Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ballroom Dancing Lessons

Introductory Special Package: Three 30 minute private lessons, two group lessons, one party lesson...all for $25.00. I was sold! Surprisingly, Jeff was easily persuaded to join me for ballroom dancing lessons.

Married to a Non-Dancer
Being married 25 plus years to a non-dancer will oxidize the dancing shoes. Mine were definitely crusty and full of holes. I had closed the ballroom door years ago, but, now, peeking inside made me regret I had done so.

"Clayton, we're taking ballroom dancing lessons," I announced to my W.P. Cadet, "so we can dance at Plebe Parent Weekend!"

"Are you still married to Dad?" asked the now laughing son who knows his father well.

Lesson One:
We were greeted by our instructor, Monika from Germany. Her accent was the female version of Arnold Swartzaneger's. My pop-cultured husband clued into that connection immediately and had to continually bite his lip while the "step, slide, togezah...step, slide, togezah" waltz steps were counted by the Terminator-ess. She was very pleasant, and I thought we progressed well.

Lesson Two:
We didn't actually have time to practice, but remembered well the steps from the week prior. Monika added a twirl, and we were beginning to move forward. We weren't bound for "Dancing with the Stars" but were hopeful we would soon be able to manage the Plebe Parent Weekend Ball. Sadly, between Lesson Two and Three, we experienced a set-back as we attempted a waltz demo before friends and choked. Oops.

Lesson Three:
Despite Monika's strong encouragement to get us to the Group Lesson, our busy schedule kept us away. And thoughts of the Party Lesson, where experienced and beginners mingle, made my palms sweat.

The Bombshell
"So, Monika, if we want to continue with our lessons," I innocently asked at Lesson Three's conclusion," how much might we expect to pay?"

Monika pulled out the binder containing our file with the notes re: our progression (or..."OMG, this couple is hopelessly left-footed, this could take years") and began to share her ten lesson plan. The plan included some type of discount which I did not understand because I was intent on the bottom line of...$1700....

"Make your face show no surprise," I sternly warned myself, "Holy poop, that's like a school tuition payment!"

"We certainly have enjoyed these lessons," I politely responded, "And will get back with you after discussing this plan."

Thankful for Caller ID
I had to ignore Monika's calls for at least a week. I know we would have been proficient following the $1700 investment, but I had really just hoped for the Help-We-Have-A-Wedding-Coming-Soon plan with a price to match.

Besides, my pop-cultured husband had endured all the "step,slide,togezah" he was able.

Sorry, Monika from Germany, ballroom dancing as our new hobby was not to be.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Wrestle Room

With children comes stuff. Their toys seem to procreate nightly. The first midnight brontosaurus into the foot is a true wake- up call. Preparing meals with building blocks and action figures sprinkled about the kitchen floor can ignite claustrophobic panic.

Maxed Out
Two boys quickly maxed out our small vintage '36 bungalow. With news of number three's arrival, an immediate space search began.
"If I could only have a room for toys and playing," I wished, "I would be content."
We searched diligently for 8 months. It was a tight housing market, and nothing seemed to meet out criteria.
"God, please give us a new house before the baby chums," was our two year old's nightly prayer.
But, the baby was chummin with no new house in sight. One sleepless night I made a quick decision to buy the house offered by friends also desiring a space move. The following afternoon, we had a contract.

August Moving Day
Interesting moving day...also number three's due date.
August in Arkansas and a sweltering 100 degrees. Kind people pitched in, and I carried my own load...even lifted the forbidden heavy objects when no one was looking. A long day finally ended with everything under the new roof.
"Whew," I remember sitting in our vacant bungalow directing the final clean-up and small repairs, for I knew...the baby...was...chummin.
Labor. Delivery. It's a boy! Air conditioning condenser in new house breaks. Did I mention August in Arkansas? Finally settled. Our family was complete. Special times began on White Oak Lane.

White Oak Lane Days
A room for toys and playing had been a priority and thankfulness abounded for the granted request. However, that room, never to be called "The Playroom", was swiftly dubbed "The Wrestle Room." Being the only carpeted room in the house, and furniture-less, it perfectly matched its nickname. The floor was cushy, and it had plenty of space for rowdy rumbles with Dad. The White Oak Lane Kinleystead eagerly anticipated its nightly "Wrestle Time!"
An out-of-town job caused White Oak Lane to last only two short years. But the impact of The Wrestle Room echoes to today.

