Monday, September 22, 2014

Thank you, white rice

"Maybe you had to work late, or had too many errands and not enough time. One way or the other, the day simply disappeared, somehow, and now the dinner hour is approaching too quickly for comfort." 
-  back of Instant White Rice box

It's like the white rice writers are in my head. That is exactly what has happened. Every. Single. Day.
It's a white rice affirmation, after a long day. Soothing me, saying the white rice understands, go ahead, put that water on to boil... white rice will be there for you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Muscadine Memories

My Mom has spoken of it often, shaking her head and twitching her mouth - "They are just ornery. That is a Nicholls thing. They like to do stuff just to be contrary." My grandmother, having married into the scene confirms it: "Pure Nicholls." I hear the family stories and laugh at them, I see the contrariness and the scampy grin on some of my own kids.
I never realized it of myself - though the childhood nickname "Beth-a-mule" should have been a clue.
But this week, a friend and I were watching our kids play at the playground. They ran up with some muscadine grapes they had found along the woods, and the smell as they bit into the juicy grapes brought a story to mind.

Mrs. Whitaker has lived beside my Mom for almost 40 years. She was old when I was a kid; she is really old now. The smell of muscadines reminded me of the many times I would belly-crawl across the dirt lane into her yard, intent on raiding her grapevines. But like many old ladies, her usual pastime was sitting at the window, watching everyone and everything she could see. And out in the country, there is not much to see. So, a little ragamuffin neighbor kid crawling to her vines was pretty obvious.
"Git on outta there! Stay out from my grapes!" She would stand on her stoop, in a flowered housedress and not wearing her teeth. She may or may not have held a broom every time, but in my mind she was a witchy character. She had a large facial mole, after all. I would hightail it back across to our yard and race around the barn, out of sight.

If the petty thievery was frequent, she would speak to my Mom about it. And about me climbing in her tree. My other favorite spot - Mrs. Whitaker's perfect climbing tree for a climb-loving girl. It was a great magnolia that grew right along the road, so I could clamber up and look out over the fields, and up and down the road. Of course I was sneaky about that too - how did she see me when I was climbing on the far side of her tree? The woman was uncanny. "Git on outta my tree! I won't have you breaking the branches out! Ye'll ruin the blooms."

As I regaled my friend with this Tale of a Country Child, I started giggling. "Oh my gosh!" I squeaked,  "I was so ornery! My granddad had acres and acres that I could roam, and I insisted on eating that lady's grapes and climbing in her tree! For years." My mouth dropped open and I stared at her. I burst out laughing - "I must have done that just to be contrary."
Hello, Nicholls.
Thank you, granddaddy Jehu.

Friday, September 19, 2014


I follow the rules
play oh so fair
I'm careful with hearts
I stay in the lines

I follow statistics and lines on a graph
There's safety in answers
A haven in words

Sure weight in a conscience
anchor to soul
Guidelines to lead me
Compass for life

But watch me I'm spinning
and staring bemused
With robot precision truly confused

For the world offers options
"Tread where you like"
I can't play well with those

Ever find yourself wondering when the level playing-field disappeared? When the rules changed? In school, in life, in relationships, in everything? I have to know what leg to stand on, havetohavetohaveto, or it is trouble-city. Rule-mongerer.

Friday, September 5, 2014

After The Great Migration

And now in the waning time of the Great Migration, she gathered her wits and herself about her and she set out to become human again.
Or something like that.
Ya'll, we have been in the process of buying, selling and moving forever and now I can breathe again.
I was one serious ball of a hot mess for months! It is no small thing to move six people, and I did not even begin to fathom the monstrous task this would be. Sure, I said, no problem, I said, we moved 7 times in 8 years, I said. And we did. Just the two of us, and then one teensy weensy baby Cole on the last 3 moves. Not selling & buying each time. Not showing a home, managing deadlines, or reviewing inspection reports and disclosure statements all while managing the Life And Times of 1600 Children. They are exponential. You know this now.
And now I am becoming human again. Or trying to. On the way to settling down and settling in, you can be assured that there have been some VBI's (Very Bad Incidents, thank you Susan for the perfect phrasing!). In fact, there was one yesterday, which leads me to this long, awkward Hi, I'm Back To Blogging post.

