Now, I am going to admit something to y’all, but you have to promise you won’t make fun of me about this. At least, you can’t make fun of me to my face. Okay? Promise? Good.

I have a tendency to be like my father in some ways. Those are words I never thought I’d say, but there you go. I said them. Not that being like either of my parents is a bad thing, but come on. How many of you want to admit you're like your mother or father? Well, me neither.

Of course, I get my amazing wit, my southern charm and my ability to write bad poetry from Daddy, but there’s another trait I inherited.

I do not do well when I get frustrated.

Now, for the most part, Daddy isn’t scary when he gets frustrated. In fact, he’s kind of funny. You just have to make sure he doesn’t see you laughing. He gets flustered easily, and well, patience might not be his strong suit.

Way back in the day, Mr. Everything used to work with my daddy. They worked in an office with a warehouse where they sold industrial safety supplies. It was quite fascinating, as you can well imagine. Mr. E likes to tell a story of a day when my daddy just couldn’t quite keep it together. I’m not sure if this was the first time Mr. Everything had witnessed my father in action or not, but he thought it was hilarious. He found it funny then, and he still finds it funny today.

The legend goes that Daddy was looking for a piece of paper. He had left it on his desk. In his words, “I know I left it right there!” The minutes ticked by as Daddy looked and looked for the paper he needed. He started out calm but quickly grew agitated. He went from gently searching, to roughly crumbling pages, to dumping the trash can out on the floor in a semi-violent rage. He stormed out to the warehouse and looked there. He came back in and looked again. Apparently, my daddy grew more and more hysterical as he could not find the paper he needed. He finally said a few choice words, plopped down at his desk and said, “Forget it. The <insert your own word here> thing is gone forever.”

At that precise moment, Mr. Everything walked to my father’s desk, looked in one unwrinkled spot, picked up a piece of paper and said, “Is this it?” And, of course, it was, because he was Mr. Everything. There’s a reason he has that name, remember?

Daddy did not find that very funny back then. Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure he finds that story funny now. I guess we’re going to find out, aren’t we? Since I just put it out there for the world (or at least the 3.27 people who read my blog) to see. (Tee-hee…Sorry, Daddy! Just focus on the honor of me admitting I’m like you, okay? Okay.)

I did not just bring up this story to humiliate my father but to prove my point that I am a lot like him in the way I get frustrated. This thought came about today after a certain occurrence that I can't believe I'm about to admit in public. Oh well, humility went out the door long ago, so here goes.

I must admit, I’ve been pretty pampered when it comes to pumping gas in my own car. There were a few years there when I had to do it myself because Mr. E was always at work, but for the most part, in our 23 years of marriage, I have rarely pumped my own gas. I simply don’t do gas, because I know Mr. E will take care of it for me. And he does usually. When he doesn’t, I am not thrilled with getting to do it myself, and typically I’m grouchy about having to touch a germy gas pump. Today was no exception.

Because we could get extra points on a rewards card for filling up today, Mr. Everything asked me to fill up our truck with gas. Simple enough, right? I had to ask him how to do it, because I did not know how to use the points card. He told me I would first swipe the points card. The machine would ask me a question, and I would say, “No.” It would then ask for my payment; I would swipe the credit card. I told him I had it covered. I am woman, hear me roar.

I went to the gas station. I was already thrown off, because I got my behemoth vehicle in there crooked, and it was a big reach from the gas pump to the hole thingy in my car. I also had underestimated how far I needed to pull up, since I drive a truck, and the hole thingy is toward the back of the bed of the truck. I was already feeling a little stupid as I began the whole process since it was a stretch to get the gas nozzle to reach Big Yellow.

Take one: I swiped the card. I said, “No,” to the question. It asked for my payment, and I swiped my credit card. Then, it asked for my pin number. Uh-oh. He dinn't say nuttin’ about no pin number. I entered the most logical guess I had of a pin number. The machine thanked me for my business and spit out a receipt.

Um. Okay….

Take two: Swiped card. Check. “No” to question. Check. Payment swiped. Check. Did I want a receipt? No. Nothing. Suddenly, the machine was no longer speaking to me.

Take three: Repeat take two, except with buttons pushed with more zeal. Silence.

Take four: Takes two and three, with finger tips turning white from the force of pushing the buttons. Silence.

Then, I remembered that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and to expect different results.

Avoiding my insanity, I went inside, hoping to get assistance from the friendly clerk. First off, she wasn’t friendly. Second, she didn’t know how to help me. I showed her the receipt from the first attempt, and she said, “But you didn’t get any gas.” Um, yes. Thank you.

The clerk asked how much gas I wanted, and I said I hadn’t the foggiest idea; I haven’t filled my truck in years, so I have no clue at this point what would be a realistic amount to ask for. She rolled her eyes and said I would have to do it at the pump then. I asked if she could tell me how to make it work. She said I would first swipe the points card. It would ask me a question, and I would answer, “No.” Then, it would ask for my payment, and I would swipe my credit card.

Wow. That sounded vaguely familiar.

So, I went back out and pulled the truck forward to another pump. I figured I would straighten out my vehicle so I didn’t look like a fool, and maybe I would clear the bad mojo that lingered at that machine.

Take five: Swipe points card. Check. “No” to question. Check. Calmly swipe payment. Check. Receipt? No, thank you very much. And……..silence.

At this point, I called Mr. Everything. I did not care that he was under a mobile home replumbing the entire thing. I needed him to fix this gas emergency right this minute! Luckily, he answered. I’m not sure what I would have done if he hadn’t, but I’m pretty sure it would have ended in me apologizing to him or someone else.

