Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Things We Do

I was going up some stairs at work the other day when the toe of my sandal caught the edge of the next step. Luckily I didn’t fall, but I did execute a particularly ungainly stumble, snatch and grab of the railing before regaining my balance. Afterwards, even though I knew what caused me to misstep, I looked behind me to see what I had tripped over (nothing) – and if anyone had witnessed my fall from grace. (Fortunately, no.)

That need to check when we do something clumsy is just one of any number of odd behaviors that appear to be universal to us humans.

There’s another I call the “baby and mascara mystery.”  For some reason, women unconsciously let their mouths gape open when they are spoon feeding a baby or applying mascara. The first time I caught myself doing this was years ago and initially I thought it was an aberration unique to me – but then I noticed my daughters doing the same thing when they applied their mascara or fed their babies. Although relieved to know I was not the world’s solitary mouth-gaping mommy, I was now concerned it was a genetic flaw passed down through our family. This caused me to pay attention whenever I was in a position to observe other women feeding babies or applying mascara. More often than not, I am happy to report they do the same thing. Whew, I feel better!

Another behavior I’ve noticed happens when we are behind the wheel of a car and do something stupid like take off when the green arrow comes on - only we are not in the left-turn lane, or start through a four-way stop before it is actually our turn then have to slam on the brakes and let the correct car proceed through. In these instances, we are stuck in the presence of other drivers who no doubt saw what we did, and the resulting self consciousness causes us to feel a little itch somewhere, usually on the head, that we just have to scratch. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true! Pay attention the next time you do something like this and see if you don’t experience this phenomenon. And when you see another driver do the same sort of thing, watch them. I’ll bet they scratch too!

It’s interesting how as a whole, we can be so very different from one another and yet still be so alike. For instance, how many of these behaviors do you share with me?

Pressing harder and harder on the remote when it’s pretty clear the batteries are dead.
Passing a mirror or plate glass window and just having to glance at your reflection.
Mistyping your password and deleting the whole thing, instead of just the character you got wrong.
Rocking out in front of the mirror when you are absolutely sure you are home alone.
Checking the fridge over and over when you’re hungry as if the items in it may have changed since you last checked.
Avoiding eye contact with the driver sitting next to you at the stop light.
Changing the toilet paper roll from “under” to “over” in the restroom at work.
Purposely avoiding the cracks when you walk on a sidewalk.

It makes me smile to know that despite the vast differences in us humans based on where we were raised, by who, the color of our skin, what level of education we have and the myriad of other factors that make us unique, there is a common uniting thread running through our humanity that humbles us, unites us and ensures we stay a family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Zero to Sixty

Well, it happened. I knew it was coming, and I was braced for the earth shattering, unavoidable jolt of waking up the morning of my sixtieth birthday with the sobering realization that I will never be fifty-something (let alone forty-something or indeed, thirty-something) ever again. I went to sleep sort of dreading the morning, but funnily enough, when I actually wakened I was thinking about work and some issues I was dealing with - and wasn’t even aware I was now sixty years of age until Gary smiled and said “Happy Birthday.” The day progressed nicely from there and I am happy to say that turning sixty wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, I feel sort of wise and matriarchial all of a sudden, which gives me pause to look back on my life with newfound sagacity, and contemplate why it is a good thing to be where I am now instead of where I have been previously.

In retrospect, the babyhood / early childhood decade was probably the best prior to now. I wasn’t saddled with a whole lot of responsibility at that stage of life so having fun twenty-four / seven was expected of me, and I excelled at it. Arguably, this period of my life would have been the best had it not been ruined toward the end by the start of school. Kindergarten and first grade were okay, although I would have preferred to be home with my mom – but by the time I was ten and in third grade, I had figured out I was no scholar, and school was ceasing to be fun.

The pre-teen / teenage decade was challenging for me. With two older sisters and a younger brother, I was neither fish nor fowl most of the time. My sisters got to do all sorts of cool things that I could not because I was too young, and my brother got away with murder being the baby and the only boy. Then, of course, there was the school issue. I just hated to study and resented having to do homework. Our family moved a lot, which caused me to change schools ten times between kindergarten and twelfth grade, so I was also the perennial “new kid.” Fortunately, despite the fact that I was a disconnected, recalcitrant student, I was pretty smart and managed not to get left back at any point. And regardless of which school I attended, there were lots of cute boys to flirt with, so I made the most of it and eventually graduated - if not with honors, at least not in disgrace.

