About Molly

Molly is a writer, speaker, and humorist-for-hire. She worships the holy trinity of good Southern living: a porch, a pie, and a pack of dogs. Enjoy this blog or be a darling and go check out her web site for more information: http://www.mollyduggerbrennan.com

Family Movie Night

wreck 

Oh boy, family movie night.  I remember the excitement so well.  Let’s fire up the Jiffy Pop and get ready to enjoy an educational, cautionary tale.  Why cautionary?  All movies have a moral, don’t they?  All movies educate in some way, don’t they?

They certainly do if they’re entitled “The Bottle and the Throttle” or “The Last Prom.”  As a police officer, Dad screened vehicular snuff films to driver’s education students.  Not wanting to endure technical difficulties in the class room, he would dry run his presentation in our living room the night before.  No matter how young we were, this was family entertainment of the highest order and we all looked forward to it.  Only Christmas elicited more anticipation.

Movie night is where I learned that when people bleed out, they turn a beautiful, delicate gray-blue color.  Movie night is where I was fascinated that the force of a crash can remove the shoes from your feet while they are still tightly tied, complete with neat, symmetrical bow.  Movie night taught me that brains are slippery things, and the only way to remove them from the asphalt is with a spatula.  Movie night suggested that perhaps the back window is not the safest place for an infant to ride.  Movie night revealed that windshields are unusually cruel to faces, whether they are exiting or returning.

Yes indeed, movie night was exciting.  After watching, there would be a question-and-answer period until Mom deemed it was all too creepy and sent us to bed.  As if we were going to drop peacefully into la-la land after the potent images of destruction that we’d just absorbed.  Violence is truly primal and difficult to forget.  The images invaded our little lizard brains and fermented.  As a youngster, one does not just drift into butter cream dreams after staring slack-jawed at twisting metal and blood spatter.  I wanted more; much, much more.

My favorite scenes were the ones where the car was wrapped around something, front bumper kissing the rear.  I found it remarkable that the stoic tree or telephone pole didn’t snap, didn’t give, forcing the speeding car to accommodate.  Truth be told, I always rooted for the tree.  The tree was just minding its own business, not a care in the world, when — BLAM — some drunken young stud in his mother’s sedan hits it at full force.  How rude!  As penance, the driver endured a vehicle with considerably less interior room than before, often fatally so.

And then there were the questions.  I couldn’t stop questioning what I’d just witnessed.  Why would anyone ride on the hood of a car when a comfortable seat was available?  What idiot invented the game of chicken and why did anyone go along with it?  Why would you ever get into a car driven by someone so drunk they couldn’t walk?  When a drunk driver says “I’m fine, really, I’m fine.” does that phrase magically banish critical thought from everyone else’s mind?  “Oh well, if you say you’re fine let’s go for a drive.”

I had even more questions about drinking.  No one in my family imbibed, so I had no practical knowledge of how alcohol worked. Just how much do you have to ingest before your eyeballs turn pink?  How much alcohol does it take to push you past fun into fundamentally moronic?  Is this threshold the same for everyone or is it different?  Why would you drink something that smells like cough medicine?  I thought Kool-aid was quite tasty, why not just stick with Kool-aid and avoid trouble?  No one ever got pulled over for drinking Kool-aid.  No one’s mama collapsed into racking sobs because they crashed the car while high on Kool-aid.

Another stumper I posed to my parents was this one.  If you’re drunk and crash your car, why does it seem that your chances for survival are better than if you’re sober?  Is it because you don’t realize what’s happening so you don’t brace yourself, locking your arms and legs into stiff twigs to be snapped?  Does being drunk make you bounce like Tigger, and being sober makes you crack like Humpty-Dumpty?  What’s up with some drunks just walking away from massive crashes?  What law of physics makes it possible for them to emerge from a crushed and flaming carcass of a car completely unscathed?

