Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shifts in mojo.

I was watching a little girl in the Grady Hospital cafeteria one day. She was standing with what I am assuming was her mother and appeared to be no more than four years old. It was a school day, so I'm guessing she was too young to be in kindergarten.

Anyways. She was an adorable and precocious little thing. I mean just as cute as a little button. Talking up a storm with her hand on her plump little pre-K hip. Her pink bedazzled t-shirt didn't quite clear the length of her torso. I could see her belly button and a roll of tummy skin protruding over her striped leggings.

"I want chicken fingers and I want the fries, too!"

"Okay," her mother replied. She then relayed that information to the gentleman working the grill. "I thought you wanted a burger?"

"I do want a cheeseburger. But I like chicken fingers, too!"

"Okay. Well we can just split it," the mom replied.

"What kind of fries do y'all want?" the grill-guy asked. He stood there waiting patiently with his clear plastic gloves on while patting his brow just below his hair net with the back of his sleeve. 

"Mama, get the mojoes!" the little girl squealed.

"Y'all got some mojoes?" Mama asked.

Grill-guy looked over his shoulder at the fryers. Sizzling behind him was a freshly dropped basket of battered and season-salted potato wedges. "Yeah, we got some."

"Okay. Then give me two orders of those."

And he did. Onto that platter went two cheeseburgers, some chicken fingers and two heaping helpings of mo-joe potatoes fresh out of the peanut oil.

I couldn't help but watch them as they walked off. First, a stop at the soda machine where two cups were filled with what looked like some kind of cola. I'm not sure if they got dessert. My guess is that they did.

That little girl's mother had to be at least three hundred pounds. And I'm almost certain that the child was well above the ninety fifth percentile for weight albeit in a lower than average centile for height.


Everything about their interaction was loving. The child appeared very well cared for -- from her matching pink outfit to her hair accessories of the exact same hue. Her mother kept her hand on her daughter at all times, and occasionally pulled her close into her side for an affectionate squeeze. That part was sweet.

That part was.


Anyways. The holidays has me thinking a lot about food, as always. That's what made me remember that little girl and her mama.


And speaking of the holidays -- ours always involve a lot of here-there-and-everywhere-ness. As adults, it's not such a big deal, but for our children that's another story. With so many visits to see cousins and grandparents and aunties and uncles, I promised them that today they wouldn't have to go anywhere. They could just stay home and play with their toys at their own house. Eating food from our fridge and hanging out in their own playroom. They were over the moon with that plan.

So that's been the day. Them -- literally in their pajamas for the entire day -- running, laughing and mostly playing games on their Wii console. The sounds coming from their playroom tells me what the game is and that's been quite a variety. Right now, they're bowling. Before that, it was a dance-off to every possible overplayed pop song that you've ever heard in your life.

Anyways. In between all of this, they've occasionally burst into the kitchen or wherever I am to ask me for something to eat. Harry had to do some work-related errands early this morning, so he surprised the kids with McDonalds hotcakes and an oatmeal for me. They love McDonald's hotcakes, so that was a reasonable thing to do. The only problem is that they'd already eaten some Eggo waffles.

"Oh man!" Isaiah said, "We just ate!"

And by "just ate" he meant that they had each held a toaster waffle in each hand while laughing at the kitchen table. No syrup. No sausage on the side or anything else. I guess what I'm saying is that it wasn't the most filling meal in the world. Surely they could make room for hotcakes, especially ones that they love as much as Mickey Dees' version.

But they didn't. Instead Isaiah thanked his dad on both of their behalf and off they scurried back to the video games. And that was that.

"Those kids eat to live. They don't live to eat." That's what I said to Harry as we both stared at the lonely hotcakes.

"I'm glad," he replied. "They just eat not to be hungry pretty much. They're lucky that you don't care about food as much as me. That comes from you."

"Not true. I love food."

"But not enough to eat any-damn-thing you want."

I thought for a moment. "You know? It's just hard to enjoy anything that isn't worth it. Like. . .some Key lime pie? Or a really, really good pound cake? Mmm or some Antico Pizza? Now that's worth every fat gram and every calorie. But a slice of pizza from Pizza Hut? Uhhh. . .naaah."

"Yeah. See, I'd eat the Pizza Hut and just pay for it later," Harry laughed.

"Food relationships are complicated. It all depends upon how you were brought up. Like, my mom always cooked for us. But mostly it was to make sure we'd have food. She's a fine cook, but I doubt she would have been cooking like that if she didn't have four kids to feed."

"And see, my mom? Food is love with her. Lasagnas and briskets and ribs and collard greens. A bad day got you something to cheer you up straight from the oven. And a good day? Man, please."

I laughed. Mostly because my sweet mother-in-law is still that way. Her food truly has love in every single bite. You want to clean your plate. And if you want more, she'll heat it up for you. There's love in that part, too.

It's true. Food relationships are super complicated. And let's be clear--do we take our kids to McDonald's sometimes? Sure. Do they enjoy their share of hot dogs here and there? Yep. But demanding them to eat everything (as opposed to something) and giving them carte blanche to the pantry for boredom eating? Nope. And constant celebratory eating? No way, no how. I guess I'm trying to think about their long term food relationships without being oppressive, you know?

