Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's Not A Goodbye, It's A See Ya Later

At 6 am this morning, on a restless night without sleep, I've done everything possible including emptying the trash in the bathroom as a diversion...having an extremely difficult time finding the strength to walk across and 10 feet down the hall to wake these children up to make the longest drive to Nashville. 

This is what it feels like to be a parent, torn between letting them sleep longer and keeping them innocent by protecting these two kids who do not yet know the seriousness of their Grampa's health and the pain of losing a grandparent or exposing them to heartache. 

I hardly slept last night. I have an extremely heavy heart. Jeff​​, Wendy​​, Pandora, her boyfriend Cliff, Maverick, Phaedra, and I will gather together as a family this afternoon to say goodbye to Mr. Steve​​, their doting and affectionate Dad/Grampa. 

Thank you's and appreciation to the outpouring of affection and the emotional support of friends and extended family, especially Diane​​, Blaine​​, and The Bowens. Prayers, thoughts, and vibes to the Janovetzes for the emotional heartbreak they will endure within the next few minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bah, Humbug!

After arriving home from work this evening to grass waving from the driveway cracks in the bitter, cold, December wind, the front walk covered in an forgotten pile of autumn leaves, the shirked weeds and thriving crab grass in the flower beds never having been pulled this spring, and an avoided pile of mail sitting on the coffee table for longer than a month I made a decision. This year, I'm going to treat Christmas as the kids treat chores. 

They are going to have to remind me every day damn that Christmas is coming. Oh, I will already know it is here and I have obligations to complete Christmas activities. Advent calendars, baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, purchasing gifts, wrapping presents: I am not interested in doing it! 

I will see Christmas looming in front of me, directly in front of me, crossing the days off of the calendar. But, I will walk on past it and pretend it is not here. If it is brought up, I will pretend to think about it. I will pout about it. I will fight about it. I will avoid it at all costs. I will scream "It's already been done!" when clearly it has not. 

I am sure I will see lists of Christmas wishes. I will even volunteer to buy some of those items on the wish lists. But, in the end I will not do it. If I am forced, after repeated reminders and eventual threats, to participate I will do it begrudgingly, half-assed, hurriedly, and frantically as I hear the clatter of hooves on the roof and see that Jolly Fat Man sliding down the chimney. So, if they ask for something specific, only after I have saved every world on the Xbox, returned every text, gone to every party, and posted all of my selfies, possibly by St. Patrick's Day, give or take, I will eventually get around to it.  Then, I might purchase and gift the cheap, dollar store version. In return I will expect full accolades and praise. 

If children celebrated Christmas like they complete chores I would save a ton of money and even more time. It is no wonder I am not in the spirit. If anyone is interested in lifting my saccharine cheer, you can earn the gifts I've already purchased. 




Bah, humbug! You can keep your Christmas! 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cousins and Best Friends

I'm absolutely smitten with my nephews, Linus (newly 4, Trey's son) and Max (barely hanging on to 3, Blaise's son). These two are not only cousins but best friends! In fact, with Blaise's newest assignment stationed in Texas, these two have been separated for two months. Despite that Max remembers his best friend and has taken to calling his new little, best friend Linus. Even though the little, best friend, Texas boy's name is Aiden, Max refers to him as Linus Aiden because the name Linus is synonymous with "best friend."

This week before Max came into town, Linus asked his Mommy every day, "What day is today? What day will I play with Max?" 

I couldn't be more excited that these two little Wildlings were able to run around yesterday with Pap-made jet packs, swords, giant bouncy balls, rocket explosions supervised by Pap, screaming in delight, and playing "Superman" on Blaise.  

Linus is not pictured, he's camera shy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Boys in High School

This summer Phaedra was invited to a boy's birthday party. I take her by the boy's house and his father runs out to meet me at the car. As I drive away I don't know that I've done the right thing by dropping her off. I call Jeff. 

"Hey, that boy's dad met me at the car to introduce himself."

"Yeah. That's respectable."

"He gave me his phone number, his wife's phone number, and the boy's phone number."

"That's a good sign."

"They're going to the mall, to see a movie, and then having cake back at the house."

"Okay. What's the problem?"

"His dad was real excited about Phaedra attending because the boy doesn't have any friends and... Well, she was the only one invited to the birthday party. It gives me the creeps."

"I'll call her."

