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A Good Man Gone….

Mr. "Bud" Shell

Mr. “Bud” Shell


I grew up in the bootheel of Missouri – endless rows of rice, soybeans, cotton and corn with towns interspersed here and there. There wasn’t a whole lot to do on the weekend during our teen years.  The normal Saturday night involved grabbing a bite to eat (at the Hickory Log if it was a first date, Sonic or McDonald’s if you were single or had been an item for awhile) and hitting the Dexter Twin Cinema for your choice of whatever two movies were playing.  After the movie ended, you had to get creative.  Some people went “parking”, some gathered on parking lots to hang out & I often ended up at Bud Shell Ford.  Yep, a car dealership.  Way back in the eighties you could drive through the car lots at night and check out the cars.  I don’t think I missed too many weekends of seeing what Bud had on the lot.  A new Thunderbird?  A Mustang? A convertible Mustang?  The newest, most luxurious Lincoln, with keyless entry on the door?  SUVs weren’t a big thing yet but you could always buy a new Ford Aerostar if you needed room for the family.  We would pull in and explore the lot like it was an amusement park.  ONE of us – I’m looking at you, Michael Hurley – may have occasionally changed his wiper blades out with ones from a new car, but I’ll never tell.  My dad, Norm, had a great relationship with Mr. Shell since Norm always, and I mean ALWAYS, drove a Lincoln.  I knew if my dream of having my own car ever came true, I would likely drive it off of this lot. I had, by this time, lowered my 5th grade expectations of getting a Ferrari like Magnum P.I.  I remember visiting the showroom with my dad when his car was getting serviced and Mr. Shell would stroll through in his Tom Landry-style hat and & ask if Dad wanted to take whatever car he was enamored with at the moment for a spin or even take it back home for the day.  Mr. Shell was a smart businessman and a darn good car dealer.  He knew if my dad took something home that he’d be back the next day to sign the papers. I’d love to know how many car deals Mr. Shell made in his lifetime because the number he made with my dad alone was substantial.

On one of our trips to the dealership, we pulled in and I went immediately to the used section with the sparkly blue & silver pennants,  because I knew that was where any car I ever got would come from.  It would be well-worn & marked way down!  For a while after I turned 16, I borrowed my grandma’s or stepmother’s cars but by this time I was really itching for my own set of wheels.  I couldn’t drive worth shit, but my friends had started getting cars & it was a matter of pride & freedom to a teenager.  Dad had told me he would spend $1200 on my car.  Back in those days, that meant a pre-owned Ford Escort with significant mileage, an AM radio & more than a few dents, so I wasn’t too excited.  On this evening, I remember my laying my eyes on my dream car, right there in the used section at Bud Shell Ford, parked under those sparkly blue & silver pennants.  It was a 1985 Cutlass Supreme – light blue metallic with navy leather top and shiny wire wheel covers.  In my eyes, it was perfection.  Perhaps not a Ferrari but sometimes a kid in Southeast Missouri has to compromise.  I went straight to the sticker to see how much it was —– I knew it was more than $1200.  It was $7500.  Just a little over budget, but less than a Ferrari!  That night, I vowed that somehow, someway, that car would be mine.  In reality though, I thought that car was so beautiful that it would be gone in a couple days.  However, every time I visited the lot for weeks it was there.  I touched it, peered inside it, hoped against all hope that Mr. Shell would somehow lower the price to $1200.  I mean, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere at $7500.  I swear it seemed like that car sat there forever, just waiting for me to drive it home.  Dad would  laugh when I talked about it & remind me that he wasn’t spending over $1200.  Then March came.  The highlight of my year was always attending the Missouri State Beta Convention in St. Louis.  This year was my senior year and I had applied for a scholarship to attend Missouri State University in Springfield.  All the applicants were interviewed at the convention and the winner was announced before we came back home.  I knew college would be a stretch for my dad and I hoped to help him out by getting a scholarship, but this one was a long shot – I wasn’t valedictorian or salutatorian.  In fact, I was ranked 6th.  No one gives full-ride scholarships to people ranked 6th, right?  Except this time they did.  I got that scholarship, which, in 1988 was worth about $25,000.  It covered tuition, room and board, books and later, even a couple dinners a week at the on-campus Pizza Hut.  Dad wasn’t going to have to pay a dime if I kept a 3.5 GPA.  I’ve never been so excited to tell my dad anything.  Because I knew it was going to lift a weight off of him and I knew that now, if by the grace of God it was still there, that car was MINE.  I was sitting in the hallway of the downtown Marriott in St. Louis (now the Hilton) & I called him from the room phone that I had stretched out into the hallway.  I’ll never forget the yell he let out and the pride in his voice.  Then I asked.  “Hey, remember that car I want at Bud Shell?  Think we could go look at it?”  He thought that was a fair deal and the next day we drove to Dexter and Patti, the saleswoman who later became Mr. Shell’s wife, got the keys and took us to my beautiful, blue Cutlass.  I just thought we would sign some papers and leave but this is where I got introduced to the art of the deal.  My dad made an offer.  Mr. Shell countered.  My dad made another.  Mr. Shell followed suit.  He seemed like such a nice man and surely he could see in my eyes that this car meant EVERYTHING to me, right?  Everyone was so serious and all of these numbers were flying around and it got down to my dad offering $6925 and Mr. Shell offering $6975.  My dad said he couldn’t offer more than $6925. Mr. Shell said $6950.  I remember thinking that this was where I would hear “SOLD!”  But my dad wouldn’t budge.  Would not budge.  I felt tears welling up and I remember so distinctly saying to my dad, as my voice cracked, “I’ll pay the $25.00 difference!”  Dad said (& I could have seriously hurt him at this moment), “It’s the principle of the matter.  I’ve made my final offer.”  Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. (Will it help if I cry, I wonder?)  I bit my lip.  It was agonizing.  At that moment, that car might as well have been a Ferrari that came with Tom Selleck because I wanted it so bad.  And then it happened…….”Awww, hell, Patti, sell it to him!”  I could have hugged Mr. Shell.

