Thursday, March 31, 2005

10 songs that bring back memories

Ten songs that bring back memories and why --

1. the lion sleeps tonight - by robert john, 1971. this song just spoke to me somehow. i was 5 years old and loved the melody, the lyrics, the playfulness, the uniqueness. i had my own record player in my room and i played this song over and over and over. it drove my brother nuts in his bedroom next door, and he hated the song. now if i'm driving and hear the song on the radio, i dial him up and lay my cell phone over the radio speaker so we can share a few moments of nostalgia -- me enjoying and singing my song and him yelling at me to turn that noise off! - story of the american hit - story of the writer and original performers
2. the locomotion - by grand funk railroad, 1974. this song was always on the jukebox at the swimming pool where i spent many sunday afternoons in the summers. i was 8-9 years old while it was popular there. i just loved the heavy sound of this song, blaring out over all the noise. today if i hear this song, i can still smell the chlorine of the swimming pool, as these two things are so closely related in my mind. and yes, i know they are not the "original" band who recorded this song -- but this is the version that was popular in my time.
3. seasons in the sun - by terry jacks, 1974. i was 9 years old the summer that i fell in love w/ the sound of this song. i knew it was a sad story, but i didn't really pay attention to that. i just knew that i liked the sound and it felt good. when we went on that long trip to get kirk out of the country for a while, this song was a hit on the radio. i met a girl in boise, idaho, who had the record and she gave it to me because she was tired of it. i was so excited to add this song to my music collection. kirk was so excited he could hardly imagine the future with my new song, either.
4. i never promised you a rose garden - by lynn anderson, 1971. i was 5 years old at this time, riding most days in the truck w/ mom and nothing else to do but listen to the radio. i could sing all the songs that came on and i knew all about all of the singers and songwriters. something about this song was just fun to sing. the melody was lively and catchy. it was my favorite song for quite a while. one time while visiting lana williams and playing w/ her record player, i saw that she had this record. i asked to play it, and she said she would just rather i took it home w/ me because she was so tired of it. i was so excited to have this 45 now and i could hear it all the time.
5. the streak - by ray stevens, 1974. this song was just so comical and so fun, to think about the amazing looks of people as they witnessed a streaker running by. during this time period, streaking was quite the popular prank to pull. the whole "don't look, ethyl" from the song became a part of our everyday lives. dad and i had so much fun w/ this song and other songs from ray stevens.
6. the cover of the rolling stone - by dr. hook, 1973. i was 8 years old when this song came out and i absolutely loved it. i most remember hearing it while "working" in the machine shed w/ dad. it brings to mind the smell of grease and dirt and the sounds of machines running. dad always had the radio on in the shed, balanced on the shelf above the phone. he would be working at his workbench and i would be pounding nails in the block of wood, climbing in the hay, jumping on the pile of old tires, swinging from the rafters, or chasing wild kittens. there was always plenty of "work" to do. this song was always so fun, with the voices and the personalities showing through that it just tempted a person to mimic them and sing along -- and we did. every time i hear this song, i am reminded of that time w/ my father. he claimed he didn't like the song and he didn't like hippies, but he sang along every time it played. i learned an amazing fact today -- shel silverstein wrote this song and all the other songs on the first albums. he went from playboy cartoonist to #1 hit songwriter to children's author. now i have a whole new appreciation for the song.
7. bohemian rhapsody - by queen, 1975. i was 9 when this song came out and it was totally amazing. this was 7 minutes of audio heaven. i loved hearing the level of difficulty of the music and the words. it was like hearing carmen after listening to mary had a little lamb -- big difference. i could just dream to the sounds of opera, harmony, melody, counter-melody, new words and new sounds. it was fantastic and so much fun. so different than anything else out at the time. singers/performers w/ actual talent and an understanding for music.
8. convoy - by cw mccall, 1975. this song created quite a "trucker phase" across the nation, where truckers became the popular underdogs-turned-heroes. during this time, people had CBs in their cars, had their own "handles," and felt like they were a part of the trucker society. the song inspired a movie, called convoy, but it also inspired other scenes in other movies, such as smokey and the bandit. it was so much fun to be traveling and see a group of trucks traveling together. this was a time when people weren't living in fear of other people when they traveled and openly communicated w/ most people, whether face to face or by CB.
9. follow me - by uncle kracker, 2000. well, i was hardly a child when this song came out -- but i have a strong attraction to this song. i love the melody and the story line. i could just put this song on repeat and hear it over and over and over, imagining the images and situations from that song that make the most impact on me --

All you know is when I'm with you, I make you free
And swim through your veins like a fish in the sea
i find the idea that someone could be so in love, so intuned to/with, and so immersed in someone else that he or she could "swim through your veins like a fish in the sea". that amount of love and security, desire to be together, and devotion are just amazing to me. as the song is playing, i'm imagining the fish in the sea, jumping and cavorting like a porpoise in the ocean. the fun, free playful image totally immersed in the love of someone else -- very appealing, very tempting.
10. break my stride - by matthew wilder, 1984. i loved this song because it so enforced what i believed. this was a rough year for me as i was adjusting to being a young mother, finishing high school, starting college, and being married, and working. my life had changed drastically, but all of my friends were pretty much living the same life. it was tough, but i was determined to make it and make it successfully. i kept the cassette of this song in my car just as a reminder that nothing and no one (but me) could keep me from succeeding.

Monday, March 28, 2005

a different kind of christmas dinner

it was all grandma's doing, really. she just couldn't fix the big dinners for the family anymore without getting too tired and worn out afterward. she didn't want to give it up and didn't want to quit having them, so she made up some new rules for these dinner. that was not surprising about grandma lottie, as we accused her of making up her own rules every time she started losing at something! every person attending was to make and bring his or her own dish for the dinner. old people, big people, little kids -- everyone had to fix and bring a dish. she would make the turkey, but that was it. all of the condiments would be provided, like mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, and butter. other than that, we were at the mercy of what everyone wanted to bring.

i didn't like potluck dinner because i didn't like eating food when i didn't know who prepared it or i didn't like not knowing what we were going to have. now grandma still tried to control the menu some by making suggestions, but people could really bring whatever they wanted. we had plenty of warning on how this dinner was going to be, so no excuses on not having our stuff done. i was just 12 at the time, so i wasn't real big into cooking. i could make some things, but didn't know how to plan a meal and what side dishes needed to be made. mom suggested i make 5 cup salad, so that's what i planned on. easy to do, didn't take long, and she had the stuff -- sounded perfect to me.

for some reason, dad didn't think that he was going to have to prepare anything for the dinner. my dad always had fairly traditional gender roles, but he could and did cook when he had to. but he didn't clean up the table afterward unless he was asked to, and he left the huge majority of the cooking responsibilities up to mom and me. now, in his defense, he didn't expect mom and i to do any heavy farm work either. he didn't think that i should have to buck bales or lift anything too heavy or change tires on equipment or fix things that were broken. i guess in his mind, these things equaled out. the women were responsible for most of the household chores and the men were responsible for most of the heavier outside work. it was never stated or argued about -- that's just the way it was. when the new rules for christmas dinner were put into place, i guess he just didn't think they applied to him.

all along mom kept asking my brother and my dad what they were making to take to dinner. dad would say, "i figured you'd take care of that for me." mom would sigh and restate the rules for dad like he was too simple-minded to understand. then she would remind him that he had better be making plans to get something made. my brother decided to take a relish plate, complete w/ black olives, green olives, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and cherries. tough plate there -- 5 whole cans of things to open, drain, and dump on the serving plate. see? that was simple enough. he didn't prepare it until we got to grandma's house the day of the dinner, even. kirk left before we did because he had to drive 30 miles away and pick up his girlfriend, so he didn't witness the cooking battle.

sunday morning, the day of the dinner, dad still had not made plans of anything to take to grandma's house. i think he still thought that mom would come through and save him from this job. when he realized that wasn't going to happen and that he needed to have something prepared to go with him, he decided to boil some eggs. without asking or telling mom, he went into the kitchen and put a pan of water on to boil and started getting the eggs out. mom came in the kitchen in a bit and asked what he was doing. he looked at her like she had just gone stupid and said, "boiling eggs." he didn't elaborate, and probably on purpose because he sometimes enjoyed teasing her when she was already annoyed over something he considered silly. there was some old story from a previous generation about a family acquaintance who would put a boiled egg in his cheek and keep it there all day to make it last. totally grossed me out, but they all got a kick out of it and often mentioned this person.

dad claimed he was taking boiled eggs to the dinner. mom was having fits over it, probably due to embarrassment, telling dad that he couldn't take boiled eggs. he said that he could as there were no limits placed on what people could bring -- just that each person had to bring a dish. his dish was going to be boiled eggs. mom was getting madder by the minute, but dad was just calmly going about his business. mom said, "well, what is everyone going to think?" dad just laughed and said, "they'll think i brought boiled eggs." the family wouldn't think badly of dad and they wouldn't be upset w/ him. in fact, they would probably laugh when they heard the whole story told.

my mom was fuming over the boiled eggs business, and she said that dad was going to be laughed at for bringing them. i was a daddy's girl, and i didn't want anyone to make fun of my daddy for any reason -- so i decided that when he went out to do the chores that i would go in the kitchen and devil his boiled eggs for him. then they would be more presentable. dad seemed oblivious to all the emotional stress he was causing mom that morning, as he whistled while he shaved and headed out to chore. just like any other day in his mind, it seemed. mom was cooking and making a little more noise along the way because she was still irritated that dad thought she was going to do his cooking for him and then because he cooked boiled eggs.

while mom was in the shower, i headed into the kitchen to get dad's eggs out and start peeling them and mixing up the filling. surprisingly, there was dad at the counter, cracking shells as quickly as he could go. i jumped in and helped him pull shells off of the eggs, make the filling, and get the filling put back in the eggs halves before running on into the other room. he rinsed all his dishes off, put the deviled eggs back in the refrigerator in the "boiled egg" bowl, and snuck out the back door to go to chores. he was late getting in from doing chores that morning because he ran into some problems along the way -- yeah, like deviling eggs!

