Tag Archives: life

Sleeping with Stella

Standard
Sleeping with Stella

I am a chicken. I attribute this cowardice condition to the vastness of my imagination. Adulthood was supposed to equip me with rationale, logic, and grownup perspective. Yet, I am plagued by things that go bump in the night. Regularly, I find myself being chased home by wild coyotes when caught after sundown on an evening run. The shadows along the woods taunt me with the unseen creatures of the night. My dreams are often interrupted by screaming mountain lions, rabid wolves, and an occasional Sasquatch lurking just beyond the trees behind our house. My body rests, but my mind refuses.

It is a state of ridiculousness, which my effort at reason cannot move past. In contrast, there are things I should be afraid of, which I am not. My sincere trust in humanity as a whole could be considered a liability. Constantly on guard for the lone savage wolf stalking me as a walk on the trails cut through the woods, my guard is slack when it comes to my fellow bipedal homo-sapiens. Seldom am I aware of my surroundings, while walking in a dimly lit parking garage. The random stranger asking for directions doesn’t make me wary. My car is often unlocked and sometimes my keys can be found dangling in the ignition. My shopping cart is left unattended with my purse splayed open as I browse the aisles. Trust, even when it is soaking with carelessness, can be broken.

Two weeks ago, as I sparred with the ominous beasts in my dreams, someone was breaking into our vehicles parked in our driveway. We awoke to find that our cars had been ransacked. Unfamiliar hands had rummaged through our consoles, purses, and glove compartments, grabbing and carrying off miscellaneous personal possessions. In their wake they left us feeling vulnerable, empty, and violated. The emotion I wanted to boil to the surface and spill out of me was anger, but it wouldn’t come. As I stood and wondered what a thief was going to do with a purse that had my last name embroidered on it, there remained with me a stifling sense of sadness.

Many of the items taken have made their way back to us. Some have not. My purse was found along a gravel road not far from our house. My son’s driver’s license, college ID and bank card were found by an acquaintance as he was running in an area about six miles from where we live. A backpack was found along the highway along with two of my son’s college textbooks. There are several expensive textbooks, a wallet and some other items which are probably rotting in a ditch in some random location. There was little cash to be taken, but what little there was is gone.

The whole situation should have spurred a sense of fury in the audacity of brazen thievery. While it did springboard a campaign to ratchet up our security, it brought me around to a place I least expected. I found myself immersed in a sense of gratitude. Instead of being consumed by fury of the violation, I found myself focusing on the simple fact that these things were just that—things. Though thieves were among us, the “us” remained unscathed, intact, and well. While my sense of security was dented, the reminder to not hang on too tightly to those things which can be replaced and to hold dearly to those which cannot did not go unacknowledged.

There are so many things in my life that I will never get back. Never again will I hold my sleeping babies with their warm breath sweet on my cheek. There will never be another night of playing outdoors in my bare feet of summer and hearing my mom yell it is time to come inside. I will never get back those wilted dandelions offered up to me from the gap-tooth grinning face of a child who still thinks I am the entire world. Driving the back roads for hours with good friends, with nothing more to occupy our carefree hearts other than the next song playing on the radio are moments gone a lifetime ago. Gone are the days of sitting on the porch with my grandpa hanging on every word of the tales he would spin for me. I can’t go back to the first ‘I love you’ my husband spoke to me or feel the tears he cried as he held his newborn son. Time, it seems, is the real thief. But what time has stolen away hasn’t left holes in the fabric of my existence. What remains is a patchwork of memories being pieced together forming a quilt that is my life. No thief in the dark of night can take the treasures locked securely away in the depths of my heart.

The fear of coyotes, chupacabra, and Bigfoot has not abated. The cars are locked and so are the doors. My faith in mankind is, for the most part, still intact. Life is not meant to be lived instella the unrest of worry over things. Stella, is my little Smith & Wesson .38 and she provides me a sense of comfort. The world, after all, isn’t nearly as scary when I am sleeping with Stella.

