Bucket List? What Bucket List?

Even though I’m a big fan of both Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, I don’t have a bucket list.

This phrase pops up frequently in our modern society, and when I heard it the other day, it made me think.  For those of you who don’t know, a bucket list is a list of all of the things you hope to do before you die, and usually it’s a pretty grandiose list.  You know, stuff like skydiving and climbing Everest and getting an actual live person on your first try when you call customer service.

Anyway, like I said, this got me thinking.  I don’t have a bucket list.  Now, I have goals and dreams like anyone.  I want to build a house, and I have more dreams for my kids than I care to put down here in writing.  But those aren’t really “bucket list” things.  In fact, about the only thing that qualifies is my long-time desire to have Anthony Hopkins read a Robert Frost poem to me. (Don’t ask.)

We can spend so much of our time wishing for things that may or may not ever happen to us.  What if, instead of thinking of the things we haven’t done, we check off a list of the wonderful things we have done?  Here’s what I have so far:

  • I stood in the spot where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge.
  • I watched twilight settle over New York City from the top of the Empire State Building.
  • I have seen and been inside the Statue of Liberty.
  • I have watched the sun rise over the rim of a dormant volcano……
  • …….and also watched it fall back into the Pacific.
  • I have stood on the deck of a boat in awe as whale song echoed over the audio system from underwater microphones.
  • I watched a humpback whale rise out of the water just a few yards from where I stood.
  • I watched as a country was torn apart by a terrible act of terrorism, and then watched as it pulled itself back together and united, stronger even than before.
  • I stood with the man of my dreams at the front of the church and started a wonderful journey that I hope never ends.
  • I lay on a ratty old second-hand couch in my living room and felt a baby–a baby!–move inside my body, where only a few short months ago there had been nothing.
  • Then,  I was there when two whole new people breathed the very first breaths of their lives.  (This was, of course, followed by the first spit up of their lives and the first poops of their lives.  But that’s okay.)
  • I have watched as these two new lives grew and learned and changed, and I will see them grow–too quickly–into adults.

It occurs to me that I could make this list go on forever.  There have been hard times in my life, but I can honestly say I can look back over an abundance of joyful experiences, and most of them have happened since I got married and had kids.  I don’t need a bucket list.  My life is busy, and hectic, and sometimes quite stressful, but it’s also a full life, and I am so glad to have it.  All of the items I can dream of for a bucket list are already crossed off.

Well, except for that Anthony Hopkins thing.

What about you?  Have you already lived your bucket list?


Hillbilly 101

In keeping with my current theme about misconceptions, I thought I would offer a little clarity to those of you out in Readerland who think you know what a “hillbilly” or “redneck” is.

I was born, raised, and still live in the greatest of all hillbilly states–West Virginia.  In the course of my life I have heard every stereotype, generalization, and outright prejudice you can imagine.  True story: when I worked at a state park which is just a few miles down the road from me, a couple was checking in to stay at one the cabins, and they asked me–I swear I am not making this up–if I had dirt floors at my house.  Another true story: when I had my daughter in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic, one of the office staff did not know that West Virginia was a separate state from Virginia.  I can’t make this stuff up, folks.

If I’m going to be honest, I have to tell you that we have our share of problems in this state.  Here’s the thing–every state, region, or population has their own set of problems.  It’s always easier to point out other people’s trouble than face your own, I guess, but crime, drugs, and general immorality are ubiquitous.  I’ve seen white trash in every state I’ve ever been.

So in the spirit of education, allow me to present you with some facts that may help you adjust your thinking about the Mountain State.

  • Yes, we mine coal.  It’s dirty and dangerous and doesn’t usually require a college education.  But guess what–those lights you are sitting under in your office?  They probably come from a power plant which makes power by burning…..coal.  It’s the backbone of our whole economy and culture.  Every day they are trying to find ways to get coal out of the ground in more environmentally friendly ways.  You may love the environment, but I bet you love your electricity, too.  Also, it’s hard for me to take anyone seriously who is complaining about mountain top removal from the front seat of their giant, gas-guzzling SUV.
  • You may think our accents make us sound dumb.  That’s okay.  We think your accent makes you sound like an asshole.  Bygones.
  • The media perpetuates the whole “white trash” thing.  They really do always find the white trashiest person to interview on TV.  Guess what?  They do it to you, too.  We get a big kick out of the crack ‘ho giving an interview about a robbery in her neighborhood.
  • We like trucks.  Guess what?  It snows here.  Sometimes, a lot.  And we can actually drive in the snow.  Also, we just like trucks.  We can haul stuff and move stuff, and let’s face it–you never know when you might need to get through a really big mud hole.

