Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mike's Wrinkles

When we were young, I used to swear my brother was a part of our family by mistake. We are all redheads and blondes (okay, brown now), except for Mike. He was born in Texas hospital at the same time a Mexican woman was giving birth. With his dark eyes and hair, we just knew that Mike and that baby must have been swapped somehow. But as he’s gotten older, I am finally seeing the rest of us in him. He recently shaved so now resembles another brother a lot.

Throughout our childhood, teen years, and into adulthood, Mike has always been the proverbial class clown. He began playing guitar before he was 10-years old, and used to come up to my ear and pick strings as loudly as he could to annoy me. Once, he learned that I didn’t care for “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” and played the record continuously until I ripped it off the record-player, threw it on the concrete floor and scraped it until it couldn’t be played again. Mike tried to cuss at a young age. When he was told he wasn’t allowed to say certain words, he made up his own. He went to my third brother and whispered, “From now on, ‘coink’ means asshole.” Then he would say out loud, “Hey Coink.”

Despite his shenanigans, there has always been one constant: his music. Mike has always dreamed of conquering the music world to become a famous musician. His guitar skills are amazing, even to the most jaded. He is lead guitarist for 69 South, a popular band in western Kentucky. He expects they could do great things, but his band isn’t committed like he is – they don’t have the confidence to quit their day jobs to pursue music full time. Instead of concentrating on music only, his band plays weekend gigs at bars, restaurants, and weddings with a repertoire featuring mostly rock, southern rock, and country.

Mike said he never really liked country music until he began playing it three or four years ago. Although his influences were Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, and Rush, Mike now finds country music tolerable. His opinion is that a lot of country music feels canned, too polished, and corporate and that executives are just looking for the next “voice” that they can put on a track using the same studio musicians. He appreciates the country performers he occasionally hears who sound like they’re singing from the heart, but he still feels rock and roll has more energy and soul.

Mike’s three children have brought him a lot of joy, but also disappointment, too. He and his son always struggled to get along and Mike no longer tries to analyze why. He just knew his son would not accept being corrected or any type of discipline. Not tolerating discipline from your father felt alien to Mike because when his Dad told him to do something, you’d do it or get busted. His son learned early on to question Mike’s authority, especially during his teenage years. He dropped out, which was unheard of in our family and viewed with disdain, but eventually earned his GED. He then joined the Army against everyone’s advice. Mike and his son do get along now, but Mike is scared for him because he’s scheduled to go to Iraq as a forward observer in February. Mike describes this job as the guy in a movie who is calling in on the radio for air support and gets blown up. Most assuredly, everyone in our family is praying for Scott to return home safely.

Mike’s oldest daughter wants to grow up too fast and he is having a hard time letting her go. She has a boyfriend and although he seems nice enough, Mike doesn’t like it; he supposes it’s a dad thing. Angie, however, has inherited a lot of her father’s music skills and has an amazing singing voice. She leans toward the arts, while Mike’s youngest tends toward the academics. When Sarah was in the 2nd grade, she was reading at a 9th grade level. She consistently makes the honor roll and is smart as a whip.

As Mike described his daughters, he finished putting the new strings on his guitar. He had a gig, so went off to make his fans happy. His music was calling him.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Teresa's Wrinkles

Teresa does not like negative things of any kind. She does not like to be around negative people, nor does she like to hear bad news. Although Teresa has had her share of bad things happen to her, she is always positive about whatever challenge she faces.

The greatest joy in Teresa’s life is her 12-year old son, Allen. She never thought she could have children, and in fact had tried for over a decade using infertility medicine, taking her temperature, keeping up with ovulation charts and more. After she and her husband divorced (they had grown apart), Teresa eventually remarried and became pregnant immediately. She had her miracle baby and now her greatest hope is to never take her son for granted. Teresa said a lot of people park their children in front of the TV, pawn them off one someone else to take care of, and generally don’t pay attention to them. She acknowledges that sometimes she treats Allen too much as an adult, but her intention is to treat him like a person. It is obvious to all of Teresa’s friends and colleagues that she deeply loves her son and would die for him if she had to.

Teresa saw her Mom struggle to make ends meet as a single parent with three children. Her mother earned too much money to qualify for assistance, but the family was regularly faced with no electricity, no telephone, lack of school clothes, no rent money, and few groceries. Teresa said that after experiencing financial insecurity throughout her childhood, it affected her entire adult life. She made a decision to have only one child in case she ever found herself in her mother’s position – on her own. She felt she could always find a way to support one child, but wasn’t confident she could handle more. Today, Teresa constantly saves money and is very thrifty. Her vehicle is showing its age, but it’s paid for; she only owes on her mortgage.

True to form, Teresa rarely splurges and is teased by her family as being a tightwad. She once told her mother that she found a cheaper way to bury her: discontinued caskets online are less expensive than buying from a funeral home. Thrifty though she is, Teresa is still a very generous person. In addition to providing for her own home, Teresa is the main breadwinner for her mother, who is 65 and lives alone on $575 a month from disability pay.

Teresa and her husband have been married since 1995, a strong case of opposites attract. It didn’t bother Chuck that she was divorced, but his old-fashioned parents refused to attend their wedding because of the divorce. They also refused to welcome their grandchild into the family for years. The relationship finally turned around one day when Teresa and Allen were in Wal Mart buying Chuck a Christmas gift. Chuck’s father approached Teresa and told his buddy, “That’s my grandson.” Allen looked at Teresa and asked, “Mommy, who is that?” Teresa and Allen are now invited to family functions, although they still don’t feel welcome. She is still bothered that her husband in the past chose to spend Christmas with his family rather than with his wife and son, who he left at home alone.

However, Teresa doesn’t focus on any of that. Instead, she embraces the good in her life and welcomes each day with honesty, good will, and gratitude for what she has.

Go Away Sick Feeling

I'm feeling a little bit of Newton's pain, but mine isn't an anxiety or heart attack, or stroke, or anything that serious. I think I'm trying to either come down with a cold or with strep throat. I came home this afternoon from a business retreat at Montgomery Belle State Park... very nice place except you can't get a cell phone signal and they only have :::shudder::: dial-up computer access. Eek. So all day as I'm listening to speakers and working on my personal and professional (business) plans for 2007, I started feeling a tickle in my throat. At this point, it's starting to ache and I'm coughing up crud. I'm hoping it's because I didn't get much sleep last night - strange bed, strange noises, etc. but I'm also feeling hot/cold and getting a tad dizzy.

One interesting item from the retreat: Our Bob Parks Realty general manager Bud George invited local blogger with a big web presence ethos to speak. I guess I'm chopped liver because I've been talking to people for a year about how incredible this blogging community is, how easy it is to blog, blah blah blah, but people don't listen to big ideas (well, shout out to Susie who maintains an Evergreen Farms in Murfreesboro blog... she recognized that people actually go online sometimes to find information) unless they're at a formal forum. Anyway, Randy Elrod did great. His talk was actually about tapping into your creative self to accomplish big dreams, but he also touched on blogging. My fellow agents were ON FIRE to hear more about it. You can probably expect to see a lot more realtors starting blogs soon, so brace yourself! And don't forget who the originals were! :) No, seriously.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a wrinkle story for today. I missed it yesterday because of f*cking dial-up only. The good (or bad) news is that I have several people I've already interviewed, so will continue the series into December. Hey, anyone know a good publisher out there who might be interested? That's one of my personal goals this year (and, gulp, I can't believe I'm putting it out there) - to publish a book. I guess I can always go to blogbinders...

Stayed tuned for Teresa's wrinkles.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Away at retreat...

This is being posted by hundreds of trained monkeys, because I am away at a retreat. I will post something of real interest tomorrow.

Mission accomplished, thanks trained monkeys!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Trish's Wrinkles

When I first met Trish, she spelled her name Trich. She said she finally got tired of it always being spelled incorrectly, so accepted the “sh” as her own. I don’t think I could ever do that, but like the rest of her life, she faces challenges with a determination that I completely respect.