Why is it that the beauty queen is always the one that dies?  I learned early on from these films that being named prom or homecoming queen was the kiss of death.  By third grade, I had made the mental note to avoid all pageants.  According to these films, winning a pageant was a quick road to an early, ugly demise.  Better to be the long-lived drama club geek, than the tragically dead Snow Ball princess.

Straight A students didn’t die in these movies.  The football star and the Junior Miss County Fair ruptured and bled out like slaughtered livestock every single time.  Their death was even more assured if they had (a) just won a scholarship, (b) were scouted for professional sports, or (c) had recently gotten engaged.  Oh, the tragedy!  Obvious message:  don’t get into a car with someone who is too sloppy drunk to talk, no matter how cute he may be or how long you’ve been crushing on him or how much it will impress your girlfriends.  Hidden message:  study hard, get good grades, and be way too geeky for the sports stud to ever want to drive you home guaranteeing your continued health.  It’s the better way to go.

Lesson learned?  Don’t drink to the point where embarrassing YouTube videos can be posted of you.  Don’t drink to the point that people can write on your face with permanent marker and you not realize that it’s happening.  Don’t drink to the point where you think you can really sing and that American Idol should just hear your rendition of Purple Rain.  For God’s sake, don’t ride with anyone who has.

The Catfish and the Bicycle

goat driving

(Friends:  I am trying this story on for size.  It is indeed based on truth but it doesn’t feel quite right to me yet, so I’m crowd-sourcing guidance from y’all.  I welcome all comments and suggestions.)

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Now I understand that my sister and I had a peculiar childhood. With both parents in law enforcement, expectations for us as budding young Southern ladies were skewed towards a paranoid place. I don’t know how normal our upbringing was, I honestly doubt I’d know normal if it tapped me on the shoulder and introduced itself.  It was normal for our clan, that’s all I can say.

The Manson murders happened when I was just approaching puberty. My mother never saw the world the same way again. She was suspicious before the trials, but seeing young girls convicted for such sadistic, blood-thirsty acts put a potential monster behind every beaming cheerleader’s face.   She counseled me to be wary of girls who didn’t “act right.” Being Southerners, not acting right could mean a girl didn’t compose proper thank-you notes, or that she was fixing to disembowel you. Not acting right was a confusing catch-all category, but whatever it meant, I was to avoid it.

So my sister Lynn and I were expected to be young ladies; well-spoken, well-read, and well-mannered.   In contrast, we were also expected to never ever to be the girl that ends up in a shallow grave down by the river. If someone tried to hurt us, we were to scream, gouge, bite, kick, and do whatever disgusting thing was necessary to live. If you look up schizophrenia in the dictionary, it may reference my early years. Be a delicate flower of a girl, kindness personified, but if you have to, use your thumbs to pop a guy’s eyeballs out of his skull.

Where I grew up, everyone learned to drive as soon as they could see over the steering wheel, around twelve or so. In a farming community, this makes sense. The trade-off for driving lessons was learning to load, shoot, and reload a handgun proficiently. These two activities were linked because no matter what family vehicle you were in, there was going to be a pistol under the driver’s seat. Unless you were in the pick-up, then there were shotguns in the gun rack plus the hand gun under the seat. I can’t imagine why boys weren’t lined up around the block wanting to date me in high school.

In my husband’s family growing up, if you couldn’t fall asleep you were encouraged to get up and do something useful. Read, do crafts, anything productive yet relatively quiet. In my family home, if you couldn’t fall asleep you kept your ass in bed. Rambling around in the middle of the night meant you might be an intruder, though I don’t know who could possibly be stupid enough to try to break into our house. Being mistaken for a prowler, well it could get you shot.

Car trips and outings meant we played the Observation Game. It was probably to keep me quiet, but it did teach me a skill. Think of it as the policeman’s version of “I Spy.” We’d be rolling along in the car, or walking along the street, and I’d be quizzed. How many people did you see in the car we just passed? Describe the man who just came out of the hardware store. What was he carrying? Which way did he go? You’d better be able to describe his face, not just his clothes. You did not get points for clothing. Where’s the closest exit to where we’re standing right now? If the path to that door is blocked, where’s the next best one? Get most of these questions correct, and an icy Nehi soda was the prize.

