Odd and Curious Thoughts


(1) I said “thank heavens” the other day and my daughter was all “I don’t understand why you say that – what’s heaven got to do with it?” She found that so clever that she began pointing out all kinds of things I say that don’t make sense and noting spelling errors in books and “why does this seed packet not say ‘seeds’ plural” and by the end of the week I was like “seriously honey, I love you but this is really turning into quite a nerd fest. Tone it down, Webster.”


(2) I went to the store the other night after dark and bought milk, dog food, a ton of organic frozen meals, and coffee creamer.  I was wearing a suit and heels and forgot my recycle bags so I was hoisting boxes of veggie lasagna under my arms and I’m pretty sure I was blowing a wisp of hair out of my face. I could have been the poster child for an overworked mom who needs some sort of juicer from an infomercial. Those always have someone with a broken heel juggling groceries blowing hair out of their face, so I felt proud I was living up to some form of stereotype.


(3) Do they still make Merle Norman cosmetics? It’s like make-up designed specifically for 80-year-olds wearing a large amount of fuchsia.


(4) Mary Kay’s all I got it going on, girl.  In comparison to Merle Norman, maybe.  But that’s like a fight between a Buick and a golf cart.


(5) I was in Target the other day and saw a t-shirt with snoopy laying on his house with the caption “Doesn’t care. Sleeps on roof.”  I thought it was so funny that I texted it to all my friends, but it’s like that moment when someone walks into the elevator and it smells bad and you’re the only one there.  Nobody thought it was funny.  But it’s snoopy, all “I don’t give a rip. I sleep on the freaking roof.” That’s funny, ya’ll.


(6) I swear I didn’t produce that smell.  There were like ten other people on the elevator.  It was that big guy from IT.


(7) I wore tight khakis and riding boots to work last Friday, and if one more person asked me if I was going to ride horses after work I was going to have to just say nothing clever because I had no good comeback. Preparation is key in these situations.


(8) I met a lovely physician the other day wearing a pretty scarf and she had a raspy voice and I thought that poor woman has such an awful cold so when I walked out I told her I hoped she felt better and then as the words were leaving my mouth I noticed she had a trach and she simply said “it’s permanent” with a smile and I wanted to sink into the linoleum.


(9) I bought new drinking glasses from Pottery Barn and they say the word “drink” on the glasses, which my daughter was about to comment upon when I stopped her and asked if she wanted a cookie. Don’t disparage my new drinking glasses, sarcastic seven-year-old.


(10)               I ordered a hot water bottle with flannel LL bean cover which is really code word for “I’m never going to date as long as I live.” Ain’t nobody want to be with a woman who has a hot water bottle, ticking duvet cover, likes to bake, and wears Merle Norman.  See also: piano in living room and my affinity for brown antique plates.  I’m going to change my name to Doris.


(11)               My son told me he wanted to be a space firefighter and put out the sun.  I told him that was a lofty and creative endeavor, but unfortunately that mission would kill off humanity and leave his sister and mom alone and freezing in subzero temperatures.  So he asked for a band aid instead and we called it a wash.


(12)                Today at work I was like “hello lady in the office next to me.  I know we’ve never spoken but I dig your boots, I’m divorced, and I like fortune cookies.” Then I felt all weirdly open and over-sharing and I’m sure she was like “my name is Alice, not Amber, and you just told me more about your personal life than I know about the Kardashians.” And now I have to see her on Monday. Awkward.


(13)               The aforementioned lady told me she lived on 85 acres of ranch land with cattle, and that’s speaking my language.  I’ll bring over the knitting and we can make homemade cinnamon rolls.  We can toast the sunset with hot tea with lemon and dish on men’s underpants.


(14)               I was at lunch with a CEO the other day and she asked what I did for personal wellness.  I wanted to tell her I’m not really thin as much as an excellent purchaser of larger pants that gave the impression of thinness and my current health program is mostly aimed at reducing my tator tot intake.


(15)               A trach.  That woman had a trach. You can’t take me anywhere.  Except apparently nursing homes, antique fairs, quilt shows, and bake-offs.


(16)             I might be single forever.  But that’s okay.  There’s just more love for my two kids to go around, with me buried in old blankets, laying in the middle of my king bed, with one child on my left and one on my right, all cuddled up.  If an astroid hit and we were covered in ten feet of ash, you’d find our bones buried there, with my arms fiercely protecting them, my eyelids aimed at heaven, with the former beating of my heart keeping us warm.  Well that and the water bottle with a red flannel cover.


