Tag Archives: faith

The Security Breach at Breakfast

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The Security Breach at Breakfast

There was a time not so long ago that the avoidance of national and world news by my sister, Kim, was viewed by me as bordering on irresponsible. I would ask her opinions on a crisis, mass murder, or natural disaster and she would respond with, “I have no idea what you are talking about and I don’t want to know. So, shut up.” Recently, I have started to envy her ability to close herself off from the world that seems to be unraveling. It seems to be open season on human beings killing one another has had me considering looking for real estate under one of the secluded rocks she likes to hide under. The world is a scary place.

One would think that with all the headlines screaming violence, I would be extra vigilant in protecting myself, my family, and my home from the volatile world. In many ways I am. I have educated myself on gun and personal safety and I have obtained my Conceal and Carry permit. I have purchased a firearm I am comfortable carrying, handling, and shooting. While traveling, I try to be aware of my surroundings and not put myself in vulnerable situations. But Sunday morning, when a homeless young man showed up on my porch asking for a drink of water, my heart overrode my brain and I invited him inside for breakfast.

He couldn’t have been more than 20 and he had a heavy pack and a long road ahead of him. It wasn’t just hot; it was MISSOURI sticky-sweaty-humid-as-hell hot. When I went outside and handed him a couple bottles of water he was very grateful and thankful for my offering and as I watched this kid turn back toward the highway, it never crossed my mind that this shaggy-haired tattooed kid with more than one piercing was a serial killer or an axe murder. All I saw was a kid who probably needed something in his belly and so I called after him, “Hey, are you hungry?”

After offering him a seat at the table, I made him a plate of biscuits and gravy, something to drink, salt and pepper, etc. His only request was a napkin which he placed in his lap. While he ate, I asked him where he was headed and if he had any family in the area. I didn’t want to pry. It was obvious this kid had a story, but it isn’t my story to tell. He ate. He said very little.

Things really got interesting when I went to the bedroom to give my husband, Kevin, a heads that I was feeding a wayward stranger breakfast. He was not overcome by the warm fuzzy feeling of helping out our fellow man. In fact, I believe the emotion I identified reflected in Kevin at that moment was: completely pissed off. We had a rare and heated exchange in whisper voices:

Kevin: What in the hell were you thinking?

Me: I don’t know. What was I supposed to do, let him starve?

Kevin: NOT invite him inside the house would be a reasonable thing to do.

Me: I had to invite him in so he could eat biscuits and gravy.

Kevin: You know better!!! I can’t believe you.

Me: ….

 

In all my arguments with Kevin I end up sounding like a toddler, especially when confined to whispers. It is hard to really sell a good point in ‘whisper voice’. Kevin went into full protector mode talking briefly with the young man and seeing him on his way, all the while keeping our .38 in his pocket. He made sure the kid made his way down the highway and proceeded with the following: Complete perimeter check, locked and secured all doors, reviewed the security modus operandi with the kids for locking cars and doors, emphasizing the point that someone had breached security protocol and so we were all going to have to be EXTRA vigilant for the next few weeks (followed by an accusing stare at me for my reckless behavior).

I went about my day justifying in my own mind what I failed to articulate to my husband. Later that afternoon, I asked if he was still angry at me for inviting a potential murderer, terrorist, puppy kicker inside for breakfast. He assured me he was not mad, but I had to promise not to do it again. I was compelled to try and justify my actions and I probably should have just made my promise and kept my mouth shut.

Me: Kevin, I traveled thousands of miles around the world to feed hungry children in Africa! Do you think I could just let a kid starve on my front porch?

Kevin: Of course not, you invite him in and feed him biscuits and gravy. We will see what a good idea it is when he comes back and kills us in our sleep and steals all our shit.

Me: …..heavy sigh.

Kevin is right the world is a scary place and I could have very well invited danger into our home. I appreciate his ability to protect us and keep us safe. I do hope that in some small fashion he finds a way to appreciate the innate flaw in me that allows my heart override my head in some situations. The truth is, I am so caught up in my own crazy life I neglect so many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. My focus has gotten so blurred that it has become easier to see only what I don’t have and I have become blind and complacent to the abundance of my blessings. I hear the news, read the headlines, and I become consumed by all the things that separate us. I needed a reminder of the one thing we have in common; at the end of the day, we are all just human beings.

heartPerhaps the good Lord sent that young man to my door to remind me that I need to look for opportunities to lift up others around me. Perhaps, it was God himself coming to the door as a scruffy homeless kid to see if I would give him a drink or turn him away. Truly If nothing else, I can rest easy knowing that had I been chopped up by the biscuit eating guest, I would probably go to heaven (the way I am quick to anger, cuss like a sailor, struggle with envy and pride and occasional slothfulness I need all the help I can get)….AND if it was God testing us, I fed him biscuits and gravy and Kevin covertly held a gun on him while he ate them (I am still winning). We make a great team– I can try and save the world and he can try to save me from the world…and myself…and coyotes….and spiders…and BigFoot… I think this text he sent me says it all:

murder

A Mother’s Day Wish List-Revised Edition

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A Mother’s Day Wish List-Revised Edition

As Mother’s Day approaches, I have been making a gift guide for my sweet children to utilize, in the event they want to borrow money from their father and purchase me a little sumthin’-sumthin’.   The following is the first edition of my Mother’s Day Wish List:

  1. Fitbit Fitness Band (in black)finch
  2. Converse Monochrome shoes-Size 8.5night vision googles
  3. Atticus Finch T-Shirt and the Preorder purchase of Harper Lee’s Novel Go Set a Watchman, to be released in July (the T-shirt will keep me happy until the book release).
  4. Yukon Night Vision Tracking Binoculars
  5. Conceal and Carry Compression Tank (in black)
  6. A very tiny monkey.

