Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For Wendell and Jen

This one will not make you cry.

One of the cool things about living in a major metropolitan area is the shopping.  And there are few things I like better than a shopping coup.  (A coup is a brilliant, highly successful act. A shopping coup [pronounced coo] is when you get a killer deal on something, especially if it's a Fossil purse or Born shoes).  Before the days of Internet deals, we shopped old school: grabbed a girlfriend, loaded up the kids (and all accompanying paraphernalia, which was a lot), and made the most of the precious time we had while no one was screaming to be fed or changed.  The babies, that is.

Because I was a first time mom and didn't know any better, I asked my friend J if she would like to go shopping at a VERY popular outlet store about 10 miles away.  Because she was also a first time mom, J agreed.  We loaded up our babies, mine was about 3 months old, hers was even younger, and off we went. 

Thinking back on those days, I have no idea how I had the energy to be a mom.  When we got to the store, we had to grab the infant seat, the blankets, the diaper bag, the purse, the car keys, and, hopefully, the infant.  Once we physically made it into the store, there was the grabbing a cart, situating the infant seat in the cart, finding a place for the diaper bag, arranging the blankets so that the child did not get a chill but was still protected from the germs that must thrive in an outlet store, putting the purse out of reach of a passerby, and then going into full-on panic because you forgot where you put the car keys.  So, you undid the blankets, rummaged through your purse, took everything out of the diaper bag, looked under the baby for the car keys and were just about ready to find a phone to call the spouse (before cell phones as well) and then remembered the car keys were exactly where you put them so that you would remember them when it was time to leave.  They were in your pocket the whole time.

After rearranging the child, the blankets, the diaper bag, and the purse, we were ready to take on the outlet store. We found some amazing deals.  We found girl clothes.  We found boy clothes.  We found mommy clothes.  We found dishtowels.  We found chocolate covered almonds.  And then, in the most amazing shopping coup ever, we found the holy grail of great Christmas presents: A Little Tykes sled.  And one of the reasons it was so amazing is that this was May.  I had visions of strapping Spencer into that sled and his daddy pulling him through the beautiful, fluffy snow in our backyard while I made hot chocolate and watched adoringly from the back door.  (Did I forget that we don't usually get beautiful, fluffy snow here?)  And, honestly, I don't remember exactly how much we paid for those sleds, but it was a good enough bargain that I still remember feeling very excited about the VERY early Christmas shopping I had started.

We ended up getting a 3rd basket to help roll our goodies to the checkout.  Along with the things I had in my basket, tucked in and around the infant seat, I had a sled to purchase.  And along with the things J had tucked in and around her infant seat, she was purchasing 2 sleds (one for her daughter and one for a niece and nephew in a different state (where there actually is beautiful, fluffy snow).  After making our purchases, we began the trek back to the vehicle.  We were a train: the cart with my baby plus bags, me, the cart with the sled boxes balanced precariously, J, and her cart with her baby plus bags.  We giggled on our way out, partly from the amazing deal we got on the sleds, and partly from imagining how we must look to passersby.

And then we got to the car.  This was before the mini-van stage of my life.  This was before the 4-door sedan stage of my life.  This was the 2-door sports car stage of my life.  The joy of a shopping coup can be quickly diminished when one realizes the bargain will not fit in the mode of transportation there to squire it home.  We began to prioritize.  If we took 2 sleds out of their boxes, we could fit them in the trunk.  One sled needed to stay in its box for shipping.  There was no roof rack on this little car, but I did briefly entertain the idea of wedging the sled box in the sunroof opening and driving home like that.  That the babies needed to ride inside, in the backseat, facing the rear was a given.  Everything and everyone else were negotiable.

It took about 5 minutes of this before the giggling started.  We couldn't help ourselves.  We were Lucy and Ethel trying to figure out how to pack the car for the trip to California.  We were characters from The Grapes of Wrath  trying to strap the mattresses on the top of our car.  We were equal parts buyers' remorse and  bound and determined.  And never, never did it cross our minds to return any of what we had purchased.  (First rule of shopping at an outlet store is that you buy it when you see it, because it more than likely will not be there when you come back next time.)

We finally figured it out: 2 sleds sans boxes in the trunk, one boxed sled in the passenger front seat, two babies in rear-facing infant seats in the back, other purchased items wedged where we could, and a very skinny J would wedge in between the babies.  As we made our way to the accomplishment of the plan, (taking apart boxes, strapping in babies, wedging in other purchases), we felt quite accomplished in the success of our mission.  We planned that J would take the baskets back to the store (with the excess boxes in tow), and I was going to stay with the babies.

