Friday, December 30, 2011

Destinations Unknown

I’m considering running to the hills the first time I hear “New Year’s Resolution.” I’m a non-believer of the New Year’s Resolution, or NYR, as I’ve never really known anyone who succeeded in completing a resolution. If you’re out there somewhere, my hat’s off to you. I myself have never achieved the NYR. Oh, I’ve made plenty of them, but they never seemed to happen within the year I make them.

The year I resolved to go to Spain and actually had my passport renewed, our son arrived. Spain hit the back burner but that’s okay. My son is more vibrant than Catalonia's sky, and maybe I can make the trip with both my children one day. I won’t count the years, yes, plural, that I vowed to lose weight. The last time I made that resolution I spent five months of the year on steroids. Bet ya can’t guess what that does to a waist line. I’ve vowed to get my house in order, only to realize that’s impossible with a teen and a toddler. I promised to write more, only to discover Facebook. I promised to quit smoking only to get scared enough to stop nowhere near the New Year. Honestly, I think resolutions are a great concept, but the reality is that we resolve to do something when we are finally committed to reach a goal.

For some, the NYR is a possible target, for others, a pipe dream, for me? I’m going to try something new. I think that this year I’m going to work on waking up every day (beats the alternative) with a decent attitude. I’m going to try to be the best me I can and to make decisions based on what is best for me and my family. When I fall down or fall short (and you can bet I will), I promise not to beat myself up and that I will treat myself as my friends treat me. Oh they’ll tell me when I mess up, but they lift me up and get me back on the road, loving unconditionally. It’s not so much a resolution that I’m working on, as it is a way of life. May we all find what we need, appreciate what we have, travel the unknown enjoying the destination, and may we all have a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Past, or Present?

I’m not standing in judgment, I just don’t understand.  Yesterday I went for a drive and the sad sight of a lone Christmas tree, stripped of its decorations and lights, lay abandoned on the side of the road. It was only one day after Christmas. I understand that some trees are a bona-fide fire hazard by the 26th, and they need to be removed for the sake of safety alone. Some people are going out of town and don’t want to deal with the removal after their return. There are many good reasons to take the decorations down early, but every year? What I’m talking about are the “serial-day-after-Christmas-decoration- removal-individuals.” They take the decorations down immediately because “Christmas is over.”

‘Cuse me? Oy vey! It doesn’t matter what faith you come from, believe in, or don’t believe in, but if you “participate” or believe, why short change the event? For me there is nothing sadder than celebrating because everyone else does, or giving just because of the gifts. It’s a lack of perspective that gets me. Christmas is more than just one day. Sure, if we’re going to be accurate, the birth of Christ wasn’t even December 25th, but that is the day chosen to celebrate the anniversary of Christ’s birth, and it’s also called the “Christmas Season.” The wise men didn’t arrive five minutes after the birth with presents, it took a few days, hence Little Christmas, or Epiphany, which falls on January 6th. I could go on and on, but the point is, have we really become so commercial that we believe Christmas is only one day?

When you get right down to it, we decorate for ourselves because it makes us feel good to see that special glow, the twinkling of lights and the bright reds and greens in the middle of winter. The manger scene reminds us, as does the star or angel atop the Christmas tree, and sometimes it’s good to be reminded of what is important. To celebrate Christmas I guess you really don’t need the decorations at all, and yet there is a part of me that thinks putting away the manger and the lights the day after Christmas would be like taking down a menorah after the second day of Chanukah.

Friday, December 23, 2011

We Three Kings of the Household Are

Quiz for you, because I know everyone who isn't a teacher or student is missing school:
What are my most frequently repeated four words over the holidays?

A) Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays
B) Do you gift wrap?
C) Oh, you shouldn't have!
D) I'm NOT your maid!

For every Mom out there who chose D...we have a winner! Unfortunately, I have no gifts other than a chuckle at the shared experience. I started tinkering in my mind (dangerous, always) with the lyrics to We Three Kings of the Household last holiday season.

