Why I'll never jog in the dark again: This road kill was discovered at the main intersection of my small neighborhood.


How a Conversation Goes From This to This

Georgia: If I have to go to an in-state college, I'm going to have my own apartment. I just saw a pink stand-up mixer I want--the color of my Starbucks car cup. It will look great in my new kitchen. (Lifts shirt a couple of inches) It'll look great with my love handles, too.

TR: You don't have love handles; those are hips. You're a girl.

Georgia: Why can't I have a boy's body, with some girlie parts thrown in?

TR: 'Cause then you'd be me--only without the girlie parts.

Georgia: Do you even have a vagina?

TR: Gya! I have four kids, so I guess that's pretty functional. Ask Dr. O. He saw it on Monday. He's still cute, by the way.

Georgia: Is he married?

TR: Yes, he's married. With four sons. I'm just talking eye candy, George.

Georgia: Well, I'm not. I'm young and single. I could marry a rich gynecologist.

TR: Who'd want to marry someone who looks at that all day long? I doubt he'd want to see it at home. It would be like working at a restaurant. After a while, the food makes you sick.

George: That never happened to me when I worked at the ice cream place.

TR: When I worked in restaurants, I'd gain five pounds the first few weeks, then end up losing down to less than I weighed when I started. I'd get to where I couldn't stand the smell of the food.

George: I never got tired of it.

TR: Come to think of it, though, I guess it could be more like working in the ice cream store all day and not getting to actually eat the ice cream. He might REALLY want ice cream once he got home.

George: Yup.


Big Executive

This morning, a good while after Lo had caught the bus, it occurred to me that Biggy—usually racing to be the first man in the office--hadn’t kissed me goodbye yet. I was afraid he’d had a heart attack on the toilet, so I ran upstairs to see.

In our room, the weekend sports highlights were blaring on the TV, loud enough for my husband to hear them in the closet, where he stood casually riffling through his drawers, in no big hurry.

“Why are you still here?” I asked him.

“No need to rush into work,” he said. “My big project is going so well, I’m the golden boy.

“Well, don’t forget to drag the garbage to the curb,” I reminded him.

“If I could find some socks that match.”

Tammy & Krystal Do the North Georgia State Fair

The documentary.


Best Friends Forever

Stella and Minus-Five, watching the Ohio State game.


Generation Gap

Georgia hates it when I drop my aphorisms, axioms, and proverbs on her, or any of the little sayings I grew up hearing, such as “can’t (pronounced ‘kaint’) never could” or “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” or “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” or “everywhere you go there you are.” I don’t think it’s the intent of the phrases she’s opposed to, really, but more the fact that she doesn’t understand them.

She fails to appreciate the conciseness of the sayings, the way your brain has to slow down when you hear them the for first time, to concentrate while traversing their short distance. It’s like crossing stones in a creek bed.

Georgia has the patience of someone who’s never even had to pop popcorn on the stove and the mental endurance of a kid who’s spent seventeen years making those intellectual sprints from She-Ra to Laguna Beach. In other words, I usually have to explain the sayings to her, for which she has no patience. She’s plenty smart; it’s just—like I said—she doesn’t appreciate the beauty. She considers my sayings outdated and useless. She believes I should be punished for them.

I realize that’s a lot of background for this tiny story I’m about to tell, but it provides context.

Not too long ago, Chik-Fil-A was going through this phase where they’d chat you up when you came to the drive-thru speaker. You’d pull up to the menu and hear, “Hi! I’m Michael! What’s your name?!” It was most surprising and annoying. I didn’t care what the voice’s name was; I just wanted to get Lo’s kid’s meal with four Polynesian sauces and get home in time for Dr. Phil.

After enduring this routine a few times, I'd had enough. One day, when asked, “What’s your name?!” I replied, just as I used to on the playground at Powder Springs Elementary School thirty-five years ago, “Puddin’ Tane.” Then I laughed my ass off on my way to the window, where, as I turned over the money, I saw no fewer than five shocked and curious teenaged faces, crowding to get a peek at me.

Home again, I told Biggy the story, bragging about how funny I am, to which he responded, “You said WHAT?!”