I've been thinking about food relationships more and more over the last few years. Instead of telling my patients what and what not to eat, I often talk to them about their food relationship. Do they even have any idea about it? I ask questions like, "Can having the an unsatisfying meal ruin your evening? You know--like if you had your mind fixed on one thing but it either didn't turn out like you'd imagined or even it wasn't available for you to eat?"

I also ask how they feel when eating certain things. Or if there are things that they used to eat but no longer will. If the answer is yes to that last question, I ask why.

Here's what I'm learning from all of that: Food relationships start when we are children. Then, as adults, they can shift in a number of different directions depending upon where we are in our minds. For example, someone who always had full access to their family pantry and who was forced to clean their plate, might do the same with their kids. Or not, if they've shifted their own thoughts on food and eating as they've grown older and learned different things.

Different things? Things like how no matter how much you run, jump, leap and stretch, there comes a point in every adult person's life where weight will never, ever be controlled without redefining food ideas. Period.


Let me just say that this is my own opinion. Nothing really scientific, although I'm certain that there is likely some medical literature somewhere to support it. What I mean is, these ideas have a lot to do with my own interpretations of things I've seen over the years. As a doctor and as a regular old person.

So that brings me to mojo potatoes. Have you ever had them? Well, I have. And let me tell you something -- they're delicious. Look. I'm no different than the next guy when it comes to enjoying fried morsels of yummy-ness. But where I am when it comes to such things has changed over the years. Lots of that has to do with my relationship with food growing up. But most of it has to do with the shifts it made in my adulthood.

Will I eat one or two mojo potatoes? Sure. Will I order my own next to a greasy hamburger? Probably not. Of course, the caveats are when such things are at places so good that eating there is more of an experience than a meal. Kind of like the difference between eating a burger at McDonald's and a burger from Farm Burger. In that instance, I would both eat and enjoy my burger and fries.

Just not every day.

I realize that I'm rambling. Mostly because I think a lot about obesity -- in both adults and kids. I have a lot of thoughts on all of it and am recognizing that they aren't exactly organized enough to be writing down.

Oh well.

So the food relationship thing. Okay, so my real point on it is that this is ground zero. Kids who are overweight don't lose weight just by being admonished every time they reach for cookies. Some hard lines have to be drawn in the sand. And the grocery cart. Like, if anyone in the house is the type that can't say no to Oreo cookies or mojo potatoes, neither of those should be in the house. If anyone in the house is the type that has slow as molasses metabolism then foods and drinks that aren't nice to them should stay on supermarket shelves for the most part.

At least, that's how I see it. For everybody to win, somebody's going to have to take one for the team.

And I know. There's always this argument where folks say, "Why should we punish our thin/fit/ideal-weight/healthy kid just because the other is overweight?"

My answer to that is simple: "Because that's how it has to be."

Some don't say that at all. Instead, their response might be to "just let kids be kids" and "if they exercise and run and play they'll grow out of it." This might be completely true -- and often is. But the problem is that the food relationship doesn't go away. That prepubescent pudge might melt away at first, but if mojo potatoes don't cause you to cringe a little bit by the time you turn thirty, that pudge will return just like a Jedi.

Fo sho, honey boo-boo.

Again, these are just my thoughts. And if I ever get a chance to break bread with Mrs. Obama, I'll chat with her about this since she has childhood obesity on her radar. Just another reason for me to love me some Michelle Obama.

But I digress.

So the taking one for the team thing. When my mom was on Weight Watchers some five trillion years back, I recall watching our whole house drop a few pounds. Why? Because everybody was on skim milk. There wasn't a cookie in sight. And full sugar soda pop? Chile please. We all took one for the team. And if you have a teammate that you love living in your house, that's just how it has to be.

Or else somebody is going to lose.

Hmm. I just thought of something. The more you have family members take one for the team, the less it feels that way to them. Like, eventually we got used to skim milk and no cookies. And because I have a full understanding of the BHE's food relationship and I do the grocery shopping, our kids don't even realize that they've been taking quite a few for the team for their entire lives.


So I ask about those food relationships. I ask who is up in that house and what's up with them and they're health/body situation. Is Jack Sprat your husband? Meaning, is your spouse a hundred pounds soaking wet? And if so, does he or she do the grocery shopping? Whoever that person is and whatever their situation, that person has to get on the same team as you. Be willing to eat smaller portions with you and to forgo certain foods being in the house to help you win.

That is, until your relationship and body shifts enough to make you feel like mojo potatoes aren't even worth it. So much so that seeing them on a platter before you does little to affect you. But see, for a lot of people, that kind of shift never occurs -- especially if they are starting from a place where food is synonymous with love and comfort.


So anyways. I looked at that sweet little girl with her gelatinous middle and her delightful smile happily chatting and almost skipping with excitement. Following right behind her markedly obese, yet equally delightful mother, in more ways than either of them even realized.

What will happen next with that little girl? Honestly, I'm too inherently positive in my thinking to assume the worst so it's hard to say. It really all depends upon where her food relationship shifts.

I don't have a crystal ball to say what the future holds for her. But here's what I do know:

It's a hell of a lot easier to shift your food relationship just a little bit than a whole lot. And square one for food relationships start with the person doing the feeding . . . . and how far they're willing to shift their own relationship first.

