Circus Tears

“Are you seriously going to cry over the circus?” My husband asks me. It was just a few days ago that I read that Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus would end their tour in May. For forever. Yes, I certainly might cry over the circus. I go watch a women’s gymnastics meet and get choked up every single time. The feats they can do! The practice they have endured! And when a gymnast falls, only to get back up again and finish the routine – the heartache. The determination. Yes, I get a lump in my throat watching those girls put forth so much effort and defying gravity with the greatest of ease. But flying through the air with the greatest of ease – that’s the acrobat on the flying trapeze.

Some people love sports. Some people love books. Some people love Star Wars. I love the trapeze, and therefore, I also love the circus. I could count each year of my life by counting each circus I attended. I can’t remember which circus was my first – either Ringling Bros. or the Flying High Circus at Callaway Gardens.

My mom was a chaperone for one of our school field trips to the circus. It was exciting being the kid whose parent was the chaperone. It was like being famous for an hour. Plus, it felt good sitting next to mom on the big yellow bus taking us to our destination. This was not my first time at the circus. My parents did a great job instilling the cultural arts in us – from circus, to museums,  to musicals, to drag races and monster truck pulls (ok, maybe there were some free tickets scored from  pop’s work along the way) we saw our fair share of events around town. By the time the teachers handed us our lunch boxes, our eyes were fixed on the three rings in front of us. I waited patiently for my favorite part. I watched the clowns; I enjoyed, with tightened shoulders, the high wire; I marveled at three motorcycles speeding upside down inside a caged globe; I held my nose while sipping my juice box during the elephants. But finally, at the very end came the trapeze artists! I just knew that I would be a trapeze artist one day. And I didn’t blink until they all dismounted in all their double and triple somersault glory!

As a family we went to the circus every year. To this day I still have my original Ringling Bros. spinning flashlight souvenir. I envied slightly my sister’s plastic souvenir trumpet. Then I finally realized the best souvenir – a snow cone. It’s forty-five minutes of cold, slurpy entertainment with a take home mug!

Luckily for me, in addition to these trips to Atlanta to see the Ringling Bros., my grandparents took on the tradition of taking me and my sister and brother (until he outgrew it) to Callaway Gardens for a couple nights every summer. This trip was full of fun and adventure: we swam, we biked, we picnicked, we admired plants and butterflies, and we saw the circus. Callaway Gardens hosts the FSU Flying High Circus. This is one of my favorite circuses. It is performed by FSU college students. Their acts are similar year to year, but solid. The bicycle built for seven, the slack wire, the clowns, the acrobats, the jugglers, and the Flying Seminoles! I don’t care if you are ACC or SEC. These twenty year olds are trapeze artists! And yes, I’m jealous! I carefully considered attending Florida State for college. Then, sensible as I am, I decided it was frivolous to pay out of state tuition “just to be in the circus.” If you are a man, you might remember the winning play when your team beat your biggest rival back in 1981. Or maybe you are a skilled shopper and can remember what you bought when Rich’s closed its downtown Atlanta store. But I can still remember my favorite Flying High Circus ringmaster – Rufus. His voice was smooth and velvety and his intonation let you know if you should start to be excited or nervous.

I certainly can’t avoid mentioning Cirque du Soleil. What a beautiful and amazing circus! They put on an extremely artistic show which I love. They are not, however, a traditional circus (kudos!) which means they do not put on a traditional flying trapeze act (blow to the gut.)

So am I sad that Ringling Bros. is ending? Yes! To my horror, surprise, and major disappointment, I found out early this fall that the Cole Bros. Circus had gone out of business. I saw the Cole Bros. Circus in Watkinsville (Farmington?) for the first time after I had read Water for Elephants. OMG. I was in love. This was the “small” circus. But it had everything, including one of the most exciting high wire acts I’ve ever seen, and of course my beloved trapeze artists. So if Cole Bros. and Ringling Bros. are done, that leaves me with only two circuses – Cirque du Soleil and the Flying High Circus at Callaway Gardens. Luckily for me my husband learned two years ago how important that Callaway Gardens circus visit is for me. Now it is even more so. It’s the only remaining circus “nearby” with a flying trapeze act.

And even luckier for me, I live in Athens, home of Canopy Studio where I get to play on the trapeze every week. These are low to the ground dance trapezes (and, after trying the flying trapeze once and realizing my adult fear of heights, I’m ok with that) so it’s not the same as circus trapeze. But the performances this studio puts on knock my socks off every single time. I get that choked up feeling like watching the Gymdogs, especially watching my own child perform her very first trapeze solo during a children’s performance.

So to answer my hubby’s question, yes, I’ll shed a few tears over the circus. But for now, I plan to see Ringling in a few weeks, order a snowcone for me and both my girls, visit Callaway in the summer, and just try to make sure I see at least one circus every year. It’s my thing.


In a few weeks I am going to lead a little workshop called Guilt-free Coffee Hour. It’s an idea I came up with over a year ago when I suddenly realized the weight that guilt had on my life. I was talking on the phone with my sister, catching up on things, and caught myself holding back. I wanted to tell her that I had taken my kids to White Water, so that we could look forward to going together the following summer. But I didn’t want her to be upset that I went while she didn’t. See, I’m a stay at home mom in a small town whereas my sister is a working mom who does the Atlanta commute. While I hesitated, I decided to just get it all out – my update, but also the guilt that I had because I get to have summer fun while my sister is stuck inside an office building while her son is in daycare. Surprisingly, she laughed. She told me how much she loves her job. She said she loves her son, and while she would love more than a two day weekend with him, she is also happy on Mondays to get back to work because taking care of toddler people is a demanding labor of love! I was so relieved to hear her response. She admitted she’d rather have some time at a pool, too, but that she certainly did want to hear my updates. Of course we have different updates; we have different lives. But that one conversation allowed me to untangle the web of guilt that almost kept me from a really nice phone call with my big sister.

