Sunday, October 4, 2009

No Hanky Panky For This Girl or Hanky Panky Makes Me Cranky

One of my recent Facebook postings that generated a lot of comments got me to thinking. The posting said: “Spanx is just a newfangled marketing word for a glorified girdle.”

Who wants to wear a GIRDLE? But on the other hand, what’s a girl to do about those unsightly bulges – especially around the middle? Just the sound of the word girdle conjures up something unappealing. What woman in her right mind would say to her man, “Just a minute let me step out of this GIRDLE?! But try that this way, “Just a minute honey let me step out of my Spanx” well that is a whole other deal there.

Underwear. (un der war), n. clothing worn next to the skin under outer clothes. This is the definition found in Webster’s Dictionary for underwear. Recent events have caused me to do a lot of serious thinking concerning underwear.

A few weeks ago I got an email from my friend Kristi letting me know that Hanky Panky’s were on sale so I should rush out and buy some. Another friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, is still trying to live down the recent showing of her skivvies at a party. Several of my friends also extol the virtues of the Hanky Panky. Did I mention, that most them are over 40, married with children, and would be considered, shall we say, conservative?

The first time I ever saw a Hanky Panky was at Nordstrom’s with my sister who, as we were walking through the lingerie department, said “Oh, I have heard such great things about those Hanky Panky panties.” Well, I looked over and did not see a panty anywhere. All I saw was a $16.99 strip of lace connected by a string at the back – or in other words - a thong.

While on the other end of the spectrum, my 15 year-old daughter has suddenly expressed an interest in purchasing her own clothing and brought home several new pairs of “underwear.” Well, I have news for you, my daughter’s underwear and my friends of the 40 plus crowd; Hanky Pankies are not in any shape or form underwear. They are without a doubt, THONGS - and not the flip flop kind - the underwear kind!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I always thought the purpose of underwear was to protect and to serve. Kind of like the police force. I mean the protection piece is pretty obvious right? A good pair of underwear should protect you from any thing accidentally coming out or going in. As for the serve part – well, by that I mean it should serve a function of some sort. For me that function is also pretty obvious. My underwear holds in those parts of my body that seem to bulge out. Give me a sturdy pair of Spanx any day! And speaking of Spanx, the gal who thought up those babies is brilliant! “Why?” you might ask. Well, because she made wearing a girdle cool. Spanx are just reinvented girdles. And I am a girdle kind of girl.

On a side note, I actually have fond memories of girdles because wearing one nipped my life of crime in the bud. When I was about 8 years old, a neighbor girl and I were at the neighborhood drugstore and for some reason we each decided to steal an item. I think it was to show who was braver or something equally as stupid. I know I knew it was wrong and I remember I was scared to death, but I took the dare. I found an area that seemed to be out of sight of the clerk, way back in the far dark corner of the store where they placed the “private” items – you know the mysterious stuff like sanitary napkins, Midol, feminine deodorant spray and undergarments! I reached up and grabbed the first thing I could find. And guess what? It was a girdle. I swiped a girdle! And then for some unfathomable reason, I actually put it on underneath my dress- I guess it was to hide it as I guiltily left the store.

Even before I left I was eaten up with guilt and fear, but I had already done the deed and could not back out now. My friend, who was obviously far more cut out for a life of crime than me, was already outside having smuggled out a stash of candy. I found her, pulled up my dress to show her that I had indeed committed the crime and then we immediately commenced to eating up all the evidence. By that time it was late and so we set off for home. Along the way I began to feel sick. At first I thought it was because it was so hot and we were walking, and then I decided it was because I had eaten too much candy, and then it came to me. I knew it. God was punishing me. I was a criminal and now I was going to pay the price. I had been stricken with some sort of illness and would probably now die.

By the time we got to my house I was beside myself with worry and a stomach ache that I was sure would put me in the grave. I tried to avoid my mother, but her eagle eyes knew something was wrong. I could barely eat dinner and had almost nothing to say. I just knew that any minute God was going to strike me dead for my larceny. And, all the while my stomach was hurting worse and worse. Finally, I admitted that I was not feeling too good. My Mom did her usual – checked the forehead for fever, questioned me about where it hurt. When I said my tummy, she asked a few questions and then went to poke on my belly and low and behold discovered me still wearing the stolen girdle complete with the price tag on it!

After confessing the crime to her, returning to the drugstore to pay for the stolen item and having a very sore bottom instead of a sore tummy, I vowed never again to steal. So, really a girdle saved me from a life of crime.

But back to thongs. As far as I can tell the thong just does not count as underwear in any sense of the word. Let’s go back to my personal definition of underwear: to protect and serve. Take protection. What sort of protection can a piece of string approximately 3 inches wide, or less in many cases, provide a girl? It certainly can’t help protect any sensitive areas, nor would it protect you from embarrassment if say, oh you accidentally tucked your skirt into the back of your panties and were walking back to your table through the restaurant (been there, done that).

Or if you were in a serious car accident and had to be rushed to the emergency room and disrobed by hospital personnel in a room full of strangers, all of whom would suddenly lose their focus of performing those critical life saving efforts such as cracking open my chest an shouting out words like 20 cc’s of Lidocane and stuff, only to gasp in horror at the sight of your private area that is so NOT protected from prying eyes.

Personally, I grew up with a mother who constantly admonished me to wear my nice underwear in case of an accident, and I think her advice was quite sound. But I know one thing, if I was ever caught unawares in a room full of Emergency Physicians who looked like George Clooney and Patrick Dempsey ripping me down to my skivvies in order to save my life, I would much rather have on my good old Haines with the reinforced stomach panel than one of those miniscule pieces of material that let is all hang out. Because lets face it – what hangs out ain’t too pretty!

In looking up the history of underwear on the Internet (yes, there is a site that is devoted to the history of underwear) I discovered a lot about underwear. I guess technically, the first pair of undies were the fig leaves Adam and Eve wore in the Garden of Eden, but they were probably scratchy so I think they immediately invented the loin cloth, which interestingly enough were really for men – guess they wanted to make sure there were no comparisons going on.

Loin cloths were pretty popular for a long while – apparently King Tut was found buried with about 150 extras for his voyage into the underworld. I am not sure what women used, because according to the internet sites I searched, Cleopatra was not found with loin cloths, nor girdles much less a thong in her tomb.

It appears that the Middle Ages was really when underwear came about. I think they invented it because they took baths like once a year and they didn’t have many clothes so they used this new fangled underwear invention to keep their clothes from getting dirty. Over time I think undies got fancier and moved from being the plain old union suit type to briefs and jockey shorts and such. But hygiene was really the major reason for the use of undergarments. And I know for darn sure that small piece of string does not provide hygienic protection or otherwise.

Ok, so there is another purpose of underwear – the sexy kind that men like to see on women, but let’s face it, I am not really sure men really like to see Hanky Panky’s on anyone who doesn’t weigh about 100 pounds, has had some sort of breast enhancement surgery and spends at least 6 hours a day working on their abs and thighs. Yes, Victoria’s Secret models do fit that mold, but basically as far as I can tell there are only about 14 Victoria’s Secret models in the whole entire world, and since they are the only ones who really can look good in a thong, what are the other 3 Billion one hundred sixty-seven women in the world supposed to do?

Quite frankly, after wearing my first pair of Hanky Panky’s for a day, I am thinking that perhaps the reason so many women seem to be angry and short tempered these days may not really be due to factors the media keeps attributing their problems to like balancing work and career or the failing economy or even PMS. It actually may be due to the fact that they are wearing a thong that is riding up their rear and digging into their privates which is causing major discomfort. Or that they are frantically obsessing over the fact that when they disrobe that thong is just not going to look like it does on page 12 of the Victoria’s Secret Catalogue. Or better still perhaps they are bemoaning the fact that they actually paid $16.99 for a piece of underwear that serves no real purpose other than to make you want to furtively look around to see if anyone is watching before you reach your hand back and try to pull it out of your behind.

Even more likely those Hanky Panky’s are causing some sort of mass produced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among millions of women who spent their youth trying to keep playground bullies from giving them a wedgie only now to be in the strange position of choosing with their own free will to seek out a garment that purposely recreates that childhood trauma.

This weekend, I was looking out the window and saw a bunch of clothes in the yard. Of course I thought one of the kids decided to strip down out there for some reason or another (Hey, it the Collins House, are you surprised?)and I yelled upstairs for whoever left their clothes in the backyard to come and get them. Turns out our Pomeranian, Stoli, has been snacking on every pair of underwear he can find. He is constantly digging in the laundry basket and pulling out our underwear and running off and eating the crotch out.

