5 Things Someone Should Have Told Me When I Was 18


It’s graduation time! I remember those days like they were yesterday, instead of 13,140 yesterdays ago. Give or take a few days, that’s when I joined 27 other classmates in the right of passage into adulthood.

There are certain things you learn as you go through life that you think, “Gosh, it would be helpful to have known that.” I like to think that I might have been forward-thinking enough to plan a little better and not be caught by surprise by nature’s cruel jokes. 😀

Personally, I think it’s nature’s way of ensuring that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. How else can you explain some of these things?

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1. You will always have zits.

Really? I was lucky enough not to have a ton of them at the same time. Oh, no, the kind that I had was the occasional huge festering pustule which seemed to linger for weeks. Like a beacon signaling a ship to shore,  they were especially fond of the tip of my  nose, graciously appearing before a major social occasion.

They still pay me the occasional visit, only with age I’ve become more resigned to them and better at ignoring them. Kind of like a familiar friend who overstays their welcome and you’re relieved when their gone.

And if you are one of my friends reading this, I promise it was never you. 🙂

2. You will always pee your pants.

What a bittersweet irony that something really funny can be such a curse. 😀 (It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me if you peed just a little reading this.) Or, OH NO HERE COMES A SNEEZE IF I SQUEEZE MY LEGS TOGETHER REALLY TIGHT WILL I BE OKAY….Nope. Dang.

Mom and Dad

3. Men really don’t want to hear it.

Thanks to Cinderella and all those Princess stories, we grow up thinking that our handsome Prince is out there, life is beautiful and you talk about everything with the man of your dreams.

I remember very clearly a young woman I know well, having fallen madly in love unexpectedly, told me “I can tell him everything!”

I remember thinking at the time, “Whelp, that will be the death of that relationship!” And, eventually it was. (Of course she has gone on to bigger and better things and is happily married now.)

We all think this though, and I remember my former boss’ wife who finally broke the news to me after listening to me gush, “Men don’t want to hear everything. They really don’t.  My husband and I have a very shallow relationship, but it’s worked well for 26 years!” (That was over 25 years ago, and they are still happily married.)

Grad lineup

4. A key to staying happily married is deciding what your definition of clean is.

When I was younger, I was nearly neurotic about keeping a tidy, spotless house. In order to do that, you have to make lifestyle choices that support that goal.

Because my lifestyle choices included multiple large dogs and a husband  whose life mission is not tidiness, it was an unattainable goal. Working towards that goal was like spinning my wheels on an icy road and going nowhere. If I did achieve it for 20 minutes, I can’t say I was ever happy. How can you be when you’re exhausted and crabby? 😀

So, my solution was to redefine my definition of ‘clean.’ In other words, what can I live with?

Nowadays, I can have a foot of dust on everything, but if my floors are reasonably clean and the house is mostly picked up, I’m a happy camper. 🙂

I remember very clearly the picture below. I felt very awkward, walking in front of the crowd. Because people were looking at me! What if I trip? What if I stub my toe? I never realized it was so far during practice?!!!

Stage Processional

5. Like sands in the hourglass of time, friends will come and go in your life. And that’s okay.

Another thing I wish someone would have told me when I was 18  is how my friendships will evolve over the years.

If life were a carnival, I think of the sphere of our friends as a ginormous Bumper Car Ride. We all go and go and go on our own route, working on our own stuff and goals and families. We may have started out with one group of friends, but we all went our separate ways as our individual decisions zinged us down different roads.

Many of us still meet occasionally, which is awesome. We wave, hug, laugh, catch up, and happily enjoy every moment before we’re zinging down our separate roads again. (Can’t you just picture it?) 🙂

And all of that is okay. Sometimes friends cycle back into  your life, sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them anymore, it just means you’re on different paths. It is part of the color and fun of this big, beautiful thing called life.

Group shot

What do you wish someone had told you?

Cheers, friends! 🙂

The Lost Cupcake

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Currently, I am slightly obsessed with gourmet cupcakes from our local HyVee grocery store. I love them so much I tend to give them as gifts. They’re clutter-free, and you never have to worry about them being the right size or the right color. And who doesn’t love a pretty cupcake?

Recently, it was my friend Michelle’s birthday.  I wanted to do something nice for her, so a cupcake would be perfect, right? Right.

I picked up one large, beautiful cupcake in its pretty box and off I went to the office to deliver it, only to find she’d taken the day off and gone out of town for the day. (Good for her!)

The next logical step would have been delivering it to her husband to take home to her. I drove by his office, and he wasn’t in either.  Shoot.

“Well, I’ll just take it to her when I go to the office in the morning,” I thought.

Sounds easy enough, right?

The next morning, I was up plenty early, and I really don’t know what happened. I had plenty of time. And then suddenly I didn’t have plenty of time, and I was running late.  I scrambled to finish getting ready and get out the door to go to the office.

I swung through McDonald’s for breakfast, only to discover they were closed. Seriously? Closed? CLOSED. (There was a skid loader jack-hammering concrete in the parking lot, which I’m guessing was the reason for the closure.)

I looked at the clock. I had precisely 8 minutes to get to our meeting, not nearly long enough to get to the other McDonald’s on the north end of town (which would have been open, by the way.) SIGH.

I don’t know about you, but when I am hungry and geared up for a certain something, a substitute, no matter how good, is still a poor substitute. So I had to go somewhere else.