when dad was ready, we got our stuff and started loading up for church. dad looked around and noticed that his bowl of "boiled eggs" was not included with the food that was being loaded to go to grandma's house. he asked where his eggs were, and mom said, "danor, we're not taking boiled eggs as your dish to christmas dinner. i'm just going to tell them that you didn't make anything." well, dad was having none of that and ran back in the house to get his eggs. mom fumed all the way through church, and dad just let her. it was like some long-standing game they had going. he was being ornery; she was acting irritated by it all while he was entertained.

after church, we went to grandma lottie's house. everyone else was getting there about the same time, talking and laughing while they all carried in their food. it was quite an event to see who brought what. i was showing my cousins what i brought, and i saw that one of them had brought iced cookies shaped like deer. the icing was decorated like they were white-tail deer, too, and one had a red nose.

through all this commotion, dad never commented about what he brought or the cooking battle that had gone on at our house that morning. when dinner was all set up and everybody in the kitchen area, we had our prayer. the food was set up on the counter, buffet-style, and we started to fill our plates. uncle ronnie, mom's older brother, was ahead of us in line filling plates for his kids. there was a lot of razzing going on about hurrying up and not taking it all.

everyone seemed to be having a good time, until uncle ronnie said, "oh boy! deviled eggs! who brought these?" as he looked around the crowd. my mother perked up and looked at my father, letting him know that she didn't think it was funny that he had set uncle ronnie up to this orneriness. she was furious over it, and my father thought it was hilarious. in all honesty, it wasn't planned, but mom never believed that. uncle ronnie ate 2 deviled eggs while he stood there in line talking about how much he liked them. well, uncle ronnie's excitement over the deviled eggs at the dinner prompted dad to tell the story of the cooking battle that went on at our house that morning. he pointed out how he was counting on mom to help him out by cooking his dish and everything. well, everything except the fact that i helped him devil the eggs and knew they had been "fixed to be more presentable." that probably wouldn't have went over too well! the whole family had a lot of entertainment out of that story. from that point on, dad always took deviled eggs to our holiday dinners.

doubled eggs

i hated potluck dinners, but they were a common occurrence in my childhood. every time something special was going on at church, we would have a potluck dinner. i know some people really like them -- but not me. i don't like my food mixed together, especially foods that shouldn't touch, and i don't like to eat food when i don't know who prepared it. well, maybe i should rephrase that. i don't like to eat food that i know some people prepared! but i'm always afraid that that person or those people will bring something different some time, and i'll eat it by accident. not knowing that the person whose food i didn't want to eat was actually on my plate. probably even touching something else, too!

well, this day was another potluck. ugh! as i was walking in to church, our neighbor asked me to help her carry her stuff in. she was a clean person and a good cook, so i didn't mind eating her food. she was a nice person and i had known her forever. she was married to "prince charming," or at least who my child's mind envisioned as the real-life version of prince charming. so i went over to her car and she started handing me stuff. i used the opportunity to find out what she had brought for dinner. she had a jello salad (not eating that because it was all mixed together), green beans (i could do those), and "doubled eggs" (i didn't know what those were, so i probably wasn't going to eat them!).

as we walked into the fellowship hall, i was asking questions trying to get around to what in the world "doubled eggs" were. i was listening to her talk, and i had known her for a long time, so i was focused on some of her speech abnormalities. i'm guessing she probably needed some speech therapy when she was young and just didn't get it. she said "ff" instead of "th" at the end of words, so "with" became "wiff" and things like that. i always thought that was kind of funny for an educated person to not notice that some words were said different that everyone else said them. or maybe she just didn't hear well enough to tell the difference? or maybe she just didn't care? whatever -- i found it interesting.

well, i soon found out what "doubled eggs" were. in her vocabulary, she was referring to deviled eggs, but she called them "doubled" because they made twice as many as the number of eggs she started with. amazing thought, einstein! so if she wanted to have a dozen, she "doubled" six eggs. that was the key, too. she always just needed 6 eggs. i just kept on chatting w/ her on the way in, but i filed this information away for later when i was w/ mom and dad -- they just had to hear this definition!

my dad liked anything eggs, so he really liked deviled eggs. we had them quite a bit at home, so we used this new term quite often. to this day, my family refers to deviled eggs as "doubled eggs" just for this reason. we had "doubled eggs" on easter, and we had to explain to lucas why we called them "doubled" instead of deviled eggs. over the years, we've accumulated quite a collection of strange things that people say. we use these in our vocabulary just like they were meant in a different context b/c they have meaning to us. in fact, i once had one of my close friends say to me, "i know you just said something different to scott than i think you did, but i can't figure out what it was. sometimes i think i know exactly what you're talking about, and other times i know i don't have a clue." one of these days, i'll have to write the key to the codes we use when we talk.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

scott -- 19 and moving on

yesterday was scott's birthday -- 19 years old. he's quite a handsome young man w/ a wonderful personality. i spent quite a bit of time yesterday thinking about him -- the who is he now, the boy he used to be, the man he will become. he has some very endearing qualities as well as those things that make a person want to strangle him. but regardless, he has a smile that touches the heart of all who meet him. in all honesty i can say that i truly believe he will make a good husband and a wonderful father some day. what more could a parent ask for?

probably the most obvious thing about scott when a person first meets him is his personality. he's outgoing, friendly, jovial, laughing, outrageous, funny, sometimes obnoxious and smart-mouthed, but always kind to those around him. he doesn't allow the underdog to be the underdog while he's there, and at 6'4" and built like a linebacker, he tends to get his way on that. he's very loving, too, and not afraid to show that in public. his little 18-month old niece, raven, is just nuts about him, and she may hold him, kiss him, mess w/ his hat, play w/ his earring, or anything else she wants at any time. i think that's a wonderful sign of a true man -- one who can give and receive love without feeling like his masculinity is threatened or questioned.

scott has spent almost all of his life in a "female household" as his father and i divorced when scott was 6 and didn't live together part of the time before that due to his father's job. scott has always been used to being around women and having to allow for things that women do. it was just part of life for him. when his sister took dance lessons, he had to go watch some practices and attend recitals. he knew the difference between ballet slippers and jazz shoes. i always wondered if that would influence his sexuality in later life, but when we were at the dance recital and my 10 year old son whispered, "mom, how long until half-time?", i knew that he had plenty of testosterone in him!

scott is in college now, and just about to finish up his first year there. this has been a surprising and rewarding experience for all of us. school has always been a struggle for scott and many battles raged between us because of it. he's a smart young man and often just did not apply himself. knowing that, i felt like his grades should have been better. he hated school and just went there to see his friends, and he felt his grades were fine if they were passing. when it came time to go to college (and there was NO negotiation on this part of life), he enrolled at labette community college because he has always wanted to be a respiratory therapist and they have an excellent program there. i was dreading the whole college phase because k-12 had been such a struggle, both mentally and physically for both of us. i was exhausted from pushing, shoving, and struggling to get him through school. well, college was certainly a different tune. taking 12 hours, he set his own schedule, studied as needed, managed his own time, and made all A's. the first time in his life -- and his grade card went right up on the front of the refrigerator! college has definitely been a good experience for him.

one character trait of scott's that is both endearing and frustrating is his generosity. i know that sounds weird to be upset by generosity, but as the parent providing the funds or the supplies for him to share, it sometimes was. he was always cognizant enough to realize what he had compared to what he needed. if someone else needed something that he had more than he did, he gave it to them. he did it without asking or without saying. just one day i would notice that something was gone. one time when i told the kids to bring their coats out to the laundry room because i was going to be washing big loads of winter wear, he only had 2 coats. i called to him and said that i needed all of his coats. he yelled back that he had already brought them out there. when i went to talk to him about why he only had 2 coats, he explained that he didn't think he needed more than a good coat and a work coat, so he had given the others to the donation box at school. what could i say?

as he has gotten older, i have noticed these other quirks about him. he doesn't really care about material possessions. i mean, he loves his car, his guns, his stereo equipments, and some things, but everything else is irrelevant. he likes having them, but could easily do without them. i have often accused him of either being a homeless person in his previous life or practicing to be a homeless person later in life. he doesn't care where he sleeps or spends his time. he has a 20x25 bedroom upstairs, complete w/ his own bathroom and full walk-in closet. this is where he "stores" his stuff. where he "lives" is wherever he happens to be. there might be weeks that go by that he sleeps in the middle of the living room floor because he was watching movies after i went to bed. or, he could be happy on the road, traveling from here to there. he wouldn't need to return home, as just the knowledge that home was there would be security enough for him.

because he is such a "transient personality", he doesn't mind rearranging the house to fit his needs, either. if the sun is glaring on the television at the angle it is -- then rearrange the living room to face the other way to fix the problem. when i come home from work, i'm never really quite sure how the furniture might be arranged, where i might find a body rolled up in a blanket asleep, or who else of his friends might be crashing here for the night. if scott noticed that we were not using something as it was now (like the stereo), he would take it upstairs where he could use it easier. when i complained about him taking the stereo without asking, he said, "mom, you haven't used it in 6 months! i use it every day." and that ended our discussion. i didn't have much leverage when i found out that it had been gone 2 months before i noticed it. my excuse -- the glass was tinted and i didn't notice the black stereo missing. the truth -- i just didn't care and i didn't use it!

scott also has big ideas and big plans for the future. he wants to go, to do, to be so many things. i can understand that, because he gets that from me. one big difference is that i'm not sure i can keep him based in reality on some of it. his head is in the sky about what he wants to do, but he needs to keep his feet on the ground. he loves to dream up great things to do, and then he moves mountains (or tries to) to get these things done. i understand this as well, as i do the same thing. maybe that's why i try to protect him from himself, sometimes. he is so intent on doing those fantastic things that he doesn't see the stress that he's putting on himself in the present time. oh well, i guess that's part of what makes life fun. he also has a great sense of wanderlust, where he wants to travel and see the world. he's not interested in traveling "flush" but just getting there. he wouldn't care if he had to sleep propped up against a tree or lying on his motorcycle -- just so he got to go and do. i've always known that boy was going to need a leash sooner or later!

scott has a wonderful little girlfriend at this time, and he seems to think that she might be "the one". he's absolutely head-over-heels for her, and he doesn't really care who knows it. i was kind of worried about it until i meant her, but i have to admit that i really like her. she has spunk, and she'll need that dealing w/ scott. she's just a tiny thing -- maybe 5'2" and 110 pounds maybe. she's smart, she's athletic, and she's stubborn. she doesn't let scott get by w/ much, and i find that refreshing. his personality is such that he can sometimes just overwhelm a person, but he won't be able to pull that w/ anna. i think they will make a nice couple if she is the one. but since she's just 16, we'll have to wait and see.

if she is "the one", then i'll be very happy to watch them mature as they grow old. scott is a very loving and considerate person w/o being walked on. he's used to being around women and doing the things they like to do as well as what he likes to do -- so the gender-give-and-take has already been taught to him. he also loves children and has a naturally nurturing personality, so fatherhood should set well on his shoulders. overall, i think he's has a bright future ahead of him as long as he continues to progress as he is now. i'll grow old watching this scene play out to the ending.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

10 signs . . .