Here's why it gives me the creeps. First of all Jeff has a rule for the kids, No dating until he or she can drive so they can get out of a situation if it's not comfortable. Period. I feel like Phae got tricked by that old one, "Come to my party. Surprise! It's a party for two." Next, a person without any friends sets off red flags like rockets. As I drive away to secretly park around the corner to speed dial Jeff, I'm thinking, "Is he a weirdo? Why doesn't he have friends? Does he murder cats in his backyard? That's why nobody likes him? Come to think of it, I didn't see any strays on the way over here. Fuck! I just dropped her off on a surprise date to be murdered. She'll be buried with the cats by the time I come back to retrieve her." 

My phone rings, "She said it's fine. She's just friends with him She's there because he doesn't have friends. Aren't you the one the tells her to be nice to everyone?"

Yeah, it's true. I tell her to be nice to everyone because everyone deserves a kind smile and words of encouragement. But! In this case she just needs to be nice, not become friends with him. Besides, when the crazy one climbs up to the top of the water tower with a high powered scoped riffle when he looks down at you, you want him to think, 'She was nice to me, I'll spare her life." Not become friends with the weirdo! 

She survived the surprise date and became friends with him.  The friend thing was much to my chagrin. 

Fast forward to a month ago when she tells me she has a new boyfriend. Can you guess who it is? 

I try not to let my face show disapproval, "Is that...?"

"Yeah, he has friends now that he's in high school."


"I've gotta light a candle for her." In my head I begin composing my prayer, "Dear God, please let him to no longer be killing neighborhood animals and not move on to making human sacrifices. And, help me to keep my mouth shut when she talks about him."

Last week she comes to me, "Andrew asked me to the Snowflake masquerade."

"Who is Andrew?"

"My friend." 

She says it like I go to her school and I should know all of the boys in her class. No. That's not the case. I only know about Hot Griffin (because there is more than one Griffin) and I'm seriously contemplating starting a countdown clock to his 18th birthday: three years, seven days, tick, tick, tick.

"What happened to..." I wave my hand in the air trying to conjure the cat killer's name, "umm..."

"I dumped him, weeks ago." 

I can hear the entire cast of Sister Act singing in my ear! I start moving my right arm in a circular motion and walking like I'm ghost-riding a whip with a little Bankhead bounce.


"Wait! What?"

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing. Just got a song stuck in my head. Who is Andrew?" 

She told me all about Andrew and yet all I know is he's tall, blonde, blue eyed, and looks like a surfer. But who is he? And what happened to the cat-killer? 

She talked for three hours straight. The kind of incessant high school girl social chatter that somehow lets her breathe while talking inwards and outwards. 

"He did what?!?!!"

"Yeah, I found out he was flirting with other girls and he told my best friend that he wanted to find out what it was like to kiss her."

"Phaedra, do you let him kiss on you? And you're not mad at your best friend?"

"Eww, no. I don't kiss on boys. No, that's just how she is."

I'll seriously never understand the "that's just how she/he is excuse."

As she was talking the one-long-multi-syllables-three-hour-in-length word she showed me a photo in her phone of a boy kissing her cheek. I'll let one of you be the messenger to Jeff on that. So, she lets boys kiss on her...?

"Good," I wink, "because boys still have cooties, except for your Dad. You're better off without that other boy. He clearly doesn't respect you."

I think the conversation is over. Until this morning while I'm getting ready for work. She comes into the kitchen. 

"I talked to that boy last night for many hours."

"Why? I thought your best friend is dating him now."

"No, she's only going to Snowflake with him. She likes someone else.  He was being a real jerk to me."

She read the entire string of texts to me. He has the nerve to be mad at her because she's not interested in dating him again. Never was I so grateful that I didn't have text messaging in high school. Secondly, I'm glad that she seeks advice from me about her dilemmas. Here's what I told her.

"I don't know why you'd put up with that. You don't have to tolerate it. There's always gonna be another man that wants to date you that is going to bend over backwards to treat you right so you don't have to put up with some kid that wants to cheat on you with your best friend and talk down to you. You were his friend when he didn't have one. Not one friend! 

You tell him that you're tired of his crap. You tell him that I've taught you that the point of dating is to find someone who compliments you and vice versa. Dating let's you know who you want to settle down to marry. You tell him he is clearly not someone who exhibits qualities that you find redeeming and he does not qualify as husband material. Now, all of that being stated, don't you go looking for a husband. You're in the ninth grade; school comes first. But, you put him in his place and let him know you don't play that way."

Last, I want to bust this boy upside his head for trying to break her down, blaming her for his decisions, and not being accountable for his actions. He's damn lucky Pandora and Bleu haven't been sicked upon him; one goes for the throat while the other will give a swift kick in the...well, he'll feel it. That's for sure. But, I'm going to let her stand up for herself. Confidence in oneself breeds respect. 

