Thursday, December 28, 2006

O Brother... Where Art Thou?

Christmas at the Bell home. There's nothing quite like it. We are an unusual family and the longer I am part of it, the more I look around and wonder just how the heck I ended up here.

Kidding. Really.

Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year and that meant we each went our separate ways to worship and then move through the day before gathering together by the fireplace (it is empty, by the way. I don't want you to conjure a picture of cozyness. It is rather chilly by the fire place. Which is still painted pink on the inside) and ripping into Christmas presents.

Dinner at Christmastime is not a big deal. Usually because family members are straggling in... the older brother pulling a fast one on his wife, who was sent out earlier... the younger brother still shopping, because he prides himself on shopping on Christmas Eve. I was coming from my part-time what-was-I-thinking-about-working-at-the-mall job and had huge anxiety that I would be the one holding up the festivities!

"Don't wait on me to eat."

"Don't worry. We won't"

Dinner is typically a honey-baked ham, some side dishes, etc. Light fare in comparison to the turkey we get for Thanksgiving. Mom had intended for it to be a simpler time this year than usual, but somewhere during the week, that just didn't pan out. We had meat and cheese trays with breads to make sandwiches, pasta salad, potatoe salad... and then somehow we also ended up with shrimp cocktail, three-bean dip and nachos, salsa, corn, mac & cheese and a pan of dumplings (for my younger brother requested it and therefore, it was)

We cleared the beautifully decorated dinner table of its impressive opulance and ate on red paper plates, coming and going as we pleased and enjoying each other's company tremendously. The annual event of making the children remove themselves from the room while "Santa" arrived continued as the 18, two 16 and 10 year old grumbled their way down the hall to wait for the Ho-Ho-Ho that would allow them to return to the carnage and begin passing out gifts.

We ho-ho-ho'ed and they staged a sit down strike. Apparently, it was beneath them now to be shifted from one spot to the other, and so we did what any family in the 21st century would do. We all pulled out our cell phones and sent them text messages on their phones saying "ho-ho-ho" and they laughed, skipped and frolicked their way back to the living room.

Okay, maybe not. But they passed out the gifts that were stashed under both trees (because in the redecorating scheme our house has taken, it was fun and easy to stash gifts that way) and began ripping into the presents with great enthusiasm.

Much joy was erupting in the Bell home and laughter filled the air. Mom, who thanks to the youngest of her children, has become an addict of The Amazing Race, set out to send her children on a race of their own for treasures galore... and left out the "this may be our last Christmas together" speech, for which we were all grateful, until we noticed the fine writing on the bottom of our instruction sheet, which reminded us it may be our Last. Christmas. Ever.

After Kim put a beating on the rest of us, and after John attempted to appeal a bad ruling, the kids headed out one way and the adults sat around visiting, arguing the outcome of the Amazing Race and generally ribbing each other with not-so-good-intent. John's present to Earl (which I am not at all upset over. Really) was tickets to the Music City Bowl where Kentucky will play Clemson on December 29. They will leave their beloved and only sister behind and bond together as men apparently do at a football game (while I will pray for bitter cold temps and rain) and eat hot dogs and gripe about referrees and coaching calls.

John will have his hands full, though, so I am not certain I will be too upset to miss this game. You see, Earl is not getting any younger. He recently celebrated his third year into his 50s (giggle) and we have advised him to begin filling out his AARP forms. He is not as observant as he once was.

Case in point: while sitting next to his only brother John (and I meaning sitting next to him on the couch. Not on the other end of the couch... but right next to him) Earl looked up and spoke the immortal Christmas 2006 words "Where is my brother?"

You could almost hear the Silent Night as we all looked at John. Then at Earl. Then looked at John look at Earl. And then see the light bulb flash over Earl's head as he looked at John. Silence was shattered by the uproar of laughter and hysterical tears flowed as we began to picture the two of them in a large football stadium... one stepping right behind the other asking passersby where his brother was.

Go Kats. Ho. Ho. Ho.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Single at Christmas

Ho, Ho, Heck!

It is not just me who is tired of being a single white female at Christmastime without the benefit of a significant other, a boyfriend, a fiancee, or a husband. Heck, at this point in my life, I am not even sure he would have to be that significant! But my friend Requelle had an enjoyable time not too long ago, and being in the same single boat that I am in, allows me to empathize with her... feel her pain... and share her story of how much is stinks to be single in this day and age.

A week or so ago, Requelle was at her home, curled up with her two pooches and enjoying a quiet evening. As the night progressed, our heroine found herself in the bathroom and noticed that her toilet was leaking a little bit. It being rather late at night, and knowing it was not a good time to locate a plumber (and not having the aforementioned "handy man" available) Requelle did what any red blooded, sophisticated woman would do... she turned off the water supply and promptly curled herself back up in the recliner and fell asleep (pooches most likely snuggling close by).

She awoke sometime later and knew that she needed to head to bed. Upon entering her bedroom, she heard and felt an unfamiliar squish in her carpet, turned on the lights, focused her keen hearing on an unrecognizable sound and realized immediately that a water pipe had burst.

"What the...?"

Taking the next appropriate steps, she called the water company to find out what she needed to do that this point (other than curse the weak-minded men of the world who have yet to know their life would be so much more complete with her in it) and they told her they essentially didn't have a clue what to do, because apparently water pouring through the bathroom and into your bedroom carpet (and subsequently the subfloor) is not enough to warrant an emergency.


Having given up on the experts at the water company, our heroine pulls out the yellow pages to search for a 24 hour plumber. Two and a half hours later (and about five or six different calls), she finally locates a company whose 24 hour man is currently in Spring Hill, Tennessee... and when you have water pouring through your house in Old Hickory, Spring Hill is an equivalent distance as oh, say, Baghdad. Said plumber arrives at about 3:30 a.m. and lectures our heroine about water pressure and how surprised he is that this had not occurred before.

Thankfully, 'tis the season for niceness and his cost was only about $200 for helping out our heroine who realized that her Knight in Shining Armor is still traipsing around the Scottish lochs somewhere fighting off the dragons that have kept him away from her.

Our Knight needs a GPS system with the appropriate coordinates.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

... my doctor gave to me...

Let's hear it for our health care professionals, shall we? It was just this time last year that I was reminded of what wonderful people they are as I sat in the emergency room of the local hospital on Christmas Day, because my back had gone out and I could neither sit nor stand. I was grateful for all the people who were working to ease the pain and problems of those of us who are older now... as my younger brother enjoyed reminding me...

I had every intention of treating my ER visit as if I were going to a walk-in clinic. That was not to be. Apparently the ER is attached to a bona fide hospital, which meant that I had to get a wristband and wear one of those oh-so-lovely hospital gowns they give you.

"Really?" I told Nurse Ratchett. "I only need to be here long enough to get a prescription for relief."

"Yes. Really." End of discussion.

After peeing in a cup (what is it about me that I have done that more in a 12-month period of time than I have done in the last twelve years combined?) I struggled back into regular clothing and waited for my prescription. I left $100 at the door and ho-ho-ho'ed my way to the only pharmacy open that day, where I left more good monetary cheer on the counter and trekked home to the warmth and comfort of my bed.

I had no intention of repeating this episode this year. And... while I am giving thanks... I am thankful that I do not have any back problems to currently moan and complain about.

But assuming that the 12 Days of Christmas is a countdown to Christmas Day... today would be approximately the Sixth Day (depending on your location in the universe) and instead of having six geese a-laying (arguably a messy problem) I have a conglomerate of sinus/respiratory issues. And so, I have continued my Christmas tradition of monetarily supporting my local health care provider (namely Dr. Brad Rudge) and whisked myself to his office this morning spouting the following phrase:

"Fix me, Dr. Brad... I'm broke!"

I typically tell this to Dr. Brad and he typically laughs at me, and then he typically gives me a prescription, and I typically get better. This year's mantra was followed quickly by, "I don't want to be sick for Christmas".

Dr. Brad laughed at me. Laughed. At Me. Told me he's hearing that from a lot of patients. And then he laughed again. At me.


No, actually, Dr. Brad isn't hateful at all. Dr. Brad is a wonderful, caring, Christian physician that I am fortunate to call my friend as well as my doctor. He and his wonderful family served with me for a number of years in a completely giving fashion during all the productions I worked while on staff at Two Rivers Baptist Church. Dr. Brad has even seen a couple of family members and a friend or two, whom I have thrown his way.

I recently asked Dr. Brad if I could get a discount on my visits to him since I send him so much good business. He laughed at me again. When he finished laughing, he just kept smiling, and said no.


So, apparently on the Sixth Day of Christmas, I got four prescriptions and a Merry Christmas from my physician.

I consider it money well spent.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Joy to the World...

... blah, blah, blah.

Do you ever wonder what God finds funny? I think there are a lot of things that give Him true humor, and I am fairly certain that I am one of those funny things. Especially at Christmas. Especially for a specific reason. Especially this past Sunday.

You see, I hate the song "Joy to the World". Yes. I know. I am not the normal, All-American girl that I appear. I understand this. I think if the world could embrace my "not-normalness", the rotation of the earth on it's axis would be just that much smoother. But no. I am not normal. Here are a few reasons why:

1. I was born and raised in Tennessee and hate all things orange and white. I am not a UT fan. I am an anti-UT fan. I hope that everyone who plays against UT in everything will win! Including ladies field hockey or their chess team! (Do they have a ladies field hockey team? I don't know... I just hope they lose.) When they play another team I don't support, like Arkansas, I hope that something odd happens and both teams lose. I'm vindictive like that.

Who is my favorite team? Kentucky Wildcats. Why? Because I was raised right.

2. I hate pot roast. Yes, America. I hate pot roast. I ate pot roast every Sunday after church my entire young life. I never liked it. Finally, at the age of 18, I emancipated myself from eating foods that I did not like. I was an adult. I did not have to clean my plate. I did not have to eat pot roast ever again, if I didn't want to. And I don't. Green peas went on the list with pot roast as most despised food. Some people see this as an act just below the level of communism. I disagree. I will eat hot dogs at a ball game and apple pie, and I've owned two Chevys in my life. I am just as American as the next American. But, I won't eat pot roast. Now, when I go somewhere (like a funeral wake) where there are 14 different versions of pot roast, I happily walk right past it to the dessert table. And smile.

