Ghosts of Christmas Past


While driving to my parents’ house this weekend, Riley and I talked about what Christmas was like when I was growing up. It was always happy, warm and fun for us kids.

This post is about my mom’s side. I’ll talk about my dad’s side in the next post.

I have a big extended family: My mom has seven siblings, and of the eight kids, seven have two or more kids. Plus Granma Teda’s three siblings and their kids. On Christmas Eve back in the day, we’d gather around 2 in the afternoon at Granma’s little concrete block, two-bedroom, kitchen, den, zero-bath house. If we had to relieve ourselves, we’d head through the kitchen to the back porch, lock the kitchen door, lock the storm door to the outside, then hover over one of the two 2-gallon chamber pots. Granma didn’t have a bathroom until the early ’80s, and that’s just how it was.

We drew names at Thanksgiving, so we had a month to find the perfect gift for our person. As we walked in at Granma’s on Christmas Eve, we’d deposit our presents under the tree My Favorite Thingsin the den. By the time we all showed up, the den was a sea of gifts, leaving just enough space around the perimeter to walk through the door or pick our way to the white leather couch.

Us kids would run around outside (cold or not) while the moms and aunts and grandmothers got the food ready. The men? Well, in between sneaking out to a truck for a nip or two of George Dickel, they watched football on TV.

Of course, we couldn’t open presents until after we’d eaten and the kitchen was cleaned up. Turkey and dressing, ham, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato casserole, yeast rolls, desserts, desserts, desserts.

Then … it was time! Granma would hold court next to the tree. She’d reach under, grab a gift and read: “To 4cc10-dsc02465Tiffi, From Steph” or “To Michael, From Vashon” or “To Lindy, From Tony” or “To Wesley, From Sherri.” Squeals of delight pealed through the house as we opened Barbies, albums (yes, vinyl), and Nerf guns or Lincoln Logs. The adults’ laughter mixed in with our mirth–there was always a gag gift like the “Golfer’s Ball Washer,” which consisted of a jock strap and a small brush.

After opening presents, we’d crank up Elvis on the record player and dance the night away, while the grown-up played Rook. We never noticed the men leave, but when we got home around 2 a.m. we always noticed that Santa had been there.

We’d play with our toys until we could barely hold our eyes open. Then Mom and Dad would tuck us in our warm beds and we’d fall asleep, content and happy.

Though Granma passed away in January, she lives on for me in the memories of these Christmases Past at her little concrete block house with no bathroom.


It’s a football game not a funeral


Ah, another “older” woman berating today’s young ladies for wearing clothing she deems “unclassy.” This time at an Alabama football game. Isn’t it refreshing?

One day we’re yelling at men to stop objectifying our daughters. The next we’re slut-shaming these same daughters because their collarbones are showing. At a football game. In 95-degree heat.

Give me a break. Today’s young women are under enough pressure trying to find their place in a world that constantly tells them they need to be:

  • prettier (but without looking like they’re trying)
  • smarter (but not too smart)
  • richer (but not wealthier than the boys)
  • taller (but not too tall)
  • skinnier (but not too skinny)
  • curvier (but not too curvy)
  • successful (but not too successful)

That’s me in the miniskirt and motorcycle jacket senior year of high school.

They certainly don’t need us older women judging them for the clothes they wear. My lord, Madonna and Jennifer Beals in Flashdance were our fashion role model in the 80s! And don’t try to tell me you didn’t dress like either of them at some point. We all did. I wore short skirts with cowboy boots, sweatshirts hanging off my shoulder, a skintight floral print tank dress, tight jeans with crop tops. Thank goodness there were no bloggers to call me slutty or question my integrity. (If the church ladies did, they kept it among themselves.)


This particular writer also assumed girls were dressing “skimpy” just to look good “for a boy”? So what if they do? Sometimes I want to look good “for a boy,” even as a 44-year-old single mom. I’m sure that writer wants to look good for her husband sometimes.

Then there are times I want to look good so other women, like this particular writer, won’t


Those were extremely tight white jeans. And my annoyed little brother.

judge me for being “too sloppy, too frumpy, too fat, too matronly,” or looking like I’ve “just given up on life.” Sometimes I dress sexier than usual so I can take a selfie to remind me that I’m still attractive. And that I’m not dead inside.

