Monthly Archives: February 2012

And, oh, how I do love the weekend.  This weekend is going to be extra good in that it will be spent at home.  There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home. 

There are things coming up over the next few weekends, but this one will be fairly quiet. [Even though I do have one social engagement for which I am totally unprepared.  Gulp.]

Last weekend we took the quarterly tour of Alabama. Jay’s mother is 2 hours or so away from Atlanta in central Alabama.  My parents are a further 2 hours south of Jay’s mom is south Alabama. I took last Friday off and we went on the whirlwind trip to Alabama with the boys, checking off all the extended family duties. 

It was hectic.  It was fun. It was exhausting.

Ezra got time with his Da, who he could play with exclusively for a week straight and never get tired. My dad is the best playmate ever, allowing the kids to take the lead, but still maintaining a manner of control by expecting certain behaviors (sportsmanship, manners, etc) during play.  I have heard him more than once say, “If you are going to act like that, I am not going to play anymore.”  Works like a charm for him. 

Ezra also got to experience toy overload at Jay’s mother’s house and get to play by himself.  He does not appreciate that like he should now. Pretty soon Sawyer will be running around after him wanting to do everything Ezra does  – and Ezra will long for the days he could play in peace without a little brother constantly at his heels.  Jay and I both understand this as we were oldest children with little brothers 3-4 years younger than us.  Unfortunately, there is no way to explain to Ezra how much he will miss playing alone once Sawyer becomes ambulatory.  Eh.  It is just one of those oldest child things that you have to live with forever as a consequence of our birth order. 

Sawyer got to soak in the love, attention and admiration of two grandmothers and my aunt.  He was like a 4 month old piglet in slop.  He is smiling socially now and laughing out loud if you catch him in the right mood.  He is watching Ezra with a mixture of fascination and trepidation as it seems he understands more than Ezra does how much bigger Ezra is than him and how Ezra does not seem to recognize either his own size or strength.  Jay and I try to monitor them constantly and make sure Ezra is being gentle and is not endangering Sawyer (which does happen on occasion and we have to be extremely vigilant in supervising them), but to a certain degree Sawyer is going to have to learn to buck up and speak up if he wants to be heard and have his way.  Such is the nature of being a younger brother. 

Jay and I took the boys by my aunt and uncle’s farm in rural south Alabama. They were a hit.  My Aunt Maug loved holding Sawyer and trying to fill Ezra to the brim with any manner of food stuffs she had from Valentine candy to grapes and pecan pie.  Ezra was thrilled by this, of course.  He also got to talk non-stop and have my aunt and uncle hang on his every word.  [Jay and I have to alternate between encouraging Ezra to express himself properly and wondering exasperatedly when he is going to nap or otherwise give us five sequential minutes of silence.  We don’t get 5 sequential moments of silence from Ezra too often, which can be both adorable and exasperating at the same time.  Other times it is like an icepick to the brain if he is in a foul mood and/or is both talkative AND defiant]

There was even time for my brother and (most) of his family to come by so we could both be at my parents’ house at the same time. This meant there were cousins running around playing and babies to be held and “awwwed” over.   It was hectic, but a good time was had by all, as they say.

But going out of town last weekend meant that I was not at home last weekend, which, in turn, means that none of the chores around the house got done.  You know the kind of working mom chores I am talking about – meal planning and shopping for the week; sweeping and mopping.  And all the other chores which working and being out of the house for 10 hours a day get pushed to the weekend.

BUT.  I also missed out of something far more important than the household chores.

I missed weekly recuperation time. 

And (I say a prayer of thanks as I type this sentence) THAT is what I am most looking forward to this weekend: lying in bed and dozing; hours of mindless tv; cooking and eating delicious food [Without having to make sure it is a toddler friendly menu – Ezra is at his dad’s this weekend.  Sawyer is a one food kind of guy – the kind that comes out of a bottle and works fine with Mommy and Daddy’s lazy weekend schedule still. Man, am I going to hate it when that changes]; doing girly maintenance things like shopping at Ulta, deep conditioning my hair and getting a pedicure (YAY!); and a few other things that happen to be a bit too private for this blog.  (Ah-Hem)

So if last weekend was the weekend to be social and maintain our relationships with our families, this weekend is the weekend to pull in and pull focus.  It is the weekend to smell the flowers, stand with our noses right up against the tree and hone in on that which is most important. 

While I will miss Ezra this weekend, next weekend will Ezra’s t-ball games will start and we will have family time of another kind, focused around the kids and getting out with them. And I think Ezra’s dad has weekend plans that include the circus or zoo.  Ezra will be beside himself excited about that, I assure you.