10 signs that society controls my mind or actions
1. the clothing i choose = successful, professional woman
2. my hairstyle, although i've flaunted this rule many years
3. personal refusal to be a statistic in negative circumstances b/c i am divorced. i am not a failure or a success in life based on my marital status.
4. traditional gender roles - although i often ignore these
5. the ingrained idea that women should be thin or always dieting to be thin
6. the indoctrinated view that women should always try to look younger
7. prescribed role that women should wear makeup to enhance their beauty, or at least conceal their lack thereof. trust me, a bottle of foundation doesn't do it for some people!
8. fashion trends - because there is often nothing else to buy. another gem of wisdom -- just because they make it in your size doesn't mean you should wear it!
9. belief that the court system and law enforcement system should be revered and obeyed. after years of always following the rules here, i decided that the system that had allowed my children to be abused and kidnapped by their father (w/ no punishment for his outrageous behavior) probably wasn't going to punish me for not following the rules either.
10. i don't carry a firearm in my vehicle because of the "safe schools act".

10 examples of the ways that society operates at odds w/ my personal philosophies
1. allowing or encouraging the idea of "i can't"
2. not holding individuals accountable for their actions
3. belief that it is acceptable to use people to get ahead
4. money is more important that people
5. commercialism of holidays as "true" meaning
6. the family unit is not the strongest building block in society
7. reading and learning is not a priority
8. setting a "limit" on what should be learned (only teaching to the test -- usually the state test used for accreditation and/or funding)
9. not holding the parents/students accountable for their education
10. using material possessions to "keep score" or assign personal worth

10 funny signs i have seen
1. don't bitch. start a revolution
2. question authority (always LOVE this one!)
3. you laugh because i'm different. i laugh because you're the same.
4. i don't need your business bad enough to put up w/ your attitude.
5. shit for sale
6. you're the only who thinks you are normal
7. your ridiculous opinion has been noted
8. don't piss me off -- i'm running out of places to hide the bodies
9. microsurgical vasectomy reversal - not always the answer, but an option. not guaranteed. (interstate billboard)
10. vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
as to be hated, needs but to be seen,
yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
we first endure, then pity, then embrace.
alexander pope 1688 - 1744
*** billboard near ozark christian college in
joplin that has always made quite an impression
on me. the idea is totally true, too, as the sin that
we once found so revolting is eventually tolerated
in society and then accepted as "norm" or
"near-norm". problem is, i wonder how many
people actually understand the quote because
the writing style and vocabulary require the reader
to think, and i know people do not like to do that!

Friday, March 25, 2005

a surreal world

i had stepped into a dream. or a nightmare, maybe. i had received a call that my daughter, 21 year old summer, needed a ride home from the tattoo parlor, punktuer (pronounced puncture), in joplin, finally getting her much desired tattoo. i knew where she was going to have the tattoo done and she had checked them out for cleanliness and inspection status. while i might be willing to push the limits and rebel against society and the accepted norms, i'm not willing to tempt fate by exposing myself to disease.

the first problem was that the tattoo parlor itself, even though it was in good condition, was location in a part of town that i (we) didn't frequent. that part of town w/ bars on the windows, visible alarms systems, the homeless shelter for vagrants, bars of every kind, and huge locks on every possible entrance. this section of town was well-lit at night, but not a car or person in sight on the street except for a couple cars in front of punktuer. i parked, moved anything of obvious value into the back seat where it would be harder to see (steal) through the tinted windows. i also took everything out of the front seat or off of the dash that would identify me or where i worked. no reason to let anyone who didn't know me know where i worked and any other info about me.

when i walked in to punktuer, i was taken back to another place and time -- my childhood. the time when i first noticed the world of amusement parks, carnivals, and "carnies" as a different culture. the place was painted in wild, psychedelic colors and patterns, depicting clowns, jokers, demons, dragons, and designs w/ blurred images depicting ecstasy of some sort. also displayed on the walls was a huge collections of designs for possible tattoos and pictures of completed tattoos on previous customers; a couple of long, waist-high glass counters contained jewelry for purchase for those customers who were there for piercings.

i had just come from school, so i was dressed in a very conservative matching two piece outfit, w/ hair styled and makeup done. i was obviously out of my element and looked out of place. the man at the counter asked "may i help you?" as i walked up. i could tell from the look on his face that he thought i was in the wrong place or something. i said, "yeah, i'm summer's ride home. is she where i can see her?" he pointed me to the room where my daughter was, already in the process of being tattood.

i was rather surprised at the look of the man doing her tattoo, as he was clean cut w/ short hair, no strange piercings, and no visible tattoos except for his forearms. if he had a long-sleeved shirt on, he would look like any average joe walking down the street. certainly didn't fit the image of the other guys hanging out in this shop or the other customers walking in. i talked to summer a bit, looked at what he had done so far, asked some questions, and then moved a chair in so i could talk and keep summer's mind busy.

as i sat there, i was totally taking in my surroundings. it was like a funhouse that had been in a trainwreck. disjointed scenes in this style and then that style had been painted here and there on the walls. where the different scenes met up, someone had made crosshatches to make it look like they had been stitched together. the huge smiling face of a joker, the queen of hearts and alice and wonderland, a curving, swirling snake, clouded/misted spirals descending into nothingness, rainbows of dark colors, dragons of chinese heritage, animae, and more swirls and geometric designs.

the music was blaring, too. so loud it was hard to carry on a conversation and definitely made it hard to think. fitting the image of this establishment and the people within it, the music was also fringe music. not something listened to by the main stream. not even the main stream any sub-culture! groups like primus, marilyn manson, and worse things i had never heard of. and i like all kinds of music, but i was having a hard time identifying this as music instead of just noise. annie lennox' "sweet dreams" sung off-key by a man and slowed down after recording, like the batteries were running out of juice and fading away (but just not fading fast enough for my tastes!). when that cd of hellish noise was over, another one was put in -- a never-ending cacophany of audio distress.

then add to that the people (men) who were working in there -- long-haired, not well-dressed, tattood all over, pierced, just the overall grunge, dregs of society look. i didn't have a problem w/ them, as they were all very nice, kind, and polite in the one-on-one situation. but the lifestyle they chose to lead (or felt pressed into) was not one accepted by society. especially in the middle of the redneck bible belt of america. i'm always curious about people and what makes each one "tick." i covertly studied each human speciman there, watching his demeanor/personality/attitude displayed to help understand these individuals. none of these men were intimidating to me on a personal level, but if i were to meet several of them in a dark alley i would be leary. mainly because i knew that this sub-culture has a tendency to partake of activities that i don't believe in and don't condone. i realize that not all people in that subculture do those things, but that is the accepted belief. but in all honesty, i would be leary of meeting any group of men in a dark alley, so what makes a group of guys like this any different in that situation?

i'm not condemning any of those people, nor do i think poorly of them for being who they are. i try to not judge people and allow them to be who they are -- just like i want people to do for me. but as i sat there, i wondered . . . "if someone in 'my group' of society looks at someone like that and thinks 'freak,' then what does someone in that group of society think when he or she sees someone like me?" i'm well-groomed, well-dressed as a professional, no visible tattoos, obviously have money in what i wear and what i drive (meaning i'm not poor), speaks using correct grammar, well-educated, intelligent, doesn't use profanity in public, happy attitude, self-confident. do they look at me (or someone like me) and think "freak" or "stuck up bitch" or "normal" or "dull" or what? or do they even notice those people who are not a part of their society? do they view their group as "the norm" and the rest of society as the sub-culture? i wondered "what made you become what you are today?" as i considered some possible things that might have lead them to become who they were.

summer's growing tattoo was really a very small part of the overall experience for me. the final product was a beautiful depiction of 3 tiger lilies across the lower back. the artwork was amazing -- top notch. it was painful for her, especially after he had gone over several areas multiple times putting in the details. i kept up a running line of chatter to occupy her mind, but i was more interested in the people around us and what their motivation was for submitting themselves and their minds to this world. i wondered what kind of person was happy in this environment, or were they ever really happy but just less miserable? i wondered if they had to take drugs to deaden their senses to this numbing environment or if they had nothing left to feel numbed.

when summer reached the point of having the tattoo pictured and paying the tab, i headed on out to the car. i was fairly surprised that i still had hubcaps and that no one had spray-painted graffiti down the side of my car. i checked the back windows as i walked around the car, unlocked it and climbed in, shut the door again and locked it. i just sat there in the dark silence, still feeling numb from the 3-hour assault on my senses. i was exhausted and feeling fairly stressed from long-term societal discomfort. i thanked God for my world of unconditional love, security, and acceptance. i was reminded of just how blessed in life i am. my life may not be the perfect life, but it is the perfect life for me.

i've never been tempted to try drugs, but i realized as i sat there in the dark silence of my car in the wrong part of town -- if i was ever tempted to try acid or meth, all i needed to do was come back to punktuer and immerse myself in the environment there for the same effects. not an enjoyable experience overall, so not any more temptation than i've ever had to try that lifestyle.

as i am applying the experience to my outlook on life, i wonder if i have students who feel this out of place in the classroom. who in my classes is so distressed in the "normal" classroom, surrounded by kids of "normal" society. they may not have the strength to think about why they are stressed or what they can do to lessen the stress -- they only notice the stress and don't know how to combat these stressful feelings. how many kids have homes that are similar to the environment i was in last night that feel uncomfortable in the silence of the classroom? how many kids have such messy or cluttered lives at home that the organized and structure classroom makes them uneasy? i know i'll be watching for these signs now w/ more empathy. if i can find the right key, i can unlock the potential and ability for each student to learn. that's what drives me on in my career -- to be the teacher who made a difference in each student's life.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

my true love

i had turned 4 the last thanksgiving, so i wasn't very old when we met. who would've thought that our meeting would have such an impact on my life? now i look back over the last 35 years of my life and realize that day was a major turning point in my life -- i was in love. not just a crush and not just puppy love, but real love. unconditional love, given w/ the knowledge that i might get hurt at some time, but that didn't matter.

