I grew up in West Texas. I was born in 1976 and my teen years were the late 80’s and early 90’s. Do you know what everyone was doing in West Texas in the 80s and 90s? We were dancing. It wasn’t often you would encounter someone not being willing to dance. It wasn’t often but it happened. But being willing is quite different from being unable. I only have two memories of someone stating they didn’t know how to dance. Two. Two that encompasses my first 20 years of my life. People joke about pre-teens and teenagers attending dances and everyone lining up against the walls in pubescent fear as they stare at an empty dance floor. That’s not the experience I had. Even in junior high we had several dances a year and I don’t remember the dance floor ever being empty. If you weren’t dancing, it was because no one wanted to dance with you specifically. dance2I’m not sure how anyone else learned to dance, but I took country dancing lessons at the local bar in the hours before the bar opened. You paid your fee and for 3-4 days you showed up and learned how to dance with a group full of strangers. The classes were packed. I was roughly 15 years old. I learned to two step, waltz, the cotton eyed joe, the cowboy cha cha, and once I got the basics down I was able to add a little swing if I had a partner that knew what he was doing. As far as I can tell, the only skill you need to learn how to dance is to be able to hear the beat. I grew up dancing in my home, at my friends houses, at weddings, Quinceaneras, receptions, banquets, birthday parties, at the lake with the radio tuned in, and I always enjoyed teen night at the local bar. We couldn’t drink, but we could dance. As a parent, I can’t imagine letting my underage daughter go dancing at a bar but at the time, and in West Texas, it was the norm. Tuesday night in high school meant we could end up dancing with guys from other schools at Santa Fe Junction. I think it helped that my father was a cop. He would call the off duty officer moonlighting as a bouncer that night and tell him to keep an eye out. I hope you danceThe first time in my life I walked into a bar without a dance floor I was already out of high school. Blake was living in upstate NY attending a nuclear power school and he flew me up to visit. I remember having an in-depth conversation where he told me all about these weird yankees going to bars where the only thing they did was drink and talk. No dancing. They didn’t even have a single bar in town for it to be an option. It was Footloose without the raging preacher suppressing the entire town. People had stopped dancing on purpose. I wasn’t impressed. Years have gone by and I’ve lived in quite a few places. It’s harder and harder to find a place to country dance. I used to believe that it was simply because I was no longer living in Texas. That’s not the case as when I go back home, Santa Fe is closed down and my hometown has no place to dance. It’s just a lot of bars where people drink and talk. People have stopped dancing on purpose. I’ve gone from unimpressed to a sadness deep down to my soul. Oh, I’m sure we still have plenty of clubs where you can find other types of dancing. But that doesn’t restore my faith in humanity and how we connect with each other. Country dancing is such an innocent, light flirtation. It can be fast or slow and it’s a short yet intense connection while you get to know each other. You can dance one dance or many. You can dance with your family, with friends, or with a romantic partner. It is pretty amazing when you can dance the same dance with your grandfather and the boy you like and it mean two different things and yet it’s joyous and fun with both. Grinding your privates on a stranger to hip-hop doesn’t have quite the same results. You take all the subtly, respect, romance, and joy out of dancing and go straight to thoughts and motions of sex. I like that type of dancing as much as anyone, I’m no prude, I just don’t think that needs to be the first and only option you have for dancing. Where the heck is the mystery? Why did we throw out the fun of the journey and the dance and tell ourselves we have to go straight for the goodies? Last of the MohicansCountry dancing seems to be the last frontier in the world of romance or light hearted fun. Joy for the sake of joy. A prayer in motion thanking God for our lives. It’s the last frontier and we are giving it up on purpose. ON PURPOSE! I feel like my husband and I are some of the last men standing. We are the Last of the Mohicans on the dancing frontier. Last night we celebrated my husbands birthday