Archive | March, 2011

deep thoughts

31 Mar

A few ponderings:

1. If someone says really nice things about you, and that person is somewhat, well, not-quite-right, should you still feel complimented?  On closer reflection, this has happened more than once.  I once thought that I attracted rednecks.  Now I think that I am esteemed by certain people who may not have all their wits about them.  Nerds have always liked me, too.  Probably because I read.  I don’t know why the rednecks like me.

2. I embarrassed my dad.  He was all “aw shucks.”  And I didn’t even list his real accomplishments, like being voted “Most Handsome” in the Greenwood High School class of 1961.

3. I am so into Lit that I carry it with me everywhere and resent every obligation that prevents me from reading it.  Including my children and some of my best friends and the dentist and the fire marshal and all those phone calls.  Luckily, I have given up harboring resentments for Lent.

4. I have too many dogs.  There, I said it.  Which one would you like to adopt?  Just not Kona.  Even though he is very, very bad, he is still my favorite.  Jack remains available.

5. I should be in bed, but I must finish Lit.  And then start over again on page 1.


curriculum vitae

29 Mar

You may know him from his comments.  His btc moniker is “dad” and he is my biggest fan.  He is the one who corrects my spelling in the comments section instead of sending me an email about it.  He is often the audience to whom I am writing at 9 or 10 or 11 o’clock at night.  He is precisely one-half of the reason that I don’t always tell you everything.  I don’t ever exclude the good.  I probably embellish that for his benefit, but he is definitely the reason that I won’t tell you all the bad things that happen to me.  There aren’t really that many bad incidents, but when he learns about them – usually from someone besides me – my mother, my brother, or completely by accident, he always calls me right away.
And he will say “we are coming out there.”  And I will say, “no, it’s okay.  I’m fine, we’re all fine.  Please don’t change your plans.” and he says “we are coming.”  My mother usually says “if you don’t want us to, we won’t.”  But my dad says “Yes, we are coming.”  He does the same thing to my brother when Walker is having an emergency or even just a very hard time.
And that is why I can’t tell him everything.  Because then he would never go to work.  He would always be right here in my house, reading the latest New Yorker that he subscribed me to when I was fifteen and which I have been receiving nonstop for 26 years, and asking if I had read this or that story.  Or while I was recovering from my first c-section – an emergency surgery, he would be the one to say “as long as you are in the kitchen, would you mind making me a sandwich?”
Which was not surprising given the time I limped into my hospital room, all but doubled over from the stomach staples, to find him lying in my adjustable bed watching Wimbledon.  The fact that he and my brother had settled right into my room was the reason this brand new mother had to find another spot to nurse the baby.  Because I didn’t yet know how to feed a hungry infant without completely disrobing and because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by asking them to leave.  They would have left, but I didn’t want to ask.  Three children later, I know I should have been more direct.  Sometimes that’s the way you have to be with my dad – direct.
He will be direct with you.  He once told a new boyfriend of mine that he was not whisking the custard correctly for the crème caramel we were making.  “That’s not how you hold the whisk,” he said.  I was mortified, but I couldn’t argue – he had long ago taught me the proper way to whisk the milk into the egg – a little bit at a time so that the egg doesn’t cook – and this hapless young man was doing it all wrong.  My mother just stays out of the kitchen when he is cooking because he is so precise about how he wants you to do things, and after 43 years she just chooses not to participate.  Don’t try the “if you think I am doing it wrong, why don’t you just do it?” challenge on him, because exactly like my mother’s father, he will say: “I don’t want to do it.  I just want you to do it correctly.”
Disappointing him was and is my greatest fear.  I have done so several times that I know of, and probably many more that I never heard about because neither he nor my mother wanted me to feel bad.  They just want you to understand where you failed, what their expectations of you are, and that they don’t expect you to ever do THAT again.  I don’t think that I have ever heard him raise his voice.  His disapproval is all the disincentive I will ever need.  Not that he will treat me differently if he is displeased, but knowing that he thinks I must not have good sense causes me to feel like a complete failure in life.  But he is actually very tolerant.  His highest praise for someone is that “she never tries to straighten anyone out.” 
I grew up going to the hospital with him and sitting in swiveling chairs in the nurses’ station while he saw patients.  The nurses would give me paper to draw on and a pen and I would just wait and wait.  And they would tell each other “this is Dr. Carter’s daughter,” and the other would say “Don’t she look just like him!”  í could tell who your daddy is.”  We’d go make rounds.  He would introduce me to his patients and they would tell me how much they loved my dad and how he took such good care of them.  They often had raspy voices because they had throat cancer or laryngectomies.  He is always nice to old people and to parents who are worried about their children.

