Tag Archives: real life

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

The Maddening Voice of Maggie the Nav-Hag

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The Maddening Voice of Maggie the Nav-Hag

Jeep1My Maggie is hard not to love, although sometimes she is hard for me to handle. She is strong, beautiful, and almost as much fun with her top on as she is with her top off. From the moment I saw her, I loved her. She is my Jeep and she is special.   Last week, my husband had a navigation system installed into Maggie. This brought about some changes. Not only can Mags and I find our way back from any adventures we may take, but now she can talk!

I have little patience for technical configurations which require a great deal of detail and/or time, so I hit the highlights. The only setup option I gave careful attention to was the voice selection. A female voice was the obvious choice. Maggie is a badass, but exclusively in the feminine sense. Listening to each accent and language choice, I settled on a soft voice with a pleasing British accent. (Please apply a soft female voice with a pleasing British accent to Maggie’s dialogue in the remainder of this story).

The next day, I decided to drive Maggie to work in St. Louis, a jaunt I usually reserve for the smaller economical and nameless Chevy Cruze.   I didn’t want to have to listen to Maggie’s directions the entire trip, so I dialed in just a short portion of the journey, so I could test out her new vocal capabilities. Just as I had anticipated, thing were off to a splendid start:

Maggie: In two miles, please turn left.

Me: Why thank you Maggie, you are very helpful.

Maggie: Please turn right and continue on this route for 26 miles.

Me:   You got it, Mags, whatever you say.

 

After her test run was complete, I settled in for the remainder of my drive to work. As I merged onto the four-lane highway, I set the cruise control to my customary 6 miles over the posted speed limit and hit the music shuffle on my phone. The music suddenly cutout and Maggie piped up in her pleasing British accent:

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: Excuse me, Maggie, did you say something.

 

Silence. I continue driving.

Maggie: You are exceeding the speed limit, please decrease your speed.

Me: Okay, Maggie. I appreciate your concern. Thank you.

 

I continue driving and several miles pass.

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: Seriously, Maggie, I know. It’s fine, really.

 

I turn the music up, reduce the cruise to 4 over the speed limit and continue driving. Surely she wouldn’t bitch at me for going four miles over the speed limit.

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: OMG, Maggie. You are really pissing me off. Shut up!!

 

Maggie: You are exceeding the speed limit. Please reduce your speed.

Me: I swear to God, Maggie, I am going to rip your throat out if you do not shut up!!!

 

I wasn’t familiar enough with the controls to reprogram her while I was driving, and so we continued down the highway; Maggie relentlessly nagging me about my speed in her soft voice with the pleasing British accent and me stubbornly refusing to comply with her polite suggestions. Eventually, I reverted to arguing with her in an unpleasant and hostile British accent:

 

Maggie: You are over the speed limit.

Me: And YOU, Maggie, are a daft cow.

Maggie: You are exceeding the speed limit. Please reduce your speed.

Me: Ahhhhhhh! Bloody hell!!!

 

After my trip with the Maggie the Nav-Hag, it occurred to me that I am the sort of person that might benefit had God thought to equip me with an automatic audible warning system. A backup system for when my mouth is over-riding my ass or my sound judgment system fails. Even the backup system probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference when I was younger. I am also pretty sure that it would not have been at all effective when I was in full ‘mama-bear’ mode NOTE: Mama Bear Mode is known as a state of being when one perceives that someone is being unfair or hurtful to one’s offspring, and mama-bear claws come out, fangs are bared and attack is imminent. However, I think I am at a certain age where it might compliment my developing restraint.FullSizeRender

There will always be situations which will try my patience and cause me to question the motives and authenticity of others. It seems that when human beings completely miss opportunities to positively impact the lives of others and go out of their way to tear individuals down, I find my checks and balances system failing. An internal audible warning system may be just what I need so save me from beating the proverbial dead horse; Maggie’s soothing voice in a pleasant British accent intervening in my head:

Maggie: You are exceeding the emotional limit. Please calm down.

Maggie: Your emotional reaction to his/her/their actions will not impact the current situation. Proceed with caution.

