We don’t have to agree, but we do need to talk

I had begun a blog this week on a fabulous Geico TV commercial featuring the rarely-acknowledged triangle soloist.

And it would have been good, but my heart wasn’t in it.

The commercial features a concert with a triangle soloist putting his heart and soul into his moment in the spotlight.

Granted, it’s a commercial selling insurance, but in my humble opinion, triangle guy should be nominated for an Emmy for his acting, a Grammy for the musical performance and whatever award exists for the comedic value – it’s the trifecta that made for one of the best commercials I may ever see in my life.

Then Las Vegas happened. Another mass shooting in our country, and I could not concentrate any longer on triangle guy.

As a nation, we can and must do better. It is well past time to talk about it and find solutions.

Call me naive, but I’m sure an answer exists that will be suitable to most everyone, and more importantly, save lives.

I alone don’t have those answers, and neither do you. But together … it’s possible.

I want to be very clear: I have been a gun owner since I was 18 years old. I am, I humbly offer, a really good shot. Further, I have had two members of my family murdered with guns. I get both sides of the issue better than most.

But fundamental human rights will always win with me.

My grandson is two years and four months old. In his short life, the United States has seen 19 mass shootings with the first one of his life happening in his home state of South Carolina. four days after he was born.

Killed in these mass shootings have been 194 of our neighbors, with several hundred more injured.

I recognize I’m not in a good geographical location for this conversation, but a conversation needs to be had. This isn’t about politics, it is about human lives, the safety of which should be our utmost priority.

Like everyone else, I don’t have the answers, but I have ideas.

Some things I think are worth looking at include requiring liability insurance for gun owners; requiring the buyer’s medical information bureau file before selling a gun; banning the sale of an apparatus that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into a fully-automatic one. Those are just a few.

There are those who would say these things infringe upon their constitutional rights, but I can’t think of a greater infringment of my rights than laying on the ground with a bullet in me.

I’ve heard great ideas from many people who are looking for solutions, and who are not bolted into their way of thinking no matter what. It’s going to take a lot of compromise to get this done, but now is the time to start.

To fix this, everyone is going to have to give up something, but it is doable.

I’m sure discussions about how to prevent this from happening again have been had all over the United States this week, just like in our office.

We don’t necessarily agree on all of the solutions, but each of us brought some good ones to the table. It was a starting point, and if we can do it in our office, it can be done on a national scale.

More than 10 years ago, one person – ONE – tried to get on a plane with a bomb in their shoe. Thankfully, they were unsuccessful. Because of that, today we all have to take our shoes off to get on a plane.

Nobody says that is an infringement on our civil rights because it worked.

Do not let the bad guys win. Do good because it’s good. Act out of love, not fear. Be kind.

We all want the same thing, really, and as my favorite poet Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.”

Show up at the table with that in mind. Show up on Facebook and Twitter with that in mind.

So do your good because you know it’s good. Don’t grab the bait on social media that encourages hatefulness and discourse among the people you live among. It’s not worth it.

I want to find answers because I think life shouldn’t look like this for my grandson. So, do it for your grandchild, your grandparents or your third cousin, twice-removed. But, please, let’s talk and stop this madness.

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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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I wrote this just before a 4 day nap

I just spent a gloriously exhausting week with my daughter and grandson.

They flew back home to South Carolina Wednesday, so if you need me, I am taking a nap that should last somewhere around four days.

During the week, there was lots of food, love, and remembering going on.

And exhaustion, which is what brought about the remembering.

They say you forget, and you do. But there is no replacement for a toddler in the house to make me think, “Holy crap. I lived through that … twice.”

My almost two-year-old grandson  climbs like a mountain goat and runs like a Weeble with a track star’s legs. In addition he has the quiet determination of Jaws, and the mind of an engineer.

I don’t know how his mother is still standing, as I now need some assistance. But admirably, she is.

In retrospect, I probably should have been training for American Ninja, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want the responsibility of getting a grandma ready for the toddler olympics. “Too much, too soon,” they would say. And they would be right.

A lot has changed in the 30 years since I’ve been completely in charge of keeping a tiny human out of harm’s way. Food has changed, rules have changed and my ability to read a toddler’s mind has wavered more than a little

There’s now a thing called “Almond Milk,” and I didn’t even know you could milk an almond. But you can, and I have a half gallon of the stuff in my frig.

As a matter of fact, from what I can tell so far, almost every single thing I did with my kids should have rained certain death upon them, from letting them sleep on their stomachs as infants to never, ever feeding them green peas.

My children should never have survived me.

We had front-facing car seats, for God’s sake, but at least we had car seats.

