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Poor Kids Are Awesome

Crawdad Hunters

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculously  proud of his first “expensive” pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and  got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

This is a repost for a few years ago cause I love it.  Let me know what you think.  I live for your feedback. And if you really like it share it please. Thanks!

Poor Kids Are Awesome

Crawdad Hunters

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculously  proud of his first “expensive” pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and  got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

 

This is a repost for a few years ago cause I love it.  Let me know what you think.  I live for your feedback. And if you really like it share it please. Thanks!

The Refugee Crisis and My Husband’s Sock Basket

We have two sock baskets. One for white socks, one for black socks. All the white socks belong to my husband Alex. Most of the black socks are my son’s.  This system has worked perfectly for years. Until yesterday. Alex appeared in the living room with his sock basket. It was nearly full.

“Half these socks aren’t even mine,” he said and dropped the basket.  His are plain white Haynes calf high.He started sorting the socks.  There were “his socks”, socks with holes that got thrown out and the “others.”

The “other socks” were the white socks with pink or blue around the top. White socks that were ankle high and made by New Balance or Polo, tube socks and girl socks.  “They don’t belong in here with mine, they’re different.  This basket is just for my socks.”

“You’re being super prejudiced .” I teased him.

“Yes I am, I only like my kind of socks. Sorry.” But he wasn’t really.

When he finished there were three piles. His, those to throw away and “the others.”

He took his basket and left the room. And I was left wondering what to do with the poor “others”. Most of them were still perfectly good socks. First, I matched up the ones I could, there would be a home for them.  But what about the rest?

They’d been kicked out of their home and now had no where to go. No one would accept them simply because they were “different.” I felt guilty throwing them away, but boy, there were a lot of them. They were refugee socks, without a basket.

This behavior doesn’t surprise me from Alex. He’s Hungarian and Hungary typically doesn’t want refugees. They build concentration camps, surrounded with barbed wire and dogs. Refugees can stay there or leave the country and go somewhere more welcoming. Hungarians are all about taking care of Hungarians. Screw the rest of the world. They forget in the late 1950’s they were the refugees, running from Russia and seeking asylam in America.  Alex is a very good man but that sentiment runs deep in his blood.

So, what do I do with the remaining 27 refugee socks? I’ll probably end up throwing them away because there’s no basket or drawer that wants them. They are the lost “other socks.”

As President Trump said last week. “Who knew this stuff was so complicated.”

*Please let me know what you think.  Your feedback means everything.

When a Couple Crosses the Line and Turns…..OLD!!

Saturday morning, I have to drive 14 year old Sandor to his job at 10:30 am.  He’s a busboy and a crazy popular pizza restaurant.  But today is different, I’ve convinced my husband, Alex, the sometimes curmudgeon, to drive with me and stop by the wonderful Hot Springs Farmers Market afterwards.

The top is down, I have a convertible, the morning is beautiful and our son, Sandor is in the back seat.

Alex looks over at me. ” I can’t believe you made me wear this sweatshirt.”

“Come on, it’s soft and nice and new, what’s the problem?”

“I like my old red sweatshirt. I don’t care what people think.”

“”You look really nice, though,” I pleaded.

“Sandor, she’s being mean to me.”

I rolled my eyes, looked at him and smiled, “What? I’m making you go to the Farmer’s Market on a beautiful Saturday morning. That’s so awful?  I’m sounding like a Jewish Grandmother, right?”

“What ever, the Elite Eight, NCAA,  first game starts in three hours.”

I playfully smacked him. “What ever, I’ll have you home two hours before tip off. Just enjoy the morning.”

And then were were silent for a moment.  I looked in the rear view mirror and locked eyes with Sandor. He smiled at me. “What? What are you grinning about?” I asked him.

He just shook his head, “You guys are adorable.”

We got Sandor to his job on time.  I stopped the car and looked at Alex, “Adorable. He called us adorable. You know what that means?”

Alex pulled a cigarette out, waiting to get out of the car so he could smoke it. “Hell yeah, he’s calling us old.”

“Exactly!” I said.

“It’s ok, we still got it,” Alex said to me, trying to dismiss the fact Sandor called us “adorable.”

Alex and I now comfortably fall into old people grumbling, bickering, bitching.

I looked at him. “We still got it?”

“Hell yeah,” he replied ruefully, like a dude from The Outsiders.

“Well ok then. Let’s tear up the Farmer’s Market.”

*Apparently I will never ever, ever get back on Google Adsense, cause nine years ago I messed up.  That means I’ll probably never make money from this blog.  So….you comments and support mean everything…otherwise why would I write.  Let me know what you think. Please.