“I said Puddin Tane,” I repeated. “A mean little grade-school response to their stupid marketing ploy. I still don’t understand why they were looking at me--”

Biggy cut me short with, “POONTANG?!

“NO! Puddin’ Tane! Don’t be an idiot!”

“What in the hell is puddin’ tane?” he asked.

“You remember.” I felt like I was speaking a different language. I sang the old rhyme for him: ‘what’s-your-name-Puddin’-Tane—ask-me-again-and-I’ll- tell-you-the-same…’

He stated smugly, “I’ve never heard that. I guarantee they thought you said Poontang.”

I was upset—and sure he was wrong, that everyone had heard what’s-your-name-puddin’-tane, the same way they’d all heard ring-around-the-rosies. I certainly didn’t like the thought of all those minors scrambling to see the pervy lady who said the other thing.

So I found Georgia and related the story from the top, still managing to muster up a chuckle over my spiteful, yet innocent, little retort—Puddin’ Tane. That would teach them to ask my name. Then I noticed Georgia wasn’t laughing. In fact, she was shaking her head--her expression, horrified.

She eventually managed to speak: “WHY WOULD YOU SAY POONTANG?”

Friday Nostalgia

The wedding of Charles and Diana took place July 29, 1981--just a few weeks after my high school graduation. Princess Di was only two years older than I was, and I was fascinated with this young barely-woman who was marrying this ancient, hideously ugly man. No fortune or crown could be worth THAT, I thought, so I figured she must have loved him to his decrepit bones.

When I learned of her death, in September, 1997, Greg and I were at the Georgia Goodtime Boogie, a weekend-long secret camp-out/music festival, where any kind of canned music sources were prohibited and you could only get cell service if you wrapped your phone in tin foil and climbed a tree. Someone coming in late had heard the news on the road, so we all hiked back to our cars to listen to the radio. Even Biggy was sad.


Brother-Sister Chat

Lo: I wish I had a twin.

JackMan: If you had a twin, you wouldn't get as many gifts on your birthday.

Lo: Actually, it would be like getting twice as many, 'cause I could play with hers too.

JackMan: No it wouldn't. If she were your twin, she'd be just like you--she wouldn't share.



I realize no one but MF actually likes funerals, but when I say I've always hated them, I mean for you to understand that ever since I went to my great grandmother's when I was four or five, and my crazy paternal grandmother boosted me up and made me kiss that rubbery pancaked face in the coffin, I have spent almost four decades making excuses to get out of them. I’ve had the mumps eight times. I’ve found that shingles work for funerals as well as staff meetings.

Early on, I vowed that the only funerals I would go to were those of my immediate family and maybe five best friends. I wasn't sure about the friends, even, because those closest to me know how strongly I feel on the subject and wouldn't hold a boycott against me. Whether it's because they truly sympathize or because they're convinced I'll get hit by a bus first anyway, they've let me off the hook.

Besides that, they're aware I don't know how to act at a funeral any more than I know how to behave at a debutante ball or how to conduct a Junior League meeting. We didn't learn such things on Route 2-Powder Springs. I never know what to say, or if I should have brought a gift. To make matters worse, my emotions are like exposed live wires, so I'm always afraid I'll make things harder for people--my dread and sadness lurching at them through the air. Generally, when I can't get out of a funeral, I hang in back with the greeters, speak to no one, and slip out the emergency exit when it’s over.

As I've grown older, I've been forced to relax my stance and go to more funerals. Propriety and stuff. Yes, and love.

Monday, I attended my friend Dianna's mother's funeral. I’d never had the pleasure of meeting Dianna's mom, and while my friend often spoke of her mother and had shared some of the family's tragedies and triumphs, she’d never let on that her mom played an impressive role in the Georgia political scene. She’d never mentioned that her mom made stump speeches for Jimmy Carter during his presidential campaign, or that Governor Roy Barnes consulted with her mother on his own speeches. The church foyer was filled with photographs of her mom laughing with presidents and senators. I thought, Dianna has her mother’s smile.

