August 2012

Shiny Happy People

by Priscilla on August 31, 2012

I don’t know what’s wrong with me this morning.  Maybe it’s the big pile of steamy poo I stepped in at 5:30 a.m.  fumbling my way into the kitchen for my breakfast of champions compliments of those nice people at Folgers.  I love my geriatric dogs, but their 13 year old bowels do not love me back.  Maybe it’s the achy muscles I’m feeling thanks to my idiotic decision to purchase 189 perennial plants marked 75% off.  I always forget that the plants have to go in the ground once I bring them  home whenever I’m piling them on those gigantor carts at the nurseries.

But right now I’m feeling very little Sue Heck and whole lot of Frank CostanzaFestivus is coming early this year, and I have a lot of problems with you people!

Okay…not all you people.  Just those of you with the Shiny Happy People family stickers slapped on the backs of your cars.  I know if we met in person, you are probably quite lovely, but I hate your stickers.  From what I understand from friends and family scattered hither and yon, these forms of  hey I’m a parent signage aren’t as popular in other parts of the country,  but they are big here in the corn belt.

My first issue is simply I don’t get it.  I’ve got kids – and believe me I’m aware I have kids. I don’t need to walk behind my car to be reminded of their number and sex.  I’m aware as I pack lunches; I’m aware as I wash dirty clothes; I’m aware as I check 693 math fact sheets a week and I’m aware as I pay orthodontic bills – two sets of braces were shellacked on yesterday, and maybe this is my real issue this morning.  Other people are aware of my children as well.  Stock boys run into them in grocery store aisle. Parishioners watch them come and go for bathroom and drink breaks during solemn church services and hotel staff have vacuumed up more than their  fair share of granola bar bits left behind by my little Gemini.  I do not need to remind folks about my mini me’s by slapping stick figures on the back window of my vehicle.

My second issue is the whole false advertising thing – Shiny Happy People.  These stick families sometimes appear with two parents, sometimes with one, sometimes with pets, sometimes with babies but all, and I mean all are smiling. People,  I remember the baby years.  I can tell you this- our poor dogs were not smiling…or wagging their tales for that matter.  If there were stick figure dogs on the back of my car, they would have a cloud of thought above their heads filled with images like  ##@**&%^!!!   The cats’ cloud would simply be solid black. 

Shiny Happy People kids are all wearing shoes.  True-to-life stickers would display shoeless kids stickers on one side of the window and a big pile of flip flops and untied sneakers and nasty white socks located in the corner of the opposite side of the car.  The mothers have stomachs that are – well – stick thin.  My last stick thin stomach appeared on my six year old body…before I discovered Cheetos.  In the same vein Shiny Happy People dads are alert and on their way to work – no signs of muttering at the stalling lawnmower or heads stuck in the frig rooting around for a beer.

(I’m a little concerned with baseball bat wielding dad on this one.)

Finally, let’s talk about pioneer women.  (You had to know it would come around to these ladies didn’t you?  Maybe because my mom never said, Well in my day…, in trying to prove her point of sucking up whatever I was grumbling about at any given moment of my youth.  No, she always reverted back to the life and times of the Ingalls – Wilder clan and those of their ilk.) These women birthed kids, milked cows, slaughtered hogs, planted fields and, not only sewed their own clothes, but hello wove their own fabric, all without stickers slapped on the back of their wagons.  Us?  We leave the hospital with our little bundles of joy and head straight to the Shiny Happy People sticker store. We act like we’re the first parents ever and whack the stamp of Shiny Happy People approval on our rear bumpers for the viewing pleasure of everyone in town and on the highway.

At the girls’ school there’s a car in the parking lot bearing Shiny Happy People donned with Mickey ears.  Either they’ve visited Disney World,  shopped at a Disney Store, watched a Disney movie or have a dog named Disney.  Any one of these scenarios is worthy of a sticker it seems. 

I know.  I know.  I’m sure this grousiness  is just me.  It’s always me.  Ask my former teachers and principals.  I once played Eeyore the donkey in my  elementary school play.  It’s no secret I was typecast even as an 11 year old.  But when I’m president, the only people allowed to boast on their bumpers will be Nobel prize winners (not their parents but the actual winners), Olympians, (and maybe just the medal winners…still thinking about this one) and cafeteria workers, because, seriously, those people do not have an easy job.

Have a great weekend, everyone…and I mean that…even you Shiny Happy People folks.


Dear Dixie Cups

by Priscilla on August 31, 2012

To:  All you nice folks over at Dixie Cups and Plates

From: Misfit Mom

Re:  Time for what’s Really Important ad campaign


First of all, Dixie Inc., well, Georgia Pacific to be exact, I would like to thank you for your throw-away dish product line.  I especially am fond of the small cups littering my bathroom floor thanks to my children creating tiny swimming pools for their doll house characters. However, I think that you are woefully missing the mark on this latest advertising campaign of Giving You More Time to focus on What’s Really Important. As I’ve stated, I use your products, but I don’t buy those perky moms in your commercials who through toothy grins exclaim, I use Dixie because it allows me to spend more time on what really matters….my family!  Sir’s and Ma’ams, I use Dixie paper products because I am dog tired, and it’s all that gosh darn quality time I spend with my family that exhausts me in the first place.  

