Recovering Emotionally From River’s Carnivorous Seaweed

Jim has had two weeks off between the fellowship that just ended and going back to his private practice.

I need a vacation from his vacation. We will be back home soon and I might make out with our washer and dryer.

I posted this picture yesterday I took while sitting in my father in-laws backyard in Michigan.

20120711-192723.jpgPeter has dragged his net from the back of a kayak in the mountains of North Carolina to the ditches of rural Michigan.

I am not kidding when I tell you he jumped outof a boat in the river to catch a water snake. Seeing that snake wiggle back and forth through the water towards the banks made me happy that he had a net in his hand and couldn’t swim after it.

Here is Peter with his only catch from Michigan.  A praying mantis.  He longed to catch a newt at his Papa’s marsh but it had been so dry he was probably more likely to catch a desert lizard.  

  Our friends all learned to never go canoeing with me and if they do they better be faster than I am in a kayak.

The teenagersall learned that I won’t baby them, as I am an equal opportunity canoe flipper.

FYI, if you ever decide, (after flipping everyone’s canoes) to float the rest of the way down the river next to your kayak so as to foil anyone’s attempt to “get even”…DON’T!

I was on my back, not looking where I was going, with “Crazy Sarah”, (whom I had recently left canoe-less due to a water problem her canoe had after I rolled it he, he, he) when a field of underwater seaweed-garbully-gook-icky-BEsgusting-man-eating-venus-fly-trap-under-water-human-eating STUFF enveloped me.

If anyone in the entire southeast section of America heard a grown woman screaming like a baby girl relentlessly and without shame last week between the hours of approximately 4-4:30, it was me.

What you didn’t hear was our entire pack of friends laughing at me. “Crazy Sarah” was smiling her evil smile while saying, “There are probably snakes that live in that stuff too!”

I kicked in place. I was stuck like a fly in Jello with a fountain of water spewing above me from my futile swimming. I was screaming in tongues.

Crazy Sarah was probably secretly hoping to collect my bones when the carnivorous river vegetation was done with me.

Crazy Sarah and her bone collecting and zombie apocalypse story here…

Karma will always give us a good kick in the pants if we deserve it. I soooo deserved it!

The older boys have “pool noodle battled” all of their cousins in Michigan and discovered all the attention a scratch on the neck gets you when people think you have a hickey.

They also learned what a hickey is.

I cannot believe how much I have missed sharing stories. This blogging thing has really surprised me.

Thanks for letting me share,
All that makes you smile, laugh, think, love, cry or cry laughing.


The Father I Used to Have (and Sea Monkeys)

My dad is Simon Cowell, not really, but that is how I often describe his demeanor.  I get that from him.  It is far less attractive on a woman, I am told. He is part of who made me and I like myself, even if I tend to “talk like a man.”

He is straight forward in business and in raising two girls.  He is Simon Cowel if Simon were raised in the midwest and literally worked his fingers to the bone.  But he isn’t the strong silent type that daughters often describe their dads as.

He is the kind of man that when a microphone needs to be passed to someone who is good with words he can step up and rustle up an instant speech that will make you laugh and cry.

Everyone will be looking at him with a smile, head tilt and with a tear.

My dad in Michigan is a funny mix of sarcasm, tough as nails, strong as an ox and as anal retentive about cleanliness as Monk and with an extra heaping of smart ass.

He never used my expression, “act like a butt and people will think your a butt” but he taught it to me.

He would call you out if you needed it and when I needed a summer job in college I wasn’t sent to the steel mill’s office to file, he sent me out with a blowtorch and steel toe boots to cut samples over the “cooling beds” of red hot rebar.  He sent me to the noisy “shear” to catch samples of steel bars to grind down for seam allowance tests and to the “yard” to find bundles of rebar to cut and bring back on a fork lift to the lab and inspect.

The guys who worked for him for 20 years would say, “He is about the meanest man I have ever met but he knows what he is doing and I respect him.”  They would also say, “Your dad sent little old you to do THIS job?”

I am sure that the 98 pounds of me with three layers of flame retardant clothing, steel toed boots, protective ear gear and face mask had to look a little funny on me.

