Monday, April 25, 2011

We Don't Usually Accept THESE as a Form of Payment....

I am no stranger to embarassing moments. At certain seasons of my life, I've seemed to be a magnet for them.

In junior high school, I once got an award on stage in front of the entire school only to have my friend Paul (sitting on the front row) point out that my fly was down... and my totally awesome southwestern print, long sleeve, button-down shirt was sticking out of it in all it's desert paletted glory. (Paul, thanks for helping me save PART of my dignity... in spite of the fact that you got the giggles that would not stop in chapel. A true friend will tell you when your zipper's down when you're getting an award. If I ever win an Oscar, I need you in the front row.)

While a guy friend was helping me move in with my third cousin, Ashley, for the summer in college, I totally blanked during introductions. I introduced him to Ashley's Mom and called her by her sister's name. Her son was about to correct me when she elbowed him to just shut it! (Gail, you're infinitely gracious and I SO appreciated it because as soon as it came out of my mouth, I realized what I'd said. DOH! I was standing next to a boy... and you opted out of making me look like I was a big dummy who didn't even know my own family member's names! You rule!)

But sometimes... there's just no saving me an embarassing moment.

When Dave was in Iraq, I went to the gym a LOT... like almost every day. I had a trainer to kick my butt for an hour twice a week and I ran 30-40 miles on top of that. Did I want to be a hard body? NO. The gym would give me free child care for 2 whole hours every day. When hubby's on the other side of the world... THAT is the kind of motivation you need to haul 4 kids under the age of 6 to the gym... it doesn't matter what you're doing if you're getting 2 whole hours without your children at that point.

(I realize that probably sounds mean if you've never gone thru deployment. But just try having 4 kids... ages 5, 4, 3, and 1... with you 24/7 for 6 months straight and let me ask you if you'd like to run on a treadmill completely ALONE while I watch them for 2 hours.)

Anyway, I'd taken to going to the gym after dinner. At that point in the day, I was totally spent in terms of feeling like playing with the kids. I was burnt out on being Mommy by 5. So, I'd go to the gym for the last two hours that child care was open. Someone else would play ball with the kids, or hula hoop, or play house... or color... or whatever. And when I picked them up, they'd be about ready for bed. If they were good all week... I'd take the older 3 to get a Frosty at Wendy's on Friday. (I know... "big spender" right?) They'd be in bed by 8:30, totally wiped out and tired. I'd get to burn off stress and frustration in a healthy way and be awake to IM with Dave at some freakish hour at night for me/ morning for him. It was really a win-win MOST of the time.

One time, it wasn't.

We live 12 miles from the nearest grocery store. There is no "Ooops I forgot milk, I'll just run down to the store on the corner and pick it up." When you're out... you're OUT unless you'd like to make a 30 minute round-trip excursion. I don't like those kinds of trips. I'm stingy with my gas money!

So, one day we'd run out of milk and I hadn't had time to go get more during the day. I was NOT about to bust up our evening routine of dinner/gym/bedtime (DGB for you Jersey Shore lovers!) routine. I just figured, I'd go AFTER I went to the gym.

I realize that I just lost some women right there.
What? Go to the store right after you worked out? Are you nuts?

Let's keep it simple k?

YES. I'm nuts. Having a husband away makes you do nutty things that you don't usually do in regular civilian life. Normally, I don't go to Winn Dixie as a hot, sweaty mess... BUT, when you're out of milk and your 4 kids are going to want Cheerios in the morning... and it's 8 PM on a Tuesday... AND hubby is in Iraq... you go to the store as a hot, sweaty mess because there is no one else to do it.

I'd grabbed a long sleeve hoodie before I left the house, in an attempt to cover up my grossness and not make anyone think I was sweating on groceries that I was not buying (I've never actually heard of the "You sweat on it, you bought it" rule... but they really SHOULD have that don't you think?), and put it on before unbuckling all the little people. I grabbed my purse, my diaper bag, and my 1 yr old and made the other 3 make a chain gang to walk into the store. I felt something weird in my sleeve but, figured it was just a dryer sheet and didn't bother to mess with it. I was trying to make this a QUICK trip. Get in, get what we need, get OUT, and get on to bedtime! I'm sure that I was a SIGHT walking around the store... with my two littlest boys sitting side by side in the rocket ship shopping cart, herding my other 2 kids up and down aisles, dressed in nasty work out clothes and a hoodie in June. (PS, it's still 100 degrees outside at 8pm in Alabama in June.)

I managed to get what we needed and make it to the checkout clerk. I was so happy that everyone was behaving. No one was begging.
(Parenting pointer: If you never buy your kids candy at the grocery check out... they don't know what those wrappers are and don't beg.)
We were gonna be able to get our Cheerios on the next morning without a fuss. I was feeling like Supermom!

