Hall-iday Inn

My junior year in high school my dad decided to take a job in Dumas, Texas, with Piggly Wiggly. He’d worked for the chain in Floydada, Texas, and then tried his hand at store ownership there. His partner in that endeavor lacked a couple of necessary attributes, money and business acumen, and soon that business failed. So when Daddy was asked to take over the store in Dumas, it was a blessing. For everyone but me.

I’d gone to school in Floydada since kindergarten. All of my friends were there. My future was all mapped out. I was a junior, for Pete’s sake. What kind of parents make their child move their junior year in high school? Well, apparently parents who need to make a living.

They let me finish out the school year in Floydada. I lived with my mother’s parents for three of the longest months of my life, and then moved to Dumas in late May of 1974 to rejoin my family. I moped a lot. There I was in a strange town during the summer of what should have been the best time of my life. Truthfully it ended up being a pretty great summer, but I certainly didn’t want anyone to know that. “Work the guilt,” was my unconscious motto.

My dad had the brilliant idea that we should embark on family camping adventures that summer, so he bought this ginormous green and white striped tent at a garage sale. It was hideous, but he got this crazy notion that we should dub it the Hall-iday Inn. Our last name was Hall. Pretty clever, eh?

Soon we were immersed in a frenzy of camping. Many weekends we’d head to Lake Fryer near Perryton where we’d swim, pretend to fish, and be jolly. We even took the tent to Tres Ritos in New Mexico where Mom stepped on a rusty coat hanger and had to have a tetanus shot.

One fateful weekend we arrived at our campsite near Lake Fryer after dark and had to set up the tent by flashlight. I called dibs on the top bunk of the double decker cot and after we all made trips to the communal outhouse we retired for the evening. Sometime in the wee hours a fearsome storm blew in. A boom of thunder woke me. Bursts of lightning flashed outside the Hall-iday Inn. Then a gust of wind forced it’s way beneath our tent and blew us over and over and over. I screamed like Shelley Winters in the “Poseidon Adventure.” Mom told me to shut up.

Once the tent stopped rolling we took stock of our physical well being. Mom and Dad were fine. My younger brothers were accounted for, and I was ok, but embarrassed by my histrionics of the previous few minutes as we went tumbling toward the lake. We couldn’t find the zippered entrance to the tent, but Dad had his pocket knife. My brothers begged him tearfully not to cut the tent, but that seemed to be our only recourse to escaping from that collapsed canvas of doom.

Fortunately we had friends camping nearby who came to our rescue and took us in for the night. As I recall that ended our camping obsession, and we went back to being a normal family. I never could have admitted to my dad how much I enjoyed those camping trips. Those really were the last times that the five of us vacationed as a family. Those were the days before I met Studly, before any of us thought too much about the changes that were upon us. I hope I told Daddy “thank you” at some point for bringing us together in that tent in the summer of 1974.

Peace, People.

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I am 58 years old. I’d like to think I still look good for my age, but I know the years are beginning to etch themselves into my face line by fine line. I’m really okay with that. I’m alive, happy, and healthy. I have a terrific husband, two incredible children, a daughter-in-love and a son-in-love, and five absolutely brilliant grandchildren who obviously take after their Nana.

About birthdays: On one hand we have the joyful celebration of a life lived for one more year, an act of death defiance at any age, but as we grow older we are more aware of that truth. On the other hand we have the memories of birthdays past, often a bittersweet blend of wonder and loss.

Several of my birthdays stand out in my mind. Here’s one. The day before my 12th birthday, Mom picked me up at school. She was waiting for me as I came down the steps at R.C. Andrews elementary. She was smiling, but it was a sad smile and she told me that Pappy, my great grandfather, had passed away that morning. Of course being the dramatically selfish little sixth grader I was, my thoughts immediately went to my carefully planned birthday slumber party that would need to be cancelled. I cried, but for all the wrong reasons.

The weekend was spent at my Nannie and Grandaddy’s house with grownups speaking in hushed tones while a seemingly infinite number of casseroles arrived to feed us. My birthday was forgotten. On Monday afternoon I returned home from school to find Mom there already. She immediately sent me to Nannie’s home to pick up something that Mom had left there. I grouched to myself all the way to Nannie’s on my bicycle and all the way back.

“What am I, a servant?”

“Who does she think she is, anyway?”