i wanted to ride the bike so bad, but kirk wouldn't let me. it was his motorcycle, and he wasn't about to share it. he said it was too big for such a baby, but he always said that when he didn't want to share. i liked to ride w/ him, but he didn't have time for that very often. i didn't like for him to know how bad i wanted to ride because i didn't want him to tease me. he had something i didn't and he could do something i couldn't. that was bad enough without him teasing me about it.

i thought if i could just ride by myself then i wouldn't have to wait on him. i would have my own freedom. i could come and go as i pleased. ride when and where i wanted. i would be big. independent. not a baby anymore. i knew how to start it, how to shift gears, how to speed up, how to steer, and how to stop. i knew i could do it. i had been watching just what to do, and i knew how.

it was too big for me, but dad would've said, "that's no hill for a climber." that meant that if i wanted to do something bad enough, there was probably a way to figure out how i could do it. that's what he always said when he figured out a way to fix a problem. well, my problem was that the bike was too big; i couldn't get on. well, i could get on and reach the foot pegs, but i couldn't put the kickstand up and get moving. i was pretty sure i could kick start it, too, from standing on the foot pegs.

i had been watching the bike for several days, trying to figure out how i could ride it by myself. this particular day i found the inspiration that i needed. it was parked close to the back porch. not right next to it, but close enough to it to make me realize that if i was standing on the porch, i could get on the bike by myself. ta-dah! this climber had reached the summit.

i waited until after dinner to try out my idea. mom would rest a bit after cleaning up from dinner. she made me lie down w/ her, but if i kept still, i could sneak out as soon as she dozed off. my brother said she did it on purpose and that she wasn't really asleep, but just wanted some peace and quiet. whatever. i didn't care. i just liked having some freedom.

kirk was in the field on the tractor, mom was resting, gary was loading grain, and dad was working in the shed. everyone was accounted for and i was ready for my adventure. i pushed the bike over to the porch and leaned it up against the porch so i didn't have to put the kick stand down. i climbed up the 3 steps and then on the bike.

i just sat there for a bit, getting the feel of it. trust me, it felt good. i tried to kick start it easy, because i didn't want to tip over. that didn't work, so i had to keep jumping up and down on it a little harder each time, balancing more to the porch side. it finally started and i was ready to pull away. i had my left foot resting on top of the gas tank until i was away from the porch since the bike was resting against the concrete.

i put the bike in gear and pulled slowly away from the porch. i was going. on my own. riding the bike on my own. i shifted gears, gave it some more gas and crept out in the driveway. our drive was u-shaped w/ a huge area at about ten o'clock on the u-shape where the equipment was parked and the fuel tanks were. i had a huge open area to ride in since there was nothing parked there this day.

a few seconds later, i realized that i didn't know how to turn. i mean, i knew how kirk did it, but i didn't know how to do it. i was afraid to lean because i didn't want to tip over. i knew that i couldn't turn the handle bars too much or i would fall over the other way. i didn't want to land in the rocks because that would hurt something fierce. especially on my knees! i decided to just try to turn the handlebars just a little and see if i could turn that way. it worked, and i started making a huge, curving turn in the drive.

i rode around for a long time in the lane. probably not, really, but it felt like it. i was having such fun and i was so excited that i could ride by myself. now i could ride whenever i wanted and i wouldn't have to wait on someone else to take me. i was imagining how wonderful that would be and just couldn't wait to tell dad that i could ride the bike by myself. then i realized that i would have to tell dad that i had already ridden the bike, and he was not going to be happy about that.

i decided that i had probably better put the bike back before i got caught. no sense borrowing trouble! i turned another wide, banking turn toward the house and realized i had another problem. i couldn't stop. i knew how to stop, and i could get the bike to come to a stop. then i didn't know what to do because i couldn't reach the ground and i would tip over. i knew i couldn't ride the bike back up to the porch and get off the way i got on, so i was really in trouble now.

i was on a moving motorcycle w/ no way to stop it and get off without having an accident. i kept riding around the lane, trying to figure out what to do. suddenly this wasn't so much fun anymore. i figured i had 2 choices -- i could lay it down and then be in trouble or i could yell for help and then be in trouble. either way, i was still in trouble. the difference was whether i was hurt or not. i didn't figure there was any way out without being hurt or in trouble. of the two, i would rather be in trouble than hurt, so i guess my choice was made.

i rode closer to the shed and then started yelling for dad at the top of my lungs. "dad! dad! help me! dad! da-a-a-a-a-d! he-e-e-e-elp me! dad!" i yelled on and on. i didn't know where in the shed he was working, and i didn't know if he could hear me over the motorcycle, but i was still trying. i thought i would just keep riding and yelling until somebody came running to see what was the matter w/ me.

at the start of my third yelling circle, dad came running out of the shed, stripping out of his welding gear on the run. equipment, gloves, and helmet tossed here and there as he ran toward me. i was afraid to get too close to him because i didn't want to hit him, but i needed to get close enough to him that he could grab me. he was running to catch up to me and i was trying to watch him and watch where i was going. as i got more excited, i was giving the bike more gas on the right hand grip. i must have been pulling harder on the right, too, as i was steering away from dad all the time. i was still circling in the "holding pattern" i had been riding in while i tried to figure out how to get out of this mess.

he was yelling instructions to me, but i couldn't hear him because i was yelling for help and the bike motor was noisy. i knew he was talking real loud, though, because his face was red and he opened his mouth really big when he was talking. that was a sure sign that whatever was being said was being said loud. he kept running after me, on the outside of the circle i was turning, for almost a hundred yards. i was getting scared now because i couldn't get the bike to quit turning and i really wanted off of it. when i turned to look at dad, my right hand slipped on the handle bar and i lost my grip for a second. i didn't lose control (as if i had control to begin with!), but it did slow me down a little bit.

that break in speed was enough for dad to grab hold of me and pull me off of the bike. which went a few feet further on its own and then laid over on its side in the rocks. the motor was still running and the wheels were still turning, but it was laying in the rocks. i knew that i would've ended up in the rocks w/ it if dad hadn't run out there and caught me. that didn't bother me, really. those things happen after all.

dad gave me a hug, checked me over to make sure i wasn't hurt, then gave me a shake. as if my brain must have not been working properly before this stupidity and a good shake would give it the jump start that it needed. a pull-me-back-to-reality-shake. a what-the-hell-were-you-thinking shake. a no-more-nonsense shake, a don't-scare-me-like-that-again shake. finally, i got "the talkin' to" where dad let me know he wasn't happy w/ this business. that was usually the worst, though, because i didn't want dad to be disappointed in me.

i told him how much i wanted to ride that bike, and i could really ride that bike on my own. it was only the stopping part that was the problem. it wasn't even the stopping part, really. but the getting off after it was stopped part that was the problem. my feet just wouldn't reach the ground. i was strong enough. i was smart enough. i was brave enough. i just wasn't tall enough. it just wasn't fair!

i had the fever now. i had ridden the bike on my own, and i wanted to do it again. the problem was that i was still too short. i hadn't grown enough in the last 3 days to make a difference. i fussed at dad because i wanted to ride the bike and couldn't. i really wanted to cry about it because i was just that sad, but only babies cried about things. that's what kirk said, anyway. so i didn't cry, but i tried every other tactic i could think of -- i begged, i pleaded, i bargained, i promised, i fussed, i griped, i guilted, i pouted, i told grandma. i couldn't focus on anything else other than getting back on that bike.

dad knew that he would have to do something or i would try it again. of course, he could just order me not to do it, but he probably knew that wouldn't work. i'm sure he could see that i was determined to get back on that bike. kirk was mad at me for riding his bike without asking him. really i think he was just mad that i did ride it. if i had asked, he would've told me "no!", so that wouldn't have done any good.

i wanted to ride that bike. problem was, i couldn't find the bike now. just to make sure i wasn't trying to ride it again, dad and kirk kept it hidden. that way, dad didn't have to worry about me getting on it when no one was around to come rescue me. bad thing is that i probably would've done just that. i had done it once and knew i could ride it; i would try it again. it wouldn't have taken me long to figure out that laying it down in the grass wouldn't hurt that bad.

over the next few days, dad was working on building a wooden rack in the shop. i didn't know what it was, and i wasn't going to ask him. i was mad at him for not letting me ride the bike. no doubt i was probably mad at myself some, too, for not being able to make him do what i wanted. but i understood that i needed to have a way to get off of it, though.

well, dad solved that problem for me. he built a little ride-thru landing for me. a wooden design that looked like a box about a foot thick w/ a trough right down the middle of it, w/ the idea that i could ride the bike in the trough-like part and put my feet on the sides that were built up. i could also leave the bike propped up there for the next time i wanted to ride. dad put "jill's landing" right out next to the loading dock at the shed. if the bike was in the shed, i was strong enough to push it to the landing to get on.

that wasn't the worst emergency that i've had on a bike and i'm sure it won't be the last. that day gave me the burning desire to ride bikes and that feeling has never gone away. i love the feeling of freedom, the peace, the solitude, the serenity. it's so rejuvenating to my soul. there are days when i can just go outside, stand facing the wind, and take a deep breath to remind me of how much i enjoy the sun on my face and the wind blowing through my hair as i ride through the countryside. unfortunately, i've had to give part of that up as i now wear a helmet, but the ride is still well worth it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"you be it"

that doesn't sound like much, i know, but "you be it" when said by my grandmother meant a whole lot. that was the order i was given that sunday morning when i arrived at church. as always, i went to greet my grandparents at church, giving hugs and kisses and catching up on any family news before the service started. i normally sat in a different section, and my parents were in another section as well.

there was a young woman seated over a ways from my grandmother, and i noticed her because she was a visitor. we went to a very small church, and i had known everyone there for forever. but this new person was someone i had never seen before. my grandmother leaned close to me and said, "you see that girl? her momma and i are friends and have been for years. she needs a friend in life right now. you be it."