and we drove to the country bar alone. No big groups of friends excited to dance came with us. Nothing but comments of not knowing how to dance and not being willing or even vaguely interested to dance echoing after dinner. We arrived and no one was on the dance floor. The people at the bar weren’t even talking. They were mostly on their cell phones. Dancing with my husband still thrills me deep down to my tippy toes. 20 years as his dance partner hasn’t lessened the experience one bit. As we danced I looked out at all the lonely people focused on their cell phones, unable to dance, I just wanted to scream out. Scream out in defense of the entire act of country dancing, “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you! ” When you dance, the purpose isn’t to get to a single place on the dance floor. It’s to enjoy all the steps along the way. To stop the dance is to stop the joy. Don’t give up the joy. Don’t give up the joy on purpose. Never on purpose. Don’t give up the dance. Sincerely, one of the last of the Mohicans on the dancing frontier.
I’m not good in a crisis. I have never been good in a crisis. I’m the person you absolutely don’t want in charge when life hands you those situations where you have seconds to save a life. The good news is that I know this about myself and I am excellent at following directions from people that are good in a crisis. It’s not that I don’t want to be calm, controlled and competent in a only hopecrisis. I have daydreams about being that person. When I run, my music is set to techno music and I imagine I’m saving a bus full of kids from an out of control bus, I’m taking control of an airplane that has just been hijacked, or I’m leaping onto a motorcycle in a crazy out of control chase. Every time I run, I save the world. My favorite books to read are always about heroes, underdogs that fight to the top in that last desperate second, or warriors that are the last remaining hope. “Help us Obi-Wan, you are our only hope.” But I’m not that person. My fight or flight response kicks in and I never seem to get past the flight option. Mother nature shuts off my brain. The pressure cooker of the moment turns me into Chicken Little. The sky is falling! I’m always so surprised when things go bad. Always. Sometimes it takes me an excessive amount of time to even understand exactly what is going on. It takes me time to wrap my brain around the fact that my immediate surroundings have taken a sharp turn for the worse. Disbelief can be a powerful enemy. I have had only two moments in my life when I was able to respond immediately and aggressivly and both of those times I believed one of my children was in imminent danger. But that is the exception for me, not the rule. CloverfieldIf I was a character in a book or a movie, I’d be the hysterical side-kick that stays alive until the very end of the book. I always thought the funny friend in Cloverfield best represented who I’d be in a movie. Not who I’d want to be, but who I’d actually be. I’d provide a bit of comic relief to offset the intensity of the hero, a few sarcastic commentaries and witty zingers. If I was lucky, I’d have a moment where I displayed intense bravery despite my cowardly tendencies. But my role isn’t the hero. It’s not even to be the hot chick. I’m the person running in circles while my hair is on fire. My husband does not panic in a crisis. He doesn’t even falter. In fact, he usually does better in a crisis than he does in a normal situation. He always performs better in sports when it’s a big game against the rival team, when everything is on the line and it’s the state championships. His coach at the Naval Academy commented on this several times, fellow shipmates on the submarine have told me numerous stories and I can tell you two times when he used just his force of will to save our lives. One of those times we were in his truck. He had bought a lift kit so his massive black Dodge truck was really tall and he had overly large tires. It was everything you would imagine a 20 year old man from Texas would purchase. Big and Bad. I had to do a little hop and then grab onto a handle to get into the beast. We were in Dallas, very high up in the air on one of those layered, spaghetti bowl overpasses were it is layer upon layer of exits getting you off a major highway. We were on the highest one right before it swerved to the left when the entire undercarriage of the car flew apart. If I remember correctly the axle broke. No brakes, very little control over steering and our lift kit was going to take us straight over the rails to our