He also never said another of my favorite phrases but he taught it to me, “for the love of God, I figure if a man can do it, I surely can.”

When family emergencies arise and you have to be in a hospital waiting room you have to find the humor in this 6′ 3″ man who wont touch the arm rests on the chairs.   Yes, he is that “Monk” from the TV show who doesn’t like germs.

When I was a teenager I came home and discovered my shower head was missing from my bathtub.  I went to tell him thinking we’d been robbed of plumbing fixtures.  He informed me I was “grounded from showers” for not “squeeging” the ceramic tile after I showered to keep water spots from forming…INSIDE THE SHOWER.

He is the kind of man that really does sleep three to four hours a night and carries a bottle of bleach around with him in case anything needs a good scrubbing.

This is why this story will never get old to tell. I

may have been eight years-old. My dad had just mowed the yard and he is hot and thirsty.

My sea monkeys that I mailed away for, that took six weeks to arrive because there was not internet ordering back then, were on our kitchen table.

These were going to be my new pets.  I couldn’t be allergic to sea monkeys, right?  They are underwater and they are cute and the cartoons on the box show them smiling and waiting to be my petsll!  

I am going to be the luckiest girl in town with my own little Sea Monkey Circus.

Photo from “the yeti speaks” here.

My dad had just come in from mowing the yard and grabbed the closest glass of water to the door. He began drinking and I began the phenomenon that occurs when you cannot speak because you are so mortified.

I did the action movie arm outstretched with a slow motion face of “AAoooowwwwaaa!!!!” then “Noooooo!…!…!”

He is downing the glass with his eyes closed and enjoying the cool, refreshing glass of water while sweating and visibly tired from yard work. As he opens his eyes and sets the empty glass down I finally reach him and am sobbing while tugging at his arm.

I am looking to be consoled.

He is looking at me like I have gone mad.

I finally am able to inhale enough to exhale a sentence from my hypervenhilating…


His face.

My God…his face.

His eyes were huge and his head led his body into the kitchen sink.

Turning knob for water. 

Face, mouth, and eyes looking up at ceiling, allowing water to run in and out.

Other hand’s desperate blind feel for the little black levered sprayer.

He is now spraying the water directly into his teeth.

I am silent as he begins the rabid gurgling and spitting.

My tears of horror and sadness are now tears of laughter as this grown man is using his fingernails to pick between each and every tooth.

Will telling this story ever get old?


Me laughing 30 years later…

Once, when I was in college, he asked me NOT to park my dirty car, (boyfriend lived on a dirt road) in his driveway.  He owned a couple of car washes and he said it was as if he were a barber and I was walking around town with a bad haircut.  BTW, I never got a free carwash.

He taught me to work, and that too, I am grateful for.

He also taught me to love unconditionally my children, because in the end, he didn’t. In the end, when my mother died and he remarried he decided he wasn’t my father anymore.  He adopted me when I was three, when my mother married him.  He was the only father I knew for 21 years and I have always loved him.

Even with the rift between my dad that has now spanned 18 years I am still grateful for the gifts he gave me that made me who I am.

I am also grateful that I know to tell my boys that I will love them forever and that they will always be my children.

Happy Father’s Day to my husband Jim and thank you for being the best dad to our boys.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there and to both of mine.  Happy Father’s Day to all of the people that don’t have their dads anymore or may have never had one and may you, too, find the blessings of the father figures you have had in your life and be thankful for them.

Abbie,  All that makes you smile, laugh, think, love, cry or cry laughing.

Who Taught You Everything Bad?

Everything BAD I ever learned, I learned from a cousin!

First Cigarette

My cousin was 16 and I was 12 and she had to drive me somewhere.  She pulled over and stuck a cigarette in my hand and said, “You’re going to smoke this.  I am going to smoke a cigarette and if I do you will tell on me, so your going to smoke one too.”

Birds and the Bees and Other Stuff

I knew where babies came from long before my friends at school and then I knew about all the stuff middle schoolers do before they even think about making babies.  My older cousins told me about what was happening in junior high.   It terrified me as an elementary school kid.  It is also probably why I was scared into not even having a boyfriend until 9th grade.

