Interstate and iTunes: A Memory Resurfaces

 

I made the switch from Droid to iPhone with my last contract upgrade, and have been an overly enthusiastic johnny-come-lately to the world of itunes. Ok, who am I kidding? I’m overly enthusiastic about most things. This itunes thing, though. WHOA! How cool is THIS? I can download song after song, and share it on all my apple devices! My favorite feature, by far, is the iTunes radio—specifically the Disney radio channel. Those who know me (or have read me) know that I have a love for Disney musicals that is rivaled only slightly by my love for Christmas music. Wow. That sentence just up the ante on my nerd value. Despite the increased nerd wattage, I’ve been listening to the Disney Radio Station with my kids (and maybe without them.) We’ve rocked car dance parties and after school sing-a-longs to some of my favorite childhood memories and new Disney soundtrack favorites. “Supercalifragilisticegspealidocious,” “Bear Necessities,” “Whistle While you Work,” “You Ain’t Never had a Friend Like Me,” “Be Our Guest,” “Hakuna Matata,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and countless others. We love them all.

OK, so not all of them. I skip all the High School Musical/Camp Rock/Phineas and Ferb nonsense. Just give me the Disney movie musicals, please and thank you.

Today, while I was Nashville bound on I-24 with my little boy in tow, a funny thing happened to me . He and I had just finished a rousing dance party number “When Can I See You Again?” from Wreck it Ralph, when the next song brought to surface for me a memory I had all but forgotten.

Many years earlier, I was traveling down the same stretch of interstate on a big, yellow school bus. We were on a field trip to see the Sam Davis Home, and I was feeling a self-imposed loneliness and artistic melancholy—think Aly Sheedy’s Breakfast club character, only in 4th grade. I remember feeling the cool glass of the rectangle shaped window on my forehead as I lay pitifully against it. I was a total drama queen before being a drama queen was cool. Lost in my own thoughts, I began singing a low, mournful song. “So this is Love” from Cinderella. I know, I know, not exactly a dark, emotionally cutting tune, true—but it has these swooping “Mmmmmm’s” all through it that I was really feeling, you know? I sang it through maybe twice before another fourth grade body plopped itself down beside me.

“What’cha singing?”

Hello? Didn’t you hear me?

“So this is love”

“Don’t know it.”

Yeah, I wouldn’t expect you to. It’s from a musical!

“It’s from Cinderella.

“The band?”

“Band? What band? No…it’s… a movie.”

“Oh! Cinderella! HA! HA! Like the cartoon?”

I was red-faced with embarrassment and anger. Not only had I been called out for watching cartoons, but my favorite one had just been disparaged by a little girl in a Guns-N-Roses tee-shirt!

“You sing pretty, though.”

Well, at least her musical ear wasn’t that bad.

“Thanks.”

“You know any other songs?”

To this day, I can’t tell you why I said what I said next. Although, I’m sure something about my own superiority feeling threatened by a little girl wearing Axle Rose’s face on her chest had a thing or two to do with it.

“I write my own songs too.”

What? Why did I say that?

She lit up. “You do?! Sing me one!”

Crap.

Judging her (in more ways than one) by her shirt, I assessed quickly that she had zero knowledge of Tiffany’s album. You remember Tiffany, don’t you? The red-headed-mall-singer? “I think we’re alone now…” Yeah, her. I had the entire cassette tape memorized, so I began singing a bit of one of the deep tracks on it—one I was certain she had never heard.

“...and what do I do now with all this time?” I crooned “That’s all I’ve got so far.” I lied.

“That’s really good! Have you written any more?”

Again, I have no idea why I felt so against the commandment about bearing false witness, but another lying fit seized me before I could stop it. “I’ve actually been thinking about a few lines earlier. Man!” I lamented, “I wish I had a pencil and paper.”

She stood up abruptly and asked everyone on the bus, “ANYONE GOT A PENCIL AND PAPER? SHARON’S GONNA WRITE US A SONG!”

Oh, Jesus! Crap, that’s two commandments in one day. Here’s hoping I don’t see my neighbor’s ass.

She procured a pencil and a few torn pages of paper ripped, no doubt, from a unicorn covered Lisa Frank spiral notebook; then handed both to me while smiling widely. “Here ya go! Now, write!”

I took them and told her seriously and with adult-like weight, “I’ll need a minute.”

She went back to her original seat, and left me to my creative devices. The trouble was, I didn’t have any creative devices! I quickly thought of all the songs that I knew that she certainly didn’t—and not just her, she was telling the entire 4th grade that I was a songwriter! I quickly pieced together some Karen Carpenter, Mama’s and Papas, 40′s big band, and southern gospel lyrics in a cross-genre Frankenstein of a song. I even included some of those “Mmmmmms” I loved so much in the Cinderella tune.

“We’re almost back at school, you got it wrote yet?”

“Some of it.”

“Good. I asked the teachers if you could sing it for us when we get back in the classroom! Yay!”

Kill me. Kill me now.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I mean I’m really private about my music.” God help me, I think I may have even flipped my hair over my shoulder when I said this.

“Oh..ok..that’s cool. Well, Just sing it to me then?”

