It occurred to me the other day that I have yet to write about my job…as in my actual profession. For those of you who don’t know me personally, it may come as quite a surprise that, in the real world, I have a career….as opposed to sitting around in the river every day drinking a variety of cocktails while blogging about the hilarity that is my life. Shocking, I know.
I have what is arguably one of the best jobs ever. I’m a pediatric physical therapist. I spend my days jumping around, playing and interacting with some of the coolest kids on the planet. They are interesting and beautiful and challenging, and I have spent the past 14 years being blessed and humbled and taught by them and their families. I can treat adults, and do, on occasion. But I prefer to treat children, and am much better at it. I’ve worked in every setting of pediatric therapy – NICU, inpatient, outpatient, home health, schools and ECI. It’s the perfect fit for me. I’ve decided to list why, for your reading pleasure. Let’s do this job application/interview style, shall we?
1. High energy/tons of movement
2. Very animated and dramatic
3. Humor – pretty much everything has the potential to be funny in my world.
4. I love people. I really love kids.
5. Mercy is in my top three spiritual gifts.
6. I can sing anything – and by that, please don’t think I am bragging in and American Idol “you can sing the phone book” way. I mean I literally can sing my way through an entire conversation. Or day. I’m like a walking musical.
7. I can dance anywhere. Please reference above note about singing. Same rules apply.
1. Math – my lack of skill in this area is as legendary as it is frightening. In this job, I never have to count past ten. No lie! We get to ten, I say, “Next set!” and we start again. Plus, it’s kids. Half of them skip six anyway. It’s perfect!
2. Computer skills – beyond e-mail and documentation software, I don’t have to function much in this area. Thank goodness, because I’m really bad at it. I bought a new laptop the other day, and about halfway through the sale, the very nice Best Buy employee who was helping me just stopped asking questions about features and software additions. I think he got tired of watching me blink at him. And he was running out of non-awkward ways to move on and skip over my lack of intelligent responses.
3. Issues with distractibility – I don’t know that we need to elaborate on that one.
In the true manner of a successful job application, we’ll stop there. Note how many more strengths than weaknesses I have. Yes, I do remember Resume 101.
I’m in the process of changing from an outpatient clinic to home health as we attempt to calm our schedule a little (ha!) and give me more flexibility and time with kids (and writing). So, my last several weeks have involved ridiculous amounts of paperwork as I wrap up all documentation and bang out as many evaluations and re-evaluations as humanly possible before my last day. It is killing me. I cannot sit at a computer and type this much on forms and specific software! I signed on for a gig that involves lots of movement and bursts of explosive energy. There are not enough meds or meditation techniques out there to set me up for success in this area. How do people in office and administrative jobs do this day in and day out? If I wanted a career that involved copious paperwork, I would be a lawyer. Then, I would expect this kind of screen and writing time. Plus, I’d make a lot more money. And get to shout out cool phrases like, “You can’t handle the truth!” at random intervals. How awesome would that be?
It’s not that I don’t like to write. Hello….aspiring writer here. It’s just that report after report of medical data and terminology is so boring. It’s a pretty universal fact that the best PTs (especially in pediatrics) tend to have the not-so-best documentation. I must be amazing.
Did I mention the part about how I sing my way through a work day?
There are actually days where my co-workers will kick me out of the documentation room. Apparently, they don’t need my original soundtracks during their note writing time. To each her own, I guess.
All levity and complaints aside, though, I have to take a moment to send out my love and admiration to all the mothers and fathers and siblings and grandparents and family members and loved ones who have a child with special needs and abilities in their lives. I don’t care if that child is 2 or 82…..kudos and compliments to all of you. You walk a path that few can fathom and even fewer can shine through, and you do it with grace and dignity and laughter and love, even on days when the laughter is quieter than the tears. I am honored that you have let me treat your children over the years. They fill my heart and bless my life. I am a better person for knowing you, your stories, your triumphs and frustrations. It is my privilege to work with you and walk with you, to laugh with you and cry with you. You humble and inspire me.
My healer’s heart and artist’s soul are so grateful for a role that fits me like this one. I can combine my strengths and weaknesses into work that overtly matters and makes an obvious difference. It is a calling and a ministry. It is passion and talent and giving of myself wholly into what God has put me here to do. I don’t always do the best job seeing His plan. I lose my clarity more often than I’d like to admit. I flounder and fluster and fret way more than I should.
Then I remember how clearly I see this area of my life, and it reminds me of His promise….that I have a purpose and He has a plan. Every day. Every way. In every aspect of my existence. All I have to do is listen. And follow. As do we all.
Solidarity, sisters. Just breathe. We’ve got this.
My adorable (and at times, annoyingly motivated) husband made the pronouncement a few weeks ago that he has a major life goal in mind. Drum roll, please – I know you’re all waiting with bated breath on this one. His goal is to be in the best shape of his life on his 40th birthday. Yep, you read that right. I heard it right. That’s the plan. My first reaction to this announcement was to plaster a look of mild interest and pleasant smile on my face while deciding how honestly to react. My inner dialogue went a little something like this: Seriously? Why on Earth is that the goal? Why can’t we have a goal that involves travel or experiencing exotic culture (still waiting on my trip to Greece, hon) or shopping? Or perhaps travel while shopping and experiencing new culture? That would cover all the bases. And be way more fun. I hear Italy has fabulous shopping….and architecture…..and wine.
