Monday, August 31, 2009

Dr. Make 'em Good

Here's a flash memoir on parental discipline.  You know, the spare the rod, spoil the child kinda stuff.

I come from a family of four kids--three boys, then me.  Mom planned to have as many kids as it took to get a girl.  Thankfully, it only took four tries. 

As you might imagine, being the youngest child and the only girl, I was spoiled. I could get my brothers in trouble just by saying, “Daddy, Geof farted on my head!” Or, “Daddy, John brandished a fork at me.”  In less than thirty seconds, Dad’s belt would slide out of its loops and he’d drag the accused brother by the ear into his bedroom for a whipping.

On the other hand, Mom was in charge of disciplining me. The mode of discipline for me was not the belt; it was “The Big Hand.” Mom was supposed to spank me whenever I got in trouble. The only problem was, she never could catch me.

I’d run down the hall and into my bedroom.  I'd dive headfirst under my bed.  Mom would grab  hold of the French Provincial foot board and whip my bed to the other side of the room. She wasn't super strong or anything.  It was just that we had hardwood floors at the time.  It was before it was cool to have wall to wall carpeting, before my parents let me pick out lime green shag carpet.

Since she couldn't get at me, Mom would slide the bed back to the other side of the room.  I'd do whatever it took to stay under it,  ignoring the pain of hardwood floor burns on my knees.

Sometimes I hid behind the sofa in the living room with Holly, our half Beagle, half Spitz dog. Mom would reach behind the couch, her hand like a claw trying to grab something, anything. Holly and I’d scoot just out of range. Mom would trot to the other side of the couch, move the Ethan Allen side table, and try to reach me from that end.  I’d do the army crawl  back to the original spot and Holly would stick close to me, tail tucked.

Mom always gave up. Not once do I remember actually experiencing “The Big Hand.”  Hence, the spoiling.

Dad wasn't so fortunate in his childhood.  He never escaped discipline.  He was one of five boys, all born at home to a strong woman named Flora. My brothers and I knew her as Granny. Mom tells me I parent like her.  I’m not sure what she means by that, but I think our kids have turned out pretty well so I take it as a compliment. My parenting philosophy has pretty much always been, “Whatever my parents did, do the opposite.”   That's why I've never said, "Your face is gonna freeze like that." Or, "I'll give you something to cry about!"

Whenever Dad was in need of negative reinforcement, Granny would say, "DooDoo, go out and cut yourself a switch from the oak tree."  DooDoo was Granny's pet name for my dad.  I know.  Being called DooDoo by your mother is punishment enough but that was never enough for her.  She always followed through with  the cut-yourself-a-switch thing. 

Once Dad returned to the house with his own instrument of pain (kinda like Jesus carrying his own cross, don't you think?) she’d say, "Now, DooDoo.  Drop your britches."  Then she'd whip him on the back of the legs, sometimes 'til she drew blood (again, not unlike Jesus). She called her punishment method, “Dr. Make ‘Em Good.” I thought that was hilarious—the name, not the fact that she made the boys bleed.

I know I said I parent like Granny but please believe (and Child Protective Services, this means you) that I've never utilized the Dr. Make 'em Good system of discipline.  Once we switched from timeouts to spanking, my mode of discipline was the extra large Pampered Chef spatula.  It always did the trick.  I only remember having to spank each child once or twice.  From then on, they were pretty quick to obey.  

I can honestly say, our children are not spoiled.  Loved lavishly--yes, but spoiled--no.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And then there were none . . .

"Hold still!" I said to my son as I took a picture of him, coming down the front steps this morning. I do it every year on the first day of school. I capture his size, his hairstyle, his outfit, forever. I have pictures of all three kids on the first and last days of school. If only I scrapbooked.

This morning as I put my son on the bus yet again, I remembered the day I sent him off to kindergarten. The bus pulled away and I cried but I smiled too. I felt alone but I also felt free.

I stayed on the corner, squinting at the horizon. Something was out there, way out there. I put my hand over my eyebrows to shield my sight from the glare. A breeze nudged my hair. Its coolness made me shiver. In my gut, in my spirit, I knew everything was changing.

I walked back to the house, considering my life. The last year and the one before that had been like a black and white photograph. No, that’s not right. There was always color, but the color was washed out--pastel and weak with undertones of grey. Personally, I don’t care for pastels. I think they’re wimpy.

