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Dog Sons 

13 Sep

“Whose idea was it to get two dogs?” 

It’s a question Andrew and I will ask each other when things like canine messes or vet bills or daily dog obstacles happen. After our first dog son Joey died in July 2014, we took our time before opening our hearts to another pup. We waited until late December to start scrolling through the local humane society web pages. Even then, we were gravitating toward dogs that looked like Joe-Boy. One even motivated us to drive to the shelter. We were too late to be his rescue family. Fortunately, someone had already saved the sweetie so that meant we could save another. We kept looking. 


There he was. He looked so sad — like he needed us. We visited him. He was intensely shy. Wouldn’t come out of his kennel. When he finally did, he only came to Nate and then he went straight to a kennel two spots down from his to lick another dog through the fence. We finally got him outside but he had to be carried and wanted to go back to the other dog. That made us curious. We took that other dog out. He led us back to his buddy’s kennel to sit next to him. 


Separately, they were timid and almost unmovable. Together, they were happy, trusting and playful. Turns out, they were brought to the shelter together as strays. Someone found them on the road. Bonded. 

Naturally, we left with both. 

We named them Charlie and Linus because they are best friends and Linus needed his security blanket. Linus saved Charlie and they both saved us by filling the piece of our hearts and family that was missing after Joey.

Whose idea was it to get two dog sons? We all take credit. 

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Homemade Sauce, Lyrics and a Little Girl Growing Up

5 Oct

The time to clean out the kids’ clothes is always tough. As if the actual task of sorting through it all isn’t a drag enough, there’s that whole sentimental hurdle we have to face while conquering the closets. 

It’s such a tangible sign of how they are growing. This most recent gutting was especially stinging. Even more so than the time we first received this keepsake for the students to wear on the first day of Kindergarten.  

Then, 2021 seemed so far away. Sure, it still made us aware of its presence but that would be something like 12ish years away. Now, it’s less than SIX school years away. I gasped at this slap in reality and then gently folded the shirt and placed it in the pile of “special” things to keep safely in storage.

I didn’t fully feel the sting from the slap until later that night while I was making the homemade spaghetti sauce I learned how to perfect from my mom who learned how to perfect from my grandma Nancy. Nia was sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework and we were listening to “mommy’s” music. I’ve known and felt the lyrics from James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” but never like this. That night, they had me adding tears to the meatballs. I looked at Nia as her eyes tightened at a thought she was writing, unaware of the emotional montage I was producing in my mind.

No matter where that brilliant brain and lovely personality take her in life, I will come running. 

Class of 2021.

  

 

101

3 Oct

Who taught you makeup, fashion and overall “beauty” tricks? Sure, I had plenty of motherly and sisterly guidance in the form of taking care of myself and style but what I secretly obsessed and studied were my sis’ Cosmo mags. Photo linked from Bellazon.com and Pinterest

When I was 10-14 years old, my sister was 18-22. I remember absorbing every page — from the perfume ads to those relationship-solving quizzes. I most loved the makeup and fashion tips with featured products. I soaked up every word of these magazines like a soap opera and couldn’t wait for the next one. 

Not that I ever attempted the tricks though. None of it seemed like real life to me. It was a sensual and extraordinary fantasy world where I would live on the weekends when I visited daddy and sis. Kind of like the TV Guide or J.C.Penney catalog at grandma’s. Marking the shows like 90210 and New Kids on the Block appearances I didn’t want to miss and the toys and clothes I desperately needed. A wish list and a plan, charted out with blue-inked circles and stars. 

This memory got me to thinking about what our kids have that mirrors this. Sure, magazines like those still exist but my kids don’t see them. They do spy an occasional People or Us Weekly though. I’d imagine they feel the same land of pretend when they flip through one. Right after they leave the land of Minecraft, that is. 

Ah, young minds. Such a maze with so many maps to explore. Cosmo didn’t prepare me for this. (I did learn how to entertain sleepover buddies with great romance stories about winning over the hot lifeguard named Jordan or Donnie though.)

Mad Mix

18 Jul

Mix TapeLike many young guys wooing a girl in the 90’s, Andrew knew the swoon power of a good mix tape.

The first one he ever made me arrived in my dorm room mail – along with a catalog for BMG CD’s and a deal for a long distance phone card. It was 1996. I was a freshman at West Virginia University while he was a junior eight hours away at West Point. I thought it was the best mix tape I ever received. Not only did HE make it for me, it held some of the most heartfelt and rockin’ songs – especially since we were just friends “with potential” (Who knows that movie?!) at the time.

At least, I thought it was the best mix. My feelings about that tape would all change a few years later when (after successfully winning me over — with mix tapes of course) I was helping him pack up his things before he moved to Georgia to start his Army career.

I’ll get back to that in a paragraph or two, but first I need to tell you about what would become my most favorite mix tape of all.

We never really did become a couple that year. He came to visit me at college once and we both had a wonderful time but my heart wasn’t quite able/ready/sure of itself to be fully his then.  If Facebook existed at the time, I would’ve been guilty of “It’s complicated.” Because of that and the cold way I acted toward him, I received what I have since dubbed the “I Hate You” mix tape. It was filled with songs of agony and heartache and anger. It made me roll my eyes and huff and puff when it was first sent to me because I knew I was wrong. He now tells me he borrowed the CD’s of friends to make it because he needed to have just the right songs.

