Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolve: 2013

Yesterday, my husband handed me an Esquire magazine article about James Lee Burke, one of his favorite authors. "I really want you to read this," he said. "You need to read this."

I probably rolled my eyes, but since the husband bakes things like homemade Twinkies, I have to oblige him occasionally. I read the article.


Turns out, Burke had a great many interesting things to say -- but I immediately knew why Mark had insisted I read the piece.


In the "What I've Learned" article (Esquire magazine, January 2013),
Burke stated, "My book The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times before it was eventually published by Louisiana State University Press. When you get thoroughly rejected -- and I mean thoroughly rejected -- you realize you do it for the love of the work. And you stay out of the consequences. I developed one rule for myself: Never leave a manuscript at home more than thirty-six hours. Everything stays under submission. Never accept defeat."

You know why the husband was adamant that I read that? Because I never, ever submit anything for publication (you read my nonsense; you know why I give it away for free).


There was one exception.

Several years ago, when I was home with two little kids and had endured all of Barney and the Wiggles I could take (which isn't much; the CIA could learn things here), I wrote a personal essay on the war on dandelions. It wasn't half bad. On a whim, I submitted it to Southern Living magazine, thinking it a good fit. Although I had been a journalist in my pre-kiddo days and had numerous articles printed in newspapers, I was a first-time submitter to that glossy magazine world.

A few weeks later, I ventured to the mailbox and was shocked to find an envelope from Southern Living. What the heck? Could it possibly be? My hands shook as I tore it open. Inside was a personal letter from one of the editors. My heart was pounding as I read....

...a rejection letter.

I was younger then, and probably wearing sweats covered in mashed sweet potatoes from the baby, and the only thing I could see as I stood in my garage with that letter was rejection.

Well, I gave it a shot, I said. It's not going to happen for me, I thought.

I remember telling Mark this story once upon a time, when he asked why I never submitted anything for publication. Instead of accepting the end of my story, he probed further.

"But you actually got a letter back?" he asked. "From one of the magazine's editors?"

"Yes," I said. "A REJECTION letter." (What part of this story was he not getting?)

"So this busy editor actually took the time to write you back about your submission?"

"Um, yeah," I said, "I guess she did."

"And what did it say?" he asked.

I tried to remember the non-rejection part. As I recalled, she was somewhat encouraging. Today, I dug it out (yes, I saved it, like a battle scar). This, friends, is what the letter said:

Thank you very much for sending your essay, "Dandelion Dreams" for consideration in our Southern Journal column.

We enjoyed reading the essay and found it to be very interesting, but we are unable to use it in the column. As you can imagine, we receive a large volume of submissions and only twelve can be selected each year to appear. Every editor reads things differently, and every publication looks for different qualities in its writing. With that in mind, we are returning your essay to you in hopes that you can place it elsewhere.

Did I ever try to place it elsewhere? No. Did I ever submit anything else to Southern Living, knowing I had the editor's attention? No. Did I ever submit anything, anywhere? No.

Tender, fragile ego. How easily I accepted defeat.

Perhaps I should have seen then that the editor at least found my essay worthy of a letter to me. Sure, other writers likely received similar, if not the same, letter, but it was incredibly kind of her to take the time to (a). read my essay (b). consider it (and did "we" mean others considered it, too?) and (c). send me an encouraging letter back.

I see that now.

This is what the husband has been trying to tell me for a while. It is why he has gifted me with subscriptions to writing and literary magazines. It is why he buys me the works of my favorite poets. It is why he shares Burke's statement with me. It is why I love him so.

He believes in me.

Maybe it's time for an older, hopefully wiser, undoubtedly stronger, writer-me to believe in myself and take Burke's words to heart: Never accept defeat. Do it for the love of the work. Stay out of the consequences. It's a new year, ripe with possibilities and opportunities. And yes, laundry, but I never do that, anyway.

Thanks, honey, for the reminder. And for the homemade Twinkies I'll need to sustain me while I write (hint hint).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why Legos and Eggnog Don't Mix

I am not the only writer in the family.

Turns out, the husband fancies himself a bit of a playwright. As if that isn't impressive enough, Mark also designs his own sets.

Showoff.

After the merry Christmas festivities, Mark took advantage of my 10-year-old's new Star Wars LEGOs to create not one, but two, one-act plays. He's such an overachiever. As his proud wife -- or maybe just because I'm low on material --  I am thrilled to premiere his work here on the Porch. If you've read this blog long enough (God love ya), you know nothing appears here that isn't auspicious, felicitous, and most importantly, ridiculous.

With great, um, honor, I present two plays, which I shall dub LEGO of my Keurig and The Empire Likes Track.

**Porch Note: Please don't judge the husband's work too harshly. One, he married me, and that's not easy on a man. Two, as long as he's assembling LEGOs, I'm not stepping on them or removing them from my vacuum.

May the Farce be with him.


LEGO OF MY KEURIG 
a One-Act LEGO Play by Mark

The Set:


The Play:

Not that long ago, in a kitchen not that far away...

Me/Leia: Honey, are you going to buy me a Keurig for Christmas?
Him/Han: Yes, dear.

The End.

[Out of respect for all of the tiny LEGO actors, please hold your applause until after the second play.]

-----------

THE EMPIRE LIKES TRACK
Because he should have stopped with one but didn't...
Another One-Act LEGO Play by Mark

The Set:




The Play:

[The Scene: The Naboo 5K Holiday Hustle]

Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi: Hey! NO FAIR! Darth used the Force!


The End.

----------

Aren't they looking for a new director for Star Wars Episode VII? Look no further, Disney! You have found your man. The way I see it, it couldn't possibly be worse than that whole Jar Jar travesty.

Well, maybe.




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Scenes from a Marriage: Banzai!

[The scene: Driving past a skating rink]

Me: Oh! Oh, Mark! We should go roller skating!

Mark: Uh -- WHY would we ever do that?

Me: Because maybe, just maybe, they'll have a guy's choice, couples-only skate, and you can pick me, making up for decades of deep-rooted insecurity.

Mark: What are you talking about?

Me: When I was a middle school teen, my friends and I spent our Friday nights at Skateway USA. They always had a "guy's choice" skate toward the end of the evening. The girls would gather on one end of the rink; the boys on the other. Suddenly, the lights would dim, and an REO Speedwagon ballad would pump through the speakers, filling my heart with hope. It was magic.

Mark: Annnd?

Me: As "I can't fight this feeling any longer..." reverberated through Skateway, the guys began skating to the opposite end of the rink to choose girls to skate with them. I would maneuver myself into a position near the front -- so hopeful in my best J.C. Penney Hunt Club sweater. My eyes said, "Pick me. Pick me. Pick me."

But no. I was never picked for a couples-only skate. Not once. My friends would get picked over and over again, while I was left standing alone every Friday night. Rejected, I would head over to the concession stand and ask the staff to mix me up a suicide drink, with a double shot of Kick soda. You know, I could skate backwards and everything! I never understood why no guy ever picked me.