The conversation went like this:

Mr. E: Hello?

Me: Hi. (Less than nice tone.)

Mr. E: What’s up? (Calmly, sensing anger in my voice….)

Me: I’m trying to pump the stupid gas in the stupid truck so you can get your stupid points. (Through gritted teeth)

Mr. E: Okay…… And?

Me: AND IT’S NOT WORKING! (Trying not to yell.)

Mr. E: You have to swipe the points card first.

Me: Yes. I know that! I’m doing it the right way! Swipe the points card, select NO, swipe the payment card….

Mr. E: But it’s not working?

Me: NO!! It keeps asking me for a stupid pin number for the stupid payment card.

Mr. E: A pin number? Do you mean a zip code? The zip code is …..

Me: NO! Not a stupid zip code! I know my own stupid zip code, but that’s not what it’s asking for anyway. PIN. P-I-N. Not zip. Z-I-P. (Big sigh.)

Mr. E: It’s never asked me for a pin number before. You’re sure you’re doing it right?

Me: Seriously? You’re asking me that right now? I’ve done it 6 times. I’ve been in to see the stupid clerk. She couldn’t help me with the stupid points. I can’t fill the stupid truck with stupid gas.

Mr. E: Okay. Tell me again what you’re doing. (Still as calm as a cucumber.)


Mr. E: What credit card are you using?

Me: WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THAT?? You told me to use the stupid gas card! I’m using the stupid Shell card and the stupid points card. I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU ARE ASKING ME THESE STUPID QUESTIONS!

Mr. E: Um. You’re at Mobil.

Bless the man’s heart. He's been married to me for 23 years. But, in my defense, he knew it way before I was his bride.-Al

Our Easter this year was definitely low key. Gone are the days of egg hunts with cousins and waking up at 6:00 AM to see if the bunny came. Instead, the Beetle slept all day, and the Goose went to a friend’s house. I must say, I was strangely at peace with the fact that I did not have to hide eggs. That was never my favorite part anyway. However, it would have been nice for the Beetle to actually look at the contents of his Easter basket and show excitement over chocolate. (On a side note, I found it interesting that the Easter Bunny brought both my kids laundry baskets this year. Did he have a message for them? Yes. He was saying, “Do your own laundry. The maid has retired.”)

I spent some time yesterday remembering Easters past, and I realized, though while I was growing up, my family was not really religious, Easter was a pretty good holiday for us.

We always went to church on Easter. For a few years, we were regularly attending the First Baptist Church in town, so we went there. However, most of the time, we went to my grandmother’s church. She wouldn’t darken the door of the First Baptist Church because the preacher had once dropped the door on her instead of holding it open when she was walking behind him into a store. I’m pretty sure the whole congregation was condemned to purgatory for the preacher’s actions.

I was happier going to my grandmother’s church than to the First Baptist Church. At least grandmother gave us gum, even if it was just half a stick. (She was too cheap to let my sister and me each have our own stick of gum, so she would break it in half for us. She said it still tasted the same, and I guess she was right.) At least at my grandmother’s church, no one glared at me.

At the First Baptist Church, my whole Sunday school class hated me for some reason. I’m pretty sure it was because I was not as holy and righteous as they were, but I can’t be too sure. All I know is, Mia Talcom used to glare at me during the prayers.  I would feel eyes on me, and I would look up to find her ugly face glaring at me. For the entire time we attended that church, that girl hated me, and her posse did too, and I never even knew what I had done wrong. (*Note: changed after original posting...I first did not change this person's name because I figured no one would ever know who it was anyway. I didn't think I could even spell her name right. However, my sister immediately sent me a link to this person's Facebook page. Apparently, I remembered how to spell her name correctly, so she was really easy to find! So, as much as I hated to, I changed the name to protect the not-so-innocent. By the way, she still isn't too pretty and still has an unpleasant look on her face. And she wears too much makeup. That is all.)

Then, there was the kid who stabbed me with the pencil. I don’t remember him name. I’m not even sure I knew his name back then, but he attacked me with a pencil. I was there, in all my Easter fanciness, with my pink dress, white floppy hat and white gloves. In the middle of children’s church, the kid reached over and stabbed my hand and my pretty white glove with a pencil. I carried that lead mark under my skin until I was 40 years old….a reminder of how much the First Baptist Church children disliked me. It finally disappeared sometime a few years ago. I guess my wounds have been healed.

Let me be honest here. It definitely wasn’t the church services I looked forward to on Easter. It was the candy. (It’s still the candy. I love, love, love Easter candy….much more than I should! I try not to buy it as much anymore, but I still love it. I love the bright colors and pretty packages and happy bunnies and chicks. What’s not to love?) In Easters of my childhood, it was the candy that made me look forward to Easter. Well, it was the candy and the swimming.

Every year, regardless of the temperature outside, my daddy would open the pool during the week before Easter. By Easter Sunday, it would be ready to swim in. It could be 70 degrees outside and colder in pool, but it did not matter. On Easter, my sister and I were going swimming. It might only be for five minutes, and we might be blue and shivering by the time we were finished, but we WERE going swimming. It was one tradition we lived for.

Since having my own kids, I have tried to carry on at least some of the traditions I had as a child on Easter. The Beetle used to always get new Easter outfits. Sometimes, to Mr. Everything’s dismay, those outfits involved white knee-high socks. That slowly turned into the Beetle getting a new dress shirt on Easter and finally ended this year with him wearing whatever was clean.