Barnes himself delivered Dianna’s mom’s eulogy. He began by saying that two great women had died in the same week--Ann Richards and Juanelle Edwards, and that if God wasn't already a Democrat, he soon would be. This funeral was going to be okay.

The service itself was beautiful, full of poetry—Thoreau and Dryden--and violin music, Irving Berlin's "Always." There was none of the guilty sobbing and wailing that marked the Southern Baptist funerals of my youth. I got the impression that things were as they should have been--that Dianna’s mother lived a long (she was 83), productive life, was adored by many, and died with dignity--surrounded by love ones. There was sadness, but it wasn’t heavy in the room. The room was full of respect and good humor. It was full of sweet memories.

At some point Barnes remarked, "I'm sure every one of you sitting out there has a story you could tell about Juanelle." I thought, No--but I have stories about Dianna. And what I know about Dianna says a great deal about her mother.

Dianna, for instance, knows exactly how to act at funerals. About five years ago, I went to the memorial service for the partner of a mutual friend. I was doing the usual--attempting to blend into the faded mortuary wallpaper, avoiding eye contact with the bereaved--when Dianna spotted me. She crossed the room, grabbed my hand like a child's, and dragged me with her as she squeezed shoulders and patted arms, murmuring the kind words she never runs out of. I got credit just for being there beside her.

Dianna has a gift for making people feel special. No matter how often or not she sees you, she greets you as though it's been too long and you're just the person she's been waiting for. "Heeeeeeeey!!!" she trills, her singsong voice rising and lilting, reminding me of favorite cousins and family picnics.

I have Dianna to thank for my job at Portfolio Center. We met at a Zona Rosa workshop years ago and she recruited me on the spot. I resisted, because the position felt so far from the life I'd always envisioned—teaching poetry, a stuffy office in a university English department. Dianna has a knack for recognizing a good fit, however odd, so she insisted I visit the school. Walking into the building for the first time, I knew instantly that I was about to take a detour from my life plan. Portfolio Center has been my second home since 1998.

In these extremely competitive times, she's never lost her loaves-and-fishes approach to business or life. Her good fortune becomes the good fortune of others. Her hard work creates opportunities for her friends and former students. Lest you wonder, though, if she’s too goody-two-shoes to truly like, rest assured. She has at least one mean bone and a wicked sense of humor. Ask her about menopause if you want a sample.

Monday, once the Benediction was done and the Recessional was well underway, I scooted from the middle of the back pew to the end nearest Dianna as she walked with her family down the aisle. I should have stayed put, should have remained unnoticed and let her pass. I should have let her go on to the next phase of the difficult process of laying her mother to rest.

But I hadn’t seen my friend in two years, not since she and her husband moved to the West Coast. I wanted to touch her, and she could tell that when she saw me. So she stopped and we hugged, holding up the line. Her perfume floated over me, reminding me of long talks over Frescas in her kitchen.

Then I stepped on her foot, and she pretended not to notice.


Thanks to Biggy

In order for me to go to hang out with writer's in Valdosta this weekend, Biggy had to handle the household schedule alone, which included getting kids up/ready ready for school on Thursday; picking Lo up at school and getting her to softball practice; getting George's suddenly flat tire patched at Goodyear; picking JackMan up from band practice; getting kids ready for school on Friday, remembering to pack Lo's snack, water, lunch money (but I make her lunch when I'm home), veterinarian costume for Career Day; getting JackMan to school with uniform for football game halftime show; picking Lo up from her kindergarten-class reunion ice cream social; attending JackMan's football game; getting Lo ready for softball pictures taken at 7:30 a.m. Saturday; getting Jack to East Cobb parade band performance at 9 a.m.; attending Lo's softball game; picking JackMan up from parade and taking him to all-day band practice at school; taking Lo to my mom's so they could make up the Friday date they missed due to ice cream social; going to grocery store to purchase things on list dictated by an angry George who was out of Splenda; picking JackMan up for band practice dinner break and taking him to Zaxby's; taking JackMan back to band practice; and--surprise of surprises--straightening up the house for me before going to Wild Wings to watch Florida game.

I came home early, because--believe it or not, I was homesick.

I picked JackMan up from practice, so I get a gold star.