After reflecting on the likelihood of my Mother’s Day wish list ever coming to fruition, I decided to make some revisions. As I attempted to whittle the list down and refine the focus to practical customary wishes, it was apparent the list, while authentic, was not representative of the true spirit of Mother’s Day. I dug a little deeper and explored what my true wishes were for Mother’s Day. The following is the compilation of my revisions:

  1. For my oldest daughter, Riley, I hold these wishes for you. I wish you could embrace the amazing young woman you are and hold tight to the beauty of your soul. Each morning, when you wake and you look at your reflection in your mirror, I wish you no longer sought out your perceived imperfections, but instead focus on the gifts God has given you. My hope is that with each passing day, you will learn to love yourself. The many ways you guard you heart serves you well, when done so for the right reasons. Hearts are made to be broken and human beings rarely escape a life without some degree of heartbreak. A heart that has been broken beats on, but a life without love is just a beating heart. May you always know how much of love being your mom.                            Addendum: I wish you would someday in the future reconsider your decision to opt out of motherhood. I cannot be a Nana to a batch of rescued cats.
  2. For my son, Evan, these wishes are for you. Looking back on the long journey that has brought you to this moment, I wish you to know how very proud I am of you. I know that the things that are so easy for others were not so easy for you. I want you to know that the mistakes I made along the way were my attempts at helping you the only way I knew how. There were many people who might have given up on you, but that was never an option for me. It is my hope for you that you will remember to give more than you take, lift others up, treasure the little things, and don’t be afraid of failing. There is something great inside of you, Evan and I pray each day you have the courage to discover what it is, the resilience to carry on when you fail, and the graciousness to appreciate those who help you along the way. Don’t let a day go by without fully knowing how blessed I am that God chose you for my son. Addendum: I wish you would please stop teasing my sweet old Cooper. He is over 70 years old in people years!! Please be kind to my crabby geriatric furry friend.
  3. To my baby girl, Sophi, I wish these things for you. There will never be more minutes in an hour, more hours in day, more days in a week or more weeks in a year. I know of no other who crams more living in a space of time than you. It is my wish that you are able to make the most of each moment and give yourself some space to breathe. The only thing that ever gets in your way, Sophi, is you. It makes me proud that you are motivated to set the bar high, but don’t forget that you don’t have to be perfect. All that you have to do doesn’t have to be done today. It is my wish for you to find balance and understand that if you always stay true to God, yourself, and the people who love you, the life you make will be successful. You are forever and always my bonus baby.                                     Addendum: I wish you would PLEASE put the lids back on your makeup and quit leaving it all scattered on the bathroom counter!! And for the love of all that is holy, you only need ONE towel for a shower

kidsThe truth is the greatest gift is one I have already been given. It cannot be purchased at the store or ordered online. I have been blessed with the privilege of being a mother, and this is simply all I could ever want (except for a very tiny monkey, that would be freaking AWESOME)…and maybe the night vision goggles. Seriously, this nest is going to be empty someday. I really should start planning ahead.

In Other News…I Didn’t Throat Punch Anyone Today

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In Other News…I Didn’t Throat Punch Anyone Today

It’s been one of those weeks. You know the kind. The kind that sucks all the life out of you and then sucker punches anything positive that comes along to attempt to resuscitate you. Nothing catastrophic occurred and I am usually a tad more resilient that the tone of this post suggests. I try to keep a firm grasp on perspective, but sometimes (and this could be completely hormonal) I let this stupid world chip away at my resolve. There are times, like this week, when I cave to my fragile state of being human and I just want to rage against some of the ridiculousness around me.

The truth is I am cranky. I am on the road this week for work and I miss my family. My new gig will take me away from the homestead for several days at a time. Usually, when things go smoothly at work, I can cope with the homesickness. When I baboon encounter work issues that leave me feeling like I have had a piranha gnawing on my fleshy backside all week, it tends to increase my longing for home.   This is actually a tad ironic, because I know that upon returning home after several days, my house will look like a troop of half-tamed baboons live there. Just the same, they are my troop of half-tamed baboons, so I can miss them if I want.

There may be more to my sour mood than I am willing to admit. I am not at all equipped to comfortably spend extended periods of time with myself. Dealing with people all day and then retreating to my hotel room, I am left with no domestic distractions to defuse my day. Instead of laughing at my kids or grappling with the laundry or following Kevin around, while chatting incessantly, I am left with just ME! To be completely honest, I am not really a good influence on myself. There resides in me an innately powerful imagination and when left unchecked it can go off the rails in a hurry.

