Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Back to school means time to read "The Kissing Hand" that adorable story about Chester the raccoon who is scared to go to kindergarten until his mom gives him a special kiss on his palm to help him know she's thinking of him while he's at school.

It's a tear-jerker but I read it every year to each of my three kids the night before school. Except last night. I forgot my teens would be out until late and as they got home after I was already asleep I did not get to read it to them.

Which is why I was following my high-school senior around the kitchen this morning as he got his breakfast, reading aloud and trying not to cry as he tried not roll is eyes and laugh. I was doing fine but then I started thinking all of my friends who just took their freshmen kids to college--Ann who flew Olivia to TCU and Bridgette who is driving Billy to GVSU and Coop who took Nicholas to Clemson and Martha who drove Rachel to Miszou--and knowing I'm just a short year away from it all I started to cry a little.

As I angrily brushed tears away with the back of my hand I muttered, "I don't know why we all had you kids; all you do is grow up and leave us." And then I had to laugh and say, "Which I suppose is preferable to the alternative; that you grow up and don't leave us."

Lilly liked this idea and suggested a sequel to "The Kissing Hand" in which Chester moves back home after college and his mom pleads with him, "Please, I know we all have to do things that are scary but you'll be fine once you get an apartment of your own" just as she did when he was going off to kindergarten. Chester could be wearing boxers over his little ringed tail and scratch his belly and say, "But mommy, I don't want to leave you and the laundry you do for me and the meals you make!"

I don't know if the sequel would help any of us but it might be worth a chuckle.

To all of you having to say goodbye this month, my thoughts and tears are with you.

I'll be right there with you next year when my own raccoon leaves the nest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Although we are brought up to believe that country music is something that only southerners listen to the real truth is that anytime you are more than 20 miles from a Starbucks and a Target (sure signs of urban civilization) and you turn on the radio, you will be inundated with music that appeals to your inner-hillbilly even if you are well north of the mason-dixon line.

I was reminded of this again as I made a family road trip a few weeks back and though I swear we never got farther south than Oberlin, Ohio the radio played a soundtrack that made it seem like we were deep in Deliverance-land. I kept a nervous eye peeled for a banjo-playing simpleton at every turn.

If you like to listen to the radio as you travel (as I do) to give yourself a break from your own playlist you have the following choices whenever you are out in Sarah Palin Land: 3 country stations, 1 oldies station, 1 to 3 right-wing Christian stations, and a very fuzzy and odd version of NPR (who is this Diana Rehm?

Eventually when you tire of "Brown Eyed Girl" and a staticky "All Things Considered" you will turn the dial to a country music station for a rest and you will get to hear poetic lines like, "Take your tongue out of my mouth I'm kissing you goodbye" and "She's actin' single so I'm drinkin' doubles."

Last summer as we drove around western Michigan my family and I had so much fun listening to these things that we made a list of themes that are featured in almost all country western songs. The best songs manage to incorporate most or all of these themes:

1. She's amazing; I'm a doofus (or variations on this theme such as "I'm lucky she's with me" or "I behaved like an ass and I hope she'll forgive me.")

2. This country is the best country anywhere in the world. So there.

3. I don't have much but I'm happy. So there.

4. I drink a lot of alcohol after work. Usually beer.

5. Poor people have way more fun than rich people. So there.

6. I'm country through and through (even if I live in a Nashville mansion) and that makes me better than you.

7. Blue jeans/women's behinds in blue jeans

8. Pick up trucks

9. Jesus

10. Lil' bitty babies

11. Soldiers (never officers)

I think that covers it.

I know a lot of people like country music and I know a few who pretend they don't but really do but I don't know anyone who pretends to like it if they don't. Do with that what you will.

I honestly don't know if I like it or not but I know it can sure break up a tedious road-trip.

Well, I'm going to go now and I will leave you with this thought from "Honky-Tonk Bedonkadonk"
--"We hate to see her go but we love to watch her leave."