Mark:  Oh, honey [reaching for my hand]. Sweetie, let me explain this to you. No guys picked you back then because you looked just like Ralph Macchio.

Me: Thanks for being super sensitive about this.


(But he maybe has a point.)

I'm in the blue Hunt Club, while my twin brother, Daniel-san, sports plaid.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holy Matrimony, Batman!


WHOA.

I am getting married in five days. Five. I don't even need two hands to count down the days now (at least I don't think I do, but as you know, I was never very good at math).

You must be shocked. I didn't think we would survive the election, either. It wasn't easy to be on opposite sides of the voting ballot, but Mark and I made it because our hearts are full of love (translation: our guts are full of wine).

So now I am stuffing my suitcase for our destination wedding and trying to figure out how to pack a wedding gown for a flight. I have applied for my wedding license and picked out earrings and some sort of uber-sexy, nude, stretchy, thighs-to-boobs undergarment that sucks in all the Halloween candy and hides panty lines. I have confirmed the preacher, the photographer, and most importantly, the hairdresser. I have had no less than 25 panic attacks. In other words, sh#t's gettin' real.

Unless I pull a Julia Roberts/Kiefer Sutherland wedding escape, I will be married before Thanksgiving. Then I can wear stretchy pants for the rest of my life, stop shaving my legs on cold days and stock up on granny panties. Just kidding, honey! (Pssst, ladies. You know I'm not.)

I was walking with my 10-year-old son the other day, and he quipped, "Well, Mom, are you ready for the best day of your life... again?"

Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

Honestly, I am scared. But I would be worried if I wasn't. This is the second time I have climbed aboard the marriage carousel, and I want to ride.. and ride.. and ride. I won't let go when the world whizzes by, and I feel dizzy. I won't let go on those days when I wonder if he holds the reins as tight as I hold mine. I won't let go when the music begins to die. I won't let go.

Why?

Because while neither of us is perfect (he's a Republican) -- and long-term relationships are a heck of a lot of work -- I love him.

He is my music...


 My cake companion...






And my dance partner...




He is the Harry to my Sally -- my old college friend, who stole my heart when he bought me a cookie (turns out, I'm easily bought if chocolate chips are involved).

We were friends for a long time. And then we weren't. And then we fell in love.

So while yes, I am scared, I also know Mark is the one. That guy who sat behind me in Constitutional law 20 years ago is the guy I want to spend my next 20 years with... and then 20 more.

I will take a deep breath next week; toss back a mojito; and walk across the sand to meet him by the ocean. I will trust that he we will take care of me. And I will take care of him.

It had to be you.

Here's to happy endings, Harry. Love, Sally.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tricks for your Treats

Happy Halloween!

In case you're wondering, Halloween is actually the Scottish contraction of All Hallow's Eve, which, loosely translated, means free candy, yo!

I have bought the ghosts and goblins their candy and carefully arranged it on this most sacred holiday. Of course, I have a well-orchestrated plan for handing out treats. We're talking about candy, folks! Delicious, yummy, mouthwatering candy! You don't just hand that out without careful planning.

As you read this, please keep the following in mind, before you judge me too harshly:

1. I love candy. I'm not saying I'm a candy addict, but if I could lie candy down by the fire and make sweet love to it while Barry White sings in the background, I would.

2. I am the kid who literally ran home from school on Halloween, threw on a bed sheet (ta-da! Instant costume!), and raced Jon, my partner-in-crime-and-candy, to the number-one house on our Halloween hit list: the green house on Center Street. Get this. Those neighbors annually left a giant bowl of candy on the porch. A big ol' bowl of candy! Just sitting there! In the days before nanny cams!

Sure, those considerate folks put a note on the bowl that read: PLEASE TAKE ONLY ONE PIECE OF CANDY AND SAVE THE REST FOR OTHERS! Tsk. Tsk. Poor, naive, silly neighbors. In our excitement each year, Jon and I were convinced the neighbors meant to write: PLEASE TAKE THE REST OF THE CANDY AND SAVE ONLY ONE PIECE FOR OTHERS! So we would dump the entire bowl into our pillow cases and high-five each other. Yes, we felt a little guilty, so we left some of Jon's grandmother's cherry throat lozenges in the bowl for the next trick-or-treaters. We were good kids like that.

3. See #1.

With that in mind,  here's my handy-dandy-candy guide to handling your Halloween treats for yourself trick-or-treaters:

  • When you buy your Halloween candy, buy only candy you like. This is very important. Do not question The Method. My jeans are very tight because I have only been buying candy I like throughout the entire month of October. That's proof that The Method works.
  • As the above story illustrates, never, ever, ever leave a big bowl of candy out on the porch unsupervised. NEVER. People will take your candy! Who wants that? The point of Halloween is for other people to give you candy, not take your candy. I'm pretty sure.
  • When you get your 25 pounds or so of candy home from the store, take the bag(s) of your favorite candy and hide it in the pantry behind something that looks healthy, so your kids will not go near it. For example, I like to take miniature Reese Cups and store them in a box of Grape Nuts. No one likes Grape Nuts. What the heck are grape nuts, anyway? I'm convinced Post only sells it so clever moms like me can hide chocolate in the boxes. Remember, this is your candy, and your candy only. Hiding your favorite candy is your reward for pretending like you are actually going to give the rest of your candy away.
  • I love to see a ginormous bowl of candy in my living room. It makes me happy. Why deny yourself this happiness? Go ahead and fill your giant candy bowl and admire it. Keep in mind, there's always the slim chance that a few clever trick-or-treaters will make it past the elaborate security system you installed just for Halloween. But fill the bowl carefully. Remember, your Halloween goal is to have as much candy left over for yourself as possible.
  • Fill the bottom of the bowl with the yummy, top-of-the-candy-chain treats, like Snickers, Kit Kats, Butterfingers, Reese Cups, Hershey bars and the like. These are placed on the bottom because they are your last-resort handouts, people! You only give this away to trick-or-treaters if you are out of, oh, say, those old restaurant mints you found in the bottom of your purse. 
  • You don't want to take a chance of any little vampires or witches seeing the chocolate in the bowl and thinking it is for them (poor, misguided children), so dump all of those ketchup, hot sauce and soy sauce packets you have been saving all year on top of the chocolate. Kids love ketchup packets!
  • Next, dump in the giant bags of cheap candy you don't really like -- but you can eat it if you have PMS and it's between that candy and the five-year-old chocolate chips you have in your cabinet (ha! Like I have leftover chocolate anything left in my cabinet! Oh, you people and the things you believe...). You can give this candy out if you absolutely must. You won't like it, but you know you have 15 pounds of chocolate stored in those whole-grain cereal boxes.
  • And okay, for good measure, include a few packets of fruit snacks for the tiniest ghouls who win you over with their "twick-or-tweats!"  I am not a monster, people! I have a heart -- probably one clogged by Kit Kats, but still.
If you follow the above plan, at the end of then night, you should have plenty of treats left for yourself. Granted, you can always buy the candy, close your blinds, turn out all of the lights, sit on the floor and ignore the doorbell while stuffing yourself with mini candy bars until you're sick, but that's for Halloweenies. I at least go to the trouble of creating an illusion of generosity when it comes to candy. That counts, right?