In retrospect, I do remember my own mother driving around Littlefield, Texas, while three-year-old me stood in the front seat of her Country Squire station wagon wearing only panties and singing Downtown by Petula Clark. In the event of a sudden stop, her arm was my seatbelt. Every generation has it’s shame.

We’ve gone from free-range tots roaming in the front seat (1960’s) to sort of strapping them in the front seat (1980’s) to a four-point rear-facing seating system that faces backward in the back seat, today.

And yet we all survived.

Now they are home safe, and I am finding sad reminders that they were here – Cheerios in the couch cushions, a back that may never be straight again and that feeling in my heart that I cannot wait to be this exhausted again.

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This *is* my Christmas card

 

Because Christmas is now only four days away, I am writing a thank you note to all you kind and organized people who sent me Christmas cards through the actual postal service.

And since I am not so kind and organized as you beautiful creatures, this will serve as a combination thank you note/Christmas card back to each and every person who sent me one.

First, thank you to the eight thoughtful human beings who still send out Christmas cards.

It gives me happiness  – joy, even – to receive a Christmas card. I just have not shifted that joy to the actual act of me sending some out. There’s always next year to meet that goal, I’ve told myself the past 15 years.

Almost every card I’ve gotten this year have had pictures of families, grandkids and pets…it’s just wonderful.

I just show people pictures on my phone when I see them at the grocery store, and it saves postage and stuff.

Also, the Christmas greetings came with news of the best kinds – engagements, new babies, good grades and new jobs. Those are called Christmas missives, I think.

Last night, after I got home and read through two more, I wondered to myself, “Kari, how would you summarize your year if you actually got off your butt and became organized and stuff like normal people?”

So, I got off my butt and became organized for an hour, to write a Christmas missive and appear somewhat normal:

Hello all! Whew…what a year, and one I never hope to see again. (Which I won’t because a year has never repeated itself. Thank God).

My husband and I didn’t have a baby this year (at 52 years old, that would have been the mother of all Christmas miracles, by the way), but we did spend the year staring at an iPad every day while watching our toddler grandson play in South Carolina. It’s not creepy, it’s what I call remote grandparenting.

Twice this year, I attempted to cook. The first time was a big batch of bone broth I cooked up back in March to cure anything that ailed my husband, as directed by Pinterest. What ailed my sweet husband, ultimately, was the smell of the bone broth simmering. The broth was buried at the landfill, unceremoniously.

Then, sometime back in October, I actually cooked a meal. And it was a real one that required heat and a stove, and suggested measuring utensils  – a vast departure from the way I usually cook at fast food restaurants.

It was horrible, and took two days to get the smell of burned rubber out of the house, although rubber was not on the list of ingredients. I do love a good mystery.

They did mention the next day that they had missed my presence in the drive-through lane, and I was grateful.

My guardian angel, Grace, stepped out twice for a smoke break this year, and I fell in public. The first fall – in front of my office – mortally damaged my pride and a Route 44 sweet tea.

The second one, on an asphalt stage at Petco, shortened my spine by half an inch and took what was left of my battered pride.

My college football team didn’t win enough games to get a bowl, so I don’t really want to talk about football. But since we’re on the subject, I don’t know one thing about effective defense but I am certain my team doesn’t recruit for that.

My grandson turned one in June, and I was able to spend his birthday with him in South Carolina, which was a highlight of my year. Next time I see you at the store, I will no doubt whip out my phone so you can see just how precious he is.

Anyway, that trip led to a three week long battle with the people at the rental car place, and gave me an opportunity to put my word usage skills to work in what I call creative emails to corporate.

I won.

Lastly, I’ve watched A Christmas Carol (the one with George C. Scott) around 20 times this year alone, four of those in the past week.

With that in mind, I will end with this: Even if you don’t send out Christmas cards and missives, keep Christmas in your heart every day. The spirit is not meant to be kept one day a year, but to sustain us throughout the days when we are sprawled out on the asphalt, or making our homes smell like the ghosts of death and regret have moved in.

If we can’t find something beautiful or funny somewhere in the midst of our problems, we are destined to become much like Ebeneezer Scrooge before the intervention.

Be a blessing to someone, and laugh through your tears.

God bless us, everyone. We all need it.

Note: I will be in South Carolina this year, living with the ghost of Christmas present

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To Elijah Gray, with love from YaYa

This may just be my favorite blog I’ve ever penned.

Sunday, my daughter and her husband, Karilea and Branden, became the parents of the most beautiful and smartest baby boy ever born, Elijah Gray Cate. If you don’t believe me, just ask them.