 

 

 

Men Are Afraid of Me….I Think

Every week day, I get up, get dressed, do make up, hair, perfume, pick out jewelry and head off to work. And here’s what I’ve noticed in the past few years.  On the rare occasion  someone says “you look nice” ,”that’s cute” or “you smell good” it’s never ever a man.  Ever.  The only people who say anything remotely positive are young women. Yesterday, it was my friend Tasha…she’s 28 or 29 I think. The day before it was my daughter Lex (you can always count on daughters).

Now, here’s the part of this story that really gets me, and I promise, I’m not looking for compliments. I hear men compliment younger women (20-38) all the time. I understand at that age they are simply more attractive. I was fairly hot when I was twenty eight and living in the Keys. But men, you could find something nice to say if your tried, I really believe that.

I think the problem is men are scared to say anything nice to a woman 40 and older.  I think they are afraid we’ll think they are creepy, misogynistic, sexist or slimy.  Guys, if you say something like “hey baby you look smokin’ hot this Monday morning” you’re right, I’ll think ugly thoughts about you and I’ll work hard not to punch you in the throat.

If instead you say, “good morning, Diana, you look nice today,” you will absolutely make my day. I promise. I really need the compliment now.

When I was 28 or 30 I didn’t really need your compliments. I knew I had it going on. Men, when you tell a beautiful 32 year old how amazing she looks it’s kind of like putting sugar in the Cool-aid. Young women who post a lot of selfies probably already know how hot they are.

But when you say something nice to a 50, 70 or 80 year old woman it’s different, every kind word is like a lovely salve on the wound of time. When you say something nice to a grown woman, I promise you ninety nine percent of the time…you’ll make her day.

Wait, I’m going to revise my stand.  You don’t have to stop compliment the pretty young girls, you just need to include us too.  (I don’t want to sound old and bitter and jealous. Too late? Damn It.

I tell random men they look nice all the time. I tell strangers they smell good at the grocery store (if they are wearing smell good stuff they want to smell nice) , I tell bank tellers I like their Picasso ties, I told a dude at the Dollar Store yesterday that his high tops were cool looking.  A compliment makes people smile, it makes people happy, so who am I to deny other people joy.

So men, fear not! It would be wonderful  if you said something nice to a woman over 40 today. Don’t be afraid. If she misunderstands…she’s an idiot.

 

PS: My husband is excluded from this blog. He said something nice as I left the house this morning.

Sometimes The Kid Is Right……I Guess

This week at work I had  a yellow legal pad page half filled with deals to close and projects to finish for clients.  I realized for the second time there were literally too many to get finished in four days so I did what Sandor, my 14 year old, told me to do. I “put first things first.” That’s right I prioritized my list. It’s not rocket science but it made my week a lot more productive and financially rewarding…in a big way.

Sandor, who is in 8th grade, is part of a public charter school.  And much of the schools new focus has been Stephan Covey book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Sandor and I debate the seven habit some times. Number seven is “Sharpen Your Saw,” meaning keep balance in your life. do the things you love like yoga or yodeling instead of working all the time.  Any time Sandor wants to lie in bed and watch stupid videos on youtube he tells me he’s “sharpening his saw.”  And I call BS.

“Putting first things first” is one of the rules we agree on. We talk about it every now and then, usually when I’m driving him to school and he’s got a lot of projects going on.  But this time, he was the one who reminded me on Monday night when I was griping  and complaining about all the stuff I had to get done, in just a few days.

Maybe I should listen to that kid more often. Except when he tells me one shower in three days is plenty.

If you want to read the book you’ll find it on Amazon for less than five dollars, if your lazy and want to check out the seven habits in less than five minutes here’s the Wikipedia link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People

 

Let me know what you think and as always you are welcome to share this post.

 

 

Is He Too Young For A Job?

Sandor is 14 and this weekend he started his first job. He’s a busboy at a local pizza joint. Saturday and Sunday’s during the day. That’s what we agreed on.

As soon as he found out he had the job, Sandor started calling his buddies to tell them what was up.  He was so proud and excited, and so was I.

My first job was closer to home.  I ran blue prints for my dad’s architectural office on the weekends.  The blue print machine ran on ammonia and the smell was so terrible nobody could work while the blue print machine was being used.  I made  ten cents a sheet.  On a busy day I could make eight or ten dollars. Big money.

But Sandor has a real job, with strangers. He has stuff he wants to buy now, things for his dirt bike, a double base for his drum kit. Expensive stuff.  So I told him to get a job.

