January 2013

The Men in my Life

by Priscilla on January 29, 2013

I’m a feminist.  There are so many definitions and ideas about the word feminist out there, but to me it’s simply the belief that women are equal with men on all fronts.  Sure we can hash out the physical differences and argue on about women’s roles in combat,  public protection, etc., and I think that’s a fair argument to have, but you know I’m going to come back to two truths : 1.) We have the ability to grow real live humans within us and 2.) Pioneer Women kick ass.

All this being said, I love men.  Most feminists do. Sure there are the bunch who hate them, but they seem to hate a lot of other things too, and I don’t have time for all that hating -cuts down on the time for fun stuff like eating ice cream, watching Downton Abbey and college basketball, and scoring a great find in a second hand furniture shop.  We love the men who are strong enough to view us as worthy and intellectual and vibrant and equal.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you about a few of men who have come and gone in my life that I cherish.

You’ve heard about my father, my swim coachmy Sunday school teacher and my milkman. Here are some others, and as you read my list, I hope a list forms in your mind as well.  Would indulge me and share it in the comment section or on the TIS Facebook page? I’m talking to you lurkers here.  I know what it’s like.  When I lived in Lafayette, I lurked for a long time on a Mom’s site because quite frankly I was nervous about putting myself out there in a public forum, but eventually it was that site that kept me going completely insane while I was home with twin babies wondering if I’d ever stop smelling like spit up (I did.),   if my stomach would ever go back to its original starting point.  (It didn’t.  Who cares?  I grew life in there, people!) and – in my darker moments –  if I even mattered anymore (I do.)  Please consider joining the conversation. We’re friends here at TIS. Crazy friends – but friends nevertheless.

  • I love Billy the Crosswalk Guy at the girls’ school – Billy is a Viet Nam vet, retired worker and current school crossing guard. My girls wave wildly when they see him, and think he’s right up there with the President because he lets them push the crosswalk light. He protects children from traffic every morning and every afternoon and chats with parents about weather, sports and anything else we can fit into the 60 second walk across the intersection.
  •  I love my former neighbor, Ken.  I cannot say this enough.  In the six years we were neighbors Mr. TIS was gone a lot, and Ken mowed my grass, shoveled my drive, grilled any meat or vegetable I brought over, and always stopped and loved on my toddler girls when they would shriek Kenny! Kenny! and charge at him across the lawn  wearing only Pull Ups and rain boots.  I don’t know if he’ll ever understand what a huge role he played in my life at that time.  That’s the kind of guy he is – humble.
  •  I love Greg, my deacon at a former church.  We didn’t always see eye to eye on how things should be done, but never for a minute have I doubted that he had my best interest at heart when life hit me a few curveballs. Greg was a solid bulwark at a time when I didn’t have much to hold onto.
  • I love Danny, Brian, Jerry, Scott, Perry, Matt and Ryan, the husbands of dear friends of mine who understand that women need women and have never been selfish and complained of the hours their wives spent with their girlfriends. (Granted some of them had ulterior motives when they they discovered their sex lives improved greatly if their significant others could escape the reality of motherhood, work and household duties for a few hours every month.)
  • I love Dr. Phipps, one of my communications profs, who taught me what Love Thy Neighbor looks like in this present world, and who dared me to do good in both small and big ways when I was so timid and insecure that I never even thought of daring to do anything. Twenty years later not a day goes by that I don’t live out a lesson of his one way or another.
  • I love Mr. Callan, my junior high math teacher, who somehow made Algebra fun.  More than that, he taught me about contentment. I always wondered why he never moved up the school food chain and into administration. My mother told me she asked him the same thing, and his answer was simple.  He loved teaching.  He loved his classroom.  He loved being with students, and administration would keep him from the things he loved most.  What a refreshing voice to hear.
  • I love two of my former pastors, Mark and David, who loved the Scriptures and taught me that exploring them and wrestling with them and hashing them out through prayer and conversations were good things and not to be feared.  They valued the women in their congregation and believed their voices were just as important as those of their male counterparts.
  • I love my brother-in-laws who love my sisters and treat them with dignity and respect.  That’s no easy task.  We Brown Girls are stubborn and willful…and usually always right.
  •  I love my brothers who love their wives.  We don’t see eye to eye on all things theological or political, but my brothers are truly the good guys. They aren’t perfect, but like my father, they are steady and strive to do right by God and by the people around them.
  • I love my father-in-law.  Fiercely. About six years ago when I wanted to quit and walk away from my marriage when his son was being a complete jackass (Mr. TIS’s words, not mine), he took me by the shoulders, looked pleadingly in my eyes and said, Priscilla, please don’t.  I, too, know what it’s like to be hurt, but let God’s love guide you. God loves you more than anything.  Love God.  He’ll get you through this. My father-in-law since then has suffered from a mental illness that threw our family for a huge loop (think A Beautiful Mind), but he is resilient and strong and faithful, and he is recovering. Though small in stature, he is mighty in spirit.
  • Finally, I love my husband. Our marriage has not been an easy one. We’ve both suffered from enormous bouts of selfishness and hurt each other deeply.  But we’re here. The rivers almost drown us.  The mountains almost crumbled upon us. The winds and the rain and the storms almost separated us forever, but there was a Still Small Voice. It spoke to us at different times and in very different ways. It spoke through our anger, and through our hurt, and through our fears, and through our denial, and through our vulnerability, and It called us back to one another -back to the us we were years ago instead of the I’s we slowly grew into when we weren’t paying attention.  I love this man.