The Goose has managed to always get a new dress for Easter. That’s probably because she was willing to go shopping with me. She also reminds me relentlessly that we need to go shopping until I take her shopping. I have gotten a new Easter dress for most years. There were a few where I just wore something from my closet. In my mind, I was clothed in that pretty pink dress with my white floppy hat and white gloves (minus the pencil mark).

My kids have gone swimming at my parents’ pool for most Easters of their lives. This year, though, the pool sat quiet and empty as all the grandchildren had “better” things to do with their time.

One of my favorite Easter memories was about nine years ago. The Beetle was about nine, and the Goose was about five. It did not actually happen on Easter Sunday, but it involves the resurrection of Christ, so I’m counting it as an Easter memory. (I just wanted to tell you this story. It’s really funny.)

We went with a group from our church to a theme park in Orlando called, “The Holy Land Experience.” This was sort of a strange place is it was sort of an amusement park, but it was built on the idea of Biblical times. The whole place was made to look like various places read about in the Bible. The schedule of show times was built around the life of Jesus, and the final performance was a processional through the park with Jesus carrying the cross. Then, they showed Jesus nailed to the cross and crucified. I was concerned about this whole idea as I was not sure my kids were ready to see this. The entire day, I had an uneasy feeling about letting them watch the “show.” Most of the people in our group acted like I was silly, but I just really was not sure whether my kids were old enough and mature enough to handle watching Jesus die on the cross. I could only hope the acting would be bad as that would lessen the intensity of it.

When the time came for the final “show,” I told Mr. E to help me keep an eye on the kids. I had an escape route planned to get my kids out of there if I decided it was too much for them to watch. The processional began, and my kids were glued to every movement. As the actors led Jesus through the street, and he struggled to carry his cross, they were enthralled. As they led him up the hill, the Goose and the Beetle did not blink. As they pretended to nail Jesus to the cross, my kids were wide-eyed. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and beginning to wonder if I should take my babies and run. Then, the Beetle leaned over to ask me a question I will never forget.

As I leaned down to hear him, and I braced myself to give him an honest answer, he said, “Mama. I have a question.” “What, baby?” I asked. With the most serious face, he said, “How much does that actor get paid to let them nail him to the cross?”

I’m pretty sure it’s inappropriate to laugh during the crucifixion, but I just couldn’t stop. I told Mr. E what the Beetle had just asked, and he started laughing too. We had to walk away from the “show,” but it was not for the reason I had anticipated.

Though the Beetle has grown and matured since them, I can never be fully prepared for what will come out of that kid’s mouth. I have crazy kids, and we’ve spent some crazy Easters together. While it seems our “little kid” Easters are over, I have memories I will never forget.  -Al





When telling me how to raise a baby, the volunteer at the hospital said,
“You’re supposed to talk. A lot.” How right she was.

When Mr. Everything and I decided we wanted to have a baby, it took me a year to get pregnant. That gave me plenty of time to read books on how to be pregnant. I read books and magazines and articles and more, and I felt completely prepared. During my pregnancy, I just kept reading. At one point, my doctor actually told me there was such a thing as being “too educated” when it came to pregnancy. He told me to trust him, and I tried really hard to.

It really wasn’t that I didn’t trust my doctor. It was that I wanted to know exactly what was going on. I was so excited to be pregnant, and I did not want to miss a single moment of it. Mr. E and I attended child birthing classes. (Of course, that’s a subject for another day. I will just say we were the class clowns.) When it was time to have the baby, I was ready. Even the birth was planned as my labor was induced due to some issues I was having. I did not even have the surprise of having my water break. Everything was planned. I was Ready, with a capital R.

The Beetle was born on a Wednesday. I remember looking at him in the delivery room and thinking, “I know I should be feeling something here, but I’m really not sure what it is.” Of course, later, I realized that was the beginning of a little bit of post-partum depression. I was just numb, and it took a while for my feelings to awaken.

When it was time to be discharged from the hospital, I remember looking at the Beetle and feeling a little bit of terror. All at once, I realized I had not studying for this. I had been so busy preparing for the pregnancy and experiencing the pregnancy that I forgot to prepare for my next big exam: Keeping the baby alive.

I remember being in the elevator with my mother, Mr. Everything and a volunteer from the hospital. My mother asked if I was excited to go home, and I told her not particularly. She asked why not, and I said I did not know what I was supposed to do. My mother asked what I meant, and I told her I had forgotten to study up on what to do with a baby. I did not know how to be a mother, and I did not know what I was supposed to.

At that point, the nice volunteer said something I will never forget. She chuckled, and she said, “Oh, honey. You’ll be okay. You’ll make it. We all did.” Looking unsure, I said, “But I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” She said, “You’re supposed to talk. A lot.”

With that, the elevator doors opened, and we headed to the car. We put the tiny little Beetle in the backseat in his car seat. Mr. E made sure he was strapped in tight. I was glad I wasn’t responsible for that part of the job. All the way home, I pondered what the volunteer lady had meant. “You’re supposed to talk. A lot.”

Over the next days, months, years and even decades, I learned exactly what the volunteer lady meant.

I talked about the color of the sky. I talked about how many fingers and toes the Beetle had. I talked about how much I loved him and how much his daddy loved him and how much God loved him. I talked about how I did not know why he was still crying and that I felt he was being unreasonable. I talked about how it was 3 in the morning and I really, really wanted to go to sleep. I talked about how his bottle was heating, and he was going to have to be patient. I talked about how, if he did not stop crying soon, I might lose my ever loving mind.

I talked about how close he was to walking and what a big boy he was. I talked about how it wasn’t nice to pull the dog’s tail. I talked about how peas were yummy and dirt was not.