Folks have had all kinds of different reactions to this news. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal but I was wrong.  Several people said he’s too young, that he should be enjoying himself and have fun while he’s a kid. I agree.

The most surprising response came from his dad, Alex.  He’s generally the “hard ass” in the family. He started working five nights a week when he was fifteen and never looked back.  His first fear was Sandor would follow in his foot steps and go into the food service world.  Trust me, there’s no chance of that. Sandor knows his dad worked 70 hours a week and it nearly killed him.

Alex was one of those who said he should “enjoy his childhood.”

On his first day, he dressed carefully. Collared shirt, lots of deodorant, hair perfect.

My feeling….. he’s fourteen.  He’s not a child. Not an adult, but somewhere in between, so he needs to step up his manly duties.

Most men over fifty have heard that he’s “working” and have been really pleased, even strangers. They shook his hand, gave him the thumbs up and slapped him on the back. They seemed to be relieved that a boy in his generation wants to work, manually.  Sandor’s friends are seriously  jealous. Apparently, they wish they could work too but their parents won’t let them.

So parents, why aren’t we letting our young adults work eight hours a week, on the weekend when it doesn’t interfere with school?  Some of our kids want to work, and that should make us proud. Why don’t we let them except some responsibility?

Are we trying to baby them or are we just too lazy to drive them back and forth?

After his first six hour shift busing tables Sandor was absolutely wiped out. His legs and feet were spent. He was exhausted but soooooo happy. When I picked him up he went on and on about buckets of ice, silverware and dirty dishes.  He told me about waitresses who told him he did a good job and Hispanic ladies who bossed him around. Lord he was proud of himself and that’s a wonderful thing. He was proud of what he did, without me. And about the money he earned.

Of course child labor laws are a good thing. But maybe it’s time we stop coddling our kids.  I think we’ve gone overboard. Sandor will go to college, he will be educated.  But a job seems to give him a sense of pride and purpose, one that hanging out with his buddies, playing video games and jumping on the trampoline, doesn’t. He’s proud of himself.

Sandor is soaking in a hot tub now, hoping it will help his legs and feet. But this weekend he made $72 dollars and he’s got big plans!

 

Words I’m Not Allowed To Say Anymore

Recently my youngest son said these words, “A girl at school told me my eyebrows were on fleek.”

Me, “Huh?”

Boy says,”On fleek, it means on point or good…something like that.”

An hour later I tried to use the term. “Honey, dinner was on fleek, tonight.”

“Sorry mom, that’s not working. You probably can’t say that.  Sounds too weird.”

Vocabulary is a bizarre thing.  It can make you seem cool or really really old.  Slang words come and go so fast by the time adults figure them out they are out of style.

Hearing an older adult still using the word “bling” is embarrassing and painful. Bling faded out at least ten years ago. If I used the word “cheddar” in place of money my kids would probably push me out of a moving car.

I remember how horrified I was when my fifty year old mom said , “Vice President Dan Quall  ‘delish. I’d scoop on him.'”  Noooo!  Everything about the sentence was wrong, especially her use of the term “delish and scoop.” Grosss!

So this year when I looked at the new words in the dictionary I told myself to be cautious.  I’m not gonna jump up and tell a client not to “throw shade” at me if they treat me disrespectfully.

I’m not going to tell my husband his idea for fixing a lamp with duct tape is “weak sauce” and I’m not going to accuse my co-worker of a “humble brag” when she tells me she “only volunteered at the homeless shelter twelve hours last week.

The one word I might hang onto is “microagression”. Because that’s legitimate. Microagression is subtle or unintentionally saying something that belittles a minority or group.  There’s an older  guy at work who constantly refers to women as “you girls.”  He says things like, “Well you girls just couldn’t understand how important it is to change your oil on a regular basis.” Hey, I’m not a girl and of course I understand the importance of oil changes. He doesn’t mean to offend me but man he pisses me off.

It’s fun to study the new words and phrases, but if you’re older than thirty be careful. You’ll end up sounding older than you are, I’ll have to give you the “side eye” then “ghost.”

PS…I learned yesterday “on fleek” is already out.

 

Bad Manners At Taco Bell

My youngest son has a good friend with terrible manners.  He’s a nice 14 year old boy, kind and generous to  a fault, but this kid almost seems proud of his bad manners.

After I spent twenty dollars at Taco Bell for fried chicken tacos, quesadillas and tacos made out of Doritos, Sandor said, “Thanks Mom, that was awesome.”

Then he shoved his friend, Jake.  “Say thank you, chicken butt!”

Jake shoved back”What ever.”

