Friday, September 27, 2013

Theory 19: All mothers need “sister wives.”

Let’s take it way on back folks. Way on back to the early 70’s in dusty, hot, cotton-dotted Seale, Alabama to the home of my uncle Trout, where whispers of Theory 19 first surfaced. The female grownups, Delicious, Big Booty J, and my aunt Terrific, sat and talked to the tune of cicadas. They chirped their own worries and woes of work, children, and domestic responsibilities into the Southern breeze for hours. All of a sudden, Terrific (career woman and mother to three) pronounced, “I need a wife.” Even though I was elementary-age, my little pink female brain’s synapses fired. I asked no questions and required no clarification. I innately understood.

Last week, my dear neighbor friend, “Fancy” called in a tizzy. She is a true character with somewhat unexplainable talents and unique attributes. She is also an esteemed professional, wife, and mother of three animated and busy boys. The conversation went something like this:

Bug (me): “Hey Fancy, what’s up?”

Fancy: “I hate to even ask you this. You can say no, but I am desperate. Oh, and I’ll pay you if you say yes. I will give you cash! And, I will return the favor whenever you need help with Sharky. And I won’t make you pay me. That’s how desperate I am.”

Bug: “What do you need?”

Fancy: “[Expletive], I need a sister wife, really. I need another woman to live with me and help me every day, [expletive].”

Bug: “What’s your pickle?”

Fancy: “Boy #1 has a soccer tournament in Nashville and I need to take him. Boy #3 is staying with my mother, but Boy #2 can’t miss his basketball game and my mother can’t handle two wild boys.”

Bug: “Where’s Husband #1?”

Fancy: “He’s going on a golf trip.”

Bug: “I’ll keep Boy #2, no problem. You don’t have to pay me, because I’ll surely need help from you soon.”

Fancy: “I really just need a sister wife. Thanks for being my sister wife!”

Bug: “Ha! I need one, too! But, that’s a little kinky and cult-like.”

Fancy: “Just think how convenient it would be. I need two sister wives, actually—one wife per child.”

Bug: “Man to man defense. True. Right now you are running a zone.  But really, three sister wives could handle twenty children better than one man can “babysit” his own 2!”

Fancy: “Yeah! Why do the men say “babysit”?”

Bug: “They just don’t have our natural talents for anticipating the needs of children.”

Fancy: “No kidding. You want to be my sister wife permanently?”

Bug: “I don’t want to see your husband naked, but I think we could work something out. Heck, I’ll give you an hour alone with Tall Child if you’ll get on the roof and clean out my gutters. Hmmmm…I think you are on to something, but I’m not sure I could live with a bunch of women. I think I’d rather have brother husbands. I could assign them domestic regions of responsibility and choose them according to skill! I’d marry one plumber, one electrician, one handyman, one pediatrician, one academic, one party boy, one financial expert, and one family man.”

Fancy: “What about [being intimate] with all those men? Dang!”

Bug: “Oh, all relationships, except maybe one, would be platonic on my compound.” 

Readers, do I really need all those men, or could just one woman (again, a platonic one) do the job?

Good news! Fancy’s husband chose, selflessly, to stay home! Fancy didn’t ask him to. She had the problem solved via her sister wife. But, her man, let’s call him “The Gentleman”, is a great father and got a good dose of woman-guilt. He sacrificed a fun golf trip to help his wife and children. It’s a male miracle of unselfishness, ya’ll! Or, maybe he’s changing into a woman.

Not long before my sister wife convo with Fancy, I spent one night in Nashville. One night. Room and board was free (stayed with Bop) but the trip ended up costing me two hundred dollars and two weekends of manual labor. Confused? So was I when I walked into my house after a long drive to find the Gnome’s black Sharpie ink work sketched down the hallway, through the den, and across doors, windows, one sofa, and molding.

Caution: Leave no child behind. With a marker and a man. During SEC football season.