Left to my own devices, I mentally start to rewrite parts of my days, with different endings than what actually happened. It is sort of like a lonely game I play ripped off from those books I had as a kid, where I could choose different outcomes for the characters based on what I wanted to happen. If I wanted Billy to find the hidden treasure, I would be directed to page 65. If I wanted Billy to get stuck in a pit of quick sand with little hope of rescue, I could turn to page 78–Twist-a-plot books or something along those lines.

My week in twist-a-plot:

Reality: A handful of people I have encountered this week have been resistant, negative, and demanding. I remained pleasant, professional, and accommodating as humanly possible, while mindfully funneling the tension from my face directly to my tightly clinched butt cheeks.

Twist-a-plot: I look at them and propose, “That is an excellent idea. Let me just reach into my bag and pull out my magic lamp and rub on it. I am sure that genie will appear any second and make all of this possible.” When no genie appears, I smile sweetly and say, “Looks like you’re shit out of luck.”

 

Reality:  After wrapping up a long and trying day, my boss says, “Are you okay? You look tired and you seemed to have lost weight. I can really tell in your face.” I give a half-hearted smile and reply, “I am fine. I am just tired.”

Twist-a-plot: I look up and reply, “Really? You can tell in my face that I have lost weight?! My face has never been fat! My ass is fat! My thighs are fat! Hell, even my freaking knees are fat, but I am dropping weight in my face! When was the last time you saw a weight-loss commercial with the hook line: ‘got stubbborn face fat…we can help’…..” Heavy sigh.

 

Reality: Random Facebook post shows up on my newsfeed regarding the potential of a specific kind of creative expression to offend certain people. In reality, I keep scrolling.

Twist-a-plot: I pop my knuckles, in that I-am-about-to-get-down-to-business-now kind of way and I type a comment: It is beyond me why so many people have to make a damn mountain out of every little mole hill. It is your choice to make this into something it clearly isn’t. There can be an argument that most of what people do or say can in some fashion potentially offend others. The least of these is passing close-minded judgments on others. Teach others to be tolerant by example…learn to laugh at yourself.

 

Reality: When FaceTiming with my family, my son, Evan, appears on the screen and I am so happy to see him. I say, “Hey, Bubby! How is your week?” He replies, “Good, but you better hurry home, the laundry is piling up fast around here.”

Twist-a-plot: Evan replies, “Hey, Mom! We sure do miss you. Don’t worry about things at home! We are keeping up with all the chores so you won’t have to come back to a huge mess.” Just as I smile and say goodnight, a large pterodactyl comes crashing through the window into my hotel room, lays a giant pterodactyl egg and collapses dead on the floor.

 

NOTE: I added the pterodactyl to the last twist-a-plot, because the idea that Evan would be a willing participant in an effort to forge through the household chores to spare me from having to do so, is so far-fetched, I felt the prehistoric bird was needed to add an element of believability to the scenario.

This is life. It’s okay to laugh, even when you are homesick for your half-tamed troop of baboons.

 

 

Off Road Parenting-Because Kids Don’t Come with a GPS

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Off Road Parenting-Because Kids Don’t Come with a GPS

evan4Parenting is a journey, of sorts. The moment I would see those fuzzy distorted mugs in the ultrasound pictures, the hopes and dreams of the little underdeveloped gummy bear would begin. Dreams of future scholars, athletes, musicians, or humanitarians begin to unfold. I always dreamt big when my children were in utero. God always had something special planned for dealing with the preconceived notions I had of the children I had not yet met as well as my aptitude for being a mother. In both cases, I have a feeling that my higher power was laughing to himself, because what I believed and what I found to be true were two entirely different things. Parenting my girls has been, at times, challenging. However, parenting my son, Evan, has been exhausting.

He was born early in the morning the day after our first anniversary and he was 8 pounds and 2 ounces of adorableness. His appetite was monstrous and it hasn’t really slowed down much over the last 18 years. As an infant, he was golden. He evan3slept well, ate better and was content the majority of the time. The closer he got to being a year old, the more something seemed amiss with my boy. When he was 10 months old I attended a Pampered Chef with Evan in tow. There were several women packed into a small living room and they were fawning over him and squeezing his irresistible chubby cheeks. Evan began to hyperventilate, gasping for air and wheezing. I rushed him outside into the cool night air and he immediately calmed down and began to breathe normally. When I tried to rejoin the party, he began to breathe rapidly and wheeze with every breath. I was sure my baby had asthma. My baby didn’t have asthma. I didn’t know it at the time, but when Evan was 10 months old, he had his first of many panic attacks.

I had heard of anxiety, but I was completely unaware the debilitating capacity it could have on its victims. There was a tremendous lack of understanding on my (and Kevin’s) part about dealing with a young child with an acute anxiety disorder. We struggled, we faltered, and finally we accepted.

The Struggle:

We wanted him to be like all the other kids. Other kids were busy doing kid things. They were laughing, playing sports, going to school, and doing so without any apprehension. Anything outside of his immediate comfort zone (home) produced a evan6visceral reaction that left him crying, shaking, heart racing, and sick to his stomach. There wasn’t any amount of reassurance we could offer him that would ease his distress. We coaxed, begged and made promises of great reward if he would just “TRY”. If only we had known how hard he was trying.

