My 2015 Thanksgiving Gratitude List

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Every Thanksgiving and several times throughout the year, I try to move away from my propensity to whine and count my blessings.  This year, I will share my gratitude list with my readers. The items are in no particular order, and I am sure I left off something or someone, so I beg your pardon now if I have forgotten or offended you. That is not my intention.  Hopefully, this will inspire others to create their own gratitude list.

I am thankful for…

  • The small moments of alone time with my husband
  • Tweezers and razors (for the midlife hair issues)
  • My church community (they keep fertilizing my growing faith)
  • Good or decent—not perfect—report cards (Who wants perfection anyway?)
  • The kisses and cuddles from my kids (so far these turkeys still like me)
  • Getting lost in a good book
  • Listening to my kids laugh in their sleep
  • Pants with elastic waists (“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold me back anymore.”)
  • Being able to fix the hole in my roof and dry weather while we wait
  • My dad who always ends our conversations with “Love you more.”
  • My health, my husband’s health, and my kids’ health (Can I get an AMEN?)
  • The women who give me periodic pedicures (otherwise, I would trip over my nails)
  • Health insurance (keeps us from the poor house)
  • Bras (defying gravity)
  • Unencumbered breathing
  • My patient husband who holds his temper with Herculean effort every time I hit a curb or back into something
  • Chocolate chip cookies, Bit ‘O Honey, saltwater taffy, and Tootsie Pops
  • My brothers and the lifetime material they have provided for future novels
  • My faith (hard to tackle life’s issues without it)
  • The ability to put my kids in activities (exercise and teamwork)
  • Date nights
  • My helpful, generous, loving mother-in-law (I got lucky)
  • Coffee or lunch or a night out in a limo with my supportive friends (they keep me sane)
  • The warmth my pups provide when we nap together (even if one snores)
  • Microwave ovens (not sure I could feed my family without it)
  • Allergy medicine (especially in Houston where something is always blooming)
  • Catch-up conversations with old friends over the phone—treasured times
  • The fan pointed directly at my face every night at bedtime (premenopausal?)
  • Those rare moments when every child in the house is obedient (Can you hear Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”?)
  • Swiffer cloths (keep me from giving away my puppies)
  • Movies (especially the Hallmark Christmas marathons this time of year)
  • Working Wi-Fi
  • The closure and grieving a funeral provides
  • Birthdays with cake and balloons and good friends and food
  • My dentist who is a champion at numbing my mouth
  • Washing machines and dishwashers (imagine the time it saves me)
  • Cheap gas
  • LIFE (It’s better than the alternative!)
  • The people who read and comment on my writing

I feel abundantly blessed, and I am thankful!

 

A Self-Proclaimed Plucker Wages War on Midlife Hair

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I think it is time to talk about a taboo subject. Normally, I would not broach such a hair-raising topic, but my body is going through a subtle revolution whereby some parts or factions are declaring war on me. It is time for me to pull back, reevaluate the enemy and its tactics, and strategically plan a retaliatory maneuver.

What is this enemy you ask? It’s not the fact that I have to drop something on the floor to be able to read it. No, it’s not that I need to take a shot of Milk of Magnesia as an after dinner dessert. And, it’s not my on-going need to count the dimples in my thighs. I can deal with all of that. What I am talking about is what Dr. Seuss would say is “muchly much more serious”—midlife hair.

[Gasp! Gasp! Choke, choke. Cough…]

[Whispers, whispers]

[“Oh, she did NOT just say that.]

[Girrrrrl, uh uh, you cannot go there.]

[What? Did she just say the H word? No, no. NO!]

I know. I know. I am a brave soul for even mouthing the words, but quite frankly, ladies, THIS IS WAR! We deal with scary things in war, so tug up those Spanx and prepare for a debriefing.

When I was a teenager living in the most humid place on the planet—Miami, Florida—if wanted any lift or height in my doo (hey, this was the era of A Flock of Seagulls, Madonna, and Duran Duran), I had to lather my hair with “products,” heat up the curling iron to the blaze setting, and once fixed to the proper height, spray it like Bob Villa lacquering a piece of furniture. I did that so that the natural bone straightness would be transformed into a rockin’ look for this child of the 80s. In fact, I just resigned myself to the notion that I had straight hair forever. Styles come and go, and the straight thing has served me well at times, so I can’t complain. Recently, however, I am looking around to see whom I might have ticked off. I am wondering if someone has a voodoo doll with my name on it, and is sticking it in a light socket because my hair has changed significantly.