We won!  I won!  That moment will stay with me forever because right there in that showroom, a dream came true.  I don’t know if Mr. Shell knew what he did that day, but he made me the happiest girl on earth.  It was the first of a few cars I purchased from him before we left the area, but every time I’m home and I find myself at the intersection of Highway 25 and Highway 114, I get a little smile on my face thinking of all the memories I carry with me from that car dealership…..my first car, my first sports car, my first family car (Taurus wagon) and many nights spent looking at cars with my friends.

I hope you’ll forgive us, Mr. Shell for those wiper blades.  It was Michael.  I swear.

Chicken Artichoke Casserole

Insanely good chicken artichoke casserole

Insanely good chicken artichoke casserole

It’s been ages since I’ve updated. Right after the last post I was sidelined by my 11th kidney stone. Not fun. It took a month to attempt to pass it, finally have it removed surgically and then recover. I’m back to my old self now and Chuck & I are one a mission to expand or stash of recipes & add a bit of variety to our weekly menus. I found this recipe for Chicken Artichoke Casserole in a magazine & although I’ve never been someone who loves casseroles (or even really liked them at all), the ingredients in this spoke to me and I decided to try it. Very glad I did! It’s not at all hard to prepare and it’s very much like having a nice, creamy artichoke dip for a meal!

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked bowtie pasta
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken (I used breast cutlets & they worked fine.)
1 can (14 oz) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup 2% milk
1 garlic clove, minced (I used the pre-minced from a jar.)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup onion and garlic croutons, coarsely crushed (I used Texas Toast Butter & Garlic because Kroger didn’t have onion & garlic.)
Olive oil for cooking the chicken.

1. I cooked the chicken first by browning it in a few tsp. of olive oil in a skillet. After cooking thoroughly, I cut it into pieces.

2. Cook pasta according to package direction. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, artichokes, soup, cheese, mayonnaise, milk, garlic, onion powder and pepper. Drain pasta; add that to chicken mixture.

3. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle the top with croutons. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

We ate ours with fresh French bread which I think made it even better!

Golden Globe Glamour…….and not.

I always love live-tweeting awards shows with my friends and bonding via the mutual love of tearing down those who are insanely successfully and make more money than most of us will ever dream of.  Hey, whatever makes us feel good.  That said, this was a less-than stellar awards show in terms of fashion, in my opinion.  Now, I know it’s usually a little more casual than the Oscars, but for God’s sake people, please at least look like you weren’t startled out of bed.  I’ll start with my favorite attire of the night:

462073237_10_gallery_mainThis is a horrible picture of her gown but when Margot Robbie walked out on the stage to present in this she looked like absolute perfection.  She wore that low cut well.  And I liked the hair with the dress.

1389576217_olivia-wilde-lgI love Olivia Wilde and I know, I know……you think she’s intentionally channeling Angelina Jolie here.  Who cares?  She’s pregnant, elegant and I thought this was stunning on her.462081789_10_gallery_mainEvery single awards show, I love Kerry Washington.  This was a simple way to show off a baby bump.  Pure elegance.

462072717_10_gallery_mainMonica Potter.  I liked this.  I thought she mastered the art of simple yet stunning.  There wasn’t much of this on the red carpet tonight so I found this look refreshing.  A bit of gold, some simple black and perfect hair to go with it.

462081759_10_gallery_mainSosie Bacon, daughter of Kyra and Kevin looked so elegant and mature in her muted gown.  I thought she deserved a shout out for having such classy taste at a young age.

1389580693_julianna-marguiles-lgJulianna Margulies.  She can be hit or miss.  I was on the fence for awhile but I ultimately put her in the “win” category.  It’s elegant and a bit of Old World Hollywood, which is always refreshing to see on the carpet.  And she is just radiantly beautiful no matter what she has on.