Nothing Says I Love You Like a Message From Your Mama

Message from Mamoo on my voicemail this afternoon:

Tania, I know you're in Valdosta. There's this fru-fru little restaurant downtown I went to last year...I think it's a woman's name [LuLu's]...real fancy place. I walked in there with a blue Solo cup and the hostess or owner or whoever she was couldn't stand it. She was really upset about that cup--couldn't stop staring at it all through our meal. So I was wondering if you could go eat lunch there, or have tea or whatever, but just take a blue Solo cup in with you.


I Think That Covers It

Biggy jumps at any opportunity to use his favorite phrase, always aimed at me: "Worst mother ever." He practices the saying, changing the inflection, but he's landed on the way that seems to please him best, more like three one-word sentences. For instance, in the car last Saturday, coming back from Lo's ballgame:

Lo (suddenly and spontaneously bursting into tears): Mom, I'm mad at you.

TR: Why?!! What did I do?!

Lo: YOU know!

TR: (searching my brain) I really don't. What did I do?

Lo: You put that baby bottle in my suitcase when I went to Mamoo's last night, and K saw it because she spent the night!

TR: Why didn't you just tell her it was Racky's? (fave stuffed animal that goes everywhere)

Lo: I didn't think of that! It was embarrassing!

TR: Well, how was I to know C would be spending the night?


TR: Well, I figured you would want it for your water. I was trying to be thoughtful. I'm sorry.

Biggy (driving, looking straight ahead): Worst. Mother. Ever.

So, you see how it works. Of course there are variations on the theme. Yesterday comes to mind:

TR (calling Biggy from work): I can't believe I did this! I was looking at the comments on my blog and noticed the date, and it hit me--TODAY IS MAMOO'S BIRTHDAY! It's 5:00. P! M! I've talked to her three times today! Who forgets their own mother's birthday?

Biggy: Worst. Daughter. Ever.

And now, this morning: I need to color my hair this afternoon, because I leave for a conference tomorrow. As those of you with Big Hair know, you don't want to wash it twice in one day, so I ran a bath instead of a shower so I could shave my legs and not get my hair wet. As the water was running, I went to get a towel and, as I stepped toward the hall closet, I heard a loud splash in the bathroom.

Stella HATES to get wet. She gets scared if she sees your eyes water.

She must have been REALLY REALLY thirsty.

All together now: Worst. Dog-owner. Ever.


The Menu For Minus-Five

With MF's next visit less than two weeks away, I'm busy making plans. The itinerary includes another trip to Faces (Who's game?) and the auction in Hiram, both at her request.

What she isn't counting on, though, are the home-cooked meals I'm going to prepare especially for her, some of Mamoo's favorite recipes from my own childhood. MF is sure to love them. (Of course, we'll have pizza one night.)

Filipino Fried Rice

2 cups cold cooked rice
1/2 lb. ground beef
3 sliced wieners
1 cup diced cabbage
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 beaten egg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper
3/4 cup ketchup

Brown ground beef and drain, then add cabbage, carrots, and sliced wieners. Cook until vegetables are soft. Add seasonings, then beaten egg. Stir until egg is cooked and add ketchup. Mix well and simmer for five minutes.

Spam Pie

9-inch deep dish pie shell
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup whipping cream
1 Spam classic 12oz can, cubed
2 cups Velveeta cheese, cubed

Heat oven to 425°F. Bake pie shell 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven; reduce oven temperature to 350°F. In large bowl, combine eggs, whipping cream, and pepper. Stir in SPAM® and onion. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese in pie shell. Pour egg mixture over cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese over egg. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until set.

Hobo Dinners

Preheat oven to 350.
Take four 12-in square pieces of foil and place a quarter-lb. Ground beef patty on each. Then add to each, in order:

1 slice onion (not on TR’s, of course)
4 slices of potato
1/2 sliced carrot
1 slice raw bacon
1/4 cup of ketchup
salt & pepper

Close up foil into pouches, sealing all edges. Bake on cooking sheet for 1 hour.

