Christmas Hoarders With Borders

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(previously published in The Kansas City Star on December 11, 2016)

Are you or a loved one overwhelmed by the decorations in your house? Are you able to skip through a path lined with stuffed Santas and reindeer in your front hall?

If you’ve ever been tied up so severely by the ankles with electrical cords at the beginning of December, you too, may be a Christmas Hoarder – or have other issues I’m not willing to discuss in print. Ahem!

My affinity for the red, green and sparkly started out simply when I was single. It’s almost Christmas and my choices were to sit alone by the CD player and cry to the empty sound of carols echoing through my quiet home, or to drown myself in eggnog and the 50 types of cookies I picked up after work.

Instead, I realized I could keep myself busy and in a festive, cheery mood if I decorated with authority.

For many years, I avoided reality with my shiny, twinkling, well-glittered collections. I skipped the light fandango while draping everything nailed down in boughs of holly. A glorious sight of winter themed rooms was my 1,100 square foot house. I was proud to be among the countless Christmas collectors, waving my festive Hoarder flag with pride.

Actually, I didn’t quite have a problem until I was married and had kids. The kid thing threw me over the edge into décor pandemonium. I lost all control probably by the time my girls were toddlers. I mean who wouldn’t love to live at a Midwestern North Pole?

My wonderful family and friends had an easy time deciding what gift to get me. My husband spoiled me with near life-sized Santas as Christmas presents.

We’ve been married for 13 years. You do the math.

My addiction recently came to a halt. If you are wondering what in the world could stop a crazy woman so abruptly, you’ve never had a Goldendoodle puppy. As I’m writing this I’m glancing into the cutest shaggy face covered in grass clippings and coffee grounds.

Playing in compost is awesome!

If anyone thought I’d lost my mind over the holidays before, you were wrong. This knee-jerked purchase has been the worst decision affecting my family’s winter holiday. Even worse than the 2010 gravy disaster! Now I love my dog, so don’t push the PEETA speed dial just yet. But I have the freedom in this country to speak my mind and tell anyone within earshot about the disastrous puppy who stole Christmas.

Her name is Bella Luna, which means beautiful moon in Italian. We should have named her Carpe Bella, then maybe we’d be able to have a Christmas tree this year. I know many of you might be thinking, “Build a wall!” That’s just stupid. Then we wouldn’t be able to see our beautiful symbol of light.

I can hear you yelling, “Don’t put the ornaments near the bottom!”

I’m sorry, that’s incorrect. She’s not a cat and won’t gently bat at glass balls and other family heirlooms. She’d eat them for breakfast! Actually, my husband, the dude who’s into lights, had one of his new illuminations demolished by the dog even before adding it to his Clark Griswold extravaganza. (Shh! He has a problem, but you didn’t hear it from me.)

Since we like to dwell on our misery, we have finally come up with a plan. No, Dad we aren’t going to hang it from the ceiling as you suggested! We will move the puppy’s metal fenced playpen to surround the tree and toss the presents over the top. Not exactly what this Christmas hoarder desires, but at least my disorder has been stopped.

Packing away crates still filled with unseen Santas and reindeer may not be the worst thing in the world. At least cleanup will be a lot faster in January!

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Mythical creatures and elections make for interesting parties

I had high hopes the media coverage of the presidential election would stop shoving hateful comments down our ear canals and burning holes in our retinas after the ballots had been counted.

I would have celebrated if the circus of the last year had moved out of town, or better yet out of the country. But alas, the nastiness has continued.

Many voters are still experiencing strong bouts of nausea with each headline, news clip or magazine cover. What can we get from this?

It’s obviously no longer safe to grocery shop for more than 12 items. Tabloids have become universal acid reflux instigators and waiting in lines must be avoided at all cost.

In the past, whenever I’m overwhelmed by negativity, I sing a happy tune and my cares dance away. Yes, it was an annoying habit but it no longer seems to make things better.

After hearing friends on both sides of the polls angrily ranting on social media, I needed to make a big choice. I could jump on the crazy train, make a concerted effort to move on with my life, or escape reality completely. It was a toss up.

The intense negativity started the day after the elections, which also happened to be my youngest daughter’s birthday. There was no time to raise my emotional flag, because my little girl was expecting the royal treatment.

A month before the day she entered double digits, she said her family party was to be themed “mythical creatures.” Thankfully, she didn’t mean Big Foot or the Lochness Monster for I’d hate to picture those party games. She desired a more ethereal celebration, sprinkled with fairies, mermaids and unicorns.

My husband and I decided my daughter’s birthday would stall our politics for one day and then we could return to mayhem and angst. I didn’t foresee continuing to ignore all surroundings for weeks. But it’s so nice, kind and cuddly in my little sparkly world. Why would I leave that?

Perhaps laughing, eating cake and opening presents was what the rest of the world needed too. It doesn’t matter if you are happy your candidate won or if yours lost, anxiety was increasing around the world and noshing on buttercream frosting in complete isolation became a surefire way to escape it. (It sounded better in my head.)

“How did you handle the election results?” asked no one.