All of this is okay. I don’t need your permission to dress in a way that I think might attract a nice man I might cross paths with on a given day. Or for the women in my circle or those who judge me based on what I’m wearing. Or for myself. My daughter doesn’t need your permission or your judgment either.

We want more men to respect our brains, our jobs, our sports, our parenting, our skill at walking in high heels, our chainsaw-wielding, our driving, our writing, our lawn-mowing, our emotions, our child-birthing, our independence, our political opinions, and yes, even our looks. Yet we women continue to tear each other down over clothes we deem not “classy” enough.

What is “classy” anyway? Is it classy to insinuate that a whole generation in a spaghetti-strap sundresses are sluts? Should we assume if you cover up with a scarf that you’re a cold fish? That you’re ashamed of your body? Of course not. Why do we think anything at all about how another woman is dressed? And if we do think an unkind thought, why would we voice it?

People are always posting platitudes about being kind and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s time we older women took our own advice and started being kinder to our younger counterparts. We can learn a lot from each other if we just stop judging.






Work in progress …


The smell of corn dogs and funnel cakes coated the air and Bob Seger’s “Main Street” played on the staticky speakers when he spotted me standing in line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. A wave. He wore a purple button-down and jeans. And that smile. Always that smile.

I smiled and waved back, sure he could hear my thudding heart, even from his seat on the ride already in motion.

“Is that him?” Carrie, my cousin, elbowed me.

“Yep. So hands-off,” I said, trying to make my smile look less cheesy. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure that’s his girlfriend.”

“So what?” Carrie said.

I watched his Tilt-a-Whirl car until I got dizzy and turned my attention to the next ride possibility. The Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster looked fun. Another elbow to the hip (Carrie’s shorter than me) brought me to attention. Jonathan was walking toward me.

And the girlfriend was with him. They reached us just as we were climbing the steps to the ride. “Hey, Lena! Don’t puke!” he joked.

So he knew about last year’s Scrambler incident. Motion sickness sucks. “No corn dogs tonight!” I yelled back. Carrie and I jumped into the first car, sat down and latched the safety bar. I turned to see Jonathan and the girlfriend walking away.

I sighed. “Dang, he looks good in purple.”

“He is cute,” Carrie said.

Just as the Tilt-a-Whirl started its spinning, Jonathan looked back at me and grinned. My breath caught. I thought I might puke then, and it had nothing to do with the ride.


We officially met freshman year of junior college: I played softball, and he played baseball.

In the first week of September 1990, as I sat with some softball and volleyball players in the gym waiting for advisor assignments, I heard “Jonathan Brock” over the PA system.

I turned and saw him scrambling over teammates, and walking to the desk at the front of the gym. “Oh my god. Finally, someone I recognize, and it’s HIM!” I inwardly yelled. I knew who he was. His high school team beat mine in the finals of The Daily Record winter hoops tournament our senior year – he lit us up with three-pointers and was tourney MVP. He was hot that night, and, clearly, still was.

He talked to the dean, and I tried not to stare. I played it cool as I watched him walk out the door to the registration area. “I can’t believe Jonathan Brock is here, at this school, with me. What are the odds? He looks even better now. How is that poss–”

“Lena. Lena,” my roommate’s whisper broke into my thoughts, “they just called your name.” Oh, shoot! I felt my face get hot as I stood and crossed the gym. Definitely not cool.

I found my advisor, Mr. Edgar, in the student union, where computers had been set up at small tables so we could choose our classes. I picked English Comp, Spanish and Health for first-quarter then headed for the bookstore. When I saw the guys already in line, I didn’t think twice.

“Won any 3-point contests lately?” I asked as I slid behind Jonathan, and David, a baseball player I knew from a rival high school.

Jonathan raised an eyebrow and looked confused. “Hey, I’m Lena. From Lake City,” I laughed. “You pretty much beat us by yourself in the Daily Record finals. You’ve got nice form.”

David snort-laughed.

“I mean your shooting form. Not, uh, well, not that your form is not good. Oh, you know what I mean.” Flustered, I threw David a look that said “shut up” as the bookstore line moved forward.

Jonathan laughed. “Thanks. I’m Jonathan. From North Pine. You play ball, too?”