The ink was everywhere. Ugh. First, I lowered the boom on Tall Child. Then, I calculated the cost (I like to complain with quantitative data) and lectured Tall Child, Gnome, and Sharky. Then, I started crying—because I was tired. I was tired. I was worn. Slap. Out.
"Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life"—Oscar Wilde (and Gnome)

Tall Child is a good husband and an exceptional father, too. The important thing is that Sharky and Gnome were safe and having fun with their sweet daddy who worships them. He works hard, coaches Sharky, and is a devoted brother, son, and friend. He is not neglectful. He is just busy. So am I. I make mistakes all the time. But, I am 100% sure that if the roles were reversed, the Gnome would not have caused so much damage. Why? Because I am woman! Hear me roar! Tall Child heard me roar. Was I a witch? A little bit.

Here’s the conundrum many women face: We need a task to be done. Not because we are lazy or incompetent, but because we are doing something else that needs to be done. Someone needs to call the insurance company. Someone needs to wait for the plumber. Someone needs to help with homework. Women don’t want to do it all, but we need to see these things happening. We need security. We need action! If we “over ask” our husbands with “honey-do lists” we feel like nags. If we don’t “over ask” the task doesn’t get done or we have to do it, in 5-minute increments because we are everyone at once, all the time.

Tall Child did indeed help me clean up the mess Gnome made. Once I found the color in my old notes, drove to Lowe’s on Saturday morning (children in tow), bought the paint, brushes, and painter’s tape, fed everyone lunch, lined up all the supplies and handed Tall Child a brush and an old plastic coffee can for his paint, he pitched in. One common synonym for “wife” is “helpmate.” I helped Tall Child help me paint. Then, one day, he went to his friend’s house to watch football and I finished the job, willingly. I was a wife and a helper and happy to spare him the work. But, where’s my heavy duty help? Sometimes I want to be nurtured, to point and delegate, to get in the “luge” position and watch Bravo. Well, one uterus seems to equal no dice. I need another uterus to help me. Or maybe uteri? Can I get an “amen” from the sisterhood?

I’ve tried to beat myself home before so I could welcome me to a clean house and supper on the stove, but even Big Red can’t drive that fast.

In my first post, Welcome to Theories:Size 12, I warned readers I may vent. But, sister-wives share, so, in that vein, I asked members of my coven, I mean, circle of friends, this question:

Wives and/ mamas, I want to know what you think before I write "Theory 19: All mothers need sister wives." This is your chance to let off some steam (anonymously, of course, so you can say to your husband, "Hey, look what that crazy [Bug] and her friends wrote. Can you believe them?") So, if you had a sister-wife, what would you have her do?

***To avoid slapping the label of “male-basher” on my buddies, all comments are quoted directly but sources are not revealed.

Here are their responses with mine mixed in; I’m not saying which are which from this witch:

How about a brother husband who could listen to loud, terrible music and talk about American League baseball so I don’t have to?

If I had a sister wife she would follow [husband and child] around picking up all the piles of junk they leave in their wake, make the beds, and remind/nag the men for me of all the stuff they need to do. There’s more I’d like her to do but I’m exhausted from all the above chores so my brain has shut down.

Mine would nag the kids to do their stuff, point out to hubby when he's wrong, mistaken, or being a jerk, check the kids' bags before they leave so they have what they need each day, watch football with him, and get up early and wake the kids up. Awesome.

I would send her to the grocery store.

I would gladly forfeit my shotgun seat so she could be the one who jumps in and out of the car to see “how long the wait is” at restaurants, get the mail, to wait in line at Bruster’s, and take the children into gas stations to tee-tee.

My sister wife would change every diaper – from babies to geriatric in-laws. She would also be in charge of the suppository depository activities.

Yeah... I always wanted one to look after the children, one to cook, one to decorate, one to clean the house and one to do my hair and nails. Of course I could have used one good gay guy for all of it.

If I had a sister wife, she would get my ignorant ex-husband out of my life, take care of his girls, get pregnant, and deal with his crazy first wife for ever and ever amen

She would clean and do laundry, but I am the ONLY one having a relationship with my hubby.

I would take sister wives but I am not sharing "that" part of my marriage.

She would do all male haircuts and maintenance to include ear hair, nose hair, and back hair.

If I had a sister wife she would: clean, do laundry, pull weeds, do the dishes, deal with all the headaches like making appointments & calling DirecTV, AT&T or anyone else that puts you on hold for a long period of time or has an automated system. She would also work a full time job and help pay the bills. I would do all the fun stuff.  And she better keep her hands off the kid!