There has been a long history of trial and error with medications, behavior modification and various attempts of discipline. It is a strenuous plight attempting to fit a square peg into a world of round holes. Regretfully, in doing so, I failed to recognize all the uniquely wonderful attributes of my handsome square peg.

There was a time when I thought we would lose him. His battle with anxiety and depression left us standing in the gap when he wasn’t sure he could make it through the dark valley. I have no way to know the battles that have waged in his soul; I just know I am so very thankful he chose to fight.

The Sometimes

Sometimes, I am accused of letting Evan’s struggle cloud my decisions regarding what is best for him. I have been accused of spoiling him, letting him get away with things I shouldn’t and not being tougher on him. I take complete responsibility for living up to most of these accusations. As evan1a parent trying to discern how hard to push a child who has been so close to the edge, I feel that the judgments of others standing in anyone’s shoes other than mine are simply a reflection of good intentions. I can tell you honestly, that even the best intentions don’t stick when they are thrown at a situation from any distance. In order to get things to stick, you wade out into the muck of the matter.

Sometimes, I want to choke him. He can be a real handful and this has nothing to do with his anxiety or depression. He has broken my heart and disappointed me time and again. His tendency to find shortcuts, expend zero effort and completely leave his gifts and talents unutilized in any conventional sense are things which have caused me many sleepless nights. In those ways, he is a lot like his mother.

The Seasons

evan2Today Evan graduated from high school. There were many days I didn’t think I would see him standing on that stage, accepting his diploma. I have seen this young man through the many seasons of life and now he is standing on the cusp between being a child of progress and a man of promise.   I know the depth of his intelligence and the strength he is capable of harnessing.   I pray that when he looks inside himself that he will recognize the man God created him to be and the courage to see the design through to completion.

Although we have walked through seasons of storms, there is no question the absolute sunshine Evan has brought to my life. His brilliant wit, imagination, and the ability to charm the pants off a rattlesnake have been a vital heartbeat in our lives.   Kids don’t come with GPS and Evan has often been an off-road adventure, but I haven’t regretted one minute of the trip.

To My Son:

  • May you always know you are loved.
  • Happiness is never found in things…true happiness is in the moments we share with one another.evan8
  • Invest your time and love in others, it pays unbelievable dividends.
  • Be quick to forgive.
  • Continue to be kind to those less fortunate.
  • Real men cry, kiss babies, change diapers, open doors for ladies, love Jesus, and hug their moms in public.
  • Always admit when you have made a mistake. Accountability is part of being human and so is making mistakes.
  • Don’t let the world define you.
  • Keep your promises. A man is only as good as his word.
  • Work hard and always give any task your best self.
  • Play hard.
  • Be kind.
  • Look for the positive in every situation and cling to it.
  • Always know that I am so thankful that God gave me a son and that son is you.

All My Love-MOM

 

100 Years of Dreams

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100 Years of Dreams

She is 100 years old and the best thing about my job. She is tiny and spunky and she greets me each morning with a hug and kiss. She is a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother and a great-great-grandmother. She has lived through times that I can’t even stretch my imagination around. She has seen the metamorphosis of this planet and the good, bad and ugly the changes encompass. On days when her old bones ache and she feels especially tired, she still manages a positive word and a smile.
I was never supposed to be a nurse. It is my younger sister’s gig, not mine. It was a decision of necessity; a consequence of my choices, which are now over half my lifetime ago. Yet, here I am. It is something I consider a genetic flaw in my character–the constant feeling of twisting in the wind. I have carried this feeling of incompleteness for so long that I no longer feel at1larg_fortune_cookie separateness from it, but rather it has become part of who I am. It’s a feeling of knowing that what I am doing isn’t what I was born to do, yet never being able to fully recognize my true calling. It is like chasing the tiny slip of paper from my fortune cookie on a very windy day; knowing my destiny is within my reach, and just when I think I have it in my grasp it slips through my fingers.

 

It is with deliberate effort that I have managed to make career choices, which keep the standard core of nursing (needles, IVs, blood, doctors, drips, monitors, instruments of torture, sick people, wounds, dressings, catheters, drains, etc.) at an arm’s length. I have made every effort to steer clear of the five P’s of nursing (PUKE, PUS, POOP, PEE, and PHLEGM). It isn’t that I am particularly squeamish or that am repulsed by the P’s, because that isn’t really the case. Nurses, generally speaking, are made out of durable, pliable, industrial strength quality material. My construction is more of the duct tape/string cheese variety.
In nursing school, all my classmates would get so excited when they got to take part in Emergency Department traumas or assist in a Code Blue resuscitation in the ICU.  If a CODE BLUE was called, my peers would go sprinting in the direction the distress call, eager to provide chest compressions or squeeze the air into someone’s lungs with the ambu-bag. I would go in the other direction and hide in linen closet or sneak into the newborn nursery and practice swaddling newborns. In my defense, if ever a newborn was in need of a swaddle, I had it covered. It wasn’t that I didn’t, or couldn’t or even don’t do nurse things. I can and I have and I do…it’s just that I am so distracted by that little piece of paper in the wind.
The fact that I found myself working in a skilled nursing community as the assistant director of nursing is one of those things I never believed would happen. It has been nearly five years and there are parts of my job that I like fine and there are parts of my job that I don’t particularly like. But the people–the people I love. I have great co-workers, but the residents have carved out a place in my heart, they have changed the very composition of my heart as well. Friendships have bloomed in places I would have never cultivated before I came to be a part of this community. In many ways it is home…yet there is always that little unknown fortune dancing in the breeze.
Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to try something different. There have been many times in my life when God has opened a door and I balked, because I was scared of failing. Fear of failure has had a lifetime paralyzing effect on my willingness to venture out of my comfort zone (i.e. hiding in the linen closet during a Code Blue in nursing school). I stared long and hard at that open door trying to summon the determination to step over the threshold. The fear of leaving my coworkers, residents, and security has me hesitant; but the fear of failing has a death grip on my courage.

