Here we go again.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the annual Allred holiday letter, its purpose is this: People want to know about unpleasant things. So, in that holiday spirit:
The new year started with a bang when I got food poisoning from Jenny Craig’s beef stew. My fault, not Jenny’s. My clue of more than a year’s past due expiration date should have let me know what horrible things would happen to me if I chose to eat expired beef. But some of us always have to learn the hard way. I was so desperately ill I thought I would die. I wanted to die. As I slipped in and out of consciousness, Robb whispered to me, “Is there any stew left?” He wanted to test his long-running streak of not throwing up (not since January of 1991). Do you know how rude it is to ask a dying person such a question? But because he’s so stupid, I had to ask Michelle (my sister), through ragged whispers, to get rid of the toxic stew so he wouldn’t do himself in.
We moved to Midlothian, Texas (1 ½ hour drive from Robb’s parents), in July. Leaving Ohio was rough. Saying bye to friends really stunk, but even worse was the driving. Picture this: me, Kerri, 8, Katie, 6, Tommy, 2, Nala & Sosi (two 70- and 80-pound dogs), and Penny & Sparkles (two three-pound guinea pigs) trapped together in a mini van for 22 hours. While Robb happily and peacefully drove his truck to the tunes of his heavy metal music, I listened to Blues Clues and Rappin’ With Elmo. He would tell you he’s suffered enough, though. It has been a tough year for him: I was asked to do a story for Sports Illustrated, trying out for a women’s professional football team. I tried out for and made the roster as a defensive end, #31, for the Austin Rage. As I was doing my try-outs, little Tommy landed a gig modeling for a catalogue, leaving Robb to utter these words: “My wife is a professional football player and my son is a model!” I think it was around that time he developed some kind of facial tick.
As we settled in Texas, we had to contend with grossly oversized crickets and mosquitoes and vile little creatures known as fire ants. There should be a sign posted at the Texas border declaring, “We’re proud to have ya, but don’t move here in July.” It’s so hot in July, cats pant. Hair can actually melt on your head. Cars randomly burst into flames.
Our actual transition into Midlothian (small town approx. 35 miles outside of Dallas) has been interesting. Our mail carrier drives an old ’74 Chevy with no muffler. When he has mail to deliver to me personally, he sits in the driveway and honks his horn at me. Believe me, we’re thankful for this. For the longest time, we weren’t even getting our mail.
But even more vexing is that none of our neighbors ever came to say “hi,” forever ruining my notion about small towns. No “Welcome to the neighborhood,” no drop-bys. This suits Robb perfectly because, he says he doesn’t want people coming around rifling through our things. Ah, yes, we’ve had such a problem in the past with people tearing through our things, inspecting our underwear drawers!
As part of my initiation as a professional football player, I broke two of my fingers (one finger was mangled pretty good in particular) and right hand as well as dislocating my forearm during practice. Driving home with a stick shift with broken fingers, hand, and dislocated arm was extremely painful. This all came about because one week before we left Ohio, our buddy Mark Larkin and Robb went dirt bike riding, and Mark decided to catapult his body – bike and all – from a 20-foot double jump. No one knows exactly what was going through Mark’s mind, including Mark because he still has no memory of the entire day! We swapped trucks, letting Mark use our automatic while we took his standard until he healed.
So, with my career as a football player over, I thought I would try something closer to home. I tried canning. The former owners of our house left us with an extraordinary garden, and we had an abundance of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. I now have a fabulous recipe for botulism salsa. I almost killed Robb, though he still didn’t throw up.
I have a dream of one day owning a horse to go on the small pasture next to our house, but currently fleas (that are tearing Robb up), mice, toads, coyotes, and snakes own the meadow. The snakes and coyotes are attracted to the mice living in the tall grass. Maybe we should get a goat.
The other day I went to the store and saw a “Lost Pet” sign. The sign itself was nothing new. What was new (for me) was that it was a Lost Goat sign. Moreover, they felt compelled to give a full description of the lost goat with a picture. You know, so it wouldn’t be confused with all the other loose goats milling about Midlothian. We all got poison oak. I was attacked by an angry swarm of bees while mowing the lawn. My sister-in-law, Cristi, killed our pet toad by stepping on him. Kerri thought he was sleeping for two days. Sosi (11-year-old lab mix) has a huge growth on her leg. The perils of Penny the Guinea Pig continue as Kerri continues to stuff her inside a Barbie jeep and send her flying down the hallway. Penny cannot steer – no opposable thumbs – and often crashes. She doesn’t mind sitting in Barbie’s Jacuzzi tub or riding up and down in Barbie’s elevator, but the Barbie jet ski is alarming to Penny.
Speaking of “alarming” and Barbie, I have noted a disturbing trend when Kerri and Katie play with Barbie. Again, I blame myself. They don’t have a mommy who wears dresses or much make-up. I hang out with bobsledders and football players and martial artists. But when I walk into their rooms to find multiple Barbies hanging by their necks from doorknobs and the handles on dressers, what am I to make of the macabre display?
For Thanksgiving, Kerri and I threw up all day and night with the worst flu I’ve ever had. While others shared turkey and dressing, Kerri and I shared a barf bucket. Robb chose this time to tell me that he secretly hoped he would get it so he could test his record.
Once again, I’m the almost-author! I had another book published, The Code, and it was being considered by the prestigious Coretta Scott King Award, but you have to be African American. Even though they liked the book, I was dropped as soon as they found out I’m white! Man! I finished the story for Sports Illustrated for Women (the whole reason for breaking and permanently deforming my pinky), then they changed editors and said they didn’t think they were interested in the story anymore. How do you like that? After months of recovery – do you know how hard it is to change diapers with a broken hand? And do you know how often Tommy kicked my hand? – I managed to write a women’s sports book, Atta Girl, pecking at the keys with just my left hand.
Hope your year was a little more healthy and a little bit happier than ours.
Help! Help! Help! …..errrr, I mean, Ho, ho, ho!!!