You Count–Literally

August 5, 1996. It was just after breakfast when I found myself navigating the musty-stale smelling basement of the courthouse in search of the office of voter registration. It was my 18th birthday, and I was stoked to register to vote in an upcoming presidential election. I knew through History class, my own reading, and PBS documentaries how women had long fought for suffrage before winning the right to cast their ballot in 1920. I also knew that my home state of Tennessee had been the deciding vote in giving women voting privilege and thought about that fact as I presented my Tennessee driver’s license to the registration office worker. I was signing up to do what so many women before me had not been able to—use my voice in a meaningful way politically.

​I’ve always had a bend towards politics and advocacy. In high school, I ran for student government twice, but–alas– I was beaten by girls who didn’t have the burden of frizzy hair and Sally Jessie Raphael glasses. As a middle schooler, I once made picket signs with my sister upon hearing that our parents were planning on getting rid of our cats. There’s no telling what the neighbors thought about us as we paraded up and down the driveway chanting, “Keep our cats! Keep our cats!”

​Although these are super-bad examples of my affinity for politics, they display the starry-eyed dream I have for the thought that your voice can make a difference. It was that idealistic mentality that made this 18 year-old girl descend into the dank courthouse basement on a bright and early summer morning.

​“Yaaaaay! I can vote! I can vote!” I sang to the wrinkle-faced gentleman who had taken all of my paperwork.
​“Yes, yes you can.” he replied in a flat monotone before shouting above my shoulders, “Next!”

​His curmudgeon attitude had no effect on my mood that afternoon. I hopped back into my car, flipped the radio to the talk radio station my dad listened to, and let the political viewpoints bounce around inside my head. I was positively giddy as I imagined pulling the lever next to the candidate of my choosing.

​I have voted in every presidential election since, and have even worked at a grassroots level on some campaigns. Back in 2000, I made nearly a thousand phone calls to registered voters in my county to urge them to vote for a certain candidate. I won’t tell you which one, but his middle initial starts with “Dubya.” (I know, I know. I’ve since mended my ways and have worked to help right—I mean left—this personal misstep.) I considered myself fairly knowledgeable about politics and even took pride in being a political activist! I took my civic duty as a voter seriously, and bragged about my consistent voting record.

​However, I have been woefully wrong, and recently have been made aware that I should be ashamed and disgraced at myself as a voter.
​I’m in good company though, chances are, you ought to be disgraced too.

​I’ve never voted in a local election.

​I’m not talking about when there’s a candidate for governor, state representative, or senator on the ballot during a presidential election—I’m talking about the local offices in the county. To be specific, the mayor, sheriff, and county commissioners.
​Not only have I never voted for them, but I wasn’t even aware most of the offices existed!

​Like I said, I am thoroughly ashamed at my ignorance, and wish to share with you my most recent experiences.
​In September, I landed my dream job as a Children’s Librarian. I could write a hundred or more articles about how much I love what I do, but they will have to wait for another time. I never imagined that my job would hurl me right into local politics, but money, and the lack of it, has a way of making you pay attention, doesn’t it?

​Our county commission has the daunting task of figuring out how to pay for a new jail and a new school—all while not creating a giant new tax burden on the residences. They have obviously looked at cutting the fat out of their budgets to make room for these new buildings and the running of them. This means that they have looked at, among other departments, the libraries in the county. ​Without going into too much detail, let me just say that our library patrons have used their right to voice their opinion about how important the library is to their community. Through this, I’ve had the opportunity to attend three county commission meetings, and a few budget and finance committee meetings. It has made for interesting discussion about how to best solve this financial dilemma which must feel to the commission like being stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.

​It was through my attendence in these meetings that I made a discovery: The local government handles so much that directly affects the citizens of the county. Among other things, the county commission makes decisions regarding: schools and their funding, property tax, wheel tax, 911 commission, Sheriff’s budget, library funding, parks and rec, road maintenance, water and sewerage, fire department funding, liquor by the drink availability and tax, approving the selling of or purchasing of county land, enticing big business to come into the county, organizing and funding solid waste management, and developing and approving of a county budget.

​Basically, where I get my water, where my trash goes, the roads I drive on, the schools my kids attend, the taxes I pay, the parks we picnic and play in, the library I work at, (and patronized prior to my employment there) and the fact that I can order a margarita at the mexican restaurant are all dependent on votes cast by my county neighbors serving on the county commission.

