. We never know if we are showing too much, trying too hard, or just in general looking like a bunch of floozies.

It is a fine line we have to walk. Trying to look respectable, feminine and stylish.

If you shop in the ‘junior’ sporting wear, you spend most of your life at the gym and half naked; if you shop in ‘misses’ you want to audition as Dorothy in a remake of “The Golden Girls.”

We don’t know whether to be June Cleaver with our pearls or Madonna with whatever she is barely wearing.

No matter what we wear, someone has something to say. We may not be on the cover of a magazine but we’ve all got our critics.

By the time I get done, I should have plenty of closet space.

And time to figure out my middle-aged dress code.


The Young Entrepreneur (4/22/2015)

My earliest job was before I even started kindergarten, with my Pop teaching me how to write so I could hand write his invoices. I was paid a whole dollar a week and I am sure the weekly trips to the store for candy were included in my wages.

By the time I had graduated high school, my resume was quite lengthy.

My jobs had ranged from working in retail — where I lied about my age and bought so many clothes that Mama somehow still had to give me money — to being such a terrible waitress, the owner of the restaurant actually paid me when I told her I was quitting and told me not to worry about working a notice.

There was a brief stint as a cashier at the Piggly Wiggly one summer, where I am not even sure if I worked long enough to get paid. It had nothing to do with my work ethic and everything to do with the fact my friend, who was my ride, ceremoniously quit one day.

Lamar’s early work history was as lengthy as mine, but far more dangerous. He lied about his age, too, when he was 15, but it was to hang steel not hanging dresses at Cato.

Given the fact we both had our share of yucky jobs, one of the things we have preached to Cole is to figure out a career path early on.

Mine may have been straighter had I listened to Mama. Don’t tell her that; I am still getting law school brochures I never requested.

Lamar tells Cole to always use his brain and not his back. Cole listens intently to his father’s advice, nodding his affirmation that he will use his brain.

“Follow your bliss and you never work a day in your life,” is my advice.

“Where did your bliss get you?” Cole asked.

Good grief, I muttered under my breath.

Why does this child have to analyze everything?

So far, I am waiting for my bliss to find a clear path but it hasn’t happened.

I lied and told Cole bliss is also the journey and the experience that can lead you to several other great opportunities.

He soaked that all in until he said: “So, what you’re saying is, you haven’t found bliss yet, right?”

Not yet.

The last few weeks, Cole had been trying to decide between a basketball hoop and a new bike. After he broke down the price with his allowance, he announced he would be 12 before he got either one. “I need more allowance,” he said.

“You can always do more stuff around here,” I offered. “If you want to do some more chores, we don’t mind giving you more allowance.”

“How much more?” he asked.

“Well, it depends on what you do.”

“What will I need to do to get about $100?” he asked sincerely.

That would be a lot of dishes, dusting and other miscellaneous duties he would have to do. And I would need a part time job to pay him for the extra chores.

“I need a job,” he stated.

Off to his room he went.

After a while, he emerged, sign in hand which stated: “The Pig Shack Is Open For Business – With Prices so Low, Pigs go Mad.”

The Pig Shack has had many variations over the years – it began a few years ago as a café, where Cole posted a menu of peanut butter sandwiches and lemonade, but soon realized restaurants were tricky ventures. And we were out of peanut butter and lemonade.

The next incarnation of The Pig Shack was a thrift store, where Cole offered his toys, Pokemon cards and other assorted items for sale. The kicker was, he wanted us to pay for them and then give them back to him afterwards.

The Pig Shack had a good run as a friendship bracelet store a few summers ago, when those plastic band bracelets were in style.

I told Cole he was following the trend but the coupons he gave us for free products ate heavily into any profit. And those plastic bands were not cheap and guess who the supplier was?

The Pig Shack has even been an art museum, where Cole would display his art work.

“Are you re-opening The Pig Shack?” I asked, giving a nod to the sign.

“Kind of,” he replied. “I think I have a solid slogan, I just need to build on this concept.”

“What did you have in mind?”

Cole stood in front of me, poised to deliver a speech.

“I think I am ready to open up The Pig Shack for investors. My biggest problem in the past has been not having enough fundage to support my efforts. I can’t do it on my allowance alone, and let’s face it, Mama, The Pig Shack could have a worldwide fan base – if I had the right backing.

“So, I am hoping you and Daddy will invest in The Pig Shack and help me expand into maybe a bigger area. You know, beyond home. And I think I will need some marketing and advertising, so I will need a budget for that. I also need more merchandise to sell, which takes money.

So, I am opening up The Pig Shack for investors.”

Where he came up with this, I do not know. But I was impressed.