After staring at him for an awkward amount of time, I believe my reply ended up somewhere in the vicinity of “well, have fun with that”. Then, the guilt kicked in. I mean, really. Is fitness really that bad of a goal? He could have had a 40th birthday goal that involves a Harley or (even more) expensive fishing gear or a myriad of other mid-life crises. And let’s face it, I might as well join in. If not, I’ll just feel worse about myself when he’s all fit and fabulous and I’m not, since we turn 40 within three weeks of each other (he’s older, just so we’re clear). So, I told him I’d join him on this quest for fitness nirvana. Here we go – we have 16-17 months to achieve this dream (and now you all know how old I am – if that’s not authenticity for you, I don’t know what is). Heaven help me.
Let me clarify the situation for you, just so you know where this project is starting and (likely) heading. Gregg is already in shape. He was a fitness trainer in college and is one of the more outdoors-loving, active, physical men in the real world (you know, that doesn’t get paid to do this or have unlimited funds to play or work out all day). He is incredibly athletic and loves anything that challenges him physically. Oh, and his metabolism is ridiculous. He has a history as a cross-country runner as well. Needless to say, his starting point is a little higher than mine, as (I am sure) are his expectations. He is driven to do this, and has begun working out at an intensity I can never hope to match. I refuse to subject myself to sessions of activity with him because, any time I do, I can’t walk for the next three days.
You see where I’m headed with this?
My primary form of exercise in life has been dance. I played volleyball in high school and ran track, but never anything over 400 meters. I played on club teams in college (for fun) and have a pretty active lifestyle, but given the choice, a workout likely won’t make my top ten list. Plus, I’ve had three kids. So any time I have to jump or run or perform high impact activities more than 30 minutes after a potty break, I have a whole new list of issues. And I really like wine and bread.
And yet, I have given my word. To my husband, my other half, my soul mate. Which means I am stuck.
Since this is his idea, he gets to drive the train on it. And what a train we are on. We have pulled out all the stops – nutrition, calorie reduction, improved quality of food and water, exercise…..even our sleep patterns are up for review. For the first time in my life, I agreed to a system cleanse (there’s an experience for you) and am consistently taking vitamins. We are drinking more water and have given up sodas. We are ingesting wheat grass and avoiding coffee and tea. I am shopping at the farmer’s market (which is so cool – I love these local farmers and the amazing produce/pasta/honey/eggs/treasures they sell). Our energy is up and our weight is starting to go down.
Lest you think all is roses (or that I am lying or delusional), let me share with you some doses of reality…
1. Exercise – Even without my hubby’s endeavors, I do attempt to motivate myself in this area at intervals. So, about twice a year, I sign up to run (and I use that word lightly) a 5K, just so I scare myself into at least a semblance of training. I hate to run. I’ve never gotten the whole runner’s high thing. Those endorphins don’t exist in my body. Yet, all the fitness articles point this out as the fastest and most effective way for women in my age bracket to lose belly fat, so less often than I should, I pull on my running shoes and sports bra and drag myself out to attempt this feat. The other night was one such time of exercise. Oh, dear Heavens. I am so grateful no one was out and about to witness this fiasco, although I am sure most of you could hear my breathing in your respective houses. The sounds coming out of me were indescribable, truly….and I can generally find a way to describe anything. At certain points I was cursing, at others I was praying. I did manage to maintain enough decorum not to do the two together. My prayer went a bit like this: “Dear God….I know I made a pledge to my husband to do this with him, and I should not renege on it, given that whole trust and obey thing in the wedding vows. So I’ll make you a deal. I promise not to give up on this, if you promise it won’t kill me. Thanks….Amen”. Not the most profound of prayers – I’m sure God saw past it, given how oxygen-deprived I was. And then I came over a hill and upon a family of deer. As I chugged closer, I noticed something peculiar…..they didn’t move at all. Not a hair. They weren’t startled. They weren’t afraid. Nothing. I mean, I know they heard me coming a mile away, given the volume of my panting. You’d think they would be at least a little concerned. Nope. In fact, one of them looked at the other and made this huffing sound that, I know this sounds crazy, I know was laughter. Yes, my friends, deer can laugh. I have witnessed it. After their chuckle, they went back to grazing, totally dismissing me. Apparently, I looked close enough to death not to even remotely resemble a threat. Nice.
2. Weight – We won’t dwell too long on this one. Suffice it to say, the goal is to lose it. Gregg thinks it’s his place to help with weigh-ins. I disagree. Guess who’s gonna win that one? I busted him this morning trying to maneuver me onto the scale during a good morning hug. I am never sleepy enough to fall for that one. I think we’re clear now.
3. Food – As I mentioned previously, we are cleaning up and scaling down that area. It is causing me to be a more creative and accountable shopper and chef, but that’s not a bad thing. I am in mourning for the bread and dessert sacrifices, but am resigned to this change. The decrease in processed food and bleached flour and sugar is good for all of us.
4. Wine – In a moment of profound wisdom, Gregg took this one off the table and never mentions it at all. Good man. Some battles are not worth the cost.
Lifestyle changes are never easy. Getting into shape, be it physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, or whatever area you are working to improve is always a challenge. It’s more successful when done with a partner or team because we need each other for encouragement and accountability. You can bet on days when I want to throw in the towel or kill my husband during this undertaking, I’ll be sending S.O.S calls out to the Girls to get me over the hump. And they will. They’ll laugh and cajole and encourage and sympathize while commiserating on how men always have it easier and get faster results than us when it comes to these things….which he does, given his metabolism and lack of hormones, but if I’m honest, also due to the afore-mentioned intensity-of-purpose issue. It’s all good. This isn’t a contest. We’re doing it together.
