Posted in Lancient History

Trash Grabbers


My coworker and I were strongly considering rescuing an old audio/visual cart from the dumpster area the other morning.  We were laughing about being trash grabbers.  I am a shameless trash grabber.  If I see something that’s going to the dump, I’ll grab it if I like it.  I blame my grandmother, who used to take my cousins and me trash grabbing when we spent summers with her.

Let me paint you a picture.

It is 1979, summertime in Georgia.  Early morning.  So early that the dew is still on the St. Augustine, and wetting the blacktop, and the sun hasn’t quite cleared the thick pines that separate the wood frame houses in the neighborhood.  A white, Crown Victoria creeps down the road, driven by a little, fuzzy haired woman.  With a cigarette in one hand, she steers toward a pile of trash waiting at the streetline.

A back door swings open and three small children hustle out, and scramble over to the garbage.  The two little girls wear bubble suits in the pastels of laundry-faded hot pink, and royal blue, summer legs eaten up with bug bites and the bruises of backyard play, the bottoms of their bare feet as black as the tar they are walking on.  Their hair isn’t combed–it’s summer.  Summer is for bedhead.  The boy wears thick, plastic framed glasses, a mesh-back baseball cap, white t-shirt, and shorts he outgrew a couple of weeks ago, shorts that fit him when the summer started.  His bare feet are just as dirty, and his legs just as backyard scarred, covered in goose pimples because he is always cold.

They skirt the line where the lawn meets the blacktop, no sidewalk between front yard and street, and creep up to the trash pile, keeping an eye out for anyone who might be coming.  They have been briefed on the importance of stealth.  Their grandmother has seen a stool she wanted in this garbage pile, and sent them to fetch it, but along with that stool they found a few boxes.  The boy calls out to the car, and the cigarette waves at them to hurry.  Pursed lips shush him from the driver’s seat.

He grabs the stool, and the smallest girl, his sister, helps him wrangle it into the trunk of the car–a cavern so deep, they wonder if they could just climb in and ride home that way.  Their cousin has cautiously pulled back the lip of a box, and squealed with delight.  A whole stack of 78s!  On top?  The soundtrack to the movie Grease.  

Just like that, stealth is forgotten as all three children descend on the boxes like vultures, hopping around one another with excitement, trying to see over the other’s shoulder as he and she scrabble through the other two boxes of another man’s junk.  Loaded with treasure, they return to the car, chattering over their finds.  Any worry they had in scavenging has transmuted into the thrill of a good haul.  They don’t even mind how early it is anymore.

Their grandmother watches them in the rear view mirror, smiling with vulpine fondness, and eases her foot onto the gas.  There are still other treasures to find in the half hour left before the garbage man comes to sweep away the waiting trash like the tide.

When my mother found out Grandma was using us as her personal trash pickers, she had a fit.  It was too late.  I had found the soundtrack to Grease, a movie then forbidden me, and I was sold.  If I could find Grease in the trash, what else might be out there?!

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Posted in Destinee Faith Miller Mystery, Friends of Mine, Lancient History

Sneak Peek. Literally.


I told you earlier that Destinee and I are not much alike.  However, some of my life experiences are just too much fun not to pass along to her.  Leslieann, Karen, Renae, and most unfortunately, Leslieann’s ex-husband can tell you the version of this story that happened to me.  But here’s how it played out for our favorite Beauty Queen:

I knocked at the restroom door, and no one answered, so I opened it a hair and shimmied in.  No need to expose the whole room to the toilet, so perfectly framed by the doorway.  Shutting it behind me, I carried my clutch over to the sink and took out my lip gloss.  I find that when I am not feeling myself, just having a moment in front of a mirror with a good lip gloss can turn my mood completely around.

I don’t know why that is.  I suppose it might be because I feel fully in control of my makeup.  I know I can paint myself up to look like anything I want, and when I feel out of control in every other arena, I find comfort in my travel kit.

For just a minute or two, I let myself get lost in following the lines of my lips with the fuzzy applicator.  My heart rate calming as I watched them fill out and plump up with the cayenne in the gloss I was using.  When I felt a little better, I put everything back into my bag and thought I should probably spend the extra few seconds it would take to avail myself of the facilities.  I had been drinking water all day, and with the schedule I keep, it’s not always easy to take a break.