I love Spring.  And soon it will arrive in its green glory and pull us out of hibernation.  But I don’t think I am going to mind another weekend of quiet reflection, respite, recuperation and preparation.

I am looking forward to it.


I feel like I should write a post today, yet I have no idea what I would like to write about.  I could tell you that it has been a hectic week and I am frazzled.  I could tell you about my brother reading this post about my mother – and then heading over to my parents’ house and reading it aloud to both my mother and daddy, much to my embarrassment (they liked it. Whew).  I could tell you about all the things piling up that I have to do before going out of town this weekend to visit my parents. I could tell you about the deep religious discussions and debates I have had this week that have both uplifted and horrified me. 

But, eh, I am not going to do any of that.  Instead, I am going to tell you how I lost my sunglasses.  No, now don’t stop reading.  It really is a good little story.

Some of you may remember my inspired parenting in The Cunning Use of Batman Stickers.  So that was where we were.  A very good friend of mine had invited me and my family to his Change of Command Ceremony in Norfolk, VA.  Now, I had not seen Doug in many, many years before going to Norfolk.  We were not even in the same class at school.  However, we were in the Dothan High School production of Westside Story.  Doug did an outstanding job as Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, who dies in the Rumble – I was in the chorus (and, oh, yes, there will be a post about this at a later date, I assure you.  I still have pictures). 

Anyway, as things are bound to go in the day and age of Facebook, Doug and I renewed our friendship and he invited me, Jay, Ezra and newly born Sawyer to Norfolk for the ceremony, a party that evening and a tour of the nuclear submarine, the USS NORFOLK (SSN-714), which you have to admit is cool as hell. I was on maternity leave and had the time off, so you bet your ass we went.

On a cool and breezy Saturday morning in November I found myself on a pier with my boys and Jay, Doug and his wife, Kelly, and another couple who were friends of theirs.  Ezra was on Doug’s shoulders and I had Sawyer in a baby sling wrapped around me.  Now, the day before Jay had tried to take Ezra on a tour of the sub, but Ezra had refused to go down the hole, which I admit I had thought was kind of weird when Jay told me about it.  It was just going down a ladder, right? No big deal.  Um, I was fixing to completely understand his trepidation. 

Doug had suggested we give Ezra to him and he would carry Ezra down whether Ezra wanted to go or not.  This sounded like an excellent idea.  Ezra really liked “Mr. Doug” and was happily riding on his shoulders.  It had been decided that I would carry Sawyer down in a baby sling.  This was mainly because Jay, at 6’3, would have a bit of a tighter fit down the ladder than me.  I, of course, saw no problem with this. I would be just fine. And I was – right up until I got to the ladder. 

Doug very easily navigated the ladder with Ezra clinging to him and, once down, Ezra was just fine.  Jay went next. 

Kelly was great. She seemed to understand that I was going to have a bit of an issue with this way sooner than I did. 

When I looked down the hole, my stomach fell all the way in and splatted on the floor in the dark below.  My heart picked up speed.  It was dark, it was much too narrow and it would be very unforgiving to a newborn’s head (remember, Sawyer is sleeping soundly in a sing wrapped around me).  And suddenly that sling did not feel very safe AT ALL.  [Doug has since informed me that this was just the 10 foot ladder and there was another 30 foot ladder he decided against trying to take us down.  It is smart decisions like that which a commander is called upon to make. 😉 Good call, Doug.]

Anyway, Kelly sat down and helped me place my feet on the ladder and go down while Doug reassured me from below.  I will admit here that I was trembling a bit, although at the time I was trying to be all calm and nonchalant.  I am not sure I pulled that off.

I wish I could say things got better from there. 

I managed to get Sawyer down without bouncing his head off the sides of the sub causing permanent brain damage.  Once down, I thought it did not seem so bad. 

We walked along a small corridor to the command center.  It was awesome. There were guys working and doing submarine stuff around us.  Doug explained what the amazing number of things we were looking at did.  Unfortunately for me, I was feeling a bit nauseated.  Nothing I could not handle, mind you, but it was interfering with my ability to pay attention to what was being said. 

Jay, on the other hand, was grinning ear to ear taking it all in and Ezra was perched in a chair holding on to the controls which drove the sub.  He was completely and utterly over any fear he had earlier.  I was just hoping, though my building nausea, that he did not hit a wrong button and launch something.  I was pretty sure this billion dollar submarine was not toddler proof.  Eventually, Kelly did me a huge favor and kept an eye on Ezra as we toured so I could pay attention, look around and take it all in (and keep a check on my growing claustrophobia).

Doug explained the room to us and then we got the chance to look through the periscopes.  There were two of them. 

Now, for some reason, I had decided to wear my glasses that day.  Jay likes it when I do (he had, in fact, commented on it earlier in the day, making me smile). They are wire rimmed totally librarian-style (which I am guessing is what Jay likes about them) and they have this cool magnetic sunglass attachment. 

