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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Love At Rocky’s Corner

Dating is a funny thing.  You want to help each other…but how much and when?  All those boundaries have to be worked out.

Twenty five or twenty six years ago when Alex and I first started dating, I was trying to get my little magazine, The Spring, up and running and I worked as a waitress at Rocky’s Corner, a legendary Hot Springs Pizzeria.

I’d left my first husband in Key West and was struggling to make things work. Jack and Mary were three and four and we all lived on pizza toast and spaghetti noodles. I met Alex and the first thing he did, was start making “real dinners” for us. The kids were so excited to have three things on their plate, at the same time!!

Alex and I had been dating about a month when he realized how bad the brakes were on my car.   He was so concerned he asked several times if I would let him get me some new brakes, and then I could pay him back.  But I refused.  I didn’t need his help and I wasn’t going to take him money. We’d only been dating a month.

So, Alex came up with a solution on his own. One afternoon, while I was working lunch, unbeknownst to me, Alex snuck into the office at Rocky’s to talk to the owner Joey Diorio. Joey was the PERFECT Chicago style pizza place owner.  He had the look, the accent and the attitude. He was a Chicago style pizza pie come to life, thick and cheesy, loud, abrasive, loving and funny. Alex explained the situation to Joey who immediately understood.  He summoned an older waitress from Romania or  Czechoslovakia, with a heavy accent, to his office. A few minutes latter she stole my car keys out of my purse while I was taking a drink order and delivered them to Alex and Joey.

Alex then snuck out, stole my car and got my breaks fixed.  Two hours latter he returned, put the car in the same spot, then took my keys back to Joey, who found the old Romanian or Czechoslovakian waitress, who returned my keys to my purse. She’d been winking at me all day, but I didn’t suspect anything.

Two hours later I got off, sat at the bar counting my tips and drinking a draft beer. I said goodbye to everyone and Joey was acting super odd. Smiling too much and telling me to have a safe ride home.

Going home, everything was great. I had the windows down and the radio turned up loud.  I was probably listening to Color Me Bad singing “I Wanna Sex You Up.” It was all just great till I came to the first stop sign…..and almost went through the windshield.

I’ve been married to that car thief for a long time now. But sometimes that’s what loves does. Puts you right through the windshield.

 

They Tapped My Daughters Phone! For Real

My daughter Mary called and said emphatically, “I think my phone is tapped, Mom.”
I smiled and wondered if she was off her medication because this has happened before. Then in my smarmy, patient Mom voice I said, “Why would anybody tap your phone honey?”
She took the bait. “Ok, consider this. I work with Middle Eastern refugees and I’m studying Arabic.”
“Yeah, but look at the stuff you teach your students. How to shop and use coupons, how to rent an apartment and fill out a job application, that’s not crazy or dangerous.”
“I know, Mom, but they don’t know that. they just know I spend a lot of time with Middle Eastern refuges.”
I nodded. “Ok.”
“Because my students are from the Middle East, I study a lot of Middle Eastern websites so I can understand where they are coming from. I check out sights from Syria, Iran,Eritrea, Congo, Somalia, you know.”
“yeah, I get that.” I say, seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together.
She continued, “Andy and I work with the ACLU and go to a lot of protests. And I took a pretty long trip to Uganda this year.”
I sighed, “Yeah, I forgot about that. ”
“And technically I work for a Chinese corporation. I mean, that’s who writes my checks.”
That’s when I grimaced. “Man, you do check a lot of boxes. If I was the CIA or something like that, I’d totally be checking you out. I think our tax dollars are being well spent.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, and a lot of my friends have told me my phone makes funny noises right before I pick up.”
I grunted, “That’s not good. Ok, if they interview you you just need to tell the FBI or CIA, who ever that you are Episcopal, and Episcopalians don’t get radicalized. We play golf.”
Mary laughed, “Good point.”
“Ok, and honey, there’s a whole list of words and phrases you probably need to avoid on the phone. But I can’t tell you what they are.”
The truth is Mary, my beautiful daughter is super patrotic, loves America and wants to save the world. But if you call her….you probably need to be careful what you say.