IMG_1210She is 100 years old and the best thing about my job. Nearly every day she reminds me how important it is to be kind to others, even though she admits it’s not always easy. At times, she becomes frustrated with the parameters old age puts on her ability to be independent. I often slip away from my office and steal a moment or two with my friend and I always come away with a smile. Today I sat quietly by her bed and watched her sleep. I wondered what a person who has lived 100 years gleans from the recesses of her mind to dream upon. I wonder how many doors God has opened for this precious woman in her lifetime and I wonder if she regrets allowing herself to not pass through any of them. I wonder if she knows how much I love her. It is going to be hard starting my work day without her, but I know this one truth (and I am pretty sure she would agree) life is too short to watch my dreams flutter in the wind.

 

UPDATE:  I did leave my position at the Nursing community and I had a lot of adventures.  I traveled the country and saw many things and met many people.  I even got to work and travel with my daughter.  In my new role I ventured into new long term communities and stayed a short while and was on my way to my next destination.  There were so many new things I was able to learn and I am am thankful for the experience.  The money was good.  The travel was nice, but there was something missing and so after a few years, I found my way back.

Why did I come back?  I missed the people.  I missed the relationships.  I missed making lasting connections.  My role is a lot different than before, but yesterday I got to dance with a sweet lady in one of our Memory Care communities.  It is that smile; those moments; those connections I was missing.  I get to work with amazing caregivers and they have such a BIG job.  There are things about my job that I like just fine and things I don’t particularly like.  But the people–the people I love.

June Bugs in April and Other Good Stuff

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June Bugs in April and Other Good Stuff

June bugs rarely make me smile. I hate the way they Kamikaze haphazardly into my head and get stuck in my hair. The way they pelt the window panes and scratch junebugon the window screens with their thorny little legs is creepy. The crunching sound of the smashed exoskeleton under an unsuspecting flip flop is one of summer’s most disgusting sound bites. Ahhhhh….but did you catch it? The magical word that will hopefully melt away the tragic epidemic of Seasonal Affective Disorder running rampant throughout the Midwestern United States—SUMMER.

When I discovered Lulubelle (my slutty yet un-spayable barn cat) gleefully batting a June bug around in the garage, I smiled. Because I am so tired of the slush, sludge, flurries and ice from winter, that I welcomed the crispy bug of summer with open garage. It’s only April and I associate June bugs with June and I associate June with SUMMER and so one Mr. (or Ms.) June Bug has arrived early (according to my most-likely flawed schedule) and when the June bugs show up good stuff happens. The sun hangs longer and burns brighter. The rivers and beers flow more freely. Friends linger longer and gather more often. Unfortunately for this little messenger of hope, Lulubelle is not only slutty, she also murders June bugs. Well, everyone can’t have a Hakuna Matata ending, it is, after all, the circle of life and who really cares, because summer is almost here!!!

The thought of warm days and zero snow days puts a spring in my step and a reenergized attitude about everything (and by everything, I mean everything but housework, laundry, and domesticated chores in general). Inspired by my most recent audio books (because I like to read and I like to move, so this way I can do both at the same time) which have been narrated by readers with British accents, I have taken to speaking with a British accent to my family and my dogs. (Please read the next sentence exclusively in a British accent): I am quite certain that it is dreadfully maddening to both my family and my dogs. (It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?).

Saturday morning I was still in bed talking to my little dog, Cooper. I tried to get my husband, Kevin, to join in the fun.

Cooper-our little poppet

Cooper-our little poppet

Me: Kevin, say to Cooper in a British accent, “Why hello, Cooper. How’s my little poppet today?”
Kevin: No
Me: Just say it.
Kevin: No
Me: C’mon. Cooper likes it.
Kevin: Nope.
Me: Please, Kevin. Just say it.
Kevin: No.
Me: Why?
Me: Why won’t you?
Me: Kevin?
Kevin: (In the BEST British accent ever) BECAUSE I DON’T BLOODY WANT TO!!

The June bug has brought a message of hope, my slutty cat killed the messenger and my husband was obviously a closet watcher of Benny Hill or Cell Block H when he was a youngster. Every day is an adventure! Have a great week and don’t forget to share a bloody smile you dreadful wretch!!

Watch for Falling Rock

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It was an ordinary road sign; A warning of caution for the possibility of ‘Falling rockRock’. For me, it was memory triggered—a story from long ago that resonates with the little girl I once was. It was a time when my heart was curious, untainted and not yet scarred cynical by the jarring of life’s potholes.