The only way to describe my hair is highlighted cotton candy. It is so fluffy that it has taken on the texture of spun sugar, and the more humidity in the air, the fluffier my head appears. I have heard that when your hair turns gray, the texture changes. It is more like wire. On my head, there is no mistaking this for wire. Now, I have noticed a touch of gray at my temples, but truth be told I have not seen the natural color of my hair since Reagan was in office. Underneath the artistically dyed camouflage could be an entire head of gray hair, but I lament that I did not inherit the strong steel gray hair that my mother and grandmother had. Nope. I am stuck with fluff that can only be tamed by a flat iron, and the taming lasts on average 1.02 hours. I am only able to garner a non-frizz hour because I have plied my locks with the latest serums and keratin miracle products. Otherwise, I would live in the Land of Fluff 24/7.

I know I should not complain. At least I have hair, something my younger brother hasn’t experienced since he was in college. I am just frustrated because I have spent over 40 years learning how to quaff my hair, and now the game has changed. It’s as if I have spent my whole life playing tennis, and one day I walk onto the court and somebody with a golf club in his hand yells, “Four!” It’s the proverbial fall down the rabbit hole.

All of this is not to say that I haven’t sprouted any wire-like hairs. The wiry hair I have tends to grow out of my chin. Yep. I am going there. The first time I saw a “stray” hair on my chin, I was in my 20s. And, it was exactly that—one lone thick hair, blooming from my chin like a rare rose in the desert. I didn’t really know what to do with it. I didn’t even own tweezers. So, I borrowed my roommate’s to discreetly take care of this strange variance. What was an anomaly turned into a weekly routine; almost like search-and-find game. In my 30s this happened with more frequency, but I was not alarmed. Now the distress signals are blaring.

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As I approach 50, my chin resembles the Sequoia National Forest. I didn’t know so many hair follicles could sprout with such frequency. And, these are not soft pale hairs. Nope. They’re course black or gray hairs that could do some damage to my kids’ faces at a bedtime kiss.

Continue reading “A Self-Proclaimed Plucker Wages War on Midlife Hair”

Smile if You’re Adopted

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Smile! Today is World Adoption Day! It is a day to celebrate the making of families bonded by love not blood. I found out about this by reading my Facebook Page. I had no idea someone set aside a day to celebrate little ol’me. You see, I am adopted.

Really I am not narcissistic enough to believe this day is all about ME. There are a few others out there. The 2010 Census revealed that there were 1.5 million adopted children under the age of 18 and over 545,000 over the age of 18 living in the United States. And you may have heard of some famous people who have/had been adopted: Singer Faith Hill, athlete Daunted Culpepper, technology guru Steve Jobs, President Bill Clinton, author Truman Capote, activist Jesse Jackson, humanitarian Mother Teresa, singer Eric Clapton, and many more. But, I cannot tell their stories. I can only tell mine.

My Adoption Story

I was adopted at three months of age from Catholic Community Services. My parents picked me up on St. Patrick’s Day. Today, those in the adoption circles would call that “Gotcha Day!” All I really know is that I came with a big green ribbon and the knowledge that I was three-quarters Irish by birth.  This explains my love of Celtic music and Guiness beer.

Before you ask…no, I’ve never met my “real” (as classmates use to say) parents.
Yes, I had a normal upbringing—a gift from my mom and dad.  My adoption story–really my life story–is a happy one.

I have always known I was adopted, which was important because I never had an issue with it. Others may have, but I did not. Besides, I would have figured it out in early adolescence when I stood beside my statuesque, flamingo-like cousins. I was the lone duckling among a pat of flamingos.

But, I wasn’t alone. Other adopted children were a part of my every day life: my brothers, a cousin, my next-door neighbor, and family friends. Plus, my father, the legal eagle, handled a large number of adoptions in the South Florida area. Adoption was a common topic at the dinner table. Eventually, I married a man who had two adopted siblings. Surrounded as such, I knew I was not some strange anomaly in the universe.

Most of my life I never wanted to find out about my birth heritage. Partly because I was happy with my life as such and partly because I felt it would be a betrayal to my own parents to seek out information on my birth parents. Besides I was busy getting through school and starting a career. I had neither the time nor the inclination to conduct any searches. As I teacher, we all know I didn’t have a lot of extra money for any private investigators.

Do I have an identical twin out there somewhere?

In my early 30s, I did have a passing fascination with identical twins and thought I might be a separated twin. I loved reading stories about how identical twins separated in early childhood finally met and felt complete. I found it eerie that they had uncanny similarities like one set of twins were both firefighters married to a woman named Linda. They were both overweight, wore their hair the same way and owned the same breed of dog. Really, how cool is that? I often wondered what it would feel like to stare into the face of someone who looked and sounded exactly I did. It wasn’t until I had my second child that I ever saw anyone who looked like me. When I raised the idea of being a separated twin, my mother doubted the validity of my new instinct. She was confident that the adoption agency would have told them that information. So, I let that fixation go. Continue reading “Smile if You’re Adopted”

You Never Know

0001-65981100There is a reason why clichés are clichés. Yes, they are overused expressions that no respectable writer would dare scribble. (It’s a good thing I am not always respectable.) At the same time, however, the reason they are overused is because sometimes they fit exactly what you want to say. The expression, “You never know” is one of those clichés that just fit today. Every so often we all learn something about a person that surprises us, and I received a shock today that has left me profoundly sad.