Thank heavens.




Odd and Curious Thoughts of the Week

(1) I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about bank names.  I’m sure people pick their bank in terms of location, or online service, but what if we based it on names?  I’d be petrified that Wells Fargo would take my paycheck, transfer it into gold coins, lock it up in a ricky wooden box, and bounce it along on a stagecoach to Dallas.  There are robbers out there, people.  And who is Chase chasing, really?  I kinda like the image of Frost, where their people are cold and rigid and won’t let some stranger sign my name on a check without peering at them over wire-rimmed glasses and asking for seventeen forms of ID.  But it crosses a line somehow with all the I Heart America banks, like adding Federal or National or America to the title gives it automatic credibility.  Would you switch brands of applesauce if it said Applesauce of Liberty?  

(2) My daughter was staring forlorn out the window the other day on her way to school.  I was worried she was harboring some vengeful and growing hate toward me since I yelled at her earlier about putting on her shoes.  “I’m just thinking of a castle playground where there are many sparkling pools that transfer you into a mermaid and you can travel through special tunnels.”  Sweet.  All the while I thought you were mad.

(3) This Saturday, I took my children to the Stock Show in my hometown.  I might have been wearing a pair of Seven jeans and fancy boots from Dillards, but I really felt that I fit in.  As we walked around looking at pigs and cows ready for auction, my children said the following things: (a) What’s that awful poo smell? (b) Oh my gosh! A cow! (c) why does that goat have so much fur? (d) can we leave for lunch soon? and (e) where’s the antibacterial gel?  Oh wait.  That last one was me.  Maybe I am a city girl after all. 

(4) I was watching Martha Stewart on Television the other day, where she spent like ten total hours preparing beef broth out of bones and vegetables.  It involved sauteeing, deglazing, simmering, checking, and straining. In the end, it made like one container of broth.  Girl, if I’m spending my precious Saturday worried that much over future soup, it better make enough to last me until retirement.  

(5) I think it’s funny that my husband and father refuse to speak Starbuck’s little language and just say “I’ll have a small coffee please.”  I wonder how many men walk in there all bow-legged and manly asking for a medium cup of joe.  The baristas just roll their eyes, like “would it have been so hard for you to just say grande?  Couldn’t you have gone to McDonalds if you hate our fancy code words?”

(6) I made an entire pan of roasted brussel sprouts the other day.  My daughter acted like I was asking her to eat battery acid, but there was ice cream for dessert and she was determined to prevail.  Finally, after plenty of mock gagging and loads of whining, she peeled off the layers of half a sprout and dramatically put each layer on her tongue like a Listerine Breath Strip.  Oh the drama in our home. 

(7) And finally, don’t make an entire pan of roasted brussel sprouts.  You have lots of leftovers no one will eat, you can’t throw it into a quiche, and they make your house smell like used socks.

A mix tape for my daughter

One of the reasons I have been drawn to music is the power it has to take you from flat-out normal to exceedingly sad, or from bored to overwhelmingly happy, in less than four minutes.  And when listening to longer, more complicated pieces, like Bach or Puccini or Durufle, you sit in a concert hall feeling arias building and cadences growing, and your heart starts racing.  You find yourself residing in another dimension, and suddenly you can’t even breathe.  And then one day when you are diagnosed with cancer, you are in a Dunlap’s parking lot in Waco, Texas, listening to a scratchy rendition of Eva Cassidy singing People Get Ready live at Blues Ally.  You sob and rock like a child and you think you heart just fell out in front of you.

Music makes all time and space melt around you like butter, and you are suddenly very far away, peering into the very realms of heaven.  Maybe I find the addiction to music fascinating because it puts one face-to-face with strong emotion, and only when you work through the pain and fear and passion that it evokes can you really heal.

So when I peek inside my daughter’s room and see her sitting alone listening to music, it makes me smile.  I want her to have the same elated cries, and find joy in certain phrases, and think she can make through this life.  I want her to have hope, and be confident, and find the joy in all things.

Then she asks me to buy Party in the USA on my ipod.  Ugh.  I’m suddenly thrown back into reality of her 6-year-oldness.  We’ll work on her taste a bit.  But the yearning’s there.  And that’s a good thing.  She already owns The Best of John Denver, so at least there’s that.