462080837_10_gallery_main

Robin Wright.  I know there was a moment during her speech where a little side boob was visible and at times it appeared to be a little loose but she has an incredible body for it and the back was stunning.  Wide open but so attractive on her.  And she just looked radiant and happy.  I like it “a lot”.  Isn’t she radiant in this close-up?

462133321_gallery_mainNow for the LOSERS!  Whew!  This was hard to narrow down to less than 25.  So much horrid fashion on the carpet this evening.  It wasn’t so much a lack of taste, though that was certainly present.  It was more like no one cared!  I mean, take Kaley Cuoco……

462133035_gallery_mainShe seriously looked as if she slept over at Courtney Love’s house and grabbed something off of Courtney’s closet floor after waking up horribly hungover.  Why???

1389575689_drew-barrymore-lgHolla, everyone!  It’s time to get those Valentine’s Day cards if you haven’t yet!  Just a friendly reminder from Drew Barrymore!

1389576278_sandra-bullock-lgNo.No.No.  This looked like something that would have been in a blister pack of Barbie clothing in the early 1980’s.  Complete with matching shoes.  And the hair looks like something you would wear for your kid’s soccer game, not an awards show.

1389577207_emma-watson-lgI don’t have a photo of the horrid back of Emma Watson’s frock but it looked like something that was more “running of the bulls” and less Golden Globes.  Ole!

1389576025_julia-roberts-lgNope, Julia.  You’re classy.  You have style.  You missed the mark here.  It looks as if she was late finishing her shift at Olive Garden (twins to support, you know!) and just slipped a gown on before taking off her white button-up shirt.  I mean, I don’t even understand why someone would design this dress let alone buy it.  I’m torn on her hair.  I like it and yet I think it looks a bit like her husband wanted her to dress up and play teacher.

1389575904_jennifer-lawrence-lgShe’s adorable.  America’s new sweetheart.  Rocking the pixie cut.  Not so much this dress.  It looked like perhaps at the last minute the following conversation took place:

J Law:  “Bye dad!  Heading to the Globes!”

J Law’s dad:  “Awww hon, you look beautiful, but that dress is missing something.”

J Law:  “What can we do to add interest??  I’m America’s sweetheart!”

J Law:  “Well, I’ve got some ‘lectrical tape in my toolbox.  Let’s see what we can do….”

Another one I don’t understand.

1389577069_amy-adams-lgI could handle this so much more if it was ALL the color of red that it is on the bottom.  As it is, it looks like it was designed for someone who couldn’t decide of they are an Alabama fan or an Arkansas fan.  And her boobs are way too small to pull this off.  Lord, Amy annoys me.  And yet she’s a hell of an actress.

462073645_gallery_mainI HATED this.  I thought it was Battlestar Galactica meets Britney Spears.  I thought it was horrid.  Too much of everything and not enough of something.  Show us a better side at the Oscars, Elisabeth Moss.

I could keep going.  But that’s enough of my snark.  I’m sitting here in ripped jeans and an old Fred Thompson for President sweatshirt so you might take my opinions with a grain of salt.  It did make my night to see Matthew McConaughey win.  Gotta love a man in green velvet.

O, Christmas Tree!

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the fact that you can have eight houses on a block that all decorate for the holidays differently.  Of those eight imaginary houses, there’s a good chance I’m going to like five or six or well, ALL of them!  When I was a child, Christmas was a time of wonderful celebration in our home.  Decorating the tree was an event and my dad loved to have lights outside.  I was always drawn to blue Christmas decorations and wrapping paper and I was completely mesmerized by homes that were decorated in solid blue lights.  My grandma, God bless her soul,  would never decorate with blue lights and discouraged me from buying blue foil wrapping paper because “That’s all for the Jewish people, honey.  Let’s leave that for them. We don’t celebrate Hanukkah.”  I’m not sure how she explained the fact that our town Christmas decor consisted of large blue tinsel arcs  with yellow lanterns attached to the light poles.  They lined Main St. & the main thoroughfare that ran through our small town, Highway 25.  Those blue decorations were beautiful in my young eyes and the one Jewish family in our town must have been especially proud.  Yes, one.  Needless to say, I now go overboard on  the blue paper and decor and we have a bubble light candolier that resembles a menorah to such a degree that it prompted Wyatt, at three years of age to ask with a very puzzled expression, “Mama, is we Jewish?”

We are putting our fraser fir tree in it’s stand tonight and hope to start decorating it tomorrow.  I’ve never been much on trees that look like they were decorated by a designer.  Ours is a hodgepodge of vintage Shiny Brite and polish ornaments, antique russian clip-ons, Old World Christmas birds, Christopher Radko ornaments that Chuck and the kids get me each year and my favorite, ornaments that we have picked up on vacations to other cities. Several years ago Target had beautiful, multicolored glass garlands and I bought several.  Those add a uniqueness to the tree & our finishing touch is an “angry” paper angel that Brooks, our youngest, made when he was about 4.  Hopefully by the end of the week I will have photos to post but until then, I thought I would share some lovely trees I found online.  They’re all different yet all festive and beautiful.  Enjoy and be inspired!

