Just in the nick of time

The early part of this week was hot for this time of year in Ottawa. All over twitter, I was seeing the #Hottawa hashtag in use as everyone tried to make it through the days without melting.

I had a few interesting conversations because I don’t like the heat, yet I’m from Florida. Born and raised. How could I not like the heat? Well, I just never have liked hot weather. I’m a moderate weather girl, preferring the comfortable temps of a spring and fall to the extremes that come with summer and winter. Hot weather reminds me of the many years without air conditioning in houses or cars, which is miserable in Florida, let me tell you. Heat rash, itchy sweat, lethargy. Heat drains me much the same way that being in a crowded room does to an introvert (I might know about that from personal experience too).

The worst summer, by far, was 1998. Perhaps because I was old enough to actually remember and document it. Perhaps because it was just a memorable year in general. Perhaps because it was just so hot it was burned into my brain. Or maybe that was just the year - for better or worse - I finally started making decisions for myself.

One decision I made was to go with my best friend to visit her father and step-mom on the east coast. To get there, we had to drive east from Tally over to US Route 1 around Jacksonville and down the coast to their town. This wasn’t the quick way, but the faster route was closed thanks to the rash of forest fires that year. 

The trip from Tallahassee to Jacksonville was fairly uneventful, probably because we left at approximately 2:00am-ish. Our methods of staying awake were questionable, but effective. What we weren’t prepared for was the drive down US Route 1. The smoke from the fires was so thick in places we had to slow to a crawl. The smell permeated the car and I’m not sure that car was ever the same again.

The most alarming part of the trip was the charred forest we drove by for miles, only to come to a lush green section that went on for just a quarter of a mile (if that) before we saw a gas station.

After that sight, much of the trip is a blur. I don’t think I remember anything about our return home. But I will never forget the sight of smoke, charred wood, and the visible evidence of just-in-the-nick-of-time work that was done to keep a bad situation from getting exponentially worse.

*****

This post was based on the prompt “Share a memorable road trip story!” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.

Saturday nights with Mom

Christmas 1979 - Probably the first documented evidence of Mom indulging in my clotheshorse tendencies.I had to go to the drug store tonight to pick up a few things and I got quite distracted on the cosmetics aisle. I probably only spent about 15 minutes looking, but it made me think of my mom. When I was a teenager, my dad worked in one or the other of the family’s businesses as a truck driver, taking two runs a week up to Atlanta to pick up produce. One of the runs was over Saturday night/Sunday. So, many times when my younger brother went on Dad’s run with him, Mom and I would hang out together. I’d help her get her materials ready for Sunday school (she taught the 3 year olds).

By the time we were done getting the arts and crafts stuff finished, it was usually fairly late. Even though we had to get up early the next morning, we’d head over to the 24 hour Albertsons on Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee. (Publix was our favorite grocery store, but Albertsons had more cosmetics - and they were open longer.) We lived in the west end of town, so getting to Albertsons required a trip to the other side of town - not that Tallyland is all that big! We’d usually pick up a treat for a midnight snack - most often lemon meringue pie - and then head over to the cosmetics. We checked out everything, from eye shadows, to blush, to nail polish and went through all the different brands and then pick up a few things to experiment with.

Hindsight is definitely 20/20, because now I know my mom probably had only marginal interest in our trips to look at make up - she went because she enjoyed spending time with me. Mom was never into girly things like dressing up and make up, doing hair, etc. She liked to feel good about the way she looked, but she put less importance on it than I did.  I tended to be a fairly “typical” teenage girl who was overly absorbed with how I looked, never leaving the house without being made up and “looking good”.  “Looking good” is relative since I doubt I had a good sense of what actually suited me in those days.

Now that Mom is gone, the memories I have of those times with her - going shopping, helping her find clothes and makeup I “approved” of, enjoying our guilty pleasures (mmm…pie) - mean so much more to me now that time has altered my perception of them. Like any mother and daughter, we had difficult times, but we were so fortunate to come through them with greater love and respect for each other. Before she died, my mother was my best friend (next to my husband). I’m so thankful that I developed that closeness with her and maintained it during the years after I moved to Canada.

If I can look back in 20 years and feel that I’ve been even half as good to my child(ren) as my mom was to me and my brothers, then I think I will have done a pretty decent job. She was truly an amazing lady and I miss her more than words can ever adequately express.

*****

This post was based on the prompt “Ode to your mother…write about a special memory you have of your mom in honor of Mother’s Day.” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.

I originally posted this April 25, 2009. It is the perfect memory for this prompt. 

Wedding window shopping

I’m from the U.S. Born there. Grew up there. Learned the ways of the world there. 

Except for the whole royalty thing. We don’t have royalty there so the fascination with royals of any nation is foreign to me. Actually, all this hullaballoo about anyone with a little noteriety is too much for me, but what do I know?

Despite my obvious shortcomings in this department, when Mama Kat challenged me to make a list of 10 wedding gift suggestions for William and Catherine, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for me to do a little window shopping.

