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“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


 
 
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Click the photo to read my response to my words being taken out of context.
 
 
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Click the photo to read 10 Reasons Parents Choose to Homeschool.
 
 
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Click the photo for the list of things homeschool moms wish you knew.
 
 
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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


 
 
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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


 
 
PictureA Great Place for a Nap!
The resort where we are staying is a beautiful place. It is set up with many small cottages and abodes instead of just big “hotel” style buildings. The sidewalks sort of wind through the buildings, so there are lots of little corners and alcoves. The owners of this resort were smart as they set up various sitting areas and fire pits for people to relax around and unwind. This is a couples’ resort, after all, so there are love seats, hammocks and swings. It’s an amazing place in paradise.

Mr. E and I have found our way around the resort and have tried out a swing here and a loveseat there. We are enjoying just having time to unwind and decompress. I’ve actually been off work this weekend, so it has been great to do nothing.

Yesterday, we found the ultimate place to do nothing. It is an area above the pool bar of the main pool. There is a staircase that leads up there, and in the little sitting area, there are soft, comfortable chairs and loveseats. Because it’s up high, you can hear the noises and music of the resort, but they are in the background. You have a great view of the water, and a light breeze constantly blows. It was an amazing discovery.

When Mr. E and I reached the top of the stairs, we immediately selected a loveseat that looked comfortable to us. I grabbed the extra pillows from the other seats, and we arranged them to make ourselves comfortable. I’m pretty sure we were both asleep within 2 seconds of hitting the loveseat.

We had the most amazing nap while up in this little balcony paradise. We were alone, and we were comfortable. The breeze kept us cool, though it was pretty hot outside. It was wonderful.

Occasionally as we napped, I would wake up and look at the water. Most of the time, I woke up because Mr. Everything’s snoring woke me. That man can snore. He holds the world record in raising the roof. In his defense, he has sleep apnea and normally sleeps with a CPAP machine, so he really can’t help it. I know that when I’m awake, but when I am asleep and he keeps waking me with his booming snorts, I just want to put a pillow over his face and make it stop.

I finally reached the point where I was sort of blocking out his snorts and sleeping anyway. I had my legs draped across him, so when he would wake me, I would just wiggle my leg, and he would stop. I did not even have to open my eyes. We napped for over an hour that way, and it was wonderful. And then.

And then, in the midst of our heavenly rest, I heard a man clear his throat. I opened my eyes, and a man was sitting in the chair across from us and his wife was standing there. They were staring at us. I had sunglasses on, so they could not see my eyes get as big as saucers as I realized they were sitting there. I was so embarrassed. I tried to act as though I had not been asleep. Then, I realized Mr. Everything was still snoring.

Without acknowledging the strangers, I leaned over and nudged Mr. E to wake him. I tried to act natural and say, “Is your head feeling better?” I was sure they believed he had a headache. He just shifted in his seat and went back to sleep. I nudged him again, still not acknowledging the strangers staring at us. I wouldn’t want to tip them off that I was alarmed by their presence. After all, I had been awake the whole time, so I knew they were there, right? Hopefully they bought it.

Mr. E woke up, lifted his hat off his face and looked over at me. I had sunglasses on, but I was trying to give him the “look over there” look with my eyes. He wasn’t getting it since he couldn’t see my eyes. I didn’t want to say, “There are strangers staring at us,” so I continued the “look over there” shift with my eyes. Finally, Mr. E looked around the outdoor room and saw the strangers. At this point, I was about to laugh aloud at this crazy situation. I really was so embarrassed. In my mind, I would say, “Are you ready to go walk?” Mr. E would wake up. We would get up and walk the walk of shame down the stairs, knowing these people knew we had been sleeping. However, I should know my husband better than that.

Instead, Mr. E put his hat back on his face, shifted in his seat and went back to sleep. I almost died from trying to stifle my laughter.

By this point, the strangers had begun looking at their camera and distracting themselves so it did not seem as though they had been watching us sleep. Actually, come to think of it, they were probably deciding on which shot of us to post online. So, since they were probably looking at pictures of us asleep, I did the only logical thing. I took their picture.

PicturePretending They Don't See Us.
They would not have known I was taking their picture if the camera sound on the phone had been off. That and the flash were probably dead giveaways. So, here we were, the strangers who had watched us sleep, my sleeping husband and me, the random photo taker. It was a sundry gathering.

The strangers never spoke to me. We never made eye contact with each other. We all pretended like we were not in the same outdoor room together. They stayed a few more minutes. Then, the husband stranger said to the wife stranger, “Are you ready to go walk?” That was supposed to be my line.


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The strangers walked down the stairs. I was pretty sure I heard them chuckling as they went. Then, I woke Mr. Everything, and we went for a walk.  -Al

 
 
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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


 
 
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This may seem terribly ironic to you, given what my occupation is, but I hate shopping. Really, I do. I like to shop when I'm being paid to do it. However, just to go shopping to shop is definitely not my cup of tea. Sometimes, though, it has to be done.

So today, while I was having my cup of tea (literally...Willow and I met for high tea), I made a decree that I would go shopping and I would buy myself some new underwear. I know. This seems like a strange decree to pronounce in a tea room, but I'm not average.

The reason I made this decree is because I have been washing laundry constantly to clean my very few pair of underwear I have left. I made a rule that I would start throwing away anything with holes in it. Needless to say, I'm down to the bare minimums. Plus, I had pulled the pair I was wearing out of my butt for the 13th time of the day. (I like to call them Indian underwear...they keep creeping up. I know, I know. That's not politically correct, but "Native American Underwear" or "Indigenous People Underwear" just doesn't have the same ring to it.)


