keenchick

Stories and thoughts about family and life

Eagle Scout

I have a friend whose son graduated from high school last year.  She told me this day would be hard for me, as in emotionally hard.  I have to admit, I kind of scoffed a bit.  I’ve had plenty of hard days–2015 was full of them.  This day isn’t going to be that.  Yeah, well, I was wrong.

Lucas is having his Eagle Scout Board of Review tonight.  It’s a day we’ve been working especially hard on the past 90 days or so.  From completing and turning in paperwork, to scheduling people to attend tonight, it’s been a sometimes challenging end to his Eagle endeavor.    Nevertheless, though, he is prepared–all the way down to a new uniform shirt with new badges and a fresh haircut and shave.  (Wow, did I really just say “shave”?)

My husband is his Scoutmaster, and therefore has tiptoed around the normal “dad” duties in Luke’s Scouting career to be careful not to give the impression of impropriety, especially on his Eagle project.  I don’t mind.  It’s given me the opportunity to connect with Luke in ways I haven’t been able to before where Scouting is concerned.  You see, that’s always been “the thing he and his dad do.”  While I might go on the campouts here and there, I kind of hang back a bit and let them have this thing together.  I think it’s been good for both of them.  But, selfishly, I have enjoyed getting to share more closely in this achievement.

So, I was told that I needed to write a recommendation letter for Luke.  I’ve thought about it for a couple of days, but hadn’t really felt it enough to sit down and pen anything.  With the review being tonight, however, I needed to get motivated.  I sat in my office this morning, with the blinds open and the sun peeking over the horizon, and started my letter.  It took me nearly an hour to write, and I edited it and started over a couple of times with different thoughts.   And my friend is right–I was crying by the end.  I’m not much a of a crier either (unless I’m angry or really hurt), but I have a feeling as this child gets closer and closer to leaving the nest, those Hallmark moments are going to come in greater frequency.

As my words flowed onto the page and I pondered the growth I’ve seen in Luke over the years, I saw my pride for him in a whole new light.  It’s inspiring to look at so many years of his life and the culmination of that into this one project and final achievement.    It’s an amazing experience, and I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes and write your own child a letter of recommendation.   I was absolutely crying by the end, and getting to see him grow through the words and see his accomplishments as I would want an outsider to view them was a fantastic experience.

The Scout law says “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”   Now, any mom of a teenage boy will tell you that they’re not nearly as clean as they could be.  Cheerful is sometimes a toss-up, too, but on the whole this kid (who am I kidding–he’s taller than I am!) embodies all these principles.  He is sweet and kind, helpful, and intelligent.  He has a quirky sense of humor and that crooked grin and deep green eyes just make me melt.

I can’t imagine my life without him.  I’m so proud of him I can’t see straight, and yes, I probably will cry again tonight.  If this is a snapshot of his senior year, I should probably invest in Kleenex right now.

If you see my soon-to-be Eagle Scout somewhere today, please give him a hug, and tell him he’s awesome–because he totally is.

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I’m not a caretaker

 

The trips to the nursing home usually have some degree of interesting activity along with them.  Seldom is it simply a drop off of supplies or a check-in.  It might start out that way, but it seldom ends with simply that.  With each passing year I realize how woefully ill-equipped I am for caretaking of my elders.

My mother-in-law has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease.  This makes conversations around and involving her take on a new level of complexity.  She upsets easily and she fixates on details which are hard to overcome.  Add to that a roommate in her room who is bedridden and demonstrating her needs as we try to visit and you’ve got the makings for quite an eventful visit.

My father-in-law accompanied my husband and me to my mother-in-law’s room.  They no longer room together, and we have to change floors to find my mother-in-law has just finished lunch.  My father-in-law unceremoniously removes her from the dining facility and wheels her back to her room.  She looks at my husband and me as she passes by and says hello.  When dealing with someone with such an advanced disease, you want to believe that it’s recognition in her eyes, but it’s honestly just politeness.  She never knows me anymore, and she seldom recognizes my husband (which breaks my heart for him).

We follow them into her room and he helps her transfer from the wheelchair to the chair. She had been mumbling something to Louis just before us entering the room.  As she was moving into the chair, she said it again “I’m going to have to find some place to live.  I can’t stay here.”  My sweet husband, unlike me, has the patience of Job in situations like this.  He is amazing with our Boy Scouts and can talk them through things long after I would have had to leave the room and catch my breath.  He has been enormously patient with his parents and their questions, needs, and demands.  He and his sister are a united front on their cause and it’s a site to behold, especially after so many stories I’ve heard about other siblings.

He thoughtfully considers his response and says “you are living here.  You need to be here to get the help you need.”  Now, I should mention as well that my mother-in-law cannot hear and no longer has a functioning hearing aid.  She’s destroyed each one she has because she can’t remember having them in her ear and ends up pulling them out, stepping on and crushing them.   She cannot hear much at all, which I’m sure adds to the almost sickeningly comical tones our conversations must take on.  He has to repeat this sentence a couple of times, as does my father-in-law.  She continues to persist, “I can live with you,” motioning toward Louis, “or I can live with my sister and her husband but I can’t stay here, and I can’t live with him” as she gestures toward my father-in-law.   Again they try to reason with her.  We can see she’s getting upset, which is a key that it’s time to change the subject.  I pull up my phone and show her a picture from Brennan’s most recent 7th grade basketball game.  “Oh, my he’s grown!” she exclaims.  My husband and I beam that she seems to recognize him.  “Is he enjoying college?”

