It’s not what you ask, it’s who you ask

I try, I really do. But I am ‘that mom’.

Last week after Hurricane Irma hit Florida and continued on a northwestern bend, I was talking to my daughter on FaceTime. She told me about how they were expecting high winds in South Carolina, a lot of rain and probably a tornado or two because there were “on the tornado side of the hurricane.”

The fact that a hurricane is a all-you-can-eat buffet of natural disasters did not escape me, which caused me to say the words no mother should probably utter.

“Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tornado?,” I asked my daughter as I caught a glance of my two-year-old grandson sprinting behind her with an apple he appeared to have just stolen in an effort to not starve in the aftermath of the tornado.

She gave me this look, one that lay steadily in the space between exasperation and anger management in action. One that I have had on my face before when I felt someone had underestimated my immeasurable skills.

“I’m 31. I have a plan,” she managed to say without opening her teeth.

In my defense, I contacted every friend and family member I had on both coasts to make sure they had a plan. I just can’t help myself.

Also, my son lived in Boston during historic snowfalls, so I eat worry for breakfast. This time, to her brother’s relief, it was my daughter’s turn.

I didn’t ask her to send me bullet points of her plan. Instead, I went over her house plan in my head and surmised the hall closet was the best place to go. I never told her because I’m sure she already thought of it, Plus … that look.

I just hope she remembers to move the bowling ball she keeps in there for posterity – to California or somewhere equally as far away from a tornado.

When I talked to her the next day, businesses in South Carolina had shut down, so her husband was home from work and taking a nap with their tiny force of nature and his emergency apple.

My daughter was calmly decorating cookies in this rare peace, except the wind was blowing like a gazillion miles an hour outside. Still, she talked to me on FaceTime using zen-like motions to decorate cookies, the bowling ball clearly not in her thoughts.

She was on top of her cookie game, so I assumed she would wake up her crew and calmly herd them toward the bowling ball-free closet in the event that a tornado meandered through their part of South Carolina. She was never called to do that, and I will never know about the bowling ball.

Two hurricanes of massive proportion within two weeks of each other is insanity. I am certain I’m not the only mother this month who asked their child if they were prepared in the event of  hurricane-related shenanigans.

And I won’t be the last, I’ll just ask my son-in-law next time.

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My Harvard education almost killed me

Sometimes we learn things we weren’t even curious about, and in the most unlikely of places – like the origin of a college mascot on the campus of a completely unrelated college.

This is how my life works most of the time.

Since I don’t know what else to do with this information, I’m writing about it so it may potentially help others understand that naming a college mascot is not necessarily an academic endeavor.

I traveled to Boston last week with two of my closest friends, Mary and Lynda, to visit my son who is moving to Wisconsin soon.

It was a trip to see Boston one more time before the move and I wanted to show my friends a good time.

And if finding a slew of weird nuts is a good time, then I succeeded admirably.

While walking through the campus of Harvard University – the oldest institution of higher education in America founded in 1636 –  we stumbled across some odd nut-like things on the ground underneath a tree.

Spoiler alert: they were not philosophy professors after an all-night bender.

buckeye_3

This is a drunk professor.

Other than looking like it would sting like none other if one was thrown at you, they were unremarkable – like big, misshapen acorns.

Buckeye_1This is a Buckeye. The difference is subtle.

As I was channeling my inner squirrell and trying to crack the shell, my son was consulting with Google. About the same time I got to the nut, he announced that what we held in our hands was a Buckeye.

“Like the Ohio State Buckeyes?” I asked.

He confirmed I had just crushed the mascot of Ohio State, and I felt strangely powerful.

I’ve never seriously wondered what a Buckeye might be because I usually get distracted by their band, because have you seen their half-time show? But the vague image that pops into my head when I watch Ohio State football has been a cross between a powerful deer-like creature and a vegetable.

I was close-ish.

buckeye_2

See?

Still, I actually bit off a small piece of the nut, which had no taste, then heard a phrase I’ve become familiar with – “I can’t believe you’re doing that.”