My friend, who just ALSO moved here w her husband, onto the acreage right next to mine...has called me "sister wife" the whole time. She takes kids to school, I pick them up. So we have literally had this conversation!

If my sister wife would run the activity shuttle, unload the dishwasher, do laundry, pick up the house, and make all appointments, I would be perfectly happy to help with homework, have sex (yes, I said it) at least 5 times per week, put my babies to bed every night, make dinner, and cheer at games, ride in the golf cart, etc. I love the quality time activities, but detest the fact that all of the superfluous stuff leaves little time, energy, and patience for it.

I would want the sister-wife to take all the cooking and cleaning and she needs to have a job.   I'll take care of the kids and keeping the husband happy.

The thing with a sister wife is.......I don't think you would have to make them do anything.  We are woman, so we naturally do.  Best of both worlds----you can hang out with your home girls, and not have sex.

She would have to have full control over all sexual intimacy. And, nighttime responsibilities for all babies.

I’d want the sister wife to be the favorite wife.

Male readers, don’t dump me. I love you! We women love you! We just want to spend fun time with you and not be tied to vacuums, dishwashers, online textbooks, and mindless chores. Think Jerry McGuire: Help us help you! Help us help you, so we can show you the quan!

Ladies, have you ever felt like you were swept off your feet and then handed the broom? What are you supposed to do? Hand the broom back? No! He’s not going to sweep, at least, not when you want him to. Bless his heart. I say you either toss the broom or get on it and ride, sister, ride! I believe you can fly.  I believe you can touch the sky! I believe you can ride/fly all the way downtown and meet your sister wives around a cauldron of salsa with little mini-cauldrons of “Extra-Lovin Lemonade” for an old-fashioned girls’ night out, which we desperately need and deserve, which reminds me of Theory 20: Never call a woman fat, lazy, or selfish. Them’s fightin’ words.
Ready for take-off!

See you next post or at El Charro! Until then, think outside the barn.

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website:

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Theory 18: Blind dates are the best dates EVER!

One beautiful spring day in 1997, I was performing off Broadway—off Broadway Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee—as a substitute teller at the Halls Branch of AmSouth Bank. I stood in a dusty, paper-littered stable of tellers wearing my skirt suit and pantyhose. I counted, keyed, and stamped my way through an ordinary day as a young banker until the stars aligned and one conversation with a co-worker change the course of humanity forever. My buddy “Luisa Banera Caliente” looked over her teller stall wall and said, “I know the perfect guy for you. Want me to fix you up?”

I said, “Sure, why not?”

Romance: I needed it. Halls Had It!

I knew Tall Child was cute because Luisa Banera Caliente sent me a softball team picture through inter-office mail. I’d never dated an athlete, so when I saw his lean form outfitted in red and gray stripes, I was intrigued. Tall Child and I met for dinner at La Paz. He brought married friends for backup in case I was a “dud.” Well, I wasn’t! Especially after two margaritas. The rest is history. Every year on our anniversary I think about that chance assignment with Luisa!

Sharky and the Gnome should write her thank-you notes for their very existence!

Set a course for adventure,
your mind on a new romance.

Blind dates come in different packages. Let’s define the types.

1. BlindFolded: You've never met, never seen each other. It's a total word-of-mouth situation. There is no conversation before hand

2. BlindOnLine: Caveat - You think you saw a picture and had a “conversation” but that bodybuilding, thoracic surgeon with no children, no living parents, and houses on two continents might really be your dry cleaner's teenage son or, teachers, one of your students. Watch out! Type cautiously. Under promise and over deliver!
Blessing– People meet great people online and find true love and happiness (thus the plethora of sites).

3. BlindFoldedHostageSituation: You are invited as a third wheel to a party so you can meet another third wheel of the opposite sex who is “perfect for you.” Stay off the spinach puffs. You could meet your future husband at your neighbor’s 5-year-old’s birthday party at Laser Quest. Wear stripes and deodorant and roll-on to romance, third wheel!

My buddy Sweater Vest Romeo says, “Blind dates are the best because they can’t see what you are doing to them.”