I’m pretty sure I sighed and rolled my eyes.  We’d been through this before. “Alright Jake, I’m not unlocking the car and were gonna stand here in the parking lot until you say thank you.”

He smiled at me, his shaggy hair nearly covering his eyes. Then he looked at the ground and mumbled something I literally couldn’t understand.

“Nope,” I smiled at him. I was playing hardball. “Not good enough.”

Sandor didn’t even mind me calling his friend out.  Jake’s terrible manners made him a little crazy.

Finally, Jake looked at me. I didn’t know if he was gonna flip me off or say something nice. “Thanks for the food.”

“Perfect,” I said as I gave Jake a big bear hug.

We have a serious rule in our world about good manners. Sandor is the youngest of four and the rule is pretty well etched in stone. If you are rude or disrespectful, you can’t come over. But I understand some parents don’t have the same obsession, so if I like the kid, and I like Jake a bunch, I try to work with them. I figure it’s “my house my rules.” And when Sandor goes to hang at a friends house, their parents get to make the rules.

Once everyone was buckled up I turned off the radio.  “Jake, good manners will make your life way easier.”

“How? My friends like me for my jokes, they don’t care.”

Sandor said, “Dude, you’re not that funny.”

Jake and I both ignored the comment. “Here’s the deal Jake, if you have good manners teachers will like you more. That’s makes your life better. If you have good manners parents like you more. Then you get invited to go to more cool places. Cause in the end it’s my call, not Sandor’s, who we invite over or take to the movies or laser tag or whatever.”

“Yeah, we took Sam to Florida with us because he had good manners,” Sandor added.

“And think about this,” I was on a roll with a class A lecture. “If you get pulled over by the police, and you will get pulled over and you have good manners there’s a way better chance he’ll let you off with a warning. If you’re a punk with bad manners he’s gonna definitely give you a ticket.”

At that point I made myself stop, even though I wanted to keep on going. I was on a roll. I turned up the radio and let the boys ignore me for a while. But I was still thinking.  It’s easy to teach good manners if you start when your child is young. Then people praise them for having good manners and the circle starts rolling.  But once a kid turns into a teenager it get’s tougher.  They resist. Jake almost seems to think good manners make him seem weak.

Maybe if we explain how good manners can benefit them, kids will understand. Maybe.

I got out of the car to let Jake out at his house. He was about to climb out of the back seat when I said, “Thanks for coming over, Jake.”

He stopped. He knew it was a trap. Then Sandor leaned over and whispered something to him. Jake got out of the car and mumbled, “Thanks for having me over.”

Then he gave me another sheepish smile and a hug.

Now, if I can just get my son to stop burping like a monster in front of me.

Jpeg

I’m trying to figure out if people actually read my blog…..so…

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What Happens When You Treat Your Man Like A Dog?

I have a really good husband. We’ve been married for twenty or twenty two years.  We both always forget.  We also have two really wonderful dogs.

Aries is a German Shepard/Wolf hybrid.  I thought I was buying a simple female German Shepard. A fat man in a red corvette lied to me.

And then there’s Spots.  He’s a stocky white dog with weird brown spots.  He’s a pit bull mix that showed up in our yard, emaciated, with cigarette burns on his head.  I swore I would never have anything to do with a Pit Bull of any kind, but all this dog does is wag wag his branch like tail and he tries to make us happy.

Last night I was lying in bed watching a PBS show about barns in Arkansas.  Spots looked deep into my eyes and I started rubbing his silky ear.  “Look at those pretty spots on your ears. That one looks like an island, that one looks kinda like Cuba and that one looks like a water bottle. You have the prettiest spots, Spots.”

His club of a tail thumped heavily. He was in doggie heaven. So, he rolled on his back and snorted cheerfully.

A few minutes later Spots rolled over to stare at me again and I started rubbing his nose. Slowly, I ran my thumb down, between his eyes and I said, “You are so handsome.  Look at your weird eyes and think neck and sausage like tail.” In less than a minute he was asleep. So happy to be loved.

When was the last time I rubbed Alex’s ears?  I don’t think I ever have. Have I commented on his nose or ears lately….last week I told him I was going to trim his Eisenstein eyebrows or shave them off in his sleep. And what have I ever said about his tail? Maybe years ago.

You see where I’m going?  If we treated the people we love like the pets we love the world might be better.  Man, I would love it if Alex stroked my hair, scratched my neck or told me I was so beautiful and sweet, even though my breath smelled like roadkill.

I need to rethink good behavior, bad behavior and our reward system.

Sure, Spots and Aries give me unconditional love. But so does Alex.