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I met my first grandchild after flying into South Carolina Tuesday, and I have to say I agree with their assessment. Because when you see other babies that belong to other people, your first reaction is, “what a sweet and pretty baby.” But when that baby belongs to your child, your first reaction is “there’s an entire space in my heart that belongs to you and only you.”

That’s what happened to me, anyway.

But please don’t you think for one minute that I’m one of those grandmothers who’s going to run up to you and shove my cell phone in your face, determined to make you see just how amazing he is. Because I can’t – I’m in South Carolina with the little man. But rest assured by this time Monday, I will be home and all bets are off.

However, I have learned some valuable lessons this week I’m going to share.

It’s impossible to type a blog while holding my grandson. It’s not just that my hands are busy, or that my eyes can only be diverted from him for a maximum of 10 seconds. It just so happens that when this guy was born, my brain rewired and when he’s in the room he is all I can see or think about.

In fact, this blog is brought to you by a pediatric appointment I wasn’t invited to.

It is possible to live without makeup, a straightening iron, deodorant and my own clothes for longer than 24 hours (and counting). Thank you American Airlines, for that timely lesson. I’m thankful Eli doesn’t care. And since he doesn’t, luckily I don’t and that translates to a less angry customer because of Eli. This is unlike me, and as such American Airline should give Eli free airfare for life. I hope you’re listening AA, because he lives in South Carolina and I live in Texas, and it would make up for the pain and suffering my 1980’s band hair is causing everyone around me.

It gives me no comfort that my daughter and her husband found out their first night home that ‘paying for their raising’ means the child they brought home from the hospital and the child who spent his first night with them played out like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.

He went from a sleepy, sleepy baby who didn’t care if or when he ate to hungry, hungry hippo at the stroke of midnight. The first night home was described as “trial by six pounds of fire.” Welcome to the wonderful, exhaustive world of parenting, Karilea and Branden. It will totally be worth it, a fact you will realize after you get a full night’s sleep in six months or so.

The last lesson I learned is that when I have the opportunity to hold this little man, I’m going to take it because I have to return home  to Texas sometime. With that, I’m saying goodbye. Eli calls.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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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Going back to baby dolls and matchbox cars

The days and weeks leading up to Christmas this year have reminded me that things don’t stay the same. Nothing is static, and as much as it sucks sometimes, nothing is meant to stay the same.

Fifty years ago and for several years after, Christmas was all about me. I was a kid and Christmas is for kids, right? Right.

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When it was all about me . . . OK, and my brother and sisters.

Then I had two of my own children, and Christmas was all about them. The homemade ornaments, visits with Santa, decorated cookies and Christmas parties were a beautiful reminder of the wonder and joy of Christmas time.

My kids then did a necessary and wonderful thing. They grew up.

Dolls and matchbox cars were traded for car stereos and guitars; and later for luggage and 400-thread-count sheets. And even as they began to leave for college and get married, I naively thought Christmas was a promise that we would all be together as a family. And for a few years into their adulthood, we were.

My son moved across the country two years ago, and since he doesn’t have a spouse’s family to consider, flies home every year at Christmas.  But my daughter and her husband moved earlier this year to South Carolina, which is where the whole change and fairness stuff comes in.

This year my daughter and her husband are spending Christmas in Tennessee with his family, and it’ll be the first time in her 28 years on earth that I haven’t hugged her sweet neck on Christmas morning. I’m not joyous over it, but it is fair because he’s spent the last two Christmases with us and not his own family.

It has taken me a couple months to wrap my head around all of these unplanned (by me) changes. And for the first time in my life, I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas.

The first week into this month I hadn’t started Christmas shopping and I’m usually through by then. I seriously considered not decorating my house – if you know me well, that’s almost considered a cry for help.

I finally decided I was going to force-feed myself some Christmas spirit. I shopped, decorated and made myself bake cookies, which turned out to be some amazing and fattening therapy.

I watched A Christmas Carol (the good one, with George C. Scott) on a continuous loop, until I started answering my husband in an authentic-to-me British accent. This is a problem because he doesn’t think it’s funny the first time, or the seventeenth.

I put on my big girl panties and shipped Christmas gifts to South Carolina and have talked to my daughter as often as I can.

And finally, I got news that helped me understand that change, even at Christmas, is a good thing.

We just recently found out that my daughter and her husband have promoted the Bobby and me to grandparents, effective June of 2015. Which means Christmas will be all dolls and matchbox cars again starting next year.

This year on Christmas day, I will  have my son and my husband home with me and my daughter and her husband on FaceTime speed dial.

It’s a good and very merry Christmas.

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