So here is Jay and Ezra looking through a periscope on a nuclear sub. I took a picture of him. 

Then it was my turn.  With Sawyer still strapped around me, they lowered the periscopes so my short self could reach and look through them.  Jay told me to hand him the camera and he would get a picture of me. 

So I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the camera.  Unfortunately, my magnetic sunglass attachment was also in that back pocket.  And when I pulled out the camera the strap hooked onto the little magnetic hook on the sunglasses and pulled them out as well.  Before it even registered through my nausea, I had whipped out the camera and sent my sunglasses flying out of my pocket where they fell under the periscope.  Cradling Sawyer’s head, I bent down to pick them up (and hide my bright red embarrassed face), but they weren’t there.  I started looking around on the floor.  Jay had seen what happened and started helping me and explaining to Doug.  Then I noticed that there was a hole in the floor that the periscope came out of – and it had about a 2 inch gap around the periscope.


So now I am explaining to everyone in the room (Doug, Kelly, his friends, and sailors) what had happened and one of the sailors offered to get a flashlight.  I was mortified.  When this guy came back and shone the flashlight down around the bottom of the periscope, I knew my sunglasses were gone. 

There was apparently a lot of submarine under where we were standing.  And the sailor informs Doug my sunglasses have gone down the “periscope well.”  Yep, all the way down to the bottom of the sub.

I tried to brush it off and hide my embarrassment.  It was no big deal, they were gone.  Let’s move on; nothing to see here.  With promises that when the periscope well was cleaned and if my sunglass attachment was found, they would mail it to me, Doug moved on with the tour. 

As we started to leave the command center, Doug offered to carry Sawyer for me as he knew the sub like the back of his hand and where all the little pokey-outey things would be that I could knock Sawyer’s head against as we went along.  I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hand my baby over to him. 

My embarrassment had increased my heart rate, thereby increasing my nausea.  And I do not like close spaces at all.  I am one of those people who have problems breathing on crowded elevators.  As the tour went along and we got further into the sub, my claustrophobia increased. 

Jay was fascinated. And I have to tell you that it was the most impressive thing I have ever seen.  Not one inch of the boat went to waste.  Hell, not one millimeter.  Everything had more than one use.  There were torpedoes and sleeping berths that didn’t seem big enough for me to get into, much less Doug or Jay.  There were air filtration systems and fire suppression systems (or maybe those are the same thing) and all manner of technology that goes far beyond anything I have ever seen.  I have to say that it is the most impressive usage of my tax dollars imaginable. 

And that is only what he could show us.  After all, this is a Los Angeles class nuclear submarine.  There are things on there the general public are not allowed to see.  Not even if we have the distinction of having appeared on stage in high school with the commander.  Funny how they are about those classified things.  Jay was even smart enough to ask some questions to which the answer was “I can’t tell you that.”

And to be perfectly honest, my claustrophobia could not have taken much more anyway.  I will not attempt to describe anything else. My memory is not that good and I don’t want to try and describe stuff the use of which goes beyond my ability to understand, thereby highlighting my ignorance.  Suffice it to say that Sawyer and I made it up the ladder without incident and I was glad to be out.  It was at least an hour before I stopped trembling.

I am not sure whether the claustrophobia I suffered is something I could get over and that, given enough time, I could acclimate myself to such tight quarters. I can assure you there will be no way I will find out. I didn’t even allow myself to think about the fact that that tube is submerged in very deep water and doesn’t exactly have portholes you can look out of, either. And they are underway for weeks and months at a time. Gulp.

But I will say that I greatly appreciate the invitation and the experience. It certainly deepened my respect for the people who do jobs I cannot imagine that keep this country safe.  Not to mention the fact that it solidified Doug as officially having the coolest and most awesome job of anyone I know. 

I won’t be holding my breath expecting to get my sunglasses back, but to be honest it would not surprise me, even if it takes a while, if I get a little package in the mail.  After what I saw, I am pretty sure the Navy pays attention to detail and follows through with things. 

