Saturday, May 21, 2011

I have a date to the prom

My senior prom with my
brother David (1993)

So, for the first time in almost 20 years I can finally say, "I have a date to the prom!" Mr. EHarmony is a special ed teacher at a local high school and he was sweet enough to ask me to be his date. Luckily he asked in a text message so he couldn't hear me squeal in excitement.

I don't get the chance to get dressed up and hang out with adults in a social setting often (if ever). I'm normally a pretty laid back person but for some reason I'm so excited about going to prom and I can't wait until tonight.

Last night Mr. EHarmony and I reminisced on proms of our youth. I told him the story about how I went with the superintendent’s son one year. First of all, the superintendent and his wife (who was the bitchy secretary at the junior high) were like Ward and June Cleaver--if the Cleavers were older, rude, and duller.

Dueling prom dates

I had to stand in the photo line by myself while he posed for pictures with his parents. His mom kept patting his face and telling him he was so handsome. I saw images of them owning a creepy motel in the desert together.

 This awkward moment paled in comparison to the fact that my ex-boyfriend was standing behind me making out with his new girlfriend and the large corsage on her hand kept messing up the back of my hair.

I'm sure this couple whipped out
 some wicked break dancing moves
 I was not-so-pleasantly surprised to know that my date's mother and father would be sitting at our table all night.

 "Don't the chaperones have their own table?" I asked him. "Yeah, but I was afraid Mom and Dad would be bored sitting there so I asked them to sit with us." I didn't even bother to act like it was a sweet gesture.

While this story makes for a funny tale, it also marked the beginning of my quest to date "bad boys." So the next year I went to the prom with a guy who ditched his "sissy" tux and wore torn jeans, a white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket.
We only stayed at the prom for about 30 minutes because the whole scene was so lame to him. "That's why I dropped out of this place," he said.  
I was not aware it
 was time for PETA prom again

Apparently, being around high school kids made him need to get really high with his boys. He dropped me off at my house at 9:30 and I spent the rest of the night watching cartoons with my little brothers. I had to admit that I had more fun with Young Norman Bates the year before--being cool was overrated.

I didn't know Beyonce's mom
 made prom dresses

I'm sure tonight will be my prom redemption night. I don't foresee creepy parents crashing our party or being dropped off early. But I do foresee a lot of bad dance moves and tacky outfits, because that's what prom is really all about.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A sack of flour and a stomach full of guilt

Today in my New Media class we had to present our ideas for a video game concept. A gal in the class (let’s call her Ida) presented an idea about a phone app that would simulate a baby. It could be used as a teaching tool for teens to show them the responsibility involved in raising a baby—perhaps even help guide them away from premarital sex?

A sack of flour in a dress can't prepare you for this kind of love

Before there were apps and computerized babies, I had the pleasure of lugging around a 5 pound sack of flour in a dress for a week when I was a senior in high school. Of course I got paired up to co-parent this dusty-bundle of joy with the weirdest guy in school and sadly it did nothing (Dad don’t read this) to slow my teenaged libido.

I did learn you need a lot of patience and planning to raise your children right. But what I didn’t learn was how much guilt I would take on once they are born.

I feel guilty for everything that happens under my roof. Let me list a few items off the top of my head
·       Divorce
·       No milk in the fridge
·       Forgetting they were serving meatloaf in the cafeteria and not packing a lunch
·       My son’s favorite shirt is not clean and he couldn’t wear it to school     
·       Dog chewed up a favorite toy
·       Dog threw up in daughter’s room
·       Son used daughter’s toothbrush to clean the dog’s throw-up breath
·       No money to buy (insert favorite toy/video game here)
·       Mommy has a new boyfriend
·       Daddy never calls
·       Divorce
This is actually a short list—most days the list can go on forever. Why? Because I feel guilty about everything. Let me rephrase that—I used to feel guilty for everything. I’m really working on the whole guilt thing and I can tell that I am getting better.

Can your app do that?

I realized something very important this morning while I was sitting in family counseling with my daughter, who is very mad at me right now for having a new boyfriend at the same time she is stuck in a wheelchair from her recent foot surgery and her dad hasn’t called her in over a month.