Trish is a middle school special education teacher. Ironically, she learned her own children had special needs when they were just toddlers. Trevor is her oldest child, a 16-year old junior in high school. Trish knew something was wrong with Trevor when he was 2-years old because he didn’t talk. His doctor said it was because boys are late bloomers and told Trish she was just a nervous mother. By the time he was 3, Trish put him in the Easter Seals Speech Therapy program because she thought he had an auditory processing disorder. Trevor didn’t play with toys until he discovered dinosaurs at 4-years old. He couldn’t tell Trish his name or his age, but he could name the Archaeopteryx, the Ichthyosaurus, the Velociraptor, and his favorite the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Although Trish was a special education teacher, she didn’t know a lot about autism. However, she started to suspect it could be the cause of Trevor’s problems. When he was 4 ½-years old, he had chicken pox and was taking a bath with aloe vera oatmeal. His baby sister was just 18-months old and accidentally fell over into the tub. She was face down and too little to pull herself out. Trish yanked her out after just a few seconds because she saw the tumble. However, she was stunned that Trevor did nothing to help, even while he was sitting next to her as she struggled with her head under water. He had no reaction at all, not even to try to push her up. Trish said she was devastated because at that moment she knew her son had a severe problem.

Trevor was taken to the Louisville Child Evaluation Center where he went through a battery of tests. When he was diagnosed with autism, Trish asked what the chances were of her daughter having the same disability. She was told not to worry about it – the chances were one in 10,000. The same month Trevor was diagnosed, Trish became pregnant with her third child.

No one really suspected that Leah was autistic because her language skills and vocabulary were strong at first. But Trish began noticing the same signs in Leah as she saw in Trevor. By the time she was 3, Leah was also tested and found to have deficits in all areas: language, occupational therapy, social skills, physical therapy. She was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmentally Delayed Not Otherwise Specified, which was on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Leah eventually quit talking and began having a lot of problems with her temper. Trish began to learn sign language until speech therapy helped her develop her language skills. While Trish constantly drove Leah to different therapies, she began blaming herself for the disabilities of her children. Even today she acknowledges that she should be thankful for what she has, but she says it absolutely sucks. Autism has caused major problems in her marriage to my brother and they have been to marriage counseling twice. Trish said most marriages with one autistic child do not last, and it would be easy to quit - to just walk away. But Steve is the only person in the entire world who knows what they’ve been through and they have a special bond that no one else can even begin to understand.

After two of their children were diagnosed with autism, major study groups began approaching the family. They wanted to study them to try to establish a genetic link in order to claim the discovery. Trish filled out endless surveys, genetic questions, and family trees. They finally agreed to give blood to two substantial study groups because although it won’t help them, it could help someone in the future. Trish believes the autism affected her children because of a combination of a genetic predisposition and her environmental conditions. She and a college friend shared a dorm room with no windows; she doesn't know if old, stale air was part of it, but they both have autistic children. I actually had a room for several years in the same dorm, so feel very fortunate my own children are not autistic.

I asked Trish what types of behaviors parents should notice if they suspect autism in a child. She said parents should take notice when their children have delayed speech, prefer to play alone, and don’t play with toys. If they do play with toys, it may be just to line them up. She said autistic children also love repetitive motion; their eyes follow ceiling fans and wheels. Trevor used to walk around the house and repeat, "Have to walk my circles. Have to walk my circles." In other children, there is sometimes sensory deprivation; for example, a smell might bother them. Trish used to have vanilla all over the house because it was a calming, soothing smell. When Leah would get over-stimulated, they would swaddle her to calm her. She also went through deep body brushing therapy and tried a vitamin complex. These and other solutions were constantly paraded in front of Trish and Steve, and Trish now believes a lot of the ideas were from predators who offered "voodoo" answers that played on the fears and hopes of people with disabled children.

Like all children, Trish's kids have vastly different personalities. Trevor is a poor judge of character because he believes everyone is good. When bullies pick on him, he thinks they are his friends. Although he is 16-years old, he is four years behind developmentally. He makes good grades, but he still dreams about dinosaurs. He is very philosophical and introspective on religion. Unlike Trevor, Leah has a lot of common sense and strong social skills. She is very reliable, but struggles with reading and math. Leah is quite responsible and Trish trusts her to run the household if she has to step out for a few moments.

Trish and Steve have another daughter, Darby. She has ADD and a mild general anxiety disorder, possibly because she is aware that her brother and sister are different. Darby is a very independent young lady. We knew she had a strong spirit when she nearly drowned at 2-years old. She wandered away from the garage one day while her grandfather was putting luggage in his car. When she was discovered missing, numerous patrol officers came to search for her. They walked down to a pond behind their house, but saw no sign of Darby. One officer turned to look back toward the house and saw a tuft of red hair and a lime green shirt on the deck of a neighbor’s swimming pool. When he reached her, Darby was soaking wet from head to toes. Trish believes her diaper possibly weighed 20 pounds. But she was a "big girl," and climbed up and down the stairs to drop rocks in the pool. To this day, no one is sure how she managed to become sopping wet and not drown, but our family does believe in guardian angels.

Trish says her wrinkles are mostly caused by her concern for the future of Trevor and Leah. As they are getting older, she is unsure of where the children will end up. She worries that Trevor will forever live in their basement and have a solitary life, and that scares her. She hasn’t told her children that none of them should have their own children due to the genetic link. But that is something Trish can not control. Her heart's desire is that her children will grow up to be self sufficient and find jobs doing something they like. Like the rest of us, she just wants her children to be happy.

Is it Just Me?

Is it just me or does Michael Richards look a little bit like Matt Lauer? I really don't want to make light of what he did in his uncontrolled rage, but like Matt I'm kinda missing the hair. There was actually another photo with Kramer wearing headphones that looked just like Lauer, but I can't find it anymore

Oh, and credit goes to Comcast for this screen shot photo. Did I ever tell you I met Jesse Jackson? He had a little guy follow him everywhere with a microphone. When you spoke to Jesse, everything you (and he) said was recorded. I guess it was to make sure he was never misquoted or something... I worked for a national association then and given my propensity to misquote, I paraphrased all the way on that article!

UPDATE: Here's the picture I was describing earlier:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Moment of Silence

I really don't mean to be in such a dark mood, but these caught my attention as really awful ways to die. This lady suffocated after falling behind a bookcase trying to adjust her TV. Then her family didn't find her for days and days. The next was an anti-war activist who poured gasoline on himself to protest the Iraq war. And no one realized it until the Chicago Reader blogs started talking about it. One death an accident, another a choice, but both tragic in my opinion.

Pascal's Wrinkles

On Friday, we were sitting in Uncle Pack and Aunt Margaret's living room talking about Melissa’s wiggly tooth. Pack’s eyes started twinkling and he told Melissa that he always pulls his own teeth. He wiggles them until tears stream down his face, then wedges his tongue underneath and pushes until they pop out. Sometimes he would tie a string to his tooth and the other to a doorknob, brace himself on a wall, then kick the door shut to pull the tooth. Pack has had only one tooth pulled by a dentist. The good doctor gave him a shot of nasty tasting stuff before he reached in and pulled it out. Pack deeply regrets that he didn’t try harder to pull it himself.

Pack comes from a time when men didn’t feel pain. If they did, they never let on. He fought in World War II and refuses to talk about it more than, “There are things I won’t talk about and I don’t want to remember.” He has never confided those experiences to anyone, including his wife of 60 years.

Before he enlisted, he had plenty of sweethearts. There was a giant white oak tree next to the school that had a big hole in it. The students used the hole as a mailbox to exchange love notes. Pack says he had all kinds of girlfriends, and dated their sisters, too. But Pack married the first woman he met when he got home from the Army. Wherever they went, her mother escorted them. Her mother always walked or sat behind them and he couldn’t figure out why. He said he wasn’t too bright, but at the time only recognized that it was bad that they couldn’t even kiss.

But during his school days, Pack sometimes put his flirting aside. He and the other male students would sneak away at recess and at lunch to smoke cigarettes. The boys would walk around the curve on the dirt road and once out of sight, they would roll cigarettes using dark-fired homegrown tobacco and paper bags. They’d eat lunch between puffs. Some days they got away with it and other days they’d get caught. After lunch, they lined up in two lines to reenter the school room, first through eighth grade students. If the teacher smelled tobacco on anyone, she’d make them cut a three foot long switch and whip the boys. Pack asked, “Did we smoke the next day? Yes ma’am.” Pack remembers once when the teacher whipped the palm of his hands with a metal ruler. He had enough and grabbed the ruler, spun her around, and started whipping her backside. He got detention for a week. On some Mondays upon his arrival at school, the same teacher would whip him just for hearing about his weekend antics. Pack said he wasn’t mean, just mischievous and he wishes he hadn’t whipped the teacher back. He visited her years later and apologized. His teacher said it wasn’t right that he treated his teacher like that, but she smiled and forgave him.