And then J gasped.  I could not imagine what had happened, but as I rounded the car I found J with one hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her face, and the other hand holding up a package of baby girl tights that had somehow been under the baby seat and blankets in her cart.  Yep, J had shoplifted.  And I was her accomplice.  Neither one of us could stand at this point, we were literally doubled over in laughter.  It  was made worse because we knew that security was probably on the way out to grab us, but we still couldn't stop laughing.  Seriously, my sides were hurting.

As J headed back in to apologize and pay for the tights, I turned to get in the car.  And that's when I saw it.  There was a man, sitting in his car, with his head on the steering wheel.  I couldn't run over to check on him (I was in charge of the babies in the car), but I couldn't just let him die (which is what I sure he was doing).  Just as I decided that I was going to have to start screaming for help, he lifted his head.  He was not dying.  He was laughing.  At us.  With tears streaming down his face.  He leaned his head out the window and yelled to me.  It was something along the lines of never having been so entertained and that he would, from then on, gladly accompany his wife on whatever shopping she wanted to do for the rest of his life because that few moments of watching us made it worth it all.

I wish I could say I never had any other moments like that, but that would be a lie.  That wasn't even the last moment like that I had in that car.  But I have always wondered if there was someone watching a security camera that day and just how entertaining that must have been.  I've got to tell you, every time I watch America's Funniest Home Videos and DON'T see that day, I am thankful.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

"You're going to do what I say this weekend."

That's what my husband said to me on a Friday evening when he arrived home from work.  I laughed. Out loud.  He is not normally the bossy, demanding type, and I am rarely (if ever) the follow blindly type, so it was quite humorous (and uncharacteristic) for him to use those words.

The first thing he "made" me do was to sit with him and watch White Christmas, which is my favorite movie of all time.  I wish I could say that my favorite movie is intellectually stimulating or even thought-provoking, but it's not.  I'm a sentimental, Christmas-loving girl, and watching White Christmas is something I do every year at least once.  Sometimes twice.  Sometimes in July.  While he refuses to watch it other than at Christmas time, Dale does watch it with me every year.  Now THAT is a great guy.

The next day, I arrived home from my Saturday morning coffee group (I don't drink coffee, but they let me in the group anyway), and Dale and Calder (our youngest) were hanging the outdoor Christmas lights.  This was a huge deal to me.  We've struggled with getting lights up every year.  In fact, I think it's only happened 3 times since we moved to this house 9 years ago.  Sometimes it's the weather that keeps us from hanging lights.  Sometimes it's our travel plans.  Sometimes it's a lack of desire to crawl up on a ladder.  But I always want them up.  I would even leave them up all the time, but Dale says no (something about tackiness).  I guess he is kind of bossy after all.

That Sunday afternoon the tree went up--lights, ornaments, and all.  Since my dad passed away, we have used one of his caps as the top for our tree, and this year is no exception.  It's bittersweet to me.  Even though we didn't spend every Christmas with my parents, it's still odd for me to think about never having another Christmas with him. 

And that was my special "you will do what I say" Christmas weekend.  Since then, I have been looking at my tree, touching each ornament, remembering each story.  I've thought about next Christmas when our oldest will be in Afghanistan and wondered what I will be feeling then.  I've thought about how blessed we are to live in this country.  I've thought about what God did for us through His Son, how desperate I am to live a meaningful life, and that I want that for my children as well.  I've thought about what beauty there is in a family that, by the grace of God, sticks together.

Thank you, Dale, for my special weekend.  And thank you that on the weekend you were boss, you didn't even mention laundry.  I will love you forever.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Miss Jane's Kitchen

I know what Heaven smells like.

With all the computer experts I have in my life, you'd think one of them could come up with a way for us to experience the aromas of each other's lives.  We can see each other's pictures.  We can watch each other's videos.  We can even send virtual smiles :-) and virtual hugs {{ }}.  But, so far, there is no way you can experience what I experience when I walk into my mother-in-law's kitchen.  It's Heaven.

A fastidious housekeeper, Miss Jane's kitchen is always tidy.  There wasn't room to put in a dishwasher when they built this house (my father-in-law and his sons did the building of the house), so every dish has been handwashed all these years.  No dishwasher etching of the glasses.  No premature weakening of the handles on her pots from the heating element.  Nope, every dish has been washed in a sink with lots of suds and plenty of hot water while the washer of the dishes looked outside the window into acres of woods. 

There's a garden window in Miss Jane's kitchen.  It is also known as an African Violet forest.  This woman can force bloom any flower and bring any plant back from the brink of death.  She finds the fifty-cent plants in the clearance section and turns them into beautiful testimonies of what can happen if you just take the time to care about something, and show it a little love.  A plant in this kitchen window is a lucky plant, and they seem to know it.