“Yep, softball. I catch mostly and pitch some. But I can play anywhere.”

“I’m here for baseball. I pitch and play a little infield. I’ll have to check out your form behind the plate. Maybe you can catch me sometime.”

“Yeah, maybe I can.” Oh, yeah, I would like to catch him.

The line moved quickly and I bought my textbooks, a couple of notebooks and a T-shirt with the school logo. I walked out of the union and met Lucy back at the gym. She was from Maddox and here on a volleyball scholarship.

“Who are they?” she asked, pulling her long dark hair into a ponytail.

“Just some baseball players from near my hometown,” I said, as we headed outside. “We’ve been talking about who’s school is better at sports.”

“Mine is,” David said, catching up to us as we pushed open the glass double doors.

“Don’t listen to him,” Jonathan said as he stepped off the curb behind us. “My school is the biggest and the best.”

“Well, I’ve heard bigger isn’t always better,” Lucy said. I giggled, and we high-fived.

“Man, you walked right into that one,” David told Jonathan. “Made it too easy.”

“See y’all at the Destiny,” I said when I reached my old red Honda. The Destiny was our “dorm” – a motel that the owner rented out to the school. Most out-of-town athletes lived there under the watchful eye of the baseball coach, Don Belue, and his wife, Brenda. Coach Belue enforced curfew and was our go-to if anything went wrong with our rooms. He could be a hard-ass as a coach, but he generally seemed OK.

“OK, meet you there,” Lucy called back as she headed to her black Dodge hatchback.

“Later,” David said.

I climbed in, cranked the engine and had just buckled my seat belt when Jonathan knocked on the window. I rolled it down and he rested his forearm on the doorframe. Huh. His eyes looked like a melted Hershey’s Special Dark.

“We’re playing cards around back later if y’all want to come.”

“Sure. What do you play?” I asked.

“Tunk, Poker, Spades, Hearts.” On the last word I swear he leaned in the window slightly.

“You’ll have to teach me Hearts,” I told him. “I don’t know how to play that one.”

“It’ll be easy,” he said.

That’s what worries me, I thought. “Ok, see you in a little while,” I said.

“Number 23.” He turned and walked to his silver RX7.

I put my Prelude into first gear and pulled out of the parking lot. “Can’t Stop” played and I danced like an idiot as I drove to the dorm.


“What did he say?” Lucy rushed over after we parked in front of our room at the Destiny.

“He said we should come around later and play cards with them.”

“Oh, cool. But it sure looked like he said more than that all leaned into your window.” She wiggled her eyebrows.

“Did you notice his eyes are the color of melted chocolate? Yum.”

“Oh lord. No, I didn’t get that close. Lena, you are in for it.”

“I know. I know,” I sighed. “I’ll chill out and try not to act like a goofy schoolgirl.”

Lucy shook her head to agree as she rummaged through the mini fridge. “I’m hungry. You want a Hot Pocket?”

“Sure, throw one in the microwave for me, too.”

We added Doritos and Mountain Dews to complete our lunch menu. “So what do you think about Chatham so far?” I asked. Last night was our first night at school and we stayed up all night quizzing each other on high school, boyfriends (her: 3 previous, none now; me: none ever), sports, future plans, likes, dislikes. Neither of us were morning people and this was the first time we’d been away from home.

“Seems like some pretty decent people here at least,” Lucy said. “I like my advisor and I think we’ll have a good volleyball team. And the guys are cute.”

“You’re right about that last part,” I nodded. “We don’t start softball workouts for another week, but I need to start running before then. I’m not sure about the classes: Two are with my advisor, Comp I and Spanish, but he seems cool at least.”

“Buttering up that advisor quick!” Lucy teased as she licked nacho cheese powder off her fingers.

I nearly spit out my Mountain Dew. “Haha. Nope. Those weren’t my first choices. I got Comp I, but I wanted Western Civ and Biology instead of Spanish and Health. Oh well. A credit’s a credit.”

I got up and pulled the curtain closed on the window, switched on the stereo and found the local Top 40 station, a little noise to drown out the A/C unit so we could take a nap. I flopped down on the bed and soon the soothing sound of Luther Vandross’ “Here and Now” lulled us to sleep.