deaths as we couldn’t turn. The police on the scene kept telling him over and over that we should have died on the highway that night. You know it’s bad when the police get shaky. But we didn’t die a horrible death. He didn’t panic. He didn’t have to pause to asses the situation. He just handled his business. Because that is what he does. Blake is excellent in a crisis situation. Sometimes he has to handle my business for me. When those moments happen he looks upon the situation as an opportunity to begin a boot camp. Boot Camp Teach Reesie How Not To Freeze Up and Torture Her With Practical Lessons and Applications Until She Can Perform In Her Sleep. Full metal JacketI never like those boot camps. He doesn’t approach it from a helpful husband standpoint. He approaches it like I just enlisted and it is Full Metal Jacket. This is my rifle, this is my gun. Blake is a planner. He plans for worse case scenarios. He plans for them and he makes our entire family go over them. We have a plan for someone breaking into our home while we are there. We have variations based on if it’s day or night, if I’m the only one home or if Blake is home as well. I know the plan. Today, I didn’t follow the plan. I didn’t even think of the plan. I couldn’t have told you my name in those brief moments this morning. Blake had just left the house to take the older kids to school. I was at home with Landry and getting ready to leave for the gym. I always lock the back door and set the alarm. Always. Always. Today for some reason the back door was left unlocked and I forgot to set the alarm. Blake is gone. Landry is in the kitchen near the door. I’m in the office and I can’t see Landry or the door from where I am at. I hear the door open and I hear footsteps come in. I know it’s not Blake and I know it’s not Landry. No one should be coming in my door. I didn’t follow the plan. I just jumped up and raced toward Landry with absolutely zero thought on what I was going to do if I turned the corner and someone wanting to hurt us was standing in my house. I have to admit I was very scared. Very scared. Good thing it was the cleaning lady. She wouldn’t have liked the plan.
Right about the time Tootsie Angel-Pants, Jolly Pointy-toes, and Tinker Floppy-Feet have shut down the toy factory, packed up the sleigh and everyone is Ho-Ho-Homeward bound from our Christmas celebrations, we all begin our annual lists for our New Years resolutions. New Years resolutions are intended as a fresh start. But I’ve been asking around and that’s not what seems to actually be happening. I didn’t realize how hard everyone was on themselves. It’s less of a fresh start and more of a I-Hate-Everything-About-Myself-I’m-Changing-Everything-But-My-Name lists. I’m going to start calling them New Years Ranklings. Don’t even get me started on the weight loss Ranklings we all have. Let’s all go get healthy. Let’s do it. I’m with you more than anyone. Let’s punch that weight in the gut and never gain an ounce back. Let’s focus on eating the right foods in the right amounts while we love ourselves enough to exercise. I’m all in. I just want us all to stop telling ourselves we are ugly and unworthy until we get to that magical number on the scale and make that our #1 Rankling for 2016. Take it off the list and just go do it. That list is for something special, not self loathing. As you pull out your pretty little journal to write down your resolutions, you might as well cross out the title New Year’s Resolutions and just write, ‘Go F*** Yourself’ right across the top. For those of you that are resolving not to cuss, you can write, ‘How I’m Peeing In My Cheerios This Year.’ Either way, it’s leaving a bitter taste in most peoples mouth. I’m certainly finding the flavor unappetizing. Guess what? You are amazing. Somebody out there probably thinks you are the Cats Freaking Meow. Maybe quite a few people. Okay, maybe you are little weird and you probably smell worse than you think after the second day after your shower. Maybe that cowlick really does look as bad as you think and your fashion sense could at best be described as quirky or unique. Sure, everyone could use a little more money in their paycheck and it would be amazing not to have all those pesky blinking lights flashing on your car dash. What you are forgetting is that you have survived your entire life up to this point. You have survived traumas, heartbreak, devastation, the different phases in life. Puberty, traffic, reality tv, and most of us survived the 80s shoulder pad craze with less than 10 documented pictures. AND HERE YOU ARE. You