I loved blind dates because my friends and relatives screened the boys (I hoped) first. Basically, the boys were pre-qualified. Also, I could be completely myself and have nothing to lose. There was no year-long crush to build up my nerves. There was no miserable love-sick stomach ache to battle. There was nothing at stake. If he didn’t like me, I could just say, “What an idiot” or “I didn’t like him” or “He doesn’t even know me” or “He probably didn’t call me because he probably fell into a sinkhole.” There are lots of limestone sinkholes in Tennessee.

So, when can I pick you up?

Those of us who do meet on blind dates, fall madly in love and live, eh, happily ever after become champions of matchmaking. After my and Tall Child’s success story, I felt compelled to pay it forward. After a handful of awkward failed attempts, I struck gold with a match between my dear friend Mint Julep and one of Jeff’s oldest buddies. A whirlwind courtship ensued and now they live fairytale style with two beautiful daughters in a stately home atop a beautiful lawn overlooking the Tennessee River. What if one of their daughters grows up to be the scientist who discovers the cure to something impossible to cure? All because my romantic engineering!

My cousin Roscoe was on the TV show “Blind Date.” He’s a natural entertainer (should be a game show host) and his very presence soaks up the room. So, he played up his role on MTV with comic passion and flair. Roscoe from Tennessee and the strange girl from California enjoyed massages, wine tasting, and limo rides near Los Angeles. He admitted to me that he kind of liked the girl, but sensed the feeling wasn’t mutual. So, when the show’s host asked Roscoe, “Now that your blind date with [California Girl] is over, what do you have to say?”

Roscoe answered—like most young men would (as they are in constant fear of rejection, especially on national TV)—to the negative. But, in true Roscoe rare form, he knew this had to be “good TV” so he replied, “I think she should make like Michael Jackson and beat it.”

I love to poll my freshmen students. Yesterday, I instructed them, “I’m going to say a phrase. I want you to say the first words that come to mind when you hear the phrase. Ready? Blind date.”

Female students’ responses:
Not safe
Don’t find a date on Craig’s List.
Maybe if he went to band camp he’d be safe.
Be late and check him out from a distance. Then you can still make a run for it.
Hey! That’s how my parents met.

Male students’ responses:
Mysterious lover.
Only if I hear about her from a friend I trust.
Bad idea
What if she is Amish?
I went on a blind texting date. (Huh?)
Act like you are not yourself.
Yeah! You can change your accent with every sentence.
Yeah, be all city-folk then all country and say, “Dad gum!”
Be careful. You don’t want to get “catfished.”

Friends, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain with a great blind date! The course of humanity may be changed in an instant when a friend or coworker casually says, “I know the perfect guy/girl for you.” Slap on some lipstick/cologne and dream big, as in big romance, as in big love. Speaking of big love, that reminds me of a theory my neighbor friend “Fancy” and I share—
See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website:

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Theory 17: Funerals are better than weddings, for guests, especially in the South.

Disclaimer: Like you, I hate to say goodbye to people I love. Death may be natural but it is also tragic, unsettling, and sometimes so awful that the pain for those left behind is other-worldly in its scope. I know grief. We all know grief. This post is not meant to poke fun of death, dying, or grieving, so literal readers, please back off the keyboards until you read the whole article and forgive me as I figuratively walk down the aisle through the valley of the shadow of death.

Woody Allen is often quoted as saying, “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Amen, Woody. I was not afraid to get married. I just didn’t want to be there when it happened. I’m not a delicate flower of the south. I am feminine and I try to be ladylike, but I’m not into table-setting, flower-aranging, dish-shopping, or party-planning. Tall Child was raised in church, a country club, and private schools. He is a modern Southern Gentleman. After he proposed, I pleaded, “Let’s get married at the beach by ourselves on our honeymoon and come back and throw a big backyard barbeque blowout with a band.” (I like simplification and alliteration.) Tall Child retorted, “No way, Bug! This is your first wedding.”


What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?