Maggie: Navigating the intentions of others is impossible. People have to be willing to change course.

Maggie: Please proceed to the route… stay the course… focus on the positive… repair the damage… be kind… be fair… be honest… be genuine… and SIT YOUR BLODDY ARSE DOWN AND BEHAVE!!

 

This really does seem like a novel idea to keep me in check. Perhaps if this was a standard feature we were all equipped with, life wouldn’t be quite so messy. I haven’t reprogrammed Maggie to keep her gob shut about my driving. It isn’t so bad having a reminder when I am not acting in my best interest or the interest of others. Besides, it is just a matter of time before Kevin Thurman, silences Maggie for good. He has two speeds, stop and fast; Ride or die, Mags. Ride or die.

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.

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.

What Lies Between the Hectic

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What Lies Between the Hectic

I am guilty. I live life too fast, take on too much and try to cram way too much activity into an incredibly small space of time. My mom used to say I went at everything half-cocked and half-assed, which is more or less true.
This weekend was an action-packed full-throttle weekend. Now it’s Monday and I am tired, my laundry situation is critical, and I am bummed because I missed two of my favorite little guys’ birthday party. However, I did manage to attend one day of a two day track meet, coach four basketball games, watch at least six more basketball games, cook one decent meal, discard another perfectly good meal by accident (sorry, Kim) and remembered to buy dog food and people food at the store yesterday evening.
I need balance. I have never had it. I am an unbalanced individual. My children are unbalanced. Most of our meals are unbalanced. My husband, Kevin, is the only thing consistently centered and balanced in our household. We are like a bunch of spastic little electrons spinning around him. He is our nucleus.
There are kids, dogs, cats, laundry, sports, and chaos happening all the time and there is always at least one person claiming to be on the verge of starvation at all times. I look around at other families at the youth sporting events and envy the collective manner in which they seem to have it all together. I imagine their dinners with foods from all the food groups, all the laundry folded and tucked away, and everyone waking in the mornings to the smell of bacon frying. It’s a far cry from my reality. In my world, pizza is counted as a healthy choice, even if it has zero veggies on it. The Thurman’s battle over the last clean towel before anyone would actually put of load in the washer and we usually start the mornings, with: “Oh $hit! (fill in the blank with any of the following:
a. We over slept
b. There is no more hot water.
c. The dog threw up on my pillow.
d. Does anyone know where my (track shoes, backpack, phone, hairbrush, etc.) is?

socksThis is NO LIE. Sophi has gone to school, not once, but TWICE without wearing shoes! She realized it when she was almost to school, but Kevin was getting onto Evan for one thing or another and so she chose to stay quiet. She hops out of the car in her socks, walks into school, and has the school secretary call me at work. The secretary said she had worked at the school for thirty years and had kids forget all kinds of things, but this was the first time she had ever encountered a kid who forgot to put on her shoes! (We Thurman’s like to set the bar really high). Sophi explained the situation, “Well, I put my shoes by the door and I grab them when I go out the door. Sometimes my ‘go’ gets ahead of my ‘grab’.”
Riley, my oldest, called to say she was coming home from college yesterday for an impromptu visit. This kicked me into ‘Mom mode’ and I went to the store to get people food (and dog food) and threw together a meal that included almost all of the food groups. Right before I finally closed by eyes last night (actually, it was early this morning before I got to close my eyes), I reflected on the best parts of my weekend. I concluded these were the best parts:
ariley• Snuggling with Riley and watching a movie long after I should have been asleep.
• Seeing my crew of young girls come together as a team and win will grace and lose with grace.
• Laughing at my son, Evan, as he entertained us with his unique and totally inappropriate sense of humor.
• Celebrating Kevin coaching Sophi’s team to a sweet tournament victory.magic
• After calling Kevin a maniac for tickling me until I screamed, he calmly asked me to give him a definition of a ‘maniac’. After my in-depth definition of a ‘maniac’, we lay there in silence for a few seconds. Realizing that I had just described myself to the letter, we both burst into laughter.
sophevanLike so many families, we are constantly on the go. We often let our ‘go’ get ahead of our ‘grab’. Sometimes, it seems like life is lived at a frantic pace, but I know better. There are those things found in the moments between the hectic that really count. The snuggles, laughter, love and smiles are the moments that matter. More time is something I wish for, but I have found I don’t really need more time; I just need to carve out more moments between the hectic.

