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  • A Big Conversation

    February 4, 2012

    We have a number of friends who home school their children and one of the traits that AD and I have observed in these kiddos that we admire is their comfort and poise in speaking with adults.  We are impressed with how they look us in the eye when speaking to us, how they speak in complete sentences, how they thoughtfully and appropriately engage us in conversation, both contributing and inquiring.   

    Of course it would be a gross over-generalization to attribute this solely to homeschooling but that seems to be the common denominator in our limited experience.  It could just be that our friends have terrific kids. 

    Most kids – and I’m sure yours is an exception – will answer in choppy one or two-word sentences when engaged by an adult and then look around nervously for an escape hatch. 

    All that to say, we have been working with Sean to help him to become a comfortable conversationalist.  We think it is a valuable life skill, one that we want him to develop.  For some kids this may come easily, for others, like mine, it will require some practice.

    So the other day, we were driving up to Tuna to see some of our relatives, whom we don’t see often enough, and we were preparing him to greet his great aunts and uncles and so we were role playing as a way to practice.

    Me:  Ok Sean, let’s pretend I am Aunt Doris.  And I say something like, ‘Why hello Sean.  You sure are getting big!’ – What would you say to Aunt Doris? 

    Sean:  You are too! 

    On second thought, maybe it would be better if he just said “Yup” and then hid behind my skirt. 

    Disclaimer:  Doris is NOT big, we don’t think Doris is big, no one at our house has ever said Doris and Big in the same sentence, ever, not once.

    No Pearls

    August 24, 2009

    If there is any possible way to offend someone, I can do it, and usually in record time. I am gifted that way.

    Several years ago, I was helping my mother-in-law in her boutique in downtown Tuna, and a mature lady came in with her slightly less mature sister.  The younger sister was looking for a dress to wear to a wedding. They were both simply dressed, wore their hair styled in a bun and no make-up.  I thought nothing of it because that’s kind of how I look in Wal-Mart on any given day.

    I showed them a dress that I thought the younger sister would like. It was pretty, but kind of plain. I suggested that she could put some pearls with it to dress it up because that is exactly what I would do.

    “NO pearls!” the older sister barked at me.  I took a step back, puzzled at her reaction.   “No pearls?” I asked.  Certainly she had misunderstood. What’s not to like about pearls?  So I tried to clarify, and apparently the way I do it, it only clarifies the fact that I’m a bumbling idiot.

    “Pearls would be great!” I enthused.  “Pearls go with everything, pearls are classic….” and on and on I went about pearls.  “No! Pearls!” she hissed. And then she stomped out of the store with her sister trailing behind her.

    After they left, I told Cleo about how upset the lady was that I mentioned pearls.  Cleo laughed. She had seen the whole scene unfold and then went to hide out in a dressing room.

    She told me that they were a stripe of Christian who believe women shouldn’t wear jewelry.  Well how was I supposed to know that?  I had no idea how Cleo knew that just by looking at them.  Oddly enough, although I can’t see what will set someone off just by looking at them, I can tap into it within seconds.

    I lost the sale, but I did expand my list of things not to say to people under any circumstances:

    “Oh! When are you due?”

    “What a darling little grandchild you have!”

    “How ‘bout some pearls!?”

    The Bank

    August 12, 2009

    When I woke up the other day, there were no obvious indicators that the banking industry had it in for me. So I got out of bed.

    After breakfast, Sean and I set out on a few errands.  Our first stop was the bank.  I very seldom go to the bank any more, but I had a check that needed to be deposited and it was easier to zip through the drive through lane as we were out and about, rather than mailing it.  Or so I thought.

    I pulled into the drive-through and prided myself that I had managed to pull close enough to the “tube thing” to reach it.  It seems that most of the time, I position the car too far away and then I have to unfasten my seatbelt, raise myself up just so and then hang out the window to grab the tube. And then do it all again to put the tube back in and send it away. And then do it a third time to retrieve the contents of the tube. And then a fourth time to put the tube back in place for the next banking customer.  Banking yoga – it works the glutes, quads, triceps and stretching; develops that inner core strength we all need.