 

 

I’ve Got Your Back!

Standard

There is a special place in my heart for the folks in my life who volunteer to support me in times of trial or adversity. I have always had an inclination to let my mouth override my ass and it is always with gracious relief, when I would find someone with more physical fortitude than myself running interference for me. My best friend in middle school and high school was someone who I knew would protect me and in turn, she always knew I would be there for her. She was a badass. I was not a badass. Like once when we were at a party and I started mouthing a girl and the girl didn’t like it. My best friend, Cheri, just had to walk over and ask, “Is there a problem?” and then there was suddenly not a problem anymore. Another time we were cruising the streets of our small town and a girl called us “preps” and while we were stopped, she tried to punch Cheri through the open window of her car. This girl was much more accustomed to settling things with her fists than our little gang of accused ‘preps’, yet the challenge had been issued. Cheri stepped up and as her trusty sidekick, I was right there doing my part…I held her big hoop earrings while she taught this name-calling-prep-hater a lesson (which she did in impressive fashion). My role may seem small, but she could have lost a lobe or an entire ear, for that matter. Had I not been there the results could have been tragic.

As an adult, the role of my protector and back-haver has fallen squarely on the shoulders of my husband, Kevin. He once sensed my fury in a school meeting with my son’s principal and just as I was about to throw myself across the table and choke the life out of the little man, Kevin nonchalantly grabbed the waistband of my pants and kept me firmly anchored to my seat. He also saved my ass when I went toe-to-toe with a big giant idiot who was screaming kevinobscenities at a youth basketball tournament. Kevin has also managed to divert many a potential come-a-parts (that’s what they call it, when I react like a lunatic to situations). He does this by withholding information that he knows will make me crazy. Having my back is sometimes a great deal of work for Kevin.

It goes without saying, that I also always have Kevin’s back. It isn’t like he has big hoop earrings I can hold or any other needs in which my limited talents would come in handy. It is in the literal since that I always have Kevin’s back. His long 6-foot-7 inch walking stride puts me consistently about 20 paces behind him. At the mall, the ballgame, the parking lot at church, it is my husband’s back that I have. His steady unhurried pace appears effortless from the casual observer, but to the little wife trying to tail him, it is a frantic pace. Occasionally, he will glance over his shoulder to make sure I haven’t gotten misplaced or inadvertently swept down a drainage ditch. It is always, however, the same exchange when I finally catch up to him. He looks down at my wind-burnt cheeks and over my labored breathing he casually asks, “Where you been, woman?”

I have practiced fast-walking and also taking bigger steps, but often my choice of footwear doesn’t sustain these practices for any distance and I am forced to revert to my regular short-people walking style. When we walk hand-in-hand, he is so much taller than me and walking so much faster, that I feel and probably look like, a child that has been misbehaving in the store and is being dragged outside to get an ass-whoppin. So, like a boat on the ocean, I set my course following the beacon that is my husband’s back and I plod along at my customary 20 paces.

It would be very much a part of my innate nature to resent this Mid-Eastern style of pedestrian hierarchy we have long adhered to, but I don’t. It has become part of who we are. There is an unexplained comfort in knowing that he is forging the way, much like he does in all aspect of our life. He is steady, strong, and I know that as long as I keep my eyes on beachhim, I am on the right track. It may seem like I am tagging along at his heels; a kite tail of little significance, but I know when I get to where I am going, he will be there—waiting. I know that I am a strong and capable person, but the bond I share with Kevin affords me a sense of security I don’t possess without him. I know he has my back and in warped kind of way, I have his. Should I ever look up and I am no longer able to see him leading the way, it is then I will know I am lost.