Although my personal perspective is thirty-nine year old mom of two kids, I know that guilt plays a part in almost everyone’s lives. Imagine the family that sends grandma to the Memory Care Facility. That’s not an easy decision and even when it is clear that your loved one needs full time care, it’s easy to feel guilty that you don’t spend enough time there. I have friends and family who experienced this transition, so did my dad. Life has a tinge of bitterness when guilt rests heavily on your shoulders. What if you can, like a cartoon character brushing the devil off of his shoulder, brush the guilt to the side? Will you have more enjoyment in your afternoon and breathe easier with unburdened shoulders? That is my hope!

Sometimes guilt pops up as “I should be doing xyz.” I spent a solid six years experiencing this. As a stay at home mom, my kids went to preschool for three hours a day. Most working people would say, “Man, I’d love to have a three hour break to myself.” And I could literally feel these thoughts from others. (And probably heard or read them in some way, shape, or form.) So for me, even when I knew that I had to haul ass at 11:30 a.m. to go pick up my kids and spend the next eight hours with balls to the walls spills, tantrums, feedings, and diapering, I still felt it was difficult to give myself my lunch hour break from 9:00-10:00. A double showing of a sitcom for me was the perfect “lunch break” but if I sat on the sofa at 9:30 a.m., the back of my mind perpetually said I should be doing the laundry. I should be washing the dishes. I should clear off the kitchen island. Now that my littlest is in Kindergarten, I can already shake my head and think, that was silly! Why didn’t I take advantage of that?! But it is hard to enjoy yourself when guilt keeps smacking you in the face.

I know adults aren’t the only ones impacted by guilt. As an assistant teacher one year, I opened the car door for a young student who seemed to be crying. I checked on her and she told me that (as a kid with divorced parents) she missed her dad. And she added she felt like she couldn’t say that in front of her mom because she was afraid she would hurt her mom’s feelings. Oh, sweet girl! My heart cracked a little that morning.

Guilt isn’t always deep and burdensome like are you showing enough love evenly to each family member. Sometimes it’s the small stuff. And repetitive stuff. I have a lady who comes to clean my house two times per month. God, I feel so bad that I pay money to have someone vacuum my house!! But what those two ladies can do in three hours would take me four hours for four consecutive days! It was a family decision and I have to remind myself that this is something that works for us right now. Meanwhile I want my kids to grow up cleaning up after themselves and having a work ethic. I make them clean their bathrooms every Sunday (when I remember) and I downplay the role of the cleaning lady. I say, “Ms. V. is coming tomorrow to vacuum and mop, so be sure to pick up all your clothes and toys.” Ms. V does much more than vacuum and mop, but I don’t want my girls to get the idea that we don’t take care of our own house.

Every now and then I’ll even be having a nice time at a girls’ night and then glance at my watch and think I should get home to the hubs! But that really doesn’t make any sense to succumb to that guilt because if it is girls’ night he is most likely binge watching one of his favorite shows.

It’s a sneaky thing, that guilt. It’s a fun-sucker. It tries to take you away from a good time or tries to control your thoughts, just when you were feeling nice and peaceful. There will always be some bit of guilt floating around in my life, but I’m gonna try to be that Jerry Mouse that remembers occasionally to brush the devilish guilt off my shoulder and leave the angelic, peaceful Jerry Mouse resting happily on the other guilt-free shoulder.

Hey Sports Fans! (A view from the not-so-sporty side)

I’m not a huge sports fan. But more than that, I am not a huge basketball fan. In fact, of all the sports, basketball is pretty far down the list. I’m more of a circus fan: Ringling Bros., Cirque du Soleil, FSU Flying High Seminoles at Callaway Gardens, Canopy Studio, Cole Bros. Circus, yup seen all of those and pretty big fan of each one.

Tonight was my seven year old daughter’s first basketball game. I think I grimaced and cringed for the first twenty minutes. It was painful. My daughter, Sammy, who is like me in so many ways, is a little timid and I was quite impressed with her bravery of trying out basketball for the first time! As I sat on the cold, hard bleacher with my five year old’s stuffed animals teetering on the edge of the seat, I wondered how Sammy would fare in this game. Would she like it? Would she freak out? Would she keep defending her “man” when her own team had the ball? I put my hands over my face. I also rubbed my temples. Because underneath me, Ellie was tapping her foot on the echoing bleachers while all those shoes were squeaking on the court.

My first visit to a basketball game goes way back. When I was in elementary school I had a playdate with a friend … which ended up at her older brother’s middle school basketball game. The squeaking! The buzzer! I think I jumped two feet off the ground when I heard that buzzer for the first time. All I could do was stare at the clock which was counting down the minutes till my freedom of that noise hell!

I have been to some games I’ve enjoyed. As newlyweds, my husband and I attended most of the UGA basketball games. It was a decent outing which gave us something to do that didn’t involve going to a bar. You see, back then there were no bars appropriate for thirty year olds in a small college town. And all the bars allowed smoking, so even if you went out for just one beer at Mellow Mushroom, you’d still come home smelling like a smoke stack.

