My Brain on Testing . . .

Ugh . . . 4 hours. Not allowed to do ANYTHING with my brain, and also not allowed to sleep – this is some twisted kind of torture. Okay. I can do something with my brain, just nothing that shows on the outside. Mindfulness meditation. Let’s try that. Breathe in . . . out . . . in . . . Hey, I know a good way to rearrange the garage when I get home. Why do we have all that stuff on that side? It’ll fit much more efficiently on the other side. Moving stuff around in my brain, picturing it – yeah I think that’ll work; can’t wait to get home and try it.

It’s been 14 minutes. Cry.

Urrrggghhh . . . yep. He’s working on test, not cheating, she’s not cheating, she’s not, he’s not, etc., etc. Now, from the other direction. Yep, still testing, still not cheating. Hey, look, Test Mix. (Like Chex Mix, but made special for test days.) I’m not hungry, but acknowledging the different tastes while chewing is at least something my brain can do. Crunch, crunch . . . Mmmm . . . savory . . . some is stuck in my tooth. Wonder how long it will take to dissolve by itself if I just sit here without moving and wait . . . Now I’ll eat some of the sweet bits. Frosted Cheerious. Yum. Oooh, I know. I’ll eat blind handfuls with savory and sweet mixed together – won’t know what each bite tastes like till I get it in my mouth. Exciting!

Crunch . . . crunch . . . ooh, pretzel. Kyle doesn’t like pretzels. I should make him some snack mix with no pretzels . . . Snack mix sans pretzels. Pretzelless snack mix. Pretzelless . . . kind of sounds like a new name some hipster yuppie will name their kid eventually. Probably spelled differently though – Pretceless, Pretseles, Pretcelous. Yep. I think it’s a boy name. He could go by Pretz. Or Les. People would think his name was Lester or Lesley, but then he could surprise them with his real, super cool name. If he spelled it Pretsullous, he could go by Sully. Kind of sounds like a royal name. Prince Pretcelous of Whatevershire. Royal Pretzel Company. They could make two kinds of snack mixes – Pretzelous (with lots of pretzels) And Pretzelless (with no pretzels.) That would be confusing because they sound the same and people would have to read to make sure they got the right kind. Kyle: Amanda why did you buy Pretzelous, you know I like Pretzelless better. Amanda: I got both. The Pretzeless is in the pantry. Gimme my Pretzelous!

Arrgggh . . . 2 more hours. So tired. Look at that little girl sleeping. Grrrr. I love her when she’s awake but I kind of hate her right now. Wish I could take a nap. No, no – I don’t hate her. I love her. Sweet baby, look at her sleep. Smile. Yawn. OMG, last hour of the test and only two kids still working. So much harder to keep the others quiet when they have finished. What is wrong with you two?! Oh my god, hurry up! No, no, – don’t hurry. Do your best. Makes no difference; we are stuck in silent, staring hell till the time’s up anyway.




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Maybe why this feels so personal to me . . .

Many years ago, there was an awful man, inexplicably placed in a position of power – not great power, but enough for him to enjoy and abuse. Entrusted with safeguarding my welfare, he instead used his power against me in a humiliating and sexually inappropriate way. I was young and didn’t know how to defend myself, to say no, to call for help, or even to tell someone after the fact. Years later, as an adult, I watched him, still in that same position of power, given an opportunity to do right by a child, and again choose instead to do harm with his power. Not sexual this time. Just complete lack of concern for the child’s best interest, and gleeful wielding of his powers while doing serious damage to a child’s life.

That awful man is one of the people I am reminded of by this awful man in the White House who loves power.

There was another man I knew. In his 30s, he liked skinny little 13 year old girls. After gaining the trust of my father, and using my love of horses, he managed to be alone with me on several occasions and took the opportunity to ask me questions about masturbation and other topics inappropriate for an adult to discuss with a child. He was the cause of an accident that happened while I was with him which frightened me and caused me minor injuries. He then “played doctor,” cleansing my wounds. He eventually was ballsy enough to walk right into my house without knocking when my parents weren’t home and enter my bedroom where I was completely naked after a shower. He stood gazing and chatting while I scrambled to cover myself with a blanket from my bed. This time I did at least have the wits to say that my brother (who I’m pretty sure this guy knew had guns) would be home soon, and he left. Who knows what might have happened if he hadn’t believed me? And I still didn’t realize I should tell someone.

That pedophile is one of the people I am reminded of by the pedophile in the White House who enjoys young girls.