“What will my percentage of the business be?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, if I give you money, how much of The Pig Shack will be mine?”

He hadn’t thought about this. He wanted money; not people to have their fingers in his pie.

“I thought you would just give me money….” he began.

“I understand what you thought, but, if you have investors, they need something in return.”

He considered this. “What’s it called if I just take your money?”

“It’s called ‘being a child.'”

“Then let’s stick with that for now,” he said. “I can begin my corporate expansion after I finish being a child.”

Like other great entrepreneurs before him, my child had a goal in mind; he just needed to find someone to put up the money for him first.


face full of cole

Meeting my match (4/15/2015)

Granny cursed me once.

In a moment of fire and brimstone fury, she locked her jaw, bulged out her eyeball at me and declared, “One day, you will have a little girl just like you!” she bellowed. “Hopefully, there’ll be 10 of ‘em – just to show you a thing or two!”

I was maybe 12 at the time and undoubtedly, I had angered the old gal to no end, which was an easy task given an off-course wind could infuriate her.

I was not entirely sure what I had done, but I am sure it was one of two possible transgressions. 1. I had back-talked Granny and Granny considered anything less than total agreement with her to be a sign of defiance, betrayal and family treason.

2. I had not done something she had told me to do, which was also considered a biological treason.

Either one could invoke her ire and wrath.

Given the velocity of her malediction, it may have been a combo of both.

Those words stayed with me throughout the rest of my young adulthood, as I lived in fear of what she proclaimed would maybe happen. So I tried to be a good girl. I did.

I tried to watch my sassy mouth, too, because usually, it was my mouth that got me in trouble. All I knew, the old gal had cursed me and I must have been a dreadful, awful monster if she wanted me to have 10 just like me.

I lived with this cloud hanging over my head through my early adulthood. When I was told at age 30 I couldn’t have kids, I was terribly heartbroken but momentarily wondered – had I avoided some terrible curse?

Medical science was proved wrong, and I thought I had dodged some Granny-sized bullet when I had Cole.

Little boys love their mama’s, and usually don’t have quite the drama little girls can have.

I remembered my own drama and angst. In hindsight, it was nothing. During the time of occurrence, it was enough to fill at least five different shows on the WB.

Besides, Granny had cursed me with girls – she made no mention of boys.

I had been coated in Teflon and shrouded in Kevlar.

Let me preface this by saying, Cole is an exceptionally good child. He is well-behaved. He is polite. He is tenderhearted and compassionate.

We even called the year he was two “terrific” instead of “terrible.”

Cole is sweet, like his father.
Lamar is a genuinely sweet and kind person. He may have a mean bone somewhere in his skeletal makeup that is well hidden by the fact he seldom speaks, but I think after a dozen years it would have surfaced.

But like me, Cole is stubborn and will argue his point until he feels satisfied he has been heard.

He can be quite the tenacious little taskmaster.

He will over-talk me to the point I forget he is just 10.

“Cole, you need to stop talking and listen for a change,” I reprimand him.

A look of fleeting defiance flashes across his face.

“You need to try listening for a change, too, Mama,” he said. “I am trying to explain to you but you are the one not listening.”

“And I was telling you the reason you aren’t. It is not up for discussion.”

He stammers and starts, spurts and tries to find verbal footing in the war field between us.

“Stop,” I caution him. “Just stop.”

His little chin goes up and he looks me in the eyes: “No, I won’t.”

He doesn’t, either.

He gets something stuck in his craw and he won’t let it go.

Our latest battles have included how he wants to get a go-cart, which I am against.

The worst part is, he doesn’t just defiantly argue with me, tossing demands and declarations at me – no, this child of mine has researched and Googled everything there is to support his position on the case.

He has to have the last word and he is never, not ever, wrong.

He can wear me out to the point there have been times I say: “Just go see what your Daddy says.”

I told Mama about Granny’s curse, something she was not aware of at the time.

“Granny cursed you?” she was appalled to hear this but not necessarily surprised. The old gal’s wrath could and usually included immediate family.

“She did. She said she hoped I had 10 little girls just like me – because you know I was pretty much the devil incarnate according to her.”

“She only thought you were bad when you stood up to her,” Mama said. “And you both are so stubborn and headstrong and had to be right -I am surprised the two of you didn’t implode just being in the same room together. I don’t think there is or was anything wrong with the way you were.”

Mama didn’t say, however, that 10 little girls just like me would be a blessing.

She probably knew that would be quite too much sassy mouthness to deal with.

To give herself a reprieve, Mama asked how Cole was doing.

“He is mad at me right now,” I told her.