Gotta go pour myself a bowl of "Grape Nuts" now.

(Please don't egg me.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SQUIRREL! : Why My House Will Never Be Clean


Bet you $10 she's thinking, "I can hit him over the head with this."

I've finally figured out why I never get much accomplished around the house.

Case in point:

I decided to mop my floors.

I went to the garage to retrieve the mop, which is beside my CDC-approved zombie apocalypse kit. The lid was off of the kit, and my flashlight was sticking out of the box. Since I don't want any zombies sneaking up on me in the dark, I picked up the flashlight to see if the batteries still worked. They didn't, so I went back inside the house to rummage for batteries.

I didn't locate any batteries, but I did find light bulbs where the batteries should be. I suddenly wondered if I ever changed the bulb in the floor lamp by the couch, so I headed to the living room to check.

Once in the living room, I spied some dirty socks on the floor, picked them up and carried them to the laundry room. Of course, I discovered a load of clothes still waiting in the dryer to be folded (duh). I turned the dryer on to "iron" those clothes and decided to collect the laundry from the kids' rooms.

On the way, I made quick detour into the hall bathroom to gather any dirty towels or washrags. I realized the bathroom could use a scrubbing (torching; whatever), so I skipped the kids' rooms and returned to the kitchen to get the cleaner (gasoline) from the cabinet under the sink. That's when I spied the pack of light bulbs I had left out on the table.

While they were still out, I figured I should go ahead and change the bulb that's over the kitchen sink.

I pulled a chair up to the sink to change the bulb and groaned when I saw the dirty breakfast dishes. I decided to wash them while I was there, but first, I'd have to put away the clean dishes. And that's when I saw the empty water bottles on the counter by the dish drainer.

I ignored the dishes, gathered the bottles and carried them to the recycling bins in the garage.

On the way to the bins, I spotted the mop against the garage wall.

I decided to mop my floors....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Up with the love...

I have standards.

Not high ones (if you've been here before, you already know this), but I do have some.

When it comes to love, however, the bar for my standards is pretty dang high. It's up there.

I want love that triumphs. That sacrifices. That rolls with the punches. That laughs. That lasts.

Filmmakers and writers alike try to teach us what love is.

Not long ago, love was a whiny girl with a vampire. No, thank you. I have already disclosed that I am a lousy housekeeper, so I sure as heck don't want to vacuum all that dang vampire glitter.

Then love was as a fiery Appalachian girl with a poor bread maker. Better, but Hunger Games is more a story of survival than true companionship. If you have to forgo the fireworks for love, though, a girl could do far worse than ending up with a baker. At least she'll always have cake.

Most recently, love was defined as a young college student seduced by a wealthy entrepreneur who likes to, um, spank her. I don't judge here on the Porch, but I don't even like belts around my waist. They remind me that I eat too many snack cakes. If you really want to turn me on, Mr. Grey, tie me to the couch, put on my favorite show and go unload the dishwasher.

Nope. None of those definitions of love speak to me. Nor do Romeo and Juliet. Or Heathcliff and Catherine. Or Lancelot and Guinevere.

I'm Team Carl and Ellie.

I'm deeply in love with the Pixar movie Up. Sure, it's a few years old, but is a perennial favorite in my house. The kids and I pile up on the couch, eat popcorn and pretend we aren't crying while we watch it for the umpteenth time. Up defines love beautifully, perfectly, in a mere few minutes of film. Just watch the four-minute clip below and try not cry. Go ahead. I dare you:


Gulp. It still gets to me. I claim my tears are from allergies (hard to explain the racking sobs), but my kids smile knowingly. I'm a sap.

Although they are animated, Carl and Ellie remain my favorite love story told via film. (Also, it's funny because the squirrel gets dead.)

We love it so much that we recently decided to create our own adventure book, a la Carl and Ellie.

I can't wait for us to fill the pages, write our own story and earn our Wilderness Explorer badges.

Here's to new adventures. Up with the love, people. Up with the love.

Adventure awaits!





Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thank you, Lane

photo credit: Prayers for Lane Goodwin
I have fought writing this story. I have started and stopped it numerous times. Dismissed it. Firmly said "No" to whatever has compelled me to write it.

You see, it is not my story. Not at all. No, this is a story of heroism, courage and conviction beyond anything most of us have ever known -- and it is not mine to tell.

Yet, here I am, telling you about Lane Goodwin.

If you don't know who Lane is yet, the odds are very good that you soon will.

You see, Lane, a sweet, brave, 13-year-old Kentucky boy with cancer, is quickly becoming a global sensation. His amazing story has gone viral, urging folks from all over the country, and beyond, to give him a "thumbs up" -- a classic Lane pose no matter what he has faced in his long, brave battle with a rare form of cancer known as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (or his mother so aptly calls it, the "monster").

Facebook and Twitter have exploded with thousands of well-wishes and photos from ordinary people like you and me, as well as athletes and musicians, news personalities and celebrities, all giving Lane a "thumbs up." Thumbs have been raised by the likes of Courteney Cox and Garth Brooks, as well as by Ugandan orphans, half a world away. Lane's name has been lovingly plowed into fields by farmers, written on the back of dusty interstate trucks and incorporated into national news stories.

I'm sure those close to Lane are humbled by the outpouring of love for him.

Those of us who have followed his story the past few years are smiling at each other through tears, nodding across the intertubes at one another. Like you, we are simultaneously brokenhearted and uplifted.

I must confess here that I do not know Lane or his family personally. Lane's mother, Angie, and I are from the same small Kentucky town and graduated not too many years apart from each other. In a way, I suppose that connects us. We also have many mutual friends, some of whom began the Prayers for Lane Goodwin page on Facebook when he was first diagnosed in March of 2010.

I, like many others from my hometown and the surrounding area, joined his page then at the request of a friend and began to follow sweet, young Lane on his journey. He is like any boy. He is like my boy. He likes playing soccer; cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals; fishing; building with Legos; and swimming. He enjoys spending time with his friends; goofing off with his little brother; and playing video games. He is not too big to snuggle with his mom or fall asleep in his dad's arms. He loves to visit the ocean and have new adventures. He fears nothing, it seems: not the sharks (he swam with those); not heights (he flew airplanes and parasailed); and not even the cancer that has ravaged his young body. He hates cancer, but he looks his enemy in the eye and he fights it.

Though we grieved for the difficult path, we knew he would be triumphant. He would. We prayed it. We believed it.

And beat it, Lane did. This kid is one tough cookie! We rejoiced and praised as scans came back negative after his first battle.

