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.