First Encounter With Police Officer

It was the Fourth of July and a different cousin and I were using cigars to light fireworks down a dirt rural road. I found out that night that not only were we too young to smoke even a cigar but fireworks were illegal in Michigan.

Sneaking Out

I learned to push my car down the driveway so that we didn’t wake up the parents.  I also learned to push start a stick shift, which is no easy feat for a 15 year-old and a 16 year-old that weighed less that 100 pounds.

Sneaking Into Bars and Getting Served at 16 

This was easy back in 1988.  Hair was huge and makeup went on with a putty knife.  They couldn’t see how old you were through the layers of on gunk on our faces and shoulder pads definitely make a young girl look older.

Trip to Canada Requires a 24 Hour Alibi 

You could drive 50 minutes and all you needed was a drivers license to cross the border.  There were no cell phones so you just needed to “sleep over at a friends.”

Blonds Have More Fun (I know better now)

A gallon of pool chlorine dumped on your hair will give you a “sun-kissed” hairstyle for summer.

There is even so many more things like, you can drain a chocolate covered cherry with a toothpick and spit in it and feed it to your babysitter.  Want to get even with your sister?  Put neon poster board in your house windows that announce when your sister started her period just before her afternoon school bus goes by.  Stay out past dark and know you are in trouble?  Just toll around in the dirt and smear lightening bugs all over you and tell your mom you were abducted by aliens and that is why you didn’t make it home before the street lights came on.  Moms can’t yell if they are laughing.

I have said it a million times, long line of wack-a-moles is where I have derived my lineage.

This all was learned through cousins, (who probably learned a lot of it from my mom who acted like THEIR older cousin..

Your friends are afraid of your parents.  Your cousins aren’t, at least mine were not.  My mom was passing many of these “gems” onto the cousins that eventually taught me.

This is why we live ten hours away from my own kids cousins.

They are all OUR CHILDREN and Lord knows we were bad, bad, bad.

We heard regularly how bad our mothers were from anyone in town.

I am not telling my kids.  They think we come from a long line of book readers and college class takers.

I am breaking the cycle with silence and denial.

These kids all think I am so boring and square.  They say things like, “You want some NUTS and then they all giggle like I don’t get it.”  They make up songs about drinking beer because it rhymes with Brittany Spears.

Peter confessed and told me a limerick he learned on the bus.

I was so disappointed.

Cannot believe I am saying this but, I would have made my Mom proud.  The one he told me was so boring I couldn’t have him walking around teaching other kids this lame rhyme.  I gave him a good one to share on the bus the next morning.

Yes, my Mom taught it to me & it has “ding dong” in it. I’ve yet to be called by the school  office for any of them…but this one, I thought I might.

Then he asked me who King Kong is.  Never mind.


We have cousins in town this week.  Three girls and I am in heaven.  I know they are all telling each other things they don’t want me to hear and I know they are all learning bad things.  I know this because I hear them upstairs after midnight giggling uncontrollably.

I realize I have to let them have a little fun, but we have all been having a LOT OF FUN!

We stayed at a minor league ball game until almost 11 last night.  Mitchell caught a ball and then stood at the dugout and had a player sign it and then he gave it to his cousin, Eileen who is in 3rd grade.  I was so proud.

Who did they chase down to have their picture taken with?  A police officer.  Such smart kids!  I once convinced an entire Detroit Swat team to let me and a car load of boys go, return our alcohol, (driver was not drinking) and write down directions to the club we were going to, when I was 16.  I told them that when I told my dad that they stuck a gun in my face and frisked me he would not be happy.  I also told them it would be insane to think that a 16 year-old girl could be stealing cars and taking them into a Detroit alley to be chopped.  I mean, really, a helicopter with a spotlight on us?!

See, my kids do not need to hear ANY of these stories!

-Abbie, All that makes you smile, laugh, think, love, cry, and hopefully cry laughing.

Previous posts you might enjoy…

The Bethenny Frankel Show Called Me About the Fifty Shades of Grey!