This is the most beautiful tree I’ve seen lately!  If you are not following Michael over at Inspired by Charm, you should be. This is just one of the beautiful trees in his gorgeous farmhouse.IMG_7633-687x1024A similar tree that just happens to be in the White House……love those glass balls!  Makes me happy just to look at it.  Almost Dr. Seuss-like!

8d99a42c35fe3d0569092f24bf8ea6a9This one has a coastal vibe & since I consider the beach my second home, I love it.  The unique blue-grey of the ornaments strikes a chord with me.fce2669b024019a8dbeb2d0f737bad0b

I absolutely love to get a heavy snowfall during the Christmas season.  Living in Arkansas, we are not always guaranteed one but when we do it’s neat to see outdoor trees sporting lights with a layer of snow on top.  They’re almost ethereal!cd59607141f5b4bdfddfaa10de9a3be0163b52095e3e1aced07c8e2f1bfbee46

Last year, there was a snow-covered tree outside our condo in Keystone, CO and I loved going down to the hot tub each night (soaking my torn ligament) & relaxing in the green glow.  (My grandma would have approved of their choice of green lights!)  Right across from the condo was this tall, heavily adorned tree.  We could go out on our balcony and enjoy it every day because it was right across from us!IMG_0247IMG_0239Someday I’d love to do a tree in shades of red, white and blue.  This is another tree from the White House and I love the way it seems to be dripping with ornaments. Isn’t it cool how they used red and silver and just put a few blue accent ornaments?

WHC08-EastRmTree_s3x4_lgThis tree reminds me of my youth.  Bubble lites & icicles, which were my dad’s favorite things.  My dad could adorn a tree with icicles better than anyone!6018360b63b27642cc665ae3b5004ea3This tree is very different and being a lover of color, I’m surprised it jumped out at me but I love the simplicity and the sense of calm this room has with the white tree. The marshmallow strands and the logs in the fireplace add to the feeling of coziness.7fd27ca294ade81167dde4173da89cd7Of course I love this tree.  It’s got a hefty dose of blue!  I love having a small tree or two in addition to the main tree and this one would be perfect in an entryway or the corner of a kitchen.  I think it’s so creative that they used a silver punch bowl to stand it in!eea3c0194bb45d78ead1fc31d2909955Soon I will post photos of our tree(s).  What’s your favorite color scheme for bringing your tree to life?

Ten Instagram Feeds That Make Me Happy!

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Are you on Instagram?  It serves as a mini-scrapbook of my life.  And my phone is always with me so it’s easy to capture the little things in life.  The picture above is the first photo I ever took using my Instagram app.  It’s a still life of my dresser at the time.  I love it because it says a lot about me.  My style is revealed in the sunglasses and jewelry box.  It shows that I love the color green and the scent of a good candle.  I also made the framed linen piece in the background to hang my jewelry on, so it reminds me that I am creative when I want to be.  I just love this picture.  You will find an entire community of creative people on Instagram from all parts of the world.  Here are ten of my favorites to follow!

1)  Christie Brinkley (username:  christiebrinkley) – I know. I know.  She’s a former supermodel.  Someone recommended her feed and I was skeptical too.  But she’s a darn good Instagram photographer.  Her shots of NYC are STUNNING.  She travels (most recently to Africa to take up the cause of saving elephants from harm and exploitation) and takes photos that are truly captivating.  She includes her personal life in her feed too.  And she draws some wonderful designs in her morning coffee.   I haven’t regretted following her at all.  She’ll fill your feed with beautiful things.

2)  Aerin Lauder (username: aerin):  If I could vote Aerin most beautiful Instagram feed, I would.  She’s near the top of my list of style icons.  The granddaughter of the late cosmetics tycoon, Esteé Lauder and daughter of Ronald Lauder, Aerin recently launched her own line of cosmetics and furniture & accessories for the home.  She is also the subject of a gorgeous coffee table book that should be arriving on my doorstep any moment!  Her posts tend to be beautiful still life images shot around her home & office.  Always exquisitely styled and timeless.

3)  The Recapturist (username:  recapturist) -  “Photography, preservation and micro-history of vintage America”.  That what his feed consists of.  Gorgeous photos of hotel and restaurant signage from an earlier era.  If you like old stuff, you’ll love this feed.

4)  BeachBungalow8 (username:  beachbungalow8) – She’s a creative girl who loves design, both retro and current.  She blogs at http://www.beachbungalow8.blogspot.com.  I find stuff on here ALL the time that inspires me.  Excellent feed.

5)  Plum Collective (username: plumcollective) –  If you love mid-20th century design, you will love this feed.  All kinds of mid- century furniture, lighting and design on this one.  Check it out.