In my endless poking around the bottomless pit that is the internet, I came across a cringe worthy list of suggested “Love SMS for Boyfriends and Girlfriends.”   Now, first of all, let me just say that I am in no way suggesting using the following.  These are strictly for the enjoyment of those of us who are either sad and lonely and hate Valentine’s Day, or the others who are cool and contemptuous of the sappy-happy crap they come up with specifically for V Day.  Some of us may belong to both categories.  Regardless, these were so very, very bad, I just had to share so we could all make fun of them together.  So, if you repeatedly watch Titanic (past seeing it at the movies, which is acceptable – owning and singing along with the soundtrack is not), watch Gossip Girls and love all Jennifer Lopez movies, please forgive me – this may offend you.  They were copied and pasted from a website – I did not edit them at all (as you will see), but I swear I did not make them worse – I don’t thing I could have if I tried.  I especially love the last one.  I think if I received it, I would immediately go and seek a restraining order – but it would make for an interesting story:

“The list of some wonder valentine messages is given below:

Without Love — days are sad day, moan day, tears day, waste day, thirst day, fright day, shatter day. So be in love everyday…Wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

ill drop a tear drop into the ocean & the day i find that tear drop is the day i stop loving u!

baby i have an addiction problem.people say i shud go to rehab but I always tell the m i dont wanna go cause im addicted to … YOU

one day the moon sed 2 me, if ur lover makes u cry why dont you leave ur lover.. i looked at the moon n replied would u every leave ur sky?

When u feel alone just look at the spaces between ur fingers remeber that in those spaces u can c my fingers locked with urs 4ever!!!

there was an headcount of angels in heaven, pandemonium struck discoverin dat an angel is missing, pls call heaven & tell dem ur safe wit me,my sweet angel

I am in da emergency room now talk’n to da doctor he says it doesn’t look good he says I am going to die… If I ever stop loving YOU!

My eyes are blind without your eyes to see, Like a rose without color. Always be there in my life sweetheart.

I am opening an emotional bank account for u sweetheart, so deposit your love in it and you will get the interest.

“I’m enthralled by your beauty, mesmerized by your charisma and spellbound by your love. No wonder I am always thinking about you. I wish to celebrate every Valentine with you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

If I could die early I would ask God if I could be your guardian angel, so I could wrap my wings around you and embrace you whenever you feel alone.

Love so much my heart is sure. As time goes on I love you more, Your happy smile. Your loving

I ask God for a rose n he gave me flowers; I ask God for water n he gave me an ocean; I ask God for an angel n he gave me the best love ever!

Love can be expressed in many ways. One way I know is to send it across the distance to the person who is reading this.

To be honest with you, I don’t have the words to make you feel better, but I do have the arms to give you a hug, ears to listen to whatever you want to talk about, and I have a heart; a heart that’s aching to see you smile again.

May this Valentine bless us with the cupid of love and warmth of romance. Happy Valentine’s Day Honey!

My heart for you will never break. My smile for you will never fade. My love for you will never end. I love you!


U r the one whose thought 4 a sec in my mind makes my every movement pleasure through out the day.

Little keys can OPEN big locks,Simple words REFLECTS great thoughts, Your Smile can CURE heart blocks, so keep on smiling… Rocks………..

every tears is a sign of brokeness, every silence is a sign of lonliness, every smile is a sign of kindness & every sms is rememberance of u.

Sun appears in the morning, Moon appears in the evening & at late nights but U always appear in my Heart.

You’re precious, this is true.

For you, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do.

Life is a book we all read it. Luv is a blessing we all need it. Always be happy, always have a smile coz. Remember in this world we are just for a while!

Love is a medicine for any kind of wound, but there is no medicine found in the world for a wound given by love.

A candle may melt and it’s fire may die, but the love you have given me will always stay as a flame in my heart.

We cannot be together, But we’ll never be apart, For no matter what life brings us, You’re always in my heart.

I don’t care how many lips u’ve kissed, how many shoulders u’ve embraced & how many times u’ve said, I Luv U! All I care is not be the first but to be ur last!

Feelings are many but words are few, clouds are dark but sky is blue; Luv is a paper, life is glue, every thing is false, only My Luv is TRUE. Feelings are many but words are few, clouds are dark but sky is blue; Luv is a paper, life is glue, every thing is false, only My Luv is TRUE.

U want & u get, that’s luck, U want & u wait, that’s time. U want but u compromise, that’s life. And U want & u wait & u don’t compromise that’s LOVE.

If you r in a dark room, you find blood everywhere and the walls are shaking- don’t worry friend, u r at the safest place, you r in my heart”

So, if you are alone on Valentine’s Day, don’t feel too bad.  It could be worse.  You could be on the receiving end of one of these messages.  And as an added bonus – say my Valentine gift to you – here is a truly early 90s song with that nicely nostalgic 80s guitar rock ballad feel. 

Wishing you all the best – in life and love!  XOXO – Marnie

Originally written July 2011

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. I know.  She is a Valentine’s Day baby and, yes, if you knew her it would most certainly NOT surprise you. 

I love my mother more than I can tell you. She is a woman of class and faith, and at times I was not sure it was possible she could be MY mother (I wrote a bit about this in Why I Am Not Cool and a bit more about her here).  However, having a daughter of my own, I can tell you that, while the differences between mothers and daughters can sometimes be stark and contrasting causing a good deal of friction, there is also a level of acceptance and understanding buried in there that has no equal in any other relationship a woman can have.  At least, in my case.