Just yesterday my husband complained that his underwear had a hole in it and he couldn’t figure out what had happened and I just could not bring myself to mention the fact that all our underwear had little holes in it from Stoli’s attacks. Nor have I been able to throw out the multiple pairs of $35 Girdles (oh, I mean Spanx!) that he has rendered crtochless. I am just too darn cheap- what do a few holes in the crotch matter when the stomach panel still holds in the belly?

So, even though I am as interested as the next middle aged woman in keeping up my appearances to please my man and in making sure I am hip and with it. I just can not go there. No Hanky Panky for me. No way, no how. Give me a good old fashioned girdle any day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whatever You Do, Don’t Tell Lance Armstrong

Austin, Texas. Live Music Capital of the World, home of the University of Texas, Barton Springs, great Tex Mex food, the start of the beautiful Texas Hill Country, and the Capitol of our fair State. And, of course, the home of famed, 7-time winner of the Tour de France – Lance Armstrong. All of these are things any self respecting Austinite is proud of, and as one of the dwindling few, true Austin natives – born and raised here – I am too.

Listen, I know that Austin is Lance’s town and all and everyone here is supposed to be all into bicycling but I have to tell you I am getting kinda tired of all these cyclists myself. Now I know I am going to make a lot of my friends mad, but I need to point out a few things.

I drive on Exposition almost every day and I keep discovering that suddenly I am driving in the bike lane and need to move back over to the car lane. I guess because I have driven down that street for more than 30 years, I still think of it is a two lane street, but now that it has those bike lanes it is really like a four lane street with much skinnier lanes for the cars to drive on. The other day I started thinking, “Where are all these cyclists this lane was built for?” Only once in about the past three months have I seen anyone cycling in that lane and it wasn’t a child either. I have, however, seen thousands of cars, now squeezing past each other nose to nose, on that curving street due to the fact that what used to be a much wider street has now become a narrow, winding thoroughfare so we can accommodate those bike lanes that I never see anyone riding in.

Now I am all for safety and stuff but why do all those bicyclists need to have a special designation to use Exposition (or Loop 360 or 2222 for that matter?) – Why can’t they just take one of the side streets? And on top of that why do we have to give up such prime street passages for them? Remember the Shoal Creek Blvd. debacle a just a few years ago? The one where the City put all those bump thingys in the road up and down Shoal Creek in hopes of forcing cars to stay out of the bike lanes and all it did was cause a bunch of wrecks for both cars and bicyclists. I think those cost us like a million dollars or something to put in and then they had to spend a bunch more than that to take them out again! I don’t have the exact numbers but I know that there are a whole heck of a lot more cars than bicycles on our streets. But it sure seems to me like the odds are getting stacked in the bike’s favor.

It’s fine with me if they want to ride bikes all over our streets, and I will even promise to keep thier safety top of mind, but why do the rest of us have to do something special for them? I don’t really have a sport, but if I did I don’t think I would be as demanding as some of these cyclists are…although come to think of it, I would like to request that shopping become a recognizeable Olympic Sport – I am pretty sure I could medal in that one. I also know some guys who are really into the sport of Cheese Rolling (Yes, it’s a sport. Google it if you don’t believe me.) but I haven’t heard our City Council recommending setting aside lanes of 2222 to accommodate that activity.

And what’s up with all these bicycle people thinking that the traffic laws don’t apply to them? Several times just in this past month I have been at stoplights where the bicyclists just breeze right through the red light or the cross walk expecting the cars to just magically give them the right away. Or how about the way they ride several people deep on the streets actually blocking more than one lane? And the other day I was walking down the sidewalk near Lady Bird Lake and this bicyclist was coming toward me (going the wrong way!) and even though I stepped over to the side to let him pass, he still yelled “WTF” at me like I had done something wrong when clearly he was the one going the wrong way and riding his bike on the sidewalk! I just don’t get it. Has there been some sort of Papal blessing bestowed upon these cyclists that I don’t know about? Have they suddenly become royalty?

Of course, I must mention the outfits. I would be remiss if I did not. And yes, I do call them outfits because they are color coordinated and carefully selected to ensure that everyone realizes the wearer is a true cyclist. Now you wouldn’t catch me dead in one of those cycling outfits, first of all because there is probably some sort of law against something like that and second of all because no one should be forced to face that kind of horror. As to why someone would voluntarily don one I can’t really say. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but what self respecting grown man actually chooses to wear body hugging lycra and spandex that not only grip personal areas that are best left to the imagination, but also make you look like some multi-colored Doofus?

Just in case you think I am being too hard on these cyclists, let me tell you what happened to me a few weeks ago and maybe then you can see why I am feeling a wee bit bitter. I ran out of gas, and yes, I know it was stupid, but I had a hysterical 14-year old girl in the car who apparently thought the earth would stop spinning and she would die if she did not make it to the movies to meet her friends within the next seven minutes, so I foolishly thought I would get gas after I dropped her off. Anyway, I ran out of gas and got stuck on the big hill going east up Loop 360 just past 2222. My first thought, was “great, now we are really going to be late and CeCe is going to have a fit.” My second thought was “(insert expletive here) I am going to block up all the traffic on 360 and somebody is probably going to hit us.”

Fortunately for us, I got far enough over to make it safe from the onslaught of car traffic whizzing by. Unfortunately for us, the only safe place for me to pull over was onto the shoulder, which even though it is not marked as such, is clearly considered the "bike lane." (Imagine me saying that while making little finger quotation marks in the air.) At least it seems to be considered such by the cyclists. If you haven’t been on Loop 360 lately let me remind you of a few things.

First of all the traffic is very steady no matter what day of the week or time of the day it is and Austin drivers show no mercy. It is all about getting them where they want to go as fast as possible. Also, for reasons I can not even begin to fathom, bicyclists love to ride on Loop 360 – especially on the weekends. So here you have this strange dichotomy of 2,000 pound steel vehicles whizzing by at speeds of 60-80 miles per hour juxtaposed with all these tiny bicyclists one tenth that weight and size geared out in bizarre multi-colored, form fitting outfits peddling with all their might to get up and down the multitude of hills.

Add into that mix, one middle aged slightly deranged woman in a large suburban with a hugely impatient 14-year old daughter as her passenger who are both now sitting ducks smack dab in the middle of that Loop 360 self designated "bike lane" with the flashers on. And what you get is not good.

At first I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Here I was I had run out of gas because I had spent my entire Saturday rushing from carpool, to errand, to carpool to more errands – all for other people mind you – and, it was almost 4:00 pm and I had to be home, showered and dressed by 6:00 pm to go to yet another event that had nothing to do with what I wanted to be doing. Now if you think road rage is bad amongst Austin drivers, let me tell you that is nothing compared to the road rage Austin bicyclists experience.

Funny me, I would have thought a stranded woman and her daughter alone, sitting in a car with the flashers on, on the side of a busy road would engender, if not immediate aid from strangers, at least some sympathy. But what we got was somewhat shocking at first and then it just pissed me off.

While cars continued to whiz past us at high speeds, many of them switched lanes, no one honked at us, and two actually pulled over and walked back to ask us if we needed help. "No, but thank you," I explained as I told them my husband would be here in just a few minutes. But then there were the bicyclists. Because I was so scared when I first realized I was going to be stuck on 360, I really didn’t realize I had pulled into the so called "bike lane". All I felt was relief that I was not going to block traffic and possibly get hit or cause an accident.

As I realized that I was blocking the "bike lane", I got worried because I know how dangerous that road is and I did not want the cyclists to be in any danger either. So I valiantly leaned out of my window and made my, by now totally humiliated, daughter do the same on her side to keep on the lookout for cyclists. We added the frantic waving of arms to the car flashers we had on just to be sure that oncoming cyclists could see well in advance that we were blocking the "bike lane" and that they were going to have to ride a little over to the rocky side of said "bike lane" to be safe.

Now not being a cyclist myself I guess I was kind of naive about the sport. First of all, just how many crazy people could there be going up Loop 360 on a hot Saturday afternoon? Two, maybe three extremists? Nope. Try about 35! And all of them acted as though I had just decided to pull my Suburban over to the side of the road on purpose for some unfathomable reason.

Every single rider shot me the bird, yelled an obscenity, or did both as they rode by. At one point I began to have fantasies of opening up my passenger side door just as they were riding by and knocking them off their bikes. I even encouraged my daughter to just stick her hand out the window and give someone a quick little shove just as they came even with the car but she’s a Wuss and wouldn’t do it.

“Well, excuse me for getting in the way of your bike ride. I just felt like pulling over my car to the side of this busy road in 90 degree heat, cars blowing by me with inches to spare while my daughter weeps and yells at me, just so I can enjoy this lovely view of asphalt and traffic anchored by industrial buildings and concrete apartments on both sides. It’s just so peaceful here STUCK ON THE FREEWAY."