I talked about how it was not a good idea to put a popcorn kernel up his nose or in his ear. I talked about how pinching was not nice. I talked about how, if he wanted to share a toy, he needed to use his words.

I talked about how I knew sounding out the letters was hard, but if he tried, he could do it. I talked about how it was okay that the lines he cut were not perfectly straight. I talked about how he should not cut his shirt and how scissors were for paper.

I talked about how everyone felt like they did not have friends sometimes. I talked about how if he just tried again, I knew he could catch the ball. I talked about how God loved him even when it felt like no one else did.

I talked about how deodorant was his friend. I talked about how everyone felt embarrassed at some point in life. I talked about how washing his face nightly was so important. I talked about how brushing his teeth was just as important.

I talked about how strange girls were and how just when he thought he had them figured out, things would change. I talked about Jesus and baptism. I talked about honesty and integrity.

I talked about sex. (Those were his favorite talks.) I talked about the future and how God had a plan for him. I talked about how my life really had not begun until I met him. I talked about how important he was and what a blessing he was. I talked about how he might not like me that day but I still adored his pea-picking little heart.

I talked and talked and talked. Just when I thought there was nothing more to say, I found something else to talk about. I talked about fears and failures and achievements and pride. I talked and talked and talked some more. I began to wonder if I would ever be finished talking.

Then, as the Beetle seemed to stop listening, I wondered if my talking days were over. I decided to keep talking anyway. I talked through closed doors sometimes. I talked when he was trapped in the car with me. I talked every time I got a chance.

I have spent the last almost-eighteen years of my life talking. Non-stop. Talking. And, yet, as I contemplate my Beetle becoming an adult, I find myself wondering: Did I talk enough? Did he hear me say I loved him? Did he hear me say God loved him? Did he hear me tell him to be nice and to be good and to brush his hair? Was he listening when I spoke? Did I say it clearly? The volunteer lady did not tell me to expect that. She said I would talk a lot, but she did not tell me that, no matter how much I talked, it would never be enough.  She was definitely right about the talking though.  -Al

Encouragement for homeschooling moms who may be struggling. My true confessions about schooling my kids and how I made it better for us. Click the photo or click HERE to read my confessions.
“Okay, guys. We’re going to start with an easy warm-up. I want you to run up the five flights of stairs in the parking garage. I’ll be nice and let you take the elevator back down if you want.”

These were the words I heard right before I began planning my escape route. What had I gotten myself into? Once again, I had taken a mystery shopping assignment to evaluate a gym. This one was in downtown Tampa. I figured, why not? I like getting paid, and while I don’t actually like to exercise, I enjoy it a whole lot more when I’m getting paid to do it. Plus, I needed exercise, so it was a win-win. I thought.

Just getting to the gym was a mental exercise in itself. My GPS kept sending me down a one way road, going the wrong way. Then, it tried to send me down the trolley track. Okay. I’m pretty sure that was actually my own mistake, but whose story is this? Luckily, I saw the trolley before I actually turned onto the tracks. By the time I got to the gym and found a park spot (after praying, “Oh, please, God. Don’t make me parallel park in this behemoth vehicle…”), I was already stressed to the max. Exercise would do me good. I thought.

I had chosen the class I did because it was in the middle of the day. Typically, the mid-day classes are for old people. (Note to self…that is not true in downtown Tampa where people leave work to go exercise.) I generally avoid classes that have, “Combat,” “Boot Camp” or “Extreme” in the title. This one seemed to qualify. The name of the class had the word, “Function,” in it. I was functioning just fine, so I should fit right in. I thought.

I walked in, and the front desk lady asked me if I needed a locker. I had to ask her to repeat herself three times. I couldn’t understand what she was asking me. I’m not sure if I was just fuzzy brained from parallel parking or if she was mumbling, but truly, it was like a foreign language. Finally, on the fourth attempt, she pointed to my purse and yelled slowly, “DO. YOU. NEED. A. LOCKER. FOR. YOUR. PURSE?” I yelled back, “YES. PLEASE.” I felt like an idiot, but I just went with it.

I walked into the locker room and was met first thing by three women standing there topless. They were chatting. Topless. Seriously. Do women actually do this in public? Apparently, in downtown Tampa, they do. By the way, I try not to change in the locker room, but if I ever have to, you’ll be able to easily spot me. I’ll be the one in the bathroom stall struggling to get her pants leg on without touching the toilet or putting her foot down on the dirty floor. I certainly will not be the one standing topless and talking with my friends.

I decided quickly that, though the assignment asked for photos of anything amiss, I would not be taking photos of the locker room. Luckily, it was neat and clean, so there was nothing to take a picture of. (“Woman gets arrested for taking pornographic photos in downtown Tampa. More at eleven.”)

After locking my purse in the, "LOCKER," I went to find the class. As I neared the classroom area, I quickly realized I was not looking at a gathering of grannies. Oh no. This was the twenty-something class. Tampa’s Up and Coming had gathered together to demonstrate their awesomeness through physical fitness. I considered hurrying back to the locker room but realized, for my assignment, I had to attend a fitness class. I prayed a silent prayer. At least, I hope it was silent. Sometimes when I panic, I think aloud. I really hoped this was not one of those times. However, being the giant old lady who talked to myself would not have made me feel any more out of place than I already did.