Finally, I blaze into the parking lot, juggle my purse, a bag, some magazines, my water, breakfast…and the cupcake, which I had sat up on the car sitting next to mine.

I reached out for the box which held the cupcake. In a slow-motion blur, the box opened as I brought it towards me, and the cupcake came tumbling out, falling, falling, falling…coming to rest upside down on my foot. :-/

I was stunned speechless, although I must have made a sound. My friend Debby, who was our guest speaker, walked around the front of my car.

“Carmen, do you need some help?” she asked.  There I stood there with the open cupcake box. I looked at her blankly, unable to speak. She looked down at my foot.

She bent down and picked up the offending cupcake from my shoe, helped me put it back in the box,  and went on inside for her meeting.

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In a fog of disbelief, I set the now-destroyed cupcake inside my car, grabbed a paper towel and wiped the worst of the frosting off my shoe.

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This is where it landed. :-/

I’m not sure which was more disappointing: not having the gift I envisioned for Michelle, or the total waste of a perfectly good cupcake!

It was only once I got back in the office my wits came back and I remembered to thank Debby. And as I told the story of the cupcake, someone noticed I had frosting on my other leg. 😀

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At home later that day, I threw the cupcake box away.

I must confess: I had serious thoughts of eating that cupcake. I actually went back to the trash, plucked out the box, and stared longingly at the now misshapen cupcake.

I pondered. It was my foot, after all.

And then I saw the telltale specks of dirt; apparently it had touched the parking lot too. Dang.

Oh well. They’ll make more. 😀

My Bratty Inner Self

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If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, get fitter, or eat healthier, you know it’s a slippery slope. My efforts are dominated (or derailed) by a brat I call Tiffani.

Mind you, the brat I call Tiffani doesn’t really exist, nor does she resemble anyone I know named Tiffani. And, I don’t call her Tiffani all the time, mostly just for purposes of this discussion.

Because Tiffani is really my Inner Self.

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You know the one I’m talking about. The one whom, 30 minutes after you announce to someone you’re starting a new diet, demands you feed her chocolate and she doesn’t shut up until you finally give in.

Or you start a new fitness program, and you may do great the first few days, but suddenly she starts whining that she’s tired, she doesn’t feel like it, and really, what good is it doing anyway, so you might as well just forget it?

She’s also the one when, my trainer asks me to do something I’ve never done before, screams, “What are you thinking? This isn’t safe! You can’t do this! You’ll fall!”

I’m clumsy, remember? So falling is a very real possibility for a hot mess like me. 😀

I call her Tiffani is because the only time I hear from her is when she is unhappy, uncomfortable, hungry, or tired. Hence, I think of her as a bratty, self-absorbed teenager who is under the impression that the world revolves around her and her needs.

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Nice work if you can get it, eh? 😉

Most of the time she’s quiet and doesn’t make a fuss, unless she feels deprived for some reason. Say, maybe I’m on the run and I get too hungry; suddenly, she demands the only thing that she’s willing to eat is a Nachos Bel Grande from Taco Bell. At that point, there’s no way I can talk her down to a salad with some tuna or salmon.

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This is actually an Ahi Tuna Salad I had while I was in Florida. YUM. (And yes, the tuna was rare.) DELISH!

Taco Bell. That’ll shut her up. (Can you tell I’m channeling Ron White here?) 😉

The reason this whole topic came up is I was thinking that I’d been a little too relaxed about my diet, and I really needed to focus on eating cleaner for a while. I’d like to drop my last 20ish pounds, and my current eating habits won’t support that.

After all, 70% of physical fitness and healthy bodies happens in the kitchen. (Or something like that.)


When I want to make a change, especially if it involves food, I have to make deals with Tiffani. For instance, I was thinking that perhaps I should start keeping a food  journal and simply documenting everything I put in my mouth.

Just documenting, that’s all. Not counting calories. Not making a big change. Just simply tracking what I ate.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it?

With Tiffani, nothing is ever simple.

She started to panic, so I promised her that if she really wanted something, a cupcake, pizza, whatever, she could have it. All I was going to do was write things down so there wasn’t anything to worry about.

I promised her that I would think about it for a few days before I started it. We’ll do this gradually, and she’ll have time to get used to the idea, because that’s how I roll.

I haven’t heard a peep out of her since. 😀

Next time you start something new, try bargaining with your Inner Self and see if that improves your chances for success.

Happy Bargaining!

That Wascally Wabbit!

2014-06-18 20.52.58So close, but yet so far…

We live close to a state park and our house is surrounded by timber. Since we built a pond in our backyard we’ve had an abundance of wildlife living around our house.

This provides for many interesting visuals and a great deal of humor. Animals can simply be hilarious to watch.

Unless you’re one of our dogs.

In which case it’s a rare instance that you get to actually go outside and chase the “offending” animal.

The animals know this.

Take for instance this rabbit just outside our Great Room window the other night.

The girls began suddenly carrying on, prompting me to get up to see what all the racket was about.

Mr. Bunny (merely making an assumption here, I wasn’t close enough to check) was minding his own business nibbling in the grass.

Enter offensive dogs barking furiously.

Mr. Bunny pauses to see if dogs will be coming outside. He ponders for several minutes, waiting and watching.

The girls remain at the window. Here comes the human, taking pictures. Everyone remains at the window.