***Sweet Treat***

Potato Candy

1/2 cup of leftover instant mashed potatoes (extra stiff)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
28 oz. powdered sugar (1.75 sixteen-ounce boxes)
Smooth peanut butter

In a mixing bowl, combine the leftover mashed potatoes, the vanilla and one cup of powdered sugar. Set the remaining powdered sugar (about 20 ounces) aside. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture becomes a thin syrup. Continue adding powdered sugar into the mix, while stirring thoroughly. As the remaining sugar is added, the mixture will become very stiff and difficult to stir.

Remove mixture from bowl and place on a sheet of waxed paper that is coated with powdered sugar. Dust a rolling pin with powdered sugar and roll out the mixture like a pizza crust (about 18 inches in diameter).

Using a spatula, spread a generous amount of peanut butter on the mashed potato candy and curl it up tightly, like a jellyroll. Wrap candy in waxed paper, and refrigerate for three or four hours. Cut into half-inch slices and serve.


Because Jennifer Requested It

My 9/11 poym, which--sadly--took me three years to write:


was a Flying Nun lunchbox,
and the just-hatched
teacher’s blond ponytail,
cinched low on her tender neck.

It was the last of long days,
stretching like a cat’s back;
skies clear and sharp
as hand-blown glass,
pierced through with footballs
or by the perfect high C
hit by the marching band’s
solo trumpet.

It was the new boy’s
dimples, worth giving him
something to smile about,
bending over his desk, straight
shot down my blouse,
for a moment as fleeting
as August,

and every fall
moment after, green
burning into gold, until

finally, it was my own
fledgling girl,
with her milky skin
and bird’s nest hair,
waving goodbye
from the school bus window,
the world ahead of her,
looming like a skyscraper.

Is There Such a Thing as Bad Poetry?

There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.

My friend Collin Kelley posted an entry on his blog a couple of days ago that had me thinking all weekend. About lots of things—poetry, art, discipline, ambition, and politics, to name just a few. Early into the post, I bristled. From the “slice of pie” metaphor he lifted out of context from a beautiful, balanced, and well-argued blog entry by Charles Jensen (which had not even a whiff of sour grapes), to his comments on the evils of MFA programs, literary magazines, and certain celebrated poets (Ted Kooser, for one, who in my estimation did more to bring poetry to the general public—the non-poets--than any other U.S. Poet Laureate in my lifetime—and still does, with real grace).

I don’t know if I have the energy to respond to everything Collin said, but he made one statement—and so smugly and self-righteously—that I feel compelled to address it right away. He didn’t put it out there as mere opinion, but rather with this preamble:

“Now, I know this next statement is going to make some of you go screaming into the night, because it's one of those things you never really admit. You know what I'm talking about. If you can't handle the truth, you might want to stop reading now and go watch a rerun of Project Runway.”

Wow, that really gives me nowhere to hide. I mean, Collin knows how I feel, deep in my heart, even if I don’t, or even if I do but I can’t admit it. And what is it he knows I know he knows I know but can’t admit? This: “There is no such thing as bad poetry.”

As someone who spent many years writing bad poetry, I beg to differ. As someone who currently sifts through hundreds of manuscripts in a year, the majority of which are at least proficient, I do contend that some are downright bad. The piece a lady wrote about her nine-year-old son’s penis comes to mind. (I’ll be the first to defend the right to write about ANY subject—if it’s done well.) And as someone who has devoted the last ten years to studying poetry and striving for excellence in that art (art being a “made thing”), I maintain that, just as there are bad lawyers, bad customer service representatives, bad basketball and trumpet players, so there are bad writers. Furthermore, there are far more folks out there picking up pens and calling themselves poets than there are those blowing into trumpets.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for everybody picking up pens AND trumpets. I’m for them doing it well or poorly. I’m for singing if you can’t carry a tune.

But I would never put on a tutu and call myself a ballerina. Let me assure you, I’d be a BAD ballet dancer. Ballet actually makes for a pretty decent analogy for poetry. After all, everyone can dance. But years of study and discipline and grueling workouts separate the everyones from the ballerinas. It separates the ballerinas from the ballerinas.