My heart skittered. I jumped off the bed, knocked over my Hot Pocket leftovers and nearly took out the TV. Lucy rolled over and sat up in her bed. The digital alarm clock read 5:47 p.m.

I peeked out the curtain and saw two boys at our door. I ran my fingers through my hair, wiped my eyes and yanked the door open just as a yawn escaped my mouth.

“Wake up, sleepyheads! The Welcoming Committee has arrived. I’m Rich.”

“And I’m–”

“Yeah, yeah, David,” I interrupted. “I already know who you are. What’s up?”

“Obviously not y’all,” he said. “Get up and come around back. We’re all hanging out back there.”

“Any particular room or do we just follow the crowd?” Lucy asked from her nest of blankets.

“You’ll find us,” Rich said. “Just come to the open door.”

“OK. See you in a few,” I said. I closed the door, cleaned up the lunch mess and headed to the mirror and sink. I was NOT going around back and maybe running into Jonathan, or anyone, without brushing my teeth and hair and putting on some lipgloss. Lucy had no issues—she always looked good—except for getting the Doritos powder off her face and the taste out of her mouth.

Ten minutes later, we locked No. 20 and walked to the back of the dorm. People were everywhere. We passed two rooms then saw David poke his head out of one at the far end of the building.

“Ah, the sleeping beauties made it,” he kidded when we reached him. “Y’all clean up nice.”

“Is he always this charming?” I asked Rich, as he sat in the floor playing Nintendo football.

“Yep. All the time. He’s a real prince among us frogs,” he answered.

We step into a room like ours: at the front is the door and a picture window covered with a brown, plastic-lined, room-darkening drape; on the floor is green mottled shag carpet worn down by years of motel visitors; and at the back, on the left, is a long shelf with a clothes rod underneath, in the middle a wall mirror over a sink, and to the right, a bathroom.

The only difference was the furniture selection. Lucy and I had a full bed, a twin bed, a chest, a dresser, a stereo, a TV and a chair. The guys’ room had two twin beds, two chests, a small square dining table, four chairs and a TV with a Nintendo system. “Friends in Low Places” blared on a boombox on top of one of the chests.

“And I toasted you, said honey, we may be through, but you’ll never hear me complaaaaain

‘Cause I got friends in low places”

Lucy and I sat down at the table just as several other guys hustled in, Jonathan among them, rambling about “someone laying down the law.” I couldn’t make out the conversation: I was focused on Jonathan. He’d changed out of his jeans and red polo into gray gym shorts and a green North Pine T-shirt.

He saw me watching, and before I could look away, he plopped down in the chair with me. “Ready to play Hearts?” he nudged me with his shoulder.

“I hope you’re a patient teacher,” I said. “It might take a while for me to get it.”

A second later Coach Belue burst into the room. “Curfew is in effect so have these girls out of here by then!” he boomed. “Hi, ladies,” he said to Lucy and me, with a wink. “I’ll be back to check!” After deciding they weren’t up for a card game, the other guys left, leaving Jonathan, me, Lucy and David at the table.

“He’s going to be a lot of fun,” Rich said, still in the floor manhandling the video game controller.

“All bark, no bite,” Lucy said. “But we’ll be out of here by curfew at 11. I’m not getting in trouble the day before classes start. My folks would kill me.”

“Mine, too.” Plus, I’ve never been a rule breaker.

“OK, forget curfew. We’ve got plenty of time; it’s only 6:10. Deal the cards, Jonathan,” David said.

“Rich, we need another player,” Jonathan said. He tossed the card box at him. “Lena doesn’t know how to play Hearts, so I’m going to show her.”

Rich paused his game and crawled into the chair next to Jonathan and across from Lucy. “Fine. I’m losing to the computer anyway.”

I propped my elbows on the table, waiting for my cards. As Jonathan dealt to Lucy, he leaned into me and I felt his breath on my neck. My skin tingled.


After a quick lesson in Hearts, David tossed the two of clubs onto the table to get the hand started. Rich followed with a five of diamonds.

“No, not that one,” Jonathan said as he turned his body toward me. “Play the club.” His knee brushed mine and all I could think was “Thank god I shaved my legs!”

I hoped he didn’t see the goosebumps on my arms as I tossed the seven of clubs on the pile. “Why again?”

“Because you can’t lead with your heart until hearts have been broken,” he said.

