THUMBS UP!!!

When I first started driving, Granny cautioned me NOT to pick up hitchhikers.  “You just never know,” she warned.  I disobeyed her, but only once.  That day, I was feeling pretty independent behind the wheel of my stick-shift, Chevy Nova, clunker when I saw a guy with his thumb out on the highway. 

No dummy me:  I checked him out top to bottom first, before I stopped.  He was clean, handsome in a rough sort of way and looked very fit.  Seemed harmless.  So, I pulled over.  He gave me a big, wide grin, and said, “Hey, Thanks for stopping.  I’m just going about two miles straight down.  I sure appreciate this.  It’s hot out here.”  Had manners, too. 

As he squeezed himself into the front seat I realized that he was MUCH bigger up close.  He was also staring at me, hard.  So, I did what I normally do when I’m nervous:  made conversation.  “Your boots are really cool,” I enthused.  “Thanks,” he smiled.  “Where’d you get them?” I continued.  “Um.  I made ’em actually,” he said.  “No way!” I blathered.  “Yeah.  It took me a long time to do this part,” he indicated, raising his jeans to show even more detailing higher up.  “I worked on ’em while I was in prison.  Actually, I just got out a few hours ago.” 

The oxygen suddenly went from the car.  ‘No wonder he’s so strong,’ I thought to myself, ‘It’s all those sit-ups in his cell.’  Fortunately, his stop was just ahead.   “Well, here you are,” I said in a breezy,  extra-loud voice, pulling over about five times faster to let him out than I had to pick him up.

That incident crossed my mind today when I picked up another hitchhiker; an elderly redhead.  She was standing umbrella-less in the pouring rain.  “Where are you going?” I yelled through the downpour.  But she didn’t pause to answer because she was already arranging her five foot self into my front seat.  As she snapped on the seat belt she turned to me and said, “Do you have any idea where Verizon is?” 

During our ride, I learned that she was 85, had a daughter,  moved here recently from New York and loved to read.   “I was just too impatient to wait for the bus today,” she confided as I pulled up to Verizon, “so thanks for picking me up!”   You’re welcome, Alma.  Anytime.

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” now available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Kissing-Tomatoes-ebook/dp/B007CMNJKW

YOU GO GIRL!!

It started harmlessly enough.  I was trudging in to Target when suddenly I heard the thump-thump beat of some pounding rap music.  Approaching slowly, was a well-used, Chevy with two teenage girls in front.  (It’s a good thing they had the windows rolled down or they might have gone deaf).  By the time we were eye to eye, even the pavement under my feet began to rumble.  So, I did what any other middle-aged woman would do:  I started to dance.

 Now back in the day, I actually had some moves.  Unfortunately, some of the parts on me that used to gyrate now merely grate.  This did not impede my enthusiasm in front of these grinning, gum-smacking, girls, however.  And they did what anyone else would do when confronted by such a spectacle:  they stopped their car and began to whoop and holler, “YOU GO GIRL!”  

So I did.  Now this is not the first time I have behaved in such a manner.  But it has been a long time since the last time.  At least three months, when I was having my teeth cleaned and suddenly Michael Jackson’s, “Beat It,” came on the surround sound.  Despite the fact I was flat on my back and the hygienist had both her hands in my mouth, I managed to move everything that wasn’t tied down.   

 Now ever since my kids were born I have tried very hard to keep this clearly genetic reaction to drums on the QT.  At school functions, I always sit in the back row just in case they play danceable music.   My teens do not understand my impulse to move when Phil Collins kicks it, “In The Air Tonight.”  I do not understand how they can possibly sit still when Santana’s, “Smooth” is grooving.

This morning in church, when my right foot started tapping out the beat, my youngest calmly placed her hand on my knee.  Good thing she didn’t see me at Target.  I worked it all the way through the crosswalk.  With those girls and now several onlookers egging me on, I even did a few turns and began to moonwalk backwards into what I thought were the ENTRANCE doors. 

