Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dinner on the Ground Diaries

Children have more taste buds than adults.  Did you know this?  This information makes me want to rewind to 1984, to Houston, Texas.  I would rewind to a scene of a Sunday afternoon, standing in a musty fellowship hall, staring at rows of tables covered with olive green and burnt orange Pyrex bakeware.  More than once, I got the motherly arm grab for turning up my nose at something that didn't look appetizing.  You know the grab.  The one that makes you want to yell "Ouch! That hurt!", but you know better than to yell that because you did it once and it didn't work out so well for you.  But if I could rewind to 1984, I would tell my mother about the taste bud thing because I feel certain that we didn't have such information back then.  Truthfully, I think I would tell the old ladies in our church first.  My mother was a great cook.  The old ladies?  Not so much.  Tuna casserole, broccoli and cheese casserole, green bean casserole, enchilada casserole.  Enough casserole to feed an army.  Or a Baptist church. 

In the South, we called this "Dinner on the Ground", not "Grounds", although I am certain we were just mispronouncing it.  In 1984 it made sense to me.  Sometimes, when there were not enough tables and chairs, I would get together with my siblings and friends and go outside and we would sit on the ground, working hard to keep our macaroni and cheese and fried chicken legs on the flimsy paper plate that we balanced on our knees.  Everywhere else in the United States, though, people were calling these events Potluck Dinners.  The concept was and is the same, though.  Jell-o salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, and the aforementioned plethora of casseroles.  

For the most part, I hated these dinners.  Hated.  Sometimes, though, I would get lucky.  Sometimes a nice church member would consider my childlike taste buds, and they would bring macaroni and cheese.  Not the homemade kind with the cold, curdle-y, lumpy cheese.  Ugh.  Even now that makes me gag a little.  Nope, I wanted the kind with the fake cheese.  It was smooth, creamy, cheesy, and unnaturally orange, and I loved it.  Of course, there was also the dessert table.  I always passed up the weird green jell-o salad that looked delicious and marshmallowy but was filled with pistachios.  I passed up anything covered with fruit.  I went straight for the chocolate.  Chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chocolate cake.  And the best part?  My parents were never watching to see how much of my dinner I ate or how much dessert I consumed.  

This blog will be like those dinners.  Some days it will be cold green bean casserole and some days it might be chocolate pie with extra meringue, if you're into that sort of thing (and I am).  Some days you might get tired of the casseroles and you might bring your own suggestion to the table, or you might throw in some comments to get the conversation started another direction.  That's just fine.  We are family here.  The up side is, you will never find a hair in the food.  You will never have to worry about whether or not I licked the spoon while cooking.  I almost always do.  And you will never have to ask the person standing in line next to you "Who made this?", regarding a particularly unappealing dish.  But if today is a cold tuna casserole day, just promise that you will come back tomorrow.  Tomorrow might be better.  It might be store bought.  It might be Kraft cheese and macaroni.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where My Girls At?

I didn't know it until I entered college.  Funny how you can spend 17 years of your life and never know it.  During the fall of 1994, I started college and I discovered the truth.  I was not a girl's girl.  So while my female peers were traveling in jean-skirted herds to Wal-Mart, chapel, dinner at the cafeteria, Branson, etc., I was hanging out with boys.  It was fine by me.  I liked boys way better than I liked girls.  Boys were easier to get along with.  They weren't catty.  They didn't criticize my hair behind my back.  And sometimes, they would buy dinner.  Girls never did that.  This seemed like a great plan, mainly because I was 17 and ignorant.

The years after college introduced me to my first close girlfriends.  Don't get me wrong, I had girlfriends in college, but I wasn't yet to the point where I knew how much I needed them.  I wasn't that mature. But eventually I learned that all girls were not gossipy and hateful. Some were fun and friendly and honest and kept secrets.

Fast forward to 2004.  I had been married exactly 9 months.  No, 10 months.  I just did the math.  I have been telling people 9 months for years, and I have been lying.  Sorry about that.  I was starting a new job at Heritage and Hope Academy, teaching K4.  Three days before in-service started, I found out that I was going to be a mother.  Through a complicated family situation, my husband and I had agreed to take in my sister's little boys for a few months.  The day of in-service came, and I found myself seated between a foster parent raising five children and a mother of triplets.  These girls became my new BFF's.  They knew what it was like to get multiple children at once.  I instantly discovered the value of girl friends.

Four months turned into three years, and those years of my life were filled with baby formula, car seats, play dates, fish sticks, Happy Meal toys, and pediatrician appointments.  I had piles of dirty laundry. Sleeping past 7 a.m. on a Saturday was a luxury, and my girlfriends were invaluable.  When I couldn't get my two year old nephew to eat anything, they had the answers.  They told me about the best brands of generic diapers.  They gave potty training advice.  When my husband left me with four kids, the girls in my life were at my house helping me get school clothes ready and packing lunches.  They were delivering grocery store gift cards with encouraging notes attached.  They made casseroles and helped me clean my house.  They cried with me and prayed for me.  When my children went back to their mother and when my marriage fell apart, they were there with coffee and packing boxes and newspaper, helping me arrange my new life and grieve the loss of my old one.