I went into the classroom where the cute little instructor was setting up circuits. I was not sure what “circuits” were, but I was about to find out. I stood there, awkwardly, as all the little people were chatting in their groups. There was an older lady who was one of the tallest in the class. She was probably 55 years old and was about 4’11”. Okay, she wasn’t really the tallest, but she actually looked very proportionate compared to everyone else who was there. There was one tall guy, but he frowned at me when I tried to stand near him. So, I stood awkwardly – the giant in the corner. The 4’11” lady came over and introduced herself to me. We’ll call her Ginger. Ginger said, “Are you new to class?” I chuckled and said, “What gave it away?” She said it was just a hunch. Then, Ginger said something that made me feel much better about class. She said, “Listen. These people are maniacs. You can’t live up to their level of exercise. I can’t either. It’s okay. We’ll stick together, and it will be okay. Just because they do something does not mean we have to. As long as we are moving, we are improving, right?” Bless her. Bless Ginger’s tiny little heart. I wanted to hug her for helping me know I was going to survive the hour. Then, Ginger said, “But I have to tell you, in case you are thinking of making a break for it - I will tackle you if I see you moving toward the door.” Crud. Maybe I didn’t like Ginger quite so much.

So, the class started, and the teacher said to start with a light warm-up of running up the stairs. Ginger looked at me and said, “I’m not running up any stairs.” I said, “Me neither,” so we took a walk around the city block instead. I had to chuckle at our reflection in the mirror glass as we passed buildings - the giant and the tiny woman. By the time we got back from our second lap, Little Miss Petite was explaining the various stations, or circuits, in the class. My favorite was the one with the aerobic step. This step was on 3 risers, so it was a good foot and a half off the floor. The object at this station was to jump with both feet at once and land on the step. When we landed, we were supposed to be in a squat. Then, we were to jump back down into a squat on the floor. Um, yeah. As Little Miss Petite demonstrated this, I stifled laughter. Ginger just looked at me and shook her head. We opted out of that circuit.

For the next 3 hours, we moved from station to station. Okay, Little Miss Petite said it was actually 21 minutes, but I think her watch was broken. Time seemed to be moving backwards. When we finished with the last rotation, I was so happy it was over! Then, the teacher said to grab a mat. I didn't think that was a good sign.

Little Miss Petite said we were going to cool down. We proceeded to do ten minutes of abdominal crunches. Ten minutes. That’s, like, a minute per fat roll on my stomach.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get up from the floor. My entire body was trembling. Everything burned. Somehow, some way, I survived the hour. Okay. It was actually a 45 minute class, but I want credit for an hour.

Before we left, Ginger told me two things. First, she said ibuprofen would work wonders. She highly recommended a good, strong dose. Second, she said there was another class tomorrow at noon. I told her to save me a spot. Let’s hope she knew I was kidding. -Al

Click the photo to read 10 Reasons Parents Choose to Homeschool.
Click the photo for the list of things homeschool moms wish you knew.
New Year’s Day used to mean great plans and grand ideas. There was the year I was going to read my Bible every single day, no matter what. (Sorry, God. That didn’t go so well.) There was the year I was going to lose 80 pounds. (We won’t talk about that one.) Then, there was the year I was going to organize my whole house, alphabetically, from left to right. (Uh-huh.)

Needless to say, my dreams and ambitions did not always match the reality. I had great ideas, but the follow through? Not so much. It wasn’t really my fault. I tried, but reality got in my way.

The reality is that life basically sucks. Really. I’ve said for a while now, if I ever write an autobiography, it’s going to be titled, Life Sucks and Other Proven Facts. Life pretty much bites the big one. It’s true, and if you don’t think so, you just haven’t been bitten yet.

The other day, I was discussing sleep habits with a friend of mine. I said I had found that I fall asleep in response to fear. While some people can’t sleep when they are anxious, nervous or afraid, I actually fall asleep faster. I’m worried? Asleep. I’m scared? Yawn. Mr. E is driving? Out like a light. Fear triggers sleep for me.

My friend said that was a sign of depression. Ya think? Actually, I’m not so sure. I think I’m just really tired. Seven years of bad luck will do that to a person. Maybe if I took a seven year nap, I would feel better. I’m pretty sure it would take seven years of sleep for me to start to feel refreshed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m blessed. We are all blessed. I try really hard to count those blessings and focus on those blessings. Life could always be worse. Well, it could always be worse, until it’s not. Then, you’re dead.

I went through a stage in the early 2000’s where I made a resolution not to make resolutions. That was one I actually kept. Finally, I found something I could achieve. Then, I lost heart even with that, and I decided just not to acknowledge the new year at all. When I was still writing 2006 on checks in 2012, I decided it was time to get caught up.

So, here we are. 2015. And I’m acknowledging it. Happy Stinkin’ New Year. I hesitate to even ponder what my life will hold this year. All I can say is, bring it on.

This year, I’m making a resolution. My resolution is just to survive.

I beat myself up so often because I’m not enough. I’m not thin enough, pretty enough, kind enough, giving enough, loving enough, clean enough (Okay, well, I’m clean, but the house is not clean enough), good enough, faithful enough, happy enough, thin enough (I know I said it already, but it needs to be mentioned twice). You would think I could burn some calories with as much as I kick myself!

This year, I say, “NO MORE!” (I was yelling, in case you didn’t get that.) I am pretty enough. I am kind enough (well…usually). I am giving. I am loving. I am good. I am faithful. I am trying to be happy. The thin and the clean? Well, it is what it is. I can only do what I can do, and this is what I can do right now. How many times can I use “can” and “do” in a sentence? If I try, I think I can do it more. (See what I did there? Eh? Eh?)

I hereby resolve that in 2015, I will be me! I resolve to be true to myself. I resolve to be weird and quirky and anything but average. And I resolve to quit beating myself up when I’m anything less. I will survive, and I will just be me. That’s my resolution, and I have a feeling I can achieve it. Happy Stinkin’ New Year!      ~Al

I think I have always loved to travel. As far back as I can remember, I enjoyed it. I know we flew a few times when I was little, but we typically drove instead. I can remember several family vacations, and I remember enjoying them all.