"Oh, and by the way, what are YOU doing here?"

I realize that this is your sport and all and that you are serious about your passion and I even understand that some of your anger might be caused by the fact that you got a bit freaked out by having me blocking your "bike lane." Ok, I can get that. But what I don’t get is WHY anyone would actually choose to cycle on a road like that. It is scary, dangerous, hot and grueling uphill work and no matter how hard I try I just don’t think that looks like very much fun.

And P.S. you look really stupid in those cycling clothes they are seriously ugly.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pandemics, Panics and Peanut Butter

All this Swine Flu panic has made me miss my Mom so much. She died May 6, 2009 and I miss her every single day. No, she did not die of Swine Flu, but she was the world’s foremost authority on anything that might be even remotely dangerous, scary or possibly some sort of conspiracy. And my phone line would have been burning up with calls from her over this Swine Flu scare. She would have urged me to buy masks, take our temperature and worried over whether we had enough food stored up in the house just in case we needed to quarantine ourselves. She was always big on having made preparations for potential world disasters.

My Dad still bears the scars from the time during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1964 when my mom was pregnant with my brother and she became convinced that there was going to be Nuclear War and she needed to store up food and water. She made Daddy go out and buy a bunch of those huge water bottles - the 100 pound kind that go on water coolers – and he threw his back out and crushed vertebrae in his neck and had to have emergency surgery. He says he may have made sure they were prepared to make through a food and water shortage but Mom’s extensive preparations kept him from being able to help her out with any childcare duties for her 7 year old, 4 year old and newborn for the next six months while he was recovering from his surgery! Not that he would have been much help any way, this was the 1960’s after all. But it still makes a good story.

When the big SARS scare occurred in 2003 I very distinctly remember her calling me up at work one day, telling me I had to come over right away to check out this package they had received from China. She left a message for me that went something like this “Reenie, I need you to come over to the house right away. Your Daddy got that painting he ordered from China today and we are worried that it might have that SARS thing so we left it out on the front porch and we need you to come on over here and check to make sure if it is safe for us to bring in the house…”

"Right. Uhmm well, let me see, I can use my super powers and x-ray vision to check out that package and certify it to be SARS free. Oh, yea and never mind the fact that Mom does not want to touch it in case she contracts SARS, let me go ahead and open it up to make sure it is safe!” Have I mentioned before that my family is just slightly insane?

My Mother earned her degree from The University of Texas around 1945 and I think she majored in Worry with a minor in Paranoia and probably did her dissertation on Identifying Suspicious Persons. I honestly can not remember a time period of my life that she was not obsessing over something. Because worrying was a part of her genetic DNA, she unfortunately passed that along to her children – well three of her four children - I have refused to succumb to the constant temptation of potential danger lurking in every corner. My siblings on the other hand, well, let’s just say each of them has their own struggles with this worrisome gene that seems to have been passed down by Mom’s side of the family.

I remember growing up and hearing all kinds of helpful warnings and advice. Things like, “Watch out for people who drive around in cars with tinted windows. Those kind of people are up to no good.” “Never put a cat around a baby. It will suck their breath right out of their mouth.” My personal favorite was not exactly a particular warning; it was the way my Mom would take little notes on suspicious people she saw around the neighborhood just in case she found out later some sort of crime had been committed so she could turn in her notes to the police!

Now here’s a handy little tip I learned from my childhood - never put your arm out of an open window when driving around in a car. There might be a wreck and the car could tip over and land on the side that had the open window your arm was hanging out of and your arm would be cut off! According to my Mom, she saw that very thing happen so all throughout my childhood whenever one of us would hang our arm out of the window she would tell us that story. Personally, I think she made that one up because she thought it looked tacky to drive around with your arms hanging out of the window.

I can’t even begin to remember the number of times she would call me to tell me about some horrible disease or accident that had happened to the second cousin of a friend of a friend's ex-wife or some such and how I needed to now add whatever calamity that had befallen to them to my long list of things to be on the lookout for. I am pretty sure my Mom is probably personally responsible for at least several dozen of the Urban Legends currently floating around the Internet.

All of this came from the same woman who one time I found scraping mold off of some bread as she was making sandwhiches and when I asked her if she was actually going to eat the bread, she said that a little mold never hurt anyone and didn’t I know penicillin came from mold? There was really no way to understand the convoluted way her brain worked, but it made sense to her.

My mother, who when she died at 83 was still called Puddin by everyone she knew, did not like to turn left when I was growing up. Whenever possible, she preferred to take multiple right hand turns until she was headed in the direction she wanted to go. Why? Well, that was easy. Because it was dangerous! Same thing with driving on the freeway. Dangerous! There is a legendary story among some of my childhood friends about the time my mother accidentally got on I-H35 (imagine that last word being said in a horrified voice!)- I-H35. She had a car load of 14 year old girls all going down town to Town Lake to enjoy the Battle of the Bands Night at the local Aqua Festival. Well, somehow, and to this day we still don’t know how such a mishap could have occurred, somehow Puddin got onto THE FREEWAY by accident. My friends still imitate her saying “Girls. Girls. Be quiet. Did I just get on I-H35? Is this THE FREEWAY?” “Yes, Ma'am.” Next thing you know we were not only on the freeway, but we had somehow been diverted to the UPPER LEVEL of I-H35. Suddenly, she was explaining to my friends that she just could not drive on I-H35. It made her too nervous. So, she just pulls over to the side of the road near a police car that happened to be stationed there to direct the traffic flow and says, “Girls, Girls. Get out of the car now. I have to get off this freeway. You just go on over to that policeman and get in his car and tell him to drop you off at Aqua Festival.” So we did. And he did. And she got off.

Can you imagine a policeman today seeing a group of five or six teenage girls walking up to his car parked on 35 and having them explain that they just needed a ride on over to the festival area because "Mrs. Harwood gets too nervous to drive on the freeway" and agreeing to take them like it was nothing out of the ordinary? Somehow I just can't see that going over too well today, but I guess in 1974 it must not have caused much of a stir because he did drop us right off at the front gate!

You should have been with us the first few years MoPac (the freeway that was built in Austin in the early 1970’s) was built. I had to suffer the humiliation of her driving across town using only the feeder roads. THE Mopac, as she called it, just went too fast. But hey, she loved us and was determined to keep us safe, right?

She also gave me helpful advice like whenever you are traveling out of town and someone you meet in that new city asks you where you are from, you always say “Dallas.” Never say Austin. “Why?” you might ask. Well that’s simple. If you tell a stranger you are from Austin they might figure out your, name, address and phone number and send someone to rob you while you are out of town. Or even worse, travel back to your hometown later and murder you in your sleep! I will never forget the time when I was right out of college and we were in New Orleans and this darling guy I had met at our hotel asked me where we were from. Just as I was about to open my mouth and say “Austin, Texas” in my cutest little Texas Drawl, my mother shot me The Look, stood lightly on my toe and said “Dallas” in her haughtiest voice. You all know The Look. It’s the one that all mothers can shoot to their children across a room that immediately and telepathically imports into their minds words like DON’T. STOP. JUST WAIT UNTIL WE GET TO THE CAR… So there I was probably missing the opportunity to meet my future husband, all because this boy might, just could perhaps, possibly, maybe, track me down to Austin, Texas ("Please God", I prayed!)and do who knows what.

Then there was the time during my high school years when I seemed to have been involved in quite a few accidents in a short period of time and my mother and her sisters got together to discuss my many calamities. Shortly thereafter, it was determined that I had begun wearing some opal jewelry recently and that "everyone" knew that wearing opals was bad luck unless they were your birthstone. So off came my two opal rings and my opal necklace. And sure enough, all that bad luck that had been the cause of my misfortune just stopped. I ran across that jewelry the other day in my parent’s safety deposit box and thought they would make a wonderful gift for my 14-year old daughter, CeCe, but I just couldn’t quite bring myself to give them to her. She was born in June.

So what does all this have to do with Swine Flu? Well all this panic over the potenial pandemic, got me to remembering last year when the Salmonella outbreak happened with peanut butter. It was all over the TV News just like this Swine Flu thing and of course my mother called to tell me about it because she knew my kids ate a lot of peanut butter. She had very carefully written down the lot numbers of the bad jars and gave them to me over the phone. Because by this time she was in the nursing home and really very,very sick and I knew that writing down those numbers must have been excruciatingly hard for her, I decided to humor her. I actually wrote them down too instead of just saying "uh, uh" and pretending that I was going to follow up like I ususally did.