My question for you, dear readers, is this: whom do you love?

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The Milkman, Mr. Randy and Me

by Priscilla on January 27, 2013

The news of some recent decisions of my alma mater saddens me. I won’t go into all that here except to say that as a student who thinks the questions of Why? and What if? should not be shied away from by Christians and that curiosity is something to be embraced and not feared, and that in the long run it’s the hard questions not the pat answers that bring a lot of us closer to Christ, suffice it to say I’m in a mourning period.

Although my churches of past and present don’t play a part in any of this recent drama, it is two men – one long passed and one very much alive –  from each of them – who brought me hope this morning.  They are also bringing me smiles as I type.  In my case God often uses irony to get my attention, and He didn’t let me down today

As I see it, and I cannot state enough here that this is my opinion, my school has been in a tug of war, if you will, for a few years regarding academic freedom specifically in the area of theology. Some decisions were put forth this past week that go against my hopes and wishes, and leave me once again asking why in the world people of my faith must always draw lines in the sand over  certain doctrinal issues.  I carried these feelings into church this morning where I felt like a comic strip character sitting under a big gray cloud of nothing over my head…until the children were called to the front altar for the Children’s Minute.

The congregation sat after it finished singing, and I could see that up on the stage firmly entrenched between Twin A and Twin B sat Mr. Randy their favorite adult in the entire church. I don’t know all of Mr. Randy’s story, but I know life has not been easy.  I know he is not a captain or industry or holder of many advanced degrees. I know he’s attended clown school and brings joy to a lot of people with his simple gifts.  I know my girls light up whenever they see him and charge at him with hugs. I know he doesn’t have to – and yet every Sunday he is there volunteering in my girls’ Sunday school class greeting each and every child by name and making all of them feel special and important. Find Mr. Randy, and you’ll find a smile not far behind. My sweet girls have endured a lot these past few years, none of it their fault, but, God has seen they, too have had buffers along the way much like their mother did at their age.

As I watched Mr. Randy and the kids onstage listening to the pastor, I remembered the Mr. Randy of my childhood. His name was Mr. Lovelace.

Growing up, there sat a big metal box at our back door with the letters Riggins Dairy painted on it, and every week, Mr. Lovelace, driving a large dairy truck, delivered however many gallons of milk our family went through a week – and we went through a lot. As a little girl I thought it the most wonderful thing ever that my milkman also attended my church (something akin to seeing your school teacher at the grocery store) where he was always excited to see me and give me huge hugs.  I can still feel the hard stubble of his beard against my young, smooth cheek. Mr. Lovelace drove a church bus into city neighborhoods most of the members weren’t aware existed and brought kids to church who lived very different lives than I, and he hugged them and loved them the same as he did the doctor’s daughter who lived in the big house in the country.  Long before laws and edicts, Mr. Lovelace did not discriminate.  I never saw or met Mrs. Lovelace.  That’s because only recently I learned she’d left him years before I knew him. I’m not here to judge why or how, but I do know that the situation grieved him, and he was lonely. A lot of times my mom made sure Mr. Lovelace was part of our large Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  In my childhood world, opening the door and finding Mr. Lovelace standing there to eat turkey or ham with me  ranked up there with discovering a Ding Dong in my lunch box or winning the Good Seat in junior church.

I came back to the present when the Children’s Minute ended, the pastor prayed and the church’s children, including my own skipped back to their seats, and the sad feeling hanging over me began to lift.

The frustration with doctrinal statements and battles over so-called worldly teachings faded and the Truth of divine love filled me – the Truth shown by the likes of  a heartbroken Mr. Lovelace and an ailing Mr. Randy to the open, seeking hearts of my daughters and the childhood version of their mother restored my faith, and I was reminded once again that it is through child like faith and wonder that we are invited to partake in the Kingdom of God, and that often it is not pastors and professors who deliver this message, but milkmen and clowns.

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Drifting in and out of consciousness, I grew aware that a fellow holding a thermometer was attempting to shove it into my ear canal.  I heard the numbers 95.6 and not long after that 25 pounds of car blankets were hurled on top of me in an attempt to raise my body temperature. A nice young lady named Lauren took my hand and told me she was just getting my heart rate.  I then heard the  number 49.  There was a little wrestling around with a wristband that measured my blood pressure. This contraption was new to me – the monitor is strapped to the patient’s wrist then shoved up against one’s heart where it’s supposed to take a reading…only it didn’t.  Nice Lauren explained she wasn’t certified  to use the normal pump your arm until it explodes device so she was subjected to awkwardly fumbling around the chest area of a semi-conscious middle aged woman, who may or may not be Joan Jett, for about 90 seconds until she could get a reading.

Even though I’d passed out,  even though I was now being manhandled by strangers in a ski resort’s infirmary, and even though I was experiencing visions of me and those nice kids from Narnia playing bridge with the Twelve Apostles, I knew I was going to be okay.

How?

