Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tender Tennessee Redneck Weddings

East Tennessee is on my mind today, mostly because the area surrounds me with natural beauty, homegrown folks and very odd wildlife. I was driving on the Interstate today about a mile from my exit and noticed what I thought was a black cat. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a wild hog. It was just grazing along the interstate as if this was a perfectly natural thing for it to do.

East Tennessee has also been on the television screens of CMT viewers across the country. With the writer's strike still threatening the quality of our television choices, many of us (myself included) have turned to reality TV for our viewing pleasure. CMT premiered a new program a couple of weeks ago entitled, My Big Redneck Wedding. It's sure to be a classic: 30 minutes of pure redneck glory, interjected with random comments from Tom Arnold that make me want to beat my head against a wall. Seriously, it's like nails on a chalkboard and completely unnecessary. Trust me, the content of this show requires no narrative. It is totally self-explanatory.

The most recent episode features a young (18 & 19) couple from Copper Basin, Tennessee, just up the road from yours truly. They got married outside. The bride wore a green dress. The groom wore a camo suit and the entire bridal party wore camo. The bride arrived on a tractor and the reception featured beans and cornbread. It was Southern to the core. The groom's gift to the bride on the wedding day was a pink rifle. Her gift to him? A skink. Classic. I enjoy this show a great deal for two reasons:

  1. The couple on the second episode lived in California. Ha! There really are country folks in California. I thought this was a myth.

  2. I see these people every day in my community at the stores, on the road, on my street. I wouldn't be surprised if they filmed an episode of MBRW on my street. They are unapologetically country and cross all socio-economic lines in the great state of Tennessee. As long as they aren't waiving a rebel flag the size of Texas from a flagpole in their front yard, I find them to be good people, good friends and good neighbors.

The episode failed to shock or surprise me except for one thing.  The minister said and the bride promised to honor her, "commitment to be submissive to his leadership" while all the groom had to promise was to, "love and care for her." I was a little stunned that the bride was willing to make such an antiquated promise, especially with zero reciprocation from the groom. To each his own, though. Who knows what I would have said if I had fallen in love and married at age 19?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Guilt-Ridden Blogger

I'm going in a different direction today, mostly because I'm feeling lazy and unfunny, and posing a question to my readers:

Do you wish I would respond more consistently to the comments you post?

I've been terrible about this lately. I read all of the comments and usually laugh and give a little thanks that someone feels compelled to take the time out of their day to comment on something I wrote but I've gotten lax about posting comments myself. I'm harboring some guilt (can you tell?) and think I need to change but I want to find out what the readers, particularly the frequent commenters, think about this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Hoarding Gene

There are moments in my life when I speak to my son and I have to rub my eyes in a cartoonish way to make sure that it isn't my husband standing in front of me. Monday was one of those times. My husband came home work early and I went out to get some things for the house. I bought several picture frames and some baskets. Two of the frames were quite large (8x10 and 10x13) and they came with cardboard corner protectors and very large, bright pictures of flowers. After I got home, I sat on the couch and began dismantling my packages. I had all of my photos ready to put in frames and had to remove the protective corners, the plastic wrap and the faux photo inside the frame. I made a trash/recycle pile next to me as I worked.

My son (5) walked into the living room and stopped when he saw my pile.

Son: Mommy, what are those? (points to the pile of cardboard corner protectors and faux pictures)

Me: It's trash honey.

Son: (baffled) Why?

Me: Because it is just the wrapping on the frames I bought.

Son: Can I have it?

Me: (equally baffled) Why?

Son: So I can make a boat.

Me: What?

Son: I can make a boat with a pretty flower sail and skyscraper edges. For you Mommy, for you.

Me: (giving my husband the evil eye for passing this gene on to my son and secretly fearing he'd end up like that Oprah hoarder lady)OK. I'll save it for you.

Son: I'm gonna need some tape.

