Tuesday, May 22, 2018


 This is right before I was thrown in the lake.  You can tell I hated this camp.
 Random summer photo.  I felt so beautiful with my jewelry and feathered hair pulled up on one side.
 Grandma and Grandpa Little's Backyard

My kids are getting ready for summer break and everyone keeps asking what they will do for the summer.  As a working parent the stress of finding childcare for an entire summer can be very daunting.  I am lucky this year that between parents, in-laws and camps my two younger kids will not have to fend for themselves.  Sorry Liam- you are 20.  You are on your own buddy. 

I don't know about everybody else but all my summers as a kid just run together until I was about 15. It isn't a bad thing, it is just hard to remember what happened in what year.  These are some of my favorite summer things that happened every year.

Cedar Point.  For those of you who have not been, you are missing the greatest roller coasters in the world.  I haven't been in many years.  I hope that the Antique Cars and the Blue Streak are still there.

Water Works- the community pool in Cuyahoga Falls.  It seemed so big to me as a kid.

Szalay's Corn.  The best corn ever.  We may have good tomatoes here in Northeast Tennessee, but nothing tastes like Szalay's corn.  We would go pick it up in Peninsula and bring it home.  Graham and I would sit on the porch and clean it so mom could boil it.  The cob holders had a special home in the little cabinet with drawers that hung on the wall in the kitchen.  I don't remember what else lived in that cabinet, but I am calling dibs on it Graham. 

Going to Grandma's.  I would go for a week every summer.  When I got a little older I would go to the Heisey Convention as well.  We would go to Jamie's Flea Market, go bowling, go to Aunt Sis's to swim and to the Old English Parlor for ice cream.  I would hang out with Ness.  We would eat popcorn at least 3 nights a week while watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

Graham going to Grandpa's.  This was heaven.  I had the whole house to myself and didn't have to share.

Camp- at first it was daycamp with CYO.  We would ride the bus from Immaculate Heart of Mary to Camp Christopher every day.  I learned most of my camp songs there.  (Ohhhhhh, they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue, and they said it was a ship that the water wouldn't go through.  It was on it's maiden trip, when the iceberg hit the ship.  It was sad when the great ship went down.  Oh it was sad, it was sad, it was sad when the great ship went down to the bottom of the, husbands and wives little children lost their lives, it was sad when the great ship went down).  Overnight camp was the best.  I went to Girls Camp at Stoney Glen, Camp Carl, and Beulah Beach.  More camp songs- Johnny Rubek's Sausage Machine, Up in the Air Junior Birdmen, Birds in the Wilderness.  The entire family would go to Boys Brigade Camp at Stoney Glen a few weeks after I went to girls camp by myself.  Dad was a counselor, Graham was a camper, Mom was the nurse and I was the poor pre-teen girl that had to spend a week at an all boys camp.  Rough Life huh.  I have two bad memories of camp.  The first is at the day camp at the YMCA.  It was horrible.  The kids were mean and all we did was swim.  The second is when I went to an Eastern Star camp one year that was just plain weird.  I am sure my memories are skewed, but I remember torches and people in white robes.  The only good thing to come out of that camp was the elbow on table song.  If you put your elbows on table they would sing -Meghan Meghan strong and able, get your elbows off the table.  This is not a horse's stable, this is a first class dining table.  Stand up, Stand Up, Won't shut up till you stand up.  - then when you stood up you had to skip around the room while they sang - Skip around the room, skip around the room.  I still sing this in my head sometimes. 

Just being a kid.  This is what I remember most.  Just playing in the neighborhood.  Kickball, Tag, Mudpies, Riding Bikes, and so on.  Entertaining ourselves.  Fighting with each other and working it out.  Climbing Trees.  Playing on the porch when it was raining.  Coming home when the streetlights came on. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Graham says there weren't Gypsies, but I am saying there were Gypsies.

We will get to the Gypsies later.  This story starts with my brother working at a BBQ restaurant on Volunteer Parkway in Bristol.  It wasn't open very long.  There is some pretty fierce competition on BBQ here and people get really loyal to what they like.  It is a hard market to break into.  Anyway, Graham was working there one summer.  Everyday he drove his little red Pontiac hatchback to work.  On this particular day he drove to work and threw his keys on a shelf in the back of the restaurant.  He was working minding his own business when he sees his car getting moved.  He freaks out, runs out of the restaurant, jumps on the hood of the car and starts yelling obscenities at the two kids in the car.  The kids freak out, jump out of the car, run into the woods and are never to be seen again.  After investigating it was found that one of Graham's female coworkers had hired these kids to steal the car.  She had taken the keys from the shelf while Graham was working.  She mysteriously disappeared as well and was never to be seen again.  