​Local government is small government, yes—but it has a big impact on my household. Truth be told, it has a big impact on your household too, and we all need to be voting.

​Do you know how much your vote counts? Let me put it to you like this.
​In the county I work in, there are approximately 32,000 registered voters. In the May primary this year only 4,600 voted. In most districts, there are about 2,000 registered voters. If only 10% vote, you can certainly see how your vote could be the one that makes the commissioner win 101 votes to 99! Your voice literally counts, and it is desperately needed.

​Do you know what district you live in? Do you know who is running for your commission seat? Do you know where they stand on the issue of educational funding, library funding, or property tax? Do you know where your polling location is? Do you know commission meetings are open to the public? Do you know that your commissioner would love to hear from you? Do you know how much you matter to the running of your county?

​I didn’t, but I do now—and on August 7, 2014, I’ll be walking into a warm and welcoming country church fellowship hall and casting my vote for county commissioner. I invite you to do the same.

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Panty Problems

​I have panty problems. How’s that for an opening line? I bought new panties today. Not the slinky and sexy lacy thongs on tiny individual hangers, but those big ole’ cotton ones that come three to a pack–rolled up, taped, and shrunk wrapped for bulk sale. It’s been a long time since I bought any underwear of the granny panty variety, and while I was standing in the undie aisle of the dollar market studying the different types of panties, it suddenly dawned on me how unfair it all was.

​These days, when you log into any social network or go to any news site you’ll be inundated with article after article about the continued fight for women’s equality and what #feminism looks like in 2014. There have been memes where men have proudly proclaimed their feminist beliefs with graffiti covered cardboard signs, charts and graphs depicting the pay scale difference still existing between the sexes, and hastags like the most recent #yesallwomen to bring even more awareness to society’s continued unequal treatment between the sexes even in our enlightened age. As most articles deal with serious issues like rape, abuse, and birth control, it seems like the online discussion has hit all the ways how the modern American can improve their perspective on the sexes—all the ways except one—sizing.

​“Hey babe, pick me up some work khakis while you’re out today, would ya?” the hot-as-hell hubby asks.
​“Sure thing.” I answer and kiss him goodbye.

​Such has been a regular occurrence for nearly 15 years. Most of the clothes, socks, and underwear he owns was purchased by me WITHOUT his presence. I’ve taken this for granted, as I assume most other wives and moms do, but let’s think about it for a second. Exactly how many husbands routinely buy pants for their wives WITHOUT THEIR WIVES TRYING THEM ON? That concept is so foreign to my brain, that I can’t even seriously consider it, and yet while my husband never darkens the store, let alone the fitting room, every pair of pants I buy him magically fit every time.

​36”x 34”
​Boom.
​Done.
​The measurements fit, and the pants fit.
​Underwear? No problem! IT’S THE SAME MEASUEMENT IN THE WAIST!
​I wonder if men are even aware that when we women buy clothes and underwear, it’s an ENTIRELY different experience.