Well, for one thing, despite the fact that I was slurring my words, my curiosity was still intact, and I wasn’t deterred from learning all I could about Nice Lauren…so I did. Nice Lauren is a lovely 30 year old blonde fourth grade teacher from Paw Paw, Michigan. She loves to ski, but her friends – not so much – so she volunteers at the infirmary in exchange for free skiing.  Despite all the wrestling around with that stupid wrist monitor, she has a lovely bedside manner I might add. (Who needs eHarmony, when I can report to you straight from the scene?!)

But the real signal that I would recover revealed itself when Nice Lauren kept checking my heart rate and then asked, Would you consider yourself an athlete?  I knew why she was asking this.  I’d heard the number 49, and I know that’s pretty darn low and pretty much only people who swim the English Channel and run around in toe shoes register than number….or people getting ready to die. Here was my chance though to fit in with the Cool Low Heart Rate  Athletic Crowd.  (You have to understand I’ve never been a part of any crown – ever.  In college, no social or academic organization would have me. I was never a member of any court or planning committee. I was a cheerleader for a while, but only because they needed a healthy sized girl for the perky little gals to climb on top of and wave their pom poms around. )  Would Nice Lauren buy it if I told her I were training for the Boston Marathon? That seemed a bit much – maybe I should just say I trained Navy Seals dive teams. 

My pregnant pause gave Nice Lauren the answer she needed. It also told me that if I could lie here and connive ways to look like a healthy hipster in the eyes of emergency personnel, maybe my brain was getting enough oxygen, and I’d simply managed to pick up Twin B’s stomach bug.

Where was Twin B? I wondered.

About this time, Heidi, who really does have a heart rate of 49 because she is addicted to training for crazy things like the Boston Marathon, popped in looking like an Athleta model, and informed me all the kids were in from skiing and eating lunch and not to worry.  Twin B was too busy playing on my iPhone to notice I’d disappeared, and Twin A and her sons were regaling their ski adventures, not even noticing I was missing from the table.

Story of my life.

Heidi came and went running interference for Hank, who was now alone and in charge of five kids.

For the next hour, every 15 minutes, Nice Lauren monitored my vitals while a trained EMT stood by monitoring Nice Lauren. I can’t remember his name, but I did learn he was 22, graduated from a local high school, recovered from breaking his neck while, of all things, skiing, and has delivered two babies in an ambulance.

(A little note here to all those involved in the Congressional hearings on Benghazi – If I can get this much personal information from a couple of  complete strangers while lying on my side, half cognizant with a heart rate slower than a Great Whale’s – surely you folks can get to the bottom of this mess!)

After an hour, a stern little fellow who reminded me of the character, Bulldog, from Frasier (but I had the good sense not to share this opinion with him), came in and nicely told me since I was stable, and since there was really not anything else they could do for me, I needed to get the hell out. Okay, he didn’t tell me to get the hell out, but I knew what we really can’t do anything else for you meant, and he was right so I handed Heidi the keys to my car, slowly sat up, and commenced to hurling into the blue plastic bowl Nice Lauren had set by my cot just in case.

I have to say, I was impressed with Heidi, Nice Lauren, and I Broke My Neck But Now I’m An EMT guy’s ability to completely shut out my guttural racket.  They patiently waited, chatting about Heather’s birthing stories, I Broke My Neck guy’s ambulance accounts and Nice Lauren’s teaching tales. (Did I mention that upon Heidi’s last entrance she ushered in a green looking Twin B who’d promptly thrown up her lunch right after eating it so she lay beside me in a cot of her own for a while? You know what they say….that family that vomits together….)

After my stomach was sufficiently emptied, I was helped to my car, or as Hank now calls it – the Infirmary Wagon, and Twin B climbed in the back seat where she lay the entire drive home clutching her red plastic bag compliments of the nice ski resort infirmary staff.  It was put to good use several times in the 35 minute drive back to my house.

Hank and the Healthy Happy Crew led the way because that’s what dads do…they take the healthy happy kids.

The rest is kind of a blur. Upon arriving home, Twin B and I stumbled into the back door and up to my bedroom where we both crawled under the covers.  I could hear Hank and Heidi gathering up their belongings and children in order to make an early exit. Peering out from under my down comforter,  I apologized several more times to Heidi about blowing what was supposed to be a fun BFF family weekend and thanked her profusely for taking the reins and controlling the situation in a way only a mother could. She just laughed and said, It’s been fun. I laughed back because I knew what she meant. Somehow my ideas of good times with family and friends never turn out the way I planned, but one way or another, they turn out memorable.

Despite the mayhem, Twin A made out okay too.  When I ventured downstairs a few hours later looking for a glass of water, I caught her red- handed eating ice cream from the tub. She shot me a guilty look but I replied, Honey, you are just fine. Just don’t get sick, and I won’t get mad.

She hasn’t, and I’m not.  

Final bonus to all of this – I now have yet another great answer when this card comes up the next time I play Things:

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Whereupon I Pass Out In A Ski Lodge Part II

by Priscilla on January 23, 2013

Morning arrived, and everything was running smoothly as I’d caved earlier in the week and bought those horribly processed, I have no idea what is in these things, but I’m giving them to my kids anyway because it’s just easier, Toaster Strudels, knowing that such foreign objects would bring squeals of delight and move them out the door faster. Everything hummed along as planned until Twin B walked up and whispered, Mom, my tummy hurts.