These were our formative years. Call them unusual, call them bizarre, call child protective services, it was what we knew. It was my parents’ way of protecting us from Very Bad Things. And there are always very bad things in the world. As adults, my sister and I often pass for typical, well-adjusted women until something happens that triggers our stand-up-and-fight-back.

Lynn now has two little girls and is raising them by herself. She’s getting by. Lynn found three beat-up but workable bicycles at yard sales so she and the girls can go biking on Sundays. She keeps the bikes in a decrepit shed behind her house. It ‘s an open shed which might collapse if you look at it cross-eyed, but there’s been a rash of bike thefts in her neighborhood and it’s the safest place for them.

One night while washing dishes, Lynn notices movement in the backyard. Someone is trying to steal the bikes! Not thinking twice, she grabs a butcher knife from the dish rack and runs out the front door just as the thief was coming down the driveway, pushing her daughter’s bike.

He stops — rookie mistake — because my sister is still running full throttle at him, waving a big knife, and screaming, “You drop that bike or I will gut you like a catfish!”

There’s a battle cry my family can rally behind. She got the bike back. No filleting necessary.

New Magazine Column is Ready for You

Beach Pie 3

 

The Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Blue Ridge Country magazine has hit the streets and it is bigger than usual.  It’s the travel issue, telling you all about wonderful places to visit in our area.  Call it our vacation planner issue.  Anyway, my travel-themed column is ready for you online and I hope you enjoy it.  It includes a recipe, a first for me. Of course, it’s a pie recipe.  Y’all know me.  Here’s the link.

http://blueridgecountry.com/newsstand/mill-creek-stories/the-car-wants-to-go-to-north-carolina/

 

 

The Permission Pixie

(It is that time of year again.  Ho-ho-holidays!  So I’m running one of my most popular posts again as a reminder for all y’all.  Remember to take a well-deserved holiday nap or two.)

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‘Tis the season. Fa la freaking la.   I got your jingle bells right here, mister. This is the time of year when multitudes of people run around like chicken missing heads, worked into a frothy frenzy over what absolutely has to be done, oh my God, like now. NOW!

Stop it. The timeline from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is full of food and the people you love. That’s all that’s necessary. So I’m going to give you a huge pass this year. I am secretly the Permission Pixie. Shhh, don’t tell. It’s my super power.

I, the Permission Pixie, grant you permission to ignore the urge to put up eight trillion blinking lights on your house. I don’t even put up a wreath anymore. In fact, I decorate so little these days my neighborhood thinks I’m Jewish.  Shalom, y’all.

I, the Permission Pixie, hereby give you permission to ignore all invitations that require you to make something. No cookie exchanges ever again. The pressure to show up with something other than a package of Oreos is too stressful. Cookie exchanges bring out latent Martha Stewart perfectionist tendencies and all of a sudden, it’s a world championship beat-down for who made the most elaborate cookies. Knock it off. You don’t need to graze through eighty kinds of cookies in a month. You’ve got to leave room for the really good stuff, like pie.

I, the Permission Pixie, give you permission to stop wrapping gifts like you are set decorating The Nutcracker Suite.   I have two words for you: gift bags. Easy-peasy, life is breezy gift bags. I have taken this to the extreme and use brown paper lunch bags with a bright ribbon. I am a sucker for anything industrial-chic that is also industrial-cheap, and brown kraft paper is a favorite of mine.

While we’re on the subject of gifts, I give you permission to stop giving non-consumable, (fruitcake will still damn you to Hell’s sticky spots) store-bought gifts to any person who is over the age of twelve. I say twelve because there are just different rules for little ones during the holidays, but you do get permission to cut back on gifts for them, too. There is only so much plastic crap one child needs, so don’t lose your mind, okay?

Black Friday is a day dedicated to showing the world everything that is embarrassing about America. It is commerce without care, it is greed without good, it is frenzy without friendship. Black Friday makes us all look like excitable, dim-witted sheep, bleating and trampling our way to a 20% discount on stuff made elsewhere. Stop it.