Mr. Bunny decides no one is coming out, but  remaining alert “just in case”…he turns his back to them. He appears to be ignoring us.

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The girls continue barking furiously, begging me to let them out. Charra told me they needed to go out.

It’s at this point I feel I should mention that this isn’t this bunny’s first rodeo here.

Mr. Bunny lives here with it’s mate, and they often play with each other around the yard.

Very rarely have the girls been let out to give chase; it’s usually an accident. None of us realized they were there until we opened the door.

We have no desire to see Mr. Bunny/Squirrel/etc. get disassembled while we watch.

It had been a really hot day.

For Mr. Bunny, it had apparently also been a long day. He was pretty tired.

There’s nothing like stretching out and relaxing under a big shade tree on some nice cool earth. Ahhhhh…..

2014-06-18 20.56.53Isn’t that nice?

Mr. Bunny really enjoyed it.

And it was especially good since his nice little resting spot was right in front of our window.

2014-06-18 20.57.13And two extremely frustrated little girls were watching.

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Ahhhh, what a perfect summer evening, just relaxing…

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After we all went to bed, I slipped out and checked on Mr. Bunny. Most likely he left as soon as the girls weren’t watching any more.

Game Over! 😀

How I Embarrass My Husband

After 14 years of marriage, my husband and I have both mellowed and have much more in common than we did in our early years.

After all, you take two independent adults in their 30’s and mix them together, it’s not going to be all butterflies and roses.  Nor would we want it to be; that would mean that we weren’t always being ourselves.

But there are still some ways we are very different.

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For instance, my husband is quiet. I am anything but.

I am an optimist; he calls himself a realist.

I remain convinced that ‘realists’ are pessismists in sheep’s clothing, but that’s another post for another day.

He doesn’t make a habit of chatting up strangers. I could carry on a conversation with a fence post.

He thrives on routine: happiness to him is eating a ham sandwich for lunch 56 days in a row. I believe change is ‘fresh’.

Why did you have to change the shower soap? I was fine with what we had! Why do you always have to go changing everything?” 😉

So it stands to reason when I came zooming into his life, he was in for some major change.

Jimmy is one of those guys who prefers to fly under the radar and not be noticed. Unfortunately, he’s with me.

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I’ll explain.

I learned a long time ago that God had a sense of humor. When I was younger (e.g. less sure of myself), I tried to be polished. Perfect. Sophisticated.

It’s hard to feel sophisticated when you rip the back of your dress getting into a sports car.

And so, being very familiar – and now comfortable – with Murphy’s law, I have some particular quirks that I’ve simply learned to live with.

For my husband, however, it’s an ongoing process.

I am incredibly clumsy. 

It seems to go in cycles, with no rhyme nor reason.

I fall down or bump into things with astonishing regularity. I’ve been this way for years.

I’ve fallen off curbs, in parking lots, on sidewalks and down stairs. I’ve bumped into a million different objects. When I was 12, I bumped my head on a brace on the side of a grain bin and bled like a stuck pig. The end result of this was two black eyes. For WEEKS.

Several years ago, I sustained a minor head injury and had to be transported by ambulance to the ER. En route, I complained to the paramedic that there was a dance that weekend at the Moose, and now I would have black eyes.

“Oh, that’s not necessarily the case with a head injury,” he said.

“You don’t know ME!” I wailed.

Well, sometimes when life hands you lemons, you have to make lemon drop martini’s.

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So I bought a pair of cool sunglasses and pretended to be a Rock Star.

Several years ago I was leaving work one Saturday afternoon when I slipped and fell down in the parking lot. As I drove home, I could feel the all-too-familiar tickle of blood running down my knee.

I immediately called a friend of mine. Not because I was injured, mind you. I wanted her to share my grief in scuffing my new shoes, and my amusement at the irony of falling in the handicapped parking space.

Naturally, my friend’s husband wondered why she was laughing uncontrollably and wiping her eyes.

“Are you sure she shouldn’t see a neurologist or something?” he asked, concerned over what had been a recent rash of falls.

“No, she’s just clumsy,” she reassured him.

So therefore, it stands to reason that nothing strikes fear in the heart of my husband than opportunities for me to fall.

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Such as the walk we took on the top of Ft. Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park this winter. Three stories above the ocean with no fence or guardrails, just a bumpy sandy, grassy surface about 15 feet wide was all that separated me from a nice, open air plunge.

Poor guy was worn out after that little hike, pointing out obstacles, ushering me past uneven spots, and steering me away if I got too close to the edge.

Thanks, dear!

I’m a very messy eater.

There’s a very strategic reason why you nearly always see me wearing black if we’re out to dinner. It’s because if I spill something, you’re less likely to notice!

You probably know about the White Shirt Law: that’s the unwritten law that says you MUST wear a white shirt if you’re going to eat Mexican, Italian or BBQ. It’s just the way of the world.

Do you suppose my love of pristine white shirts is related at all to the fact that I can rarely keep them clean? Hmmmmmm.

2014-04-13 11.16.43This is a new, sparkling white sweatshirt I purchased just especially for Truman State’s Homecoming parade last fall.

What a fun day that was!

It was early, it was cold, and it was a blast!

After the parade, Jimmy and I went to the Wooden Nickel for lunch. My favorite lunch dish?

BBQ Beef brisket, of course.