But then last summer, that ugly, horrid beast of childhood cancer returned. Once again, after we shed tears, we rallied the troops and prayed even harder. Lane himself gave us the rally cry. When confronted with difficult medical choices, he told his parents, doctors and all of his friends that he wanted to bring out the big guns and "nuke it."

We cheered him on again as he went to war. Along the way, we met other far-too-young soldiers who have courageously fought and lost their battles with childhood cancer. Ethan. Savannah. Too many others.

For a while, it seemed Lane was beating the odds through new medical trials. Though initially diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, he would be triumphant yet again. We willed it so.

But our hearts were so heavy this summer when we learned that the cancer was back and spreading. And those heavy hearts grew heavier when Lane had a seizure recently and was rushed to the hospital. That's when they -- and we -- discovered the cancer had spread to his brain.

Lane is now home with his wonderful mom and dad, Angie and George; his incredible little (but big-of-heart) brother Landen; and other family and friends. Wise beyond his years, Lane has told the doctors that he understands that they can no longer do anything. He has told his parents that he is ready to go to God.

Though he is physically weak, he is spiritually strong. Like a true and triumphant warrior, he raises his thumbs to us.

To us.

Even in his most troublesome times, Lane encourages us. He gives hope to those of us who don't even know him -- but wish we could. His story grows because he gives this weary world what it seems to lack: grace, courage, peace.

Personally, perhaps selfishly, Lane makes me appreciate even more the blessings of life.

I once saw Lane's mom on a night out in our hometown. I wanted to approach her, but I hesitated. She was at a reunion with friends on what I am certain was a very rare outing. She has been by Lane's side every step of the way. I shied away, just happy to see her smiling with others.

I wish I had talked to her, told her that my children and I were praying for Lane, that he was and is a true hero to us -- and that he reminds us of what is important.

I didn't.

But I think she knows.

There is something incredibly special about her son. Not many people can move the world; but her son has.

Lane is her son -- so closely, deeply, her God-given and wonderfully-crafted boy -- and I hesitate to encroach on the sacred space between a mother and a child.

As I see post after post, though, I realize that, in some ways, he is like our son, too. I do not want the Goodwins to hate me for saying that, as they struggle to hold on to all they hold dear. I pray they do not misunderstand.

What I mean is that there is something about a parent's love and desire to protect a child that makes us all protective of Lane. We all hold him now.

While we know we cannot fathom your pain or understand the depths of your despair, we stand with you, George and Angie. We surround you. We reach our hands out to you. There is an army of us, loving you, Lane and Landen.

I have two children, a boy, 10, and a daughter, 15. My heart beats for them, as they are the best of me. Even though they are older, I still sometimes watch them sleep at night. I pray for their safety. I panic if my son slips out of sight, or if my daughter is past curfew.

Once, when my daughter was little and fighting an inexplicable string of infections, she was tested for leukemia. For a weekend, I lived in a dark, black place, fearing the Monday phone call with test results. As Mat Kearney sings, "I guess we're all one phone call from our knees." Life is like the morning mist -- a fine, fragile sheath separating all that grounds and holds us to Earth from the ethereal and unknown.

Thankfully, my daughter was okay. But I ache for other children and their parents, whose lives are forever altered when doctors deliver the diagnosis of cancer or other serious ailments. Why must any child suffer? I will never understand.

Yet I have watched Lane's parents say, over and over and over again, "God is good."

If they can believe that -- even now -- then I can, too.

As Lane's story gains momentum, I find myself talking more to God. The truth be told, I'm arguing with Him.

I say, "God! LOOK! Lane's story is gaining worldwide attention. This is a MAJOR PR opportunity for you! So many are focused on this young man and praying for him. This is your chance to prove who you are and what you can do, to give his family the joy of watching him grow up, to give the world the miracle it so desperately needs. Please grant Lane his miracle. Let the entire world see him healed in this place, in this time, so that his parents can watch him play soccer and fish and swim and wrestle with Landen."

I have this conversation repeatedly with God, like many of you do. I know He hears. And those of us who believe know that He also understands well the grief of Lane's parents.

I don't know what God thinks of my feeble attempts to be His marketing guru. All I know is that while I was lying in bed with all these words running through my head, I initially refused to write them. I am not worthy to write Lane's story. Heck, I'm not even sure it needs to be written. What's happening worldwide is proof that Lane and his parents have told his story quite beautifully.

Still, I felt pushed to write as I prayed. I know this about Lane Goodwin and want you to know it, too: the world is better because he graces it. A child is bringing out the best in us. The globe suddenly seems smaller; our differences diminutive.

Together, we stand strong for Lane. One friend said he gives new meaning to the name "Goodwin." Good. Win.

I see that.

I also see a chance here to make an incredible difference.  Friends, it just so happens that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. If every person who is touched by Lane's story or who likes his Facebook page or posts on Twitter would give even one teeny-tiny dollar to a reputable program dedicated to curing childhood cancer, it would be yet another beautiful way to honor Lane, the Goodwins and all of those who have and continue to struggle with this cruel disease. I am sure Lane's family would give that a big thumbs up.

In the meantime, I thank them for raising an incredible boy, who has touched the world, blessed our lives, opened our hearts

Lane's story is about him -- but so much more. He has become the face, or more appropriately, the "thumbs", for childhood cancer. This brave boy has brought compassion and awareness to all who struggle with disease. I love and pray for Lane, but in his plight, I see others who hurt and fight. I do. I see you, too. I want you to know that.

That is Lane Goodwin's gift to all of us: Benevolence. Empathy. Kindness.

Thumbs up, Lane.

Two thumbs way, way up.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Dance that Saved the World (You're welcome)

Wow.

Has it really been 25 years since I ended the Cold War? Time flies, friends.

With that, I re-post one of my personal Porch favorites.

I hear there is video of my dramatic, world-changing performance. I am determined to find and post it. In the meantime, I'm working up a little dance number to bring peace to the Middle East. (I hope I can convince Corey Hart to write a new song.)

---

How I Ended the Cold War (or Oh My God, Honey, She's Delusional Again!)

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" ~ Ronald Reagan, 1987

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Whatever, Reagan.

While some might credit you for the thawing of the Cold War, I know better. I know it was, in fact, my talent at the Henderson, Kentucky, Junior Miss program in the fall of 1987 that eventually resulted in peace between the super powers.

How so?

When I was a senior in high school, I participated in the local Junior Miss pageant. Before you judge me, swimsuits were not required. If so, I would have known better than to get involved  -- not because I didn't have respect for pageant girls in swimsuits so much as I didn't have boobs to put in said swimsuits.

In the Junior Miss program, contestants are judged in the categories of scholastic achievement, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression. I'm not sure how I measured up in the first four categories, but man, I definitely nailed the last one. If it is one thing I can do, it is express myself (those who read this blog might disagree).

See, I have no real talent to speak of (those who read this blog might agree), so I decided, instead, to make a powerful political statement.That's right. Please keep in mind I had watched Red Dawn and Rocky IV at least 532 times each on HBO, so you can't really blame me. I was all jacked up on slick Hollywood propaganda!