Tea Party for Pirates

Flea markets and old books are my favorite combination. One Saturday morning, happy and nicely dressed children politely pouring tea for one another smiled at me. An idea was hatched, and I rang the bell for Mom's Etiquette Class to commence.

Marketer Mom
As a good marketer, I began by creating a "need" in my target market's eyes.

"Boys, in the future, you may find yourself dining at an expensive restaurant with your boss," I ominously warned,"And there will be lots of forks and various silverware. You'll be glad, in that moment, your mother had the foresight to teach you what to do."

"I don't ever want to look like the geeks in that book," replied my oldest son.

"Yeah...geeks," parroted the youngest.

"Besides," the middle son added,"We're going to be pirates, and pirates don't have bosses."

Touche to Mom
All three smiled back smugly, quite pleased with the logic they thought had certainly derailed the entire Etiquette Class proposition.

Let the Lessons Begin
Knowing well there is not a grade school boy anywhere who appreciates the value of proper manners, despite their initial protests, and in the face of continual objections, brief readings from the little blue book soon began.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Senior Skip Day

Life fades. The normal course is not to have things ripped away. Trauma comes in ripping, but the fading leaves quietly without notice. In peaceful moments, I often mark time with the thought: This is life... my life.

True and not true. It is, and it isn't.

For, Experience reminds me that I can no more hold onto the present than I can grasp falling water. Passing over fingertips, effects are felt, but don't remain. Every present is a part, a series of weavings that one day will form a whole, will one day reveal a story completed. Only then will I say with certainty: This is my life.

Today is 'Senior Skip Day'
So... today is Senior Skip Day. Translation: Mom of Senior has to Drive Carpool Day. It's on a morning like this I am taken back to passing water.

Mom Back in the Carpool Saddle
Turning the Expedition into the school driveway, I nostalgically observed a steady stream of parents filtering into grade and middle school lots. Whistle-blowing, hand-waving traffic directors braving the cold temperatures with mittens and earmuffs. Dads on cell phones scheduling daily appointments. Moms with no-so nicely coiffed hair, toddlers in tow. Moms with business suits, sipping the a.m. brew. Slightly older moms heading kidless toward the morning work-out.

Experiences Fade
A beehive of activity in which this Mom of Senior- who- normally -drives- carpool no longer daily partakes. I looooove having a son who drives...yet, this morning, I remembered how the water once felt, and I experienced a fading.

Fabric Fades
The fabric on my favorite windowseat daybed gets all the morning sun. Mac the Labradoodle knows how fabulous a nap can be on this spot! I know one day the sun will steal away all color. Fading.

Daily Rituals Fade
Nightly bedtime gatherings at the Kinleystead were ritualistic in the early years. Stories, prayers, giggles, and poking standard fare. Clayton always asked for a "hug and pat-pat". Davis was the one needing more water. Stuart dutifully remained in bed. Fading.

The 'Lasts' Fade
Yesterday Davis, while at a friend's house, had left on two lights with dirty clothes covering his floor. I walked into his room and wondered," When will I... turn this light off for the last time? When will I... pick-up the last dirty sock?" This, too, will fade.

My Stuart is a Senior
My skipping senior just entered the front door from spending the night out, made a mid-morning lunch, and headed up to his room to eat and play a video game. I can see the fading and know its quiet. I just closed my eyes, felt the water, and wondered how I could be the mom of another senior boy.

"Hop on up, Mac" I said, motioning for my fuzzy friend to claim her place on the sunny daybed.

"Enjoy the moment...this will also...fade.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Over Stuffed

I am officially "over stuffed". Having collected all things interesting from my early youth, I'm done. There is no more wall space, floor space, closet, attic or basement space. Nada. I wish I could scrap it all and start afresh, but I can't do that because of sentimental attachments.

Aaaahhh...what a dilemma! What does a collector do when she can collect no more?