“That sounds like the lyrics to a country song,” I said.

Lucy laughed, and David sang: “You can’t leeeeeead with your heaaaaart until heaaaaarts have been brokeeeeen.” He sounded like the bass singer from The Oak Ridge Boys, only not good.

“How do hearts get broken again?” I said, smothering a giggle.

“David led with a club and you have a club, so you have to play it. If you couldn’t follow the suit, then you could play a heart,” Jonathan explained. “Then hearts would be broken.”

“Ohhhh. OK, I’ve got it.”

A few hands later, and it was Jonathan’s turn to deal again.


“Y’all have a phone? Fancy!” Lucy said, turning to me. “Remember that, Lena. When we need grocery money from our folks, we’ll come back here and call them to send more.”

Rich got up and answered the phone hiding behind the boombox. “Hello. Yeah, he’s here. Hold on. Jonathan, it’s some girl.” Rich set the receiver on top on the stereo.

Jonathan fumbled the cards as Lucy and I exchanged “of course he has a girlfriend” smirks. And Garth sang:

“Same old story, that everybody knows,
It’s one heart holdin’ on, One letting go …”


100 Things You Might Not Know About Me


Updated April 29, 2016

Updated Nov. 15, 2007

Written June 2005

1. I’m a writer in a copy editor’s secretary’s job.
2. I have a widow’s peak.
3. I never thought I’d get married.
4. I did.
5. We celebrated 10 years June 17. (12 years in 2007) (He left after our 15th anniversary.)
6. I have a wonderful 3-year-old daughter(She’s now 6!) She’s 14!!
7. I married a smart jock. And divorced him.
8. I have had several nicknames–Amazon, Manute, Long Tall Sally, Bush …
9. I’m 5’9.
10. I have scarred knees–sports, car wreck.
11. I like my freckles.
12. I majored in Journalism. Univ. of North Alabama
13. I was voted Best School Spirit as senior in high school.
14. I introduced myself to my ex-husband.
15. I like it hot.
16. The weather, that is.
17. Fave meal: pinto beans, cornbread, fried taters, sweet tea.
18. I’m proud to be from the South.
19. I’m not proud of its past.
20. I thought I’d be a semi-famous writer living in NYC.
21. Well, at least I visited. Saw “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, a streaker on the sidewalk.
22. My hometown has fewer than 2000 people.
23. Richard Marx was my first concert.
24. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers was most recent. Update: Daughtry and Velcro Pygmies were my last. New Kids on the Block and One Direction were my last.
25. I wish I’d sneaked out to go to a Bon Jovi concert when I was 15.
26. I finally got to see them 15 years later.
27. I’ve won a few journalism awards.
28. I love ’80s music. And early ’90s.
29. And oldies.
30. And Harry Connick Jr.And classic country.
31. And some of today’s artists … Gavin DeGraw, Daughtry, The Killers.I’m mostly into older stuff now.
32. I wish I’d kept writing. (I’m writing again … and getting paid to do it.) I’m writing a piece of fiction inspired by college.
33. I’m a Body for Lifer. BFL I have a body.
34. I wish I could sing.
35. Or play guitar.
36. I love to dance.
37. And sing in my car.
38. Fave movies: “Grease,” “Dirty Dancing,” “The Outsiders.”
39. Disney movies: “Mulan,” “Pocahontas.”
40. I wanted to be a rock star…See # 34.
41. I have 2 crooked toes.
42. I win at Pictionary and Trival Pursuit.
43. I suck at Scrabble.
44. I love Bon Jovi.
45. And Elvis.
46. Fave books: “Traveling Mercies” (Anne Lamott), “I Don’t Know How She Does It” (Allison Pearson), “If You Want to Write (Brenda Ueland)
47. First book I read for pleasure: “Chad and the Elephant Engine” (gift from 2nd-grade teacher)
48. Longest book: “Gone with the Wind,” 1024 pages, Christmas break in sophomore year of high school
49. Most recent books: “Same Sweet Girls,” “gods in Alabama.” Faster Than Kudzu “2nd Chance” by James Patterson, “Writer Mama” by Christina Katz, “The Department of the Lost and Found” by Allison Winn Scotch. “Running A Love Story” by Jen A. Miller; “1776” by McCullough; “London” by Edward Rutherford. Currently reading “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
50. First car: 1987 Honda Accord stick shift. I miss this car!
51. First car I ever drove: orange 1964 Ford Falcon
52. Car wrecks: 2; Me Driving: 1; My fault: 0
53. I like to take pictures.photographs.
54. I was MVP of my high school volleyball team.
55. And valedictorian of the Class of 1990.
56. I regret not taking that scholarship to UA.
57. But I enjoyed playing softball in junior college. And meeting all the people I met.
58. Because it was 2 years’ of free education.
59. Brett Favre is my favorite athlete. My brother is my favorite athlete.
60. I’ve read the whole Bible.
61. I’ve never broken a bone–knock on wood.
62. I loved Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves when I was growing up.
63. I wish we lived at the beach.
64. My daughter is deaf.
65. But she can hear with her cochlear implants. She got her second in April 2007.
66. We go to auditory-verbal therapy once a week once a year.
67. We do at-home therapy every day.
68. Hearing her say “Mommy” and “Papa” and “love you” for the first time was overwhelming.
69. New words are coming every day. Much bigger, more mature words.
70. She’s fearless.
71. I love flip-flops.
72. I hate sticker grass…ouch!
73. I tried out for cheerleader in high school.
74. Didn’t make it.
75. Thank God!
76. My first beer was in college: Natural Light
77. My most recent was three weeks ago … Corona. (Still most recent.) a Michelob Ultra and an Angry Orchard last month. But I had a glass of Moscato last week.
78. I had a hangover after just two beers.
79. My daughter loves Dora. “Hamilton” the musical.
80. I like “Backyardigans.” “Turn.”
81. Ex likes “Recess.”
82. Worst movie: “Rocky V.”
83. I’m contemplating a tattoo. Still contemplating.
84. So is my mom. She got one this year.
85. My ex and my brother have two.
86. My dad got his while in the Army.
87. My mom is the kindest person I know.
88. And one of my best friends.
89. Juco English Comp teacher gave me confidence in my writing.
90. I’ve misplaced it, though. (Now, I’ve found it again.) And it’s growing.
91. Farthest North I’ve ever been: NYC
92. Farthest South: Captiva Island, Florida
93. Farthest East: NYC
94. Farthest West: Hutchinson, Kansas
95. I have shot a gun. Once. Scary.
96. I’m big on family gatherings.
97. I love Jack’s hamburgers & fries, chocolate ice cream, Hershey Special Dark bars, Milky Ways.
98. I’m just a small-town girl.
99. I like who I am now, but …
100. It’s never too late to be what I might have been.