Phaedra, keep holding your head up high. Be proud that you stand up for yourself. I'm proud of you. 

p.s. Everything I said about boys having cooties is true. It's passed through kissing, even on the cheek. Actually, it's on their skin too. They shoot them like laser beams from their eyes too. Hot Griffin and the super-cute boy from Maverick's Boy Scouts especially have cooties. It's best you stay away from all of them all together, even eye contact. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Emperor's New Clothes

This past winter The Silver Fox gave me a dress with the excuse that it is too short for her. I kept it in my closet until today. 

I build an outfit around the dress, something that I really love. 

I get to work, take a trip to the restroom, and primp infront of the mirror. I take a closer look. Is that my panty line? No. Are you kidding me? Those are my actual panties! 

My freaking dress is completely see through!!! 

I see a theme this week! 

As I'm standing behind a tree hiding from the penetrating rays of the autumn sunshine at Phaedra's last Cross Country meet of the season being a self-conscious, stalkerish-looking weirdo (because I'm by myself behind a freaking tree!) a Cross Country mom from her team approaches me, "You are hot! You are so put together. Your outfit is awesome. How do you do that?"

I am? I guess she can't see my vagina! Or maybe she can?  Blush. I wonder if she'll tell me again? 

"Thank you," a huge smile spreads across my face.

The Emperor doesn't have anything on my new clothes! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Damn Fine Friendship

She slides the swim cap off of her head. Her damp light brown hair is cut in a bob that rests below her ears. She dangles thin, lanky arms with a sweeping reach to grab her beach towel that is lazily draped over the chain link fence. She stands on long muscular swimmers legs that hold a deep tan as she dries herself off and easily slips into perfectly fitted Teva sandals.

I met her just after my thirteenth birthday when I began to attend our shared summer camp. Since that moment she has been in my life. She has always been my friend yet, I do not remember meeting her. Her family has always been an extension of mine and she is more than a best friend. She is my sister.

"All the kids are in the dorms from General Swim. We better get to the chalet to take showers if we're going to make it to dinner on time," a wicked grin spreads across her face. She yells, "I'll race you," as she shoots out of the pool gate, leaving me to lock the gate of the pool. She scampers across the street, and scrambles up the outdoor, rusty, iron staircase. When she reaches the top of the stairs she rips her towel off in a pseudo striptease, waving it over her head, she yells "Yeah-ahhh!"

She turns her attention into the chalet. Yelling through the open door and down the hallway, "Hey you Bitches, I get dibs on the the next shower!" She hangs her towel over the deck's banister then disappears into the chalet followed by uproarious laughter.

She can be abrasively jovial. She is mischievous. She is wildly sensational. She exudes adventure. You can tell that whatever her plan is with the slightest twinkle in her eyes it is going to be righteous.

Together we have confiscated Cheetos. We have searched for bear towels. We have made "The Patented Ho-Catcher 2000." We sang songs as lullabies that were clearly not lullabies to 50 girls at summer camp. We stood with our arms around each other at an outdoor Counting Crows concert where it spontaneously rained throughout their performance of "Rain King." We have skinny dipped, or in my case chunky dunked. We have gone night skiing. We have hunted snipe. We have stayed in a hostel in the Appalachian Mountains - talk about terrifying. We have been OOTC, Out of the Circle, and she has tucked me into a drunken sleep on a Bud Light Mattress or two. She has held my hair back and reminded me of every drunken, asinine idea I attempted the night before. I can tell you a myriad of other stories and tidbits with the photographs to prove it all, but I will not implicate myself more than I already have.

Our friendship has lasted through always living at least five hours away from each other, being middle school pen pals - I still have those letters, high school, sporadic weekend visits, shopping trips on Forbes Aveunu, our Grandmothers lighting candles for our protection, spending summers together, cars breaking down on the interstate, colleges, transferring colleges across the country, her overseas adventure with college abroad, countless Mr. Wrongs, road trips, concerts, changing cities, and her spectacularly lively country RamCat wedding and marriage to her equally rambunctious, audacious, thrill-seeking husband. Our most recent reunion occurred this month when she and J2 secretly planned a hurried visit on a two-night stopover from a cross country drive. After seeing each other five years ago at her RamCat One Year Wedding Anniversary we were back together.

She is exactly as my memory holds her. One moment she debates the latest methods of pedagogy and in the next moment she is masterminding saving the world through activism and the benefits of recycling. Two minutes later she is proudly expressing herself in the lyrics of 1980's rock anthems at the top of her lungs. She lives in the moment and loves wholeheartedly.

This is Chelsea.

Although we rarely see each other, when we do, we pick up exactly where we left off. That is damn fine friendship.