  • We don’t have dirt floors.  We don’t all live in mobile homes, although if someone does, so what?
  • West Virginia is a whole other state.  To clarify, we considered changing our motto to: “West Virginia–NOT Part of Virignia.” Somehow, it just didn’t stick.
  • It is quieter here, and some of us live in the middle of nowhere.  We have to drive forty minutes to go to the grocery store.  We’re okay with that.  If you don’t like it, that’s okay, too.  That’s why we live here and you live there.  We don’t want to live in the city any more than you want to live in the country.
  • Speaking from experience, we are more polite than people in other areas, which I won’t name, but I will tell you they rhyme with Few Cork and Lew Kersey.  We hold doors for people and say excuse me.  Yes, there are rude people here–I won’t kid myself into thinking there aren’t, but like I said, I’m generalizing.  This is my blog, so I’m allowed to do that.
  • We don’t get some sort of weird satisfaction out of pointlessly blowing our car horn.  We might not be as smart as you, but we have at least figured out that blowing the horn won’t make the traffic jam magically disappear.
  • We don’t marry our cousins.  I would go so far as to say a lot of us don’t even like our cousins.
  • We wear jeans and tee-shirts, and to us, a lot of those fashions trends that are so popular in big cities just look silly.  The guys wear hats, but they take them off to pray, and to listen to the national anthem (at WVU football games and NASCAR races, for example.)
  • There are some who feud with their neighbors, but for the most part, we help our neighbors out, and they help us.  You look out for their houses when they are on vacation, and maybe even feed their dog or their chickens.  We take food to families when they have lost a loved one.  In short, when times are tough, we pull together.
  • We wave at people.  I don’t know why.  When we pass people on the road or standing on their lawn, we nod or throw up a hand.  It’s just a thing we do.

So forget your stereotypical opinions of West Virginia.  It’s a beautiful state (mostly located outdoors) with lots of amazing things to see and do.  While you’re here, take your time and enjoy the scenery.  We know how to make a guest feel at home.

And if it makes you feel better, we’ll even honk our horn at you.


Gotta Go–My Shows Are On

Well, it happened again.  I watched the news.

This morning I had the great joy of hearing that some Democratic strategist has criticized Ann Romney for being a stay at home mom.  The strategist, Hilary Rosen, said that Ann could be of no use on economic issues because she had “never worked a day in her life.”

Now Rosen is trying to backtrack.  Apparently thousands of stay at home moms have tracked her down and left their children with her.

No, seriously, Rosen is backtracking because even the president stepped up to defend Ann Romney by saying that being a “housewife” (my word, not his) is a tough job.  Now Rosen is saying that she only meant that Ann Romney was a wealthy woman who had nannies and such and so never had to deal with the real economic and social concerns of the typical American woman.

Too little, too late, bitch.

The truth is, she’s trying to cover her own ass now because she is getting such a backlash, even from the president of the United States.  I feel quite sure, as a working woman herself, Rosen absolutely believed what she said.  She thinks that because a stay at home moms like myself don’t contribute to the economy, we don’t know anything about it.

This is a very sensitive subject to me.  With the modern economy, it’s very hard for a lot of families to make it on just one income.  I realize that.  We were in that situation a long time ago–before we had kids.  Once I found out I was pregnant, I decided that being the primary caretaker for my own children was more important to me than maintaining our lifestyle.  We downgraded our vehicle and tightened our belts (which were already pretty tight.) I haven’t been back to work since.  I always thought that when the kids were older I might go back to work, but then the reality of Evelyn’s life came up, and then I started caring full-time for my sister, and there you go.

But this isn’t about the fact that I have to stay home now.  It’s about the fact that I wanted to stay home to raise my kids.

I think lots of people actually believe stay at home moms are less than their working counterparts.  They think we don’t have a real life, and that we don’t contribute to society.  I wonder how many people still have the notion of the old-fashioned “housewife?”  Since I love lists so much, allow me to demystify the life of the modern stay at home mom in list form.