When I got to the house I sat on the porch and thought about how for the past four years or so, I wanted more. And then recently, I wanted much more. For the longest time I'd felt like a sleepy caterpillar in a dry and raspy, mocha latte-colored cocoon. I longed to be a butterfly, an aqua and magenta butterfly, starting to nudge and poke and kickbox my way out of the dustiness. I wanted freshness, greenness, sunshine and new life to fill me and my veins to overflowing.

I put my head in my hands and my elbows on my knees. I remembered how it felt like my life was a bellcurve. I was climbing the left side, inch-worming towards the top. It seemed to take the longest time until my son got on the bus that first day. Once he started school, the plummet began.

I started sliding down the other side, slow at first but then I gathered speed. I gathered other stuff too--power, joy and assurance. Assurance that this is the life I was created to live.

God whispered things to my spirit. “You’re getting warmer. . . stay on this path . . . don’t go through that door . . . .” He sent me people and even songs that echoed his will for me. “Go for it! Fulfill your destiny, the one I wrote for you centuries, millennia ago.”

Finally, I had ears to hear. Finally, I believed what God had told me all along. “Your life will count, beloved. Your life will count for the kingdom.”

There would be no more, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation” for me. Henry David Thoreau can keep his quiet desperation! What a snore! I want more than a grey rag of a life!

I put my hands over my heart. It felt like God was in there--breathing into a bubble or a balloon inside of me. What would happen if he let go? I imagined it would go, “WHOOOOSHHHH!” It would twist and shout, somersault and dance all over the world in glorious, ecstatic, technicolor bliss.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's all about the woosh. It's all about the goosh.

This “flash memoir” is for those of you who enjoyed the Baden Baden piece. Remember how that whole thing began with why I don’t have a pierced belly button and went into why I don’t have a tattoo? Well, speaking of my tummy, one night I was reading to my son. He had his head resting on my stomach.

“Your tummy makes such a good pillow, Mommy. It’s all wooshy gooshy.”

“Thanks, buddy. It’s actually called subcutaneous fat.”

I have upon occasion entertained the thought of liposuction but I decided it’s not for me. I’m too much of a chicken to have elective surgery. I’ve had mandatory surgery and believe me, it’s no picnic. It far and away surpassed my estimate of how much of a drag it’d be.

I’ve heard that after getting liposuction you can’t do anything for a couple of weeks. That’s not real practical for a mom, not for me anyway. I’m always going, going, gone. Besides, I think for the rest of my life I’d feel like there was a sign on my back that says, “Outer beauty is so important to me that I paid someone $5,000 to make my tummy flat when in twenty years my butt is going to look like swagged drapery treatments.” And then when that happens, would I have elective surgery to fix that too?

Instead, I just do more sit ups and when I’m wearing a snug dress I don a pair of suck-the-wooshy-gooshy-out-of-me undies and/or panty hose. This does the trick every time!

Stay with me. I’m still on the wooshy gooshy subject but I’m transitioning slightly.

Low rise jeans with flare legs have been fashionable for quite some time now. The trend is heading toward skinny jeans but I'm guessing it’ll take awhile for it to really take hold here in West by God Virginia where I’m pretty sure The National Enquirer outsells InStyle magazine.

I panicked when low rider jeans first came out. I didn’t like them at all. They exposed my woosh. They exposed my goosh. That was before we did the presto change-o thing in our family’s diet (Thank you Pappy—that’s what we called my father-in-law. He died of stomach cancer five years ago and we changed our eating habits quick like a bunny!). When we did that, I lost a bunch of weight. Thank you, Jesus! Suddenly low riders looked good on me. I love ‘em now. Not the super lows, just the kinda lows.

There’s a down side to low riders though. Now, with the whole low rider craze, chubby plumbers aren’t the only ones experiencing crack attacks. Personally I have no desire to reveal my bottom cleavage so I made it a point to buy really long shirts and tuck them in. Then my daughters told me that tucking in screams of “old lady.” So I bought a couple of long, thin tank tops in various colors. If I’m wearing a shirt that isn’t real long I wear one of the tanks under it. This way even if my “main” shirt is a bit on the short side, I won’t expose the world to my wooshy gooshy in front or my heiney (just how do you spell heiney?) cleavage in back. I’m always thinking, always problem solving.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tastes like . . . Orange Julius

I loved Orange Julius as a child. My aunt would take me to the mall in Fairmont and get me one of those frothy, creamy, orangey things and I would slurp it down fast--no making it last for me.