But the best thing, by far, about Miss Jane's kitchen is the aromatic offering of every meal.  A southern lady, Miss Jane knows how to cook.  Her fried chicken and fried okra are my husband's comfort foods.  Her Sunday roasts and vegetables are as wonderful now as they were every Sunday of Dale's growing up years.  Her pork chops are to die for.  And her pies and cobblers are legendary.  Seriously.  When she takes one to a church potluck or fund-raiser auction, people look to see which dish is hers.  I don't even like cobbler, but her peach cobbler makes my eyes roll back in my head.  Yes, it's that good.

Jane is generous with her recipes.  She is more than willing to share her special twists and modifications to any recipe.  But there is a HUGE secret that I think even she doesn't realize makes such a difference in her cooking: She cooks with love.  She cares about every person who walks through her door.  She knows that a good meal can change someone's perspective on a bad day.  She believes that food is to be enjoyed.  And she has lived her life taking care of people with food.  Yes, she loves people, and her food shows it.

Can every hurt be healed with a glass of sweet tea?  Probably not.  But I can guarantee that if you could spend just a few moments in Miss Jane's kitchen, surrounded by the plants and the smells and the love, your perspective on life's woes would change.  It might even change if you could just get one whiff of her pecan pie.  Yep, it's Heaven.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Saturday, In the Yard

We call it Chainsaw Therapy.  It doesn't matter what is bothering you, after a few minutes cutting up tree limbs, your perspective changes.  Anger subsides.  Worry decreases.  And the sawdust that gets in your eyes is a small price to pay for the opportunity to play with such danger.

A recent Saturday began with a lawn full of leaves.  It took 3 passes over the lawn to mulch and bag the leaves.  I don't even know how many times we had to stop to unclog the mower blade, but let's just say it wasn't anyone's idea of a great time.  It is really cool, however, to live in a community that picks up yardwaste and composts it for the community.  My tree leaves will become mulch that will be used throughout city parks, medians, and people's gardens.

Then we decided to take advantage of the house next door being unoccupied and remove one of our tree limbs that had been hanging over the neighbor's house.  Dale, who is very smart and can pretty much tell exactly where a tree limb is going to fall, climbed the tree with his trusty saw.  Spencer, who loves danger, was in charge of pulling the limb down with the rope to keep the limb from damaging the neighbors' house.  We forgot to mention we didn't want to damage the neighbors' fence.  Oops.  (We fixed it the following weekend.)

We then decided to tackle the limb that hung over our roof from the neighbors' tree (same empty house).  Again, Dale scaled the tree, saw in hand.  Again, Spencer manned the rope.  When the tree let go of the limb,  I breathed a sigh of relief.  No people or vehicles were harmed in the felling of that limb.  Because it didn't actually fall.  There was just a little scrap of wood keeping the limb from fully disconnecting from the tree.  Dale cut that.  It disconnected,  And it came within 18 inches of  taking out the front of my van.  (This picture is Dale, Calder, and Spencer pretending to be impressed with their tree skills.)  Needless to say, there was plenty of wood for Chainsaw Therapy.  There was plenty of wood for the fire pit.  There will be plenty of wood for the fire pit for some time.

We went on to clean glutters, unhook hoses from faucets for the winter, and I tried to get the crew to hang Christmas lights.  Not so much.  The bags and twigs don't even begin to reflect the amount of work we did that day.  Or how sore my muscles were.  Or how much work we need to do in the backyard.  And garage.  And pretty much every room in the house.  But it was a good day, and no one was hurt.  Not even my car.

So as another day of Chainsaw Therapy and family togetherness came to a close, I had two thoughts:
1.  If that limb had hit my van, what kind of insurance nightmare would that have been? 
2.  How is it that I get to have such an amazing life?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Color My World

If you were to drive down my street at the height of summer, you would be amazed at the canopy of shade provided by the numerous, very large trees on both sides of the street.  I've never counted them, nor do I know all the different kinds of trees represented, but they really are a welcome respite from the hot summer sun. 

When the sun takes a more autumnal path, the trees seem to have an agreement to drop their leaves in a very strategic manner.  I don't know when they plan their assault.  I don't know how they plot against those of us who love them (maybe the trees are just perpetually teenagers).  I do know this:  The trees seem to be winning.

There are the early leaf droppers.  They lull their caretakers into false senses of security by doing their business and making their people think that leaf-raking is a one weekend job.  Though they are the first to give up the fight, do not underestimate them.  Their leaves may hit the ground first, but those yellow symbols of futility will still be around after the last yard waste bag has been picked up by the recycling truck.

The showy leaf droppers are impressive in their ability to cover a parked car in leaves in less than a day.  These are the leaves you find in that space between the windshield and the hood and ground into the carpet of your car.  These leaves are everywhere, and they seem to come in an endless stream.  Fourteen bags of leaves this weekend?  You will have 16 next weekend and at least 20 the following.  These leaves will not be around forever.  It will just seem like they are.