I made it through nearly the whole meal, completely unscathed.

Until the very.last.piece.

I tried to cut it with my fork. It didn’t wish to cooperate.

Zing! It shot out from under my fork to another area of the plate.

In the process, it literally showered me with sauce droplets.

Jimmy’s expression was somewhere between shock, amazement, amusement, and horror.

“How DO you manage to do that?” he asked. “Every.single.time?”

The look on his face was priceless. It sustained me for weeks.

After 3 days of soaking and about 4 wash cycles, my sweatshirt is as good as new and ready for the second go around.

Needless to say, I go through a lot of tee shirts in a year’s time. After a while, they just look sort of…tired. 😀

I could keep going, but there’s a beautiful day out there to be enjoyed and I’m about to go do it. Make it a beautiful day, friends!


Highlights From Our Crazy Kansas Race Weekend

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We just got back yesterday from a NASCAR weekend at Kansas Speedway.

We had a terrific weekend with good friends and the usual drama on (and off!) the track. Here are a few of my favorite memories, in pictures:

JanineI met the Hound Around Hotel ‘Bus’ on Thursday morning. I felt like I was dropping my kids off at the Bus Stop! Janine already had one dog on board, and we loaded up Ekko and Charra. As I was leaving, three more people met the ‘Bus’ with their dogs. I was amused by this.

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About 15 miles from home, we had a blowout.

Actually, let me rephrase that. The blowout happened approximately 11 miles from home.

We stopped to change it 15 miles from home. We didn’t stop before because one of us happened to be on the phone, and ‘shushed’ the other who said, “I think we had a blowout!” When the person disconnected from the phone, they opted not to stop because it was probably a bump.

Shortly thereafter, the tire shredded. OOPS. I hate it when that happens.

The shredding tire did minor damage to the skirting and cut the wiring to a couple of clearance lights.

Fortunately, Jimmy had the foresight to bring a regular-sized jack and the air wrench he bought prior to Florida last year. With an onboard generator, we were able to get the tire changed relatively quickly.

I supervised and documented it for future torture. Like now. 😀

The next day, Jimmy headed straight for the tire store to get a new one so we would have a spare. (This was our 3rd blowout either en route or returning from Kansas City in the years we’ve been going. Aside from almost-brand-new Brighton watch which I lost somewhere on I-35 several years ago, we’ve never lost anything, no one ended up bleeding, and we never had any damage.

Kathy and I


I love this picture of me and my friend Kathy. I should probably wear this outfit more often. Black really IS slenderizing! 😉

Three couples in our Kansas NASCAR family didn’t arrive until Friday, so it was just Dan and Kathy and Jimmy and I.

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And the possibility of severe weather.

This is a shot of the clouds over the speedway on Thursday night. I tweeted this to the National Weather Service, who then retweeted my tweet. Six other Twitter accounts then retweeted the NWS tweet which was originally my tweet.

It’s really twue, I swear! (Sorry I couldn’t help myself!)

I felt important. 😉

Fortunately, other than a few sprinkles, the system split and passed us by on either side, and the sky cleared.

2014-05-08 19.56.25Dan made this fire pit from a washing machine tub welded onto an old disc and painted black. Is that not the coolest recycling idea ever? The firelight looks neat in the little holes, and all your ash is contained. Groovy!

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The National Anthem flyovers always bring tears to my eyes, and make me proud to be an American. And you can’t get much more American than NASCAR.

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The weather was beautiful for the truck race. Because they averaged a caution every ten laps, it went way longer than it should have and got a little chilly at the end. But it was fun.

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There was a baby bird in a little nest on the ground (see him under the clump of grass?) Momma Bird hung out on a large boulder across the road trying to draw attention away from baby all weekend, or swooping down on some people if they got too close.

We were all terrified he would end up mashed, as one of its siblings had who was in the road. After much discussion of whether to put a marker so people would avoid him or try to move him, we collectively decided his best chance was to leave him be and not draw anyone else’s attention to him.

I’m pleased to say when we all left Monday morning, he was still there. Whew!

Rayna and I


Saturday morning Rayna and I did 2.5 miles of running intervals in the campground (she pushed a 50-pound stroller!) It was great! And it was the last healthy thing I did that day. 😀

2014-05-10 12.06.02Meanwhile, the guys had Bloody Mary’s using Zing Zang. I tweeted this picture with the caption “The Boys are Back in Town. Zing Zang!” without an @ or even a # and Zing Zang retweeted it. I thought that was cool. I love Twitter.

And once again, we forgot to take a group picture of the girls. Dadgummit!

This is a good time to mention that shortly before we left  home, we discovered our water pump was malfunctioning.

When you’re dry camping as we were, the water pump moves the water from your fresh water tank to your faucets. Over the years, they’ve improved them enough that you can turn the pump on when you set up camp, it will stay primed, and then you can just shut it off when you break down camp.

Because it wouldn’t stay primed, we had to only turn it on when you used it, and shut it off immediately after, or it would keep running and overheat.

This meant going to the bathroom, coming out to turn the pump on, going back to flush, then coming back out and shutting the pump off.

I tried to look at it from the benefit that I burned more calories. 😉

2014-05-10 13.24.51The guys played a rowdy game of corn hole. (Don’t you like the custom Black Dog Saloon boards?) 🙂

2014-05-10 18.21.08We’d been watching the weather all afternoon. And, of course right about race time, ominous clouds rolled in and the threat of severe weather loomed.