​Let’s say I need new pants. I wear a size 14, and I’m tall for a gal. Just go buy a size 14 tall, right? WRONG! (but thanks for playing, here’s your parting gift—dry shampoo!)
​Pants can be low-waist, hi-waist, mid-rise, classic fit, stretch, hidden control panel, skinny, boot-cut, flare, and capri just to name a few. A size 14 in one type of pant does not equal a size 14 in another type of pant—even by the same manufacture! Trying them on is the only way to ensure a good fit—and even then you may get it wrong. I have a pair of navy ankle-length-skinny-pants that I fell madly in love with in the dressing room. I wore them the next day to work, only to find out the fit that I adored only lasted for about 3 hours. They got bigger and bigger as the day wore on thanks to the stretch fabric they were made of. I very nearly lost them during a particularly active dance number with the kiddos during story-time, and spend 90% of my work day hiking them up over my hips. Nope, a belt wouldn’t work, don’t even suggest it. (They are only faux belt loops. I have no idea why.)
​It seems to me that women have somehow gotten the sour end of the sizing deal. Why can’t we rely on measurements of waists and inseams like our male counterparts? Why do our size numbers seem so arbitrary? It’s almost like they don’t even matter at all!
​“Grab a 12, 14, and 16—I’ll try them all.”
​You men sigh and slink back to a chair to wait in quiet frustration as we head to dressing rooms with our arms full of jeans and pants. Bless your little heats. Well, I guaran-damn-tee you that we’re hell of a lot more frustrated than you as we slough off pair after pair of pants that don’t fit.
​But it’s not just pants—oh no!
​Let’s get back to my panties! I mean, let’s get back to panties!
​I wear a size 8.
​Wait, WHAT??
​A size 8?? To cover the same part of my body that is a size 14?
​Da fuq?
​Follow the blue hairs to the panty aisle next time you’re in Walmart or Target. I know, it’s daunting, but look through all the briefs, boy shorts, thongs, G strings, hi-cut, low-cut, French-cut, bikinis, full coverage, hi-waisted, and low-rise panties. Grab a 3 pack of bikini briefs and flip it over. There you will find a size chart. It’s not just S,M,L,XL like the men’s underwear—because that would just be ridiculously simple! No, we women have to have size charts that read like wall street stock sales graphs! There are boxes shaded in different measurements under all sorts of size numbers.
​“So, according to this chart, I wear a 7, but this chart has me wearing a 9? But…I wear a size 14 pant, and a size Medium tee-shirt….shit, I don’t know, I’ll just grab these.”
​You want to know what really sucks for women? The same rule that applies to pants also applies to panties—there’s no way to be sure until you try them on—and you CAN’T try on panties. Ergo, we’re never-ever sure if the panties we buy will fit us, despite the scientific looking mathematical scales, numbers, and graphs on the packages.
​ I could go back to Disney world on all the money I’ve spent on panties that, according to the size chart, should have fit but didn’t. Damn them.
​While you’re in the ladies’ underwear section looking about, mosey over to the panty hose and tights aisle. There you’ll find A,B,C,D,and Q—among other sizes. Yeah, I know…COMPLETELY different. Flip over a package and read those size charts. As far as I know, this is the only place where the inseam will factor into the size, except they don’t actually list the inseam measurement—just your height in ranges.
​“So, do I go with the 5’6” – 5’9” or 5’10” – 6′ ? D or Q? Hell, just grab one of both.”
​The charts on the back of panty-hose also have weight on them. You’ve gotta match your height AND your weight to find your size. Is there ANY male equivalent to this? Do men have to find how much they weigh on a chart in order to buy underwear? It’s humiliating! I will buy tanning cream to slather on my legs before buying panty hose just for this reason!
​Are you understanding the kind of problem I’m talking about, now?
​I wear a size 14. I also wear a size 8, Q, D, M, L and XL.
​Unless I don’t.
​The panties I just bought? They’re inching there way down my hips as I sit and type this. #yesallwomen #equalpayandequalsizes #pantyproblems #keeponhikingthemup

10 Reasons You Should Hire a Stay at Home Mom

 

It’s finally time for you. You’ve discussed it all with your partner, and have come to the conclusion that you are ready to go into the workforce again. You’re going to trade in your yoga pants for a business suit and head back into the adult world! How exciting!

 

There’s a slight problem though. Every ad and job posting you read says:

 

“Send your Resume and Cover letter to…”

 

In case you are unaware, those are some of the scariest words a stay at home mom can read.

 

You’ve been a stay at home mom for 3,5,7 years—maybe even a decade! How can you list all of your employable assets? How do you not come off as “apologizing” for all of that time out of the work force? How do you persuade that you are worth the risk a business will take on someone who hasn’t “worked” in a decade? How do you convince them that as a SAHM, you weren’t just sitting around eating bon-bons?

 

You don’t have to—I’m going to take care of it for you right now. Consider it my Mother’s Day gift.

 

CEOs, Managers, Human Resources, and anyone else who is hiring—LISTEN THE HELL UP!

 

Here are my 10 reasons you should not only give stay at home moms a chance, but you should be seeking them out for employment!

 

  1. We own a PhD in Time Management.

    Seriously. We navigate the schedules of the entire household! Doctor appointments, dental appointments, story-times, naps, play dates, meals, extracurricular activities like dance and football, and even potty time! When you add to that: finding the time to wash clothes, cook meals, clean house, properly prepare your child for entering school, and sexing the spouse—you’ve to a regular time lord on your hands! Move over, Doctor!