claim the uniqueness that is you. Own it. You are awesome. Don’t change the awesome, just improve it. Resolutions not Ranklings. On that note… Reesie’s 2016 New Years Resolution I do not resolve to lose these last 10 pounds, clean more, get organized, cook meals the family will actually eat, keep the laundry room from smelling like mildew, plan ahead, keep things simple, do more, be better, hang up my clothes, keep my shoes on the shoe rack, edit my closet, wake up early, exercise more, get a check up, be a better parent, be a better wife, floss more, take my make-up off at night, or eat less sugar. I can’t resolve to do that as I’m already trying as hard as I can on all those things. No sense in wasting a perfectly good opportunity to grow by beating myself up. ASLThis year, I resolve to constantly have a ‘Did you Know’ or a ‘How To’ book in my hand, bag, satchel, car, nightstand, or gym bag so I can pull it out during my moments of spare time. Non-fiction but something titillating, something nonsensical, something just for kicks and giggles. Something to make my soul belly laugh. Something to annoy my friends with at dinner parties. My first book for the year is “Dirty Sign Language: Everyday Slang.” I will then learn things like how to cross a piranha-infested river, how to repurpose a fruitcake and how to thwart an affectionate costumed mascot. Your life is a gift. Love it. (*Victorian slang for breasts was “Cupid’s Kettledrums.”)
Staying at my 87 year old grandfathers house this Christmas was a little like Vegas. I approached the entire event with enthusiasm but I left broke, disoriented and with the newfound knowledge that I had developed OCD over the holiday. I didn’t know you could catch OCD like a virus (or a Vegas STD), but I’m now convinced it is possible. Pre-children Reesie wasn’t much for any real structure or routine. I could take it or leave it and sudden changes in my life, work, home, entertainment or even sleep schedule was approached as either a non event or with enthusiasm. I’ll take different and new over structure and routine any day. Post-children Reesie clings to routine and structure like teenagers cling to their smartphones. If i’m not staring at it with blazing intensity and focus, the world as I know it might end. I still don’t need it personally, but if I don’t provide some rigid structure for our household, everyone loses their damn minds. The wheels fall off the bus and chaos reigns. The irony is rich as me providing structure for our family is like asking a gas station attendant to provide technical advice to the NASA space team. I’m really not qualified for this particular aspect of being a mother. When I was younger I read a horrible and depressing book about a family that went to great lengths to convince the teenager in their home that she was insane. I don’t remember anything else about the plot line, but they would convince her she was living the same day over and over and then jump to months away and then convince her it was months in the past. She would cling to any scrap of her life that was familiar. I’m pretty sure the book was one of those horrible Flowers in the Attic series by V.C. Andrews. I’m not a fan. DementiaAt 87 years old, my grandfather is doing the same thing. He clings to his OCD tendencies like they are a lifeline to his sanity. It’s worrisome as his OCD is not a trait he had as a young man or even an older adult. It developed in his late 70s. At this point Granddad’s OCD has gone from quaint and adorable to rabid and vicious if too many things are changed at once. Each time we come to visit, more routines and items are added to his list of things that have to happen in the exact order he needs them to happen. I was talking to a man over Thanksgiving about books he liked to read in his spare time. He said he would only read or even watch non-fiction. He said he needed to keep all the facts straight. He didn’t say want, he said needed. I’m not sure he realized how much terror he reveled in that one sentence. His mother had Alzheimers for the last portion of her life. It was pretty clear he was determined to do anything possible not to be sucked down into that same abyss. I understand ugly endings. Anything I’ve ever loved and lost has claw marks on it. I’m not really a fan of going gently into the good night. How do you hold on to yourself though? What makes a man a man? Exactly where into that long slow slide into the abyss are you really lost? Is it the routine and structure that is a real lifeline or are you already lost at that point? The world is a dangerous place. If it doesn’t work the way we believe it does, the danger becomes unmanageable. Maybe late in life OCD is just focusing on the little things so the war with yourself is a little more manageable. A thin, threadbare lifeline to help you hover over the abyss. Hold on Granddad.