3. I don't like country music. No, it doesn't matter that I have lived almost my entire life right outside of Country Music, USA. I still don't like it. No, it doesn't matter if country music has come a long way, baby... I don't like country music. I once tried to like country music because a guy I was dating liked country music, and I wanted to impress him. I ended up with a bad case of heartburn... probably from all the country music that flowed into my pores. And it doesn't matter that Nicole Kidman married a country music artist. I will go see her movies, but I won't listen to his music. Why? Because I don't like country music.

Southern Gospel music fits this category as well, because to me, it is just country music with nicer lyrics. Well, they are usually nicer. They can be silly. But they are uplifting. Case in point was the song that a quartet did at my church this past Sunday. The basis of the song was to be more giving. But what did I really remember about the song? That somebody's pappy told somebody's uncle Sam that the corn he was picking from the garden would make a good supper.

I'm. Not. Kidding.

4. I hate the song "Joy to the World". I really, really don't like it. It doesn't really matter if the arrangement is different. It can be very "high church" or it can be jazzed up. I still won't like it. It can be sung by a black gospel choir, or by Mariah Carey. I still won't like it. And yes, I don't care for it even as an instrumental piece. Why? Because I think that Joy to the World is the "Chopsticks" of Christmas songs. It has that same choppy feel to it. Anyone can bang it out on the piano, and it still feels choppy. It grates on the nerves and gives me a headache.

Everyone knows my disdain for this song. Choir members apologize to me when they know we have to sing it in church. One year... one brief Christmas season, my friend the Right Reverend Dean, who was Minister of Music at the time, went an entire holiday season without singing that song. Not even once. He did it for me and I loved him for it. I think I told him often how much it meant to me that he would go the extra mile and not plan that song for one entire Christmas season.

This year is making up for that wonderful season. Are we singing the mass/choral/jazzed version next Sunday night in our Christmas program? Yes we are. Did the strolling carolers at the mall on Saturday stand right in front of me and sing three verses of it? Yes, they did. Did I make my return to the praise teams this past Sunday morning? Yes I did. Did I have to sing all four verses of this song? Yes. I. Did. Was I happy about it? Not so much.

Why? Because after I sang said four verses of Joy to the World, I had to sing backup for the men's quartet who sang about giving Pappy's good corn away to Uncle Sam, who, I am certain, ate well that night.

Yep. I'm pretty sure the Lord was on His throne getting a good chuckle out of me on Sunday, and that's okay... 'Tis the season...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Well now... Isn't that Special?

I am fairly positive that I never wanted to know what it feels like to be a drug addict. I have an abnormally increased fear of needles so the concept of being an IV drug user was never on my horizon. I can barely stand to inhale nose spray when I am the most conjested so cocaine was never a thought. Over-the-counter medications in pill and liquid form often have the opposite effect on me (I'll NEVER take Nyquil again) and I did actually share a joint once... in the eighth grade... and immediately hacked up a lung... which was more embarrassing than anything else... and that was the end of that forray into drug-induced debauchery.

Today I had to take a drug test in order to work part-time for a local mall during the Christmas holiday. I want a little extra shopping money and this is the perfect time for that to occur. I have never taken a drug test before. I knew from speaking with my niece that I would have to pee in a cup and I have done that at the doctor's office before, so I went into this with, I thought, my eyes wide open.

Au contraire, mon frere.

(That, by the way, is the extent of three years of high school French. Except that I can also ask you to open the door)

I arrived at the drug testing facility this afternoon with my thoughts collected and my full bladder. There would be nothing worse than an empty bladder when one needs a specimen jar filled. Tinkling on demand is a foreign concept for me and I would hate to develop something like Wee-Wee Anxiety.

I signed in and was directed through a door to meet the office WWN (affectionately now known as the Wee-Wee Nazi). She directed me to stand on the other side of the counter from her and to sign on the dotted line. I suppose the counter offers her some protection from my evilness. I imagine that by signing the form, I was confirming that the specimen was actually coming from me and only me. Not my evil twin. That is when the nightmare began.

I am certain that this facility sees all kinds of people. There are, of course, rules and guidelines for this sort of thing and I imagine they get all types of drug-infested weirdos. I haughtily assume that I do not bear any resemblance to said weirdos. I also haughtily assume that since I told them I was drug testing to qualify for a part-time Christmas job AT THE MALL, that I would not be viewed as a drug-infested weirdo. I was wrong.

I felt as if I had been temporarily transported to a parrallel universe and that I was, indeed, a resident of a maximum security rehab facility that does bed checks and panty-raid"esque" searches through all your belongings to find hidden contraband. I probably felt this way because just a few nights before my friend Brent and I watched an HBO documentary entitled "Thin". It was a real-life docudrama of some women in a therapy center for people with eating disorders, namely anorexia and bulemia.

I do not suffer from those conditions. Really. I don't. One might even say that I have conquered that disease. Except, I never battled it. I would love not to belittle the women I watched on HBO, but the fact of the matter is they were the most ridiculous, manipulative women I have ever had the misfortune of watching. They worked the system. They worked over each other. They worked over their counselors and their 90 pound bodies irritated the smack out of me. So Brent and I, in a fit of unity, watched the rest of the program while eating handfuls of M&Ms and taunting/heckling the screen. Yes. We. Did.

At any rate, at my drug test today, I felt like I was at that type of facility. Once I signed my name, I apparently lost several IQ points and developed an unknown drug habit. The WWN pointed to the room behind me and showed me a small metal lock box. I was informed that I was to place my purse in said box, lock it, and bring the key to her.


"Yes. Really."

Hmm... tough crowd. I did as I was told and handed WWN the key. I was then instructed to remove my shirt. Now, before you think that I was humiliated by having to endure some sort of body cavity search... I will tell you I was not. Although, that would make the story better. They weren't even looking for track marks on my arms. No... I had on a layered shirt, i.e. a long sleeved shirt over a short sleeved shirt and apparently the WWN believed that I had contraband sewn into the cuffs of my sleeves or something. I hung my shirt on the hook along with my umbrella... because that is where I normally stash my heroin... and was told to walk to the sink and rinse off my hands, but not to use any soap... because apparently I needed to make sure there was no cocaine residue on my hands, before I was given the little plastic cup in which to place my business... but they didn't want my business tainted with soap.

And that is when the stop watch began ticking. WWN informed me that I had four minutes from the time I closed the bathroom door in which to fill the cup to the line and return the cup to her.

"Excuse me?"

"You have four minutes."

"And if I can't in four minutes?"

Silence. My Wee-Wee Anxiety officially began.

I rushed to close the door when WWN said something about flushing and all I could think was "Talk on your own time, honey... I got BUSINESS to do here!" I fumbled with my jeans. Hated men in general. Sat down. And nothing. Not. One. Thing.

Suddenly, I became The Little Engine That Could and began my "I think I can, I think I can" mantra. And I did. Happily. But I only had about two minutes left!!! So I wiped off the cup because I'm. Not. A. Guy. and promptly flushed the toilet.

At which time I heard WWN screeching "You're not supposed to flush!"

What?! Oh... that must have been her parting comment right after the stop watch started. Tough lady. I flushed. The water is now blue again in the toilet. I hate that you didn't get to see how green it had been just scant minutes before. I'm testing for a part-time job AT A MALL for goodness sakes! Give me a break!

I handed my business over to WWN who now informed me to proceed to the sink and wash with water AND soap, because apparently it is okay to remove the cocaine residue now. I had more anxiety from the past four minutes than I have experience in probably four years.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Theatrical Review - The Lion King

I cried approximately three minutes into this production. I did. No PMS reasoning behind it, I was completely blown away at the three minute mark.

I was instantly transported to my childhood where everything is new and fresh and exciting. I sat completely in awe of everything about this production from the downbeat until the final ovation. At points there was so much going on that my mind could not accept it all... and I wished I were Samantha from "Bewitched" and could freeze time in order to take it all in.

I thought the giraffes were going to do me in until I saw the hippo. I thought the hippo was fabulous until the elephants came up from the audience. I thought the elephants were fabulous until the sun rose over the stage. I thought the sunrise was spectacular until Zazu entered and began flapping about. I thought Zazu was the best until Scar began to speak. I thought Scar was beyond anything until Timon and Pumba arrived on stage.

All in all I was completely entralled and enchanted from beginning to end. If you have not seen this production... run, do not walk to the nearest ticket outlet and find a way to go. Is it pricey? Yes... but it was worth every single penny! If I could find a way to go again... I would be there in a heartbeat.

Run... don't walk... or the hyenas may find you, and then you'll be a goner!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

And the Winner is...

For the love people! Do I have to wake up on election day with the breaking news story NOT being about our tight senatorial race here in the Volunteer state, but instead I get newscasters and radio disk jockeys going on and On and ON about Faith Hill's reaction to Carrie Underwood's snatching an award out from under her Country Princess Nose!

I thought that took the prize, until just a few minutes ago, as I was watching a NATIONAL NEWSCAST OF THE ELECTION, the scrolling ticker tape under the image let me know that Britney Spears has filed for divorce from K-Fed citing irreconcilable differences.

Really? You're kidding me. Could you maybe have thought about that tidbit BEFORE you allowed the man to use you to reproduce? Twice?

Yeah. No one saw this coming. I'm going back to the election coverage.

Let Freedom Ring!

The Story of An American Beauty

Remember just a few months ago how I was lamenting my eldest niece's journey into adulthood, because it effectually meant I was growing old as well? That is still true. She is lovely, tall, strong, opinionated and full of life. I am still growing older. But today, she became one more thing: An American.

No... she has not been an illegal alien residing in this country without a Visa or green card. But, for the first time ever, in her entire life, she embraced democracy with both hands and she VOTED in her first election.