It was about this time that Google told us Buckeyes are poisonous, but it was too late.

I was already infused with the deadly Buckeye spirit which means I should probably cheer for them since I didn’t die from eating their mascot.

I also learned that their poison has no taste, which makes Buckeyes even more formidable opponents.

It gave me a strange sense of comfort to learn that Ohio State is not simply Home of the Fighting Buckeyes (read: weird nuts), but actually Home of the Fighting Buckeyes (read: potentially deadly nut missiles.)

I don’t even know Harvard’s mascot. Perhaps I’ll find out when I visit Ohio State.

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Snow way….

A good friend of mine said his teenage son described school being cancelled this week because of snow and ice as “one of the best moments of his life.”

We at the Leader got a similar snow day Monday, and I concur with my friend’s son.

Seriously, the only thing more compelling than not getting ready for work on a Monday morning was drinking coffee in my bed while watching the weather.

I realize that our readers in the Northeast part of the United States are rolling their eyes at our inability to
deal with a whopping quarter inch of ice in North Texas, but still I remain an advocate for snow days.

Why? Because I’m writing this in my pajamas, that’s why. And no makeup.  And my hair all bunched up in a scrunchy with a dog laying across my lap. Monday redefined the way work should feel for me because very little got done.

So what does a full-grown adult do during a surprise snow day?

I ate Frosted Flakes and watched Law & Order: Criminal Intent until I overdosed on sugar and useless knowledge.

I deep-conditioned my hair, and got out of the shower to find that my dogs had grown posable thumbs allowing them to open the bathroom door and carry out various items like houseshoes, the leggings I wore the day before and a washcloth, like cat burglars – only they’re dogs.

It was impressive but when I checked for thumbs I found none. So I spent the next 15 minutes of my snow day checking the house for the intruder who let my dogs in the bathroom.

About that time, my Boston-living son sent me a picture of what it looks like in his part of the country.

 

After receiving close to 91 inches of snow since January 23, you could imagine Boston looked . . . snowy. It should have made me feel like a sloth.

Boston_snow

The picture he sent was taken in front of his job at UMASS Boston and featured a snow-covered everything. Which means he walked several blocks in several feet of snow to the subway station; and several blocks to campus from a subway station to get to work.

And there I sat at home in my favorite pajamas with a shower cap on my head in the middle of a Monday because North Texas got less than a half inch of ice. And I’m OK with that.

I’m OK with it because car accidents around here begin about 30 minutes before the snow, sleet or rain while people are rushing to the grocery store to prepare for what they imagine will be the apocalypse.

The wrecks continue until people stop updating their Facebook statuses about the weather while driving around to check road conditions, usually up to 24 hours after the sleet stops.

I choose to deep condition my hair instead of driving on ice because I’ve never seen my life flash before my eyes while I was wearing a shower cap.

Texas_snow

I responded to my son with a ‘tragic beauty’ picture of my own, taken of my snow-covered back patio with a light dusting on an adirondack chair with this message: “We will overcome. Know that.”

And we did. I was back at work on Tuesday.

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You may leave my underwear out of this

Grant Triplow.

Today I’m going to talk about underwear, so if it makes you uncomfortable this is your chance to stop reading.

I’m looking at you, husband.

Everybody has a sacred cow and other things people shouldn’t jack with. Mine, I found out recently  during a seemingly innocuous conversation, seems to be my panties (also known as underwear, unmentionables or skivvies.)

My son, Tom, who lives in Boston, told me that the pay-per-load washer and dryer in the basement of the house he rents was out of order during the entire month of December.

This made it necessary for Tom to find alternative means of washing his wardrobe, which isn’t the easiest thing to do when you live in Boston and use public transportation.

Being a mother, I’m pretty sure it crossed my mind to have him ship his dirty clothes to me, which I would ship back all clean and folded. Then I’m pretty sure I remembered that I hate doing laundry, so the offer was never made.

Not to worry, he told me he was walking his dirty clothes to a laundry that charges $1 a pound to do what I’m not willing to do for free.