I cleared my throat and picked another Tiffany tune to stick the patch-worked lyrics to and sold it as best as I could with many closed-eyed-head-sways to the music.

“You’re gonna grow up and be famous, you know that?” She brightened. “Hey, can I have this? You could sign it, and I’ll keep it—someday it’ll be worth something.”

I happily obliged and signed my very first autograph. (three more followed in my illustrious vocal career.)

I had a good laugh at myself today when that memory came flooding back to me—in technicolor–with Disney music playing on top of my interstate view. I can’t believe I was ever that sophomoric and high and mighty. I feel bad about this, but I can’t help but wonder how long she kept that craptastic song I “wrote.” I wish I could see it again—hell, I could even record it and sell it on itunes. I just wonder what genre channel it would go on.

 

 

The sex part always gets in the way

Disclaimer: This is not about any particular person or situation. This is just a social commentary. Nosey gossips, you’ll be thrilled to know the hot-as-hell hubby and I are doing perfectly well together. Take your assumptions elsewhere. Now, on to the blog.

“Men and women can’t be friends. The sex part always gets in the way.”

“That’s not true. I have a number of male friends, and there is no sex involved.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes I DO!”

“No, you don’t.”

“You’re saying I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?”

“I’m saying they all want to have sex with you.”

“They do not.”

“Yes, they do.”

“They do not.”

“Yes they do. A man can’t be friends with a women he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.”

“So, you’re saying a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?”

“Nah, you pretty much wanna nail them too.”

This is one of the greatest and most honest moments of dialogue in film. Ok, the faked orgasm she does later is pretty awesome too, but this moment…this rare slap of honesty is amazing because it’s true. Norah Ephron really laid it all on the line in When Harry met Sally.

I completely hate it though. I despise with every bit of me the truthfulness of that conversation. I’ve had male friend after male friend in my life, and it always goes to shit because it’s impossible to just be friends. I mean REAL friends with openness and freedom.

Oh, you can establish rules and boundaries. You can hang caution tape and set up orange cones around your friendship, but then it ceases to be a real friendship. You walk on tippie-toe the entire time to avoid impropriety, and then you’re left with a friendship that feels contrived and fake.

Let’s not, as Harry does, blame it all on men and their inability to control their dick, though. I mean, really, if they could tame their beast, don’t you think they would? Their penis gets them into SO much trouble, but even though they do have a “hard” time, (see what I did there?) It’s really not all their fault. We women assume responsibility for some of this, I’ll be the first to admit it.

In the far past, I’ve blurred the line myself. I’ve shared my passion for music and literature with guys, and somehow found myself uncertain whether I was sharing my passions, or sharing passion. The next thing you know, you’re emotionally attached to a dude and you shouldn’t be because you’re “just friends.”  You find yourself on this shifting sand with uncertain footing trying to balance what is and isn’t “going on” in your friendship, all the while pretending that there’s nothing “going on” at all. Again, it fucking sucks.

I’ve been happily married for nearly fourteen years, and the hot-as-hell husband and I have had various discussions about this. What is and isn’t appropriate? What is and isn’t crossing the line? What is and isn’t too far? How can we form boundaries with opposite sex friendships? What rules do we set up in or own relationship to prevent sticky situations with the opposite sex? Trouble is, we can’t find an easy solution.

I don’t want the caution tape and orange cones; who wants to be constantly on guard all the time?   However, I certainly don’t want the impropriety, scandal, and general tornado of shit that friendships with the opposite sex can lead to. It just isn’t fair. Sometimes, I just wish I were a dude. I love my boobs though, and dudes with boobs just aren’t as sexy.

I think this whole sociological conundrum may be why I love my gay friends so much. How nice to be friends with a guy who doesn’t want to sleep with you! Most gay friends also share my interests in music and theater. So, it works out splendidly.

But generally, friendships with dudes are a tightrope walk over a pit of teeth-barring dobermans. Keeping the tender balance is paramount to keeping alive. Lose the balance– lose your friendship and possibly much more.

Harry and Sally didn’t keep the balance of friendship. They end up married by the end of the film.
Why? Because the sex part ALWAYS gets in the way.

Taking off the Training Wheels

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“Pedal faster! Keep the wheel straight. That’s it!”

“You won’t let go?” I asked her.

“No. I’ve got you.” She said, but something in her voice sounded peculiar to my young ear. I turned my head around, expecting to see her running lopsided behind me while holding the back of the flowered banana seat I was perched on, but she wan’t there. Instead of helping me balance on this contraption, she was on the other side of the vacant church parking lot laughing and clapping!

“Mama!” I cried out in anger and fear.

Her face reflected my fear and she yelled, “Watch where you’re going!”

I crashed in into the shrub-covered fence row before she finished her admonition. I lay there tear-stained and twisted in thorny bracken—my hands and knees bleeding from the painful prickles and pavement. It would be several months before I attempted to ride a bicycle again.