And I have a month longer than he does to work on things.
Solidarity, sisters. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
What is it about water parks? They are the Mecca of kid-friendly fun and family vacations. They are crowded and noisy and stressful to adults. They are wondrous and wet and wild to children and teens. They can entertain, frustrate or terrify in equal parts depending on who you go with and how tired you are when you get there. We happen to live in the home town of the original Schlitterbahnn, which according to the Travel Channel is one of the top ten best water parks in the world. How about that? Such a lofty title for a locally-owned and operated business in our little town. So, naturally, whenever friends or family from out of town come to visit, a trip to this legendary land of aquatic marvels is on the agenda. Not that we mind going – season passes are always on our Christmas list. The difference in these trips is this – when we go as locals who have a pass and can return whenever we feel like it, the schedule is much more lax. We show up at one of the older parts of the park as soon as it opens with our ice chests and packed lunches. We play in the areas that are least crowded and appeal to us that day. Then, we leave shortly after lunch, thus avoiding the crowds and craziness. When people who can’t return multiple times pay full price for a ticket, that plan is not a working one.
My nieces are here visiting, and so today was the day for their aquatic extravaganza. Given that I don’t work on Mondays and there is no way my mother-in-law (who we call Oma) can chase all the kids alone (they are here without their parents this trip) and my husband had to work (somehow, taking a day off was an absolute impossibility today – chicken), I was nominated for the adventure at hand. Can you feel the enthusiasm radiating from me?
All three of my kids have managed to have a massive allergy attack in the past two days, especially the little one, so they woke up this morning with runny noses and bleary eyes. I was up half the night with the Bug since she crawled into bed with us around 3:30am and spent the remainder of sleep time snoring, kicking or wrapping her arm as tightly as she could around my neck. Cute? Somewhat. Uncomfortable? Absolutely. We spent yesterday at a trampoline park and the day before at a huge reunion party at the river, so everyone was exhausted before we even got into our swimsuits. I stumbled into the kitchen to wrap leftover pizza and sandwiches, fruit, chips, goldfish crackers and buck sticks in bags for the cooler along with water and my protein shake for lunch. I chased kids and threatened them into their bathing suits and flip flops as I guzzled my current protein shake – today was Day 1 of my 21-Day weight loss meal plan, because I have a plan and a schedule to stick to regardless of how poor and impractical the timing of it is, thank you very much. These hips won’t shrink themselves, you know.
I managed to cram kids, towels, an ice chest and wagon into the suburban and away we went to pick up Oma and any cousins who weren’t already with us. We pulled into the parking lot, unloaded, and headed into line a full 30 minutes before the park even opened. Yep, we were on our way. I stood in line doing the 100-squat mommy workout of picking the toddler up, putting the toddler down, picking the toddler up, putting the toddler down (repeat, repeat, repeat, because it never gets old), the lunging in multiple directions dance of grabbing various children as they attempt to kill each other, jump around and crash into other people surrounding them, and the head tilt with sympathetic voice apologies to all those around who are getting hit with bags, wagon handles and flying shoes as we wait.
I stood melting and muttering in line – just me, my three kids, two nieces, one nephew, my mother-in-law and approximately five thousand tourists. I seriously think this must be a glimpse of one of the lower levels of hell. And let’s just ponder a few things, shall we? We have plenty of time, so here goes. Why don’t people have their money out when they get to the window? Why does no one ever seem to know just how many members of their party there are? Why can teenage girls who get to enter without a parent not do math, therefore taking five times as long as the average human to pay for everything? And why, for the love of Pete, does Schlitterbahnn not have a season pass holder line so they can expedite our butts on through there? Take a note from Disney, people! After 27 minutes of waiting, I was nearing lunatic status. We were early! What the heck? Plus, I started to panic a little, since I got really light-headed and couldn’t feel my hands. Apparently, a protein shake and green coffee bean supplement do not a substantial breakfast make. Shocking, I know.
We made it in, counted heads, sun screened bodies and faces (to the tune of protests), pulled hair into ponytails (to even louder protests) and formed groups and safety buddies. I helped Oma and Bug find the kiddy area, then schlepped it back and forth up and down hills to pull and carry all of our belongings to the optimal table. I felt like a pack mule, and I’m sure looked about as happy as one. One of my trips, I ran into the older set of kids and actually told them that at some point I better get to ride something because I pay for everything and so far was not having any fun. Yep. Take a note, friends. That is Mother of the Year fodder right there. Put it on the nomination reel.
I ran check-in for each group of kids. I set up our table. I made sure everyone was hydrating. I nodded enthusiastically enough to do any bobble head proud to every call of, “Mommy, watch me!” and, “Mommy, watch me, again!” My middle son, Drew, and younger niece, Aly, were circling around the baby pool and small slides, behaving quite nicely, I must say. I called them over and asked, “You guys wanna go do a big ride?” The way their faces lit up galvanized me into action with more energy than I had actually in my body. So off we went, to stand in line for the Dragon’s Revenge. It’s not actually very fun to stand in line for a ride with two seven-year-olds. They have a lot of trouble keeping their hands to themselves and have no concept of time. Still, we got very silly and chatty, and the wait wasn’t as bad as it could have been. This is the point at which my day began to change. There is comradery among people waiting for a fun ride, and I found myself smiling and chatting with my line-mates to pass the time. The kids got their double tube, I got mine, and we began the trek up the hill to the ride entrance. Watching them work out the multiple variations of ways to carry the tube between them was quite amusing.