I’m willing to bet, too, that there are some politics in the world of ballet, just as there are politics in the worlds of poetry and dog shows. So be it. In my experience, those who rail loudest against the politics are the most political of all. They’re the ones who never miss an opportunity to tout themselves as “award-winning” or to boast that their books were nominated for this or that award when they’re the ones who nominated them. If that’s not playing the game of politics, tell me what is.

Hey, I admit I want a piece of that big pie in the sky. But I don’t begrudge those who have their forks in it right now. And I don’t expect them to simply move aside or hand it over to me. I might never get a slice. Fine. Not every actor gets to be a movie star. Not every pitcher makes it to the big leagues. But if you love something and you’re good at it, you’ll continue to strive for excellence regardless. You won’t settle for less. Go to school for it or not. But read. Learn from those who came before and those who do it well. Practice, practice, practice.

I think it’s an important point, and I can’t let it slide. I deal with students every day who are working their butts off to get good at something—design, art direction, writing, photography, illustration—and I’m not about to abide the notion that their investment of time, energy, and spirit is for nothing, that there is no difference between good and bad.

It took me six years to get Karaoke Funeral published. It was frustrating. But I didn’t whine about “the Man.” I kept plugging along—and revising it too, I should add. I would never self-publish, because I need to know that a publisher—however small the press—believes in my work enough to put their money and reputation behind it. I’m too close to my own poems. Just because I think they’re wonderful doesn’t mean they are, and I know that. If a small press in Valdosta hadn’t published KF, I’d still be shopping it around; meanwhile I’d be playing with the order of the manuscript, adding or taking out poems. Hmmm…I’m doing that now with the new yet-to-be-a-book.

Collin also derides the writers who say they can’t sit through open mics because open mics are terrible. I’ll admit I’ve said that—many times. I’m saying it again today. However, it’s not the bad poems (and there are BAD poems) that make such events terrible; it’s the lack of humility. Yes, I participated in open mics when I was younger. I did it to test my ideas, to see if anything I was writing connected with an audience. I was humble and not just a little afraid (I still am when I read). I would present one or two pieces, take my place back in the audience, and LISTEN to the rest of the readers to see if I could LEARN something.

I can’t tell you how many open mics I’ve sat through over the years where people hijack the stage with their thick spiral notebooks, reading every single coffee-shop doodle they’ve committed to paper for the past six months. To make matters worse, half the time they can’t read their own handwriting and have to backtrack, lest we miss that one line that will most certainly change all of our lives.

Those are the people who come in late and leave when they’re finished. And there are plenty more where these came from, sitting in the audience, frantically scribbling the “poems” they plan to read that very night, never hearing anyone else. The air of self-importance, the lack of craft, and the absence of a modicum of appreciation for their peers make these events unbearable for me. I have a busy life, lots of kids. I don’t have time for nonsense. So I pick and choose what I attend.

Collin is unquestionably generous with his time and resources on behalf of younger and emerging poets, as well as with his promotion of his peers in Atlanta and elsewhere. We should all heed his example. I’ve benefited from his generosity on a personal level and on the level that he has tirelessly endeavored to bring more exposure and opportunity to the poetry community in general. Bless him for that.

But, I feel strongly that his overly PC, democratic view of “no bad poetry” is at best na├»ve and at worst an endorsement of mediocrity. I like that things can be bad or good. I love the idea of standards. It gives us--writers, artists, athletes, salesmen, teachers, cashiers, ditch diggers--something to achieve.


Conversation In The Car

JackMan: ...anyway, that guy is such a douche!

Lo: Douche?! What's a douche?

JackMan: Lola! Don't say that; it's a bad word!

Lo: [looking at me] Is it?

TR: Naw.

Biggy & Jack together: YES!!!!

TR: It's a perfectly good word that's been hijacked.

Lo: What does it mean?

TR: It's just a special soap a woman uses to clean her vageena [that's how my girls pronounce it, with a hard 'G'], but, actually, doctors say it's not a good idea to use it. A woman's body cleans itself naturally...

JackMan: SHUT UP! Lo, don't ever say that!

Lo: Douchedouchedouche!

JackMan: Greg!

Biggy: Lo, don't.