Remembering the difficulty I had in learning to ride a bike, (I finally did, thank you very much) has caused me to put the lesson off as long as possible for my own kids. However, for Christmas two years ago, they both got bikes. I, as the perpetually fearful mom, made certain they came with training wheels. They adored riding them, and I loved that the training wheels kept them upright and scab-free. They soon broke the training wheels and out-grew their bikes, and it became clear to me that they would need new outdoor play things this Christmas. To continue procrastinating the bicycle lesson, I searched for alternatives to the two-wheeled-thorn-crashing-machine. I finally settled on my items; getting one kid a knee board and the other a pair of skates. Based on their squeals and excited, “Yes!” exclamations, I nailed Christmas and congratulated myself for both appeasing them and steering clear of bikes for another year. Enter my awesome Uncle and Aunt from Knoxville.

We don’t visit with them enough throughout the year. Isn’t that what we all realize about our family during the Holidays? Each year, they drive down to celebrate with us, but have only recently started a new tradition of sorts with their great-nieces and nephews—a Christmas shopping spree. Essentially, they give each kid a wad of cash and set them loose in Wal-Mart. My kids are the youngest, so I accompany them on this much-anticipated outing every year. This year, I followed my talkative children to the toy section and watched their eyes light up as they surveyed aisle after aisle of potential playthings. Esther settled herself in the pink aisle full of dolls and teas sets, and Josiah wandered through all the Star Wars and Super hero figures. All was well. Then Josiah saw the bicycles.

“Mama! A bicycle! Look!”

Shit.

“Mama! It’s a blue bike! Look a blue one! You see?!”

“Yes, I see. It’s just, well, I don’t know if you have enough money for a bike, baby.” I lied. He had more than enough money for a new bike, but I was certain I could sell him on another toy of some kind.

Josiah was visibly heartbroken. “I don’t? Oh…are you sure?”

The mom guilt tasted like rotten potatoes and soured milk combined. “Let me check again for you.” I said optimistically. I pulled out his little zip-lock bag of cash and made quite the show of counting the bills. I gave him a toothy grin. “Wow, Josiah! You do have enough!”

“Can I get this blue one?” He was so full of happiness, he nearly yelled the question.

I couldn’t help but laugh from my own happiness as I looked at his smiling face, and checked the price of the blue bike. “It looks like the blue one is too much money, but look! You have enough to get this awesome red one here!” I pulled the cumbersome two-wheeler free from its hanging restraints and set it in front of him.

“WOW! That is so cool!”

Okay, Sharon Kay, suck it up, butter cup. He loves this thing.

I immediately went to the nearby aisle in a frantic search for training wheels which, we later discovered wouldn’t fit the back axle. To ride the bike, he is going to have to ride it for real. We are past the point of training wheels. This means that I will have to do what I’ve been dreading. I will have to teach him to ride a bike.

He will fall. He will get hurt. He will cry. He will be angry. He will be sad. He will hate it. He will want to quit.

I will encourage. I will cajole. I will console. I will doctor the scabs. I will help him balance. I will wipe away his tears. I will help him back on the bike.

I will let go.

I will let go, and he will balance without me.

I will let go, and he will shout, “Look, mama!”

I will let go, and he will laugh with pride.

I will let go, and he will ride his bike like a champ.

I will let go, and he will peddle away from me.

Maybe what I’m discovering—while writing this piece, actually, is that the training wheels were for me, after all. Maybe I’m still trying to find my balance—but not on a bike. This time it’s as a mom—the balance between keeping them safe and pushing them to learn to ride on their own, and I’m always afraid I’m screwing it up.

When we got Josiah’s Autism diagnosis, it knocked the wind out of us. We saw many of the dreams and ideas for our son blow away. I battled in the only way I knew how, I jumped right into research and advocacy. I’ve spent the years since his diagnosis trying to anticipate what may cause a massive meltdown with him so that I could help him side-step it. In doing so, I began to get a “feel” of how to parent him. To give you an example of what I mean, I’ll tell you another story. This one is about his birthday this year.

Josiah loves Rise of the Guardians, Star Wars, and Spiderman 3–”the black one, mama!”

I got him none of those things for his birthday. You see, I had suffered with him through too many, “I’ve lost/broken my very favorite toy” meltdowns to get him birthday gifts he would fall in love with. Typical children will throw a tantrum. Josiah will cry for hours, and obsessively grieve for months. (This afternoon, he began crying in his room over a toy lion he had broken beyond repair last year.) I decided that, to help him avoid being hurt, I’d keep him from falling in love. So, I concocted a mom-plan that became my mantra for awhile—get him things he’ll like, but not love. At his party, he opened all of his gifts from me with a general, “meh.” Exactly what you want from your kid when you give him a present. Apparently, my plan had worked like a charm.

After he was so crestfallen at his birthday party, I made the brave decision to get him all the things he would genuinely love for Christmas. Should meltdowns occur, I’d just deal with them. His squeals, laughter, and exclamations of happiness on Christmas morning were a balm to my worried soul. It felt, to use the word all families of children with special needs avoid, normal.

He’s growing up, and so am I. We’re both still figuring this thing out, and we’ll both learn how to keep the balance together. I can’t tell you that we won’t get hurt, or that we won’t feel brokenhearted, but I can tell you that I’m sure that now is the time. For Josiah and for me, it’s time. It’s time to shed the training wheels, give him a gentle push, and lift my hand off of the banana shaped seat—but not before checking the immediate area for menacing thorn bushes.

