Friday, June 13, 2014


Hey, i am in traffic court.  Carolyn home if the boys need anything.
Did ur cop show?
I think he is here.  Is that bad?
not sure.

What?  What do you mean?  Is there going to be testimony?  I'm not prepped for trial!  Why would this woman tattoo "Boobie" on her back?

All Rise.  Court is now in session.  The Honorable Judge Something Schow Schow presiding.

These people all look guilty of serious crimes.  And I hope that woman is just asleep.

Good afternoon.  Before we begin, I would like to explain your options today. Everyone here has been accused of a misdemeanor crime, which is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

I'm going to JAIL?!  For speeding?!

However, if you plead nolo or guilty today, I will only assess a $150 fine.  You may also plead not guilty, and ask for a bench or jury trial, compliant, or first offense. I will consider other options for first offenders.

Thank God. I'll take  Nolo for $150, Alex.

If you are under 21, please stand.  Ma'am did you receive a citation?  No? You're with her? Then you can sit down.

Rookie mistake.  At least the other perps and I are bonding over a laugh. Might help me on the inside.

So, I am going to leave the room.  When the clerk says your name, please call out your plea. 

Roll call?  We have to say it out loud?  What happened to attorney client privilege?  These people don't know my life!

Mary Anderson?

Tom Baker?

Marshall Coleman?

Where is everyone?  Am I in the right place?

Ann Davis?

Guilty of what?! GUILTY OF WHAT?!

John English?
I gotta question.
What's your plea Mr. English?
Naw, I gotta question.
We'll speak with you later.

June Franklin?
Oh hell, she's pissed

Steve Olson?
First offense.

Alison Paul?
Speak you idiot, speak!
What are they writing down?  Who is she calling?  

Ms. Franklin?  Please step outside with your officer.
Now what is this?  Where are they going? Is he letting her off so he can go home?   What a scam.  I am changing my plea.  But then I have to talk to my cop - alone.  And do I really know what is happening out there? What if she is getting manacled?  I'm actually kinda guilty ...  They're back.  She's sitting down.  She still looks mad.

Mr. Olson, please come forward.  Carl, which driving course does he sign up for?
Driving course?  How is that better than just paying the fine?  Or is it online?  Do they check to see if you are really a first offender?  Maybe I'll roll the dice.  I can totally do online.

Yes ma'am, can I help you?
I miss court yesterday.  What do I do?
According to your original date here, you were supposed to go to criminal court.  Have you taken your 12-week anger management course?
Oh HELL no.  I call a recess.  

Ms. Paul?  Please come forward.
Here we go.  Don't overdo it.  Get your dress out of your butt.

Ms. Paul, by pleading nolo today, you understand that you cannot plead nolo again for 5 years?
You people will never see me again.  If I have to drive on the emergency brake for the rest of my life, I swear it.

Please sign here and you can go pay.
Hurry and sign.  Don't ask questions.  Go, just go ... no!  Don't follow the officer.  Hang back!  HANG BACK!

Just walk like you're an attorney ... no one will judge.  OK, this was the wrong way.  Keep walking like you meant to go down the alley.  Don't look at that man.  Where's my car?  It's not up here!  It's been stolen!  Oh God.  Wait ... ... there it is - at the top of THAT parking deck.  I think I've got my next blog ....

Until next time, keep crowin' and drive 55!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On The Fly

There was a span of weeks where I was twice met with the discomfort of interacting with a man whose pants were completely unzipped.  I knew both times that I could not, would not, alert him to this crisis.  The only male in this situation that I would ever bail out is my husband.  Because it feels really dirty pointing it out, as if to say, "I was just looking at your crotch and am about to become a sister wife if you don't make a quick adjustment."

What interested me even more is that none of the other men around us pulled the offenders aside - there were no wingmen at all.  These guys were just hung out to dry.


Not so in the female world.  I remember walking through church one day, and suddenly felt someone tugging at the back of my neck.  With a snap of her wrist, a complete stranger yanked the store tag off my new shirt and handed it to me without missing a beat.  I thanked her, and she smiled and walked on, because that's the code.