I married shortly after high school and produced two beautiful daughters shortly thereafter. This was rather a good decade because being a military family we got to live in all sorts of exciting places like Wichita, Kansas. (Kidding!) Well, we did live in Wichita, but were also based in Las Vegas for three years and in England for another three before returning to the states to set up house here in Fort Worth. I loved being a stay at home mom and thoroughly enjoyed raising my two girls, but my marriage fell apart, and by the time I turned thirty, I was a poor but proud single mom struggling to keep body and soul together.

My thirties were a turbulent time. Trying to raise two small children and support a home on an entry-level salary and hit and miss child support was tough! Fortunately, I met Gary just prior to my thirtieth birthday. With his huge love and support, we got through some very difficult times and managed to keep everything afloat.

Gary and I raised three great kids, bought a restaurant, played a lot of golf and worked hard throughout my forties. One thing I am a maniac about is saving money, so having retirement savings is of utmost importance to me. We diligently contributed to our 401(k) plans while dreaming of someday touring America in our own beautiful motor home and other carefree retirement plans.

I turned fifty in June of 2001 – two and a half months before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center – an event that changed our nation and me along with it forever. I still cry at the memories of the horror that assaulted our senses that day, and grieve for the families of those who lost their lives. In the aftermath of 9-11, like many small businesses our restaurant foundered, our savings plummeted and with no other course open to us, Gary and I squared our shoulders and set about the business of rebuilding our finances and our faith in mankind. There have been numerous setbacks along the way as the stock market has risen and fallen, our hopes and dreams bobbing like flotsam and jetsam along with it.

So, leaving my fifties has not been too painful. The kids are all grown now and doing well. We have eight adorable grandchildren. I have a job that I really love and am good at which makes getting up every morning for work a lot more fun. Our retirement savings, while not where we had originally planned for them to be, are going to be enough to allow us to retire sometime in this decade, and we are really enjoying taking things at a slower pace. Best of all, Gary and I both have our health, each other and a future full of wonderful new roads to travel in a somewhat smaller RV. Sixty seems to me a good place to be.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Special Kind of Dad

Early in the twentieth century, a young woman named Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon when a novel idea occurred to her. Sonora’s mother had died in childbirth, leaving her and her five sisters to be raised by their dad, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart. Sonora wanted to honor her father’s selfless commitment, sacrifice and loving parenting, and did so by pioneering the celebration of Father’s Day – a day to honor the most significant man in the life of a child.

But what exactly is a dad? The simple act of siring a child does not automatically qualify a man for fatherhood. There are many men who, though not biologically responsible for a child – big brothers, uncles, adopted dads, and step fathers for example, are some of the best dads I have ever known. And I guess that’s the heart of it. Anyone can be a father, but it takes a special kind of man to really be a dad.

A dad makes a commitment. He will hold you in the middle of the night when you’re scared, and not complain that he is losing much needed sleep. He will put training wheels on your bike so you won’t fall and get hurt, only to someday take them off again and run along beside you time and again, his hand on the back of the seat, until you are ready to go it alone. He will take you shopping for your mother’s birthday so you will feel good about yourself while learning to honor her. He will sneak out with you in the dark of night to toilet paper the house of a school mate, and not tell your mom until years later. A dad will scrutinize your friends and be brave enough to forbid you to hang out with the ones he doesn’t approve of. He will go to work every day to provide for his family and mow the grass on the weekends. He’ll proudly walk you down the aisle when you marry, or be man enough to share the honor with your “real” dad, who after all those years, suddenly wanted to be part of your big day.