I’ve suffered from anxiety issues since my father’s premature death (he was 44, I was 19) and I hate to be forced into formal situations. I don’t mind being the center of attention and I enjoy speaking in public, where I set the tone for my talking. But, weddings put so much pressure on the bride to be perfect and formal and skinny. I am none of those. Tall Child proposed on a Friday. I called the church on Monday and asked the preacher for his first open Saturday morning (cheaper, simpler, quicker) wedding slot. Check! I called my employer’s caterer and asked him to fax me his wedding menu. I circled what I wanted and faxed it back. Check! The next weekend, Delicious and I went to the mall to register for china. I chose inexpensive dishes from the backlit floor-to-ceiling shelves in the home department. I walked up to the registry clerk and said, “I need to complete a bridal registry.” She asked, “Do you have an appointment?” I said, “No ma’am. I don’t need one.” I gave her the names of the every day and formal patterns and asked her to “put me down” for 12 place settings of each and add white towels (any brand) so I could Clorox them clean. Check! My mother-in-law, the ultimate Southern hostess, asked me “Did you at least register for a coffee maker?” I said, “No ma’am, I don’t drink coffee.” I was madly in love with Tall Child. I was absolutely ready to be a wife, but I had no talent (or interest) in being a bride. The night before our wedding, I slept ZERO hours. After eight hours of nervous twitching, I took a shower, slapped on my grocery store make-up, and headed to the big city of Knoxville to get married. I made Delicious whip me through Burger King for some Cini Mini’s. At the church, I put on my lovely and wonderfully borrowed wedding dress, popped ½ a Klonopin from Delicious’s jeweled wedding handbag, and got myself hitched. Checkmate! Better yet: Check! Mate!

Here’s my take on how funerals are better than weddings, for the guests, particularly in the South, by category, particularly for my particular self. Categories are disturbingly parallel, aren’t they?

Weddings: Weddings plans can take a long time, depending on the wedding couple’s families, social status, connections, and wealth. All that time is a petri dish for rapid growth of stress cooties, cash cooties, and gossip cooties (all of which multiply exponentially). Oh, and a major “reconsider” and breakup. Think movies: The Notebook, Sweet Home Alabama, Runaway Bride …. Married ladies, don’t tell me it didn’t cross your mind.

Funerals: Well, there’s no time to break up with anyone. Funeral plans are last minute, quick, routine, and handled by the wedding planner, I mean, funeral director. The funeral directors I know pray with families. Wedding planners probably should.

Dress Code
Weddings: Etiquette dictates that we follow the dress code. Wedding dress code varies and can be quite confusing. What is “dressy casual”? Capris with chandelier earrings? Guest outfits for weddings are so dang confusing. And, for the bridal party, a major source of stress. Dying shoes – can you believe that still goes on? And, for some of us, bras are NOT optional. Brides fret and fantasize about wedding dresses. There’s so much drama around dress selection that a hit TV show was born – “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Look, we’ve all known a bridezilla but who has ever encountered a widowzilla?

Funerals: I’ve been to fancy memorial services and country graveside funerals. I can honestly say I never gave any thought to what folks wore, nor did I really notice. I’ve seen black suits and hats and I’ve seen overalls. Most importantly, I’ve seen a physical demonstration of respect.

Weddings: God forbid the chicken tenders with honey mustard get cold. There’s nothing worse than a dry cake. Brides and their mothers strategize over foods, placement, display, temperature, cost, quantity, presentation, and more regarding food. And, there’s the whole “don’t eat until the bride and groom do” conundrum. I am always amazed at how humans line up for food no matter what time of day it is. I don’t normally eat at 3:00 pm, but if I’m at a wedding or a funeral, I get so hungry!

Funerals: No offense to my catering friends, but the best buffet in the world can be found at a country church in the sticks. When my precious great aunt, known as Big Chick, passed away, we loaded up and headed to a Baptist Church in Georgia. The church is so old there are Confederate graves in the adjacent cemetery. Those church ladies put on a feast that I can still taste. Chicken casseroles, cornbread, fried corn, tomato salad, green beans soaked and simmered for hours in salt, butter, and bacon grease, strawberry cake and banana pudding, and on and on and on. What a comfort they and their food were to all of us. A groom’s cake in the shape of a deer rifle could never compare to that spread.

Uncle "Trout" sneaks a sliver.

Weddings: Are you kidding? “Save the Date” cards keep Weight Watchers in business.

Funerals: Who cares? See “Food” above.

Party Atmosphere
Weddings: I’ve enjoyed some hysterical late night shuttles back to hotels. Thanks, “Dot” and “Boone” and friends! But, boy, did I wake up with a headache from all that, um, cake! I’ve also seen bloody jaws, flying furniture, teetering groomsmen and some moving karaoke duets. Tall Child, that Tim McGraw-Faith Hill duet was one of our greatest accomplishments as a couple.

