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Friday, May 26, 2017

  • Wednesday, May 24, 2017 4:00 AM
    I’d like to have a chat with all of the young people out there who are eager to get married and settle down. I know it’s an exciting prospect. I started dreaming about my wedding when I was six-years-old. I used to tell my mom that I would marry the first man who could write my name in the sky. I am not sure why I romanticized skywriting, but as a child it seemed like the ultimate profession of love. 
    I didn’t find my dashing pilot, nevertheless, I was engaged at 19, married at 21, and had my first baby at 22.
    Twice, I attempted college. The first time, I dropped out after a semester so I could work two jobs and pay for my “dream” wedding. Total cost of the grand affair was under $3,000, and didn’t include a honeymoon. I wasn’t aware of my own worth at that time, and I settled for much less than I actually wanted (something for all of you June brides to think about). 
    The second time, I started class when my newborn was less than a month old. Money was tight, so, ignoring doctor’s orders, I also went back to work full-time much earlier than recommended. There were a number of other factors that made this one of the most exhausting periods of my young mothering years, but I wanted to be the woman who could do it all. 
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  • Wednesday, May 17, 2017 11:57 PM
    I’m afraid you’re going to have to listen to me do the “bragging mom” thing this week. I know it’s kind of annoying when other people talk about how great their kids are, but if you could, please, indulge me for a moment. 
    I had the privilege of spending Mother’s Day celebrating Alexander, my twenty-two year old son. At 9:30 Sunday morning, he graduated (with Distinction) from Purdue University with a degree in Biology and a minor in Spanish.
    He’s going to be a doctor. I’m trying to say it casually, like it’s no big deal, but if you could see the dopey grin on my face as I typed those words, you’d be extra annoyed.
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  • Wednesday, May 10, 2017 12:16 AM
    I decided to work from McDonald's today. As I was squinting to read the menu board, a crew member cheerfully said, "Here! This will help,” and she handed me a large print menu.
    I experienced serious brain trauma as my emotions and thoughts instantly split between being ever-so-grateful, and thinking, "My god, I really am getting old!"
    It’s not that I mind aging, it’s just that the changes are happening so rapidly now. I discovered my first gray hair on my 30th birthday. It felt rather ominous at the time, but it was a couple of years before I found another. 
    Same with my wrinkles. When I was 28, a friend of my aunt noted that I had, “beautiful skin and barely perceptible crow’s feet.”
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  • Wednesday, May 03, 2017 4:00 AM
    I’ve been a little scatterbrained lately. Could be stress. Could be age. Or it could be the fact that I’ve never really been the most observant person anyway, and not noticing things gives one the air of being, well, an airhead. 
    Throughout my life, I have been accused many, many times of “not paying attention.” It’s not that I don’t pay attention, it’s that I’m not fully aware that there is anything to pay attention to. 
    I can still hear the frustration in my father’s voice whenever a new dent or scratch would appear on my old ’78 Cougar. 
    “Don’t tell me you didn’t know there was a telephone pole. There are telephone poles every 150 feet!”
    “You’re saying you sideswiped that car because you didn’t see it PARKED next to you?!”
    I won’t even share the details of his reaction that time I pulled in front of an oncoming vehicle and completely obliterated my T-Bird. I don’t understand why people ask, “Didn’t you see it coming?” 
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  • Wednesday, April 26, 2017 4:00 AM
    As part of my ongoing plastic surgery saga, allow me to give you a rundown of my day thus far. It has been nearly a month since I had the third set of procedures that were intended to correct the original botched surgery. Last night, I went to bed with some pretty serious pain in my thigh. When I awoke at 5:30 a.m., it was still quite intense, so, I did that thing you are not supposed to do, and began Googling my symptoms. 
    After an hour or so, I determined I was suffering from a rare condition called Dysethesia. It never occurs due to liposuction, so I knew without a doubt that mine was a unique case. As I contemplated how I would convince my doctor of the diagnosis (he rarely validates my internet research), I looked down and noticed that the sheets were covered in blood. 