Don't know how good they were/are for you but I stumbled across something mighty tasty, mighty similar when I was throwing things in my Vita-Mix earlier this summer. It's now my very favorite smoothie recipe. I like to think it's healthy too. Here's what you do:

Diane's Dreamsicle Delight

the zest of 1 orange (preferably organic)
that very same orange, after you peel it
1 banana
1 mango (or 2 peaches)
1/2 c. milk (cow or otherwise)
1/2 c. vanilla kefir (or low fat vanilla yogurt)
1/8 c. coconut cream
1 T. flaxseed, ground
4-6 ice cubes

Throw all this in your Vita-Mix or blender and whir 'til smooth. Should serve about 4 people unless you hog it all to yourself:)

Note: You can also sneak some psyllium (aka fiber) powder in here if you or your loved ones needs it:O

Monday, August 17, 2009

All Because of Baden Baden (with a preface)

Preface: Stephen King says to kill your darlings. I just finished reading his memoir cum book on writing. Loved it. But I'm not sure about killing my darlings. Does this mean kill the characters in the books you write or does it mean to ixnay the parts of your book(s) that you're attached to that don't propel the plot forward? I'm going with the latter.

So I'm writing this book and it was 120k words before I started killing off my darlings. It's painful but beneficial, kinda like having a wart burned off. Yesterday I had a brain blast. I can resurrect my darlings on my blog! It'll be like a "Pet Cemetary" for my (written) darlings.

This will be the first darling to get exhumed out of my manuscript and resurrected here on the blog. It's a little "flash memoir" (love that term--thanks Karin for introducing me to it) that I'll call "All Because of Baden Baden."

I’d love to have a pierced belly button but alas, the subcutaneous fat is a deterrent. Besides that, I’d look like every other girl in town. Belly button piercing is huge right now. So are tattoos. I’m not going to go out and get one of those either and I’ll tell you why. Got five minutes?

After I graduated college I moved to Washington, D.C.. I worked at the Times Journal, a publishing company in Springfield, Virginia. I met a girl there and we ended up traveling to Europe with her best friend from high school. This was not the best decision I ever made. For starters, there’s the third wheel syndrome. In addition to that, due to one of my classic open mouth switch feet statements which I’ll not go into at this time, our friendship fell apart shortly before our departure. I foolishly chose to go along anyway and was basically, shunned.

So there I was, sitting alone on my bed in a youth hostel in Brugges, Belgium in 1988. I was intently studying my travel resource, “Let’s Go Europe” and contemplating breaking away from Thing One and Thing Two. However, I was pretty intimidated by the idea.

Suddenly a tiny young girl bounced into the room. Not long after her arrival we struck up a conversation. She was from Charlottesville, Virginia and she was traveling Europe alone. Really? Really. She’d seen this. She’d been here. She’d eaten that. Her passport was stolen in Spain but she was having the adventure of a lifetime.

“Wow,” I said. “You're way younger than me and half my size. If you can travel Europe alone, I suppose I can too.” "Sure you can!" she said. “And the bonus is, you meet a lot more people when you travel solo.”

The next day at breakfast I said, “See you,wouldn’t want to be you,” to my original traveling partners. I walked out of the youth hostel and to the train station, huge back pack and all. I really didn’t want to be them because let’s face it, the life of the party was leaving. The look on their faces as I announced my detachment from them was priceless as the credit card commercial says.

Okay, where was I? Ah yes, alone in Europe. I headed south, planning my itinerary with the help of “Let’s Go Europe.” Pretty soon I found myself traveling with a girl named Kim. She was from California. She was running away from a guy who never got around to proposing to her after six years of dating.

Kim told me on more than one occasion, “Diane, if a guy doesn’t ask you to marry him in three years, he isn’t going to.” I can’t remember if I told her I was engaged or not. I’d left my engagement ring at home, afraid it might get stolen.

Kim and I eventually wound up in the little German town of Baden Baden, on the edge of the Black Forest. I wasn’t impressed with the food in Germany. It was meat, meat and more meat. It was scary meat with lots of fat nodules. Kim was a big time carnivore. She loved German food. One night she talked me into sharing a wild game platter. Thank the Lord there was German beer, lots of it, to wash down the wild game, lots of it.

Kim had planned our next day’s activity with the help of, you guessed it, “Let’s Go Europe.” “There’s a spa here,” she said in between bites of bear and boar, “that only costs fifteen American dollars on Tuesdays.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said. She proceeded to read the list of spa services included in the surprisingly affordable price. I was excited. I'd never been to a spa before.