 

1) Because girls really need to have pretty nails. And if you can get a machine to do it, so much the better. Catherine should unwrap this one right away so she can use it for the big day. Diana dazzled the world with her serene grace in the face of Charles. Catherine can make a statement with her nails. With the ability to do customised designs from jpegs, she could (almost) literally wear her heart on her fingertips - in the form of William’s face. Or she could pick another picture - it’s just an idea.

2) Happiness is a lighted pair of earbuds for that honeymoon journey. Because who wants to talk to their new spouse when travelling? Or, for the nervous traveller, these ear buds make you happy. (Or, could it be that blocking out the noise of other passengers makes you happy? I know my happiness increases about 100-fold when I have earbuds in on the bus.) Not that the happy couple needs to worry about buses. Come to think of it, they probably have full control over other passengers on the plane too. Oh well, they can save them for when they’re having “one of those days”.

3) For the truly green-thumbed bride and groom. Honestly, this one is total group gift material. I mean, who could resist 8 Tools to Help you Grow a Nice Green Garden? I’m sure the royal gardeners would appreciate the help. Honestly, though, I saw this title and I couldn’t help but giggle. I immediately pictured 8 people who would be the 8 “tools”. This is the downside of all this reimagining the English language. I get totally sidetracked from my true purpose.

4) No wedding is complete without a life-size cutout of the bride and groom. Don’t scoff. I know it’s not the usual thing to have at your wedding, but I think William and Catherine are going to be trendsetters with this one. If they were smart, they could have one made of them doing the royal wave so they can take a snack break or something. Perhaps if that one worked well, they could split the receiving line in two. No? Okay, maybe they should just place it artfully somewhere in their house, er, castle? to be admired by guests.

5) Weddings are great for useful kitchen gadget gifts…like pizza cutters!! And this hip royal couple (who I hope are kinda geeky, tech savvy types since that’s all I’m gifting them) would surely appreciate a pizza cutter in the shape of the Star Trek Enterprise. It’s perfect for those quiet Friday nights after a long week of…engagements (the royal kind) and all you want is to call and order a double pepperoni. Of course we all know that you have to cut the slices again after delivery. Why not do it in geeky style?

6) The iCADE iPad Holder Case Arcade Cabinet(!). Play on your royal iPad in style on that honeymoon journey with this sweet little slice of life. It’s the easiest way to go retro in modern style. The portability is much improved over it’s 1980s counterparts. Playing Pac-Man has never been so much fun as when you get to do it old school style - with a joystick. Who needs an accelerometer anyway? Silly Apple. They really missed the boat with all these i-things.

7) A secret decoder ring. William and Catherine are royals and as such privacy and discretion is key. How will they whisper sweet nothings to each other without someone overhearing? Well, why not skip all the bling that usually ends up on your ring finger after the wedding and go with something really practical. This decoder ring would make communication so much easier and discreet. Downside is apparently you have to write it out to decode. That’s tricky. Is there an app for that instead?

8) “All the fun of candles without the danger”. Imagine the possibilities. A free evening with no state dinners or other such engagements to attend. Just William and Catherine with free time to spend a romantic evening together. How do you have a candlelight dinner and prevent a fire? Well, of course they do it with LED candles - you can even blow them out. How nice would it be to not have to search for matches or a lighter?

9) Good geeks like to bake…cookies…and store them in a lovely cookie jar. For those lazy weekend afternoons when the newlyweds decide to do some baking together, this handy dandy zombie cookie jar will give them the perfect place to store their goodies. My guess is that it will remind them of the happiness they experienced throughout their honeymoon as they play Plants vs. Zombies side-by-side on the plane, cheering each other on. The only way this cookie jar could get better is if it said, “BRAINS!”, when you open the lid. That’s also valuable when somone has their hand in the cookie jar a little too often!

10) You know it’s gonna happen, so you might as well just start getting ready. “William and Catherine sittin’ in a tree. K. I. S. S. I. N. G. First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes the baby in the baby carriage! *gasp* A baby! Who knows when - I won’t pretend to know their plans, but the likelihood is great with all that pressure on William to produce an heir to the thrown. So, what’s a busy royal couple to do when they have to leave the baby behind and go to their royal engagements? This remotely soothing baby monitor is the answer to all their parenting needs. How excited would they be to open this on their wedding day!? I bet you would be too.

So, what do you think? Are these presents worthy to be in the royal house of William and Catherine? And, more importantly, which one do YOU want?

The scariest (and best) teacher ever

She was a legend. I’d heard about her for almost 10 years, because she was there when my brother went to my high school. Few could spell her name, but everyone knew it. She commanded respect in a not-so-warm-and-fuzzy yet oddly still quite likeable way.

I remember my first interaction with her. I was in 10th grade and I and one of my friends were hanging out in our Biology classroom for some reason. This was strange because A) I did not like biology. Krebs cycle? Kill me now. B) I’m pretty sure our teacher didn’t care too much for female students - that was . Since my friend and I were girls, it was just strange. I don’t remember why we were in her room, but I do remember not really talking about class or schoolwork.

And Miss M came in.