My mother does not read this blog.  For one thing she is not a person that spends much time online.  And by “much time” I mean that if she wants to know something online she calls my dad into the study to go online and check email or look something specific up for her. This is a rare occurrence.  And, I suppose, understandable for someone who has lived the overwhelming majority of her life without the internet.

Another reason is that, while my mother understands (but certainly doesn’t necessarily agree with) my stances on most everything posted on here, I tend to be a bit crude for her taste.  I use bad words and that kind of thing. My mother does not use “idle words” of any kind (when I was a kid I got in trouble for saying “gosh” as it was both an “idle word” and a clear substitute for saying “God” which was blasphemous and never, ever tolerated in my parents’ home).  To this day, I am amazingly impressed at the level of filtration that automatically appears in my speech as soon as I am in my parents’ presence.  I also can be a bit sacrilegious and irreverent (something I love, but would send my mother to her knees praying for my soul – as if she does not spend a good deal of time doing just that anyway.  At this point she just figures it is better if she just doesn’t know, I think.  And, ok, I suppose I am more than “a bit” irreverent), which she definitely disapproves of.

There are others who do read this blog (at least occasionally) who talk to people who talk to my mother and who have told her some things about what is on here (did you follow that sentence?).  She even mentioned once that she was told my posts could be moving, but she would not like my language.  This insures that she will never try to read any post I will have, which is fine by me.  I don’t know if I could be as honest and forthcoming if I knew my mother was reading this.  (Of course, on the other hand I may be able to use a filter, but then that would not be near as much fun).

All this being said, I figured I would tell you a few truths and endearments about my mother in honor of Valentine’s Day.

  1. She wanted to be just like Doris Day when she was a kid.  I think she achieved her dream.  My mother will forever love The Glass Bottom Boat and (her all-time favorite) Pillow Talk. She liked The Man Who Knew Too Much just fine, but would rather see a romantic comedy over a Hitchcock film any day.  (Daddy, on the other hand, will watch any Hitchcock any time.  I tend to agree with him – after all, I was named after a Hitchcock film). She also has the ability to totally block out the fact that Rock Hudson was gay and, for her, any good film ends with a kiss and marriage proposal.
  2. She has great style and presentation.  Her house looks like something out of a magazine.  No joke.  You have seen Shabby Chic?  Well, my mother had it down before that ever became popular.  Just like in most other things, my mother’s style is more polished and prettier than mine. 
  3. She is very outgoing and popular. You cannot look through her high school yearbooks without finding her everywhere.  She was secretary of a half-dozen clubs (I don’t think women were presidents of clubs much in ’63). Everyone who meets my mother loves her.  She is kind, empathetic, funny and at ease.  Whenever I go into some sort of social situation (ok, whenever I am forced into one I cannot possibly find a way out of), I pretend to be my mother.  Deep down I feel silly, but I come off as social and talkative.  And I am the most anti-social person you can imagine.
  4. Oh, my, but can my mother cook.  She won the 1963 Alabama Beef Cook-off.  I have the engraved silver tray she won hanging on the wall in my dining room.  She was all of 18 and won the State cook-off. She entertains on a regular basis and has two sets of china and countless beautiful crystal and cut-glass dishes with which to do it.  If you have ever had a brunch or dinner at my mother’s, you might as well be at a fine restaurant.  Starched napkins and table cloths, polished sliver, fine china… and perfect dishes she cooked herself from scratch presented and garnished to perfection.
  5. She was a runner-up in the Miss Brundidge pageant in 1963 and rode on a float in the Alabama Peanut Festival Parade holding roses and wearing a beautiful white gown.
  6. She is devoutly religious.  For reasons I will not get into out of respect for her privacy and the fact that she would not want me to tell it, she raised me very differently from the way she was raised.  And she did that intentionally.  They go to church once on Wednesday nights and twice on Sundays… and any other time the doors are open.  If I get into heaven it will be because my mother literally prayed me in. 
  7. She is a prosthesis fitter in the Women’s Center at the Southeast Alabama Medical Center and has been featured in articles and billboards.  When she retired as a Special Education Aide from the Dothan School System, she started volunteering at the hospital working in the Gift Shop and Women’s Center Boutique.  It didn’t take them long to hire her for a paid position.  Soon after she was sent to Atlanta to become a certified breast cancer prosthesis fitter.  She is really good at her job.
  8. She loves and respects my dad more than I can tell you.  They have a unique marriage.  Unfortunately, I grew up thinking that their marriage was normal and that was just how men and women treated each other.  I was so very wrong, as evidenced by my long run of failed relationships and marriages.  My parents’ marriage is so different in that both of them put each other first, period.  They are not selfish or putting their own interests first.  And each of them knows that the other is mindful of that.  Constantly.  I had a rude awakening when I got out into the world and found out that loving and respectful marriages are very rare.  It took me decades to find one of my own.  Thing is, both of them know how lucky they are. 
  9. She loves to play cards.  When I was a kid, it was Rook.  Now it is something called Hand and Foot.  My parents play with their church friends and they are good, although (ironically, after writing what I just did above) they never partner together, preferring to play on opposite teams.  Jay and I are taking the boys and heading down this weekend and my mother has already told me to tell Jay she is lying in wait.  Mother and I will play Daddy and Jay.  There will be snacks and plenty of trash talking.  It’ll be fun.
  10. She is remarkable.  I am not sure whether or not Mother will ever let me write a story about her and some of my family.  Where she comes from, you keep those things to yourself.  But I could tell you a wonderful and gripping tale based on her and my grandmother, maybe myself and even my daughter.  Maybe I will have to settle for using it as inspiration for a fiction tale, but the truth is much more compelling than anything I can make up.  And so is she.