Me: I bet you are.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the recycled frame packaging skyscraper boat. It's really not half bad and took some major creativity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Lunch in the Life

If I could delete food completely from the relationship that I have with my children, my family life would improve dramatically. A single green bean has the power to send myself and my children into a frantic, emotional state. I sigh and do my best to suppress the urge to pull my hair out piece by piece. Yuck
My son makes horrible faces, preparing his mouth for the entrance of the microscopic bite of green bean by holding his nose with one hand and strategically placing his drink with the other. My daughter repeats the same line over and over like a mantra of disdain, "I don't like that. I don't like that. I don't like that. No! No! No!" or the perennial favorite (and bold-faced lie), "I took two bites Mommy. I took two bites Mommy. I took two bites Mommy" as if this statement has any relevance at all.  This scene lasts for at least twenty minutes every day.  It exhausts me and sends me into a frazzled Mom-state in which I use the television as a tool to remove the children from my presence. I can't take it anymore. Any suggestions? Words of wisdom?  Prescription drugs?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cruise Gone Bad


I am all about religious tolerance but I will not be joining the church of Tom Cruise fans anytime soon. This begs, BEGS to be discussed. What, with the secretive, unexplained acronyms and the pretentious laughter. I can hardly sit through it. It gives me the willies. Remember that scene in LOST where the kid from the others was tied up and forced to watch a psycho video loop? This video is the perfect candidate for that brand of torture.  Yikes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

East Tennessee Nor’easter

I had a moment today, a moment that compelled me to pause, close my eyes and take in the sound of nature. It was the sound of snow falling. It happened in a very unlikely place: the Wal-Mart parking lot. I walked out of the store with my cart full of groceries to find the parking lot almost completely empty. It was quiet enough that I could hear my breath and I could hear the snowflakes hitting every surface: the windshields, the shopping carts, the patches of grass, the asphalt. I strolled to my car overcome with gratitude for the alarmist nature of my fellow East Tennesseeans. They hear the word snow and run for the hills. If so much as a flake falls from the sky the world stops turning, schools close, people start filling bottles with tap water and stuffing canned goods into their fallout shelters. They think I am nuts for doing my grocery shopping in the middle of a Nor'easter.  Their paranoia is my gain.

I spent my teen years in the Midwest and have plenty of experience driving in the snow. The current weather in my neck of the woods hardly qualifies as snow. Every blade of grass is visible under a thin white, wet blanket and there isn't a flake of snow on the road. It's wet. There's no ice. There's not a car in sight. I was standing next to my car when I closed my eyes. I listened to the snow hit every manmade surface and pretended it was hitting the branches of evergreen trees and the forest floor.  I smiled. I couldn't help myself. If only I could count on inclement weather on all of my grocery days. Life would be a lot less stressful.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I See Sick People

I’ve never been paranoid about germs. My children’s lives
are not spent covered in a thick film of alcohol-based antibacterial gel. I
make them wash their hands every time they go to the bathroom and I do the
same. Other than obsessively washing my hands while cooking, that’s it for us.

This all changed last week when my husband informed me that
one of his employees had a genuine case of the flu. I freaked. Unlike previous
years, I did not get the flu shot, nor did my children. We all got
them last year and, wouldn’t you know it, my daughter contracted the flu. The
flu vaccine contains the controversial, mercury-laden thimerisol and I have
watched Jenny McCarthy on one too many talk shows not to think twice about
exposing my kids to that stuff. My doctor has assured me that it is much better
to protect your children from the flu, which is responsible for a rising number
of children’s death in this country, than to succumb to baseless (his opinion,
not mine) fears about the vaccine. I should have listened. My pediatrician is
not offering them anymore and I can’t seem to shake this fear that my kids or
myself will get sick. Lesson learned: Get vaccinated for sanity's sake.

For the week following my husband’s exposure, I became a
germ freak. I attached a Lysol holster to my jeans and sprayed every surface
that my husband touched. My research about the flu and how it is spread made me
acutely aware of any saliva or mucus that may have left my family’s bodies. I
made my kids wash their hands every time they touched their faces. I randomly
sprayed my husband’s hands with antibacterial spray whenever he would scratch
his face. He didn’t much care for this, especially when I failed to warn him
that the spray was coming. I cleaned every surface that my kids got near:
shopping cart, table chair, check out counter with anti-bacterial wipes before
they touched them and still made them wash their hands as we were leaving. I
saw germs everywhere. I saw them when kids coughed or sneezed or breathed. I
saw them when the lady in front of me in line at the grocery store scratched
her nose, picked up a magazine and put it back on the rack. I saw them when my
son walked out of his school holding hands with his teacher. They were everywhere,
holding me hostage, taking away the joy and spontaneity of my day-to-day life.