My husband tries to gently, although very loudly, explain that Brennan is in high school, and has a way to go before college.  She remarks about the cost of college and how we’ll pay for that and then she’s moved on to something else.  “I need to go to the bathroom,” she says.  I decide this is an excellent job for me: “I’ll go get the nurse.”  I run out to the nurses station and bring back her nurse.  My husband and I decide we should step into the hall to be polite and give her some privacy.

As we stand in the hall, one of the residents comes walking down the hall, with a big smile on her face.  “You’ve lost your hall pass, huh?” I chuckled, thinking that was pretty clever.  We’re in the hall, and we’re not moving.  Hall pass–yeah, that’s pretty funny.  Like how we used to have hall passes in school.  “Yes,” I remark.  “I don’t know what on Earth we did with them!”   I laugh at my wit, and she responds “I’ve lost mine too.  The nurses won’t give me another.”  I search her face for a second to determine if this is a continuation of the joke.  Sadly, it is not.  Now I feel like a heel for laughing.

Thankfully, the restroom break is over and we can return to the room.  My mother-in-law never missed a beat, asking about various financials, and remarking that she needs a place to live, but now that she won’t live with him (gesturing toward Louis).  “Where are my credit cards?”  she inquires.  “I used to have credit cards in my wallet.  Where is my wallet?”  I announce that I have her wallet, but that there are no credit cards left.  My father-in-law tries to explain that we had to close all their accounts and destroy their cards when they came to the nursing home.  She’s not having that.  She keeps asking and he finally makes a ripping gesture to demonstrate the cards have been destroyed.

She escalates the conversation and announces that she should have social security money (which she does), but she knows she doesn’t.  She knows that my father-in-law is getting his money and her money too.  Louis tries to explain.  She’s not hearing it.  She wants someone to take her to the social security office and fix this.  She reiterates, pointing a finger at my father-in-law, that she knows he’s getting her social security AND his, and then proclaims “you’re a BAD BOY.”

It’s almost like when your toddler has done something which really shouldn’t be funny, but at the same time is almost adorable and sweet and innocent.   I was watching my husband’s reaction, unsure what to do.   My mother-in-law now changed the subject a bit and said that she knew she had HIM (pointing at Louis) to blame for not being able to leave, and not being able to ride the elevator, and not having anything.  He was staring at my father-in-law, who finally shrugged, and tried to change the subject again.   I was grateful in that moment that she didn’t recognize me.  There’s no telling what thing I would have done to her.

Meanwhile, in the next bed is her new roommate, who is bedridden.  She is having quite the conversation with herself, although we can’t quite make out what she says until she yells across the room “I need help.  I need to go to the bathroom.”  I jump up and announce that I’ll get the nurse (remember the part where I don’t need to take care of people?), and I march out to the nurses station.  The nurse says she’ll be right in, but that the patient has a Foley, so she doesn’t need to get up.  I decide I can handle this, and I tell the nurse (who is right in the middle of something) that I’ve got this.

I go back into room, feeling confident that I’m going to solve this lady’s issue, even if I can’t make my mother-in-law feel any better or be any more settled.  I walk over to the bed and say to the lady that she has a catheter and she can just go.  She doesn’t have to actually get up and go to the bathroom.  I’m about to turn and walk away, exceptionally proud that I’ve handled this, when she holds up two bony fingers and says “but. . .”  Oh, no!  I am NOT the one to deal with this!   Nothing beyond number 1 for me!

Another trip to the nurses station and an announcement to the nurse that she’s going to have to come and handle this.  I’m not equipped for this kind of assistance.  She and her coworker half-giggled at me as she thanked me for trying.

There’s no telling what those people see day in and day out.  I tell her nurse every time we’re there that I have such a great appreciation for them.  Being a nurse is hard enough, but having a patient who can’t remember what you told them two minutes ago has to be ridiculously difficult.  I know it is for the family.  Her nurse keeps telling me that it’s no big deal, and that she’s called to do this.  She says that it’s okay for us to be unsure what to do, and not know how to respond.  I’m glad to hear this every time she says it, because I seriously don’t know what to say or do most of the time.

We try to simply find a little humor in each visit.  I think that’s the only thing that gets us through sometimes.  Like my Daddy says “just as soon laugh as cry about it.”  So I’ll choose to laugh, until it’s time to cry.

 

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Christmas not-so-bliss

I’m generally a happy person with a good sense of humor.  I like to please people, and I enjoy spending time with people who are engaging.  I want to love the holidays—I really do.  But I just don’t.  I’m over it.  I know—bah humbug.  I guess I’m getting old, maybe, or possibly I’m just tired of all the silliness one has to endure.  I’ve come to appreciate why depression is typically at its highest during the holidays, and I suspect it doesn’t have nearly as much to do with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or being alone as it does having to be with people who bring you down.  Please, please make sure those around you know you love them and you enjoy spending time with them.