But when my husband coached the private school basketball team, I attended all of the home games. It was social, we had no kids, and it was fun to watch him do something he loves so much. Later on I was a pregnant spectator, and, after tonight’s bleacher experience, I can’t understand how I could tolerate sitting on that hard metal for so long with a big pregnant belly. Our little girl turned into a toddler going to Daddy’s games and eating pizza while watching the Donovan Rams play. And during this stage, I spent most of my time reigning Sammy in so she wouldn’t interfere with the game and/or get trampled by sweaty high school boys with large feet and long, flailing limbs. So when the hubs would ask how I liked XYZ play, I had no idea what he was talking about because my eyes only rested on the game for sporadically. Ok, even if I was watching with undivided attention and in slow motion I probably still wouldn’t see the play unless it was being commentated to me simultaneously. We enjoyed cheering for our team, though, and I especially have fond memories of them playing in a tournament at Philips Arena, with Toddler Sammy sporting her #1 T-shirt to help cheer Daddy on.

Aside from basketball, I do like sports a little bit. I like stadiums. I like the atmosphere. I like the connections: my friend’s dad knows my husband’s favorite team (the Hoosiers) and I know my friend’s dad’s favorite team (Duke.) We enjoy chatting about the sorrows or victories. I can follow a game even better (that means I can slightly follow it) if I am familiar with a player. At my first job as an Academic Advisor at UGA, I advised Ben Watson, so I loved watching games he played in – at UGA and then later for the New Orleans Saints! For a few good years I also got to watch a little boy I used to babysit play for the Dawgs. When the players started to look like tiny ants way out there on the field, I would just look for Kolton Houston’s jersey and follow it to keep my focus on the game.

My boss’ team just won their National Championship. We all know how much she loves her Tigers, so after the big win, we all greeted her wearing orange and purple to show her how happy we were for her and her team. She was quite pleased. And she said, “It’s not just about football. It’s about memories. Going to games with your family when you are two. Sitting next to Dad and having him whisper an explanation of a call in your ear. Then bringing your own kids to join in on the tradition.” That’s kinda how it is for me, too. My parents took me to Falcons games when we were little and sat outside in the cold, before the dome was built. My sister and I would stay up late on the Saturday night before the game to make posters which would never be seen by any TV camera, but we were caught up in the excitement and demanded to bring them on Sunday anyway, poster in one hand, hot chocolate in the other.

I have enjoyed more than one German soccer stadium as well. Funny enough, I had two sets of friends with season tickets to rival Soccer teams. I enjoyed the disgust I was met with when I told people I was a Schalke fan and a Borussia Dortmund fan. I mean, that’s like being a Braves fan and a New York Yankees fan. Yuck! I especially enjoyed learning the songs of the stadium. Blau-weisse Schiesse tra-la-la-la-la doesn’t translate very beautifully, but it was very spirited in the moment!

But that basketball gym tonight was a doozie. I couldn’t figure out why the game was being stopped so often. It almost made me wish to be at a college game. The poor kids were trying to learn the rules as they went, and clueless me on the sidelines felt their pain of trying to get it right.

Now that we have a little basketball experience under our belt, time to focus on the next big game: Saturday’s Falcons playoff game. And since we all know that I surely must have been a mistaken UPS baby delivery to my sports-loving family thirty-nine years ago, I’m going to surprise myself by throwing my husband and daughters a special Football Party! Since there’s food involved, I’ll be sure to maintain an interest without grimacing for that game!

Knowing Your Limits

I think I’m having an “ah-ha” moment. As I dash around the house, picking up piles of junk from every which corner of the house and surface of each counter, dresser, vanity, and desk, I realized it’s not that I’m “unjolly” at Christmas. I just know my limits.

Not gonna lie: There may possibly be one or two gifts on the floor of our bedroom that were never put away from Christmas. Last Christmas. I like to blame these things on the hubs because I’m pretty sure those were his one or two gifts and also I like to blame the kids because I feel like I’m so busy cleaning up after and tending to those two, that I don’t get around to tidying up my own stuff.

If you are OCD, stop reading right now. Because I’m about to describe the state of my bedroom. First of all, I’d like to suggest one more excuse on the state of disaster inside my room – whenever we have a get-together, the master bedroom is where all the leftover items come to bide time. Only they never seem to leave. So really it’s like leftover-item prison: the bag of light bulbs from the store that never got put away, the children’s books I slid into my room instead of hauling upstairs at the last moment, the picture frame I bought to put the cute kid artwork in but turned out it was not the right size… I really can’t go on because it’s pretty embarrassing. Most people would say, “just clean it up!” But I guess I spend my time getting the living room tidy because that is where I spend most of my time and don’t want to look at a mess out there. I wonder how Schneebaer, my teddy bear feels about the clutter. I hope he’s not OCD. He’s not a “leftover item inmate.” He’s king of the bed when we are away. But I do wonder if he has a notepad somewhere in which he tallies the days that a certain item is left unattended to? Dang, I sure don’t want to see the tally on that Banana Republic shirt I bought last summer.

Back to knowing your limits… That Banana Republic shirt? I’m pretty sure I bought it without trying it on. First of all, that is a definite no-no for me. Because the likelihood of actually returning it is pretty slim. If you are in the market for one or two brand new shirts from Target and/or Banana Republic or picture frames, I’m your woman. It eventually becomes more efficient for me to take it to Goodwill than to dig up the receipt, write down on my To-Do List: return item, and actually make it happen.

Wow. I’m getting kinda depressed realizing how inefficient I am. Ah, but the reality is, if I have “return frame” on my list and I wake up on Tuesday, the day starts in a tizzy: feed the kids, get kids dressed, get self dressed. Get people fed, shuttle people to school and work. If I didn’t find the frame and receipt the night before, it sure isn’t gonna happen during the morning chaos.

