My Day in Traffic Court

4Feb2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

It was a hurry-scurry morning when I was running late last December.

Flying from food co-op pickup to volunteer at my little boy’s school wasn’t a good time to discover the railroad tracks were being replaced at the single crossing I was familiar with there in the booming metropolis of “Podunkville”, Georgia.

Dismayed, I followed the road beside the tracks, hoping to find another crossing. I drove a couple of miles with nary a break in sight. So, I turned around to look for one in the other direction.

I know I shouldn’t have been speeding. But…my son is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and he does not do well when plans are changed. Or even when people are late. If you say you’re going to be at his school at 10:30, you can bet he is watching the clock, and at 10:31, he will be fighting back tears if you haven’t yet appeared.

So, yeah, I got a little antsy, and yeah, I was going 29 miles above the speed limit when I saw the cop.

I wasn’t able to slow down fast enough. A lump grew in my throat as I saw the blue lights flashing behind me.

“Great! Just great! Exactly what I don’t have time for this morning!”

Gravel crunched beneath my tired, old minivan as I pulled over into a bait shack parking lot.

In my rear-view mirror, I saw that the officer was a woman, close to my mother’s age. I thought, “Hey, cool. Probably a mother and grandmother. She will understand my plight.”

Nah. She didn’t care. She mentioned that she just had her radar calibrated and wondered if I knew I was speeding. I couldn’t lie. I admitted my guilt.

She handed me the ticket with little fanfare. “You can pay this online before February 3rd, or appear in court then. Have a nice day.”

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Yeah, you, too, “Barnette Fife” I thought, as I drove off–slowly–with tears stinging my eyes.

I was going to just cough up the $129 (ouch) and pay the fine online, but friends told me that if I went to court, I could possibly get a reduced fine or even have it dismissed. So I decided it was worth the gamble. After all, I hadn’t had a ticket of any kind in almost 30 years, and I was going from one community outreach-type activity to serve in my autistic child’s classroom, blocked only by their city replacing railroad tracks. It was as good an excuse for speeding as I’d ever heard.

It should’ve been a sign of things to come when I woke up to torrential rain yesterday morning.

The drive to Podunkville usually takes 40 minutes or less. I left an hour early to allow for the weather, but I barely made it in time. With just three minutes to spare, I popped up my umbrella and splashed across that puddled parking lot as fast as my chunky legs would carry me.

I joined about 30 other “hardened criminals” inside, which was considerably more than I expected to see in such a tiny town. There were quite a few colorful characters in the mix and we all bore varying resemblance to drowned rats. We covered pretty much every demographic: white, black, Hispanic, young, old, middle-aged, rich and poor. We had to sit for a long time as the deputies and other court workers slowly trickled in and attended to various tasks.

I always amuse myself with people-watching in these situations. I like to imagine people’s stories, why they are there. A young guy limped up the aisle and fell into a chair a few rows ahead of me. His pale head glistened bald, elaborate tattoos encircled his neck, and he clutched his ribs, wincing in pain every time he moved. (Motorcycle accident? Bar fight? Wife met mistress, and they both beat him up?)

Three college-aged girls beside me kept me entertained with their whispered conversation about food, with one stating that she “Ain’t never seen no salt on the outside of a taco shell” and her friend confessing, “Well, them blue ones are good, but I really ain’t no tortilla chip expert.”

Finally, the clerk began calling roll. I was hoping there would be an Adams, an Aiken, an Allen, or an Anderson on the roster, so I wouldn’t have to go first. Alas, I was the only “A”. But there was a girl whose first name was–no joke–Ninja, and a man with the last name of Outlaw. Which sounded like a great beginning to a joke: A ninja and an outlaw walked into the courtroom…

Seriously, y’all. You really can’t make this stuff up.

We were finally asked to rise as the judge, a hunched-over man of at least 80, entered the courtroom with nary a smile. I wished again for that Allen or Aiken to magically appear, so I could watch how the judge interacted with the other defendants. But, no such luck. The curse of the “A” name meant I went first.

I approached the bench with a smile. The clerk read my offense, the judge asked for my plea. I said, “Guilty” and quickly rewound the tape in my mind so I could tell him the Reader’s Digest version of the circumstances that led me to speed that day. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a habitual offender.

But I never got a chance to say another word.