We should be good at this by now. The last three races have all involved severe weather and taking shelter of some kind.

Right after I got to our seat, I began receiving texts and Facebook messages from friends at home making sure we were watching the radar. Thanks guys!

Often at these events, there’s enough people with phones and computers that it’s almost impossible to get a phone signal, much less access to internet and radar.

My lesson learned is to take my Hot Spot with me and a portable phone charger next time; my phone was dead before the end of the race.


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Just as the race was getting ready to start, the Speedway announced there was lightning in the area. Because I got soaked in Daytona, I had no desire to do it again. Jimmy stayed in the stands, and I went up to the mezzanine underneath the upper rows.

2014-05-10 18.51.32So did a lot of other people.

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I appreciated a firefighter friend who messaged me updates through Facebook. It was easier to access those messages even though I couldn’t get a consistent signal to get the radar. He was able to watch and give me details, and tell me that it was going around us and that we were in the clear. For now. Thanks Chris!

I received a text from another friend that made me chuckle: “Are you in a safe place?”

“If she only knew,” I thought to myself. 😀

My response: “There is no safe place!”

My options were to go to the Speedway, or to stay at the camper by myself.  While one of the storms that passed over us later spawned the tornado that hit Orrick, Missouri, the race was still running on time and we hadn’t received any messages from the Speedway indicating that severe weather was imminent.

And while I was concerned about the weather at the Speedway, I was more concerned about the weather as we traveled home on Sunday.

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Fortunately, the storm went around us, it only sprinkled a little, and the crowd went back to the stands.

It turned out to be an exciting night of racing, and we were happy for our friends who are Jeff Gordon fans. It’s nice when your driver gets a win!

Sunday morning we packed up and hit the road around 9:00 ish. We were excited that we’d be home around noon.

And then, that familiar sound, just east of St. Joseph, Missouri: POOM.

This one actually didn’t lose air, it just shed the tread.

And took out the fender skirting, the brake line (on that side), mangled our sewer house and wrapped the wiring around the axle.

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This one was more dangerous to change by virtue of it’s location on the driver’s side. With the flashers on, I stood on the shoulder behind the trailer to motion people to the outside lane.

Every single vehicle but ONE changed lanes. One little car driven by a man who was well enough to know better ignored me and stayed fastened in that lane.

Using sign language, I educated him that was poor etiquette and not appreciated.

Two Good Samaritans who passed us turned around and stopped, parking their pickup halfway out into the traffic lane. The gentleman, who happened to be wearing an orange shirt, signaled traffic while Jimmy changed the tire. We appreciated their help very much.

Our tire guy tells us that you never wear out an RV tire. The trailers bounce so much on the road that the steel belts simply wear out. And most RV manufacturers don’t put high quality tires on them in the first place.

At this point, Jimmy decided the safest option was to travel no faster than 50-55 miles an hour to ensure we got home without another blown tire.

Sure, we have emergency road service, and my brother offered to drive and bring us a tire if we needed him to. But fortunately, we didn’t have to call either one.

We rolled into our driveway about 2:00 p.m. from the longest drive home from Kansas City ever.

One thing I can say for sure: just like NASCAR, camping is never dull! 😀

We Have Bad Christmas Tree Karma

Our First Christmas Tree

Once upon a time, one holiday season about 15 years ago, a pair of not-so-young lovers were eagerly spending their first Christmas together. Swept up in the romanticism of it all, they visited a local Christmas Tree Farm and spent the afternoon trudging through the forest searching for the Perfect Tree. And, it was Perfect! Big and bold and beautiful, they brought it home to their little cottage.

Upon whence, they discovered that trees appear much smaller in out in the field than on the threshold of their house. After much grunting, gasping, shoving, pushing, heaving and swearing, the couple finally wedged the rotund evergreen into the house, stuffed it into the disproportional tree stand, and stood back to take a look.

Fully 3 feet remained between the Ruebenesque pine and the television set for traffic to pass through.  In spite of the fact the tree occupied much of the living room and the couple could not see each other around the tree, it was still beautiful. And so Christmas passed, and the couple noted that searching for a slightly smaller tree the next year might be in order.

Early Years Tree

Another year came, with another opportunity for the Perfect Tree. It was the first year for the new Great Room, with the 16-ft. cathedral ceiling, the majestic tall windows, and barn-wood style flooring, and its lodge-like setting was perfect for the Perfect Tree.

And, indeed it was Perfect. Admired by all, far and wide, the couple savored every day with their beautiful tree.

Right up until the time they took down the tree and moved it out, upon which they discovered had been a Perfectly Incontinent Tree. Their lovely new laminate flooring was now swollen and forever puckered from the excess moisture.

A later early tree

Fortunately, time heals all, and once again, the couple brought home the Perfect Tree. A larger living room meant a larger Perfect Tree, and this one was The Best Ever! It stood tall, regal and dignified, adorned with the finery of new decorations.

And, while the couple treasured the outdoors and enjoyed bringing nature indoors, the infestation of spider mites on the tree 3 days before Christmas created finery of an undesirable type. Two sacrificial houseplants, five now crackle-painted ornaments ruined by bug spray, and one burned evergreen later, the couple felt perhaps next year it would be wise to patronize a different Christmas Tree farm.