My germophobia subsided once my husband’s flu symptom window
came and went. We resumed normalcy in our home and I took off my Lysol holster
and stopped the random anti-bacteria spraying episodes. Everyone breathed a
sigh of relief, including myself, and our germ-infested house and bodies are
once again back to their pre-flu-scare normalcy. I have learned some lessons
from my week as a germophobe:

  • I have a renewed combination of respect and
    sympathy for the moms who douse their kids in antibacterial gel every time they
    make a move. These moms see germs, much like the Sixth Sense kid saw dead people. They can’t help themselves so they
    find comfort in alcohol-based gel.

  • The
    kids are just resigned to this ritual, assuming that it is a part of life that
    all of their friends see the world through gel-covered lenses as well.

  • Most of all,
    though, I have learned to appreciate my moderate stance on germs. I acknowledge
    their existence and avoid them when possible but I don’t obsess and for that I
    am grateful.

I'm not sure that my Howard Hughes-like behavior had any impact on the outcome of my husband's flu exposure. I choose to believe that it was just a coping mechanism and has little to do with the end result.  If hooking an IV up with a constant anti-bacterial gel drip to their kids gives some Moms  peace of mind, then who am I to judge? I'm all about peace of mind.

Friday, January 11, 2008

She Got Game

I rarely use my portable DVD player. I see moms picking up their kids from school and flipping down the screen as soon as their kids are in the car but I refuse to do this for many reasons, not the least of which is that my DVD player is not one of those handy dandy in dash numbers that is super easy to operate. It involves wires, some complicated button pushing and generally too much effort for my lazy arse. I'd love to get on my high horse and say that my kids don't watch the TV very often because I want to ensure optimum communication time in the car but, while I agree with that Carseat
platform, it just wouldn't be honest. It all boils down to convenience for me. Of all mothers in the world, I have the most motivation to keep my TV on. My son expects full participation in vehicle "games" while we are riding, even if it is just to the CVS on the corner to get a gallon of milk. My daughter is, I'm sorry to say, following suit with this expectation.

Before I am able to put the van in Drive in the morning, my son says, "Mommy, can we play a game?" This question is as reliable as the sunrise but I still cringe a little whenever he asks it, especially if I'm in a hurry or flustered. I always concede though because, really, what else am I going to do? Listen to some music? Gather my thoughts? Create a mental grocery list? Come on! Those are things that only people without children can do, right? So I play the game. We have a variety of games we play, including Construction Site, DisneyWorld, DollyWood, Train, Family and Baby, but they all boil down to the same theme: my son is some type of authority figure and my daughter and I are merely spectators, patrons or some type of subordinate. My son's voice gets about three octaves lower and I am given a series of lines to recite. My daughter and I also have to act out minor things like opening doors, fastening seat belts and giving money. My son refuses to move on to the next activity until we do. I am just resigned to doing what I'm told. Its easier that way.

Until the Christmas break things were simple and went according to my master plan. I'd play the game until my son got out of the car and went to school and then I'd turn on my favorite radio station and rock out a little while my daughter and I drove home. Things have changed. My rockin' out days are numbered. Today, as we were pulling out of my son's school parking lot, my daughter said, "Mommy, can we play a game?"

My heart stopped. I had just turned on the radio and was singing Alicia Key's No one at the top of my lungs. I love that song and would have taken great pleasure in finishing it out but I turned the radio off, did my best to sound chipper and said, "Sure. What game do you want to play?"

Wednesday, January 9, 2008



I left the house in a hurry this afternoon. I was running late to pick my son up from school and was having a hard time getting my daughter out the door. Her arms were full of random stuff and she Diva
refused to leave without her treasures. I did a quick scan to make sure that she wasn't holding anything living or perishable (my standards are pretty low) and scooped her up into her car seat.  My daughter was singing softly as I pulled out the driveway and it continued for the duration of the trip. She loves to sing so this is nothing unusual. Her songs, however, rarely vary. It's either the theme song to "My Friends Tigger and Pooh" or "Little Einsteins" (Are you detecting a theme here?) and I didn't recognize the one she was singing this time. I was finally able to relax when I pulled into the car line and realized that I wasn't, in fact, the last parent to arrive. Phew. Being the last parent is my personal Mom nightmare.

