Archive | August 2012

Scarred for Life

I am klutzy and one of the refrains from our early marriage was Joel asking me “Do I need to take you to the emergency room…..again?” Trust me when I say that Joel has rolled his eyes at my misadventures more than once in our marriage. But, one day, Joel called me to tell me that he was injured and sitting in a walk-in clinic waiting to be seen. And, that he was bleeding profusely from his upper lip to just below his nostril from a nasty gash, and was waiting to see the doctor.

Our first house was a 1960’s era brick basement rancher with about five acres of beautiful land divided into pastures by a series of fences. And, true to the era, the house had Pepto-Bismol pink porcelain tiles, a pink tub and a pink toilet in the bathroom, wood paneling in the family room, ceiling heat and a wood stove, no dishwasher, and no central air conditioning.

Along with our beautiful land, we had a large storage area / workshop building constructed by the prior owner in the pasture some distance across and past the driveway. Our window unit air conditioners were stored in the outbuilding. The weather had just warmed enough and Joel set about the task of retrieving the AC units and installing them in our windows.

Joel went to the workshop and hoisted the largest air conditioner so that he could navigate toward the house. The unit was heavy and bulky. Even as large as Joel is (both in height and girth), the air conditioner unit was awkward to manage, even for him. He could not see over the top of it and essentially walked blindly forward with both arms only partially around the unit.

Joel managed to squeeze through the workshop doorway and down the one step to the grass, when he was attacked by what he believed to be wasps, which were plentiful in our wooded setting and the old, dusty workshop. Unnerved and shaken,  he reflexively jerked his arms upward and stumbled. The sharp metal corner of the air conditioner caught him between his upper lip and nostril.

His eyes began watering. He staggered away from the building while fighting the urge to drop the air conditioner. He managed to wrestle the unit to the ground and at the first opportunity ran across the field and driveway inside to a mirror, where he saw blood on his face. He feared the depth of the cut and struck out for the walk-in clinic for treatment and what he believed would be probable stitches.

The nurse came in to examine the horrible wound. Would he be badly scarred? Would he need a tetanus shot? After close inspection and a cotton gauze pad which she dabbed on the perceived laceration, she offered the advanced technology of ……a Band-Aid. Yes, a Band-Aid. Turns out it he barely scratched himself, and they didn’t even charge him for the visit!

Now, I may have had more than my usual share of mishaps, but I have never gone to the doctor for just a Band-Aid. (Eye roll!) I always get casts or stitches or surgery.   Here, honey.  Now dry your tears and have a Sponge Bob Band-Aid to make your boo-boo all better.

City Slicker

My sister, Cyndi, texted me today: “Still gonna go on a cattle drive with me someday in Montana?” Well, first of all, I don’t remember ever agreeing to that, so “still gonna?” seems to be an optimistic misstatement. But, regardless, I impulsively if somewhat sarcastically answered “Sure!” (Okay, now if you are reading this and know me well, raise your hands if you can picture me doing this. Nope, I don’t see any hands.)

Whoa, Nellie! The more I pondered, the more curious I became. So, I called her. She excitedly starting talking and I vaguely recall hearing riding horses, big skies, cowboy hats, camping out, and real cattle. To which, I asked, where do we put on makeup and is there an extension cord long enough for my hairdryer?

I have ridden a horse exactly twice in my life. If by “riding”, you mean both times on a plodding old geezer which is one breath away from the glue factory in a single file line behind a trail guide in Cades Cove then yes, I have ridden a horse.  I have an impressive and commanding presence on horseback. Except for the time the horse wanted to drink from the stream and would not respond to my giddy-up.

But, the real concern with this adventure is my propensity for mishaps. Let’s review: exploratory arthroscopic knee surgery after a friendly game of tennis with Dad; a broken tailbone–twice–first while ice skating and then again after lightly jumping off a countertop; a broken thumb while playing volleyball; a broken wrist from being unable to walk and talk simultaneously; a sprained wrist from another fall; a broken toe when the car door shut on it; recent rotator cuff and acromioclavicular surgery from unspecified trauma, and a likely mild concussion during a flag-football game for my law school intramural team, The Tortfeasors. As if I could fease a tort upon anyone, other than myself!

But, hope springs eternal. I am open to new experiences. Two weekends ago, I had the chance to kayak in Morgan Creek and the connecting estuaries off Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Two friends and I enthusiastically set off behind the guide, each in our own bright yellow kayak. The kayak had foot pedals to steer the rudder and a large double blade paddle.