 Today I spent quality time with one daughter in the doctor’s office getting a strep test.  She aced it! This led to more quality time together at the pharmacy.  Later, my little family spent another hour on our hands and knees together in the bedroom digging 45 My Little Pony dolls out from under the beds along with large wadded up balls of Scotch tape, 37 small decorative river rocks and ironically, more little Dixie cups that apparently were used as pony watering troughs. This task had to be completed before I could run the vacuum without damaging it beyond repair.

 Oh, and then there was the trip to the store for, believe it or not, those great little Dixie cups with lids.  Your toothy TV moms were even more excited about these cups than your plates, and as promised, they did give me more teachable moments with my offspring.  On the way home from the store, my children discovered how to tattoo themselves with a permanent marker left in the back seat of the car.  This led to another 45 minutes of unity in the bathroom scrubbing away the ink until their skin was raw. 

 All in all, Dixie, you saved me enough time today to read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus 11 more times than normal tonight at bedtime. So,  thank you again for your product line, but if it’s all the same to you, tomorrow I’m going to break out the wedding china.  I could use a few minutes alone at the kitchen sink. And next time why don’t you try speaking the language of real moms in your commercials? Something along the lines of  Use Dixie….Then Maybe You Can Take a Nap. 


Confessions of A Horrible Grammar Harpy Mom

by Priscilla on August 30, 2012

Do you know what horrible mothers yell when they are tired after being beat down for two days straight by a simple homework assignment about writing similes?

They bellow, Her butt is as big as a barn door. Do you get it? It’s not nice. We don’t say it, but this is a simile. This is comparing two nouns – two things – using like or as. Butt is a noun. Door is a noun. You are comparing her butt to a door! A simile is not she felt like sleeping in or my mom looks as if she wants to jump out the window right now. These are adverbs not nouns! ( …and this is why I do not homeschool.)

To which their much subdued daughters respond, We don’t think our teacher is going to like that.

(Complete hypocrite that I am, I am now headed upstairs to do Bible reading with my kids, but I’m such a slacker mom about this nightly ritual lately, that I’ve found an online site that reads it aloud for me.)

God bless us every one…especially the unfortunate children of Horrible Grammar Harpy, Hypocritical, Jesus Lovin’ Moms


Spaghetti Brains

by Priscilla on August 29, 2012

My cats just at a dinner of fried rainbow trout.  I call it the accidental feast because they normally are relegated to munching on kibble out of a 25 pound bag of manufactured kitty tack.  BC (Before Children) we made the mistake of introducing our first cat, Lucy, to soft food when she was a kitten, and thus she ate soft food until her passing 16 years later. I loved that little black cat, but I probably spent a year’s worth of college tuition on her in the form of mixed grill and beefy bits. That wasn’t happening again…

Until yesterday.

I suffer from a condition known as spaghetti brains.  This ailment manifests itself as a kind of thought pattern – specifically the complete lack of one. Because I’m not good at medicalese, I’ll just describe the symptoms to you:

I start for to the bathroom armed with cleaning supplies, but on my trip up the stairs I notice all the pet hair so I put the supplies down and head to the girls room to retrieve the vacuum.  Up there I spy some dirty laundry that I pick up and take down to the second floor and dispense of in laundry chute.  Then thinking, I might as well start a load of wash while I’m cleaning bathrooms, I traipse down to the basement where the machines are.  This area is also home to all of my storage bins.  Let’s say it’s getting close to Easter. I open the Easter tub to see how many plastic eggs and homemade paper crosses I have and decide I need to fill in the gaps.  I tromp upstairs to my laptop and venture online searching for Easter decorations.  I notice LL Bean is having 60% off of kids fleece now that the weather is turning warmer.  Oh, my!  Warmer weather means it’s time to put away the sweaters and haul out the shorts.  Back upstairs to my closet where I exchange the flannel stuff for the cottony stuff.  Cotton.  Hmmm, I opine, I think we’re low on cotton balls.  I better check the medicine cabinet.  Not only are we low on cotton balls, we also need sunscreen for the upcoming summer, more children’s Tylenol and a new portable first aid kit since the last one was depleted thanks to the American Girl Hospital up and running on the guest room bed….

This little exercise of futility may have burned 237 calories, but it also left a trail of vacuums, Rubbermaid bins and bandages in my wake.

I’ve heard it explained that generally women’s brains are like spaghetti – very stream of consciousness  while men’s brains are the equivalent of a waffle – all nicely organized into various compartments of their lives.