I spent my entire childhood answering the phone with these instructions: “If it’s the hospital, I have my beeper.  If it’s an emergency, they should go to the emergency room.”  He was on call at least 50% of the time.  I was not allowed to talk on the phone for more than 10 minutes at a time as a teenager because then patients couldn’t get through.  To him, teenagers didn’t rate nearly as high as patients.
I am not making him sound like all that much fun, but that is because I have too many memories of him to put in this post.  All non-relatives have surely stopped reading by now.
He is a LOT of fun.  Especially to go out to eat with or travel with.  Going out of town with him is like being given carte blanche for all the movies and good meals you can possibly fit into your schedule.  Even if you have to stand in line in the snow at the Carnegie Deli for what seems like hours.  We like to do the same things: walk and walk and walk and go into markets and patisseries and Dean and Deluca.  And then stop and sit at a table outside to take in the day with a cup of coffee, or now that I am older, sit in the lobby bar and have a drink.  My parents took me on so many trips last year as a salve to my broken-homedness.  We went to Puerto Vallarta, Chicago, New Orleans, Sewanee.  In every place we scheduled plenty of leisure and plenty of dining.  And unless it is walking in the city, we don’t schedule any exercise.  We also like to sleep late and we don’t like to rush around unless we are late for one of the multiple movies he is going to pack into one day.
He knows about a lot of things and he thinks about a lot of things.  And he is rarely concerned when people take a different stance on an issue than he does.  But I am.  Because if you don’t feel about something the way he does, in my estimation, there is a 95% chance that you are holding that whisk wrong.

Happy birthday, Daddy.  The Godiva is in the mail.


29 Mar

I love traveling alone.  I am usually trailed by children who waddle behind me like ducklings and I am constantly coaxing them: “come on, come on, we have to hurry!”  “But I’m tired.  Can we –?” “no. we can’t.  Keep moving.”  “look – a candy store.  can we –?”  “Absolutely not.  eyes forward, troops.”

Any trip without a carseat and a stroller is a cakewalk compared to pushing my behemoth double stroller, a couple of carseats, two babies under two.  And while those days are behind me, and everybody’s trained to keep their eyes on me and walk along at a brisk trot, and Anna and Wade know they are responsible for making sure Henry gets with the program, it’s still stressful to travel with three.  Ask Kim about that time we nearly lost Anna at the Orlando airport coming home from Disney when her backpack got stuck in the doors of the station while the child wearing the backpack was on the train.  That was wild.  Can’t imagine it?  I can’t really describe it because I have blocked out a lot of memories of August 2009, including that one.

So there I was last week, traveling alone.  ipod, book, kindle, notebook (just in case something struck me and I needed to write it), socks for the long trip to Atlanta, a white wrap made of baby alpaca to hide the fact that I was listening to my ipod while the plane was taking off or landing.  (You just run the earbuds up through the wrap and no one can see that you are secretly tuned out).  I was looking forward to the solitude, but then I met my seatmate, Pamela (name changed so that you can never know whether this is true.  Not really.  Name changed to assure you all that if I tell your life story in my blog, I will change your name).

She offered me some gum right away and that made it difficult to ignore her and read and listen to my ipod, which I really wanted to do.  But she opened the door to a great conversation.  I asked her whether she lived in Dallas or Atlanta and she said Dallas  – that she was visiting someone in Atlanta.  “My boyfriend.  Maybe my fiance.  We are supposed to talk about it this weekend.”

I asked her how they had met and she said online.  On a website called “tag.”  Being a woman of color, she also liked one called blackconnection, and she said I should try it because it wasn’t just black people on there.  She was a really cute lady and had raised all her children to adulthood, and was finally ready to have a man in her life.  “I think this one might be my soulmate,” she said of Calvin (not his real name.  as far as you know.)

She was aware that internet dating is risky, though.  The last one she met online invited her to his apartment, and she was busy helping her daughter, who has five girls (can you imagine?), and so running late.  When she arrived, he answered the door “butt-nekkid” and grabbed her around the throat with his hands and pulled her into his apartment.  “I ought to beat the %*&$ out of you!” he screamed as he pulled her around his apartment by her neck.  He let her go and went back down the hall while continuing to scream and curse at her.   The holy spirit told her to keep quiet.  She had been watching the door, trying to see if he had locked it and once he turned his back, she grabbed that doorknob and ran out of there.  He was coming after her, but she ran until she was safely in her car and drove away.