Since the peanut butter in question was Peter Pan brand and Peter Pan Peanut Butter is the kind my kids eat, and since I had actually written down the serial numbers she gave me, I figured I might finally be able to put to use that ability to be on the constant lookout for possible danger that my mother so graciously passed along to me and my siblings. I decided I really would take that slip of paper downstairs and check out the Peanut Butter.

Amazingly, I remembered to take the slip of paper with me when I went downstairs to go to work, and then I actually remembered to look in our pantry, pull out the peanut butter and peruse the top to see if my jar was one of the polluted ones. I could not believe my eyes. Right there right in front of me was Potential Peril! Looming Danger! Advancing Doom! My Peter Pan Peanut Butter actually had the recalled serial numbers on it.

Finally! After 47 years of vigilance I had actually averted danger. I was so excited I even took a picture of the jar so that I could show everyone how heroic I had been. I could not wait to tell my mother how all her paranoia had finally paid off.

I then left the jar on the counter and raced out to work feeling like such a great mother for having saved my children from sure death or worse.

Later that day as I rushed back in the door to start dinner I saw Tye, our 7-year old, sitting happily at the kitchen table eating his afternoon snack complete with a huge spoon, some crackers and the jar of Peter Pan Peanut Butter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

House of Vomit

The most horrifying weekend tale of all time. Not for the squeamish or the faint-hearted. Warning! Nothing Like this in all the history of motherhood. Horrible. Terrifying. Gruesome. See the viscious vomit in action. Hear the screams and moans and retching. Experience the nausea. Feel the pain.

Banned in many homes due to the extreme terror that ensues from imagining the experience. Men all over America have run screaming from the room after being confronted with these true tales from the house of vomit….

In case you can’t tell our family just spent the weekend together bonding in a way that only the vomit virus can achieve.

Now, we are no stranger to the joys of vomiting. A lot of families have traditions and experiences that are repeated year after year and told lovingly at family gatherings. These tales often achieve mythical status in family traditions to such proportions that children of later generations repeat them reverentially wishing for the good old days. “Remember when Daddy and Uncle Jeff used to go to work with Grandy at the local Post Office in Satin which also doubled as the grocery store?” Or what about the story of “When PawPaw got home from World War II he got the only new convertible in the State of Texas because he was considered a War Hero.”

But back to our family traditions. A couple of years ago I noticed a strange coincidence that has since turned into a pretty sure thing. On almost every Holiday (this week counts as one since Easter is this week) at least one person in our family throws up. I think the curse first started Spring Break 2003. Kent and I took the kids and our Nanny, Ale, to Florida for a week of fun and relaxation. CeCe was 8, Winston was 5 and Tye was 3. We were staying in a house that had a master bedroom downstairs and the kids and Allie were upstairs with two bedrooms on either side of a bathroom. The upstairs area was actually fairly small with just a tiny landing area at the top of the stairs and a very small bathroom and the two bedrooms. We thought it was ideal. The kids would sleep upstairs all nestled together, safe and sound with Ale to watch over them and Kent and I could have some much needed alone time together downstairs.

Alas, this was not to be. The first night we discovered that this house must have been built during a time when building codes were more lax because the curving, metal staircase had treads and railings that our children could easily slip through making it impossible for us to allow them to go up and downstairs by themselves. So the first night I spent worrying that one of them might wake up and try to come down to us by themselves. The second night was when the tradition was born. We had spent a fun, if hectic, day out at the beach which had culminated with a family dinner of fried fish, hush puppies and cole slaw at this awesome restaurant right on the beach. After dinner we got the kids to bed and Kent and I were enjoying the peace and quiet of our own room downstairs away from everyone.

About 2 am I heard it. That unique cry of a child who has just thrown up all over himself in his bed. It starts out with the first moan and quickly crescendos to a shriek of “Mooooommmmmyyyyyyyy…I throwed up!!” So much for a good night’s sleep alone with each other. Coming up the stairs I was met by CeCe who had just gotten up from her bed to rush to the bathroom, looked straight at me as I hit the top of that tiny landing and hurled all over the floor and me, then as I am trying to grab her to get to the bathroom, she throws up again all OVER the toilet. After about an hour of cleaning. Cleaning her off, cleaning me off, cleaning the rug on the floor in the hallway and scrubbing down the toilet and the bathroom floor, I got ready to put her back in her bed when I discovered that she had also thrown up IN her bed. So I had to clean all that up too. By this time it is around 3:00 am or so and I decide to take her down to our bedroom to sleep with us. We had been downstairs just about an hour when I heard the same cry coming from upstairs and Winston had begun throwing up. As I started through the same routine of cleaning him off, our Nanny races by me to the bathroom where she too starts to vomit.

And guess what? Sure enough, as I check in on the baby sweetly sleeping through all of this, I see that he has also hurled in his own bed only being the considerate child he is, he has gone back to sleep IN the middle of all his throw up. Resigned, I start over again cleaning him up and throwing all his bedding and Winston’s bedding into the wash. Because I am so tired and I figure that everyone will probably start heaving again I decide to just wrap them all up in layers of towels and as they throw up into the top layer of towel, I just strip that off and put it in the washer and let them go onto the next layer of towel. And the cycle of vomit repeats itself…

Now by this time you may ask yourself where is my husband? What is he doing? Did he too get sick? Was he tirelessly working by my side as together we confronted the horror of cleaning up all this vomit? Well, not exactly.

Somewhere around the time that the second child began blowing chunks, he declared in a sincere voice that he was just going to sleep in the other room by himself “…Because someone around here needed to get some sleep.” After I had finished cussing him out in my head (the children were still up so I could not really say what I needed to right at that moment) I asked him -- just as sincerely as he had mentioned his plan to me-- if he HAD LOST HIS MIND? Did he really think that he should go to bed and leave me to clean up what had now become copious of piles of vomit? Well apparently, Yes, he did. He sincerely believed that it would be best for him to go ahead and get some rest so that in the morning if I was really tired he could take over and let me rest! After all, there was no reason in his logical mind that both of us should have to stay up and be tired. After all, one of us should get some sleep! And apparently, that one of us was HIM!

Of course, as these things usually do, by morning everyone had stopped vomiting and the kids were soon feeling much better and ready to go to the beach. As Daddy gathered them all up and, oh so graciously, offered to go ahead and take ALL the children with him to the beach, he did mention a few times that he would be by HIMSELF and asked what time did I think I would join them. And when I did come, would I go ahead and bring an ice chest with some more drinks and a few more chairs as he had too much to carry by himself. I sweetly assured him I would be there shortly, just as soon as I finished washing every single towel and sheet and comforter that house had stocked.

Needless to say I have one very vivid memory of that trip. In fact it is seared into my brain.

It is not what you might think; a memory of vomit. Oh no! It is the memory of me standing on the beach later that afternoon with cell phone in hand dialing every single mother that I had programmed into my cell phone and asking them one simple question -- “What would you do if all three of your children were vomiting and your husband announced that he had better go on to bed to get some sleep because someone ought to be refreshed in the morning so they could help take care of everyone?” You see, I had promised Kent that if I could find one person, just one person, who would agree that his logic was sound, that I would never as long as we lived, mention this story again…

From Florida, the Curse continued. Memories of a Christmas where Kent gave me a gorgeous white sweater which I immediately put on only to have one of my children walk into the kitchen, reach his little hands up to me and begin vomiting. Instead of reacting with the natural mother instinct of grabbing them up and helping them make it to the restroom, I quickly backpedaled away and shrieked, “My sweater. Don’t throw up on my sweater.” I will never forget the slightly horrified look on the face of my sweet, angelic cousin Charlotte as she witnessed this episode.

Another time as we were driving to Lake LBJ for a Fourth of July Family Reunion, we arrived at the cabin full of multiple families, lots of kids and few bathrooms, when Kent started vomiting only to have it spread to two of our other children during the trip. Once, after a New Year’s Holiday tradition of going to the Hill Country to celebrate with some other families, I remember thinking, we had made it. It was January First and we were driving home and no one had gotten sick that entire weekend. The Curse was broken! Sadly, about 15 minutes from our house I heard this little voice from the back of the car saying “I don’t feel so good, I need to movit.” We pulled over and sure enough, Tye threw up on the side of the road.

We actually call vomit “Movit” because when Tye was little he often got words mixed up and somehow when he heard the word Vomit it became “Movit” and so that is what we call it.