JackMan: Mom, she's going to go to school and say that word and get in trouble, and it's going to be all your fault.

TR: No, it's going to be YOUR fault...Lo, it's a word like tampon--not something you want to go around calling people or really talking about on the playground. OK?

Lo: All right.


Git In The Truck, Sissy: Friday Nostalgia

Urban Cowboy: This 1980 movie, starring John Travolta and Deborah Winger is responsible for the western wardrobe I wore pretty much my entire junior year of high school.

Movie summary from iMBD:
Bud Davis is a country boy who moves to the city to visit his uncle. He starts hanging out at Gilley's, owned by Mickey Gilley himself. He takes a job at the refinery where his uncle works. He also meets Sissy, a cowgirl, and they fall in love and suddenly get married. And then their marriage is shattered when Bud sees Sissy allegedly seeing con man Wes, who teaches her how to ride the mechanical bull...and plans to rob Gilley's. When a bull-riding contest is announced, Bud decides to sign up. Can he win the contest and save his marriage to Sissy?

Below, my group of band geek friends at Dollywood: I'm on the far left.


I Sh!t You Not

Lo's Fall '06 softball uniform.

A Woman Can Dream

A couple of months ago, Biggy had to fly to Destin on a mission for Selig, leaving me to fret and cry for his safety. He returned from his one-day journey with a magical tale of having seen a rare Chipoo. The little dog, part chihuahua and part poodle, was guarded closely in its gossamer tote-bag by a lady sitting nearby on the plane. He spoke of its cuteness and sweet nature (the puppy, not the lady). I had to see one for myself, so I googled. And I came across a site that told of many such fantastic creatures--the results of man's desire to create and nature's passion to evolve. I wanted one of these extraordinary animals for myself, more than I ever wanted a unicorn or a monkey, though I knew it was not to be. I became obsessed, scouring the list, studying the pictures for the most preposterous, unlikely combinations. I shall share some of my longing with you now:

First, the Chipoo:

The Bassetoodle (Bassett Hound/Poodle)

The Bashar (Bassett Hound/Sharpei)

The Bostinese (Boston Terrier/Pekingese)

The Chiweenie (Chihuahua/Dachshund)

The Cheeks (Chihuahua/Pekingese)

I will practice my positive visualization until I make my fantasy a reality. But for now, I must remain content with my beautifully ordinary purebred:



Just so you know, my youngest daughter has every manner of Barbie and her accoutrements, as well as an extensive My Little Pony collection. And not only does she have an Easybake Oven, but she also has a S'Mores machine, a cotton candy spinner, and a Glitterator. It's just that, well, we keep those electrical things put up high on a shelf.

Because Lo doesn't play with her toys the way normal girls do.

Mary's 30th Birthday Party


Party Pooper

We were having a great time tonight--me, Biggy, JackMan, and Lo, watching the Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championships on ESPN. Until Georgia walked in, took one look at our rapt faces and then saw what was on TV.

Georgia: You have GOT to be kidding.


Every Day's A Father-Daughter Dance

It wasn’t until almost seven years ago that I witnessed, personally, the real love of a father for a child. I never experienced it growing up, and I never saw it elsewhere. On one hand, there were the examples of the lesser evil, the fathers who worked late, played golf all weekend, and couldn’t remember their kids’ birthdays; and on the other hand, far worse, were the evil charmers, the fathers who spent too much time with their daughters, secretly giving them the wrong kind of attention. This, truly, was all I knew—learned by myself and from my childhood friends. That’s why I call the small town I grew up in treacherous.

When Lola came along, Greg was so enamored, I had to beg to hold her. I didn’t worry about it too much, though, because history told me that once the novelty of the baby wore off, he’d concoct extra yard work or special projects at the office, or he’d need to go buy socks. But he was still rushing home from work every day when she was two, then three. Maybe even more when she was four and he could take her to the BMX track before it got dark or to the softball field at the church behind our house. It finally dawned on me, this was not wearing off.

He takes her everywhere—Home Depot, job site meetings, to watch the Gators play. They go to the fair, to the Braves games, and Six Flags. He takes her camping for whole weekends, and when I drop in to grin and bear a single night of it, it’s like walking into the Eagle Scout Disco--bonfire raging, party lights winking, music thumping. I watch their unique routine and feel happy and mournful all at once.

