Thursday, January 31, 2008


My little three year old is sick. Ear infection. Bad one. So bad in fact, that her little eardrum burst this afternoon and lots of yellow-green gunk oozed out of her ear. I was horrified, much like the first time she threw up or pooped in the bath tub. More than horrifed though, I was frightened. As I carefully swabbed her ear and cleaned her up with a warm washcloth I wondered if she'd permanently lost hearing in that ear. From what I understand now, it'll heal up in a few weeks on its own, probably speedily since I followed up the swabbing and cleaning with some antibiotic ear drops left over from her last ear infection. She was sweet and whiny through the whole process and after it was over she quickly fell asleep on her daddy's chest. It was an oh my gosh type of parent moment.
When I and my cousins were in our pre-teen years, we'd gather over at my grandmother's house during the summer to play together. Since her house was smack dab in the middle of Georgia nowhere we were constantly grasping for things to do. One of our few sources of entertainment, besides each other's constant giggling, was to walk down to the creek at the bottom of the hill and throw Trouble in. Trouble was the sweetest most energetic Boston Terrier I've ever known. My grandmother had a thing for Boston Terriers. There were two that I can vaguely remember from my very early childhood, but Trouble was the third. Trouble followed us everywhere we went, whether it was a long walk through the thick woods or just down the road a mile or two. He was protecting us I suppose, or just bored himself. The bridge was probably about fifteen feet above the water and as we all walked around staring down at it, wondering what it would be like to jump off into the creek ourselves, someone would always say "Hey, let's throw Trouble in" and within seconds you'd hear the splash. All eyes drooped over the bridge to see if he came back up and when he did we'd all breathe a sigh of relief. Once in a while one or the other of us would get a conscious and tell the guilty one that he or she was just plain mean. But most of the time we laughed out loud and then drew our breaths until we saw his little black and white head bob up to the surface and he swam to the creekside. He'd always pull himself out of the water, shake himself free of most of the water, and climb the hill back to the road's edge to be with us again. But he wouldn't let us catch him again! When Trouble grew wise to our shenanigans we'd have to lure him over to the edge and just push him off with our feet real quick before he knew what was about to happen. As he grew older, we did too, and even if we could have pushed him in we wouldn't have, because he was sweet old Trouble. I'll never forget how he used to chase empty milk jugs around the yard when there was no one to play with but himself. He was a great dog.
During this same period of time when I was young, if I ever had an ache or a pain and mentioned it to my grandmother she'd always say "Aww Honey it's just the mean-ness coming out of you!" I wonder if she had that in the right order. Tonight when my little Sarah rose from her nap, after the Motrin had kicked in and her ear didn't hurt anymore -- while I was on the phone with my aunt and while Hal was quietly looking over our taxes, she took a black Sharpie marker and walked all the way from her room upstairs to the living room coloring the walls and everything else in her path with a nice fat black line. I think what I'll say to Sarah as she tromps through her childhood is "Aww Honey, it's just the mean-ness coming out IN you!"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I met The President.

The other night I received an email from the Hillary Clinton campaign. "Bill in Macon Georgia" the subject line read. I opened it to reveal an invitation to hear him speak in less than a mere 48 hours. Immediatly I began mulling over this strange opportunity. Macon is almost a hundred miles from Athens and gas is nearly three dollars a gallon. Sarah would have to go to daycare because I couldn't imagine taking her with me for something like that...might as well not go. I had the day off on Monday so that wouldn't be a problem. Still I thought.

I remember very clearly my twelfth grade government class because it was in the fall of 1992 when Bill Clinton was running for the Presidency. I received extra credit for registering to vote, and because I was older than most of my classmates, having turned 18 in September, I was able to cast my first vote as an adult American citizen in that November election. I voted for Bill. I remember also that we discussed in great detail the duties and responsibilities of the President that fall in class, and I sat there in awe of the things we learned. Often I have wondered, what would it be like to be him?

I RSVP to the Hillary campaign an answer of "maybe." And this morning I still did not know if I'd go. But then the thought occurred to me: How often do I get a chance to see or hear or simply be in the presence of someone like this? Someone who has devoted the majority of his life working in government, in politics, in making a difference in the lives of Americans and so many others, like the woman from Kosovo who tearfully thanked him tonight for all he had done to free her family and her people. I went. I drove down there and after waiting for over two hours, I wound up sitting in the second row only about fifteen feet away from him.

Many different people have many different opinions of Bill Clinton. I always liked him regardless of the mistakes he'd made. He's a human being and human beings by default are absolutely not perfect. I'm not either. He screwed up and learned from it. I've done the same thing in my own life. We all have, in one way or another. Months ago, I watched a Q/A with Hillary. The woman interviewing her asked her a very pointed question: "How did you get through the very public trouble in your marriage?" Right then and there she had my support. She answered her faith, and that it was hard, that she wasn't normally an overly expressive person in public but that she had to be during that time and it was uncomfortable. The look on her face told the story of tough times that she had faced. How we deal with adversity can be the measure of who we are and what we are made of. If the thing that is closest to you erupts into a drastic hot flame and you've still got the gumption to pull yourself up and move forward in front of the world, then I think you've got what it takes to do just about anything.