On our first trip to Disney World, we drove from Greenville, SC to Orlando in a small Toyota truck. The truck was just a standard bench-seat truck, and it had a topper on the back. My parents put a mattress in the bed of the truck, and my sister and I rode back there. (It’s a wonder we all survived the 80s, isn’t it?) There was a window between the cab and the covered area in the back, and Daddy had a seal he would put in the window to allow the air conditioning to make it to the bed of the truck. We were comfortable, and it was great. Until the storm. At that time, we were not Floridians, and we were not used to the fast moving thunderstorms we now are so accustomed to. As we were getting closer to Disney, a storm came up very suddenly. It was pouring, and then, lightning struck near us or struck the truck. I’m not really sure which. I remember it striking the truck, but I could be making that up. Regardless, my sister and I scurried through that window and into the front cab so quickly, it was amazing. We laughed about it later, but at the time, it was not funny.

Of course, once we were in the cab of the truck, we were crowded. Two adults and two children in a small Toyota truck do not fit nicely. My sister and I, true to tradition, began bickering and fighting. I remember my father telling us he would turn the car around and go home. What’s funny is, we actually believed him.

We made several trips in that little Toyota truck. Then, Mama and Daddy watched a safety video about seatbelts. It compared children to a carton of eggs, and it showed what happened to the precious eggs in an accident. After that, the Eggs had to wear seat belts. The days of reclining on a mattress in the back were long-gone. Stupid egg video.

When I was sixteen, my family began taking trips to Man ‘O War Cay in the Abaco Bahamas. Mr. Everything always went with us, since, by that point, he was part of our family. Seeing the beautiful water and islands only ignited my love for travel. I learned quickly that I was born to live on Caribbean time. Everything moves a little slower, and no one got stressed out. (Except my sister when she went there, but that’s a whole different story. I’m pretty sure she’d be mad if I told it. Maybe I’ll press my luck another day.)

The summer after I graduated high school, when I was seventeen, my parents sent me to Europe for 21 days. This was a group trip through the county school system. Students could earn high school credit and college credit in humanities on this trip. Of course, I could not earn high school credit since I had graduated, but I earned college credit. We saw nine countries in 21 days.

Going to Europe was hard but fun. I was such a mama’s girl, and I got homesick so easily. I think I cried in all nine countries. I went the whole time without calling home, though. I knew if I called home, I would really fall apart.

Now, twenty something years later, I remember snippets from each country, but many of my memories are blurred. I think it’s because I was sleep-deprived while I was there. We did a lot of getting up early and going to bed late. My most vivid memories are of Greece, because for that part, we were on a cruise. We got plenty of sleep, so I could refresh my brain and actually remember what I saw.

My first accomplishment of the trip was facing my fear of airplane bathrooms. I had vowed not to go for the full flight, but when you are in the air for a week and a half (or at least, it felt like that long…), at some point, you’ve got to go. I went, and I survived. Now when I fly, I’m just lucky if I can make it through the flight and only go once. Middle age is the pits.

My group spent the first night of our journey in Germany. We stayed in a little city called Rothenburg. It was the most beautiful place ever. Ever. The city had brick streets and was surrounded by a wall. Our hotel had flower boxes on the windows. There were no screens on the windows, since there were no bugs. We could just open the windows and let the breeze come it. It was amazing, especially for Florida kids.

The funniest part of my visit to Germany was I learned what a duvet was. My roommate and I had never seen one. We thought they were really fancy sleeping bags. We each unbuttoned ours and slept inside. I think that was one of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had. The next day, we discovered we were supposed to sleep under the duvet and not in it. Oh, well. You live, you learn.

In Germany, the restaurant fed us chicken cordon bleu for dinner.

We went through Austria and then into Switzerland. There, we took a train up a mountain to the quaint little village where we stayed. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen - well, since Rothenburg, anyway. We took a train up a glacier and went to a ski resort for a day. There, they had caves and sculptures carved out of the ice. Many of the students went skiing. I drank hot chocolate. My mother was not happy with me when I got home and told her I had not skied. She said, someday, I would regret going to the Swiss Alps and not skiing. To this day, I don’t regret it. Maybe, the regret just hasn’t set in yet. When I’m 80, I may really mourn the fact that I didn’t ski. However, even at 17, I knew I’d rather be able to walk for the rest of the trip than to risk life and limb sliding down a mountain.

While we were in Switzerland, we had cheese fondue for dinner one night and chicken cordon bleu another. 

Next, we went to Italy for a few nights. While we were there, Italy won the world cup in soccer. We were in Rome when that happened, and the place was wild. The streets were packed with cars. People were honking their horns and waving flags. It almost looked like a riot in the streets. Our chaperons had us stay in and have food delivered that night. I think they were afraid to take us out. It really was a madhouse.

On one night there, we had chicken cordon bleu for dinner.

During our time in Italy, we went to Rome and saw the ruins there. We also went to Vatican City. I wanted to see the pope, but he did not come out to greet me. So rude.

After a few days in Italy, we boarded a cruise ship in the Aegean Sea. We were on the cruise for 7 days, I think. During those days, we discovered that European luxury and American luxury were two different things. We were not allowed to flush toilet paper at all in our room. There was a special trash can to put it in. I don’t want to talk about it. I also don’t want to talk about the fact that my two roommates and I were all having our periods at the same time. Really. Let’s not talk about it.