(I know as a writer I am supposed to tell you where and when I heard this and the name of the originator of the idea, but it happened sometime around when my children were aged two or three, and that part of my life is just a big blur of pull ups, fish crackers and lost library books.  I could barely remember how to spell my name back then much less remember the name some speaker I was listening to at the time. Who knows?  Maybe I’m making this all up.)

We women like to call it this spaghetti phenomenon multitasking, but really it’s just survival and some of us are pretty close to extinction based upon our levels of focus. 

Most men think quite differently. It’s  called compartmentalization.  They have a work compartment that is all work.  Then the sex compartment.  There’s the kids/family compartment.  The sex compartment.  The socializing compartment.  The sex compartment. For some men there might be a church or community organization compartment.  The sex compartment.  The sports compartment.  The sex compartment.  And finally the sex compartment.

Did I mention there was a sex compartment? I visualize a Hollywood Squares screen with at least half of the squares lit up all the time with neon lights blinking sex.

(Despite what the 50 million eager Shades of Gray readers would like to believe, for women, or at least a lot of women juggling work, kids, house, community and relationships, the whole sex thing resembles more of a broken off piece of uncooked spaghetti that has fallen to the floor and lies next to the stove in peril of being swatted under the refrigerator by the cat.)

This brings me back to my fine- dining felines.

(My writing is very spaghetti-ish if you haven’t realized it.)

One morning last week, I trekked down the freezer in the basement to grab some food to thaw for dinner that night.  I settled upon the trout, took it out and then heard the pinging of the laundry chimes alerting me that it was time to move one mountain of clothes from the dryer to the basket, pull another mountain from the washer into the dryer and then add yet another mountain from the mound on the floor into the washer.   Upon mountain moving completion,  I climbed the stairs to meet  another mundane task such as walking the geriatric dogs or hauling 10 bags of mulch around the yard – I swear sometimes I think all I do is haul mulch.  I don’t know what I ended up cooking that night, but I’ll tell you what my family didn’t eat – rainbow trout; because the rainbow trout sat in the basement right where I’d left it – thawing on the hamper by the freezer.  I discovered it the next day when I went downstairs to fetch new batteries for the TV remote. 

I have wonderful Type- A friends who thrive on lists, color codings and multiple alerts pinging from their computer and phone calendars. They juggle kids, careers and marriages better than any circus performer I know.  (I just realize that I don’t know any circus performers. …focus, Priscilla!) Maybe you are one of these people, and you don’t have a whole lot of patience for inept souls such as me.

Yeah, well…my cats eat better than your cats.


I’m a moody reader.  I’m also a moody mother, a moody exerciser, a moody cook, a moody grocery shopper.  You get the idea.  Sometimes I lose all sense and let my mood dictate my decisions…this can lead to great fun like unexpected road trips to see girlfriends,  while times it can wreak havoc on my body like when my bad mood exerciser collides with my great mood grocery shopper.

Lately, I’ve been in the mood for some kinder, gentler literature.  Not easy or “potato chip for the mind” literature, but something a little more nice or at least told with a nice voice.

So, when I added The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaff and Annie Barrows to my Audible.Com wish list upon the recommendation of a nice-book liking friend, the title The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, popped up in the “you might like this one too” box,  and upon examining  the reviews both by the professionals and the customers, I decided Harold  fit my reading mood.

A good way to picture Harold might be as the twin brother of Mr. Morton, of School House Rock fame who educated us as to the roles of subjects and predicates in sentence structure.  Nice simple guy, living a simple life who feared sharing his feelings of amore with a certain attractive neighbor lady.  I know – sweet huh? I got the idea of the similarities between the two characters when my daughters came home with parts of speech homework, and I dug out my old teaching videos while trying to cook dinner and listen to this book all at one time.  Such is the life I lead…along with many of you, I’m sure.

British Harold Fry is a retired employee who spends his life keeping his head ducked down, performing his professional duties and playing the role of compliant husband and father until the day he receives word that a former coworker, Queenie Hennessy, whom he has not seen for years, has cancer and is dying.

Thus he embarks on the journey by foot to see her.  Yes, he could drive his car, but for some inexplicable  reason, he believes his walking will cure her.  Along the way he encounters people from walks of life very different from his own, and shows great compassion and understanding towards them –  their stories, their endeavors, their shortfalls and triumphs; and it is to some of these characters that he opens up to share his own life’s story and the true reason behind his trek.    Unwittingly, this journey affects his marriage in a way that surprises both he and the wife to whom he has always been faithful but for whom he feels little.

If you are looking for a read that depends on outrageous action and thrilling exploits of beautiful people to keep your attention,  keep looking.  If you’d like to meet some well-developed characters whose creator reveals their true selves and stories a little at a time you’ll enjoy Harold Fry.  While Harold is a nice book, Harold’s life is not without wrenching pain; however, Rachel Cook has a knack of taking a solemn situation and adding dashes of humor.  For example  the press gets ahold of poor Harold and all of the sudden his simple act of friendship turns into a national movement inviting a cast of characters that at times astonish Harold with their silly ideas (but he, of course, is too nice to say anything to them.)   I see Dr. Bob Hartley in the middle of an Occupy rally.