The Adventures of Sound Check Mama & Bionic Girl

  • Riley and I are goinIMG_0950g to Disney World in 21 days! As a UDA All-American dancer she’ll be performing in the Thanksgiving Day Parade at Magic Kingdom. She is beyond excited. I’m wondering what clothes will be comfortable, how I’ll pay for food and whether it’ll all just come back up on the Rock ’n’ Rollercoaster.
  • I’m the mother of a 14-year-old. A 14-year-old! A 14-YEAR-OLD! 
  • “Confident” by Demi Lovato is on repeat repeat repeat. “It’s time for me to take it, I’m the boss right now.”
  • I just caught my reflection dancing in the TV, which isn’t on. Heck, we don’t even have cable.N6
  • My parents are incomparable, incredible, and we wouldn’t make it without them. My former husband’s dad and stepmom are super awesome, too.
  • After Christmas I’m going to start saving to replace Riley’s out-of-warranty, four-year-old cochlear implant processors. The newest model, released nearly two years ago, is Bluetooth compatible, which means her music, her phone, her computer, even the TV sound can be sent straight to her processors without her being wired up. Check out this video for a simulation. And this is an older but still interesting article about the N6 and more.
  • Through my work, I’m meeting more families of children with hearing loss and IMG_1869several who are going through the cochlear implant process. I want to share Riley’s story and show them that, though the journey is hard and frustrating and stressful, it’s worth it. I hope the two of us make a difference somehow.
  • I want those families and others around the world to be able to come here and read about Riley and me and our adventures and find inspiration, comfort, peace, honesty, ideas to make the “CI Life” easier, and a little humor.
  • Mostly, I want my daughter to know that whatever happens, I am here.