So while other girls in the pageant played classical piano pieces, sang lovely songs from well-known musicals or performed ballet routines, I went .... another route.

I dressed in camouflage and combat boots, marched Soviet-soldier style onto the stage of that small-town middle school and danced to this little-known but totally friggin' awesome Corey Hart song, "Shoot Komrade Kiev."

I was so stoked to find the song on youtube that I actually used the word, "stoked."

In case you were too busy dancing to follow the lyrics (and who could blame you?), they include, "And when the story's finally told/That each man's heart was bought and sold/There was no enemy you see/Only the doubt in you and me."

How could that NOT inspire any compassionate, idealistic young American girl to shake her groove thang between American and Russian flags? Better yet, I culminated my performance by marching silently up to the judges and pointing a gun I'd formed with my fingers in their faces. Oh, yes, I did.

They were speechless, as was most of the audience. But I had made a formidable statement on behalf of Komrade Kiev and GI Joe. Shortly thereafter, the wall fell and the Cold War ceased. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Also, I was third runner-up. Someone close to the pageant later told me I was in the running "up until that controversial talent, young lady!"  But hey! What's a pageant title compared to a step toward world peace?

WOLVERINES!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Midlife Confronts Gravity (then eats Oreo)

This is what denial looks like.
Last night, after enduring crunches and planks; slathering on buckets of regenerating serum; and tugging at the corners of my eyes to see how I once looked, I climbed into bed. Unfortunately, I had insomnia, another lovely gift of getting older.

Before long, crazy words were jostling around my 40-something head. I could not sleep, so I put them to paper.

I dedicate the deep, Shakespearean-esque work below to all the ladies who are spending their kids' college funds on the latest anti-wrinkle creams; enduring needles and lasers during lunch hours; and coloring their roots every six weeks.

It is for those who are smushing blistered toes into too-high heels and squeezing bellies that carried babies into skinny jeans, while secretly yearning for Keds and sweatpants (you know you are).

It is for the women who wonder where their lips went ... and why their eyebrows now have perms.

It is for those who wax, tweeze, pluck and shave -- their faces.

It is for the gals who reach for the apple instead of the Oreo, but then go back and eat an entire sleeve of Oreos, because duh. They're Oreos.

It is for those who secretly thank God for push-up bras, shapewear, Crest whitening strips and photo editing. I won't tell if you won't.

And yes, it is for those of us who hope, fervently, that Megan Fox now has stretchmarks.

It is for you, my beautiful sisters, with love.

We are strong!
We are invincable!
We are... tired.

Will someone pass me the remote and a pair of elastic-waist pants? I think Honey Boo Boo is on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Anti-Ode to Gravity

Oh, Gravity!
How I hate thee
That maketh sag
such parts of me.

Wrinkles you bestow
most mercilessly!
Upon thine eyes, thine neck
Thine elbows and knees.

What once was pert
And dare I say perky?
Now swings to and fro
Like the neck of a turkey.

I toil and sweat
Heave and hustle.
Alas! My ass
Forgets it ever held muscle.

Fight you, I will!
Relentlessly!
With creams and tonics,
And the Oil of Old Lady.

No, I shall NOT
Give in to thee.
Thanks to "Cougartown"
I emulate Courteney!

I shall don highest heels
I shall buy lacy cups
To take what you dropped
And push it back up.

Oh, Gravity
I declare WAR!
And speak for all women
When I say... UP YOURS!

By Penned from the Porch, courtesy of insomnia


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Keep Your Enemies Closer

Today, of all days, we should set aside our differences, and in the spirit of the United States of America, reach across the proverbial aisle to embrace our neighbors, even those who think and vote differently.

Disclaimer: Don't worry. Other than the occasional joke, I generally avoid political posts here on the Porch. So please read on before tuning into another episode of Honey Boo Boo to escape a political story. (At least that is your excuse for watching Honey Boo Boo. It's okay. We all have one. I watch it so I can learn how to make redneck slip-and-slides. No judgment here.)

For the record, I don't just talk the talk; I walk the walk. If fact, I power walk the walk like Richard Simmons in sequined short-shorts. I'm not only reaching across the aisle, I'm walking down the dang thing.

That's right .... and left.

I, the Democratiest Democrat, am marrying the Republicaniest Republican. Good Lord, the things you do for your country. Honestly, I'm still not sure how this will work, so I looked for guidance from the experts.

One of the most famous politically opposed duos, James Carville and Mary Matalin, were asked on CNN how they stay married without killing each other. Here is how they responded:

Carville: I don't have a position on anything domestically. So I just say yes, and then go on and do it. I mean it. I would say the three ingredients to successful marriage are surrender, capitulation and retreat.  If you've got those three things --  [Laughter.]

Matalin: Spoken like a true liberal. What a martyr. Faith, family and good wine. That's how we do it.

Ah. Just as I suspected: Wine is always the answer. The question is irrelevant.

Perhaps we should take a bottle of vino over to my fiance's neighbors to apologize for our frequent political "discussions." I'm sure they are weary of listening to our super polite, respectful, meaningful dialogue -- which we just happen to yell -- to make sure the other person hears how polite and respectful we are being.

Any little thing can prompt a full-fledged debate: my fiance watching Fox News while nodding vehemently in my direction; me accidentally dropping his Rush Limbaugh "Patriot Police" mug and then also accidentally stomping on the pieces.

Whatever the case, we're soon going at it like Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck; like Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart; like twin boy #1 debating with twin boy #2:



If you're wondering, I'm the one missing a sock. Sure, I could go to my bedroom and retrieve another sock. But that's an awful lot of work, and I'm a Democrat. I'll just wait for someone to bring me one. (That was for you conservative readers. I love you, too.)

A friend or two have suggested we actually video our debates, for their viewing pleasure. I don't know about that, but I'll happily provide you with a transcript:

Him: YELLYELLYELLsomethingObamaYELLYELLYELL
Me: YELLYELLYELLsomethingRomneyYELLYELLYELL
Him: YELLYELLYELLtypicalliberalYELLYELLYELL
Me: YELLYELLYELLclosedmindedconservativeYELLYELLYELL
Him: YELLYELLYELLliberalmainstreammediaYELLYELLYELL
Me: YELLYELLYELLfakenewsnetworkYELLYELLYELL
Him: All this incredibly polite political discussion has made me hungry. You want a donut?
Me: Heck yes, I do!
Me and Him: I love you.

God bless America. And donuts.

One friend has begged me to let her watch the election night results with us. She said something about inviting people and charging admission to "the show." Ha! Like we'll be able to be in the same house on election night. It would be fine until one of us started the I-told-you-so happy dance -- and then we'd owe the neighbors more wine.

Hopefully, no matter the results, we'll remember on Nov. 7 that love trumps politics. My big ol' bleeding heart has a place in it for everyone, and my conservative counterpart occupies a giant chunk of it. It's proof that God has a sense of humor.