“What election? We’ve had power turned off months ago and no communication with the rest of the world,” I’d sing out. “It’s all rainbows and unicorns here!” Now where did I put that glittered handheld can opener?

So people of this polarized country turn off your electronics, urge your new puppy to eat the newspaper, and if the urge to scream bubbles up… let them eat cake!

Luckily, for my waistline, ignoring the world didn’t last. I’m trying to be positive and not get caught up in the debating. But at least I know if things get out of control again, I have a fabulous happy place filled with rainbows, unicorns and buttercream frosting.

On the plus side, I’m no longer dreading my 50th birthday! I’m actually looking forward to the celebration. It will be complete with 50 unicorns dressed in rainbow wigs with fairies and mermaids singing show tunes.

It’s so nice, kind and cuddly in my little sparkly world.

(Previously published in The Kansas City Star on November 24, 2016.)

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Halloween Candy Might be Poisonous, so Let Mom Try it First

Young girl outdoors in witch costume on Halloween holding candy

It’s that time again…surviving the week or two following Halloween.

The real problem is there are numerous times in the day when my kids are not actively watching their Halloween candy. I should suggest they lock it in a fire safe box, or tell them to hide it somewhere far off our property. But then how would I find that delicious morsel of a Milk Dud if they actually followed through?

My dilemma is children often go to school outside the home, leaving unwatched tidbits of treats. Also, some children sleep through the night, albeit mine didn’t until they were in second grade, but I digress. The thought of no longer getting some of our children’s candy is more haunting than the headless man in a coffin down the street. That bloke has been scarring my children every October for the last half decade.

So how can my husband and I “borrow” a fun-sized Snickers, without them noticing? We’ve tried it all. Disposing of the wrappers in another room and hiding them under Kleenex. Never eating more than one of the same type of candy from the same kid’s stash. I’ll tell you, multiples of one kind will lead to being found out, and it’s not pretty.

For years, I sampled my children’s goodies by pleading the Snow White law. Someone has to be brave to test the candy to make sure it’s not poisonous. The tainted apple just about took out that princess. My cute girls used to think I was so worried for their health, and always appreciated my selfless concern. Sweet, sweet girls…

“It’s out of love, Sweetie!” I would sing in a high voice with forest animals running to my feet.

But my grade school girls have caught on to our long-lived lie. The gig is up!

They carefully scan the house for new locations to hide their gooey goodies. When asked if they would like to donate their candy to the wonderful men and women in the armed forces who don’t get any candy, they scoff or roll their eyes. Since they are inching closer to the teenage years, I’m afraid to stick my hand in the proverbial honey pot. I might lose a finger or worse yet, jewelry.

So this year I bought a small assortment bag of candy for my husband and I to share. If we can have just a nibble while the kiddos are eating theirs, it couldn’t be too harmful, right? Could it keep the peace in the house? Probably, not, but hopefully, the parent stash could keep all body parts safe and our chocolate-filled children from haunting our dreams.

Author’s Note: While writing this I got a hankering for a bite of chocolate; however, when I returned to my chair, I seriously heard and felt the seat of my pants rip, not once, but twice! The good thing to come out of this is my four-inch rip completely fixed my chocolate problem. Hallelujah! My children are safe because nothing fixes candy stealing faster than a clothing fail!

(Previously published in The Kansas City Star on October 11, 2016.)

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Cheers to all the Good Coaches

soccer

Both of my daughters are gifted in many areas. They are talented dancers, singers, students and master throwers of clothing on the floor. However, when it comes to competitive sports, their genetic code was mangled because they could care less about winning and sometimes even participating in team sports.

“Why would I play soccer at recess when I could be writing musicals and choreographing my backup dancers?” I can imagine those words coming out of either girl.

So at the end of summer, when I asked my youngest if there was something new she wanted to try in the fall, her answer was the last thing I expected. Even a root canal or mammogram would have surprised me less.

“Hmm, I think I’ll try soccer,” she said, without missing a beat.

I inhaled one of those deep “parent breaths” so my next phrase would sound positive and supportive. “Really? That sounds like fun!”

Now the problem with this is, in our area, soccer is a competitive sport. Hard core.

Most young athletes start playing in preschool and diligently progress through grade school. My daughter was going into fourth grade without any experience or knowledge. (She did play “soccer” in kindergarten, but it was more like herding kittens; plus, halfway through the season, my funny girl decided she was her team’s mascot, “Magic Hatton.” I kid you not!)

Now I didn’t want to burst my child’s sports bubble by telling her she’d be horribly behind, but I hated to see her disappointment at the first practice. So I signed her up and told her with lots of practice and teamwork, she would have a great time and maybe meet some new girls from another school since no one at her school was playing recreational soccer anymore.

My youngest is self-assured and has never met a stranger. She is my actress, comedian, and according to one principal of her school, she’s the social director of the student body. So I wasn’t worried about her not getting along with new teammates.

First practice, she sidled up and began learning the difference between a ball and shin guards. Thanks to her coach.