In fact, our Holiday vomiting tradition has become so well known among my friends that, they will often call at random times during a holiday and ask “Has anyone thrown up yet?” And among my germ phobic, more than slightly neurotic family, there is a never ending quest to keep my family from getting sick. I get all kinds of advice ranging from simple reminders to wash our hands frequently and to not allow my kids to drink or eat after each other (duh!) to suggestions that we get rid of our cats because cats can carry disease (huh?). Or helpful queries like “Who do you think they caught the virus from?” (Gee, I don’t know. I say we blame Tye’s friend Ivan. Do you want me to call his mother and yell at her?). Or comments like “Your kids sure are sick a lot, do you think you have a good doctor?” (Well, no actually we picked a bad doctor, but he is real cheap). My poor family. They just don’t seem to believe in the Curse.

So this weekend, we had yet another family bonding experience. This time Winston did the honors of kicking off yet another incident in the House of Vomit. Thursday night he woke me up complaining that his stomach hurt real bad. Half asleep, I rolled over and told him to get in bed with us and try to sleep. Mistake number One. About an hour or so later after off and on waking me up and moaning about his stomach hurting, he jumps out of bed and races toward the bathroom. Just about there he lets loose on the floor creating a line of vomit from the dressing room area all the way to the toilet. From 3:00 am – 6:00 am he “commenced to throwing up regular like clockwork” as my grandmother would say, every 30 minutes. He continued to be sick for most of the next day with little sympathy from either his sister or his brother. Later, Friday I get a call from his sister, CeCe, asking me to pick her up from school – she does not feel well. After she gets home she seems to feel a bit better, leaving me wondering if this was just a con job or if she was actually sick. At about midnight on Friday, she wakes me up saying she thinks she is nervous about riding a new horse on Saturday and that her stomach hurts. Half asleep, I rolled over and told her to get in bed with us and try to sleep. Mistake number Two. Shortly thereafter, she wakes me up by rushing into the bathroom and throwing up. This seems to be a one time deal and we both agree that it is probably nerves and she goes back to sleep. The next morning she says she is feeling ok, and eats some breakfast and keeps it down. I continue to question her about how she feels and she very condescendingly assures me that SHE does NOT have Winston’s virus! She is 14 after all and would never succumb to the common virus. She was just overly nervous about riding a new horse. So we decide to send her on out to the barn, which is 45 minutes out of Austin, to ride. Mistake number Three.
Just as I was getting into the shower to dress for a Tea I had to attend I got a phone call from her, punctuated between retching sounds and toilets flushing, asking me to come and get her that she was sick. By the time she got home she was feverish and shaking and was in bed all of Saturday. By this time Winston has recovered, is fever free for 24-hours and assures us he feels good enough to go to his friend, Blakely’s birthday party. We talk with Blakely’s parents and they say they are comfortable with his coming, so we send him. Mistake number Four. At around 10:00 pm Kent and I get a call to come and pick him up -- his stomach is hurting. We get him home and while he does not vomit again, it is clear he is not feeling well.

Later Saturday night, after Kent and I have been asleep for an hour or so, Tye very quietly and calmly comes into our bedroom to announce that he too, has Movit….in HIS BED! And climbs into bed with us. Mistake number Five. Tye then proceeds to immediately vomit in MY bed. Luckily, I had gotten a few towels around him and he threw up into those and not on our bed linens, so all I had to do was put those in the bathroom and wrap him up in more towels in case he got sick again. Just as I was preparing to very loudly and very martyr like suffer through yet a THIRD night of cleaning up after yet another vomiting child, I heard something that literally stopped me in my tracks. It was an unearthly sound. Terrifying in its strangeness. One never before heard in the walls of our household.

Now here is where the tale takes a strange, strange twist. I have been married to Kent for 20 years and we have had children for 13 of those years. In all those years I can not remember a single time that he has been the one to get up in the night to clean up the vomit. In fact, most of the time he has slept right through it. Before I could wake up enough to get up and go into Tye’s room to clean everything up, Kent gets up and says “Honey, let me clean that up for you. You were up the past two nights.” I froze. This was NOT my husband. Aliens must have come down in the night and switched out his body. Slowly, carefully, I rose up to investigate. It looked like Kent. Maybe I was hallucinating from lack of sleep the two previous nights. So I asked him if I had heard correctly. But he assured me that he could do this and then he proceeded to clean up the entire bed. He stripped it, washed out the sheets in the sink first and then proceeded to put them in the washing machine. He even washed the mattress pad and the comforter separately.

And I did not get up even once to supervise or to help. I just went back to sleep and let him do it. Mistake number Six. And perhaps the biggest one of all.

For the next 20 years or so whenever someone vomits and I have to get up and clean it up, Kent is going to remind me that he “does too get up to help when the kids vomit”

Now what am I going to complain about?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Life Changing Decision

A Life Changing Decision

I made a life changing decision recently. And, since such decisions do not usually come lightly nor are they without big consequences, I felt the need to let those closest to me know about this huge change in my life.

No more theme parks for me. Kaput. Finito. Nada Mas. I am through. I did my last one.

As I was standing in line (waiting to get a $4.00 coke and a $10.00 hamburger that would sport a small piece of brownish wilted lettuce with a mealy tomato atop a cardboard piece of meat between two stale pieces of bread) and felt the sweat trickling down my back and pooling around the waistband of my pants and underneath my bra, it came to me. This thought. The one that changed my life.

“I am miserable and I don’t have to be here. I can just say ‘No” to my children next time they ask to go.” Seems strange doesn’t’ it? One thought can alter your whole life. But once I uttered those words to myself I suddenly felt free.

Most life altering decisions come after some sort of epiphany or religious experience and this one was no different; only instead of seeing God, I think I caught a glimpse of Hell and determined that it was not a place I wanted to be.

The temperature gauge read 102 degrees, but I am sure it was broken because it felt more like 190 degrees. The germ factor was probably off the charts what with the teaming mass of humanity that surrounded me on all sides. Not to mention the assault that was being performed on all five of my senses.

“My eyes! Oh my eyes!” Everywhere I turned I saw yet another “DON’T” straight from the pages of Glamour Magazine. I sometimes wonder if these people even own a mirror. Or if they do, if it is like that mirror in the Harry Potter book that shows what you wish to be instead of what actually is… Because as far as the eye could see there were people sporting the latest trendy styles that really don’t even look good on Runway Models, much less, your average American Body. Bathing suits that barely covered sagging and quivering places that desperately needed to remain covered. T-shirts announcing all kinds of sexual innuendos that are frightening enough on their own, but when combined with some of the people wearing them become downright nightmarish. I mean who wants to let their child go on a play date with a family whose father is wearing a T shirt that says “Hey little girl, I got some candy. Want to come and play with me?” and a mother whose tank top sports the words “S L _ T” on the top line and the words “All I Need is U” on the bottom line while showcasing her skull tattoo above her left breast? A tattoo, I might add, that once was a nicely shaped skull and cross bones but now time and gravity have slightly altered its shape so that it looks like an elongated oval shape with eyes with two sticks of wood crossing underneath.

And I certainly was not faring any better! Knowing better than to don my bathing suit while walking through the park - no matter how hot it was - I was stuck in my once crisply ironed walking shorts and white cotton shirt. Shirt and shorts now showing sweat soaked stains across my back and under my arms along with a brown stain of coke splashed down the front of my shirt with a large piece of pinkish chewing gum stuck to the left rear of my shorts. Not to mention the fact that my vanity (and my non-Harry Potter mirror) which kept me from wearing my bathing suit also kept me from being able to cool off and enjoy the rides. I got to sit at the table in the sweltering heat watching all of our belongings while my three children and my husband cooled off in the pools.

Of course none of this is made any easier by the fact that my, still unfairly handsome, husband and beautiful children all look fabulous despite the heat. At 50, Kent looks better than ever and still turns heads as he dashingly walks through the park and our kids all look like gorgeous sun kissed surfers strutting their stuff though the park.

The next assault on my senses was from the smells and the sounds. Being outside for an extended time on any hot day in Texas is a challenge, but add in the elements of an August day topping the charts at over 100 degrees crammed together with thousands of families at Sea World and you have your own special kind of day. The mass of sweating bodies, combined with babies and children in desperate need of a diaper change mixed in with the smell of chlorinated water full of “God Only Knows What”, as my mother would say, and you have a smell that is, well -- indescribable.

On top of that, the constant whistles of the life guards, various announcements made over the loudspeakers, mind numbing rock music and snatches of conversation you are forced to listen to as you stand in line or stumble through the crush of bodies all racing to the same destination only to stand in line again.
“Red! Red! @#$!. I done told you I was sick of that.”Shut up boy. I am going to give you something to cry about.” “Attention Guests. All babies of diaper age MUST wear a swim diaper while in the water. Sir, please remove your child from the water and put them in a swim diaper.”

“Momma, Whhhhyyyy can’t I git anuther ice cream. It’s not Faiirrrrrr . I hate you. Please carry me. I am sooooo hot.” - Oh wait, that was my children!