The Broken Swan this Side of Heaven

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My family had to say goodbye to a fantastic lady today. After 95 years, my grandmother, Violet Stephens, ended her journey on this earth. This special lady left this world just as a person of her caliber should have—surrounded by people who loved and adored her. I wasn’t there when she passed, but I did love and adore her. I was fortunate that she spent the last year living in the nursing facility where I work. So, I got to see her and hug her and kiss her anytime I want. She was precious.

The truth is, she wasn’t even my biological grandma. I was a step. Sometimes that can be complicated. I was 13 years old when I became her grandchild and there was little else more complicated than I was at that age (except for maybe ages 15-19). It wasn’t complicated for Grandma. She just lumped my sister and me in with the rest of them and loved us like she had been there when they cut our cords. I would like to say it was because we were so special, but that wasn’t is at all. It was because she was special.

Grandma was a gentile sprit and kind nearly to a fault. She was the type of person who would go out of her way for other people and wouldn’t expect anything in return. She was someone I didn’t want to disappoint, because she was just such a doll. Once, when my sister and I were spending the night with her and my grandpa, she brought us a flashlight. She said, “Girls, I am giving you this flashlight so you won’t get lost if you have to get up in the night to use the bathroom.” I can’t really capture how endearing this gesture was. The bathroom was literally three steps outside the room where we were sleeping. The house was tiny and cozy and there was exactly zero chance of us getting lost. She was precious.

There was something I should have told Grandma and I didn’t. This isn’t like me at all, because I am pretty forthcoming about my plethora of blunders. I was sixteen and attending a family gathering at Grandma’s. Nearly everyone had congregated in the backyard and I had made my way to the sit on the front step. I was sitting next to a concrete planter that was fashioned into the shape of a swan. It was full of blooming red flowers and I casually reached up and put my hand around the beak of the swan. A good-sized portion of the beak broke off into my hand. Looking back, I know that Grandma would have just brushed it aside had I taken the beak to her and told her what had happened. But I didn’t. I did what I sometimes do in sticky situations–I improvised. I used the gum I was chewing to stick the beak back into place. I am normally not a good secret keeper, but I kept this one for a long time.

Twenty-six years have passed and as of yesterday, that swan with the bum beak was still sitting in front of Grandma’s house. I came clean to my sisters and my step-dad a few years ago and they have all teased me about telling Grandma I broke her swan planter. They never told either. I should have told her. It wouldn’t have mattered to her. It mattered to me.

A few months ago Grandma became very sick and we had to take her to the hospital. I went and sat with her until my aunts and uncles could get there. She was weak and barely able to stay awake or talk. Several times she opened her eyes and I would smile and say, “Hi there, Sleeping Beauty.” Each time that day she said the same thing to me: You aren’t my real grandchild. You aren’t my great-grandchild. You are a really great grandchild. She had never said that to me before that day and never said it to me again. I should have told her then I broke her swan.

At her funeral, my mom (who is a dynamic speaker) shared that my Grandma had left a note to her and my step-dad on a visit to their home about fifteen years ago. It was also something Grandma hadn’t spoken to them about before or since she left it. It was a request to have the following poem read at her funeral:

“Miss Me But Let Me Go”

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little-but not too long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me-but let me go

For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the Master’s plan
A step on the road to home

When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me but let me go.

Author: Anonymous

My Grandma didn’t have many worldly possessions. She didn’t need many. She was content in her family, faith and community. I am a step. Sometimes that gets complicated, but I have decided to ask for the broken swan. I think it would look lovely on my porch with the flowers blooming and a broken beak. Moreover, it will serve to remind me to strive to be more like her. Maybe I can choose to focus on the good in people, to serve others more and to put God and family first. I get that wrong a lot of the time. She got it right. If I am entrusted with the planter, I hope Grandma knows it will be the most treasured broken swan this side of heaven.