I realized that my life needs to more about me and less about making everyone else feel good about themselves. I realized that I am a good mom and I make good decisions. I realized that God put this very special man in my life to give me some of that happiness that I have so desired over the past years.

Yes, I hate to see my daughter so sad. But I know that her happiness depends on my happiness—not the other way around. I am the mother. I am the adult in this relationship. I am the one who needs to shed the guilt and lift her up when she is down. But I can’t do this if I am not happy.

A sack of flour never made me this tired...
I guess there are things about motherhood that no one can teach you with a sack of flour or a cell phone—you have to figure these things out for yourself.  But, if Apple could make an app to alert me when my guilt levels are getting too high and unnecessary then I would download it, back it up on my hard drive, worship it, and share it with all my friends.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

All we can do is our best

Today is Mother’s Day. I woke up this morning to my daughter’s sweet voice, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.” No doubt I am truly blessed to be a mother. It’s a role I wasn’t sure would ever happen for me. But once I was able to have my children, the inevitable thought of “am I going to be a good mother?” began to sink in.

Mom and me Christmas morning 1980

I think as parents we always strive to be better than our parents. I know my parents are better at parenting than their parents and I feel I am better than my parents. I know that’s a bold statement to make but I’m sure my mom would be the first to agree with that sentiment.

As bad as my life has been, I truly believe my mom had it much worse as a child than I could ever imagine. I’m amazed at the fact that she was somehow able to raise us 4 kids and keep her own marriage together.

My mom was the youngest of 9 children and grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina. It’s obvious that seeking the spotlight was a role she starting fine tuning at an early age.

My mom’s free-spirit nature boggled my Southern Baptist grandmother. My mom loved to sing, dance, and paint pictures—my grandmother didn’t understand these things.

But like every good Southern girl, she married her high school sweetheart when she was just 18. They had my sister and I and the marriage ended in divorce after my mom caught him cheating when I was just a few months old.

Mom the dance teacher 1988

Separated from her family in NC, mom stayed in Texas and met my dad, the artist, and they were married a few days before my 1st birthday.  They settled in Dublin, TX and added 2 more boys to the mix. They still live in my childhood home and they have had the same phone number for over 30 years. 

When I was a baby, Mom always waited tables—I’m sure her beauty brought in a lot of tip money. Then Mom taught yoga and did some part-time secretarial work here and there while we were little. When I was in first grade, Mom opened a dance studio in our house.

A few years later, she moved the business out of the house and opened a dance studio down the street and then a second location in the next town over. Her dance business is still going today and she’s been able to turn that little side business into quite a lucrative project.

Mom and I were always very close. I shared her love for dance and I was always that quirky kid with the weird clothes and big ideas. I was the only other person who loved hanging out the in the dance studio more than her—I loved turning up the music and watching my reflection in the big mirrors as I spun around for hours. In high school, she offered me part ownership of the studio and it became Kim and Wanda’s School of Dance. I worked with her until I graduated from college.
Dad, Me, Amy, Mom, David in Texas 1979.

Mom was one of those cool moms that bought me a beer when we went out to eat on my 16th birthday. I could make a very vulgar and sexually inappropriate joke to her and she would laugh so hard she would have tears running down her face. And when we went out, she always got hit on more than me.

Her creativity always paid off and she taught me how to make a dollar last longer. She helped me put together quite a classy wedding for $600. She was there the day both of my kids were born. And she was on the phone with me for hours when I found out my husband was cheating on me.

“Baby, if it helps, I know exactly how you feel,” she would say. And I felt horrible because at that moment I realized that she did know how I felt and I never acknowledged that before. I never acknowledged the fact that she was able to keep everything together after she was left alone in Texas. I never acknowledged how hard it must of have been on her to raise us 4 kids on a dance teacher’s salary--always hopeful my dad would sell a painting. I never acknowledged how living with a manic depressive like my dad would make being a good mommy so much harder.

I spoke to Mom on the phone this week and she told me that, “The only way to be a good mother is to just accept the fact that we all fail on some level as mothers. I know I wasn’t a great mother, but I also know that I tried my best.”

She’s right, too. She did do her best. I am grateful to my mom—I would never be the person I am today if it wasn’t for her.

