Friday, March 22, 2013


This week's article in the paper received a little "What the H?" editing, losing a couple of imperative paragraphs for the sake of space. So here it is as it was intended to be. And yes, my husband really did give me permission to speak of this episode...after a wee bit of cajoling:

“SHOT THROUGH THE HAND, AND YOU’RE TO BLAME—” I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes. In my home, anyway. You see, a few days ago, my husband was reassembling one of his guns and accidentally shot himself in the hand. And I don’t like to look for conspiracies, but it just so happened to coincide with the week he was supposed to be collecting for Friends of Scouting. Coincidence—or perfectly orchestrated? You be the judge.

Now I know what you’re all thinking—“Seriously? So like, is that allowed?” 

But before you go flying off to the bullet store, let me assure you that no, that is NOT allowed. You still have to collect. And if, in fact, you DO drive a bullet into the wall of your own house—for WHATEVER reason—you had cuss well better make sure it goes through your own hand first, because this will shock the nurturing side of your wife into action. And then her hysterical outrage will be slightly tempered, because she will feel sorry for you. But she will still be angry. Because she WARNED you!

Now I’m pretty sure that I have never made a mistake, which is why it’s so easy for me to point out yours. And even easier to spy my own children’s.

Just recently my daughter received access to Facebook, and was given strict parental and sibling guidelines: “No duck face. No bathroom mirror shots. And no cryptic status updates.”

She crossed her heart and hoped to die, then went directly into the bathroom, and proceeded to break every commandment before the lock even clicked. But she couldn’t help herself. Because she’s twelve. 

  One day, we were all lamenting her lack of social media inhibitions, and decided to look up the beginnings of our own status updates to self-righteously prove that we were never like that. 

“See? Look at this. Here’s what I wrote back in...ummm....wait, let’s’s one’s not...just a know what, never mind. HEY! WHO WANTS PIE FOR DINNER?”

But it was too late. For all of us. Because the duck face, mirror shot, cryptic status proof was right there on our timelines for all the world to see. And we were condemned, because we were NOT twelve.

Recently, I was talking with my mom and sister about times that we wish we could forget. Days of being loud and proud about things which should have been spoken of in hushed tones. 

My mother told me of when she and my dad were first married, and her mother-in-law gifted them with a piano to put in their home, because my dad was a wonderful pianist and loved to play. 

Well, Mom was very aware that the old mirrored upright didn’t “go” with her new gold velvet couch. Thus, rather than let people think she had questionable taste, she did what any dingbat newlywed would do—she put the piano out in the garage and never spoke of it again.

This reminded Kara about early in her marriage, when some family members were moving a piano into her new home. They stood at the door, sweating profusely and coughing up blood, eager to be let in so they could complete the job. But she came out with her finger to her lips, whispering that her baby was still napping, and could they maybe wait there until he woke up? 

Then I told about when Sterling and I were moving into our first apartment, and we tore in and out of the driveway going a minimum of 45 mph. Our new neighbors asked us to slow down a little bit, so as not to kill their children. And we thought they were SO DUMB, because we didn’t HAVE any children of our own, so why should we VALUE them? 

On and on went the humiliating stories, until our cheeks were in flames. Then, trying to save a small shred of my dignity, I ended one tale with, “I mean, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t COMPLETELY stupid about how I said it.” 

Unbelieving crickets chirped. 

“Never mind,” I admitted. “I’m not at all sure that I wasn’t completely stupid about how I said it.”

Well, anyway, as I said earlier on, I have never made “a” mistake. Rather, I have made MANY mistakes. 

And as I help bandage my husband’s wound or stand watch on my street, resisting the urge to grab speeding teenagers by their ears and yank them out of their stupid cars so I can drop-kick them into nearby cornfields before they kill all of the children, I truly understand the debt of gratitude which I owe to the merciful, tolerant people in my life.

Benevolent, wise people who, over the years, dismissed my stupidity by blessing my heart, (even if they secretly rolled their eyeballs,) instead of calling me out and doing irreparable harm to our relationship. And this they did, believing that one day, I would DO better, because I  would KNOW better.

Unfortunately  “better” is a very subjective term. ;)

Monday, March 11, 2013


There have been an awful lot of difficult chapters in many of our lives, lately. Makes me think of the term, "read 'em and weep" a little bit differently.