My favorite leaf dropper, my favorite tree (with the exception of the orange tree that my parents had in California and any tree in the Sequoia/Yosemite areas) is in my front yard.  Though it went through a difficult limbectomy a few years before we moved here, it is still, to me, the most beautiful tree on the street.  It stays green longer.  It is a late leaf dropper.  And it drops the most beautiful leaves of red, green, and orange  I've ever seen.  Sometimes, I sit and look out my front window and just watch that tree.  Even the way the leaves fall seems to say "We are special.  Watch us as we dance our way to the ground.  And, as a bonus, we can even make your dogs bark as they watch from the window inside your home."  (These leaves are quite chatty.) 

Is it not just one of the coolest things that our world is full of color?  Flowers, trees, birds, fish, sunsets, people.  God could have made our world monochromatic.  I'm very glad He chose not to.  Look at the world around you and try to imagine what it would be like without color.

I'm sure that's what I will be doing for at least the next few weekends as we continue this battle of the leaves.  Eventually, the leaves will stop falling.  Eventually, we WILL get them bagged and sent to the recycling center.  Eventually, my tree will no longer display its beauty in such rich colors and will take a season of rest before beginning the cycle all over again.   And during that time, when the grass is brown and the trees are bare, I will probably paint my living room.  Did I mention I like color?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rest in Peace, My Friend

Patti was the first friend I had when we made the move to Casper, Wyoming  just before my 6th grade year.  She was tall in 6th grade, like 5'1" or 5'2".  That's funny now, because she didn't get much taller than that after 6th grade.  But she was sweet and friendly and took me under her wing to show me the ropes of a new school and the way things worked.  She even kept me out of trouble one time at recess when she gave me one of her gloves to wear and told me to put my other hand in my pocket as she did the same.  It was big trouble if you were caught without appropriate winter wear on the playground, and I didn't yet have mittens or such.   (It wasn't that my parents were unprepared for winter.  They were, however, unprepared for winter to hit in October and for there to be outdoor recess in the snow.  In Oklahoma, we didn't go outside for recess in the snow.  In Oklahoma, we didn't have snow.)

I was thrilled when Patti and I re-connected last year on a social networking sight.  We caught up on what our lives looked like now and what we remembered from all those years ago.  I made her chuckle because I remembered her phone number from back then. (Don't be impressed.  It was the first few notes of Happy Birthday.  Who wouldn't remember that?)  She made me chuckle with her recounting of things that had happened in and around Casper since I moved away.  And we found that we much more in common as adults than we ever did as young teenagers.

She was a wife and mother, and she loved being both.  She was a faithful daughter and sister and aunt and friend.  She served the community through Meals on Wheels.  She made God's love real and tangible to people, and she sought no attention or affirmation for it.  She was, as my dad would say, "good people."  (And my dad always thought she was cute as a button.)

Patti died last week, much too young, much too early from our perspective.  I know where she is. I know she gets to see her parents.  I know my dad is chatting her ear off.  I also know that I wasn't ready to let her go.  We were going to try to meet the next time I was through Casper, and I was going to try to articulate how much she meant to me, and how sad I was for all the years we weren't close. 

I'm not trying to make this about me.  It certainly isn't.  There is a husband, a daughter, relatives,  close friends and a whole community who, after tomorrow's service, will have to adjust to a new normal of life without Patti.  She had a large circle of influence, and she has left a gaping hole in their lives. 

I can't make the hurt go away for Patti's family and friends.  I know their faith is deep, and that truly is a comfort at a time like this.  I can, however, be thankful for the time she was in my life and learn from her example.  It was a life well-lived, Patti.  Rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Warped Door

If you just look at the sign on the door, you might miss the beauty of the rest of the dwelling.

Some friends have just moved into a beautiful new house.  Physically, it's beautiful.  But, honestly, we live in an area where many houses are beautiful.  What makes this house special is that it is a home.  It is a representation of the love of the family that dwells there.  It is a reminder that they are a family, they have worked hard, they are on the same team.  But this home has a warped door.  Even if you are not someone who has been trained to spot a door's warp factor, it is obvious the door is flawed because the builder wrote on the door, right there where everyone could see:  WARPED DOOR.

Now, if you've never built a house or been involved in a building renovation or remodel, you may not know that no one EVER moves into a perfect space.  There is always something that was left unfinished, something that needs to be redone, repainted, or removed.  So, in the great big scheme of things, a warped door is not that big of a deal.  And while I am certain there are more items on this new home's punch list, that's the only item I saw with its flaw so boldly proclaimed.

I hope this is not a news flash for you, but people are flawed.  Maybe our flaws are out there for everyone to see.  Perhaps we position ourselves around others whose flaws are more obvious so that ours seem to pale in comparison.  Some of us work hard to cover up or hide our flaws--a fresh coat of paint, a change of accessories.  But what if we had to wear signs around our necks that proclaimed our flaws?  What would yours say?  Emotionally Unavailable?  Narcissistic?  Jealous? Insecure?  Liar?  Pessimistic?