I was a pivotal player in this transition. And I am not afraid to boast because of it.

After I finished crying over the fact that she had turned 18 back in May, I got on the web, and printed a voter registration application for her. I stood over her and watched her fill out the form. I took the signed form, put it in an envelope, and mailed it myself.

She is now eligible for jury duty... but we haven't talked about that yet.

She never received her voter registration card, but called the election commision to confirm that she was indeed registered, and to determine the location of her voting precinct.

We discussed some of the issues on the ballot and we see eye-to-eye on some things, and disagree about others. But that is not the point. The point is, it falls upon her shoulders (as it does billions of other Americans) to bear the responsibility of her vote. Whether we agree or not is moot... even though I really, really, really wanted her to agree and vote the way I do.

Yesterday, she started feeling sick. This does not bode well for election day. I had already voted and reminded her that election day was today.

So, today I came home from work after a tough day (one of those where nothing goes right) and jumped in the shower, threw on my PJs, and got ready to sit down and watch the election coverage. Before my hair had time to dry, Kristin sent me a text message by phone saying that she had not been able to vote, because she had felt so sick. It was 5:45 p.m. The polls closed at 7:00 p.m. I texted her back and told her there was still time.

She was at her grandparents with her mother, but did not have a car. I was sending her the text message that read: "If you want to go vote, I will take you"; while she was sending me one that read: "Can you come get me and take me?" I put real clothes back on, and at 6:00 p.m. I was heading to pick her up.

We arrived at the polling location to find we had to park on the street and stand, in the rain, in the cold in the parking lot of the Volunteer Fire Department. And we proceeded to stand there for the next hour and a half. We met up with a lady who used to teach Kristin's small group Bible study, and chatted away with her, while sharing an umbrella with each other.

We got in the building, and not too long after that, Kristin was presenting her driver's license and signing her name on the doted line. I didn't think I could have been more proud of her, until I watched her step up to the voting booth, and begin to concentrate on the ballot before her. I wanted to jump up and down and make a big fool of myself in front of God and everyone still standing in line, but knowing that I would like Kristin to continue the voting practice in years to come, I decided to remain calm, cool and collected.

She emerged with a smile on her face, and I was honored to have shared the moment with her.

We went back to my place to watch the first results roll in. She had great questions to ask, and I tried to give her the answers. It was our first election together. I wonder if she'll let this become a tradition? The senatorial race in Tennessee is a very tight one. She left my house thinking that her candidate may have lost, but truly, the race is still too close to call... and we may not know the outcome until tomorrow... if then.

Did she and I cancel each other's vote? Possibly. That isn't the point either. She saw the responsibility set before her as an American citizen and she seized the responsibility with both hands. She physically felt ill and yet stood in the cold rain for more than an hour to cast her ballot.

Oh, but that the women of Iraq could do the same without fear of torture and death.

Kristin was born in the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave, and tonight, she took her first steps to fulfilling her American destiny. She is a true American Beauty.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Hot Time in the Old House Tonight!

It's here! It's here! The new gas furnace is here! Wonderful, glorious heat can once again pour through our home! My days as a rustic pioneer woman are over! No more electric blankets! No more running swiftly over the tiled bathroom floors! The ways of modern technology are back and we are ever grateful.

Well. Most of us are ever grateful.

I am. I am ever grateful. I was happy to walk into my home and embrace the warmth. I skipped joyfully through the house and found myself standing before the thermostat. The new thermostat. I blinked. It had not dawned on me that there would be a new thermostat. It makes sense. You get a new system... you get a new means of running said system. Our old thermostat was beige with some gold trim. Once upon a time, the thermostat was green. This happened the year that my mother painted our hallway an unusual shade of aqua green. She painted the entire hallway this color.

When I say entire... I mean ENTIRE. She painted the outlet covers. The light switch covers. The chimes for the door bell. The grate over the intake screen. And last, but not least, the thermostat. That was probably the beginning of the demise of our heating system... but I don't have any scientific facts to back up that claim.

So. I stood there and marveled at the new thermostat and instantly went numb with dread. Our new thermostat is digital. DI-GI-TAL. There are no knobs to turn. There are no levers to slide. There is not a simple on and off button. Nope. Digital. I lowered my head to my hands and sighed.

They were never going to be able to operate the new thermostat. My parents. My loving and wonderful and giving parents. They can't figure out how to turn on the television. How in the world will they operate a digital thermostat?

In two very separate ways. My father simply instructed the men who were doing the installation to set it at his desired temperature, and probably never planned to touch it again. He was comfortable, so the world must be comfortable too.

Too bad he wasn't at home when Mom came in from work.

She was not comfortable. She was cold. She came in the back door and wanted to head straight up into the attic to see the new furnace. She was not that impressed. "It doesn't look that much smaller." She went on to worry about the fact that she can no longer see the pilot light.

"What is the problem?"

"I can't see the pilot light. I want to be able to come up here and watch the pilot light."

"Watch the pilot light do what?"



Once I realized her dismay over the diminishment of our own version of the Eternal Flame, I hated to see her reaction to the new thermostat. I was not disappointed.

"Well, *#(@(!*~$"

"What's wrong?"

"Where's my thermostat? Why did they change the thermostat? There was nothing wrong with the old one. I hate this one. I don't know how to operate it..." begins randomly pushing buttons.

As I hear the heat come on and then go off again I say, "I'm sure there's a book that will tell you how to set the temperature."

"I don't want a book. I want my thermostat. Where is your father?"

"Getting dinner."

It was about this time that my father arrived, arms loaded down with sustenance for his family from Ruby Tuesday's... Great White Hunter that he is... when my mother began.

"Why did they change the thermostat?"

"We got a new system. It came with the new system."

"I don't like it. I want the old one back."

"It's fine. They left a book. You'll read it. You'll figure it out."

"I don't want to figure it out. I want heat. The heat isn't working."

"Of course the heat is working."

"It is not."

"It is so."

"Is not."

"Is too."

And just that quickly, my parents shed 70 years and became arguing toddlers. After a break, my father said, "You don't have to worry about it. They set the thermostat before they left. You don't have to touch anything."

"I already did. I pushed the buttons."

"Why? What made you do that."

"It's cold in here." "It is not." "It is too." (I think you get the picture)

Finally I suppose my mother read something, because she made the heat come on. The problem is, I don't think it went off ALL NIGHT LONG. At midnight I woke up in my bedroom, that had been magically transformed into a sauna. I didn't dare touch the thermostat... I just kicked off all the sheets on my bed and went back to sleep.

We're still arguing about the heat here... but I am ever grateful.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


It's not just for breakfast anymore!

When will the elderly learn to listen to their children and heed their advice? I think this is a question that many 40 somethings face when they are dealing with loving parental units who enjoy their independence as they continue to grow older, but every once in a while will ask for advice from their children.

But, will they listen? No. Oh, my goodness no.

Take for instance my parents... Mama Bear and Papa Bear... who bought the house we live in some 25+ years ago. It was not a young home when it was purchased and it has gone through a number of changes. We have painted and we have wall papered. We have carpeted and we have ripped carpet up to reveal beautiful hard wood floors. And then we carpeted right back over them. We have installed new light fixtures and we have used contact paper in ways never thought of by man. We are, in a word, resourceful.

There are two things that are the bane of my existence in this home: the electrical system and the heating/cooling system.

It has probably been 23 years ago when a fire broke out in the walls of my parent's bedroom. The official cause was faulty electrical wiring in the walls. The unofficial cause had to do with my parents causing so much heat in the bedroom. Pause now in horror. I remember waking up to an odd noise and then the telephone ringing as our neighbor had seen the smoke, and was calling to wake us up and let us know that he had called the Fire Department. I threw on some clothes, grabbed the dog, and woke my younger brother up to get out of house. We all stood outside while the volunteer fire department took care of the small fire and with grateful hearts, we returned to the house and had a long discussion about the faulty electrical wiring.

Our house is odd in that the first owners (we are the second) initially built the house, and then decided to enlarge it a couple of times. This explains the five fuse boxes, as well as the fact that our washing machine sits in the kitchen, while the dryer is in the den. I suppose the house was built before the invention of the dryer, as there are old-fashioned clotheslines in the backyard.

I remember asking then what it would take to re-do the eletrical wiring, and my parents told me it would take too much money. To this day, that is the answer. We have probably purchased enough 15 and 30 watt fuses to cover the cost. One must be careful with our wiring. Especially in the kitchen. For instance, you cannot microwave popcorn and do laundry at the same time while brewing a pot of coffee. Try that too many times, and you will be making daily runs to Wal-Mart or Home Depot for more fuses.

The second problem is our heating/cooling system. We have central heat and air, with a gas furnace that runs the heater in the winter. Our air conditioning system has a big problem of condensation and water run-off. The hottest parts of the summer find us heading into the attic with a turkey baster to pull water out of an overflow tray. Hmm... maybe it is time for a new one? Something a little more modern.

No. We'd much rather have the water spill out of the tray, soak through the drywall and sit back to watch large chunks of our living room ceiling fall. The biggest happening last year with a 4x8 section of drywall hitting the floor.

Last winter we were sitting comfortably in the heat when a small explosion sounded from the attic area. My younger brother was here at the time, and we stared at each other... stared at the attic door... and then proceeded to argue about who needed to traipse up there and check the problem out. I think we were both upstairs with flashlights trying to determine if anything had caught fire and we were going to die in our sleep.

We had a discussion at that time about replacing the furnace, but the parents did not see the need, and so the unit was repaired and we spent a lot of evenings sniffing around for gas leaks and grateful that my mother no longer smoked a pack of cigarettes a day.

This summer, we had another leak in the ceiling (this time in our dining room) that had nothing to do with our air conditioning unit, but with hail damage we knew nothing about. The insurance paid enough money that we were able to fix the leak and put in a badly needed ceiling in our den. That is when the fun began.