Now this is where the gypsies come in.  About this time it was well known that the Travelers were in the area and scamming people all over the place.  There were notices in the papers warning people about paying in advance to have your roof repaired or your driveway resurfaced.  I had heard that the girl that was responsible for stealing the keys was a Traveler.  Graham said she was not and I am crazy.  I think it would have been pretty hard for her to just disappear so I am going to say until he proves me wrong I will continue to say that my brother jumped on the hood of his car as it was being stolen by gypsies.  And you can't stop me Graham.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Draining of the Beast

It is 12:11 on March 14th, 2017. I have insomnia.   I suspect that 42 years ago my mother wasn't getting much sleep either. I do know that she was cooking date nut bars and ate most of the pan in a third trimester pregnancy craving.  I also know that she had to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital and that because there was a blizzard the cart went through a muddy spot on the way into the house and left a mark on the floor.  My 2 year old self would point this spot out until we moved.  I was probably suffering PTSD from the birth of my brother. I am really not over it.  So, in honor of my baby brother here is a Graham story.

I would like to preface this story with the fact that I was away at The University of Tennessee during this story, behaving like an angel, and had no part in it at all.  

My brother had some friends, two brothers.  I won't mention their names in case they want to stay unidentifed, but I ended up working with their dad and he has confirmed the details.  Anyway, these two boys' parents went out of town.  The parents left the boys home alone to watch the house so of course the boys and their friends planned a party.  They found somebody of age to buy them some beer.  They had it chilling in the fridge and were waiting for the evening to unfold.  Well, the parents got partway down the road and realized they had forgotten something so they turned around and upon arrival realized that the boys were up to something.  They opened the fridge and it was full of beer. Bom Bom Bom...Party over.  My dad gets a phone call and it goes something like this.  "Hello Greg, this is J*** B****r, could you come over here and get your son's beer". Bom Bom Bom. Graham's in trouble.  Dad went and got Graham and the beer.  When the got home he made Graham pour all the beer down the drain.  (Some may ask why Dad didn't drink it.   It was Milwaukee's Best Light.  You can't drink that if you are over 21.  You lose your adult card for sure.)  My dad told Graham he was grounded for two weeks minimum, but he couldn't be ungrounded until he told him who bought the beer.  Graham refused to give up his source.  After 6 weeks my Dad was begging for him to give in.  Nope.  Graham was taking it to his grave.  Eventually my dad couldn't take anymore and he let him free.  Way to protect your source dude!  

Happy Birthday Bro!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Barn

Dad and Caroline playing with the barn.  Dad is holding the Outhouse

When my dad and my uncle were children my grandfather built them a barn.  The barn was made of wood from orange crates. I think he ordered the pattern from a magazine.   My grandfather, never one to do anything half-assed not only made a barn, but several out-buildings, a stable, fences, and an outhouse (or as he called it, the shitter). He hand made the hinges.  It was painted red with white trim and a hunter green roof.  My brother and I played with it as children and when we grew older it was moved to the garage for storage.

One day, Graham and I ran across it while we were stuck with each other with nothing to do.  When Graham and I would fight our parents would punish us by saying we had to play together.  When we were really bad we got kicked out of the house until the streetlights came on and could only come in to go to the bathroom.  It must of have been one of those days when Graham was being particularly horrible to me because for some reason we were locked out of the house playing in the garage.  We came across the barn and decided that it looked like it needed an update.  It was probably about 30 years old at that time.  We thought we do something nice for Dad and we would paint his barn for him.  We found some paint.  The spray can said green.  Graham and I were not very artistic so to us green was green.  We took the can of bright lime green paint and tried to update the barn.  I am pretty sure neither of us had ever used spray paint before. As the paint started to drip down it was very apparent that we were going to be in really big trouble.  (I can't believe Graham would do something like that.  What was he thinking?)  As usual Graham wouldn't take all the blame so we both had to tell my dad what we have done.  I remember the look on my dad's face when he saw what we had done.  I know now as a parent how hard it is to look past what was done and instead look at the intention.  My dad knew our intentions were good.  We got in trouble for getting into the paint, but not for what we did.

Fast forward 25+ years.  It was probably August because my mom was asking us what the kids wanted for Christmas.  Of course the kids really didn't need anything, but for some reason the barn came to mind.  I asked my dad to clean up the barn for Owen.  It was the best Christmas present ever.  Owen loved it and played with it for years.  When Caroline was old enough we set up the barn for her too.  Now my nephews and nieces are playing with it at my in-laws house where it is staying for safe keeping.

Thank you Grandpa Little for lovingly making the barn.  Thank you Dad for cleaning up a mess that I made so many years ago.  But most of all, thank you Dad for showing me how important it is to not just look at what someone did but to look at the intent of what they did.  It really is the thought that counts.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I am going to be an adult soon

My First Work Picture from 1999

So I am coming up on my 18th year at my company.  I am thinking we need a party or something.  I mean it isn't everyday that a girl turns 18.  I have held several different positions at my company and I have seen many people come and go.  I even ran away from home for a few months only to return appreciating what I had.  I have so many great memories of my colleagues.  Everyone knows that you spend more time at work than you do with your family, so you either learn to get along with people or you are miserable.  I have had several different "work husbands" over the years and currently am in a polygamist relationship with several depending on the day and project.