We wound our way through the castle archway and water pouring and spraying the path. We exclaimed over the props and warning signs of impending dragon danger and doom. We giggled and danced in excitement as we got closer to the front of the line. We watched the riders ahead of us shoot up the slide and out of sight. I chuckled to myself a few times as the petite teen lifeguard struggled her way through pushing and shoving tubes with heavier riders, some of whom had to stand up and help her. Aly and Drew agreed that I should go first, so I could watch them at the end of the ride. My mood was rapidly uplifting and changing for the better.
Finally, we were at the front of the line. I sat in my double tube (alone, since the cousins were riding together) and the sweet young life guard gave me a shove. Oh, my relief that she was able to move me along without too much effort or multiple tries! I waved at the kids as I shot out of the entrance and up the first incline (how do they manage that so well? It feels like magic. Yes, I know it’s water pressure. Let me have this moment.). I found myself laughing out loud as I hurtled through space and slide. I caught my breath as I entered the first dark tunnel, letting it out in a startled huff as I exploded into the sunlight. This pattern repeated several times along the ride, some tunnels with the addition of flashing lights, fake “fire” and fog or mists. Each time I rounded a bend or flew through a water spray I laughed harder. I felt myself let go – of my weariness and irritation, of my stress over this week’s schedule (it’s going to be a doozy), of my resentment of the myriad of things on my list that at some point bring resentment forth in me, of my expectations and my to-do list and my self-criticisms. I soared in my tube and I found my wonder again. I remembered why, as a child and even young adult, I loved coming to the water park. I remembered why it’s a blessing to have these days and times with my children and the children in my family to create memories and celebrate fun. I remembered….and I laughed….and I felt a level of freedom and gratitude I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I floated down the final stretch of the ride, coming to a stop by yet another cute life guard who helped me out of my tube and told me to have a nice day. As I thanked him, I thought, “I most certainly will”. Then I turned to watch my son and my niece shoot down their final descent. I know their shining faces mirrored my own. And that gave me such joy.
The rest of my day was very different from the first part. My heart sang a new song, and I saw the attractions and participants in a new light. Instead of screams of the unruly, I heard squeals of the delighted. Instead of pushing crowds, I saw eager fun-seekers. Instead of rude tourists, I focused on the polite manners that I witnessed. Instead of a protein shake, I had pizza and buck sticks and cherries for lunch. I swam and wrestled and slid and jumped. I smiled and sunned and people-watched and played. I even joined in the frenzy and ended the day with my own cup of Dipping Dots (chocolate, is any other kind worth the calories?).
I’ll do Day 1 over tomorrow.
I’ll be a grown-up tomorrow.
And I’ll think about today with a smile.
Solidarity, sisters. Our time of wonder is far from over.
Let me begin by saying that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a country girl. Yes, I am from Texas, born and raised in the Lone Star State, with no plans to ever live elsewhere. I am a first generation American, child of an immigrant on my mother's side (insert shout out to my Armenian peeps here. No, we are not related to the Kardashians. Or Cher - and now many of you now possess knowledge of Cher's lineage that you may not have had before. You're welcome). My dad is from California. How they ended up together and in Texas, of all places, is an incredible story, quite amazing, actually. However, it has nothing to do with today's anecdote, so we'll skip that part for now.
As I've stated before, my girlfriends are some of the absolute funniest people on the planet, which works out well for me, seeing as how humor is a hugely important part of my psyche and a personality trait I am incredibly drawn to. Audrey Hepburn once said, "I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person."
I love that she said that. It is so beautiful and charming. It made me look at her as multi-faceted and even more delightfully fascinating. You know, because a resume of projects like "My Fair Lady" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with the distinguished status of world-renowned icon in art and fashion isn't impressive enough.
Anyhow.... I started this funny little habit a few years ago on a Girls' trip. We always laugh really hard at the random stories and comments that fly out of peoples' mouths during our times together.....so, I started writing them down. Then I lost the lists. So, I started using the notepad feature on my phone. Much better.
The girls love this idea. In fact, when things get rolling, one of them will invariably yell, "Start your list, Bec!", and away we go. No one else sees our lists. I don't read them to anyone outside of our crew - it wouldn't be nearly as funny to someone who wasn't there (most of the time. Some of the lines are hysterical, even without context). We'll run through an old list or two every once in a while, when we're all together, and through the majority of it, laugh until our tears run or we have to pause for a bathroom break (most of us have birthed multiple children, after all). There is a small percentage of quotes which are confusing, since none of us can remember who said them or what they mean. They must have been funny at the time....
As I was going through notes looking for inspiration (which has had me laughing out loud for the better part of 20 minutes), I came across the list from our Vegas trip. This one is a little different because the guys were along for the ride.
My beautiful and fabulous friend, Shanie, decided that she wanted to surprise her husband, the also fabulous Sean, with a fun-filled weekend in Las Vegas for his fortieth birthday. She knew she wouldn't be able to pull the actual location off without warning him (unlike less detailed male members of our group, Sean packs himself for trips, and may actually be pickier than I am about his style and wardrobe choices for a given occasion and/or location). So, the surprise portion of the program was this: Sean knew they were going to Vegas for his birthday. That's it. He didn't know where they were staying, what the itinerary was or (drum roll, please) that three other couples would be there with them. Ta-da!