This Week’s Top Five Things the Made Me Think, WTH? (Bonus Track Included)

Standard
This Week’s Top Five Things the Made Me Think, WTH? (Bonus Track Included)

 

  1. While eating Chinese food with my husband, Kevin, and daughter, Sophi, I shared a story, thought, idea, comment or theory (or a combination of all these) in my  rapid succession fashion.   Sophi took a bite of her Orange Chicken as if she was considering my thoughts and then states matter-of-factly, “I am pretty sure that you definitely fall somewhere on the autism spectrum”. — WTH??cookie
  2. During a meeting at work, where I was presenting some pretty important concepts for our product to a member of our Development team, my cell phone vibrates and it is my oldest daughter, Riley, calling. She usually texts, so I answered it thinking it must be important. This is our conversation:

Me:  Hello?

Riley: Mom, what are you doing?

Me: I am at work. What’s up?

Riley: I am sad.

Me:  What’s wrong??

Riley: I just walked ALL THE WAY ACROSS CAMPUS to the ONLY vending machine that has my favorite snack and they are out of it. — WTH???

baby rays3.   After a quick stop at the grocery store, my son Evan called me into the kitchen. He then systematically told me how I botched the entire trip because I failed to get Mountain Dew and I “carelessly bought HONEY Bar-B-que Sweet Baby Ray’s and not the original. That is not acceptable.” — WTH??

4.  While driving  Sophi to school this morning, I was traveling down the highway at a good clip and a white van pulls out in front of me. I brake hard to keep from getting up close and personal with his/her bumper and then quickly passed her. He or she laid on her (yeah I am thinking it was a she) horn like I was a maniac for passing. Are you kidding me?? You pulled out in front of me!! — WTH??

5.  On the eve of the anniversary of the attack on 9/11, I am appalled by the protesting that continues in Ferguson, MO. Thirteen years ago, we were a nation united. We lifted one another up. We prayed together, remembered together, and we picked up the pieces together. We mourned the loss of lives across the blurred lines of the human race. Our flags were flown high, we remembered to say ‘I love you’, we restored a sense of community. Gradually, we have put the walls back up. There looms a real and vibrant threat to our America and yet there are those who choose to wage war within the confines of their own WTHcommunity. There is no greater power we can give those who encroach our borders intent to destroy our homeland than to present as a nation divided. Stand on principle, but don’t throw it through a store window and grab 30 pairs of shoes. Use your right to freedom of speech to whichever end you wish, but let’s be clear– if you exercise that right in the middle of the interstate and I am trying to get home from work, I no longer give a shit what you have to say. — WTH???

 

Bonus Track: Kevin was leaving the house Sunday evening and he called to tell me there was a calf on the wrong side of the electric fence. He asked if I would go out and put him back in the field where he belonged. I had my workout clothes on, so I kicked off my running shoes and donned my boots and headed out to get the job done. He told me to grab the orange plastic handle on the fence to unhook it. I did and my hand slipped and I got the piss shocked out of me. Much to my amusement, Sophi captured the whole thing on video. When I asked her why she was videoing me she said, “I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well.” —-WTH???

A Full Moon on Family Cove

Standard
A Full Moon on Family Cove
lake2

Leslie and Grace

There is a place where everyone at the Lake of the Ozarks goes to party. It is simply called ‘Party Cove’. It is a place of ill repute, where drinking is in excess, clothes are minimal and pretty much any form of debauchery goes. It goes without saying, that our ‘Party Cove’ days are essentially behind us. While vacationing at the Lake, we choose to frequent more a family friendly environment. It is simply called ‘Family Cove’.

lake3

Me, Kevin, Garret, and Bobby

Our friends, Bobby and Leslie, have a house on the Lake of the Ozarks. We have been fortunate that they frequently extend an invitation to our family to share in the summer fun at the lake. We ride jet skis, paddle boat, swim, fish, and just soak up the sun. On one of our summer trips to the lake, we all piled into the boat and headed for an afternoon of relaxing in Family Cove.
Upon arriving at the cove, Bobby and Leslie recognized several other boaters. As is customary, the lines were tossed and the boats tethered together so make one huge floating vessel. There were several people in the cove whom I also knew, but most I did not. Boating folks are a very friendly bunch and it was quickly apparent that we were all welcome to join in the fun. There were several people already bobbing in the water on floatation devices, sunglasses on, and beers in hand. The kids were jumping from the decks of boats into the water, the life jackets bringing them quickly to the surface. Good, clean, fun in the sun; until it got ugly.