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The Ledgend of Big Kevin’s Green Hairbrush

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The Ledgend of Big Kevin’s Green Hairbrush

I love my pillow, my Mineral Area Football League T-shirt, my blue sweats of unknown origin, and a white blanket that I lovingly call my ‘stink blanket’, but not because it stinks (please do not mistakenly refer to it as my stinky blanket, because I consider that highly offensive). Due to my propensity for being slightly quirky, my emotional attachment to a few inanimate objects will surprise exactly zero percent of people. However, revealing the odd relationship my logical, sensible, meat-and-potatoes husband has with his beloved hairbrush is perhaps another matter altogether.

For two decades I have shared my life with this strong, silent, giant of a man. We have hadahairbrush4 many ups and downs, laughter and tears, good times and bad but through it all one thing has remained constant—his green hairbrush. This simple grooming tool has stood the test of time and while its value to Big Kevin remains a mystery to our family, it is something we certainly all have learned to respect (sort of).

When the kids started getting to an age where they were able to get themselves ready in the mornings, trouble started brewing. Inevitably, one of them would carry the brush off to another bathroom and Kevin could be heard yelling, “Where is my hairbrush?!” There wasn’t exactly a shortage of hairbrushes in the house, so we all sort of blew him off at first. “Just use a different one,” we would rebut. He wouldn’t hear of it, “I DON’T WANT TO USE A DIFFERENT ONE! I WANT TO USE MY HAIRBRUSH!” Inevitably, he would go to the store and buy half-dozen hairbrushes and proclaim that anyone in the house could use any hairbrush, except his green one. Life would be good for a while, but then one of us would slipup and use his brush and forget to return it to its proper location and we would all be scrambling and blaming one another for the infraction.

ahairbrush3My oldest daughter, Riley, was blessed with an amazing mane of hair. She also sheds like a Sasquatch in full molt. She would often use Kevin’s brush to flat-iron her hair and leave wads of long strawberry blonde hair tangled in the bristles. “SOMEONE HAS BEEN USING MY HAIRBRUSH,” he would accuse as he extracted the hairs. We all know he hates for us to use it, yet like moths to the flame…

Let me clarify. Kevin is not a Type-A personality who has to have everything in its place like some sort of Sleeping with the Enemy character. I take his tools and don’t put them back. He can have his underwear and socks crammed in the same drawer and if the glasses are put in the cabinet up-side down, right-side-up or a combination of both, he absolutely does not care. This is what makes this random hairbrush OCD so baffling (and funny) to all of us. I have used his toothbrush on many occasions with not so much as a grunt or a growl from him. But the hairbrush–it’s sacred.

One evening several years ago, after the hairbrush had been tracked back to one of the kids’ bathrooms and Kevin reiterated the off-limits hairbrush rule for everyone for the six-hundred and thirty-sixth time, Evan told Kevin, “You are like Larry the Cucumber with that stupid hairbrush.” He produced a YouTube video of Larry the Cucumber singing a dreadful song about losing his hairbrush. It was epic and quickly became Kevin’s theme song for times his brush went missing.  (You can watch Larry sing in the Hairbrush Song by clicking the link below):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtHr7gluh08

This hairbrush is ragged.  Its once shiny green color is chipped and faded.  It has been burnt with a hot flat-iron (for which I have no comment), and the bristles are worn and frazzled.  It has been left behind and retrieved home.  Our family has fought about it, laughed about it, sang silly songs about it and spent countless hours looking for this old green hairbrush.  As our 19th wedding anniversary approaches, I realize how I am not so uahairbrush1nlike this raggedy old brush.  I am scarred, sagging, wrinkled, and frazzled, but Big Kevin is still hanging in there with me!  I know that I am not the shiny young thing he married so many years ago, but I know he still loves me.  I don’t understand why the man loves his stupid green hairbrush and there are many days I don’t understand why he loves someone as fallible as me.  All I know is that I am extremely grateful that he can value something seemingly so insignificant and I am also pretty okay with him hanging onto that silly hairbrush!