WANTED: PERSONAL ASSISTANT

Wanted: Personal Assistant

Must be able to:

Be my text messaging bitch while I am driving. For the life of me, I can’t get my phone to understand me when I’m talking–No, phone. I mean “sing” not “saying,” and why in the world would I ever send a message that reads, “No spores in the tell a home huh haved s*** me?”

Do the laundry and put clothes away properly folded. ALL shirts of mine are meant to be hung dry due to shrinkage in the dryer and subsequent belly-fat exposure—not that I’m admitting to having belly-fat. (The SPANX gets hand-washed).

Fetch me a new pair of socks when I step in something wet.

Figure out why the floor is wet and remedy the situation.

Pose for Christmas Card photo, print cards, sign cards with touching personal messages, address them, and put them in the post.

Check on the kid who just called for me while I’m in the middle of having sex with the hot-as-hell-hubby.

Supply me with an endless list of entertaining stories and jokes to entertain people with at Christmas parties.

Scratch that spot on my back I can’t reach. Up. To the left. A little to the right. Down a smidge…

Brush my little girl’s hair so someone else can make her cry every morning.

Fill my car with gas when it is needed. The gas pump handle is SO cold these days.

Finish my Christmas shopping—with your own money.

Find my sunglasses.

Make my bed everyday, as I’ve stopped doing this since I began working full time.

Provide me with interesting things to write about, and sign over intellectual property of all clever ideas.

Make a kick-ass gingerbread house that looks like the Witch’s cottage from Hansel and Gretel so that I can look like all the other awesome moms on Pinterest.

Write down the endless “To-Do” lists and article topics that I think up while waiting on sleep to close my eyes. I never write them down because they’re always so important and awesome that I’m sure I’ll remember them the next day. (I never do).

Cook breakfast—one that a trucker would order at Waffle House. Make it scattered, smothered, and covered.

Massage my feet.

Take my vitamins for me.

Reupholster the living room furniture.

Take down all the Christmas décor and store it all away neatly.

Take upon your own body all the excess Holiday weight I may feel like putting on.

Make me a hot cup of tea 8 minutes after it is requested. No excuses or substitutes will be tolerated.

Assist with the keeping up of appearances that I am an amazing-wunderkind-super-mom-and-wife. Swear to keep the secrets of the dirty floor, messy kitchen, kids’ tardy slips, chicken nugget suppers, half-assed play dates due to exhaustion, quickies in the bathroom due to lack of alone time with the spouse, pony-tail days to prolong hair-washing and styling, T.V. Babysitting, binge coffee drinking, and number of M&Ms eaten in a day.

This is an unpaid gig, but I can compensate in “saying” songs to you for the rest of your life, That is, if I can acquire a personal assistant to take care of everything I need to do while I’m singing to you.

I Have Great Taste, Dammit!

“Everyone thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor, but we can’t all possibly have good taste!” –Nora Ephron

Nora wrote gems like that. Some were used in movies while others were part of her column or books that she penned later in life. She was an absolute truth-teller. At her own expense and even when we didn’t want to hear the truth, she entertained us all with her words. I adore her and cried when I heard of her passing.

But I don’t want to talk about that, I bring her up to tell you that I am one of those people who thinks they have great taste AND a sense of humor. No. I don’t think it. I know it to be a certainty.  I have great taste in decorating, fashion, friends, food, and music to name a few. I take great pride in it, especially my taste in music. Hell, I even majored in Music in college! From classical to bluegrass and everything in between, why I can bore you with details about it all. I can play “name that composer” on NPR with shocking accuracy. I also do my best to stay current with local Nashville area bands and folk and indie artists of today. Like all hipsters who denounce being classified as a hipster, I elevate myself among others whose taste in music is “beneath” my own. This time of year, however, I morph into a crappy music lover.

I blame Christmas in all its fucking glory! Christmas has me “fa la la la la’ing” through the house like an elf on home-cooked meth! If the song has bells, a celesta, a slap stick, and Richard Carpenter’s vocals dubbed over 12 times, I’ll be singing right along—loudly.  Please do not judge me when you see me wiping away a tear through that last verse of “Christmas Shoes.” (You just judged me, didn’t you?) Don’t get all high and mighty in your skinny jeans and infinity scarf should you see me dancing in my car to “Feliz Navidad.”  One of my many guilty pleasures is a local station that plays all Christmas music this time of year. Their primary goal inevitably must be to pick out and play the crappiest and cheesiest of Christmas songs.  Case in point, they’re currently giving away tickets to see John Tesh in concert.

Yes. I know. I should be embarrassed, and I used to be!

I used to hide that I listen to this particular station—quickly changing the dial to the “cool music station” whenever someone got in the car. I used to blush when I began to pop in the Carpenter’s Christmas Portrait and sing. (the entire thing, top to bottom, I have memorized. I can sing all of Karen and Richard’s voice parts.) I used to feel that my love for all things Christmas music related couldn’t possibly coexist with the great taste in music that I take elitist pride in. I mean, in what brain is there a mutual respect for John Lennon and The Chipmunks?

