Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Good Thinking

Good Thinking
By Allison Adams 03-17-13 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 03-17-13

As we begin to age, I think it’s only natural to occasionally worry that our minds are beginning to go.

It’s a frightening thing when you realize that your elevator takes longer to get all the way up to the top floor, if you get my drift.

We all know that the mind is a tool that needs to be sharpened.

I, for one, take sharpening very seriously.

I faithfully work the crossword and I watch Jeopardy every day, except on Sunday.

In recent months some things have happened that make me think I may be over-doing it a little.

Let me explain…

The other day, a friend called and asked me if I’d had a chance to copy a recipe she’d and send it to her, like she had requested I do a week or so earlier.

“Well, of course I did!” I said, emphatically. 

I was dumbfounded that she hadn’t received it because I distinctly remembered doing it.  Distinctly.

“I emailed it to you”, I said to her. 

“I didn’t get it”, she insisted.

Naturally, I assumed it had just vanished into thin air, as electronic mail is sometimes prone to do.

But when I went digging through my “Messages Sent” file on my computer, I found no trace of it.

That’s when I knew that this was another instance where I distinctly remembered doing something – distinctly – and … I may have even started to do it, and got distracted, but in my mind since I started to do it I really did it, but in truth I didn’t really do it all. 

Clear as mud?

I sought counseling from my husband because his thinker is impeccable. 

(I know this because he tells me so.) 

Anyhoo, I clearly explained the whole sordid mess and he said …

“So, you forgot to do it.”

“No.  No.  I didn’t forget to do it.  I thought I did it.  But it turned out I didn’t really do it.”

“You just thought you did it.”

“Precisely.  In some cases I think about what I need to do and I get started doing something that may take, say, five or six steps from start to finish to complete – and I might make it through the second step, but then I’ll notice a pretty bird outside my window and that’s the end of that.”

“So you’re very easily distracted and you don’t finish your task.”

“But I feel like I’ve finished the task, because I thought it out – you know?”

“Are you saying you hallucinated?”

“I most certainly am not.  I’m saying that I visualized myself doing it – whatever the task was.”

“And your visualization was so real that you couldn’t distinguish between fantasy and reality?”

“Well when you put it that way it makes me sound like I hallucinated.”

“I think I just said that.”

“I prefer to describe myself as an overactive thinker.  I think I’ve been sharpening my tool a little too often.  I might need to lay off the crossword puzzles.”

“Oh, yeah.  That’ll help.”

“You know, I think that often I concentrate so hard on what I need to do that I put myself in that zone.  You know that zone?” 

“The Twilight Zone?”

“No – The Zone.  The zone where highly aware people like me go when we have the propensity to concentrate on something with great intensity.”

“Until you get distracted by a pretty little birdie outside your window.”


“Your mental phenomenon explains why I had to dig a clean undershirt out of the dryer again this morning.”

“I thought I folded that load of whites.”

“Is this why we got a late notice from the water company?”

“I thought I mailed that check.”

“Did you even write that check?”

“I thought about writing that check.”

“How do you explain the fact that after you let our magazine subscription lapse, we now receive two copies of Garden & Gun every month?”

“I overcorrected.  Obviously.”

“Are you going to write a column about this?”

“I think I will, but we won’t know for sure if I really did until the newspaper comes out on Tuesday.”

“Are you going to the grocery store soon?”

“In my mind, I’m already there.”

“I’ll go ahead and call for Chinese take-out.”

“Good thinking.”

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian
By Allison Adams 02-03-13 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 02-03-13

She was impatiently tapping her foot when I looked up at her and asked, “What do YOU think I should do?”

“Me? What do I think?” she asked.

“Yes. What would YOU do?” 

I used to be able to make snap decisions.  Never look back.  Remain confident with my choice. 
But I’ve lost my mojo.  

I yearn for a little validation.

I needed her counsel.  Her expertise.  After all, she dealt with this kind of thing all the time.