6)  Kelly GoLightly  (username: kellygolightly) - In her words, it’s a “style guide for the modern-day Audrey Hepburns of the world.”  She’s gorgeous, has great style and reeks of vintage style.  She travels often and posts great pics from places like Palm Springs, Beverly Hills and Marfa, TX.  I swoon over her fashion sense & she knows how to throw a party!

7)  Adored Vintage (username:  adoredvintage)  Like vintage dresses & style?  Look no further.  You must follow Adored Vintage.  Sometimes she posts other things but the focus is vintage dresses.

8)  Liljeberg (username: liljeberg) – A Swedish feed that captivates you with letters and numbers, all photographed beautifully.

9)  Mrs. Lilien (username: mrslilien) –  One of my very favorite feeds!  I could honestly ask myself every day, “What would Mrs. Lilien do?”  I love her.  Her style, her love of old things, her appreciation of a good font; the list goes on.  And on.  She blogs at www.blog.mrslilen.com.

10)  Donald Robertson (username:  donalddrawbertson) –  Doodling, drawing, painting – he does it all.  The creative director for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics has one of my favorite Instagram feeds.  I’m wildly inspired by this guy.  He frequently shares photos of his wife, kids and home but most of his posts are his stunning artwork, often done with gaffer tape or just a few strokes of a magic marker.  He’s unbelievable.  Hard for me to go a day without looking at something he posts!

I hope you found at least two or three new people to follow after reading these.  I hope to make this a regular feature on my blog and I hope you’ll keep checking back to find more new good stuff!

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Angels & Witches

photo-20This has been my relief for the past week. A step back into my past that takes me back to a simpler time, both in my life and the world.  I’ll be honest. One reason I’m watching them is that  I screwed up the tv and can only figure out how to use it with a DVD in.  Remember when all we had was a knob and maybe three channels?  For a while where I grew up, your options were 6 (NBC) and 12 (CBS).  If you lived in certain spots in town that “got the signal”, you might have 8 (ABC).  Now very few televisions are operational without at LEAST two remote controls that together have about 100 buttons.  And MODES!  Is it in DVD mode? HDMI mode?  Goodness!  Shout out to my oldest son who bought a VCR and video tape collection at the thrift store and is in heaven with his retro technology.  Love that kid.  I digress.

This week has been one of continuing back pain, oral surgery for my daughter who was home from TCU on fall break, issues with turning homework in, gripey carpool teachers, gripey neighbors, gripey Facebook friends, a traveling husband and my favorite baseball team is stinkin’ it up somewhat in the World Series. I definitely needed a little escape and since a trip is out of the question at the moment, I just settled for a trip back to my childhood when watching Bewitched with my best friend or watching Charlie’s Angels snuggled up on my dad’s lap was my idea of heaven.  It’s been fun.  I love the retro fashion in both shows.  Most of it would be back in style right now and I find myself swooning over dresses and furniture and homes in these shows.  I still have a part of me that longs to twitch my nose and get things to work out for me.  So far, it’s not working.

I try hard, when things are bugging me, to focus on the positive, so I have been.  I’ve worked with great clients this week, had a healthy family (other than the back issues), done my best to help a friend out from afar, helped a neighbor, had a kid ace a Spanish test and essay, done some Christmas shopping, cheered for the Cardinals with Chuck and almost finished the huge stitching project I’ve been working on. And the Christmas cards I ordered earlier than ever arrived and I love them!  There’s always something to be thankful for!  Hope things are going well with all of you.

As long as we’re on the subject, what shows take you back to your childhood?

Just a few random things…….

I’m not posting a photo to go along with this entry because if I did it would be me sitting on the toilet, hair sticking out in 1000 different directions, eyes glazed over from lack of sleep and energy, donut glaze on my cheek,  yelling at my kids to, “for the love of sweet Jesus, learn to put a new roll of toilet paper on the holder & pick up the damn potato chip wrappers & Coke cans in the living room” because we haven’t had a kitchen for a week.  Also, if I share a picture, the President’s men will see it and immediately put me on the no-fly list because they will draw the logical conclusion that I’m a danger to my fellow citizens.  That’s pretty much how my entire month has gone, frantically running from end-of-school-year event to event, watching my daughter graduate and watching, at 3 a.m. one morning, my mother’s apartment go up in flames. I also had a bikini wax because I love to kick myself when I’m down and I hadn’t done enough screaming at the kids to get my monthly fill.  So, how are you guys?

But seriously, THANK YOU for all the love and support shown to my mother as she faced dealing with the loss of all of her possessions, the sentimental stuff being what mattered.  There were 4 fires in a three-month period in her building as of the night that hers was deemed a total loss.  There has been one fire since in the south building across from her, set in the same way, so they’re being called “suspicious” at this point.  It’s bad enough to endure the trauma but to endure it out of someone’s meanness is very unsettling.  Your gifts, love, hugs and support have meant the world to her.