I took the two steps up to the toilet and laid my clutch down on the back of it, then did as one does in such a situation.  I was midway to full relief when a motion caught my eye and I realized the doorknob was jiggling.  “Occupied,” I called out, but the knob kept turning.

I just knew it would stop because I was sure I had locked it, but to my horror, I watched it continue to turn and then the door swung wide open.  In a heartbeat, I found myself looking out over Bobbie’s wedding reception from a toilet on a platform about four feet off the ground, and then realized that Bobbie’s wedding reception was looking straight on at me.  Do you know what is eye level to the average bear when someone is sitting on a toilet that is built up on a platform about four feet off the ground?

There I was, on the proverbial throne with Victoria’s Secret down around my ankles, and my own secret flashing the groom himself.  I squealed and slammed my knees together so hard and so fast, I bruised them both, calling, “Hey!  Shut the door!”

Posted in A Day in the Life, Counting Blessings, Destinee Faith Miller Mystery, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Friends of Mine, Lancient History, The Book, Tiara Trouble

Glenwood, Glue, and Eating Beads


You know that Gavin Degraw song, Chariot?  I always thought he was singing Carrion, not Chariot.  Changes the whole song when you know that.  I am the Queen of Misheard Lyrics.  You get one little word wrong…

Along with the marketing I’ve done, I dropped notes to a few of my former alma maters (there are nine or eleven, depending upon whether, or not you count colleges) to share news of the release.  The one I least expected to hear back from was my original elementary school, Glenwood School, in Phenix City, Alabama.  TIARA TROUBLE is set in Phenix City, and one of the tiny characters is very, very, very loosely based around my experience representing the school at the Little Miss PC pageant.  I got the happiest surprise today to find that not only did they respond to my email, but the respondent was a classmate!  She said she remembered me vividly, which is worrisome, but it is nice to be remembered at all, non?

It made me think about what my most vivid memories of Kinder and First Grade are.  Funnily enough, my classmate mentioned a boy who plays a role in one of those memories.  As I told her, I remember that boy walking into my classroom and thinking, “Oh yeah!”  I was going to make him my boyfriend.  I thought he was adorable, and I was so glad he was in my class.  I wasn’t even six years old, people.  Turned out, he was in the wrong class, so I only got to see him on the playground.  He did not share my feelings of kinderlove, and did not enjoy being chased.

Another vivid memory is of being dropped off at the school early one morning, and going out on the playground (by myself) to find that someone had torn out the pages of what must have been a Hustler magazine and strewn photos of naked women all over the place.  I went around collecting, considering, and discarding my finds, very, very confused by the amount of hair I was seeing, but more concerned that all these women seemed to think it was fine to wear shoes, socks, and sun visors (or terry cloth sweatbands) but nothing else.  I mean, if you’re going to be naked, take off your shoes.  I spent the next few weeks doodling naked ladies in my spiral notebook, drawing them with massive afros in their crotchal regions.  My mother found my drawings and we had to have A Very Serious Talk.  I promised to stop drawing naked ladies, but was so fascinated by her horror that I kept at it until I got A Very Serious Spanking.  After that, I only drew ladies with dresses on them.

There was the glue fight, which is my greatest memory of injustice done to me, and an excellent example of just what a stubborn little thing I was.  I had to wear orthopedic shoes for several years.  All I wanted in the world was a pair of red shoes.  Orthopedic shoes do not come in red, so when I was finally able to have a pair of normal shoes–normal red shoes–I was prouder of those than I was my own teeth.  For some reason, Mrs. Barnes left the classroom while we were working with Elmer’s Glue.  The little girl who sat behind me purposefully, and with great aim squirted glue on my New Red Shoes.  I was as livid as a 5-year-old can be.  I aimed my glue at the middle of her chest and got her good.  She did the same.  I aimed for her long, red hair.  Take that, Shoe Ruiner!  She tried and failed to get glue in my hair.  Mrs. Barnes returned, and while the other girl was telling on me, I squirted glue in her desk chair.  I think things might have been fine, but when she sat down in the glue, it was all over for me.  I spent a very long time sitting out in the hall, after talking to the principal.  My little friend?  No punishment other than glue in her pants.  I also refused to apologize.  p.s., My shoes were fine.  (To be fair, I probably started it by saying something smart.  I just don’t remember that part.)