A few of them included:

Nine Inch Nails – “Something I Can Never Have”
Pearl Jam – “Better Man”
Tonic – “If You Could Only See”
Counting Crows – “A Long December”
Nirvana – “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”
Soul Asylum – “Promises Broken”
Smashing Pumpkins –  “Crush”
Radiohead – “High and Dry”
Guns ‘N Roses – “Patience”
Tim McGraw – “Don’t Take the Girl”
Spin Doctors – “How could you want him when you could have me?”
Radiohead – “Creep”
Jewel – “You Were Meant for Me”

He must have forgiven me and I must have made the right choice because here we are now, about to hit our 14th wedding anniversary. Even after all that AND it turns out that the first mix tape was actually not the first mix. You see, when helping him pack, I discovered his song list on an index card and that he had made that same mix tape for another girl before me.

Stupid mix tape.

That’s why I really love that Mad Mix. It’s all mine. I earned it. And, as he would say, it worked.

Papa Talk

23 Mar

“We talked for 41 minutes!” A happy Nia processed in her brain as she looked at her phone after hanging up with her Papa.

She couldn’t wait to call him that night. She wanted to talk to him about what she learned in class about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. She knew Papa is better than google or any book she could read when it comes to history. Forget about playing a game with trivia with him, unless he’s on your team.

I know she will always treasure their talks. I think he will too. After their history lesson, he sent me a text. “Thanks for letting Nia call. Were you trying to get her sleepy by talking to me?” Silly, smart Papa.

Papa

Teach Them Well

9 Aug

I’ve been trying to come to terms with the unsettling fact that I cannot shield my children from the wrongs of the world – nor can I keep them from contributing to them. I’m worrying I’m not doing enough to make sure they make the right decision or react the best way when mom and dad aren’t around or watching.

Recently, two things happened to Nate that hurt his heart. Other kids caused the pain. One involved a group of kids surrounding him while repeatedly calling him a word that should not have a negative feeling/meaning attached to it but obviously they’ve been guided to think that way. We do not think that way and Nate and Nia both know that. Nate was overwhelmed and didn’t know how to respond. The other situation was because he likes a little girl who one child said wasn’t Nate’s “type.” The child said that to Nate because the girl has darker skin than Nate. Apparently, the child’s parents made him write sentences for liking a girl who wasn’t his “type.” (!) This made Nate sad. (Heck yeah it should!) He didn’t understand. I told him we don’t think that way. “Is your girl friend nice to you?” I asked him. “That’s what matters to mommy and daddy. Not what a person looks like. You like the person you want to like. Don’t worry what others say. We do not judge whether we are going to like someone because of skin color or hair color or size or teeth or …” He told me he knew and then went on to be happy about this little girlie who makes him feel special.

These are 7-year-olds. They are taught this. I can only hope our teachings speak louder to Nia and Nate than what others are taught (or not taught for that matter).

I want them to remember to be kind, caring and considerate. Protect those who need it. Consider how their words or actions affect others. Have a helping heart. To instinctively know how to react when they witness – or are the target of – a hurtful act. Don’t turn to anger first as a solution. Think through their thoughts and be smarter than the pain and hate. Apologize with an excuse. Forgive without conditions attached.

Among the kindness, I want them to be strong and stand their ground when they know it’s the right thing to do. Fight back when absolutely necessary. Make mistakes and work to fix them or do better next time. Don’t let a fear of failing – or not being 100% at something – keep them from trying. Make the best/most of things. Find the bright spot through the darkness. Don’t be bored. Savor the still moments among the adventures and appreciate the challenges and tough times because they are blessings too. Be grateful.

I think through all those hopes for them and then realize – that stuff is hard for me to do as an adult and I want my kids to remember do it? I can hardly control my own responses to things. How can I control theirs? They are going to mess up. I know I’ve had many selfish and road rage moments of regret. All I can do is teach them well and hope they hear the guidance over all the wrongs.

I will try to remember too.

She Made Me “Aunt Cole”

25 May

In a few days, the first baby I ever loved, held and missed will graduate from high school. I feel so lucky that my sister wanted me with her when her first daughter was going to be born. Savannah Nicole entered the world with classic red hair and greeted us with her first baby sound. I swear she said, “Hi.” She’s just that cool too.

A talented musician and artist. A clever and creative personality. Kind, considerate, funny and unique in every way. I couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments and ability to overcome. She captured my heart with her first hello …

Therapy
(Written by me about Savannah in 1998)

She makes me smile when I feel sad
Thinking of her, looking at her picture
Because I miss her, miss her goofy
Miss her loud, miss her maniac, miss her “fier”

Bundles of screams, giggles and whines
Running around the room, spinning circles
Watching her do crazy baby things
Wishing I could see her now

Hours away, her giggles through the wire
“Where Aunt Cole go?” echoes in my mind
Puts a dimple in my cheek and a warmth in my heart
I don’t feel sad anymore
She is therapy

I love you, Savannah. Congratulations on your high school graduation. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you.

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