Happy Wednesday-almost-Thursday. What are your thoughts on all of this?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"It's a period flick with Russell Crowe during the French Revolution. You'll love it."

les miserables movie poster - french

"Umm, but it's also a musical and all set to an orchestra and singing," she whispers in her tiniest voice.


So I just saw the movie version of Les Miserables. Lucky for Harry, the anti-musical man, that statement above was just the hypothetical version I was going to unleash if no one else would go with me. This evening I saw it with my mom and my sister. Yay!

At first I was rather neutral on the whole thing. Certainly not gung ho enough to run out and see it during the holiday rush. But then I heard Hugh Jackman giving an interview on television a few weeks back where he almost broke down crying as he stated that every single role he has had as an actor up until now has been preparing him for this part.

Dang, Hugh.

Well. That was enough to get me intrigued enough to tough the Christmas crowds. That and the fact that Hugh Jackman is . . . . uh. . .hot. Hellerrr?

So what did I think? I'll be completely honest. I just loved it. Seriously and completely loved it. That's saying a lot considering the way I feel about most on screen musicals. Most of them come out awkward to me. They give you the taste of the songs that you've been craving, yet everything else seems weird. You know. Where you sit through it until the end because you're hoping that it will eventually get better but it doesn't.

This wasn't like that. It was done beautifully. The voices were amazing and that Hugh Jackman? Just damn.

And speaking of amazing. . . . Miss Anne Hathaway? Baby, she earned her name on that billboard, do you hear me? As the sistas say in the hair salon: "Girlfriend, you DID that." Yeah she did.

So word on the street is that all of the singing was LIVE. As in, they had an earpiece in their ear playing the (live) accompaniment and they just had to go for it. Don't believe me? Watch this little snippet on the topic.

Kinda cool, right? That piece of information is what has given me a whole new respect for the film. And for Anne Hathaway. She sang her face off, y'all. Just amazing. I mean--we all knew Jackman could sing, but Anne? That was a shocker.

I'm also always intrigued by women who whack all of their hair off for movie roles. Something about that is just so bad ass to me. Two thumbs way up for Miss Anne Hathaway, chile.


Russell Crowe wasn't so bad either. Although anyone who has to sing anywhere near Hugh Jackman seems a little less than. Just saying. But that could just be me looking at Hugh Jackman and forgetting about any and everybody else. Even if that person is Russell Crowe.

The kid actors were fantastic, too. The young Cosette--unbelievable and the little boy who played Gavroche (the revolution kid) was out of this world. So were all of the supporting cast, many of whom weren't big screen stars in the U.S. but very accomplished singer/actors before this ever hit theaters.

Yeah. Loved Les Miserables on big screen. And would totally see it again on an IMAX screen if I get the chance. Stacy H. or Lesley M., I'll need one of you to join me for that. Because let me tell you who WON'T be joining me:

-------> Mr. Harry Manning.

(laughing out loud right now)

Dude. Have I ever told y'all about the time that I tricked The BHE into seeing the movie adaptation of RENT with me? Lawd! He was soooo mad at me. Wait. . . as a matter of fact I have told you about that before. I just found the post where I mentioned this EPIC failure--and ironically that same post includes the Les Miserables "One Day More" flashmob that I was obsessed with earlier this year. Remember that? (Now I'm obsessed with it again since I just rewatched and reread that.) For some fun and time-wasting, peep that post here.

"One day mooooooorrrre!"

Awesome. Just for kicks, I was thinking of tricking Harry into seeing the Les Mis movie by casually suggesting it on our next date night. Hee hee. Calling it, like I said above, "The new Russell Crowe film." Bwaah ha. That, I'm sure, would get him into the closest theater with a bucket of popcorn, some Junior Mints and a large coke. Dude. The BHE absolutely LOVES Russell Crowe movies and has watched Gladiator no less than seven hundred and fifty seven trillion times. With Russell Crowe, this would be the easiest trick EVER. That and the fact that it involves a bloody war scene.

I could even innocently add on something like, "I think the dude from Wolverine is in it, too. I hear it's some kind of period war flick or something."

Oh. Have I mentioned how much Harry LOOOOVES a good period war flick? Good heavens he does.

*rubbing hands together with diabolical laugh*

Damn. That would be pret-ty darn funny if I did get him to see this movie. I mean. . . the very IDEA of the expression that would be on his face when his beloved Gladiator and Wolverine start busting out in song--like full on fluffy high and low note song for an ENTIRE FILM-- would be worth the 74% chance I'd risk of being served with divorce papers afterward.

To which I'd say:


Bwaaaahh hahaha.

Man. I am totally thinking of tricking him with this the next time he blasts me with a series of rhetorical questions. Maybe even in IMAX. Oh yeah, baby.


By the way, here's an old post I was just reminded of from one of our movie date nights. This describes how Harry goes about choosing the flick we'll see when it's his turn to select.

Sigh. "The new Russell Crowe period flick about a war." Ha.

But I digress.

Listen. The take home point is: If you LOVE yourself a good musical and salivate at the thought of catching one on Broadway, peep this one out for sure. In the theater even--it's worth the ten bucks. Trust me, it's not as uncomfortable as the RENT movie or the Mamma Mia one. It's really beautifully done.