Today's topic, and yesterday's debacle is entitled:

Chemicals, Hormones and Wailing, Oh My!
I heard you snicker. I don't even need to go on, I know. But we are a sisterhood, and we too have daughters, and lord help us all someone should have told us the absolute unruliness that is the female temperament, at all times and days, not depending on the weather or on sleep patterns or even on Grown-Up Drink consumption. Nope, this uncontrollable force of nature needs no help from impending periods or sleep-deprived nights. It strikes at will. It strikes in complete anonymity. And that, my friends, is why they are called VBI's.
The root of this incident started with the beginning of the school year 3 weeks ago. Sweet Phoenix had a very rough start to 1st grade, having switched to a new school, and having recently turned six... which is code for "He doesn't read yet, he's young for this grade." (That is a whole other post in itself, tied into the fizzling out of the VBI. Can you wait?!)
Phoenix cried the first two weeks of school. There were many hugs and pep-talks and parental conferences, much daily encouragement and perhaps some ice cream rewards and chocolate bars for the days when there was NOT crying. Also, much discussion on ages and learning and the range from A-Z that you get with 4 kids.
This week, the 1st grade room mom sent out the schedule of volunteer dates for us to sign up. I was Mommy-On-The-Spot and snagged the Sight Word duty, which luckily falls on my morning off. Our county requires a background check, and mandatory child abuse reporter training before volunteering. I jumped through all the hoops, my morning was miraculously clear and I was ready to go.
You know the feeling, all the stars aligned - back on my game, getting into a familiar role, settling into the new school, being there for my little guy during a tough time.
But it was not to be. Oh no. A county backlog in background checks led to "me no be found." I typed my name in three times, three ways. Last name only. First and last name. First, maiden, last. Nada. And then I confidently walked up to the front desk, handed them my email printout from the online training and asked to sign in.
You know that confident feeling, the feeling of a mom who has volunteered weekly in elementary school for 8 years, and who knows she is not a convict or child abuser, and certainly all these good people know it and by God they need volunteers here every day, they need us here! But oh no. They did not have approval to let me in until I was in the system, free and proven clear of any and all brushes with The Law.

In a rush of emotion my voice wobbled out at Ms. Nice Front Desk: But they are expecting me in class, and my son is expecting me, and he didn't even want to come to school and I promised him I was coming to do sight words, and he got on the bus without crying and you are telling me I will not be allowed and I was told to bring my email confirmation in case of backlog, and just the other day when I was getting my daughter from the clinic someone here let a mom in just for her daughter's birthday and SHE wasn't in the system and she argued and someone let her go back there for something trivial like cupcakes, and I am here for sight words, a weekly thing, sight words, weekly???? Sniffle. Sniff. Reassuring and apologetic rhetoric from Ms. Nice Front Desk, coupled with alarm over who may have let another mom back for cupcakes, which is certainly Not Allowed. Absolutely no leniency for me. A tear pricked my eyelids and I made a hasty departure. My hand may have smacked the door bar a tad hard as I pushed my way out.

I stood at the van. I breathed deeply and tried to stop the stupid tears. I decided I was not letting this stand, that Phoenix was waiting for me and by God they were going to know they were stopping the career of an 8-Year Volunteer Mom.

Did I mention that to get into our schools you have to ring a buzzer and speak into a camera intercom? Yeah. So I buzzed that buzzer and heard the hesitant "Can I help you?" and replied "I need to speak with someone about this."
I strode in determinedly, and spoke firmly, but wobbly and my lips did that quirky "I'm-not-crying" thing - "My son is having a very difficult year and I am here to help. I have filled out the county forms every year, and been approved every year. What can I do to get in the system?" More apologies. No results. A hasty, less-noisy exit from me, and the flood gates opened. I can't decide which was louder, the crying or the cursing as I drove home. I had my heart on my sleeve and my temper in my mouth and I was burning with righteous fury. But did I just sit down and have some tea, and a good cry? No! I drafted an email to the Principal, to Phoenix's teacher, to Fulton County and to the good Lord Himself and THEN I called the school and requested that Ms. Front Desk please go and tell my son and his teacher that I was not able to come in. I deleted the email to the Principal as my better judgment slowly returned. I stormed around the house breathing like a bellows, tears running down like water. Oh people it was a s-c-e-n-e.
Hours, it took. Hours to calm down and by that time I was so tired of myself and felt so ridiculous that I hid in my room as though the whole town had seen this VBI. And still, at the least thought of Phoenix waiting for me to arrive, I would lose my grip again. (Susan didn't you already name this Mama Bear Syndrome?!)

This whole sordid tale over a simple refusal to allow volunteering that day. Another day I may have shrugged and been off to get 10 other things done on my list. Temporary emotional insanity, hello.

On a walk that evening, I wondered if that is what a nervous breakdown feels like. Then I laughed, out loud, because wouldn't that be a pickle? How would everything get done?

Today I am composing apologetic words for my return to the school next week. Nice. To add another layer, Ms. Nice Front Desk has hometown connections - her Dad is from LDubs! Her aunt is Patty Swain, who has taught school in Washington forever! Her dad has retired, and is now working part-time for B.E. Singleton, a local Washington business, the owners of which were my grandparents best friends! Too many exclamations!! The over-excitement is overwhelming.... here we go again...
Happy freaky Friday ya'll.

You're welcome.