Jeep riding through the ghettos and barrios of Memphis. Alright, this was taken in Bartlett.

We stopped for lunch Downtown.  Can you guess where?

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken.

The extremely polite and sophisticated Ladies Who Lunch at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken.
We then took a leisurely stroll to Beale Street. 

If only I had known!!  We got a giggle out of the posted signs in Tater Red's Lucky Mojos.

Figuring out our Blues Names upstairs in A. Schwab.

Chelsea is a Nordic Goddess, trying on hats in A. Schwab.

EAT, incase you forget. Phaedra at the old-timey soda fountain and ice cream parlor in A. Schwab.

Chelsea and Phae on Beale Street.

Chelsea on Beale St.

Yep, it is Chelsea and I on Beale Street.

Chelsea tells me a story over a beer or two at Young Avenue Deli in the heart of the Memphis neighborhood Cooper Young. 

"Are you taking my picture?" "Yes." "Why?" "Because you are beautiful."


Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Favorite Brother

The little sister The Silver Fox promised me was born a week late with a penis. I was eight years old and devastated, but she let me put him in dresses and hair bows anyway. Trey and I told him he was adopted - his real parents are Aliens. I dared Trey he could not fit in the dryer, Blaise begged to try it himself and climbed in and held on for dear life as I let it roll with the door open, "That was fun!" he laughed as he lunged out of the spinning dryer. He happily tied ropes around his waist to fling himself off the top of our two-story deck. He holds a spirit of adventure matched by no other. He is always a prankster, quick-witted, and spontaneous with laughter, but he is even more noble and swift to help when someone is in a bind. He completed our family in perfection. Happy birthday to my favorite brother, Blaise!  

I hope your day is filled with tickles and delight! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nightmares Yet to Come

On Saturday evening I play wrestle with J2. I crawl up the bed from his feet towards his face. He stops me by hip checking me off the bed and saying, "Get off of me; I can see the rape in your eyes." 

I laugh uncontrollably until I snort and lose my breath. 

The second time I try to wrestle him I sweetly cuddle up and locked my arms around his neck. As he stands up with me attached to him like a little money he says, "Your eyes are rapey."

Plenty of giggling ensues. 

Tonight, I am the last one to bed. I turn the tv off and switch off the lamp on my nightstand. As he is gently snoring in the pitch black of night I cuddle into him, rest my lips near his ears, and whisper in the tone of nightmares yet to be had, "You can't see the rape in my eyes now."

Sweet dreams, y'all! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Jeff wakes me up at 5:45 coming to bed after working until he fell asleep on the sofa, "Phaedra's already up getting ready for school."

I got up at 6am to take the back to school picture. 

Phaedra is blaring music from her iPhone as she is applying make-up in the bathroom, "Did I wake you up?"

My head is pounding.

I try to take a cat nap on the Lazy Boy. I pry one eyeball open to see Maverick getting ready to fall back asleep in the living room, "Did you brush your teeth?"

He growls at me as he stomps back to the bathroom. 

At 6:30am the three of us go outside for the Back to School photo. Maverick leaves the storm door open as he goes back inside to retrieve his backpack. Mayor McCheese rips off throught the open door and down around the block. 

I am dealing with a three day sinus migraine and I get mad, "If y'all took the damn dog on a walk like you're supposed to he wouldn't tear off down the street every chance he gets."

Maverick begrudgingly poses for the Back to School photo, blaming me for the dog getting out. 

Here is the blurry result: 

Phaedra, the fashionista, is starting her Freshman year of high school on the Cross Country running team at an Honors Academy. Maverick, who has no interest in new, back to school clothes is participating in a garage band and starting his Junior year of high school. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Home Alone

Since J2 and the kids are out of town I've been practicing my future lifestyle of living in a nudist colony. 

I am falling asleep in the bedroom this evening when someone starts banging on the front door. It's a real Police about to break down the front door style of pounding. 

I'm dazed. I'm naked. Where do I keep the towels? Or wait, what if it's Mr. Mike from next door? That's inappropriate. Do I own a robe? Can I escape through the window? Who should I call to let them know I'm answering the door at night? I've watched too many Investigation Discovery shows. Oh yeah, my hot pink fuzzy robe is in the back of the closet. But that's a winter robe. Put it on anyway, I tell myself. 

The banging continues in conjunction with the doorbell ringing in continued succession. "BANG! BANG-BANG-BANG! BANG! BANG! Ding-Ding-Ding-BANG! Ding-Ding-Dong! BANG! 

Are you kidding me? The person at the door is trying to hurry and confuse me. Since the dog is not even home to protect me I'm surely about to be murdered in a spinster alone at home manner. 