Personally, I would require a plethora of signs.  Things that need work, stuff that needs to be discarded, areas that need some attention to detail--I am a walking of punch list of flaws.  And I've lived long enough to realize I am not the only one.

I am determined to look past the signs, whether they are obvious or not.  I am determined to see the beauty of the whole person.  I choose to focus on what is good.  Because if I were to just look at the sign on the door, I might miss the beauty of the rest of the dwelling.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reunion Weekend

Cube 3 ruled.  It was like having 7 sisters.  We laughed and cried about boys, jobs, classes, and life.  We each had 7 other closets to rummage through to find just the right sweater vest or polo to wear.  There was almost always someone available to join you to grab something to eat or to join you on a trip to the beach.  And we played "Friends are Friends Forever" about half a million times.

This weekend was a reunion of my college roommates.  I was not able to go, but from all reports, it was pretty much like the old days, though, honestly, I didn't hear of any clothes sharing.  I am certain there were stories told, heartaches shared, and joys celebrated.  I thought of these friends so many times during the weekend.  How is that health scare turning out?  What happened to that relationship?   When was the last time anyone heard from that person?  What is like to have your kids walk through that? 

I am desperate to know how each friend is doing.  Not the kind of knowing that takes place on a "social connection website."  I want to know in the way good friends share together:  face-to-face, Kleenex close by, ready to hug at a moment's notice.  I want to look into their eyes and hear their hearts, and I want to tell each of them how they have impacted my life.

So, get ready Babes of Cube 3, because I WILL be at the next reunion.  I will need a brief update of whatever updating happened this weekend (I hope someone took notes), as well as the Cliffs Notes versions of each one's life since we last saw each other.  Let's start planning it for as soon as possible, please.

And if I happen to win McDonald's Monopoly, I'll see you all next week.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Daddy

Today is my dad's birthday, and I miss him.

I am thankful for the many wonderful years we had with him.  I am thankful for the things he taught me, the life he provided for our family, the way he loved his children (and their spouses and children), and especially the way he loved my mom.  But I miss him.

I miss being able to call to ask him what it means when a car makes this noise, what tool we need to fix this plumbing problem, or which road to take to shave time off a trip.  He was a natural mechanic, the World's Greatest Plumber, and he knew practically every road in the country.  And I miss him.

He's in a better place.  He is holding the 3 babies Dale and I have never held and telling everyone who walks through the gate the best way to navigate the streets of gold.  I'm pretty sure he's a greeter there, making certain people feel at ease, telling them the secret to getting the hot water turned on in the shower, and looking for my mom to join him.  Still, I miss him.

He didn't have much of a childhood.  He made certain we did.  He valued education for his children and put actions to his words when he earned his GED later in life.  He never met a stranger and was a favorite among the little old ladies of his church.  He had a million Okie-isms that we still repeat on an almost daily basis.  He had a twinkle in his eye which meant he was about to say something funny (and possibly inappropriate) or do something inappropriate (and most assuredly hilarious).  And he laughed the most contagious laugh.  I miss that, too.

I miss him when I smell coffee, eat barbeque, buy peanut butter in bulk, and drink ice cold milk.  I burn a ceremonial batch of cookies because he liked them crispy.  I see his eyes twinkle in my boys, I see his hands on my brother, I hear his laughter in us all.  And I miss him. 

I am thankful to have had the kind of dad that I get to miss.  I am thankful to have been able to embrace the process of grief without unfinished business.  No railing at God.  No bitterness about things past.  No lack of love on my part or his.  I got to just lean in and grieve.  I am so thankful for that.  But I miss him.

I'm not certain how birthdays work in Heaven, but I have a feeling today is an all-you-can-eat barbeque buffet. My dad, 3 babies in tow, is telling stories until people are snort-laughing and their sides are hurting.  At the end of the meal, those he just met are thinking that they are so glad he is there and how they would miss him if he wasn't.

I am familiar with that feeling.  I miss my dad.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Bright Pink Pole and a Load of Bikes

My family does not believe I possess the required skills to drive in reverse. Perhaps they are correct.

For vacation one year, we met Dale's parents at a lake. It was one of our favorite places to RV camp, fish, and ride bikes. After a wonderful week of good fun and great food (Dale's mom is an AMAZING cook), we loaded the 5 bikes on the bike rack and pointed our minivan in the direction of home. As a special treat to the boys, we planned to stop in a little college town to eat at one of our favorite ice cream/old fashioned burger places. Braum's refuses to expand beyond a 300 mile radius of their dairy, even though I've begged them to. Since we do not live within that sacred zone, we have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. We've even been known to load up on a Saturday, drive the 90 miles from our house to our nearest Braum's to eat lunch, and then drive right back home. No, I'm not kidding.