For those of you who read me regularly, you will remember that it is Twin B who threw up all over herself 10 minutes out from a swim meet a few months back, and I was forced to litter on the side of County Road Something Something in northeast Indiana.  Turned out not to be a virus but nerves, and remembering this fiasco,  I handed Twin B a plastic bucket, grabbed some rags from my cleaning tub, and Heidi and Hank and I corralled the kids, and it was off to the races in our two vehicles…for about 20 minutes…until Twin B threw up.

Looking in the rearview mirror I saw Heidi’s second child wearing a horrified look and punching every door button in site in order to lower the windows. Twin A sat with a disgusted Here we go again look on her face.

I turned on  the blinker, turned on my hazards and once again found myself on the side of some isolated road this time in southwest Michigan ( If I were really tech savvy, I’d create an interactive map of all the places I’ve stopped and dumped throw up, but no one’s ever mistaken me for a tech savvy woman.) cleaning vomit off my child and handing her water to swish her mouth out. She told me she felt better, and off our little caravan continued. 

By now, all I could think about were all the delightful little viruses and bacterial infections swarming around school and church and swim team, and wondered why in the world I ever agreed to allow my kids to check out germ infested books at the public library – literacy is so overrated. This, in turn, led me to make a few wrong turns, and it wasn’t until Heidi called to inform me we were going the wrong direction that I came back to reality and remembered my kids were going to learn to ski today, and it was going to be great, great, great, and Mr. TIS, who was currently off skiing somewhere in Europe in order to guarantee the safety of our country and its freedom, would be so pleased, pleased, pleased by my mothering efforts.

Aside from all the vomiting and u-turning, the drive itself was quite beautiful as snow fell and covered the rural landscape. We arrived at the resort, and a friendly fellow directing traffic chatted with me for a while about the possibility for more snow throughout the day, which the business needed desperately, before motioning me into our parking spot. (I’m not sure, but I think he confused me for Martina McBride.)

The rest was pretty painless. The three adults shoved three kids (Twin B and Heidi’s youngest chose not to partake in a day on the slopes)  into the direction of their ski class while filling out the required forms requesting information such as birth dates, family attorney’s name, amount of liability insurance owned and other such vitals. We then grabbed our coats, our eight bags filled with extra mittens and hats and scarves and crutches and  – just in case – and headed up to the lodge area where the two non-skiing, non- throw upping children commenced to reading books and playing their i-anythings.

Painless.

We took turns going out to watch the kids wrangling with the tow rope on the bunny slopes and successfully figuring out just exactly the steps one has to take in order to achieve the upright position once one has entangled herself in the tow rope along with a few other students, taking down an instructor or two in the process. Then we headed into the lodge to watch the skiiers on the more advanced slopes with Twin B and Child #3. Hank teased me good naturedly about my European skiing vacations taken while Mr. TIS was stationed in Germany.  Hank likes to needle me about being bourgeoisie. I like to needle Hank about… nothing… Hank stand approximately a foot taller than I.

 Heidi and I chatted some more about this and that, and just about the time we thought about what to do for lunch, a funny feeling surged in my lower abdomen. Nothing alarming, just different, and I dismissed it to my body re-adjusting to the anti-imflammatory diet I began to follow about a week earlier. But when Hank came back with the ski resort’s restaurant menu, I realized the last thing I wanted to think about was the price of chicken wraps or if the Philly steak sandwiches came with au jus or not.  I kept watching the skiiers from beginning to end gracefully descend the slopes as my stomach dropped lower and lower, and when Heidi mentioned her love of the local pizza parlor not far from our house and suggested we pick up dinner there, I excused myself and headed to the bathroom.

I didn’t make it.

A large pew-like bench few feet away beckoned to me so I sat down, and the next thing I remember was hearing Heidi whispering, Thank you, Jesus, and looking up to see strangers’ faces looking down at me and asking me my name, birthday, family attorney’s phone number and the extent of the liability insurance  I own. I’d been dreaming, and now clearly I was coming out of the dream, but who were these people with little Swiss Army crosses and why was this man asking me so many questions? Clearly he wasn’t being lured in by my hair.  I may have been groggy, but believe me, I was still very aware of the fact that my hair was a mess. Priscilla, my name’s Priscilla. I looked like Martina when I left the salon, but now I look like Joan Jett. 

Let’s get her to the infirmary, one of the members of the Swiss Army Brigade instructed, and with the help of two nice men, at least I think they were men, I ventured outside, climbed multiple stairs, entered the front door of a chalet style building, and found myself in large white room where I climbed into a nice white cot and promptly curled up and let the world spin me back into sleep…

To be continued…

.Twin B and Me in lodge

Isn’t this nice? Hank took this picture of  Joan Jett and Twin B 15 minutes prior to the Great Ski Lodge Pass Out of 2013. In the upcoming post, I join Twin B, and we make public vomiting a family affair.

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Since my family has spent a small fortune on Laura Numeroff/Felicia Bond collaborations, I thought it fitting to tip my hat to these fine lasses with my own sad, but true story.

When you give a girl a Snow Day,

She spends a ridiculous amount of time with her new imaginary, aristocratic friends.

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And when she spends time with her new, imaginary, aristocratic  friends,

She comes up with preposterous ideas of ways to feed her children their lunch.

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But since she lives in the real world, and doesn’t have a Mrs. Patmore in her kitchen,

She must grill her sandwiches herself and manages to cut herself with the cheese knife.