We’ve struggled since our children were little with where to spend Christmas.  My in-laws didn’t like us constantly going to my parents’ house (although Christmas day was the only day of the year my husband was off, and we were always spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws).    So we jockeyed things around the best we could and tried to make everyone feel their appropriate level of attention and spent time with everyone at every holiday.   Then when our first son was born it was even worse.  My husband no longer had a job which had him working on the holidays, so the expectation was even higher that each holiday would be spent in each place.  By the time we had our second son (who didn’t sleep through the night for the first year), I was exhausted.  We started telling everyone if they wanted to see us on Christmas they had to come to us.  That went fine for a year or two (but let me tell you having a dozen people around a table built for 6 is no picnic either).  I don’t remember what happened that first year, but I suspect it was something similar to this year.  I went through the motions—I did what I was supposed to do and ensured everyone else had a wonderful day.  I, on the other hand, was miserable.  After it was all over, I sat my husband down and told him how I felt.  I think we had both been feeling the same thing, but we were afraid to say it.

Christmas had stopped being about coming together and feeling love and comfort.  It had become an obligatory event.  Someone had to kill themselves all day making a huge meal, which was consumed in 30 minutes and left everyone in a nearly miserable food coma for the afternoon.  The kids were drowning in toys and never seemed to be playing with the “right” one to suit whomever was in the house at the time.  For the kids, it wasn’t about this special day with family, but just another day to “get” things.  For us, I was usually so grateful to see everyone go and have my peace and quiet back that I couldn’t believe wait for it to be over.

So, that year, we decided we would take the boys to Disney the next year.  Not on Christmas morning—not as some big Christmas surprise, but we would book a condo and plan on spending from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day, just enjoying our family.  Our “special Christmas meal” consisted of spaghetti, I think, that year.  I told the boys I’d make whatever they wanted.  In subsequent years, we’ve either ended up at T-Rex café, or doing something equally fun.  We’ve talked about our adventures, and how Christmas is about us being together and loving one another.  The last trip we made to Disney we did Christmas Eve around the World at Epcot, and then The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Christmas Day.  It was magical and wonderful.  I remember smiling pretty much the whole day, despite walking nearly 13 miles by the time it was over.  The boys were so happy and excited and grateful, and we made some wonderful memories I will cherish forever.

I recognize that I sound a little pitiful and self-indulgent to some of you, probably, but I want my kids to get more out Christmas than a few presents being thrown their way and a meal they’re not interested in eating anyway.  I want them to get to have time with us, and build relationships with us.  I want to sit around and play games with them or go out and run around or see something spectacular that builds special memories for them.  I want to watch them grow and enjoy our times with them.

When I was a kid, we were always at my parent’s house.  They didn’t associate with the rest of our family and so we never went anywhere or were dragged from here to there or flooded with a bunch of guests.  We opened our own gifts under our own tree, and it was just us being a family.  There was no “why aren’t you at our house” or “Grandma is bringing you presents” kind of association. I want my kids to have the realization that Christmas isn’t a cookie-cutter (pardon the pun) event and that they need to do what feels right for their families when the time comes.

I’ve been so amused (or unamused, depending on the day) at my friends who have taken up “Elf on the Shelf” but then complain incessantly about having to do it.  Even better are the entire websites devoted to “ideas” for Elf on the Shelf or ideas for how to get out of doing it (Elfie broke his leg and so he’s going to sit here all season).  My sister even told me yesterday about a story where a child called 9-1-1 because she had touched the elf and her parents had told her if she touched it, all the magic would be gone.  Seriously, people?    The people who make the elf do something naughty really get my goat.  I thought this was supposed to be Santa’s way of watching your kid behave, not to teach the kid it’s okay to be destructive or do mean things.

Now I’m seeing my friends posting Valentine Candy pictures on Christmas day and how the stores are all moving on to the next big event.  Does it occur to anyone else that maybe the reason so many more kids have ADD nowadays is that we’ve taught EVERYone to have it?  We have toys which plays snippets of 50 little songs, or jump from activity to activity so no one focuses very long.  We jump from holiday to holiday in our stores as if we’re competing for some Olympic event.  Two years ago it was which store could open the earliest.  This year it was which one would be closed on Christmas.

I’m seeing friends on Facebook who are TOTALLY offended if someone doesn’t say MERRY Christmas.  Happy Holidays or Happy Christmas isn’t good enough.  For Pete’s sake.  Be grateful people acknowledge you at all.  Be grateful they’re trying to share whatever little bit of themselves they have.  You don’t know that maybe they weren’t raised in a house where Merry Christmas was even a thing—it might be something they’re just discovering.  I’m so tired of living in a world where a person can’t do anything without being judged for it.  And God help me if I don’t share you religious or political beliefs.  Any benign remark I make is going to get me attacked.  I’ve seen tremendous acts of kindness be completely criticized this Christmas, and I’ve seen people to whom I used to look up say such mean and spiteful things that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time this holiday near tears.

My friends who have lost parents and tell me all the time “you don’t know how lucky you are that you and your husband still have your parents.”  I know you mean well, but please stop.  You don’t know what you’re saying.  You lost your parent when s/he was still in the prime of life.  Still had all of his/her faculties, still knew who you were and still cared that you were there.  If you doubt that, I’ll take you one day to the nursing home where my mother-in-law breaks my husband’s heart and the hearts of my children every time she thinks they’re nursing home workers or is spiteful or disinterested when we visit.  Having the body isn’t the same as having the person.    You don’t know what it’s like to feel like an errand person all the time, and not ever get a visit just for the sake of having a visit.  You don’t know what it’s like to take a person you’ve respected your entire life (as you were raised, by the way), and suddenly have to treat that person as if he or she is a child.  You don’t understand arguing over why they should care more about health issues, get more exercise, eat better, etc.  You don’t understand having to constantly have to have conversations with the nurses because your parent is tattling like a 3 year old every time something doesn’t go his or her way.  You don’t understand having to explain to a 13 year old who is excited to tell his grandparent the latest thing going on about why the grandparent is more interested in talking about what he or she wants than listening to this child try to share his life with them.  You don’t have to watch your child’s eyes fill with tears, or try to help them understand how their grandparents can’t help it, and he should just keep trying.