The code is applied in many ways, by all ages. Here are some proper usages:
  • A daughter-in-law arrives at a family dinner for which her husband's parents have inexplicably brought home food for 50 instead of their original order for 10, and without question to the restaurant, have paid the $1,000 bill --- plus 10% tip. Following this impromptu banquet, the DIL invokes the code, raising a pajama-clad army of girlfriends to relieve her of the strain on both her moral compass and her children's newly-found repugnance for ravioli.
  • A 7-year-old discovers during a routine play date that not only is her bedroom door suddenly stuck, but that her guest has a previously undisclosed bowel problem and requires immediate relief.  Faced with limited resources, our steadfast hostess remembers the code and produces a shopping bag from the closet to both receive and store the emergency evacuation.  And like a true Southern lady, she does not expose her friend's dirty laundry until her mother stumbles upon the remains, much, much later.
  • A wife gleefully joins her husband on a wild spin in his new convertible, celebrating the fruits of their labors and a precious night of freedom.  Upon dismount from her prince's metal steed, she takes a Chardonnay-induced tumble on a public sidewalk and fears she has incurred serious harm.  Concerned that fancycar + bruisedwife = domesticcharges, said wife calls in the code to her housekeeper, who pauses without hesitation from cooking a flan for her niece's QuinceaƱera to deliver our heroine safely to the ER.  
While these are hall of fame examples, the code can be activated in small ways too. Sending a "thinking of you" text or sharing a human moment from your life (see above) or just making time for someone even though you have none to spare; these are all powerful uses of the code. And we need them all.

So, the next time you are faced with a problem,
whether you are up to your ears, or merely knee-high,
just take a deep breath and remember the code
it always works on the fly.

Until next time, keep crowin'!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Getting in the Weeds

Is it weird to wear an outfit to a store that you bought at said store?  When someone pulls out in front of you, are they morally obligated to travel at the same rate of speed as you? Why do people from England sound American when they sing but British when they speak?  On a scale of 1-10, how rude is it to put your groceries on the conveyor belt and not put a plastic divider down for the next person?

Do any of these things bother you, too?  Or am I getting in the weeds so I can avoid some larger questions looming over my head?

Like, is there really (please say yes) a college scholarship for red heads?  If a parent from an opposing flag football team starts screaming about my kid, can I "love" them away from the dark side?  Why does PMS surprise me every month?  How long til my soul gets it right?

OK, I stole that last one from the Indigo Girls.  But they make an excellent point.

I thought that by the age of 41.5, I would have this all figured out.  I would be secure in my relationships, excel as a parent, expertly conquer the literary world and have the courage to know difference between things I can and cannot change.

But here I am, drinking wine on my back deck, with nose dripping and pollen clinging to my too-tight Old Navy t-shirt, taking a roll call of my flaws.

And the thing that I can't get over is this - my sweet, small-but-sturdy, circle of friends have not given up on me.  My spouse still showers me with compliments.  My kids still cuddle with me and call me Mama.  My family still phones me when they need help.  So I guess my secret is still safe.

When I was in college, I studied abroad at Oxford University.  One night, I had had too much to drink and got lost walking back to campus.  A taxi driver pulled over to offer me a ride.  I protested and refused, telling him I had no money.  He said, "That's OK.  It looks like you have had a rough night."  And he got me safely home.

Human kindness. I will never feel like I deserve it, and never be able to express my gratitude enough for it.  If only I could forgive people more quickly when it doesn't happen as expected ..... Namely, myself.

Until next time, keep crowin'.  And be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.  (Gandhi)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Expect the Unexpected

Opening the doors to the coffee cup cabinet, I say to my husband:  "Where are all the travel mugs?  I know you have them stockpiled at your office."
Husband: "I swear I don't have them. They should all be here. ..... Well, except for the one I had to pee in."


Listening to my daughter literally banging on the piano keys, I say to her: "You are going to send me into a seizure. Why don't you play something soothing instead?"
Daughter:  "Sure Mom. ..... I call this one 'Nightmare.'"


Showing my boss something that a co-worker had designed without our input, I say discreetly: "So, I just wanted to run this past you, and get your feedback.  It seems to be missing our branding and I think I need to update it a bit ..."
Boss: "What The F$%@?!!!!!  Oh HELL No."


Unexpected moments.  That's the stuff.  When you get a free shot of sunshine without having to work for it - it is just handed to you like a diamond tiara hidden in an unassuming box.

Where do you find joy?  One of my newest sources is holding my niece, and watching her sleep.  I can't soak her babyness in enough.  Another one is finding a warm spot on the deck and reading a good book. Or appreciating the irony of writing about bliss and then finding doggie nuggets on the rug.

I read a blog recently that said the keys to happiness were to look at the stars, practice gratitude, and learn to apologize.  That is very nice.  But I prefer "The Office" bloopers on YouTube, a glass of red wine, and at least two trips to the beach every year.

Plus, these unexpected moments.  Because sometimes, you can't order up happiness. It just finds you, and the trick is to invite it to stay as long as possible.

Until next time, keep crowin'!  And if you're sad, look at this:

How to handle an awkward wave situation.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Love You More Than This Hurts

Just let that soak that in for a minute.

