Friday, April 26, 2013

Lessons from Daddy

I vividly remember a remarkable amount of stuff from the time I was about two and half to five years old.  People probably think I make most of it up, and I suppose it’s entirely possible that I did. But I think I would make it more interesting if I was inventing it all.  I remember the mundane, looking at a worm in a puddle, brushing my hair, biting a thermometer. Okay – that was pretty exciting, actually. If you ever wanna see your mom jump, make her think you’re ingesting mercury.

Among the memories are three specific and particular lessons from my dad. He taught me many things from philosophy to engine timing, how to figure the pitch of a roof to which berries are poisonous if you’re fly fishing and need a snack. There were many pieces of advice throughout my life that I’ve kept with me. But three statements he told me at that very young age have stuck with me and I’ve thought about each of them nearly every day for the last four decades.

1) It’s a lot easier to make sure one little girl is being good than three little girls.
I’d come to him for the tenth time probably in a day, tattling that one of my sisters was committing some offense of which he should not only be aware, but take action against. He was under the hood of a car, either tinkering or just hiding and he said the words first to the engine. I climbed up the bumper and leaned in, too. “Daddy, what? But she…”  And he looked right at my miniature face and repeated himself. “It’s a lot easier to just make sure one little girl is being good.”   

I love that he didn’t explain it, but rather turned back to what he was doing and left me to figure it out. After a few minutes of enjoying the shade of the car hood, I got it. Don’t tattle. Don’t rescue. Keep an eye on yourself.  Just make sure one little girl is being good.  

2) Don’t pretend to be anyone but yourself.
This one, like many of his rules, was most likely meant to keep us from squabbling and interrupting his book/magazine/nap.  We were playing outside and along with some friends, acting out a scene from a PBS show called New Zoo Revue.  There were actors in animal costumes with massive heads – and of course, they wore clothes – and then one normal human who for whatever reason hung out with them. Tensions were rising about who had to be Henrietta Hippo and Freddie Frog and who got to be the real live human character. Again, a man of few words, my dad said, “Don’t pretend to be anyone. Just be yourself.”  Looking back, I am quite sure he meant it as a solution to the problem right that minute – but it served me well for the next forty years, too.  

Knee socks. I love knee socks.

3) Little boys cannot hit little girls.
And big ones can’t either. I was armed with this information as I headed off to my first day of first grade. Too bad more daddies don’t tell more little girls this, and little boys, too. Unfortunately, he didn’t mention anything about little girls and pinching, so I was unprepared with the 6 year old in front of me in line turned around and declared, “I can pinch you so hard you bleed,” and then proceeded to do just that by latching on to the thin skin on the back of my hand.  I reminded her of it nine years later when her boyfriend took me to a concert instead of her.

I don’t know if I’ve left my children with indelible life lessons. Probably not. My advice to them has been more along the lines of  “don’t cry unless you’re bleeding,” “if you get a dog that sheds, buy matching clothes and furniture” and “never underestimate the power of white space.”   My husband is more the purveyor of wisdom. As all good daddies are, apparently.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I better get invited to the movie premiere.

Remember when I told you about my Sista-from-anotha-mista, Tracey? I met her on the interwebs and we become lifelong pals when we realized we both used to ride the exact same model of little badass little Honda crotch rockets instead of acting like nice girls and doing our homework. She even guest-blogged for me once when I was camping.

Me and the Sista. After 972 cocktails. Her husband is a very patient fella.

I even visited her in Iowa and it turned out we liked each other in real life and had exactly the same highlights. Because we were separated at birth. Or something.

Well. Did you know that if you walk into any bookstore, Target, Costco or Piggly Wiggly RIGHT NOW, you will see a book that Tracey wrote...right there on the shelf? Because you will.

Next to freakin' F. Scott Fitzgerald, people!
 It's called On the Island. Tracey got up early before work every day for a year and wrote it. And then she edited it and let me read it. And I sat down at my computer and read the Word document and did not get up until I was done. Seriously, not even for a beer.  Tracey pitched her book to publishers and they were all, "No thanks, we only like stories about vampires, not real people."  But Tracey, being the hard-working Iowa gal she is said, "Fine. I'll publish it myself, you clowns." So she did. And it looked like this.

The story takes place in the Maldives. Sadly, I was not at the photoshoot.
And then, a funny thing happened. Real life people loved Tracey's book and downloaded it over and over and over again. Then guess what happened?  The publishers were all, "Hey, Trace - we changed our minds." And because Tracey is a nice person who would prefer to hold wine glasses to grudges, she said, "Eh, okay, fine. I guess you can sell my book for me." And they bought it and made it look like this.

Again, not one single person asked if I wanted to model for this. 

I think the best part of getting a book deal, besides the obvious CASH part of it is that you get to have the back cover author photo taken. I've been practicing for mine since I was about 4, well except for the brief interlude in the 80s when I was practicing for my album cover, in black turtleneck and silver flugelhorn, ala Chuck Mangione. Because did you guys know I play the flugelhorn? Anyway, I totally digress. Check out SFAM's hot author photo.

Someone better call the fire department, because something around here is smoldering hot.
So anyway, I am very proud and happy to know Tracey and thrilled to call her "author" and "friend" and it's really got me thinking...

I should write a book!

But what about?  Tracey had her characters floating around with her for years before she wrote about them. I don't have any characters in my head other than the ones that talk to me and tell me I left the garage door open and the iron on when I'm ten miles from home.

Maybe I could just design the cover first... then I'd be inspired to write the tale of the star-crossed lovers...

Still working on the title. But the sunset works, right?

I've never been much a romantic anyway. I'll go with something I know about...being a weird little kid. I knew some, I have some, I was one. This could work. Maybe I'll start with the back cover instead.

Or, maybe I should leave the authorin' of books to the professionals.  Congratulations to Tracey, who proved that hard work and belief in yourself, combined with some crazy good talent really pays off.

And thanks, too. Because last week I told my kid that I'd buy him an XBOX...unless of course, I could find my name in a book in the book department at Target. And then walked over to On The Island, opened up the acknowledgement page and showed him mommy's name in print. Ha ha, kid. Now go mow the lawn and earn your damned game like a normal person.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Though I try to spend a little time each day looking around and just being grateful for all that is right in my world (healthy and charming children, cute husband, a house that is neither too big or too small, honest employment and not one - but two - count them two bulldogs) I just haven't been able to shake the nagging feeling that something is missing.  And even with countless hours of introspection and retrospection and perusing of the IKEA catalog I could simply not put my finger on it.

Is this what they call midlife crisis? A void, an emptiness in an otherwise full and fulfilling life?

I didn't want a boyfriend.

I didn't want a convertible.

I didn't want to eat, pray or go to India.

I was flummoxed, flapping in the breeze like a tea towel on Aunt Bea's clothesline.

Until now.

Because this morning, I woke up with laser sharp focus. I know why I was put here. I know what the missing piece is.

Because while I have gray boots, black boots, cowboy boots, brown boots, riding boots, snow boots, engineer boots, clogs that look like boots and even white patent leather go-go boots...

I do not have red boots.

Correction. I do not have red boots YET.


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