I’m the happiest when I’m traveling with my children.  I hope when they’re grown they want to come spend Christmas with us, or will invite us to spend Christmas with them.  If they want to be alone, or travel with their children, I will understand.    I hope these lessons I’ve endured will help me be a better parent.   Understanding, peace, and love.  Shouldn’t that be Christmas?  Aren’t we supposed to be reminded of the love Christ had for us, and God has for us?

As I’ve reflected on this a tremendous deal the past couple of days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can spend any ol’ day going through the motions and placating family members to spend time.  I can make a meal which would please a group, and we can sit around the table and talk.    I’m going to reserve my Christmas day for my family and the people close to me, who uplift me and make me feel valuable (and for whom I hopefully do the same).  I’m not going to “go through the motions” any more.  I’m going to do something which makes us happy, and helps us feel like a family—gifts or not.

My hope for you in 2016 is that you are prosperous and happy and you receive the benefits of both.  I hope that you are tolerant and kind, and pass love on to the people around you who maybe aren’t feeling it for whatever reason.

Happy New Year.

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Parental Timewasters

I get it–I really do.  She is probably trying to teach the kid a lesson because he didn’t do what he was supposed to do and piddled (as 14 year old boys are prone to do) more than he should have.  After having made the third trip now to either drop off or pick up documentation that some mysterious person whom I’ve never seen or talked to will review and ultimately “sign off,” I’m less than amused to still not have this process complete.

I’m not trying to misplace the blame.  Oh, no.  Part of this is totally on my kid who lost the first set of documentation she had already reviewed and signed.  What I’m irritated about is this “cloak and dagger” style of leaving things in the mail slot or under the door at her office because we can never manage to be there when she’s there, and then waiting on a mysterious text to tell us when to pick it up, only to find that she’s then again not available.

We go today to pick it up, only to find out that she had put it in the mail slot for us to hopefully retrieve before the mail ran (which, of course, we didn’t).   So I left work–again.  I ran him down there–again.  We found we hadn’t beat the mailman, and then I pulled out his phone and read her text, which basically said “I’m leaving it in the mail slot, but if it gets pushed through you can come back tomorrow.”  Well, sure I can.  I have nothing to do all day.  I’m not trying to run a business, or prepare for Christmas, or deal with my other child, or run errands.  Nope.  I’m just sitting here, wishing for something to do during the day, and a reason to drive in Christmas traffic–that’s just a bonus!

So, bless his heart, the 14 year old got quite the lecture on the way back to the office.  He heard all about respecting one’s time, and how procrastinating doesn’t usually only hurt the one doing the procrastinating.  Then my husband got to hear it, and now you’re getting to.  I feel better now, though.  Thanks for listening.

And, tomorrow we’ll go back down and hopefully pick up the completed paperwork and finally put this behind us.  I already told my husband that needs to be how this goes, because I have a really full day tomorrow and if this doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to, I’m liable to just sit in her hallway and give her an earful when I finally get to see her.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Writing

I read blogs online and I think “I want to write more.  Why am I not blogging more?”.  I love writing.  It’s a tremendous release for me and helps me deal with things going on in my life.  It’s a way to share my corny sense of humor, and my perspective on things.  I love to people watch, and to observe life around me.  I have a pretty deep realization in some of the craziest things (which I think makes my husband wonder if I’ve had enough sleep).  Why don’t I write more?

The short answer is I’m lazy.  I’m busy, and tired, and I’m a mom and a business-owner, and being the boss is exhausting—that’s the longer answer.  I work long days and I fight with my kids over ridiculous things like grades or reading more or for Pete’s sake getting the laundry done.  I want to rest in bed at night and engage myself with something challenging/entertaining on television.  I work too much, and I think too much about EVERYthing.

Seriously.  Too much about everything.  Too much about how we can improve this process or that one.  Too much about why something turned out the way it did (or didn’t).  Too much about what to do when I’m ten years further down the road and the boys are out of high school and into (hopefully) the college of their dreams and my husband and I are contemplating retirement and where should we move and what do houses cost there and what would we do with ourselves all day and could we travel easily from where ever that might be and what would we do with our house here and what if the boys move away from there and start families and I want to move again?  See, it’s exhausting.

When I’m in the car, and I’m mindlessly driving (although, in Little Rock, it’s hard to drive mindlessly—it’s seriously dangerous!), all kinds of things flood through my mind.  Things I’ve forgotten to say or do, solutions to problems, potential ideas for one thing or another, friends to whom I haven’t spoken in a while.  I end up being actually remarkably productive in the car, except that my Siri is an idiot and doesn’t do what I ask.  Staff members or my husband frequently get calls from me saying “I forgot to tell you. . . “ or “I’ve been thinking about that problem we’ve been having, and this might work. . . “

I have so many good stories to tell.  So many things my kids do or conversations we have.  I should be writing all the time.  So, my promise to myself in 2016 is that I will take more time off and will write/blog more.  Aren’t you excited?