So, no, I’m not grumpy at Christmas. I just know that the decorating must eventually become the task of un-decorating. As swift as I was with the decorating, the un-decorating came at the usual Jody pace – slow. We still have a couple stocking stuffers to put away and shirts to hang. I guess I’d rather watch sitcoms at night than do more chores. Oh and then we had that snow day and had to launder the snow clothes, the lice day where we had to launder the lice clothes, and the sick day where we had to launder the vomit clothes. Yeah, I’m full of excuses. I can pretty much think of any excuse to avoid chores and tasks unless it is fun.

So next year I will try to remember (but if I will have written myself a reminder I’m sure I won’t be able to find it then) that I need to know my limits. I should not decorate for every season. I was a tad sad that we didn’t decorate for Halloween, then we attempted to decorate for Thanksgiving, but forgot we had even bought a cute turkey for the kitchen table. One day I’ll find a system that works – like display one artwork from each kid that indicates the season. But for the next 350-some-odd days, my goal is to release the prisoners of my bedroom, and possibly shut the gates to any potential new-comers. How fun will vacuuming be when I don’t have to shuffle leftover items around beforehand?! Here’s to a prison-free 2017!

I’m a Size 12, Y’all

I was talking to my dad the other day in a leisurely conversation, me in my empty house (!) and he in his car with many minutes of commute time in front of him. Since my mom is a life coach, she has given me several tools in my personal tool belt to “get my eyeballs out of my head and look at my life from outside of my own head,” as I put it in my own eloquent words. And at this time I was thinking about guilt. (Lots more on that some other time.)

I asked my dad, “Is there any guilt you have experienced recently?”

His answer surprised me. Starting with an audible pause, he slowly began, “I see these very accomplished women, very nice-looking women, and I hear them complain about their body-image,” he said. “I can’t understand it and frankly, I’m glad I was born a guy so that I don’t have to worry about any of that,” he continued. “So, yeah, I feel a little guilty that I was born a male. I wake up, wash my hair in the sink, and five minutes later I’m ready to go.”

I laughed and replied, “Yes, I hear what you mean. Only, I’m the no make-up-wearing female type,” I chuckled. “If I skip a shower, I can be ready in ten minutes!” I brag. “But I hear what you are saying.”

Surely part of my body imagine confidence comes from my parents in bits in pieces from what they’ve said over years and what they ingrained in my sister and me of what is important. In my elementary school “pudgy year” I remember eating a meal at my grandma Jack-Jack and Grandpa’s house and he made some comment that my tummy matched his. It was said out of love, but since my Grandpa had a big ol’ belly, next I heard a female voice, either Jack-Jack or my mom counter with “it’s just a phase” or “no, she doesn’t want to be your twin” or something of the sort. I felt no shame, but at the same time I was aware that my pre-puberty stomach had grown. Later in middle school or high school my sister and I heard words from my mom, “your body is not a piece of meat!” My sister must have had on MTV or else some vile commercial was on, subjugating women.

I’m a size 12, y’all. Saying that doesn’t make me cringe or gasp, in fact I’m only one size up from my pre-pregnancy size; two (?) sizes up from my wedding day size. My kids are now seven and five, so I’ve been this size for quite some time. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I have clothes that fit and bathing suits that don’t cause harm. And I have a husband who practically drools when he checks out my legs. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating. But I notice him check me out; it’s hard to miss because he usually lets out a quiet “damn.” Naturally I have no time for such compliments early in the morning when it is rushing around time. But I hear them.

On the other hand I am aware of my shape. I certainly feel no need to rip off my shirt and have my skin exposed to the world. But even in college, in my single-digit sizes, I never ran in a sports bra.

The most embarrassing thing to admit is that I’ve taken on half a dozen diets over the last decade. I never, ever considered myself a dieter and god forbid a yo-yo dieter, but I look at the collection of diet books in my room, and think, “eeeek.” I blame it on my wedding. My sister and I stood in front of the dressing room mirror at Frederick’s of Hollywood, trying to pick out some wedding lingerie. With the lingerie on, I jumped to see what wiggled. A lot wiggled. My sister and I laughed and then I grabbed a handful of my own stomach and said, “man, I should try on clothes more often. Maybe it would help prevent Jiggly Tummy.” Then I went on my first diet. I was probably in decent shape before my wedding, but I went all-out on Atkins before the big day. I was totally OCD about it and it certainly proved results during that time frame. I think I went down a size and shimmied into a new size 6 pair of jeans that I adored, and loved pairing them with a Youth T-shirt since it was pre-women’s Tees era. (Those Youth Tees are now appropriately in my kids’ dresser drawers.) But after the wedding, I was left with two tiers of a three-tiered wedding cake and I ate a lot of it. Carbs after Atkins is not good.

Yes, despite having a good body image, it was still exciting to be able to control what my body would do through diet. After the wedding came South Beach, and after the first baby, I bought the Flat Belly Diet book. A few years ago my husband and I began getting annual check-ups at which I learned I had high triglycerides. (Wth?!) Whole 30 and Wheat Belly were good inspirations, so was Martha Stewart’s New Year’s Cleanse. Maybe I don’t have any OCD left in me, maybe I have no will power, but nothing has “stuck.” Maybe I know how much my hubs adores me just the way that I am.