There have been and continue to be so many others. Men who talk down to me like I am a child because I am a woman.  Men who treat me with extreme disrespect when there are no other men around but suddenly are all “Yes Ma’am” when another man is present. SO many men all my life who have patted my head and told me various versions of “Stay in your place and be quiet.”

They all remind me in one way or another of this Asshat in the White House who is a complete dolt, is rude like a spoiled child, lies constantly, has committed all manner of fraud and bought his way out of it, and demonstrates clearly and frequently his attitude toward women (that their value is measured solely by degree of beauty or usefulness to him.)

He showed me who he is and I believe him.  I recognize him. I see him clearly for what he is because I’ve known pieces of him all my life. Never before though, have I seen them all, so horrifyingly, in one body, and with so much undeserved power as now.

So that’s why when anyone supports him I’m amazed and saddened, but when a man who loves me supports him, it feels like he has refused to defend me against an awful man, a pedophile, a condescending, disrespectful jerk, who would, and one day may indeed, gladly do me harm.

I know they don’t see it that way, these men who love me. I know they would defend me if they knew, if they believed, that I was threatened or insulted. But they don’t know. It’s some type of awful blindness or ignorance. They can’t see him.  They don’t know. They probably wouldn’t understand why I feel threatened and undefended. But I am.

And now I know to say something.

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Go back and fix it.

There’s a point to this story, but it’s gonna take me a minute . . .

Once upon a time in the early 80s, a young man broke my heart. He asked me to marry him very early in our relationship, agreed to slow his roll and give me time to decide, and then, just about the time I was about to decide I wanted to say yes, he left me – abruptly and with no explanation. Time passed. I recovered – gradually at first, completely eventually.  Fast forward to May of 2011 – almost exactly 30 years since the heart breaking. I was completely over it by then of course. Didn’t matter to me at all anymore. I mean really – 30 years, 3 kids, a few other heartbreaks endured and recovered from, and a lot of life gone by. Then I got a letter in the mail from him, asking if I was the Donna Hunter who knew a (his previous name) in Fort Worth in the early 80s. I knew it was him even though he had changed his name – because 1) he had always told me he was going to change it to that (although I sort of thought he was joking but obviously not) and 2) I’d seen him on TV, heard him on the radio, and seen his newspaper column using it since then.  He asked me to contact him and I did.

He wanted to apologize – after 30 years. He said, “You were a good lady, and I was a complete asshole to you, and I’m sorry.” He was making amends – part of his recovery. He said that many times since that time when something really awful happened in his life (like a motorcycle accident that almost killed him and led to prescription pain killer addiction) he had wondered, not completely in jest, if he was being punished for how he had treated me. I laughed and told him that was probably it. I thanked him for contacting me and told him of course he was forgiven. We started a friendship that day that lasted until Jan. 1 of this year when he died suddenly and from somewhat mysterious causes (possibly some effect of his years before recovery.) He gave me counsel and support and laughs for those 5 years and I’m very glad to have enjoyed that friendship.

The thing that truly surprised me about this experience was how good that apology felt, how valuable it was, how much it really did matter to me. So much that I remember exactly where I was standing 5 years ago as I listened to his voice on the phone telling me this. It felt like I was receiving something I needed, and I had no idea until I received it. Hearing him acknowledge the wrong that was done to me – which, as I said, I was completely over – was still a healing kind of feeling. Maybe there’s only a certain degree of “over it” a person can get without acknowledgement and I had just accepted that level as the best it could be, but really there’s something a little better. That’s what he gave me that day. It did my heart good. It made my life better. And it did his too.

So here’s my point, and it is a message to me as well as everyone else: It is worth the effort to make amends for hurt you have caused, whether intentional or not, whether the blame is shared or not, and no matter how long ago it was. Maybe an apology is needed, maybe just an honest explanation, or maybe even just an end of silence. If you are both still alive, it is not too late.  You can still bring good into their life, and into your own, by mending that fence.

Thank you, Lance/Ben for mending ours.



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Boom! Zzzzzzzzz

I really miss the days when a gun shot inside the house did not wake me up. Or one right outside my bedroom window, or my mother screaming from the kitchen only caused me to rouse a bit and then be immediately asleep again.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. There were skunks that needed killing, and a grease fire. Everything turned out alright without any help from me. The scars on Mama’s legs even disappeared.

My point is I really wish I could get more sleep.

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Good Dirt

I do not like NEW places. I don’t mean places I’m unfamiliar with, although that is also a struggle for me sometimes. I mean places that are just actually new.