  • I am the money manager in this house.  I have a great grip on the economy, although I apparently don’t contribute to it.  I buy the groceries, make the payments, and balance the checkbook.  Even though my husband earned the money, we both still take care of it. (See the next point.)
  • My husband and I don’t have “our own” money.  If we couldn’t trust each other with money, then we had no business getting married.
  • I have never had to worry about what my kids were being exposed to and who was taking care of them.  I’ve never paid for child care.  Here’s another little myth imploded for all you working folks out there: my kids are not so attached to me that they can’t be separated from me.  They have never slept with me.  My son had zero anxiety about going to school, because I raised him with self-confidence.  He has never been afraid to spend the night with a friend.  So there.
  • My husband and I are partners. I don’t serve him because he brings home the paychecks.  He has always been an active parent–he changes diapers and bathes and feeds.  Yes, I do most of the housework.  Know why?  Because I want it done a certain way, and the best way to ensure that is to do it myself.  Also, I do happen to think that because I’m the one who is here all day, it’s my fair share to do it.  It doesn’t hurt me.
  • I don’t get to sit and watch soap operas all day.  In fact, I don’t sit much at all during the day.  I do most of my sitting at night, after everyone is in bed.  I would imagine that’s when “working” moms get to sit down, too.
  • I do get stressed, and sometimes I feel isolated, but I’m not sure going to work every day would alleviate either of those problems.  I would go out on a limb and say that it might even make them worse.

I could rant all day long about this, but I won’t (you’re welcome.) The short version is this: forget about June Cleaver, and forget about the housewife laying on the couch, watching “General Hospital” and eating bonbons.  Also, I’m not going to make rude generalizations about working mothers, although I certainly could.

I have a great job.  I get to care for the people who mean the most to me.  Maybe I don’t get to dress up every day and go out and “contribute” to the world.  Instead, I contribute to my family.

I think that’s okay, don’t you?

Saint in a Wheelchair

Sometimes I think our lives consist of one misconception after another.  This is mostly true with things people don’t have personal experience with.  For example, I have the misconception that all politicians are crooked liars who would knock their own mothers off a chair if they thought she was sitting on a dollar.  Of course, this misconception happens to be true, but still.

Nowhere is the misconception problem more prevalent than in the world of special needs.  I am always fascinated by how people view individuals with special needs.  As both a mother and a sister to people with severe disabilities, I feel I can speak with a reasonable amount of knowledge on this subject.  (Disclaimer: I have no doubt that there will be someone who will tell me that every single point I am getting ready to make is wrong, and that their experience is the exact opposite of what I am saying, and that the person they care for is an angel.  Allow me to say, in advance, good for you.  Get your own blog.)

Usually I talk about my daughter, but this post is about someone else: my sister Mindy.

That’s her, several years ago.  She has spastic Cerebral Palsy.  She was born extremely premature–today they are called “super-preemies,” but when she was born there was no such term.  She had a twin sister who lived for almost eight months in the hospital.

Everywhere we go, I run into someone who knows Mindy (and a thousand curses to all of those who ask if I am her mother.)  She also attends church, and has for most of her life, so that adds another demographic to the “people who know Mindy” population.  Everyone person who knows her loves her, and they think she is God’s angel right here on Earth, a blessing and an example of how to live a humble, accepting life.  They pet her and use words like “poor little thing.” Worse, they talk about how wonderful I am for taking care of her, how patient I am, and someone even told me there would be a jewel in my crown.

Crown?  I think I must have misplaced it.  Probably it fell off when I was banging my head against the wall.

Mindy can be a truly remarkable person.  For most of her life, she was a very calm, mild-mannered, unassuming person who smiled most of the time.  But things have changed as the years have gone by.  She’s having trouble with depression.  She takes medication for mood stabilization and to help her sleep.  She has poor impulse control and some OCD stuff.

In other words, she’s just a human being.

To assume that she has super abilities to be patient and accepting is to dehumanize her.  No one can be perfectly patient and perfectly accepting all the time.  Add into it that she has more reason than most people I know to be depressed or angry, and you see the problem.

Mindy’s body is her enemy.  Her mind is actually quite good.  I won’t say that she has the same cognitive ability as a so-called normal person, but certainly she has more than, say, members of Congress.  Anyway, her mind is pretty much okay, but her body is her prison.  It won’t move like she wants it to.  She can’t do anything for herself.  Anything that requires muscles (including eyes) is compromised.  But I’m not telling you this to get you to feel sorry for her.  There are some things I think everyone should consider, not just about Mindy, but about any special needs person you may know.