We had our kitchen redecorated and my mother finally acquiesed to purchase new carpet in the den, dining room, living room and hallway. The infamous pink carpet remains in the master bedroom, where my parents have hopefully cooled down some since the fire many years ago. We don't want anyone breaking a hip!

Then, we got the bright idea to purchase new furniture and move a couple of the rooms around. The formal living room is now our family room and the den has been restored as a Parlor. My mom just loves using that word. Everything was going swell, until... it was time to service the gas furnace.

"Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. Bell? Your furnace is leaking carbon monoxide."

Considering that we had been running our heat for a couple of weeks, this did not bode well. It struck fear and terror into my heart. I would think the old people were trying to off me for my insurance policy, but that they would be going down in the process as well. Of course, it could be a murder-suicide scenario... except that the Mom is really enjoying all the changes to our house.

Okay. What now? Now... we FINALLY get a new furnace. The old one is about 450 pounds, while the new one will be about 150 pounds, and we will see a significantly reduced gas bill. This makes us very happy.

The problem is that sometimes the old people don't think things through. Case in point: not two days after the verdict, I enter from the cool outdoors to a toasty warm home. I pause. I listen. I HEAR THE FREAKIN' HEAT RUNNING!!!

"Um... aren't we supposed to not run the heater FOR FEAR OF DEATH?!"

"It's okay as long as we only run it a short time."

"Because, a short exposure to carbon monoxide will only kill off half of our remaining brain cells?"

(Disgruntled sigh) "Okay, fine. Turn off the heater." Which I promptly did.

I cannot tell you how many times in the past week (a rather chilly week at that) when I have awakened from my slumber to feel and hear the heater running. I suppose I should just be happy to have lived through the night as my parents continue to cheat Death on a daily basis.

So, it was no surprise for me this morning as my father stumbled out into the hallway and I heard a pause in his footsteps. That could only mean one thing... he was standing at the thermostat and turning on the heat.

Fifteen seconds later and we heard a very familiar explosion sound from the attic. I promptly walked into the hallway... glared at my father who was standing with an astonished look on his face... and said "Well... that didn't sound good."

I walked over and turned the heat back off and waited for the smell of gas to permeate our house.

Still smelling the air until the new furnace arrives on Monday.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sand Between My Toes

I know... I know... I should be working. Really. I should be. WORKING. But, alas, I am not. I am blaming it on the sand between my toes. Not literally, but figuratively. It is not physically there, but if I close my eyes for the briefest of moments, I can certainly picture the sand.

I just returned from vacation with Amykins and LouLou and we had a great time! I am typically very anal about the traveling time of my vacations, but even this was thrown out the window on the first day. We got a bit of a late start and IT WAS ALL MY FAULT! That usually wigs me out, but Amykins and LouLou are just the best traveling partners a girl can have, and there was no irritability or derision at all. We just piled in the 'Vous, and set off on 65South to Exit 69!!!

Our first stop was before we hit the Alabama state line for some breakfast for Amykins and LouLou. I didn't even complain, and since I was driving, their very hunger pangs were in my hands. I could have been the Driving Nazi and refused to stop, but we were ON VACATION with no plans other than to arrive safely at the Dean house and enjoy the company of good friends! And enjoy them we did! Crazy Amy made a great impression on the Dean tripletts, who were horrified for the safety of their personal effects. Amy Dean was not feeling well, so we packed up the kiddos, and hit the nicest nature reserve smack dab in the middle of Niceville, Florida.

Turkey Creek is a lovely park that has been developed in Niceville with picnic tables under a pavillion and bridged walkways that traverse the length of Turkey Creek. The kids were able to get in the creek and swim around while we swatted at mosquitos and took copious amount of digitals photos! It was a blast! Sunday morning found us worshipping with our friends. Lou and I were in the choir while Amykins sang with Carey and did the special music as well. After a wonderful lunch that Amy Dean prepared (minus a few scorched green beans) we headed west to Panama City Beach and the fulfillment of Operation Surprise-the-Bell-family.

Yeah, I know. I surprised someone. How novel of me, right? I love to surprise people. I don't know why... but I like it and I'm pretty good at it, and so I take the opportunity to do it when I can. The parental units thought that the three Amigos were heading to the mountains for our annual trip to Pigeon Forge. But, alas... we booked a condo in the same place and arrived there a day after they had checked in. My aunt and uncle were also in PCB, but down at the other end of town.

We went to the grocery store and stocked up on food. Then we unpacked all our belongings, just a couple of buildings away from the parentals and then headed down the road to eat at Pineapple Willy's... one of my favorite places to eat on the beach! We kept missing our "Surprise" moment with the parents, so we opted to do that on Monday.

Monday morning, our scout Amykins, walked in front of the condo unit that my parents were staying in to do some recon. She found our objectives sitting in their space and gave the nod... then We Went In! Walked right up to the sliding glass door and knocked. When older people are confused, they take on that toddler/puppy dog look. They know what they are looking at and you can see the gears turning, but something is missing. My mother and father had those looks on their faces. Staring unseeingly at me. Knowing they gave birth to me but not understanding how I came to be standing in front of them since I am supposed to be in the mountains. We waltzed right in like we owned the place and laughed at our surprise. My aunt and uncle gave similar looks later that afternoon when I arrived at their condo too. The operation was a success!

We spent the rest of the week lying about in the sun either by the pool or on the beach. We slept late and read books (Lou getting the reader award for the most books read in a short amount of time) watched movies and ate great food! We hit Montego Bay, Sharkeys, Pineapple Willy's and Angelo's Steakhouse (my least favorite) before the aunt and uncle cooked boiled shrimp and crab legs for us the night before we returned home.

LJ, the cabana boy, took a liking to Amykins (as most men do...) and was very attentive to our every need. Amykins rented beach chairs for the week from LJ and whenever the sun began to creep onto flesh, LJ was right there to rearrange the beach umbrella. What a guy! He took Amykins out on a wave runner Thursday morning to show her the mating habits of the local dolphins (Amykins was rightly awed) and later took her on the ride of her life out to Shell Island (some miles away) and was so busy impressing her that he lost track of the time. When his boss sent a minion out to fetch him back, Amykins had to hold on to the wave runner for dear life as LJ sped back over some choppy seas to return to home base. Amykins arrived safe and sound!

So now, we have returned to the real world. It is not as wonderful here. It is okay... but it is not the beach. It is not the relaxing world of sand and surf that encompassed our lives for a brief, shining moment. We have returned to the grind and are currently looking for the Mr. Right who will sweep us off our collective feet and pamper us to the extent to which we find ourselves willing to become accustomed to!

Patiently waiting for my knight in shining armor...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Funeral Tour 2006-07

People view death in a myriad of ways, but essentially it is a pretty straightforward circumstance we all face. Funerals, however, bear the uniqueness that is inherent in the family or the culture of the deceased. I’ve been to a LOT of funerals and I have been exposed to them since I was a very small child.

The first person I remember passing away was my Uncle Spencer. He was on my father’s side of the family and he was married to my Aunt Fannie Sue. Yes, those are their real names. I remember that their house was uneven and it had a big potbelly stove in the living room that would burn wood and keep the house warm. The floor in the living room slanted towards the weight of the pot-bellied stove and my mother was always fearful that my rambunctiousness was going to one day send me headlong into the stove and I would burn myself. My uncle Spencer was bald-headed and he always intrigued me because he could put his index finger into his cheek and make a “popping” sound that would make me belly laugh. He passed away before I was even in kindergarten and I was too young to go to the funeral, even though I went to the visitation. But my mother and father assured me that he was now in heaven making popping noises for Jesus.

My grandfather on my Dad’s side was the first funeral I attended. Granddaddy Bell was a bald man who refused to have his picture made. I think his baldhead always bothered him. He had a great sense of humor and always got the best presents at Christmas. His brother and he always exchanged some type of gag gift or toy with each other, and I thought it was more fun to play with the toys that he got, than the toys that I would get. I remember going to see Granddaddy Bell in the hospital just a few days before he passed away, and Mom and Dad had determined that I was old enough now (in the first grade) to attend the funeral, and more importantly, the visitation.

I was lectured, I am sure, to be on my best behavior. Not to interrupt people who are talking and to only whisper. I don’t know if my brain fully wrapped around the whisper idea, especially since the person we were appreciating was dead already. But I did my best. I sat facing my grandfather’s open casket and I was sad. I was probably saddest because my father and my grandmother were so sad. I probably didn’t quite grasp death yet, but I had been told that Granddaddy wasn’t sick anymore, because Jesus had healed him and now Granddaddy and Uncle Spencer were reunited.

Then, it happened. There I sat, being nice and prim and proper (a rarity for me) when I saw my grandfather’s eyelashes move. I froze in horror. I wasn’t afraid of him jumping out of the casket… I knew a terrible mistake was about to be made, because Granddaddy wasn’t dead. I thought about what I needed to do to right this horrible wrong and I went straight to my mother. Of course, she was standing and quietly speaking to someone else, but this was important. I had been told not to interrupt, but someone really needed to know what was going on.

I tugged on her skirt. She threw me one of those don’t-interrupt-me-while-I’m-talking looks that mothers perfect. I waited a minute and tugged again. She took my hand and continued talking. I put together my calmest voice and cleared my throat and said, “Excuse Me” and she turned to me and reminded me not to interrupt her. Finally, her conversation ended and she asked me what I needed.

“Granddaddy’s not dead yet.”

Complete silence. I am certain I received pitying looks from the people standing in our vicinity but my mother excused us and we walked away. She wanted to know why I thought Granddaddy was not dead.

“His eyelashes are moving. He can’t be dead yet, because he’s just asleep. We can’t bury him because he’s not dead. Come and see for yourself.”

I tugged my mother to my seat and she graciously sat down with me and explained that sometimes when we stare and something very hard and for a long length of time that our eyes play tricks on us. Then she explained about ceiling fans or air conditioning vents and how the airflow can cause movement. She convinced me that Granddaddy was indeed in heaven and I had nothing to worry about.