“No one cares about me anymore. No one even wished me happy birthday.”

“If I died they’d all feel sorry.”

I probably said “damn” and then felt guilty about it.

When I walked in my back door with the spoon, or potholder, or apron that I’d been sent to fetch it struck me that the house was curiously quiet. Then I heard, “Surprise!” as I entered the kitchen.

Mom had gathered my closest friends for a party. She’d taken off from work that afternoon, baked a cake, and decorated the kitchen in my honor. It’s still one of my fondest memories. In the midst of her own sorrow, Mom knew how much I needed attention. I miss her every day, but especially today.

Peace, People!

Walking Farts

Please excuse the title, but I’m all about truth in advertising. Most of the time, anyway.

About 15 years ago Studly and I took a big motorcycle trip with our good friends Guy and Janice. When I say big, I mean we rode from Great Bend, Kansas, to points in South Dakota and Wyoming including Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore, and Devils Tower of “Close Encounters” fame. it was my first major ride on my own bike, a 650 Yamaha V-Star. The V-Star was an absolutely beautiful cruiser with next to no horsepower. Keeping it at 65 mph took constant effort. I was fairly miserable for much of the trip–a combination of first ride nerves and no oomph.

The ride, though, was incredible after we escaped from the wind tunnels commonly known as Kansas and Nebraska. Once in South Dakota we rode through a cluster of wild burros in Custer State Park. Had I the inclination and temerity I might have reached out a tentative toe and nudged a buffalo in the park, as well. I was that close. It was that scary. We came within five feet of the Bighorn Sheep that were clinging tenaciously to the mountainside. This indoor girl experienced wildlife overload. Perhaps that accounts for the buildup of abdominal gas I experienced, as well.

We didn’t have reservations at the lodge in the state park, but we decided to stop by and see if there were any vacancies. The setting was breathtaking, and I kept my throttle fingers crossed as we pulled into the parking area. Sure enough, they had a suite available consisting of two bedrooms with a shared, “Jack and Jill” style bathroom. It wasn’t ideal, but we were all saddle sore from the day’s ride and decided we could share the facilities for one night.

We dined on steaks and baked potatoes that evening in the massive common room featuring a soaring ceiling and chandeliers fashioned from antlers. Then we took a walk outside to take in the wonder of the park. That’s when an embarrassing case of the walking farts set in. Every step I took resulted in a “pfffft,” a “thhhhhht,” or a “vvvvvv!” at full volume. At first we all tried ignoring the sounds emanating from my behind, then someone snorted a laugh and all bets were off.

I tried to rein in my flatulence, but the harder I tried the worse it got. Finally we decided to return to our rooms. My walk back to the inn sounded like, “step, pffft, step, pffft, step, pffft!” I could have generated power for a small city.

In the middle of that night I felt like I could dispense with some of that pent up gas, but we had a shared bathroom and I didn’t want to impose the sounds and potential smells of my relief on anyone else, so I dressed and went to the lobby bathroom. Ahhhh. Redemption.

The next morning as we gathered for breakfast I related the tale of my midnight expedition to Studly and our friends, only to learn that each member of our group had done the same thing. Apparently, friends don’t subject friends to smelly bathrooms.

Peace, People!

Loving the Job

Every weekday I get to sit knee to knee with a variety of second graders as my coworkers and I complete preliminary testing for our literacy research. This might just be the greatest job in the history of jobs.

Many of these children are woefully behind as readers, indeed, they are behind in many areas of English language development. Some are from households in which English is not the primary language. Others are children living in extreme poverty where parents are doing their best just to stay afloat. Still others come to us from families where reading is not a priority. Whatever their circumstances, achieving the ability to read at grade level by third grade is critical.

Each one of these children is a priceless gift. I absolutely fall in love with them. Right now our team is administering pre-tests to students who qualified for the program. Many of our test questions are well beyond these students’ current capabilities, making for some amusing responses.

When shown a set of footprints one child told me, “Oh, I know this one! It’s printfoots!” Close, oh so close.

Another child when asked what word means the same as “peer” replied, “Beer. Like Coors–that’s what my daddy drinks, but it makes my mom mad when he drinks too many.” Hmmm.

I love it when a student knows an answer and then says, “My teacher taught me this.” They are so proud of themselves.

