Driving Lessons

It sounded like a good idea at the time.

I had read an article about these super-cool magnetic bumper stickers, CAUTION NEW DRIVER, and thought to myself. What a brilliant idea! Whenever I'm having my newly permitted child practice driving skills, I'll just slap it onto the back of the ol' van. Then all the other kindly drivers will be instantaneously aware and think to themselves, "Oh, look. How sweet, a new driver. I'll give him a nice, wide berth so he has plenty of room as he learns this new skill of driving."

I should have known better.

I was totally appalled. People spotted that sticker and raced as fast as they could to get around my poor kid: cutting in front of him as he slowed to a stop at red lights; illegally shooting past on the shoulder as he waited to make unprotected left-hand turns. Instead of patiently making allowances for him, as I'd thought they would, it was more like other drivers were in this frantic frenzy to get away from him before (Heaven forbid!) they were trapped behind him while he drove the speed limit or came to a complete stop before the white line.

One time, I forgot to take the thing off while I was driving around, and some dude passed me as I was accelerating on the entrance ramp to the highway!

Thinking back now, I didn't take it seriously enough when my son told me stories about driving lessons in the official student driver car. You know, the one with the BIG "Student Driver" sign stuck on top? He told me he and his fellow trainees had been cut off, shouted at and one older gentleman (cough!) had even honked at him while he was negotiating his way into a parking space.

Seriously, what is wrong with people? Are we really in such a rush we have no patience for newbies? And honestly, he's not that bad. (Thankfully, he doesn't read my blog and won't get a swelled head, but he's truly a focused, safe driver without being unusually slow or anything.)

Well, with all this being said, I still remain a hopeful optimist. I hope these were just a few unusually crabby folks we encountered. I hope that other drivers will exhibit patience and kindness during those times when they may least feel like it. And most of all, I hope people remember what it was like to be on the road for the first time: scary, nerve wracking, requiring full concentration. And the kid who's driving doesn't have it all that easy either. (Ha, ha!)

So, how about you? How do you handle situations when you encounter a new driver on the road?

Quote of the Week

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader- not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon."
~ E.L. Doctorow ~

Image by: John Morgan

Llama Mama Getaway

I had my annual Llama Mama Getaway a couple of weekends ago and as always it was AWESOME! My friends and I call ourselves the Llama Mamas in honor of our very first girlfriend getaway weekend which was held at a combo Bed & Breakfast/Llama Farm.

When my friend, Cheryl, initially suggested this "weekend away" idea seven years ago, I didn't think it sounded like such a great idea. I thought it would be weird & even a bit selfish to go on a vacation by myself without my hubs and the kids.

But let me tell you, I'm SO over that! If you've never experienced the joy of a girls' (or boys') weekend away, I strongly urge you to remedy that situation immediately! It's hard to describe, in a short blog, the innumerable benefits my friends and I get from taking this break every year.

Because there are 12 of us, we select B & B's that give us free reign over the entire house plus room to spread out any craft supplies members of our group may have. Aside from the obvious bonus of getting to spend endless hours hanging out with some of my closest friends, it's just so incredibly relaxing. And we talk. I'm sure I don't need to tell you women can talk. Women need to talk. We get to finish entire uninterrupted conversations which cover the gamut from the serious to the silly. We get to spend all day in our jammies if we want. We answer to nobody (no kids, no hubbies, no bosses, no pets). We stay up late, sleep in and take naps whenever we want. We eat copious amounts of chocolate, dance, sing, play games and laugh until our stomachs hurt.

Sometimes we watch movies, sometimes we don't. This time we had a triple-feature-chick-flick fest with The Proposal, 27 Dresses and The Wedding Date then proceeded to vote on which hot, young male chivalrous lead actor we'd most like to have dinner with as a future son-in-law. My hubs, after hearing my funny stories and witnessing my incredibly uplifted spirits which usually last for weeks after I return, started his own Brothers' Getaway Weekend.

Taking breaks are important anyway, but these Llama Mama Getaways offer such a wonderful female bonding experience, more so than sharing an occasional lunch or evening out could ever provide. And we always return home refreshed and grateful for the time we've gotten to laugh and love and cherish our friendship. Alas, it's over for this year. But there's always next year to look forward to.

So how about you? Do you have any traditions of female (or male) bonding you look forward to every year?

Image by quinet

Quote of the Week

"If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day,
so I never have to live without you."

~ Winnie the Pooh ~

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Image by: Nattu

Welcome to Suburbia: As the Neighbors Turn (Episode 2)

If you missed "Welcome to Suburbia: As the Neighbors Turn (Episode 1)" click here.

For the rest of you, if you recall, I left off in my story with the hand model who had just moved in behind us.

Well, I noticed whenever my hubs was outside working in the yard with the kids, the hand model would always come up to the fence for a chat or bearing an invitation to a pool party she was hosting. However, whenever I happened to be outside, she was always mysteriously absent. I wasn't worried, though. I may be five-feet tall, but I knew I could take her. (Biceps are flexing now as I write.)