Spider mite tree

By the next year, the ever-optimistic couple had of course forgotten the pain and inconvenience of all the prior years, and brought home the Perfect Tree. This had to be the best one yet! It was the perfect shape, perfect height, and it’s beauty was simply breathtaking.

The ornaments were perfectly coordinated; the lights sparkled, it was a  joy to behold. The couple rejoiced in their good fortune and the beauty of the Perfect Tree, and agreed that indeed, this one was the Perfect Tree.

It stood alone, rising above comparison above all the others. Right up until the moment, precisely at 1:32 a.m., that it crashed to the floor.

And that, my friends, is why the Stantons now have the Perfectly Pre-Lit Artificial Tree. 🙂

Five of My Most Embarrassing Moments

Charra Muddy 1

I admit it. This picture has nothing to do, whatsoever, with this post. But ya’all have forced me to bring out the Big Guns: with the approaching holidays and all the stress it entails, people need laughter more than ever. And at the Sunshine Express, that’s what we do best. For your reading please, I’ve chronicled 5 of my most embarrassing moments throughout my life. Enjoy. 🙂

1. Falling in the mud in front of the love of my life.

I was in first grade. Alvin was a mature 7th or 8th grader. He was tall, dark, handsome and mysterious. (Whatever ‘mysterious’ meant.)

The bell rang, and it was recess. At long last! I could run outside and spend a few minutes in his glorious presence.

We surged out of the classroom toward the playground; I ran toward Alvin with abundant joy. Yes! He was there! At the swing set! I could bask in the glow of his beautiful smile, and hear his mature voice as he said ‘hello’ to me.

I ran as fast as I could, wanting to squeeze every minute I could out of this moment. Just as I approached the swing set, and right in front of Alvin, I slipped in a huge mud puddle, and landed SPLAT on my butt.         Pause.

Mortified, I jumped up, feeling my white cotton undies with the eyelet trim wet and gooey with mud and sticking to my bottom. I immediately turned and ran as fast as I could back to the schoolhouse.

From that moment on, I have no memory of Alvin. Probably because I was too embarrassed to ever talk to him again. 😉

2. Forgetting the words to a song in front of a huge crowd of people.

There’s a reason none of you have ever heard me sing unless I’m buried solidly in a group of people.

It could be that I just really stink at it. (My husband has told me I should keep my day job.)

I was a 15, and a candidate for the town’s festival (called the Homecoming) Queen. I was pretty much clueless.

I didn’t really have any talent. What could I do? Hmmmmm.

In a moment of lunacy that I’ve been smart enough not to repeat (thank goodness there was no YouTube then!) I decided I would sing acapella (meaning, there wasn’t even any accompaniment to drown me out)an older song that my grandmother dug out of her musical stash.

I was incredibly nervous. Back then, the only thing scarier than the idea of speaking in front of a crowd was a dental procedure.

I got started off on the right foot, although I can’t say I had much in the way of stage presence.

And then suddenly…I went blank. Utterly, completely, positively blank.         Pause.

I’m looking out at a crowd of people. Lots and lots of people. (Okay, it seemed that way then.) I said, “I have suddenly forgotten the words”…and I’m sure I said something else…finished the best I could, and hustled my a$$ off the stage.

A few people said, “You handled that really well.” It was like the elephant in the room for a couple of days. If nobody mentioned it, I could convince myself nobody heard it. 😉

The funny thing is, to this day I’m not sure if I have a talent. Oh sure, I can do a lot of things well. But TALENT? Bah.

3. Getting “pants-ed” at a college party.

My college friends who are reading this (and we know who you are) right about now are going, “OMIGOSH I FORGOT ALL ABOUT THAT!”

I was about a sophomore or junior in college, and we’d gone to a party with my roommate’s then- boyfriend (if I remember correctly). It was rather late in the evening (ahem) and fortunately, I don’t recall their being a ton of people there.

I’m thinking there were a couple of baseball or basketball players there who were kinda hot, but thankfully, not a big crowd. There’s also been enough water under the bridge that I can’t remember if it was spring or fall, I just remember I was wearing shorts.

Navy blue shorts with white piping. Very similar to the ones that are in style now.

I was standing in the center of the room (OF COURSE), minding my own business, when one of the guys at the party who clearly had had too much to drink at that point and apparently had not had much success with women or he would have known better, walked up behind me and pulled my shorts down.

Like, down nearly to my knees. Seriously?

Did I mention I was standing in the middle of the room? SIGH.         Pause.

Because it was late in the evening, my initial reaction to the whole mortifying experience wasn’t necessarily one that in my own best interest. It was just instinctive.

I collapsed onto the floor into a pile, and cried. SIGH.

My roommate was off talking to some people, and her then-boyfriend came up to her. “Ugh, your roommate is sitting in the middle of the floor crying with her pants down.” My roommate, bless her heart, stepped in and saved the day, collecting me, pulling my pants up, and ushering me back home.

If I’d have been smart enough just to pull my pants up, no one would have noticed.

But noooooooooooooo….instead, I cried. Which everyone noticed. What a wimp. 😉

4. Walking out of the break room with my dress stuck in my underpants.

When I was in college, I worked at Wal-Mart. It was during the summer, and I was wearing a super-cute sundress to work. I have no idea what it’s like now, but I have all kinds of friends, still, that I worked with at the Wally World. We hung out a lot after work, and really looked forward to seeing other when we went into work. We had a great time!