Now, I have nothing against new houses; I wouldn’t mind having one of those. But I would want it built in an old place. And I like the smell of newly constructed and painted buildings of other sorts. I love the fresh unspoiledness inside those places. It is in the outdoors that I hate newness.

I refer to areas that have been recently scraped raw of all nature, then built upon, then little tiny trees planted in strategic places, and squares of sod laid down to begin to allow nature back in a controlled, pre-planned pattern. Being in a place like that makes me feel on edge. It’s creepy.

Give me a piece of earth with big, old trees who grew there because they decided to, and rich, dark dirt that smells good and will grow anything because of generation after generation of leaves falling and decomposing in countless layers. The deeper I dig the less I see recognizable leaf remains and the more beautiful soil, so deliciously smelly that I feel the urge to rub my face in it and breathe it in. Maybe an old, pretty, antique style fence, grown up with something I need to get out there and trim back before it pulls the fence down. A densely shaded corner where I can plant something that doesn’t need much sun . . . or maybe just hang a swing from the huge tree causing the shade. And some sunny spots where I can plant something colorful that wants to be there.

I want to live again on a place in nature already in motion and undisturbed for long before my entrance into it, a place that has been busy being and growing and becoming what it will, but happy to have me join, gently,  in the process.

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I really need to update my blog more often . . .

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Thanks, Ladies

It’s funny to me how little things start the synapses firing, interesting the trains of thought our brains run on. Recently, I put some Carmex on my lips from a roller tube and remembered when they didn’t have those, but only those little glass tubs, and you had to apply it with your finger, which made me remember when a sweet friend taught me (without words, during church) what to do with what was left on my finger after applying it.

Then I started thinking of a bunch of other things I’ve learned from other women, little silly things I should have already known, big important things, and some in between. And I bet half (or most) of them don’t even remember teaching me the things that they did. Anyway, here are a few of them.

Since I already mentioned the Carmex, I’ll start there.

Janet Aaron taught me what to do with the rest of the Carmex after applying it to my lips with my finger. We were in church and I just held up my Carmexy pointer finger and looked at her with a puzzled expression on my face. She smiled and rubbed her pointer finger in the center of her palm. That works. It doesn’t get on anything or bother you there and eventually absorbs.

Kerri Craig taught me how to keep lipstick from getting on my teeth after putting it on my lips. You put your finger in your mouth like it’s a Popsicle and pull it out. Pop! That removes the bit that would end up on your teeth.

Amy House taught me (she said she figured it out from watching her big sister) how to get mascara off your face quickly when you accidentally jab it there while aiming for your lashes. Just push and rub real quick while it’s still wet. If you don’t push, but just wipe, it will smear.

Mary Foland taught me what the phrase “root cause” really means and why it is not redundant and wrong as I thought it was.

Hazel Sanders taught me to not ask questions (or make suggestions, or really say anything at all) while men are fixing things or moving things for you. I will never forget hearing her gasp, then shake her head at me lovingly but sternly when I started to say something in such a situation. I trusted her, so I shut up and have done my best to stay shutted up in similar situations ever since. Sometimes it just isn’t possible, but I try. Hazel also taught me about Stitch Witchery, this neat stuff you can mend holes in fabric with.

Jeanette Cox taught me the words counterpane and antimacassar. And she taught me how to do ceramics, and how to make green peas taste really good (salt, pepper, butter and SUGAR.)

Phyllis Cocke taught me some stuff while I lived next door to her for 16 years: several good recipes, the fact that my child was drinking out of the condensation pipe outside instead of bothering to come inside for a drink – oh, and that he’s NAKED out there! She taught me how to get magic marker off a 5 year old, (or, that you CAN’T get magic marker off a 5 year old) and how to be a really good and kind neighbor.

Barbara Sharp, my across the street neighbor for those same 16 years taught me that too, in addition to being another surrogate mother for my niece and nephew and rescuing my youngest child from peril (as did her husband on another occasion, but he’s a man and this is about women, but still – thank you, Don!)

My sister-in-law, Jené Hunter taught me that wearing a sweater will make you warmer (duh, Donna.) When I had not yet figured out that everyone with a public building and a thermostat in Texas is crazy and I should always have a sweater with me, she did have one with her – which she loaned me and brought about this epiphany. That is when my current habit began of ALWAYS having a sweater or hoodie with me (usually several in my car at any given moment and sometimes a small blanket.)