What He has joined together, let no election put asunder.

I'll keep you posted on the state of our union.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pssssttt....

Hey, Darlin' Porch Sitters,

I want you to know that I read and appreciate your comments -- and I honestly try to respond to them. I string nice words together in the comment area; I choose my "profile"; I hit the "publish comment" button ... and nothing happens. So I try again. And againandagainandagain to no avail. Sure, to tease me, Blogger acts like my comments are going to be published, but they never appear -- at least where I can see them. Maybe I need a secret decoder ring.

Perhaps my comments go to the Bermuda Triangle. Or they are with Elvis. Or they are under piles of laundry, in which case we all know I'll never find them.

Regardless, I thank you for being here, for reading my posts and for taking time to respond. I hope you know that I love you -- in a mostly non-creepy way.

After a too-long hiatus, I'm thrilled to be writing semi-regularly again, in between work and kid activities and fights with my fiance' over politics (more on that later). What a wonderful outlet this is for me ... and how it helps me avoid pesky things like housework [shudder].

I don't have scads of followers yet, unless you count Russia, where I'm huge. Still, I'm grateful for each and every one of you who visits. For real. Now please spread the word and make me famous, so I can hire a housekeeper. Those who don't look like Hugh Jackman need not apply.

But seriously, I wish I had a big ol' porch where we all could sit and rock and chat. Maybe we can storm a Cracker Barrel one day.

Until then, thanks for visiting. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Airing My Dirty Laundry

In my last post, I mentioned that I had entirely too much laundry to be a serious goal-setter.

Lest you think I am prone to exaggeration on the Porch (who? me?), I share this picture of the latest pile:


Anyone else reminded of Marjory the Trash Heap, the oracle on "Fraggle Rock"?

Seriously, dudes. Laundry hates me. That's okay -- because as a single working mom -- the feeling is mutual. In fact, in my last house, I actually painted my laundry room the color of a margarita, hoping that would make all that sorting and washing and drying and folding more pleasant. Sadly, it only made me crave chimichangas. It was worth a shot, though.

Sure, I always have good intentions when it comes to the laundry. I do. I recall both my aunt and grandmother rising at 5:30 a.m. each day and starting loads of laundry with the sunrise (and possibly some drugs). Although I have never, ever done laundry at dawn, I still somehow think I will magically become that kind of diligent, disciplined housekeeper. But I also still somehow think I will become a ballerina, so there ya go.

Here is how laundry actually works here at the Porch:

  • Humming a merry tune, I carry around my baskets and happily gather the laundry from the kids' rooms (translation: I yell from the couch, "KIDS! YOU HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO BRING ME ALL YOUR DIRTY CLOTHES, OR YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT CLEAN CLOTHES THIS WEEK! AND SINCE YOU DIDN'T HAVE ANY LAST WEEK OR THE WEEK BEFORE THAT, I'D TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY!"). Although I often suspect they throw clean clothes into the mix to avoid putting them away, I wash them anyway. You only make the mistake once of smelling a pair of boy's underwear to see if it is clean.
  • In between checking facebook and creeping on my daughter's Twitter account, I haphazardly sort the laundry into various piles: whites; darks; the these-striped-shirts-are-both-white-and-dark-I'm-so-confused-I-need-wine piles; and the oh-my-lawd-the-boy-hasn't-washed-these-socks-since-2007 piles.
  • Then I step over those piles for a while. I mean, I went to all the trouble of yelling for clothes and sorting the laundry. That counts, right?
  • Sooner or later, I throw one of the loads into the washing machine. Well, I mean, I attempt to throw a load into the washing machine. But I can't .... because that is when I discover the now mildew-infused load that never made it into the dryer. Those clothes didn't make it into the dryer because the dryer is full of towels that need to be put into laundry baskets. And those towels never made it into the laundry baskets because every basket is still full of clothes waiting to be folded. I fold clothes on my bed, and you see that photo up there, right? There's a hole in the bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza. It's a vicious cycle, friends.
  • Eventually, the kids complain about having to wear old Halloween costumes to school because they are out of clothes, so I pour some vinegar into the washing machine and rewash the mildewed load. Sure, I secretly celebrate this because it buys me more time - to try to figure out how I will find time to fold laundry.
  • The truth is, I probably will wash that same load three or four more times before it actually makes it into the dryer. I work, okay? And this blog doesn't write itself -- although I probably should say that it does sometimes ("Really? That post about grandma's nipples? Totally wrote itself. Yep. I was too busy doing laundry that day for such nonsense").
  • I also likely will spin the loads in the dryer several times before I fold them because that is, in fact, how I iron. I hear occasional rumors that there are these appliances that you plug in and press over your clothes to get rid of wrinkles. I do not understand why people bother with such things. Do they not own dryers? Or know where the neighborhood dry cleaner is? Or hang their clothes in the bathroom while taking a steamy shower? Or know how to run the curling iron over the shirt collar without getting burned (actually, I have not perfected that one yet. Mom, that really was not a hickey)? The husband-to-be is a lawyer, so he has all these important-looking shirts with buttons and collars, and I'm guessing, wrinkles. I have warned him that I do not, and will not, iron, but since I think Iron Man is super cool, he should count his blessings.

Speaking of blessings, I have heard I should be grateful for loads and loads of laundry because they are reminders that those I love are still here (uh, I know they are still here; I can smell those dirty socks three rooms over).

But yes, since my blessings are still here, I think it is high time their mother someone better at housekeeping teaches them how to do the laundry.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Some People Walk in the Rain

Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.  Let the rain sing you a lullaby.  ~Langston Hughes

I am sorry if it has literally rained on any one's Labor Day parade, and I am terribly sorry for the havoc Hurricane Isaac has caused elsewhere.

But in my drought-soaked area, I have welcomed Isaac's rain.

The rainy weekend has replenished the earth after a long, hot, dry summer -- and nurtured my soul after a difficult couple of weeks. I have walked in the rain; turned my face up to it; fallen asleep to its soothing lullaby; cried with its storms; laughed in its sprinkles; and loved it. Loved it.

My fiance and I spent much of the weekend in the company of good books. As we sat around his house reading, I thought about how wonderful it is to have someone with whom you can embrace the quiet; to feel so comfortable in each others' presence that the quiet is not a void to fill, but an old friend who loves you with or without clever conversation.

And books! The joy of books! How grateful I am for those words that can whisk us out of own heads and into the lives of others, who are more messed up or more admirable or more everything or less everything than we are.

What is better than a good book on a rainy day? A nap after a good book on a rainy day.

We took glorious naps this weekend; sipped wine; and watched scary movies, including Jaws. It made me think less of monster sharks and more of the 1970s, of running around the drive-in playground in red, canvas sneakers, spinning dizzily on the merry-go-round, my whole life stretched out like the light beaming from the giant screen above my head, sluicing through the dark.

But the now has promise, too.