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She also forgets she doesn’t have Driveway Help to shovel her drive.

So she prepares this tea time treat still wearing her large, very indelicate LL Bean boots that she pulled on 15 minutes earlier in order  to clear the driveway.

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And while she is still wearing these very indelicate boots,

She climbs the stairs to serve her charming Twins their lovely tea time snack.

And when she arrives to serve the snack…

She trips over her large, indelicate boots, and tea goes everywhere.

And since she has no Anna Bates in her employ,

She is left with this scene to take care of herself.

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And when once again she finds herself in the middle of such a scene (As she finds herself on a regular basis),

She says words like s*** and d*** within earshot of her children who remind her those are words she tells them never to say.

(Her new, imaginary, aristocratic friends use words like, blasted, but she forgets all about her new friends at this point.)

And when she and her potty mouth pick up the load of tea stained laundry, and head down the stairs in total humiliation,

She turns to see her dog, Suki, looking at her with love…

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And when she sees her dog, Suki looking at her in adoration (The only way Suki ever looks at her.),

This reminds her of the Earl of Grantham’s love for his dog, Isis.

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And when she thinks of The Earl of Grantham and Isis,

She forgets about laundry, and dirty china and plops her Middle Class bum in front of her telly,

To gain more inspiration from her new imaginary, aristocratic friends.

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Whereupon I Pass Out In A Ski Lodge, Part I

by Priscilla on January 22, 2013

Not long ago Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made news headlines when she passed out, struck her head and suffered a concussion. The internet was abuzz with pictures of her leaving the hospital and speculation about her illness.  Turns out she suffered a stomach virus and related dehydration which led to the passing out and all the rest.

The same thing happened to me this past weekend, but alas, I garnered no headlines, so I am here to make my own. (Because really, isn’t that the entire point of blogging? Headlines for the little people?)

It all started when I wrote something on FB along the lines of Friends are coming to take our kids skiing for the first time.  What could possibly go wrong?

Later, after all was said and done, another childhood friend harkened back to my words, and actually had the audacity to insinuate that I brought this whole mess upon myself.  Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh.  She just pointed out the obvious fact that it is always, always, always, a rather stupid idea to say the words What could possibly go wrong?

Always.

I feel I must paint a perfect word picture for you in order for you to fully realize my complete fall from grace. Since I possess such little grace to begin with, I can’t rightly say it was a fall…more like a lateral shuffle.

My friend, Heidi, she of cheerleading, Subway Screaming fame, and I got it into our heads that it would be a delightful experience to have our families spend MLK Day weekend together, and that our children should learn to ski. (Have I mentioned that Heidi and I have both been treated for Depression with pharmaceuticals? Kids, let this absurd decision on our part remind you what your brains look like on drugs – especially those prescribed by doctors. All those ideas pinging around that don’t seem to relate to each other until your synapses are firing? Sometimes that’s a good thing because sometimes when one begins to think too clearly without the fog of indecision over her head, one get ideas she really shouldn’t, and then under the influence of these fog lifting drugs, she actually considers that she can accomplish these ideas. Of course, when it is much too late, it turns out that these ideas should just remain ideas and should never have been acted upon. )

One thing you must know about me, is that when I get overnight visitors, I strive to make their stays as pleasant as possible.  I Clorox the bathrooms and kitchens. I plan menus that hopefully please both children and adults. I try to plan activities based upon my visitors’ likes and wants. Pillows are fluffed. Sofas and drapes are Febreezed. Furniture is polished, and windows are cleaned. For a day or two before the expected arrivals, I make the staff of Downton Abbey look like a band of idle schlubs.

This is not my normal housekeeping regiment -quite the opposite to be honest. On more than one occasion, my husband has noted that, if not for the visitation of friends and family, our house would never get cleaned.

So, when Heidi and her husband, let’s call him Hank – for no reason except Heidi and Hank make for a nice cutie couple name – and their three children arrived in my kitchen this past Saturday night after their three hour, family bonding car trip, they were greeted with smells of homemade beef and noodles, sights of glowing candles and sounds of cats hacking up hairballs in the basement.  Hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

Hank commented on how good everything smelled, and that he appreciated the aroma of roasted garlic emanating from the oven. Our children commenced to chasing cats and dogs and dragging up every single moving box from the basement up to the bedrooms where their built forts in which to stash the cats when caught. Heidi and I uncorked the wine because that’s what Heidi and I always do the minute after we greet each other, and I commented to Hank that really none of this was any trouble, really,  because all I wanted to be was the Hostess With the Mostess.

Words that came back to bite me in the ass along with What could go possibly go wrong?

Dinner was served and enjoyed, and once again I shot to stardom when I brought out ice cream and chocolate syrup and left over Christmas M&M’s and Hostess Ding Dongs and Twinkies for the kids.  Yes, people. I AM THAT GOOD. When news of the demise of Continental Baking Company hit the airwaves, I drove the store, hoarded boxes of the meh snack cakes and shoved them into my freezer to bring out just for such an occasion as this.  I know what kids want. Heidi’s son kept saying in awe, Where did you get these?  They don’t make these anymore. (I may have lost my inspirational touch with the over 20 crowd years ago, but I can still manage to awe the grammar school masses.)