that was the end of it. grandma decreed that it should be, and in her mind, it was a done deal. there were 4 ways to deal w/ grandma -- 1) just do it her way, 2) just ACT like you were going to do it her way and then hope she didn't notice that you didn't, 3) avoid her and hope she forgot in a year or so, or 4) defy her and prepare to get blasted for it. right now, none of these options were looking very appealing to me. even worse, my options were looking fairly pathetic.

after all, you can't just force someone to be your friend. grandma acted like this girl was just sitting there waiting on me to show up and be her friend. it didn't quite work that way in life. even though i didn't want to, i went and said hi to the new person. it was easier that having grandma on my butt indefinitely about it. i casually walked over and then said, "hi, i'm jill. would you like to come and sit w/ me and the youth group?"

she looked up, surprised, and shook her head as she said, "no. thanks." and put her head back down. her voice was emotionless and disinterested. she was plain looking, simply dressed (but clean), she wore no makeup and wore her hair long and straight. she seemed to have no personality and no desire to meet anyone. i walked away and thought, "cool. that was easy." and went on about my business.

grandma asked me about it later, and i told her what happened. she wasn't bothered by it, though. she just looked at me and said, "try again next week." no ifs, ands, or buts about it. no questions about whether i wanted or needed another friend. no concern that maybe i might be embarrassed to be forced to make friends. no thoughts that i might not like my grandma picking my friends for me. she had said it and it would be done. as long as things continued in this pattern, grandma would be happy.

the next sunday came and went much the same. i was "reminded" that the new girl needed a friend and told "you be it." again, i went and asked if she would like to come sit w/ me and my friends. again, she told me "no. thanks." so i continued on my way. grandma put me through the inquisition after church about it, just to make sure i was doing my part, i guess. after i answered all her questions, she said, "try again next week."

this went on for 3 more weeks, almost word for word the same conversations. grandma didn't think i was putting enough effort into this project, and i probably wasn't. after all -- it wasn't something that i wanted to do. it was something i was ordered to do. you can't just order people to be friends. problem was, no one told this to grandma. in fact, very rarely did anyone tell grandma that something was not going to go her way.

grandma leaned up real close to me and looked me in the eye and said, "i told you that she needs a friend. now, you be it. you do what it takes, but you be it." i could tell from her voice that she wasn't going to be taking any excuses on this, either. i wasn't sure why it was so important to her, but now i knew that i couldn't fail in this because it was so important to her. well, that and she would be on my butt something fierce if i did!

instead of giving "the new girl" the chance to turn away my offer of friendship this week, i walked up and said, "hi, i'm jill. since i always ask you to sit w/ me and you say 'no' and then sit here alone. i'm just going to sit w/ you." i said down in the chair by her and she just looked at me in shock, complete w/ her mouth hanging open. i turned around to make sure that my grandma was seeing this -- that i was sitting w/ the new girl and trying to make friends. i had the distinct feeling that she didn't want my company or my friendship. that was ok, though, because i really didn't want hers either.

i carried on both sides of the conversation, mostly, as all she did was mutter "yes" or "no" or "uhm" and then look down. that was ok w/ me, though, as i could chatter on about nothing when i needed to. i usually talked during church or wrote notes if i was close to getting in trouble. i knew when i started getting the looks from my parents when i was getting close to having made too much noise. so when my friends sat down next to me, i introduced them all to my new "friend," debbie.

she said hi and then ducked her head. she was terribly shy and quiet, and i could tell that she felt uncomfortable w/ people talking to her. so instead of addressing her, we just carried on our normal conversation and debbie was a listener. as we went on about our conversation, debbie started to pay a little more interest. when we left church, i told her "goodbye, see you next week." she smiled and waved when she answered "goodbye."

the next couple weeks went pretty much the same as this pattern. she was there and seated by herself when i arrived. after greeting my grandparents, i moved on over to "be it". i still wasn't happy w/ this assigned duty, but it was livable. i guess i could talk to a wall, if i had to, and this wasn't much different. fortunately, she started to get more personality and more interest in life.

she drove a hotrod, and that's what finally broke the wall down. it was s plymouth fury, maroon in color, and jacked up on wide tires. it was totally cool looking. not the normal hotrod or muscle car. maybe that was part of the appeal of it -- it wasn't the typical hotrod. it had loud pipes and really made an impression, even when she rolled slowly up to a parking spot at church and the blub-blub-blub-blub-blub filled the air.

the youth group was going to a concert at a local christian college one sunday afternoon. some new person, an up-and-coming star, named amy grant. i was going because i went to all the youth group stuff, but i wasn't really "in" to christian music. i asked debbie if she wanted to go, and she said she did. i said, "cool. i'm riding w/ you." it was a beautiful summer day, great for cruising w/ the windows down and the radio blaring. she didn't listen to anything but christian music, and i didn't listen to christian music -- that's how we ended up talking hotrods.

that was a topic that would keep her talking all day -- hotrods. this was the person that couldn't string a 3-word sentence together a month ago, but she could explain all about her car and tell me all that she had done to it and had planned to do to it. this was kind of tough for me, because i'm not mechanically inclined at all. i just followed the "smile and nod" method of communication here. she didn't notice, i guess, as she kept right on talking about her car. it was her passion and all that she had to show for her life at this point. her baby. her pride and joy. she was 24 and i was 14, so she didn't have much to show for herself at this point.

despite the age difference, we always got along just fine. i was always more comfortable w/ people older than me, and she was a little immature for her age. our friendship easily progressed from sunday friends through church friends through real friends to best friends. it wasn't too long before we went everywhere together. she began working for my parents as a farm hand, staying at my house many nights, and running around w/ me when she wasn't working. she loved my family dearly, as her own family was abusive and dysfunctional. she didn't know families like mine existed, but wasn't about to give it up now that she knew. i didn't know families like hers existed, and i avoided all of them but her mother every time i got the chance.

i was quick to point out to grandma that she could lay off now because debbie had a friend and i was "it". it didn't bother grandma any that i was annoyed w/ her for making me be friends w/ debbie. after all, she was sure that she was doing me a favor anyway. she always asked about debbie and how she was doing. grandma told me that debbie's mother was the sweetest person she ever knew and she always felt bad for her being married to debbie's dad. he was someone who needed taken out behind the shed for a "talkin' to" every now and then, but no one ever did it. so he was an abusive husband and father.

as my friendship w/ debbie grew, i learned some amazing things. about her, about me, about life, about what God can do. debbie came to church because she had just gotten out of rehab for the second time. she was a heavy drug user and had overdosed. she had been involved in drugs so long and so heavy that she was "stealin' and dealin'" to support her own habit. she smoked, she drank, she used -- she shot up, she dropped, she inhaled, anything and everything. life meant nothing to her, and death meant nothing worse. she felt she had no reason to live, so no reason to make changes. this whole lifestyle horrified me. i mean, i knew it existed "out there" but i didn't want to believe it was here near my world. she had lived experiences worse than most people's nightmares.

fortunately for her, mothers love deep and strong. her mother loved her just as much when she was a user as she had before, but she wanted so much for her to get away from it. after the second overdose, a new preacher came to visit their house and talked w/ debbie. he convinced her to try coming to church, to get rid of all connections to her previous life, to make effort to build a new life -- she agreed.

she came to church and she sat there. she didn't talk to anyone and she didn't interact. she didn't know how, really, as she hadn't been drug-free for 12 years. half of her life. she couldn't carry on a conversation and she didn't have any self-esteem. all of her bravado in life had come from drugs and alcohol. she didn't have the inner strength built yet to make up for that.

after a couple months of hanging out together, debbie told me that the day i sat down w/ her at church was going to be her last day there. she had already decided that she wasn't coming back. she wasn't making friends and this really just wasn't what she was looking for. she wanted friends, but didn't know how to go about interacting. if she hadn't stayed in church, she would've gone right back to her druggie friends and her old lifestyle.

the funny thing was that i really annoyed the heck out of her. i talked even though she wasn't talking to me. if she didn't answer, i went on as if she did. she couldn't understand how to deal w/ someone who was being nice to her for no reason and no obvious personal gain. well, she didn't know about my grandma and her plan for making me sorry later! when i told her about my struggle w/ grandma and the order for me to be debbie's friend, she was just amazed that someone other than her mother cared enough about her to make the effort. i'm sure she was talking about grandma, because i had done it for selfish reasons to begin with.

we were best friends for many, many years. we took a few years off from our friendship as we both married and moved on separate directions in life, but that didn't last. when i moved back home in 1992, i called her house and left a message that said, "hey, it's jill. i'm back in town if you want to meet up some time." it wasn't long before we were great friends again.

our personalities and our lives have changed greatly over the years, but we're still great friends. i always know that if i need a friend, she is there. in fact, if i were ever in a position to choose one friend to base my survival on, it would be her. for many reasons, really. she reads people really well, and she's been in some nasty, unimagineable places. but deep down, i know that she doesn't care whether she lives or dies and that she's not afraid of death.

this is not much different than she was when we met, but the reasons are different now. she knows where she will go when this life is over, so she has no reason to fear death. her ultimate goal would be to protect me from harm because she feels that i am the person who saved her from the life of a drug addict. my friendship, my determination to not use, my stubbornness on choosing friends, my choice to be "clean," my personal integrity. she was able to pull from me until she built up the confidence and strength to stand on her own and face the world. so, if i ever need anything, i know that i can look at her and say "you be it".

i'm on fire

sometimes when i start a project, i'm more excited about it than others. sometimes inspiration comes later. sometimes i just finish it through dogged determination. right now, i'm truly inspired to work on writing. i'm on fire. i'm motivated. i'm driven. i'm consumed.

i started into this blog business to get some writing done and to write some things from my childhood that i want to pass on to my children. the more i think about the things i want to write, the more things i think to write about. it's like a never-ending vicious circle. chasing my tail around and around and around.

i've started a list of topics to write about and carry it in my calendar. i have the things that i want to tell my kids how i feel now or how i felt then or just some of the crazy adventures that i've had. sometimes it's the little things that we think will never matter that make the best adventure.