Forbes Article on Bethenny’s New Talk Show

Probably Not Your Grandmother’s Advice on Family

The brunette is my grandmother, Opal Jeanette but she always wished it was just Jeanette.  My grandfather called her “OJ”, my mom called her “Ma”, I called her “Mamaw” and my kids called her “Big Mamaw.”  

Here she is with her lifelong friend in this picture, who still misses her and all the fun they had, terribly.  

This is Opal Jeanette back when she could be called whatever she wanted.

Honey, don’t get married.  You will regret it, I know, I did twice.  All it takes is one woman with hot panties and any husband will fail that test.  You will be raising that man for the rest of your life.  And whatever you do, don’t have kids.  I loved my kids more than the world.  It just ends in worry and heartbreak.  I am grateful for my children and grand babies but you will never feel a moments rest.  The worry.”

These are the words I heard for thirty-eight years from my southern grandmother.  There were several variations.  After I married she would change it to, “Now honey, I told you not to get married…”

Then once I had kids she changed it to, “I told you not to have kids but now that you do all you have to do is love them with all of you, but don’t spoil them like I did.  If you do they will just be tore up with jealousy and not get along and then they will break your heart.”

If she knew my husband and I were having a disagreement she would say, “You didn’t listen to me when I told you not to get married and you got married anyway.   Now sister, the key to marriage is EN-DUR-ANCE, endurance.  We women just have to endure these husbands and families.”

I am sure when reading these words, one would be drawn to the conclusion that she might not have been the best grandmother.  She wasn’t.  She could pick and choose who in the family she liked and it could change in the wind.  Probably the only time she consistently loved someone was when she loved me.  It seems to be easier to love a grandchild.  Perhaps one realizes you do the best that you can by the time grandchildren come along.  She was the best grandmother, to me.

She gave me the advice long before I knew what she meant about “hot panties” and she usually gave me the advice while we drank a bourbon and Coke, long before I should have ever been given bourbon and coke.

She was a pistol.   When I was eight she even gave me a pearl handled pistol to carry when I rode my horse bareback.  Years later, and after I had children of my own, I asked her what she was thinking giving kids real guns to play with.  She replied with, “It’s not like I gave you the bullets!”

She had two marriages, four daughters and six granddaughters, just one grandson and sixteen great-grandchildren.   Two of her children died before she did.  Her youngest was stillborn and full term and she lost my mom when my mom was 39.  She grew up in the mountains of Tennessee and moved to Michigan as a young woman.  She died last year during Mother’s Day week at her farm.  I promised her she would stay in her home until the end.

She missed my grandfather that had died a few years before.  The same man she complained about for their entire marriage.  The same man she asked me to find the medication you give a drunk to make them sick if they do have a drink.  She wanted to sneak it in his food.  She also asked me, when Viagra came out, if I could get my grandfather some of the little blue pills.  When I began laughing uncontrollably while covering my ears she began laughing uncontrollably too.  She told me that one day other people might think of me as an old lady, but I won’t feel like one.  Through her laughter she told me that old ladies, “Still have needs.”

She taught me many things, like insight to the various stages in life and the reality that no relationship is perfect and how to make a roux to get a good gravy.

Here we are together.  I lived with her until I started kindergarten and then about any time when I wasn’t in school.  She watched over me for the rest of her life.

She always had a home cooked meal waiting on the table for my grandfather when he walked in from work.  One day she sang and whistled and nearly floated around the kitchen while preparing his supper.  When we all sat down and began passing the dishes she announced with a grin, “I read in the paper today where your girlfriend died.”

He sat silent and eating.  I stayed silent too.

She often liked to talk about ways to poison someone so it wouldn’t be detected during supper. At the end of my childhood I had deduced that the best way to kill someone was ground glass.

The truth, she loved him and he loved her more for over 50 years.  She loved her family the best she could.  I have learned to accept people based on the relationship I have with them and how they treat my little family, me, my husband and my children.  No one has ever treated us better that she and my grandfather did.

When I had our twins and they were premature and sick and I had a husband in medical school.  They came three times a week to rock and hold the twins so I could shower.  They would walk in my home with diapers and groceries and just put them away in our little kitchen.