So, I was driving on that Sunday afternoon when we arrived in a college town about 120 miles from home. When we pulled into the Braum's parking lot, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. In fact, it seemed we had the whole town to ourselves (this was before Fall semester started). Had there been a tumbleweed blowing down the street with a lonesome train whistle in the background, I would not have been surprised.

As I pulled into the parking lot, my wonderful husband uttered the now most feared words in our family: "Megan, love of my life and wonderful mother to my children, go ahead and back into a parking space." (He might not have said the love of my life and wonderful mother stuff, but this is my blog. So, yeah.)

The light poles at Braum's are painted a bright pink. I'm not certain, but I think there was only one light pole in the whole parking lot. I found it. And learned something new. When you back a minivan into a light pole, and you just happen to have 5 bikes on the bike rack, the back window can only take so much of that kind of force. And then it explodes. Everywhere.

No one was hurt, thank God. Dale went into Braum's, told them what happened, asked them to call the police, picked up a broom and dustpan, and came back outside. Have I mentioned that he is the most calm person I know? And that his wife is not so calm? The very nice police officer is probably still telling the story of the nervous, chatty woman who answered all his questions before he asked and to whom he finally had to suggest that she sit down on the curb and take a breath.

The funny thing was when we looked up and saw that there were actually people in this town. I have no idea where they had been hiding, but when word got around that some dumb woman had pushed a load of bikes through a van window, they came crawling out of the woodwork. Not that I blame them. I would have come out to see it myself.

We headed home, with Dale driving, of course. I sat in the back seat, praying that no stray and deadly objects would defy physics and come flying through the opening formerly known as the rear window. I am happy to report that we made it home with no further incidents.

However, something quite odd happened once we got home. Slowly, but rather steadily, people dropped by our house to see what I had done to the van. When we were in the small town, I was pretty sure the operator from Mayberry was the one who spread the word. Once we were home, in an active suburb of a thriving metropolitan area, I was mystified as to how news spread so quickly. Apparently, stupidity attracts onlookers.

And even now, years after the dreaded bright pink pole incident, my boys still voice concern when I put the van in reverse. And then they stand around to watch what happens.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If I Had a Hammer

We have a very well-stocked toolbox.  I say "we" because it is in our garage, but my husband is the boss of our tools.  It's not a gender role/stereotype thing.  He likes the tools, he knows how to use the tools, and I have a tendency to make whatever needed to be fixed more in need of fixing when I use the tools.

For example, I cannot use the air compressor to inflate tires.  I am incapable of making it latch on correctly, and I end up letting air out of the tire instead of putting air into the tire.  Then I let out even more air when I use the tire gauge to check how much air I let out in the filling process.  It's pretty much a disaster every time I use the air compressor.  I am worse with a drill.

So, today I needed a hammer.  (If Dale is reading this, he just got very frightened.)  The hammers in the toolbox are too large and heavy for me to wield with much accuracy (let's blame it on the size of the hammer).  Seriously, those hammers make my hands hurt.  And before you shout out the obvious, I tried using a hairbrush as a hammer.  This time, it didn't work. When did they start making hairbrushes so fragile they cannot be used as hammers?

So, after demolishing a perfectly good hairbrush, I remembered that I have a hammer.  MY hammer.  It's smaller, lighter, it fits in my hand, and I can swing it (sort of).  It's not the kind of hammer that would help in the actual building of anything, unless you are interested in building with thumbtacks.  It is, however, perfect for driving garden spikes into the ground and for hanging lightweight pictures on the wall.  Yep.  Very fond of that hammer, and I'm glad we have it in the toolbox.

In life, we use tools.  I have it on good authority* that having inadequate tools to deal with life's challenges is a bad thing.   I've also heard (same good authority) that being "one tool shy of a full toolbox" is kind of a drag as well.  As I think about whether or not my children have the tools they need in life, I pray we're using the right tools to teach them.  Some situations call for compassion.  Some call for drawing a hard line.  Sometimes we play devil's advocate.  Sometimes we are human shields.

I don't always pick up the correct tool; there have been some disastrous results.  And there have been times I may have picked up the right tool but applied it incorrectly.  Again, not great results.  I'm thankful Dale and I had great parents who taught us, by example, how to use the tools we have.  Also, we've been blessed to meet some extraordinary people who have shared their parenting tools with us.  In addition, we can credit good churches and a school or two with some help along the way.  (Truly, it takes a village to stock a toolbox.)

People need a really good set of tools as they make their way through life.  I want my children to have more than a passing acquaintance with the tools they've been given, I want them to make wise choices when adding to their toolboxes, and I especially want them to make wise choices in picking and using tools.  And if they make good choices, it will be obvious they get their tool sense from their dad.