One afternoon I’d taken a break, and popped into the bathroom just inside the break room. I walked out, unaware that the whole back side of my dress was stuck down inside my underpants.

There were probably a dozen people inside the break room.

Randy, a good friend of mine who happened to be on break, just said, “WOOHOOOOOOOOO!” in a tone that I’d never heard before.

Fortunately, his pointed look clued me in, the  planets all came together, and I picked up on his meaning and fixed the problem before walking out into the store. (That in itself was remarkable.)

5. The last time I pooped my pants.

I was a busy kid. Outside on the farm, I had animals to play with, bikes to ride, all kinds of activities to keep me busy.

I was about five or six, old enough to know when I needed to go to the bathroom.

It was a spring day, the weather was nice, and after being shut in for so long, I had a lot to do outside. I was too busy, apparently, to pay much attention to Mother Nature when she came knocking at the back door. I knew I had to go, I was just…busy. I kept thinking, “I’ll go in and GO after I do this.” Just like hitting the snooze button, I kept putting it off.

Well. I waited just a tad too long. Suddenly, my pants filled.         Pause.

It was not a good feeling. SIGH.

I went inside to look for my mom, who happened to be occupying our only bathroom at the moment. She was seated on the toilet looking out the window (it was an Anderson window), and the bathroom doors were open, as we were the only ones at home.

I walked in, seating myself carefully on the side of the tub in spite of the grossness in my pants, and tried to play it cool. I said the only thing I could think of, trying to work up the courage to confess to my mom the completely irresponsible, immature and utmost mortifying thing I’d done.

“So, what are you doing?”

Really original, eh?

I told Jimmy this story years ago. Every once in a while, he’ll walk into a room and go, “So, what are you doing?” 😀

I’d love to be able to tell you that these were the ONLY embarrassing moments I’ve experienced. But no…they happen with enough regularity that I’ve ceased to be embarrassed about them anymore. (Age has a lot to do with it too.)

I am not, however, above embarrassing anyone I’m with. BWAH HA HA HA HA HA… 😀

My Thanksgiving Surprise

Charra (2)The original title of this post was going to be “Why I Didn’t Enjoy Thanksgiving.

In fact, I was actually imagining my writing the post from that angle as I was starting my prep work for Thanksgiving. I had stressed myself out just thinking about it for two days.

Jimmy had even said to me, “I don’t know why you volunteered to cook; now you’re going to be foul the whole weekend.”

(I know some of you will find it shocking that I actually can be crabby. But true story!) 😀

But since we cancelled what would have been our third annual trip to St. Charles on the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, I felt like I should cook. After all, I was really enjoying cooking again. And thanks to my addiction to the Pioneer Woman, I had several dishes I was excited to make.

I had my schedule all planned out. (I’m a list-maker, remember?) On Monday, I bought the turkey, and had planned to finalize my menu, my shopping list, and space out my activities so I wouldn’t have to do a lot at the last minute and it wouldn’t be stressful.

And, I wasn’t going to make a bunch of stuff just because we’d always eaten them before. I was going to prioritize, make our favorites, and call it good. And that would still be more than enough food.

And then, something happened.

I came home from work Monday evening only to find no less than 6 rugs and 2 dog beds needed washing, the coffee table I’d arranged to sell a friend had been chewed on all around the bottom, with splinters lying on the rug, and there were at least 15 additional throw-up spots that needed cleaning up in various places around the house.

And Charra followed me around the house. “Momma, I don’t feel good, I NEED you.”


I felt like I’d just stepped on a fast-moving train and passed overwhelm, going straight to zombie. I was too tired to read. Too depressed to talk. I sat on the couch playing one game of solitaire after another on my laptop, with Charra (who, by the way, was feeling better after throwing up about another 6 times) snuggled next to me. I needed a mindless activity.

I really don’t know why Charra being sick derailed me so much. And I don’t know why I was stressing so much over cooking.

Nothing I was making was that difficult. It was some new recipes, sure. But not difficult. It was me, doing it to myself. In my head.

My friend Sophia and I had gone shopping on Wednesday, and after we got home, I dove in and started my prep work. I’d thought about it all day, of course. And the day before that. So it was almost a relief to dive in and get started when I got home.

I wondered how my mom had done this every Thanksgiving and Christmas for all the years she did. How did she not dread it? It was so much work! Did she dread the holidays? Did she even enjoy the food? How on earth did she do it with so little counter space?

And then, something else happened.

The first dish I prepared was my Mom’s noodles. As I methodically rolled out the dough, I suddenly felt all the stress evaporate. Like, poof!

Making Noodles

I started to relax.

I began to feel at peace, and to really enjoy the actual process of making them.

My mom had done this hundreds of times over decades. She made the best noodles, and I had finally mastered her recipe. It’s almost like I was channeling my mother.

Ready to Dry


As I spread the noodles out to dry, I remembered how much I liked to eat the raw noodle dough as a kid. And how my late grandmother would scold me: “Those noodles will plug up your butt if you eat too many!

One dish at a time, over the next two and a half hours, I made the noodles, skillet cornbread (for the stuffing), cut up bread to dry for the stuffing, and made two pies.