She responded with uncertainty. “Hmmmmm…”

I began to wonder if she was similarly afflicted.

“What’s your opinion of the meatloaf?” I asked.

“It’s very good”, she replied.

“Are you sure?” I quizzed.

“It’s very popular!” she said, reassuringly.

I could feel little beads of perspiration breaking out on my upper lip. 

I was under too much pressure.

“Why don’t you get the others’ orders and come back to me?”

“I have their orders,” she relied, “I’m just waiting on yours.” 

“We’re ALL waiting on you, dear”, mumbled my husband. 

He thinks I’m tedious.

I prefer to think of myself as Highly Indecisive. 

It’s a gift.

“How about the pork?” I probed.  “What do you think about the pork?”

“The roast, or the chop?” she asked.

“Chop?  Oh, my – I didn’t know there was a chop on the menu!”

She reached over the top of the menu, which was the size of a Rand McNally Road Atlas, and into which my nose was buried, and used the nib of her pencil to point to the 5”x7” color photo of the pork chop, garnished in full regalia upon a shiny platter, and centered on the page at which I’d been staring for the past 5 minutes.

“There it is”, she said as the tapped her pencil on the pork portrait.  “It’s a specialty here.”

“It looks delicious!”

She put her pencil to her pad and started to write.

“But I don’t think I’m that hungry”, I admitted.  “What about the shrimp?  How do you feel about the shrimp?” I looked right into her eyes and asked, “Would YOU order the shrimp if YOU were me?”

“You don’t have to marry the entrĂ©e, Allison”, explained my husband.  “You just have to push it around on your plate.”

These days I’ve made a habit of asking perfect strangers for advice about many of my personal selections.  
I recently ran every shopper out of the produce department at the grocery store when I started interviewing them about their opinion on the cantaloupe I was considering putting in my buggy.

“Pardon me.  How do you think this melon compares with that other one over there?”

I try to be polite – and honest.

“Excuse me.  My hearing is shot.  When I thump this melon, does it sound ripe to you?”

I guess if you see me out and I’m headed in your general direction with a melon in my hand (or a menu), you should trust your instinct and turn away and make like a ball bearing on a marble floor.

(I apologize in advance if you ever unfortunate enough to pull behind me in a fast food drive-thru.)

My dining partners were growing weak from hunger, and I could tell by the way she was impatiently tapping her pencil on her order pad that the waitress would appreciate it if I made my selection before her shift ended. 

I knew I needed to pick SOMETHING. 

As I studied the menu one last time, I began to wonder if maybe it was unreasonable for me to ask the waitress to help me decide between the pork roast, or the pork chop. 

Or the meatloaf. 
Or the shrimp. 

I mean – for all I knew, she could be a vegetarian.

“Maybe I’ll just have the dinner salad.” I said.

“Excellent choice!” she exclaimed.  Then she turned on her heels and disappeared into the kitchen before I had a chance to inquire about her opinion of the tanginess of the low-fat balsamic vinaigrette.

I knew she was a vegetarian.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mommy Dearest

Mommy Dearest
By Allison Adams 01-20-13 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 01-21-13

A while back I heard that Martha Stewart’s daughter had just written a “tell-all” book about growing up with the Queen of Perfect Homemaking and Entertainment as her mother.

I haven’t read the book but I imagine that Martha’s daughter hasn’t painted her mother in terribly attractive light. 

Don’t get me wrong – I admire the fact that Martha can somehow manage to fill 22 captivating minutes of television just by explaining the merit behind painting a thrift store furniture find a “milky, silky, color of white”, but I believe she might have been a little difficult as a mother.

I began to wonder what would happen if my kids ever decided to write a tell-all book about me – not that anyone would be interested in reading something that mundane.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d better go ahead and get a few things out in the open in order to take the sting out of the publisher’s press release.

It’s true – I was a yeller.

Oh, I tried to speak with a firm, inside, voice – but the truth is, I know there were some times that I spoke to my children with a firm, inside, voice that could be heard clear down the block. 