The children seem to love coming to work with us as much as we enjoy working with them. One little girl today smiled at me when I called her name from the classroom door and said shyly, “I was hoping and hoping you would say my name.”

Another told a co-worker, “You make me feel smart.”

Not all of the comments are sweet. A child this afternoon asked, “Why you always asking me questions. Don’t you know this stuff?” Well, I know some of it.

After looking at one set of photos after another and trying to pick out the right one from a verbal prompt, one child sighed and said, “These are the most boringest pitchers I ever seen.” Sorry, kiddo. I’m at the mercy of the test designers.

One of the assessments we administer asks the students to respond orally to the following prompt: “‘Jan threw the ball into the street.’ Now say this sentence in passive voice

The correct response would be, “The ball was thrown into the street by Jan,” but the second graders have no idea what they’re supposed to do. Most just repeat the sentence back to me, but last week a little girl whispered the sentence. I thought it was a fluke until I later asked her to put a sentence in active voice. She hopped up and down and shouted the sentence. She might not know how to change the voice of the sentence, but she sure knows the difference between active and passive.

Probably the best thing about this stage of the project is getting a ringside seat into the ways these children think about their own thinking. Educators call this “metacognition.” The more confident among them will say things like, “It must be this picture, because the mom looks like she might be mad. In the other pictures she just looks like a regular mom. And if someone ate all my cookies, I’d be mad.”

In November we will began small group interventions with many of these students. That will be fun, as well, but I will miss this one to one interaction, even when it’s with kids who think my questions are lame and my pictures boring.

Peace (and read with your kids), People!

Have a Very Hairy Winter

Last week I saw a Facebook meme that essentially said that since autumn has arrived I don’t have to shave my legs until next spring. That made me wonder what else I could dispense with at this time of year. Underwear? Eyeglasses? Makeup? None of the aforementioned? I couldn’t think of a single thing. And I’ll continue shaving my legs all year long.

Yes, I’m an overachiever. I have shaved my legs every single day of the year regardless of season from the time I was 11 years old. I shaved them on the days I gave birth. I shaved them after my lumpectomy. I shaved them after my hysterectomy. TMI? Too bad. If I were running for public office this would be my slogan:

VOTE FOR ME, I’M LEG HAIR FREE.

I don’t care if other women choose to let their hair grow all winter long. That’s a personal choice. I don’t shave for Studly’s benefit; quite honestly he probably wouldn’t notice if I grew a cashmere sweater on my thighs. I just can’t stand to sleep with myself if there’s any stubble at all on my legs.

When I become old and feeble I hope I have the money to hire a person to shave my legs on a daily basis. While they’re at it, they should also make sure my mustache is under control. And when I die, before I’m cremated, I want someone to take on these critical tasks. I can’t meet St. Peter with hairy legs. Is anyone writing this down? It’s important.

Peace, People!

Let it Go?

Why is it easy to let some small annoyances go and impossible to let others slide by?

I have raged for years about 32″ inseams on my 33.5″ legs. That danged inch and a half is a thorn in my side. On average aren’t people growing taller? Then why on earth haven’t inseams gotten longer? Let it go!

Political ads. The misdirection, happy family photos, staged walks on the beach, outright lies–they all make me cringe. I think every politician should be allotted ten 30 second television advertisements. They may not mention their opponent in any way during those 30 seconds. Only verifiable facts and statistics may be used. Don’t let it go!

The term “supermodel” bugs me. Anything with the word “super” imposed on it should at least be able to fly or bend steel rods. Let it go!

What’s up with beets? They always look like they should taste pleasant, and yet they don’t. It’s that bright red coloring that is the problem. I see festive red and I think, “mmm, sweet,” not “ugh, weird tasting vegetable.” Let it go!

Incorrect use of an apostrophe. Don’t let it go! People, an apostrophe shows ownership:

Paula’s plants. Not Paula’s plant’s.
Plant’s leaves. Not plant’s leave’s

Bathroom seats that are left in the upright position. It’s icky. It’s yucky! But I can live with it. Let it go!

Burps and belches that aren’t followed by the phrase, “Excuse me!” Common courtesy. Don’t let it go!

Blog posts with no apparent point. I hope you can let it go!

Peace, People!

Awareness Issues

Do you suffer from Awareness Issues?