last night when i was talking to scott about some things, i told him that i wasn't too excited to go to an upcoming concert event w/ summer because i'm not crazy over the performer. he asked why i was going if i didn't like the singer, and i said, "because your sister and i are going on an adventure." he laughed as he readily agreed, stating that anytime we did anything it was an adventure.

i think that totally expresses our view on life -- it's an adventure. there are many parts of this adventure for me that my children don't know. some things they will love, some things they will hate, and some things they will find amazing. some things i don't care if they know now, but other things i would rather them not know now. some things they would understand and other things they wouldn't. some things they would be proud of and some things they wouldn't be proud of. but all of these things, as a part of my life, provide their family history.

for years, i've put off writing these things. i know that my family just cringes and lives in fear when they think i'm writing, especially if it is about them. my mother has always been someone who nosed through my stuff and searched through my personal papers. that's why i learned to not keep anything written down when i was little -- because i would have to answer for it. as an adult, i haven't written because my mother finds it so upsetting to know that there are things that i did that she didn't know about and/or didn't approve of. hello? welcome to life! i was a kid, and my job was to push the rules and tests the limits. it didn't mean i didn't have good parents or that i wasn't a good kid. after all, inquiring minds want to know . . .

because of some things that have happened w/ writing in my adult life, mainly being published and seeing how upset my mother was, i have not written or posted anything that would upset my mother. at least, anything that she knows about! that limitation has often totally halted my writing capability. my freedom and flow is restricted. it's not that i care what other people think, but out of respect for my mother's feelings i have chosen to not cause her that stress. i prefer to have my mother present in my life, physically, rather than have the satisfaction of the writing being known to others. she finds it upsetting for other people to read about the things that i did or the choices that i made. like they might not think we were the perfect family after they read those things. and let me tell you -- until then, we had them all fooled.

i would like to someday publish a book, but we'll see how that goes in the future. i don't have the drive to do that as much as to get these memories down for my children's future reading pleasure. i would also be interested in teaching some classes on writing memories or creating memoirs. i think in the near future, there will be a big demand for just this type of class. but to teach someone else, i have to be good on my own and feel secure in my ability -- so we'll see.

for now, i'm content to work on these things for my kids. well, content wouldn't be the right word here, because it's not a feeling of relaxation that i'm having now. it's pushing me, pulling me, keeping me awake, urging me forward, making me deal w/ sitatuions and emotions from childhood that i haven't dealt w/ or haven't faced for years, demanding my time and attention, compelling me to rethink my views on life and many issues, forcing me to analyze who i am and what i stand for. it's exhausting. it's rewarding. it's a heirloom that i'm preparing for my future generations. it's up to them to assign worth to it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

crop circles

that sounded like a good explanation to me. crop circles. they had them other places. why couldn't we have them here? i knew we didn't have them and wouldn't have believed somebody if they had told me that we did, but someone was saying that we had crop circles. like usual, there were probably people mouthing when they didn't know what they were talking about and/or it was none of their business.

the problem was -- i knew what they were talking about. i didn't tell anyone, though. after all, they might not be talking about what i suspicioned. it might have been a coincidence, too. i didn't want to seem too interested and didn't want to attract any extra attention about it, but tried to listen to the talk of crop circles as much as i could.

i guess there was a local pilot who was sure he saw a crop circle when he was up flying. he wasn't a reliable sort, so no one paid him much attention. he was convinced that he would find it again, but he couldn't seem to locate it. probably not, because he was looking on the west side of pittsburg and the field he wanted was on the east side of pittsburg.

it wasn't really a crop circle, though, but circle crops instead. in my mind, there was a big difference. a few days later, there was a picture in the paper of this field of circle crops. when i came out to breakfast, dad was reading the paper. he cleared his throat and asked if i knew anything about a picture in the paper. i didn't, as i didn't keep track of what was in the paper at all, so i said, "no."

he looked at me w/ a real stern expression on his face and said, "are you sure?"

i again said, "no, i don't know anything about a picture in the paper." and i truly didn't. well, i didn't know anything about it until he showed it to me. then i recognized it immediately. it was a picture of his field that was fairly small and kind of odd-shaped and right next to a pond and meadow way back in the middle of the section . easily identifiable as "his field". anyway, it was pictured in the paper because somebody had planted the field in a circle.

that's right. a circle. a huge circle starting at the center and spiraling out to the edges. really quite beautiful in the overall scheme of things, but not really very practical from a business sense. that was my piece of artwork, although i wasn't thinking of creating art when i did that. i was just thinking that i was sick and tired of driving back and forth in a straight line, knowing that whoever ran the cultivator was going to gripe because the rows weren't straight enough.

well, i had fixed that issue. there was nothing for the cultivator person to gripe about. of course, the cultivator person wouldn't be able to cultivate this field anyway. still, in my mind, the problem was fixed. i was entertained w/ something different and the cultivator person wouldn't be griping. killed 2 birds w/ 1 stone w/ that decision! since dad usually gave us each a field to be responsible for, he made that field mine.

when it was time for everyone else to be spraying, i didn't have much to do. after all, i couldn't spray my field. i was standing out at the shed talking to dad when a plane flew low over the house, dipping its wings back and forth and back and forth before flying on over the section. it dipped out of sight for a few seconds and then circled up and around, only to disappear again. this went on for about 5 more times before the plane flew low over the house and "waved" its wings goodbye.

dad didn't say anything about the plane, and i didn't either. i didn't know what to say, because i didn't know anything about what he was doing. later that evening, jim (the airplane pilot) dropped by the house. dad went out to greet him, mainly because my ornery little dog always snuck around behind jim and bit him on the ankle every time he stopped to visit. i ran outside to get my dog before she got in trouble, and dad was asking him about what he doing out in our area today.

jim just pointed at me and said, "jill and i had an arrangement to get her field sprayed. i brought her bill by." he handed me my statement, totaling $1 for goods and services. he had a smile on his face and a gleam in his eyes, as if he was winning a long-standing game. i told him to wait just a minute while i got my money and then ran inside. i dug out $1 from the money i was saving for july 4th and ran out to pay him. he handed me the ticket, marked "paid in full" after taking my money. he later told dad that he had a little spray left over from another job and that he donated his time and equipment when he heard that dad made me responsible for the field. said it made him feel young to see someone having fun in life.

when we harvested that year, my field made as much profit as anybody else's field. i'm sure that's not what dad intended to happen. in fact, i'm fairly sure that dad intended for me to do a lot of work and not make much money that summer to show me that there were consequences for my actions. i'm sure he also wanted to drive home the idea that my actions could cause myself and others around me a great deal of stress. what i really learned -- sometimes it just pays to be different.

Monday, March 21, 2005

child abuse -- pending

she was really mad this time. probably the worst i had seen. so mad, she wasn't going to deal w/ it until we were home, she said. really i think she was just wanting dad to take care of it. that way she didn't kill me on accident. but the ride home was long and silent. and the silent treatment was rough, complete w/ deep sighs and rolling eyes. amazing how 10 miles can seem like a thousand, depending upon the company.

of course, she had every intention of telling dad when we got home. that was the worst part. listening to her tell dad the whole story. i knew i had better tell the story when we got home, because my version wouldn't be as pitiful as hers. he would be more understanding than she had been, but he was still going to be irritated w/ me. he didn't like it when mom and i were butting heads. probably because she fussed at him about it. so far, that was about all we had done all day tpday -- butt heads. it wasn't really that much of a contest, though, as i was more stubborn than she was.

i didn't want to go to town that day, but instead i wanted to stay home and ride my bike. i don't know why she was so determined that i had to go w/ her, but it wasn't a good day. if she had explained some kind of reason for it, that might have helped. the old "because i said so" didn't mean spit to me. ranked right up there w/ "well, that's a 'do-as-i-say rule' instead of a 'do-as-i-do rule.'" yeah, right. let me get in line to sign up for that plan. let's see -- go to town w/ mom or ride my bike all day. yeah, i wonder what the choice would be!

it all started at the mall. well, it actually started when she made me give up riding my bike for the day and follow her to town. but my plan for payback started in the mall. my plan was to make her sorry for dragging me to town against my will. i'd say i succeeded, w/ flying colors. but i had to wait for the perfect moment to put my plan into action. i walked just a little bit behind her. when she turned around to talk to me, i put my hands up in front of my face and flinched like i was just about to be slapped. the look of horrified shock on her face almost knocked a laugh out of me. the rest of the way through the mall, if she turned toward me or raised her hand for any reason, i held up my hands to protect my head and flinched as if i was so used to being slapped it might happen at any second.

now, just for the record -- i had never been abused in my life, so that idea was totally preposterous. i had my fair share of swats, smacks, and thumps -- but i never had one i didn't deserve. in fact, i'm sure i didn't get as many as i did deserve because i didn't always get caught in my orneriness. she was SO angry at me that she probably felt like slapping me until i saw stars. but of course she couldn't or she would have just confirmed what people were thinking -- that she was a child abuser.

she was embarrassed and couldn't hardly hustle me out of the mall fast enough. we had our silent ride home, and then we would parade my sins before dad. all i could think of was that my forced servitude as shopping partner would be over and i could head off to ride my bike for the rest of the day. well, i didn't get to ride my bike that day. instead, a cleaning rag and a dirty parts bin had my name written all over them, punishment for embarrassing my mother in such an awful way. i knew if i finished w/ that too soon, another miserable task would be set for me.

thankfully, my father was an ornery child, so i knew he would see the humor in it even if he didn't show it in front of mom. he definitely wasn't happy w/ me for upsetting mom, and he wasn't happy about having to deal w/ the situation. as we walked out of the house toward the shed, he looked me and said, "you're a pill!" as he hooked his arm around my neck and gave me a hug and a shake at the same time. when he released his hold on me, i stepped back and looked up into his eyes. when i knew i had his attention, i held up my hands to protect my head and flinched. when i saw the look of shock on his face, i broke and ran for the shed and his laughter followed me all the way.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

10 things people are shocked to find out

10 things people are shocked to find out about me . . .
(especially those who have known me a while but not well)

1. i have a tattoo on my body
2. i have my eyeliner tattooed
3. i have children in college (ages 21 and 19)
4. i have my first grandchild
5. i'll turn 40 this year
6. i work 2 jobs to support my family
(and have worked as many as 5 at once)
7. i was married to a preacher's son
8. i'm working on my 2nd masters degree
9. i ride a motorcycle
10, i have my cosmetology license