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If I only had a film crew

I really don’t understand much of the buzz behind reality TV today.  I can’t bring myself to even watch most of it, despite having several friends who keep me “up” on what’s going on.  I think how silly and mundane everyday life is, and wonder why anyone would care.  Besides, even thought it’s supposedly “reality,” people are fooling themselves if they think it’s not scripted to make the most of it for TV.

I joke around quite a bit that I should have my own camera crew following me.  I’m sure I would be at least as interesting as those Kardashian folks.  I have goofy or interesting things that happen to me all the time, and sometimes probably more interesting and I KNOW more goofy than they should be.  For example, my recent trip to northern Arkansas.

I was asked to go on an impromptu business trip.  I would be gone a couple of days resolving something for a client who was in a pickle and needed immediate attention.  I discuss this with my husband who is totally fine with holding down the fort as I’m gone.  We leave work Friday and decide to make the grocery store run before heading home.  As we’re walking through the grocery story, discussing how many eggs there might be left in the fridge, it hits me that I’m supposed to host Bunco at my house Tuesday night.  I’m also supposed to return home from my business trip Tuesday night.  As panic begins to take over and I weigh out my options, my sweet husband offers to take care of preparing everything and making sure the house is presentable and tells me not to worry.  We purchase our groceries, lecture the kids over which newly purchased items they’re not allowed to touch because they’re for “Mom’s event on Tuesday,” and head home.

Sunday morning I had decided to leave early so I could visit a friend of mine on the way to my final destination.  This friend is incarcerated, and I don’t get to see him much.  It’s quite a drive from where I live and, unfortunately, life just gets in the way sometimes.  At any rate, I’m excited that I’ll get to see him and I set about getting my things packed to make the trip.  I had set out a pair of capris to wear, when my husband points out a pair of shorts I had also laid out.  It was going to be over 100 that day, so I opt for the shorts not even thinking.  As I throw everything in the truck and roar up the street, I begin to think about the things I’ll encounter on my business trip and how I can maybe handle the issues I already know are coming.  I left early enough to stop and grab breakfast on the way, and I had planned it to arrive about 15 minutes ahead of the start of visitation to see my friend.

About five miles down the interstate, I realize I left my laptop at the house.  I call my husband and ask him to have one of the boys waiting in the garage with it.  Laptop now in tow, I set out again, 20 minutes later than I had planned.

I drive an older vehicle–one that’s not really designed to run on ethanol.  For some reason, there is almost NO availability to non-ethanol in my immediate location, so I have to drive 15 miles out of my way when I want to purchase some.  With that in mind, I typically seek out those stations with non-ethanol when I travel.  I stop to buy gas, and as I’m opening the gas door to reach the gas cap, I see my new locking gas cap.  This was something we had purchased a month or so before, after my original gas cap had been lost.  I dislike the locking gas cap a LOT.  So much that my husband almost always puts gas in my vehicle.  After I spend five minutes finally getting the gas cap off, and skinning my knuckles in the process, I’m finally putting gas in my truck and getting on with my day.  Note to self:  talk to husband about replacing gas cap.

Back on the road and traffic has cooperated for the most part, with the exception of the last 30 miles before I’ll see my friend.  I was re-acquainted with the term “Sunday Driver,” as I slowed to a crawl and followed a variety of different cars up through the Ozarks.  The mountainous road makes it hard to pass, and 30 on a 50 mph highway just wasn’t accomplishing my goals.  I ended up showing up 20 minutes past the start of visitation.  I was anxious to get signed in and see my friend, as we only had a couple of hours to visit.

I run through the list as I’m preparing to exit my vehicle:  ID, money, keys.  No phone, no purse, etc.  Satisfied that I’m sufficiently ready, I slide out of the vehicle and head for the building.  Once inside, I’m greeted by a line with about 18 people in it.   I’m always amazed at the glacial pace at which lines like this proceed, especially when there’s a deadline involved.  Ever gone to the DMV on the last day of the month?  Yeah, this was sort of like that.  I stand there in line for a few minutes, trying to hide my anxious frustration over the pace, when I catch the sign on the wall at the head of the line. I’m reading down it (it’s been a few months since I’ve been here) and remembering that I’ve followed all the rules correctly, when I hit the fourth line down: ABSOLUTELY NO SHORTS, TANK TOPS, SKIRTS.  Well, crap.

I’m mentally scolding myself.  I knew better.  I even laid out capris to wear.  I just had a temporary lapse in memory as I got dressed that morning.  I think quickly about my options.  I have capris and dress pants in my suitcase.  I need to go back to the car.  I didn’t want to drag in my entire suitcase and make a big production out of changing clothes.   I opened my suitcase and removed the capris and slid into the front seat of my vehicle.  I laid the seat back a bit, slipped off my tennis shoes and shorts on the slipped on the capris and replace my tennis shoes.  Easy!  Just took about 30 seconds!  I’m a total rock star!  Very satisfied with my accomplishment, I gather my items again, get a small change purse from my purse because my capris didn’t have any pockets for my money or driver’s license, and away I go again.