We started planning this in late June. Our departure date was November 30th. I have no idea how we pulled it off. Seriously. As you can probably guess, we as a whole are not the most subtle group of people. And we are around each other a lot. As are our children. So, we had to sneak and planned organize in stages, avoiding the ears of not only Sean, but all our kids as well (because we all know how well children keep surprises under wraps). We avoided telling mutual friends in case someone slipped. We let church know we were unavailable to serve that weekend but didn't dare explain why. Steph was too terrified to let her child's teacher know where she was going when she reported grandma would be picking him up, since Sean teaches at that school. We bought show tickets on alternating credit cards so he wouldn't see charges, then had math marathons to try and figure out who owed money to whom. We scheduled flights and airports around his departure and arrival so there was no chance of running into each other during transit. It was madness. Fun, though.
As the date drew near, we became more frenzied in our excitement and more paranoid in our preparations. I doubt this much detail, coordination and precision goes into many military operations. Shanie had a giant laminated poster made with all of our pictures on it as the Happy Birthday banner. I had the honor of transporting that precious cargo in a cardboard tube on the plane. The responsibility nearly did me in. I am a nervous flier as it is. The added pressure about pushed me over the edge. None of us wanted to screw up any part of the plan - mostly because we love Sean and were excited to celebrate him in such a cool way, but also because, truth be told, we are all a little afraid of Shanie.
The close calls and hilarity that ensued in just getting all of us to Vegas and then to our condo could easily be turned into a Sandra Bullock movie (think comedy, not 28 Days). We managed to get checked in, unloaded, stocked and decorated. We prepped ourselves and the very amused front desk staff with about ten different scenarios on how and where to surprise him, finally settling on the back part of the lobby. When they finally walked through the doorway, our relief at having reached the end of the clandestine portion of our journey was so great that our shouts of "Surprise!" and "Happy Birthday!" we're incredibly loud and somewhat manic. We basically gave Sean a massive episode of heart arrhythmias. He had to sit down with his head in his hands for at least 15 minutes once we got to the suite.
The next three days were, in a word, fantastic. We had so much fun, laughed so hard, ran around like we were 15 years younger, ate so much, slept so little....you get the point. It was a truly unforgettable trip. Even so, just to be sure and have back-up memory jogs, the list of quotes joined the history text of our lives and has me giggling as I try to picture who said which line when. I'm in the mood to share, so here are a few gems:
· Is that an eight?!? (our sushi bill was a bit shocking)
· And then you end up dead in a fountain wearing a teddy (reasoning not to ever party as a swinger)
· I don't do Hobbits (Denny's had a themed menu)
· I will just dance in the lobby to their music (reaction to the cover charge at Tao. I think Pit Bull or someone along those lines was there)
· I would just like to point out that I am still awake
· Singing the wrong notes is not harmony
· That's gonna leave a mark (each of us managed to run into something at some point)
· I'm pretty sure she was the one hiding chips in her pants (I have no idea. Sounds intriguing, though, doesn't it?)
Ah, memories.....Isn’t it amazing how snippets of a story can bring the whole thing rushing back? How many anecdotes actually become funnier or sweeter or even sadder with the passing of time? How being reminded of a past moment in time can flip us right back into the emotion of that moment, no matter how far away from it we are? I love my lists, and how they bless me with a way to return to laughter and outrageousness, even in times when my faulty memory has let go of those images. I love to laugh….and a great story deserves another round of that, often more than once.
Solidarity, sisters. May the list of your life's quotes fill you with laughter more often than not.
I have to take a moment for a little bit of backstory and bragging. Stay with me....I promise it won't be too obnoxious or painful, mainly because it's not about me.
I have the phenomenal and (sadly) unusual circumstance of being one of those rare women who is blessed with a truly incredible group of strong, supportive, loving, non-judgmental, not agenda-driven, crazy, hysterical girlfriends. They are amazing. I don't know why the good Lord chose to put them in my path, but I am grateful beyond words that He did. I thank Him daily for each and every one of them, while simultaneously begging Him to keep them an intimate part of my life for the next half-century or so.
We have been through so many storms and seasons together that I could never hope to capture them all in writing. Unless I write a book....someday....maybe....and it's a really long one. We also have such side-splitting, ridiculous incidences occurring on such a regular basis that many of them will, in fact, provide fodder for this blog. So, I might as well mention the Girls now - you're going to read a lot about them in future posts, I am sure.
We are a colorful (and loud) mix of women - daughters, sisters, wives (currently or at some point in the past) and mothers. We are all driven, outspoken, social and fiercely loyal to the ones we hold dear. Our group includes both stay-at-home and working moms - representing a span from health care to education to business owner. We throw one heck of a party, either just for kicks or to fundraise for a cause. We laugh together and cry together. We meet to celebrate and to mourn. We are honest with each other, usually with a good degree of tact, sometimes not so much. We hold each other accountable. We respect each other tremendously, even when we don't agree. And we don't sugar coat if one of us steps out of line. I got a firsthand look at the receiving end of this on last year's Girls' Weekend. Apparently, there is a very definite boundary when it comes to putting river pictures on Facebook without permission and/or preview approval from the group - especially when said group is clad in swimsuits. I thought they looked great! The very picture of fun in the sun with friends! They did not agree. Oh, the wrath that slip-up incurred! There was a brief stint of time in which I actually worried about a lynching (not likely, but....) or being tossed into the rapids (slightly more likely....). The storm did pass, and we managed to have the continued hilarity and bonding time we always experience on our yearly Girls' trip. Suffice it to say, I will never post another candid shot again. Or bend over when any of them is holding a phone or camera. Just because I was (finally) forgiven, does not preclude the possibility of revenge at some point.