It helps with my sanity when I insert humor where I could insert anger. And really something about the holidays lend themselves to such intense emotions. We miss ones who are no longer with us, and we miss the relatives that we can't be with. We see commercials which promise the perfect holiday experience if we shop at their store, brew their coffee, buy their overpriced car...suddenly we'll have perfectly coiffed families in matching pajamas who, well, you get the picture already...

The reality is that I have little red balls on the floor where the cat, Elvis, managed to unstring part of the garland on the fake tree. Getting the teens out of bed isn't a long as I don't try to. And hubby actually told me that he and the boys prefer our home to going to a resort. All their electronics are here and they think it's very comfortable. To which I shot back with, "Well, I've always found locations that offer meal, laundry and concierge service to be quite enjoyable, too so I can see why you three love it here." See why a woman who can't hold a tune, hums her own song??

And yet, I took a bunch of old movies and had them converted to DVD's for my parents for their Christmas present this year. Of course there were Christmases from my childhood. As my parents and I sat there watching them,  they could remember buying the toy bazooka that my older brother got from the PX at Fort Bragg and my adorable robe came from Belk's. My baby brother and his son could trade places in a time travel scenario and no one would be able to tell who was who. Christmases of times past are perfectly preserved and so precious. I don't remember the arguments or frustrations, but I remember the excitement, the thrill, the food, and the love.

So in a few minutes, I'll start my chicken for my version of Momma's homemade chicken salad. Oh, and I need to let the sticks of butter start coming to room temperature for the cookies. And while all of that is going on, how about some homemade french toast, and the laundry room is right here so I might as well start a load of clothes...because no matter what the frustrations are - family, family, love, love...Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Over the River, and Through the Woods to Wal Mart

It's 4 in the morning...and why do I start off sounding like a country music song? Well, because it's the holidays and here I sit finishing off another trip to the relatives. I can't help but wonder if Prince William and his Duchess will have some of the following conversations this Christmas:
"Please can we leave? Why can't your family ever buy a NEW piece of furniture? These 400 year old beds are killing my back. And just what am I supposed to buy for your grandmother? The woman has EVERYTHING. And can you tell your stepmother to stop glaring at me. I did NOT steal the tiara she wanted. I can't help it if your grandmother likes me better."
Or maybe the Prince will have his say:
"What do you mean I have to share a bathroom? If we go to my family's house, no one has to share a bathroom. Does your father really think I'm going to help out the family business? I've got enough problems with my own family business. Has he noticed the mess my father made of things?"

Hubby and I and the teen sons have been to both sides of the family so far. Not an easy task since three states are involved- the one we live in, and the two different ones they live in. So far the trips have involved sick relatives (his father, my mother and father), whiny teenagers (yes, the world revolves around you, my darlings), the realization that the transmission was messing up on my one year old car, juggling the logistics of high school marching band commitments, and our 20th anniversary was in there somewhere.

On our anniversary (which was the day before Thanksgiving), we traveled to relatives. Therefore our possibilities for celebration were somewhat limited. As the evening progressed, I found myself walking through the Wal Mart parking lot. At that point, my somewhat warped sense of humor once again surfaced, and the following conversation truly did take place:
Me (in a thick Southern drawl, my only truly good mimicking skill): "Honeeee, you sure 'nuff know how to treat a girl right on her anniversary. So far I've been to the Applebee's, the nursing home, and now I get to go to Wal Mart. I feel truly blessed."
Hubby: (in a similar drawl) "We're honorin' our heritage, babee."

Of course, we both cracked up, and now we have a new tag line. See I figured out years ago what I needed to get me through the holidays, so here's my list:

Girlfriends (it's ever so much better to share your complaints with like minded individuals)
Sense of humor (while sharing, find the humor in the adventure)
Enjoy the holiday treats
And don't say yes if you don't WANT to do it (see Martha Stewart Don't Live Here No More, I don't decorate or do it unless I want to - that's been a hard lesson to learn and absorb - still sorta a work in progress)

So how do you cope with the holidays? Got someone you call or text? A favorite treat? 'Cause it's awful hard to sleep on these 400 year old beds...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Naughty or Nice?