    So I easily reach out my car window and grab the tube.  I give the teller a little knowing wink and nod because even though I can’t see her, I can tell by the way she said “goodmorninghowareyou” that she is in awe of my pulling up to the tube thing skills.

    I set the tube in my lap, twist off the top, tuck in my check and deposit slip, easily slip it back into its alcove and send it on its way.  The teller does her thing and in minutes, the tube has returned.  I reach out to welcome the tube back. The window magically slides open and I grab the tube.  But the tube slips from my hand.  It bounces one time and then rolls onto the ground where it wobbles back and forth for a second before deciding to make a run for it.  And then it rolls out of sight and under the car.

    But because I have with such great care and expertise pulled up so close to the “tube thing” — I can’t open my car door to see where it went.

    Being an expert at Banking Yoga, I unfasten my seatbelt and lean out the window to see what I can see.

    The tube has rolled under the car and is resting behind the front tire.

    No problem.  I will pull forward a little, jump out and get the tube.  But every time I pull forward, the little tube pulls forward.  I can’t go backwards because not only would that crush the tube, but I would have to some how get a message to the car behind me to back up and I happened to have left my bullhorn at home.

    Now, it is on occasions such as this, that having a five-year-old in the backseat  is immensely helpful. It is immensely helpful when one is busy humiliating oneself in front of strangers to have a five-year-old in the back seat asking repeatedly, “Mommy what are you doing? Mommy why did you throw the tube on the ground? Mommy, what’s happening?”

    The teller, being the alert banking professional that she is, notices that something has gone awry.  She gets on the loud speaker (aptly named because it can be heard in three counties) to inquire.  “Ma’am, are you having a problem?” she blasts.

    Unfortunately, in my attempt to retrieve the tube, I’ve moved my car far enough ahead that I now have to roll down and shout out of my back window.  “Um, yes, I guess you could say that,” I holler in confession to her and all the other drive through banking customers.

    “I seem to have dropped the tube and now it’s under my car and I can’t get it because I can’t get out of the car and I can’t back up and I can’t go forward, which is the story of my life, and I have a five-year-old in the back and he doesn’t understand and I’m on the last day of my estrogen patch and I’m having trouble and the tube… ITS ON THE GROUND and I’m trapped in my car!”

    “Okay, ma’am, wait right there, don’t go anywhere,” she says, even though I felt I had made it clear I couldn’t go anywhere and that was exactly the problem.

    Like the fairy Godmother in Cinderella minus the wand, the teller magically appears in a vapor of sparkles.  She reaches under the car and retrieves the tube. She hands me the tube without berating me. I grab my deposit slip and hand the tube back.  I smile.  I thank her. I apologize. I thank her.  She smiles, but without teeth.  A no-teeth smile tells me that she woke up this morning hoping not to have to reach under someone’s car for the teller tube.  She is polite. She does not laugh or say “What an idiot!” Out loud.  She is a professional. I thank her again. And apologize.

    As I drive away, I look down at my white Capri pants and there is a giant circle of ink on the zipper, right in the place where you wouldn’t want a giant  circle of ink. A target, as it were.

    In the shape of a teller tube.

    The Ubiquitous Jacket

    August 4, 2009

    One of the highlights of this past weekend at the She Speaks conference was meeting my blog friend Shelly who writes My Life on The Wild Side.

    I had not met Shelly in person before, but when I met her on Friday, I connected with her immediately.  I felt like I had known her since high school.  The conversation was easy — we both grew up in the Midwest, both love words and are just similarly wired.  Since we were both on the speaker’s track, we attended some of the same sessions and enjoyed some meals together.

    The afternoon of The Big 5, which is lingo for The Big 5-Minute Speech, because I’m all hip and into the use of super hip lingo, we snuck away and gave our 5-minute speeches for each other a couple of times — which was tremendously helpful to me.  She told me to slow down, I told her to not say ubiquitous.  She didn’t say ubiquitous and I didn’t slow down.  She has a more teachable spirit than I.