One recommendation though: Make sure you're well rested because it's kind of long. Like close to three hours long so make sure you are awake and that it's not too late at night. And that you really like musicals because three hours worth of singing is a lot if you are kind of "meh" on musicals--AND this is a sho nuff, for real musical. Not like Grease or High School Musical where there's mostly talking and occasional show tune. This joint is 99.2% show tunes which my husband absolutely, positively would not be cool with.

What about y'all? Who's seen this already? And tell me--what person could you NO NOT NEVER take to see such a film?

Happy Wednesday.

And now playing on my mental iTouch. . . the trailer from Les Miserables with Anne Hathaway belting out her dreamy voice.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And to all a good night.

He said he wasn't coming. Too much traveling in the last month and a half. First for the weekend after the new normal started. Then once more for the services. Coming back to Atlanta again for Christmas would be too much. Just too much.

"But you'll be alone," we said.

"I'm okay," he replied.

"But I just want you here for Christmas. Even if you'll be okay I still want you to be here with us." That's what I said to counter that. Poured it on thick and made it specific. Not just you need to be here. But we want you to be here. I want you to be here.

He wasn't budging.

"I'm tired. I'll be fine, I will."

And even though I didn't like it, that answer made sense. So instead of pushing further, I just turned it into this joke where I'd ask him every single day what time his Christmas flight was getting in. And he'd just laugh and say, "In February or March." So I just kept on with it, hoping eventually he'd be swayed. When I called him last night--at around seven thirty at night--I finally believed him. I was expecting his phone to go straight to voice mail and to see him sneaking up behind JoLai when Harry brought her back from the airport.

Nope. He answered the phone and told me matter-of-factly of the west coast things he was up to and would be up to this Christmas. Because that's where he was.


The kids had hung out with Tounces all day and I'd just picked them up to bring them on home for Christmas eve. That's when I chatted with Dad on the phone and Harry, too, while heading up to Gwinnett county and back. Nothing about it was unusual. Except for the disappointment I felt about my dad actually going through with staying alone in California.


I walked into the door with the kids and the first thing I saw was a rolling carry on bag sitting at the door. I knew JoLai wasn't due for another two hours, so that was a bit confusing. I threw my keys onto the table and headed toward the kitchen. That's when I turned around and saw him. Sitting right on the corner of the couch smiling.


The BHE was in cahoots with him and had picked him up from the airport. They were even together during both of those earlier phonecalls, those scoundrels.

Man. I broke down and cried the minute I saw my daddy. I knelt right in front of him and laid my head on his lap and just wept and wept. I was so glad that he was here and that we would all be in one place together. Glad because this would be the first Christmas since the start of the new normal, but equally as glad just because it was Christmas period. 

No, we're not an extremely festive family. Surprisingly, there aren't any rules on who gets gifts for whom or how and when we do things. Our traditions involve things like playing Bananagrams and doing the gigantic holiday crossword puzzle in the newspaper. But now, more than ever, I am clinging to all of that. Embracing the most every day moments with those I love the most.

So yeah, my dad flew in and surprised us all. Even JoLai, who left him a lengthy to-do list in California. And we convened at Will's house and broke bread and spent time together. We all navigated the new normal the best we could, and it was better than expected since none of that had to be done over the phone.

Dad and JoLai slept over at our place on Christmas eve. The boys woke up to Santa's bounty and also the arms of us and their auntie and grandpa. Yep.

And look at this:

Aaah, this photo. I tell you it's everything I want for my sons and it embodies all of the reasons why I'm so glad that Poopdeck decided to come to town after all.

I can't stop looking at this image. It's so .  . . so . . . Norman Rockwell. . .don't you think? Look at how content they are. How safe and innocent. And look at their grandfather sitting there working his engineer's mind to assemble one of the many "assembly required" gifts found underneath all of that lumpy wrapping paper.

It looks so mundane, so serene, doesn't it? Zachary singing to himself while listening to music on his new headphones and hand-me-down iPod nano. Serious Isaiah with his grandpa's cerebral mind, studying his remote controlled toy and trying to determine if everything was in order before pulling the trigger.

Every bit of this made me happy. Every little tiny bit of it. Knowing the huge advantage in life that these seemingly forgettable moments afford children. Especially man-children.

But that's a whole separate blog post in itself.

Yeah, so Christmas morning was good. As always, the kids were thrilled and fortunately very grateful. We've committed ourselves to not going overboard so, just like last year, everything was unwrapped in less than twenty minutes.

So that was cool. And speaking of wrapping. . .

I spent some quality time with my little sister, JoLai. We sat up and wrapped gifts into the wee hours of the morning. And crappy wrapping became the goal, which made us both laugh out loud several times. The one above was the absolute best of the lot. Deanna would have stamped a big "REJECT" on those willy-nilly corners for sure. But at least it wasn't as fat and lumpy as the rest.

JoLai asked if Grandpa Isaiah would notice that Santa and Mommy used the same wrapping paper. I wagged my naive index finger because I had a solid answer for that concern.

"Clearly we leave all the gifts out that we bought and Santa's elves totally wrap everything. It's such a good deal and it saves mommies and daddies so much time."