*Thank you for your professional input, good authority person.  You know who you are.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

22 Years and Counting!

Dale bought me a ring, roses, a stuffed elephant (so I would never forget his love) and took me to a lake at sunset to propose.  I bought him a Boston album (yes, an album) and some socks.

In many ways, I think our marriage has been about just such disparity.  His family is quiet; mine, not so much.  Dale has always been the bread winner; I have mostly stayed home.  I am the one who jettisoned small children out of my body; he mostly tried to keep from passing out.

But we've been on the same page at times, too.  We had to be to survive job setbacks, devastating losses of family and friends, broken dreams, 3 miscarriages, major illnesses, and simultaneous teenagers.  And the two of us on a road trip are absolutely hilarious--at least to the two of us.

I don't know the secret for keeping a marriage together for everyone else.  But I know what works for us.  Every day, we choose each other.

Dale, I don't know why you took a chance on such a guarded heart, but I'm very glad you did.  Happy Anniversary, Darling.  I love you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Tanner!

Today one of my babies turns 17. Seventeen. That's close to grown up. When did that happen?

Was it while I was still recovering from the actual birthing of that 9 pound 4 ounce bundle of joy?  Was it during one of the MANY trips we've made to the ER to have some part of his head or face sewn up?  Was it during that day we watched the anesthesia kick in before the doctors stuck a camera down his throat and took pictures of his digestive system?

Perhaps it was when he started wearing those dreaded Rec Specs for basketball and then silenced the mockers when he sank his first 3 pointer.  Maybe it was when he lost his favorite cowboy when my dad passed away.  Maybe it was this summer when we checked out a college campus and started talking about ways to make that work.
Tanner drives a rather beat up truck that doesn't really blend in with the fancy cars many kids in his high school have.  But he loves that truck.  He often wears cowboy boots and some of my dad's very old fashioned cowboy shirts which is not really the "cool kid approved" clothing.  But he loves the way he dresses.  And his dream vacation is not a trip to a beach somewhere.  He would much prefer to someday accompany my brother on an elk hunt.

Tanner has always marched to the beat of his very own drum. (Even his imaginary friend was a bit out of the norm.) An animal lover, a reader, a champion of the underdog, he respects your beliefs, but you aren't going to persuade him to change his. He's brilliant in many ways, but he sure doesn't tell anyone that. And he has such a tender heart. If you're this kid's friend, you're his friend for life.  If you are his mom, you are one very blessed woman.

Happy Birthday, my neglected middle child.  I love you so.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Basement, My Life

This just in: My boys are growing up too quickly.  I have a vague awareness of this most times. At other times, like this weekend, it hits me full force.

There's pressure to make a big dent in reorganizing the basement quickly due to a furniture situation (a different story for a different day). So there really isn't a lot of time to open every box, unfold every piece of clothing, read every note written with those hands I love so much, or relive each memory. Consequently, there will definitely be more Basement Cleanout Weekends in our future. Sigh. I mean, really, if it has stayed safely boxed up since we moved here 9 years ago, it's probably not going anywhere soon, right? Apparently that is part of the problem.

I am not genetically wired with the ability to just throw away things we aren't using. Cute clothing goes to friends with younger boys. Still usable items go to the next charity that drives their truck down our street.  What can't be reused by someone else is recycled. And if it holds a special memory, I keep it.  Unfortunately (and it's unfortunate in so many ways), I have a great memory. Hence, the basement is full of books, clothes, and toys labeled  KEEP IT.

There are books I can give away, and then there are the books that are so clearly imprinted in my mind as I stood in the doorway and watched Dale read to a little boy curled up in his lap.  There are clothes I can hand down, and then there are the precious denim overalls all 3 boys wore or the matching vests Grandma made them one Christmas.  There are toys I can give away, and then there are the toys I've stepped on and nearly killed myself in the process. Wait, those toys I can give away. The toys I can't give away are the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of Hot Wheels, Lincoln Logs, and stuffed animals for which I dropped whatever I was doing so that I could see the latest creation or, and this was my favorite, be invited to join in on the fun. These days, books are read when they are assigned. Clothes are definitely no longer homemade. There are still toys; they are just bigger and cost more to insure.

So this basement, this history of our family collected in Rubbermaid totes and cardboard boxes is an emotional rollercoaster for me. The questions spoken out loud have been the "Do you remember this?" kinds of questions. The questions in my heart are the kind that are more difficult to answer. Have I done enough to ensure these boys will be good men? Have I made good decisions? Will I always feel this joy when looking back on their lives?  And as I look at the boxes, the bags, the tubs, and the totes, I know that we've had a good ride, so far. We've packed a lifetime of memories and experiences into these boys. And someday, maybe when they are unpacking their own boxes of memories, they will understand the enormity of this thing called parenting, and they will feel this feeling I have right now: This is the most important thing I will ever do.