Because I know that some of you have very weak stomachs I won’t go into detail about the one relief I had regarding my reluctance to put on my bathing suit. Yes, it was mostly due to vanity, but then there is also the fear factor. Let’s say that at any given time there are five thousand people of all kinds swimming in oh, let’s say five thousand gallons of water, doing whatever it is that those five thousand people might do in the water, well – you do the math. I still don’t think they make enough chlorine to kill what might be expelled into that water! All I can say is that I am thankful that the only part of my body that touched the water that day was my feet when I reluctantly had to sludge through the mess of water streaming out of the bathroom showers.

Then of course there is the small matter of the money. Yes, money. As my husband, Kent, says. “It’s always about the money!” The cost of four adult tickets – yes FOUR adult tickets was more than my weekly grocery bill. Because you see, these theme parks have it down. Anyone over the age of TEN is considered to be an adult. I love that.

Since my twelve year old and my fourteen year old are both considered adults by the theme parks, I would love to ask the management if they would like to allow my children to sit on their governing board as voting members or better yet, perhaps hire one of them to run personnel where they could hire and fire employees using their very adult minds and decision making capabilities. “Hire him – he’s a HOTTIE!” Or “Who cares if it would cost the company money? We should let everyone in for free. That would be Cool!”

Then of course once you get inside there is the small matter of the cost of all the extras. Remember the $4.00 coke I mentioned earlier? How about the fact that the ONLY way to exit the theme park is through the Gift Shop! So, after spending the princely sum of approximately $350.00 for 6 hours in Hell. No, wait, I meant 6 hours in {you can just insert the name of any theme park you choose here} we get to experience that wonderful thing I call the Exit March… or the ubiquitous ride home.

After seven or eight hours of standing on our feet, walking through the heat, waiting in long lines that end up taking twice as long as you expected only to find that when you get to the front there are three cash registers but only one attendant. Or finding that the shops are completely out of cold water or that just as you get to the front of the line for the ride you waited 30 minutes for, an announcer comes on saying that it is broken and they don’t know when it will be fixed (all true examples!). Well, after all of that, you then have the longest walk of all - the Exit March.

That walk back through the park and through the sweltering black top of the parking lot to your car which registers a whopping 108 degrees on the inside. I’ve seen photos of refugees walking through the deserts that have the same haunted look in their eyes and that same desperate shuffle of putting one foot in front of the other as they try to trudge their way to a better place, all the while blocking out the pain and misery of their journey.

The whining and crying usually begins about one minute into our Exit March and builds in strength until the crescendo that usually hits just about the time we are getting ready to enter an enclosed car. The pain of their feet, the blisters, the headaches, the unquenching thirst that has just hit, the need to go to the bathroom, the fighting over who has to sit in the middle. And that is just Kent and me.

The kids are usually too comatose to have even started their whining yet. This is the part where everyone ends up fighting over important things such as who should have to walk to the car rather than be carried or whose fault is it that we left our ice chest at the picnic table and whether or not it is really worth it to walk all the way back inside to retrieve it. (ANSWER: not just no, but HELL no!).

Or most importantly, who is the most miserable and therefore deserving of demanding their way no matter what anyone else in the car wants! "I can't listen to the radio it makes my head hurt." "If you don't turn the radio on, I am going to vomit." Or my personal favorite, "Mom, you have to sit in the back seat, I caaannn't sit in the back, I hate it."

So yes, regardless of the pain and depravation it may cause my children. Regardless of the shame they must endure from having a mother who is so freakish that she has now banned theme parks from her repertoire of motherly duties. I have made my decision and I am sticking to it. I will not turn my back on my conviction. I will stand by my newfound belief. One must be strong. I will never, never, never set foot in another theme park, ever again.

As I announced this everyone in the car as we were driving home, there was dead silence. Then I heard a small voice from the back saying, “But Mom, we had sooo much fun. This was the best day ever!” Then another chimed in saying “What about Disney, you know how much we all love Disney and it’s our family tradition. We always like to go.” With a last and even sadder voice saying “You’re kidding right? You wouldn’t do that to us, would you? We wouldn’t’ have fun if you didn’t come with us.”

Nope. I am not falling for it. No more theme parks…Other than maybe Walt Disney World… but only in the off-season...and only if I am staying on the property…

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's Harder When You Are A Little Bit Fat...

“Does Mommy look fat or SKINNNNY in this? ”SKINNNNNY or fat,” I asked my seven year-old son, Tye the night of my high school reunion. Since the emphasis of my sentence was on the word skinny, the answer my son so obediently gave me was “Skinny, Mommy. You look so pretty.” With a sigh of relief I turned around to go to my bedroom to finish getting ready when I heard him yell back up the stairs, “But I never realized how large your butt is!”

All my life I have struggled at times with self-image. Growing up, my 3 siblings were skinny to point of looking like they were from a third world country. They had these little stick arms and legs and huge eyes and looked like these darling little waifs. While I, on the other hand, was, well, just regular. That’s right. Just of average weight. In fact, that was how I felt all around. I was not the ugliest kid on the block, but neither was I the prettiest, or the smartest, or the fastest or the baddest or the anything est. I was just another average kid.

I guess most kids, heck even most adults, feel that way. Something inside of us is just wired to compare ourselves with others – and for most of us, those comparisons almost always lead up to the places where we fall short, rather than where we might shine. How many times have you heard a woman with curly hair lamenting the fact that her hair is not straight? Or heard those with straight hair moaning about wanting more body in theirs? Personally, I think God created us all to have these differences, not because one was necessarily better than the other, but probably because He would have been bored stiff to have all these little clones of sameness marching around down here. I mean look at what he did with the animal and insect species!

Centipedes with their hundreds of legs. Baboons with their shiny red butts which my children always have to point out at every zoo we visit. The peacock with his glorious tail and screaming voice. Thousands of variations, all beautiful and sacred in their own way.

I have wondered what our world would be like if instead of looking for reasons why we don’t measure up, people were looking at reasons for why we are good at something or focusing in on things that make us feel acceptable rather than not? Just the other day, while I was attending a Christian Conference I found myself engaging in one of my favorite past times – people watching. But for me, what often comes along with this hobby is looking for ways to feel critical or superior to others rather than appreciating who God created them to be.

But back to me! I am certainly not the fattest person I know nor am I the thinnest, but I can honestly say that the less I weigh the better I feel about myself and the more self confidence I have. Now on the surface that is not such a bad thing, right? We all know that it is not healthy to be overweight and certainly in our society the fatter – or I guess I should say heavier since that is more politically correct – the fatter you are the less attractive you are. Studies have proven that prejudice against obesity is probably one of the last bastions of acceptable discrimination. Everyone knows that the thin people are the chosen ones. I think it might even say that somewhere in the Bible “…and the THIN shall rule the earth….” Or something like that.

A few years ago, I hit my dream weight. I was looking gooood. After having three children in five years and gaining 70 plus pounds during each pregnancy, I was carrying around some excess poundage. Added to that was the fact that I have never really exercised much (people who know me would claim that is an out right lie since I have really never exercised at all – but that is for another story) and was also traveling a lot for my work, I was at least 35-40 pounds overweight. Ok, maybe even a little more, but that is just too embarrassing to admit so I am sticking with 35.

I decided to do something about it. I began dieting and finally hit on the thing that worked for me and I lost the weight. There was no magic about it. No real pain or suffering. No trauma. No loss of life or limb. I just ate a whole lot less, quit having wine with dinner and cut out all the sugary soft drinks and desserts and, low and behold, over time, I lost the weight.

Suddenly it seemed I was transformed into this whole other person. Now I don’t mean that my soul changed and I suddenly became more spiritual and other worldly, but I mean by the way people acted toward me. For months, people would rush up to me and rave about how proud they were of me and what a great thing I had done. How great I looked. Salespeople waited on me first. People smiled at me on the street. I think maybe even angels cried. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the compliments and I did feel good about the way I looked.
But after a while it began to really bug me. I mean I was still the same person – only “not so fattish” as my youngest son, Tye, would say. I had not done anything very significant. I had really not even lost that much weight. Yes, I was fat, but I was not obese. I was not in danger of dying or of never getting outside my house or anything. I was not like one of those people you see on Jerry Springer that have to have the fire department come and bust out a wall to get them outside the house. I just I had some weight to lose.

And, I most certainly was not a different person. I had not suddenly morphed into a Mother Theresa or something. I was not any more honest than I was when I was fat. I was not a better wife or mother now that I was a size 8. I was not any closer to God. My weight loss did not suddenly transport me into a place of truth and love. I did not suddenly start a ministry that would end world hunger or stop war forever on this planet. I just wasn’t quite as fat as I had been a few months before.