To do list



Rearrange the living room so we have room to relax, walk and dance, and so we can decorate for the holidays, starting with Halloween.IMG_1263

Rearrange and declutter the bedroom because OMG there is nowhere else to put all this stuff! We’ve moved from an 1800-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath house to an 808-square-foot, 1-bedroom, 1-bath apartment. A 43-year-old and a 13-year-old sharing a one-bedroom apartment means continuous purging.

Find a solution to get rid of ants, once and for all. Every year the little pests show up in my truck, on the kitchen counter and in the bathroom. How do I get rid of them? Prevent them?


Get in good enough shape to spend 2 days in a vehicle and 4 days walking around Disney World the week of Thanksgiving with two other moms and three teen girls without being IMG_8275ready to collapse at 8 p.m. Riley is an All-American and will be dancing in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Throw the weights around again. I’m stuck in a go-to-work-come-home-worn-out-eat-dinner-and-sit-on-the-couch rut. I want to be healthy and strong. Inertia is the worst.

Work my way back up to running.

Get more sleep. Staying up until 11 p.m. and getting up at 6 a.m. is not working for me.

Eat better–fewer chips, more vegetables. Cut the Mountain Dew. Add back the water. Cook more, eat out less.


Figure out how to bring in more money. I can write. I can edit. I can design brochures, newsletters, fliers, resumes. I can edit essays. I can build a simple webpage.IMG_0043

Get back to writing–my writing. Not freelance disease-of-the-week pieces. $150 for 2000 words, 10-12 hours of research, interviews, writing and editing, and a side of depression wasn’t worth it.

Work on a way to use what I do and what I’ve learned in my day job to boost my earning power there and on the side.

Good things


Updating the November column from my 2012 series Adventures in Single Parenting.

MusicAt times it’s been hard to be thankful over the past few years. That’s selfish and whiny, I know, but it’s also the truth. While I’m always grateful for the big things like family and friends, a job and shelter, there are a few little things that have brought me happiness and helped make big life changes easier.

Music. Whether I want to scream or cry, laugh or dance, music is the way to get my emotions out when I can’t speak the words. For getting my girl power on, it’s “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce. When I just want to sit and cry, I play “Happy Ending” by Mika. And when I want to dance and laugh and feel good, I crank up “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. Studies show that music affects mood, and it’s true. Listen to “My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry – I dare you not to laugh.IMG_0726

Books and movies and TV. Alone on Christmas Eve 2011 while my daughter was with her dad, I watched “Midnight in Paris” and dreamed of living in the days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, sharing a glass of wine, wandering the City of Lights, and writing a book that would be loved by millions. Recently, I’ve resurrected my love of wrestling – yes, that “fake sport.” While the outcomes are predetermined, after having sat second row at a live show, I can say that the performances are in no way fake. Watching on TV is great way to escape reality for a couple of hours: I pretend Dean Ambrose is taking out MY frustrations on his opponents.

IMG_8364Red lipstick. I love red lipstick. Wearing it makes me feel pretty, even if I’m wearing a baseball cap, jeans, an old T-shirt, and my Buddy Holly glasses. I couldn’t tell you how many I have … glosses, mattes, balms, pencils, stains, even a compact. Two in my backpack, one in my purse, one in my truck, several in my makeup toolbox. Crimson Joy to match my Alabama sweatshirts, Dynamite to go with my Braves T-shirt, Chunky Cherry to complement a winter coat. I’m constantly searching for the perfect red. Until I find it, I’m happy to experiment with Romantic, Alarm, and Red Diva.

My 2003 Ford Explorer. There are crayon stains on the ceiling above the back seat where a certain toddler played Picasso on 2-hour trips to speech therapy. The CD is home to a gremlin that will no longer allow CDs to enter, the cruise control no longer works, and I find a small bit of oil in my parking spot every day, but my Explorer still gets me where I want to go. Whether it’s to visit my brother and his family in South Carolina, to a boyband concert in Nashville, to hang out with my parents in my hometown, or pick up my girl from school and head to a movie, the old Explorer helps me change the scenery whenever I need it.

What’s that old saying? God is in the details. It’s true, and I’m grateful for the small things that make my life more fun, more interesting, and more satisfying. What little things keep you going?