Middle School Mean Girls

Last week I accidentally bought a novel…written for children. I decided to read it anyway. Here’s the plot: a 12 year old girl is going into middle school and suddenly (well over the course of a couple of months), her very best friend in the world turns into a Middle School Mean Girl. She becomes popular with the “popular kids”. It’s a heartbreaking story with an uplifting end.

I knew my friend Amy, who is a DJ on one of the stations I work for, had daughters. So, I gave her the plot synopsis and asked if her girls would enjoy it.

“This must be a God thing,” Amy said. Then told me about her beautiful daughter who is going though almost the exact same situation.

Her story killed me because I remember so well, struggling though middle school with my oldest daughter. She had a few wonderful friends for several years, then they all turned on her. We never figured out why. But my girl spent a couple of years in my pocket and miserable. Her former friends were saying all kinds of stuff, about her. They said she was ugly, fat, gay, stupid, a slut and she wasn’t Christian. One of the reasons we took her out of that school was to get away from her old friends.

Every week in restaurants, at the pool, in Walmart I hear middle school girls talk to their parents in a way that is shockingly mean and hateful. The parents just laugh it off, they don’t think their girls are serious. They tell themselves “it’s just a game, or a phase she’ll grow out of”. But they know, in their hearts, they never spoke to their parents that way.

Boys are gross and annoying, they make fart jokes and fall out of booths at restaurants, but they don’t sigh and roll their eyes at their parents, as though warning them to keep their mouth shut. I swear sometimes it looks like the parents are hostages.

So what’s the deal with so many Middle School mean girls? Why do some turn cruel and ugly? Why do they quite caring about old friends and focus on popularity and good hair?

Boys  might get in a fight with their friend, they might even try to beat him up…but they generally don’t get catty, cruel and start spreading rumors.

I think parents might be part of the problem.
We tell our daughters they are beautiful and can be anything from an astrophysicist to pop star, we tell our daughters they are strong, not to be kept down by anyone. We tell our daughters they can accomplish anything. We put our daughters waaaay up on a pedestal, we buy them the very best “high horse” And they listen. they believe us, the believe they are better than other girls, that they are smarter and prettier. We drill this stuff into their heads CONSTANTLY, and so do tv stations, songs on the radio even public service announcements.

But do we ever tell them to be kind? Do we tell and teach them to empathize? Do we tell them to be sweet and nice. No, because those virtues are seen as weakness. I’m thinking back and I don’t think I ever had conversations like that with my girls. I’m sure I hoped they would see their family being nice to folks and get the idea…but I don’t think that’s enough. The truth is, some of our daughters are turning into bitches, right in front of us.

Moms, I’m putting this on your shoulders. I suspect most of us know when our daughters has turned that corner and become a mean girl. But very few of us are willing to own and correct the bad and hurtful behavior. We are too excited our daughter is “popular”. We can’t forsce them to be friends with another girl but we can absolutely demand and make sure they are kind. We need to tell our kids we disapprove of cruel behavior and then demonstrate kindness , everyday, in front of them.

And consider this, when we are all old and dealing with health issues and trying to stay in our own homes , when we need help with everyday life and desperately want someone to treat you kindly and with dignity, chances are our mean ass daughter will be in charge.

Sweetness, kindness and compassion are not weaknesses. They are virtues that make all of us stronger.

I Hate Baseball

I hate baseball. Ok, maybe ‘hate’ is to strong a term. But I don’t really like the game. I can watch completely random football or basketball games on tv or in person and get passionately involved…but baseball? Not so much. It’s boring.

Here’s my problem. My youngest son, Sandor, is in 9th grade and plays baseball for the Ft. Lake Cobras. Purple and white pine stripes all day long. There he is on third base, looking handsome.

I try to be a good mom so we try to make some games, to be supportive. But the games are soooo long, and there are soooo many games. Two or three a week! Typically nobody get’s hurt and it’s hot sitting in the bleachers. Still, we go to games and I yell like a maniac even though I don’t really know the right things to yell. “Take him out!” is one of the wrong things I’ve learned not to yell. Other parents give you stink eye.

Earlier this week Sandor was playing third base and missed a pop fly. Nothing terrible happened because of his bobble but he was really upset with himself.

I really like to fix problems. So, the next day, after work, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and bought five baseballs.

I put Sandor in the middle of the yard with his mitt and started hitting balls at him. I was doing ok but I kind of freak out when he throws the balls back to me. The kid throws pretty hard and I catch like a four year old. So, I recruited his dad to catch.