“He’s not really mad at you; he’s crazy about his Mama.”

True, he is. But this time, he wasn’t calling me his “sweet girl.”

He had been shoving an opened lap top in front of my face to show me charts, websites and other substantiated evidence to support his claims.

Mama started a slow giggle that erupted into a full blown wheeze.

I frowned. I didn’t find it funny that my child was being what Granny would have deemed disrespectful and told him to go pick out his own hickory.

“You don’t even see it, do you?” Mama asked between her gasps for air.


The wheezing sounded like a gale force hurricane.

“You may not have had the 10 little girls; you didn’t have to,” she said. “You met your match in one little boy.”


some assembly required

Some assembly required (4/8/2015)

IKEA, I will never darken your doors. Never, not ever.

In fact, if I bring home anything else that has instructions in the box, I may be divorced.

It all started years ago shortly after we married, I decided I had to have a baker’s rack and brought it home for Lamar to put together.

Lamar, who had a nasty case of road rash following a bicycle crash two days after we married, loaded the thing up and took it back to the store and swapped it out for one that was already put together.

Considering how painful it was to put on britches just to go in the store, he displayed his distaste for products requiring assembly.

“Don’t go buying cheap furniture that has to be put together,” he has said.

He’s a man of few words so for him to make such a proclamation was a pretty big feat.

I ignored it, of course, and brought in a few things that have required power tools. He has not been too happy with me, either, but has obliged, giving me a heavy sigh and a hairy eyeball all the while.

What can I say? I live in a small cabin with little storage and a lot of stuff.

I decided I needed one of those corner shelf thingies to go in the shower to hold my extra shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deep hair conditioner, extra soap, soap that smells good, soap that cleans well, soap to soften, soap to moisturize, shaving cream for sensitive skin, shaving cream for irritated skin, shaving cream that smells like flowers, and shaving cream that has some kind of chemical to keep me from shaving my legs every day.

Like I said. I have a lot of stuff.

We wandered around Bed, Bath, and Beyond for 40 minutes, looking at all the possibilities.

I found a corner shelf thingy and was deciding which finish I wanted when my dreams were ceremoniously dashed.

The corner shelf thiny needed to be put together and was $49.99.

“For 50 bucks, that thing better wash my back,” I muttered.

“I got an idea that will save you a bunch of money,” Lamar said.

“What?” I wanted to know.

“You quit putting so much junk in the shower. No one needs that much shampoo, conditioner and all that other junk that ends up falling on my head. Just put one bottle of shampoo, one conditioner, one bar of soap-and do you really need body wash if you have soap? Just leave all that stuff outta there and you won’t need a corner shelf thingy and I won’t have to put one together.”

Did I really need body wash if I had soap? What in the world was wrong with this man? Was he out of his ever loving mind? Did he not know that you washed with the soap first to get clean, then you used the body wash to make your skin soft and luxurious and smell good? How could he even suggest I not have soap and body wash in the shower?

Lamar had a near death experience then and there in Bed, Bath and Beyond and didn’t even know it.

“I want a corner shower thingy and I am going to get one,” I declared.

Maybe not a $50 one, but I was going to get one.

Finally, weeks later, I remembered my declaration in Walmart. I found one with four shelves that seemed big enough to put all my shower goodness in for $19.99.

Yes, it needed to be put together, but for $19.99, it was a bit more reasonable.

Lamar groaned when he saw what was in the buggy.

“Don’t get something I am gonna have to put together,” he pleaded.

“I will put it together myself,” I said resolutely.

I could.

I was able to figure out some stuff, surely I could figure out a shower corner shelf thingy.

But I couldn’t.

I dumped the contents into the floor and studied the instructions.

For some reason, the pictures labeled the pieces, but the items themselves were not labeled. Nothing matched up on the instructions either. The instructions didn’t make any kind of sense and I am pretty sure they were in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Lamar watched me from the couch, silently, then turned up the volume of some documentary to drown out the clanging metal sounds.

I thought I had managed to put it together, until Cole asked me what I was supposed to do with the two pieces lying to the left of me.

I realized I had the shelves on wrong and the pole was upside down. How did I do that?

“There should be a pole in it with a spring so you can fit against the tub and ceiling,” Lamar advised from the couch.

I am not sure if he was amused, felt sorry for me or was just glad he wasn’t sitting amongst 57 pieces of cheaply produced metal.

“This one maybe?” I asked, holding up a piece with something loose rolling around inside of it.

He said nothing, just frowned and turned back to his history documentary, because finding out about the downfall of a civilization is far more important than helping put together a corner shelf thingy.