I’ve attended a lot of funerals since my young days. My mother being the church organist always meant that I attended more than my fair share of funerals and weddings. I’ve been to funerals of the elderly, teenagers, babies, etc. I have been to Catholic funerals, Episcopalian funerals, and loads of Baptist funerals with hordes of casseroles in the back room. I have seen open caskets and closed caskets. I have even sung at a couple of services.

This past week I had the honor of singing at the funeral of the father of a close friend. I sang with three other ladies, each having different views of funerals and the dead in general. I suppose I am somewhat immune at this point to the idea of being in a room with the shell of a person. “Shell” is the best term to use since the living soul has gone on to eternity. When my mother’s father passed away, I remember someone saying that the shell was lying before us, but the Nut had moved on. Gramps would have loved hearing that.

So, I arrived with my cohorts (Suzanne, Requelle, Natalie and Perri – but Perri wasn’t singing) at the funeral home a few minutes before the service to meet with the organist and quickly glance at the two songs we were singing. One song would be a breeze, since it was an old standard. The other song was an old standard for my mother’s generation, but I was sight-reading that one. As we are getting ready to enter, Natalie and Requelle voiced their concern about being around an open casket.

Natalie let us know that she had very limited experience with funerals and she had to really love a person to attend one. Requelle is from the east coast and a family who cremates their loved one and then waits around for anywhere between eight to 16 months to observe a memorial service. I’ve always thought that was a bit odd, and I’ve always reminded Requelle of her oddness. It’s one of those things we love about each other.

Suzanne assured us that we were not going to be singing in the room with the body, but in a separate room off the corner, and out of the view of those in attendance. We slipped into the hallway, past the administrative offices, the wall of headstone examples and the casket room to where the organ and sound equipment were held. Just a few steps away, was another back hallway with steps leading to an upper level and a door leading outside where hearses and limousines were waiting. This was the perfect place for us to practice our harmonies and perfect the songs for the service.

We pulled out the music and sang the first song. The organist came out and let us know we were singing in the wrong key and we graciously thanked her for her opinion. Funeral home employees would pass by occasionally to get to where they needed to go. We sang all three verses and I kept messing up on one section, so we marked the music and moved on. We were in the midst of singing the second number when I looked up and saw a horrified expression cross Requelle’s face. I had no idea what the problem was, but she began to edge closer to me and the stairs when Natalie’s face paled.

The next thing I see is the back of an employee and the end of a casket making its way through the doorway. We kept singing. I think that was so Requelle and Natalie wouldn’t pass out. The casket was a light blue hue with part of the lining peeking out. We kept singing. The employee on our end of the casket walked away and left it sitting nestled right up against our bodies. Requelle and Natalie continue to edge us closer to the stairs. We kept singing. We also started chuckling.

It is not that easy to sing “Victory in Jesus” when you are trying not to laugh. I have a feeling the Lord was laughing right along with us. An employee came around the top of the staircase to berate us for laughing on such a solemn occasion. We kept singing. Perri’s voice was heard on the other side of the wall asking if everything was okay. We kept singing/laughing. We got to the halfway part of the chorus when we just couldn’t hold it in any longer and the singing gave way to full laughter. The guy who was on the other end of the casket stuck his head through the door and eased Requelle and Natalie’s mind by saying, “It’s okay. There’s nobody in here.” More laughter.

The casket was removed and tissues were distributed to dab at the corners of our eyes were tears of laughter were leaking out. I wished that Lou Ann had been with us. She would have enjoyed this experience. Natalie went on and on about the fact that the lining had been exposed and my evil twin Lana showed herself by saying that there probably really was a body in the casket and that guy just said that so that Requelle and Nat wouldn’t pass out.

More than one employee in the back hall told us that we had a very nice sound and that is when the Funeral Tour 2006 idea came into play. We decided we could travel the funeral circuit and sing and that Perri could be our road manager/booking agent. That’s when I described my ideal funeral situation, filled with party gags and good music. I thought it would be neat to pre-record my voice relaying pithy statements like “Hey… I haven’t seen you in a while”, “What were you thinking wearing THAT to my funeral”, and “You’re crowding me here” and it would all be triggered by infrared rays that surrounded my casket. When you broke that line, you’d hear my voice. Cool, huh? More laughter ensued and then it was time for us to start the service.

It was a sweet service. The first song went well… even though there was a moment of concern that the organist had tired of playing and we were going to finish the song a cappella, but we all finished together, stepped out until the final song and then sang “Victory in Jesus” to close the service. Then we packed up and headed back to Nashville where I am sure that Perri has begun the process of booking our next gig! Ha!

It is an honor to know these women as friends. It is a joy to serve in a unique way for Lou Ann, who lost her father. And it is just like the Lord to lighten our load, even for such a short time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Welcome to Nashville... now go away!

It has been brought to my attention that Nashville is ranked number 5 on the Angriest City in America list. What an achievement! Nashville usually makes those lists that talk about poor student scores and teen pregnancy. We may be moving up by being on the Angriest City List.

I attribute this success for a few different reasons, and in no real order:

1. Country Music. Considerably some of the most depressing lyrics penned in a single musical genre. Some chick wants Earl to die. Some other guy wants his sweater back, but you get to keep the cat you’ll have to clean up after for the rest of its life. A man’s dog, truck and wife have left him wallowing in his beer at a local bar with a Waffle House waitress named Sue, who is only attractive in the beer-induced fog of a smoky bar and becomes considerably less attractive in the light of day the next morning as she is coughing up a lung from her five-pack-a-day habit and is asking for a ride back to the bar to pick up her truck, which consequently, needs an oil change, and shouldn’t the man do that for her, considering what she did to him the night before? Plenty of reason for anger here.

2. Interstate traffic and/or construction. For about the last fifteen years we have been constructing our interstate system here in middle Tennessee. We’ll do a section on one side of town and stop midway through because the really important people on the Hill forgot to budget the right amount of money to hire those laborers we see taking a break on the side of the road. So, it will be back to the drawing board and we’ll wait around for another year where we’ll gladly elect the same people for the same positions that do the same things… and our interstates will still be under construction. What is that definition of insanity again? OR, perhaps it will be decided that we should work construction on ALL the major roadways AT THE SAME TIME… and we should always begin during rush hour, so as to thoroughly irritate those people whose taxes are funding the construction process anyway. Hmm… nothing to make people angry here.

3. The Tennessee Titans. I won’t stop and brag too much about the fact that I hate this football team and the fact that after their first couple of seasons here, it appears that they have tanked. I won’t mention the horrendous traffic tie-ups on game days. But, that losing streak has got to put a damper on all those tailgating fiends who get halfway through Amazing Grace before they sneak out of the back of church to dash off to the stadium and pull out their buffalo wings, their beer kegs and their binoculars to stare and lust after the cheerleaders doing their high kicks on the sidelines. They’ll skip out of church early so as not to miss the kickoff… but it is doubtful they’ll leave the game early to pass the collection plate or the communion tray for an evening worship service. Yeah, I’ll just let this one go.

4. Fan Fair. Is there anything more enjoyable than pouring tens of thousands of country music fans into a small auditorium with their favorite country music artist? Well… maybe a root canal. Or natural birth. Or a tent peg through the eye. Or being tied to a scud missile and fired into Iraq. Or climbing Mt. Everest without the benefit of an oxygen tank. Or having to endure your period without chocolate. (I think you get the picture). These enthusiasts travel from all over the world to gather in our quaint city for one week out of the year. One. Horrible. Hot. Sticky. Week. More people wear polyester and rhinestones during this June week than at any other time in history. For those of us who are jaded by this occurrence, we tend to pop some popcorn and head over to the Opryland Hotel to play “fashion police” for the people parading by. Note to self: never determine that a sequined leopard print tube top and hip-hugging daisy dukes are a good idea on a size 22 woman. OR a size 46 man.

5. The lottery. You’d think we wouldn’t have a problem funding our school systems now that Tennessee has its very own state lottery. Hundreds of thousands of people cash in their welfare check to stand in line a few hours at a time to purchase a piece of paper that has a one in about a gazillion chances of earning them $5 in return. I can say that anger would erupt for those of us who’d really just want to purchase overpriced gas for our cars, but who have to wait in that same line to pay for the gas. It is no wonder so many people drive away from the pumps without paying. Thank goodness for the pumps with the payment options that keep you from having to enter the store. It may be less social, but it is infinitely more peaceful.

6. Al Gore, Jr. Enough said.

Friday, August 25, 2006

More General Rantings... the downfall of the Media in general

Let the madness begin.

Didn't we learn enough with the OVER coverage of the OJ trial? Because, the general public had a RIGHT to watch a white Ford Bronco tool across the streets of Los Angeles for a couple of hours driven by two aging and self-inflated retired football players. Then, we had a RIGHT to sit through weeks and weeks and weeks and dear Lord how long did that trial take? Americans (and anyone else stupid enough to watch via satellite across the big ponds) popped popcorn, pulled the TV tray up to the sofa and watched all day OJ 24/7. Sheesh.

I admit that I can be a newshound sometimes. I admit that when I cannot sleep at night, the droning voice of Tucker Carlson can lull me to sleep quicker than anything else. I try to make those "watch-until-my-eyelids-fall-off" moments occur for things that are actually newsworthy. I suppose this is the rub... what I consider newsworthy often is not what other people consider newsworthy, and vice versa.

For instance, when the war began, you could not tear me away from a television set. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning watching over our troops. I felt connected in a way. I was not watching with an eagerness to see an attack, or bombs bursting in air. I prayed over those guys on the screen. I stayed with them, hoping that they could feel my presence and know my support was there in the trenches with them. Did they feel that? Most likely they had other things on their minds, but I didn't care.

I watched a LOT of coverage on 9/11. I have a cousin who lives in NYC and I wanted to know she was okay. Thank God, she was. 9/11 was a turning point of some sorts. Even though I was an adult, it stripped away some of that innocence I try to hang on to.