Growing Up April Fresh and Squeaky Clean

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Growing Up April Fresh and Squeaky Clean

 

My mom is the Chuck Norris of clean. Two completely random and separate interactions with my dear sisters reminded me of the ultra-shiny-hand-washed-hung-dry-neatly-pressed-streak-free bond we share.  In a recent conversation about Santa’s reindeer with my sister, Kim, (this is not even close to being in the top 100 of strange conversations we have had) we discovered that we both grew up feeling sorry for the reindeer Comet.  We were operating under the assumption that all the other reindeer had been given cool names and he was named after an ordinary household cleanser.   Neither could relate a fanciful flying reindeer to a spectacular celestial light streaking through the night sky.  We both, however, could relate to the extraordinary things Mom could do with an ordinary household cleanser. A few days following our reindeer conversation, my younger sister, Emily, posted this Facebook status:

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It seemed fitting that I should pay homage to the pint-sized woman who can scrub an entire house from top to bottom, do seven loads of laundry (a load consists of washed dried folded/hung/pressed and put away) and put a streak-free shine on Mr. Clean’s bald head all before his feet hit the floor in the morning.  Lessons we have learned from Mother Judy:  mom

1.       “A little bit of sprayin’ and a whole lot of wipin’”  Mom’s motto she applied to little hands trying to be helpers and then later to big hands just doing a half-assed job on assigned chores.  Pledge furniture polish was the easiest to overuse, but the phrase was also regularly applied to Windex, SoftScrub, shoe polish, Spot Shot, and a variety of multipurpose cleaners.  Approximately 99.9% (see addendum below) of all household cleaning chores carried out by her offspring were subsequently deemed “pretty good” and then totally redone by the Queen of Clean.

2.      Clean with the spirit of a ninja warrior.  All members of our family have been subjected to the svelte ways of Mom in motion.  While enjoying an ice-cold beverage, one must only lose physical/visual contact with the glass for a split second for her to strike.  In the time required to blink, the glass has been dumped, rinsed, and tucked into the dishwasher.  The ninja technique also is applied to bowls of cereal, half-eaten sandwiches, partially read newspapers and unmade beds left unattended for early morning trips to the bathroom.

3.      Mom and a toothbrush are a force to be reckoned with.  Many tough jobs have been tackled by mom and a toothbrush.  Grout, tiles, floors, stoves, etc. have been subjected to her fury against the grime.  However, one cannot fully grasp the mightiness of Mom welding this seemingly harmless tool, except those of us who have stood before her having failed the “oral hygiene inspection”.  The kind, docile creature transforms into a self-appointed Cavity Creep assassin.  Having to endure a tooth-brushing session at the hands of this well-meaning fanatic is comparable to what I imagine it would be like to have your mouth (teeth, gums, and tongue) scrubbed thoroughly with a Brillo-pad.

4.      A dusty car might as well be a rusty car.  My car is an extension of my family’s hectic life and usually contains all of or a combination of the following:  basketballs, socks, sweatshirts, electronics, snacks, lip gloss, bottled water, crumbs, textbooks, book bags, golf clubs, work stuff, and hair and makeup accessories.  My mom’s car contains floor mats and a garage door opener.  Not only is the inside of her car in showroom condition, but should a layer of dust accumulate on the outside of the car, she takes the time to “dust” the body of the vehicle.  Riding in my car makes my mom nervous.

5.      If it cannot be cleaned, it must be destroyed.  The large ranch-style home we lived in when my little sister Emily was born had very nice dark brown carpeting.  Although the carpeting had been recently installed by the previous owners of the house and was in tip-top shape, it was a source of loathing for Mom.  While most people would appreciate a floor covering that didn’t readily show dirt, this trait was an unforgivable flaw in her eyes.  No amount of cleaning, scrubbing, or vacuuming would squelch Mom’s distrust of what the brown carpeting was hiding.  Plans to replace the carpet were put-off by my step-dad and Mom’s patience was wearing thin.  As growing babies do, Emily began scooting around on the floor to explore the world around her and that was a game changer.  Emily’s tiny white socks were dingy where she had scooted on the floor. The tiny defiled socks were proof positive that Mom’s suspicions were not unfounded and she took matters into her own hands-literally.  Early on a Saturday morning, I awoke to quite a commotion.  Mom, with a crowbar, box cutter and her tiny little hands was ripping the carpet up, leaving only the purple padding.  While making her feel MUCH better, the stunt ended in a lengthy stalemate with my step-dad.  Several weeks passed in the pristine house with the purple padding on the floor, before my step-dad relented and had new carpeting installed.