Our first son was a girl. We named him Whitney, and filled his closet with pastel frocks and patent leather shoes and sticky corn syrup for when it came time to attach bows to his head. We felt secure in our “baby girl” knowledge because we had an ultrasound, and the doctor could tell the gender, but we told him not to tell us because we were above that sort of thing. 

Then we remembered that we weren’t above that sort of thing, so we went home and popped the 10 pixel VHS into our tape player, pressed our noses to the screen and watched the black and white grainy smudges morph into...some kind of indiscernible smear. Which meant IT’S A GIRL!...because a mother just knows these things. (heart pound, eyes closed and reverently pursed lips)

Of course I believed what I wanted to believe for as long as I could, mostly because I wanted to decorate—I mean dress—a baby girl. And since the only options for boy clothing back in the early 90‘s were sweats and more sweats with hippos-driving-monster-truck-appliques, you can’t really blame me for the aspiration.

Right before delivery, my workplace threw me a shower, wherein the southern belle, Etheleen Holt, conspired with my nurse to give me false hope in the form of a darling pink polka dot outfit. Her dimpled smile led me down the primrose path of misconception...all the while, the stem grew on the apple without my knowledge.

We were startled at his birth. My mom ran home to replace the pink rosebuds with blue, we threw a dart at the Baby Names book to settle on Ashton, and I penned a strongly worded letter of reprimand to Etheleen for her intentional bum steer. 

But things have a way of working out okay. Turns out boys are WAY more fun than you might think. All it takes is a teensy pair of 501’s, a red plaid vest and a whispy blond bowl cut, and YOU CAN ROCK THE HECK OUT OF THAT LITTLE BOY SCENE! Which I did. Three times over. And every other boy-mom ate my dust, (she said with humility.)

Well, of course, our lives have a way of taking twists and turns that we never intended. Or wanted. Or deserved. As one friend put it, “I never, ever thought we’d be opening up this chapter.”

Seems that every life is a novel, but many of us—myself included—would prefer them to be a fairytale. Mine would begin, “Once Upon a Time,” and immediately end with, “Happily ever after.” And maybe I’d write a few benign, effortless chapters in between:

Ch. 1—“No goodbyes.” Because I don’t want to experience the death of a loved one or painful parting. I don’t want to breathe the sickening smell of hospitals or divide up assets or friends. It will hurt. I will feel forsaken. I will miss them and dream about them and wake up in the night, sobbing in my sleep.

Then I will start to think of life and love differently. I’ll have greater empathy for other’s sorrow, and I will hold their hand to keep them company as we walk together down a path I already know.

Ch. 2—“Only success.” Because I don’t want to be disappointed in my spouse or children or my own diminishing opportunities. I don’t want to find out they didn’t like me enough to vote for me. I don’t want to stand by while they crown the other girl. It will crush me to see my son lower his head in shame as unrealized expectations hang heavy on his shoulders.

Then I will be compelled to learn. I will forgive and start over and become wise enough not to repeat the same mistakes. And we will climb back up, dust off our spirits and grab each other’s hands as we race back up the hill.

Ch. 3—“I want a baby girl.” Forget about three boys in a row. They’re going to be rowdy, and wrestle and pee on the walls and ceiling. They’re going to be strong willed and try my patience and make me yell and karate kick when they crash into brick mailboxes. They’re going to kiss too many girls and be found in the Principal’s office and make me look like a fool when I profess their innocence. 

Then they’re going to sit in front of the student body while an electric razor slides across their skull, removing piles of “ridiculously awesome” hair for a fundraising effort. They’re going to dress up as Dracula and escort a girl with special needs to the Halloween dance. And they’re going to roll up their white missionary sleeves to pick up and hold a crippled child who is sitting helpless in the dirt, covered with flies, while her diseased father lays in a bed made of cardboard nearby.
Oh...okay, I see. So HE writes the chapters. And the only way through the book is to read every verse—every exhausting, disappointing, tragic, exhilarating, triumphant, redeeming word. Then it’s up to us to either ROCK THE HECK OUT OF THAT SCENE, or...not. Which means the “Happy Ever After” is up to us. The hope is that someday, no matter how many goodbyes, how many failures and how many boys, we will thank the good Lord that every line has been written upon our very blessed hearts.