    Anyway, the day of The Big 5, Shelly was wearing this awesomely cute little black and white tweedy type bolero jacket. It was very Jackie, which is lingo for Jackie O.  It’s hard to be as cool as I, what with all my lingo. Anyway, I coveted that jacket just a little bit.  It was covetably cute.

    Well, after The Big 5, as I was passing through a crowded hallway, I spotted that awesome jacket and I was thrilled to see my new friend and report how it went.  So I went up to her and put my arm around her and put the side shoulder squeeze hug move on her and said, “Oh I’m so happy to see you!”

    And then a lovely, lovely girl turned around who was not Shelly. In fact it was a girl I had never seen before.  She was either terribly kind or terribly frightened, but no charges were pressed.

    As I was saying, it’s just kind of hard to be as cool as me. With or without the lingo.

    The Carolina Jasmine

    May 1, 2009

    So for a week or more now, I’ve had this mother dove nesting in the Carolina jasmine that is growing on the fence that runs alongside my driveway and just outside my kitchen window.  And I have to admit here, I’ve become involved with this dove.  I wonder if the dove is okay, I wonder if the dove is hungry, I wonder if the dove recognizes me, I wonder if the dove likes me.  I am obsessed with the dove.

    Multiple times a day, I run outside and check on the dove.  And multiple times a day I find the dove sitting on her nest staring straight ahead pretending that I do not exist.

    Early yesterday morning, we got a terrific thunder and lightning storm with some heavy rain and high winds.  It woke me up around 5am and my first thought was not “Is my child frightened? Does he need his mommy?” but “I wonder if the dove is okay.”

    So an hour later, after the storm passed, I went outside in my threadbare hot pink chenille robe and fuzzy leopard print slippers to check on the dove.   I realize as I leave the house that I look a little like Crabby Maxine and for a split second I consider putting on something less likely to frighten or offend the dove. Doves probably have very delicate sensibilities when it comes to garish fashion and other startling things.

    I stand on my tip toes to see her and yes, she was still there, sitting on her nest and staring straight ahead as usual.  I coo to her in a low and soothing dove-like voice.  I tell her how I worried over her.  I asked her if the storm had frightened her. I inquire of her health and tell her she is a pretty dove and that I am a kind person.  I continue our conversation along those lines and at one point she blinked which I took to mean that we were bonding.

    When I turned to go back in the house, I offered a feeble wave to the speed walker at the end of the driveway who had slowed down enough to catch me talking tenderly to the Carolina jasmine.

    Door Dork

    October 15, 2008

    Last week, I took a break from my adventures in home improvement to make a quick trip to Target.  My theory was that browsing the dollar bins would relieve the pain that I had in my neck from standing on a ladder and painting the ceiling. 

    I approached the automatic doors to the building fully expecting them to open as they usually do.  In fact, I nearly walked head first into the doors when they didn’t open.  So I stood there waiting for them to open trying to figure out what the problem was with the doors.  And then I kind of stomped my foot a little, slightly put out that the doors weren’t working and that I might have to go to the trouble to walk three feet to the left and go in through the other doors when I was already standing in front of these doors desperately needing dollar bin relief for my neck. 

    Then a Target employee came outside and opened the door for me. I wasn’t standing in front of the automatic doors. I was standing front of the regular doors. 

    I twisted my brain trying to think up a face-saving excuse to offer the Target employee: 

    “The guy who usually opens doors for me? He’s out sick today.” 

    “My seeing eye dog is at the vet.” 

    “When did they move the automatic doors?” 

    “Thanks a lot. I was trying to open those doors with my mind and you just messed me up!” 

    “I’m a mime. That was Act I.” 

    Nothing plausible came to mind, so I just said, “Oh. Thanks.”

    * * * * *

    Have to add these funny ones Tom left in comments; they cracked me up:

    “Took you long enough!”
    “And now, you may push my cart.”
    “At Piggly Wiggly, you have to say a magic word.”