 I truly hope Mother has a wonderful birthday.

This is something new for me from The Redneck Princess.  I recently found her and bow to her as Her Royal Highness (meaning I think she is cool.  And if she could ever like me, I’d feel cool, which is impossible because I am soooo not cool.  I have reverted back 20+ years to high school after doing my damndest to escape.  Crap.) Anyway, TRP does this Five Question Fridays, so I decided to play along….

1. How often do you shave your legs in the winter?

I used to shave daily and felt nasty and prickly if I didn’t.  But now that I am getting ancient (aka, over 40), the hair doesn’t seem to grow as fast, so I can get away with it every few days.  [Side note, I do shave my underarms every single shower, though. Eeewww if you don’t.)

2. Valentine’s Day cards for your spouse: funny or romantic?

My husband does not like any card that is not inappropriately and irreverently funny. This includes not only the ones he gets, but gives.  Yeah, he is never allowed to pick out my mother’s birthday card.  Ever.

3. What are you most looking forward to about spring?

The end of my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and my birthday.  So what if I am turning 41 in April??? I still get PRESENTS! And a trip to Charleston (hint, hint, Jay).

4. What’s your favorite way to pamper yourself?

I will one day make enough money to have a massage once a quarter.  Oh, and a maid to come clean twice a month.  Until then, my self done pedicures (blood red toenails) every 3 weeks year round will have to suffice.

5. Does your tax return go into savings or do you spend it instantly?

I used to get a refund and spent it immediately.  Now my husband owns his own business so I am sure the government will demand a blood payment or we will have to mail in our newborn come April.  Which will be a real bummer for my birthday.

There is no way to describe my feelings of dread and fear as I heard my name called. 

I stood up and walked to the front of the room, my eyes on the floor.  I could feel the other eyes in the room on me, boring into me like lasers. For a brief moment I prayed to spontaneously combust.

I reached the front of the room and took my place behind the black metal podium.  My hands shook as shuffled through the papers and found the one I needed.

As I looked over at the lady sitting at the piano, I realized the rest of me was shaking as well.  Prior to this moment I had always thought the phrase “knees knocking” was a metaphor.  I now knew it was something that actually happened as I felt my knees hitting each other so quickly it could be considered a spasm. Or a seizure.

I felt nauseated as I gave a nod to the lady. I barely noticed her smile, meant to comfort me.

I stared hard at the music in front of me, but nothing on the page made any sense to me whatsoever.  It did not matter.  I knew what I had to do. 

I heard her give the three notes: first soprano, second soprano and alto.  She then gave the second soprano note again. 

I reached up and grabbed the podium to steady myself.  I gripped it with white knuckled tightness and took a deep breath. The podium shook along with me.

Then, much stronger than I could have possibly imagined, the second soprano part of Ave Maria rose a capella from my soul and rang through the room. 

I looked over the heads of the other contestants, the choral teachers and the judges present and focused on the window above them.  I never made eye contact with anyone.  I concentrated on pulling my voice from that place deep inside me and pushing it out through the window.  Each note was hit dead on and with a solid strength totally belied by my shaking body. 

I sang out strong and held the last note.

Still not looking at anyone, my only reaction as I finished was to let go of the podium and wring my sore hands as I walked back to my seat. 

The applause came slowly, but then rose and washed over my aching soul like a balm.  I would literally be sore later from the deep trembling during that performance. 

Later, after the judges had called my name out as one of the chosen three out of the fifty hopefuls, my teacher came up to me.