So I put together a little mix CD for her of songs that are joyful, and express my love of life, and of her, and the south.  These are songs I don’t mind being etched into her little brain, for her to recall in her later years.  They are but a few of great inspiring songs to come.  What a lifetime of music lies ahead.

  • Strip Me, by Natasha Bedingfield
  • Come To Jesus, by Mindy Smith
  • The One I Love, by David Gray
  • Summer Dance, a flamenco guitar piece
  • Dreams, by Fleetwood Mac
  • This Old Porch, by Lyle Lovett
  • You Know I Love You Baby, by Mindy Smith
  • Southern Kind Of Life, by Kasey Chambers
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Eva Cassidy
  • Grace, by Saving Jane
  • I Know You By Heart, by Eva Cassidy
  • Over the Rainbow, by Ingrid Michaelson
  • Shake It Out, by Florence + The Machine
  • The Way I Am, by Ingrid Michaelson

What songs have you always wanted your daughter to know?

dancing queen

It’s been three years in the waiting.  Three long years of dance practice, ballet shoes, various pairs of tights, and teachers.  Finally, our daughter of almost six years had her first dance recital.

And it was miserable.

It all started a few weeks back.  “You know, mom,” she said.  I was squatting down on the floor trying to get tights around her thighs and making a mental run around the house with my mind wondering where her tap shoes were.  “Dance just isn’t one of my talents.”  She said it so earnestly, like she put a great deal of forethought into it.  I chuckled a little, because what does a kindergartener know of such things? She said she was a bit behind the step.  It was hard to keep up. I lifted up her chin until her eyes were level with mine.   I told her she never had to do dance again in her whole life.  But the recital was in two weeks, so Lord-willing she’d finish what she started.  We Hills always finish what we start.

The first year she took dance she was only three.  She was so excited and bubbly, her little pink tutu hanging below her chunky little tummy.  She smiled at me and waved as she threw scarves in the air. The next year I was working and had a baby and it was all too overwhelming to keep track of.  She had pre-school, which kept her consumed with art projects and new friends.  Dance was always an afterthought.

But this year she’s almost six, and I was determined to not miss the much-touted recital.  I watched her practice from outside the window at the studio, her body standing in first position, her arms at a graceful arch down at her sides.  She dipped into a plie and swept her arms up in a semicircle above her head.  I caught her watching herself at the barre to make sure her shoulders were back.  Her neck tall.  Her toes pointed.  She looked just like a bird, slender and curious, standing on the edge of the water.  Just like that, she was learning how to be a dancer.  And yet her thoughts were elsewhere.  Her steps delayed.  It’s hard for a girl to dwell in the present when there are four more beats to attend to.  There’s no room for reflection.  The music keeps on plodding forward like a military march, relentless in its precision.

The day of the recital, I tried to make it exciting.  I curled her hair and let her wear pink lipstick.  I pressed blush into young cheeks that were too pretty to decorate and told her how special it would be that I would see her on stage.  The curtain.  The dancing.  The thrill!

I waited with what seemed like thousands of other parents in the auditorium to see my little girl prance around in the lights.  It was inordinately hot and I ended up on the third row behind a woman who was breastfeeding and next to a lady with a child in her lap.  They couldn’t start the show until every last person was seated due to some fire safety issue, so we all sat glaring at the late-comers, our heads sinking in our hands, while people bumped and squeezed their way into random empty seats in the crowd.

Finally, the show started.  I had no idea there were so many numbers. Little girls tapped and turned in glitter and sequins with big, beaming smiles.  Like freshly-picked apples they bobbed around, red and sweet and buoyant.

Finally, it was time.  The curtain opened and I saw my daughter  – the tallest one in the class, stand there in a flowing ballet outfit covered in pink flowers.  But unlike most of the dancers, who were smiling and waving and acting like they had a slight interest in being there, mine looked as if she was auditioning for the Olympics.  As if each step held great importance. She was a bit behind the beat, but in one pivotal moment all the other girls hugged the person next to them and my daughter got to stand in the middle and bring her arms up in a sweeping circle above her head.  I cheered out loud and my heart welled up with pride.  That’s my girl!  That one right there in the middle who is perfect and wonderful in every way!