I did spend a lot of time sitting out in the hall for talking in class.  I remember thinking that if I could just get a dog costume, I could put it on and crawl out of the school, and no one would ever know.  Maybe the principal would even pat my head and try to give me a treat?  So I spent most of my hall time, trying to conceive of where to find myself that dog costume, and how to conceal it on my person for such occasions.

My last memory of First Grade happened the last day of school.  I was standing with a friend, talking about how we were leaving Alabama, and moving to Virginia.  I was sad and scared, and she was sympathetic.  She also had tiny beads on her shirt that looked like candy sprinkles.  She suggested we pick them off and eat them to make ourselves feel better.  So, we did.  That is my very last memory of Glenwood: My granny driving up to get me, finding me eating beads off another child’s shirt.

Somehow, I managed to grow up to become a productive adult.

 

 

Posted in Advice, Counting Blessings, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Friends of Mine, Howling Sea Lane, Inside Lane, Lancient History, Religion, Women

What I Would Tell a Daughter About Selfies


Since I’m getting emails and PMs about the girl side of things, I’ll address the girl side of things here.

So, I used to teach Sunday School for 6th Grade girls.  When I took on the responsibility, I thought I was going to be–I don’t know what I thought I was going to be teaching, but it was NOT sex.  I started reading through the lesson book, and halfway through BLAMMO sex/pregnancy/abortion.  Uh…

I worried about a few things:

  1. I would accidentally warp these children.
  2. I would say something that would make concerned parents take up pitchforks against me.
  3. That the church hadn’t thoroughly vetted my thoughts on sex/pregnancy/abortion before handing their 12 year old girls over to me.
  4. What if one of the girls had been bad-touched, or was already sexually active and I said something that made her feel like a monster?

I worried most about the pitchforks.

At the time, I was single, had never been married, had no children of my own, and  hadn’t been all the way around the block, so-to-speak.  I had been bad-touched and was sensitive to that, and I had ducked down some of the block’s back alleys.  I knew enough to be dangerous.

I knew enough to know that anything I said, could and would affect these girls for a long time, and I didn’t want to hurt any of them, and I didn’t want my words haunting them in regard to choices they might make in the future.  We all do stupid things sooner or later.  I wanted my words to be building blocks for them, not stumbling blocks.

So…I didn’t talk specifically about sex/pregnancy/abortion.  I talked about choices, redemption and the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Because here’s how I feel:  My job as an adult guiding children (or now, as a parent) is to help them learn to navigate rough waters by teaching them to reason, think, and adjust course.  My job isn’t to give them marching orders (as a parent, my job is definitely giving marching orders along with instruction on the how and why.)

So, first I wanted those girls to know that they had autonomy, and they got to choose their futures.  I wanted them to understand that good choices led to better futures, and good choices were things like eating well (I tried to touch on eating disorders because you never know), getting good exercise (because healthy bodies help promote healthy minds), doing your homework and reading for pleasure (because intelligent, educated women have a better chance to make good choices), working toward a goals in small increments (a good test, a good report card, honor roll, head of the class, etc.), and having a hobby or something fun to do, just for the love of it (because well-rounded women have their own interests.)  And, I told them to make good friends because good friends are the best things in life, and good friends will keep you out of trouble.  I have excellent friends, by the way.

Next, I wanted those girls to know that if they slipped up somewhere, it wasn’t the end of the world.  Get a bad grade?  Study harder/ask for help/do better next time.  Hurt someone’s feelings?  Apologize/learn from your mistake/don’t do it again.  Eat a whole cake by yourself?  Oof/see above.

And I told them that when they were focused on proper nutrition, their health, their studies, their hobbies, their goals, and their friendships, everything else would fall into place.  When they were well-rounded people, they would attract the right kinds of attention.  Predators are afraid of self-confident girls.  Losers don’t try to smack around Margaret Thatcher or Hillary Clinton.  No one crosses Wonder Woman–and no one ever tries to butt grab her, no matter how hot her pants are.