Bill is an incredibily intelligent man. He spoke for two hours tonight and I listened to him quote facts, numbers, statistics, and people. He told stories and illustrated points. Not a note anywhere. No written speech, no teleprompter. Just him and his experience and his pizazz. He's an amazing speaker, eloquent and fluid. He gave five minute answers to questions that most of us didn't even get the first time around! He has a charming sense of humor. He clearly wants the best for America. When he was in the White House, Americans enjoyed mostly peace and prosperity. Times were good for the middle class; for me.

When it was all said and done he began shaking hands with those of us up front and he dealt with the mob of people very well. I can only imagine the stories he hears, the jeers he endures, he people he comes face to face with who have come from every corner of the globe. When they get close to him they want to tell him what's on their hearts and minds. I was nearly pushed over tonight by several people who were leaping for a chance to get an inch closer, to touch his hand, say hello, or exchange a glance with him. It was truly amazing. The only thing I felt like saying to him was that I had been proud of the job he'd done as President and that I was still glad that I'd cast my very first vote for him. When the time came, when he was standing inches from me, the guy behind me, from another country, was all over my body behind me, his arm pressing into the side of my body as he reached for President Clinton's hand. Thank you the man shouted. Thank you for what you did for my country. The man kept talking and as he did the President reached for my hand and held it there for several long moments; trying to move along but trying to give this man his attention too. Finally he looked down at me and smiled and said a simple "hey," tightened his grip and shook my hand formally and moved down the line. It was a mad throng of folks from all over, peaceful but determined. All of us were shocked that we were actually there, experiencing what we were.

The last week of my life has been surreal and this is just one more experience that adds to that strangeness. But that's how life is when we get out there and live it fully.

I was able to snap many great pics of him and the event and have uploaded one to share with you all. Now, can I hear you say: HILL -LA - REE!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Granny

Today would have been my grandmother's 90th birthday. All day I thought something was bugging me, something that I couldn't put my finger on. I started a new job and it's pretty awesome, so I knew that wasn't it. I have a cold and am feeling tired so I thought that was it, but then I realized something when I started signing paperwork and looking in my calendar. For most of my life, today was always a celebrated day in our family. Granny wasn't a very good gift receiver. She'd always tell us that we shouldn't have bought her anything, or that what we bought was the wrong color or size or that she didn't need it altogether. Some things she secretly loved and she'd stow them away in her closet for a more important occasion. I remember one particular pink robe that she put in there, claiming that we could bury her in that one. How morbid and odd I thought; yet how completely pessimistic. That's the way she was. Not outwardly loving until I was grown and started expressing affection myself; this ability I owe to my husband because he taught me that it was okay to wrap my arms around another person and say I love you.
Granny lived a long and hard life; she had a troubled childhood with an overbearing and critical mother and they were all very poor too. Still, she grew up with an air of confidence about her. She was the salutatorian of her high school graduating class and always seemed to me to be very intelligent and a good problem solver. I'll never forget the day she told me not to ever hold my head so high that I felt better than anyone else, but to realize also that I was just as good as anyone else as long as I kept myself looking nice and clean. She maintained that she "put her pants on every morning just like the President of the United States did, and he was no better than her and she no better than him." This was the message to me over all the years: be humble and kind and open minded and always believe in yourself and what you can do in this world, and believe in others too.
In her last few years I didn't see her as much as I always had because I lived out of state, but each time I did see her she would hold my hand and remind me of how much she loved me, and on this night that is what I miss the most. The feeling of her small hands. Her long fingers wrapped around mine. I miss hearing how she loved me and I miss the stories she'd tell me. I miss the way I could kneel and put my head in her lap and feel for a moment completely okay.
When I was a little girl, I remember clinging to my grandmother's every move, following in her every footstep, listening to her stories told over and over again. I believed she was superhuman. As I grew I began to see that she was fallible and sometimes weak as people are. Her health declined rapidly after I turned twenty, and her body failed her mind.
She's been gone for nearly three years now but I still think she's somehow superhuman. Perhaps her spirit right now feels mine, ever following hers around in heart and in mind. Perhaps she is watching over me and my little girl, laughing at the way I'm attempting to raise her, thinking that I sound a lot like she did when she was trying to raise me. I would have loved to let her taste my rendition of the old fashioned tea cakes she used to make for me. I made a batch a couple of weeks ago, just to see if I could, and when they tasted so good, I made a hundred more. Anything to bring me closer. Closer to that time and place that swept through my life too quickly, but that holds its place in my memory and in my heart.

Happy Birthday Granny. I miss you!