Saturday, March 19, 2005

whinging persimmons

whinging -- that's the technical term for "throwing a really long ways" and i used a limber, green switch to perform that magnificent feat. that's what i was doing that day -- whinging persimmons. we all have to have a purpose in life and need something to occupy our time. that day, the summer before i turned 10, i was running short on things to do and didn't have much purpose in life, so whinging persimmons fit right in my schedule of events. since i didn't have any specific responsibilities at the time, i was expected to stay out of trouble while the older and more responsible people on the farm were working. that in itself was often a challenge!

it was a nice, hot summer day. i had ridden my motorcycle in the morning and found a persimmon tree down in the pasture. persimmons are about the size and consistency of a golf ball in late summer. we usually kept fairly good track of where the persimmon trees were because they were the most awful tasting things you could imagine. we always fed them to visiting city folks, just for kicks. persimmons were so tart and sour that a person's mouth just puckered up and went totally dry. like all the saliva in your mouth was suddenly sucked out, leaving a dry acidic taste. what people didn't realize was that persimmons are really delicious -- after the first freeze. then they are ripe, red and juicy and sweet. of course, those people who tried a green persimmon were not about to take a chance and try one again!

i picked a shirt-full, all that would fit in the front of my t-shirt w/ the bottom folded up. then i gave my shirt another roll up and tucked it tight around me to transport my treasure back to the house. when i arrived, i saw that a road crew was taking a break in our lane. they had a long-standing tradition of parking their trucks in the far driveway under the huge catalpa trees and resting in the shade for breaks and lunch. sometimes they even left their vehicles there overnight or over the weekend.

most of the guys on the crew knew my parents and had been there several times before. i didn't have anything else to do, so i decided to show off in front of the road crew and spend some time whinging persimmons. i was in the other yard, w/ my sharpened, green switch and a pile of persimmons. it's important to have a green switch when whinging persimmons, because the bendable limb provides the best whinging performance. the sharpened end made stabbing the hard, green persimmons easier. with a little luck and considerable skill, i could whing persimmons about 100 to 150 yards or more, over the highway and into the neighbor's field. that was what was so amazing about whinging persimmons -- they flew forever!

i was just getting warmed up, had a few good throws, and had the attention of a few of the workers. they had called out greetings and waved, just like normal. after a couple more throws, something unusual happened. right after i threw, one of the guys just dropped flat. he was an older man, the crew boss, and the other guys thought he'd had a heart attack. i was quicker than that, though, as i was fairly sure it had something to do w/ the persimmon that i had just thrown.
i took off running for the house like my butt was on fire, and i was pretty sure it would be if that man lying on the ground had anything to do w/ me and my persimmons. i raced in the back door, to get out of sight quicker, and then went on about my normal activities. i never mentioned the fallen man or the possible misplaced persimmon. no need to go looking for trouble, as it usually had a pretty good idea where i was at any given time.

nothing was ever said about the persimmon episode or the man who had collapsed in the front yard, so i assumed everything was cool. like i said, no need to go looking for trouble. what i didn't realize was the fallen man knew my parents and knew them fairly well. a couple months later when we were at the county fair, he happened to bump into my parents and did he ever have a funny story to tell them! or so he thought -- as my parents didn't see much humor in the story.

i was to meet my parents back at the pta stand, which is probably where they spent most of their night catching up w/ old friends and hearing the news. the problem was that they were hearing news they didn't much care for while the rest of the crowd was having a real knee-slapping guffaw out of it. after they had said their hellos to friends and neighbors, the road crew boss came up and started telling a story about how he had been out working near the campbell's last summer and just collapsed on the job. he told of how all his crewmen thought he'd had a heart attack and was dying. the crewmen were starting to get really worried, as they couldn't rouse the man at all, when one of them picked up a persimmon from the ground near the fallen man. as they looked up, they saw a little kid running for the house. they put the clues together and figured out that the persimmon had come from the kid throwing them in the yard. the fact that i was running to the house confirmed their suspicions. the persimmon that i had thrown had struck him in the left temple and knocked him unconscious. he had fallen right where he stood. looking at the shocked looks on my parents face, he realized that i had never told them about the incident, and then he thought it was that much funnier. he was not the least bit angry about the incident, and he thought that i was quite the intelligent (but ornery) kid to keep that information to myself!

i didn't know yet that i was busted, as i was off running around w/ my friends riding the rides. when i showed up at the pta stand, i noticed how my parents didn't look quite as happy to see me as everyone else, but i didn't know why. i ordered a hamburger and drink and sat down to eat. when i was done, we loaded up in the car and started home. i guess my parents figured 40 minutes in the car on the way home was enough to take care of my behavior discussion, so they didn't say anything about it until we were loaded up and on our way.

i was seated in the back of the car and it was dark, thank goodness. my dad said, "is there anything you'd like to tell us about?" and i was thinking "what kind of a stupid question is that?" if there was anything i wanted to tell them, i would've told them already, so i said, "uhm, no." so dad encouraged me to think real hard about something that i had done and maybe not told them about. the problem w/ that suggestion was that there were several things i had done and not told them about! i wasn't about to start confessing to things when i didn't know what they were fishing for. i had a whole list of things to choose from, too.

dad went on to tell me that they had met up w/ mr. simons at the fair, but that meant nothing to me. then he related their experience of mr. simons telling them a story about their kid hitting him w/ a persimmon, knocking him unconscious, and then running in the house. he also pointed out how embarrassing it was for to be told this story when he and mom had no idea what mr. simons was talking about. i didn't buy it, though, because i didn't think dad would've been too happy w/ the story told whether he knew about it in advance or not, but i decided not to argue that point right now. i was thinking, "i don't know why you're embarrassed, i was the one about to get into trouble!" dad was starting to see the humor in the situation, but i don't think mom saw the humor for several years. that didn't mean that i wasn't still in a heap of trouble for that escapade, but at least i had one parent was NOT set on killing me that night!

school started the next week, and i had a new teacher -- mrs. simons, the wife of the persimmon victim. of course, she had heard the story since the day it happened, and she knew that her husband was getting quite a kick out of the fact that i was in her class. after all, he could hear about my antics all year long! whenever he came to school for some reason, he always went out of his way to talk to me. i apologized for hurting him, as that was never my intention, but he was not upset over it.

we became good friends, and years later when i was in high school and a 9th grade starting player on the varsity volleyball team, he was my loudest fan. he always sat on the bottom row and near the door, probably so he could sneak out and smoke, and yelled and cheered like crazy as i was scoring points on serves. when i broke the state record on unreturned serves, he was the one keeping the count and pushing the coach to keep me in and substitute others out, especially those people that couldn't keep a volley going. he was my personal cheerleader!

when people expressed surprise that i could serve so fast and so hard that the other teams couldn't return them, he would just laugh and say "of course she can serve. she's been throwing persimmons like rockets for years, too. must have been good practice for serving volleyballs." then he would wink and give me the thumbs up.

by the end of my high school volleyball career, mr. simons was attending the games in a wheel chair. his legs didn't work anymore, but that hadn't dimmed his attitude, his excitement, or his determination. he was a great inspiration to me over the years, even though i didn't know him that well. i guess we had a special bond since he was the man i almost killed w/ a persimmon.

Friday, March 18, 2005

the tattoo battle

getting a tattoo is quite a decision. after all, this is something that will be on a person's body for the rest of his or her life. few things are more permanent than a tattoo. since i'm not a person who makes rash decisions or uncalculated moves in life, i spent a few years truly considering whether i wanted to get a tattoo. i knew i "wanted"one, but did i really want one bad enough to have one done and carry the stigma that goes w/ having a tattoo? that was the question.

i started considering a tattoo when i was about 25 and still married. i knew that it would be a huge issue, as his family was all about image. it didn't matter that they were "dirty underneath" just so as they were smooth as silk on the surface. i shelved the idea of the tattoo for the time, but it resurfaced after i was divorced. now i was only accountable to God and myself, and i really wanted a tattoo.

i researched the costs and the risks involved, plus i visited some of the tattoo businesses around here. they were called tattoo parlors, but the word "parlor" just reminds me of a bordello and i would rather not think of them such. i was 27 or so at the time, and still was unsure of whether i was willing to mark my body permanently or not. i knew how i felt about it, i knew what the Bible said about it, and i knew how my family would react. all very contradictory, too.

i kept pondering the idea and even designed the tattoo i wanted. i knew in my heart that some day i would get the tattoo, but now was just not the right time in my life. i had too many battles to fight right now to add another one to it by choice. but it was there, in the back of my mind, simmering. i had the tattoo, but the time wasn't right. time went on, and i kept considering the tattoo. i wanted it, but not enough yet to make the move to go get it. but times were changing. i was in grad school at this point in life (30 years old and in the fall of 96), and things were very stressful. my father was diagnosed with als (lou gehrig's disease) and not doing well, grad school was kicking my butt, and i was fighting a custody battle w/ my ex for the children and their visitation. i was totally stressed out. i was sitting in my office at school, trying to get something done, and realized i was just fed up. my stress valve popped, and i decided that i needed out of there. i decided that now was the time to go get that tattoo that i had been wanting, and i got up and left.

i went to body accents in joplin for the tattoo, but decided on the way that the one that i had designed was not right for this time of my life. i looked through all their designs in the shop, and none of those were right for me either. how ironic -- now i had the time for the tattoo, but the tattoo wasn't right. i knew that picking out a design or picture was not something to take lightly, and i wasn't about to chose something i wasn't sure of. i think i wandered around the shop for about an hour and a half before i made my decision. i took out my tube of desert rose lipstick, applied it w/ precision, puckered up, kissed a piece of paper, and handed it to the tattoo artist and said, "would you please put this on my backside?" he had a look of amused surprise on his face, but laughed as he readily agreed. now i had the right time in life and the right tattoo. a dangerous combination!