When I re-enter the visitor station, there are now two other gentlemen who are ahead of me in line.  The line has literally moved about three feet, which means I’m standing exactly where I was when I left.  I decide that I’ve really not lost anything and at least now I won’t be removed from line for my wardrobe choices.  It’s now 12:45.  I’ve been here 25 minutes.  I watch the various people in line and listen to the guard fight with her computer.  It’s 12:55.  As I stand in line, I’m aware that my capris don’t feel quite right.  I fidget with them, and finally realize what has happened.  This particular pair of capris has no pockets, and I was in such a hurry in my vehicle–I slipped them on backward,  I contemplate what to do:  if I leave the line again I have to start over, can anyone tell they’re backward but me?  I finally decided to just go with it.  It’s now 1 p.m., then 1:10.  Just ahead of me the guard dresses down one of the men standing at the metal detector.  “You have on shorts, son, I can’t let you go through.”  The guard then kindly explained to him where there was a “Family Dollar” store where he could buy some decent pants.  I’m silently applauding my realization and remedy, even if I didn’t do it quite correctly.

I finally make it to the metal detector.  I breeze through and the guard “checks” me. It’s 1:15 when I finally reach the last guard and proceed through for my visit.  I enter the visitation room at 1:20.  They finally find my friend and he arrives at nearly 1:45.   Our visit is lovely, and I left at 4 p.m. when visitation is over.  I proceed onto my final destination and check into my hotel.  I decide to run out and grab dinner while my room is cooling down and I drive back to a little restaurant I had passed on my way into town.  The food was wonderful, but I was one of the few people in that early eating dinner, and the music was a bit too loud.  It was like listening to bad soap opera music with an Italian singer in the background.  It was kind of comical to hear, and I wasn’t there long, so I just laughed about the experience.

Upon returning to my hotel room, I noticed the room smelled a little “wet” to me.  It’s important to note here that I don’t smell things the way other people do.  It’s my weakest sense and many times when I think I’m smelling something it’s not the same thing other people are smelling.  It’s hard to explain, but I don’t pay it a lot of attention unless something is really strong.  I relax for the evening and watch a movie and play on my phone.  Around 11, I finally settle for the night, and drift off to sleep around 11:30.  Around 12:45, I awoke in a cold sweat, and realized it was hot in the room.  The smell was even worse, and smelled like wet carpet to me.  I called the front desk and apologized for wanting to move, but that I couldn’t stay in a room if the a/c was going out.  She asks me to gather my things and come by the front desk and she’ll have a new key ready for me.  I jump out of bed and throw everything back in the suitcase and head for the front desk.  Luckily, I realize before I walk out the door that I was standing there in my nightshirt.  Sigh.  After putting on more clothes, I go to the front desk and pick up a new key.  My new room hasn’t had the air on.  I turn it on full-force and sit on the bed waiting for it to cool.  Now fully awake, I can’t go back to sleep until around 4:30.

My two days at work were very busy, and I hardly had time to think about being tired.  I left Tuesday afternoon to head back home and try to be there before Bunco started at 7.  That was going great until I realized I was going to need gas again.  I had purposely not filled the tank on the way up, thinking that I would fill it again on the way back and run as much non-ethanol as possible through the engine.  That was a great plan, until I stopped and couldn’t get the locking gas cap off at all this time.

You’re acutely aware of the lack of chivalry in today’s society when you realize you’re in a situation like this, in a very small town in Nowhere, Arkansas, and no one offers to help in the 15 minutes you’re struggling to get the gas cap off.  I mentally calculate how much gas I think I have left, and jump back in the truck.  I call my husband and pretty much let him have it about the stupid gas cap, not having enough gas, and how he better just HOPE I have enough gas to get somewhere else. He looks up the nearest Auto Zone location to me and I drive there, ever aware that the clock is ticking away and I’m going to be late to my own event.

Nothing makes you feel like an idiot more than having someone walk right up to your vehicle and within 3 seconds accomplish what you couldn’t do in 15 minutes and every imaginable twist on the situation.  The Auto Zone employee very smugly tells me that my locking gas cap doesn’t lock anymore, and that’s why it’s acting the way it is.  I’m sure I looked completely defeated.  He looked at me said “why do you have a locking gas cap anyway?  My gas has never been stolen.” Yeah, thanks for that.  I thought I was going to have a heart attack when he put the gas cap back on again.  I made him take it off so I could at least drive to the gas station.    I filled my vehicle with gas and got on the interstate.  I’m mentally calculating how quickly I can get there and my estimate is that I will be there five minutes before Bunco starts if I can keep my current rate of speed.  That worked great until I got to the next interstate, and found both highways were now a parking lot.  The cause?  A state trooper had pulled over a semi-truck.  I had to laugh as I was relaying that story at Bunco and one of the girls remarked that she wants to at least see something flipped over if she’s had to wait in traffic.

I finally navigate the traffic and pull up at the house right at our start time for Bunco.  My friends were all very patient and gracious, and had a lot of fun out of me.  After you’ve driven like a maniac for three hours and fought the obstacles I had, you do some pretty goofy things when rolling dice and trying to keep count.

Now, wouldn’t that be more interesting and entertaining than watching the Kardashians?  And none of it was scripted!

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On a dark forest highway

We went on a wonderful trip with our boys last weekend.  We met some friends in Jasper (in northwest Arkansas), and floated the Buffalo River.  I had never been before, and it was a really fun experience.