Clean facts worthy of sharing:

  • Mom was chastised by her beloved dog’s veterinarian for giving the pooch a bath EVERY SINGLE DAY!  (Please see photo of the dog’s reaction when she retrieves his tub from the laundry room)

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    Hopper hiding at bath time.

  • When lice broke out in my sister’s elementary class, she washed the girl’s hair with the medicated shampoo so many times that her scalp started to crack and bleed.  Bedding was burned.
  • The obsession with cleaning often spills out in how Mom communicates.  Actual quote:  “I don’t think he is the shiniest tool in the shed.”
  • While bathing us, Mom used to put our shoestrings in the bathtub with us.  The only things worse than dirty shoestrings were dirty shoes.  She polished white tennis shoes each night.
  • Mom’s doomsday preparation list would include:  bleach, SpotShot, Windex, a dust mop and a broom.

Unfortunately, for Mom, her OCD cleaning gene is recessive…very recessive.  She had three chances to see her affinity for the super clean manifest itself in the lives of her offspring and none of us have it.  We seem to have picked up some of her habits and at times we get a little cranky when the laundry piles up or we fall behind on the household chores. However, I can (and do) go to bed with the throw pillows in disarray and the kitchen floor un-swept.  After cooking a delicious meal, Kim can have a martini before the kitchen is clean and is perfectly content to allow someone else to clean it, while she has a martini.  Emily’s movements can often be tracked from the time she enters the house by the things she leaves along the way…shoes…purse….scarf and I am 100% certain she has never dusted the outside of her car.

I used to stress over thinking Mom was going to be disappointed in me, if she discovered toothpaste not rinsed out of the sinks or that the load of clothes I have in the washer has to be washed again because I forgot to put it in the dryer (yesterday or possibly the day before that).  How could this super woman who can clean, work, teach, workout, and meet the needs of so many people around her feel anything other than shame in having a daughter like me???  It would be just like my pint-sized dynamo of a mother to give me an out; to magnify my perceived domestic shortcomings as strengths which she lacked.  In fact, that is exactly what she did.

It wasn’t long after the birth of my youngest child that I attended a mother-daughter dinner, where my mom was the speaker for the evening.  As a dynamic speaker and teacher in women’s Christian ministry, I was prepared for an uplifting and powerful message from Mom.  I was not expecting to hear her share the following story with the audience:

I am so lucky to have my oldest daughter, Karri, here with me tonight.  I am even luckier to have her as my daughter.  It is hard to believe that she is a mother of three children now and she is an amazing mom.  (I am now thinking, where is she going with this?  I sometimes suck on Sophi’s pacifier when she drops it on the ground and stick it back in her mouth.  There is nothing amazing about that).  In fact, I wish that I could have been more like the mom she is when she was growing up.  She became a mother when she was fairly young.  I remember one particular day when I stopped by her little rental house and I went in the front door and there were toys scattered all over the living room.  I continued through the house and on the kitchen table there were two bowls where she and my granddaughter, Riley, had eaten cereal. (Great, she is up there on that stage telling them what a lousy housekeeper I am).  The laundry room had several piles of clothes needing to be laundered.  Where do you think I found her?  She was in the backyard, sitting in a tiny sandbox building sandcastles with her daughter.  You see, ladies, there will always be things to pick up, laundry that needs washed and dishes to do, but there are only so many moments in which we can build sand castles. I wish I had built more sandcastles. 

Addendum:  After consulting with my sisters, I was informed that my estimate of 99.9% of the chores were redone by Mom is incorrect and the actual amount was 110%.