But I believe it is time to try the un-diet. I’m sure Dr. Oz would grin ear to ear hearing this. It’s like I’ve lost all sense of balance over the years, and I think to some extent post-pregnancy hormones do indeed play a role. In college I ate well but indulged in five (ok, six) chocolate chip cookies in a row if Jack-Jack sent some home with me. A three mile run later I had no worries about those cookies. I’d like to find a similar balance now at age 39. I don’t need to be a size X or fit into any certain item of clothing. But I’m ready to eat food without giving myself a thumb’s up on the kale salad with fried egg and ready to eliminate guilt on my afternoon indulgence of four Reece’s cups – maybe I can learn to stop at two!

And if you are upset that your go-to jeans are not fitting properly, what I learned from my husband recently is that, “it’s all about the eyes.” So, slide on your favorite active wear and make sure your eyes can shine. Apparently locking eyes is the new hip-strut.


I don’t normally brag on my husband on social media. Partly because when I see others do it, I think, “yuch!” (maybe that is just jealousy speaking) but also because he’s not even on social media so I may as well brag straight to the source. I have a little cold and feel grateful that I was able to lie in bed while the hubs got the kids ready for school. Seeing so clearly today how grateful I am for my husband makes me wonder if our arguments really are as bad as they seem when they are happening in the moment.

I admit that I am still in a state of disbelief that Trump was chosen president over Hillary Clinton. But I am more shocked at the aftermath. Many people and many of my friends are physically distraught over the circumstances. While there is certainly a need for time of processing, I’m hoping for the best and wondering what the big picture will look like down the line. It makes me wonder, “Even though things seem bad now, is that the reality?”

The last time Chris and I had a fight it was actually over my blog. I was so excited that I had taken the steps to get this thing started, and after staring at the various options, chose the $100 per year blogsite instead of the free one. And immediately, up went my first post! Chris was the first one to read my blog and post a comment, too. Later when Chris came home from work, he asked me more about my blog. When I told him it cost a mere eight dollars a month, he rolled his eyes and made some snide comment about wasting money. That damn fun-sucker! I was so excited about my new blog until his asinine comment. Suddenly I was sad, pissed-off, and broken-hearted.

In my argument-induced bad mood I felt like I had to run away. (In our first year of marriage I did actually pack a bag, throw it in my Jetta and head to mom and pop’s house at least five times. The fourth and fifth time we made up before I actually put the keys in the ignition.) I sat on the driveway staring at the trees and wondered how I could stay married to such an asshole. He clearly doesn’t care about me if he can say such inconsiderate things to me ALL. THE. TIME. And I bet he expects me to be the one to offer the olive branch?!

Wait, maybe our last fight was about the clutter in the house. He picked up a small pile of clothes to take to the laundry basket, and I said, “You can leave that there. I’m doing laundry today.” His awesome reply was, “Well it’s been there all week.” Which I interpreted as: you haven’t done anything useful in an entire week AND this house is a pile of crap. You are worthless. I was piiiiiiiiiiiiiiised! I stormed through the house and slammed cabinet doors at every chance. All the thoughts running through my mind were about the unloving asshole I married and how good would it feel to run things my own way in my own house? I also had a few fleeting moments trying to remember what exactly I said in response and wondered if perhaps I called him an ass to his face and started this whole fight.

He called three times that morning. I let them all go to voicemail. On the fourth call I picked up. “I think you misinterpreted what I said today.”

“Hell yeah I did. I live inside my own head with my own thoughts and you live inside your own head with your own thoughts!” I snapped, while open to his olive branch. “I’m sure as hell I misinterpreted what you said.”

Then he said things that soothed me, although the only thing I remember were the words, “I was only trying to help.” Oooooooh. Yes, I can see that very clearly now. But, unwilling to concede just yet, I replied, “Well why didn’t you just say so?!”

It doesn’t matter what the content of our arguments are, the scenario on my side is always the same. I run away somewhere to do my own thinking, and for as many hours as it takes till he is ready to talk things through I list every bad quality he has. The more time to stew, the longer the list of Why Chris Sucks grows. Eventually we find the misunderstanding and get a peek from the other’s perspective which allows us to make up and move on. And it is kinda funny, in today’s state of gratefulness to admit that is how I operate. But in the moments of my arguments with Chris, he seems so awful. I know he’s not. I know he will take care of me when I’m sick, lovingly scooch the kids out of bed in the mornings, run to Publix when we have nothing to cook, and scratch my head on the sofa at night if I poke him in the ribs enough.

As far as America’s big-picture goes, we don’t know what is in store for us. But even though we have a new president-elect, I know my friends will talk to me to see how my day is going; my neighbors will continue to teach their children (our babysitters) to be kind, respectful, and responsible; our crossing guard will help us get into and out of the school parking lot safely; the preschool director will love on us teachers with smiles, thumbs ups, and a new Tervis tumbler on our birthdays; and my girls’ teachers will love on them, teach them academics and kindness, and send home a great big folder full of paper every Friday.


Sweaty Palms at the Driving Range

Today I’m going to go play golf with my husband, my dad, and my two daughters. And I’m not nervous. That might sound silly to some of you, the “other half.” But not to my kind of people. There are two kinds of people: the bold, outgoing, fearless type like my Grandma Turner, my mom, my sister, and my youngest daughter, Ellie. And there are the timid, shy, introverted people like me, my dad, my husband, and my oldest daughter, Sammy.

The other day my friend Marcia said she couldn’t believe I was the timid type. I can see her point because I did start to come out of my shell around seventh grade. But as a kid I was the one who clung to my mom’s leg at adult functions and cried for the entire three hours of mothers’ morning out till my mom came to pick me up. And I cried on stage while singing with the children’s church choir. Amongst all of the kids I had seen twice a week since I was in diapers. So even though I like to chat up strangers when I’m visiting a new city, or get engrossed in personal conversations with the servers at restaurants, deep down I’m still the timid type.