We had a great time and I took great pride in not capsizing. (I listened very carefully to the “keep your head aligned with the center of the boat” instructions because I greatly feared turning over in water inhabited by sea creatures that might see me as a snack.) Really, it was three of the most interesting hours I have ever spent.

But, as we paddled back to the dock, the Intercoastal Waterway had become crowded with mid-day traffic from yachts, jet skis, and parasailing boats. We had to wait for a clearance, then paddle across the waterway to the far side of the channel and then paddle single file under and in between the various docks and posts all the way up the waterway. This kept us safely out of the boating traffic. But, it made our paddle work more challenging and exacting. The assorted docks of varying lengths and placement along the shore created a slalom for us to navigate.

And, since this was the end of our journey, I was tired. More tired than I realized. I was last in line. As I approached a narrow opening between two posts, my brain thought “Right! Go right!”. But, my arms paddled and feet steered the kayak left. Too far left. WHAM! The pointy bow of the kayak rammed the dock post dead-center. My kayak came to an utter and complete standstill, perhaps because I just embedded it into the post. The jolt snapped my head back and forth, much like boating whiplash. I fervently hoped that the group ahead had not heard that sound. I was last and they were pretty far ahead, so if I could just back paddle, get realigned and move forward, who would be the wiser?

No, they heard it. The guide swiveled his head back toward me, and like dominos my friends turned their heads in sequence toward me. I waved sheepishly. “No problem!” I called out jauntily. I prayed, oh, please don’t let them watch me get repositioned.

Yes, herding cattle on horseback seems like a great idea. Think I’ll go watch City Slicker I and II. What could possibly go wrong?

Love Bites

As new and inexperienced parents to twin boys, our playbook of game-plans and defenses grew with each passing day. We coped with sleeplessness, guarded against germs and hazardous food or inappropriately aged toys, resisted and blocked our own newfound world of fears and worries, and generally just every day learned to cope with what came next. Our patterns of x’s and o’s changed with each new developmental phase. But, even man-to-man coverage left gaps in our defenses.

Sibling rivalry reared its head early in life, even though neither son had ever been an “only” child. And, trying to communicate with little boys who had limited understanding of why the other brother was the focus of attention could be difficult. But, one day when the boys were about eighteen months old, Noah found an effective way to refocus the attention.

One afternoon, Joel sat with Samuel on his lap in the family room while I worked in the kitchen. Neither one of us remembers why Samuel required one-on-one one attention, but regardless, Joel sat in the upholstered club chair with Samuel sitting perpendicular to Joel on one of Joel’s thighs. Joel patted Samuel’s back and talked sweetly with Samuel.

Meanwhile, Noah toddled up, but didn’t receive an immediate response from Joel. Noah tried a time or two to get Joel’s attention. Joel sat in the chair with his feet flat on the floor with his knees apart just enough for Noah to walk in between his knees so that he stood between Joel’s thighs. Which, as it turned out, also positioned Noah directly in front of and eye level to Joel’s……

From the kitchen I suddenly heard horribly loud and agonizing screams–from Joel! What calamity had just happened? I ran from the kitchen to find both boys crying with fright while Joel writhed and moaned like a mortally wounded animal with a twinge of rage mixed in.

What happened? Joel gasped “He (pause) BIT (pause) me!“ Still puzzled I said “Bit you? Where? “Joel’s next response illuminated the situation. Yes, THERE. Yes, THAT. Not just a minor nip. A toothy chomp. A hearty mouthful of retribution, expressed toddler style.

Who knew that parenting required a cup?

How Now Brown Cow

When Joel and I became engaged, the very first wedding present we received was a cow. An actual live brown cow. I grew up in a decent sized city and my idea of enjoying the countryside was an afternoon drive through it. My knowledge of and interest in cows was limited to oh, there’s a black one or there’s a brown one.

And then I met Joel, which is best described by the Green Acres theme song:

“Green acres is the place for me / Farm livin’ is the life for me.
 Land spreadin’ out so far and wide / Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.
New York is where I’d rather stay / I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore a penthouse view / Dah-ling I love you, but give me Park Avenue.
The chores / The stores / Fresh air / Times Square.”

While I grew up in the city dreaming of even bigger city pursuits, Joel grew up with land, livestock, and a barn, all while dreaming of owning a huge farm to tend to in his off hours. An educated gentleman land baron with a herd of cattle.