Before I was old enough to attend school and many summers of my youth, my grandparents took me camping. We would wind through the foothills and mountains of the Ozarks to lakes with names such as Wappapello, Bull Shoals, and Table Rock. We would ride in the cab of my Grandpa’s yellow Chevy pickup truck down the endless twists, turns, and hills of the two-lane highways. The windows would always be down and there was a worn spot in the floorboard where I could see the highway passing beneath us. There was always a pouch of Red Man tobacco in the side pocket of the door and a tin can just beneath Grandpa’s seat, which he used as a spittoon. The smell of the tobacco in the foil pouch is something so ingrained into my childhood that just typing the words creates an olfactory memory so strong it makes my heart ache. For me, getting there was a huge part of the adventure.

My grandparents, however, probably remember it a little differently. In fact, here are some endearing things I remember my grandma saying during our ‘adventures’: “You move around more than a worm in hot ashes.”

“If you don’t sit still, I am going to sit you out on the side of the road and I might not even pick you up on our way back through.”

And the number one thing that my dear sweet grandma liked to say to me is:

“You are worse than black chicken $hit. Has anyone ever told you that, because it’s true!” (Why yes, Grandma. I believe you told me that at mile-marker one-thirty-two. Right before you threatened to put me on the side of the road).

 

Evidently, I liked to chatter. Evidently, I chattered a great deal.   Grandpa would also eventually tire of my endless prattle and intervene right before grandma traded me to a band of gypsies for a one eared billy goat (her idea not mine). Grandpa’s most genius and long-standing method of stifling me on a road trip was telling me the legend of ‘Falling Rock.”

 

Grandpa: Poncho, can you read? (Grandpa called me poncho because I always wore a little blue poncho. It was the seventies.)

Me: Grandpa, I am five years old. Of course I can read.

Grandpa: Well, tell me what this sign says up here.gpa

Me: It says, “Watch for Falling Rock”

Grandpa: Do you know why that sign is there?

Me: I don’t know. Because rocks might fall out of the sky and land on us.

Grandpa: Don’t tell me you have never heard the story of Falling Rock.

Me: Tell me.

Grandpa: Are you sure you have never heard it? I thought everyone knew about Falling Rock.

Me: No! I haven’t! Tell me, Grandpa. Please!

Grandpa: Many years ago, there was a brave Indian Chief. He had a large tribe. He never had a son. He only had one daughter. He named her Falling Rock and she was the Indian Princess and was loved and adored by the entire tribe. The Indian chief loved her more than he loved anything in the whole wide world. Falling Rock loved to explore the streams and caves around her village, but one day when she was about….how old are you, Poncho.

Me: Grandpa, I am five years old.

Grandpa: Yes, she was just about your age. Five years old, maybe six at the time…well she wandered too far from camp and she got lost. The Indian Chief and the tribe and even other tribes in the land searched high and low for Falling Rock, but she was nowhere to be found. The Indian Chief spent the rest of his life searching for her and he put up these signs along the road to remind people to keep an eye out for his lost Indian princess.

Me: He is still looking for her?

Grandpa: Well, the chief died of a broken heart, but his tribe is still around here and they promised they would never quit looking for her. Do you think you could keep an eye out for her while we drive??

Me: Yes!!! I will watch for her.

Grandpa: You have to watch very closely and pay attention. She could be anywhere along here.

 

And so it was…I dutifully scanned the tree lines, the ditches, and passing barns for the little Indian Princess. This was our routine and we continued this way as we would wind down the Missouri highways. I held onto this notion of a lost Indian princess long past the point my logical mind knew better. It was something I believed in longer than Santa or the Easter Bunny. It was time and space and sights and smells that I longed to keep alive. Maybe that’s why I kept searching for her for so long. It wasn’t about finding the lost Indian girl, it was about preserving something fleeting that I knew was eventually going to pass.

It was an ordinary road sign.   Sometimes the ordinary things fill in the spaces of my heart in extraordinary ways.

It’s a Heart Condition

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I have a relatively high aptitude for imperfection. It’s no secret that I have fumbled my way through life and managed to mess up things on a pretty routine basis. Based on my predisposition for blunders, one would think I would have a high tolerance for others acting a fool. Most of the time this is completely true; I have a high tolerance and understanding for the human condition. This weekend was not one of those times.

Nothing brings out the ridiculousness in people like youth sporting events. It’s like a convention for short-sighted delusional parents. The dads of the quick-handed 8 year olds or the off-the-growth-chart-early 12 year olds are compulsively barking from the bleachers to their obviously superior genetic offspring. The same DNA patriarchs can often be found red-faced and berating the inexcusable effort of a well-intentioned aspiring athlete. And the moms…they can be categorized into a few different groups:
1. The Maniac Mom-yells at the ref, the coach, her kid, other kids and parents. Usually she has poor grammar and is wearing ill-fitted yoga pants.
2. The Hoity-Toity Mom- Well groomed and manicured with expensive handbags and shoes. She will quickly tell you how great her child is, how much exclusive training he/she has had, and will eventually crack like an egg and yell unabashedly in frustration if the momentum shift too far in the other direction.
3. The Annoyingly Celebratory Mom-They travel in packs. They have matching team gear and loudly credit one another on the respective child’s performance: OMG, Gladys. Ashley’s shooting just like she did in that game against the Lions! That camp you sent her to is paying off—or— Beverly, what have you been feeding that boy, he has gotten every rebound. Annoyingly Celebratory Moms continue to scream and cheer, even when their team is decidedly better and up by 20 points.