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“I accept your plea. Your fine is $129. If you can’t pay it all today, you can have up to 120 days but doing so means accepting 12 months of probation and a monthly monitoring fee. Exit with the deputy who will escort you to the payment window.” And the clerk called another name as the deputy (ironically, the same woman who ticketed me) opened the door beside the desk and motioned me through.

And that was that.

I guess in retrospect, I should’ve at least asked to plead my case, but he didn’t give pause for that. He didn’t look like the kind of man who cared much about excuses anyway, probably because he’s heard them all before.

So, Barnette Fife and I opened our soggy umbrellas and sloshed across the street to pay my fine.

(Yes, in Podunkville, the court is too small to house the payment office, so it’s conveniently located in an entirely different building. On another street.)

I forked over my card, and the too-happy clerk behind the bulletproof glass added a $6 credit card “convenience fee” and cheerily thanked me for my contribution to the betterment of Podunkville.

You know, I’m usually really nice to cashiers and others in service positions, but as I wrestled to reopen my dripping umbrella, I just couldn’t bring myself to respond with my usual, “You’re welcome.”

“Have a good one,” I heavily sighed, as I marched across the foyer, my soaked shoes quacking like ducks against the slippery tile. It was a long swim–I mean, walk–back to my car. I swear rivers had grown across that lot while I was having my fun in court.

Driving home, with my damp blouse clinging to goosebumped skin, I could feel my wet toes shriveling up like raisins. And you better believe that I cursed myself thoroughly for not just paying the stupid ticket online.

 

Beauty and the Beast at The Fabulous Fox

3Feb2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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“Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the beast!”

I can’t stop singing that song tonight! My sweet daughter and I got to see Beauty and the Beast on Tour tonight and it was just so, so good.

I mistakenly thought the show started at 7:00, but it was actually 7:30. So, arriving early, we wasted time trying to get the perfect selfie. This was about the best this Mama-Beast and her little Beauty could come up with:

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Anyway, there is much to appreciate about the story of Beauty and the Beast. From the age-old lesson of not judging people by appearance alone, to the wonderful escape that exists within the covers of a book, I resonate with Belle. And though the original Disney movie is quite good, nothing compares to the extravagance of experiencing a live theater performance.

It’s hard to choose a favorite scene, but if I had to settle on one, it would have to be the mug-clinking dance. It’s just brilliant!

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And how can you not love arrogant, pompous, hilarious Gaston? This Broadway version of the character is much funnier than the one in the film.

Speaking of humor, I saw Beauty and the Beast on Broadway a couple of years ago, and I don’t remember the Beast being as funny as he was in this show. He truly cracked me up with his temper tantrums and clear need of anger management counseling.

There was also a great chemistry between Lumiere, the servant-turned-candlestick and Cogsworth, the butler-turned-clock. All of the enchanted characters and the ensemble gave excellent performances.

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Of course, with it being Disney–and Broadway–the costumes and sets were also stunningly beautiful.

After you see it, you’ll understand why this show has delighted over 35 million people worldwide. It runs nightly through February 7, at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta. Tickets are still available for these performances, as well as for afternoon matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

And in case you were wondering, it’s totally suitable for children of all ages. (Clearly, even 40-something kids like me!)

Blessed are the Peacemakers

4Jan2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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A typical middle child, I fell into the role of peacemaker quite naturally.

Until recently, that is.

I haven’t felt a lot of peace lately. To be honest, I haven’t really sought peace, either. We just came out of the season of “peace on earth, good will to men” and mine was more like “strife on earth, one-up your fellow man”.

Politics has played a big part in that. I just can’t resist chiming in on social media when I see something that strikes me as fundamentally wrong. (Eh, it’s not that I can’t resist. I just haven’t wanted to.)

But now I’m stepping back, and it’s because of something my pastor said yesterday. I’m not quoting him exactly, but the message that I walked away with is that I need to be creating peace in my life, in the lives of others. That in a world full of turmoil, peace is one fruit that enables people to see Christ’s character in the earth today.

He also said that sometimes, the best way to create peace is to keep our mouths shut.

MAN, this is hard for me. I’m quick-witted, sarcastic. I love debating politics, and having spent years of my life on each side of the aisle, I feel I have a lot of perspective to offer those who might be hard-lined to believe only one way or the other.