Our company is very old school.  We work 8 to 5, in the office, no working from home.  Ties and jackets for the men and business dress for women.  We most definitely do not have a pool table, ping pong table or a dart board, but who says there is no Fun in Fiberglass. The people are what make work fun and we have definitely had some characters. Don't worry, I won't name names, but here are a few of my favorite memories in no particular order.
  • Apr├Ęs Sales Meeting Soirees on the Boat
  • Peach Moonshine (or at least the first part of that night, definitely not the next day)
  • Rocky Horror Ladies Night Out
  • All Ladies Night Outs
  • A certain custom products manager retirement roast.
  • Going to Appomattox with an Operations Manager who was like a grandpa on the way home from a site visit
  • Afternoon conversations with above Operations Manager
  • Putting somebody's face on a shirt since they didn't want it on a retirement cake
  • Walking into work and having the hall plastered with pictures of me doing Karaoke the night before- I think it was Family Tradition.
  • Coming back from a conference and my office being plastered with pictures of me pretending to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader
  • Relay for Life and learning to do the Electric Slide
  • My pitiful attempts at redneck photoshop- aka color printers, scissors and tape
  • Creating Jib Jabs of co workers
  • A certain estimator doing the Cupid Shuffle
  • Dale Carnegie
  • Sharing a dumpling
  • Saying something stupid when the Go To Meeting is asking for your name
  • Lunch room random conversations
  • Giving a book to a colleague who was leaving- a book written by someone who had the same name and was about a gay stripper- still makes me laugh thinking about the presentation
  • Trying to teach a co worker how to get his game on so he can get a date
  • Negotiating ice cream parties for big order days
  • Pageant for Relay for Life
  • Bartending in the NASCAR Race Suite
  • Posting pictures on FB of me with the new UT Football Coach and then having to take them down because he turned out to be a major %**&^$
  • Having Dinner with Pat Summit at Tribute to Women
  • After Work Cocktails ( I said AFTER work)
  • Parties
  • All the Babysitters that were coworkers kids
  • Pen Kidnapping
  • Ice Ice Baby
There are just too many to list really.  

I told the owner and Chairman of the Board that I moved out of my parents house to go to college when I was 17 so in a few short months he will have had the pleasure of being in charge of me longer than my father did.  He rolled his eyes and grumbled something about that must be why my dad has more hair than him.  (Don't anybody tell him but I have a tremendous amount of respect for JDT, but he would think I was mad at him if I didn't give him a hard time).

So in a few short months I will be 18.  My days of childhood and teenagerhood (is that a word?) are coming to an end. I guess that means I have to act like a grown up so I will try and be serious and professional at all times.  Anybody want to take bets on how long that will last?   And if anybody is interested my start date was March 1, 1999 if you want to plan the party. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We're off to see the Wizard

When I was a little girl The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie.  I used to wear red shoes that I called my Ruby Slippers and would say in my best witch voice "Take off those Ruby Slippers".  I am not sure why it was my favorite, but I think part of the reason is when I was kid, before VCR's and DVD's, the only way you could see the movie was when it came on Thanksgiving weekend on tv. We were usually at my grandparents for Thanksgiving and we would all gather in the family room with Grandpa's popcorn and watch the movie again.  Somewhere Over the Rainbow would come on the screen and I would dream of being Dorothy.  I would get so excited when the munchkins would appear and I would hide my eyes when the Wicked Witch would come to scare everyone.  I was so enthralled with the songs and the sets that I didn't realize until much later that the characters in Oz were the same as the ones in Kansas.  I know, I know, I am a little slow on uptake.

When I went to DC for the first time as a kid I couldn't wait to get through the monuments so we could go to the Smithsonian Museum of American History to see the Ruby Slippers.  I still go to see them.  Every. Single. Time.  Here I am the last time I went.

I was so excited when Liam auditioned for a part in Theatre Bristol's production when he was 11 years old.  He received the role of The Mayor of Munchkinland. I couldn't have been prouder.  He owned that part.

Seeing Wicked on Broadway was life changing. I had always loved the Wicked Witch of the West and knew there had to be more to the story.  (People always think the pretty girl with blond hair and the sugary sweet voice can do no wrong, but it is generally the dark haired girl who is kind of awkward and brash that you want on your side. Right?! )  I took Liam and Owen to see the traveling show a few years ago.  After the first song Owen proclaimed that it was the most amazing thing he had ever seen.  When we hear Defying Gravity in the car we all sing, very loud.  I make Defying Gravity my theme song when I need to make positive changes in my life.  (yes, I have different theme songs for different times in my life as well as a supporting soundtrack.  doesn't everyone?)