Sadly, this seems to be the norm; the status quo of youth sports in these United States of America. There is an epidemic of perspective lost. I saw a Facebook post last week about a parent screaming at a 14 year old line judge at a volleyball flagtournament. Three weeks ago, my son stood up for one of my husband’s players when a coach from the other team was screaming at her and the opposing team’s parents in the stands turned into a spider monkey posse against my son. Note: My son’s response escalated into the realm of inappropriateness, at which point I was accused of being a $hitty parent by group of vigilante strangers. Evidently, losing makes them CRANKY. Two weeks ago, my husband had to call the police at the tournament our club was hosting because an unruly parent refused to leave after being ejected by the referee. Someone hand me my red flag, it’s time to wave it.

This weekend was a tough one. His team played and lost to the cranky team with a band of misguided parents backing them. After the game, one of our players was on the phone talking to her dad and was overheard saying, “We played bad. We just lost to a team we usually beat by thirty.” One of the Moms from the other team stopped and snidely said, “Yeah….but you didn’t beat them today.” Like an idiot, I piped up and said, “Way to be classy, lady,” and just as the words rolled off my tongue, I saw a little girl playing near is. She was probably seven, her eyes were bright and her smile wide. She reminded me of a place I had been and more importantly, of the person I want to be. I turned and walked outside.

Her name was Annette. I met her in a village on the outskirts of Kampala in Uganda. She was small, beautiful, and smart. She was also hungry. She was hungry for food, but she was also hungry for affection. I was fortunate to be able to annette2give her both. For an entire day, she wrapped herself in all the love and attention I could give her. She slept on my lap and I kept the flies off of her face and traced the creamy softness of her skin in the heat. I met and loved on so many children during my short time in Africa, but this one left a mark on the tender flesh of my heart. Seeing that little girl at the basketball game who so resembled Annette, caused a knot to form in my throat and a lurch of regret in my heart.

I was reminded how easy it is to lose perspective and to get sucked into the craziness of the world around me. Flexible is something I strive to be, pliable is something I resist being. I don’t think it is ironic that a poor bright-eyed child from a village 8000 miles away is helping meannette3 to strive to be a better person. I think it is powerfully purposeful. It’s a shameful part of my character that I would need to be reminded at all.

Perhaps, this post is nothing more of than an expose of my judgmental spirit. After all, it isn’t nice to generalize people at youth sporting events into categories. The truth is, there are many times when I could easily be grouped in with the ridiculous people. Sometimes it’s difficult to see when I am in the midst of the madness. It is much easier to see when the truth is reflected in the memory of the face of a hungry child. Today I remembered what is important. It isn’t about the score or which kid is bigger faster or better. It’s about being human and teaching kids the values you want them to have both on and off the court. Reaching down to help a fallen opponent is every bit as significant as reaching out to a hungry child in a village on the other side of the world.

As adults, we set the tone. We lead with our attitudes, good or bad. At times, I am annette1guilty of joining in the frenzied actions of the ridiculous people, but I am learning. For today, I listened to my heart. It’s a heart condition, of sorts. Isn’t that’s what it’s called when your heart doesn’t work the way it used to?

I am Weak and the Devil Knows It

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I am Weak and the Devil Knows It

 

I have hang-ups.  In the category of food, I have MANY hang-ups.   Saturday morning I awoke and abruptly decided to quit drinking soda.  This proclamation came out of the blue and with zero planning or forethought (which is how most of my ideas originate).  I have been drinking diet soda for as long as I can remember.  My mom gets her feathers ruffled when I tease her that she weaned me off of the bottle and straight to Diet Rite cola.  Truthfully, I don’t think it was quite that early, but I developed a taste for saccharine at a very young age.  Eventually, my palate matured and aspartame became my cola sweetener of choice.   So many things have changed over the years, but my addiction to caffeine, aspartame and the carbonated sensation has remained solid; unwavering.    As Day 4 of my pilgrimage toward a life without soda comes to a close, I am exploring tactics in which to successfully avoid falling off the wagon.  The following are some of the tactics I have used in the past to compensate for my food “hang-ups”:

1.  I lie.  This is a tactic I use to scare the people preparing my food into making it exactly as I order it.  I resorted to being a big fat liar after ordering things specifically, only to dig in and find a mouthful of what I find repulsive.  I am now regularly ‘allergic’ to mayonnaise, ranch dressing, blue cheese, olives, and sour cream.  I am always one bite away from a potential anaphylactic episode.

2I fib.  I fib about my hunger status.  My hunger could be so intense that my large intestine starts to feed on my small intestine, but if the baked potato is drowning in sour cream, I am suddenly stuffed! 