I don’t know how authors come up with their ideas and keep our attention.  I really don’t know how someone writes a tale about an older gentleman walking to see a dying friend and covers 336 remarkable pages doing so, but  Rachel Cook succeeded , and I recommend this one.


Why I Like Rich People

by Priscilla on August 27, 2012

Three generation of Brown women were touring a local home- turned- museum, Ruthmere,  that according to MapQuest is exactly two miles away from my present abode.  Mother and daughter gasped upon reaching the top of the stairs and hearing the words from the docent…and here we have three original sculptures from the artist,  Rodin.  Inches away from our faces, free from any separation a glass case could afford, were two busts and a sculpture complete with the inscription from the artist.  If I said, Girls you don’t know how huge of a deal is! one more time, I think my kids would have thrown me down the enormous staircase.  

Just a few minutes earlier we had been awed by the notes a , Choralcelo, a combination piano player and organ, one of only two working in the entire US.  Tiffany lamps lit our way, original art looked down from above us on the ceilings and wood paneling made of Cuban mahogany swept us back to an age gone by.  Even Twins A and B were impressed with gadgets  like buttons in the floor of the dining room to call the help in the kitchen and the rotating floor of the garage used to turn the cars around in the days before vehicles could move in reverse.

But as lovely as this, one of the original homes of the Beardsley’s, the founding family of Elkhart, Indiana, is, what got me most was my mother’s expression when she discovered among  the family photos the face of one man, Walter Beardsley – the man who provided her a college scholarship study nursing over 50 years ago. (In fact, this week nine aged  70- something nursing classmates are coming to visit her for a few days.  Crazy ladies.) To the daughter of a welder with an eighth grade education and mother who, although extremely bright and the first in her family to graduate high school had no way to further her schooling, this scholarship meant a bright, hard working girl named, Joyce Beerer, could pursue her education to next level. 

Mom turned to me and explained with all the excitement of  Missy Franklin meeting Justin Bieber,  I received a letter from him.  I had to send him a copy of my grades every term.  It was a very nice letter encouraging me to continue my work.  This man, a relative of the home’s original owners worked his way up to be the President of the local Miles Laboratories. Ever taken an Alka Seltzer?  An Elkhart original.  One of my older brothers is now a research scientist for the company that bought out Miles Labs.  Maybe you’ve used its products when you get a splitting headache – Bayer? Kind of cool how things come full circle.

My determined mother left her simple but loving home for college, earned her BSN and later met my father, a local widowed doctor with three boys.  They married and went on to have five more kids together.

Long before my dad was a doctor, however,  he was a kid from a poor family beat down by the Great Depression.  From what I know, my grandfather was without work for two years.  Life was not easy for his wife or five children and family lore suggests he didn’t know how to handle the stress.  But my dad’s hometown of Muncie, Indiana, had its own version of the Beardsley/Miles families.  The Balls.   

You may have heard of the canning jars?  Yep, those guys.  The university both my father and my mother attended as well as the hospital where Dad served his patients for 30 some years were their ideas, and their money funded big chunks of development to get these ideas rolling.  But it wasn’t the school that made the difference in my dad’s life as much as it was a piece of property the Ball family bought and donated for the benefit of young boys.  Today it’s called Camp Crosley, and it’s where my dad – the poor kid from the poor neighborhood- attended on scholarship.  It’s where he learned to dream big, to work hard and to rise above all the messiness that life dealt him and his family.  He wasn’t alone.  It had the same effect on his three other brothers as well and many other kids who grew up to lead my hometown.  Years later Dad sent me to this camp, now co-ed, but I wasn’t a scholarship camper;  he could pay just fine.  My kids attend as well, and now, a I, a middle- aged, middle- income American, am in a position to give back the way others gave for my dad.  More of that full circle stuff going on.

I am a girl who has benefitted from the kindness of strangers – very wealthy ones.  Visionaries who saw opportunities, took them and then made sure to offer those same opportunities to others who shared the same dreams.  Here’s the thing – they didn’t have to sharebut they did.  Sure there were tax breaks, but what they got in breaks probably doesn’t cover what they gave in the first place.

 Thanks to these ladies and gentleman, college wasn’t a dream for my brothers or sisters or my cousins, and today a lot of us are in jobs that deal directly with the communities around us, teachers, nurses,  business owners, doctors and even a pastor.  We aren’t captains of industry – that was never any of our dreams –  but we do love taking care of others, and that’s something we learned from some people who 100 years ago thought philanthropy was a good thing.