This is Mamaw with Avery when he was a baby.

When I didn’t go back to work because of our babies surgeries and specialists appointments the first year and we couldn’t afford a second car, they just dropped one off one day.  One time I was rocking two crying babies in the afternoon.  I hadn’t showered because the boys were grumpy and she told me to just put the babies in their swings and to go take care of myself.  When I told her that babies should be held and not put into machines and that we don’t even have swings she said, “Oh, bull$hit.” and she and my grandfather drove off and bought us two.  They they came right back and he put them together for us.  She was a genius.

She may not have wanted the burden of a family once she had it but she took care of us all.  The family she ended up with was her cross to bear, she liked to say.  There is a restlessness in some of us, like my mom, that my grandmother recognized.  She never could figure out how to “mother” that.  She never could figure out how to manage her own restlessness.  I think that is how she was able to accept my grandfather and their children.  She saw herself in them.   It didn’t mean she didn’t love us.  She just loved us all differently.

I flew up to be with her and stay beside her as she was dying.  I laid next to her at night and listed as I thought every breath would be her last.  I washed her and carried her and massaged her swollen body and did thing for her that made her cry that I had to.  We all have some dignity that gets in the way of help.  I told her that it was my pleasure and that I wish I could do more to stop the pain.  We talked like we always had, when she was alert and between the moments of confusion.

I had the blessing of being able to ask her if there was anything she needed to say, anyone she needed to talk to or anything she still needed to do.  She said no.  She said she wanted to be with my Papaw and see my Mom and all the people she had missed.  She said she knew she had made mistakes but that she loved her family and she knew God knew that.  She told me she was thankful for her life, but it had been a hard one and she didn’t want to suffer anymore.  She told me she had talked to God and asked for forgiveness.  She told me she was ready.

I told her that when I was a small child, I prayed every night she wouldn’t die, (like little children do) because I was selfish and didn’t know who would take care of me if I didn’t have her.  When I was older I prayed she would live long enough to see me “be ok” and make something of myself.  I wanted to feel I had made her effort worth something.  Then I was selfish for praying she would live long enough to see me married to a “good” man and then I prayed she would be around to see me have babies and talk to me about how to take care of them.  Then I prayed she would live enough for my kids to have a memory of her.  

I told her I would stop being selfish and that she could go.  

I told her how much love I had for her.  It was a blessing to be able to tell her how thankful I was that she had indeed gotten married and had children and stepped in to care for me.

I told her that she taught me to give and how to give.  To give even when someone isn’t asking and to talk to my kids honestly about life, those are the gifts she gave me and that are part of all that makes me.

Abbie, All that makes you…

What kind of grandmother did you have?  Was she the picture perfect grandmother with an apron on?  Did she “tell it like it is” like mine?

Diagnosis: Full Blown Spring Fever (even the critters have it)

We get a little extra wacky around here when the weather begins to turn. My husband and I grew up in Michigan and fled for the sunny south. We really, really appreciate not having a white Easter“.



Signs that spring has entered our lives.

This INSANE bird comes and tries to make a mud nest over the rocking chair that I sit and drink my coffee in. Since I cannot bring myself to take down a nest with eggs in it, I have to wage a daily war, everyday. I tried a hose to no avail. I finally took a VERY scary garbage bag and put it on a pole and shoved it up in the preferred corner. The wind shakes the plastic and it’s quite effective. Six years of beating down the bird with my clever brain, (so proud to be smarter than a bird brain). Six years of it circling my head squaking at me. How long do birds live? We all have to look at a pole for two weeks with a trash bag on it but better than bird poo on my head and in my coffee.

It’s warm out but the neighborhood pool isn’t open.

The boys start out fishing

but then want to go

turtle hunting.

They want to keep the turtles…


…then we have have baby turtles all over the house.

Then I tell them to take the baby turtles back to the pond to their mothers.

Then they tell me they are reptiles and reptiles don’t hang around with their mom’s after they are born.

Then I end up with crying children who wish they were reptiles.


We all feel like this

from the pollen.