Sold the Osmonds on Ebay
I just went through a spurt of cleaning which was way overdue. I finally rid myself of high school and college clothes. I donated my entire Osmond Brothers record collection to the local thrift shop and have sold my childhood on EBay. I feel cleansed...sorta...but I miss it.

Saving Stuff
At first I saved stuff for myself. Next I saved it for my future kids. Then, my future kids became present and had the audacity to say they didn't want my stuff.

"What?," I replied with great surprise, "It's great stuff!"

I Am the Family 'Dumping Ground'
I finally came to the conclusion that I had been for many years the family dumping ground for everyone's life. They were free, but I was not. I was held captive by the family historian and curator role. I had hoped for a son, niece, or nephew to carry the family mantle of saving...but no one seems to want it.

I Am Dead...Who Wants It?
So, I faced reality, determined I would not go to the place of saving for potential grandchildren (well...just a few choice things) and arduously made my way into the attic. I pretended to be dead and asked myself, "If I am my children, would I want this?" It was a difficult task, but I did it. I threw away, Ebayed, and donated.

Can I Die Twice?
Truth is, I need to "die" a couple more times.

I'm on a Mission
This year is the year I decide what's worth saving, what needs to be trashed. I'm making my way through the trunks, and I'll probably be writing about what I find along the way.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Twenty Four Hours

Does everyone really get the same amount of time each day...the same twenty four hours? When I get to the end of each day, I am always disappointed at how little I seemed to have accomplished. I observe people whom I admire and, many times, they seem to possess the ability to get more done.

Gets My Goat
The type of person who really "gets my goat" ("gets my goat"...from where did that come and what does it mean? Or, better yet, why did I use it?).
The internet is great...just looked up that "gets my goat" expression and am now glad I used the expression all the more. Seems that race horses got anxious before races, so, to calm them down, the horse owners placed goats in front of each horse. Whatever works, I suppose. Anyway, in order to affect the race's outcome, goats were stolen and horse owners were angered.
I am that race horse... anxious to make it out of the gate... overly competitive... easily excited and wild. I want to go places, and I want to get there with great speed. Anything or one who gets in my way, including goat thieves, frustrate me. So, yeah, the type of person who really gets my goat is the one who seems to complete the list of tasks plus all the relational stuff and solitude.

My Overactive Imagination
Maybe I just read too many magazines. My ultimate phantom person is the woman living the artist's lifestyle... on a farm outside a major city with her husband, children, and photogenic dog. She has the time to cultivate an herb garden, gather fresh eggs from her prized chickens,and prune antique roses which don't seem to have those black spot things all over them like mine do. She's not Martha Stewart (I'm not into her). She's more like Tasha Tudor the artist of my childhood book which I loved so much and which Mac ate one day for no reason.

Read About This Artist
Recently, I was reading about one such artist whose work I enjoy. Oh, and, their husbands always quit their jobs and get on board. Maybe, he's the one getting the eggs, pruning ,and such.

(Pause for laughter as I close my eyes and think about my's not a good thought...more like a nightmare...he can't even keep the dogs for a weekend without me. The thought of him chasing down chickens and putting them in coops along with bloodied hands from roses popped into my head).

Buying Trips to France
Anyway, this artist seemed to have it all. They always live outside of New York so they can drop by their flagship retail shop in SoHo at will. And they always go frequently to the French countryside for flea market excursions.

In Her Cute Chicken Coop Studio
Yet, there she is...drinking coffee and sketching in her old- chicken- coop- turned- studio, dog at her feet. Who's minding the cute kids? And who cooked that really good dinner on the following page?