He did have on some clothes, shorts, by the time he came running out after her.  I was trying to picture the scene and that was a vital detail.

But this Calvin?  He is a sergeant in the army and also works a civilian job.  he has one grown son and he sees about his mama, who also lives in Atlanta.  Pamela is pretty sure that he is the one because he loves God and Jesus and sees people for what is in their hearts.

I would have given anything to see her on my return trip, but there are so many flights from Atlanta to DFW that the odds were slim, and alas, she wasn’t on my airplane.  As I will never, never know the real ending, I think I will assume that she decided to stay in Atlanta, away from those children in Dallas who are always borrowing money from her and not paying her back, and moving into whatever apartment she is living in, and away from her boss who is separated from his wife and keeps on propositioning Pamela.  I hope that Calvin turns out to be her soulmate and not a butt-nekkid strangler who can’t tolerate changes to whatever plans he had that involved him being naked when company was expected. 

I’m pulling for you, Pamela.  We’re all in this together.


28 Mar

Those were the most perfect 48 hours of my whole, entire life.  Certain times are held in my memory wrapped in a rosy glow, and this weekend in Atlanta with 6 of my best girls will have to join their ranks.  Last January I was going to Cancun on Friday morning with 4 of these friends to celebrate our turning 40, and on Thursday night, while I was going out to supper with my local best friends, I realized that my childcare plans had crumbled and I was stuck in West Texas in late January with three children and no back-up plan and a broken heart.  Which my girls here immediately took care of by throwing together a great party Saturday night and my parents came here on Sunday and we limped through.  But it was really sad.  Because I had separated from my husband about 5 months previously and lived in the middle of nowhere and hadn’t seen them for years and was turning 40, and in my honor, they were going to cheer me up.   And then I couldn’t go.

This January, Emily’s father, the beloved Mr. Jenkins, passed away after a brief struggle with glioblastoma.  I planned a trip to Atlanta to comfort her in early February and if you are a regular reader here at btc, you know that the winter weather canceled that trip.  Emily had turned our mutual bereavement session into a party and we were going to be staying in a hotel with Katharine and Melissa and Parmele and Morgan and Juliette.  That was another very big disappointment.  But then Parmele’s infamous Gran-gran passed away, so we would have missed her then.

And so we rescheduled.  For March 25.  And we all made it.  Even though Melissa’s grandfather is ill and every day is uncertain as to his condition, she took the chance and drove in from South Carolina.  That’s the kind of friendship we have.  She knew that if he had taken a turn for the worse we would have commiserated with her before she turned around to go right back home.

Emily and I addressed our sad circumstances by having seafood and a few drinks at lunch.  Then Katharine drove in from Alabama and found us and we helped her shop for the party she is hosting next weekend, and we planned her table decorations.  She explained that she had given up her credit cards for Lent.  And Sweets.  But she solved the shopping problem by charging her purchases to her husband’s credit cards instead of hers.  She has always been great at creative logic.  Anyway, we were sure he wouldn’t mind.

We stopped off to purchase a few provisions, including Garden and Gun magazine, where Emily had at least three, if not four stiries in the new issue.  She is a great photographer and magazines have her jetting all over the south to photograph houses, stores, and workshops.  We finally made it to the Hyatt where we were staying and we found Parmele and Melissa.  We took our own champagne to the lobby bar while we awaited Juliette and Morgan.

We all discussed the logistics of being sure that 15 children were cared for by seven fathers.  They all had a lot of phone calls with their husbands to tell them what activity was next, what the child should wear and take, who else needed to be picked up and what they should have for supper.  As usual, I just hoped that my children were safe and having a good time, but the details weren’t mine to arrange – thank goodness.

We went to a super-hip, sustainable gardening, locally grown, urban farmtable restaurant and enjoyed a great meal.  Unfortunately the beers at lunch and the champagne happy hour had caused me a horrific headache and right after supper, I had to go to bed.  Right after supper was about 11 p.m., so I didn’t mind too much.  The others stayed up with wine until the wee hours.  They were probably talking about me and comparing notes on how I seem to be doing, or maybe not but that is what I would have been doing.  I was glad they had the chance to talk about me outside of my hearing because I had begun that night to feel a little self-conscious.  It was like getting a divorce all over again because these girls all knew both of us and had not seen us since we started dating and then the early years of our marriage while they were all having weddings.  For those weddings, we flew to the Virgin Islands and Atlanta twice.  I missed Montgomery and Spartanburg, and I really wish I hadn’t, but Texas is so far away.