Our stops while on the cruise included Athens and Mikonos in Greece. We also went to Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. There, the street venders followed my roommate and me through the streets saying, “American? American? American?” We wondered how they knew. Now, thinking back, I’m pretty sure we might as well have been wearing t-shirts that said, “American.” When we did not answer, they started saying, “Sprechen sie Deutsch?”

Tugboats pulled our cruise ship through the Corinth Canal. Then, we went to Ephesus in Turkey, where we say the ancient ruins of Ephesus from Bible days. That was fascinating, and I wanted more time there.

We got back to the ship and had chicken cordon bleu for dinner.

My funniest memory from the whole trip happened during the cruise. Our curfew was 11:00 PM. One night, we crossed a time zone, so 10:00 PM suddenly became 11:00 PM. Our chaperons insisted we had to be in our rooms by 11:00 (10:00). I’m pretty sure they just needed a few minutes without us. Anyway, my roommates and I, being the straight-A student rebels that we were, attempted to refuse to go to our rooms. We were told we had to go. We insisted this was a violation of our civil liberties, since it was 10:00 somewhere. I’m pretty sure I heard one of the chaperons say, “Yeah, well, it’s 5:00 somewhere, too.” I had no idea what she meant, but I thought maybe she wanted to spend extra time with us. Anywho, we were told, no, forced, against our will, to go to our rooms. Oh, the injustice. Therefore, as a united front to show Power to the People, we stood with one foot inside our room and one foot outside the door. We stood that way for an hour, until it was, indeed, 11:00. There. That showed them.

After we left the cruise ship, we went to France. There, we saw Versailles. I did not enjoy that at the time, as it was yet another museum in a sea of museums. However, now, I would love to go back and see it again.

We went to Paris and visited museums. The highlight for us, the American teenagers in Paris, was to eat at Burger King. We were outraged to find out they charged more if we wanted to eat in the dining room, so we opted to sit on the curb outside and eat.

While in Paris, we had dinner in the Eiffel Tower. It was chicken cordon bleu. We also took a cruise down the Seine River.

Our final stop on our 21 day tour was England. We visited Canterbury and stayed in London. I can’t say I was all that impressed with London. It was just a big city that was busy and dirty and crowded. I almost got run over by a Ferrari in front of the Hard Rock Café. The boys in our group were much more excited about that than the chaperons were.

One night when we took the subway, also known as the tube, in London, I could not get my ticket to work. I stopped a man who worked there and asked for his help. He acted as though he could not understand me. Meanwhile, my group was leaving me. I said again, “My ticket won’t work.” He said he could not help me until I spoke proper English. The man actually made me use the Queen’s English before he would assist me. This was a challenge for my southern self, but I finally channeled my inner Brit and made it through. I resisted the urge to give him a good English punch in the nose.

As we were walking back to the subway station in London, we saw a large group of paparazzi and onlookers outside what looked like a theater. We walked over to see what was going on. We arrived just in time to see Princess Diana get out of a limousine and walk inside. I did not know at the time how significant and special it was that I got to see her in person, but I did. She was beautiful. And I’m pretty sure she waved at me.

On the day we saw Big Ben and Parliament, I was so tired, I could no longer hold my eyes open. I remember my friends waking me up and saying, “Look! It’s Big Ben.” I looked out the window, said, “Yep,” and fell back asleep.

That night, we had, you guessed it, chicken cordon bleu.

By the time the trip was over, I was so happy to be home. I never wanted chicken cordon bleu again. At the same time, I was sad to leave all the beauties and wonders of Europe. I saw things and experienced things there I will probably never get to see in person again. It was a magical place, and I’m thankful my parents found it important to send me there.

I definitely learned a lot about humanities while I was there. (Though I protested every time I had to take a test. I still say, who makes you take a test when you are riding in a bus, going up a mountain? Seriously! There is no amount of Dramamine strong enough for that!) I also grew my love of travel. Since then, I have looked for any opportunity possible to take a trip. Where are we going? Orlando? Tennessee? Antigua? I don’t care where…. I have a suitcase, and I’m ready to go!   -Al

I don’t know if y’all realize this or not, but I don’t sit still very well. I’m not sure when that happened. When I was little, I sat still and was obedient. I remember a time when I was in preschool that my class was told to sit still in the story circle. I obeyed. In fact, I sat very still, even after I had thrown up. I just sat there with vomit in my hands and waited until the teacher told me I could move.

That’s always the beginning of a good story, right? When vomit is involved, you know it’s only going to get better. Okay. I’ll stop saying vomit. Vomit.

Back to my point. I am just not good at sitting still anymore. I think it’s because I’m usually busy, so when I stop, my body wants to keep going. If you ever sit by me in church you will find this to be true. I scratch and fidget and scratch some more. In my defense, I’m itchy! My head, my back, my arms and my legs itch non-stop. I’ve had an itch on my foot for 8 years straight. I’m not exaggerating. I wake up in the middle of the night scratching my foot sometimes. The itch never goes away.

I’m apparently easily distracted when I am sitting still, too, because I have now gone off on 2 tangents in 3 paragraphs. It’s a new record.

Back to what I was trying to say. I am sitting on an airplane as I type this. I have been sitting still for 33 minutes, 14 seconds. I have 2 hours and 30 minutes to go. No problem. I’ve got this. By the way, while I sit on this plane, I hope there will be no more mentions of vomit.

