Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daddy, may I take the wheel?

Sunday afternoon, my parents and sister visited me in Winona. Like the Beverly Hillbillies, they pulled into town with a pickup truck full of furniture and other odds and ends to finish furnishing my home. I miss seeing my family every day, so a visit for any reason is perfectly fine with me.

According to my sister, Deana, the trip was long. Traveling in Daddy’s truck is only comfortable if you ride in the front seat, but Deana did convince Momma to ride in the backseat. She also managed to convince Daddy to take us to dinner.

We decided to take a little tour of the area – especially the antebellum homes in Winona and Carrollton, and then head over to Greenwood to eat. I drove. Daddy sat in the passenger seat – gripping the legs of his pants with white-knuckled fists.

“Watch the road,” he shouted. “Watch the road.”

He complained about me getting to close to the ditch (I was simply driving the left lane). He complained about me handing Deana my cell phone (most people can do more than one thing at a time). He complained about my speed.

“Watch those people on the bikes.” I thought I needed to watch the road.

Funny thing, Daddy taught me to drive. At 15, I got my driver’s permit but still had never been behind the wheel of a car. I had 30 days to learn to drive before I got my license.

One Saturday, Daddy informed me that he would give me a driving lesson. I climbed into the driver’s seat of his 1985 Lincoln Town Car – all 25 feet of it. The car was so big, eight adults could ride comfortably on two seats and four others could sit in the truck.

My lesson lasted about three minutes. While backing out of the driveway, I ran off the pavement and into the drainage culvert at the street. Defeated, I trudged back into the house – leaving Daddy screaming and hollering in the front yard.

Two weeks later, we started out again – from the street this time. Daddy directed me down winding, country roads. I managed to keep it on the pavement, but I did have issues with a one lane railroad trestle. We switched seats while Daddy passed under it.

I practiced for about an hour before we headed home. Daddy didn’t holler at me during the lesson, but he did make a smart comment about me scaring him to death as he went into the house.

A week later, I managed to pass my driving test. Personally, I think the nice lady with the DMV felt sorry for me.

At 15 and one month, I was a licensed driver who still did not know how to drive. I could keep the car in the right lane, but I had issues with turning, parking, and reversing. Despite all of this, I convinced my parents to let me “cruise” Stateline Road in Southaven that Friday night. My sister, Stephanie, even let me use her new car.

Mind you, I have never driven anywhere but country roads, but I was certain I could make it on Stateline Road on the busiest night of the week. I was wrong.

I had not been out for more than an hour before I ran Stephanie’s new car under the rear end of a Dooley truck. When my parents arrived on the scene, they were eerily calm.

“She’s the youngest of my three girls,” Daddy told the police officer.

The officer nodded with a smile that said, “Oh, okay. You must be a pro at this.”

In fact, Daddy was a pro at this. By that time, I had already been in three fender-benders with my two older sisters, and each had been in separate accidents without me in the car. Daddy had even suggested he replace the passenger door to the car with something Velcro so it would be less expensive to replace. Stephanie and Deana always managed to take out that same door.

I wish I could say that was my one and only accident. Well, involving another car, it was. I managed to hit the big green dumpster behind my school, run through the garage wall, take out more mail boxes than I can count, hit a light pole, and run through a neighbors retaining wall.

Once in college, while on a 2 a.m. frozen yogurt run to Chevron in Oxford, a monster truck ran over my car in the parking lot. When I say ran over, I mean ran over my car while I watched in horror from inside the store. (I was in a marked parking space). As he bounced over the hood of my car, his trailer hitch wedged into my car’s engine. Two tow trucks were dispatched to rip our cars apart.

In my own defense, not all of these mishaps were my fault. In fact, I blame Daddy for the garage wall because his car was not entirely on its side of the garage. And the light pole – my car went completely out of control by itself like it was possessed.

Because of my spotty driving record, my first car was our 1984 Ford F150 farm truck. It was brown, and it always had grass clippings, mulch, or dead leaves in the back. I named the truck Loretta.

Loretta had seen better days when I got her. Both sisters broke her in, and she was just a fraction of her original self when I got her. She had no tape deck, and the radio would switch from FM to AM on its own. It required a forceful bang on the dashboard with my fist to flip it back to FM.

Remarkably, I was the only one of the three girls that did not get Loretta into an accident – every other car we owned, but not Loretta.

Over the past decade, my driving record has remarkably improved. I haven’t hit one inanimate object since college, and I can’t even recall my last fender bender – knock wood.