This is probably a good place to stop.  Just sayin’ that the next time you see someone dragging their heels a bit–encourage them.  You might just end up with a parking lot full of strangers doubled over in laughter.

CARRY ON

She looks absolutely pitiful; a shadow of the fluffy pup who only yesterday sprung up to her window seat to watch the cars go by.  The vet sent Skylar home today after double knee surgery.  A stiff, plastic Edwardian collar keeps her from licking the long, red-stitched wounds open.  Her tail no longer arches up with its’ Pomeranian plume but droops like a worn out feather duster.  Carefully, as if I am holding a fragile, glass figure, I carry her to the grass to pee.  Her hind paws rest in my palm like tiny rabbit’s feet.    

The sight of her now would make anyone sad—but for this:  She leaves my side, walking on only her two front feet as if she has done this all her life!  She pauses, sighs, then wobbles forward another several yards with both her back legs lifted.  They seem held aloft by invisible strings!  While her gait has a slight back and forth wobble, she moves with a smoothness that amazes me. 

I think of the old saying, “When one door closes another one opens.”  It occurs to me, though, that the other door being open means absolutely nothing if one does not walk through it.  And I think of the many people I know in my life who stand in front of open doors and never even cross the threshold.  They just stand there, not lifting a foot, as if paralyzed.   Aren’t they curious what might be around the corner? 

When I was a teenager and moping around the house, Granny always encouraged me to go do something for others.  ‘I bet Mrs. Tway would love it if you’d offer to water her flowers.”  Her theory was:  If you take a real interest in others, you won’t have time to think about yourself.  It always worked.

It even works for dogs.  Skylar has spotted a butterfly.  She gives chase for only a few feet and collapses in the grass.  Her little, collared head turns in the direction of the butterfly until it disappears and then she looks at me.  Her eyes are sparkling.  I lift her up and hold her close.  She looks around sniffing with anticipation of what might be next.  And so do I . . .and so should we.      

**Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the years before and after her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.  http://www.helen-hudson.com 

CLEAN YOUR ROOM!

A friend came by to see our new house last week  Nothing really ‘new’ about this 50’s ranch but I welcomed the chance to show it off.  She marveled at the view from all the windows of the grand trees which surround us and we giggled at the constant creaking of the floors.

As she opened the door to my daughter’s room, my heart sank.  Clothes were heaped everywhere, dresses flung on the floor, dirty Kleenex, candy wrappers, a half-eaten apple, and an unmade bed.  Her bathroom, however, made the bedroom look like the Sistine chapel.   

Her room has looked like this for so long that I didn’t even cringe when my friend said, ‘Gosh, she’s as messy as my son!’  And while I have asked her to clean it hundreds of times, it still looks as if the person who lives there is careless and uncaring.

Now experts on the subject say that kids’ rooms are messy because they, “have too much” or because they are “exerting their independence.”  And while both points of view have value, my take is this:  Your room reflects who you are. 

As a teenager, my own room had a posters of Led Zepplin and the Doors on the walls.  An incense burner sat on my dresser, love beads hung from my desk lamp and my stuffed animals snuggled on the paisley bedspread.  Granny even let me tape peace symbols across the windows.  Those were my statements of independence. 

So truth is, I don’t really want my daughter to just ‘clean her room’.  I want her to value her clothes like her friends and not just dump them on the floor when she is through with them.  I want her to realize that not capping the toothpaste or nail polish is like hanging up on someone without saying, “Good-bye.”  I want her to understand that leaving gooey trash on a strand of pearls or a white, silk blouse, is like cussing in the middle of a Keats poem. 

When my daughter walks into this room of her own, I want her to own it as the full expression of who she IS.  So that anyone who crosses her threshold in the future will see her best self not the one on view at present.  Before I post this, though, better be sure that I made my bed this morning.  I have to lie in it.


GET A LIFE!!!

When my oldest first said these three words to me I really was speechless.  Then I laughed.  After I wiped the incredulous look off my face I just stared into her then 16 year-old eyes and said:  “I have one but unfortunately for you, you’re a BIG part of it.”  Now if you have teenagers and haven’t heard this yet—trust me—you will.  And, if you are a parent of ANY sort you know one thing for sure:  Your life hasn’t been YOURS since that first cry.