Her hair was long, straight and parted in the middle with every gray strand in it proudly on display. It worked for her. Miss M was all natural. She didn’t wear makeup and she wasn’t into fru-fru frilly crap. I never saw her wear a skirt or dress and I’d be shocked if she ever has. We eventually learned that she was pretty bad-ass in her personal life; and those details are better left in my head. But it was all part of the big picture that was Miss M.

Miss M excelled at telling it like it is. You can look at her for the first time and know that she’s not one for bull$#!@ - giving or receiving. It’s not her style.

Somehow that afternoon, we - my friend and I - admitted that we were a little timid about taking her class. Miss M taught chemistry and the reason she was legend was because her class was so difficult. She told us we’d be fine as long as we worked hard. 

Fast forward however many months to the following August (that’s when school started for us). I walked into Miss M’s 3rd period gifted *shudder* chemistry class. I was kinda nervous. The only thing that gave me hope was that I’d heard Miss M didn’t particularly like male students - she was the opposite of our biology teacher that way. Of course, I knew that didn’t mean I could get away with not busting my butt in her class.

Have you ever heard of that fabled rule that teachers shouldn’t smile for the first 6 weeks? The point being that you scare students into submission? THEN and only then can you show them your human side?

Miss M might have written that rule. Seriously.

I have never known a teacher who knew the curriculum as well as this woman. She knew which chapters would be easy. She knew which chapters half of us would fail. She started out by saying that if we weren’t prepared to study very hard for 5, 6, 7 and 8 that we would set the tone for the year. That day, she laid out her expectations. She didn’t care if we were “gifted”. She expected us to work and work hard. She expected us to know what we were doing - and that meant reading the book, as opposed to sleeping on it and absorbing knowledge by osmosis.

She yelled at us. Not in a mean, screaming way, but more in a this-is-what-it-takes-just-do-it way.

I think that lecture singlehandedly saved my butt. I was awed by this woman who could strike fear into even some of the cockiest (and smartest) boys that I’d been in classes with for years. That’s the thing about being in the gifted program - you start to believe you’re all that when you’re really not.

Those chapters she mentioned? I didn’t ace them all, but I didn’t get lower than a B on any of them. I learned that chemistry is really cool, where biology just made me want to poke my eyes out (except the genetics part - that was cool). By the end of that year, I had so much respect for Miss M and I have always believed that it was mutual. She knew how hard I worked to do well in her class.

The next year, those of us who’d had Miss M the previous year got into the habit of calling her by her first name and she let us. A sign that we were on a more equal footing after our successes in her class, perhaps. Maybe even a sign of mutual respect.

If you ask me who my favorite teacher was in high school, Miss M is the first name on the list, even though I only had her for one class. Because she was so tough, when you did succeed, you felt like you’d truly accomplished something.

*****

This post was based on the prompt “A lecture you still remember.” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.

A little side note: I took Chemistry in college and cracked the book open exactly twice. I got an A in that class because of Miss M - three years after I left her class. She taught us that well.

The Just-In-Case Agreement

I have conflicted feelings about prenuptial agreements.

My first, black-and-white, unflinchingly rigid view is that they are an unnecessary agreement designed to give either or both parties an out while protecting their interests.

If two people are serious about marriage, shouldn’t there be a commitment to work hard to make it work rather than creating an opt-out arrangement before the vows are said? 

But…

People make mistakes. People misjudge character. People make hasty decisions they regret. People change in ways that are not acceptable. 

Divorce is an unfortunate reality in many of these cases.

But…

Should many of those relationships have ever evolved to the point of marriage? I once asked my mom why she married her first husband. She said simply, “Love is blind.” From that, I made one very significant assumption - that there were clues to his nature that she missed or ignored.

Could it be that at least a percentage of those 50% of marriages that end shouldn’t have ever begun?

The choice to marry (or become a life partner) is a monumental decision that can’t be entered into lightly. But I sometimes feel that “being committed” these days is too often about waiting until a better offer comes along. Or boredom strikes. Or something goes wrong.

But…

It really isn’t black-and-white, is it? Personally, I can’t imagine the heartache involved in going through a divorce. I’m fortunate to be married to a man that I believe with all my heart I’ll spend the rest of my life with. I believe he’s as committed to me as I am to him.

But…

I bet there are women and men who felt that way about their partners and ended up on the other side of a divorce anyway.

I sincerely hope my words don’t come across as judgmental - that’s truly not my intent. My conclusion? Yay or Nay? I guess this is the question I would ask myself if a prenup came up:

Do I really want to marry this person if I/they need a document that “protects” my/their interests in the event of a divorce?

It’s not a yay or a nay, but a urging to look seriously at the relationship. Perhaps the relationship is so good that the prenup is just a piece of paper with words that will never matter. In the end, I think it’s much like the decision of whether to change your name - personal and nobody else’s business.

For me it was a nay. When you’ve got no interests to protect, there’s no need to bother. ;)

*****

This post was based on the prompt “Prenuptial Agreement…Yay or Nay? Explain.” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.