I’d still like my hula-hoop, dammit.

I’ve since reconciled my bi-polar musical taste by doing what most parents do, blaming it on my children.  I listen to the craptasic tunes to make their Christmas a “Holly-Jolly” one—by gosh, by golly. I’m leading Christmas sing-a-longs in the car in an effort to boost Christmas cheer!

“Take it away, Russ!”

“…………….”

“Fa la la la la la la la la!”

I’m the picture of Christmas Spirit for my kids. I’m a good parent! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it; even though it’s completely laughable.  After all, I have great taste AND a sense of humor.

You Are an Alchemist

A friend of mine gave me a book to read several months back. I’ll have to publicly admit right now that I lied to him and told him that I had finished it. In actuality, I never got beyond the first couple of chapters. I was struck so by what those pages contained, that I’ve been cranially digesting them ever since. The book is The Zen Teachings of Jesus.  Now, before you begin to flame me with religious commentary, I should tell you that I’m not going to talk about Jesus or Zen or even Zen teachings–I’m going to talk about Art.

The book spends a fair amount of time discussing Alchemy. For those who are unawares, Alchemy is the fabled science which claims the ability to turn base metals into gold or silver through some magical hoo-doo of sorts; turning the ordinary and mundane into precious and valuable goods.  There are other points to alchemy which I won’t discuss, but you can read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for further information.  What? You don’t typically get your information from young adult fantasy fiction? You should try Wikipedia then, it’s a reputable site.  In other news, there really needs to be a “sarcasm font.”

Back to Art.

Vermeer's original painting, Girl with a Pearl...

Vermeer’s original painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring from 1665 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book compared Artists to Alchemists. They take the hum-drum and turn it into treasured pieces. They take the earthly and make it holy.

Run-of-the-mill canvas and plain old paint become priceless portraits that are handed down for centuries. Chunks of rock from the filthy ground are chipped, honed, and polished into spectacular sculptures capturing life-sized creatures in mid-motion, as if Medusa had looked at them with her cursed gaze.  Strings and wood, in the gifted hands of a violinist, guitarist, or cellist can move the listener to tap their foot or shed a soulful tear. Vocal cords–which almost everyone can lay claim to–in the skilled throat of a singer can slice your heart open or fill you with a desire to worship the Divine. (should I insert a YouTube clip here of me singing? Nah–that would be too pretentious.)

Or how about the alphabet, y’all? 26 Letters–that’s it. Yet, everything you’ve ever read, sung, or said has been made up of an unlimited combination of those letters! (If you read and speak English, that is. I can’t speak to the number of characters in all the alphabets.) Think about it for a second with me. Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, and every other author and songwriter you know only used 26 letters to write that lyric that punches you in the solar plexus. Only 26 letters to create that spellbinding world that carries you away every time you crack the spine of that beloved book. To me friends, that’s the very definition of magic–no, Alchemy.

 

If it is Alchemy to take the ordinary, and make it cherished and treasured–if turning the commonplace into the marvelous is Art, can we do this in our everyday; in and among our routine? I think we all do in a sense. Let me try to articulate this.

Every weekday morning, I drive about 35 minutes to take our children to school. We live in rural Tennessee; surrounded on every side by rolling hills and stunning natural foliage. There’s this one part of the drive that I always look forward to. It’s only a brief glimpse–a flash of light from the camera–yet it feels like my soul lives for hours inside of the moment. When I see that particular view of the hillsides bathed in the first blush of the dawn light and covered in curly morning mists, I feel as if I were flying inside.

It’s just a hill.

It’s just the sunshine.

It’s just the fog.

And yet it is so very much more. (I told you I’d TRY to articulate it, not that I’d do a good job at it.)

Indulge me a little longer as I labor through this Alchemy thing with you. I think there is another way in which we all turn the common place into the extraordinary– through our love. Think about it. Through our acts of love, kindness, good will, affection, tolerance, and compassion, we are able to turn the complete hideousness of life into the most beautiful. Look at Gandhi, Mother Theresa,  Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and You, (yes, you.). All of these have loved the un-lovable, bathed the broken bones, stared injustice squarely in the face and said, “Not today.”, and given out of their inner wells of love. In the middle of unfairness, war, injustice, hatred, poverty, hunger, and death Humans have the surprising ability to completely change the grossly ugly into the Miraculous Beauty.

You are an Alchemist. Did you know that? You can turn any moment into gold.

Try it.

Go ahead and work your magic.

Hallelujah! It’s Football time!!

English: UT Pride of the Southland Marching Ba...

English: UT Pride of the Southland Marching Band performing the “Salute to the Hill”, a longstanding Tennessee Football tradition, before the 2006 UT vs. California game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It’s football time in Tennessee!” my dad announces in a booming sing-song voice as he clicks the remote to the channel broadcasting the Orange and White. I can hear the Pride of the Southland Band playing Rocky Top while thousands of fans sing along drunkenly and the sports commentators talk above it all. We’ve got a pot of chili cooked, cheese and crackers, chips, pretzels, hot-dogs, cookies, and several two liters of carbonated drinks. My father, who incidentally is a pastor, comes the closest to losing his religion every Saturday in the fall. He superstitiously wears a Tennessee tee-shirt or sweat-shirt on every game day, and yells instructions and insults at his beloved team.