 I’ve stated before I’m no political pundit.  I’m voting both sides of the aisle this election, but  I do get a little tired when some politicians and a lot of talking heads every four years trot out the old standby of those darn rich people don’t pay their fair share.  Okay, maybe all taxes aren’t fair, but blame yourselves for that one, big shots.  You make the rules after all.  Do something about the loop holes you are always whining about.  Oh, wait – that might hurt you folks, too, as these are the people you run to when you need some political leverage.  I’m tired of Americans being pit against Americans, and I refuse play that childish game.  It’s disingenuous, and I really, really, really don’t care who is making what – even reality TV stars – or what they spend their money on. It’s none of my business. I’ve got plenty of other ideas with which to fill my mind and heart.

(I want to stop here for a minute to declare that taxes are vital. Government is needed, and my faith declares in obedience to God we followers are to pay our taxes so it’s pretty much a done deal for me lest anyone thinks I don’t support these ideals.)   

 In my book, the rich people who unknowingly changed the course of my family and many other families have done more than enough.  They didn’t have to be the benefactors of entire towns, but they did.  Did they profit financially from the work of the townspeople – sure.   I’m not Pollyanna on this one. It wasn’t all for fuzzy feelings, and I know that along the way some good people got hurt;  I won’t argue that, but in the end a new class of contributing citizens was birthed.

I live in a town that a few years ago was visited by President Obama (D) four times– two as a senator, two as the President.  Our governor, Mitch Daniels (R) came too-  both touting government programs that were to help cut our 18% unemployment rate.  We’re down to 11% now so it looks like some of it worked.  Some of it didn’t.  Economically, it’s still bad.  Really bad.   The politicians haven’t been back.  One cable news network stayed here for year chronicalling the lives of Elkhartians. After a year, it left.  No news here I guess – to be fair it stayed a long time and did a thorough job, but you get my point.   Parents lining up at 4 a.m. outside a local mall for a school supply/new shoe give away -funded by local churches, local citizens and local philanthropic organizations- isn’t news anymore.  Food pantries begging for donation every week doesn’t warrant a scroll across the bottom of our television screens as this recession continues.

I know.  Economists say we are no longer there.  Tell that to my new hometown.

But you know who did show up?   

Another horrible rich person. 

Today my local paper announced that upon his recent death, a native son,  left 125 million dollars to the city’s community foundation.  125 million.  You know what groups he gave to most during his lifetime – the women, the children. His own mother had no idea of his net worth.  The whole town is talking.  It’s a little Frank Capra-ish truth be told.  To declare that we needed this is an understatement.

 I like to think that somewhere not to far from me is a little girl living a rough life who is going to grow up and go to medical school thanks to this man’s work and forethought.  Maybe she’ll marry a boy who dreams of being a nurse, and maybe they’ll have a mess of kids who contribute to the good of society, and maybe one of them will tell their story.


Addendum – You may have noticed I have a blank Philanthropy page.  When I started this blog, I told the designer to include it.  In the future I hope to share with you some organizations I support and why.  Philanthropy doesn’t take a lot of money.  In fact, it doesn’t take money at all sometimes.  It does take time.  It does take effort.  It does take passion.  It does take love. Please feel free to share your philanthropic dreams and ideas with me.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I realize all of us have different ideas about what organizations we should support and that’s okay.  That’s good.  There are a lot of people out there who need a lot of help, and maybe our little group of readers can offer that.


No Country For Sick Mothers

by Priscilla on August 26, 2012

(originally written and published  02/25/2008)

Congrats, to Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis and the host of other winners last night at the Oscars.  I saw nothing. I not only saw nothing, I felt nothing, I heard nothing. I said nothing.  Well, that’s not true. I got one bedtime story out to my kids before passing out between their beds.  All winter I have staved off the colds and flu and strep throat, and then I made the mistake of getting cocky.

We’ve been able to dodge the bullet this winter, I’ve proudly announced to friends, family and the meter man (You know, the more I write, the less my life is turning out to be what I predicted in my high school memory book.)

And then yesterday the bullet hit.  I woke up and realized I couldn’t move. I ached.  I coughed.  I sniffled and sneezed. My stomach’s activity called for me to run to the bathroom every five minutes.

Girls, Mommy’s sick, I announced when they ran in and jumped on my bed.  We aren’t going to church because if I’m sick, everyone in this house is exposed.

Woo-hoo!  Yeah!  No church!  Note to self – at a later date and time, be very concerned about the joyous outbreak upon this announcement.

The rest of the day is a blur as I spent it in bed surrounded by tissue boxes, jugs of water, toilet paper (for when the tissue boxes emptied) and, of course, little girls asking all kinds of questions and commencing all kinds of activities around me.  At the time, I didn’t care.  The answer to everything they asked was, Okay, just be careful.  This applied to meals as well.  I have no idea what they consumed, but my post sickness inventory of the refrigerator and pantry confirmed my suspicions that Dora yogurt drinks and pretzels were quite popular during Mommy’s little illness.