Do you ever hear a song on the radio, or stumble on a particular line in a book, or a TV character waxes eloquent, and it just sticks with you?  I love finding inspiration in unexpected places.

I got this jewel from a good friend recently when we were on vacation together.  She was sharing a current struggle with one of her children, and her frustration that there was no easy fix.  But, as she was describing her sadness, she looked at me and said she knew they would prevail, because the love she felt for her child was far greater than the pain she felt.

Wow.  I can't even begin to explain how those words resonated with me.  It is so simple.  If you love someone, truly love them, then there is nothing they can do or say that can trump that love.

But beyond that, love can keep you from getting in your own way.  Because the feelings you have for another person are inevitably wrapped up in your anxieties, your insecurities, your faults, and your fears.  It is easy to lose sight of the pure feeling of love, when you limit your worth or scratch at your scars.

Instead of feeling like a failure because your child is in crisis, draw strength from the moment you met and fell in love. Rather than give up on your partner because you have drifted apart, remember what drew you together and speak to them from that place.  Don't allow your failures to define you, but celebrate the trials that have made you strong.

Love yourself more than your pain.

I should mention the other quote that stuck with me that weekend, also from my friend.  It came in the form of an honest reaction to raw chicken necks, purchased at a gas station.  She was bagging them up so that our boys could go crabbing, and as the blood and ligament fat dripped onto the floor, she said, "This is gross, but I love my son."

Ya'll.  This woman is my sensai.  I drew on those words later that night when my son was projectile vomiting in his room - in the top bunk bed of a converted closet - while his friend offered moral support.  If you know me at all, you know my gag reflex would impress even Pavlov.

But I love my kid.  And I loved that I could take care of him when he needed me.  Love is a gift - and you can give it to yourself.

Until next time, keep crowin' and lovin'!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I Will Always Have Gum

I just became an aunt for the 6th time.  My sister and her husband welcomed a daughter a few weeks ago. Looking at her, I think about my own children, who are much closer to leaving home than coming home for the first time.

I see my sister in the position I was in almost 14 years ago.  My job at that time to was to keep the baby fed and clean, warm and safe.  That was a tall order, when you throw in the navigation of new family dynamics, grabbing sleep where I could, showering only once a week, eating donated food or pure junk, and generally feeling completely overwhelmed.

But that wasn't the hard part. Not by a long shot.

Because that baby grows up - rather swiftly, I might add - and soon her needs extend to help with homework, negotiations about appropriate clothing, debates over independence, and long talks about the potholed road of friendships and love.

And then she discovers that you are, in fact, a human being, with flaws and vices and needs of your own. That you can screw up royally and make her cry.  Eventually, you can't hide your skeletons in the closet anymore, because your kid is in there, looking for a pair of shoes to borrow, or the hidden Christmas presents, or flat out asking you what your problem is.

Just as suddenly, she is in high school, and you realize in 4 years, she will be gone.  I find myself reliving my daughter's childhood over and over again - the parts I can remember - to judge my successes and failures, to make sure she has been, and will, be happy.

Whew.  Breathe.

One thing my sister has working in her favor, raising a daughter in this day and age, is that the world is a lot more realistic about what the typical family looks like, and what really happens around the dinner table (or, if we're being honest, the coffee table with the TV on).

When my parents were growing up, they had Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons as their guides. Dinner on the table at 5:00, served by mom in pearls and heels, dad sharing witty truisms and the boys dealing with problems like accidentally breaking a lamp or the dog eating their homework. As I was growing up, I remember The Brady Bunch and The Cosby Show.  Blended families were now OK, kids had bigger problems, like puberty and fender benders, but still, the parents always saved the day.  Now, my children are watching Modern Family and The Middle.  The parents in these shows constantly blow it - the kids are often far smarter and more together - and usually, there is not a pithy, happy ending, but the acknowledgement that life is not, can not be, perfect.  Sometimes a bucket of chicken at 9:00 p.m. with your bra resting comfortably in the chair next to you is the best you can do for your kids.  And no one will die because of it.

In fact, maybe it lets your kids know that no one expects them to be June Cleaver when they grow up.  That the pressure is off.

My niece is a lucky girl.  She's got wonderful parents, and I know she will have a happy life.  She is already so loved and cared for, and as her aunt, I get to spoil her rotten and be her buddy.  I get to watch a new, sweet little life grow and learn, as my own kids fly the coop.  And one thing she can count on, one thing I can guarantee, is that I will always have gum.

Until next time, keep crowin' - and seeing the beauty in your family's imperfections.