I turned around and looked at my daughter for the first time since we'd left the house. She was still singing. I smiled as I took her in. She had on bright purple sunglasses and her Princess tiara. She was singing what turned out to be the "Doodle Bops" theme song into a microphone that she got for Christmas. She had done all of this without any help from anyone. It was adorable and terrifying at the same time. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a Diva. D-I-V-A Diva!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Kick in the Keister

The worst of the winter blahs appear to be behind us and my household has joined the land of the living again. My son returned to preschool today and we are all shell-shocked from the sound of the alarm clock. Three weeks without it have taken their toll and we are mourning the loss of our 8:30 wake-up time. Adieu. I even made it to the YMCA this morning. It's the first time in two months that I've breezed through those double doors. This is the equivalent of flushing $100 down the toilet so I must get back in the saddle. And, man, what a difference two months makes. The cardio room has quadrupled in size and all of the equipment is brand new. There are TV's on the majority of the machines and everything is pristine and beautiful. At 8:15, there was no wait for a treadmill so I hopped on and was reminded of what keeps me paying my dues at the Y. I love it there. My kids have a blast in the childcare center and I get to spend some quiet time with my ipod. Bliss.

As a result of my productive day thus far, I have decided that my New Year officially starts today. The past week has been a sort of 2007/2008 purgatory where I have still been trapped in holiday mode, unable to convince myself that the food free-for-all is over and life must commence again. The start of school gave me the swift kick in the keister that I needed and I'm back, armed with unrealistic resolutions and a rush of deceptive New Years energy. Unrealistic resolutions tend to have more staying power when you share them, so here goes:

  1. Get published in a national magazine.

  2. Drop 40 pounds

  3. Get in shape.

  4. Kick my Ambien dependancy.

  5. Spend more quality time with my kids every day.

  6. Spend more time outside.

  7. Spend less time in front of the computer (this might be tough in combination with #1).

  8. Blog three times a week. No exceptions (again, #6 is going to be a challenge).

  9. Kick meth habit for good.

  10. Save up for dental work (see #9).

  11. Play more ping-pong. This one's pretty random but I got a table for Christmas).

  12. Learn Photoshop.

  13. Be in bed by 10pm every night.

  14. Wake up at 6am every day.

  15. Do strength training daily.

  16. Purchase a pop-up or travel trailer.

  17. Earn a steady income.

With all of these contradictory goals, I should be on the fast track to failure. Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Big 3-0

I Birthday
just wanted to take a moment to welcome my sister-in-law, Stacie, into the thirties. She's been in her twenties entirely too long and I'm so pleased to welcome her into my demographic: the thirty-something women. It's about damn time.

Stacie: if my math is wrong and you still have a year of twenty-something left, I apologize. Just remember, you only get to turn 29 once.

Auld Lang Syne

I had grand plans
for the first blog of the year. I was going to proudly state my New Year’s
resolutions and attempt to write a humorous yet inspiring bit about wiping the
slate clean and starting ’08 fresh. I might have even thrown in a catch phrase.
Anyone have any ideas for an ’08 catch phrase? Let me know. My grand plans were
shot to smithereens when I was hit with some New Year’s illness. I got sick and
then my daughter caught a nasty bug and two ear infections. We’re a mess in the
Hale house right now. I’m hoping that we can ride out this wave of sickness and
be done until Spring or Summer or next Winter. I’m sick of sick.

Let’s talk about TV.
Raise your hand if the writer’s strike is having a serious impact on your
normal television standards. (Mine is raised high—it makes typing a little
difficult, though, so I’ll lower it). Raise your other hand if this lowering of
standards includes adding Crowned: The
Mother of All Pageants
to your viewing repertoire. After an urgent call
from my friend, Jacquelyn, insisting that I watch it, I set my DVR to record this
mother of all trash TV programs. It’s no Rock
of Love
but it will do for now. I’m rooting for the Broadway-esque
mother/daughter duo team. Their mushy, cheesy love for each other and their
obvious love of all things musical theater appeals to me. I think they are a
shoo-in for the win. For those of you unfamiliar with this delightful hour of
TV, it features a competition in each episode followed by a heart-wrenching
de-sashing ceremony. Check your local listings. You know you wanna.

On a super-fantastic
note, my friend Alyson informed me this morning that Rock of Love is coming back for a new season with Bret Michaels at
the helm again. Yee-haw! I might just survive this writer’s strike after all.