This morning, feeling a little better, I ventured off my bed and out into the other parts of our home where I discovered what it was my little darlings were up to during my 24 hours out of commission. Oh, they were careful  like I asked…when they took every item of clothing off the hangers in my closet and tried them on until the racks were bare, and the floor was covered.  In the hallway 54 stuffed animals were playing school together and by the looks of the empty wrappers scattered about there had been some kind of skirmish on the play ground that required many, many Band-Aids. They were careful alright.

Downstairs a careful tea party progressed complete with four gallons of water spread over 35 plastic cups.  Somewhere along the line the cat, not one to be left out of the fun, left three hairballs in places only my bare feet could discover; and the computer room floor held an entire ream of paper covered with stick figure families all missing their arms (Apparently, these little families were not careful.)

Hollywood isn’t clamoring for screenplays recounting the mundane and uninteresting days and night of sick mothers and their young active children. But if and when they do, I suggest Mr. Day-Lewis play the part of the kind doctor who visits the unwell women and lifts their spirits. And maybe to get a better feel for the part, he could swing by my house to  clean up this mess.


Traffic Cops

by Priscilla on August 25, 2012

A few days ago one of my oldest friends (as in years that we’ve known each other) came  to visit me in my little world in northern Indiana.  After talking about ourselves and our mental states for approximately 67 minutes, we finally got around to the subject of our children and school.   Hers are continuing on at a large parochial school in a large metropolitan area.  Great fit for her kids.  Mine made the switch to a neighborhood public school this year after always attending private Christian schools. So far a good fit for my kids. 

She asked how the big change was going for me knowing that  all I am acquainted with is private Christian school as I spent 12 years there myself, and that this whole public school thing was a huge leap of faith for me.  You normal people who only know public school – I can’t expect you to understand because you were not told for years that public schools were the epicenters of promiscuity, satanic activity and general moral degradation.  So, just trust me when I said this new school thing was no small adjustment for me.

Well, I tell you this, I began sharing,  drop off and pick up was a little chaotic for me at first since I never received the traffic pattern information and felt  completely lost the first day, but I just followed the cars in front of me, and observed that no small children were mowed over, no parents got out of their cars to take part in hand to hand combat and, it appears by lack of any flashing bulletins in the local news,  that all of the over 700 students grades K-6  got out of the school and returned back home without incident. 

She almost spit out her drink. 

And I knew why.

Private school drop off and pick up times are hell. 

There’s actually a video on the school website that  we are supposed to watch this year, she lamented.  There’s a camera mounted on the dashboard of a car driving the correct route through the pick- up point.  I kid you not.

I visited her school once to pick up her kids and sat in one long snaking line inching forward through neon vest wearing, walkie- talkie carrying adults who I swear were brandishing billy clubs.  She fished around in her glove box to get the correct form to stick in her windshield and drove past two or three of these intimidating professional vehicle directors until she arrived at the front of the school where two of her three kids were waiting.  But, alas!  Where was her high school foreign exchange student?  I’ll tell you where.  Not there.  The vehicle- directing Nazis were growing impatient.  Thank heavens, Hannah, the student,  finally appeared at door or I swear from the looks of things, my friend was going to be stopped, pulled from the car, spread eagled, relieved of her Pick Up Form and sent to the back of the pick- up line.  

My experiences haven’t been as bad as hers.  The Baptist run school our girls attended for three years was very nice.  Most  of the time I parked and went in to retrieve them every afternoon or we just walked since we lived so close, but in the morning I dropped them  off following the traffic pattern that all of us parents were apprised of during the Official Night Before School Starts Open House.  The principal educated all of us on the procedure complete with a blown up Power Point display as well as a map found in our ONBSSOH  folders.  Drop off in the morning was great – teachers and high school students greeted the kids, and in the afternoon, though the line could be long, things ran relatively smoothly. I never experienced so much as an angry glare.  They constantly mis-pronounced my name as Ja-more-a instead of Ha-more-a, but, hey, I’m a white gal with a Spanish sounding last name so I always let it slide.  Should have kept my maiden name Brown.

The only problem I ever encountered came about from dealing with BMW guy who insisted every morning on screwing everything up for everyone by entering the Daily Drop Off Extravaganza  from the wrong direction, parking on the curb right where the littlest of students were dropped off all to walk in his sixth grade son.  That’s right.  Sixth Grade.  Perfectly groomed BMW guy with perfectly coiffed hair had to let all of us other parents, who were just shoving our kids out the door and beating it out of there,  know what a great dad he was, I guess.   I’m no predictor of the future, but I can tell you this much, my little girls who hiked it out of our non- German import car at the age of five hauling all their school crap themselves and managing to wander into their classroom on time without incident might possibly be a tad more prepared than his walked- in- son when it comes time to hit the real world.  I could be wrong.  