After her number, I ran backstage to greet her.  I wanted to hug her neck and tell her I was so proud of her excellent arm-sweeping and toe-pointing.  She didn’t look excited to see me.  She begrudgingly took my hand until we left the dressing room, and then shook me loose.  She moved her shoulders when I tried to put my arm on her back to guide her forward.  “What in the world’s wrong?” I asked. “We were supposed to do a group bow,” she said, like I should have known.  But I was already there, and waiting another hour for a bow on stage amongst seventy other girls was downright silly.  Right then, my daughter caught the loving eye of her grandmother, who said she was the best dancer in the world and told her she’d have driven a thousand miles to see the show. My daughter smiled feebly as we walked over to the trophy table, and as we picked it up and left she tugged at my hand.  “It isn’t even real gold,” she said as she looked down at her prize.  “No,” I said.  “They never are.”

On the way home, my father stopped and got my daughter a lemon slush.  Her face lit up and she smiled the first true, authentic one I’d seen all day.  “Can I get a large one?” she asked.  She clapped her hands together and began to hum in the backseat of the car.  Funny what makes a little girl happy. Not the lights or the stage.  Not the makeup or the attention.  Just a slush, on the way home, with cool air blowing in her face.  She wiped at her lipstick and gave me another sweet smile. As if to say it’s over.  Finally. 

Our daughter likes to live within her own space. Where you can move as slow as you feel.  I’ll miss seeing her arms above her head and the look of her little body in a leotard standing at the barre.  But I cannot force her to be someone she is not.  For she is growing into her own kind of swan, gliding along the top of the water, learning to dwell within the swollen drops of her own rain.

That’s a kind of dance, I suppose.  But it is set to her own music, where there is real gold at the end of the rainbow.

one liners, part III

Right now, my two-year-old son is speaking in short and very direct sentences like “me eat” and “I do it.”  There is also the ever-so-popular “MINE” and “No night night, mama.  Applesauce.” Although my son’s extreme narcissism and obsession with slapping my face while saying “no hit” at the same time are great fun, for now I’m focusing on what my daughter has said in the last few weeks that bears repeating.  Here goes:

  • “Can you read to my imaginary friends?  I read to them all the time, and they want to hear from someone new.”
  • “So it’s murder to kill someone else but solders can do it in battle and that’s okay?” “Honey!” I yell.  My husband was changing clothes after work. “Your daughter’s got a question for you!” That’ll teach him to come home late.
  • “Charlie said that Texas Tech smells like pee pee, and then William said the University of Texas smells like roses,” she said.  “What did you say to all that?” I asked. “I told him roses stink.” Then she paused for a few moments.  “Well, roses don’t really stink, I know, but some might.  And at least they are very strong smelling.”
  • “For (my brother’s) birthday, I’m going to make him a pretend laptop out of construction paper. But it’s only going to have ten buttons and no mouse.”
  •  “I read the entire book about Davy Crocket and I don’t see why he’s such a hero. But I skipped some parts.”
  • “I have a bug bite on my back and it itches like crazy.  If only it were on my elbow. That would be so much better.”
  • “Did I fail to mention I hate strawberries?  Because right here on my plate I see strawberries.”
  • “It’s just regular milk, I know, but I’m pretending that it’s chocolate.”
  • “I don’t understand why you’re so snappy,” my daughter tells me one morning. It involved me telling her to put on her shoes seventeen-thousand times.  But whatever.
  •  “Guess what? My teacher is having a boy and she is going to name him either Truman or Moses.”  “Really?” I asked.  “Well I don’t really know,” she tells me.  “But that’s what I think she should name him.”
  • “I always want mac-and-cheese.  If you ever wonder, that’s what I want.”

To live in a five-year-old’s world for a day, I swear.

Advice for my daughter

My dear daughter,

You are so precious at this age.  Everything I do is right, and true, and my kisses are like pink bubble gum sparkles on your cheeks.   I am taking it all in that you love me so.   But soon, you will see the ugly and cruel side of life.  I will stop making sense to you, and you just might not like me as much.   I always hope that you’ll laugh at me and consider me wise, even into my age-induced Alzheimer’s days to come.  But in the meantime, consider this advice:

  • When in doubt on what spice to use (whether it’s in eggs or potatoes), use Herbs de Province. You can’t go wrong.
  • You will someday be tempted with many vices.  Some are minor, but others have lifetime consequences.   Please don’t experiment with drugs.  They kill.  Got it?  Are we clear on this?
  • If your clothes are too tight, it looks like you’re tying to hard.  Let your body speak for itself.
  • Embrace who you are.  If someone suggests you to change your character, find a way to distance yourself.  Such people are toxic.
  • Laugh all the time.  It’s good for your soul.
  • Find true friends, and work to keep them.  They are more precious than diamonds.
  • Pray.
  • If you are engaged and you have the tiniest shred of doubt that the man you are about to marry isn’t right for you, walk away.  It can be the day before.  It can be the day off.  I promise I won’t judge.  Just politely return all the presents and keep your head held high.
  • Kids are glorious, but don’t rush into having them.  Enjoy your freedom.
  • Don’t eat low-fat ice cream.  Go for the real stuff.
  • A meal that takes a long time to prepare, with excellent ingredients, is worth it.  It shows how much you appreciate your guests.
  • Always, always, always tell the truth.  Lies are corrosive.
  • Nothing you could ever do in this world would cause me to stop loving you. Please remember that however hard you fall, I’m here to catch you.
  • Look for character traits in a man that your father has: strength, honor, loyalty, and wit.  Because you’ll be married to him for a long time, and you need to laugh through many trials.
  • Never email thank-you notes.  I have on occasion, but I’m not proud of it.
  • Reading fiction is never a waste of time.  It cultivates a garden in your brain filled with glorious blooms of words and characters.  Speaking of, read Atlas Shrugged, and Jane Eyre.
  • Wash your hands to the tune of Happy Birthday.  Twice.
  • Please know that when I die, I’m not forever gone.
  • Live life with wild abandon.  Freely and fully, knowing you are a child of God, rich in spirit and talents.
  • Sing and play any instrument you can.  Music is the closest you’ll ever feel to heaven.
  • Cut all your hair off at least once in your life.
  • Travel to Europe.
  • When you think there’s nothing left – when life is bitter and cruel and seems like it’s suffocating you – laugh.  Then laugh some more.  Always find the funny, because it’s there like a rough-cut jewel.

In your five-year-old world, I know so much.  But soon, when I fall out of favor in your eyes, I hope you take these bits of advice to heart.  My sweet young daughter, light of my life, child of my heart. . . It’s a rough world out there, but the battle has been won long before you entered it.  Your job is just to navigate through the best you can, with your head held high, smiling in the light of the morning sun.

Be the woman I know you can be.


Fun times at the pool

The other day, I was sitting on the side of the pool, trying to wrangle a toddler in my arms while my four-year old was scooping mythical ice cream cones and flutter kicking in the water.  Mostly, she just looked bored.  Every once in a while she would offer me a half-smile, which is code for “uh, later maybe we can split a smoothie? Watch PBS? Mulch the backyard?”  Buck up, sweetie, I teleport back directly to her brain.  She sighs and keeps scooping.

Between my son’s cracker-eating and shrieking and my daughter’s bored looks, I made friends with a new mommy who was smart enough to put her little one in the YMCA day care.  She was calmly watching her twins swim next to my daughter. I’m all friendly and “oh your kids are so adorable” and “where did you get that swimsuit cover-up” and such, when the following conversation occurs:

“Your son is so precious!” I say.  “I just love how he looks like a little man.  He’s got these cute little arms and legs and he just seems to strut around like a grown-up.”

“Thanks so much,” she says.  She looks lovingly at her precious August, flopping around in the water, trying to hold his nose and paddle at the same time.

“I’m serious.  He is just about the most adorable kid ever.  The way he sort-of struts around with his arms out like that?  And his little bowl-legs?  Get out!”

“Yes, he does have a long torso,” she says.

“I’d say.  And just look at those legs!  Just want to eat them up!”  She sits for a moment without saying anything.

“He’s got dwarfism.”  She turns and aims her Ray-Bans back toward the water.  “He’ll probably make it to four feet if we’re lucky. I guess it’s starting to be more obvious. His legs won’t grow that much.”

No.  Please Lord, no.  Did I honestly just flat-out make fun of some smallish person with dwarfism?  I just thought he was a way-cute four-year old for goodness sakes!  I didn’t know!  I smiled in that way you smile when you accidentally spill coffee on your crotch or when your kid blurts out a curse word in public.  That horrified, pasty smile.  That smile that literally says “holy sh#t” without actually saying holy sh#t.

Only me.  Seriously, people.  Only me.