When we began dating, Joel owned several head of cattle. And, just before meeting me, he had bought a 1960’s era basement rancher house situated on about five acres of land. It was a lovely pastoral scene as the front yard had an acre or more of gorgeous, lush, gently sloping grass and the side yard and back yard were divided into pastures by a series of fences—including the electric fence which Joel continually warned me not to touch. (As if I would actually go out in the fields! Ha.) The old red barn was within sight a couple of fields away on his family’s property.

During our engagement, Joel offhandedly mentioned to me one day that he intended to fence in the front yard for more room for the cattle. Our worlds quickly collided as I opined that cattle most certainly did not belong in the front yard. I might end up living in the country, but the herd belonged in the back yard! Joel was stunned that I opposed this idea. As natural as the idea seemed to him, I was equally if not more horrified by it. But, I was resolute. And with that settled, I thought my dealings with cows were over.

Until our first wedding gift was a cow. Joel called me excitedly to tell of our gift. I was flabbergasted. A real cow? And it was being delivered to our house? What on earth had I gotten myself into? I pictured china and silver and assorted household goods as wedding gifts, like the scene from Father of the Bride where the gifts are displayed in the dining room. No one ever says, well, look in the field at our cow! Never, absolutely never in a million years had livestock crossed my mind and it certainly wasn’t on the gift registry.

The enormous, light brown Charolais was offloaded into our back yard. My education had just begun. I really had never stood next to a cow and it was significantly taller than I. It weighed about six hundred pounds to my….well, never mind what I weighed. My questions were, what do we do with it? Should we name it? Then, Joel explained to me the real value and how this was a very generous gift from a dear man in the congregation. I honestly had no idea. It was beyond generous, and truly thoughtful.

I came to truly appreciate it as the gift that kept on giving over the next few months as we ate tasty filets, rib eyes, T-bones, and hamburgers that were fit for the finest restaurants. And, we ate them off some of the twenty-two full sets of china and crystal that we also received as wedding presents while we gazed out our back picture window at our other quaint cows dotting the back hillside.

Turns out, Green Acres was the place for me after all.

School Rules

We presented the School Rules to the kids tonight. After reading them out loud together, I gave them a pen to sign the contract.

Noah wearily sighed “Oh, brother.”

Sarah Grace signed happily. (She loves clear expectations.)

Samuel protested and said “But, it isn’t a contract if you MAKE me sign it. So it really doesn’t mean anything.”

Gold Medalist

I won a Gold Medal tonight. Not in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but in the annual Mom Olympics otherwise known as return-to-school shopping with the boys.

I have to admit my training regimen was somewhat inadequate this year. The best preparation for taking two 8 ½ year olds boys shopping would be herding cats. But, since we only have one cat presently due to recent unfortunate events, I was not as dedicated to practicing my skills as I should have been. But, I like to think that even as Michael Phelps may have had a slow race or two this summer, he hung in there and won more gold, and I did the same.

The preliminary qualifying round was finding new tennis shoes. After recovering from the initial surprise of the sizes they now wear and the prices that accompany those sizes, the competitors and I bargained back and forth over price and style, and needs versus wants, resulting in a compromise with which we all could live.

Moving on to the quarter-finals, skilled negotiations ensued over their new found sense of style and opinions, made doubly challenging by their diverging senses of style from each other. No more sharing a closet or trading clothes. We are firmly in the “mine” and “yours” ward robing now.

The semi-finals required endurance to stand in the Chick-Fil-A line in the mall, which was so long that it extended the length of the food court and retractable belts between posts had been erected. We ate at Chick-Fil-A, not because we were taking a stand for or against any particular political or religious cause, but because we were hungry. And since Baskin Robbins has closed, that was the only restaurant with ice cream to bribe the participants for the next round.

And for the final round, I wrangled both boys trying on jeans in the same cramped dressing room while I sat on the bench in that dressing room. This round required the ability to project future growth spurts versus assessing the current size for length and snugness, all while saying things such as “Boys, keep your hands off each other.” and “Did you hear me? I said to take those off and put these on.” and “Oh please. I gave birth to you and I have seen that before. Now get going.” A certain level of skill is also required to calmly think among the stereo chorus of “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom….”

After exiting the mall with both boys still alive and without either one being under the threat of future death, I believe I am now well prepared to deal with an even more challenging sport….shopping with Sarah Grace.  Well, maybe after I rest a week or two. And find some cats.