“That was the most amazing thing I have ever seen,” she said quietly.  “Your entire body shook with such force I thought for a few seconds that you were going to pass out cold in front of everyone. But, and I truly don’t know how it is possible, the voice that came out of you never wavered.  Not even for one note. Congratulations, Marnie.  You did it.  You made the 1987 Alabama All-State Chorus.”

And in that moment, I said my own prayer of thanks to Ave Maria for granting me a moment of her grace.

I cannot remember ever being a confident person.  Wait.  I take that back. I do.  In Mrs. Turner’s 3rd grade class at Grandview Elementary School in Dothan, Alabama, I was, for a brief moment, confident.  I raised my hand in class and I usually knew the answers.  I was proud of myself when I did, even if the other kids thought I was being a know-it-all.  In fact, I probably could be a bit smug, if I am remembering correctly. 

I also remember Miss Youngblood’s 1st grade class at Cloverdale Elementary.  I was happy.  I was a favorite.  And when Miss Youngblood married later, I was the only one of her students (at least I didn’t see anyone else my age there) invited to the reception.  I was a confident kid.  Later on I babysat her kids.  I will always think of her when I smell cinnamon because she wore Cinnabar perfume.  She had deep red hair, too.

And then there was Ms. Colquitt.  I still can be brought to tears remembering that horrible 4th grade teacher. Jay learned that not too long ago. I told him this story and by the end of it I was in tears.  I think he felt really bad for me.

She tried to push me.  She tried to make me do better.  But her methods went against my grain.  She operated in humiliation. The idea was that if she pushed hard enough I would get angry or I would prove her wrong. That I would buck up.  I simply dug a hole and buried my head in it.

She handed out papers in grade order.  If you were the first one to get your paper back it meant you made an A, and you could puff with pride when you stood up to get your paper.  If you got your paper last, everyone knew you made the worst grade in the class.  And she always told what the highest and lowest grades were.  So everyone knew. 

I understand now what she was trying to do.  I understand it, and I still hate her for it.

I did fairly well in all my subjects, with one glaring exception – math.  To this day I cannot recite for you my multiplication tables.  If you ask me one I do not know, I have to go back to one I do know and add up to it.  For example, I do not know off the top of my head what 7×8 is.  I remember 8×8 is 64, but since I suck at subtracting, I cannot figure it from that.  I do know that 8×5 is 40, so 8×6 is 48 and then I use my fingers to count up 8 more to 56. This method does not work well when you are doing time tests.  I cannot for the life of me just learn that 7×8 is 56.  There are probably about a good third of my time tables that I just do not know and have to figure in some awkward way like this.  The faster I have to calculate it, the higher the probability that I am not going to be able to do it. 

I failed every single time test ever given me in 4th grade. Except one. And it was not given by Mrs. Colquitt.

This might not have been so bad if not for two things. 

The first was that Chris B was in in Mrs. Colquitt’s class as well.  Chris lived next door to me.  He was one day older than me.  We were close friends and a good deal of the time rivals.  And every time Chis’ name was called out before mine when papers were handed out in class I had to endure the humiliation of coming in second to him.  Sometimes he did pick on me on the bus on the way home.  But mostly, I don’t think he did.  He was not mean to me, really.  He was just another kid being a kid and I had to hold my own. But he was a symbol of my either being able to measure up or failing. 

The other thing is that very quickly I did not care about the grade at all.  The fact that I had a C in math did not bother me in the slightest.  I had no desire to raise that grade.  All my other grades were As.  I could handle having one C.  I was really fine with that.  What I could not handle was the feeling in the pit of my stomach every single time Math started.  The dread.  It was overwhelming.  Since Mrs. Colquitt knew I was struggling, she paid attention to me.  She made me sit in the front.  She called on me for answers.  She singled me out.  And I died a little every time she did.  I got the same feeling of adrenaline you get on a roller coaster.  My stomach dropped, my heart pounded, my face turned red and I could barely spit out AN answer, much less a correct one.  All I wanted was to be left alone to struggle to figure it out in private. 

If she had called me up quietly without letting all the kids know and asked what was wrong.  If she had tried to work with me with understanding and not singled me out.  If she had a tiny bit of compassion and did not make me feel like a colossal fucking idiot in front of every single person I knew.  Maybe if she had done just one of those things I would have felt uplifted and understood instead of debased and shamed. 

But she didn’t. 

She decided I just wasn’t applying myself.  So her solution was to take away my recess and make my write my multiplication tables 12 times each.  That was 1×1 12 times, 1×2 12 times, forever and ever all the way to 12×12 (which I DO know off the top of my head is 144).  I don’t know how long I missed recess to write those fucking numbers until my mind went numb. Someone do the math and figure up how many problems that I had to write, since I obviously can’t.  I also had them for homework.  Bitch.