My mother taught me more than I can list probably, but here are a few. She taught me to cook, take care of children, including changing a baby’s cloth diaper and not poke the baby with the pin. “Put your hand in there so if you poke anything, it will be your hand.” She taught me how to sew – which I had almost forgotten I knew how to do until I had a little girl and started pumping out little dresses almost as if on autopilot. I remember Mama telling me that I hemmed like Grandmama. Mama hemmed toward herself. Grandmama and I hemmed away. She taught me a love of reading. She used to fall asleep reading to me at night because I just would not (or could not) fall asleep. She says she remembers me waking her up asking her to keep reading. I asked her to teach me how to go to sleep, and she gave me the steps. “Lie still. Close your eyes. Breathe. Don’t talk. Don’t think.” I never could get the hang of it. She taught me appreciation for music and theater, taking me to Casa Manana to see “Porgy and Bess,” Roger Miller, and others. And she taught me “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” how to “heap coals of fire on their heads” when people were unkind, and that I could “get glad in the same pants I got mad in.” My mother is the greatest.

Laverne Aaron, my other mother when I was growing up, taught me that she knew what she was talking about when she said not to take the dolly’s clothes off after she fixed it for me, because that’s all that was holding it together . . . Oops. Guess she meant that. She taught me that ruined isn’t necessarily ruined when she sewed a bunny applique on to one of favorite little tops and covered up the ink that had gotten spilled on it. I honestly don’t remember how it happened but I probably did it. She taught me there were such a things as caramel apples! I remember watching her make them and then eating them for the very first time at her house. (Sure was not the last time. Yumm!)

My grandmother, Grandmama Donnie, taught me, unconsciously on my part, to French braid hair. She never taught me to do it or even showed me purposely (that I remember) what she was doing, but she used to French braid mine when I was little, and I guess I absorbed it on some level, because one day when I was about 17 years old, I just started fiddling with my hair and came out with a perfect French braid. I didn’t remember learning it, and that was before you could Google anything and learn it. I just knew it. From then on I wore it that way frequently and sometimes did Kami’s to match.

My mother and grandmother both taught me to crochet when I was just a little bit. I don’t remember which one taught me first. But I didn’t learn to knit until about 15 years ago and my mother taught me that.

My daughter, Sarah Cox, teaches me (or tries to; this is hard for me, like going to sleep is) to let things go that hurt me. She is freakishly good at this – forgetting things that were painful – to the point I told her I think she has a special kind of brain damage. But I’d like to have that damage. And she teaches me to go DO things that I want to do. Also hard, but worth the effort when I can manage it.

My cousin Marsha taught me a trick that has a near 100% success rate for quieting a crying baby – even those of complete strangers when they’ve given me a shot at it. I don’t know if she invented it, but she’s the one who taught it to me, so I call it the Marsha Rock. You stand up with one leg far in front of the other, holding the baby on one shoulder, cradling baby’s head, and rock BIG back and forth. It either soothes them or freaks them out, but one way or another they stop crying and often fall asleep.

A hospital nurse with a Jamaican accent taught me a thing or two about nursing in 1983. She had no problem at all just putting her hands right on my boobies and maneuvering them into the position she thought best while instructing me. Another one taught me in 1994 how to convince my baby to take a pacifier when he thought he didn’t want it and wanted to keep screaming instead, or nurse constantly. You put your hand on his cheek while inserting the pacifier. The feeling of skin on their cheek makes the rooting reflex kick in and they turn toward the hand and start sucking that sucker.

My cousin Andi taught me (accidentally I think) not to ride fast downhill on a bike with hand brakes. Ouch. I’m sure if she had it to do over again and knew how ignorant I was, she would have told me BEFORE I started down the hill. I still remember a car load of cousins driving along beside me screaming something out the windows. I didn’t know what they were saying until after I flew ass over tea kettle. (Oh, and Mary Foland taught me that saying. I think her mother taught it to her.)

There are more I’m sure. But this is probably more already than most people will read. Thanks, if you did.

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Adorable Argument

Poked heart

You poked my heart.
(Still taken from Tara Willmott’s Youtube video. Link to video below.)