Then, I told them that wanting to have sex, or having sex didn’t make you a bad person.  (Pitchforks!)  I told them that purposefully hurting other people was what made a bad person.  I read them the definition of the Proverbs 31 Woman, and asked them, first, if she seemed pretty awesome.  She’s got her own house, runs a staff, dabbles in real estate, has a garden, has a fabulous wardrobe, people respect and like her… Sounds pretty good to me.  I asked them if that was a woman who seemed focused on her looks, her hair, her boyfriend, or her popularity, and I asked them to consider what it would take to have your own home/business/amazing closet.

We talked about the choices you need to make to be a spectacular, independent woman, and we talked about what might set you off course.  I told them that is why they should wait to have sex.  Because they had dreams, and plans, and goals, and wanted houses, and cars, and jobs, and careers, and having a baby before you were ready would mean putting all that on hold, or putting it aside all together.  And, I told them that an STI can really slow you down, or kill you, too.

I wanted them to understand I wasn’t trying to protect their chastity.  I was trying to teach them how to protect their ability to make choices.  Having sex too soon can rob you of your autonomy, and rob you of choices. (Then I quit teaching Sunday School because I was mentally exhausted.  I went and taught Adult Singles, thinking that because I was one, it would be easier.  Ha!)

That’s what I would tell my own daughter, repeatedly.  And when the hormones kicked in and she couldn’t hear me through the throbbing in her loins, there would be that little voice in the back of her head saying, “Guh!  I know Harry Styles is so hot!  But I don’t want to be just his back-up singer.  I want my own band!  And he can fall in love with me because I am so awesome and independent, not just because I’m fawning all over him.”

I know that because that’s what kept me off the tour buses I got invited onto.

I didn’t need AIDs or a baby.

So, when it came down to selfies, I would ask my daughter why she wanted to take them, and if they helped her further her goals/dreams/aspirations.  If they didn’t, I’d ask her what she thought they did do.  We’d talk about it, and if she didn’t come the right conclusions, I’d take away her access to cameras and stuff some cotton in my ears to muffle the wailing.  Because I’d still be the parent and you don’t let a kid drive on the wrong side of the street just because it seems like a good idea to them.

 

 

Posted in Lancient History

All Signs Point to Leave


Have I ever told you about the boss who threw a book at my head?

When I left the ministry (the first time), I worked a series of temporary jobs (and one of them quite poorly, realizing there that I had outgrown my ability to Cute myself out of any situation–that was a slap in the face!)  One of those jobs was for a gentleman we’ll call Mr. Points.  Mr. Points was the CEO of a holding company, and I was hired to be his assistant. 

I think Mr. Points, as a human being, can be summed up in the fact that 2/3rds of his children were suing him.  The ones who weren’t suing him either worked for him, or were minors.

One of Mr. Points’ sons, an attorney, did work for him.  Points-the-Younger asked me if I’d like to earn extra money working part-time for him.  I like earning money, so I said yes.  Then we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me:  Where will I be working?  From [the main office], or from your law office?

Points-the-Younger:  Oh, you’ll be working out of my house.

Me:  Oh…  Your home office?

Points-the-Younger:  No.  I’ll set up a laptop for you in the bedroom.

Me:  Uh…  And your wife will be home, yes?

Points-the-Younger:  No, no, no.  I don’t want the two of you there at the same time.

Me:  So, I’d be working out of your bedroom, in your house, while your wife isn’t at home?

Points-the-Younger:  Exactly [shark smile.]

Me:  Pass.

Points-the-Younger also came into his father’s office while I was filing one day.  I didn’t hear him enter, but when I looked up from where I sat on my knees, working my way through the bottom drawer of Mr. Points’ credenza, Points-the-Younger groaned and rubbed his hipbones and said, “Yes.  Stay right there.  Don’t get up.  That is the perfect view.”

Swear.  Wouldn’t make that up.  I don’t know how I find these people.

Anyway…

So, one day I was in Mr. Points’ office, and I was taking notes on a legal pad.  He became enraged and started screaming about how legal pads are good for nothing, reached back on his credenza and picked up a 3 subject, spiral bound notebook, and launched it at my head (caught it!), screaming, “Don’t you ever come in here with a legal pad again!  You only use notebooks with me!  Tie it around your g-dd-mned waist if you have to, but never come in here again without it!”

I agreed, went back to my desk, got everything in my files in order, finished the work in my in-box and went home.  Then, I faxed in my resignation.

But, I got a lifelong friend out of the deal, so not a total loss!