Before putting all the kids down to bed – which took a considerable amount of time based upon their sugar consumption – Heidi and I gathered all their snow gear so the next morning would be seamless and stress free. Folks, we were on it. Tomorrow would be magical, and magical takes organization. Then she and Hank and I enjoyed the January, Hoosier tradition of basketball watching, and we were not disappointed with the matchup between Gonzaga and Butler. 

Nothing beats a buzzer shot, baby.

I crawled into bed that night exalting myself with the knowledge I’d finally done it. I’d managed to start off a wonderful weekend with friends in a warm and inviting, manner, and that all those years as an Army officer’s wife, all those tedious teas and tiresome coffees paid off as the lessons in gracious living finally culminated in hostessing  triumph.

And then, the sun rose.

Dear readers, I am afraid I must conclude this portion of today’s post at this time, as my children are clamoring for the computer.  You see, we are experiencing a snow day, and they desire to be on here. Games? you ask.  No. A school project due next week.  Yes, that’s right. I have no idea whose kids they are, but the doctor sent them home with me nine years ago, and they haven’t left.  While their mother watches copious amounts of Downton Abbey, they finish science fairs, practice spelling words and figure out algebraic equations on their own just for fun. “What’s my secret?” you ask? My husband and I simply say two negatives equal a positive.  That’s the only explanation we’ve come up with so far.

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Problem Solved

by Priscilla on January 18, 2013

After almost a week of trying to re-create the magic of my new best friend, Lynne, (I’ve been spelling her name wrong.)  I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not the fault of my chubby man hands that cannot seem to work that great product into my hair.  It is not the fault of my new circular brush that somehow gets knotted up in my tresses.  It is not even the fault of my children who keep interrupting my hairstyling with demands for nourishment and guidance. The problem is not my narcissistic tendencies and worrying about how other people view me. The problem is not that I need to work on doing more for others in order to see how blessed I truly am.

No.

The problem I realize now after staring at myself in a mirror for hours upon end is….

…my face!!! Good lord, where and when did all these furrows and wrinkles come into play?  They only accent my bad hairstyling skills.

Googling plastic surgeons!

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Before I continue with the Great Hair Scare of 2013, I feel I must backtrack a bit. (Also, I must admit that maybe comparing my young self to Christie Brinkley might have been a bit of a stretch.  However, I did once do some exercises on my in-laws Total Gym so at least she and I have that in common.)  For those of you who don’t know me, until recently I’ve always been a blonde.  For a while there in my younger, competitive swimming years, I was a green; but tow-head pretty much describes my adolescent locks, until I got to be about 16 and 17, and the blonde started turning a dishwater color, and since my idol Madonna was not dishwater but platinum, I began to venture into the delightful world of chemically treated hair. It was that platinum look that landed me a husband.

My roommate my junior year of college told her brother over the phone that she though he’d like me. She looks  Madonna on her Papa Don’t Preach video, she shared. All of the sudden, this brother was calling all hours of the day and night until I agreed go out on a date with him.  My husband isn’t shallow or anything.

I don’t know about you, but 24 years of hair coloring adds up financially, and swearing that I was not going to be one of those Housewives women who thinks orange skin and Blondest Blond locks still rock at the age of 47, I bit the bullet last year and decided to go natural – which turns out to be a deep brunette.  I’m still kind of dealing with this transformation from Girls Just Want to Have Fun to Hazel.  

(I’m so  sorry.  I wish I had more of an inspirational story like Queen Noor or Eleanor Roosevelt, but apparently, I’m shallow and weak, and clearly narcissistic since mindless things such as hair color send me straight to the therapist’s couch.)

I tell you all these things, dear readers, to paint an even more desperate picture than I already have. For an hour I sat watching Lynn work her magic.  She instructed me in the proper technique of rubbing a gel like substance in my hand for 20 seconds before applying it to my roots and only my roots. She explained why the hair dryer must work on the roots first before the ends.  Don’t let the ends dry first, people! This is tantamount with great hair.  She moved that brush in and out and up and down. She massaged and scrunched and sprayed something light on my ends.  Something in the back of my mind said, For Pete sake, take out that fancy phone of yours that can drive your car but you only use it to talk, and start taking notes and pictures!  But I didn’t. I was so caught up in the moment.  When Lynn was done, I looked at myself and thought, I could be Martina McBride’s sister – the older one that can’t sing and has a furrowed brow and drives small children around town instead of rocking it out onstage in front of 50,000, but I have blue eyes, and brown hair, and Lynn did something to make it look a little poofier so, yeah, there is definitely a resemblance to Martina McBride going on here!

I immediately texted my sister-in-law, who is in the market for a hair stylist. I may have just had the best haircut of my life, I gushed with my very fat fingers trying to tap on a very thin screen. ( I need to interject here that my husband bought me the iPod Nano for my workouts. Um….men don’t do this if your wives have man hands.  It only makes them want to grab a bag of chips and watch movies with titles like She Didn’t Know She Was Living With Her Enemy Until He Stole Her Identity and Ruined Her Credit Rating or some such Lifetime original creation instead of heading out into the wild for a nine mile run.)  Looking back, that’s not true.  Wherever I’ve lived I’ve always managed to find wonderful women who do wonderful work, but this was all before I was in the throes of despair that moving to a new town and starting all over again had thrown me into.