Then, the time came for me to pay.

I reach into my purse to grab my cash and hand the checkout girl my money and all was well. But somewhere between actually obtaining said cash and handing it to her... things went awry.

That weird thing I felt in my sleeve WAS NOT a dryer sheet.

It  WAS NOT a Kleenex.

It WAS a pair of thong underwear. Yellow... with smiley faces...

I realized this as I saw it fly through the air and land in the hands of the clerk.


Her response nearly killed me... "Well, we don't usually accept THESE as a form of payment....."

The bag girl (Thank you God that it wasn't a bag boy!) said, "You're walkin' around in drawers like those??... shoot... no wonder you got so many kids!"

Then I uttered words that I'm pretty sure have NEVER been said in a grocery store to a clerk... "I'll give you my money if you give me my panties back."

I paid and got the heck out of there! I NEVER went back to that particular grocery store with all my kids... I'm pretty sure "The lady who pays in panties with the 4 kids" is how they'd identify me in a line up. I also, probably owe them an apology. Probably those poor people ended up with extra time in a "How to Handle Customers Who Sexually Harrass You" class because of my wardrobe malfunction!

Either way... I figure that THAT story has a pretty good chance of beating whatever crappy thing happened to you on this fine Monday. If you didn't unintentionally try to pay for groceries with your underpants... it was still a pretty good day.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Skateboards & Swimming Pools

The following story is true. While I was not there to actually witness this event, it has been told to large groups by someone who saw it happen, and affirmed by the perpetrator and victim. The story is really a lesson in why you should never push your younger brother in the bottom of an empty pool while riding a skateboard in March.

A lot of people in Southern California have pools. My family was no exception. My parents lived in a ranch style house built in the late 60’s. It’s been remodeled a couple of times and some owner before my parents put in a lap pool. A lap pool isn’t your basic round-ish shaped swimming pool. The person who has a lap pool isn’t really thinking about having a pool party or cannonball contest. A person who has a lap pool is a hard core swimmer. The thing is 60 feet long and only about 8 feet wide. My brothers and I weren’t totally convinced this was true… until one day my brother Sean and I were wrestling in the pool on one side and he jumped sideways to get away from me and chipped his tooth on the concrete edge on the other side. He was 10. Like I said, it’s hard core. We tried to be hardcore. We lived in that pool for much of the summer growing up. We’d have races and were actually pretty fast. I could hold my breath and swim the entire length of the pool and halfway back without coming up for air. Which, when you’re 12, is hard core. At one point in time, my senior year in high school, we were all actually on the same swim team at the same time and could all relish collectively the ability to smoke our 40 yr old Dad in the pool. He was not as hard core as we were.

Because we were so into water, you might question my brothers being in our backyard, in the empty pool with a skateboard in March.

Like I said, I was not there.

My parents’ pool had managed to survive multiple earthquakes without any problems. But apparently, the last one before said event, made a crack in the side… somewhere… I actually never saw it. But I hear there was a crack and that’s why the pool was drained. PS, apparently, in this same earthquake, my Dad had the presence of mind while the ground was STILL rolling to look out his bedroom window, which faces the pool. He tells me there were 3 foot waves in our backyard. That’s remarkable since the pool, at the shallow end, is only 3 ft deep. Must’ve been those 3 ft waves that caused the crack.

Because it had to be repaired, the pool was drained. This took a VERY long time. Between the regular drain at the bottom, and the siphon my Dad started by sucking on a garden hose that he ran from the pool to the street gutter in the front of the house (there’s a whole OTHER story there) it still took something like a day and half to get rid of that water. Now, my brothers were about 15 and 16 years old. Because we lived for swimming, we all had about a million swim suits. My brother Sean has always been fond of crazy printed board shorts… chicks dig surfers right? In So Cal they do. My Mom had my Dad hang this board with 20 or so hooks on it outside next to the pool so that instead of walking with wet bathing suit through the house and on her carpet, you could just hang your suit up to dry off outside. And yes, that means walking your naked butt (hopefully covered with a towel) back inside. Did I mention our neighbors had a two story house?