Some parents simply cannot handle the reality of that.  It’s just too all-consuming.  Casey Anthony comes to mind.  But most of us adapted piece by piece, year by year as our offspring grew.  Then one day we realized that even our simplest thoughts almost always include our children.

Teenagers aren’t cool with that.  They so desperately want to be free and on their own that sometimes just looking at them sends them into a frenzy.  This afternoon, while driving my youngest, I was warned, “Don’t talk to me!”  So, I didn’t point out the cool clouds that were stretching across the purple sky ahead of the oncoming storm or the funny, looking dog being walked by the funnier looking woman.  Just drove in silence.

 I remember being her age.  When my grandmother drove me places I even hunkered down in the seat if I saw anyone I knew.  Just couldn’t wait to be ON MY OWN.  It didn’t help that hers was always the slowest car on the road.  The worst thing, of course, was running into a friend when she was with me.  If it were a boy, I fairly died inside.

Somewhere along the line, though, I grew up and thanked her for all those rides.  Had lots of adventures.  Saw some of the world.   Graduated from college.  Had a career—then another career.  Fell in love.  Married.  You know the rest.

I have 40 years of memories BEFORE my kids were born.  Way I figure it, they have a LOT of catching up to do to REALLY get ‘A LIFE.’  Yup, (and it makes me smile just thinkin’ about it) I had a life.  Still do.  Only it isn’t just MINE anymore.

 http://www.helen-hudson.com 

THE TOP TEN REASONS MOTHERS NEED DOGS BEFORE KIDS

Only one person wished me Happy Mother’s Day this morning:  the dog.  (Granted, no one else was up yet, but isn’t that how it is?)  Actually, she greets me EVERY day as if I am the most wonderful creature on the planet.  My kids used to be like that.  They’re teenagers now.  So on this happy occasion let me share a few things this little mutt has taught me that I wish I had known BEFORE I gave birth. 

1.  “No” is very effective about the zillionth time you say it.  If you cave before that they just don’t get the point.

2.  If you don’t want them to do something, like chew the buttons off your blouse, whatever you do, DO NOT TRY TO GET THE BLOUSE!  Give them a nice, dirty sock instead.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a ripped blouse.

3.  If they want to play, play with them.  Otherwise they will hound you until you simply cannot do whatever it is that might be more important than playing with them at that exact moment. 

4.  When they get too wound up, pick them up and hold them.  They’ll calm down eventually.

5.  If they bark at strangers you aren’t sure of—let ‘em bark.  Otherwise, get yourself a nice, pair of earplugs cause they’re gonna bark. 

6.  If you have to give them a nasty-tasting pill, don’t tell them, “It’s yummy” and insist they eat it.  Play ‘Keep Away,”  and don’t let them have it.  When they finally get it they’ll pretend to like it even if they don’t.

7.  Don’t pick up after them.  That chewed up, muddy shoe is on their bed for a reason.

8.  They’ll eat when they’re hungry.  Just put the food out.

9.  If they suddenly bark at you or nip you on the leg for absolutely NO reason at all, don’t try to figure out why.  They don’t know either. 

10.  Leash them up at night or you never know WHERE they’ll end up in the morning.

When my grandmother was raising me, she had already owned a dog.  This stuff was second nature to her.  I had to learn the hard way.  So, to all you new mothers out there this morning:  before your little ones grow up, GET A DOG!!!

(Helen Hudson is the author of “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of caring for her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.  http://helen-hudson.com. )


JOIE DE JOIE

A few minutes ago, my seventeen year-old actually said these very words to me:  ACT YOUR AGE!!  (Yes, the very title of my last blog, which she apparently did NOT read).  She was horrified to discover that I have been taking  Zumba classes.  When I pressed her as to exactly what she meant by her statement, she had no (at least repeatable here) reply.

But I do.  So please drop whatever you are doing and click on the link below.  No word I  write can say as much as what you are about to see.