Fast forward about 7 years to 2007. I am a 46-year old, working mother of three who has gained much of that weight back. Again, I am not the fattest person I know, but I am certainly not the thinnest! In fact, I am a perfect size… Oh wait, I am so not going to go there.

My battle of the bulge is probably going to last my entire lifetime, but now I am more comfortable with my “Muffin Top” than I used to be. For those of you not in the know, a “Muffin Top” is that roll of belly fat that hangs down over your blue jeans and pants. Even though I am now much more enlightened and secure with who I am, I still want to look as good as I can. Hence the “Muffin Top”, because I can no longer wear Mom Jeans that would hold in that belly roll, because high waisted Mom Jeans are so OUT! So yes, I still care about my appearance and yes, I do make judgments about other people’s appearances too. In fact, I can be pretty quick to find the “est” person in the room. The one with the biggest…or smallest…. It is just in my nature. But I am trying not to. I am trying to learn to look at who someone is on the inside rather than just at their outside. Because I think that is what Jesus would want me to do.

The best lesson I could have had on how much my happiness can depend on what I look like to others happened to me a few weeks ago. We were going on a Spring Break Cruise and I decided I would need to get a bikini wax since we were going to be in our bathing suits. Everyone knows that Spring Break anywhere is filled with young, beautiful, thin girls. Did I say young? And since I am no longer young, not really beautiful and certainly not thin, then at least I could be was hairless.

From the first when I went on Saturday to get my Bikini wax, the experience was rather unusual. By unusual, I mean more unusual than having a Korean woman pour hot wax over your private area, rip it off in a moment of incredible pain and charge you $45 for that pleasure.

I should have known that I was in for some sort of tremendous spiritual revelation when Mai Ling said to me as she walked in, “Oh. You not so young. You skin is old. Not tight like youngah gurls.” As she poured the hot wax on an area that is not really used to much exposure or attention (certainly not like those younger girls!) She then says, and I swear I am quoting now! She says, “Pull back the skin tight like this, it is hardah, you know, when YOU JUST A LITTLE BIT FAT.” I promise that is what she said. Let me repeat it just in case you missed it the first time or thought perhaps you were mistaken….”It is hardah, you know, when you just a little bit fat.”

That was an Oprah moment for me. I could have been outraged. I could have been crushed. I could have just cried. But I just had to laugh. I agree with Mai Ling. It is harder when you are a little bit fat. And by the way, I have lost 4 pounds since then….

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Thoughts on Snow Days

Bloggers Note: I wrote this about 2 years ago after a fun filled snow day with my kids and even though it has not snowed in Austin since then, we still keep hoping! So back by popular demand...

Snow in Austin, Texas is almost unheard of and, as lifelong Texans, my children have only seen snow a few times. So on February 24, 2007 when I was awakened by my middle son, Winston, shouting “Snow everybody. No School. Snow Day! Snow Day!” I knew it was going to be a great day. We all got up and went downstairs to a world covered with white and full of the sparkle and hush that snow brings to every surface of our world. This was going to be one of those memory days that Gloria Gaither talks about, something we could all look back on and recall with a smile. “Remember that year in Austin when it snowed and you all got to stay home from school and we...”

Request number one. “Mom, can you make us all hot chocolate? Not the instant kind, but the real kind?” “Of course, I sweetly replied,” and just as I was pulling out the ingredients for the cocoa and homemade sweet rolls, I heard a voice calling from the other room. “Mom! Can you light a fire?” “Mom, we NEEEEED a fire, right now.” As I was going into the den to start the fire, I heard shouts from upstairs “Mom! Where are my gloves? Winston stole my gloves. Make him give them back.” “I can’t go outside without my gloves. I won’t wear the spiderman gloves those are for babies….” And so the perfect snow day begins.

Ok, friends. Here’s the deal. I know for sure that I will NOT survive any type of nuclear or bio-warfare attack where our family has to hole up inside our home or some other type of confined “safe” place for any length of time.

We have only been home for the snow day for 24 hours and I have already done about 2,000 loads of wash for children who have cried because they wanted to go outside and needed warm dry clothes, then cried again because the wanted to come inside and take off their wet, cold clothes to put on some new warm clothes, and on again, and off again, and on again, and off again for the clothes rotation. I swear my children have been in layers of clothing that I have never even seen before. I am not sure which is worse, having children crying because I say they can not go outside again or crying because when they do go outside and then come back inside again they are too cold and their hands hurt. My washer and dryer has been going non-stop almost all day.

Then there is the matter of the 30 or so individual dishes that I have had to pick up today from unique places such as the bathtub, behind the computer, underneath the bean bag chair and from virtually every flat surface in my playroom and den (AND THAT DOES NOT COUNT the meal dishes from our three “regular” meals). I have run my dishwasher 3 times today and it was full each time. NO LIE.

Next I can tell you about the number of times I have screamed at the top of my lungs “Take off your wet shoes and leave them by the door!” Or “Hang up those wet coats, don’t just throw them on the floor.” I am not sure, but I think those words must be coming out of my mouth in some sort of foreign language because not once today has anyone actually listened to them and understood them.

Then there is the small matter of our pets… Yes, I am sure many of you have worried about our chickens (as well as our three dogs, one cat, chinchilla, and guinea pig) but don’t worry, I made a little space for them right beside my husband’s side of the bed because he loves them so! Ha!

Actually, it is quite hilarious to see chickens strutting around in the snow – they don’t seem to mind and our chicken coop is heated and protected from the wind so that is ok. The only problem is my having to venture out in the cold several times a day to make sure their food and water is not frozen. And, as for the rest of our four-legged family members, they have had a wonderful day all warm and cozy by the fireplace. But, did you know that dogs don’t like to get their paws wet from the ice and so try to do their business inside where you can’t find it? In fact, mine are so smart that I can put them outside for an hour and they will wait until they come back inside where it is more comfortable!!

One of my favorite things about all being at home for such an extended period of time is the joy I find in relaxing in my home. With three children at home and a variety of neighborhood kids coming through the house, it is just a wee bit untidy….. but I have just been sitting around eating chocolate and reading books while these kids have dutifully picked up and put away every game they have taken out, every book they have looked at, every video (about 3,796 - I know. I counted. ) they have looked through to find that one special one they have not seen since last year, every crayon they have taken out and used in drawing snow day pictures, and every toy they have pulled out to play with because “I’m BORED Mom, there is NOTHING to do!”.

Last, but not least there is the minor issue of bickering among my children. Mind, you I say bickering because my sweet little darlings rarely ever fight and it is 9:30 p.m. and since they are all still breathing and all seem to be in full possession of their limbs, I am sure the screaming and yelling I heard at various times today came from some of the neighbor children. Mine get along so well.

Oh yea, and did I mention that my husband went to work today right away, first thing—he is such a good provider for our family and we are so grateful that he works so hard…. Come to think of it, he was awfully anxious to go and seemed determined to get there even if he had to hike………

Seriously, it is so wonderful to remember the JOY of being a child and being granted the wonderful miracle of a perfect snow day! I can still remember my first snow day in Austin, around 1969 or 1970 where we spent the whole day rolling down the hill at Tarry Town United Methodist Church and sneaking around the grounds of the Catholic Convent at the corner of Exposition and Westover because they were still pristine and no on had walked around on them yet. Then walking back up Exposition to Holiday House to drink Hot Chocolate and eat French fries. It remains in my memory as a “perfect day” almost 45 years later and I hope my children will also treasure their memories of that one perfect snow day or of any other special day that I can help them create. And those are my thoughts on snow days.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Obsession with the Naked Man From The Ski Lift

OK, so I am obsessed. I admit it. I have issues that I just can’t seem to stop thinking about. “Naked man hanging off of ski lift while traumatized child watches” has consumed a lot of my time this week. In fact, often right in the middle of meeting with my boss, or listening to my child talk about his report card or while flossing my teeth, my mind will suddenly jump to yet another thought I have surrounding this drama.

Sure, there was the obvious horror and humiliation this man suffered from having millions world wide, look at his hoo haw. And of course, there was the secret voyeuristic pride I took in looking at the photos and being glad it was not me. And yes, there was the chuckle I shared at this poor man’s expense and then the forwarded email link I sent to my friends to make sure they too, got to yuck it up at someone else’s expense. Most normal people would have stopped there; but then when have I ever been considered “normal?”

Mainly I have been obsessed with several burning questions. The first thought which has kept me up at nights is HOW this man’s pants could have fallen down. I can easily see the explanation for how he slipped through the seat, catching his ski, which in turn did not release the emergency boot strap thingy that then left him dangling from the chair lift. That is patently obvious and makes perfect sense to me.