    I ran to the full-length mirror and carefully examined each of my 10 incisions. The first nine were completely intact with no sign of infection. I half-heartedly glanced at my right side, assuming it would also be nearly healed, but what I saw reflected in the mirror left me terrified. 
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  • Wednesday, April 19, 2017 4:00 AM
    I had just a few minutes to run a quick errand before checking into the hospital for surgery. I pulled into a downtown Chattanooga parking garage, and the attendant, an older woman, struck up a conversation. When she found out I needed to park for less than 30 minutes, the following dialogue ensued:
    She: "Oh, honey, you don't want to park in here! You can park on the street and it only costs 50 cents for thirty minutes."
    Me: "I don't mind. I'm not good at parallel parking."
    She: "You just hold on a minute."
    Proceeding to leave the booth, she walked out to the street. 
    Upon her return: "There are several spots right up the block. You'll find a big one, and your car will slide in easy as pie!"
    Me: "Really, it's ok. If you could please just lift the gate, I'll go on through."
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  • Wednesday, April 12, 2017 4:00 AM
    It was April 6, 1998, when my mother, after a full day of teaching third grade, was admitted to the hospital with abdominal pain. The following day we started saying goodbye, and on April 10, she passed away. 
    Every year during this time she is heavy on my mind. Even more so right now because I am in the city where she raised me. 
    Each morning for the past week here in Chattanooga, I have enjoyed listening to the whistle of the crossing guard who directs traffic outside of my apartment. When I was a kid, my mom was a city crossing guard. 
    Early every morning, and again each afternoon, she stood at the Fourth Street exit. Not only is it a dangerous traffic location, but the area is sketchy to say the least. 
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  • Wednesday, April 05, 2017 4:00 AM
    Bend an ear and listen to my version
    Of a really solid Tennessee excursion
    While recovering from surgery, I am staying in an apartment less than two blocks from the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo. The sign is clearly visible from every window in the place, and it makes me smile each time I see it. 
    I was a few days post-op before venturing out to the rooftop to soak in the sunshine. With a 360 view of the city and the mountains, I began to think I might never go home.
    I wish I had the presence of mind to document all of the acts of kindness, love and generosity people have bestowed upon me this week, but I’m still a little loopy from pain killers. Friends sat in the waiting room during surgery, took me to post-op appointments, brought delicious food, helped me dress, removed blood stains from the couch, made me laugh (albeit cautiously) and read poetry to me. I even had a guy friend stop by long enough to do "whatever I needed." He took out the trash, fixed the ice maker, did a load of laundry and rehung the curtains I had torn down while in a drug-induced state the previous night. Not sure what I did to deserve the attention, but I am ever so grateful!
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  • Wednesday, March 29, 2017 4:00 AM
    It was 3 a.m. in Berlin. She stood on the deserted bridge and stared down into the dark waters of the Spree River. It wasn’t the first time she had found herself in this spot, nor the first time she had entertained thoughts that both frightened and comforted her. She was becoming attuned to the idea of falling through the darkness and disappearing under the cold water, but the cords of motherhood bound her firmly in place. 
    She wouldn’t have been afraid of the dark, colorless river, for it matched the rest of her world. She vaguely remembered a time when colors were vivid; when she was a young girl with a purple bedroom, a yellow car, and parrot-shaped earrings in hot pink and turquoise. But for 20 years or more, she had been seeing the world in gray scale. Even her memories flickered through her mind like an old black and white film. 
    Over time her wardrobe had become neutral and non-descript. Her home was decorated in 50 shades of taupe with an occasional “pop” of sage. She needed her outward surroundings to be calm in order to keep the frenzy in her mind from becoming unbearable. 
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  • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 4:00 AM
    Nine-year-old Hudson Charles totally rocked his first piano recital. In January, he downloaded an app on his phone, and began teaching himself to play classics such as Fur Elise and The Imperial March, so I decided it was high time to put him in lessons.
    As I listened to each of the 20-or-so students take their turns plunking out carefully prepared recital pieces, my mind wandered back to my own piano days.