lake4

Kevin, Tracy, Leslie, and Me

We had only been there just a few minutes and we had just tied up to the other boats. Most of our crew had already gotten into the water and were making their way to the others gathered in the front of boats. I, being extremely self-conscious of my swimsuit body, had hung back, waiting for an opportunity to slide into the water without being seen. I should probably point out that my hesitation and my body image issues had no doubt got the attention of that bitch, Karma. Based on the series of events about to unfold, I would have been better off doing a cannon ball off the bow of the boat into the unsuspecting crowd of lake people.
I had decided the coast was clear to enter the water and I headed for the back of the boat. Bobby and another guy I didn’t know were the only two people I could see and I decided to slip down the ladder and into the lake. My plan went off without a hitch…EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT IT TURNED INTO A FAMILY COVE SIDE SHOW!! My plan was to step onto the ladder facing out and sit on the first wrung and slide into the water. As I launched my entry, my swimsuit bottoms got hooked onto the ladder. I must have started to panic, because my feet slipped out from under me and I could hear and feel my swim suit rip. I wiggled and squirmed and I could not get myself free.
There I was–just hanging there. I was suspended from the ladder, face down and bare ass up, hanging by what remained of my bikini bottoms. Bobby was the first to be alerted to my unfortunate situation and he swam over and asked, “Karri, what are you doing?” (like I was purposefully hanging there with my ass in the air).  He was trying not to laugh, but I can only imagine what he was witnessing. It was funny.
“I’m stuck,” I told him, still just hanging there on the ladder with absolutely every shred of dignity dripping into the great expanse of the lake. Being a good sport (and probably eager to get this half-naked freak flag off his boat) , Bobby and his friend came to my rescue and they managed to hoist me up enough to untangle me from my snare and I slipped into the water.
My swim suit bottoms were in shreds and I had to tie the pieces together in the crotch and spent the entire afternoon in the water for fear of additional exposure. It was all so completely ridiculous and humiliating that there was nothing I could do but just laugh, because it was also hilarious. I was teased relentlessly: “She was only at Family Cove for five minutes and was showing her ass” and “Hey, Karri, if you were going to swing off the back of the boat without your bottoms on, you should have gone to Party Cove”.
Just like the girl with the little bitty teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini, I eventually had to come out of the water. I put my legs through the arm holes of a life jacket, and Kevin lifted me up into the boat, where I was able to find adequate cover. I think I was fortunate that not very many people actually witnessed my full moon over Family Cove (that is what I tell myself anyway).

lake7
It’s hard to take myself too seriously after being suspended from the back of a boat with my rear end bared to the world. Body image is something I have struggled with my whole life and I know there have been many times I have let my hangups hinder me from enjoying life to its fullest. I am a product of the airbrushed generation and it has been difficult for me to accept the many imperfections that are me–physically and otherwise. The older I get, the more ripples, bulges, sags and bags there are to contend with each and every day. But the older I get, the more I realize that I only get this one life to live. I can either hide in the boat and miss out on making memories or I can hang over the water by my drawers and laugh ’til it hurts. One life–one chance–there is no time to spend hiding in the boat. Life is meant to be lived (but with my bottoms ON).

100 Years of Dreams

Standard
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

Standard
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

Standard

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.

Phantom Pain

Standard

agpaThere are some tragedies which start out slowly, festering and lingering. However, there are those tragedies that lie in wait, disguised as any other ordinary day; springing up without warning with enough force the reverberations are palpable for every moment that follows. August 26, 1966 was an ordinary day for my grandparents, until suddenly it wasn’t.