Special note to men. Do not buy your woman any gift with a plug. The exception is the Hitachi Magic Wand neck massager (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) in which case go right ahead, you scamp you. If not the Hitachi, things with plugs are appliances. Appliances mean housework. Housework sucks a big bag of sourballs. Enough said.

I don’t know anyone who wants another “dustable” around the house, no matter how adorable or commemorative it may be. I know lots of people who crave time. Time with friends, time with children, time away from children, time to sit down and drink a whole cup of coffee in peace. Time to talk and to listen. Give time. Give people what they need and want.

If a friend would stab a hobo to get five hours without her kids, give her a coupon for babysitting. If a friend complains about her lack of organization, gift her with a certificate to help sort out her closet or her office. If a loved one arrives home from work exhausted every day, give them a homemade dinner all frozen and ready-to-go, complete with reheating instructions. If your friend loves to garden but is unable to keep up with it then give an offer to pull weeds for a morning or make potted gardens together in the spring. A gift of your time is more splendid than anything you could buy. This extends to teenagers, too. Give them a gift of an afternoon at the movies, or the water park, or something they just don’t get to do. They’d much rather get that than a Christmas sweater, believe you me.

Why am I so anti-commerce during the season? Well, it’s not that I don’t like things. It’s that I despise the pressure to provide them. This season pokes an emotional blister of mine from my starter marriage. Every year, dear old Starter would wait until Christmas Eve, grab his car keys and grumble his way to the mall. He’d stop at whatever jewelry counter was closest to his parking spot and grab something. Then he’d grumble his way home, complaining that his work day had been interrupted. After dinner I’d get the gift, complete with the agonizing details of how difficult and tedious it had been to go get this thing for me, you’re welcome.

Why even bother? Every year I’d get some sparkling item that was extravagantly expensive, but so loaded down with bitterness that I hardly ever touched it. What was the point? So if anyone asked, he could tell them that he spent $5,000 on a bracelet or ring, or earrings, because he was such a magnificent provider. Inevitably, they’d ask to see it. Nope, it’s in a drawer. I need to get a HAZMAT team to scrub all the animosity off before I can safely wear it. That’s not a gift. That’s a reminder that you married the wrong person. That’s evidence that it’s not getting better. That’s your invitation to hit the road. Ho ho hot tail it outta there.

Let me be your Jacob Marley.   Listen up, dears. Whatever you give this season, give it with an open and tender heart. Do not give a gift because you “have to.” Give a gift only if you truly want to. Give of yourself, not of the mall, as much as possible. Tell people you love them. Act like you love them. Spend some time treating yourself kindly, too.   Take a nap and eat some pie.

Dog Rescue Reminder

Biscuit at Vet Office

This is Biscuit.  We adopted Biscuit from Operation Paws for Homes, a terrific rescue group that pulls dogs from high kill rate shelters in the South and brings them to the greater DC area (Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) for adoption. They have a phenomenal success rate and a group of volunteers who, if they turned their attention to world domination instead of dog rescue, would rule the world in six weeks, tops.

This post is a reminder to all that adopt a dog from the Southern states where heart worms are rampant, that you really should have your dog retested for heart worms four months after you bring it home.  Heart worms can take four months from the date of infection to show up in the bloodwork.

Biscuit is happy, healthy, and heart worm free.  She is the most naturally polite dog I’ve ever owned, a real joy to work with and train.  If you’re interested in learning more about Operation Paws for Homes, go to their web site:  http://ophrescue.org  or just browse the national database for rescue groups and adoptable animals, http://petfinder.com.

All Kinds of Happy

I have not posted here in a while.  I’ve been on deadline for another project.  But that project is going really well so I thought I’d post a representation of my mood.

As an introvert who works from home and overthinks every stinking word she puts on paper, these good days are to be celebrated.  I hope you’re happy and healthy today, too.

happy tulip pug