Looking for a lesson in my tale, I have thought long and hard. First, I don’t think it is I that needs to learn the lesson. Daddy taught me to drive, so therefore, his instruction is somehow flawed. If the driving instructor is screaming with fright every time you round a curve, it tends to do something to your psyche.

Second, in examining the driving histories of my grandfather, Daddy, and two sisters, I am beginning to believe our difficulties behind the wheel run in the family.

Third, when as an adult, you are required to fork out money for car insurance, to repair the car, and to settle up any tickets collected from your fender-bender, one tends to be much more careful. Ten and two, people. Times are tough.

Monday, November 17, 2008

For Lulu

High up in the courts of heaven today a little dog angel waits;
With the other angels she will not play, but she sits alone at the gates.
"For I know my master will come" says she, "and when she comes she will call for me."
The other angels pass her by as they hurry toward the throne,
And she watches them with a wistful eye as she sits at the gates alone.
"But I know if I just wait patiently that someday my master will call for me."
And her master, down on earth below, as she sits in her easy chair,
Forgets sometimes, and whispers low to the dog who is not there.
And the little dog angel cocks her ears and dreams that her master's voice she hears.
And when at last her master waits outside in the dark and cold,
For the hand of death to open the door that leads to those courts of gold,
She will hear a sound through the gathering dark,
A little dog angel's bark.
~ Author unknown

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oriental Catfish? Say it ain't so!

Yesterday at my weekly Winona Rotary Club meeting, a gentleman from the Catfish Institute spoke to us about the Chinese and the Vietnamese trying to take over the South's catfish industry. What is this all about?

First, they are successfully making cotton obsolete in the Mississippi Delta, and now they are going to take our catfish ponds. This has to stop.

U.S. raised catfish are grain fed and raised in clean fresh water ponds like these.

The oriental alternative:

An Australian news program did an investigative piece on Chinese catfish being imported into Australia. They showed how the fish could be poisoning those who eat it.

Which one would you want to eat from?

Yeah, I thought so. Make sure you buy catfish raised with care in the American South.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I went as the dead mainstream liberal media

I spent Halloween with my family in Southaven, and as usual, we made huge spectacles of ourselves.

My nephew, Hunter, wanted me to come up for the weekend and go trick-or-treating with him and his friend, Matthew. He was going as that scary guy from "Scream." Matthew went as Michael Myers from "Halloween." (Note: Michael Myers still scares the crap out of me.)

Hunter refused to wear his mask. He looked somewhat like Obi-Wan Kenobi instead of crazy monster guy:

Matthew made Michael Myers look like he needed Botox:

On Halloween night, I made seafood etouffe for the family as Hunter and Matthew dressed in their fabulous costumes. I intended on going as a journalist (I know I am so utterly creative. I already sport the high blood pressure and fondness for alcohol like any good newspaper person.)

I was in charge of filling Hunter's "heart" with "blood" so it could be pumped out through his mask. The little vial exploded, and I was covered in red food coloring. I figured I could now go as a murdered journalist. (Notice the beer. I wasn't drinking it. It was merely a prop. I know, I don't even believe that.)

My sisters, Stephanie and Deana, and I took Hunter and Matthew and dropped them off on the sidewalk of a large, busy neighborhood. Hundreds of parents with children walked up and down the streets. We felt it best if we drove along side Hunter and Matthew in the car. Why get that unnecessary exercise? (Next year, we are thinking of investing in one of those Little Rascals.)

Stephanie, Deana, and Me:

Hunter and Matthew politely rang doorbells, got candy, and moved on. I drank beer.

Finally bored with "trick-or-treat," the boys thought it would be fun to play dead. They rang the doorbell, and then fell out on people's porches. This one man stood at the screen door (shirtless and in boxer shorts with massive chest hair and breasts, by the way....who does that?), staring down at them in amazement. It would have been perfect if Deana had not screamed out the window for the boys to "Get up right now!"

The funniest thing was actually watching Hunter and Matthew fall. They should head for the silver screen because they have "swooning" from old Hollywood down pat. I thought I was staring at Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth. They were very graceful.

They even pulled the trick on Momma. She totally fell for it regardless of what she might say. She did.

She didn't even see me hiding the Japanese maple with a camera.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I guaran-damn-ty Brangelina will marry irregardless of Y2K and Generation X

This week Oxford (not the Ole Miss one) made a list of the 10 most irritating words and phrases.