I’m not trying to suck up to the coach so my girl will get more game time. In fact on many game days, my opinionated daughter spouts her dislike of the sport and begs to get back into acting classes. But here lies the dilemma. This coach is amazing. Not only does he know and love the sport, but he also deals with these tween girls better than Judy Blume would.

Coach notices when a girl gets a side cramp and needs to be pulled out. If an asthmatic is struggling, he has a signal the girl is instructed to do. Heck, I know men who for weeks hadn’t noticed that I changed my hair color and had five inches cut off.

So when my daughter decided to do something embarrassing, in hopes of getting yanked out of soccer, I insisted she write an apology letter to the coach. My creative gal wrote a beautiful letter, full of kindness, raw emotion and remorse. She’s a keeper!

The next week, her coach hand wrote a note that I told her she should keep with her all the way through college. We might need to laminate it. His advice was simple and I’m paraphrasing: she should never give up; believe in herself and “it takes a lot of practice, confidence and failure to learn a lot of things in life.” How many adults get that type of life coaching…ever?

I’m sad my daughter will not be doing soccer next semester. I think she’s progressing well and when she puts her heart into it, she’s fun to watch. But to be honest, I’m more disappointed she will not have “Coach” in her life.

These types of life coaches are rare to find. I’m thrilled she had the opportunity to learn from him and will be able to take away his sage advice.

And even better, she’ll have his laminated letter to look back on for years to come.

Cheers to all the excellent coaches and teachers in this world. You make a huge difference!

(previously published in The Kansas City Star on Sept. 26, 2016)

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Neighborhood has Turned into the Wild, Wild West

courtesy of freestock.com

courtesy of freestock.com

Howdy! I reckon I’ll share a tale about this here settlement. Way out West in the small county of Johnson, a township was prospering. The kinfolk were, overall, a good people.

When the children weren’t larnin’, they spent their time in the woods riding on trails and fighting off monsters by the creek. The townsfolk spent their days tending to the farm and worrying about the weather.

Summer was gone, so with the cool breeze of autumn and the drone of cicadas dying down, the townsfolk settled into a familiar quiet life.

Folks was encouraged until that sunny day when Cowboy Joe, packing his Smith and Wesson 6-shooter, roamed the main street…

The year was 2016 and life as we knew it was changing.

It all happened one beautiful August evening. After a big rain, the obnoxious temperatures finally lowered. Kids were in the yards playing, while parents gossiped over the 4-foot fences. So on the one day when the temperatures were comfortable and mosquitos were at bay, the home dwellers surfaced.

“Hi there, Sheila! When did y’all move in? Last year, you say? …Well, welcome to our perfect corner of the world!”

It’s a regular Pleasantville!

That evening, in order to trick my children into exercising with me, I suggested we search for Pokémon Go monsters in our hood. The beauty of this phone app is kids have no idea how far they are walking; and as long as they are doing with me, they won’t wander in front of traffic. It’s a win-win.

We had only walked about five blocks searching for funny critters, when an old man out for a walk appeared. I shouldn’t have assumed he wouldn’t know about Pokémon, but we had intentionally stalked into a yard to put the sting on Jigglypuff. I didn’t want this man screaming, “Get outta my yard!” So I cheerily approached to assure him we weren’t threatening, unless he were a Pokémon.

After our howdy dos, he abruptly changed gears ranting about politics in front of my children. I must have been wearing that face saying, “You are either crazy or an idiot” because he literally shamed me for the beliefs he thought I had.

Within 2.2 seconds he spouted off the Second Amendment, without caring or knowing how I felt about it. Just assuming I was “wrong,” he proceeded to lift up his shirt to show me he had a gun tucked into his belted jean shorts.

I’m sure the next sound was a panicked mom gasping for air, as I fumbled to protect my children. After all, I didn’t know this Cowboy Joe from a hole in the ground.

My daughter, staring at his shorts said, “You have a Taser?”

I yelled a panicked “No!” to stop her questioning, or to keep the old cowboy from drawing his pistol. Thankfully my outburst surprised everyone and everyone stopped talking.

“It was so nice to meet you, sir!” I said with as much sincerity as I could force. “But we have a whole lot of Pokémon to capture.” Then with a fake smile, I pushed my daughters down the hill and high- tailed it out of Dodge. That theater training of mine does come in handy, Mom!

After running home the back way, locking all doors and closing blinds, we crouched in the safest part of the house to answer my skeered babies’ questions. Just because trouble comes visiting, doesn’t mean you offer it a place to sit.

After a sleepless night and a trip to the police station, I found out we are living in the Wild West. Last I heard, we lived in a state where you had to conceal your weapon, not show it off to young children. Apparently, I was wrong. As long as Cowboy Joe didn’t threaten us with his drawn weapon, we couldn’t call 9-1-1. That makes a mom feel safer. That’s sarcasm.

Cowboy Joe, here’s some free advice: I don’t care if you own a six-shooter, but don’t be exposing it to my kids. Plus, exercising with a gun on your hip sounds like danger ready to happen. If you stumble off a curb one day, you could shoot yerself in the yippee-kayee.

Pleasantville, my hide.

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