Lilly heads on over to

“Mama Abbie’s Day Spa”

for a spring haircut.





“Mama Abbie’s Day Spa”

thinks its funny to

shave bloomers on the dog.

The dog thinks it is not funny.





No one loves a stupid looking dog with bloomers shaved in.

Lilly hides until it grows out.

She wishes she was a reptile too.




I cannot stop thinking about planting and flowers and trimming shrubs and planting peppers and flower pot color schemes and herbs and…

…I stop putting on makeup and don’t care what I wear.

I am pretty sure there is a reptile is living in my hair.

Wearing other peoples ugly shoes

I am not a big fan of bowling. Growing up in Michigan there wasn’t much to do for the nine long months that winter lasted. Most of my bowling memories involve being dropped off in a smokey bowling alley playroom (kid jail) while the adults drank played on their league.

Here is Avery another time bowling and despite having pins left I am sure in his head he’s saying, “Take that!”

The other issue I have is you’re wearing someone elses shoes and sticking your fingers in holes where you don’t know where the previous person had been sticking their fingers. The other issue is you’re wearing someone elses, someone elses, someone elses… You get my point. Not a fan.

I am, however, a fan of charity events and charity events we can socialize with our friends. We have a fab circle of crazy friends and those crazy friends have kids that are just as much fun. I have some good friend stories I will share as soon as I feel like I have gotten to know you better. 😉

We took our boys to our local “Bowl for Kids Sake” with all of our usual group from “The Club”, (sounds ridiculous so I had to.) There were news crews, and local celebrities and lots and lots of families.

The grown ups were supposed to hang behind the kids giving them any advice or money for junk food. The adult moms all had a powwow via text before and we were wearing our cool jeans and high heels and no talk of bowling shoes with split personality disorders. We were going to drink beer out of a pitcher and eat pizza. We were going to have a bowling night without bowling.

You have seen the sitcom Friends? I could never understand how we could convince an entire country to invade another and we couldn’t convince the cast of “Friends” to continue entertaining us FOREVER, (said in the Sandlot movie voice.) Anyway, remember Monica Geller? Yeah, I turn into Monica Geller sometimes. Not in the Monica cleaning way but in the, “I’m gonna kick your a$$” competitive way.

Well, first one of the guys in our group goes to throw the ball in the lane next to us and as he bends over his jeans split from his knee on the inside seam all the way up to his crotch. I have NEVER seen anything like it. A gaping hole.

Want to make it better?

No underwear!

Even better?

News crew! I have no self control in these moments, I admit I was snorting laughing and “Captain Commando” was too!  The news crew camera guy came to the rescue with a roll of duct tape and they were taping up his pants another “Dad Friend” says, “Hey Abbie, I’ll play against you.”

Our lane is empty because the kids are all gone to the arcade. I have on the cutest pair of espadrille heels which are not allowed. I look over at the shoe counter. I am so not standing in that line to wear someone elses shoes that haven’t even had ample time to let the sweat dry out.

I agree to one turn each as I am going to have to SNEAK and play in my smokin’ hot shoes.  I am going to prance myself up and show off in front of my husband behind me and more importantly, I am going to kick “Other Dad’s” a$$!  Game on!

“Other Dad” throws the ball twice and leaves 4 pins. I sneak up to make sure no one is looking. I was really, really sneaky looking.

I throw the ball and my feet fly up in the air and I land on my back.

Yep, completely laid out. Not even a sip of beer had. I am still on my back and I look back behind me to see all of our friends cracking up, (always happy to give them comic relief) then their faces changed to mouths open staring over my head and I turn around to see my STRIKE!

Mitchell has also inherited my self confidence and excitement!

I am an awesome bowler. 😉 They of course noticed my shoes and I was informed of the rules but who cares because I WAS THE CHAMPION!

The Monica Gellar in me would also like to state that “Captain Commando” did NOT score a strike during his embarrassing moment. I will however concede his moment was more embarrassing.  I am getting rather sick of that honor so he can have it.

If you enjoyed this post read, “Exploding Eggs and Nakedness…Typical Sunday with Family”