Back to the story, the pool was mostly empty and my brothers, being boys decided that skateboarding in an empty pool would be awesome. People do it on TV. Kurt Cobain did it. It didn’t look that hard. Plus, the pool didn’t have a huge slope so it’s not like you’d really fall on your face. Right? Apparently, they were having a great time, starting in the shallow end and riding that short slope down to the deep end and landing in what was basically a puddle of water by this time. Fun right? Well, the thing about brothers is that at some point, someone will get hurt. Period. It just happens. Sean did something to make Danny fall… in that puddle. It shouldn’t really have been a big deal. It was just water. And they DID have their board shorts on. WHY you put board shorts on to go in an EMPTY pool to ride a skateboard is beyond me… I have never been a 15 year old boy. I don’t know how the conversation between then about attire exactly went. Remember, I wasn’t there. So Sean does something to irk Danny. Danny gets pissed… and then gets this wicked look in his eyes. Maybe you have a Danny at your house. Danny, you see, is the youngest in our family. I don’t think the kid ever got in trouble for anything in his whole life. We spent much of our Jr High and High School years all angsty and grounded. Not Danny. Sean and I have secrets we will take to the grave about that boy… not this one though… this one is out. So Danny climbs out of the pool totally ticked off. There are no stairs in my parents pool. Only ladders. Danny climbs a ladder and is gone leaving Sean at the bottom of the deep end of the pool with the skateboard. Danny grabs the garden hose hanging on the side of the house next to the pool and turns it on Sean.

Now I love my brothers. They’re the most hilarious people I’ve ever met in my life and literally, when I’m with them, all I can do is laugh. They have this great relationship with each other and play off each other so well. They’re so yin and yang and yet so alike it’s just funny. They’re both brilliant. Like certifiably GENIUS brilliant. So, when my brother Sean has knee jerk reactions that are completely illogical… well basically, every time it happens it’s documented and it always gets brought up over beers later. REPEATEDLY.

Telling you this is not mean, I’m documenting it for posterity.

Now if you are a kid stuck in the bottom of an empty pool with no stairs while your younger brother is spraying you with freezing water from the hose (did I mention that it was March when this happened), there’s not a whole lot you can do. So Sean did the typical yelling and hollering to “Hey cut that out!” which of course didn’t work because what’s more fun than spraying someone who can’t get away and can’t reach you with a hose? Sean threw the skateboard. It turns out that skateboards don’t go that far when you’re 16 and throwing them from the bottom of a pool. Danny took it anyway. Sean threw his shirt. Danny took that too. I don’t know what possessed him to do such a thing, but he did it. Sean threw his board shorts. And of course Danny took them. He kept spraying him with the hose and he left him now NAKED in the bottom of the pool… in broad daylight. Did I mention our neighbors have a two story house? The yelling stopped.

Then Danny, in a stroke of pure evil genius walks the entire length of the pool, swiping EVERY bathing suit and towel hanging on Mom’s Rack of Nakedness while still spraying Sean with a hose. It’s hard to climb a ladder in March when you’re naked and someone is spraying you with freezing water from a garden hose. Danny then runs in the house and locks EVERY door there is to get back in. Sean is stuck, naked… in the backyard… on a week day… and it’s almost 5 o’clock. He grabs the patio furniture cushions, covers his bum and is running between both sliding glass door in the kitchen (at the side of the house) and in the living room (in the backyard.) Danny just stands there taunting him… like any good sibling would do.

You’re probably asking yourself, because I was, “Where the heck were their parents?” Well, it was a week day. My Dad was at work. And my Mom claims to have been napping in her bedroom. Remember, this is the room with the windows right next to the pool with 3 foot waves. Granted, my Mom sleeps with ear plugs. And because NO ONE in my family is prone to exaggeration at all so, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Although, it was me, I’d be doubled over laughing my butt off just waiting to see what would happen.

Sean was having issues with the cushions, they’re large and bulky and hard to really bend the way he needs them to. One is insufficient, but two is too much. Such a dilemma. Add to that the fact that it’s hard to knock on doors while you’re holding giant cushions over the front and back of your naked self. AND you don’t want to yell because it’s the middle of the day and you’re trying to NOT draw attention to yourself. Danny actually manages close all the blinds, dry off, change clothes, and start watching TV or something. Sean’s really out there a while… but eventually, Sean manages to get Mom’s attention… who claims to have not heard a single thing. I can definitely see my mother going to the sliding door trying to figure out what all the commotion is only to find my naked brother locked out of the house.

The entire thing is ridiculous. Completely. How on earth does something like that happen? But the most ridiculous thing about it to me is that when Mom opens the door asking, “What happened?!” Sean doesn’t blame Danny, doesn’t mention the hose, nothing…. All he can say is, “Sorry I was naked Mom” and runs off to find some clothes. And really… as a Mom, what can you say to that?

All I know is that I have not ever, nor WILL I ever, push Danny in an empty pool while riding a skateboard in March. Danny really is hard core.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Gift of Kind Eyes?

People that I don't know tend to tell me their darkest secrets.