And yet, in spite of my poor judgement as an amateur photographer, I know that each of these women will be there for me any time I need her. A few months ago, our beautiful Kat had some bad news to share. She said she was ready to talk. I sent out the text chain. We all arranged our schedules, appointments and child care (believe me, that is no small feat - between the six of us, we have 13 kids ages 3 - 12), and an emergency Happy Hour/Girl Talk session was planned and executed in under 48 hours. We listened. We loved on her. We cried with her. We held hands and prayed over her, right there in the martini bar. Then, we raised our glasses, toasted her, and got down to the business of making her smile again.
Because that's how we roll. And I wouldn't change it for anything.
I love this group of Superwomen. They make me smile with my heart. They are crazy and beautiful and smart and funny and talented. They bring light into this world and teach me lesson after lesson about everything from humility to joy to grace under pressure. They have exquisite taste in wine, shoes and home decor. They bring out the best in me and show me what sisterhood truly means in a myriad of ways.
I wish every woman had this experience with the sisters and friends in her life. How great would that be? For all the girls in all the ages and demographics to know this...to live this.
After all, that's what it's all about, isn't it? Not just surviving our time here, but truly living it while making our mark. It's about the call to love one another and to shine with our Father's light as we do it. That's how the world knows who we belong to (John 13:35). So let's do it right. And with lots of laughs.
Solidarity, sisters. We're all in this together. Might as well make it a party.
Our next door neighbors have an adorable little boy who is one month younger than our Bug (obviously, this is the nickname for our sweet baby girl - we would never actually name a child Bug...we have more creativity and class than that. Unless we were to have 20 kids like the Duggars, in which case all bets are off. Because at that point I think you are excused from having to come up with actual names). Sorry....back to the topic at hand. Precious little boy next door...go. So, they of course, are fast friends and take every opportunity to play together. The other day, as we pulled into the neighborhood, Bug asked to go play with her friend if he was home. We drove past his house towards our driveway, and she began to bounce excitedly in her car seat while calling out, "Yep, he's home!" when she saw his father's truck.
Houston, we have a girlfriend.... I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. Our oldest son, Luke, came home a few weeks ago with the news that he now has a girlfriend. Though this is a terrifying concept, we humored him, given that it started the last two weeks of school, she doesn’t live in our neighborhood, and he has no phone or other way in which to contact her now that school has ended and summer has begun. That being said, I am screaming inside. I can NOT be old enough to have a child with working hormones! It's unthinkable.
For reasons that escape me, which is probably a good thing, this sweet young thing nicknamed my son Gummy Bear. Not kidding. No idea. I’m just trying to keep my face expressionless and roll with it. So, of course, he spent the last week of school harassing us to buy a bag of gummy bears to give to her the last day of school. Which is kind of cute. And he wore his dad’s gummy bear t-shirt. Which is disturbing on several levels:
a) My husband has a gummy bear t-shirt (it’s really pretty cool – the bear has his ears bitten off and it says I Can’t Hear You)
b) Luke can wear his dad’s shirt. He’s 10.
c) The gummy bear theme is this pervasive. And he is this into it as “their thing”. Ugh.
But, I digress. Back to the story. Gummy bear requests from Luke, lots of eye rolling and teasing from me. And then, one evening on the way to swim practice, he told me this story.
Luke: So, I told "Sweetie" (let's just refer to her as that) I was going to bring her a surprise.
Me: Oh? (keeping a look of polite, no-I-am-not-freaking-out-at-this-conversation interest on my face). Was she excited?
Luke: No, She told me not to give her a present. She says she doesn't deserve one.
Me: Why? (more curious than freaked out at this point)
Luke: I asked her that. And she said, "Because I'm me".
Me: What did you say to that? (no longer having to feign interest....I was riveted)
Luke: I told her, "So? What's wrong with being you? You still deserve a present". So, I really want to get her the gummy bears tonight. Ok, Mom?
I sat and listened to my son as he told this story with such open-hearted innocence, and my thoughts were bittersweet. Bitter: How sad is it that already, at only age 10, this young woman-in-the-making so clearly hears the voice of doubt in her head, and she believes it as it whispers, “You’re not enough”. In her mind, is the whisper already a shout? Does it overpower the innocence and creativity and positive reinforcement that should still exist? Sweet: My son’s response – his kind and compassionate heart was compelled to not only see her as a person of beauty, but to express to her that she has value. That “me” is absolutely worth gifts and recognition. My heart sang through its tears at this.
So I smiled at my wonderful son, quit rolling my eyes, and stopped at three different stores until we found the right gummy bears.
Solidarity, sisters. Never doubt your worth...or turn down a present :).
We all need someone to schedule us a facial. Seriously....we do, for many reasons. As a working mom of three very active children, I seldom take the time to do something that pampers me just because I feel like it. So when my mother called a few weeks ago to tell me she had bought me a facial session as a "love gift", I was overjoyed. When she informed me she had scheduled it for me, I was surprised. And when she ordered me to show up and "do not even think about cancelling and embarrassing me", I replied, "Yes, ma'am." Sometimes, the wisest thing we can do at any age is to obey our mother. Remember that.