 

  1. We invented the term “Multi-tasking.”

    We can multi-task like a mother-fucker!!! Don’t believe me? This list can all be completed at the same time by a SAHM: breast feeding, mixing cookies, talking your sister down from a crisis, mending a broken toy, cooking dinner, lecturing your toddler on the importance of good decisions, planning the arts and craft for an upcoming play-date for the mom’s group, and cleaning the kitchen. You need me to email blast the customers AND call prospective clients today? Bitch, Please! That’s a vacation!

     

  2. We can rock the Social Network world.

    While you were busy in important meetings with stockholders, we were stuck in a house with little kids—all damn day! Thank GOD for social networks and smart-phones! We have used social networks to develop friendships, coordinate mass meetings of other moms, promote local business we loved, rant about businesses we hate, and ultimately connect and share ideas in a way that boggles the mind. We saw an injustice in town, and we squashed it from home with nothing but our smart-phones and a few hashtags. We saw a need for other moms to get together, so we created a Facebook page, and now thousands of moms all over the nation meet at parks at the same time in a weekly nationwide play-date. Is your company sorely out of the loop online? We can fix that for you in no time flat!

 

  1. We can event plan better than the hippest New York gay couple!

    Every SAHM has planned birthday parties that rival Oscar events and Inaugural Balls. We’ve got themed boards of all kinds on Pinterst, and will NOT be outdone by any other local moms. Our kid’s birthday party WILL BE the greatest and grandest on the block! But, it’s not just the planing that’s a hiring incentive for you, oh no! We can throw champagne events on a home-brewed beer budget. Since most households where the mom remains home have to live on one income, extras are hard to account for financially. Our ingenuity, creativity, hard-work, style, planning, and preparation all work to a spectacular advantage. If you need proof of this, we’ll send pictures of our jaw-dropping parties to your inbox or bring our brag book to the job interview.

 

  1. We get screamed at all day—every day.

    Need us to keep our cool with a disgruntled customer who’s causing a scene? Hell, we’ve had an entire plate of Spaghetti-O’s thrown in our face! Not only did we not flinch, we successfully redirected the little munchkin and made everyone happy! Next problem, please.

 

  1. We are cunning.

    Just sort us in Slytherin already, The mom’s group can be a nurturing, care giving place for both the mom and the kids. However, it IS filled with women, many of whom are trying to prove how they’re winning the gold medal in mommy-ing and do so by playing catty, high-school-like games a la Mean Girls. The more mature SAHM’s, though, understand the “heaping coals of fire” strategy in battle, and can apply their skills to professional networking and marketing. Your company will always be on top because we just win, that’s all. We win, and our frenemies smile and applaud; as if they rooted for us the entire time.

 

  1. We stick it out.

    Being a mom isn’t something you just give up and quit. You do it no matter what. There is no “out.” There are certainly times where we wish we could run away, but we don’t. We just keep swimming—because that’s what Dori told us to do, (and we all love Ellen!) We’re in it for the long haul. We’ll be there for your business the same way. We won’t up and quit when it gets tough, or stops being fun. We’re here ’till you kick our asses out! (but please don’t.)

 

  1. We can work sick.

    Not that you would want us to. We don’t get “sick days” in our current job as stay at home moms, so we just change diapers between throwing up. Then we clean up the toddler’s throw up because, naturally, they’ve caught it too.

 

  1. We are intuitive.

    Being the CEO of the household wants and needs would be SO MUCH FUCKING EASIER if everyone articulated their wants and needs. Spouses and children, however seem to fail most of the time at this, so we’ve had to use our mommy-senses and tune into what is needed at the moment to fix whatever situation is happening at the time. This skill is especially marketable for detective work. Is Sherlock hiring?

 

  1. We bake kick-ass cookies.

    OK, so I’m pretty certain that’s not a job requirement that you need at the moment. You’ve got to admit, though, it IS a nice selling point, right?

Hiring someone whose work history has a 5 year or more dark spot may feel like a mighty risky thing for you to do. I’m here, as an undesignated SAHM spokesperson, to tell you that you should take that risk. Your company needs her. You need her savvy, and her flair. You need her people skills and her ability to keep cool under pressure. You need her tech know how and her empathetic ear. You may even need her cookies. Bottom line—give her a shot. The “hassles” that come with having an employee who is also very family focused will be minimal because she will handle it all with grace and a smile. She’s a multi-tasking force to be reckoned with, and she deserves for you to consider her as part of the workforce, because after all, since bringing that baby home she HAS been working—non-fucking-stop.

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

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!”

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