Pack described how lucky he and his family were during the Depression. His family had a farm that hadn’t dried up. They had their own apples, chickens, eggs, hogs, beef, milk and butter. They raised enough garden food to can in half gallon jars. He remembers his Mom putting up 99 jars of green beans and blackberries at a time. Other people would charge their groceries all year, then pay the grocer when their crops came in and were sold. Pack felt bad for the people who didn’t earn enough from their crops to pay off their grocery bill. At the grocers, Pack would buy a bag of chocolate drops and peanuts for a nickel each. They also bought a 25 pound bag of flour for 25 cents and made their own biscuits.

When Pack had free time, his first cousin would take him to downtown Greenville, Kentucky to have their pictures made. They were tiny black and white photos and the kids thought they were the grandest things in the world. Pack was recently given a photo of his father and was surprised to see him wearing a suit because he only remembers him wearing overalls. He lost his father at 65 years old to starvation because his throat became paralyzed and he couldn’t eat. Pack said no one knew how it happened, but his tongue also couldn’t move and he could only grunt to communicate. His first social security check for $14 arrived right after he died. The family returned it to the government.

Pack’s parents had nine children in all. One brother lived to be 15, two died as babies, and his sister Gladys died at birth. There are only two of them left. Pack who is second to the oldest and his sister Sybil who was next to the youngest.

Pack doesn’t drive long distance anymore because he sometimes has spells where he blacks out. His daughter is coming to help Pack and his wife head to Texas for several months to spend time with her, her husband, and foster children. They think they’ll enjoy the warmer southern temperatures that Texas offers. It will be awfully empty in Greenville without them.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Millie's Wrinkles

Although she was born in southern Indiana to a family who had lived in the U.S. for generations, Millie didn’t learn to speak English until she began school. She still speaks some German, but only when she talks with her siblings. There were nine children in her family, but only five remain. Her memories of one brother are distant – Kenny died as a child after a horse kicked him in a well. He was pulled out alive, but hypothermia claimed him.

Her family still calls her Imelda, but everyone else says Millie. I call her Mom. Like any parent and child relationship, there have been times when I’ve wanted to walk away screaming. However, she has stood by me, my brothers and my sister steadfastly and has never ever faltered as a parent in her support of us. She always encouraged us to reach for our dreams and that nothing is impossible if we work hard enough.

Millie learned to be a parent when she lost her own mother at the age of 14. Her Mom essentially died from high blood pressure one year before medication became available to fight the disease. Millie’s aunt wanted her to drop out of high school to take care of her younger brother and sister who were still at home and the house. She refused to quit school to pursue her own dream of college, yet she still managed to do all the housework, laundry, cooking, and gardening. Millie was the first in her family to graduate from high school, but she never made it to college. However, fate seemed to nod in her direction because I later became the first in the family with a degree. Mom said it was like we broke the ceiling and although I was an average student, it remains a great source of my own pride today.

When I asked about her earliest memory, Millie said no one would believe her. She remembers hearing her Dad upset and her Mom screaming, “Stop! You’ll kill him!” Years later, she asked her brother about what happened that day because though the memory was there, she couldn’t picture it in her mind. Her brother was astonished and said, “Imelda, you weren’t there. Mom was pregnant with you when that happened.”

Before Apolonea (her mother) died, she told Millie the story of Jesus and his agony. Millie felt very sorry for him and couldn’t stop thinking about the passion. She sobbed in bed that night feeling his despair. Then something touched her and soothed her forehead. Millie said that was the moment she was given the gift of faith.

Her faith helped her through many difficult times. My Dad was an enlisted man in the Air Force, so payday only came twice a month. On their first Thanksgiving together, my 19-year old mother looked in her empty pantry - there was no food for a traditional turkey dinner. As she and the other military wives in their apartment complex started talking, though, they realized if they pooled their resources they could create a wonderful meal. Millie cooked the rabbit the men hunted and another friend brought corn. By sharing, they had everything but a pumpkin pie!

Millie and Norman have been married a happy 48 years, even through lean and sometimes hard years. When her first son was born, Millie only had clothing for girls. She prayed about how she could find a way to dress her son and a week later a box arrived in the mail postmarked from St. Louis. To this day, she doesn’t know who sent it, but it was full of boy clothes from newborn to two years old. Another time and five children later, Millie ran out of laundry soap. She thought, “What am I going to do, Lord?” because she desperately needed the detergent to wash diapers. As she was deciding she’d just have to rinse them really good and hang them on the line to dry, she opened her front door and there was a little sample box of detergent hanging on the door knob.

Millie said she knows God provides when you put your faith in Him. I have benefited through her faith because it has given me a strong, kind, and compassionate mother.

Friday, November 24, 2006

My Friday Resolutions

Today we're going to West Kentucky to visit the families. We'll drive two hours, then drop off Velma at her sister's home and say hello for a few moments. We'll drive another 35 minutes (ish) to my brother's home. This is their first family Thanksgiving in their new home and I'm very much looking forward to it. But I have to make a couple of resolutions so the day is as nice as I'm hoping it will:

1. I resolve to not roll my eyes at anyone.
2. I resolve to not act aggravated when I'm not in control of everything and everyone.
3. I resolve to not yell at my kids for screaming through the house.
4. I resolve to not gloat about the Democratic-controlled Congress.
5. I resolve to play nice when someone asks me about how high my blood sugar is.
6. I resolve to not tell everyone exactly why George W. Bush is an asshat.
7. I resolve to not get angry when I see all the women cleaning everything up while all the men sit on their butts without lifting a finger to help.
8. I resolve to be the one to start the cleaning rather than my sister-in-law who always does it making the rest of us (read me) look bad.
9. I resolve to be patient in getting my family out of the house this morning without getting really angry because they never ever ever ever leave on time.
10. I resolve to remember this is a time to be thankful for all our little quirks and shortcomings because at least we're all together because there is still oil, albeit expensive, to drive and see each other.
11. I resolve to be thankful that the fish in the ocean haven't all died yet.
12. I resolve to be thankful that Nancy Pelosi wouldn't allow Charles Rangel's draft idea to kick in just as my daughters are growing up.
13. I resolve to just play nice with everyone today.

Okay... my mantra... place nice. Be nice. Play nice. Be nice. Play nice. Be nice. See you guys late tonight! Wish us luck!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful It's OVER

My back hurts and I'm sleepy. Today was just loads of fun! I promised my mother-in-law that I'd fix our Thanksgiving dinner. Although I bought a frozen turkey weeks ago, my husband wanted the pre-cooked, smoked turkey from Sam's Club. Okey-dokey. According to the directions, it would only take about 2 hours to warm the bird and our goal was to eat around 5:00 p.m.

At 1:00 p.m., the MIL was saying, "Are you going to start dinner?"

At 1:15 p.m., "Are you cooking?"

At 1:30 p.m., "When are you going to start the turkey?"

At 2:00 p.m., "How long does it take to cook dinner?"

I finally replied, "Velma. I know how to cook. I told you I would fix dinner and I will fix dinner."

She got mad at me. So my oldest daughter and I fixed a beautiful meal. I put it on the table.

Then I waited.

And I waited.

I thought the sweet potatoes looked really good (they were).

Then the kitty tried to join me.

We watched the ice melt together.

And we admired the canned cranberry sauce. Mmmm-good.

My family finally came and enjoyed a nice, cool meal together. I didn't tell them it was because my mother-in-law was right. The turkey was still frozen inside.

Tag, I'm Weird Too

I didn't even realize that the Smiffster tagged me a couple of days ago to share 6 weird things about moi. Gosh. I don't know where to start, but I'll give it a try.

1. I burp really really loud when around my family and sometimes around my close friends. I find it quite pleasing, too. My kids think it's absolutely disgusting and my mother-in-law despises it, but it's such a joyful thing for me to be able to make such a loud noise. Oh yes, there are other nasty noises, too, but let's keep this rated PG.

2. I like to exfoliate my husband's right foot. See, he broke his hip in a car accident years ago and can't reach his own foot. I don't really like clipping his toenails, but rubbing all the dry skin off is almost as much fun as peeling a sunburn.

3. I like peeling sunburns. Mine. My husband's. My kids'. You asked for weird things, right?

4. I hate onions. Don't like them. Never have. Sometimes they're okay for flavor, but to eat them - blech.

5. I like getting out my flashlight and watching my idiot cat chase the light. I try to make her run up the wall. Sometimes she does, other times she just runs into the wall. Then I laugh at her.

6. I panic when anyone except my family comes near me in the water. I :::think::: I remember my parents telling me I fell out of a boat as a toddler. My uncle jumped in after me, but he didn't know how to swim. He must've pulled me down or something because I get extremely nervous if anyone is within arm's length of me.