So after tea, I pulled my undies out of my butt, gave myself a pep talk and went to a store. I ended up in three different stores, looking for underwear. In the first store, I was momentarily distracted by the clearance section of clothes. Saving money does make shopping a little more tolerable. They had no underwear, but I found a nice shirt!

Throughout the three stores, I had an ongoing dialogue in my head, and I figured I would share with you some of the things me, myself and I discovered as we shopped together. So, without further ado, here are my random observations while shopping. (By the way, don't look for the meaning of life in these deep observations. You won't find it here.)


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Observation #1: One size does not fit all.


Observation #2: Just because something says it's your size does not mean it is.


Observation #3:
The retailers have a cruel sense of humor.


Observation #4: To get people to move out of your way, just laugh hysterically while behind the closed door of a dressing room. When you come out, people may look at you strangely, but they will, indeed, move out of your way.

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Observation #5: A security tag, strategically placed, can actually cause temporary blindness in the eye it hits as you try on a shirt.



Observation #6: If you come out of the dressing room, covering one eye with your hand while hysterically laughing, people will move out of your way even faster.

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Observation #7: Just because something says, "Tummy Control," does not mean it is.



Observation #8: Refer to observation #3.



Observation #9: Yoga pants should be illegal after a certain size.



Observation #10: Unless you actually do yoga, it's probably not advisable to wear yoga pants in public.

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Observation #11: While yoga pants are made in much larger sizes than they should be, normal, comfortable, non-lacey but non-granny-panty panties are not. It is impossible to find normal underwear in larger sizes.



Observation #12: Refer to observation #7. This applies to underwear as well, because there is no way THESE panties will make your stomach look smaller.


Observation #13: Refer to observation #3.


Observation #14: Apparently larger sized women have bigger crotches. This is the only possible explanation for the extra 3" of fabric in the seat of larger panties.



Observation #15: Did I mention the retailers have a cruel sense of humor?


So, all in all, it was not a very successful day. I had to go home eventually, with or without comfortable underwear. I guess it's time to do the laundry. Again.  -Al

 
 
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We used to laugh at my grandmother for all her worrying. That woman could worry about everything. She worried about the light bill. This was evidenced by the single 35 watt bulb that would be burning in her house when we would arrive there after dark. She didn’t want to waste electricity, you know.

She worried about what the trucks were doing at the grocery store across the street from her house. She called the corporate headquarters so many times, I think she had them on speed dial (except for the fact that she refused to get a dial tone phone and instead, used her old rotary). I’m pretty sure they knew her by name at Bi-Lo supermarket, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because she was spreading goodness and joy.

My grandmother worried about everything. Most of all, she worried about my cousin. We’ll call him Johnny. He was the oldest, and it was very apparent he was my grandmother’s favorite. Grandmother loved him best of all. There was no denying it. Even she did not deny that.

When my grandmother would hear a siren, she would immediately say, “I hope that isn’t Johnny.” It didn’t matter where we were or where Johnny was. As soon as a siren was heard, her brain immediately went to him. He lived out west for a while and we were in South Carolina, and Grandmother would still say, “I hope that isn’t Johnny.”

“No, Grandmother. I’m pretty sure we would not hear a firetruck 1500 miles away.”

It was never logical to us, so we laughed about it. My silly grandmother and her silly ways. We did not understand why she was such a worrier.

Fast forward a few decades, and I am beginning to understand. I have a child who is driving. All at once, he has grown wings and is flying around town. (Hopefully, he isn’t really flying….I really hope he did not inherit his father’s lead foot.) I find myself worrying when I hear sirens. “I hope that isn’t Beetle,” I sometimes say out loud. Then, I look around to see if my grandmother is in the room. She’s not. It’s me. The Worrier.

I don’t think I was a worrier before now. Honestly, my normal response to stress has been just to fall asleep. You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. If Mr. Everything is scaring me with his driving, I just go to sleep. He asks constantly why I sleep so much in the car. Why, I can be asleep before we make it out of our town!

When bills were weighing heavy on us and the phone kept ringing with bill collectors, I slept. When our business burned down, I stifled yawns while waiting for updates on the fire. When I drove home from the trauma center after leaving Mr. E and his burned face, I had a hard time staying awake on the drive. Sleep. It’s the perfect cure for stress.

In the case of the Beetle, however, sleep isn’t working. Instead, I find myself obsessing over the things he could possibly be doing wrong. The poor child faces the sniff test every time he walks in the door. The nose will know if he’s been up to something. Every time he is near me, I have to resist the urge to ask lots of questions. Sometimes, the questions leak out anyway.

For the 2.4 minutes I was awake in bed last night before falling into my normal comatose state, I pondered why it is I am worrying so much. The Beetle is a good kid. Sure, he has done stupid things. They all do. Overall, though, his goodness to stupid ratio is pretty high. I trust him. I do. Sort of. Well, until my imagination gets the best of me. Then, I freak out and wonder if the sirens I hear are headed to save the Beetle from his vehicle that is dangling over the edge of a cliff. Then, I remember we don’t have cliffs in Florida.

I don’t know why it is I worry so much. If the poor child survives me, he should get a t-shirt. “I survived life with my crazy mother.” I don't know why my mind automatically goes to the worst case scenario. Maybe it's genetic.

I wonder if there is a worry gene that I’ve inherited. Overall, it seems to have skipped a generation. My mother does not seem to worry like my grandmother did and now I do. However, the other day, I told her I had a sore throat. Her response was, “I hope it isn’t Ebola.” She was kidding. I think.         -Al