May your day hold at least a fraction of this joyfulness. Ordinarily, I would give you my personal permission to punch the next person who tells your to ‘act your age.’  Instead, however, I will simply say, “Keep up the Good Work!!”  (Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes.”)

FACE OR FACADE?

        In the last four days, I drove my daughter through four different states to look at eight separate colleges.  Since she had already seen schools on the west coast, the middle of the country and several “safety schools,” it was time to complete the picture.  We saw mostly those private institutions used as magical backdrops for movies like, “Love Story,” and “Mona Lisa Smile.”  You know, the ones with vast, green lawns, ivy climbing up the brick walls, and scullers rowing through the pristine lakes; the ones to which many apply but few are chosen.

        Frankly, the experience made me want to go back to college myself.  It’s amazing what you miss the first time around.  But this is her time not mine.  And while she may have been assessing the ‘cute boy factor’ as I marveled at the landscape, what we both noticed most were not the buildings, private art collections, dormitory food or even course selections—it was the people. 

        So it did not surprise me afterwards when she told me what her favorite had been.  It was the one where the cop motioned us to Admissions with a big smile after we got lost; the one where we were offered a steaming cup of orange spice tea as we waited for the tour; and the one where every student we passed was happy to stop and talk to us about their experience.  It was the one, of course, where I hope she will apply and be accepted.

        But life being what it is, she may well end up at a school she has not even seen yet.  Truth is, that’s okay, too.  Because wherever she lands, I am counting on the fact that she will be that friendly face others want to be around, too.

        When I was 12, my grandmother gave me a Brownie camera when I went to New York City for the first time.  I took hundreds of pictures of skyscrapers, bridges, and traffic.  Upon my return, I proudly showed her my efforts.  She flipped through the black and white snapshots, paused, and then handed them back to me.  “Darling,” she said kindly, “the next time you take a picture, always be certain there are people in it.  Those will be the ones that mean the most to you when you are older.”   Some things are just so true they are truth itself.  (Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the years before and after her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.  http://www.helen-hudson.com.      

       

 

         

MAKE OLD FRIENDS, BUT KEEP THE NEW

     In my impetuous youth, I took up skydiving, briefly.  Yes, there was a boyfriend involved, but ultimately I felt it might help cure my fear of heights.  Instead, it exacerbated them.  The real life lesson that remained though, was knowing that I was responsible for my actions.  No one else was going to pull that ripcord for me.

     My teenagers inhabit a world where self-mastery is an option not necessarily a goal.  Their role models are in and out of rehab.  They communicate more by text and screen than they do eye to eye.  They don’t labor over a handwritten, “Thank You”, but dash an email instead.  Their impulses and curiosities can be met so instantly that they have never needed to develop real patience or deep observation.  Why bother?  Someone else, somewhere, has already done it for them.  Just click for the answer.

     Here are some things teenagers have said to me in just the last year.  “Why make myself exercise when I can hire a personal trainer?  Besides, if I ever get fat, I’ll just get liposuction.”  “My lips are too thin so my mom’s taking me for collagen injections.”  “College is a complete waste of time.  My dad says I can just work in his company.” 

     Not only do they relish this world of ‘instant fixes,’ there are also multiple ways for them to ‘fix’ problems if things don’t go their way.  They can sue their parents, their teachers, the cops or even the local McDonald’s.  They may think the world is at their command, but it’s a mere illusion, as elusive and meaningless as the number of ‘friends’ on their Facebook page.

     What will really save them?  The old people.  You know, the bent over, wrinkled ones that we’re all so busy avoiding or scrambling over; the ones who pay their own bills, fought in the wars, wouldn’t dream of suing someone for a mere cockroach in their soup.  Those white-haired, slow-moving, storehouses of knowledge, experience and wisdom.  That’s who. 

    If I was a teenager today and didn’t have a grandparent handy, I’d start up a conversation with the next old person I see.  They’ll be the best lifesaver you’ve ever grabbed on to.  Take it from me.  (Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the years before and after her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.)   http://www.helen-hudson.com