3.  I use my imagination.  There are certain foods that I insist  the devil himself cooks in the kitchens of hell (sinful bastard).   These include, but are not limited to: donuts and Mini Cadbury Eggs.  The devil knows my weaknesses and he tempts me with confections.  He is also solely responsible for hotdogs.

cadbury2My husband went with the guys to the St. Louis Bilikens basketball game and brought home a box of donuts from John’s Donuts.  ‘John’ must be short for ‘Satan’ because I just looked in the box and knew that he had had a hand in these baked goods.  As we were leaving for school and work the next morning, I told Sophi, “I cannot believe your dad brought those donuts home. Why can’t he just go to a strip club like other guys?”  Sophi looked at me and said, “You are kidding right?”  I laughed and said, “OF COURSE I am kidding” (I was kind of not kidding).

I have no other explanation for the Mini Cadbury Eggs addiction, other than cute little bunnies have been kidnapped and forced into the depths of hell to crank out these little wicked delights.  For the sake of these little bunny slaves, I try to abstain from partaking in the pastel nuggets of deliciousness.  However, about two years ago the Easter season brought an end to their availability and I panicked.  I bought two huge bags off of eBay.  The wages of sin is death.  It was almost death by Cadbury Mini Eggs for me.  I am a sinner.cadbury

There is no doubt that hotdogs are made in hell.  Not because I love them or find them delicious. In fact, the opposite is true.  I find them repulsive.  They are so utterly vile they must originate in hell.  That is the only logical explanation.

And so it is that I have completely digressed from the theme of this post.  It may be a side-effect from not having diet soda.  Most likely, it is a side-effect of being me.   Keep me in your prayers, as I am not only a freak about food, a liar, a fibber, and a believer in the notion that Satan is pursing me through confectionery enticements, I am now alone in the world without my one vice.  Should you happen upon a trail of crumbled donuts and empty Cadbury Mini-Egg Wrappers, bring me a cold diet Pepsi.  Falling off the wagon usually makes me really thirsty.diet

Consider this Can of Worms Open

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acanofwormsThere are times when certain things get stuck in my craw and I can’t  manage to cough them up or swallow them down and so it becomes a festering burn.  The school basketball season is winding down and we are on the cusp of the traveling season.  A great deal of my time these past few months has been devoted to spectating youth basketball games and the next few months will comprise much of the same.  I love the game, I love the kids playing the game, but I despise some of the crap that comes out of the mouths of others.

I haven’t always resisted the urge to tell someone to sit down and shut the hell up (sometimes things bypass my craw altogether), but I have been working on tempering my kneejerk reactions to the ridiculousness of others.  Admittedly, I have engaged in verbal sparring with psycho parents from opposing teams.  Thus, I am, by all accounts from some opposing teams, a psycho parent.  I have made great strides in this department and am learning to be as docile as a kitten.  What I have witnessed recently, though, isn’t from the opponent’s sixth man.  The negative shots are being taken at our own team, by our fans (insert heavy sigh here).

Nobody hates to lose more than I do.  I had my Old Maid cards shredded by my parents for marking them when I was just four years old.  I have learned a lot since I was four.  I still have a lot to learn, but I know these things to be true:

  • I am not the one playing.  My child is.  I need to let her play (run, foul, lose, win….)
  • I am not the coach.  Let him/her do the job.  I wouldn’t want him/her to show up at my workplace and scream at me about what a shitty job I am doing.
  • I can see when my kid screws up.  I can see when other kids screw up.  I wouldn’t find it gratifying or necessary to verbally announce a botched play by another player.  I don’t need other spectators to recap her blunders either.
  • I am not raising a professional athlete.  I am raising a child.  It’s a game.  It would be short-sighted for me to view it any other way.
  • Encouragement cannot be an afterthought.  It must be at the center of everything I project from the stands.  Yelling, “Oh, my God, Sophi.  Get your head in the game!” cannot be cancelled out by a follow-up attempt at a platitude.
  • Coaches and referees are not perfect.  They screw up.  We all do.  If there is a coach who is unfair or incompetent (and there are coaches who are both), it is an issue that won’t  be resolved from yelling the obvious from the stands.  Just like athletes, coaches will earn the respect he/she deserves.  The cream will rise to the top.
  • My child needs to get direction from the coach during competition.  If a player is looking in the stands for direction during a game, the cohesiveness of the team is being compromised.  I can help her fine tune her fundamentals in the driveway.

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When Sophi was little, she placed third in the Elk’s Hoop Shoot contest.  She got a little trophy that I placed on her dresser.  A few weeks later, I found it buried in the bottom of her closet.  I asked why it was shoved in her closet.  She looked at me and said, “Because it was last place.”   There were only three girls in the contest.

Kids know the score.

Sophi having a rough meet at Championships

Sophi having a rough meet at Championships

As my child grows up, she will win and she will lose.  She will love and she will have her heart broken.  She will have disappointment and elation.  She will know success and she will know failure.  She will probably be betrayed by someone she trusts and she may learn to trust someone she thought she couldn’t. There will be those along her path who genuinely want to assist her in attaining success and there will be others who do not see her a worthy investment of time or effort.  I pray that she sees the value of cultivating the talents and strengths of others and always knows at the end of the day that encouraging one another in word and deed is the mark of a true champion.    I hope as the seasons of her life pass,  when she sees me on the sidelines, she will know that no matter what the scoreboard says, I will always be her biggest fan.