 

01/01/2013Spending New Year's Day stripping wallpaper and cleaning in Emily's new home.

01/01/2013
Spending New Year’s Day stripping wallpaper and cleaning in Emily’s new home.

Working and rockin' her skinny jeans

Working and rockin’ her skinny jeans

Birthday Guest Blog-from my baby sister, Emily

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Birthday Guest Blog-from my baby sister, Emily

As you all know by now, my sister Karri received all the wordsmith genes in the family. I do believe that she has passed them on to her daughter Sophi, too (and possibly Evan, although no word on whether he has actually sat down long enough to put pen to paper to test the gene out). That being said, by the time it got to the third daughter, there was very little of the writing gene left, so please bear with me as I try to pay tribute to my oldest sister on her birthday.

My mom often tells the following story to describe her three daughters. If she drew a line in the sand and specifically told the three of us not to cross it, my response as the rule following baby would be to avoid crossing, approaching, looking at or thinking about the line. Kim, the middle daughter, who often lives in her own reality, would respond, “what line?” Oh but Karri, the first born, she would see the line and while looking you directly in the eye do whatever it took to cross it. Whether it be hopping, jumping, tiptoeing or nose-diving, she’s crossing it, line be darned. Even if awaiting her on the other side was a pit of gnarly crocodiles, she got over it. But you see, that is what makes Karri so great (albeit aggravating at times). Her tenacity to achieve whatever she has set her mind is a force not easily stopped. We have all seen it in her parenting. She would do anything, ANYTHING, for her three kids or Kevin and even her furry four-legged pals. And I know that she would stop at nothing for me, too.
I have often wondered what I would do if in a freak rule breaking accident I were to get arrested. Who would I call? Karri. In a heartbeat. Now she may not have the bail money, but she’d beg, borrow or steal to get me out. I remember one specific instance in the 5th grade, my parents were out of town and someone at school had spread a nasty rumor at me. My 12 year old heart was crushed (as 12 year old hearts so easily are). I thought of calling no one else but Karri. She talked me through the situation and even volunteered to call the rumor spreader and her mother. Now, even then I had known Karri long enough to know that my innocent private school friends and their parents were not prepared to deal with the fury of Karri-scorned, so I declined, but I will never forget that she was there for me then and countless other times. That’s another thing about Karri, not matter what she has going on, she will take the time to help you out. Like the time she “edited” my graduate school admissions essay the night before it was due. I’m sure she did this in between working full time, coaching Sophi or Evan in some kind of sport or watching Riley cheer at a football game.
Some of my earliest memories include time with Karri. I was born when Karri was 16 and I am sure she got the privilege of babysitting more often than she wanted. On several occasions people thought that I was her baby, not her baby sister. One day she had me in her cart at Wal-Mart and someone told her how cute her little girl was. She thanked the woman but told her that I was her baby sister. Then I pulled a move that I am sure I learned from her. I couldn’t have been more than three at the time, but I quickly responded, “Hey can I have this sucker, MOM?” Of course the people thought Karri was completely full of it and couldn’t believe she would call her baby her little sister. I believe this was my way of payback for her tricking me into eating the candles off my birthday cake when I was two. I also remember going over to her house after she had moved out and being allowed to do things mom would NEVER have let happen in our house. For one thing, our mom was extremely picky about what I ate. I never remember one time in my entire life eating Kraft mac and cheese at my mom’s. But when I went to Karri’s, not only did I get to eat mac and cheese, I was allowed to stand on a stool over the hot stove and stir the tasty treat (had Judy known this at the time it would have been enough for her to faint). Karri’s house was a place where fun could be had and messes could be made. I loved going there.
Looking up to Karri my entire life, I have learned many things. She may not always take the easy road, but she a unique way of finding joy along the path. If you have been around Karri at all you know that her quick wit keeps everyone around her laughing. She always puts others before herself and would do anything she could if she knew it would help someone else.
So here’s to you Karri on your birthday. I love you so much and wouldn’t trade you for any other big sister in the entire world.

Emily and Me