After our move to northern Indiana, we did a stint at the Lutheran school where Mr. BMW would have been shellacked by Lutheran Traffic Control Man. Remember those Don’t Mess With Texas shirts years back?  Well, let me tell you, Texans have nothing on the Lutherans.  I didn’t have a map ahead of time, but the secretary, the teacher and my sister-in-law instructed me in all things pick up and drop.  Six cars pull up at a time.  Six cars unload.  Six cars are moved on out.  Next six cars.  Same thing for pick up.  And woe upon that person who tried to take off early or lingered a little too long.  He or she would meet with the wrath of Mr. Lutheran Traffic Control Man.  My sister-in-law had a run-in with him a few years back and while her kids no longer attend the school, they do attend the church, and Mr. Lutheran  Traffic Control Man and my sister –in-law  Do Not Speak.  (It may not be the Christian thing to do, but really, it’s best for everyone.)

Eventually, my friend and I had to end our time together and go our separate ways.….and then tonight I received this from her  via email…a note from her school regarding traffic patterns. 

(It appears that some of you parents out there who send your children to a large parochial school in a large midwestern town are not watching the required traffic videos available for your viewing pleasure on your school website.  So, I’ll share this instructional email along with my translation lest there be any questions.)

IMPORTANT CAR LINE INFORMATION (2012-2013) Only for the current school year.  We like to mix it up from year to year just to keep you on your toes.

Please read carefully and respond by Friday, August 25TH.  Thank you!  If you don’t respond, your child will be immediately dis-enrolled and thrown back into the public school system where they don’t care about your kids as shown by their complete lack of traffic pattern education updates on their websites.

To help with traffic congestion on campus and to alleviate children sitting in the gym for a long period of time after school, we have created a late car option for ONLY those who qualify.  This does not apply to bus students who are dismissed with all other bus students.  This is for parents who don’t give a rat’s ass about their kids and show up whenever the heck they feel like it.  We now have to guilt you into getting here on time.

Early or regular dismissal is from 2:40 – 3:00.  This applies to parents with ONLY students in elementary.  We must limit the number of late car elementary children to only those who have a sibling in intermediate, middle, or high school or to those who carpool with someone with an intermediate, middle, or high school student.  That dismissal begins at 3:05 and ends at 3:30.  Students at school after 3:30 will be sent to our ABCare program and charged accordingly.  You people have too many darn kids, and you have strung their ages out too far apart, and now you are going to pay the price by having to wait.  If you dare pick them up late, you will pay even more of a price…with cash.

Late car children will be dismissed to the playground (depending on weather) from 2:30 – 2:50 p.m. and then brought back to the elementary gym for dismissal as they are called.   If you are a late car parent, please do not arrive on campus until 3:05.  Arriving earlier will cause major traffic problems! 1.) Using exclamation points means we are serious, people!  2.)  Our English teachers never taught us that overuse of the exclamation point is very obnoxious!

We do not have the staff to accommodate additional children for late car dismissal who do not qualify based on the above criteria.  We know you are paying out the nose for tuition, but it is NOT ENOUGH for all the traffic Nazis needed to do our job correctly.

Please help us keep your children safe by following these guidelines.  It’s all about the kids and their safety. It has nothing to do with our desire to control, control, control.

I read this through several times, once with my lips moving, and I still don’t get it.  And what’s up with all the labels – late car kids, early car kids, early car parent, late car parent?  I’m dialing my therapist just reading this because it makes me feel so bad for all these people being branded based solely upon the ages of their children and the times allotted for their pick up.

The nice man who serves as school crossing guard for my girls every morning is named Chris.  It’s just him and his stop sign – no walkie-talkie, no billy club –   against a busy public road of traffic, and somehow he seems to get the kids across safely, and all the driving parents pulling into and out of  the school from the same said road seem to get in and out every day without  major incident along with all of the buses.

However, I have yet to receive a similar email which leads me to conclude that the public school must not care for the safety of my children.

I think I need to write a letter…with lots of exclamation points.


Some people see Jesus in their PB&J….

by Priscilla on August 24, 2012

…but I have Suki, the Divine Canine.














My mama and daddy had certainly left me a mess to sort out, and I couldn’t think of a single verse of scripture that was going to comfort me as I came to terms with an adulterating daddy, a resurrected mama and an expectant mistress with an imaginary fiancé.

This is my favorite line from this author’s first novel, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gregg Gilmore  one because it is laugh out loud funny, and two because I get the whole no verse of scripture part. I grew up filling the back blank pages of my Bible with verses for all those despairing times like when you feel envy, when you feel alone, when you feel jealous, when you feel  overcome with sexual desire, when you feel like eating an entire Family size bag of Lay’s chips all by yourself, when you feel greedy, when you feel ugly….you get the idea.  For the longest time I thought the Bible belonged right next to my dad’s Physician’s Desk Reference because if someone was beleaguered with a spiritual ailment, well, then, there was a verse somewhere in the Bible that could cure her if she  memorized it and quoted it out loud enough.