I hear multiple people yelling on the other side of the door. I pull up my phone keypad and type in 9-1-1, so I can easily hit send. You know, just in case. 

I open the door and I'm bombarded with the words of no less than six neighborhood teenagers, "Did you lose your dog?"

These damn children have no home training or manners. 

The ring leader, who has a bandana tied around her head in an adventurous lady pirate-style is large with her t-shirt slit too far down the center. The sleeves of her t-shirt are removed in the manner of a Bartlett country boy who cuts the grass. She is standing on the front porch with her hands tightly wrapped around the collar of a furry dog. 

Why is she holding the collar of our Fuzzy Buddy? 

"Did y'all lose your dog?" she yells. Her tone sounds like a accusation instead of a question. 

He looks like our Mayor McCheese, but that is not him. He is having a spend-the-night party with Pandora. 

"No. That's not our dog. That's the neighborhood stray that looks nearly identical to our dog."  

The gang of teenagers in the driveway are still hollering, "Is that your dog? Is that your dog? Is that your dog?"

"Are you sure this isn't your dog?" the ring leader questions.

I am not what you might call an animal person. That is an understatement, but the dog's face is not Mayor's, "No. He's not ours."

The ring leader leans her head to the side and back towards her friends. She screams, "Shut up! It's not their dog!" 

Still yelling she turns her head towards me, "Do you know whose dog it is?" 

"Sorry, nope. He's just the neighborhood stray that happens to look exactly like ours."

Lesson learned, next time I'm not answering the psycho knock, Mayor McCheese is staying home with me, and there will not be a nudist colony in my future. Okay, still possibly a nudist camp, but I'm definitely changing the channel when I get back to the room. No more 'Murders' tonight.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Memphis Music: Evil Army

The back of the Santa Fe is loaded with gear, bass amps, guitars, and the band merchandise. Tyler Timebomb sits in the front passenger seat with his bass guitar placed between his legs.  Piled in the back seat are Rob Evil, Rob's girlfriend "the best looking 'merch' girl in the business" Aaron Kelly, and Michael Murder. I steer the car on to I-40 and we head over the bridge to Arkansas.

Little Rock is approximately two and a half hours away from Memphis. It is just a quick ride from Memphis, so I jump at the opportunity to take a trip with the Memphis heavy metal thrash band Evil Army.

Although their surnames are quite intimidating and the internet is rampant with rumors about them I find these guys to be absolutely fantastic. They fill the entire four hour traffic jammed trip to Little Rock with laughter and fascinating stories of growing up in the national Metal scene. For the exceptional caliber of experience these guys hold they are extremely humble.   

If you have a chance check out the heavy thrash rifts of Evil Army and see them in a city near you.

Tyler Timebomb, Michael Murder, Rob Evil, and Aaron taking a quiet moment to smoke cigarettes before entering the Vino's Little Rock.

Rob Evil writing out the set list.

Aaron and Evil Army sitting around before the Vino's show.

Aaron has the merchandise table is set up and the guys are watching the opening act.
Memphis Metal band Dawn Patrol on the stage at Vino's Little Rock.

Dawn Patrol.

Tyler Timebomb watching Dawn Patrol perform.

Dawn Patrol.

Evil Army begins the set.
Tyler Timebomb.

Rob Evil.

Tyler Timebomb.

Rob Evil on the flying 'V', Michael Murder on drums, and Tyler Timebomb on bass.

Rob Evil and Michael Murder.

Rob Evil and Michael Murder.

A fan reaching for Rob Evil.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Level Up

A few weeks ago I was leaving Big Lots with some Pampers and diaper wipes for a baby shower I attended that same day and a sack of groceries. I pop the hatchback to quickly throw my newly acquired goods into the car. As I am doing so a bum, a man who is at least 6'4 and every bit of 330 lbs, approaches me in the parking lot to ask for some money so that he can go to the McDonald's. He asks for cash. I respond, "I don't have anything."

He takes a few steps closer, "Come on! I'm hungry." He demands, "Just give me a few bucks!"

At this point I loose it. This man does not know me, what I do for a living, my situation, that I have been on a strict diet and exercise regimen for weeks, in spite of that I have been spending money on delicious groceries that I cannot eat, and I am hungry. He is big and he wants to bully me into a few bucks for McDonald's or whatever is he is going to purchase. I put both of my hands up into fists in front of my face. I squinch my face and bend at the waist and knees in a modified squatted position. As the bum walks closer I jump up screaming the first thing that pops into my head, "I'm taking care of three kids that aren't even mine! What don't you understand? I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING!!!"