I don't mind keeping track of natural disasters, but I don't stay glued to the TV for that. I acknowledge and am grateful for coverage of earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. I like to know how I can help and am thankful for the coverage that breaks with those stories.

I remember Jon Benet's death and the surrounding grief and sadness and mystery. Much like I know about Natalie Holloway. I felt so bad for those families. My heart went out to them. If I were in that situation, it would kill me. I cannot imagine that sort of pain, and I cannot imagine it hanging with you for such a long time.


Do we really, Really, REALLY need and/or want to know what John Mark Karr had for breakfast five years ago when he stopped at a Waffle House on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie? For the LOVE, people... can we consider giving just a little LESS attention to the crazies of the world? Have we not learned yet that many, many, many wackos of the world LOVE the attention like this guy is getting? Do you not see in the looks on this man's face that HE loves the attention he is getting? Come on.

I understand that it can be a slow news day from time to time... but for HOURS last night we saw coverage of Mr. Karr being arrested, Mr. Karr walking through a building, Mr. Karr on a plane, Mr. Karr in a car... etc.

Maybe we as Americans can demand the news agencies give drivel like this a rest... and move on with those things that actually affect us. Those things we actually benefit from knowing. Those things that make us better people.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

4? Candles

Remember the movie, Sixteen Candles? The John Hughes teen drama that was filmed back in the 80s with Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall? Remember that it was the Best. Movie. Ever? I love that movie. I felt sorry for Molly's character. I could not believe that any parent would be so insensitive as to forget their daughter's birthday. I don't care if your older, more beautiful sister was marrying the Bull Hunk or not! It was just sad.

My parents always remember my birthday. Always. When I was younger, my mother would make pancakes for my birthday in the shape of a bear, or spell out my name. She would have a tiny candle burning and walk into my bedroom singing "Happy Birthday". The smell of hot butter and maple syrup filling my room and the warmth of her love shining down on me.

As I got older, my parents enjoyed calling me at the butt crack of dawn to wish me Happy Birthday. More singing, but no pancakes. That was okay with me. I'd still get birthday presents.

Now I'm officially in my 40s. My younger brother called while I was in the shower to remind me of how old I am and how I must still be needing to sleep. His wife, who is apparently perfect for him, called me that afternoon and left a similar message. My older brother and his wife and daughter left me a gift at my house for when I got off from work. They win in the "best family member" category this year.

But my parents? Nothing. Not. One. Thing. No Happy Birthday singing, no "Have a great day today" moment. No phone calls. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I was suddenly Molly Ringwald.

I had a bad feeling that meant some old lady was going to cop a feel and I was going to have to sell my panties to the King of the Geeks. I warily walked past all the old people who came into view and kept a lookout for the Geek King. He did not appear. I was hoping that once I went home and my parents gushed over me, and wailed their horrible oversight, that I'd get a date with the captain of the football team.

Unfortunately for me, that did not happen. Well... maybe it was more fortunate than I think. I figure he's in his 40s now too... with a beer gut and a pair of girl's panties hanging off the deer antlers that are mounted over the big screen TV.

Hmmm.... life's not so bad after all!

Friday, July 28, 2006

500 word final submission

The last thing I am to do with my online class is to submit a 500 word creative piece. It can be on anything. I struggled with what style to write. I actually thought about submitting a piece that I had already written, but then changed my mind. I can do that. I'm a writer. I decided to just come up with anything. Start from scratch and see where it takes me. You'll remember that my main character's name was Ralph when I posted the first paragraph. I've changed his name to Jake. I don't know why, but I did. So... without further ado... here is my 500 word creative piece (that has yet to have a title worth mentioning).


The piercing sound of the alarm clock brought Jake’s arm up from under the quilt he had buried himself in the night before. As he randomly attacked the clock to restore his peaceful surroundings, he realized the day had dawned. His mind warred with his body to gain consciousness, and his body was winning. It wanted to continue the blissful slumber that would repair all his aches and pains. At the cookout the night before, Jake had found himself playing two-on-two basketball with his brother-in-law and nephews. He had never felt out of shape or felt the completion of his 40 plus years. But now, as he stumbled out of the hot shower and frantically searched for the Icy-Hot that was tucked in the recesses of his bathroom cabinets, his years began to speak to him.

After applying the ointment to both knees, Jake wrapped a towel around his waist and walked to the sink. He almost slipped on the wet tiled floor. Is this how he wanted to begin his forty-second year? He sighed heavily as he wiped the steam from the bathroom mirror and took a long look at his stubbled face. He didn’t think he looked any older. He checked the profile of his body and felt pretty good about himself. He still tried to work out a couple of days a week and he did his best to eat right.

As Jake crossed to the dresser in his bedroom, he stubbed his toe on the corner. Surely to God this day was not going to be a foretelling of the year to come. If the last 12 minutes were any indication of the next 12 months, he would turn in his resignation on Monday, cash out his 401K and head to Tahiti. He grabbed a t-shirt and boxers from his dresser drawer and was making his way to the hall when he caught the fragrance of fresh coffee brewing. Who could be in the penthouse? It certainly wasn’t the cleaning service, they had instructions to arrive at 11:00 o’clock. He quietly opened the bedroom door and looked into the kitchen from the loft area where a dark shadow moved. Whoever it was had not turned on the lights.

Jake quietly moved back to the bedside table and withdrew his 9mm handgun. He crept into the hallway and was momentarily stunned by the bright lights that flashed on. As he was pulling his weapon around, he heard his brother’s voice.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! You don’t want to shoot your favorite brother.”

“You’re my only brother, Chance.” Jake said through clenched teeth. He had to work to unlock his jaw. “What in the world are you doing here anyway? And how did you get in?”

“Mom gave me the spare key.” Chance said.

“I thought Mom and Dad were out of the country. I thought you were going to stay at their place,” Jake said.

“I was, but Mom and Dad are remodeling the kitchen and I can’t stay in a place with no kitchen. Besides,” Chance grinned, “You’re kitchen has state-of-the-art, high-tech gadgets and what not.”

Jake failed to suppress his grin. This was Chance after all, his free-spirited brother. If anything was going to help Jake face his forty-second year, it would be Chance.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Continued Rantings of the Lunatic Mind

I always thought that my vehicle was a means of transportation. Little did I know that it is a statement of my abilities, intelligence, political ideals, religious affiliations and sexual preferences.

I learned to drive on my father’s 1968 VW Bug. It had belonged to his father, and we inherited it when Grandaddy Bell passed away. It was an automatic and I have fond memories of driving around the house and running over my mother’s favorite flowering shrub. I’ll never forget the look on her face as my father yanked me out of the car and berated me for not remembering the difference between the clutch and the brake. Mom was infinitely more concerned with the fact that the Bug was now planted firmly on the flowering shrub that had begun to bloom for the first time in years. It was a while before I drove again.

It was my father’s idea to give me the Bug when I turned 16. I was very excited and on the first day I drove it the approximately four blocks to my high school. I was so proud. At the end of the day, I drove it four blocks back home and had just turned into my driveway when the car stopped suddenly. The floorboard had apparently rusted out and the battery fell to the ground. My dream car was no more.

The first vehicle that was actually mine was a 72 Ford Mustang. It was red. It was actually a faded red with a few spots of rust and an eight-track tape player. I am certain that I was the hold out for the conversion from the eight track to the cassette tapes. It was because of me that record companies continued to manufacture eight tracks. Who didn’t enjoy being in the middle of Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” when the track changed? If I search through the attic, I am certain to find my soundtrack to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, I digress.

My father surprised me with the car on my 18th birthday. It was a bargaining chip. He told me I could either live on campus at MTSU or I could commute and get a car. I probably should have moved on campus… then again, knowing the life I led in college, I was better off at home. My car was not great to look at, but it kept itself together until that fateful night that I started home from my job at a retail mall department store. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, my car shimmied and shook with great intensity. It was as if I had run over some large metal object. As I looked into my rearview mirror, I realized I had run over a larger metal object… namely my transmission.

The first car that I owned was a Chevy Chevette. I purchased it from a rental car sales lot. It was a white hatchback and it had a four cylinder engine in it. I paid $108.00 a month for it, and I was so proud until I brought it home. It was not what my mother wanted for me. Much like the guys I dated were not the guys she wanted for me either. She didn’t want me to settle for cheap, unattractive and fuel efficient. She wanted me to purchase my dream car. But this was the 80s in middle Tennessee and my dream car was a brand new Red Corvette with t-tops. To this day that is my dream car… and I have yet to own one. The Chevette did well for me for a few years until I had to replace the alternator. Then the starter. Then the fuel pump. If I was heading up a hill and I had the air conditioning running, I was barely able to muster enough speed to pass a hitch-hiker making his way across country. By the time I had paid the car off, it was time to trade up.

I was finally working a 40 hour job and could afford the step below my dream car. I had always wanted a Camaro, and was very, very excited that the President of the Credit Union where my father sat on the Board of Directors just happened to have a Camaro that was two years old and he was looking to sell. There was no problem with my loan being approved and in 1986 I drove away in a 1982 Chevy Camaro that was a limited edition Olympic model. How does one tell a special edition Olympic model from a regular car? Why by the small Olympic decals on the side. This car had a cassette player and air condition and black leather upholstery. I learned a lot about black leather upholstery in the dead of a middle Tennessee summer. Gets stinkin’ hot. I’ve never had a car with leather upholstery since, and I doubt that I ever will again.

This baby sat low to the ground and I wore mirrored sunglasses and let my freak flag fly! I drag raced people down the interstate with Motley Crue booming through the tape deck. I drove that car into the ground! It was the very first car I bought AND paid for! It was the first car I had a title to and I wasn’t giving that car up for anything! I replaced the transmission and then the air conditioner went out. I couldn’t afford to have that fixed too… so I drove it for three Tennessee summers before I finally had to move on to my next dream car. A convertible.