I almost was overwhelmed by emotion altogether.  (really? me?)   It was the combination of friendship and affection and adoration and gratitude and exhaustion and champagne and laughter and pride and embarrassment and disappointment and sadness and joy and all the rest of it.  Your typical catharsis.  And then there was that giant headache, so I was able to tuck into my sheets cozily and I never moved until 10:00 the next morning.  Bliss.

Katharine said that everyone she knew in Montgomery who had a party always made a trip to Atlanta to purchase their alcohol for the party, and since she was in Atlanta, she needed to stop and buy champagne and vodka.  So we parked at the liquor store while she went in and bought exotic items that they don’t posssibly export to Alabama, and Emily noticed that the car next to us contained my high-school-to-college boyfriend.  I did not get out, I did not speak to him.  I haven’t laid eyes on him since the summer of 1991.  And I was trapped in the way-back of a Tahoe fenced in by boxes of champagne and vodka.  And I hadn’t fixed my hair and he was with his wife and two babies.  I knew he lived in Atlanta, but what are the odds?  Of all the gin joints in all the world and he had to walk into mine?  I was probably shaking from the bizarreness of it all.

So we shopped all day and just had the most fun ever.  I bought some great shoes.  High platform wedge sandals with a rope sole, and get this – a see-through Lucite heel!  The swankiness knows no bounds.  They are awesome.

I think that is all I can report right now.  I am so tired, but I do have so much more to say.  About my seatmate on the flight over who was going to meet her online soulmate.  And the nice man I talked to today from Lubbock whose wife and children live in North Georgia and they aren’t divorced but have been separated for years and I probably offended him with my probing questions and my (very gentle, I promise) advice. 

And I still have to tell you about the makeover and the new jeans how I felt exactly like the baby elephant in a circle surrounded by the mothers who battle the lion or whatever predator is trying to eat the baby – or is that dolphins?  I don’t know.  I just know that my circle of moral and actual support extends far across the southern United States.  And Parmele makes me look positively docile when she has an opinion on something.  We all vowed to do a weekend at least once a year, so you will have to hold us to it.

more tomorrow, I promise.  You will not want to miss the story of my seatmate and her experiences in online dating.  I swear.

book club

25 Mar

Don’t y’all want to hear more about how busy I am?  About how I was short with my very own mother because she had the audacity to call me with a good idea about how to repay someone who has been extra-kind to me?   I was too busy to be nice.  It just wasn’t the right time for me to talk to anyone.  Based on my experience, I can assure you all that I will be a lot easier to talk to tomorrow.  It’s just my personal witching hour.

I picked up my (parents’) beloved bmw at the shop today where it was being repaired.  I have been forced to drive a mini-van for three days in a row, and it has really cramped my style and caused me to feel maternal and dowdy and, well, just not very glamorous.  I became really spoiled over spring break and started thinking of myself as someone free and easy and without obligations.  no small children, just beautiful, well-behaved golden retrievers and a bmw.  With a sunroof.  On the other hand, the honda has a sunroof, too, and we all fit in it comfortably and we can even watch a movie.  Well, they can.  Somebody has to drive.

I am in the market for a new car.  I have the honda on a lease. A fleece according to Dave.  Whatevs, Dave.  If I were perfect, I wouldn’t be spending Wednesday nights laughing at your lame jokes and scribbling copious notes.  And the lease is up in May, which is the same as saying “next month” and you all know how I just love making big decisions.  Especially under time pressure.  It thrills me, so I have been doing some research.  If someone just wants to tell me what to do, I would be grateful.

I’m still reading Lit.  Everyone must go out and buy it right now or download it to your kindle so that we can have a btc book club.  I need to discuss this book with somebody, and I choose you.  In fact, I am mandating a book report on Lit by Mary Karr.  Due in two weeks.  Mostly I want to know this:  Do you think that it’s a natural leap from alcoholism to Catholicism?  Several learned friends pretty much said “well, duh?” when I was telling them about Mary’s progression.  Like I was dumb not to see why it should be expected.  One of them said “Does that really surprise you?” and since she was my OB doctor and since I was sitting there in a hospital gown in her examining room, I felt a little vulnerable and I was all “no, not really,” but the truth is that YES.  I was surprised because to my understanding, alcoholics don’t usually love anyone but themselves and are incapable of committing to outside authority, so I think it’s amazing when they can recover at all, let alone give themselves over to something greater than themselves.