Some stories that have passed down through the generations are diluted over the years and since this occurred before I was born, I will retell the events as they have been told to me by my parents, both who played integral roles in the day’s events.
It was late summer in Missouri and I know without anyone saying so that it was hot and humid. It was four-thirty in the afternoon and my dad was bush-hogging at my grandparent’s house. Bush-hogging consists of clearing away tall grass and brush from a field by pulling a ‘bush-hog’ behind a tractor. My grandpa had walked out to the field to warn Dad of a large hole that was obscured by the tall grass. Grandpa was about 100 yards away from where my dad was clearing when the blade from the bush-hog came loose. The blade rocketed through the tall grass just as my grandpa took a step right into its trajectory. As if his leg were made of warm butter, the blade sliced through-shattering flesh, muscle, tendon and bone. In an instant, his right leg was clinging to the rest of him by a narrow piece of flesh and a scrap of his pants.
Unbeknownst to my dad, who was unaware my grandpa was in trouble, Grandpa yelled out for help as his life blood gushed into the earth around him. My mom was in the house and heard Grandpa’s cries for help. She looked out and saw him lying on the ground. She ran to him and found him struggling to get his belt off so he could make a tourniquet. She flipped completely out as each time his heart would beat his severed femoral artery would spray them both with his blood. He grabbed her and told her to calm down. He needed her help. He told her to run to the garage and get him a rope. She ran.
When she returned with the rope, my dad was at Grandpa’s side. The missing blade had eventually caused the bush-hog to rattle and shake. After stopping the tractor, he realized that something was wrong. Dad found a piece of binder twine (thin tough rope used to secure hay bales together) and he made a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. In order to get it to stop, Dad had to ratchet it up tightly…very tightly. My mom remembers, “When your dad cinched it up, I will never forget the sound your Grandpa made. It haunts me, that sound. But it stopped. The blood stopped. Your dad saved his life.”
The neighbors called the ambulance and it took Grandpa to a local hospital. My Grandma had about a dozen bouts of hysteria and in the end Grandpa lost his right leg above his knee. He spent 14 days in the hospital. During his hospital stay, a wheelchair ramp was built for him to access his house. Upon his discharge, he was given a set of crutches and a short lesson on how to use them. That was the extent of his physical and occupational therapy. He used the wheelchair ramp a total of one time on the day he came home from the hospital. He used his crutches and eventually a prosthetic wooden leg. Two years after his accident, he returned to work at the lead mines. He wasn’t allowed to go down into the mines with his wooden leg, but he worked topside.
I never knew my grandpa as a two-legged man and it never occurred to me that his wooden leg was anything but normal. Grandpa only completed the sixth grade in school. But he was gentle, humble, wise and tough as nails. He taught me more about history than I ever learned in a classroom and wove outrageous tales that I swallowed hook line and sinker. He made me laugh. I made him laugh. He was a World War II hero, but he never told anyone. We found out after he passed through the Veterans Administration. He had an abundance of humility, which is a sign of a true hero.
The part of the story that pains me the most are the months immediately following his accident. It was the phantom pain–the excruciating nerve pain experienced in an amputated body part. The man who fought valiantly for his country, attempted to make a tourniquet for his severed leg, walked away from his wheelchair ramp, and returned to work after his tragic accident—suffering from a pain so intense that it left him writhing in the floor.
I often wondered about this mysterious pain inflicting such torment through a piece of a person that is no longer there. As my parents relayed the details of this tragic day and memories spilled into more memories, it became evident that Grandpa was a part of all of us. His legacy lives through us. Although the memory of his grit, wisdom and integrity live on in our hearts, he is still a physically missing piece of our lives. Although time dulls the sharpness of the pain the dull ache of loss lingers. I guess we all experience a kind of phantom pain when the physical presence of those we love is severed. Sometimes I wonder what pieces of me will linger in the hearts of those I love when I am no longer here.

Some tragedies linger and fester. Some tragedies blow up in your face without warning. But there are those tragedies, like that hot day in August 1966, which are something entirely different… an interlude to life well-lived; just a small piece of a beautiful soul.

I am Weak and the Devil Knows It

Standard
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

Standard

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.

11-11-11 011

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.