He looks terrifyingly at me like I might shoot period blood out of my every orifice at him. He puts his hands up like a police suspect waiting to be frisked. Very quickly he backs away, "Okay, okay. Okay ma'am, okay."

I feel like an awful person for screaming what I said. I'm not always perfect, but I am always proud of these Little Rottens that are not even mine, but act too much like me to deny them.

On Sunday morning I wake up to hear the front door brushing open, "Jeff, wake up. Someone is in the house. I just heard the front door opening."

"What? You are asleep. How do you hear the front door opening?"

"I don't know, but someone is in the house."

He comes back into the bedroom, "It was someone for you. She's gone now. Go find what she left for you."

In the kitchen, left on the stove top, is a dozen hot pink and red zebra striped roses with a beautiful hand written note from Pandora as a gift for "Maternal Figure Day." The note brought me to tears. I may not be perfect, but Pandora's appreciation shows me that I do something right.

This week we have some big things happening.      

On Monday, Maverick earned the rank of Life Scout in the Boy Scouts. His next step is working towards Eagle. I am so very proud of him and I know his Dad is too!

Maverick is being congratulated by a troop leader.

Also this week, Phaedra had her first and last performance with the 201 group at School of Rock.  She is moving up to the Performance group! Congratulations to her! That's so awesome! 
Here are a few photos from her performance.  

Phaedra's teacher, Myra tuning guitars backstage before the performance.

The Green Room backstage before the 201 performance. Phaedra is in the background being too cool for a fun group shot.

Marc Gurley, the owner of School of Rock, introducing the 201 performance at the 1884 Lounge in Minglewood Hall.

I warned Phaedra that when she began performing keys I would be the worst kind of stage-Mom photographer since I specialize in music photography.  She thought it was a threat. This is her moment of realization that I am telling the truth.

She is a serious Rock 'n Roll artist. 

This is my favorite shot. Phaedra remains this pensive while she practices at home. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Adventures in 2014: Horseback Riding

She rears up on her hind legs. The hair of her mane flares like an uncontrollable wildfire. Suddenly, the afternoon sun sinks into a red sunset, foreshadowing my impending doom. She takes off running at full horse speed. Both of my feet are locked into the stirrups. My legs are squeezing Jasper's midsection like a vice grip, which only tells this wild-ass animal to run faster around the arena. She is naying and bucking like a bronco. I am convinced this wild horse has never been saddled before the moment I straddled my precious and portly body across her sturdy back. 

"Shit!!!" I shriek as I lose balance, but my legs are squeezing this animal so tight that I am afraid I will crush her midsection into the shape of a wasp. Somehow I am still holding onto the reins, but my core and upper body are so weak that I am being flailed around like a rag-doll that refuses to shake loose. With each gallop I see the soft, reddish brown dirt of the arena coming closer to my face then quickly further away. 

My head is rushing in a narrated vortex of jumbled words and possible outcomes, "Paralyzed. Fall. Piles of poop. Face plant."

I am determined to avoid embarrassment, I will not be the first person in my class to fall off a pony. Even though it is always funny to see a fat girl fall, it will not be this fat girl. 

Somebody is shrieking like an American Indian going into battle cry. 

"Stop screaming!" is being yelled at me from all directions. 

I am grasping at anything above me. My fingernails are weak and bending backwards as if I am attempting to scale a wall made from ceramic tile. Finally, I feel something in my left hand. It is the coarse hair of the pony's mane. I dig in. With only instinct controlling my body I reach my right hand towards my left. Both hands are intertwining in her hair. I pull up and steady myself securely in the saddle. Jasper slows to a stop, standing as still as an outdoor carousel stallion forgotten in the winter. 

I hysterically laugh, triumphant that I do not fall off of this angry, vindictive animal with blood lust in her eyes. As I sit atop the horse I reach up to my eyes because my sight is blurry. My face is soaked in tears and they just keep streaming down my cheeks.

I am sobbing as my professor makes her way over to me, "Why are you crying?"

"I'm terrified of this animal. I'm scared of horses."

"Then why are you still in the saddle?"

"Because," sniffle, "I was waiting for permission to get down."

"Get off of that pony! Why are you even taking this class?"

It is not even seven pm on Sunday night and I'm laying in bed recovering from a near death experience. I am beyond sore in places I've never felt before. Today, my life flashed before my eyes and it was not nearly as poetic as I imagined it to be.

The truth is, I am not an animal person at all. Animals are not my forte. I do not have pets. In fact, I only had one pet, a cat named Moonbeam, for a year back in high school. But, I am so hyper allergic that she was provided alternate lodging. 