 

“The dad-blame quarterback is too afraid of the sack!”

“Yep! There ya go, boys! Snatchin’ defeat from the jaws of victory!”

“OH YEAH! Let’s use the same play that hasn’t worked for the past ten downs!”

“He couldn’t hit a bull in the rear end with a bass-fiddle!”

 

The season has begun.

 

Autumn is my favorite seasonal time, and not just because all the world conspires together to coordinate with my hair color. The fall days are a transition from summer to winter and are, in my mind, the loveliest time of the year when the days begin to shorten, the temperatures begin to cool, the kids go tripping merrily back to school, the supper meals get heartier and more savory, the trees dress in their fiery-colored finery, the air is sweet with a tangy musk, the evening dusk is both orange and purple, and the season of football begins.

 

Here in the South, football is a religion. Stadiums are our temples of worship, fight songs are our hymns, and we work ourselves into a charismatic frenzy shouting for our team (and against the other guys’). I first caught the religious fervor of football while on the high school bleachers. The competitive spirit felt between the Juniors and Seniors at pep rallies suddenly transposed to a family unit feeling at the games. We were all Golden Eagles, and clapped, sang, and cheered as a whole. On cold nights, we’d sit huddled together on those hard ass aluminum bleachers all covered in blankets and coats. We scalded our tongues on steaming hot chocolate sipped from styrofoam cups. We danced when the marching band played “Say Hey!” We yelled for victory as prompted by the homecoming queen and her court (also known as the high school cheerleading squad). Friday night was an Event, with a capital “E,” for us. I have many’a fond memory of those chilly fall nights with the friends of my youth. We felt young, immortal, connected, and happy—despite our scalded tongues.

 

In college, my love affair with football continued through Homecoming weeks full of Greeks competing to claim the top school spirit prize. There were chili cook-offs, step shows, fight song competitions, and the long awaited homecoming parade. To this day, I can never give someone a gift without remembering the floats I covered with zillions of tiny bits of tissue paper. College football games contained all the goodness of high school football along with the added benefits of liquor and no parents. The marching band was filled with music-major friends of mine who would sneak booze into their instrument cases, and we’d enjoy a bit of our own school “spirit.” I know I had a blast at those games—I just can’t remember most of them. Currently, I’m trying to host a big reunion tail-gate party for our school’s Homecoming this October. I’m hoping to remember this game—even if I don’t understand it.

 

You see, while I adore everything that is football season, I don’t rightly understand the actual game. Don’t bother trying to teach it to me in the comments—I’m afraid I’m a lost cause. All I know is there’s this yellow line, and the team’s gotta cross it with the ball. If they do, you sing the fight song. If the big, ole sweaty players make it to the other team’s end-zone, that’s a touch down, and you sing the fight song again. That is the sum-total of my football knowledge. I can sing a kicking fight-song.

 

I think I actually avoid learning the rules of the game, for fear of it spoiling my enjoyment of the event itself. I’m already ignoring how football perpetuates gender stereotypes—what with the bulky and aggressive male heros, and the scantily-clad and leggy cheerleaders. I knowingly turn a blind-eye toward this (and even signed my daughter up for cheerleading) because I am in love with football! Don’t ask me any player’s name or team name for that matter. Don’t ask me about any stats or Heisman candidates. Don’t ask me whether that was holding or a face-mask. Don’t ask me about conferences and leagues. I can’t tell you anything about the game I claim to love. Your best bet is to just ask me what the menu is for the tailgate, and the lyrics to the fight-song. Oh, and here’s a spare pom-pom.

“Let’s Go, Boys!”

Trendy topics

Have you noticed how women’s bags are a thing now? Wait. Have they always been a thing, and I was just oblivious to it? Ah, the age-old chicken and egg question. Regardless, according to the boutiques in my small town, the current trend in bags is Vera Bradley. Every society lady has them. They have bucket bags, wristlets, tiny handbags, backpacks, and key-chain pockets all in a kaleidoscope of patterns and colors. I can appreciate fashion as much as the next girl, but dropping $200.00 on a multicolored paisley Vera Bradley bag, (which is cotton and not weather-proof) is the height of insanity to me. It’s basically a bag made from a quilt. If I wanted one, which I don’t, my Aunt Jewel could sew me one. Why do I need to buy one; especially at that inflated price?

 

A Vera Bradley Bag

A Vera Bradley Bag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As someone who’s never had the money to afford the newest and latest, I have a love/hate relationship with trends. I have taken part in my fair share of them, much to my embarrassment afterward. Does anyone remember that summer in 2005 when we all walked around looking like gypsies? Big skirts in crazy floral patterns, (some with gold medallions sewn in.) sandals, tank tops, and crocheted shrugs. There are pictures of me that summer where I look just like I’m going to a costume party dressed as Esmeralda.