A few years ago we were able to go to The Autumn at Oz.  In Beech Mountain, NC there is an old amusement park that is a replica of the movie.  It is closed now, but once a year they have a festival where you can walk through the park on the yellow brick road and meet all the characters.  We met up my parents and rented a chalet for the weekend.  It was unseasonably cold, and by cold I mean crazy cold for North Carolina in October.  There was snow and crazy cold wind, but we bundled up and went to Oz.  I have to admit, it was magical.  For a short time we were there.  On our way to see the wizard.

So why do I love The Wizard of Oz so much?  Well, it is a musical, and musical's have singing and dancing and of course Jazz Hands.  But seriously, my memories of the movie aren't just the movie, they are family moments related to the story and it is such a great story with great lessons.  Black and White Kansas is really dull compared to Oz with all it's colorful characters on the other side of the rainbow. Those colorful characters deep down are more like the black and white characters then you think at first. You already have inside you what you think it is that you most want, you just need to find it.  In the words of Scarecrow- "Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don't they".  The great and powerful are really just people, just like us.  The Wizard says "A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others".  Dorothy learns that happiness doesn't come from a place, but comes from being with the ones you love. There is no place but home.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Camper

Some of the Cousins

My mom comes from a really big family. She was one of seven and her mom was one of seven  of McPhillips. I can't ever keep them all straight.  My mom had a ton of cousins. Real bonafide first cousins. Not third cousins twice removed or anything like that. 35 First cousins.  They all grew up in the same town and have always been very close. Several years ago they started the tradition of the family reunion. When my grandmother and her siblings were alive these were huge multi-day events. There were even t-shirts. Each of the families would take turns hosting and planning these reunions.  One year would be my grandmother's families turn, the next would be one of the sisters turns, and so on.  One year the family in charge found a really nice campground with an indoor pool, a great pavilion and even a tractor for hayrides.  My mom asked my brother and I to please come to the reunion that year.  Liam was about 3 and she knew there were several things planned for the kids that he would enjoy.   She also wanted to have all of us together which had not happened in a while.  I think she was also losing her mind a little because instead of staying in a hotel she decided that we would rent a camper that the campsite had for rent. She kept saying how nice she heard they were and then she told us it was only $35 a night. Really.  What kind of place goes for $35 a night. Now Graham was kind of used to living in some questionable apartments. I think we found that at least 3 of his apartments where he lived in college got condemned after he moved out. Me on the other hand, not so much.  I knew it was bad when I walked in and mom was spraying Lysol everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  The mattresses, the seats, the bathroom, everywhere.  We may die from asphyxiation, but we would definitely not catch the rotavirus.  Mom and Dad were taking the "bedroom". The mattress was visibly sunken in the middle.  This brought on visions of mom and dad laying on top of each other and I really didn't want to go there.  Graham was going to take the couch bed in the front of the camper.  Probably the best spot. Of course. Right. Liam and I were to share the table bed.  The bed that is made by turning the table upside down and putting cushions on it.  I am sure when the cushions were new this would have been delightful, but 20 years and God knows how many families splurging for the $35 a night camper later the cushions had lost whatever fluff they once had.

My mother was surprisingly optimistic about everything.  I think it was probably because she wasn't going to give dad the opportunity to gloat and say I told you so, but she kept saying how it wasn't that bad was it.  We weren't planning on spending that much time there right.

The reunion was fun.  Liam had a blast. By the end of the day he was covered in mud, food, hay, and sweat.  He was exhausted .  We threw him in the summer's excuse for a bath, the pool, and planned for him to pass out from exhaustion.  Didn't happen.  Parent's Worst Nightmare- The OverTired Child.  We were all trying to go to sleep.  I imagine mom and dad on top of each other in the sunken bed.  Graham trying to sleep but mosquitoes hanging out buzzing in his ears, me on the table bed with a kid that won't quit crying.  Graham finally lost it.  Jumped out of bed and yelled "Oh my God, this sucks so bad.  It is like we are the F*****g Griswolds".

Things eventually calmed down and I wouldn't say it was restful, but we were able to get some sleep. The next morning when we were all pretty sure we had all the family togetherness that we could take I hear Graham screaming from the bathroom.  " Oh my God, oh my God, come quick, it happened again". I rushed to him thinking he might be getting attacked by a giant cockroach (as if I would help ) and he is standing in front of the mirror.  He turns and says to me- " I got better looking than I was yesterday".  Yes, he has always been like that.

Graham and I headed back to our homes that day.  Mom and Dad were supposed to stay a few more nights at the camper.  She has never really admitted it, but we know she checked into a hotel for the rest of the trip.  Even penny pinching dad was happy to pay for it.