I am just not an animal person. I never have been one. They are dirty. Animals waller in trash, anything dead, and their own poo. Worse yet, they eat all of that stuff too. Then they want to transfer those stinky filthy germs onto their humans via kisses or being petted. To this self-diagnosed germaphobe, that is disheartening and disgusting. To say I do not like any animal smells is an understatement. Dog breath, drool, mud splatters, animal sweat, wet-dog stench are stomach churning.  Add that to my extremely strong and sensitive sense of smell and I begin to dry heave. Then I obsess, those animal germs are seeping into every porous surface in the pet owner's home. alerting their guests that animals live here. 

As if not being an animal person is enough, I am terrified of heights. I have back problems. One swift jolt and I can be paralyzed. That is frightening enough, however, in horseback riding this terror is solely related to my inability to be in complete control while sitting on top of a wild animal. I am absolutely intimidated. 

In December I sat down and took a review of my life. I examined what I have accomplished and explored activities I want to attempt. The brainstorming session turned into a Bucket List. I call them my Adventures in 2014. They include such items as attending Mardi Gras to having my birthday party at Sky Zone. I choose at least one activity to complete every month. This is to force me to step outside of my proverbial box. Which leads to the reason why I am even taking horseback riding lessons. 

Since I have not ridden a horse in 20 years, I was at summer camp on a trail ride the last time a horse reared up while I was on his back, I wanted to conquer my fears. I have a momentary vision of grandeur. I imagine myself mastering my terror so that the next time my boyfriend and I take a vacation in Mexico we can remake random Antonio Banderas-esque, horseback riding scenes on the beach. I will post on the galloping horse and not a bit of fat jiggles on my body as the waves gently caress the shores as our horses splash through the surf and a random photographer or cinematographer beautifully captures our silhouettes framed against a stunning Mexican sunset.

I can tell you now, that romantic beach horseback ride is never going to happen. Remember above when that pony Jasper shot off on the wild hell ride forcing my life to flash before my eyes? She was actually being led by a 10 year old child at a child's jogging pace. I simply lost my balance while posting. Flailing like a rag-doll, nearly falling off the pony, and shrieking like a Freddy Krueger victim, that all happened. Subsequently so have my panic attacks associated with riding a pony. You win some you lose some; I am not always Confidently Awesome. I guess next month I will try to double up on my Adventures. 

I am currently enrolled in an English-style Horseback Riding course taken at Showcase Equestrian for credit at the University of Memphis. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Choices One Makes: Giving Up for Lent

This morning I made a public declaration that I am giving up soda for Lent. Tonight, as I closed my eyes I can feel the pain bubbling behind my forehead, a lack of caffeine headache. 

Searching for Advil in the dark to satiate my throbbing headache when I accidentally kicked the wooden block that holds up the foot of the bed. I'm yelling curse words, the likes have never been heard before when J2 rolls over and opens his eyes. Illuminated by the flashlight of my cellphone J2 sees me make a split minute decision between cradling my poor baby toe or issuing immediate retaliation to the bed for making me stub my toe. I hunch over in a crippled, old lady sort of way and scream at the bed as I punch the mattress, the way a badly trained girl would throw a baseball. 

J2 laughs hysterically at my action and reaction. I'm crying in pain he's nearly crying from laughing. 

By this point my toe is bleeding like a geyser and throbbing in horrific pain, like the devil himself is milking my pinky toe.  

J2 asks to look at my toe because he has First Aid training. 

He flicks it a couple of times. I'm sure he was nicer than that, but I'm crying and it hurts so badly. 

He starts to tell me something, but I stop him. I can't handle blood and injury. He says, "You want my medical opinion?"

"No. No. No. Don't tell me!"

He ignores my pleas, "It's kind of crumpled."

"My toe is crumpled!?!" I begin laughing as I'm crying. 

He thinks it's broken, "You'll be living with a slightly crumpled toe the rest of your life." 

On the bright side he made a baggie of ice for this old, crumpled toe of mine. And, at least it's not cockeyed. Right? 

Perhaps I should have given up cursing for Lent. After all, if I had my caffeine I would be peacefully sleeping, not searching the blackness of the bedroom for my Advil bottle. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

That's Some Kind of Classwork

This cannot even be real! It's unfathomable to me. 

My 1992, pre-pubescent self is so upset, stomping around, and screaming, "This isn't fair!"

Phaedra gets to watch Newsies in her eighth grade history class. That's some kind of class work! 

Did you hear me??? Newsies!!! Christian Bale! David Moscow! Gabriel Damon!! Newsies!!!!!!! Newsies!!!! <possessed 13 year old girl who has taken a whiff of testosterone for the first time demon inside of me voice> Newsies!!!!! 