Really, am I alone in this?  Please don’t leave me sitting here in an imaginary hospital gown covered with a sheet.  I need some validation or at least discussion.  Thank you.


23 Mar

Broadway Dance class tonight: Hairspray.  Lots of fun.

An annual checkup almost 4 years after my last one.  Not as much fun, but necessary, I suppose.  It was like seeing long-lost friends.  The nurse gave me her phone number.  Last time I was in, I had a new baby.  And shingles.  Quite the challenging combination.  I was told that I absolutely HAD to continue nursing so that the baby would receive the antibodies and then might be spared chicken pox, which in the newborn can result in brain damage or death.   Having said that, it was crucial that the baby NEVER contact the rash that was all over my midsection because if he did, he was likely to contract chicken pox, resulting in possible brain damage or death.

Dr. Wehner had done some internet research AND called the immunologist in Dallas.  That scared me.  Having your trusted, knows-everything pediatrician consulting with the specialists and talking about immunoglobulin has the potential to wreak havoc with the postpartum mother’s fragile, hormonally-enhanced emotional state.  Just sayin’.

It was a pretty tricky and painful proposition to continue nursing at all costs, while avoiding skin-to-skin contact with the baby.  And shingles makes all of your nerve endings think they are on fire.

Did I mention that it was dove season?  Those were good times.

Life today is a walk in the park compared to having an infant.  When the baby before Henry was born, I had a seventeen month-old.  Wade as a newborn?  Piece of cake.  It’s his legacy.  He is doomed to perfection.  I have hardly ever known him to be anything but someone who makes sure that the rest of us are happy with him.  He lost a folder for school today and he was so disappointed with himself that big, fat tears rolled down his face.  He was cast as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I love that, but it’s funny because Puck was a real troublemaker.  Wade will have to stretch the limits of his personality to play that character.

Three new books in the mail today.  But I am transfixed by Lit.  I wish that I had time to re-read all of my favorite books.   Maybe once these under-tens grow up.  Or go to college.  Or camp. 

In the words of Henry, who nearly caused his mother anxiety-induced bedrest as a newborn: “this was a good day.”

What I’m Reading

22 Mar

Over my now all-but-forgotten Spring Break, I did a little reading.

You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam  Adventures in Boston Terrier rescue by a New Yorker and her endearingly game husband.  That one was fun, and made me feel not so alone in the universe.  Other people are in over their heads in dogs, too.  And they live in Manhattan apartments.  So there.  Clever, funny, and very relatable (for me.  Maybe not so much you).

Letters to Malcolm, chiefly on prayer by C.S. Lewis  This is a thin little set of correspondence from Lewis to his friend Malcolm Somebody.  People used to just write the most beautiful letters, and these two had agreed on a format and a theme, so it is a carefully thought-out dialogue about prayer.  Because the letters are between friends, there are beautiful, personal and irreverent moments.  A lovely little book.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller  Keller is the founder and minister of Redeemer Church in New York City.  (He wrote another book I really enjoyed called The Prodigal God, which focuses on the parable of the prodigal son and manages to cast aspersion on the elder brother for his holier-than-thou attitude, an interesting twist on the gospel.)  This book is Mere Christianity for our time, but no one can top that CS Lewis for his beautiful prose.  This is an exhaustive answer to the common arguments against Orthodox Christianity.  Keller is gentle and understanding of doubts, but devoted to Biblical literacy and the redemptive nature of the gospel.  It is a good book for the rational thinker, full of good information to counter a relativistic approach to Christianity.  Easy to read and informative.  I will probably read it again.  Someday.

Lit by Mary Karr.  I am reading this now.  I last read it over a year ago on the recommendation of Guy Choate, and I am so enjoying it the second time.  She has the most able command of language and she came from relatively nothing.  Two crazy, alcoholic parents in a South Texas oil-drilling town.  Sometimes her language is a little too colorful for me, but that’s rare.  She struggled with alcoholism, a divorce, single motherhood, supporting herself, a string of crazy friends, and finally she went from full-blown atheism to hard-core Catholicism.  I most look forward to revisiting how she was won over to the super-structuredness of Catholicism out of all the denominations. 

I want to say that I read something else, but maybe that’s really all.  I will look around in these stacks of books by my bed and see what I haven’t reported about.  And then I will get back to you.