I actually thought of a couple of more things, but we'll just wait for the next weird meme. Thanks Smifferific for thinking of me!

Oops I forgot to tag some other folks! Sonia, you were the first (and probably only) to comment so you're up! And let's see... how about Mark, Chip, M., Shauna, and Doug A. TAG!

Melissa's Wrinkles

People traditionally offer their gratitude today and mostly it’s for the people they love. I choose to celebrate my youngest daughter, Melissa, on this Thanksgiving Day because we are very fortunate she is here. After experiencing years of infertility, my husband and I had our first daughter. Four years passed and we had no inkling of ever having another child. Then when I was at a low peak in my career with a boss who constantly promised to fire me and all the other people in my office (she once threatened to fire us for taking a lunch break), I told her I was expecting. The boss didn’t like it, but knew it would make her look very bad if she let go of a long-term employee while pregnant. Even before her birth, Melissa received credit for saving my job.

My first due date was June 21st, but she was in no hurry to come into this world and waited until August 1st to make her grand entrance. Because of the long delay, her food source shut down and she had lost two pounds in-utero but still managed to weigh-in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces.
She was a very happy baby, but early on in her life she experienced some medical difficulties. Melissa remembers not being able to breathe. She could tell she wasn’t getting any air because she couldn’t stop coughing and felt like something was happening. Sometimes breathing treatments made her feel better, but when they didn’t help she knew she was having a full-blown asthma attack.

Melissa didn't like going to the hospital because every time she went in, she ended up barfing on someone - whoever was carrying her. With tears in her eyes, Melissa said that made her embarrassed and sad, but she couldn’t help it. She does remember being comforted in the hospital because whenever she woke up under her oxygen tent, she saw her Mommy, sister, Grandma, or Daddy. There were a couple of things Melissa liked about her hospital stays, including the “little thing” they put on her finger (pulse-ox monitor) because it had balloons on it, and the fact that she could watch whatever she wanted on the television in her room. She liked watching Playhouse Disney, but also enjoyed it when her sister read books to her.

Another time when Melissa was just two years old, she found one of her Grandma’s high blood pressure pills on the floor that had been accidentally dropped and lost. She didn’t know what it was and said, “I was a stupid little kid, so I put it in my mouth and swallowed it.” Her grandmother tried to get it out of her mouth, but it was already down the hatch. Melissa had her stomach pumped and was transferred by ambulance to a nearby children’s hospital. She said it was dark inside the ambulance except for the red lights. Melissa paused to wipe a tear from her eye as she said her grandmother kept telling her it would be okay. Everything did turn out okay, except she missed her Mom who was in San Diego on a business trip. Melissa survived that incident and came out of it with a get-wel- soon present, “a felt board with little critter thingies.”

When Melissa started preschool, she was very scared. However, she quickly spotted a couple of little girls she recognized and went to talk with them. They realized they were all nervous, but they put their fear aside so they could see which boys in their class were cute. Melissa picked out a white-haired boy, but to this day doesn’t know if he liked her back. Her Daddy picked her from preschool and she always asked, “Can we go to McDonald’s today?” Even on the days he said no, he took her for a cheeseburger happy meal with extra pickles and no onions. Melissa says that’s why she has so many McDonald’s toys laying around the house.

When she started Kindergarten, Melissa was thrilled to finally go to the same school as her sister and to ride the school bus. The children attended a magnet school, so the bus dropped them at a nearby high school rather than home bus stops. One day, she had to ride the bus without her sister because the older kids stayed at school to get ready for a science fair. The usual lady who drove the afternoon carpool had asked another Mom to drive, and that Mom forgot. After waiting for several minutes and after all the other kids left, Melissa fearfully walked in the front doors of the high school. She was looking for the office through the streams of big kids and spotted a security guard. She was crying by the time she told him that no one came to pick her up. He called her Grandma and she came. Her grandmother was very angry at the other lady who forgot her granddaughter. When the usual driver found out about it, she was also terribly upset and cried the next time when she saw her. Melissa said she kept telling her how sorry she was and gave her a big ziplock bag full of candy.

The only drama in Melissa’s life today is middle school. We are thankful that things have quieted down and hope she has many years (decades even) of a peaceful, happy life.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heather's Wrinkles

Heather defies any labels that one would try to stick on her. She is a true beauty by society’s definition – tall, thin, blue eyes, red hair. Yet she is not pretentious or smug about her handsome features, in fact she seems unaware that anyone would notice her. However, it’s hard not to notice someone who travels thousands of miles with her young children and makes numerous friends at stops along the way.

Heather appreciates what she has: a loving husband, two boisterous sons, and an 11-year old stepdaughter. They live in a small town outside of Charleston, South Carolina that is growing too fast. Heather said that while she appreciates industry and jobs coming to her area, it’s bittersweet because they push out other charming features, including family farms.

Heather was born to a Navy family in California, but has been in the Charleston area most of her life. She learned that she likes the slow pace and warmth of southern living after spending some time in the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Although she was a mere 19-years old, Heather found a job tending bar deep in the northern woods and was paid “under the table” for her efforts. Whether it was the booze or the company, the beer drinkers never complained about their jobs, so Heather suggested her husband find a job at the company where they worked. He was hired at the same steel mill and stayed until their move back to South Carolina.

Good fortune hasn't always smiled upon Heather. When she was young, her father left the family for a long-distance job. He assured his wife and children that he would send money so they could join him, but he never did. After several years of waiting, Heather’s Mom had enough, met someone else, and moved away. She left 17-year old Heather to care for her 15-year old bipolar sister. The girls didn’t exactly get along like the Olsen twins or as you’d see on a television special. Instead, her much bigger sister beat her up prompting Heather to send her to their long-absent father’s home. She does now have a relationship with her father and her sister, who is completing coursework to become a pharmacy technician. Although it wasn’t the best time of her life, Heather says it makes her appreciate what she has now.

Today, keeping her immediate family together is a priority for Heather. Her family is everything to her, yet they aren’t her only identity. When her son was born, he was a colicky, miserable infant who screamed 24 hours a day. Heather learned to balance her role as mother with other interests because she didn’t want to be a parent who didn’t like her children. She relinquished her solo control over rearing the boys and asked her husband for help when she needed to leave the house. She was very complimentary of Tim being good with their children.

As we finished our coffee, we agreed that all bloggers basically like to be in charge, that we want to control our destiny. With that, whether we are traveling across the country with two small children or getting to know the friends of our friend, we can only hope that fate is kind to us on our journey.

Christmas SHOPPING for the Children

Just one day before Thanksgiving, I'm writing about Christmas! We have received approximatley 100 names of children in Smyrna and LaVergne who are benefiting from our "Skate for the Children" and other fundraising efforts throughout the year to support the "Christmas for the Children" program.

I have picked up my family list - EIGHT children to buy for. We usually don't open it up for people other than agents to buy the gifts, but because the blogging community was so helpful I would like to invite your help. I plan to go shopping for the children on Sunday, December 3rd at KMart on Murfreesboro Rd. in Smyrna at 1:30 p.m. If you would like to help, please let me know.

If enough people are interested in helping, I may be able to get more names so you'll need to let me know if you want to be involved in this. After we buy the presents, we'll go back to my office and wrap them. Each child will get one complete outfit plus a toy. KMart is giving us a 10% discount and we are tax-exempt, so the children should be able to have a nice Christmas.

The kids I have so far:
FIVE GIRLS: Ages 12, 6, 13, 3, 2
THREE BOYS: Ages 11, 8, 9months

I will call their Mom before December 3rd to get their sizes and to hear what the kids need and/or want for a gift.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Walter's Wrinkles

At our meeting this morning, Walter was recognized as one of the top ten agents in my office during October. While his walls are lined with awards, a less conspicuous award caught my eye - the “Happy Customers” binder sitting on a shelf. After we have a closing, our buyers are sent a survey asking for feedback about the service they received. Walter’s binder was bulging with happy customer comments and several sheets were waiting to be hole-punched and inserted in the rings.

Walter excels at sales. Before he received his real estate license in 1996, he was a car salesman at Beaman Automotive. In 1992, he sold more cars than anyone so he and his wife were given a seven-day cruise in the Caribbean. People were surprised when they took their two-year old daughter along with them, but they had fun vacation with her.

Walter talks fondly about his daughter, a senior at Smyrna High School. Once when she was in the second grade, she tried to spell the word “bird.” She got stuck at the “i” and no matter how Walter hinted around (he didn’t want to just tell her the answer), she could not figure out how to spell bird. He doesn’t think she’s scarred from the experience, but she definitely remembers it from the days when she was shy and sensitive. Now, she’s grown into an outgoing, quick-witted young adult who is making her father very proud.