I yelled with love, from the bottom of my heart.

I’m also ashamed to admit that, to this day, a handful of my dearest friends refer to me as “The Warden”.  This stems from the time I made my toddler son stay inside on one of our most amazing snow days ever, because he bit one of his sisters – not once, but twice. 

I can still see his chubby cheeks pressed to the window watching everybody else take turns sledding down the glistening, snow-covered, street. 

That was a long day.

Let’s see, what else? 

Oh - I did not always dress in a freshly ironed, collared blouse, coordinating slacks, or skirt, and tasteful footwear to putter around the house like June Clever did. 

(That should probably read: I never, ever, dressed in a freshly ironed, collared blouse, etc., etc.)

My daily mom uniform consisted of anything I could pull over my head, paired with something with an elastic waist. 

If footwear was required it was usually soled in rubber. 

My son, the former biter, refers to this as my “bag lady ensemble”.

Also, it’s true that I have been known to serve leftovers 4 nights in a row without making any effort whatsoever to try and disguise night 2, 3, or 4 as anything other than a repeat of night 1.

I suppose I could have added a little sprig of parsley.  I regret that now.

And – while I generally frowned on it – I admit that I occasionally looked the other way if one of my daughters pull her favorite top out of the dirty clothes, spray it with water, and toss it in the dryer to fluff it up before she wore it to school.

Since I’ve mentioned school … on more than one occasion I neglected to return the signed-permission portion of the permission slip back to the teacher, but I almost always returned some portion of the permission slip back to the teacher.

I hope they remember to mention that part.

Oh, gosh – this really stings, but here goes:  Once I was the very last parent to arrive at school to pick-up my kids from a school dance that ended a full 30 minutes before I bothered to show up.

Actually, now that I think about it, since that only happened one time it’s hardly worth mentioning.

Instead, they’ll probably mention that I drove all the way home and started to prepare Sunday lunch before I realized that I’d left my son at church.

Because that happened three times.

I just hope they emphasize in the book that I left him behind at church, and not at the mall.

That ought to cover chapter 1.

I really should have garnished the leftovers with a sprig of parsley.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Gift

The Gift
By Allison Adams 06-09-12 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 06-10-12

The anticipation nearly had killed us, but finally the day came when our baby bird, Nate, returned to the nest after a long school year away from home. 

He wheeled his overloaded car into the driveway and honked the horn.  

Out he hopped with a face full of scruffy whiskers and dressed like he’d selected his clothes from the lost and found box.

He leaned over into the grass and spit out a wad of sunflower seed hulls before he turned to greet his daddy and me with open arms.

We fell into a big, fat, group hug, and stood like that for a couple of moments, cherishing the embrace.

Then we began unloading his essentials. 

First came the bicycle, which had been strapped to the back end of the car. 

“Be careful when you open the doors,” warned my son.  “I’ve got everything packed in there pretty tightly.”


Out came two heavy trunks, a few, full, Rubbermaid bins, a flat-screen TV wrapped in a beach towel, a folding chair, a trash can containing “important papers”, a duffle bag bursting at the seams, a mini microwave, boxes of books, more garbage bags filled with dirty clothes than I care to mention, and finally … a mounted deer head with an impressive rack.

I am not making this up.

“I didn’t know you were bringing home a friend or I would have set another place at the table.” I said.

“Isn’t he awesome?”

“Did you take a class in taxidermy this semester?” I asked.  “Why can’t you just take art like a normal kid, and bring home a misshapen clay bowl for me to put on the top shelf of my closet?”

“That’s Ted Danson,” said my son.

“The actor?” I asked.

“No.  The deer head.”

“Hello, Ted.” I said.

“Ted was a gift from my fraternity brother.  Don’t get too attached, mom.  He’s going back to school with me in the fall.”

“I’ll try to restrain myself,” I said. 

With that I retired to the laundry room to begin my ascent of Mt. Dirty Clothes.

I was on laundry load number eight or nine when I noticed something odd. 