  • Mindy wanted all the same things we all did–a job, marriage, kids–just an independent life.  She is 32 years old now, and she has to cope with the fact that she can’t have those things.
  • It’s not her job to be a  blessing or set an example for you.  If she does, fine, but if she doesn’t, that’s fine too.
  • She is just like everyone else.  She has mood swings and tantrums.  She has good days and not-so-good days.  Again, I think that just means she’s human.
  • The relationship I have with Mindy is a lot less special than you probably think it is.  We are sisters.  If you have a sister, I doubt if you need any explanation.  We argue about something every single day.  She calls me some not-so-nice names very frequently.  I, having only slightly more self-control, don’t call her names, although they certainly cross my mind.  Once, when we were teenagers, we were arguing over a television program.  She turned in her power wheelchair and charged me.  She rammed my rocking chair with the force of a rampaging bull.  Shouting and tears followed.
  • She doesn’t like it when people talk to her like she is two years old, which is often.  They pet her head and get right in her face to talk.  Would you like it if I did that to you? It would be ridiculous if I did to you, wouldn’t it?  You’d think I had lost my mind.  Yet it’s okay for someone to talk to my sister that way.  Remember, she is 32-year-old woman.
  • She understands everything you are saying.   It might take her a long time to respond because it’s hard for her to get her mouth working the right way.  People will ask her a question and then keep going without waiting for the answer.  They assume she can’t talk.  In short, they overlook her.  She’s almost an inanimate object to them.
  • Lay off her wheelchair.  That chair is a part of her body.  She is in it all day, every day.  When you touch it or lean on it, it’s the same as if you were touching her person.  It’s a part of her personal space.  Yes, I lean on it and hang my purse from it, but I’m allowed.  (Maybe that’s why she calls me the bad names.  Hmmm…..)
  • Just because she is sitting down doesn’t mean she is less than you.  She’s in this world the same as the rest of us.  She deserves the same rights and considerations as all of you ambulatory folks.

I think what it boils down to is respect.  Respect her, and others, as people.  They are not saints, or angels.  Some of them might be super-sweet people who never have a bad word to say, but some of them might be short-tempered and irritable (like me.)  In short, they are varied,  because they are people, and no two people are just alike.  They want what you want–to be treated with respect and understanding.

And to watch their program on TV.  If not, they might just knock you out of your chair.


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The Tale of the Long, Long Curtain

I love writing.  I especially love writing this blog, because it’s a form of therapy for me.  However, this annoying little thing keeps interfering with my blogging.


Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not one to complain about my various responsibilities.  I have always had the feeling that if I complained too much about my life, then God might decide to show me what a hard life is really like.  (I am in no way suggesting here that God is a sadist.  I am merely saying that, as a species, humans tend to require drastic measures to be shown a point. If I was God, I would be smiting people left and right. But I digress.)

Anyway, back to my original point, which was……um……wait a minute…….0h, right, my point was that life can be very hectic.  Life can really keep you from doing the things that you want to be doing.  To illustrate this, allow me to share with you a completely (not so) fictional tale about a young woman, her grandmother, and the long, long, curtain.

One day, a young(ish) woman and her grandmother were Spring cleaning.  The young woman had taken down the long, long curtain and put it in the washing machine.  The curtain was a very long (duh!), scarf type curtain which is used to make a smarmy little swag on the window.  The long, long curtain was finished in the washer, and The Grandmother–um, I mean the grandmother–got it out to take it through the house.  The long, long curtain was still damp, because we hang it up damp so it doesn’t wrinkle (I bet you didn’t know I was going to be giving home cleaning pointers here, did you?) As the grandmother walked through the kitchen with the long, long curtain, part of it became tangled in her feet, and she stumbled and fell.

Now, the young woman was up on a stool cleaning the window where the long, long curtain lives. From that vantage point, the crash resulting from the grandmother’s fall was tremendous.  The young woman jumped from the stool (also resulting in a tremendous crash) and ran to the kitchen to find the grandmother sitting against the dishwasher.  The long, long curtain lay benignly on the floor.  The grandmother summed up her plight with two words: “My knee.”

Yes, readers, the grandmother is, in fact, The Grandmother, and the young(ish) woman is me.  Shocking, I know.

So, long story short, The Grandmother broke her kneecap.  Shattered it, would be a more accurate description.  She had surgery Tuesday to wire it back together so it will heal.

The Grandmother is a very active, busy woman, and this sitting around thing isn’t working out so well for us.  She is also fiercely independent, and hates asking anyone for help for anything, so my job is to predict what she wants and give it to her before she has to ask.  She’s trying to be patient, and I’m trying to avoid direct eye contact with her.

With my preexisting duties for my regular people, things have certainly got a little busy around here.  When I do have a few minutes to look at the computer or write, I just don’t have the want-to.

I didn’t tell you this story to get pity, I told you so that would know I am still alive, and I still intend to blog, but it will be sporadic at best.  Even my Facebooking is suffering. If I’m not commenting on blogs I usually read, I swear I will someday return.  Most likely in six to eight weeks. Then hopefully things will get back to normal around here.  Well, as normal as they ever are.

In the meantime, spare me a thought as you go about your day.  And if I turn up missing, check the curtain.  That thing is vicious.


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