To which she responded, "Clearly Isaiah will notice and ask you about it."

Hmmph. Challenge on.

Well. I should have listened to JoLai. Or at least had my act together like my sister-in-law Fran and had separate Santa and Mommy paper. Whoops. He never flat out asked me, but I definitely saw Isaiah's wheels turning this morning. I know he's only seven, but my guess is that the real Santa might soon be kicking rocks right along with mall Santa.

Yep. I think the gig might almost be up for the jolly dude. I've already been hit with several logistical questions in the last two years about the traveling arrangements. This year he even said, "Atlanta's kids alone would fill his entire sleigh with toys and stuff. It just seems. . . " And he just sort of stopped there.


The least I could've done was separate the wrapping paper situation in a watered down attempt to keep hope alive. I'll keep y'all posted on all of that.

What else? Oh yeah. Jo and I went for a lovely walk-slash-run after breakfast. A cool three miles in honor of Deanna's lucky number--three. We laughed and talked and just enjoyed one another. JoLai is all about exercise, so we broke a sweat, too.

Something about that felt right. The air, the walking, the talking, the sweating. The all of it. JoLai even gave me this cool t-shirt which made that walk feel even right-er.


Harry got the swanky headphones he wanted. I got my camera, too. And those boys got plenty of cool things including the thing they wanted the most: A Wii console.

Ooo Wii.

So that's mostly it. And for those who've thought of us, prayed for us or simply wondered how it went today. . . first. . let me say thanks for that. Because there's lots to think of on Christmas and fitting us into all of it isn't something you have to do. I also want you to know -- all of you who are struggling with your own pain and loss over the holidays -- I am thinking of you, too. Of Nancy and Crystal and Joy and Davina and Bridget and Rachael and so, so, many more people. Because the heart has room for that, remember?

So Christmas with the new normal. How was it?  Mostly it was wonderful. We were together in solidarity, touching and agreeing on all of the joy, pain, sunshine and rain (literally) that came with this day. So mostly, it was good and rich and full of love.

It was.

There were a few sunshowers but mostly lots of hugs and meaningful exchanges between family members of all ages.

And all of it was good. Very, very good.

Thanks for asking, okay?

Merry Christmas to all. And to all a good night.

To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!

'preciate y'all.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's a wrap.


I'm the world's crappiest gift wrapper. No matter how hard I try, the edges are lumpy and fat and the tape is always showing. Surely--this year especially--my children will think that Santa's back-up elves wrapped their gifts. Certainly not the first line ones.

Uuuuh, yeah.

Deanna always told me that it was because I wasn't fully committed to my gifts looking pretty on the outside. And even then, I told her--as I handed her each and every box to wrap for me--that she was absolutely right. But now, as I think back, that wasn't the only reason why I sucked at gift wrapping. A lot of it had to do with the fact that she was just so damn Martha Stewart-good at it that there was no point in me learning.


So gift wrapping. Yeah. Deanna was hands-down our go-to gift wrapper. And the only thing better than her exceptional gift wrapping skills was the fact that she knew she had them and shared them liberally with her less nimble-fingered family members.

That reminds me. Deanna had so many gifts. And I love that she knew it. Like, she knew she was creative and crafty. So she did crafty and creative things and volunteered to help others out using those talents. All the time. She knew that she was good with children and that she was a great teacher. So, without fail, she gave of herself freely to kids. That included my own children and I remain forever grateful for it. I know for certain that she changed their lives and helped shaped them in ways that even we can't see yet.

I think about this part a lot. The gifts part. We used to talk about realizing gifts. She told me that I had a gift for writing and public speaking and that she was glad that I was using those gifts. That's when she expressed what she believed her own gifts were. And I just listened and nodded and agreed.  Then I told her that I think I also have a gift for encouraging others and she said, "And you do this through writing and speaking. I agree."


That's what it was like having Deanna around. These were the kinds of things we'd talk about in between the silly Deanna topics like reality TV train wrecks and lines from blaxploitation movies. Man. I'm so glad we did.

I guess I'm telling you this part in case you haven't thought about your gifts. Maybe you have. But you know? I'm thinking that there is also power in telling another person because it makes you more intentional about using them. You know what I mean? Eh. Maybe this all sounds crazy and rambly.


Today I was wrapping gifts and as I completed one of the packages, I sat back and surveyed my work. I laughed out loud at how extremely shitty it looked. Then, within the same breath, I was crying because I wanted to take a picture of it and text it to Deanna. So, so bad. And then bribe her with heavily spiked egg nog to get over here ASAP to rescue my children from the world's worst wrapping jobs.

Which she would have done for me, no question. With or without the heavily spiked egg nog.

But see? It's okay. Those tears were okay because it was a sun shower like they always are. Two moments later I was laughing at something else she once said to me on the topic. I recalled Christmas 2005 when I put every single gift in those gift bags with tissue paper so that I wouldn't have to wrap anything. Deanna saw all of it under my tree and said--and I quote--"Now that's a damn shame! Gift bags? For everything?"

And then she laughed at me. Totally at me. Because Deanna always kept it real like that. "How trifling is that?" she cackled.

"But don't they look pretty? Look at the tissue paper!" I countered.