For those of you extroverts, you may not be able to comprehend, but going to new places can be scary. To give an example, joining a new damn gym is scary. I was pretty sure I wanted to join the YMCA years ago, but when I asked for a tour they said, “feel free to look around.” That was no help! The whole point was for them to lead me around so I don’t look like an idiot trying to figure out where the treadmills are and where the aerobics classes were held. God forbid I do something stupid like break some kind of unknown gym etiquette by stumbling around the place by myself. And, furthermore, what the hell is the “women’s gym??!” Is that small private-ish room the only room for women? Or for “Women” like the big section at the department stores? For me, this kind of query makes me sweat while I try to figure it out. (It took about three months until I worked up the nerve to indulge in watching the extra large televisions while treadmilling in the “women’s gym.”)

You can imagine, then, my internal battle as I headed one day to the driving range all by myself for the first time. Golf is nothing new, really. I grew up with a dad who played golf regularly with my Grandpa. I know who Tiger Woods is. I know that the Masters is held in Augusta and that the winner earns the green jacket. But it was about this time last year when I decided that I wanted to try my hand at golf.

Some folks might think, “big deal. Go for it.” But as I’ve mentioned before I am timid.  And I’m a giant scaredy cat. When I was about nineteen years old I went to the driving range with my college boyfriend. I was so awful that I laughed and laughed; then squealed with the delight if I made contact with the ball. My boyfriend, through gritted teeth, tried to impart the wisdom of golf etiquette on me, but I was too baffled by the whole experience to grasp the courtesy at the time.

How could a golf swing feel so foreign? I mean, I’ve seen it done a million times on TV or watching the neighborhood boys playing from yard to yard when we were young. In my twelve years of public school we played kickball, soccer, wiffleball, basketball, volleyball, and crab soccer. We even learned to juggle. But I never swung a golf club.

I suppose I got the itch to brave the driving range by myself since we now live five minutes away from the range and my daughter had begun playing golf as well. Of course the day I chose to head to the driving range, it was full of kids having practice. Immediately I wanted to turn the car around because “maybe it was closed due to lessons.” But I pulled in to the gravel lot anyways, determined to finally check this To Do off my list.

After clumsily filling my bucket of balls I headed to a spot where, in awe, I observed eight year  old kids easily chipping and driving, and yes, making contact with the ball. It took a dozen swings or so to finally make the ball soar past the chipping target. Then I wiffed at least another half dozen times. All around me the kids’ balls were leaping into the air. It was a humbling experience. I tried to “clear the mechanism.” I know, wrong Kevin Costner film. But still. My main achievement that day was that despite sweaty palms and my internal anxiety of this new experience, and plain looking like a big ol’ dang beginner idiot, that I showed up! Which made showing up the next time that much easier.

Eventually I took a set of lessons, and don’t get me started on how it feels to be watched while I do something new. It feels like the teacher standing next to your desk while you are trying to take a test! I may know the material, but put the teacher, even my favorite teacher, next to my desk and I’m paralyzed! All the math and all the German may as well have fallen out of my brain while my test stares at me waiting to be bubbled in! But the best thing about my golf coach is that he wants you to have fun first. For you golfers out there, I have to admit, I was so new to golf that I had to be coached that it was ok to make divots in the grass! I also had to be explicitly told that you want your Tees to break. I was living in the land of “don’t mess up the grass” and “don’t break the tees!”

So I’m looking forward to hopefully showing off to my dad how far I’ve come in a year of hanging out at the driving range. Don’t’ get me wrong. I don’t feel proficient yet. And I swear every time I get my golf bag out of the car I sweat bullets that I’m going to pull a scene from The Three Stooges by knocking someone over (or have all my clubs fall out!) But today is our father-daughter showdown. I’m pretty sure my husband and Sammy will beat me and my dad. I’m sure Ellie will be perplexed about who to cheer for. But I’m thankful that I got my palms sweaty last year and went out to be timid at the driving range. It has earned me a new fun family pastime!

Doing Disney

Our kids are five and seven years old. They think Disney World is The Best! My husband is 46 years old and he also thinks Disney is The Best. Not to be a party pooper, but Disney is both awesome and infuriating. How do more people not lose their shit there?!

We are a bit Griswold-ish when doing Disney. This is not new to me. I remember doing Disney as a kid with my family and we Jacksons were also very Griswoldish or else my dad was just very Clark-ish. I remember laying down in bed one night thinking, “whoa! We woke up at 6:00am and I’m going to bed at midnight. That is an eighteen hour day!” I was probably about ten years old at the time and was totally stoked to get up at six to get the Disney day started. I’m sure I jumped for joy as we approached each ride. I’m sure I whined when my feet were tired from walking and I ached to rest my legs during the China or O-Canada film where sitting is forbidden and we kids were too small to rest on the “lean rails.”

Since our kids are still little enough to fit in strollers, we stroll them at a very brisk, but not quite running pace to the first ride of the day. (You know, after waiting for an hour at the rope for the gates to open. Does anyone remember that Upton’s commercial where the mob of people smooshed their faces against the glass doors and waved their hands while chanting, “Open! Open! Open!” Same concept at Disney except you either chit chat merrily with the group next to you about where they are from, how many days in the park, favorite Disney strategies or else you are standing stock still and quiet much like at a concert ready to shove your elbow in someone’s ribs if they infringe on your personal line-holding territory.