I wanted a convertible so bad I could taste it. I had not lusted after a vehicle for years… and I Was. Going. To. Have. It. I found a used Ford Mustang convertible and was in heaven. It was great! I kept a perpetual red nose and sunburned scalp for years. The problem came in trying to keep the fabric top clean and the fact that I had no trunk space. This was the perfect road trip car, as long as you didn’t plan to go so far that you had to pack heavy. I learned early on that ice cream cones were not something you wanted to consume with the top down. I replaced the normal things, battery, alternator, starter, etc. But then, the roof began to leak around the windows and I found that I had to keep towels in the car in the event that a rain storm hit. I was caught on more than one occasion driving through a rain shower with the top down… thinking I could outlast the rain. I rarely did. But the final straw came when the top would go down… but would not go back up. It was, time for a new car.

I was getting older and so were my friends. They were tired of having to climb in and out of a two car vehicle and so my next car desires were simple. Four doors and a trunk. Everytime I walked onto a car lot and was asked what I was looking for, my reply was Four Doors and a Trunk.

“What type of car?”

“Four Doors”

“No, I mean, what model.”

“Anything with four doors in my price range”.

“What color?”

“I don’t care. As long as it has four doors and a trunk”.

“You’re pretty easy to please.”

“You have no idea.”

So I purchased a used Oldsmobile Alero. It was green. It had four doors and a trunk. And it was the worst car I have ever owned. It was in the shop more than any of the others cars I owned combined. I hated it. I bought a CD player and had my friend Leon install it. It was the first vehicle I owned to have a CD player. The player came with a remote control, which at first I thought was very funny, because truly, the dials are an arm’s length away… until I began to really use the remote, and then I would just laugh at myself. The only redeeming memory of that car was the fact that the Lord worked through its repairs in a profound way. But as soon as I got the note paid down close enough, I paid it off and gave it to my little brother to give to let my oldest niece to drive. It has not given them a bit of trouble. I could have named that car Christine.

I am now the proud owner of my first brand new vehicle. A Hyundai Santa Fe that my friend Lou Ann helped me pick out. I test drove EVERY small and mid-sized SUV on the market and this one won hand’s down. It was the smoothest of all cars and I would endorse it in every way. It has a six CD changer and I love the fact that I have come a long way from the days of my eight track.

Having said all that, I am proud to state that I have never placed a bumper sticker on any of my cars. Nor has there been a fish symbol or a Darwin symbol. When I owned a Ford, I did not belittle the Chevys and when I owned the Chevy, my car did not speak ill of the Ford. I have not seen fit to install mud-flaps with silhouettes of naked women on my SUV. I have been through many a Presidential election without using my car to voice my opinion. I have campaigned against legalized gambling without my opinion affixed on my vehicle.

I don’t have cute, pity sayings that are written so small that you must tailgate me to read a punchline. I don’t threaten you with bodily harm from a 38 special if you follow too closely. I don’t have cartoon characters peeing on another vehicle’s logo or giving you the finger. I’m not bragging about the ability of my pre-school toddler or my high school student. I don’t have praying hands or the name of my significant other scripted on the passenger side window. I do not have rainbows or triangles or a moniker announcing that I am a flaming heterosexual. I just don’t see the need for it.

I love my car. It gets me from Point A to Point B without my having to make any statements about life in general or the state of the world specifically. Alas, but that all cars would speak as quietly.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Creative Writing piece - first stab at it

So... I've been struggling with what is supposed to be my creative writing piece. By the end of my online class, I will submit 500 words of a creative piece to be evaluated by the instructor. I had toyed with the idea of submitting something I had already written; however, that almost felt like cheating. Plus, I wanted to find out if I could really make something out of nothing. So... this is the first part of my creation. I have no idea where it is going, but it should be fun to watch.

First Draft:

The piercing sound of the alarm clock brought Ralph’s arm up from under the quilt he had buried himself in the night before. As he randomly attacked the clock to restore his peaceful surroundings, he realized the day had dawned. His mind warred with his body to gain consciousness, and his body was winning. It wanted to continue the blissful slumber that would repair all his aches and pains. At the cookout the night before, Ralph found himself playing two-on-two basketball with his brother-in-law and nephews. He never felt out of shape or felt the completion of his 40 plus years. But as he stumbled out of the hot shower and frantically searched for the Icy-Hot that was tucked in the recesses of his bathroom cabinets, his years began to speak to him.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sly Little Bunnies Galumphing Away...

It's okay for me to galumph. I'm a writer. This is actually an assignment that was given to me and the purpose was to take three objects and just write something. Anything. My three objects were rabbits, radio and a golf course. Here's what came to me. Do not ask me to explain... because I can't. I'm a novice galumpher. Thankyouverymuch.

Sly Little Bunnies

There was a quiet knock on the door of Sophie Sutter’s den. She was startled by the sound that brought her out of the best dream she was having of Mr. Merriweather’s carrot garden. Who in the world could be at her door at this time of night? She hopped from her bed and padded softly to the door.

“Who is it?” Sophie whispered. The last thing she wanted was to wake her family up at this time of night.

“It’s me, Marcel. Come outside and play.”

Marcel? What in the world was that hooligan up to now? Peeking back over her shoulder to ensure she had not been heard, Sophie quietly whispered back through the door. “I can’t come out. I’m in my PJs.”

She could hear the frustration in Marcel’s voice. “Get dressed quickly and come outside. I want to show you something. Hurry, we don’t have many hours before the sun rises.”

Sophie paused for a moment, willing herself to use good sense and tell Marcel to beat it. Her father had warned her about spending time with that jackrabbit, a term he did not use in a flattering manner. But Sophie always felt a warm glow when Marcel was around. She knew he was not the scoundrel everyone accused him of being. No one who saved the baby field mice who had been misplaced after the last storm could be all that bad. Sophie could not deny that Marcel had stolen her heart as she turned to pad back across the room and put on her clothes.

Marcel listened intently for Sophie. He heard her inch away from the door and with every passing moment, he worried that she had gone back to bed and had no plans to return. Marcel couldn’t figure out why he enjoyed Sophie’s friendship so much. She was a good little bunny, full of life and energy and so kind to everyone. Even him. He knew he was not the kind of bunny her parents dreamed for her, but she still never failed to send a smile his way or speak a kind word to him.

Sophie was coming of age now, and he wanted to be free to woo her. He knew her father would not approve, but he hoped that he could convince her that his intentions were honorable. He wanted to share his good news with her. But was she coming outside? He continued to wait, and wait, and wait. Then finally, his heart leaped to this throat as the door slowly opened and Sophie appeared.

“Where are we going?” Sophie quietly asked. “I can’t stay out late. I’m taking a huge risk as it is.”

“Don’t worry Sophie”, Marcel replied. “I promise to have you back here in an hour. Just follow me.”
Sophie fell in line behind Marcel as he hopped down the path. She was so nervous about being out this late in the evening. She dressed comfortably in her favorite pink running shorts and matching top. Pink was definitely her signature color and even though she was nervous, she wanted to make a good impression on Marcel. Where were they going? She glanced around Marcel to see they had come upon the 16th green of the Stable Bay Golf Course. But there was something at the flagpole. What was that? Oh my.

Marcel turned to see Sophie’s expression as she approached the dinner table he’d set up at the flag of the 16th hole. He knew his hard work had paid off by the astonished look on Sophie’s face. As she slowly approached him, he pulled out her chair and helped her sit. He moved aside to turn on the battery-powered radio. Soothing jazz music filled the air as he took his seat across from Sophie. He reached over and removed the silver top of the serving dish that covered the honey-glazed carrots his mother had worked so hard to prepare.

“What is the meaning of all this?” Sophie asked.

“I wanted to celebrate my new job, and I wanted to celebrate with someone special. Sophie, you have always been so kind and sweet to me. You didn’t seem to judge my actions when I was on the wrong end of the watering hose in Mr. Merriweather’s cabbage patch. I’ve done some silly things in the past, but I’m turning over a new leaf. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be the undergroundskeeper here at the golf course.”

“Marcel! That is great news! I am so proud of you!” Sophie’s excitement was not surface, but truly heart felt. She was excited for Marcel and she wanted to tell all her friends and family members who said this jack rabbit was good for nothing. She knew in her heart that Marcel had what it took to be a responsible bunny. Now, he had taken the first steps to respectability. Maybe now her father would see past the past and realize the warm heart that beat within Marcel.

As Marcel dished up Sophie’s first serving of carrots by candlelight, he continued to explain himself to her.

“Sophie, I want you to know that I intend to ask your father for permission to take you to the dance on Saturday night. I know that he might turn me down. I know that he doesn’t think very much of me, but I am going to win him over if it is the last thing I do.” Marcel glanced up at Sophie to see her reaction to this news and was stunned at the shimmer of tears in her eyes. He panicked. Had he said something wrong? Were the carrots too spicy? He sat in a stunned silence and waited.

Sophie’s heart had never been so full of joy. She knew her father would most likely decline Marcel’s request. Then again, she also knew the best way to her father’s heart was through his golf game. Sophie may not be able to go out Saturday night, but if Marcel kept his new job, her father would see the hard worker and kind hearted rabbit she knew existed under Marcel’s leather jacket and tough exterior.

“Marcel, my father will probably say no.”

“I figured that was true. But, I will ask him again next week, and then the week after that and the week after that. I want him to know how serious I am about this Sophie. I want you to know it too.”

Sophie smiled. She was as serious as Marcel. Her eyes lit up as she took her first bite of the sweetened carrots. “You know Marcel, my father just loves to play golf.”

“You don’t say.” Actually Marcel did know Sophie’s father loved golf. That is why he worked so hard to get this job. By the glimmer in Sophie’s eye, he could tell her mind was swimming with the possibilities of working her charm on her father. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that soon Mr. Sutter would acquiesce and allow him to pursue his daughter.

My instructor's response:
Your Instructor writes: Not only are you a great galumpher, but it's clear that you enjoy yourself writing. That's a great predictor of a future full of writing. Thanks for the story.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Am I a Calvin… or am I just lost?

July 4, 2005 - This entry is a year in the making. I've told the story countless times, but now it is time to actually post it. Enjoy.