 

There are trends though, that I’ve quite enjoyed taking part in. Like millions of others, I’ve got a cute little stick figure family on the back of my car; although I draw the line there. No decorating my car as Rudolph for the Christmas season or putting eyelashes on my headlights. (why do people DO that?) I’ve also happily taken part in the skinny-jean trend, after first resisting it for months and despite the fact that I’m not skinny. I have actually fallen in love with wearing tall boots and long tunics with my skinny jeans—so much in fact that I’ll quite possibly be wearing this ensemble long after the trend swings to bell-bottoms again.

 

Some fashion trends, I unsuccessfully attempt. I sadly missed the scarf trend three years ago due to incompetence. You remember when everyone wore houndstooth or plaid scarfs (with fringed tassels!) around their necks; swaddling their chests in voluptuous puddles of fabric? I tried to get the look with a pashmina shawl, but could never master the knack of tying it just right. It looked like an orange cat had been incompetently sewn to my boobs. Trend missed.

 

Then there are those trends that I flat-out avoid like the bubonic plague. Along with the aforementioned expensive Vera Bradley bags, our small town boutiques are hawking Miss Me jeans. These jeans are ridiculous. You know those country and western singers who wear rhinestone jackets that sparkle like fireworks under the stage lights? Miss Me jeans are like that, but just on the ass part. Seriously. Myriads of women are walking around town right now with their tail feathers all sparkling in the noon day sun; their butt cheeks screaming, “Look-at-me!” and you can’t help but do just that. You automatically gawk at their swinging backside as they prance around in stilettos which are most likely animal print, (another trend I have side-stepped). For the official record, I solemnly swear that I will never wear diamond studs on my substantial rear-end. I will also never wear: orange lipstick and nail polish, leopard print platform stilettos, a “bump-it” in my hair, a Pandora bracelet, ankle boots with fringe, or a Vera Bradley bag.

 

What bag do I carry, you ask? There’s a story attached to it, actually—one that derails the entire theme of this article, but I will tell it anyway. One aunt of mine loves designer bags and bought a big, black Prada one. Her daughter accidentally vacuumed it up one day while she was cleaning; breaking the decorative belt and tassel. My aunt, upset and saddened that her beloved bag was diminished, gave it to my grandmother who efficiently wrapped electrical tape around the broken belt to hold it into place. Being the proud owner of dozens of bags herself, she then gave the patched-up-purse to me, where I was at a complete loss with what to put in the giant carry-on-sized, designer bag.

 

I’ve always hated carrying a purse. I feel like a nine-year old with a pink princess clutch—searching the house over to find things to put in it, only to settle on my driver’s license, debit card, car keys, and chapstick. This bag is like a sweet-smelling leather cave, however, and has 90 cubic feet or more that I can fill with choice items. It’s also a Prada—and as such, gives me a secret thrill to tote it. I could never afford such a luxurious bag on our limited income, so I began to carry it, even though I only had 4 small items in it.

 

I’ve discovered that I actually love this giant bag! I keep stuffing it like the proverbial Thanksgiving turkey, and there’s still room for more! Currently I’ve got: my wallet, keys, 3 chapsticks and lip glosses (that I can never find), two books I’m reading, my Spamalot script, a tee-shirt I bought yesterday, 3 months of receipts from grocery stores and restaurants, an empty water bottle, a Sprite Zero, chewing gum, a banana, all three seasons of Downton Abbey, 4 or 5 pens I can always find after I need them, and a pair of flip flops—with room to spare. I love this suitcase of a bag. Why on earth would I trade it in for any trend that all the other girls are proudly sporting? I sure as hell couldn’t fit all of these items in a flimsy little quilted wristlet, and don’t want to try. I’m not sure if carrying the Prada bag means I’m bucking bag trends or following a different one, but I’ve got a bag that I love for what it is, and not because 90 percent of moms have one too. Apparently bags are a thing, and I am now a bag loving convert. Here’s hoping my aunt doesn’t pass down rhinestoned bustle blue jeans and I end up loving them as well. “Check out my ass, y’all!”

 

 

 

 

 

Did a Kid Do That or Did a Drunken Adult?

sad potty pic

sad potty pic (Photo credit: massdistraction)

So, dear readers and followers, I started a new job last week. I’m teaching at a pre-school! I know, I know how awesome of a role model am I?  Besides being overwhelmed, frightened, and exhausted, I’ve been enormously entertained. Why, you ask? Well, I’ve come to the staggering conclusion that pre-schoolers are simply just little drunk adults. Since realizing this, I’ve enjoyed my job ever so much more, and can sympathize with the little ankle-biting-ninja-huggers. Inspired by my new revelation, I thought we could play a little game today–I’ll tell you a story, and you guess whether the protagonist in question is a pre-schooler or an adult. Sound like fun? Ok. Let’s play.

1. While on a family vacation, she hopped into a gorgeous mosaic-tile fountain in the courtyard and belted out a chorus of “Life is a Highway.”