Ryder graduated on the 23rd and then turned 18 on June 8.  We will be taking her to orientation at TCU this week.  I am excited, if for no other reason than for three full days I won’t have to listen to boys fight over and talk about Minecraft servers, I can go to Clotheshorse Anonymous and raid IKEA.  I’m also looking forward to some good Texas meals & hotel room bedding.  Maybe a dip in a pool or two.  But I will miss all three of my boys. :-)

Our flooring installers finished and our new floors look, well, MAGNIFICENT.  That’s really not too strong since they turned out exactly as I envisioned the day I walked into the flooring store.  I want to bow and kiss them.  They completely change the look of our kitchen and den.  When I get the walls painted and artwork hung, I promise a picture. Right now I am putting a desk together (again, I love you, IKEA) for my tiny office nestled in the corner of our bedroom where I can work in peace.  Speaking of work, it’s going well & I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some beautiful girls lately.  Things are good.

The pool finally opened full-time & I’m enjoying some time there basking in the rays and reading on my new Nook, which I love.  I can never replace the friends I have made through our neighborhood pool – it’s definitely one of my happy places.  I’m so glad my kids have many childhood memories from that place.  Last night, our little buddy Clay turned 10 and our oldest son Wyatt, who is three years older than Clay & a TEEN,  went to his party with us.  Right after we got there one of Wyatt’s friends called and wanted him to come over & he said he could after a while, but that he wouldn’t miss Clay’s party.  As the oldest boy there who had an offer from his best friend, my heart was very proud.

Brooks plays his last spring season baseball game tonight and will have a break from baseball until fall.  He pitched a good game the other night & I’m very proud of him.  He will start again in the fall with the same team & I hope his love for the game continues. It hasn’t exactly been a joyride the last couple seasons and as an introvert, adjusting to a new team has not come easy for him. He’s going to attend a camp in July that I think will give him a nice mid-summer dose of baseball and allow him to spend time with a good friend who moved last fall.  I’ve made the choice to have him step out of his comfort zone a bit and decisions like that are one of the harder aspects of parenting, aren’t they?

I recently finished reading a rather life-changing book by David Sheff called “Beautiful Boy”.  It’s a “hard-to-read-emotionally-but-inspiring” book about his son’s struggle with meth addiction.  Last night I started a memoir written by David’s son, Nic Sheff, called Tweak.)  It’s really made me do some deep thinking about my parenting and honestly, parenting in general and what we are doing to our kids these days. (Not necessarily because of anything the dad did in the book, however.)  I feel very strongly that our generation tends to parent from the perspective of what WE want our children to be and do.  We want them to do what will make us look good & give very little thought to what may actually be the right thing for them.  The book just made me think that we really have very little time with them & if you screw that up, there’s no getting the time back.  It’s a heartbreaking read but there are so many passages that struck me & I don’t even have a child dealing with addiction.  The quotes are applicable in other areas of parenting too. I do have some experience with people who want their children to succeed for their own accolades (not my dad, who raised me) and I think it’s just sad.  We need to love our children for what they are and what they choose to become.  I think Mr. Sheff definitely loved his child for what he was & probably had no idea in writing his book that he would help people in areas other than addiction.  I commend him and his son for being brave enough to share their stories.

I have to meet Chuck in an hour for lunch and I’m nowhere near presentable so I hope your summer is off to a good start and that the sun shines brightly on you today!

Spilling open….

IMG_61 copyThe other night I was looking at old pictures and videos with my daughter, who about a week and a half ago, graduated from high school.  She will be 18 next Saturday & I’ve gotten rather reflective the past few weeks.  When I turned 18 I was worried about getting drafted.  Not because I had a legitimate reason but because my grandma worried about EVERYTHING, and on the list of worries I was genetically pre-disposed to when I turned 18, was the draft. (I spent the earlier part of my childhood fearing attacks from “the Russians”, so logically the armed forces would need me.) I’m not sure what, if anything, my daughter worries about.  I hope not much.   It’s certainly not “what people will think when they see the state of my bedroom.”  That I know.  The photos we were looking through made me realize she has had an incredible childhood, surrounded by wonderful, interesting friends who have been there through thick & thin, family who loves her and trips to places like Paris, Barcelona and San Francisco, all of those without us.  She bravely applied to 7 different universities from NW Arkansas to the east coast (Charleston).  She was accepted at all but one & completely of her own accord, chose to attend Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth which completes an unusual circle since that is where my parents lived when I was conceived. I have not been back since I was in that womb.  Life’s funny that way sometimes.  You get right back to where you started.

Someone asked me the other day what my hopes for her were.  That one is simple.  That she is happy.  I don’t care what she becomes, where she works, who she marries or how many children she has, if any.  I just want her to be happy.  I want her to live her life for herself and no one else.  So far, she has done so well in this category & I couldn’t be prouder of her.  We allow her to make most decisions herself & we are criticized for this often.  I think it’s been instrumental in fostering her independence and giving her the confidence she needs to go off on her own.  I know if we are here to fall back on, she will use us to lean on but I also know if a situation requires her to act independently of us, as many will when she ventures off to Texas, she will be well-prepared.  By letting her make her own decisions, all the regrets are on her & it leaves little room to resent us for being overbearing.  I will never, ever understand why people want their children to be dependent on them.