I hope that my greatest fear in life will come true. I hope to one day be the overachiever that is my mother. I cannot possibly tell her that in person, because she would simply get the big head and there would be no living with her.

We’ve had a difficult summer here in the Bell house. Life had been going right on along as normal, or as normal as the Bell family can be. We were watching softball and baseball games. We shopped for clothes with the next generation of Bell females. Everything was going well until Mom couldn’t walk one day.

It is amazing how something can hit you so quickly. One day you’re standing on top of the world, the next day you are being poked and prodded by a physician who is ordering tests done and before you know it, there is an appointment with an Orthopedic Oncologist. We are grateful beyond meaning for words like “benign”, “negative”. Those words became music to us in a short couple of weeks.

Mom was diagnosed with some sort of mass under her knee. She had knee problems for years, and we truly do not know how long this has been around. Mom’s not one of those who makes a yearly appointment to a doctor. This fruit has not fallen far from the tree. But that is another matter. She was a brave trooper to have endured four different doctor visits and two sets of MRIs before the surgeon wanted to cut on her. She was solid when they wheeled her into the surgical ward and she didn’t have to stare at our somewhat solemn faces while we waited in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s surgery waiting area with a few hundred of our closest friends.

John and I kept things light-hearted. That is our job. We are the comedians of the family. Earl can be pretty funny too… but he is usually the brunt of the jokes that John and I are wielding like light sabers. People in a surgical waiting room are typically not there for fun and games. This only eggs John and me on even more. If it’s going to be a long time… might as well get a few laughs in. My church friends understand that about us too. We generally amuse them if they care to join us for any length of time.

During Mom’s surgery John and I stared with increasing interest at a poor down-trodden soul who, we are fairly certain, suffers from narcolepsy. Not being trained physicians ourselves, we are not entirely certain of the fate of this gentleman… but we had a pretty good time trying to determine whether we needed to call the ER team in with a crash cart to revive the man who had slumped over by a telephone and either passed out or fallen asleep. Our mercy was obviously lacking that day. I suggested that we grab some popcorn and begin to make notes of the times that he would awaken and eagerly return to his blissful unconscious state. John would rather place bets on the time he was going to come fully awake. John’s a gambler… and I think a bit of a bookie. If he wasn’t such a good cheat, I might have put money on that with him. But I’ve known him my whole life, and he would have found a way to get around paying me off if I actually won anything from him.

We were excited and thrilled with Mom’s quick recovery and trip back home. She was excited too. She had physical therapy coming three times a week and she was back to her overachieving self as soon as she could make do. She was doing very well, right up until Friday. We had a bit of a set back on Friday.

Seems there was an infection creeping around in her system that no one could really see. Her pain medication contained acetaminophen, which was masking the effects of the infection. There was no mask though come Friday afternoon, July 1, 2005. Mom began running a fever that was dangerously high and she began shaking to the point that I could barely hold her down. The doctors later called her symptoms “Reigers”. So, a week after coming home, we were in an ambulance with a weepy and frightened 73 year old heading back to Vanderbilt. Mom’s fever spiked to 104.5 by the time we were at the hospital and she was quickly tended to by a highly qualified emergency room staff.

My friend Requelle came to join my brother, my father and I in the waiting room. She was great to have around… she became the audience that John and I so desperately needed. There was only one guest allowed in the ER with Mom at any given time, so we took turns coming and going through electronic doors. By 8:00 p.m., I told Requelle to head on home, because it was obvious that we were going to spend the night and there was no reason for her to stay. She needed to go let her dogs out anyway, so she bid us good night as she left the hospital.

At about 9:30, I was in the room with Mom when it became quite clear that the atmospheric pressure of the ER had changed. Suddenly there were doctors and nursing staffers running to and fro – there were police officers and EMT personnel all looking very grim and speaking in short, staccato-esque phrases. After a few minutes passed, we were told that the ER was locked down because there had been a gunshot wound brought in and the rumor was that the shooting was gang related.

As I watched the seconds turn into minutes, and the minutes into 30 minutes, I came to the realization that we were not going anywhere soon. The men of our family could not get in, and we could not get out. We got a message through to them to just head on home and they did so, while we waited for our time to be sent to a room. And then we waited. And then we waited some more. At about 11:30 pm I told her to get comfortable because we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Logic told me that if the ER was shut down and they didn’t need the bay we were in, we’d just be sitting there. And sitting there some more.

A break in the monotony came when two med students popped in to take on the old lady and her symptoms. She’d had blood drawn (many vials) while in the ambulance and more drawn from the hospital personnel and these doctors needed to figure out the problem. One student was a man and the other was a woman. Mom took right kindly to the guy, but not the girl. Apparently the young lady was too “aggressive” and was spouting phrases like “elevated liver enzymes” and that just was not something my mother wanted to hear, in relation to herself. If it wasn’t a condition that was associated with the knee surgery, she was having no part of it.

Finally, as I suspected, a nurse stepped in to tell us we were being moved out because they needed the ER bay and had found a room for us. We were whisked out of the bay and there was a line-up of people waiting to be whisked into the ER. This is where we met Calvin.

Calvin was the orderly assigned to take us to our new home. Calvin was a very nice man and Calvin was doing his best. Of course, it is close to 2 a.m. and Mom and I are pretty slap-happy at this point. But Calvin was fun and had lots of energy, and that is just what you want when its 2 am and you’ve been in the ER since about 5:30 pm. Calvin has been given his orders on where to take us and OFF WE GO!

Vanderbilt Hospital is a teaching hospital, and is therefore rather large. There are many buildings on the property and there are a series of catacombs underneath the buildings connecting one to the other. Calvin is taking us back to the building that we had stayed in last week, and it is about a half-mile trek, up a hill to get from Point A to Point B. About mid-way up the longest slope, Calvin informs us that it is his first night on the job.

My blood turned to ice. As nice a fella as Calvin is… I knew in my heart of hearts that we were going the wrong way. I think Mom knew it too… as she kept glancing over at me, as I am huffing and puffing my way up the ramp. Finally we reach the elevator, and after some banging around (literally) Calvin, Mom and I are on the elevator and Calvin speaks these immortal words:

“Hit the button for the eighth floor.”

I looked at the control panel and calmly replied, “Calvin, there isn’t a number eight on this elevator.”

“Are you sure?”

I forced myself not to make my squinty cartoon eyes, but I began to count aloud as I pointed out the numbers, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Yep, that’s it. It stops at seven. Are you sure we need to go to eight?”

“Yes, ma’am. (Calvin was always polite) It says 8th floor north something-something tower.”

Silence. I look at Mom and she is looking at me and we’re still standing still on an elevator with the doors closed as Calvin ponders the situation. Then he speaks:

“I tell you what… just go ahead and hit the seventh floor. We’ll see what’s going on up there.”


The elevator empties out onto the seventh floor and Calvin wheels Mom out. He tells us not to go anywhere and he’ll be right back. Then he walks away. Walks. Away. I look at Mom and she is trying not to laugh too loudly because, well, it is close to 2:30 IN. THE. MORNING. And then, Calvin returns having visited the nurses' desk with his paper work and receiving his new set of directions. We get back on the elevator, we go back to the ground floor, and we head back on the half-mile trek through the catacombs. (If only it were dank and dark and Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven had made an appearance).

We found another set of elevators that we jumped on (after more banging and maneuvering of the gurney) and this one indeed did go to the eighth floor. We arrive on said floor and I remembered hearing that we were going to be in Room 230 of the North Tower. As we get off the elevator, a sign points to the Right for the North Tower and to the Left for the South Tower. We are in the North Tower. It only made sense that Calvin instead took Mom to the left. It was too much to bear this time. I had to stop him.

“Calvin… we need to go over here to the right. To the north tower.”

“Oh, no ma’am. We need to go this way.”

“I don’t think so Calvin. I really think we need to go this way”

“No, just follow me.”

“How about I just wait for you here?” And that is exactly what I did. I waved to my mother who was frantically turning around to see if I had truly abandoned her to Calvin’s misdirections again. I waited about two minutes when what to my wandering eyes would appear, but Calvin pushing my mother’s gurney back to the North Tower.

“You were right. I sure am sorry about this. You know it’s my first night here at Vanderbilt”.

“I know Calvin. You’re doing a great job. This is a big place to learn your way around in one night. Hang in there, and follow me.”

I led Calvin to our new room and he banged the gurney in through the door. By this time the Mom and I are so giddy from exhaustion that we can barely contain ourselves. The nurses would be in to help Calvin relocate the Mom from the gurney to the bed as soon as possible but Mom was ready to be off the very uncomfortable gurney. Calvin was attempting to lower the rails of the gurney to ease her over, but apparently Rail Maintenance 101 was not a course he had taken as yet. He couldn’t figure out how to lower the rail.

I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I apparently play one on TV. I walked over and gave Calvin a quick lesson in how to lower the rail. Calvin mentioned that he should sign his first paycheck over to me because I apparently knew his job better than he did. I reassured him that it would become second nature to him in no time. Mom was through with talking and waiting on nurses. It was now 3 am. She was tired and hungry and had to go to the bathroom really, really bad. It didn’t matter that she’d just had knee surgery a week ago and could not walk yet. It didn’t matter that she’d had a raging temp of 104.5 just a few hours ago… this overachiever wanted in that bed and she DID NOT want Calvin’s assistance.

That Wonder Woman slung her leg off the gurney… bunny-hopped her way to the bed and lay down. Calvin left the room with an amazed look on his face and as soon as the door closed, we burst into laughter that we had held for about an hour.

The room that we were in was located just a few floors down from the hospital’s helicopter pad. There were many landings and lift-offs the next few days. One rather bumpy landing made me rather nervous, until Mom decided that Calvin must be on his first day behind the controls of the copter.

Oh, goodness, we laughed and laughed and laughed. Who knew that something as silly and trite as our hiking through the bowels of the hospital was just what the Great Physician ordered to lift our spirits? We will never forget Calvin… or the role he played in Mom’s recovery.