“I haven’t washed any socks.  Where are all of your socks?” I asked.

“They’re inside my mini microwave.”

“Ah. Now I understand why your neckties were stuffed into your car’s cup holder.”

“I wanted to put them someplace they wouldn’t get ruined,” he explained.

“Of course.”  I said.  “One more thing – to whom do these clothes belong?”

“Is that a trick question?” he asked.

“These shorts.  These t-shirts.  Whose are they?” I pressed.

“I’m gonna go out on a limb here, and say - me.”

“I know your clothes, and some of these items are not yours.”

“I think you’re just a little miffed that I said you can’t keep Ted Danson.”

“I will assume these shorts belong to your roommate – along with this pair, and this t-shirt, and...”

“Those must have ended up on my side of the floor.  I have to admit that things got a little crazy toward the end of the semester, mom.  Which reminds me – if we get a bill from school for replacement ceiling tiles in our dorm – it wasn’t my fault.”

“I’ve yet to come across the t-shirts that you bought at the thrift store two years ago.” I said.

“The ones I had to buy back after you ‘accidentally’ donated them?” he asked.

“Yes, those.”

“I was traumatized by that whole incident.”

“It was an honest mistake.” I said. “Lets talk about this stack of t-shirts here. They are unfamiliar to me.  How did you come to own these?”

“You get a lot of t-shirts in college.”


“Take that yellow one,” he said,  “we got that one to wear to advertise the school event.  Then we got the blue one to wear on the day of the school event.  Then we got the white one to wear to celebrate the success of the school event.

“Good grief.” 

“Mom - how come you can’t remember things, like – my name – but you have every item of my wardrobe memorized?” he asked.

“It’s a gift, Ted.” I replied.

“No. It’s a curse.”

I stand corrected.

Working Nine-To-Five

Working Nine To Five
By Allison Adams 08-31-12 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 08-31-12

Watch out, people:  This white-haired spent hen is preparing to re-enter the full-time workforce.

(I am not making this up.)

So what if it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve held a nine to five job – I’m employable! 

I have a (marginally) good attitude, and list of (archaic) credentials.

Back in the day, you know, I was a pioneer woma … I mean, a career woman.

I was a junior management executive trainee.

I was also a Notary Public with an official seal and an official logbook.

I had a work wardrobe that included suntan pantyhose that came out of a plastic egg.  I wore them every stinkin’ day.  Even underneath my polyester pantsuit.

My name and official title was imprinted on a plastic plaque that was attached to my very own office cubicle.

Sometimes I carried (my lunch inside) a briefcase to work. 

The workaday world was very different back in the day.  Very different.

My fingers flew across the keys of an electric typewriter, long before technology gave birth to the word processor.

I kept a secret supply of fresh carbon paper in my file cabinet, and I confess that I coveted my neighbor’s new little bottle of smooth and creamy Wite-Out when the contents of my own little bottle became dry and clumpy. 

My “go-to” office equipment included a real dictionary, the telephone book, a folded paper area map, and a pencil sharpener.

I had a 10-key adding machine on my desk, and I knew how to use it.

I was also wiz on the mimeograph machine.

There was no email and no text messages. 

People whistled and hummed, but nobody tweeted.

The only people with cellular phones were the astronauts.

If I wanted to tell my co-workers something important, I either picked up a telephone that was tethered to the wall and called their extensions – or I sent an interoffice memo, which was typed on paper, placed in the interoffice mailbox, and picked-up by someone whose job it was to hand-sort and deliver, long after my important message had lost its urgency.

I didn’t have a laptop.

There was no such thing as the internet, for the love of Pete.

I thought microfiche was hi-tech, back in the day.

Now, I’m speaking honestly when I say that I’m looking forward to huddling around some old office water cooler with my future co-workers.

Whoever you are – please make room for the new (old) girl.

Oh, sure – I know I’m gonna have to make some adjustments in my life.

The last time I woke up early on purpose and got dressed in something other than yoga pants and a t-shirt before the second hour of the Today Show started was when I … um … was when I… um … give me a second …

Never mind. 