2. He took his shirt off and drew the Superman symbol on his chest, then asked me if I needed any “special help.”

3. While at a funeral, she stripped off all of her clothes, and ran down the hallway naked.

4. He said, “Let’s play fight.” Then got a busted lip from his best friend.

5. He passed out cold in a plate of spaghetti.

6. She hugged a dude she’d never met and said, “I love you SOOOOOOOOO much!” Then kissed him on the cheek.

7. He did an Appalachian buck dance and ended up falling flat on his ass–to much laughter.

8. She took off running full speed and ran right into the wall–face first.

9. She danced for hours to imaginary music in her head.

10. She sat on a potted plant and peed on it, while still fully clothed.
Hard to tell, isn’t it? Apparently the fountain of youth is alcohol! Who knew? Here’s to staying young forever! Oh, you want to know the answers? Here we go.
1. Adult
2. Kid
3. Kid
4. Adult
5. Kid
6. Kid
7. Adult
8. Adult
9. Kid
10. Adult

How did you do? Did anyone get them all right? They really could’ve gone either way, couldn’t they? In other news, I will not disclose any information regarding the identities of the adults in question,( as long as they get their deposits in my bank account on time.)

As I mentioned earlier, since I’ve begun to look at these pre-schoolers as little drunken adults, I feel more confident in my job. Among my friends, I’m often the designated driver because I have control issues that prevent anyone else from driving my car. While I do miss out on having a fun wine buzz, those nights of shenanigans where I’m the only sober one are often more entertaining than those times when I have a drink (or three) in me. I love to watch my friends act so silly and stupid–becoming increasingly courageous with each drink. In my college days and beyond, I’ve seen friends urinate in public, be belligerent to strangers or bar staff, get very lovey-dovey with me, bump into walls, doors, and each other, cry for no reason, laugh for no reason, and fall fast asleep at the drop of a hat. I could write a book based on their drunken behavior–but I won’t.
Being the designated driver for a car full of drunken folk has totally prepared me to teach pre-school! I can relate to the kid who is spinning around and dancing to imaginary music. I can sympathize to the kid who ran smack dab into the door frame. I can take all the sticky hugs and crotch smacks in stride. Most of all, I can laugh at them; knowing all the while that this is just a phase that will pass. They’ll grow up and become sober eventually. If you’re the parent of a toddler and nervous about it, just remember how you held back your girlfriend’s hair while she threw up. Remember all those times you took care of your fraternity brothers when they had one too many. You’ve got this. You can take care of them until they grow out of their drunken stupor. That’s my plan at work, anyway. Until they sober up, I’ll keep chasing the naked kids. Wait…that sounds like it’ll land me in jail. Strike that and let me rephrase. Until then, I’ll keep chasing after the free-spirited young’uns, and dancing to the imaginary music with them.

“Why Bother to Wish it Then?”

image

“Well, wasn’t that what you wanted? I thought you wished to see the ocean.”

“I did.” said Jane, looking very surprised. “But I never imagined the wish would come true.”

“Well, great oceans! Why bother to wish it then?”

This quote from P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins has always made me catch my breath and stop dead in my tracks. I had it hung on a quotes wall in my school computer lab last year for all of the students to read. I could write article after article about all of those quotes–the books, music, or movies they’re from, the authors who wrote them, and how they’ve helped shape my character. For the sake of time, however, and because I was out shenanigizing until dawn this morning, let’s stick with the Poppins quote.

I’m pretty sure I’m a self-sabotager. (is that a word?)

“Let me explain. No. It is too much. Let me sum up.”

I’ve never had any shortage of dreams, goals, and aspirations, and yet somehow they all seemed like the proverbial desert mirage–unobtainable, feathery figments of my mind. I’d desperately desire to be and do the things I claimed were my dreams, but never actualized any scenario where I would see those dreams lived out.

I would cite varying reasons why I could never accomplish such and such, or I’d do just enough to make it look like I had given my best shot at it; all the while knowing that I had zero intentions of actually being or doing the thing I wanted to do.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else keep themselves at bay?

I’m sure there are a zillion psychological insights which could tell me why I do this, but I’m guessing fear and control are the primary motivators. You know, like breaking up with your boyfriend because you’re certain he’s going to break up with you, or knowing you’re going to fail so you quit before you fall on your ass in front if a crowd. That type of thing.

This past year, though, has smacked that silly shit right out of me.

Maybe I’m having some type of aging crisis. Admittedly, I have blogged and facebooked about turning thirty-five more than anyone should be allowed to do.

Maybe I’ve just now accepted that my untapped potential is worth a go.

Maybe I’ve finally decided that I am special enough to have special things happen to me.

Maybe it was that Ashton Kutcher speech.

Either way, I’ve personally challenged myself and met those challenges with fireworks, confetti, and champagne. Metaphorically, of course–I hate cleaning up confetti.

This may be the start of a whole new way of life, and now that I reflect on it, I wish I had realized all of this much sooner. Who knows where I’d be or what I’d be doing? I could be singing on the Met stage. I could be autographing CDs for adoring fans. I could be the director for an award winning high school choir.

It doesn’t do for us to worry about the “might have been’s” in life, so today I’m making an official declaration. (cue the royal trumpeters!) Going forward from here on out, I’ll no longer find myself surprised when I get to “see the ocean.” Instead, I’ll expect it–because I drove the car down to Florida myself.

Who’s up for a roadtrip with me?

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