As for advice I would send her off with, I had to think on that one a while.  I would like to send her off into the world with two often diametrically-opposing pieces of advice:  Use good judgment & have very little fear.  Sometimes these two can collide in a horrible way. Sometime in the worst way.  A couple weeks ago, a group of students from the University of Arkansas were involved in a horrible boating accident on Grand Lake in OK & two of them died.  The driver admitted to having 10 beers, a shot of tequila and unprescribed drugs in his system.  I don’t think there’s one parent getting ready to send their kid to college who didn’t shudder at the loss of life & think, “That could be my child.”  I also shuddered at the likely prison sentence facing the kid driving the boat & thought, “How awful for his parents because once our kids are gone we have no control. (In all honesty, we have very little when they’re here.)  Like it or not, that could be our child too.  And by “ours”, I mean both you and I, dear reader.  These kids probably had very little fear as they were stepping into that boat but they sure didn’t use good judgment.  Had either of these forces played out in reverse, it would have saved some families some grief.  But dammit, we aren’t always there to be that voice of reason….

After Ryder graduated last week & shortly after that boat accident, we let her go to one of the lakes about an hour from our home & spend a few days on the houseboat of one of her friend’s families.  Chuck called me and said, “Ryder thinks she’s going to the lake tomorrow and says you know?”  He was a little surprised.  I said, “Yes, I know.  It’s hard, believe me.  But she is going off to a city 6 hours from us in two months & we have to trust her to have good judgment.  She’s made good decisions in the past & we have to trust she will again.”  She made it home safely.  On the way home she even turned the wheel of her car over to the friend who had the houseboat since it was raining super hard and she, unlike her friend, had never driven that curvy road before, even in good conditions.  I can pretty much tell you I didn’t have that sort of judgment right before I turned 18. I trust that she will continue to make wise decisions.

Now for the fear factor.  As stated before, I spent my entire childhood living with my grandma who feared EVERYTHING.  At one point, I was sure I was going to contract lockjaw because I fell into a rosebush & got horribly scratched & cut.  Because that’s how you get lockjaw, right?  Rosebushes. I was taught to fear weather, to fear the Russians, to fear microwave ovens, to fear someone breaking into my house, to fear being kidnapped…….I could go on all night. (Oddly enough, now that I’m older, I fear very little. I’m sure it’s a subconscious rebellion against my grandma’s attempts to instill fear & therefore make me dependent on her.)  I do not want my child to have fear.  I want her to be consciously aware of her surroundings but  I want her to explore the world,  make new friends, take risks in business and life, & live life to the fullest.  I don’t want her to fear taking a vacation overseas, flying in a plane, switching her major, starting a business, breaking up with a boy, etc.  And when it’s time to use fear to her advantage I hope she will have the good judgment to do so.

Make sense?

Crime. Close To Home.

So, one of my neighbors texted the other night and asked if I’m concerned about the crime in our neighborhood.  I’m really not.  For three reasons.  First, we now have a locally-based social media site that reports every single burglary in our neighborhood, from routine bike theft to armed robbery to someone reporting a sack of potting soil missing.* My theory is that most of this crime was going on in the past but we didn’t have someone obsessively reporting everything that comes across the scanner.  As a sidenote to this first point, I’d like to point out that our bicycles were stolen out of the front yard (except for mine, because according to Chuck, no self-respecting heterosexual thief would want my bike & its gay wicker basket) & we didn’t notice it for over 4 months, so it’s also entirely possible we don’t care.  I digress…….my first point is that crime is always happening & seems more prevalent when it’s brought to your attention on a daily basis.  My second point is that I try to make my house as secure as possible without making it look like the Cummins Correctional Unit with bars and razor wire. Past that point, if a criminal wants to get in, I guess he will.  If they want to bad enough, they usually do.  But I refuse to live my life in fear, imprisoned in my home.  My third point is that my dog, Apollo, is bat-shit crazy (postal, some might say) when it comes to protecting me so I think the sound of him awakening and threating to gnaw on your carcass like a dead buzzard after he chews through your jugular is at least a mild deterrent.  I hope so.  I continue to feed him well and make him watch Cujo on Netflix once a week or so.

Sooo……in review:  No, I’m not scared.  I don’t have anything material I can’t live without.  I try to keep my house fairly secure.  I have Apollo. HOWEVER, none of these things can protect me from my children.