It’s always good to do something physical, for me.  I love to be outside doing something that uses muscles and exposes me to sunshine.  Sometimes it’s playing in the flowerbed.  Sometimes it’s mowing the lawn.  On a hot summer Arkansas day, though, you really can’t beat getting to be on the water.  We stopped frequently and swam, relaxed, ate, and visited with our friends and their family.

Heat also makes one tired, especially when that one made sure to put sunscreen liberally on her entire family, but managed to miss some herself.  So, we finished our day, had a great float, had dinner with our friends, and left Jasper around 9:30 p.m.  I was going to drive about half way home and then switch out with my husband.  I was tired, and I could feel the need for sleep creeping up on me more and more with each passing minute.

We drove through the Ozarks, and the curves and hills on the highway kept me pretty focused.  About 20 miles into the nearly 50 I was driving, I remarked to my husband that I wasn’t sure I could drive much more.  He said he was wide awake and encouraged me to find a place to pull over.  I found myself behind a car which not only wasn’t speeding, he wasn’t even going anywhere close to the speed limit.  As the miles continued to drag on, with us not being able to find a safe place to pull over in the dark I followed along behind this car, not able to use my high beams because we were too close to him but also trying not to ride too close and blind him with my headlights.  After what seemed to be forever, I spotted a park with a rest area coming up.  I signaled and pulled in, resolved to kill two birds with one stone and get us back on the road.

As I brought the vehicle to a stop and asked the boys if anyone needed to use the facilities, I was distracted by a set of headlights coming the other direction and straight at us.  I paused for a moment and thought about the approaching car.  It was roughly the same size as the car we were following, and as it approached us, it slowed more and more.

A million thoughts flooded my mind within just a few seconds.  I’ve never been afraid to be on the road, despite many late nights of travel for work.  I’ve never been afraid to stop somewhere, although I have changed some of my patterns at my husband’s request and now I tend to stop at busy truck stops if I’m alone.   In that moment, I imagined every danger this car could bring to us.  Had I irritated them following them down the highway?  Did they have a gun?  Were they slowing down to contemplate shooting us?  Would they wait for us to get out of the car and attack us?

I reached for the seat belt I had just removed and remarked to my husband “we’re not stopping here.”  He could hear it in my voice–that tone that said “don’t mess with me, just do what I ask.”  With the boys in the car I didn’t want to sound like I was scared, but I surely was.  I pulled away and watched the car in my rear view mirror–no one ever exited the vehicle.  It was a good 100 yards to the stop sign to get back onto the highway, and I never lost sight of that car.  It never moved.

Now, my more logical mind tells me that they were not the car we were following.  They were people heading north on the highway as we were heading south.  They saw the sign from the other entrance and had the same thought I did.  They were tired or gathering trash, or waking up loved ones to make use of the facilities just as we had intended to do.  It wasn’t even the same type of vehicle.  Yeah.  All that makes perfect sense.  I was being silly.

It was a good mile before I said anything to my husband.  I apologized for having such an abrupt reaction and not really leaving the conversation open for discussion.  Turns out he agreed with me.  We were both sizing that vehicle up and having similar thoughts about the intentions.  We discussed how a place that was so beautiful and peaceful and quiet during the day was a whole other scary place at night as you’re driving home with your two sleeping babies in the back seat.

I guess Daddies have intuition too.  My children were none the wiser, and for that I’m thankful.  It’s sad the number of things we have to explain to them that I never had to consider as a kid.  I felt a little silly with my response, but I’m not at all sorry I did it.  I hope the intention of that car we passed was not malicious, but I guess you never know anymore.

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12 going on 20

I often joke with my friends that I need a film crew following me around.  I’m sure I’d be the equivalent of some “Friends” or “Seinfeld” style acceptance of my “nothing special” life (only, it’s all pretty special, if mundane some days).  Anyway, as a mom of a teenager and a tween (he’ll be 13 in December), we’re gradually wading into more and more serious new territory.

It all started one evening when one of my boys was on his phone just after curfew.  I reminded him what time it was and asked him to text whomever it was and tell them that it was curfew and he was to turn over his phone.  Once he did, I decided to glance through his text messages.  What I found amazed me.

First, the boys aren’t allowed to download apps without our approval.  Error number one–there was a new app on his phone called Oovoo.  Once I logged into their conversation and started reading, I was amazed.  The girl with whom he had been chatting asked him to “send sexy pictures” and meet her at the building near their school “in a room with no cameras.”   She pushed and pushed to get him to play along, and I have to admit I was amused and a bit relieved to see that he didn’t understand some of the conversation.  When she asked for a sexy picture, he just sent her a head shot.  She had to guide him in what she wanted.  Still, though, the level of conversation this girl was having with my son was concerning to say the very least.

I’ve had my friends with older boys tell me that the girls nowadays are fast, but I don’t think I really appreciated what they were trying to tell me.  She wouldn’t speak to him anymore after I told him I wanted to talk to her Mom.  I’m so glad school is out and we’ll have a break for a bit, but I don’t think this girl understands what she’s getting herself into.

When I was that age, I remember thinking that a boy was cute or hoping for some attention, but nothing nearly on this scale. It makes a parent acutely aware of the constant access to information and other communications kids experience now.  We had to sit our marginally naive son down and have “the talk” again, and discuss internet safety for the umpteenth time.  He thinks because this girl has shown interest in him, that it’s okay.  We’ve had to explain to him that her numerous texts referencing him as a “secret” boyfriend should indicate to him that he’s likely not the only boy she’s acting this way around.