Walter is also proud of his son who is 15-years old and ready to drive! His interests have ranged from music and race cars (the remote operated kind) to motorcycles and sports. Walter tries to encourage his son to nail down his hobbies to something specific, but instead he emulates his father who also bounced around from project to project as a youngster.

Helping people rates high on Walter’s list of things he likes to do, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy a good beer or relaxing in front of the television. One year, the American Heart Association asked Walter to try to raise $1,000. He agreed to participate in one of the pretend “arrest, go to jail, and make bond” gimmicks. He found enough friends to raise the money and earned a DVD player for his effort.

Despite his sunny disposition, Walter is facing a difficult time right now. He and his wife of 19 years are going through a divorce. The children are old enough that they can visit their father at anytime, so Walter doesn’t mind that his wife has custody. It is probably a relief that his children are older as they watch their parents separate their lives because Walter’s parents divorced when he was five. He recalls that his own father was very strict – there was no gray area when he was growing up. When Walter brought a bad grade home from school, his father made him bring every book home every single night until the next report card. Like Walter, I remember those were the days before we had backpacks, so it was just as insane as he describes! You either did as you were instructed or you got a “whipping.” Walter says kids today just want to discuss their options and negotiate.

As I chatted with Walter, he explained his wheezing was because he has only one functioning lung. In 1993, his doctor found that his right lung had crystallized and hardened due to a calcified lymph node. His vocal chords are normal, but he does get short of breathe on occasion. According to his doctor, there is nothing else that can be done. But Walter blames his age and being out of shape as part of the problem and has started working out to try to improve his health. If he embraces healthy living like he does great sales techniques, he’ll probably live to be 100.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Malia's Wrinkles

Growing up as an Air Force brat teaches children to be flexible and sociable, but it also plants a tiny seed in one’s psyche that sprouts every three to four years. I didn’t understand it until I was well into my 20s, but it was there. When it flowers, you feel a great urge to move.

However, sometimes it just feels better to stay in one place as fellow-AFBrat Malia has learned. Although she still enjoys traveling, it is the most wonderful feeling to come back home. With no plans to move in the foreseeable future, Malia doesn’t rule it out because life can take you in new, unexpected directions.

To date, Malia has lived in Texas (twice), spent two years in the Philippines where she learned to walk, lived in California, and spent several years in Virginia. She lived in the metro area of Washington DC from 8th grade through college and it allowed her to meet her best friend and husband, David. They have two children: Sweet Pea is 6 and Boo-Boo is 2.

Her children are a primary reason that Malia is content to remain in one place. As she grew up, she was unable to make long time friendships because by the time she got to know people, she had to leave again. She wants her daughter to have a best friend and feels she has a better chance of this if they stay in one place. Malia is also pleased that her family and in-laws live nearby because her children will have the opportunity to know their grandparents and aunts and others in the extended family.

Malia believes her wrinkles are from laughter and joy. She hasn’t suffered a lot like other people in her lifetime, but is concerned because although it can be gentle for the young, the unstoppable march of time can also be harsh. Malia still has a long way to go. Living through a miscarriage was the only really difficult period she experienced, but she felt it made her stronger.

Malia very much wants her children raised so that they respect others and themselves. She is proud that her daughter thinks independently and doesn’t’ always follow the herd mentality. Sweet Pea picks her own clothes to wear to school and Malia stands by her daughter’s fashion decisions as long as her clothes are modest and season appropriate. She recently finished reading the old-fashioned but popular Little House series to her children, and is happy that Sweet Pea likes to pretend that she is Laura Ingalls Wilder. Malia prefers her as a role model rather than the Bratz dolls or Hilary Duff or Hannah Montana.

By the same token, Malia realizes that children do mimic what they hear. One day she took a box of Ritz crackers out of the pantry, saw that it was empty, and said “Oh man!” Boo-Boo picked that right up and repeats “Oh man!” when Malia goes to the pantry. Malia said Boo-Boo keeps them all laughing.

Once Malia worried about where Sweet Pea heard the word “Crap.” When she heard the commode, Malia asked her daughter why it was flushed. Her daughter said, “Put crap in toilet.” Malia raised her eyebrows and again asked, “Why?” Sweet Pea said, “Got crab, put in toilet, and flushed.” It was her bath toy, not what Malia had thought.

The toy is long gone. The Ritz crackers are long gone. The urge to move is also gone. But Malia is here for the long haul and she intends to keep earning her wrinkles through laughter and good times.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

SNL Skit Offensive

I love Saturday Night Live -- started watching it during its first season. Yes, I'm that old. But there was a skit on this week that I found jaw-dropping. Rapper Ludacris was guest host and apparently his lyrics are pretty graphic. They turned this persona into a marriage counseling skit ... in the skit, couples were advised to just "bitch slap" their spouse to get them in line.

I told my husband that I found it shocking and disturbing. I know the show is a comedy yadda yadda yadda, but it was in terrible taste. I tried to find a link to the skit on youtube, but couldn't. I'm very surprised that domestic violence groups haven't already been (as they should) screaming about it.

Here's a synopsis of the skit that someone live-blogged:
Bitc*slap Method - Samantha Hawkins (Maya Rudolph) hosts this informercial with Dr. Archibald Bitc*slap (Host) about his method of helping troubled marriages. The two families are Pete and Donna Longhorne (Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig) and Jody and Deborah Preston (Bill Hader and Amy Poehler). Both families praised the method.

I have a feeling that the SNL headlines are coming and it won't be pretty. Any criticism is well deserved, especially when - even jokingly - this type of violence is condoned and encouraged.

This is Why ...

Although I have a degree in journalism, this is why I'm not a reporter.

You are far too kind. I would like to state, however, that it didn't really take me 16 years to graduate just seemed that way because I literally spent 16 years at Lipscomb (1st thru senior in college). (FROM JOHN)

My grandparents ran the county party not the state, but they were intricate in it. (FROM TRACE)

The trend, according to the Tennessean, is to move to the west part of EAST Nashville, as opposed to west nashville. Gallatin Road has heretofore been kind of a dividing line with the upscaling going on to the east and the 'scarier' neighborhoods to the west. It appears that the urban pioneer types are marching to the west - of east nashville.just wanted to set the record straight here.
See? Fiction is so much nicer! Thankfully, I learned long ago that there is no pride in authorship when I write. And since I'm in my 40's, I acknowledge that I don't know anything so really I am wise. Wise enough to make corrections when I'm mistaken, anyway. Thanks for the heads-up groovy guys and groovy gals. :::Kathy T. shuffles away mumbling:::

Trace's Wrinkles

There’s an email going around about the people who come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Those who are there for a reason are there to assist you somehow, but the relationship is fleeting and usually ends abruptly. Those who are there for a season may teach you something you have never done and usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. But it too is short-lived. The lifetime friends are rare. They accept you regardless of your faults and they are there for the duration, no matter what twists and turns the road of life maps out for you.

I’m not sure where Trace falls, but I’m hoping it will be the lifetime road. Trace believes you are always where you are at that moment. Some moments in time may be filled with abundance, others may seem quiet and sad.

Trace recently watched the “mother tree” come down at her home. It is believed to be one of the oldest in her hometown with approximately 200 to 225 years of growth behind it, but it was a sick tree. Although eight years have passed since her mother lost her battle with cancer, the tree’s undoing made the loss feel fresh again. Like her mother who fought for her life for a year and a half, the tree also struggled to survive strong winds and destructive roots. Trace said being in a caretaker position and watching someone you love pass has added many wrinkles to her otherwise cheerful face.

Her mother made a deep mark upon Trace’s soul. She was a very creative person who encouraged her children to map out their own destinations. She didn’t interfere, but rather tried to help them open the doors of their own choosing. Her mother used to sing with the Everly Brothers and her parents ran the county's Republican Party, but were also involved at the state level. When they lived in Memphis, all Trace remembers is fire; her mother told her it was because the garbage workers were on strike, so all the trash was burned. Trace watched when Martin Luther King came in support of the striking workers and she worried about her grandfather who was in the National Guard.

Both her grandfather and mother influenced Trace. She watched the Watergate hearings at her grandfather’s behest when she was just 9-years old. Her mother encouraged her to watch Maude’s abortion show. These made her try to see all sides of a story and to be fair in her reporting.