Christmas is the time of cheer and merriment. This past Saturday we stood and watched our town's Christmas parade, patiently waiting for our daughter's float to pass by us. She was number 83, a long way at the back, and I was suffering from the-morning-after-the-night-before syndrome. The noise of the parade's vehicles was louder than a sonic boom, or so it felt. It was fun, even in my delicate state. As the parade unfolded, I did however get somewhat perplexed. Never before in my life would I have thought I would see high school marching bands and toddler gymnasts marching and tumbling in between, wait for it, two Adam and Eve (let's get naughty) vans and one huge jail, complete with external toilet, advertising bail bonds. I think naughty and nice really did meet on our tarmac this year, and I am not sure I agree, but that is Christmas.

With this said, I got to thinking. I wrote in the new issue of 4Gaby about seasonal memories (, Evelyn wrote a great version of We Three Kings of Orient Are ( and they both gave me a good idea. Let's be naughty ourselves and create a new version of the twelve Days of Christmas.

The original, if you recall, counts down the twelve days by listing gifts by the true love (a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four colly birds, five gold rings, six geese a laying, seven swans a swimming, eight maids a milking, nine ladies dancing, and ten drummers drumming). So let's base ours on some of the more debatable gifts given to ourselves.

I will start with the first day and then I am looking to you, dear readers, to follow. Let's see if we can fill our song by Friday. Don't be shy and don't worry if someone else fills a slot you wanted, just tell us anyway. 



Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Taking my Lumps as They Come

By Sheilah

Sitting in the Presby Medical Tower uptown Charlotte, waiting to be called in for my re-do of the mammogram, or whatever it is they plan to do to me today. I haven’t the faintest idea, just got the dreaded call back after my mammogram last week: “The doctors haven’t finished reading your results, but we need you to come in.” No recourse, no but I have fibrocystic (aka lumpy naturally) breasts, I don’t have a family history, blah blah blah. They don’t care.

Only had to wait a week for my appointment, and then find the darn place in uptown. It just happens to be the hospital next to the cancer center. Great. No deodorant—that’s the only preparation they tell you. No messing up our machines is how I read that instruction. So here I sit, slightly malodorous, in this onerous duty of responding to doctors. Wondering why oh why did I schedule such a gram during holiday time. Also had my yearly cardiologist appointment last week, and they called back too. At least I think that one is a normal call back to interpret the same ole results.

I’m not too afraid, but you never know, this much I do know. This time they will send the doctor right in. Staring at the ceiling with the one can light in the room shining on my face, the monitor beside me, I recall the many ceilings I’ve faced. Too many tests, too many misdiagnoses. Another reason not to worry. A quick ultrasound reveals a big empty cyst, nothing to worry about. “Do you all validate parking?” There’s nothing else to say. Thank you. The teardrop-shaped cyst says something, something like, nobody deserves this, and yet design intent overcomes us.

Yes, hormonal changes that come with aging can change your fibrocystic breasts. Same time next year (well, I think I’ll push it to January). So I’ll take my breasts, lumps and all and cherish them and get the heck out of here. I wish you the same luck: a boring mammogram, an empty cyst, a tear that never drops. God bless us all with more health than we suspect.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No Running in the Biltmore House

By Sheilah

Another year, another volunteer for anything and everything. Just got back from the all-day field trip to the Biltmore House. Rain, fog, 4 hours on the interstate. Oh joy. The kids were little charms, but I wasn’t. They had to be. The tour guide kept them, kept us all, in line. In a strict line, bellying up to the velvet rope so the other visitors with their lovely ear buds and self-guided tour could linger, listen, maybe even learn something in a leisurely way. Not us, no, we were ushered through with a 30-second spiel on each room and then outta there. Why not let the boys linger and lovingly stare at the library’s ceiling with its nudes? It was some great art, and they would have learned something I bet. And I want to hear more about the secret rooms; better yet, let us tour them. I mean at $40 bucks a pop plus the gas and time and multi coffees, give me a second here.