Suddenly, I’m wondering if we have one of these amazing services in this area, which I’m sure we don’t because I have begun to believe that only Boston has the stuff I think I should not have to  live without like huge unicorn statues on public buildings and pizza that taste like it was ordained by God.

Boston_unicorn

That is a large unicorn you see on the top right of that fine building.

The next part of our conversation went like this:

Tom: It’s a pain in the butt, but it works.

Me: I’m glad you’ve got a laundry in walking distance and all, but tell me this . . . even the underwear?

Tom: Especially the underwear.

Me: WHAT? Just go ahead and make me grab my diaries and throw ‘em on the table at Thanksgiving . . . That’s how exposed I would feel.

(Sidenote: I’m afraid me and a bottle of Woolite would have date night once a week before I would farm out my unmentionables to a laundry service.)

Tom: It’s just underwear, Mom.

Me: Says you, sir.

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2014 Warp-up

For a record sixth year in a row, this was not my year to send out Christmas Cards.

It’s not a personality defect – I could pave the road to hell with my intentions – it’s just that given a choice between paving stones and Christmas cards, well, you know which one I chose.

I  actually tossed around the idea of writing a Christmas letter, which is actually a letter written after Christmas and mailed around New Year’s Day when that second wind hits.

I considered this method of greeting even though no one in my family had their first ballet recital; had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; or graduated law school. Then I thought about what I would write if I did do one of those letters and I have to admit, I had a good year.

So I wrote it down.

I’ll take the dog for $2,400, Alex

My 2014 began with my dog, Erma, eating a $2,400 beach towel. It didn’t begin as a $2,400 beach towel,  it actually cost $18.99 in it’s original form when purchased from Target. It’s value grew to $2,400 on it’s way out of Erma by way of a skilled veterinary surgeon. Erma is fine now, although a slow learner as I just dug an entire paper towel out of her slimy throat.

Erma_sick

Erma, the day after surgery, with no hint of a lesson learned in her eyes.

 

49 and holding . . . . nevermind

I turned 49 years old last January and around that auspicious date had the thought that I should lose 10 pounds before my fiftieth birthday. I only have 15 pounds to go and three weeks to get there.

Meanwhile in Dayton, Ohio . . . 

I attended my second Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in  April where I got to learn, laugh and rub elbows with the likes of Phil Donohue, author, columnist and damn funny woman Gina Barreca, comedian Judy Carter and some of the funniest women in the United States.

Late one evening several of us were sitting in the courtyard of the hotel telling stories involving Israel, Toastmaster’s and traditional marriage when it came completely unhinged. Judy Carter laughed so hard she threw up in the bushes next to the reception tent. This caused Gina Barreca to emit a combination laugh/scream so loud it woke the people up  who were sleeping in rooms adjacent to the courtyard, which in turn caused me to wet my pants. It was a vicious, beautiful cycle of laughter, wailing, puking and happy pee.

Gina and Judy

Two of the funniest women on earth, Judy and Gina.

In yet another exchange earlier in the day, I complimented Gina on her hair. It is curly, beautiful and everything I wish my naturally curly hair could be, since mine is an underachiever with a bad attitude and an early-1970’s Robert Plant complex. I especially complimented her bangs, which were perfect in a way mine refuse to be, asking, “How do you get your bangs to do that?” She answered, “Doll, where I’m from, ‘bangs’ is a verb.” I hope and pray that ends up as a chapter title in one of her future books.

Good times.

Then there was Boston . . . 

My son, although not an attorney, did get his master’s degree in English from UMASS in May, which is even better because we use words every single day. The commencement ceremony lasted a record number of hours, and ended when the last remaining graduate on the stage entered a nursing home.

My daughter, mother and two of my sisters made the trip to graduation and we stayed at a hotel in the heart of Boston, where good food abounds at every corner. We ate wild boar tacos, drank a mescal old fashioned (which I renamed “Satan’s Scrotum” and do not recommend unless you really want to sweat out something that smells like lighter fluid mixed with regret) and generally sampled all things not easily found in north Texas. However, one of my sisters whose name I won’t divulge (Kim) was seriously upset that she couldn’t find a baked potato anywhere. After a couple of mescal old fashioneds, she blacked out and hushed her mouth.