“Maybe it will fit anyway, without the springy pole,” I said.

I wasn’t too sure, but wasn’t about to ask him to help when he had invoked an embargo on putting stuff together.

I was defeated and felt pretty pitiful, being bested by something that proclaimed “easy to assemble” in big, bold letters on the front.

“I will finish it for you tomorrow,” he said, not even looking up from his program.

But the next day, Lamar met the same frustration I had.

“Last night you had leftover pieces, today, I don’t have enough!” he said.

He told me there were supposed to be some whatchamacallits that were not included, too.

I decided to just take it back.

Maybe Lamar was right and I could make do with one shampoo and one conditioner in the shower. Or just one shaving cream.

When out antiquing – I did have $19.99 plus tax burning a hole in my pocket – I found a cute little table I could use in the bedroom. I texted Lamar. “Should I get it?” I asked.

Minutes passed. I knew he wouldn’t care – especially if he didn’t have to refinish it. But maybe he was mad at me for the corner shelf thingy after all.

“Do I have to put it together?” was his reply.


“Get it. Get everything you want as long as it does not have to be put together!”

Finally – a win-win for both of us – and no assembly required!


settle for more

Settle for More (April 1, 2015)

A friend and I were chatting one night, catching up on things and the conversation turned to our usual wistful, wishful discussion of how life was really going.

You know, the real conversation that occurs when we get beyond the superficial stuff.

And once we had the stuff about our hair, makeup, latest diet out of the way, we got down to the nitty gritty.

“How are you? Really?” we asked each other.

When you’ve been friends a while you know there are often things that go unsaid.

“I just thought,” she began, “I don’t know…that life would somehow be….”

Her voice trailed off.

I understood exactly what she meant.

Different. She thought by the time she hit 40, life would be different.

More settled, more secure.

More exciting, more fabulous.

I had thought so myself.

In fact, when I was younger, I thought by the time I hit my 40’s – which, when I was younger, I thought was some ancient age – I would have acquired all the success I could handle and would be sitting somewhere, content with life.

No, I wasn’t drinking, either. I was in my late teens when I had this delusion.

A professor once told me frustration is when our expectations and our realities are not jelling.

If that is the case, consider me frustrated.

Make that a lot of us.

When I graduated college, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do.

I was going to do great things, set the world on fire.

I see that hope, inspiration, motivation in young people now when they graduate, thinking it will be them that change the world.

But life happens.

Not that life is bad.

It’s not – life has a wonderful, beautiful way of putting us where we need to be sometimes.

It’s just that somehow along the journey, we realize we get off track towards our hopes and dreams.

Those things we thought we’d achieve, do, accomplish – the great American novel, the rock n’ roll album, the wild, crazy dreams – never get fulfilled.

And we settle for things that are far less than those dreams.

We settle for jobs that pay the bills instead of feed our souls.

We settle for situations that really don’t make us happy.

We settle for lives of quiet desperation, fueled by unfulfilled dreams that leave us yearning for things we think are so out of reach.

The great secret, I told my friend, was that really no one’s life has gone the way they wanted – for the most part, anyway. There may be a few that did but more than likely, they all had something that wasn’t perfect, some area of their life that didn’t turn out quite how they wanted.

“And that doesn’t mean life is bad,” I reminded her. “It just means that sometimes, we get sidetracked from our dreams. We stop focusing on what we want, and we just…”

“Settle,” we said in unison.

Someone posed the question in a group over the weekend: “What would you like to change about your life?”

I thought long and hard before I responded.

Other than having some issues with forgiveness or my inability thereof, I wouldn’t change anything.

Sure, there were mistakes. I learned from them.

Yes, there were opportunities I didn’t take that would have been really, really incredible – and would have maybe given something more substantial towards retirement than the $1.75 I have lingering somewhere.

And sure, a lot the experiences and circumstances brought heart ache, disappointment, and made me feel devastated. They didn’t all get me closer to my dreams, or even put that much money in my bank account.

But they all made me me.

Just like the detours and experiences in my friend’s life had made her beautifully her.

We had grown up and thought we deserved the mediocre jobs and the fake relationships.

We thought we deserved to be talked to harshly and treated poorly and even worse, thought it was okay.

“So how do we change this?” she asked. We both were out of wine and the conversation had gotten far more serious than Malbec can handle.

“We settle again,” I said, hearing her sigh. “But this time, we settle for more.”

We start acting like we do deserve better and go after it with the same optimism and foolish belief we can do anything we set our minds to. We take the life we have, and we make it the very best it can be.

Because just because life doesn’t turn into the fairy tale we thought it would be, doesn’t mean it is still not something amazing.