I signed up to make dinner for a family in need as part of my church’s Meals that Heal Program. The only thing I knew was that the family had a grown son who had been severely disabled for a number of years, and was now in the process of dying. I did not recognize the name of the family, but I often do not know the people who are need. It’s just a small service I feel that I can perform in my busy life.

This morning I had some extra time, so I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, but then I stumbled on the name from my Meals that Heal list, and my entire body arrested. I did know someone from this family. This was Ms. Emma’s family. I know Ms. Emma because she was a teacher’s aide in my children’s preschool. I never knew her last name because in the South preschoolers call everyone by his/her first name. For some of my children’s friends, I will always be Ms. Cara.

Two of my children had the privilege of seeing Ms. Emma three days a week. At drop off, she would greet kids and moms alike with a glorious smile and a twinkle that always proclaimed that Ms. Emma loved children. For me, that is the most important characteristic a preschool teacher (in truth, all teachers) should have. A child cannot learn if she doesn’t feel loved and safe. Ms. Emma always made my children feel both.

Every year I gave all the teachers and aides a Christmas gift. The first year I gave one to Ms. Emma, she tracked me down in the hallway to give me a grand hug and a hearty thank you. I wish I could remember the gift, but it has been at least seven years, so I cannot recall what the gift was. (Seriously, I cannot recall what I ate for breakfast this morning.) I doubt the content of the gift really mattered then or now. What was significant was Emma’s graciousness and gratitude. It was her way, and I always felt warm in her presence.

Continue reading “You Never Know”

Mama Needs a Get-Away: A “Girl’s” Road Trip

Did someone say ROAD TRIP?

from smartgirlsreadromance.blogspot.com
from smartgirlsreadromance.blogspot.com

 

A friend of mine had some extra points for her timeshare apartment in San Antonio so she invited friends to enjoy some time away for 48 hours. After much maneuvering of husband and children’s schedules, I was able to gain a spot on the rockin’ van to San Anton.

Ahhhh, the Old Days
Girl trips are not what they used to be when I was young and single. Those were the days when someone made a weak suggestion about making a road trip. It could be in a bar at closing time or whispers during lunch hour at work. The next thing I knew I had an entire crew of women stuffed into my olive green Oldsmobile on the way to the closest beach.

Accommodations were whatever we could afford, usually a no-tell motel where the remote control for the TV was nailed down to the nightstand—so it wouldn’t get lost or stolen we never found out. The bath towels were so small they would barely wrap around one thigh, and were so stiff from too much bleach and detergent they could stand in the corner on their own. The hallways were active until about two in the morning when the traveling 20-somethings decided they’d had enough beer at the local pubs. Once on a road trip to Tampa, my friend and I were awakened at three AM by 18-wheelers racing in the parking lot. (I kid you not).

We did have some standards, like no bed bugs and a clean bathtub (no mildew or tufts of wet hair from the previous tenant), but as long as we could squeeze four or five ladies into one room, we were good.

We’d pack a bathing suit, a couple pair of undies, shorts and shirts. Beach chairs were mandatory and so were flip-flops. There was no thought about sunscreen and no one cared about flat irons. There were no cell phones because, well, they did not exist then, and whom would we call anyway? Anyone we wanted to talk to was sitting right next to us with her toes in the sand.

How Times Change
Times have changed for this 40-something mama of three and her posse of van rockin’ friends. First, this trip was planned 6 months in advance. With fat Sharpies we blocked out the three days that the mamas would be on sabbatical. Of course, since it was a posse of mamas, last minute emergencies came up so our gang dwindled down to three die-hard “partiers”. We got a late start because one had an appointment to hide all the grey, and two of us had doctor’s appointments. Then, we had to run by the pharmacy for blood pressure and anti-anxiety medicine, and a drive by the liquor store for some high-end tequila. (No more cans of Miller Lite.)

On the two-hour drive here, we stopped twice—once for lunch and once because our post-pregnancy bladders failed us. The accommodations were a far cry from my beach bum days. No TV with rabbit ears, no “funny” smell in the carpet, and no tight quarters. This was pure luxury—a two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and living area. The kitchen and bathrooms had granite countertops, and there were two Smart TVs with free-range remotes.

Continue reading “Mama Needs a Get-Away: A “Girl’s” Road Trip”