"Kids like to rip shit. This is trifling!"

"Trifling? Damn, that's cold, sis."

"Dude. They look like Secret Santa gifts. You'd better be glad Isaiah is only 9 months old. Next year you've got to do better, sis. Remind me to intervene. For real."

Which I most certainly did. And she most certainly did.

Secret Santa gifts? That has me laughing out loud all over again. Whew.

I started to commit myself to learning how to perfectly wrap gifts like her. But then I realized that she got the "crafty gene" and I didn't so there was no point. Besides. Whenever I wrap gifts now and they all look like school lunches instead of gifts, it will make me smile and think of Deanna. Which is a good thing.

I miss my sister today. Intensely, deeply I miss her. Not just because it's Christmas but just because I do. She was wonderful and funny and gifted and selfless. And I miss her.

Damn, I do.

Even still, I remain more glad than sad. Always. Glad that my head and heart are overflowing with warm and wonderful memories of Deanna and that the only thing that I have to be sad about is missing her sometimes.

And nothing else.

JoLai will be here tonight. I will hug my baby sissy and we will both continue wrapping gifts as crappily as we possibly can in memory of our big sister. Then we'll blame it all on the mall Santa Claus.


Happy Christmas Eve.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . 'cause Deanna loved the kids--especially the ones that others often forgot about.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Random, Ridiculous and Rhetorical Parts of This American Life.

Hey y'all. Well. I don't have much going on today. This will be random. Extremely. Proceed with caution.

How 'bout we start out with this EXTREMELY awesome picture of Tounces and Poopdeck circa 1966?  Don't mind if I do.

Dad was fully prepared for a flood. Or a bike ride. And Mom? Well. She just looks adorable and I can see how she turned the head of that big time senior engineering frat boy despite her freshman status.

Hmm. What else?

Let's see. Somebody was telling me that I'm always positive and always seem to like everything. I am proud that most would think of me as positive. That said, 'tain't true that I like everything. Nope. Don't believe me? Quick! I'll name you five things that I DON'T like or that SUPER ANNOY me. (And it won't include CHEESE because y'all already know that CHEESE smells like feet to me and does not touch my lips.)

Okay. Here's your five:

1.  I don't like it when people finish sentences when talking to another person. You know. The kind where they're listening so carefully to you that they try to predict the last three to four words of every sentence you say? Like it's name that tune. Don't like that. To that I say: Cut. It. Out.

2. I don't like the anti-reflective coating that they put on eyeglasses. Because if you're like me and get new glasses only once every two years, that coating gets streaky and leaves you with this perpetual chicken grease appearance on your specs. Not. Cool. Even worse is that even when I say NO CHICKEN GREASE REFLECTOR STUFF they do it anyway. Like they're doing me some kind of favor. To that I say: Cut. It. Out.

3. I don't think I like it when someone calls my outfit, hairdo, shoes, etc. "fun." There's this woman I encounter regularly who always looks at me and squeals, "Oh my gosh! Your outfit is so FUN!"  Then a few days later she'll say, "Oh, what a fun hairstyle!" My bright green coat was also fun, as were my purple jeans. To that I say: Cut. It. Out.

4. I don't like it when the BHE asks me rhetorical questions. Such as, "Sooooo. . . .are we just . . .no longer eating any fruits for snacks or. . ?"  (That's his way of telling me that we are out of fruit.)  The more annoyed with me that he is, the worse they get. First a preamble: "Sooooo. . . I'm confused about what our gameplan is about keeping our room clean."  Then the question:  "So are we just completely saying EFF IT when it comes to our room in the two days before our housekeeper comes?" Lastly the commentary: "I mean, let me know if that's how things are working because right now it seems like that's what we're doing."


It doesn't help when I reply with, "I was wondering the same thing about the fruits! Because those plums you wanted and those bananas you asked for all went bad. Hmmm. Good question." And the room part, which is clearly referring to the things I have left around and not his military-neat side, I just sort of ignore for as long as possible. Then I try batting my lashes at him to see if I can distract him with my feminine wiles.


But mostly, in my head I'm all like: Cut. It. Out.

5.  I DO NOT like it when little boys and grown men remove pants and underwear together and then leave them intertwined in hampers. Nothing about that makes me happy. In fact, it kind of gives me the heebie jeebies. But on a scale of one to ten, it's only like a three, yet still annoying.

See. I don't like everything. See? Oh. One more. I don't like it when people send text messages that ask for some immediate response on every day unimportant things. Unless it's the kind of thing that is important and genuinely deserves an immediate response, it can be slightly annoying.

Only a two on the annoying-scale of one to ten. But still.

Like, in medicine, we have something called "open ended questions" that we're supposed to ask our patients. Like, "What brings you here today?" or "Can you tell me more about that?"  This is meant to get a verbose answer that allows you to expound. But see, text messages aren't for all that. It's fine sometimes but mostly, I need it to be like a unidirectional tweet for one. I can chime in if I want or keep it moving if I need to. Or respond like two days later. These are the very best kinds.


This doesn't apply to my very best friends. Or immediate family. Or my friends, you know who you are, that have text message bonding as an unspoken part of our bonding rituals. For those people, do whatever you want.

Otherwise: Cut. It. Out.