The top ten most irritating phrases according to Oxford:

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science

Well, I think Oxford missed some. I have my own list:

The 10 most irritating words and phrases according to Amanda:

1. Irregardless: So NOT a word! It means regardless, regardless.
2. Swiftboating: Used to describe unfair political bloviating. This refers to advertising sponsored by Swiftboaters for Truth that set out to discredit John Kerry as an war hero in the 2004 election against George W. Bush. It annoys me because this kind of thing has gone on for years, but until recently the media decided to give it a name to refer to anything said negative in a campaign.
3. Utilize: A very pretentious word. "Use" will do in most instances.
4. Generation X: Who is part of Generation W? I'm just asking.
5. Y2K: Seriously, who is responsible for coming up with a name for these things?
6. Phat or other "hip hop" words: If you would not use the expression in a job interview or business meeting, don't say it. If you are over the age of 18, just stop. You will never be hip again.
7. Six digits: People use this term to describe salary. If you are tacky enough to broadcast your salary, don't try to camouflage it by talking in code.
8. Instant message speak: People who speak in initials drive me insane. It is one thing if one is texting someone, but in a conversation, I don't want to try to decipher your freakish tech lingo.
9. Swear words mixed into other words: For example, "I guaran-damn-ty it."
10. Celebrity couple names: TomKat, Brangelina, Bennifer. Just plain stupid.

What are yours?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Conversations with Heaven: 'Hey, God, it's me'

Last weekend, I attended the annual Memorial Service at my home church in Eudora. Every year, our church remembers members of the church family who passed away during the year. A candle is lit and a prayer said for each of the dearly departed.

I wasn't there when the church started.

The service is followed with an old fashioned covered dish dinner consisting of scrumptious casseroles, fried chicken, and Southern-style vegetables. The meal is concluded by a trip to the desert table overflowing with homemade pies and cakes. It is such a delicious occasion.

The church in the valley:

This year, my Aunt Jean served as the keynote speaker and reminisced about growing up in the Eudora Presbyterian Church. She admitted believing as a girl her weekly church offering was taken to Heaven by way of a big ladder outside the church.

Aunt Jean received roaring laughter as she described her mission to catch the church’s treasurer in the act of delivering her money to God.

God's ladder?

Isn’t it amazing what is conjured in the imaginations of children?

Growing up, I believed that God only heard my prayers and no one else’s. I considered God my friend and confidant – telling him all of my secrets and hopes and shame. I didn’t need to have a silly imaginary friend; I had God.

As a child, I was saturated in Christianity. I attended Catholic school. I attended my Presbyterian Sunday school class weekly and Bible school every summer. Momma taught Sunday school for high school students, and I tagged along on retreats, field trips, and youth fellowship. Daddy was a member of the session and was extremely active in the administration of the church. When the doors were open, we were there.

These doors:
I was introduced to God at a young age, and from that, I felt a kinship with him. I can’t even count the many nights I spent soaring on my swing set while chatting with God. I literally filled him in on my day (like he didn’t already know) and discussed pressing decisions like Christmas wishes and birthday party guest lists.

Author Haven Kimmel wrote in her memoir, Girl Named Zippy, that she developed a crush on Jesus as a child – well, Jesus and Telly Savolis. So, obviously, I am not alone in this.
One can only imagine the one-sided conversations between me and the Almighty.

“Hey, God. It’s me. I didn’t do very well on that spelling test. I know we went over it all last night, but I just couldn’t remember. I know you are disappointed.”

I confessed.

“God, I was the one who left the gate open. I know I should have told Daddy it was me, but he was so mad. I never knew horses would eat azaleas.”

Granddaddy on Merry Golden Boy aka Goldie
I also would privately plot with God to punish everyone who wronged me.

“God, my sister was mean to me again,” I said. “I think you should do something about her because she is completely out of control. Not that I am telling you what to do, but she should really punished. Whatever you think she deserves. I have some suggestions….”

When nothing happened, I figured God was just waiting for the right time to enact revenge. Eventually, I forgot and move on to another unforgivable offense.

“God, I need your help again. She just won’t stop being mean to me. You need to do something that will teach her a lesson.”

Wasn’t I a silly child?

Despite a hardening of spirit over the years (we all become jaded with age), I have held onto my kinship with God – in a less naive manner. My prayers are still in the form of a conversation, and I still rely on him to direct me in the right path.

I had one of “our” conversations just last night. “Okay, God. Whatever you think I should do, I will do. Just let me know when the time comes.”

Funny thing is he still lets me know – just a little more subtly.