    Sorry Troy

    July 15, 2008

    True story.


    Back in the early 90s, I attended a taping of a television sports talk show featuring Troy Aikman and some other sports caster type fellows whose names I don’t remember. I know nothing about football and it would not even be possible for me to care less about football than I already do. Yet there I was with Troy and the boys talkin’ football.


    For those few of you who know even less about football than I do and need clarification before I go on, Troy Aikman was the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys football team back in the day when Wham was popular.  Don’t ask me what a quarterback is. It’s beyond my scope. 


    At any rate, I found myself at the taping of this local television sports show. The set was designed like a sports bar, ala Cheers, with Troy and the sports caster guys sitting at the bar, having a faux few and discussing football like it was foreign policy or something of real importance.  I, along with a number of other people, were seated at small tables like bar patrons, all of whom happen to be eavesdropping on Troy like he was E.F.Hutton.


    At one point in the taping, Troy was to look in the camera and read a sentence off the cue card. I don’t remember exactly what the sentence was that he read, but it was something like “And we’ll be right back.”


    And so Troy read the sentence, albeit a little stilted, and everyone applauded mightily.


    Except for me who involuntarily laughed and said dryly, and apparently a little too loudly, “Oh boy.  He can read.”


    And then Troy turned and shot laser beams out of his eyes at me, singeing my eyelashes just a little.


    Now, two things here.  I didn’t really mean it the way it came out.  It just struck me odd that we were applauding a college graduate for reading a sentence that any second-grader could read. It simply amused me.


    The second thing is that I hadn’t really intended to say that outside of my head. Sometimes there is a mix-up between my tongue and my brain and that happens – the tongue does not get the memo that the message is proprietary, for internal distribution only.  Sometimes my brain threatens to fire my tongue, but the tongue has tenure and so it’s a problem. (See James 3:1-9


    So, all that to say, “Sorry Troy. I think you’re swell. And a great reader too.”


    It’s never too late to say you’re sorry and just now I really needed to get that off my chest.




    Mr. Malaprops

    May 22, 2008

    Sometimes, in a fit of motherly passion, I”ll scoop Sean up and smother him with kisses, telling him he’s so cute that I can’t stand it.  And then he squiggles and wiggles out of my arms and runs off, laughing and yelling “Yucky!”

    Last week, we were at the grocery store, and as we were checking out, he was chatting up the cashier, a grandmotherly type. 

    “You’re cute!” she cooed at him as I ran my credit card through the machine.

    “Yeah but my mom can’t stand me,” he told her.  “She says that all the time.”  And then for some reason,  he offered her this weird, crooked, sad little smile.

    The cashier narrowed her eyes and looked at me suspiciously.

    It probably didn’t help that Sean had a dirty face and had dressed himself that morning as a Hip Hop Rap artist on a golf outing.

    I shut my eyes and shook my head ever so slightly. 

    The effort it was going to take to explain that it was the level of his cuteness that I can’t stand vs. him which I can stand very tolerably (sigh), exceeded my mental bandwidth at that particular moment.  So I didn’t even try. 

    I think I exceeded my mental bandwidth just typing that sentence.

    In some local ladies Bible study, there’s a Wal-Mart cashier asking for prayers for the little boy whose mother can’t stand him.  

    The Treadmill

    April 9, 2008

    The other day I was on a treadmill at the health club, listening to my iPod and minding my own business. That is, I was minding my own business as much as anyone can at a health club.  The reality is that we are all uniformly packed in together like a can of spandex-wearing, walking sardines.  We avert our eyes and just pretend to mind our own business.


    Try as I might to block out all that is going on around me, I am acutely aware of who is walking on either side of me, in front of me, how fast they are going, what they are wearing and unfortunately, sometimes even what they smell like.  Sardines. 


    The treadmill to my left had no one on it until a young gal in her 20s jumped on.  She did a few calf stretches and then pushed a few buttons to make it go, but nothing happened.