Of course, I have to actually find a job first, which is proving to be a little more difficult than I remembered it to have been … way back in the day.

Back in the day, people looked in the newspaper classifieds for job opportunities, which were plentiful. 

You filled out a paper job application and handed it to a real person, who would look it over, and then look you over, and then tell you that Mr. SoAndSo was ready to see you.

Shortly after the interview you knew whether you’d landed the job, or not.

These days I spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the websites, hoping that I might see a job posting for even just one position within a 25-mile radius of my front door, that suits my quote, qualifications, end quote.

If I find something promising (twice), I complete an awkward online job application with absolutely no hope that it’s really going to end up anywhere but cyberspace when I press the “send” button.

Am I alone?

Sadly, I am not.


Did I mention that I was once a Notary Public?

Bargain Hunter

Bargain Hunter
By Allison Adams 10-08-12 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 10-14-12

I recently found myself in the market for 3 director’s chairs. 

After performing an extensive online search, I discovered I could order the perfect director’s chairs for $40 a piece - $120 total.  

The price included the canvas seat and back pieces – any color of my choosing. 

Shipping was free if I ordered before the end of the month. 

They were perfect – but pricey – and I was on a budget.

Determined to find a better deal, I set out on a mission to hunt for a bargain.

Allow me to diagram the anatomy of an Adams Bargain:

(I’ll wait while you get out your calculator.)

I used about a quarter of a tank of gas (about $14) searching area used furniture and antique stores for bargain chairs.

My persistence paid off when I came across 3 very used director’s chairs complete with their canvas covers.  They were in rough shape, but I recognized their potential and was more than happy to shell out the asking price for the set: $35.  Score!

I hauled them home and spent time cleaning them up, but they still lacked luster. 

Every worthwhile endeavor deserves some research so I spent about 45 minutes on Pinterest studying the world’s DIY projects (and the latest in fashion finds) before it hit me that the solution to bringing my tired, old, chairs back to life was – duh – spray paint! 

I dashed off to Lowe’s to buy two cans of Moss Green spray paint at $3.68 each, plus tax.

I unloaded two cans of spray paint and only managed to cover almost all of one chair, and slightly less than half of another. 

I also covered more than three-quarters of 1 pair of knockoff UGGS house shoes that carry an unfortunate price tag of $35, plus tax. 

And there was some spray paint shrapnel on one leg of my yoga pants that I don’t wear for yoga ($29.95, plus tax).

Plus I ruined my manicure ($25).

I dashed back to Lowe’s for one more can of spray paint ($3.68, plus tax), and while I was there I impulsively bought a decorative window valance and a festive pumpkin – neither of which were necessities ($27.95, plus tax.)

I unloaded that new can of spray paint on the uncovered parts of two chairs and still didn’t have enough left to fully cover the third.

While the paint dried I realized the canvas seat and back covers that came with the tired chairs were badly soiled, but salvageable. 

It occurred to me that a soak in Rit dye in my preferred color – black – would bring them back to life.

I ran out to the store to get Rit dye, splurging on a bottle instead of the box ($3.28, plus tax).

I dyed the dickens out of the soiled canvas covers, but they didn’t turn out nearly as dark as I’d hoped they’d be. 

After I finished the dying process I read the directions on the back of the empty bottle and it turns out I was supposed to shake well before use.  

Oh, sure – now they tell me.  

I considered buying another bottle of dye, but I didn’t think I could survive another dye bath.  Literally.

Instead, I went to the fabric store and purchased black canvas duck, sturdy thread, and new sewing machine needles ($18.78, plus tax) so I could make my own covers.

After a lot of gnashing of teeth, the seat cover sewing project turned out perfectly. 

(Those of you playing along on your calculators should not be tempted to hit the total button just yet.)

Back to Lowe’s for another can of spray paint ($3.68, plus tax) to finish painting the last chair.