Mom the Grandmother 2010

 When I told her I was going back to school to give this writing thing a shot she said, “I know I really did a lot of things to mess you guys up when you were growing up and you have my permission to write anything about me you want.”

That’s a huge gift to any writer. It’s a gift her mother should have given her but never did.

So, thank you Mom for raising me with love and for loving me enough to put your own fears aside and allowing me the chance to write from my heart. I don’t know anyone who has been given that gift. I love you.
Happy Mother’s Day,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Texas, tornados, and a lack of furniture

Destruction from Alabama tornado

It’s been less than a week since a string of tornados ripped through Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia and the death toll is lingering around 250. Reading the stories of the horror inflicted by these tornados forces me to think about my childhood. As a kid growing up on Tornado Alley in central Texas, tornados were just a part of life for me.
If I walk outside and the sky is dark with thick rain clouds and there is a green tint to everything, I know that a tornado is brewing somewhere. I have stood under funnel clouds 3 times during my life. Why? Because I was frozen in fear by the sight of the swirling clouds and I had a strange curiosity to watch the tornado dip down out of the sky and touch the ground.

Tornado Alley

Tornado drills at school were practiced often. My teachers always made sure to note that if you hear the city tornado drill sound, then you should get in your bathtub and cover yourself with a mattress. My stomach tightened at that last bit of information.
I finally got the nerve to raise my hand and ask, “What should you do if you don’t have a mattress?”
The teacher cocked her head back, squinted her eyes at me, and gasped in her thick Texas accent, “What are you talking about? Who in the world doesn’t have a mattress?” She laughed and looked around the classroom waiting for everyone else to giggle and agree.

Alabama tornado 2011

 I could tell you who didn’t own a mattress—my family. And why didn’t we have beds? Because my dad got the bright idea to throw away all of our furniture when I was about 8 years old. Apparently furniture is some sort of chain that attaches you to a pampered population of gluttonous jerks. It weighs you down and we were never more free than the day he put our beds, sofa, tables, and chairs in the Goodwill collection box—of course I’m just paraphrasing one of his many rants.
So what did I sleep on? I slept in my dad’s old Army surplus sleeping bag on a hard wood floor every night. I know this sounds very romantic and sweet but I can assure you that it wasn’t. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that we had an old house. While old houses also sound romantic and cute, I can assure you that they are not. They do not have central heat and air or the ability to keep out rodents and bugs.
I spent many summer nights sweating my ass off in that old green sleeping bag on the floor—ever watchful of crawling bugs and running mice. The winter was a little better because the bugs and rats would go to warmer environments. I remember watching a mouse run out the front door in December and head over to the house across the street. I thought to myself, “I don’t blame you little guy. It’s probably really warm over there. They probably have lots of food to eat, too.”

My childhood home in Dublin, TX

 When I was in third grade, a friend of mine had her house destroyed by a tornado. I remember reading a story in the local newspaper where her family received a bunch of food, clothes, and beds from a community drive. “Too bad our house didn’t get sucked up in that twister,” I thought to myself.  I couldn’t even imagine having all that food in our pantry or having a soft bed to sleep in. Having your house destroyed by a natural disaster seemed like a golden ticket to the good life.

 You have no idea how exhausting it is to not have furniture until you don’t have it. Not having a sofa or chair to sit in and watch TV became routine. The embarrassment of telling your friends that they have to sit on the floor when they come over to visit is something I got used to over the years. Zipping the sleeping bag completely closed over my head to keep the mice away became second nature.  Longing for a better life became a constant theme of my childhood.  I never questioned my situation—it was just another part of our crazy life.
I now sleep in a very soft and clean king bed every night. It was my first purchase with my first paycheck from my first real job after I graduated from college. Owning a bed was a defining moment in my quest to become my own person. The plush feel of a good mattress is something that I never take for granted.
While I cannot sympathize with the victims of the recent tornados enough, I cannot think of tornado safety without thinking about my childhood in Texas. God forbid a tornado should strike my home now. But if it does, I’m totally ready to throw my kids in the bathtub and I have a large selection of mattresses to choose from to put on their tiny heads.