I mean that lift is coming at you at what feels like about 100 mph and you are nervously looking behind you, knees slightly bent, butt stuck out, ready to sit in that chair as soon as it smashes into you. (Note to self, yet another reason why skiing is not my best sport. My butt never looks good slightly sticking out.) OK, so the chair seat is defective and instead of being down into the seated position as it hits your knees, it somehow stays vertical and when it hits you, your body kind of folds in half and you start to slip through. Then, just as you think you are going to fall to your death through that crack, your ski, which, thankfully, happens to be plenty long, turns somehow and wedges itself between the seat and lift, trapping you dangling upside down on the lift.

I get that. Makes perfect sense in a messed up kind of way. The guy fell through the lift and his ski got caught leaving him dangling. But how, in God’s name, did his pants get pulled down...or is that up? That just does not seem logical. Why would his pants come down when he was flipped over? The thing that got caught was his ski, not his pants. The laws of gravity should apply in this case which would mean that since his feet and legs were in the air his pants would stay up. There should have been nothing that caused them to fall down.

I have been so obsessed by this that I even made my youngest son simulate dangling upside down to make sure that my thinking was not faulty and, sure enough, my experiment proved that gravity would not cause those pants to fall down. When a person is hanging upside down their pants should stay right side up. That’s all there is to it. It is just a scientific fact. I know because I did an experiment about it.

And another thing I keep thinking about his pants, is what’s up with his appalling lack of undergarments and layers? While I don’t have a lot of ski experience, the few times I have been up on the mountain, I have been well protected by multiple layers of sturdy and difficult to handle clothing. (Yet another reason I don’t ski – any activity that requires clothing that adds pounds to your look is not for me.) This means that it takes me about 20 minutes of fumbling and snapping and peeling back through layers and layers just to be able to go to the bathroom.

So, again I must ask. If by some strange fluke of nature that defied the laws of gravity and his pants got pulled down, where were all the other layers of clothing that should have protected his dignity. From what I can see, he only had on one measly pair of long underwear underneath his ski pants. What self respecting ski bum leaves home so woefully under attired?

Another thing I have been wondering about. Why did just the man fall through? Wouldn't logic dictate that the child should have been the one to slip through the faulty seat? Children are smaller than adults and therefore more likely to slip through cracks and stuff. Looking at the seat it appears that it is a bench seat because there is one long back. If it were two seats the back would have some sort of separation. So if this is the case, why did the Dad who is heavier, bulkier and supposedly smarter and more coordinated fall though and not the child? This just defies logic.

However, the most horrific thought that I just can not seem to quit obsessing over is the child. That horror-struck child. Not only is this unfortunate child left all alone on the lift, petrified that their father will fall to his death, but also worried that it might happen to them any moment. Vacillating between being genuinely afraid for their life and the life of their father and the utter humiliation of seeing Dad in such an unbecoming situation makes for a lot of years of future therapy.

First of all, when you are between the ages of nine and nineteen pretty much anything your Dad does is embarrassing. No child at that age wants to stand out for anything that might become a source of ridicule. I know people to this day who are still in therapy discussing embarrassing incidents involving one of their parents that happened more than 40 years ago and nothing in their stories involved anything close to having your naked Dad dangling from ski lift aired on every major news station and Internet site in the world!

I still have a horrific memory from 1972 seared into my brain. It started out innocently enough. My Dad for some reason had agreed to drive our carpool. That was embarrassing enough on it’s own. Dads did NOT drive carpool back then. Only Moms. Added to that was the fact that we were late - we were always late but I will save that for another time – and then there was the matter of the horn. Yes, the car horn. We drove up to Suzanne Gray’s house and my Dad honked the horn. He always thought he was funny and would honk like two or three times quickly in a row. Only this time the honk went on and on and on and on… on so long that by the time the Grays came to the door they were not too happy. I am sure they wondered how we had the gall to honk like that when we were the ones who were late. My Dad sheepishly tried to explain that the horn was stuck as neighbors all over the street peered peevishly out of their doors.

Most Dads would have probably gotten out and unhooked some wire thingy or done something under the hood to stop the honking, but my Dad was not mechanically inclined and this was way beyond his talents or skills. The best he could do was beat on the steering wheel and mutter a bunch of cuss words under his breath. Embarrassing!

The horn then proceeded to honk the entire way to the next stop where we picked up the Thornhill kids and then it honked incessantly all the rest of the way to Casis Elementary. Imagine the horror six children ranging in ages 7-12 had to suffer as drivers pulled over, made rude gestures, honked back all the way up to the school. By the time we pulled into the circular drive for drop off, each child had sunk as low as possible into the seats hoping to just disappear. But no such luck. My Dad cheerfully drove us right up to the drop off where it seemed every child in the entire school was arriving at the same time and just laughed as he told the Principal, who grumpily had rushed over to see what child was causing the ruckus, that he was going to go straight to the Texaco to get the thing disconnected before he had to drive downtown. I was pretty sure I was going to die that day, and my Dad was not even pant less!

So back to my obsession with this poor child. Most reports have assumed that this was a man and his son. And one can only hope that this case, because the sheer horror of having your Dad dangling from a ski lift for a full fifteen minutes is embarrassing enough. Add to that the fact that not only did your Dad look like a big doofus for falling through the chair lift, I mean a real man probably would not have had that happen, but his entire “area” was totally exposed for all the world to see. Any son would be sufficiently mortified for pretty much the rest of their life. They would probably feel the need to change their name, change schools and probably even move out of State. But consider the trauma inflicted on that same child if it was the daughter sitting in the ski lift instead of a son.

Well after some pretty obsessive viewing of the photos, I need to tell you that I am fairly sure that the child was a girl. First, is the color of the ski jacket. If you blow up the pictures (and yes, I am that obsessed) you will see that the arm of the jacket appears to have pink and turquoise markings on it. Not many self respecting little boys would wear a jacket sporting that much pink. Turquoise maybe, but not pink. Second, and far more important, if you look closely at all photos the child is never actually looking at the father. The most natural position for the child to be in would be to look down straight down at the body that was dangling underneath them. But if you look at those photos that poor kids is stiff as board, which could be from terror, but I am more inclined to think it is from humiliation, and looking purposefully off to the side. I am thinking this just may be because the poor kid is not only scared to death, not only embarrassed by the fact that her father is in this humiliating position, not only revolted that, to add insult to injury, his pants have fallen off, not only dismayed to realize that everyone on the entire mountain is looking at them, but is also a GIRL!

Now here’s the deal. Kids see their parent of the opposite sex naked by accident all the time without irrevocable harm. Yes it is horrifying. Yes it is upsetting – usually to the parent as much as to the child. But mostly it is just embarrassing and probably makes them want to throw up a little in their mouth. But its just a fact of life. Things happen, Yet we all know that children do not want to think of their parents as sexual beings. They would rather never really fully acknowledge that the parent of the same sex comes equipped with the anatomically correct parts, much less the one of the opposite sex.

Most people I know have at least one embarrassing story about walking in on a parent and if they are lucky all they did was catch a glimpse of something they would rather not see. And, most people I know just as quickly turned and ran out, or better yet pretended it never happened. Yet even with those quick, fleeting accidents the images usually remain seared on the brain like a brand on a steer.

I will never quite erase the image of just seeing my dad in his underwear bending over to pull up his pants and that didn’t include anything but a small glimpse of a buttocks crack! It just was so undignified and horrifying – especially because I rarely saw my Dad in anything but his work clothes. He was either fully dressed or asleep or not in our house.

So I just keep thinking of that poor child stuck on the chair lift for what reports say was anywhere from seven to 15 minutes, screaming “My eyes. My eyes!” and wishing she was anywhere but there. Only to then to be forced to watch the rescue team come and take over the situation as they help her father to safety. The photos also show that part to also seem pretty awful. I mean take a look at the one where no less than six people, several of them women with their faces in a fairly intimate area, are having to grab his person to guide him to safety. While I am sure she was relieved to find that he would not fall to his death, I am also fairly certain that she was praying for her own!

I kind of feel guilty for even writing about this. I know I should refrain from laughing at this unlucky man and his unfortunate child. Yet somehow I find it impossible not to giggle a bit inside as I think of the ensuing conversations that must have been forced to occur for this family. “Well, I don’t know exactly what happened, one minute I was sitting down and the next thing I knew I was upside down, dangling hundreds of feet in the air, with my pants around my ankles and freezing my privates off.” “What? Well it was very cold…” “Um. Mom, do you think you could home school me for the rest of this year?”

And while I do feel guilty, I just can’t seem to help it. I mean, seriously, even Jesus would have probably laughed at this. ..And yet another reason I don’t ski. I really do not want Jesus laughing at me.