Is love already blind?

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Caregiving

I’m in the hospital with my mom this week.  As I’m walking down the hall to get a drink for my dad and me, I watch these young nursing students bounce down the hall behind their instructor with the enthusiasm I would expect at an amusement park.  They’re bright-eyed, taking it all in, and hanging on the every word of their instructor.

This prompted me to text my friend Steve, and tell him how much I appreciate him, nurses, in general, and anyone who cares for people in this type of setting.

I never imagined I would be a “caregiver.”  Not in my wildest dreams.  I didn’t want to be a nurse, or a teacher, or any of those professions who had to watch for people over the course of a day.  Shoot, I wasn’t sure I even wanted kids until I was approaching 30.  I guess I just don’t have that “maternal” gene.  All I can say is God bless those of you who do.

My mother isn’t feeling well, as is true of all the people in the hospital.  She doesn’t want to be here.  Shoot, I don’t want to be here either.  She’s not comfortable, and the more she fidgets in her bed, or complains about her IV, or rolls her eyes when someone comes in and wants her to offer her arm up for one more blood draw, the more I feel her pain.

My friend Steve laughs as he texts me back.  He says I just need to remember that nurses are seeing people on their worst days, and they just want them to feel better.  I take that in as I sit in the room and watch the next flurry of people:  doctors, nurses, someone to clean the room, someone to change the bed, now another doctor, now the person to give out morning meds, the person handing out meals, etc.  It seems even busier today than it was yesterday, honestly, and it was pretty busy yesterday.

There isn’t a person we’ve encountered that hasn’t been respectful, helpful, and tender in their delivery.   If they get sidetracked and it takes them a minute to come to the room, they are apologizing for the delay.  They offer to take care of me too, and the thoughtfulness is certainly not lost on me.    As someone sitting in the room of a patient, you become tired and irritable.  Your routine is upset and you’re scared to leave the room and miss a doctor update.  You’re tired and you can’t explain why.  You shouldn’t be so tired, you tell yourself.  You’ve just been sitting all day.  I’ll tell you, though, it’s exhausting.  I don’t know why, but it certainly is.

As I watch this flood of people walk in and out of the room, or I encounter them in the hallway as I did this group of bright-eyed nurses this morning, I realize how sometimes we don’t understand why we choose the professions we do, but luckily I wasn’t drawn to anything like this.  I feel blessed to be surrounded by people who care so much, and it’s not that I don’t—I just don’t think I could do it daily to the level these folks do.

So, take a minute and hug a nurse today.  Tell them you appreciate them and all the people who carry the torch.  You never know when it will be you sitting in a hospital room or caring for a loved one, depending on a nurse to keep you informed and take care of your needs.

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18 years full of memories

I can’t believe 18 short years ago I was still a newlywed (somewhat), and awaiting the arrival of my twin niece and nephew.  I was blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with them when they were little and I could help their mom out some, and I have so many memories of them.  Some of them funny, a couple of them sad, all of them precious.

Brooke was a beautiful, funny, chatty little girl who loved new clothes and jewelry.  Barrett was a very intelligent, cute, sweet boy who loved to play outside and from even the youngest age enjoyed basketball.  I remember so many afternoons taking them to the park, or playing on the swingset, or throwing the basketball around.  When I would have them, we’d go for ice cream and drive around town, or sit and watch a movie.  I remember once taking them to the drive-thru safari in Gentry with my sister, or spending the Millenial New Year with their family as everyone was recovering from the flu and I had gone to take care of them while my sister and her husband couldn’t.   I remember how my husband used to romp in the floor and play “horsie” with the two of them, while they’d each scream “Uncle Louie!”  Memories later on included getting to take my niece to school or pick her up in the afternoons when I was in town on business or watching Barrett playing in the pool with my boys, or us all going to the fair together.

I learned a lot about myself, and many of those experiences prepared me for my own kids, the first of which arrived when Brooke and Barrett were three.  They’ve always included Luke and Brennan, and made them both feel special.  My kids adore their cousins, and look up to them as role models.  It makes me exceptionally proud, both as a mom and as an aunt.

My sister and brother-in-law hosted a luncheon last Thursday for the family to get to spend time with Brooke and Barrett and celebrate their graduation in a more one-on-one fashion.  My brother-in-law gave a poignant prayer just prior to our meal about the wonderful blessings these two have had, and all the people in their lives who have helped them become who they are.   As various people around the room spoke about their relationship to Brooke and Barrett and how special they are, I was inspired to see everyone who have had a hand in the lives of these two amazing people, and I hope that Luke and Brennan will have that same realization as they embark on their adult lives.

As my parents and I watched the photo slideshow playing while we ate our lunches, we discussed all the memories we had–funny stories, sweet sayings, and how much the kids have changed over the years.  There’s something about watching a slide show from infancy to graduation that does that to you.  I watched them literally turn into adults before my eyes again that day, and I wasn’t prepared for the waves of emotion I would feel as their “kid” lives come to a close and their “adult” lives begin. It makes the few short years I have left with my kids even more precious.

I am so proud of my niece and nephew, and I can’t wait to see their futures unfold.

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