Being four (consectutive)-year veterans of Disney with kids, we’ve learned a little each time. This year we stayed at a Disney property called Beach Club which is in walking distance to Epcot. How cool was it to stand waiting for the ropes to drop in a line a fraction of the size of the main entrance? Then we came in from the World Showcase and headed to Norway for the Frozen ride. We were the first ones there and even had two seconds to snap a photo in front of the ride before the mob came gaining on us seconds later. Of course we only learned this from my friend, Amy, but we were glad we went with her suggestion!

Of our last four trips, three were in December and one was in October. My husband said October was too hot and he’d “never do that again.” Meanwhile, I maintain that December is super busy with fun festivities every single weekend and I hate to be out of town when all of that is going on. But I guess I gave in. However, one caveat to my refusal was met, which was that we had our Christmas tree up before we left town so that upon return we could immediately enjoy our tree without having to dread putting it up and decorating it. Is it any wonder my mom bought me the Grumpy Dwarf shirt that says, “Is this jolly enough?!”

I proudly wore that Grumpy shirt at Disney because there is plenty to be jolly about at Disney. I may not jump up and down in excitement for the ride I’m about to go on, but while I dread the group of a dozen ten year old boys making chaos behind me in line, I can appreciate their excitement of anticipation for the next ride – even the Little Mermaid. I also love seeing how my girls’ bravery changes each year. Last year they held hands and walked up to the Animal Kingdom Safari ride talking to each other about being brave. OMG Disney is SO REAL to them! Did they think we really beamed ourselves to Africa? Last year at ages four and six, they also both went on the Dwarf Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coasters. They were pretty scared. But dang, were they proud of themselves after they did it! So this year, one year older, we tackled those coasters again. The funny part was that after doing Mine Train we headed to the kiddy coaster, Goofy Barnstormer where my seven year old started crying in line. I can so slightly remember being a kid or a teenager and having that creeping feeling of fear and anticipation before hopping on a roller coaster. I told Sammy, “This part is the hardest. You hear the clanking of the track and wonder how fast the ride will be. But once you get on, it’s just fun!”

But back to Grumpy Dwarf, I have to admit that standing in line to see princesses is not my cup of tea. I was not a girly girl, nor a princess loving kid. So I’m kinda shocked how “into” princesses my girls are. I will say though, that princesses are pretty damn cool in this 21st century! I got choked up the first seven times I heard Elsa sing “Let it Go.” She was totally finding herself! How empowering! But we sucked it up and let them meet some princesses and they loved it. Oh, and they had to have the autograph books to get all the autographs. Yay, one more thing to lug around and keep track of. But since I’m trying not to be a total buzzkill, let me tell you one of my favorite parts: meeting Joy and Sadness from Inside Out. We met them at Epcot and I swear, I felt like I was in the movie. The characters are so completely in character they truly bring all the movies and all the pretend to life. Sadness was killing me. My girls gave excited hugs to Joy which made Sadness mope and hang her head. Joy was a hoot too; she couldn’t stand still and acted so excited to see herself on Sammy’s T-shirt. Loved, loved, loved watching those two characters ham it up. It was worth the thirty-five minute wait.

Yes, I married a Clark, but all in all, we had a fun vacation, or, “family retreat” as Elena of Avalor says. We will probably go back next year, but I’m telling Clark that I’m not stepping foot in pretend Germany unless I’ve had a return trip to real Germany first.

Behind the Scenes Mommy Maintenance

Today I cleaned the playroom. Actually I started at 9:15 last night. It was an utter disaster. I am perfectly aware that my children should clean their playroom but I was tired of the existing mess. And I realized that I’m the mom of this household and there really needs to be some kind of organization in there. I’m not talking labels, but I have a habit of rearranging furniture and never figuring it out completely and leaving the room a bit disheveled. In my husband’s words, I “never complete a project.” And that is what happened in there many moons ago.

For some reason after I watched an episode of Love Boat on the DVR with a cup of hot coffee and a cookie, I went upstairs for something or other and eventually found myself in the playroom. Since the kids were in bed, I realized this was the ideal time to grab some crap off the floor that had been needing to be headed for the garbage can for more than half a year. The thought crossed my mind, “is this what my mom used to do when I was a kid? This sneaky behind the scenes stuff?” To borrow Shel Silverstein’s words, I am Hector the Collector. I’m not a hoarder but I have a hard time letting go. Everything means something. So half the time I run through one of my kids’ rooms and something catches my eye, like a paper hat, statue of liberty style, (or detective style, or 100 Days of school style) that was dang cute on their head coming home from school, but is just screaming “recycle me!” And I’ll pick it up, look at it, remembering how cute they look in this thing, presume they’ll wear it while playing pretend, and set it back down. Needless to say, the playroom has been deprived of “maintenance” for many months.

I remember when I was little I asked my mom if she had seen “Patches,” one of my stuffed animals. And she told me she got rid of it because I never played with it. “You got rid of it?!” I couldn’t believe it! I was so mad. Why was I not consulted on this?! But now as a thirty-nine year old mom, I see the need for this behind the scenes Mommy Maintenance. My two daughters have enough stuffed animals to fill a king-sized bed, so many books they start to fall off the shelves, and plenty of dress-up clothes. Not to mention that my seven year old is just like me and keeps every single scrap of artwork she has ever made. And pamphlet, wristband, movie ticket, bookmark, Chuck E Cheese prize, and any other doo-dad that has ever come into her possession. And every surface in her room “displays” her prized possessions. Regular people call this “clutter.” So I decided to take it upon myself to rearrange her clutter so that I don’t feel like I will have an anxiety attack when I walk in her room. (If you saw my bedroom, you’d say I was a hypocrite, but to my defense, my room is where all the “stuff” gets transferred to when we clean up for company!)