Thanksgiving is safely past, more turkey eaten this year than the last, more stuffing stuffed, more yams jammed down, using both hands, coleslaw in slews, biscuits by twos, all of us too fat to fit into our shoes. Let’s look ahead to the big holiday that’s coming, coming, coming our way. I’m sure you know just the day. It’s not Easter Sunday, not Halloween. It’s not a day to be sad and listless. I ask you, young ladies, what is it…? It’s Christmas. Someday soon, we’ll put up a tree. Why only one? Maybe two this year, maybe three! We’ll deck it with tinsel and baubles bright. It’ll be an amazing and glorious sight. String colored lights out on the roof. Pray none are broken by a stomping stray hoof. Salt down the shingles to melt all the ice. If Santa fell, it just wouldn’t be nice. He might fracture a leg or get a cut, perhaps even break his big jolly butt. Oh, wait! I just heard terrible news. I hope it won’t give you the Christmas blues. Santa was drugged, tied up and gagged. Blindfolded, ears plugged, and bagged. His sleigh was abandoned out in the yard, and someone has stolen Santa’s bank card. Soon his accounts will be picked clean by the use of automatic-teller machines. Hark, the sound of silver sleigh bells echoes over the hills and the dells. Look at the reindeer high up in the sky! Some silly goose has taught them to fly. The driver giggles quite like a loon. A madman, a goofball, a thug, a big goon. Something is wrong, any fool could tell. If this is Santa, then Santa is not well. He hoots, gibbers, chortles and spits and he seems to be having some sort of fits. His mean little eyes spin just like tops. I hope someone soon thinks to call upon the cops! A closer look confirms his psychosis, and (oh my dear) really bad halitosis. Beware when Christmas comes this year because there is something new to fear. Santa’s twin, who is evil and mean, stole the sleigh and plans to make this Christmas look like a crime scene. Pretending to be his good, angelic brother…Guard your beloved children, mother! Down the chimney, into your home, here comes that vile psychotic gnome. Reindeer sweep down out of the night, if you look close you can see they are each brimming with fright. They toss their heads while rolling their eyes, these gentle animals are so very wise. They know this Santa isn’t their friend but an imposter and far ‘round the bend. They would stampede for all they are worth and dump this nut off the edge of the Earth. But Santa’s evil brother carries a whip, a club, a harpoon, a gun at his hip. A blackjack, an Uzi, you’d better run. Lest he pull out his terrible, horrible, wicked ray gun. They land on the roof, quiet and sneaky. This Evil Santa is fearfully freaky. He whispers a warning to each reindeer. He leans in closer to make sure they hear. “You have relatives back at the Pole. Antlered, gentle, quite innocent souls. So if you fly away while I’m inside, back to the Pole on a plane I will ride. I’ll have a picnic in the cresting sun, reindeer pie, pate reindeer on a bun. Reindeer salad and hot reindeer soup. Oh, all sorts of reindeer goop!” At the chimney he looks down the bricks, but that entrance is strictly for hicks. With all his tools, another way in can be found for a fat bearded burglar out on the town. From roof to yard to kitchen door, he chuckles about what he has in store. This house has a lovely family sleeping within and he grins one of his most nasty grins. Oh what a creep, a scum, a looser a louse. He’s breaking into the Edmondson house!! With picks, loids, gwizzles, and zocks, he quickly and silently opens all the locks. He enters the kitchen without a sound, his chances for devilment truly abound. He opens the fridge and eats all the cake; pondering what sort of mess he can make. He pours the milk all over the floor, pickles, pudding, ketchup, and more. He scatters the bread (white and rye), and finally he spits right in the pie! At the corkboard by the phone and the stool, he sees drawings the kids did at school. Lainey has painted a kind, smiling face. Lily has drawn elephants in space. Landry’s drawing was not lacking in heart, all three children painted lovely art. The dastardly villain takes out a red felt-tip pen, taps it, uncaps it, chuckles and then…on all three pictures scrawls the word POO! He always knows the worst