This is not a Christian book, and by that I mean there is a genre called Christian literature and then there is literature written by someone who happens to be a Christian – think Narnia or Lord of the Rings with their Christian themes.  I am a fan of the latter not the former.  That’s just me. I don’t know whether Susan Gregg Gilmore is a Christian, and that isn’t important as to whether I read her or not, but I can tell she grew up in church like I did as her descriptions of the people, the services and the atmosphere are dead on.   Also, I understood the main character of Catherine Grace, the pastor’s daughter. For while  I was no pastor’s daughter, my parents were considered pillars of the community and church, and I was their little girl who had much empathy for Lot’s wife looking back at those cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The first thing that grabbed my attention about this book was the setting – Ringgold, Georgia.  I love all things southern – almost as much as I love all things British – but, Ringgold is special to me because it is home to one of the sweetest grannies ever placed upon this earth.  She’s not my granny.  She’s my husband’s granny.  She’s actually not my husband’s granny, either,  but almost 50 years ago, Granny’s daughter and my mother-in-law met in a hospital in Baltimore Maryland.  My father-in-law was doing his residency there, and his wife met a lovely nurse named, Anita, and the rest is the long beautiful story about how you can choose your family.  Granny thought this nice Filipino doctor and his family needed a host family to love on them so she and her husband and kids did so until more kids and grandkids were added to the mix and every Thanksgiving the Asian Tribe and the Southern Tribe spent the weekend together.  Eventually, Granny and her husband moved to Ringgold, Georgia which is where I was introduced almost 20 years ago as the fiancé, and I, a yankee,  immediately fell in love with all of them.  Southerners will do that to you.

So the description had two things going for it: 1.)  girl going to church every Sunday,  2.) Ringgold, Georgia and finally  3.)  Dairy Queen. Because who doesn’t love DQ?

Catherine Grace, who, since she was a little girl, knew she was destined for more.  Every Saturday she walks to the local Dairy Queen where Eddie Franklin serves  her up a perfect Dilly Bar, and every Saturday she lobs him a thank you but not much else, trots outside to sit on the picnic table and stares at the mountain that separates her from her dream –Atlanta.

My daddy said I was the little girl with a big imagination.  Maybe.  Or maybe I was a patient girl with a big dream, or a despairing girl waiting for her divine deliverance  But either way I was going to hitch a ride out of Ringgold…

Catherine Grace’s mother drown when she was six.  Her dad, the local preacher, was loved by his congregation at the Cedar Grove Baptist Church, his two daughters and Miss Raines, a young, single woman who seemed content to simply share her meals with the family every Sunday after church.  Catherine, however was not content.  Never was even with a boyfriend who adored her, a small town that provided safety and a cast of characters who looked after her well -being.

True to her word, after high school she climbed onto that Greyhound bus, made the trip to Atlanta and carved out a good life for herself until she received an unexpected telegram that forced her to return home.

Out of habit she finds herself back at Dairy Queen – her safe place – ordering a Dilly Bar where she is confronted by Eddie Franklin who calls her out for thinking she is better than others around her.

I know your heart is hurting bad, he said, but maybe this time while you’re sitting up there you can take your eyes off that mountain for a minute and take a good , hard look at yourself.

It was not the sermon she wanted to hear, but they were the words that needed to be said.  They are  words that rang true with me.  I know what it is like to be Catherine Grace – always looking for the next big thing or place or experience when all around me is all I need and all I really ever wanted.

Another thread in the writing that resonated with me was that, like Catherine,  the people who have loved me the most, taught me the most and led me the most in my life are not the people who sit in the pews every week, but rather the ones with the messiest lives.  They show Grace to anyone and everyone around them because they know Grace is what has brought them safe thus far.  They get it, and the older I grow,  the more important Grace is to me – the fact that I must open myself up to Grace in order to show it to others, and the fact that I’m just one of those people who has to trudge through some deep valleys alone in order to get the whole idea of what Grace really is in the first place. We don’t find Grace. Grace finds us. Grace isn’t learned from sitting or standing or kneeling.  It materializes when one’s world – or the world she  perceives to be real – falls completely down around her – and she is left alone, unguarded and unsteady.   Or simply put sometimes the s*** has to hit the fan before Grace is revealed, and in the case of Catherine, Grace all the dominoes of her life topple at once.

But she finally gets it – there on a tabletop outside a Dairy Queen in Ringgold, Georgia.

This is a sweet book with characters I liked.  The pace seemed slow in some places and rushed in another, but the theme is well developed, and the voice of Catherine Grace rings true.  I like the fact that while things ended well they didn’t necessarily end neatly, and that’s refreshing.  Because things don’t have to be neat to be good.

I’d like to share with your some more lovely ladies who also found Grace in Ringgold –  my girls with Granny and Anita during our last Thanksgiving visit – love that these women are in my daughters’ lives.