I really don't know why. I'm not sure what it is about me that makes people decide that they can open up their Pandora's box around me. A counselor I saw, while Dave was in Iraq, once told me that I had "kind eyes" and that people felt safe with me. I hope that's the truth. I never want anyone to feel UNsafe when they're with me. I want people to feel accepted and to know that I care about their well-being. I want to invest in people... I think those kinds of investments are the most precious and have the most valuable returns. I also know that it makes my heart happy to be kind. My counselor said that I should learn to see this as a gift instead of as a curse.

It's been a rough road to get to that place.

Sometimes though, other people's stuff is HUGE and DARK and HEAVY.

Sometimes, it catches me off guard.

Sometimes it stirs up my own set of baggage.

The hardest place for me to stand is in the grocery store check-out line. I've stood in the grocery queue and the clerk will say "Hi" and ask me how I'm doing.

"Pretty good. How're you?"

At this point, I sometimes cringe. MOST of the time, the rest of the process is really normal. We exchange pleasantries and I go on with my day. But sometimes...

Sometimes... it's not.

I've had clerks continue to weigh produce and scan bar codes while telling me, "I just found out I'm pregnant and my husband is going to be really upset. I'm pretty sure he'll leave me if I tell him. I'm really not sure what I'm going to do."

Or "My boyfriend just left me and took every dime I had saved up. I have no idea what I'm going to do. I thought we were going to get married."

Or "My Dad died yesterday and I can't afford to take a day off work today."

What do you say to a perfect stranger telling you something so personal? It's one thing when it's your closest girlfriend and you have a history of sharing your lives with each other. What happens when the person is someone you met 10 seconds ago?

Don't get me wrong here. I'm no Mary Poppins who is practically perfect in every way and for whom life's a jolly holiday! I'm no stranger to deep heartaches. Pain sucks. I know that it does. My faith is a massive source of comfort to me. I've been through a lot in my short life. There have been MANY moments where the only prayer I could pray was simply, "Why?"

Real life has seasons that are just HARD. Sometimes you're hunkering down and waiting out a emotional storm for much longer than you thought you ever would. Or ever could for that matter.

Sometimes, you just need someone to listen and HEAR you.

There's all kinds of ways for us to communicate with each other... electronics make it easy to get a hold of almost anyone and almost any time. But how often are we really LISTENING to each other? How often are we really hearing each other's hearts?

Here's the thing: I think everyone has a broken heart. Someone or something has wreaked havoc on the way we thought things should go. Our lives are not quite what we thought they'd be when we daydreamed about growing up as a kid. People have let us down. People we cared for on a cellular level have hurt us. Situations that we thought would make us happy, didn't work out. Horrible things that we never expected were done to us. Things we were counting on, disappointed us. EVERYONE encounters those things in life. You aren't special because they happen to you! Those things happen to ALL of us. The worst thing you could do would be to pretend that it didn't happen to you and that everything's 100% peachy/100% of the time.

Hurt is part of the human life experience. Sharing those things with people ( but not oversharing with everyone!) allows people to see that you're human. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, gives other people the opportunity to be the same way with you. You both are vested in each other's well-being... and that has huge benefits in the emotional and spiritual parts of you. You both find out you aren't alone.  You're both able to comfort each other because you have that commonality.

The Bible says that "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 NIV) Bad things happen to everyone but, there's nothing so bad that God can't bring something good from it. Of course, if I were to choose for myself... nothing bad would EVER happen to me. Pain sucks! Grief sucks! But the truth is that some of the most meaningful relationships I have were wrought over some really HARD seasons of life.

Paul writes it in 2 Corinthians this way:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Cor. 1: 3-5 NIV)

Yeah, I know. He uses the word "comfort" a LOT. But here's the gist of it. God is the source of our great comfort... but like my Grammy says, "Sometimes you want a hug from someone with skin on!" Our source of hurt allows God to comfort us, but also brings us to a place where we can be a source of comfort for others. We can be their person "with skin on" because we've already walked down the path they're currently on. God can use our empathy to show others that they aren't alone, that someone DOES care, and that it's possible to move on from the place of hurt they're currently experiencing.

So do I go all crazy and hold up the grocery line acting like a nut when my cashier decides to open up a can of worms to me? No. Usually, I look 'em in the eye and say, "That must be really hard. I can think of a time when I felt just like that. It was really hard. How can I help?" I don't have millions of dollars but, I do have time. And TIME is the most valuable thing you can give a person because you'll never get it back. No one's ever usurped my whole day or even more time than it took to finish checking out my groceries... and hopefully, when I walk away, they know that they were SEEN and HEARD and that someone CARED enough to encourage them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Funday once again!

I'm linking up again with Carri @ Adventures in Mommyhood. People submit their links and Carri compiles a list on her blog. It's a fun way to bloghop through a bunch of people's writing that you might miss otherwise. Head over there to check out some interesting people and their stories.