Peanut Butter Pie

I prepared them with love, and I looked forward to sampling them with my family. I actually enjoyed myself. The whole process became very soothing.

Jimmy and Noodles

My husband not only helped, he also helped make sure they tasted the way they should. 😉

Messy Counter

My kitchen looked like a wreck, because I worked straight through without stopping to clean up.

Messy Counter2

I am somewhat neurotic when it comes to organization. (My friends will all testify to this.) My husband came home and, eyes wide, said, “Boy, something’s going on here!”

I actually found it both amusing and rewarding. I knew I had created something!

How is that possible?

I think food connects us in ways that we don’t even realize. The ritual of cooking food connects us to the women in our lives who preceded us, and who showed love for their families through the art, and heart, of cooking.

In return, we express our love through the same time-tested rituals.

Sure, I still had more stuff to make the next day,  but it was just as satisfying.

The irony of all this was that nearly everything was homemade. There was nothing that was a short-cut or a convenience food. And the funny thing is, the real thing wasn’t so difficult to make.

I remember a day when a ‘convenience food’ was a treat. Now, it seems it’s the way so many live today. Maybe, like electronics, they’ve only added to our stress and our health issues.

I felt like I’d stumbled onto a secret treasure.

I think you have to be willing to look at your life and your family, see what works, see what you enjoy, and either continue, or maybe make a change. After so many years of obligatory family dinners, we really enjoy going to St. Charles…but because we were here, I chose to cook. And it wasn’t an obligation.

Some traditions should be tweaked, and that’s okay.

Pumpkin wine


For instance, instead of pumpkin pie, we had pumpkin wine. 🙂

It was a beautiful day, a great meal, and we all took naps afterwards.

And Charra?

She is fine. Although I doubt she’ll ever have the opportunity to run free in search of deer poop again. 😀

The 3 Things I Learned in College



Some people want to be married, or have their first child by the time they turn 30. Me? I just wanted to graduate from college. 😀

I was on the 12-Year Plan.

I started my long-standing college career on the campus of Northeast Missouri State University, now known as Truman State University.

Ultimately, I ended up moving to Las Vegas, and transferring all my college hours to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It was a fresh scene, I was in love with the West, and by that time, I was a little older and more mature. I really wanted it. (The picture above is of the famed Thomas & Mack Stadium on the campus of UNLV).


I went to UNLV during the Glory Years: Coach Tarkanian, the Shark Tank, a national basketball championship. The National Finals Rodeo. Las Vegas was growing by leaps and bounds! (But that’s another story.)

Getting my degree, and wanting it from UNLV, became a personal best.

I wanted it bad enough that over several years, I worked full-time and took classes at night. And also in the summer. I remember sitting out in my backyard many a night on the weekends, studying.

I saw the brightest comet I’d ever seen on one of those nights; it literally lit up my whole back yard! That was like a special gift. (As I look back now, I really enjoyed this time of my life.)

When I changed jobs and went from an administrative job into retail, my unpredictable schedule forced me to drop a class. That was not in my plan.

My long-suffering but optimistic father agreed to allow me to quit my job, and pay for me to finish college. I just needed one year. 🙂

I also realized that each semester, after studying and cramming for tests, you take your final and have a break. Then you repeat the cycle the following semester. Only a small margin of what I learned the previous semester really stuck.


After all those years of learning, I remember 3 things:

1. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

I first learned this in Econ I in Missouri, and later at UNLV in either Microeconomics or Macro, I forget which. (See what I mean?)

The ‘opportunity cost’ for a free lunch is the lost opportunity to do something else, which means the lunch wasn’t really free. It just may not have cost you any money.

Maybe I remember this because who knows what I might have missed out on by going out to lunch too much. Or dining on the freebies at Sam’s Club. (I was a student, remember?) 😉

2. Cognitive Dissonance is the scientific term for Buyer’s Remorse.

I’m quite certain I know why I remembered this. Probably because at that stage of my life I still liked to shop. 😉

My degree is in Marketing, so we studied why people do things quite extensively. And how to get them to do what you wanted them do to. The problem with a Marketing degree is that it didn’t really tell us what WE were supposed to do.

Some of my college classmates got boob jobs and did cocktails at a hotel, because they could make more money doing that than in an entry-level marketing position. (And nobody thought anything of it because we it was Vegas, baby! Everything was different in Vegas!)

3. Perception is Reality.

Basically, your perception of things is based upon your reality. And my perception of things is based upon my reality. And sometimes the two can be vastly different! Which explains how you find yourself wishing you had a translator to help you talk to your husband or a GPS to help you avoid someone in the grocery store.

Las Vegas


Living in Las Vegas was a terrific time in my life. I had an opportunity to figure out who I really was; I grew during the same period of time as Las Vegas grew and matured. I made a lot of friends, had a lot of fun and learned a lot.

I went to Las Vegas not knowing anyone, and making a life for myself. And then I came back to Missouri and did it again. That was powerful.

And college?

I wouldn’t change a thing! I made lifelong friendships at both colleges. I learned how important learning is; and that college isn’t about how smart you are, but how much you apply yourself.

I created some of the best memories of my life in college. Sadly, two of the best friends I had during those times have passed, both of them too young. But they forever remain in my heart, and I’m a better person for having known them.

I can’t think of two better reasons to be thankful that I’m here, to keep learning, and to make this life the best that it can be. 🙂

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