Things were going pretty well until our big dog Aries got involved. Every time I hit a grounder , Sandor had to out maneuver and fight her. If Aries won she trotted back to me with her fluffy tail raised high and gave me the slobber covered ball.

For thirty minutes the four of us played and laughed in the yard until the sun set and it was too dark to see the ball.

Sandor had a game last night and he took care of a grounder easily. He told me all about it at breakfast this morning.

There’s another home game tonight. I’m pretty excited.

Love Changed My Daughter

My oldest daughter, Mary, was a spectacular kid. But when she was young she was…..well….really really greedy. She laughs about it now, we all do, but when she was six, eight, ten, I was a little concerned.

Mary always wanted more. She idolized, adored her older brother Jack. She literally worshiped him.  Jack was her everything, he even tried to fail first grade so he could be held back a year. He thought he should to stay in Mary’s grad and then he could take care and protect her. Still, Mary would steal Jack’s stuff all day long, even if she didn’t really want it.

Every Easter, for at least seven years, Mary woke up early, studied the baskets the Easter Bunny left, then she put all the good stuff, including chocolate, in her basket. And she filled Jack’s with the cheap candy, do-dads and toys she didn’t want.

She did the same thing with the Christmas stocking. Then she’d shrug and say something like, “I don’t know why Santa likes me better.”

Mary was a beautiful, wonderful, selfish, greedy little kid.

But a few years ago, something changed in Mary’s heart. She met Andy and fell in love…. as she’d never fallen before.

The week after Thanksgiving the texts, emails and facebook messages began. She sent me links to things Andy would love for Christmas. There was a pair of brown Aldo loafers she desperately wanted him to have, but couldn’t afford. A week later she called her dad, to tell him about a saw that would make him so happy.

The “suggestions” went on and on. The girl who stole all the chocolate Easter bunnies’ literally didn’t care what she got for Christmas. She only wanted Andy, the man she loves, to be happy.

Mary told me over and over, “don’t worry about me this year, Andy deserves everything.”

Was this my Mary on the phone? Had some kind of a ”body snatchers” thing happened while she was in the basement?

“Big Love”, the kind of love that makes you forget about yourself, is rare. Lots of folks get married and live together for years and years and years but they never stop thinking about themselves.

Mary has crossed that line and grown into a more beautiful person. She loves Andy so much she places his needs above mine, above the families’, above everything. And she fiercely protective.  Now she chooses Andy, her husband and her love. And that’s the way true love and a marriage are supposed to be. I believe God has given both Mary and Andy a higher job order.  Now, they are supposed to take care of each other. That’s the first requirement and these guys have it right.

I love and admire this new woman she has become. And Andy Stanley is a lucky man.

Four Year Olds, Human or Alien?

I found this story today. I wrote it eleven years ago, before I had a blog.  But it’s still true.

Right now Sandor is racing up and down the house dragging a bull whip, which the cat chasing.  He is laughing hysterically. And I’m pretty sure he’ll run into something soon, hurt himself and cry. He’s been doing this for almost twenty minutes.  He is giddy, rowdy, insane and happy.

In the past hour I put him in time out for jumping off the back of the couch and I fussed at him for being disrespectful.

I read him two books but he kept trying to start a pillow fight. I nearly beg him to hold still, for just a few minutes. but he can’t. I’m so tired from work and frustrated by his energy…I want to cry.

When I try to dress him he scootches and wiggles like a squirrel in a pillow case. At dinner he turns his silverware into drumsticks and action figures.

Sandor is not ADD. He’s four years old. Sometimes four year old are unbelievable annoying and usually that means they are normal.

Some children need medication but most normal children are loud, rowdy, sometimes nearly uncontrollable and frustrating. they seemingly have unreasonable amounts of energy to burn off and simply can’t hold still. It doesn’t seem natural. But it is.

Fifty years ago parents let  kids play outside for hours at a time, even four year old. We had lots of space and parents didn’t have to supervise or watch them all the time. The world was a different place. My parents din’t hear from us until we were hungry, it got dark or we were just too tired to play.

When children came home we were exhausted from riding bikes, jumping out of trees and just running around. When my cousins and I were four, five a six we ran wild for hours on end. We didn’t bug our parents cause we weren’t with them. today, parents and kids spend a lot of time together.