things to do. Mad giggles from him continue to bubble while he gets into far greater trouble. He’s hugely more evil than he is brave. After he loads up the microwave with ten pounds of popping corn (Oh, we should rue the day he was made), he turns and runs right out of the room, because that microwave oven is about to go BOOM! He prowls the downstairs, so wicked and mean, looking to cause yet one more bad scene. He spies the presents under the tree and he thinks to himself, “I’ll go on a gift-swapping spree! I’ll take out all of the really good stuff, then box up dead fish, cat poop, and fluff. In the morning, the Edmondson’s will find coffee grinds, peach pits, orange rinds! Instead of nice sweaters, games and toys; they’ll get slimy, stinky, stuff that annoys.” Lainey, Lily, Landry are all still tucked into their beds. Dreams of Christmas filling their sweet little heads. Suddenly a sound startles these sleepers. They sit up in bed and open their peepers. Nothing should be stirring, not even one little mouse; the three wise girls conclude a villain must be in the house! You can call it psychic, a hunch, osmosis…or maybe they just smell this dude’s halitosis. Down in the living room, under the tree, Santa’s evil twin is chortling with glee. He’s got a collection of gift replacements taken from dumps, sewers and abandoned basements. He replaces a nice watch meant for Lainey with a nasty gift for a girl that’s quite naughty. In place of the watch he wraps up a clot of horrid, glistening, greenish toad snot! From a package for Lily, he steals a sweet doll and gives her a new gift sure to appall. It’s oozing, rancid, and starting to fizz. Not even this nasty villain knows what it is. In their cozy holiday jammies, the girls are now on the prowl, they have gone looking for a smell that is really quite foul. Right to the top of the stairs they zoom, making much less noise than moths in a tomb. All three are quite resourceful, crafty and they work well as a team. How dare someone intrude upon their Christmas dreams. How can these small girls hope to fight an Evil Santa that’s liable to kick and to bite? Are they trained in karate or tae kwon do, can they fight? No. No. No. The answer is no. These girls just refuse to be defeated by their foe. Do they have army grenades tucked in their pockets? Lasers implanted inside their eye sockets? The sisters had not one weapon betwixt them. Just the knowledge that Santa doesn’t normally cause mayhem. Down, down the shadowy stairs they all go. The danger below, they can’t comprehend. This Santa has gone far ‘round the bend. He’s meaner than the flu, toothaches, and blisters. But these girls are tough too…they are a team of loving sisters! The Edmondson Christmas was about to come down with a crash, as the Evil Santa was just reaching for the last sisters stash. On Lainey, On Lily, On Landry they cry; as they move together to take down this stupid guy. Evil Santa you are such a big fool. You forget that sisters operate on an unbreakable rule. Sisters may argue with each other, they can fuss and they fight. But if you think you are going to make one of them cry, you are going home with a big, big black eye. Evil Santa stood frozen for one terrified moment, and he saw his maniacal plan go down the toilet. Lainey was biting for all she was worth, her braces latched on to his massive arm girth. Lily was kicking his big beefy legs. He started stumbling around like he was on stilts or wooden pegs. Landry was shrieking out loud for all to hear. Let’s bust his eardrums and get mom and dad down here. That’s how Evil Santa was vanquished. The Edmondson sisters took him down like a bug to be squished. Dash away, dash away, dash away scum. Don’t come to this house to ruin the holiday fun. Santa was rescued, cleaned up and un-gagged. They brushed off his suit and let him out of that bag. No time for therapy, group hugs, or strong whiskey. The nights almost over, get out and get busy. The kids are all waiting. Waiting for you. To fix the big mess your evil brother construed. Isn’t that always the case, the hard truth, the life. No matter your job, your hard work, your good life. You can’t run from family; you just have to endure. All you can do is hope your siblings heart is pure. Don’t be the evil twin, the bitter, the nasty. Don’t make your sweet sibling a pasty. Love your dear siblings, they will be all that you have, in the dark nights when a villain tries to take all you have. Bond together will all of your might, the love of a sibling is worth the fight. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.