A dad. He is a comforter, a teacher, a friend and a protector. He is someone you can count on. Someone you can trust, and love. In our family, his name is Gary. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Years ago, I remember smugly stating that I would never want to own a mobile phone. (That’s what we called them in 1982…that or car phones, because the early models were huge and would not fit in a woman’s purse.)  “I hope to never be so important that I must be reachable twenty-four hours a day,” was my stated conviction. But alas, Gary purchased our first mobile phone in 1984, a putty-colored brick-like object with a four-inch antenna jutting out the top, and declared I must carry it with me to and from my job in Dallas in case I ever broke down and needed to call for help. I was touched by his concern, but hardly ever used it. I never did break down, and that phone did not invite talking while driving – it was so heavy that my arm would start to ache after just a few minutes use.

Several years later, Gary surprised me with the gift of new matching mobile phones for him and me. They were smaller than the first - but still mammoth compared to today’s sleek models. He proudly showed me how I could now carry mine in my purse while he sported his in a leather holster positioned low on his right hip. (He looked every bit the dashing gun slinger.) I didn’t really want the phone and still felt that owning one was just a bit affected and pretentious. But my husband is a gadget guy who loves and enthusiastically embraces modern technology. He views each new device with interest and excitement, while I have a tendency to mulishly stay with the status quo. So, it has been Gary who has kept us technologically current, dragging me along with him into the twenty-first century.

We have owned a succession of what we now call cell phones over the years…red phones, blue phones, flip phones and razor phones. Each new phone caused me enormous anxiety. I just do not have the “figure it out” gene in my DNA, and I get just a bit cranky when Gary has his up and running in a matter of minutes. So it was with a heavy heart that I reluctantly welcomed our new Samsung Captivate with Android technology smart phones into our lives this past Christmas.

I will say, they are quite lovely…black and shiny with snug little covers that protect them from harm. Gary immediately hunkered down over his while I was preparing dinner.

“Look at this! This phone has the most amazing graphics.”

“Really? That’s nice.

“No, seriously. Come look at this. You can get onto Google right here and access the internet. I’ll bet we can link into our router and use the WiFi while we are at home.”

“Uh huh.”

“Leslie, come look at this!”

“I am cooking right now and I don’t want the potatoes to boil over.”

To be truthful, the potatoes were fine. I just wanted to be left on my own for awhile as far as the phone was concerned. I have this primordial need to slink off with a new device and study it unobserved. That way I can make all the mistakes I know I inevitably will make without anyone watching me while I make them.

A few days later, I was shopping for Gary’s birthday when my new cell phone rang for the very first time. I pulled it out of my purse and saw a green phone symbol lit up - my daughter Stephanie was calling. I tapped on it and put the phone to my ear. It rang. I tapped it again, harder this time, and put it to my ear. It rang again. I took a good look at it and saw no other symbol that implied some other way to answer the phone, so I gave the green symbol a final hard rap and noticed a man at the next clothing rack watching me with amusement. I put the phone to my ear and was rewarded with silence. The call had gone to voicemail. Fortunately, I had already learned how to place a call to one of my contacts, so I was able to call Stephanie back.

“Oh, you are there,” she said. “I need to ask you something.”

“Okay, but first I need to ask you something. How do I answer this darn phone?”

Stephanie laughed. “When you are receiving a call, you will see a green phone symbol on the left side…”

“I know, I did see it and I tapped on it but it did not pick the call up.”

“That’s because you aren’t supposed to tap. You sweep your finger to the right to answer the phone.”

“Oh…okay, call me back so I can try it.” I looked around and noted the man at the next rack was trying very hard to not look as though he was eavesdropping.

She called. I swept. It worked! I was very pleased with my success and shot the man a victorious smile. He pretended not to see me.

Since that day I have perfected the art of sweeping and have only had to call Stephanie twice more to answer phone questions. It amazes me that where I once believed I would never want to own a mobile phone and be accessible at all times, I now feel very nervous if I leave home without it. It is my faithful little companion - capable of directing me to unfamiliar destinations, assisting me in verifying facts, amusing me with games while I wait in the doctor’s office, and serving as a dictionary. And thanks to my phone, I am accessible to my friends and family twenty-four hours a day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why I like April

The weather has been so lovely lately that I decided to post another Springtime poem I wrote.

April means that Spring is here,
no doubt my favorite time of year.
The Winter winds have ceased to blow
cold sheets of rain, and sleet, and snow.