With every life change, God has brought just the right girls into my life to speak the truth, to encourage, to walk with me.  Sometimes they live just down the road, but for the time being, He has most of them spread over the world.  It makes it a little difficult to have a cup of coffee and sit down and talk about life, but we find ways to do it.  We text, use Skype, Facebook, and take trips to see each other.  I know plenty about their lives, and they know about mine.  I see pictures of their babies, even if some of them have settled for having the four-legged, barking kind.  We pray for each other's families.  My girls are on Facebook, laughing at my dumb jokes.  They are overseas, raising a house full of  children.  They are across town, ready to meet for lunch and listen to my latest life drama.  They are in Washington, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Idaho, and dozens of states in between.  And if you are one of them, I thank you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


(For the record, T.M.I. is one of my least favorite phrases ever)

Oscar Wilde said that you should never trust a woman that tells her real age, because if she tells that, she will tell anything.  I am 33.  And a half.  I weigh 142.2 pounds.  (And we all gasp for air)  I wear a size 6, and I can sometimes struggle into a size 4.  It's not pretty, though.  I have incredibly wide feet.  I recently started drooling in my sleep, something my future husband will surely enjoy.  Ask me how I am doing, I will probably answer you with my current life's problems.  Compliment my dress, and I will tell you that I got it from a thrift store for $3.99.  I haven't always been so honest, though.

I remember being 14 and playing Scrabble with my best friend Joanna.  Joanna's family had money.  Mine did not.  This Scrabble game was kind of the coolest... it was the Deluxe Scrabble game.  It had a plastic board with raised ridges around each tile space so that the fancy tiles settled in all still and motionless.  The board also sat on a little turntable so you didn't get a crick in your neck trying to plan your next move.  It was awesome.  I remember sitting at our kitchen table, though, with the game board on the table when I discovered it.  It, the thing that I thought would end my social life.  The little round sticker that would leave me friendless.  It was lime green and it clearly read $1.  The Deluxe Scrabble game had been purchased from a garage sale.  I was humiliated.  I thought quickly, reached down, and picked up the box, covering the sticker with my thumb.  I thought that if I moved quickly enough, I could move the box to the kitchen counter, retrieve the game without her seeing the sticker, and my reputation would be saved.  It didn't work.  She saw.  And she kindly said, "My parents sometimes shop at garage sales, too".  But they didn't.  There was not one garage sale-y thing about her family.  But she was being nice.  Me?  I was sick to my stomach the rest of the night.  I was certain that this thing, this one embarrassment, meant that I was less than her.  

But now I am grown up.  Semi grown up, anyway.  And I have learned the value of a dollar, especially one spent on a Deluxe Scrabble game.  They are selling on for about $200 right now.  I appreciate the fact that my parents were frugal, that they made the most of the money they had.  And I know that my struggle with my weight, my gray hair (I forgot to tell you that one before, but it's there), forgetting to tithe for several weeks until I owe God more than I have, my age, my singleness, and my honesty about them do not make me less than someone else.  My family problems are no secret.  I talk openly about them, and I hope they make me real and relatable.  I confessed something to a friend recently, and I was almost instantly sorry that I had.  I got little reaction from her, and I felt really weird and vulnerable.  Several weeks later, I found out that she was struggling with almost the exact same situation, and just didn't have the heart to tell me that night.  That's what relationships are about.  Openness and honesty.  Oh, I still have things I hide, and I will keep working towards transparency.  And there are people with whom I am less open, for various reasons, but my desire is to be authentic, to be real.  

And Joanna?  She is all grown up now, and she owns a store where she sells vintage furniture that she buys from thrift stores and garage sales.  So I guess all is well with the world.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All Things New and Shiny

I would like to say that I am not a shopper.  My best self (that only exists in my head and runs marathons and loves salads and is a perpetual size 4) is not a shopper.  She is perfectly happy with everything she has.  She might be a little earthy and recycle more.  But me?  I like shopping.  It's the most cliche of hobbies for a girl.  And I hate cliche.  But I do get a little rush from digging through my shopping bags, pulling out a new pair of shoes and putting them on, checking my reflection to make sure that my mirror agrees that they are lovely.  It usually does.  I love new shoes and so does my mirror

Someone asked me once why I changed my Facebook profile picture so often, and my answer was, and is, that I like new things.  But newness wears off.  New pictures become old pictures.  New shoes become old shoes.  New hobbies become old hobbies.  So this is my blog.  This is my new hobby.  And I have plans, big plans, to write about all kinds of interesting things.  I have stories.  I have dated weirdos.  I have been a few places.  I have lost some friends.  I have spent some money.  And I plan on telling you about it, at least until the new hobby feels like an old one.  

So here is what I promise.  I promise to do my best to be nice.  It's not always easy, but I will try.  And I ask that if you comment, you do the same.  I promise to tell the truth.  I will not make up stories to keep things interesting.  Trust me, I have enough real-life weirdness.  I don't need to embellish.  I promise to keep it readable.  Please, please, please don't take your teacher-y red pens to this blog.  I will begin my sentences with conjunctions and end them with prepositions.  I will add and omit commas in inappropriate places.  I will break all of the rules.  But don't worry, you will know what I mean.  (See what I did?  I started that sentence with a conjunction and you still got it!)  I promise that I will quit when it gets boring.  Really, if it's boring for me, it will definitely be boring for you.  And last, but not least...
I promise that if I purchase a fabulous new pair of shoes, I will post a picture for you.


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