Trace is the managing editor of a small-town newspaper. She believes everyone on her staff adds value to the newspaper; each has a vital role. Trace will not allow anyone a “glamour fit” because their work is more important than others, and in fact they all take a turn cleaning the toilets. Trace said the difficulty is that although she doesn’t consider herself better than anyone else, when you have the top seat there is always someone gunning for your position. She believes, however, that if they can do the job better than her, then she needs to be replaced.

While Trace is a strong leader, she carries around some personal guilt about smoking cigarettes, especially after her mother’s death from lung cancer. She has quit several times, but never long enough to kick the habit. She’s the only smoker at home and is amazed her family doesn’t make her go outside to puff. But when you become an adult, you can do anything you want. And the older you get, the more credibility you have. Trace believes it is ironic that people in their 40s are given credit for their wisdom, when the real kick is that it takes four decades to realize you don’t know anything.

Maybe it’s when we admit we don’t know anything that we really do become wise.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Weekend Stuff

This has been a pretty good weekend, starting out with lunch on Friday with Ivy and John. I mention that because Ivy has been recalcitrant in posting this FANTASTIC picture. She said she didn't care if I did, so.........

Brad, who shaves his head twice a week, was a good sport and posed for a photo with his long lost kin-folk. That was fun. By the way, my daughter said she thought Ivy looks very pretty without her hair.

More fun was had at the monthly Middle Tennessee Blogger & Podcast Meeting today. Big turnout... the Divine M, John H, Malia, Shauna, Heather & Ivy, Gunner & Elizabeth, Chip, and a surprise visit from Terrie B. and her friend from Minnesota. I have a sinking feeling that I'm forgetting someone...

During the meeting, M. thanked the fine businesses and individuals who donated to The Christmas Challenge, we talked about the electronic voting machines, and discussed a certain blogger Christmas party coming up at a certain someone's house on December 9th. If you want to come, email me HERE so I can give directions, etc. I'll post more info about it as it gets closer.

Velma's Wrinkles

“She’s doing your wrinkles, Grandma!” my youngest daughter said.
“I have a lot of wrinkles, baby,” my mother-in-law replied. After asking her for weeks, Velma reluctantly agreed to talk with me about some of her experiences during her sad, beautiful life.

One of her earliest memories occurred while Velma was living on a farm with her parents. An angry rooster attacked her, deeply spurring her face. Her mother was so angry that she killed the rooster and cooked it for dinner; it was an unpleasant, tough old bird.

Velma remembers she was about four-years old when the attack occurred because her Daddy was still living. She lost him when she was five, a death that drastically changed Velma’s life and the lives of her family. A young widow whose husband’s bad heart failed him when he was just 42, Velma’s Momma was unable to care for the children. She rejected the suggestion that the children be placed in an orphan home, instead she sent the three children away to live with family members.

Velma and her sister Margaret went to live with Uncle Jim and mean Aunt Bertha. Farm animals apparently found Velma to be disagreeable because a cow attacked her a few short months after moving in. She was outside in the barnyard and believed the cows were in the field. Unfortunately, a bad-tempered bovine came charging into the barnyard toward her. Her Aunt Bertha snatched her away from the cow and held on while it gave chase. Bertha swung a screaming Velma around in circles until her uncle was able to shoo the cow back into the barn.

Meanwhile, Velma’s brother Carl was trapped at the home of mean Uncle Link and the good Aunt Bertha for years. When he was 17-years old, Carl lied about his age to join the Army just to get away from his “adopted” home. Her sister also escaped a life that felt like servitude by setting up her own home when she was just 16. She married a veteran of World War II and today has surpassed her 50th Anniversary.

Velma was the only child who spent a lot of time with her Momma. Delia had found a job caring for a bedfast woman who agreed to allow the widow and her child to stay. After several months, the woman’s alcoholic brother came home. Every time he saw Velma, he threatened to kill her. Her mother was unable to leave the position, so Velma split her time hiding in a closet or visiting the neighbor who had no children. They finally moved out after the lady passed away.

Velma’s mother eventually remarried. She said her stepfather wasn’t all that bad, but he died the year Velma graduated from high school. Velma was ready for marriage at that point and wed my father-in-law two days after his return from Korea. She wishes she had waited longer to marry because Korea had changed him. After numerous affairs during their marriage, he deserted her and their young son for a woman he found in a bar.

Like her mother, Velma eventually remarried and moved to Owensboro. She regrets her 20 year marriage to husband number two because he was too lazy to hold a job. Velma would go to work in the morning and often come home to find he had sold her belongings. Once he sold two of her antique tables for $50 - tables that were worth thousands of dollars. Velma was heartsick, yet stayed with him and continued to pay the child support for his four daughters, the rent, and put food on the table.

Velma finally left him so she could care for her mother, who had grown old. For 13 years, she nursed her through Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Delia passed away when she was 89 years old.

Velma wouldn’t say it, but I suspect many of her wrinkles come from sharing a home with her daughter-in-law. Our relationship is bittersweet. We love each other, yet living together can be difficult. She makes the very best mashed potatoes in the world – ever. She brings laughter to our home and spoils all of us.

Yet Velma believes she is too old now, way too old. She said when you reach her age, you see your life spiraling down to the little bit and it makes her just thankful to be alive. At 72 years old, Velma says she can go to her grave happy for having such a wonderful son and two wonderful grandchildren.

Did I Earn my Diploma?

Surfing this morning, I saw someone had taken a quiz about what dialect they speak. I thought I'd see my own, but mistakenly navigated to the main quiz page. The quiz, "Did you deserve your high school diploma?" caught my attention. I'm relieved to say that I did. Whew. But I only got a "B" because the geometry question messed me up (that's the one I recognize tripping over, anyway, but I would've thought science to be the one to lower my score). So here it is. Good luck.

You paid attention during 86% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Now I have to go find more quizzes, but this time I'll stick with the "What celebrity are you" type tests. I wonder if there's one about how to get motivated to do housework?

Friday, November 17, 2006

John's Wrinkles

When I walked into Nola’s Restaurant on West End Ave. this afternoon, I felt I was meeting my favorite college professor whose classes always max out. Although he talks modestly about being uninteresting, you can almost feel the vibes from his brain as his synapses connect at the speed of light.

Normally, I’d feel intimidated to be around someone who may or may not gladly suffer a fool (ha), but John makes you feel comfortable. He is a husband, father, and blogger. We know him from Salem’s Lots which features take-no-prisoners-when-you-do-or-say-something-stupid posts to affectionate thoughts about his friends and family.

John has been married to Lynn for 29 years. They met when both were volunteers in New York City. They worked in an area of Brooklyn where abject poverty was commonplace. John used to believe that poverty was enabling, but he quickly learned it was all-consuming. It is extremely difficult to work yourself out of a position in life when every thought is about where your next meal is coming from, which bill you can pay. John rhetorically asked, “Would you choose to have electricity one month or to allow your child to stay in college?” His work in New York was both exhilarating and frightening because John was the minority in a dangerous place. He was robbed about 20 times in a five year period and had everything but his clothes stolen from his home. Eventually he and Lynn moved to a relatively safe place, or at least one that wasn’t dangerous.

John loved walking around the city because it has a buzz that you can’t find anywhere else in the United States. Even so, he would love to retire in Taos, New Mexico because he can breathe when he’s there. Plus John likes the people of Taos; he describes them as hippies who found capitalism after figuring out they couldn’t share everything or live forever in a commune. But they still retain their free spirit and love of life.

Although John doesn’t take himself too seriously, his family is serious business. He says he earned every one of his wrinkles when his three children were teenagers at the same time – they managed to wreck a car each. He probably worries about them facing problems on the job like he did. When he was young, he delivered flowers to help pay his way through college. John delivered candelabras for a wedding, and an organist at a church volunteered to help him. The organist kept slipping his hand down a candelabrum until it landed somewhere it didn’t belong. He looked at John and invited him to go to the church basement to see his organ pipes.

John then spoke about his daughter who is in the Peace Corps currently living in Bataan Grandé, Peru. She went to a party, but retired early. The next morning, revelers were still going strong and one leeringly told her he would’ve enjoyed the party more if he had a 24-year old at his side during the night. Although teaching health, hygiene and sex education to high school students who traditionally begin having children at 14-years old is admirable, John is very much looking forward to her return home in 2007.

John laughed and said you realize how dysfunctional you are as a person when you see how screwed up your kids are. He said his all-time favorite Simpson’s episode was when Homer and Marge were walking down the street with Bart, Lisa and Maggie. There was a big banner advertising a Meeting for the Society of Functional Families. The next shot showed one single guy sitting inside picking his nose.