Daddy always checked my math.  He is a numbers guy.  He went to Auburn for electrical engineering.  He speaks math like it is a language or something.  And he is fluent.  I know he did not understand how I didn’t get it.  He is not a words guy, so I have seen him struggle with spitting out the right word here and there over the years and I know that he gets numbers like I get words.  Daddy is quiet and doesn’t speak that much, but he has a saintly patience I admire with all my heart.  And so I know that when he would get frustrated with me when I was trying to understand math that I was really, really bad. 

And I will tell you this.  4th grade was when I loved my Daddy more than you can imagine.  He did 2 things that year. 

First he realized that I had a problem transposing numbers when I copied problems out of my textbook.  He had started out just checking the answers and he didn’t understand when my answers were marked wrong.  4932+2587=7519.  Except the problem in the book was actually 2394+5287.  Big difference.  And I could not see it.  I could not see the difference until he pointed it out to me. 

The other thing he did was give me a timed multiplication test.  He gave me 100 problems and told me to do them as quickly as I could and not worry about how long ittook me, just finish.  See, in class I’d only be able to get as far as 50 before time was up. 90 seconds to do 100 problems and I could only get to 40 or 50. When I didn’t know I was timed I could finish.  I missed a lot because there were ones that I just could not learn (weirdly, they were usually the odd numbers I could not remember), but I still managed to make a B. He had, of course, timed me.  And I passed.  With a glorious B!!!

Daddy told me after that night to tell Mrs. Colquitt that I would not be staying in at recess writing my time tables anymore.  He said I would not be doing it for homework, either.  He told me to tell her that if she needed to talk to him, she could call him. 

My heart sang with love for Daddy. 

But the damage was done.  By the time I got to have recess again, all the other kids had made friends and I was the outsider.  Worse.  I was the stupid girl who couldn’t pass the time tests.  No one wanted to play with that girl. I was one step above Becky-Booger-Eater (yes, that was a real kid.  That was what they called her.  I wonder now how she turned out).  I got my snack and went and sat on that stupid cement dinosaur or whatever it was on the playground all by myself.  If I tried to play with other kids, I was timid.  And kids do not appreciate and understand timid when you are 9.  I was easily rebuffed.  I was not bold and confident anymore.  I was shy and reserved. 

And to this day I hate that horrible awful woman.  I get a lump of anger in my throat just thinking about her. 

I spent from 4th to 7th grade in exile.  It was not until I met Starla in 6th grade, we became friends in 7th grade (and are still friends to this day) that I ever felt accepted again.  From 9 years old to 12 years old I was a loner.  I was friendless.  I was the pariah that other kids bonded over making fun of.  I retreated in to books.  In 6th grade I read every Nancy Drew book the library had.  I also read A Wrinkle In Time for the first time that year.  It helped. Some. But Meg’s afinity for math made her seem unreal to me, although I could relate to her being an outsider.

But, even now, a deep part of me still feels that insecurity.   I doubt any of the kids in my 4th grade class remember me from then.  You have to understand that I went from kindergarten to graduation in the same school system, so there are plenty of kids who were in Miss Youngblood’s 1st grade class with me that I also graduated with. We all knew each other.  Some of them may even read this as I am Facebook friends with many and I post links to my blog there. 

Most of them will remember me as just another kid in school.  I will remember 4th grade as the year I met the bitch that undermined and destroyed my confidence. 

I know I am 40.  I know that was literally a lifetime ago.  But I still carry that feeling of keeping my head down and not calling attention to myself in most situations.  I still refuse to speak up in meetings for fear of having the wrong answer.  And I still pray that the floor will open up and swallow me whole when all eyes in the room are on me waiting expectantly.  I still want to get back home to the safe place I have created as soon as possible. I equate being out in the world with being under assault.  I feel when I am out here in the open I am being evaluated, and most of the time failing that evaluation.  I want more than anything to get back home where I am safe and not being judged incompetent. 

I look in the mirror and the face looking back at me does not match the person inside.  The person in the mirror looks pulled together.  I hear my voice when I answer my boss’ line at work and hear a confident woman.  But it’s all an act.  I am always thinking, “Just don’t fuck this up too badly. And for God’s sake, TRY not to sound like a blooming idiot!”  I am always burning with dread when asked a question and I am not sure of the answer.  I second guess myself.  And I assume if a mistake was made, I was the one who made it, even though it usually turns out I didn’t. 

I don’t know if this is why.  But I do know that this was where it started.  And there were other things that, had it not been for this deep humiliation, I would probably have handled differently.  It is a wound that has not healed in 30 years. 

And I hate math and multiplication almost as much as the bitch of a teacher I had all those years ago.