<back to normal voice> Oops, sorry. 

Disney! Dancing! Singing! Hotties from the 1990's! Newsies!!! Too numerous slumber parties spent watching Newsies!!! 

Phaedra's not even grateful! She has no clue! And!!! To top it all off, Phaedra hates 'singing movies.'

Needless to say, I'll be attending her second class period tomorrow, swooning, dancing, and singing along, "Open the gates and seize the day..."

I am also sending her to school with a note, on personalized stationary, asking the teacher if we can borrow the tape, errr DVD for encore performances. Well, I suppose I should phrase it as added homework assignments. 

Do not call me tomorrow after five pm. Something just came up! I'm busy! Newsies!!!! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Good People of Memphis

am hurriedly shopping at the half-price Goodwill on Highland. It is nearly closing time, precisely fifteen minutes until 6pm and the employees are encouraging customers to make their final selections. 

I am digging through the dresses when a lady walks up my aisle from the back of the store. Both of her arms are loaded with donated stuffed animals of every size, color and animal imaginable. 

Instantly, I make a judgement about how disgusting used stuffed animals are and the possible amount of infectious germs covering and residing in the fur that cannot be washed away. Those sad, used, and forgotten animals always give me the willies in thrift stores. 

Once the lady passes me she heads to the register and I forget about her. My attention is drawn back into the dresses. 

My ears perk up when I overhear the Goodwill employee behind the counter ask, "What are your plans with all of these stuffed animals?"

The lady, whose hands are now free, wrings them in the bottom of her number 32 Steelers jersey. She is quiet for a moment, takes a step back, swallows and manages to say, "My daughter died on Sunday."

The air in the store instantly becomes still. The three Goodwill employees behind the counter gasp.

"She was 36 and had congestive heart failure. She has a 20 year old son and a sixteen year old. We are going to put these on her grave."

As a collective two of the three Goodwill employees move around the counter. One of them says, "Oh Baby, that's tough. Let me give you a hug. You need a hug." 

The women hold on to each other letting the mother cry. Her shoulders begin to shake and they are holding the mother up, patting her on the back and whispering in inaudible tones of consolation.

One of the Goodwill women grab the husband of the mother. He is wearing a matching Steelers jersey, "You need a hug too." 

They pull him into the hug. 

I am so moved by the beauty and genuine sincerity of these strangers in this scene in the Goodwill that tears are rolling down my face. 

There are good people in Memphis, I am a witness to that. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014

J2 and I celebrated our third St. Valentine's Day together. 

The girls were given Starbucks gift cards and Valentine's socks. Phaedra immediately put a pair of her socks on and ripped a hole in them. Whomp-whomp! Maverick received a Starbucks gift card and an entire container of hot chocolate mix. He has been mixing and guzzling chocolate milk all evening. 

I hid a small movie gift card in J2's iPad. All day long I waited not-so-patiently for him to acknowledge that he found it. I kept imagining him slinging his iPad across the room and the gift card disappearing in a secret location with the rest of the unmatched socks. Finally, he texted and I was relieved.

I got all dolled up. 

J2 and I went out to dinner, without reservations, to a little, local Italian joint in Bartlett called Bruno's Italian Restaurant. As always it was fantastic!

When I walked in the door I was treated with salutations and large smiles. The staff always seems spectacularly pleased that you chose Bruno's for your dining experience. Since we did not make a reservation, the hostess said there would be a 20 minute wait. Not even five minutes later we were at a table with drinks and menus in our hands. 

I am serious when I say everything I have had a Bruno's is spectacular. Spinach and artichoke, bruschetta, fried ravioli, meatballs, Italian sausage, marinara sauce, stuffed chicken breast; all of it is mouth watering. 

Last night, since I saved all of my calories for the day, I ordered the Steak and Alfredo. My steak was perfectly rare and bursting with flavor. The Alfredo sauce is creamy, savory, and simply scrape-your-plate delicious. Thinking about it now is making me salivate.

Their portions are generous, very generous. I had enough pasta to cover the entire face of my plate. So, I brought half of it home. 

At Bruno's, their service is always remarkable. Their servers are always delightful and adorable. They are kind and their suggestions and recommendations are spot-on! Kenya, our server last night was superb. She was prompt, courteous, and simply delightful! 
Their prices are reasonable, around $8 to $25 an entree. The food and atmosphere  are worth it! The Little Rottens love going their too! 

I am extremely picky about my Italian food. I look forward to dining there. Bruno's holds the bar in Memphis for Italian food. 

As for my Valentine's gift, it is perfection!