Too much to ask. It’s a public school field trip, on chartered buses, and there is no time. Rules rules rules. I hear in the old days parents packed their paneled wagons with as many kids could stack on top of each other and drove them across county lines without fear of liability. Imagine that. Probably stuffed them full of homemade goodies chock full of nuts and other allergens, and no epi pin in sight. The horror. Now the rules, since 9/11 I hear, mean a bus must be chartered, for insurance sake, if the trip is long. And no parents may ride, and no parents may follow the bus closely, and no parents can bring snacks, and no parents can enjoy it at all.

I’m sorry, but I had to work late last night, and 4-5 hours of sleep will kill a person easily. Charles Kuralt. Diane Sawyer’s probably next. It’s been established that too few hours of sleep will do you in. And it’s not good on field trip days when you can’t just jump in the car in your pjs and deposit son at school. No, you must shower and drive 2 hours, avoiding the 2 charter buses at all times. Through the rain and fog, up the mountain. Smile. You’re not a room mom this year, but you look like one.

Last year’s trip to the zoo was more fun. Let’s face it, I always get 4 boys to keep track of, because I have a son. And 4 boys is a zoo. So add 4 boys to a zoo, and you really get something resembling a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there. By mid-day through that trip, I’d put my hand up to one kid, as in, “Speak to the hand.” I was afraid I’d say something snotty. He deserved it. But at least they ran and lingered and enjoyed themselves. Why in the world take four classes of 4th graders to an enclosed mansion? America’s castle? What were they thinking? You can’t run, touch, ask questions, raise your hand, eat, or potty. It’s kind of like work. We were so hot and tired and hungry that Dylan and I kind of propped each other up through the two-hour tour that lead us nowhere. No pictures allowed either.

Needless to say, the bus trip was the best part for him. The seats were plush, the snacks available, the movies running, the friend beside him, the toilet working. A toilet in a bus--I mean that really is something.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Can’t Hear You. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!

by Mary Alford-Carman

I’m pretty sure that at some time, my children and husband will need therapy because of me. At this particular date, I’d love for them to start their therapy now because they are driving ME crazy. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually physically present in their lives as I never seem to be heard, and my viewpoints are ignored. I must be invisible, or suffering from delusions of some kind. I thought I was a person with experience and an education, but all evidence points towards the invisible theory. 

Case in point: How many times must you tell a teen to clean their room, study, or take out the trash before they actually hear you? In our household it appears the answer is 760 times over a period of (at least) a week. Sure, I can understand that teens are basically aliens who have taken over a child’s body until they hit 26 or 27, but I always hoped there would be times when you could actually connect with them. This appears to be my delusion number two. 

Delusion number three: My husband will hear me, actually hear me and listen! You know what I’m talking about. There are those moments when seeking your advice, you give it only to find out that the guy the down the street, or any guy for that matter, trumps your years of experience and education. I do have to admit to gloating when their advice turns out to be completely wrong and I was right in the first place. Gloat, honey I do a happy dance, its call the “I Told You So!” (Honestly, I can be soooo obnoxious.) It’s hard to be humble when your offerings aren’t taken because of a Y chromosome. He’s not chauvinist, he just doesn’t get it, bless his heart.

 There are days that I question why I bothered with college. The moment I left the “working world” and made the decision to stay at home to be a full-time Mom to my children, I suddenly got dummied down. I have been told that this is my perception of myself. To that I say (forgive me), bite me! I can’t begin to count the times that the reaction to what I do has been met with “Oh. Isn’t that nice,” or some other condescending reaction. It sometimes feels just like that in my own home and quite frankly, that stinks.  I figure that if they can’t hear me, I don’t have to do the million and six things that I do for them on a daily basis. Now that’s being invisible. Do you think they’ll notice, or is that delusion number four?