The next day it became quite clear why it was only fifteen American dollars on Tuesdays. Tuesday was co-ed day at the Baden Baden Day Spa. Every other day of the week, only one gender at a time was admitted. As a result, on Tuesdays all the old men in Baden Baden came to the spa to see all the young tourist girls in the buff.

I wasn’t too freaked out by the situation. I knew I’d never see any of these people again, including Kim. And, there weren’t any cute guys there either, just really old German men. I wanted to ask them, “Do your wives know you’re here?” but I don’t speak German.

Our fifteen American dollars bought an extensive array of spa services. We spent time in a steam room. We hung out in a sauna. We got scotch sprayed which entails getting drenched with a fire hose by a burly fraulein. Next we were supposed to dip briefly into a vat of ice water for its energizing effect. I opted out of that activity. Then, we were directed to a giant swimming pool of mineral water. You could float and/or swim as long as you wanted. It was here that I saw what would make me never want to get a tattoo.

Have you ever seen the buttocks of a seventy year old man? I have. Once I went to Baden Baden I knew what the front and back of a naked old man looks like. Gravity is not kind. I won’t talk about the fronts of those men but I will talk about the backs.

I’ve worked for an interior designer. I know what swagged drapery treatments look like. Every time I think of the buttocks of the old men in the Baden Baden spa, I think of swagged drapery treatments. The skin on each buttock does a swoopy thing. It starts high on the left hip and swoops down and then comes back up again to attach to the tailbone. It does the same thing on the right side. In essence it looks like the golden arches of McDonald’s if they were a) pink and b) upside down. Or, if you’re familiar with the art of Salvador Dali, imagine if he’d painted old men’s naked heinies instead of clocks. I’m melting . . . .

Given this experience, I can only imagine what a tattoo would do as the body ages. The once taut and firm skin canvas would soften and succumb to gravity. The mermaid, the anchor, the first wife’s name . . . I doubt they’d be recognizable a few decades after their creation. It'd be like the song says, "Slip, slidin' away . . ."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tastes like summer . . .

Maybe you've made this ; maybe you haven't. To me it epitomizes summer flavors. Scoot down to your local farmer's market and get the ingredients. Better yet, pluck them from your own backyard:)

Taste of Summer Salad

1 large tomato, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced (peeled or not, your call)
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large garlic clove, smashed (or minced, your call)
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. vinegar (your call--I like Dr. Bragg's apple cider vinegar)
s&p to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pretty bowl and stir gently. Serve at room temperature.
(You can keep adding tomato, cucumber and bell pepper to the juice and garlic clove if you've managed to not eat or drink them, You can also add slivers of fresh basil if you like.)


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I DIDN'T KNOW ..........

I didn't know:

-I wanted/liked/loved kids 'til I had 'em.
-I wanted/liked rabbits 'til we rescued one and she had 7.
-I didn't really like working (a "real job") 'til I decided to be
the one that saw my baby(ies)' first steps.
-being a Christ follower would be fun, cool, exciting 'til
I said, "Pick me please" and He said, "I already did like,
a lonnnnngggg time ago."
-I loved to play softball 'til I had to play so my husband's
co-ed team wouldn't have to forfeit a game.
-I loved to dance 'til I discovered Zumba.
-I loved being on stage 'til I became a storyteller.
-My favorite color 'til I got "shrunk."
-Doctors couldn't fix everything 'til 10 years ago.
-Meek and humble weren't "bad words" 'til I tried 'em.

What don't you know?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Caught Butterflies . . . .

Greetings and Salutations (credit to Charlotte for that) one and all . . .

Thought I'd venture into the land of Blog. It's a bit intimidating, this. Want it to be thoughtful and entertaining, not mere minutiae.

Coming up with the name presented a few moments of cluelessness then I remembered two words I wrote down last month. Caught butterflies. Thought it might be the name of a book someday. Still might be. I picture wild, random beautiful things--butterflies or thoughts--caught for a moment, then released. I would never want them to die in captivity.

What is hilarious today--Tre giddy from novacaine at the dentist. I think he was having a sort of placebo effect, mistaking it for "laughing gas." More like "giggling gas."

What is mournful today--two daughters going out of town for 5+ days . . . one daughter getting senior pictures taken (She is not long for this house.)

What I'm thankful for today--Tre getting a "good stick" at the dentist--getting stuck is the worst part, don't you think . . . cooler weather

What I'm reading today--Stephen King's memoir/writing book

What I'm eating/drinking today--Starbucks skinny caramel macchiato is the only thing worth noting thus far . . .


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