Actually, things remained relatively peaceful on that front. Then in the late fall, we noticed some new activity going on in the vacant house next door. We learned a woman and her twenty-something daughter were moving in. We didn't see much of our new neighbors, as we had the other families who'd lived there before them. They were rarely outside. Winter passed, then spring. Finally, we were in the heat of the summer.

One afternoon, as my husband stood looking out our family room window at their house he said, "Have you ever noticed our new neighbors keep the windows and curtains shut all the time?"

I looked over curiously. Sure enough it was buttoned up tight. "What's so weird about that?"

"That house doesn’t have any air conditioning."


"Hmm..." He was frowning now. "I'm calling the police."

"What for?"

"Because something weird is going on over there."

"What, just because the windows are shut all the time?"

"Not just that. Haven't you noticed how different cars keep pulling up and parking at the side of the house? It's always men who get out and they never go to the front door. They always knock at the garage side entrance. They go in. Stay for a short time, and then they leave."

I looked at him blankly for a moment, then his point finally dawned on me. "No WAY!"

He nodded grimly, picking up the phone. He followed up that call with a call to the "real" owner, just to let him know what we suspected.

"What did he say?" I asked after he hung up.

"He told me he'd been having trouble getting the rent from them. And guess what their stated professions are on their application?"



"Get outta here!"

"I'm serious!" he started laughing.

"This isn't funny! Are you telling me we are living next door to a BROTHEL?! For cryin' out loud we live in the suburbs!"

A hand model I can deal with, but a brothel? No way. I immediately started praying that these people would be removed, like NOW. Thank goodness, a few months later my prayers were answered and the brothel was evicted, with our two children none the wiser, fortunately. A little while after that, the hand model moved on as well.

The houses both stood vacant for a time. But a few weeks ago, I watched moving trucks arriving, bringing in two sets of new neighbors. A single dad next door and a family of six in the inground pool house. Well, that sounds pretty normal, right? Right?! (Sigh) Here's hopin'.

Image by: SearchNetMedia

Quote of the Week

"What I like in a good author isn't what he says,
but what he whispers."

~ Logan Pearsall Smith ~

Image by: lepiaf.geo

Welcome to Suburbia: As the Neighbors Turn (Episode 1)

Over the past seven years, we've had a lot of new neighbors. This isn't so unusual when you consider that three homes beside us are rental homes. The homeowners moved and were unable to sell, so they went the rental route instead.

At first, it wasn't any big deal. We had a lovely family from Germany who enjoyed hanging their clothing outside to dry. Very European. They were followed by a delightful older couple from Ohio who shared their delicious chocolate-covered peanut-butter Buckeye confections with us on occasion. It was all warm and friendly for several years. Little did we know we were experiencing the calm before the storm.

We had some not-so-nice neighbors move in after that; my hubby and I breathed resounding sighs of relief when they finally moved out.

The house next door stood vacant for a time, but the next house over got their first renter. This home's backyard also butts up against ours and features a beautiful inground swimming pool. We discovered our new neighbor was to be a single, 26-year-old model.

I arched a brow at my hubs and made the "I'm watching you" finger sign in response to his goofily grinning face.

Now, let me preface what I'm about to say by explaining that I'm not normally a nosy neighbor. Truly! But come on! A model? Really? I was curious to know how a single, 26-year-old model could afford the rent on a fairly decent-sized home in the suburbs. I figured she had to be pretty phenomenal.

Our kitchen window just happens to overlook my neighbor's backyard and pool. So naturally, while working in the kitchen one afternoon, I couldn't help but notice the model wearing a little hot-pink number and prancing around the edge of the pool as she gabbed animatedly on her cell phone.

I squinted through the glass, but couldn't really get a good look. I required some additional magnification. Dragging out my hubby's binoculars, I tried zooming in on her. But everything was just a big blur. As I fiddled with the dials, my son (13-yrs. old at the time) happened to enter the kitchen.

"Watcha doing, mom?"

"Can you help me focus these binoculars?" I asked handing them to him.

He took them and aimed out the window, expertly turning the focusing dial. "It's not hard mom, you just have to—" At that instant, the model looked directly at him, then flailed her arms in an exaggerated "What the heck!" motion.

My son's face turned beet red and his eyes bugged out. He threw the binoculars at me like they'd burned him. "Mooooom! What are you thinking? I'm a 13-year-old boy! Great! This is just great," he grumbled as he stomped from the room.

"Thanks," I said feeling a tad bit guilty. For about a second. Then I stepped back into the shadows and whipped the lenses up for a better look.

Hmm…maybe she's a hand model, I thought.

Meanwhile there was some new action going on next door...

(Stay tuned for next week's episode of Welcome to Suburbia: As the Neighbors Turn)

Image by: Heather Elias

Quote of the Week

"I'm a better mother because I have my writing and I'm a better writer because of the experiences of motherhood that have shaped me."

~ Jodi Picoult, novelist ~