This video, in addition to being adorable, I think contains a lesson (or a few) for many of us “grown-ups.” Here are some parallels I see to adult life and disagreements:

  1. These children are arguing over something that they feel is a very important distinction, which in reality is of almost no consequence.
  2. The argument is based on a simple misunderstanding, based on a difference in terminology which none of them yet understands. Since they are all unaware that there is anything they don’t know, it seems the opposing party MUST be wrong, and apparently must be convinced of it.
  3. They are all basing their stance strictly on loyalty to the source of their information (in this case, Mom.)
  4. They each continue to repeat the same points while not producing any evidence, only hearsay (Mom again,) and get nowhere.
  5. One stands by quietly holding on to the clothing of a contender (bigger girl in yellow behind girl in green on the right) as if to keep her in line, but saying nothing and having no real impact on what happens.
  6. Another tries to make peace, (girl in green on the left) turning from one side to the other, sweetly urging one to apologize, trying to calm the other, and finally, when unable with these tactics to prevent someone from being “poked in the heart,” goes to the aid of the hurt party and offers compassion and protection, standing between him and his offender (even though that offender is dressed identically to her.) “It’s okay. Turn around and I gonna get ahind you, and her can’t do that.” Thank goodness for the people who play this role in life.
  7. Something that does not look like it should hurt anyone (and perhaps was not intended to) really, really does – because of the way that person perceived what had been done to him. Everyone has their tender spots.
  8. Because of this argument over nothing that really matters, people were upset, and time was spent unpleasantly that could have been spent laughing, swinging, and playing in the dirt (or in the rain.)

Hopefuly, and likely so, as soon as this video stopped, these precious children were taught the meanings of the two words they were arguing over, were directed to hug and make up, and then spent the rest of their time together playing happily as friends, instead of turning their backs and never speaking to each other again.


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Johnny Carson and Bangs

One of the stories I taught to my 10th graders this week (“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker) prompted a discussion of what makes things valuable, and what one possession they would choose to save if they could only save one thing. So, I told them about when our house burned when I was 19 years old.

When I told them the year it happened, (1982) you would have thought I had said I was alive in the 18th century! “Whaaaat?!” They were shocked and astounded; one of them put his hand on his chest and leaned back like he was having a heart attack. Then — once they finally absorbed the fact that I was actually alive in the 1980s — they were fascinated. And what was the first thing they wanted to know about?  In more than one class period mind you, when faced with this mysterious time traveler from the magical 80s – this was the big question: “Did you have those bangs?”

Yeah. They wanted to know if I had those crazy 80s bangs. I told them, “Well, that was a little later in the 80s, but . . . yes, and if I can find the picture I’ll show you later.” They are looking forward to that.

Then . . . the story mentioned Johnny Carson.

Who is that?

What? . . . Raise your hand if you know who Johnny Carson is.

Not one.  Approximately 130 students (I asked in each class period) all around age 15, had never heard of the dude.

So, I asked, “Do you know who Conan O’Brien is?” Yes. At least some had heard of him, or Jay Leno or David Letterman. So I explained that Johnny was them before they were them. I showed them a picture of Johnny and the intro to the old Tonight Show – “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”

Funny the things a good story will lead to.

Funny how old teenagers can make you feel.

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I see you.

Tonight at a restaurant, I saw a young man (30ish) sitting at a table across from an older man. Could have been his dad; I don’t know. They spoke very little. The younger man sat facing my direction, just a few feet away, so I could see him clearly.

Something was wrong. When I glanced up and saw him, I recognized, connected deeply, with what he seemed to be feeling. I have felt it too, or at least something very similar to it.  And I think I’ve had that exact same expression and posture while feeling it. He sat, seemingly paralyzed, with a look on his face of pain, shock, despair, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, or some combination of those. He did not move. Not even an eyelash. He appeared lost in some terribly unpleasant place, staring through his physical surroundings into nothing, or into something that only he could see. Maybe someone he loves just died. Maybe someone just broke his heart into a million pieces. Or maybe he is just completely overwhelmed with more responsibilities than he can possibly handle and is afraid to face tomorrow.

As soon as I saw him frozen there, I was frozen with him. I sat motionless, and stared at him, while he stared into space. I could not move or avert my gaze from him until he moved, or at least broke the stare-down he was having with something invisible, and returned to his dinner companion . . . Oh, what’s wrong poor fellow? I know whatever it is, it hurts so badly, and no one can make the hurt go away. I’m so sorry . . . Finally he kind of flinched and as he did he looked up and our eyes met for a split-second. I quickly looked away and tried not to look his way again.


Why did I look away the instant we connected? It was just a reflex? I didn’t want to invade his privacy, make him uncomfortable? Maybe all of that, but where did that reflex come from? What is it guarding against? Tonight as I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that I should have held the eye contact just a little longer – not a long time, just long enough to admit that it wasn’t an accident and to give him a little smile. Maybe he would have felt my caring for him, just as I had felt his pain. What would be so wrong with that? Why must we all be strangers when really we are all part of the same fabric?

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