One evening, after books and before movies, my guy ventured out in the rain -- in his pajamas, no less -- to buy butter so he could make me baked hot chocolate, which is chocolate + butter + love. Each bite was more beautiful than the one before it. If Jesus was a dessert, He would be baked hot chocolate.

Goodness, how grateful I am for a man who not only is smart, funny and handsome, but bakes, too. We are polar opposites in the political arena -- and yes, this heated election year has tested our patience at times -- but what that man can do with sugar, butter and chocolate more than makes up for the Rush Limbaugh mug in his cabinet. Liberty, justice and chocolate for all.

In addition to chocolate decadence, I spent time this rainy weekend writing, journaling and praying. I thought about this quote:

I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.
-Dawna Markova

Although I am not usually a "goal-setter" (I have too much laundry for that!), I quietly set a goal ... to set some goals. Hey. It's a start!

One goal? I want my children to be proud of their mom, who does not always get it right, but who takes big, bold chances "to allow my living to open me."

Last night, while my daughter giggled in the next room with a friend who needs and deserves laughter, my son and I curled up on the couch with hot tea and enjoyed the more recent movie adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo

While it drizzled outside, my boy and I talked about the importance of honor and God and the dangers of envy and revenge.

At one point in the film, Edmond Dantes says, "Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes." 

I woke up during a storm this weekend. I slipped out of bed and tiptoed into the living room, where I sat on the couch and cried for the bad news someone I love recently received, tears streaking down my face like the rain on the windows. It was needed. Afterward, my soul felt like it had been washed on the delicate cycle.
 
This morning, I woke at my leisure to a quiet, dark house and the softest tapping of raindrops on the roof.

I don't know what's in store for today, as the rain has changed outdoor plans, but I am okay with not knowing. I am okay with not doing.

It has been the kind of soul-soothing, rainy weekend I needed, reminding me of a poem I once wrote about hurricanes - but have amended slightly here:



These raindrops,
my tears

These winds,
my whispered prayers

This swollen ground,
my grief

These muddy pools,
my wellspring of hope

Hurricane rain

Falls
                Softly
                                 Now

As Mother Earth acquiesces.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Possum Balls: A Story of Hope (and perhaps my best blog title ever)

If something was bad, I used to say it "sucked donkey butt." I don't know where that lovely expression came from, but it certainly has applied to the valleys of my life.

Let's face it, though. It's a crass expression; it's beneath me; and it's so 2008. As a pretend-writer, I need something much more ... poetic ... to sum up the past week.

Folks, the last week sucked possum balls.

I know. I know. I truly waste my talent here on the Porch. I should write for Hallmark.

Yes, I'm weary of my own complaining. I've worn myself out with it - and likely those who love me, too. At least I'm assuming that's why they automatically pour a glass of wine or hand me a cupcake when they see me. They know either of those will temporarily shut me up.

I was already working hard to embrace that whole it-is-what-it-is concept of life, when fate threw another curve ball. I'll spare the details for now, but trust me when I say it was one of those take-your-to-your-knees moments, when all the air in your lungs whooshes out at once, leaving you irrevocably altered. I hate those moments. They suck armadillo titties (too far? Really? Worse than possum balls?).

But this isn't about me. It really isn't. And believe it or not, this isn't a downer post.

This is a post of gratitude.

In the midst of a big, bad ol' storm, I found rays of light.

Anyone who knows my family knows that we have an irreverent sense of humor. I don't know where it came from, exactly. Perhaps it is genetic, or perhaps there is a gas leak in that big, old, rambling house we grew up in that resulted in permanent brain damage. Whatever the case, nothing is sacred with us. Nothing. I learned this week that not only will we do what is hard, but we will, somehow, find a way to laugh our way through it. Gallows humor is not for everyone, but it works for us.

It must be what inspired us to keep changing the dry-erase information board in a bleak hospital room this week, adjusting the patient's allowed activities to include "popping and locking" and "slip and slides." No, the nurses were not amused. But we were.

My family also spent some time each morning discussing stories in the local newspaper. One day, when I asked where an accident had happened, someone else misheard and thought I asked, "What were they wearing?"

That led to a discussion about how entertaining it would be if all news stories - instead of the who, what, where, when, why and hows - immediately reported on the outfits individuals involved in the event were sporting. This is where I should add that my family was in the newspaper business for a long time, so it's entirely possible we've absorbed too much newsprint ink.

Soon we began to make up news stories [insert Fox News joke here], including detailed descriptions of the subject's fashion ensemble:

President Obama announced today that a huge asteroid is slated to hit the Earth in December, most likely ending all life as we know it.
Obama was wearing gray, baggy sweatpants with a "Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong" t-shirt.
"This is a sad day for the world," Obama said, "But it's a pretty damn good day to be a Mayan."

Soon my mom and I had those cathartic, non-stop giggles, the kind that brings to mind that wonderful scene in Steel Magnolias when Clairee tells M'Lynn to hit Ouiser, and soon everyone is laughing through tears.

That's good stuff when you've had a week of a rotten stuff. It's the stuff of hope.

And I'll take that any day over possum balls and armadillo titties.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy Blog-day to Me!

For my Porch Sitters, with love & jelly.
Guess what, y'all?

This is my 100th post! [cue wild applause, balloons, confetti and Michael Jackson dancing with Emmanuel Lewis. We all celebrate in our own way, people.]

According to Willard Scott, 100 is a big deal, worthy of jars of jelly goodness.

I also learned from Wikipedia that 100 is an anti-gonal number. Math was never my best subject, but I'm guessing that means 100 is a lesbian.

Most importantly, as someone who always dreamed about being A Writer but never quite made it there (read: spends too much time on the Internet), the 100th post says something to me. It mostly says, "Who the heck reads this stuff?!" You do, apparently. God bless you for that.

Still, I'll give myself a teeny-tiny bit of credit, since it's my happy blog-day. The 100th post also says I stuck with something.

Honestly, I began the Porch when I was lost. I didn't know where to go. I didn't know what to do.

Writing has always been a way of soul-searching for me, a way to sift, sort and, well, find my way.

Granted, I have spent most of my life writing in some form. When I graduated from college, I found ways to pay the bills by stringing sentences together in a mostly coherent way. For a while, I was a journalist (I don't like to brag, but I have interviewed both Pauly Shore and Pat Boone. It's okay to be super jealous). I also dabbled in marketing and public relations and even pretended to be a writing teacher for a while.

But I wasn't writing for me. I was telling stories, but not my own. The Porch was a way to change that.

At the time, I didn't know if anyone would ever read what I needed to say, but I knew -- way down deep in my polysorbate-coated-gut -- that it was time to write for myself. I even gave myself permission to write badly, as long as I was writing. The Porch, after all, has always been a playground for me.

Depending on my mood and the availability of my muse (she's flighty, that one), I have written silly things and not-so-silly things; bad poetry and self-indulgent prose (like this!). I am sometimes a mommy blogger; sometimes an ornery blogger (<--I like her); sometimes a casual explorer of life's randomness; and sometimes I've just had too much wine.