Ha ha ha ha ha. I am cracking myself up.

I was in the mall with the kids today to see a movie. We walked past the Santa Claus display and I realized that I am a horrible mom who has never taken her kids to get their photo taken with Saint Nick. So I decide to try to right this wrong. "Hey dudes. Want to go get a picture with Santa?"

Zachary looked intrigued for a bit. Only for a bit. Because Isaiah gave the whole concept the GAS FACE. "That dude is SO not the real Santa. Mom. It's December 23. What would Santa be doing up in a mall lobby?" I replied, "But look. He has real white hair growing out of his head and a real beard." Because this mall Santa, like, totally did.

Maaaan. Isaiah waved his hand at the whole display like whatever, man. And walked right on by.

Of course, his baby brother followed his lead. "So not the real Santa," Zachary repeated.


I started to launch into that whole biz about Santa having a bunch of look-a-like helpers that work in malls and yadda yah, but honestly? It wasn't that serious. I'm no Scrooge but I also don't bend over backwards to keep the dream alive. At least not the mall Santa one. So I kind of shrugged and kept it moving.

As far as the Manning boys are concerned, the mall Santa can kick rocks. So if you know any of them, tell them that Isaiah says: Cut. It. Out. (And Zachary does, too.)

My husband doesn't drink red wine. This is annoying because I love red wine. But since I am not a wine-o and I have a job, I can't just bust through a bottle of red on a whim. And. Even when I try to store it as correctly as possible, I never like the taste after a couple--okay one--day after opening-slash-uncorking. Oh well. One of y'all will have to come and drink red with me one of these days.

Yep. What else?

My husband, despite his rhetorical questions and non-red-wine drinking, is a keeper. That man is the BFHE. He so is. Let me tell you, ladies. The other day I was rubbing the under side of where my neck meets my chin and felt what I am certain was some kind of whiskery thing. Yes. This? This was not good. 

Now. If you are over thirty-five, you know that one lone terminal hair growing from or near your face becomes an obsession until it is sho nuff plucked. Let's be clear. I am forty two years-old, so this was NOT the first whiskery thing I have discovered and attacked. But. It was in a very odd place so I couldn't see it even with acrobatic mirror juggling.

Oh just admit it. You're laughing because you've been there with one of those suckers.You rub it. You try to grab it with your finger nails. You almost wreck your car trying to see it at stop lights.

A whisker is worse than texting, I tell you. And don't EVEN judge me as you read this because the only ones who are appalled by this confession are a.) under the age of thirty five and have yet to discover a whiskery renegade, or b.) in complete and utter denial about those things they keep plucking out  every month.

Mmm hmmm.

So y'all! I couldn't get it no matter how hard I tried. It was making me crazy. So guess what I did? I told the BHE. And do you know what that sweet man did for his wife? He grabbed a pair of needle nose tweezers and went to town. Like it wasn't nothing. Yes! He plucked a hair from the under side of my chinny-chin-chin.

Awesome. And so, so very blogworthy.

"Dude. You totally love me. Totally. Wow." This was what I told him. Then we both stared a little bit closer and realized that the hair he is holding in the tweezers appears to be grey.

"Wait. Did I just pluck a grey whisker from my wife's chin?"

And I nodded with pursed lips. "Sexy, huh?"

He just laughed and walked away. And I yelled behind him, "You know you love it!"

Hey. I just thought of something. I think that was on his birthday that he did that for me. Damn. My bad. Hey--what horrifically awesome things have you done for your honey or has your honey done for you? Oh come on. . .you can tell me.

Oh that man of mine. He is something special, rhetorical questions and all. Thank goodness he is now forty two also. His cougar jokes get very old very fast. Ha.

The BHE's birthday was good. Mostly uneventful, which was how he wanted it. "I just want a boring night at home with my wife and kids. That's it, that's all."  We came through big time! Ha.

Oh yeah. He also baby sat our almost two year-old godson last night so that me and Jackson's mama-slash-my bff could go and have us some good girlfriend time. And red wine.

Yay-yuuuh. That was fun. On this picture she was telling me about the Ugg boots she'd just bought earlier that day. And then we talked about the wonderful cocoon they wrap your feet in.


I love my Ugg boots. They are so, so, so comfortable. But The BHE calls my Ugg boots GFD. That's code for "grounds for divorce." In other words, he really doesn't like those things. And did I mention that I have a black and a brown pair? We don't hold grudges in our house. But if he makes me mad, my passive aggressive stealth move always involves my Ugg boots. They also work if I have a headache that night.


Another non-African American person wished me a Happy Kwanzaa. To that I say: Cut. It. Out. (Because the secret is that hardly anyone I know really celebrates it. At least not enough to be wished a happy one more than anyone else.) That made me remember this funny top ten post about cultural holiday celebrations. And of course the holiday post where this whole Happy Kwanzaa thing first came up. Check it out for a good laugh.

Oh! And I went to another Target to find the $99 off camera and guess what? Now it's $149 off. And they had one in stock. Shut the front door. See? Told you it wasn't the end of the world. 

Oh Lord. What a ridiculous post. Completely. Utterly.