Meanwhile, John will continue writing his blog and reading others, although it gets more difficult all the time. He proposes a moratorium on blogging; people should have to wait to start one until someone else quits because the number of new blogs that are funny and insightful are so numerous that he’s running out of time to read them all.

John, Ivy and I were amazed at the friendships gained through the blogging community. We come together to play, to eat, to laugh, and to grieve. And we all want the same thing – we want to live full, happy lives and when we shuffle off this mortal coil, we want to be remembered with numerous posts by our fellow bloggers.

Edit: I originally said it took John 16 years to get through college... I figured he was one of those perpetual students or something. His correction is in the comment below. It was so kindly written that I just know he isn't "irascible" like someone once described him.

Rest In Peace, BJ

I've never met BJ or her husband, but I feel like I know them. I've cried long distance reading her medical updates posted by her husband, Jake. I've felt his hope and his despair. His love for her is powerful, his loss devastating. Tennessee cries for you and your family.

Rest in peace, Barbara Jamie Bearden Kilpatrick.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shonda's Wrinkles

When Shonda first met Greg, she thought he was “a snot.” She was a nurse in the burn unit of Vanderbilt Hospital and was walking with a friend to catch the shuttle bus. When they passed Greg, Shonda said, “Good evening.” He didn’t even look up, much less answer with a courteous hello. He did not leave a good first impression on Shonda, but she said a part of her must have really liked him because his snub bothered her.

Shonda was already in a relationship with a person she was trying to get rid of. She said at that point in her life, she would’ve become a nun had her virginity been intact. She said she must have had a giant L on her back because all she attracted were losers and she was absolutely done with men.

Meanwhile, although Greg had irked her, Shonda still saw him at work now and then. She gradually realized that when he talked to a person, he was focused entirely on that person and is oblivious to everything else around him. Eventually they became best of friends and after two years, they married – a unity that has lasted 12 years. In her quick-fire dialogue, Shonda gave me a dozen reasons why her marriage works.

Shonda grew up in a dysfunctional home. She and her family had rice for breakfast and beans for dinner. She carries a scar on her forehead from the time her Mom missed hitting her Dad with a bed rail and got her instead. Because of events like this, no one would ever know she and Greg are arguing or upset because she doesn’t want to embarrass her children. Her own childhood helped her decide the kind of life she wanted her kids to have. Shonda grew a good life for herself, all the while watching her siblings rooted in the same spot she had left. She learned coping skills and always finds a solution to any problem.

However, resolving problems isn’t always black and white. Greg’s parents were completely against the relationship and implied that Shonda had an ulterior motive for being with their son, who happens to be Caucasian. Shonda earned more money than Greg when she met his parents, she absolutely didn’t want a boyfriend, and she certainly did not need him just to make babies because she "wasn’t a dog and could get a man." Instead, their relationship was based on love. They share many common interests and they respect each other. To this day, they only call each other their given names. Shonda believes when you call your spouse a bad word, it’s a direct reflection on you because that’s who you choose to be with.

The longer Shonda and Greg are together, the more his parents like her because they see genuinely love. Perhaps they doubted her commitment because they were overprotective. Greg has suffered great physical trauma and was told he would never walk again. But he has learned to walk three times in his life. The first time as a toddler. The second was after he survived a devastating car wreck that broke everything but his hair. The third time when a rod shifted in his back. Greg has the bones of an old person, according to Shonda. But she fell in love with Greg, not his body or his physical capabilities.

Greg thinks about what he can do, not about what he can’t do. His outlook helps Shonda maintain a positive attitude and makes her thankful that she can get out of bed, feed herself, earn a living, and raise their two children.

Shonda and Greg have the kind of relationship that everyone wants. Although there are days when she can’t stand Greg, Shonda realizes that in the grand scheme of things, having the toilet seat left up isn’t a problem. She said when people don’t laugh, they aren’t happy. Shonda laughs freely and frequently and her joyful life is a pleasure to share.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On Friendship and Cancer

I went with Ivy today to take pictures and show my support for her and Robin as she had her head shaved. Watching Ivy's hair first being braided, then cut, then shaved, then close-shaved made me realize what a noble, selfless person Ivy is. But it also made me think about what kind of friend I am.

I don't think I'd have the gonads to do what she did today without hesitation unless it was for one of my children. For my good good friends (fellow bloggers!), my sister, and mother I'd have to think pretty hard about it, but might. But for others, I think I'd probably do things like help with fundraisers, bring food over on bad days, offer to babysit, clean house, etc. But shave my head? I'm not a generous enough person, I suppose, because I would put my own selfishness ahead of compassion for others.

I also think about what Mandi said about friends. I've always thought that I give it my all to make friendships work, but I've found time and again that friends are incredibly fickle. You think you're doing just great and then you get pooped on.... one day you're having coffee and the next day your emotional investment is for naught. That in itself would give me great pause if I considered shaving my head. I guess I really don't give it my all.

Ivy was shocked when I told her there were only two people I'd shave my head for, "What? You wouldnt' do it for me??" You know, I just might. But I fervently hope that a cure for cancer is found before I have to make a decision like that. So here's to Robin. Be a survivor. Here's to my cousin Wanda. She is a survivor. Here's to my brother-in-law Larry. He lost his battle with cancer when he was 42. And here's to Ivy... you were very brave and noble today. And I am thankful there are people like you out there that schmucks like me can emulate.

Ivy - still one hot mama!

Where Was Kathy?

Guess where I was today? I had this reaction...

It was supposed to be shock and awe at someone's act of bravery, but it looks like just plain dork. You'll hear more about it later.

Sheri's Wrinkles

Like many immigrants in the U.S., Sheri doesn’t know what she would do if she was ever forced to return to her native country. Sheri moved to the U.S. in 1992 from North Bay, Ontario. Her father was in the Canadian military and was assigned to NORAD. She was only 16 when she moved here and doesn’t know anyone in Canada anymore, including distant family.

Sheri experienced culture shock when they moved to Rome, New York because there was no ethnicity other than white where she lived in Canada. Before her move, she never really understood the whole concept of racism but when she saw how the different high school cliques treated each other, she was surprised. Sheri graduated from high school in the U.S. and carries a green card today as a legal alien. She hopes to eventually become a U.S. citizen because she wants the right to vote and she doesn’t want to live in fear of being deported. Sheri doesn’t consider herself an immigrant, but when she looks at her green card that expires in April, she feels like one. She is an immigrant only because the government says she is.

Sheri would never want to go back to Canada because she has no good childhood memories. She laughed and said she blamed Canada for that. She was teased about her accent when she moved to the States. She said a teacher asked her a question once and when she answered she said, “aboot” rather than “about.” The teacher pointed to his shoe and said, “This is a boot.” Another time she called the All-American baseball food a “hut dog” and her classmates teased her, saying “Hut” is a football word.

Sheri did say one good thing about Canada is the free health care. She recently had a broken finger, but was unable to seek medical help because she had no money and no insurance. As a result, her finger is permanently deformed. She said the 15% taxes in Canada are worth the free health care.

When Sheri was in college, she got pregnant and married her boyfriend. Because they had to find a way to support themselves and a baby, her new husband joined the military. He was stationed in Minot, North Dakota for 2 ½ years – a place she was not fond of because of the bitter cold and stark landscape. I asked the classic question, “Why not Minot?” We both laughed and said, “Because it’s too cold!” We joked that North Dakota’s state bird is the mosquito and the state tree is the telephone pole. However, North Dakota offers one perk not found in Tennessee: summer daylight lasts until 10:00 p.m.

Sheri and her husband eventually made their way to Nashville, but they were divorced after seven years of marriage, four years in Nashville. They share a son, Jonathan, who is 11 years old and in the sixth grade. Jonathan is living with his father now, so Sheri only sees him on weekends. Mother and son miss each other terribly, so she is looking forward to his return home in December.

Sheri’s current husband is a stereotypical used car salesman, and in fact used to work at Bill Heard Chevrolet. Her one year marriage has been difficult and Sheri lays the blame on her in-laws. She allowed her son to move in with his father because she didn’t want him influenced by her husband’s family; they have faced numerous criminal arrests in different states. Her brother-in-law has faced drug-related and armed robbery charges and her mother-in-law was recently booked for pan-handling and theft.

Sheri has had three miscarriages with Fred. She thinks it may be God’s way of telling her she shouldn’t be in that marriage. Instead of sitting around depressed about it, Sheri wants to get on with her life. She will begin studies this winter at the Tennessee Technology Center to become a surgical technician. Sheri always wanted to work in the medical field because it offers job security. That will give her the opportunity to figure out if the situation she’s now in is where she wants to be in the long-haul.