Another part of the Behind the Scenes Mommy Maintenance is making the executive decisions for the family when we are not in agreement with the Mr. I tend to have difficulty with this because I consider myself a nice person who does not like to lie or cheat and it feels sneaky to go behind my husband’s back and do something we are not in agreement on (like changing the breakfast nook window treatments. Oh wait, there are none because he had a cow that I bought some curtains. That should be my next 1:00am project. I’m sure he’ll like them after he sees them. Or at least get used to them.) Our kids finally saw Santa Claus and asked for a robot dog and a car that Ellie can drive. I wasn’t super excited about those Power Wheels kid vehicles when the girls were little, but after watching them drive their friends’ little kid cars, the cuteness factor helps me see how much fun they are. So when I saw that Wal-Mart carries a VW Beetle kid car – OMG! I am a huge VW fan, so really it would be like getting a present for myself! So I stopped by Wal-Mart before lunch and got the cute dang car and hid it in the basement. (I mean Santa did all this!) And the hubs still doesn’t know, but in four days or so (like around December 19th ) when he asks me what we should get Ellie and doesn’t find anything interesting while shopping, Imma gonna let him know that is already done!

If you are like me, a Hector the Collector, and find it hard to throw away your child’s precious belongings (especially with traumatic “Patches” memories,) just remember that this is all part of the Behind the Scenes Mommy Maintenance. We weren’t aware of all the behind the scenes our moms did while we were little but this is the stuff that keeps our ships sailing! Next time I stop myself mid-maintenance-ing, I’ll try to remember my friend Lindsey who hides her son’s daily “treasured stick and leaf” collections two feet deep in the trash can in order to prevent any “Patches” type grief; maybe that will give me the drive to finally let go of the paper pirate headband hat that was made at school two years ago!


Last night, after a really spectacular Christmas, I reflected on why I felt so good and so warm as I lay there in my bed thinking about my day. I enjoyed watching the excitement of my five- and seven- year old girls opening and giving presents. We ate brunch at my parents’ house where my girls enjoyed the company of their cousin, aunt, uncles, and Nana and Poppy. We feasted on casseroles and enjoyed seeing our present-hunting pay off as smiles emerged as paper was peeled away. Dinner was at my Father-in-law’s where the girls delighted in stealing attention from all of their grown up and college-aged cousins (which trips them up and occasionally makes them use the misnomer “Uncle Kirk” instead of cousin Kirk.) We ate again till we were full, traded gifts in various rooms of the house, following one individual while trying to hunt down the spouse or sibling to give a gift to a pair of people at one time, much like playing a live game of Ms. Pac Man. In between all of that was plenty of coffee, cookies, dips, and crackers.

So while I lay there swearing off food till the New Year (yeah, right,) the thought of how full and fulfilling my day was from visiting all of our loved ones swam through my mind. Then suddenly I thought about a couple friends who may be experiencing the holidays much differently—one a single friend with children, one a single friend without children and the second Christmas without her mom. Then I thought about one or two more girlfriends who are navigating the dating field and wondered what it felt like as they laid in their beds – did they have fulfilling days, too?

I’ve loved the Golden Girls ever since it was first run on TV. And in college, it was a favorite time of day, because often all four roommates would stop what they were doing and sit and spend a half hour laughing together. So each of us, of course, had a character. I was a combination of Sophia (for my feistiness) and Blanche (for my love of dating.) Now hold up. Just because you love to date does not mean that the bedroom is open for business, ok? But I’ll be honest. Dating in college was one of the best times of my life. Kissing boys in bars was one of the funnest things on Earth. I have no urge to do that now, although if I could grab my husband by the hand and be transported back into my young twenties I could spend a whole night standing in a dark corner of a bar drinking a few beers with him and smooching him when I wanted to, not worrying about anyone or anything around us.

Which brings me back to my college days. Being twenty-one and having a first kiss with a date (or an acquaintance) under the dim lights of a bar, bright enough to see where you are going, but dim enough to not see the layers of dried up sticky beer and dust in every nook and cranny was one of my highlights of college. In fact, if you think about it, kissing a boy in a crowded bar is a very smart and safe idea – your other Golden Girls are just on the other side of that thicket of 15 frat boys, keeping their eye on you, and when they are ready to go, it’s see you later, cute boy, time to hang with the girls! I did have one long-term relationship in college which perhaps enhanced the glory of dating after the twenty-seventh breakup finally took. But I can vividly remember lying in bed one morning in my apartment feeling so happy to be alone. There were no phone calls I had to make to tell anyone “hello” or arrange a time or place to meet up. There were no phone calls to expect or wait on (pre-iphones!) to slow me down in formulating my day. I was independent and free and I loved it!!

I know my friends who are dating are not experiencing the glory of Kissing in the Bar Dating, and I would not trade places with them for anything. But, oh my God. The courage, the bravery of my girlfriends! Leaving an unhealthy marriage. Having your husband swept away from you in your thirties with toddlers to raise. I can’t even fathom the guts these girls have that has gotten them to where they are today – brave enough to navigate the waters of being single (again.) And brave enough to navigate dating in 2016. I didn’t even have a texting plan last time I dated. But my only wish for these amazing women is that they lie in their beds and have that feeling that I did once—the feeling of independence and freedom to create any type of day they want (taking into account all of the mandatory adult chores first, of course.) And hopefully a good-night kiss from a date is just the cherry on top of an awesome Single but Strong day.