So far, I have figured out how to read a crochet pattern. I have made one and one third crochet roses. (I told you I get distracted easily.) I have dropped my crochet hook and yarn three times. (Sorry to Mr. E, who keeps having to bend down and pick them up for me.) I’ve searched my backpack to find my ear buds. I’ve tried to watch the inflight program, but the sound system on my seat is messed up. (It’s like a cruel joke…now I have NOTHING to do for the rest of the flight.) I have fully analyzed everyone around me and made up stories for each of them. They have some pretty interesting lives, just so you know.

Now, I am writing. Why not? Maybe I can make it through a blog without getting distracted and moving on to something else.

The flight attendant just gave me a cup of coffee that I downed in about 10 seconds. Caffeine and sugar. That should help things.

So, as I am sitting here, I have a few observations about my experience thus far:

1.       I said this on Facebook the other day, and I stand behind my decree. If you are chewing gum and those around you know you are chewing gum, you should not be allowed to chew gum. Period. In fact, I may put on my angry teacher face and walk around the plane with a trash can. I’ll make each chomping passenger spit it out or sit in time out. I don’t mind gum. I really don’t. If you can behave while chewing it, you can have it. However, if you can’t, consider yourself warned. (And by the way, just be glad I’m more lenient than Mr. E. He does not approve gum. Ever.)

2.       Shoot. I just touched my face with my hands. There’s no telling where my hands have been. Well, okay. That’s not true. I know where my hands have been, but I don’t know where the hands have been that touched the areas that I touched with my hands. That was a really awkward sentence, but you know what I mean. I need to quit touching my face.

3.       The guy beside me has a nice enough butt. Really, he does. However, if he sticks it in my face one more time, I’m going to pinch it. I would take a picture of it for you if could. If I tried to bend over to get my cell phone, I would probably drop my yarn and hook again. Mr. E would not be happy.

4.       If you are going to look out the window, that’s fine. Knock yourself out. On the other hand, if you are going to go to sleep anyway, please, for the love of all the migraine sufferers in the world, close your shade! The glare from the windows around me is enough to permanently sear my brain. I’m considering climbing over people and closing their shades for them. Really, people. Listen to me. I already made Mr. E close the shade of our window. This consisted of reaching over the napping woman beside him. Now, she’s awake and is slowly inching the shade back open. I’m about to have to slap her hand.

5.       I just touched my nose. Stop it!

6.       Isn’t the seatbelt sign on? Seriously, man. Sit down and quit putting your butt in my face.

7.       I love a good laugh. Really, I do. However, if you have a really loud and annoying laugh, please try to snicker instead. Save your hilarity for after you get off the plane. You’re headed to Antigua. There will be plenty of time for games and recreation there. I wish the man behind us would heed this advice. He has the biggest, loudest, most irritating laugh ever. Apparently, he is watching something funny and has ear buds in. We can’t hear what he’s laughing about, but every time Mr. E and I start to settle in, the man laughs. Other than the irritation factor, it has actually become quite funny. I may start my big booming laugh soon. There he goes again. It’s funny. Whatever it is he’s watching.

8.       I just rubbed my eye. I’m going to die of a communicable disease.

9.       There’s the butt again. Maybe I should poke it with my crochet hook.

10.   I am definitely onboard with Breast Cancer Awareness month. I have a friend going through the battle right now, and I will wear pink every day of the year if that will encourage her to be strong. At the same time, though, I really think companies have gone overboard with the whole “Pink in October” thing. Before they started serving drinks, the flight attendant announced that pink lemonade was available for Breast Cancer Awareness month. How does this raise awareness? I’m not really sure. I found that odd. I’m pretty sure they said it was freshly squeezed lemonade, too. That was right before they cracked open the cans of Minute Maid.

11.   I just rubbed my chin. It will probably be the flu. Or Ebola. Or that other virus that everyone is freaking out about. Whatever it is, I’m going to catch it if I don’t quit touching my face!

12.   The guy behind me apparently thinks it’s funny that I’m going to die. Thanks, laughing man. I love you too.

13.   I am 41 years old. You would think, by now, I would think to take a jacket when I am flying. I should have listened to my mother.

14.   I should have listened to my mother when she told me not to touch my face, too!

15.   Oh, now the butt man’s wife is standing, too. Yoga pants really shouldn’t be sold in certain sizes. At least she wore a blue thong so there was no panty line, but really, I’d rather not look at the blue thong.

16.   We are all freaked out by Ebola. Truly. Considering the fact that we keep hearing about Ebola stricken patients getting on planes, it is in everyone’s mind. Perhaps, though, it’s not the best idea to loudly discuss the issue while sitting on a plane. Really. I don’t want to know all the symptoms. I don’t want to know how many days it will be before I die. Let’s let it be a surprise, shall we?

17.   Why does my nose keep itching? I just touched it again!

18.   Would y’all just sit down??

19.   To the man who keeps trying to stifle his cough, just let it out, man. I’d rather hear you cough a real cough than to do that weird hold-in cough thing you’ve got going on. Besides, the tickle in your throat is not going to go away until you let it out. We won’t wrap you in plastic and scream, “Ebola.” Promise. (Okay. I can’t really make that promise, but take a risk, man.)

20.   The cough is no worse than that laugh.

21.   I already have Ebola anyway, because I just touched my face. I might as well just lick the seat in front of me.

22.   My cousin licked the dash of a family car once at a funeral. He didn’t die, but I guess death isn’t really contagious. Well, I guess it sort of is.

23.   I wonder if I’m a germaphobe? Apparently not, since I keep touching my face with my germy hands!

I think that’s all my observations right now. My brain was focused on writing a story for you, but now it has moved on to something else. Maybe I should start crocheting again. I could make myself some sleeves to wear since I didn’t listen to my mother.  -Al