The Summer months have yet to dawn,
with brutal heat that sears my lawn,
and wilts the flowers, my spirit too.
I hate the heat, I really do.

While Autumn surely has it merits,
April is a time for carrots,
Easter bunnies, eggs and hunts...
what more could any person want?

Monday, April 18, 2011

An Easter Poem

I love to write in rhyming verse, and I wrote this little poem as a tribute to my mother. It reminds me of all the Easter Sundays my sisters, brother and I shared when we were kids. Mom made a big deal out of Easter and it was always such a special day. I remember how sad I was when it was time to get dressed for church and leave the Easter baskets behind...and what fun it was to come back  home and gorge on chocolate!

Easter’s coming
Hop, Hop, Hop

Easter bunnies
Shop, Shop Shop!

Chocolate rabbits, Peeps and grass
Transport through the looking glass

Easter magic for a child
Look of wonder, face beguiled

Jellybeans and Easter eggs
Hide behind the table legs

Under couches, desks and chairs
Look around, they’re everywhere!

When the sweets have all been found
Church bells summon and resound

Dressed up in our Easter best
Off we go in frills and vest

To sing the praise and mourn the loss
Of He who died upon the cross

Who three days later, rose again
And cleansed us of our earthly sins

Thank you, God for Easter fun
And sending us your only Son

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lucy's Back

I recall with disdain the first time I colored my hair. Being unfamiliar with the various products available, I pored over every shade of brown that Walmart offered, looking for the one that would best match my natural hair color – dark brown. I desperately wanted to cover the gray, but didn’t want the change in my hair color to be blatantly obvious to friends, family and co-workers. I finally settled on a L’oreal product with a picture on the front that looked like a pretty fair match. I applied it that day and was dismayed to find the color was too intense - much darker than my natural color. When Gary got home, he looked at me and his eyebrows shot up, but to his credit, he didn’t say anything right at first.

“I know. It’s awful isn’t it?”

“No,” he lied. “I’ll get used to it.”

“Well, the next time I do it, I’ll get a lighter shade and it will look more like my own color.”

Four agonizing weeks later, I selected a color I felt would correct the problem. My natural color has a slightly reddish tone and the picture on the box seemed like it would take me to the desired color, considering it had to overpower the dark brown. Once it was on though, I grew concerned that the goppy mess on my head looked perhaps a bit too red. My worst fears were realized when I shampooed it out and faced the mirror. It was red…very red. As intense as my misery was, it deepened when I imagined the inevitable encounter with my husband. When I heard his car come up the driveway, I positioned myself in the living room where he would not see me right away.

“How was golf?”

“Good. Where are you?”

“Umm, in the living room but stay where you are for a minute.”


“Well, remember I told you that when I colored my hair again, I thought I could correct the shade to match my natural color better?”

“Yeah…oh, no. What have you done, let me see.”

I stepped into the hall and once again those eyebrows betrayed his best effort to not hurt my feelings. And he laughed.

“It’s even worse than before. Do you hate it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s just that when I left this morning you looked like Desi Arnaz, and now you look like Lucille Ball.”

Gary can be such a wag.

I consulted a professional before I colored my hair again and finally arrived at a color that worked nicely. I have stayed with that color for years, then recently my daughter commented that since my hair had gotten grayer, the color was lighter and kind of “washed out” looking.

“You might consider going with a slightly different shade – something a wee bit deeper with a just hint of red to it.”

This in mind, the next time I needed to color my hair, I studied the different shades to figure out which one would give me the desired result. Ultimately, I selected one called ‘Medium Chestnut’ and took it to the stylist who now applies my color for me. Although apprehensive, she did not seem to think it would be too red, but once again when it was actually on my hair, it turned a furious shade of crimson. Horrified, I resigned myself to hope for the best but it was not to be. Once I was shampooed and blow-dried, I once more encountered the redhead in the mirror, but this time the whole thing struck me as hysterically funny. I cracked up all the way home in the car – at my stupidity for letting this happen again and at the image of Gary’s face when he saw me. He came out the door to greet me as I got out of the car. The sunshine hit my hair and those eyebrows shot up. He grinned and said, “Lu-u-u-c-y – you got some ‘splainin to do!”