The can barely covered the chair, but it was probably due to the fact that it also covered some of my garage door, which was not in my original plan.

I think the garage door looks nice with a pop of color.

(Now you may hit the total button.)

In conclusion, after a lot of time, energy, and gnashing of teeth, I ended up with 3 nearly perfect director’s chairs for only $203.68 (plus tax) instead of paying $120 for already perfect ones.

That, my friends, is what you call an Adams Bargain.

(And I was lying about the festive pumpkin:  I absolutely needed it.)

The Empty Nester: The Do-Over

The Empty Nester:  The Do-Over
By Allison Adams 11-25-12 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 12-10-12

A decade and more ago I never rightly imagined what it would feel like to stand in the driveway and watch my baby drive away after an all too brief visit home.

On days like today I wander through the empty nest pausing occasionally to lean inside a doorframe and gaze into the distance … hoping to catch a glimpse of the past.

Eventually I reach for a place into which I can pour myself and quietly attempt to process what just happened. 

Wasn’t it just yesterday that Life was so very different?

On days like this I scold myself for taking so much for granted.

Tiny hands imbedded with cracker crumbs. 

Fat foot sans sock.  

Floor littered with Legos.

I regret that I didn’t cherish the days of diapers, binkies, matchbox cars, mud pies, baby dolls, and dress-ups – in real time – before they rolled away into the future.

On days like this I encourage the eyes and ears of my soul to go back in time and surrender to the essence of Those Days.

My eyes slam shut as if that will help slow the shuffling snapshots of chubby cheeks, droopy drawers, flyaway hair, smiles, pouts, and perpetual motion.

I shake my head in shame when I think of all the times I silently wished for them to grow up faster. 

Hurry up and learn how to feed yourself so I can get busy doing something else.

Hurry up and learn to be a little more careful so I don’t have to spend each second eyeballing your every move in order to keep curious you sliding Cheerios into the air conditioner vent, or toddling down the street on your own so you can try to capture the squirrel that skipped through our yard.

Hurry up and learn to walk so I can brag to others about your advanced development and also so I won’t have to be such a slave to my daily bucket of Pine sol and sponge mop.

Hurry up and learn to drive so I don’t have to spend hours each day on call as your chauffer.

Hurry up.

Slow down.

If I had it to do over again I would obliterate the first sign of a thought that begins with I can’t wait until you get older

I would, wouldn’t I?

I would respect the fact that time really races and I would beware that all too soon my babies would be terrible ‘tweeners and indifferent teenagers before they blossom into wonderful, vibrant, compassionate, comical, independent, young adults.

In a blink of my aging eyes.

I would be painfully aware that soon enough they would be spending less time in my care and more time under roof with a collection of teachers, or on a field with a team and a coach, or at a university miles away with a covey of friends I’ve never even met.

Soon enough, indeed.

I would try to bottle the smell of baby’s breath, and newly washed barely hair, and even the scent of tiny, sweaty, heads, and toddler toes, so I could open the bottle and get a whiff to revive my sad self on days like today.

Medicine for the Mourning Mommy.

On days like today I sit alone with my eyes closed so I can again scoop up my babe with both arms – a fuzzy head rests in the crux of my elbow and rosebud lips open widely to release a squeal of delight that was music to my ears.

Then, and now.

I am spinning around and around with my baby bundle clasped tightly in my arms!

For a split second, in slow motion.

Again, momma!

Just once more.

I sit quietly and search intently until I eventually find my young adult self in a dimly lit nursery, sitting in a bentwood rocker on a creaking cane seat, cradling a babe on my lap. 

I am nuzzling a head of down, singing – Golden Slumber Fills Your Eyes – and planting a tender kiss here and there, now and then.

Then, and now.

Smiles await you when you rise.

If I try very hard I might be able to revisit that moment in time when my baby birds were completely dependent upon me, and their doting daddy bird, for every single thing.

Nesting together.

Oh, that was Some Life!

I close my eyes, spread my mind’s wings, and fly there … on days like today.