The day of my facial started with our usual morning chaos of kids, breakfast, backpacks, last-minute signatures on journals/notes/permission slips and the additional, "Honey, could you also....." that ensues any day I am not headed to work. Because the one day a week I have to pull off laundry, grocery shopping, house cleaning, errands and any personal appointments surely needs the addition of a 20 page honey-do list to be complete. After all, I'm "off", right? But, I digress.
Suffice it to say, by the time I made it to the salon, I was cranky, frazzled and tense. As I filled out the form for new clients (which may have actually been longer than the application for U.S. citizenship), the aesthetician asked how long it had been since my last facial. Seriously? I have no idea. I'm pretty sure I was pregnant with my youngest child (who is three and a half years old). So I tempered a bit with a hesitant, "Two years?". This earned me an alarmed look, rapid eye blinking and disapproving clucks. Being the eager-to-please consumer that I am, I immediately began apologizing and rationalizing my way through an explanation. Sometimes, I really am pitiful. Luckily, the lovely facialist did not seem inclined to hold a grudge, so after I changed into my strapless robe/towel combo and climbed onto the bed/table/thing, she returned and my spa experience commenced.
There was soft music and dim lights and subtle fragrances. My face was being rubbed with cleansers and whatnot. No demands. No kids or dog or husband. No questions. No cell phone - I had even remembered to turn off the ringer. Sigh....My mind wandered for about 30 seconds before returning to the ringer-free phone. Crap. What if school calls and can't get ahold of me? We all know emergencies and injuries always happen when you are out of pocket. I mean, sure, it's only an hour, but to a kid with a broken arm, that's an eternity! How sad would that be, if one of my darlings was sitting abandoned in the nurse's office - scared, in pain, having to wait because Mommy is too busy getting a facial to answer her phone? And, can you imagine the disgust on the part of the school staff when they discover the reason it took me so long to answer? I'll be a mommy pariah! The whispers, the rumors....how superficial can one woman be? No one will care that I do this at a frequency of, like, three times a decade. The point is, I was doing it today! What about trying to explain myself to the ER staff? Oh, the horror!
Yes, I actually have the capability to be this neurotic. Leave it to me to turn a spa treatment into a full-blown emergency + CPS case.
I managed to control my ever-rising panic and talk myself off that particular ledge. After all, their dad has a phone, too.
I lay there, eyes closed, as I was cleansed, scrubbed, masked, exfoliated, extracted <- let's talk about that for a moment, shall we? All those years we spent as teenagers being admonished not mash on blemishes and blackheads....were they a lie? Was it all part of yet another test of obedience and control? Or do you need a professional to do the honors for it to be okay? It's not the most pleasant of experiences, let me tell you. Still, afterwards there were more soothing masks and moisturizers ,and even a brief hand massage. Oh yes. Hand massage.
Once the "All done!" came through, I timidly asked if my skin/face was truly shameful and beyond repair (it did feel like a lot of extractions, after all). Much to my relief, she assured me that mine was "no worse than anyone else's, really. It just needed quite a thorough cleansing. And a LOT of exfoliating. I mean, a LOT." Ok, I get it. She handed me a mirror, and after a fleeting moment of hesitation (surely all the mashing had left blotches), I glimpsed my reflection. Amazingly, I was blotch and redness free! My face looked relaxed. My skin was clear and glowing. I even felt like there were fewer fine lines. Phenomenal! My skin felt softer and smoother than it had in, well, three and a half years!
As I marveled at this on my drive home, vowing to take better care of my face in the future....I was struck by this thought: Isn't this what life is like? We rush and scurry and overschedule and overwork, neglecting our maintenance and rest in the name of busyness or doing something more important. And there are so many important things to do. Good things. Necessary things. Yet, every now and again we need to stop, lie down and figure out what needs a good cleaning....and where we need to perform extractions. Are there negative thoughts or emotions or relationships clogging our hearts and weighing down our souls? Are we dried out and in need of spiritual refreshment? Are we so worn down that given a magnifying mirror of truth we would be shocked at who we've become and how we've changed? If we don't take time off for self-reflection and repair, we increase the speed with which we become lost, sliding down a slippery slope of frustrated exhaustion.
God's will is not for us to live exhausted. He wants to provide us with rest and renewal. To offer us a hand, a shoulder, a foundation to lean on. He promises to provide strength for the weary and respite for the broken. And He gives us His word as well as relationships with His other children to help us along the way. So make yourself a promise - that you will find some time and energy for yourself so you can be refreshed. And reach out to someone, encouraging her to do the same. Schedule her a facial if you have to.
Solidarity, sisters. We all deserve to glow from the inside out.
Memorial day launched what may very well be one of the single most insane, gut-wrenching, no holds barred weeks of my life - and as anyone who knows me and is familiar with my usual level of craziness can attest to, that's saying something. I came into the weekend at a frazzled, high speed run, which is generally how I come into any weekend, especially one attached to a holiday. Work is insane, partly due to the fact that I am trying to make some transitions, so am technically working two jobs right now. My schedule had exploded due to end-of-school craziness on top of during-school craziness on top of spring sports ending, summer sports beginning, field trips, 1st grade awards, 4th grade awards, field day, picnics....and then juggling my caseload with time off so I could attend the proper percentage of all the above without looking like the worst mom ever who misses out on the important days and whose kids say things like, "I was the only one at school today without a board game/raffle item/special snack/parent participant/etc...."