I am thankful God gave me these guys. Now if  He would just tell me what to do with their stuff.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

My friend is a flight attendant for American Airlines. I knew she was not flying on September 11, 2001, partly because I did not have her kids that day (I watched them on days she flew), and partly because I was on the phone with her, each of us watching the news coverage in absolute shock. We were watching when that 2nd plane hit. We were watching when people were jumping out of the building. We were watching when people were running for their lives when the towers collapsed. And we cried.

I remember crying a lot over those next few weeks. The stories that slowly emerged, the heroes we came to know, the magnitude of the loss, the pride in seeing people mobilized for a common cause, a president who spoke with great resolve. And always, always, the lives that had been forever changed in that one moment.

Obviously, I was not there. I don't live in New York, I don't know anyone who lives in New York, I didn't know anyone who had a loved one in the area or who was directly affected by the tragedy. But I do know this one thing that becomes crystal clear on a day like that: We have today. Period. We don't have the certainty that we will have next year, or next week, or tomorrow. We have today.
Life is so short and so incredibly unpredictable. Love someone today. And if you get a tomorrow, love then, too.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm a Sunset Girl

I love sunsets.  LOVE them, especially on the water. When we are on the left coast, we drop everything and head to the beach to watch the sunset. My mom lives within walking distance of a great beach. I think there's something kind of magical about living like that, where you can hear and smell the ocean when you go outside and walk down to it whenever you want to. Sigh...

It's not that I don't enjoy sunrises. I do. It's special to watch the sun come up on a new day, full of new opportunities, full of promise. I like the pre-sunrise, where the sky lightens and then gradually takes on the colors of the day.

But it's sunsets that really take my breath away. Like a kiss at the end of a day. A seal on another day well-lived, a stamp of approval on life.  I love the colors and the gradual disappearance of that big ball of fire which seems to not move at all until you look away for a moment and look back to find the sun much lower on the horizon (or setting the water on fire, as my guys like to say).

Now, some people have said that I must be a pessimist to like sunsets more than sunrises. Their point, I believe, is that an optimist would look forward to a new day (sunrise).  While I've never stood in line for an "I Love Mornings" t-shirt, that doesn't mean that I lack optimistic tendencies. I just prefer sunsets over their morning counterparts. When I see a sunset, when I take the time to really watch it and contemplate its beauty and meaning, I am humbled at how small we are and, at the same time, exhilarated at how much God loves us to give us such beautiful color in our world.

Yep, I'm a sunset girl. That's how I roll.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top Ten Tuesday

The Top 10 Things I Learned about Motherhood by Being a Cheerleader:
10.  The ability to yell loudly is a God-given gift.
9.   Working really hard at perfecting the splits will only get you the ability to do the splits.
8.   The short, skinny girls can fly through the air because the taller, bigger girls are the foundation of the world.
7.   Boys smell bad.
6.   Knowing how to execute a takedown is worth far more than 2 points in real life.
5.   Never underestimate the importance of appropriate undergarments.
4.   A last minute, game-winning basket can make up for a whole season of misses.
3.   Just because a girl is happy does not mean she is shallow.
2.   Cute shoes do not keep your feet warm at football games.
1.   Cheering when it seems hopeless is far more important than cheering when victory is certain.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

There's a Wordy Artist in my Soul

I cannot draw, as is documented here. At one time, the game Pictionary was a family favorite, and the stress I felt when it was my turn to draw was overwhelming. I cannot even draw stick people to look like stick people. And I am surrounded by artists. My husband does beautiful watercolors. My sons are all able to draw, especially cars (their passion). My mother has a lifelong love affair with painting. My sister is a gifted artist. And I have numerous amazingly talented friends.

It is so frustrating to have a picture in my mind and not be able to translate that onto paper. I know exactly how I want it to look, and I just don't have the ability to make that happen. If I could make that translation, there wouldn't be a surface in my home left untouched. No blank walls. No books without hand painted covers. No dog dishes left unadorned.

But that's not my gift. I can wish for it, hope for it, dream about it, but it's not happening.  What I might be able to do, however, is create pictures with words.  So, I'll try.  I'll share experiences and dreams.  I'll offer a view into disappointments and hurts.  I might even tell my almost world famous Naked Fire Story.

And while I attempt to do that, the walls of my home will be safe.  Unless I find some really great letter stencils...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Really? A Blog?

Still unsure.  Still curious.  Still deciding if I really want to do this.

It feels like a commitment.  It feels like opening the blinds on a window of our lives and letting people peer in.  And, to be honest, it feels a little bit like I'm saying, "Hey! Dig me."  And I so don't want this to be a Dig Me. (Dig Me: It means thinking pretty highly of oneself.)

I don't really know what will happen here. I don't necessarily have an agenda other than to encourage. And provoke a smile. And possibly make someone think. Possibly.

So, let's see what happens. I'm going to click the 'publish' button. You've been warned.