Funerals: Presence is more important than presents. Honor takes the place of debauchery. No hangover, well, usually, follows. I’ve not seen a physical fight around a funeral. In the South, when the grieving family and friends follow the hearse to the graveyard in a long, slow, sad caravan of caution lights and little white flags, other vehicles  pull over and stop. Completely. What respect. Also, the well-earned military salute, trumpeted “Taps,” and handing of a folded American flag to a widow always put country, faith, and family in perspective.

Post Party/Mortem Critique (What we hear/say) What? No, not me, uhhhhther people say this stuff. I just hear it.
Weddings: Oh, the ride home is the best part. As in, “What did ya’ll think about the food,” “Can you believe how his brother behaved,” “Were those bridesmaids dresses not the tackiest things you’ve ever seen,” and “That food was awful, ya’ll. Drive through the Krystal. There ain’t nothin’ worse than bein’ hung over in the morning with a baby to take care of.”

Funerals: We say and hear, “He was such a good man,” “What a beautiful service,” “She was one of those people that everybody liked,” and “We need to take them a casserole this week.” 

Faith: I’m keeping this one simple. And, gulp.
Weddings: Often glorify the couple.
Funerals: Honor the dead and their survivors, glorify God, and reaffirm faith.

Details are important to a perfect wedding.

I figure this post may stir up some controversy. That’s okay. Just remember, if I’ve perturbed you, ask an abstract thinker for help. My intention is to make you consider ordinary things in an unexpected way – like other people, which brings me to Theory 18: Blind dates are the best dates EVER!

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website:

Facebook: Theories: Size 12 (See each post, comment, share, and talk directly with others readers and me!) I'd LOVE to hear your theories!

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Theory 16: People erroneously think they can do other people’s jobs.

He never failed. I bumped down interstates for four seasons of SEC football with The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band. Every time we passed a pasture of grazing cows (which are numerous in the SEC), this goofy brass player would say, “Why, those cows are outstanding in their field.”  Animals don’t trip. Animals know their roles. People, we hope, are working in professions they enjoy. All jobs require training. There is a certain process that ensures more efficient ditch-digging, just as collegiate and graduate coursework, clinicals, and residencies prepare surgeons. But, for some odd reason, many people think they can do other people’s jobs.

Perhaps this is an American phenomenon. We pride ourselves on independence and individual success. We are critical of procedural accuracy (especially we teachers). Americans love accomplishment and value improvement.

Many folks, all having been students, think they understand the education industry. They think they can teach. I won’t elaborate too much, but teachers are scrutinized these days and commit to hundreds of hours of college, graduate, professional development, and in-service coursework. We spend a semester to a year as un-paid apprentices before we even start our careers. Please trust our expertise. We spend HOURS planning 30-minute lessons to maximize our students’ success. Tall Child, annoyed at my extensive time on our computer one day (he needed it for fantasy football), remarked, “Why do you spend so much time on lesson plans? You just do the chapter, do the questions at the end, and get on with it.” Not so, my dear.

My Uncle Trout, who played basketball and baseball for Auburn University and later coached high school basketball and baseball once noted, “You know, when I look up into the stands at a ballgame and see parents who are doctors and lawyers, I don’t think I can do their jobs. But, for some reason, they all think they can coach.”

During my childhood, Delicious and I frequented Food City in Pigeon Forge, TN. I loved to watch the grocery cashiers peck out numbers and decimals on the ten-key cash register with one hand while sliding my Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls and Delicious’s Lay’s Vinegar and Salt potato chips down the conveyor belt. For years, I wanted to swap places with the checker and try to match her speed and skill. Finally, self-checkout lanes came about and, at my own Food City in Knoxville, I got to test my secret longing. My first time with self-scan was exhilarating. I was able to grocery shop sans conversation. I scanned, beeped, bagged, scanned, beeped, bagged, scanned, beeped, UH-OH. I heard a robot woman from the computer say “Please see attendant.” DANG! I screwed up some produce; I didn’t know what kind of lettuce it was and couldn’t find the PLU code. I choked under the pressure. Guess who had to help me. The cashier! I don’t bother anymore. The cashiers deserve respect and customers. Plus, I always feel a little paranoid, like I look like I’m shoplifting.