I think that's all I've got for now. I'm fixin' to play with my kids. Because Christmas time with a six and a seven year-old is just a whole bunch of fun. Sure is. My friend, Ms. Moon, was talking about "fixin' to" do things on her blog today. I've been thinking that ever since. Even though whenever I do say that, it comes out more as "finna" than "fixing to." I kind of think of Paula Deen when I think of "fixing to."

Yeah. On that note. I'm finna go. Talk to you good people later.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Not the end of the world.

So, I was in Target yesterday fighting through the holiday mayhem. And why I punished myself this way, I do not know. Just know that I did because there was a really good sale on this Nikon camera and I am looking to have a camera other than my iPhone (which, okay, has been very good to me.)


Me, I take a lot of pictures of my family and my life so was thinking that for a cool $99 off of the original price, these pictures of my family and my life could be even better. Yeah. So I was in Target and there were people on top o' people on top o' people up in that piece. And even for me--a sho nuff and bona fide Target maestro--this almost had me feeling a bit Santa Claus-traphobic. 


Wait. Santa Claus-traphobic? Ha. I just came up with that. Damn, I'm witty.

Anyways. This nice young mop-topped dude was helping me in the midst of the mayhem. And he was flustered because he couldn't find the sale camera in stock despite the fact that his hand held stock-checking-thingie said they had three. So he looked. And looked. And fretted. And looked some more.

And me? I was just chilling in the middle of the mayhem. Watching people get all riled up and agitated over video games and iPhone accessories. Thinking, "Y'all really need to calm yo' asses down and take it down about two point five notches. For reals." (And I wrote it just like that because that really is exactly how I was thinking it.)

Mmmmm hmmm.

So finally, mop-top dude goes off into the bowels of Target to scout out said stock. As soon as he comes around the corner, I see his face and know the verdict. 

It's a bust.

"I just don't understand it!" he fretted some more. "It says we have three but I can't find them in the cabinet or in the stock room. Ma'am, I am sooooooo sorry. So, so, so, so sorry."

Damn. So, so, so, so sorry? Four sorrys? Mop-top might need to bring it down a notch, too.

I smiled at him and shrugged. "Sir. It's okay--really." Because it was okay. And not being able to get a camera on sale at my neighborhood Target did not warrant that kind of vehement apology.

"Ma'am, I really want to help you. I do!" And I could tell that Mop-top meant that.  "Here is a list of other stores with them in stock.Uggghh. I'm just so sorry."

"Sir," I said, "It's not the end of the world."

He had already printed out the other-store list and was handing it to me. It had all the area Targets that allegedly carried the $99 off Nikon in their stock. It also had the date on top: 

December 21, 2012.

"I take that back," I added, "It just might be the end of the world."

Mop-top looked at the printout and immediately got my joke. I saw his shoulders relax a bit and his expression lighten. 

I raised my eyebrows.

"Well, I was gonna give you a raincheck. But on second thought, you might not need it."

I threw my head back and laughed. He did, too. "I'll take my chances. And I'll take the raincheck."

So I left. Knowing that even with my Target raincheck in hand  that I may not ever get the $99 off Nikon camera. And you know what? Turns out it wasn't the end of the world.

Literally and figuratively, it was not.

I do admit, though, that before I left, I told Mop-top's manager that he was great and very helpful. You know--just in case it really had been the end of the world.


Happy December 22.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Signs of life.

 Love, a word that comes and goes
but few people really know
what it means to really love somebody

Love--though the tears may fade away
I'm so glad your love has stayed
'cause I love you
and you showed me. . .

what it really means to love.

~ Kirk Franklin


I don't have a lot of words this morning. Just pictures showing signs of life--or rather my life--this past week. I hope you are doing well today and that your days have been merry and light.

A very kind stranger I met in the Grady lobby who described herself as "a loyal reader of my blog." Thanks for that!
Fun with old friends and silly faces.

Our old Jack and Jill South L.A. Chapter friends--together again.

Me--the purse-fiend--coveting a friend's seriously amazing LV bag. It should be mine!
I call it the Jo-Fro
First cousins having some deep conversation.

Me and my baby sissy

Proud papa.

My favorite brother

The eyes have it, don't you think?

Talking trash--a must whenever we're together in L.A.!

The old school bus crew from Parent School. We even said bad words for old times' sake.

Morningside High School Varsity Cheer--still the "it" girls. Ha.

Step away from the brother.

Hugs that know.

More first cousins

Mi madre y mi padre

Tounces' trip to The Gradys

Kitchen beautician with Gabby
Getting the scoop on 5th grade life. It's a whole saga, man.

Finished product--this time we went for a "curly look"

The middles rock (and care about how their hair looks.)

Niece Tyler and bff Colleen running from my camera

Epic FAIL. The Auntie-Razzi WINS.

BFFs are not immune to my wrath.

Colleen fights back!

Flowers from one of my residents--an unexpected surprise. Wow!

. . .and I LOVE flowers so much. Thanks--you know who you are.

Smart boys doing smart boy things

Isaiah wouldn't tell Zachary the answer to his question. "Think," he said.
Rain dance.

My life is a good life.  It is.

Happy Friday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .one of my favorite songs of ALL TIME. It speaks to my soul and to my life like few songs can. . . .simply titled "Love." It's the reason why I can lift my head and my heart and appreciate little moments like these.