Kim_blog

Kim (the one standing IN THE CHAIR) encouraging UMASS grads to pursue better health through baked potatoes.

Also, I managed to meet a man named Isis who was on the secret service detail of the Turkish Prime Minister and staying at our hotel. I learned zero Turkish words that trip, but speak Turkish sign language almost fluently.

He can’t take me anywhere

My husband has insisted for a while now that he “can’t take me anywhere.” (His words, not mine. He can, he just doesn’t like to) So, when he did take me somewhere –  Jason’s Deli – the 18-year-old taking our order asked us if we were with the party in the back. I answered, “No ma’am, we are with the business in the front.” Then I laughed and laughed, all by myself.

How I found out Jesus uses the U.S. Postal Service . . . 

I work at a weekly newspaper that mails issues to subscribers. Outside of our community, we suspect our papers get to their destination by way of the good old-fashioned Pony Express (and possibly some mescal), but without the express part. Sometimes it takes a week to get 30 miles. Finally, in November a sweet woman from a neighboring community put her problems in getting her Iowa Park Leader in a timely manner into God’s Hands, and this is envelope we got her renewal check in:

lettertojesus

I sincerely hope her prayers are answered, although history tells me it will be another 2 weeks before we know.

 

Not that I’m getting older, but . . . 

I officially anounced it last week when the gag order lifted, but it’s worth mentioning again – I’m going to be a grandmother(!). A G-Ma. Grandmummy.

And although the baby will be born a foreigner – all the way in South Carolina – my own father was an immigrant from Oklahoma, so it will be just fine.

What I didn’t talk about was the month-long debate that can be equated to a peace summit in which grandparent names were chosen, then shot down in a blaze of relatively little glory. All I will say for now is that my grandchild will not be calling me Queenie even though I had a couple of tiaras on stand-by to wear to the birth.

 And Finally,

Raise a little hell.

A quick back-story about these socks: We attended a Christmas party where we were required to bring a $5 gift. I brought these even though they were $7 on sale, mostly because I wanted the hell out of them. So I made my husband take them during the gift exchange because I knew he wouldn’t wear them on a bet and they would end up on my sweet feet.

I was right, and now I own a pair of power socks.

hellraiser socks

The best socks in the history of ever.

I love them because they remind me that raising a little hell is not a bad thing. Standing up for what you believe in; changing the things you don’t like; righting wrongs . . . . those are things worth raising hell over. So go out this year and be a hell raiser. Raise money or awareness for a cause you believe in. Dare to laugh until you puke, without an apology. Stand up for a person who is being unfairly treated – for God’s sake, stand up for yourself. Dare to treat yourself like your own best friend during the next 365 days.

Most of all, find your moments of happiness and joy and spread ’em around a little.

Thank you for coming to this blog and playing with me every once in a while. You keep me going and laughing and thinking, and for that I am truly grateful.

Now go out there and raise a little of your own hell in 2015.

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None of this Happened in a Turkish Prison


 

I love Texas. I love Iowa Park. But I have a long-standing policy to leave them both occasionally just to see what else is out there. 

 

 And although I didn’t even step foot outside this fine state until I was in my mid-20’s – something that horrifies me to this day – I believe travelling to different parts of the United States have made me a more well-rounded person, more empathetic and more open to other lifestyles and cultures.

 

It also gives me the opportunity to meet people like my new Turkish friend, Isis.

 

I was going to write this last week, but I still had lingering concerns that somehow the Turkish government would find out about it and offer me lira to recant my story.  But  I can’t spend a lira anywhere in these parts that I know of, so I’m taking my chances.

 

While we were in Boston for my son’s graduation from UMASS,  we stayed at a hotel right in the middle of downtown in a very ritzy district. Expedia did not fail me and found us a great rate for this hotel. Well, a great rate for a Boston hotel anyway.