He does the things I’m too big a Nervous Nelly to do with her—rollerblading, for instance, as well as the things I’d never have the patience for, such as fishing and crabbing. He’s just as likely (more?) as I am to be the one who attends PTA open house or conferences. He wouldn’t dream of missing a softball game or a school play.

Yesterday, he told me he wanted us all to go hike Panther Creek, a seven-mile round trip. I laughed and told him there was no way Lola could possibly walk that far. I agreed to go anyway, because I knew he’d take her even if I didn’t, and I figured I might as well help with the meltdown. About a mile and a half in, she did indeed start whining. She wanted to go back. She didn’t believe we were ever going to get to the waterfall he promised.

After we reached that destination and they swam, she cried a bit at the thought of the trip back. She made him carry her on his back for a while, and then—a major shock to me--she cheered up and finished the hike on her own two feet, with more good humor and vigor than either of us. “Don’t you say anything to remind her about before, Tania,” my husband warned, “She’s allowed 10 or 15 minutes of crying on a seven-mile hike.” Believe me, I'd learned my lesson.

They’ve done this kind of thing before, see. He knows what Lola is made of.


One Day, Three Conversations with Minus-Five

Morning, Chat 1:

MF: What are you doing?

TR: Leaving Lo's softball game. I'm trying to talk her into riding home with her father.

MF: That should be easy.

TR: No, it's not. She knows he WANTS her to go with him. Hey, you know how last night was Jack's first football-game-marching-band performance?

MF: Um, I think you mentioned that--ABOUT 28 TIMES THIS WEEK.

TR: Well, by the second inning, I was seriously over the game. On top of that, I was getting nauseated from being in the seething cauldron of teenage hormones--sixth and seventh grade girls wearing more makeup than KISS, the high school boys with their Sevenfold haircuts. So as soon as the band finished their half-time show, we left Jack there and went to eat pizza. We did order to-go for him, though.

MF: Poor Jack. But what I wanna talk about is how you guys eat pizza more than any family I know. More than mine did, even.

TR: We're busy. I can't be cooking tacos all the time.

MF: Seriously, though, Tania.

Afternoon, Chat 2:

MF: What are you doing?

TR: Taking Jack to his friend Miki's.

MF: Is Jack running away?

TR: Jack, she wants to know if you're running away.

Jack: Tell her to keep it on the DL.

TR: He's running away, and I'm driving him there. I also helped him pack.

MF: Poor Jack.

Evening, Chat 3:

MF: What are you doing?

TR: Watching Harry Potter with my kid.

MF: Did Biggy go watch the Florida game somewhere?

TR: Yup. But I went to run at the river with Georgia AND I went shopping. I owe him the three hours.

MF: I'm just saying...I knew you were full of crap earlier about how he wasn't going to leave you stuck with Lola all evening.

TR: Whatever. Hey, I've gotta go. Mine and Lo's pizza is here.

Go Figure

This afternoon, nearing the end of our jog:

TR: Have you noticed any difference--since I've been on the Celexa for over a month?

Georgia: Yeah, tons.

TR: Like?

Georgia: I'm not in a bad mood all the time now. I'm a lot happier... I was just thinking about it, actually, walking down the hall at school the other day--how I wish you'd started taking it last year. I think I'm going to get really good grades this semester.

Deep Conversation

Beverly Hills psychotherapist Julie Armstrong says, "There is a place in your mind that you cannot directly access. It remembers everything and feels intensely. It registers your deepest experiences. This is your Unconscious...When you dream at night, the feelings from your Unconscious are translated into dream images or stories..."

This morning:

TR: I dreamed that I was at a poetry reading and my father was there. He was sitting with my mother and grandmother, which was already strange (like those two would actually come to a reading!), besides which my mother wouldn't even sit in the same state with Bob. So Mary was in the row ahead of me, and I leaned in and told her, "Look, that's my father over there. I haven't seen him in thirteen years." Then I woke up.

Biggy: I dreamed somebody stole my FJ.

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