Within two years, Sheri wants to have the job skills that will allow her to celebrate her own Independence Day. She wants to be able to support herself and her son if she chooses to follow that path. She fully intends to pursue the basic freedom we all desire: happiness.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Five Year Old Suspended

I just read this on my Comcast and I am absolutely appalled. We understand why there are rules against students bringing weapons to school. Of course we understand. But you'd think that adults would have good enough judgment to realize that a FIVE YEAR OLD probably didn't know better than to bring a pocket knife to open his sealed lunch. I can just picture a crazed lunch room monitor running toward the child, grabbing the pocket knife, dragging him to the principal's office, and all the school folks scaring the hell out of him.

What happened to a good old fashioned, "Son, you aren't supposed to bring knives to school because they can be very dangerous. You could get in big trouble if you do this again, so be careful not to make that mistake again, okay?" I know my kids would freak out if someone said that to them ... enough to rid them of their desire to bring a pocket knife to school.

And you know what? I think I've brought a weapon to school... I have a pocket knife in my purse and have gone inside to check my daughter out early.

Mark's Wrinkles

We often hear about how people must hit rock bottom before they accept that they must change in order to live. Sometimes it takes living through hell to realize that a normal life is a better direction. Some information and a photo below are graphic, so reader be warned.

Eight years ago today, Mark was working as a disc jockey at a bar. He drank while he worked and was very intoxicated by the end of the night. When two customers came in near closing time, Mark introduced himself and learned they were from Alabama. They too had been drinking and didn’t want to drive home, so Mark invited them to stay at his place.

After talking for about an hour when they got home, Mark asked one man if he wanted to “fool around.” He shook his head yes and they were intimate. Afterwards, the stranger told Mark he’d be back in a few minutes, and Mark passed out because of his heavy drinking.

When Mark awoke, the man was sitting on his chest screaming that he was going to kill him. Mark knew he had been struck by something, but didn’t notice the blood pooling on the bed. Even in his drunken haze, Mark realized his life was in danger so managed to push the man off. He started screaming and yelled his mother’s name as loudly as he could. The stranger heard Mark’s mother walking upstairs, so bolted up after her. He quickly found her and put a star-shaped knife to his mother’s throat, forcing her downstairs.

The stranger kept saying that he was not gay and he was going to kill her son for what Mark did to him. Mark’s mother apologized, but the crazed man told her to get on the bed. She was afraid she would be raped if she did, so instead she sat on the arm of the couch and calmly talked to him about his family to distract him. After about 20 minutes of gentle coaxing, she was able to convince him to leave.

As Mark’s Mom went upstairs to call the police, Mark staggered to the window and saw that his brand new car was gone. The adrenaline was firing through his body, so he didn’t worry about himself or feel the pain from his face, now a bloody pulp. He was most upset about putting his Mom in danger and his stolen car. But he did go to the hospital where pieces of a shattered wooden stool were pulled out of his head. He lost 98% of vision in his left eye and had a broken cheekbone from the assault, so he knows he is very fortunate to be alive.

A week after the attack, Mark’s wrecked car was found on the Briley Parkway with a temporary license tag replacing the original plate. In addition to the “drive-out” tag, the assailant left a job application for a banquet server position at Opryland Hotel. All information about how to reach him was on the application - essentially directions to where the assailant could be found.

When the court date approached, Mark thought he’d stand alone. He didn’t want his parents there, so he was grateful that two people from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition came to show support. In addition, the mother of a Ft. Campbell soldier who was slain because he was a homosexual was also there for him. She told Mark that he was a survivor and although her son didn’t make it, he should hang in there. Mark found her very inspiring.

The detective who investigated the case told Mark and his mother that since the 19-year-old was attractive and had served in prison, he probably snapped after the sexual experience. He admitted to the police that his intent was to kill Mark.

The case was eventually settled out of court, and the man who had committed the heinous assault was sentenced to five years of probation. However, he quickly violated parole and was sent to prison after being found guilty of 12 charges including cocaine possession, assault, driving on suspended license, using his vehicle as a weapon, evading arrest, and more. He is eligible for parole in 2007.

After the trauma of the assault, Mark suffered through many emotions, including guilt and anger. He regrets the things he’s done to cope, including drugs and attempted suicide. He says he has been clean and sober for six years. After he hit bottom, he woke up one day and asked his Mom if he could return home. He quit using drugs cold turkey and said it is possible when you focus your life on something else. Mark has become a stronger person because of these experiences, but he still worries that people will judge him on his past.

Mark focuses his life today on helping other people. He is a caretaker for his nephew on weekdays when his brother works out of town. In addition, when he read online about how the “Christmas for the Children” was going to be cancelled, he organized the Skate for the Children fundraiser to raise funds. The money is being used to buy clothes and toys for the less fortunate children in LaVergne and Smyrna during the holiday season.

If Mark continues to dedicate his life to helping others faced with poverty, pain, and strife, then he is bound to find the joy that has been elusive in his own life. Through his “pay it forward” attitude of transcendent giving, Mark’s own fate will be a matter of choice rather than a matter of chance, his life an example of how to live rather than how not to live.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gene's Wrinkles

Gene moved frequently when he was a young boy. His father was killed in a car wreck when Gene was two years old, a loss that perhaps triggered something in his Mom that filled her with the desire to move. Gene went to 14 different schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. This nomadic childhood played a big part in who he is and the way he is today. He is outgoing, friendly, and easily bonds with people.

Gene’s favorite place to live was right here in middle Tennessee. When he was in 2nd and 3rd grades, he attended LaVergne Primary School, Smyrna Primary School, and an elementary school in Antioch that he doesn’t remember. Tennessee offered things to do that were away from the California lifestyle. He felt safe here, and his Mom trusted that he could be safe here.

Gene was a Boy Scout while living in Tennessee. Although his Mom moved to several different towns, he remained with Pack 116. The stability of Pack 116 allowed him to go fishing for the first time, gave him his first camping trip, and let him shoot his first gun. He got to swim in Percy Priest Lake and he learned to skate at the Smyrna Skate Center. The two years in scouts passed too quickly before his Mom was ready to move on.

Gene eventually found himself in Ohio. His Mom worked for a minister, one who Gene doesn’t remember with fondness. He says he’s been in enough churches in his lifetime to instantly recognize whether ministers are good or bad, real or fake. Gene and his family were secondary to this particular minister, making life difficult. When his Mom had enough, she took the kids to a revival and left Gene home to pack the house.

Gene spent his 16th birthday packing boxes with clothes and other belongings. The next day, they moved to California and stayed for two weeks. He thought his Mom was joking when she said they were returning to Ohio. In one month, Gene packed, moved, unpacked, stayed two weeks, packed again, and came back to Ohio. Ironically, he and his family returned to the same apartment they had left because the manager didn’t realize they were even gone before they moved back in.

Although I don’t know his Mom, Neil Young’s lyrics to Unknown Legend remind me of her:

“Somewhere on a desert highway
She rides a Harley-Davidson
Her long blonde hair flyin' in the wind
She's been runnin' half her life
The chrome and steel she rides
Collidin' with the very air she breathes
The air she breathes.”

Gene’s life is more settled now. He and his wife Kristina have been married 12 ½ years and live with their cat, Popcorn, on over two acres. Gene met Kristina when they both worked as security guards in California. She was working to put herself through school; Gene was working to get paid. Although Kristina was engaged, they hit it off. Gene described the first time they talked as meeting your long lost friend for the first time. He later learned that they shared a friend when someone came by to say hello during. The three friends chatted for awhile, and Gene and Kristina went back to work after he left.

Kristina turned to Gene and said, “You know Arthur?”
Gene said, “Yeah, I know him and his wife.”

Kristina didn’t say a word, so Gene didn’t realize that Arthur was more than just a friend to her. Several weeks later, they were assigned together on another post – a fire-watch for an empty metal building. That’s when she confided in Gene that Arthur had been her fiancé.

While she was telling Gene about the nightmare of getting Arthur out of her life, he realized Kristina was single. Gene furiously courted her: he called her, brought her hot fudge cakes, and made a presence in her life although she was clear that she just wanted to be friends. One evening they found themselves at Las Bristas Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California drinking strawberry gold margaritas. After dinner, they went for a walk on the beach and kissed, with the sound of ocean becoming “their song.” Within five months, Gene and Kristina were married. Kristina is the love of Gene’s life, and with her he has finally put his roots down.