But if I look at the fruit of what my commentaries have created, it’s not pretty. It’s a lot of arguing and strife. It’s people walking away feeling angry and attacked. It’s me and them sitting there, thinking, “Wow, I had no idea they felt like that!” and then wondering how we could be friends if we are such polar opposites on divisive issues. It’s veiled comments that leave people feeling less-than, with each individual feeling like the other person thinks they’re stupid.

At the bottom of all of that, is what? Pride. It’s me wanting to be right. It’s me wanting the last word. It’s both of us struggling to convert someone who has no desire of conversion.

It certainly isn’t rooted in peace. It’s actually the opposite of the dictionary’s definition of peace: “Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility; freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.”

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Honestly, I don’t know how to make it through an election¬† year without sharing a hundred news articles, jokes and memes, and freely commenting on the candidates.

But I have longed for peace lately. I mean, physically ached for more of it in my life, all the while forgetting that the power to create it lay dormant within me.

I won’t stop praying for my nation (and for all of y’all who are on the wrong side of the issues — hahaha!) nor will I neglect to vote for the candidates that most reflect my beliefs.

But I’m not going to argue about it anymore. I’m going to stop taking the social media bait. I’m not going to read stories that I know will just ignite anger.

It’s going to be hard, maybe even harder than dieting, which I find to be the most agonizingly wretched discipline ever!

But I owe it to myself, to my family, to everyone I love, to choose peace.

Most of all, I owe it to God. Because if I’m going to publicly declare myself a Christ-follower, I need to do a better job of reflecting His character.

 

House Rules

18Dec2015 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

Jonah was so psyched about it being the last day of school that he woke up early and immediately started talking.

(This is quite different from most days, when I’m having to pull him upright by the arms, out of a dead sleep as he mumbles for “just five more minutes”.)

He pretty much woke up at the same level he was when this picture was taken at school the other day, during their gingerbread decorating activity:

Crazy J

(You might want to say a prayer for his teachers today.)

Anyway, today’s conversation started like this:

“For Christmas, I want a baby snake that doesn’t have any poison in his body.”

“Sorry, kiddo. I told you the other day…we don’t do ‘pet snakes’ in this house.”

“But whyyyy??? I want a snaaaaake….”

“Because I just don’t like snakes. Dad and I don’t think they make good pets.”

“But whyyyyyyy???”

“Because they just sit in a tank and do nothing. And they carry germs. Eli has asked for years to have a snake, but we’ve told him the same thing I’m telling you. It’s against our house rules: in this house, we don’t have snakes for pets.”

He was quiet for a moment.

“So, when are going to move out of this house?”

Bwahahaha!

Poor kid. You should’ve seen him when he learned that the “house” rules come with us even if we move into another home.

And then that launched into a conversation about how God made moms and dads the bosses of the house and that’s why we get to make the rules, and that when he grows up and moves out, he gets to be rule-maker in his family, and then he almost started crying because he wants to “live with you and Dad forever!” and I lied and told him he never had to move out if he didn’t want to, because what else do you say to a six year old who still loves you that much even after you refused to buy him a snake?

ALL that before I had my coffee.

But the cuteness makes it all OK. (Dogs are perfectly permitted in the Apted House Rules!)

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Elf the Musical at The Fox

6Dec2015 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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Elf the Musical is the show that finally got my husband to go to the theater with me!

And he quite enjoyed himself.

Of course, it’s hard NOT to enjoy yourself when Buddy is around. Though the story differed quite a bit from the original movie, it offered a great deal of new humor and fun songs to enjoy. And of course, the sets were simply gorgeous.

I thought it was particularly clever how the elves were portrayed, though I felt sorry for all those actors spending that much time on their knees. Ouch!

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It didn’t seem to bother them at all, though!

Two favorite parts: when Buddy first meets Walter Hobbs and sings to him (this scene in the musical is 10x funnier than in the movie!) and what Buddy does after he asks to borrow the Salvation Army worker’s bell. Hilarious stuff!

It’s not too late to go laugh your Christmas socks off, too! Today, Sunday the 6th, there are two showings at Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theater: One at 1:00 pm and the other, at 6:30 pm, and seats are still available.

So don’t be a cotton-headed ninny-muggins and miss out!