All good things must come to an end, and so to did my time with The Miracle Worker. Upon my arrival home, I could not stop looking at myself in the mirror. Who was that saucy minx staring back at me?  My kids ate cereal that night because cooking anything would take time away from admiring my hair, and I’m pretty sure our bedtime prayers included my saying, And thanks again, God for bringing Lynn into our lives so that Mommy can be happy and beautiful again.  Oh, yeah, and the kids of the world keep them safe and whatev…

Four days passed and flies starting to congregate so I decided I was going to have to bite the bullet and wash my hair and try to recreate the magic of Lynn.  First of all, I don’t have a circular brush. Secondly, I couldn’t remember the order of product placement: was it was gel, spray, gel or spray, gel, gel, or spray, spray, gel.  Lynn was particular about this. Finally, Lynn only used a brush and a hair dryer to create all that oomph, but I was pretty sure I was going to need a curling iron only I didn’t know what direction anything went anymore. So I dried, and I curled and I zazzed and I spritzed and I massaged…and after 45 minutes I went digging around for my trusty friend, the hair clip.

Yesterday, while skyping,  Mr. TIS took his first gander at was once Lynn’s Masterpiece and said in his ever loving manner, So what’s up with the hair?

I look like Joan Jett! I wailed.

Some people like Joan Jett, he countered.  Wise man.  In all his years of living with his neurotic wife, Mr. TIS has come up with what I think is probably the best reply a man can give when asked the horrifying question, Do you like my hair this way?” His pat response? Honey, I’ve always said you’d be beautiful, bald.

Instead of talking with him about his day, I kept staring into the screen of me trying to fluff and feather my way back to Martina, but it was no use.  I remained firmly Joan.

My sister-in-law texted me this morning, that upon my recommendation, she made an appointment with Lynn. I hope she’s taking along a documentary film crew. She’s going to need it.

BEFORE

Martina-McBride-1331320

AFTER

pris hair

 

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The Great Hair Affair Part 1

by Priscilla on January 16, 2013

If you are one of my two Twitter followers, you know that I’m not doing well with my new haircut which is a shame because I am so pumped about finally finding a hairstylist after being in my new town almost a year.  Those of you who move a lot know that the number one quest in a new town is to find an OB GYN who doesn’t sandblast your cervix.  (Appalled by that description are you?  Well, so was I when a civilian doctor contracted with the Army when we lived in Germany made that little joke to me while I was still feet up in the air, and he was finishing my annual trip to stirrup hell.  And my husband wonders why I avoid those appointments like the plague. Maybe I should rephrase this to read those of you women who move a lot.  Gentleman, please pipe down about the whole After 40 Check Up On Your Manhood.  It ain’t nothing like ours so don’t even go there.)  After a nice GYN is found, or maybe before, a woman must find a hair stylist, and this is no easy feat.

There’s the whole atmosphere of the place – What do the stylists look like? What do the clients look like? What does the bathroom look like? There’s the stylist – Does he or she listen? Do they understand what the phrase only an inch means? Are they more concerned with your roots or the fact that Ginny three chairs down has just announced that her ex-husband’s new live in girlfriend is texting her all kinds of nasty things, and a chorus of Oh, no she didn’t, girl! erupts from all over the salon.

I’m happy to say in the past month I’ve found a good GYN, but even more importantly, I found The One for all my hair care needs.  Her name is Lynn, and the first thing she sympathetically whispered when pawing through my unruly mop was, Oh, motherhood has changed your hair hasn’t it?

All of the sudden I was no longer sitting in an adjustable salon chair. The lights dimmed, and I found myself perched on a large yellow sofa, and Lynn was no longer a middle aged white lady who owned a small hair salon in Flyover Country. She was a wise 50 something black woman who commanded a media empire, and she was leaning into me, nodding her head with every snotty sob I let out.

Yes, Lynn, Yes.  These two tiny terrors sitting three seats over that you keep saying are so sweet, those two things are making my hair fall out. Lynn, I used to look like Christie Brinkley, but now, on a good day,  I can barely manage to resemble Miss Hannigan. Lynn, do you see this balding spot?  This appeared three hours after giving birth. I used to be fun Lynn.  Do you understand?  Fun. Now, I just drive an SUV around town picking up kids and dropping them off.  I don’t know whose kids anymore, and I really have no idea where I’m taking them. Sometimes it’s church. Sometimes it’s school.  Sometimes it’s swim practice. Sometimes it’s the doctor. Sometimes it’s a friend’s house.  I just drive in circles all day long listening to mindless chatter in the back seat. Conversations about revolting fish nuggets at lunch and boys who can burp the alphabet in music class.  Lynn, you have to believe me. People called me interesting.  I commanded audiences with my wit and infectious laugh. My eyes sparkled an azure blue. Men used to turn to look at me when I walked into a room.  Now, they just drop quarters in my coffee cup and tell me they hope things turn around for me very soon and to hang in there. The other day one told me I might want to get that mole on my face checked out. It used to be called a beauty mark.

Lynn began washing my hair and massaging my scalp and talking to me in low tones assuring me that she would make it all better, and that yes, indeed I still had fabulous hair. She snipped here and there, and scrunched and zazzed.  I don’t even know what zazzing is, but she did it, and it felt like heaven. She applied citrusy balm to my roots and essence of coconut to my ends, and she touched everything in between with magic fairy dust.