Let's Get 'Real'
Do we all really get the same twenty four hours each day? I'm just wondering about this as I drink coffee with my really cute dog napping beside me, gazing out the back window of my 1920's Tudor-style house toward a huge rubbish pile from the basement cleaning and the 3/4 complete fire pit project that needs landscaping in order to be complete while contemplating my art table covered with dust.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Grandfather Lives

The biggest regret of my life is never having known my maternal grandfather. He died before I was born. But he was never dead to me because my mother and grandmother did such a great job of keeping him alive. There were many stories, many photos, many newspaper articles, historical society accounts, and even excerpts from books about my grandfather. His name was Howard L. Clayton. Yeah, Clayton like my Clayton...obviously a family name. In my childish mind, many parts of my life would have been greatly enhanced had my grandfather not died.
"Your Pa-Pa would make sure you had a horse if he was alive," my grandmother would say with confidence to this horse-loving grade schooler, thus transforming his persona into a Santa Claus-esque figure. A very second choice to ownership was settling for weekly riding lessons while wistfully watching the horse-owning girls.
My grandfather loved everything equestrian. His standard dress as county Sheriff was riding pants and boots, he raised Tennessee Walkers, and, as a child, my mother always had her own horse. I was convinced Fate had stolen my biggest childhood dream.
My mother had a very interesting childhood, and my grandfather had the money to make just about anything happen for her, his only child. In fact, of the many stories told of my mom's childhood (of which there are many colorful ones), the greatest was of the pony that arrived on Christmas morning...complete with surrey and a hired driver. Sure made my sting ray bike with the purple, sparkled banana seat and monkey handlebars lose its luster in comparison!
As I said before, my grandfather was a county Sheriff. Several interesting stories survived through the years regarding his career and how he was perceived by the public whom he served. Once a lynch mob surrounded the county jail; my grandfather had to sneak his prisoner out the back and to a safe place. Turns out the man was convicted and put to death legally. But because of my grandfather, he was allowed a fair trial. After the execution, as was the tradition in the 40's, a death mask was made, and it hung on my grandfather's wall until his retirement. I've seen it because it ended up in their small town's museum...creepy.
My grandfather was a well-respected political figure in Arkansas, respected by people in high places. I have pictures of him with the well-known Senator Fulbright (yes, like the coveted scholarship) and a telegram from the Governor expressing condolences at his death. But he was also esteemed by the common man. Once an escaped county jail prisoner was reported to be hiding on a nearby Mississippi River island. My grandfather rode his horse out to the island, and the prisoner was re-captured. Later the criminal said,"From the tree where I was hiding, you were in plain sight,but I couldn't pull the trigger because I like you too much." This anecdote is telling about my grandfather's character... also about how once even criminals used to have consciences.
And speaking of guns, being a Sheriff, my grandfather was an expert marksman and avid gun collector. His pair of custom designed pearl-handled pistols were "burgled"(Don't you love that word?Learned it from my English friends.) from my parents' house several years ago. Stinks for us because the pair was worth around $12,000. After Sheriff Clayton died of a heart attack while deer hunting, my grandmother distributed his guns amongst family members. Recently, my second cousin Clayton kindly returned Howard's very collectible pistol to "my" Clayton. When Jeff and Clayton fired the mint 1930's Smith and Wesson K-22 Outdoorsman at a local range, they were surprised by the huge fuss employees made over the weapon!"Hey look," they kept saying while pointing, "That's the guy with the K-22!" Some time later, while hunting, my Clayton shot a six foot rattler dead in the head. Afterwards, he proclaimed the gun "retired". Cool retirement...snake's skin's on the wall.
Howard Clayton had a strong connection to J. Edgar Hoover. He was the first sheriff to be trained at the Quantico F.B.I. training facility. There are cool photos of him dressed 1930's G-man style wielding "tommy" guns. I also have a personal letter from Hoover. Before I got married, my grandmother died and her very full attic stash became garage sale fodder. Flipping through the 25 cent book stack, Jeff discovered a personally signed copy of Hoover's "Persons in Hiding". We kept it.
What some people would call "reincarnation", I would call "strong genetics". And my Clayton has a strong genetic tie to my grandfather. My mother has taken up the mantle once held by my grandmother, "If your great- grandfather was alive, he would be tickled pink at how much you love guns and hunting!" Nobody had yet related the stories to Clayton when he, in 8th grade, announced he was going into the F.B.I. Nobody had to encourage Clayton's gun obsession or his love for deer hunting. Extremely eerie how God has designed families.
Looks like Clayton's F.B.I. career morphed into being an Army officer, but it could re-surface in the future.
The biggest regret of my life is that I never knew my grandfather, yet I can know parts of him as he lives again through Clayton.