I like privacy.  I LOVE being alone.  If you know me only through Facebook or my blog, this may shock you.  I grew up as an only child and I could stay in my room for hours, reading, crafting or just daydreaming about my future plans to have a pool, a cook, servants to wait on me & a hot husband that I could lie in bed with for long stretches of time without worrying that our parents would come home & freak.  So, now that I’m older, I still like time to myself.  To read, to stitch, to sketch, to dream about that pool, cook and servants & to lie in bed with my husband, uninterrupted.  This is, apparently, NOT possible.  I believe I’ve said this before but let me say it again.  Our house is small — around 1700 ft to be exact.  FIVE of us live here.  I love the neighborhood, our neighbors, and I’ve even grown to love the house despite it’s quirks and constant need of repairs.  What I DON’T love is the lack of privacy.  First, we have a bedroom with door access from the hallway & the kitchen.  Yes, the kitchen.  The downside is people just randomly stroll into your bedroom when they want to go out on the back deck or when they want to “cut through” to the hallway.  The upside is that when you want a bag of Oreos, a Coke or a martini at 3 a.m., it’s just a few steps to satisfying your craving.  From the day we bought the house, though, that door has been able to be locked.  So, if things were looking like one of us might get laid, we would lock that door and then go to the other door which leads to the hallway, be SURE it was completely shut and then open the adjacent closet door so that if an intruder (read: nosy kid) came in & we were in a compromising position, they would barge in, bang their head on the second door, & we would be alerted in time to pull up the sheets.  This plan is not foolproof.  It relies on memory, the kid choosing the correct door and, you guessed it, remembering to lock the door to the kitchen.  Right in the middle of our naked, heated passion, we hear the knob & both get that sick feeling in the bottom of your gut that you get when the realization hits that neither of you locked the door.  We both turned to see our middle child with a traumatized look of horror on his face turning to make a slow, stunned exit.  And well, let’s just say that an experience like that KILLS anything that might have been going on at the time.  We were leaving for Florida that very morning and I will never forget the serious, “holy shit, what did I just witness?” look on my son’s face as he gazed out the window all the way to the Gulf Coast.  If you’ve ever seen the Modern Family episode where the kids catch Phil & Clare in THE ACT, you’ve basically watched my life in action, as I am married to a real life version of Phil Dunphy.

Sooooo…….time to put a lock on the door.  Chuck spends part of one Saturday installing a doorknob & I am in heaven.  I can lock the kids out, the dog out, even CHUCK out!  I can have peace!  Napping!  Stitching!  Reading!  Sex without an audience!  Notsomuch.

Sunday morning, Chuck & I enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in.  One kid was at a friends’ house, Ryder is unable to be awakened by an army of Iraqi insurgents & that just leaves Wyatt.  We’ve had enjoyed a little romp in the hay earlier that morning and at this point, would kinda just like to lie in each other’s arms and sleep.  Undisturbed.  Soon we hear stumbling around the house.  Hallway doorknob rattles.  No luck.  Footsteps around the living room through the kitchen to the other doorknob.  Rattles, but no luck.  We’ve been successful.  Privacy at last.  Notsomuch.

After lying there a few more minutes, thinking we are safe to nod off and sleep another hour or so, I begin to hear rattling and scraping.  I thought the dog was out so at first I ignored it.  He knows to come knock on the door when he wants in and I assumed Wyatt would be in there to take care of that.  More rattling and then I swear I hear a window open so I say to Chuck, “Do you hear that?”  He says, “Yes, I think we have a breach of security.  An inside job.” I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on in my head when the door to our bathroom that is INSIDE our master bedroom swings open and my 5′ 11″ 7th grader walks out, strolls past the bed and says, “Get up, Dad!  I’m hungry for bacon!”  We just sat in stunned silence.  He had gone out the front door, entered the backyard, climbed the stairs to the deck and lowered himself into the bathroom through an unlocked window.  All to tell us he wanted bacon, which he could have done by simply knocking and using his “outside voice”.  DUDE, did you not LEARN?  Do you want to be traumatized again?  And have some manners!  Chuck & I look at each other in defeat & Chuck says, “That’s it!  I’m telling the kids, if you come in our room unannounced there’s a good chance we’ll be naked and having sex. Being blunt with them will be our best deterrent yet.  THAT’S WHY DOORS LOCK.  Keep out.”  We shall see.  The only thing left is for one of them to throw a rock through the sliding glass door and enter that way.  Hopefully they have better sense than that but at this point I’m wondering if they have any sense at all.

So, now the bathroom window is locked securely & I’m still feeling relatively safe in the war against criminal intruders.  It’s the tribe of humans I birthed myself that I can’t seem to keep out. Maybe those barred windows aren’t looking so bad after all.

*You laugh at that last one but a guy who lived down the street actually went door-to-door a couple summers ago questioning all of us as to who could have stolen a small bag of potting soil from his driveway.  Don’t think I didn’t use some restraint in my answer. I said, laughing, “Can you look at my barren yard and honestly tell me you think I’m the thief?”  I COULD have said, “No one wants your peat moss, granola-head & yes, I walk my dog on a leash even if you think it ‘inhibits his doggie freedom.’  Also, my 8 yr.-old (at the time) refers to you all as ‘the drunk people’.  Now, carry on with your search for the real killers, OJ.”

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