I asked Lynn if she had any kids, and if she would consider taking me home and adopting me.

Lynn said she thought I was funny, and I began crying.  No one in my car ever says I’m funny.  In fact, they don’t say much except for Sign this. and What time are you picking us up?  And they insist on always calling me Mom.  I have no idea what my real name is.  On a good day my husband will ask, Hey, did you happen to see my wallet when you were dusting? Maybe my name is Hey.

Lynn fired up the hair dryer, picked up a circular brush and started shaping my hair into something that quite possibly resembled a style.  I can’t say for sure if it was or not, it’s been so long since my hair actually had a style – unless you count the ponytail style or the hairclip style.  Where there was once a cowlick and endless patches of split ends, there were now curls and waves with natural highlights peaking through. She didn’t stop there. At some point she waxed my eyebrows. I couldn’t tell you when, though, because Lynn must have waved a charmed wand as I felt no hot wax or the ripping sensation of hair follicles being wrenched from human flesh.

This whole time she was oohing and aahing at my natural beauty and commenting on my hair’s new luster and shape, and I was almost ready to ask Lynn to run away with me when I was interrupted by one of those mortals sitting in a chair across from me squealing, Mom, look at my braids!

The word mom yanked me back to reality but not before catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and I gasped at the image staring, gaped mouth, back at me.

(Excuse me dear readers.  I must stop this story here, as a herd of thundering elephants just made its way into the bedroom above me after I distinctly remembering corralling that herd and shoving them back into their assigned sleeping area. I will continue this story tomorrow if the elephant round up goes successfully.)

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Two British Cozy Mystery Series I Like

by Priscilla on January 15, 2013

I know, I know, I should write individual pieces on individual books, but I’ve got a mound of laundry staring down at me, a dog whining to be walked, groceries sitting on the countering staring at me in wonder as to why they aren’t in the frig yet and as I’m writing this, I’m staring out a large front window that looks as if an army of munchkins and their dogs have paraded past touching ever single glass pane like my favorite OCD detective, Adrian Monk.

So I’m not going to write individual pieces because, quite frankly, there are a lot of very good comments on these books at sites like Amazon and Good Reads.  I just want to acquaint you with them.

First of all, if you are looking for blood, and sex and suspense, these aren’t the books you are looking for. I’m talking about the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton who also penned the Hamish MacBeth Series as well as the Aunt Dimity Series.

I remember my friend and coworker, Hope, telling me before I had children that once she had kids, she just couldn’t stomach some TV crime series and movies.  At the time I didn’t understand, but then I had kids, and I don’t know what happened, but I now no longer care for some suspense and mystery writers I used to like.  I don’t think they have gotten worse, I’ve just changed my taste a little as a reader, and for now like a more kinder, gentler mystery, and I love all things British so  I found myself in the library a few years ago in the mystery section and discovered these two series and fell in love…or like.  I love Agatha Raisin.  I like Aunt Dimity.

I love Agatha because she is one old big hot mess.  She is not sexy.  She is not young. She is not all together.  But she hangs in there and figures out who the bad guy is all while trying to be sexy.  Trying to woo a man.  Trying to look younger.  Trying to keep it together.  She is professionally feisty and on her game but personally a train wreck, and I laugh out loud at some of the problems she creates for herself.  MC Beaton creates a great cast of characters around her who only bring out her strong personality even more – the kindly vicar’s wife who understands her and doesn’t judge, the vicar who can’t stand her and who does judge, the husband who becomes the ex husband who might become a husband again, her former assistant who shows up whenever there is an adventure to be had, but never amounts to much help, and all the various and sundry characters she adds to her Cotswold’s detective agency as the series continues.    The characters are what makes this a fun series in my view, and the murder mysteries are exciting enough to follow without all the description of blood and gore and human depravity.  Yes, yes, murder is the ultimate of human depravity, but when it’s solved by a woman who is always shoving herself into body shapers and dabbing on copious amounts of eye cream in order to look good while solving the murder, then it’s fun.

The premise of Aunt Dimity is a young lady, Lori,  from Chicago (I believe, I can’t remember and am too lazy to go look) finds herself the owner of a diary that belongs to her mother’s friend from England whom she has never met.  In fact, she didn’t know she ever existed.  She thought Aunt Dimity was a made up character that her mother invented for the purpose of rousing bedtime stories. One event leads to another, Lori meets a great guy and inherits Aunt Dimity’s charming cottage in the English countryside.  Turns out the diary is magical, and Aunt Dimity writes in it from beyond the grave and helps Lori solve mysteries that pop up on a regular basis.  Now, I have to admit I do some eye rolling b/c Lori is the mother of twin boys and never seems to be tired or angry or in need of Lexapro. (I’m a mother of twins, and I don’t care how many many nannies one might have or how helpful and understanding your independently wealthy, loving husband is, you just don’t do a lot of mystery solving with little ankle biters around the house.)  She just dashes around meeting interesting characters and solving crime or long ago crimes. But hey, sometimes literature just offers us a chance to escape, and sometimes I need to escape.  I don’t need a lesson or a great epiphany.  Sometimes Aunt Dimity tries too hard to offer a lesson, and that can be a tiny bit annoying, but not enough for me to put the series on hold.

Agatha = A Dimity = B, B-.

Both enjoyable.

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