1. Do you find yourself stepping in random puddles of oil in parking lots or piles of dog poop in parks?

2. Have you ever bumped into an inanimate object and said, “excuse me”?

3. Have you ever driven any length of time only to realize you have no recollection of the past 10, 20, or even 30 miles?

4. Have you ever accidentally brushed your teeth with Preparation H?

5. Have you ever gotten into the wrong car in a parking lot and wondered why your key doesn’t fit the ignition?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions you might be suffering from Awareness Issues.

As a recovering sufferer of AI, I wholeheartedly endorse the Institute for Awareness Disorders, or IAD. Here’s what IAD can offer:

Intensive Group Therapy–Daily meetings with fellow AI sufferers will provide support as you deal with your lack of awareness.

Personal Counseling Sessions–One on one meetings with an expert to get to the root cause of your Awareness Issues.

Awareness Exercises–The heart of IAD. Our certified AI counselors will lead you and fellow attendees in activities guaranteed to eradicate AI. Previous exercises have included blindfolding participants and dropping them into a variety of locations such as Times Square in NYC, and the Amazon Jungle, walking a tightrope over a pit of vipers, and rock climbing in the Rockies.

Comments from our satisfied customers:

“If the exercises don’t result in death or dismemberment you most likely will be cured.” –Clueless Joe J., IA.

“I used to get into other people’s cars all the time before enrolling at IAD. Now, that hardly ever happens.”–Helen N., Hereford, TX.

Before attending IAD I was always doing embarrassing things like scolding strangers in airport restrooms, but the group therapy has been so helpful.”–Nedra P., Canyon, TX.

I can’t tell you the number of times I accidentally used hairspray as deodorant and vice versa before attending IAD. Now, I look twice before I spray.–L. N., Havana, FL.

You no longer have to suffer from Awareness Issues. Call our offices today at 1-888-bea-ware.

Peace, People!

Short and Gross

This morning I went out to get in the convertible. I pulled out of the garage and realized the ambient temperature was a bit on the chilly side to ride around with the top down. So with a press of a button I raised the top.

Little pieces of something began falling all around me. Dead lovebugs. Lots and lots of dried, dead lovebugs, no longer entwined in death, their flaky little carcasses raining down into my hair and onto my lap and into my purse.

What a way to start the day.

Peace, People!

Whatchamacallit

When I was a kid in the ’60s growing up in Floydada, Texas, we called the refrigerator an icebox, a fridge, or a Frigidaire, regardless of the brand.

When we went to get a soft drink, it was always a “coke” even though that might mean a Pepsi or a Sprite or a root beer. It wasn’t until we moved to North Dakota that I learned not everyone did that. Up there, it’s a “pop” and in Kansas, a “soda.”

In our living room, we sat on a couch, but my Grandmother Hall called hers a divan and my Nannie Grace called hers a sofa. I’ve heard it called a davenport, but I can’t remember by whom.

Our noon meal was dinner and our evening meal was supper. We learned differently when we moved up north. There the noon meal is lunch and the evening meal dinner. That difference caused a bit of confusion when interacting with the natives. We’d invite folks to supper and they’d look puzzled until we gave them a time. Then they’d say, “Oh, you mean dinner.”

And we’d say, “No, that’s at noon.”

“Oh, you want us for lunch?” ”

“Well, we’d prefer fried chicken.”

Who’s on first? That’s right.

In Texas, if one was planning to do something in the near future she might say, “I’m fixin’ to…” as in “I’m fixin’ to defrost the icebox.” Truly it sounded more like “fixinta”–“I’m fixinta cook supper.”

And we were always “carrying” someone somewhere. Grandma Hall didn’t drive, so she would ask us to carry her to the store. She was an able bodied woman at that time, so carrying meant giving her a ride in our car–no heavy lifting involved.

Objects for which we didn’t have a name were called “doohickeys,” or “thingamajigs,” or “thingamabobs.” People whose names we couldn’t recall were “Old Whatshername,” or “Whatchamacallit.” It was possible to have a conversation that went like this:

Mom: Do you have that thingamabob that came off the icebox?

Dad: No, I took it over to old Whatshername to see if she had one of those doohickeys.

Mom: Well, Grandma Hall asked us to carry her to the store to pick up some fixings for a big dinner she’s fixinta have after church tomorrow. I can run by and pick up the doohickey while I’m out.

Dad: Be sure and get some Coke.

Mom: Okay. What kind?

Dad: Dr. Pepper.