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  • Wednesday, March 08, 2017 4:00 AM
    I will soon be traveling to Chattanooga, Tennessee for surgery. People often ask why I am willing to drive seven hours for something that could, presumably, be handled by a local doctor. Truth is, it was a local doctor that caused my issues in the first place. 
    Because I’ve had four C-sections, I have dealt with a lot of painful internal adhesions. At one point, my kidneys adhered to my spine. In 2012, the doctor said they would have to make a large abdominal incision in order to do the repairs, and commented that if I ever wanted a tummy tuck, this would be the time. I had never given any serious thought to plastic surgery, but that sounded pretty good! 
    When I went to meet the surgeon, I began perusing the brochures, and decided to inquire about breast augmentation. I didn't hate my breasts, but after five kids and a lot of nursing, I thought it would be nice to perk them up a bit. I never made that part public because I didn’t want to be looked at differently, but people need to hear my story. 
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  • Wednesday, March 01, 2017 4:00 AM
    My middle daughter, a sophomore at Purdue University, just texted me for ideas on one of her assignments. She has to write a poem about McDonald’s. At this very moment I am sitting in McDonald’s, trying to write on a different topic because I covered that one in last week’s article.
    It’s not surprising that the place keeps popping up in my life. It has been this way since the early 70s when my family moved, and we no longer lived near a Burger Chef. I loved Burger Chef with their kids’ Funmeal and Funburgers. Thanks to their “Works Bar,” I learned at a very young age that I prefer my burgers topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion. 
    The first time I remember going to McDonald’s was in Chicago. My dad said I could order anything, so having seen a few commercials, I asked for a Big Mac. My mother promptly attempted to intervene, stating that there was no way a five-year-old could eat such a large sandwich. Dad bought it for me anyway, and I ate the entire thing, all the way down to the final sesame seed. Apparently, I worked up quite an appetite in the Windy City.
    At the age of 16, my first job was at McDonald’s in Chattanooga, Tenn. My second job was at a McDonald’s near Nashville, Tenn. And when my family moved back to Indiana, I worked at McDonald’s in Lebanon. Fifteen years ago, they tore it down and built a bank in its spot. But being the sentimental person that I am, I still have a brick from that building.
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  • Wednesday, February 22, 2017 4:00 AM
    I ventured to a new McDonald’s the other day. It was lovely, truly lovely, but I didn’t stay. I wanted to sit alone and work from my laptop. Unfortunately, the seating was similar to that which I’ve encountered on my travels to Europe. There are one or two large tables, and only a few booths scattered along the edges. This is great for a family of 15 that would typically be unable to sit together, but it’s hard to imagine a construction crew wanting to lunch with a mom and her passel of kids. Most of us prefer to wallow in our personal space, and enjoy the semi privacy afforded by separate tables. 
    I’m relatively outgoing, and can pretty much start a conversation with any living soul, but I feel uncomfortable seating myself at a table that’s already occupied. When in Rome, I do as the Romans do, but once home, I fall into the safety net of familiarity.
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  • Wednesday, February 15, 2017 4:00 AM
    Over the past year, I have been exploring the world with new eyes. I feel like I am 18 again, standing on the cusp of life, and the possibilities for my future are endless.
    Following that desire to explore and learn is how I came to be standing outside the beautiful Elephant gate of Das Buddhistische Haus; the oldest and largest Buddhist center in Europe.
    It took an hour by train from Berlin, and then a 20-minute taxi ride. As the taxi pulled away into the settling dusk of late afternoon Germany, I cinched my coat, and turned my attention to the large, wooden gate.
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  • Wednesday, February 08, 2017 4:00 AM
    For the first time in over a year and a half, all of my clothes are on hangars, and my shoes are unpacked. Since moving to the new house, which was originally built in 1860, I have been living out of suitcases, boxes, and piles. Apparently, in the mid-1800s, they didn’t have a need for closets. But now, thanks to my handy dad, I have a beautiful walk-in closet all to myself! There are high racks and low racks, cubbies for handbags, and floor to ceiling shelves dedicated solely to my shoe collection.
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