 

I woke up on Friday morning (graduation day) and the sun was beaming through the window like it was high noon on the prairie and I thought I had gone and missed graduation. A panicked look at the clock told me it was all of 5:30. And that was in the a.m. part of the day.

 

Not one to take a chance, I ventured downstairs in my sweatpants in search of coffee and meaning at this hour. Then I sat outside on a bench in front of the hotel and marveled at how many people function outside their homes before 6 a.m.

 

Before long I was joined by a man in a custom suit with a small badge on his lapel, and a very secret service-like earpiece. Feeling very proud that the hotel had given me my own bodyguard this soon in our relationship (they do value my business!), I looked at him and said, “You people in Boston wake up entirely too early.”

 

To which he replied, “I don’t speak English,” Only it didn’t come out that smooth. In fact, I was sure he had just depleted his entire knowledge of the English language.

 

Because I enjoy talking to people, I immediately switched to my second language, which is homemade sign language combined with English spoken v-e-r-y- s-l-o-w-l-y. Turns out neither of us are fluent in that either. But through the magic of making roof symbols with our hands, he learned I was from Texas and I learned he was from Turkey.

 

He knew the word “Texas”, bringing the grand total of English words he knew to five. Which was five more words than I know in Turkish.

 

The most I knew about Turkey previous to this incident is that they are famous for their baths and prisons, and I eat a bird named after them every Thanksgiving. After that, I’m completely tapped out on knowledge.

 


I had to. You know that, right?

 

I also found out his name is Isis, but I don’t remember the sign language I had to use to get it.

 

And since I didn’t know how to sign “What the hell are you doing in Boston?”,  I said goodbye and went upstairs to clean up.

 

The remainder of the day –when I wasn’t watching my son graduate, eating or shopping – was spent putting 30 years of journalism experience to good use. 

 

I was able to find out from hotel staff that the Prime Minister of Turkey was in town for his son’s graduation from Harvard the same day, and  I was lucky enough to get to make non-sensical hand gestures at one of his secret service guys.

 

He wasn’t the only member of the security detail in front of the hotel, but he was the only one who would make eye contact, which is pretty much all it takes for me. Just ask anyone who knows me.

 

We watched these guys all day – polishing cars, talking into their lapels and being hyper-alert to loud noises.

 

Later that night my daughter, sister and mom were out on what I now call the “Sit and Learn” bench in front of the hotel. My daughter was playing a game on her iPad, and the rest of us were discussing the odds of finding a baked potatoanywhere in Boston  when my new Turkish friend re-appeared. 

 

I introduced Isis to everyone. Actually, I just pointed at him and said, “This is Isis,” because it was late, we were tired, and nobody looked like they had the energy for a late-night round of charades.

 

He seemed very happy to meet them until my sister, Kim,  asked if he was . . . packing heat.

 

Isis didn’t understand the words “gun”, “heat” or “weapon”, so Kim made the international symbol for gun with her fingers. He pulled the right side of his suit coat back to reveal that he did in fact carry whatever the Turkish word is for big, scary gun.  Because seriously, what else would you use to protect the Prime Minister of Turkey? A slingshot?

 

After a moment of awkward silence,  Isis looked at my daughter, pointed to her iPad and said, “Candy Crush?” which brought his command of the English language to seven words.

 

He had the most innocent face, which is most certainly a facade since I’m reasonably sure that guys in his position have to be able to kill someone at a moment’s notice. But Isis, he looked as innocent as a little Turkish baby lamb.

 

Saturday morning found us back on the Sit and Learn bench, watching the Prime Minister’s drivers wiping down the fleet of Black Mercedes and BMWs, the secret service cautiously trying to avoid eye contact with us, and another crew loading up a large U-Haul truck with all of the items a Prime Minister with a shopping addiction could possible need.

 

Isis found us before they left and said goodbye – in sign language. 

 

The point is, none of that would have happened if I refused to get out, look around and ask questions. 

 

Of course, the Turkish government could already have begun loading my dossier with information I don’t even know about myself. But they’ll have to come to Texas to find me – until I leave town again.

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