since the tattoo wasn't large, it didn't take too long. i was kind of worried, though, that i would wiener out b/c of the pain or something. fortunately, it didn't hurt much at all, but i still almost passed out. ALMOST, being the key word there. the tattoo artist had started on the tattoo and been working about 2 minutes when i suddenly felt very hot and a little woozy. i told him i thought i needed a cold cloth, and he quickly provided it and a fan blowing air in my face. turns out i wasn't really sick, but just so relieved that it didn't hurt like i imagined it would. he readily explained that it was a common reaction, as people often build it up to be much worse than it truly is and then are surprised/relieved after it starts. after that little break, we went on w/ the tattoo-ing process w/ no more holdups. before i left the tattoo place, i was given some ointment for the new tattoo and some instructions on how to care for it. it didn't hurt much, but it was a little tender. the toughest thing, though, was taking care of something that needs cleaned, medicated, and bandaged on your own backside! yeah, i could've asked for help, but i didn't want to tell anyone about the tattoo. i just had to figure out how to take care of it myself!

my decision to keep it private was for several reasons, but mostly b/c it was a personal statement. i don't have to wave a flag around just b/c i have one, and that's how i felt about the tattoo. it was my personal statement to the world, society, my ex, the court system, people who labeled kids of divorced parents as "at risk" and any other crap in my own life at the time. sort of like a private joke. i didn't tell anyone -- not my kids, my friends, my boyfriend (future husband), my parents. no one.

the other main reason that i kept the tattoo to myself was because i respected my parents and their views, which differed greatly from mine. i didn't fear them and i didn't feel the need to rebel against them. i didn't necessarily agree w/ them, but i had too much respect for them to flaunt my different views. i had made a choice that i knew they would not like, but i didn't parade that choice in front of them. as far as i could see, my tattoo was out of sight and could quite possibly go unnoticed forever in their lives. not often did they have the chance to see my bare backside after childhood! besides, my father was dying and he didn't need any extra stress. so, now i was tattoo-ed, marked for life. it was rather amazing, really.

i was terribly self-conscious about it for a while and knew that i needed to keep it hidden. i know you might be wondering how this could be a problem, but women often change clothes in the same area and i had children that were used to being in my space. there were opportunities where other people might be around while i was dressing. for several months, trying to make sure the tattoo was hidden sometimes stressed me out. the first time i really looked at it after it was healed, i was amazed that the picture was actually identifiably MY lips. until then, i hadn't thought a person's mouth was that definitive in shape. i mean, i knew there were different shapes, but i didn't think i could look at a shape and say "hey, that's (fill in the blank) 's mouth!" but i could definitely identify those lip prints! after a while, i became so accustomed to it being there that i hardly thought of it anymore. weeks or months would go by and i wouldn't even think of it or i would be surprised when i saw it in the mirror. that was a funny feeling!

in 1999, i decided to add to my tattoo list. i had my eyeliner tattoo-ed, both top and bottom. although permanent makeup is different, it still qualifies as a tattoo. it's not as deep and it's not permanent (lasts 5 - 10 years), but it's still ink implanted under the skin w/ a needle == a tattoo. there was no secret on this one, and even my mother was fine w/ it. but this was part of the image of a professional business woman. i guess because i had some logical reason for doing this it made this one ok. certainly different than a regular tattoo. so far, that one was still on the hush-hush.

around 2001 or so, both of my children started to express an interest in tattoos. it was quickly becoming the "in" thing. both kids were talking about what tattoo they would like to get, how much it would cost, and how much it would hurt. at this point, i decided to talk to the kids openly about tattoos. we always discussed things openly, and that always helped. i told them about my tattoo and they were both shocked that i had had one almost 5 years and they didn't know it. we talked about it being a life-long commitment, attitudes (likes and dislikes) that change over time, and artistic quality.

i knew at that time that both of my children would eventually have tattoos. i did not object to that, but did (and still do) object to people being stupid about tattoos! i talked w/ them about what and where was appropriate. i felt that if either of them was to get a tattoo that it should be something that anyone could see, but located where it could easily be covered up. society still has many preconceived notions about people w/ tattoos and will make decisions about a person based on the fact that he or she has a tattoo. for my family, that means people who have tattoos are military, white trash, whores, or some combination of the three. i felt that any time a person is dressed formally, the tattoo should not show. when and if it did show, it should not be offensive in nature or just plain ugly. after all -- this is a life-long thing.

summer is 21 and still does not have a tattoo, although she may get one next week. she has wanted one, but i would not pay for it. i feel that a tattoo is personal, and the owner should make the choice to do it and pay for it alone. it's no one else's responsibility or decision.

scott is 18, and he got his first tattoo in july of 2004. i say "his first" because he has plans to get more, although i'm not sure how many. he and i talked quite a bit on tattoos before he made his choices. he's a big boy, and he has a big tattoo on his right bicep. he designed the idea himself, and the tattoo artist did a great job of it. he has a celtic cross, dripping blood and overgrown w/ vines from an armband of the crown of thorns, that says "ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME". if a young man is to be tattoo-ed, a statement of his christianity is not a bad thing to wear, in my opinion. plus, it gives him an opportunity to talk about it, as most people are quite intrigued by tattoos.

he worked extra and saved his own money to pay for the tattoo. something that i feel is important for the individual's own self-satisfaction. plus, he also thought of the design himself. that makes his tattoo individualized -- not just a copy of some artist's drawing in a book. it looked good, and he was very proud of it. good thing, too, huh?

he showed up at the family reunion on july 4th in a sleeveless shirt, intending to show off the tattoo. his grandmother (my mother) looked at him, elbowed him, and said, "that's not real" and walked right on past him. of all reactions he might have expected, that one wasn't it! well, it didn't take her long to work her way through the crowd to pull me over to the side and ask if it was real and then to give me "what for" on scott's tattoo. when i tried to explain, she said, "we'll talk about this later!"

well, later arrived at 10 pm that night when we arrived at her house to shoot off fireworks. she was loaded for bear when i walked in the door, too. the first words out of her mouth were "why did you let him do that?" i was again amazed at her misconception that you can just make demands of a person and they will do it! this never worked w/ me when i was a kid; i don't know why she thinks it will work on my kids when they are technically adults! i calmly explained that we had spent quite a bit of time talking about the tattoo issues and scott decided that he wanted one. she said, "well, why didn't you just tell him that he couldn't have one?" i pointed out that he was 18, he used his own money to pay for it, he drove his own car, and that he could have one if he wanted it. she didn't like any of those answers until i pointed out that wearing a picture that proclaimed your belief in Christ and your accountability on judgment day was not a bad thing. in a regular t-shirt, it's covered up. hardly offensive to most people.

she groused around for quite a while, pointing out several of my faults as a parent and insinuated that i was just too easy on my kids. it hasn't occurred to her that i'm just more open-minded than she is on, oh, just about every topic under the sun. i might not agree w/ it, but i can acknowledge that someone has a different view on it and still show them respect as an individual. finally she said, "well, i would've just demanded that my kid not get one!" that was the final straw, as i don't believe that a tattoo changes the person wearing it anymore than ear piercings change the person putting the earrings in. i looked at her and said, "i thought my time was better spent discussing what and where was appropriate for a tattoo. besides, i didn't want my kid wearing a tattoo for 10 years w/o me knowing about it."

needless to say, that knocked the wind out of her sails. when it sunk in, she was floored to know that i had a tattoo and that i had that tattoo for 10 years w/o her knowing it. and for obvious reasons -- she wasn't open-minded enough to deal w/ it. at first she didn't believe me, and demanded to see it. considering what it was and where it was -- i was perfectly happy to show it to her after our previous discussion! i pointed out that i had been the same person over the last 10 years as she thought i had been before she knew i was tattoo-ed. then i went ahead and pointed out to her that 7 other people (both in-laws and outlaws) in my generation (on her side of the family, b/c that's the only one that mattered!) were also tattoo-ed. times were/are changing and she needed to catch up some.

she eventually got over the tattoo battle and even told other people that scott had a really nice tattoo. she never mentioned mine, and i didn't either. i figured it was too much for her to tell people that her daughter had a tattoo as well. after all, with it being her grandson (of divorced parents) she can put the blame for his rebellious nature on "the dark side" if she wanted to. it's not like anyone else would believe it all came from there anyway, but it might make her feel better!

well, the tattoo saga continues. i have my next tattoo picked out, but i have to earn it first. i set a goal to lose 40 pounds, and i haven't reached it yet. the last 18 months have been pretty rough, but i set this goal about 12 months ago. raven was born and had complications at birth, chris had left and we had divorced, i had a terrible experience teaching and walked out in october of the year, and i was staring bankruptcy in the face for "being so damned stubborn" (as my mother put it). i felt like my life was just sinking pretty low. on top of that, i had let my church life slide b/c of problems at church, dislike and disrespect of the clergy couple, and just plain self-pity on my part, probably.

in trying to get some order and control (and maybe a little motivation) in my life, i came up w/ the idea to lose some weight and reward myself w/ the new tattoo. the next step was to design the tattoo. well, that AND lose the weight! trust me -- designing the tattoo has been much easier! anyway, i wanted something that again made a personal statement. no one has to know about the tattoo, as i don't intend to flaunt this tattoo either. but it's documenting a phase in my life and significant events and feelings -- it's important. it's a permanent mark on my body.

the new tattoo, that i haven't yet earned, has 3 tiger lilies twined together, representing the 2 children and myself. i chose tiger lilies because you just can't keep them down. can't kill them, can't keep them from growing, can't control them, can't fence them in or out. i thought that was a good representation for us -- we're strong, we survive, we live, we succeed, we're a team, we stick together, we take care of our own, we thrive. we will come out of this situation and all others as a team, knowing that we always have the others to rely on in life. and because i don't want to leave raven out of this phase of life, a little butterfly fluttering around one of the smaller tiger lilies to represent her. she's all beauty and innocence and joy. that picture symbolizes a particular time period of struggle to success in my life -- w/ some major events going on. it's who and what i am and what i stand for.

i intend to have this tattoo by august 1, 2005. we'll see if i can make if or not. if not, i'll keep plugging away at it -- but i will get it sooner or later. the original tattoo that i had designed in 1995 is now known in my mind as the "perfect tattoo" and is still waiting for the "perfect time" as it must fit my life at that time -- when i have accomplished all that is really important to me. it is for when i am totally satisfied w/ my position in life and in all parts of life. then i will have that symbol put on my body. no one knows of this design, but i'll post it for all the world to see when i have achieved it.