    If you are female, then you know then that when confronted with something electronic that doesn’t work, the How Ladies Fix Stuff handbook instructs you to find a wire and jiggle it.  After that, according to the Chapter Two, you locate the plug and unplug it and then plug it firmly back in. Repeat six or seven times.  If you have PMS, skip that part and go directly to step #3 and prod it with your toe — or — if no one is around, execute a swift kick to the largest surface area.  Step #4, give up and go shoe shopping at a mall that has a Godiva store.


    But I have digressed from my fascinating tale of a broken treadmill.


    So she pushed the buttons again, jiggled the magnetic safety key and then she gave up and got on another treadmill two rows ahead.  A slight deviation from the handbook, but problem solved! She probaby went shoe shopping after she finished working out.


    About a minute after that another gal jumped on the same broken treadmill.  Being the good citizen that I am, a good citizen who can’t mind her own business, I  took my earphones out of my ears and informed her that that treadmill was broken.  “Oh,” she said, fully believing me.  Then she hopped off and got on the treadmill to my right which had just become available, but unfortunately had an obstructed view of the televisions.


    About two minutes after that, another young gal hopped on the broken treadmill. She had her iPod on and truly was minding her own business – there was no getting her attention.  She did a few minutes of Olympic gymnast-style stretching and then a full minute of pulse checking and iPod adjusting. The whole time, I keep glancing over to see if I can get her attention to warn her that the machine is broken.  But to her, I did not exist.  I could have had a heart attack and rolled off the back and she would not have noticed.  As she reaches for the ON button, I cringe and even feel a little sorry for her, because I know what is about to happen – nothing.  But nothing doesn’t happen. The belt starts merrily whirring around and around. She leaps on and begins loping like a gazelle in springtime.


    At this point, I’m trying to keep my eyes focused straight ahead, because I sense that the gal to my right, who is not watching television because she can’t really see it, is staring a hole though me and glaring at gazelle girl who is bounding along enjoying Regis and Kelly.


    I considered that perhaps I should pull out my earphones and offer an explanation, but decided instead to put my head down and mind my own business.


    The Brown Shoes

    January 15, 2008

    Today I had to go to Wal-Mart. And just now I’m cringing at the thought of how many posts I have started with that sentence.

    Since it was a bit on the chilly side today, I pulled out a pair of casual coffee-colored suede-ish (not to be confused with Swedish) lace-up shoes that I really love and have had for a number of years. They are the kind of shoes that you love so much that you go back and buy them in another color. And I feel perfectly okay using “you” in that sentence because I’m pretty sure many of “you” do the same thing.

    The problem with getting to be my age (and I say that as if there is only one problem) is that sometimes certain events, like say the purchase of a pair of shoes, seems like one or two years ago when in fact it was more like eight or nine years ago.  And sometimes, like today, that is a problem because certain materials have a shelf life. There is a finite period of time before decomposition and disintegration of certain materials occur.  And this disintegration, that might occur, needs to be timed juuuuust right.

    Unfortunately, today was one of those days when apparently my timing was off.

    Because I left the house wearing two shoes that looked like this.

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    And I came home wearing one of those shoes, looking like this.


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    I was merrily strolling  down the produce aisle in my favorite suede-ish type shoes when I had some sort of shoe blow out.


    All of a sudden, and for no discernable reason, I was half an inch shorter. I looked down and I was standing in a pile of crumbly black disintigrating rubber. I looked behind me and saw a trail of crumbly black disintigrating rubber. It was like I was leaking Oreo crumbs out of the leg of my jeans. I felt like I should sweep up or something. Then I realized that sweeping up in Wal-Mart would be an all-time low, even for me — possibly even lower than the day I flushed my sunglasses at Lego Land.


    Quite honestly I didn’t really know what I should do.  I considered heading over to the shoe department and putting on another pair of shoes, but the thought of walking around the store in plastic shoes shackled with elastic seemed somewhat less cool than leaving a trail of Oreo-looking detritus in my wake.


    So I just schlumped along with my head held high trying to rise above my crumbling, disintegrating pride.

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