But the point is, thanks to the Porch, I found my way. I found a place where I belong.

I hope some of you have, too.

Some tell me I'm sappy; some tell me I'm vulgar. As long as I'm being told both, I figure I'm doing my job. I have conservative readers; liberal readers; gay readers; straight readers; old readers; young readers; guy readers; gal readers; Hatfield readers; and McCoy readers. I like to think that means that everyone can find something here, something that ties us all together in spite of our many differences (Hugh Jackman? I'm betting it's Hugh Jackman).

Thanks to those of you who have visited the Porch through the years. As unlikely as this is, some of you aren't even related to me. Google stats tell me that most of my readers are from the United States ('MERICA!). But I also routinely have Russian visitors. Maybe I am to Russia as David Hasselhoff is to Germany. Most likely, Russians read my blog to feel vastly superior to Americans, much like they did when their neighbor, Sarah Palin, was a vice-presidential candidate. Or maybe it's because of the dance I did that ended the Cold War.

No matter where you come from or what brought you here (took a wrong turn at the corner of bing and google?), I hope the Porch has been a welcoming place for you: a place to laugh, unwind and learn important facts about snack cakes - like how Ding Dongs tasted so much better in thin, foil wrappers.

To Southerners, porches are sacred places, where friends gather to sip and sit a spell (how long is "a spell"? That, my friend, depends on how much wine you have). Porches also are places to pause -- to breathe and soak up life. Thank you for being my guest and soaking up a little life with me.

To celebrate my 100th blog-day, I plan to eat jelly out of the jar. But since I do that every day, I also plan to officially call myself a writer now. Stop giggling. I'm gonna work it. I'm gonna work it so hard.

In between raising children whom I relish; working an important day job that I relish; and transitioning into my new life, that yes, I relish, I am going to write more. Notice I didn't say I'm going to find time to write more because I've looked for that time, and it obviously hides out with lost socks and gloves and great movies that star Jennifer Lopez. It doesn't exist.

But desire certainly does. I just have to match my passion with some work ethic and ba-da-bing! I'll be writing my 101th blog post in no time.

Like maybe next year.

Hey. I never set a deadline. There's way too much Internet out there for that. I'm going to open a jar of Smucker's and watch videos of cats walking on their hind legs now. It's how we party on the Porch.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thankful (Or.. Why Reading The Porch Might Lead to a Hangover)

Whew. Lawdy.

This Sunday morning, I am grateful for the dawn of a new day, for the fresh start of a shiny, new week. If I can be blunt (and if you read The Porch, you know I can be), last week kicked my ass. It was a week that kept on giving - and not in a good way. Each day held a new "surprise" - but not the fun kind that includes cake and buttercream frosting.

Overall, I give last week the finger. I give it both fingers. I give it both fingers and two middle toes. That's how bad it was.

And yes, I feel guilty for complaining again. Damn my guilt complex. Can't I ever be entitled to say something sucked without feeling guilty for thinking it sucks? Nope. I still realize, overall, how fortunate I am. I've covered that in a recent post. God bless those who struggle. When I pray, I often tell Big G, "Hey. I know this must sound like super trivial stuff compared to everything you hear up there. Go work on those issues. I just needed to whine for a second."

Then I imagine the Big G says something like, "No, you need to wine for a second. Go pour yourself a glass and let me get back to serious business. But don't sweat it. You wouldn't believe the stuff people ask me for. This one crazy, 40-something-year-old woman keeps asking me for Hugh Jackman! Hugh-My-Finest-Handiwork-Jackman! Can you imagine? AS IF, girlfriend. Ohhhh. Was that...Um, never mind. Well, this is terribly awkward, isn't it? I've got to, um... Look! A monkey!"

See? I still see the lighter side of life. It's a gift. An irreverent, warped sort of gift.

Plus, I watched the movie version of The Help with my daughter this week, and I was struck by the conversation the maid, Constantine, has with a young Skeeter, when Skeeter feels the world is decidedly against her. I love Kathryn Stockett's beautiful novel so very much (it was one of those books I cradled at night before I closed it and set it, regrettably, aside), that I grabbed it and looked up the passage.

Constantine tells Skeeter,“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision... You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?"

So today, I ask myself that again:

Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?

I wish it was easy to answer, "Hell to the no!" I wish life's problems were that simple to solve.

They are not, but this morning, I am going to shake my head NO when I ask myself that question.

I am going to pump my fist in the air triumphantly!

I am going to eat the last chocolate donut before my kids wake up because that is WHO I AM (I never claimed to be a saint).

I might not believe it quite yet, but I figure this is good practice.

And in that vein, I also begin this new, fresh week by celebrating some of the things I am grateful for today. As always, I am humbled by the big things I have been granted: family, friends, good health, my job and so forth. But it pays to be thankful for the little things, too...

  • like the aforementioned last chocolate donut. The last one tastes the bestest. So does the first one. And the ones in the middle.
  • I also am grateful for the woman at the bakery who asked me -- and I kid you not -- if I wanted  "a cup of frosting" with my donuts. God bless her. She gets me.
  • I give Hugh Jackman way too much attention (Oh! Oh! I just thought of a new drinking game. Read through my blog, and each time I mention Hugh Jackman in a post, take a drink. Just don't blame me when you can't get out of bed the next morning). Although I love Hugh Jackman (just kicking the game off right), I also must give a shout out to my other pretend boyfriend, Christian Bale, and the newest Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises, which opens this week. Whoever coined that movie title is friggin' brilliant. Is it hot in here?
  • I am thankful for the plentiful rain our drought-weary area welcomed yesterday. The kids and I ran down the street in it, splashed in the puddles and let it soak us to the bones. It was beautiful.
  • I also am stoked that I recently achieved the highest rating of five stars on the Wii Just Dance 3 game. How did I turn into Shakira? Well, I miss my kids terribly when they are gone, so to the pass the time, I sometimes play Just Dance. By myself. In my living room. In my underwear. Don't judge! What fun is it to be alone in your house if you can't dance around the living room in your underwear? No worries. I close the blinds to protect the innocent. I also cover the mirrors because I once made the mistake of watching myself dance. Turns out, I look less like Shakira and more like a monkey on crack. The game usually rates my moves as "creative." I'll take that as a compliment.
  • I am grateful for James Taylor, who I saw in concert this week. He struck me as kind, gracious, and of course, wonderfully talented. (And -- I don't know if you know this -- but he's seen fire and he's seen rain.) As a creative type, I love to see artists like James Taylor perform, and I relish hearing the stories behind the music. They are artists who have always known who they are, and they refuse to be anything else. It's inspiring.
  • Last but not least, I am thankful for you, for reading these silly posts. It's because of the Hugh Jackman drinking game, isn't it? Still, I love you. And Hugh Jackman. Cheers, you crazy, wonderful porch sitters!