We are blessed to have an amazing place in the river - four acres, river access, right below the rapids. It's perfect for all the water and outdoor fun you can hope for, and makes us incredibly popular from May until September. Which we love. My husband and I both love to host people, so naturally had groups of friends and family coming and going all weekend.
Memorial Day itself was the final day of partying, and we were feeling particularly blessed in how well the weekend was going - especially since Friday and Saturday brought storms of epic proportion to our area, inducing PTSD-like flashbacks in those of us who experienced the full fury of flooding in 1998, 2002 and 2010 (100-year flood, my eye!). The skies cleared, though, and so did the water, so Sunday and Monday were perfect party days. Well, Sunday was. Monday started out well enough. Then, the dominoes began to fall. I can't remember the exact order of events, so let's just quickly list the drama. When all was said and done, we tallied two falls resulting in bloodied limbs, a flipped kayak, a snake incident which let to the hour-long hyperventilation of a very upset young lady, a tipsy tirade by an angry girlfriend (whose sweet boyfriend kept shaking his head and saying, "I'm not sure what I did"), an exploding toilet that flooded an entire cabin (I'm 99% certain which of my sons did it) and an ambulance call/ride to the hospital. I am not kidding. I cannot make this stuff up.
The ambulance part was, obviously, the worst. Beginning CPR on a loved one is a horrible experience, and when that loved one is your precious, phenomenal, spunky 85 year-old grandmother....let's just say I could have gone my whole life without that experience and not missed it.
The week went by in a blur. Between hospital visits, last week of school events, cramming in at least one day of work and trying to get everyone fed and where they needed to be, I was done by the weekend. Yet, done or not, I still had to make it to football games and birthday parties and finish writing my first original Bible study and prepare it for presentation to the fabulous women of our church Sunday evening....all while fluctuating between hope and despair, depending on the day and doctor opinion at the hospital.
As is almost always the case in times of crisis, we pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and got everything done. With tons of prayers and help from our amazing support group of friends and family, we made it through the end of school and the Bible study was completed, presented and part of a really great evening.
Last night, we transferred my grandmother home to begin Hospice care. And while we are heartbroken, there is comfort in seeing her more comfortable and happy to be home. I got to sit with her, in her own room, and hold hands and be near her. So my exhausted and saddened heart clung to that as I crawled into bed at midnight to crash and reset for work.
You can imagine, then, my extreme displeasure at waking up this morning with a raging case of pink eye (as opposed to a gently protesting case of pink eye). My eyes had been bothering me last night, but I chalked it up to crying while wearing cheap mascara. Oh no. Not so. I stared at myself (with one eye, since the other was cemented shut) in horror. You know how Rocky looks in the final fight scene of all 40 of his movies? Picture that, just without the cut under his eye and with the addition of crusty stuff. I can say with great confidence that I have never looked worse, unless childbirth was involved. Naturally, I called my husband in to the bathroom to see. Because that's how every man wants to wake up, called out of bed by a panic-stricken wife who looks like a prizefighter...or Popeye. As he stood there blinking at me, trying to find a safe reaction, I'm sure, I made one of the more intelligent observations of our married life.
"I think I have pink eye."
Followed by, "What do you think?"
To his credit, he neither laughed nor made any sarcastic remarks. Just stayed a safe distance away and nodded.
At this point, the only sentence I could articulate was , "Are you kidding me? Are. You. Kidding. Me?!?" I kept chanting it over and over as I frantically texted my supervisor, my co-worker, my girlfriend, Steph, who had committed to keep my kids today...... My husband still stayed far away, watching me warily, like he would a crazy person or rabid animal.
Then, Steph texted back. In my time of need, as life was overwhelming and crushing me under its weight, my wonderful, loving, sister-of-my-heart sent this reply:
"OMG! I seriously just busted out laughing out loud. Are you kidding me?"
At which point, I burst out laughing. I laughed until I couldn't sit up straight. I laughed until tears rolled down the right side of my face (left side tears were trapped behind the dam of eye cement). I laughed until my husband's look of concern became a look of alarm.
Still chuckling, I cleaned my eye to the best of my abilities and made my way to the kitchen to fix breakfast for my kids....to the chorus of their reactions, which included:
"What happened to your eye?"
"You look like a monster!"
They then proceeded to play a version of "pink eye tag", which involved jumping out of their chairs, making monster noises and grabbing at each other while yelling, "You have the pink eye! No, you have the pink eye!" I know. Their sensitivity is astounding. This hilarity continued until, inevitably, someone's orange juice went flying across the kitchen, at which point the one-eyed, angry Mommy monster came forth bringing with her the wrath of God. Game over.
I dropped my darlings off at Steph's so I could head in for decontamination. While driving into town for eye drops and new make-up (both a hassle and a perk of the pink eye), I said a little prayer. Thank God for our girlfriends. They make us laugh even when the only thing we want to do is cry. They make fun of our horrible days while helping out by taking care of our kids and promising a spa day (that was in her next text). They give us the strength to stand under a hot shower and pry our eyelids apart, get dressed and face the day. They remind us of our resiliency while cherishing our vulnerability. And if we are very fortunate (which I am), they help us to grow, live fully and shine brightly.....even on our darker days.
Solidarity, sisters - even one eye is enough to see the light when your teammates are watching with you.