Delicious says she could edit The New York Times. Like all grammarians and English teachers, she notices every flaw in another’s speech. Luckily, she only corrects me in private. Oops. I mean to say “She corrects me only in private.” Sorry, mama. TV broadcasters, be warned. Delicious will call your boss. She phoned ESPN headquarters in New York City when a football commentator repeatedly mispronounced Auburn’s “Jordan-Hare Stadium.” Folks, it’s pronounced “jur-den,” not “jawr-dan.” She has called Lamar Advertising (a billboard company), The Mountain Press newspaper in Sevierville, NewsTalk 98.7, and Wal-Mart (for the love of God and all humanity, please change those signs to “20 items or fewer”).

Tall Child once thought he was a lumberjack. He said he wanted to cut a tree down (I’m guessing it was at least 100 feet tall) in our back yard. I said, “Don’t you dare try to do that. Please hire a professional tree service!” He promised he wouldn’t. A couple of weeks later, Sharky and I returned from a visit to The Crippled Beagle Farm to see a Knoxville Utilities Board truck, a Knox County fire truck, and neighbors surrounding our backyard. It seemed Tall Child had ignored his lack of experience and my threat. As he and our neighbor cut a notch into the huge Tulip Poplar on the wrong side, it leaned precariously toward the road and the beautiful white house full of people across the road! They panicked (thankfully) and called 911 and KUB. The KUB trained tree experts saved the road, the power lines, the house across the street, and Tall Child’s rear end. Did I mention this all happened the Saturday morning of the UT at Florida Gators football game and that, had the tree fallen, 55 houses would have lost power?

Lowe’s, Home Depot, and the internet are an awesome combo. No offense, but those stores have helped women feel less helpless and more confident that we can take care of business. No more nagging and waiting, ladies. Just Google it, buy it, and follow the instructions. You’ll show him! I’ve accomplished light electrical work, minor plumbing, and lots of painting. I can “cut in” like a stud. But, I’ve learned the hard way when to call in professionals. I’ve avoided fires but entertained several floods. My biggest project was painting the basement ceiling. Tall Child’s head hit the ugly, commercial drop tiles in our 700 sq. foot basement den. So, I ripped out all the tiles, fluorescent lights, and metalwork to “raise the roof.” Bad move. I figured I’d just sweep out the dust and enjoy rustic, wood-clad headspace. Wrong. I forgot about plumbing and wires and exposed a big mess. My solution? Paint it all. I Googled, calculated, and took off to Lowe’s to rent a paint sprayer. The only woman in the check-out line, I felt a bit judged. A flannelled man caked in nicotine and gasoline asked me, “Honey, you sure you can handle that thing?” I nervously admitted, using one of Trout’s famous lines, “I may be runnin' a mule in the Kentucky Derby.” Determined, I hauled the 80 lb. sprayer and 5 gallons of white paint home. Just getting the machine in the house and down the stairs was an aerobic, cuss-fest. I’m not sure if I ran the machine or it ran me, but we gyrated all over that square den until I’d used every drop of paint. I had miscalculated. I ran out of paint. I hustled back to Lowe’s for more, looking like this:

Oh, and department stores, please ditch the “For Sale by Owner” signs. No one should sell his or her own house. It’s painful for all involved, especially the professionals forced to negotiate with amateurs. There is soooooooooo much more involved.

If someone is "outstanding in his field," let him operate free of your critique! You do your job; he’ll do his. I’ve learned my lessons. I let other people work for me. I figure we all need each other. I see it this way: a nice lady may scan my groceries on Saturday, a nice man may fix my plumbing on Monday, and I may teach their children someday. For the record, though, I’m really good at diagnosing certain medical conditions and I KNOW I could steer a plane out of the sky, if I had to, with the help of a sexy post-military air traffic controller who would meet me on the tarmac after the crisis ended, in a running leap, on camera with a grammatically proficient news reporter detailing my heroics.

Hey, we are all capable and we are all critics. Here in the South we are all wedding planners, which brings me to Theory 17: Funerals are better than weddings, for guests, especially in the South.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

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Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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