Typically, I pick the kids up from school or pre-school, take them to taekwondo , soccer practice or cheer leading for a couple of hours. I watch them work out and play then we go home and they play while I fix dinner. We eat, I help them take baths, get ready for bed and that’s the day.  We are always together.

There’s good news and bad news. I think my kids and I are a lot closer because we spend more time together.  My folks were rarely around. The downside is my kids wear me out and seem absurdly high strung.  But they are not. Years ago when I was with my cousins, there’s no doubt we were constantly moving, loud, crazy and ridiculous. If any adult had spent hours with us no doubt they would have tried to medicate our entire neighborhood.

Kids have fewer recesses today, then many have structured activities after school, adults are always watching. It’s not wonder kids want to blow off some steam.

So, when Sandor spends two hours hopping like a frog, barking like a dog, yelling new words he’s made up and trying to do somersaults off the couch, I know he’s a normal boy.  That’s what we all did years ago, but our parents weren’t around to tell us to “cut it out”

So, don’t assume your child need medication just because he’s driving your crazy. It’s his job.

 

Author’s note, today Sandor is a awesome 15 year old boy who makes good grades, makes us all proud and still drives us crazy sometimes. Last night we spent a little bit of time with a wonderful 4 year old boy. He did all the stuff Sandor used to do!  All of it! Sandor looked over and said, “I think this kid is my spirit animal.”

 

 

 

When He Couldn’t Say “I Love You”

We met twenty five years before this picture was taken.

Long before this picture was taken, when Alex and I met, I was thirty and he was a couple years older. At first, I didn’t want to go out with him cause he was such a player in Hot Springs. It seemed been with half the hot waitresses in town.

But once we got over the weirdness and were actually “dating” it was obvious we were so different. He was and still is, a very stoic man. He doesn’t talk unless he has something to say and back then he definitely didn’t say “I love you.”

On the other side of the universe there was Diana. I come from a verbose, storytelling, over-hugging, “I love you so much man,” family.

I was young and misread Alex’s lack of words or outward emotion. He rarely complimented me or said “I love you” so I was on the verge or writing him off as a cold, emotionless, hot guy.

But there was still something…..We’d been dating for a few weeks. He was working on a construction project at his house, out in the country.  I decided I’d surprise him with lunch. Because he was a chef ,I thought I better go fancy if I wanted to impress him. I took him two cups of Gazpacho, a cold Spanish tomato and cucumber soup along with fresh tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad and topped with paprika.

When I delivered the lunch I was super proud of my thoughtful self.  We sat on the floor in his living room and he ate every bite.  Nodding as he ate, which I took to be a good sign. And he said “thank you.”

A month later, I watched him , with surgeon like precision, remove every sliver of tomato from three tacos at a Mexican restaurant called Acapulco’s.

“Don’t like tomatoes, huh?” I asked cautiously.

“I hate them, they’re gross. If they’re cooked I can tolerate a little, but I can’t do raw tomatoes.”

I just smiled. Maybe this man had other ways of communicating.

Not long after ‘the tomato incident,” Mary, Jack and I went to visit this quiet man. We were all watching Aladdin when Mary, who was three, went to the bathroom. Then I heard her panicked voice , “Momma Momma Momma.” When she was excited it was always three Mommas.

I bounded across the house and found her crying as the toilet overflowed. Waterfalls filled the bathroom and she was standing on a red towel….her only Island.

Alex came in, silently turned off the water behind the toilet, then extracted a stuffed Princess Jasmine from the toilet.

I was horrified and so embarrassed, we’d only been dating three months and look what my child had done. “I’m so, so, so sorry, oh my gosh, I’m  sorry. I don’t know why she….”

But he interrupted me with a shrug, as though it was nothing. He left then reappeared with a mop. “It’s just a little Mary pee.”

That was one of the hundreds of moments that told me how he felt.

“It’s just a little Mary pee.”

There were other times he told me he loved me, long before he could say he loved me. He literally stole my car while I was working lunches at Rocky’s Corner so he could have new brakes installed.

Sometimes, my effusive words don’t seem to mean much compared to his silence.  Talking is easy. Listening when people don’t talk, that’s where the magic is.

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.

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