Words for my Dad

Several people have asked to read the words I shared at my Dad’s memorial.  I continue to be in awe of the number of people who have shared their connection to Dad and the amount of support shown to our family during this difficult time.  I still ache and expect to do so for a long time.  While part of me yearns to return to a sense of normalcy, another part dreads living a life sans my role model.  Little by little, story by story, we will learn to navigate these new waters.

Shared 11/7/16:

I have written no less than 5 versions of what I want to convey today.  I know it does not have to be perfect because I recognize that you would not be here if you did not love and appreciate my dad and therefore would be forgiving of my efforts.

In one version I focused on his love of history and how his focus was often on the broad sociological impact.  I then eloquently connected this to his being the ultimate crusader for education and public media.  In another version, I commented on the number of photographs mom and dad had of their various families.  How these photographs signified the importance these players had made in his life.  The impacts of his family of origin, family he married into, our immediate family, his PBS family, Drury family, Glendale/MSU family, UCA family, Forum Class and FUMC family, his Marvel Cave/Silver Dollar City family, Schweitzer softball family, blues festival family, Kings Happy Hour family, etc.  In yet another version I spent time discussing how Dad impacted my career, parenting, and interests.  And yet, somehow, all of these words just seem inefficient.  The English language simply doesn’t offer enough adjectives to describe my dad.  My desperation to perfectly memorialize my dad is misplaced grief.  More than finding the right words, I yearn to find the right comfort, the right balm for my aching soul.  My mind keeps going back to a conversation Dad and I had several years ago when Michael Jackson died.  I half jokingly said that I didn’t know how to live in a world without Michael Jackson.  Dad replied that he could relate because he had been telling himself the same thing every day since John Lennon died.  And now, I tell you, sweet friends, that I don’t know how to live in a world without my Dad.  And yet, that is what we must do.  While I want to crawl in a cave, cover my ears, and stop this aching, I know that I can’t do that.  Dad’s life goal was to make a positive impact on this world.  Look around, read the messages online, and know that he has made an impact.  And we have the obligation in his memory to continue carrying forth that goal.  The love and support shown since Dad’s death has been staggering.  I think that I speak for the entire family that we have been in awe of the reach of dad’s influence.  As we read each text, email, and post and listened to each voicemail and visitor, we were left with positivity and comfort.  Over and over, I found myself thinking “Oh, they are like family to us.”  Please realize how many of you are like family to us.  Please know how many of you were special to my dad.  Please take away the knowledge that he talked about you, prayed for you, worried over you, asked about you, and rooted for you.

A favorite story in my house is about a family that is going on an imaginary bear hunt.  The children and their dad chant “We’re going on a bear hunt.  Going to catch a big one.  We’re not afraid, it’s a beautiful day!”  Their journey keeps getting interrupted by obstacles.  “Oh no!  Mud!  Can’t go under it.  Can’t go around it.  Gotta go through it.  Squish, squish, squish…”  We can’t give up on dad’s legacy, just as we can’t ignore the void his death has created, we have to go through it.  We have to go through it together, no matter how messy the obstacles.

We are sad that dad is not on this Earth anymore.  I’m going to miss the way he tucked the remote under his chin, crossed his arms and touched his mouth when he was really thinking, his laugh that shook his entire body, and his carrying around notebooks to write down random thoughts or numbers.  I’ll miss texting him political observations and rants, telling him what I’m reading, having him give me a cd of whatever group he’s now listening too.  I’ll miss mom complaining that Dad is watching yet another World War 2 documentary or reading another Lincoln/McCartney biography.  My pictures at Logan’s soccer games won’t be nearly as good and I will often fail to reign in my mom’s wild ideas.  It will be strange to tell family memories without him prompting which story.  I might need someone to encourage my writing.  David will need people to brag on his singing and attend his plays.  Trey will need someone to give him an all-knowing look when the women of this family are too much.  Dad’s siblings, nieces, nephews, and mother will need ongoing love and support.  Mom will need company, laughter, and comfort as she discovers a new normal.  My children will need to be reminded that they have the very best of GrandDude in them and told how very much he loved each of them.  AETN and PBS will need guidance and permission to continue on their mission.  Together we can help each other through this dark time because we know that dad is no longer in pain, no longer worrying about funding or legislation, no longer dreading the next illness.  We can help each other because we have been impacted by dad’s spirit and desire to lead with positivity.

Tuesday, Trey and I sat down with our 3 year old to tell him that my dad died.  We explained that “GrandDude’s heart and body stopped working.  He has moved to Heaven to live by Jesus and God.  You won’t see him anymore but we are going to look at pictures and tell lots of stories about GrandDude.”  Jack was quiet for a moment and if you know Jack, you know that doesn’t happen often.  He then said “Remember!  Daniel Tiger says “It’s ok to be sad sometimes.  Little by little you’ll feel better again.”

And I am sad.  I am filled to the brim with sorrow and anxiety about living in a world without my dad.  But little by little and story by story we’ll feel better again…and that is how we will know we are carrying forth his legacy… That is how we will know that he made a positive mark on this world.

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Pushing Past the Fatigued Soul

My heart and head are tired. I made a personal commitment a year ago to make a more concerted effort to hear, truly hear, all sides this political season.  Those who know me well, know that I not only contain many opinions but I enjoy standing atop various soap boxes while wearing these opinions like sleeves.  During a conversation with my husband, he shared that too often I was arguing to win rather than change.  He reminded me that aggressively hurling my opinions from these tall soapboxes were doing nothing to impact change.  This rhetoric was simply dividing me from those who disagreed and sometimes alienating me from those who quietly agreed.  Now, we all know that I don’t always do everything Trey asks, but in this instance, I truly took what he said to heart.  Rather than allowing myself to fill with rage over the differences in opinion, I challenged myself to listen, hear, and move towards change.  I made that commitment a year ago.  I have reminders written on post-it notes at home and at work.  Tucked into my wallet is a crinkled post-it note with the following quote: “If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.” – Marge Piercy.  I was at the juncture in my life that I did want to be heard but I also wanted to be void of anger and resentment.  Guiltily, I recognized that I want doing my best to raise boys who didn’t dislike people who are different from themselves while harboring anger towards those who don’t believe as I do.  Trey’s gentle nudging towards listening was well-timed and certainly welcomed.

Around the same time that I began playing with the idea of listening more to varying perspectives, a high school friend wrote a beautiful blog which included the concept of Ubuntu, a philosophy originating in Southern Africa. As Cedric  so eloquentlypost2 described in his writing, “Ubuntu is the idea that we are empowered by other people, and then we become our best selves through unselfish interaction with others.”  After reading these words, I wrote them on another post-it note and hung it prominently in my office.  These two post-it note mandates gave me a direction.  I was determined to spend the next year focused on listening and genuinely interacting.  Wait, doesn’t this seem like it ought to be basic foundational stuff for a therapist?  It is.  I truly believe that I do a much better job at these skills when I’m in my therapeutic mode than I do when I’m outside of session.  Practice what you preach, right?  This commitment to self growth, required me to apply skills used at work in every area of my life.

Little did I know, a year and change ago, that I was selecting the most difficult political climate. I’m struggling, folks.  Doing a personal inventory and attitude change is hard enough during the best of circumstances, but this has been ill-timed for a smooth change.  C’mon, have you watched the debates!?  Are you reading the papers, tweets, and posts!?  Deep breaths…  I’ll be perfectly honest, this personal challenge to listen to all sides hasn’t changed my opinions.  I might be bold enough in saying that it might have even built a more sturdy soapbox. The change I have noticed, however, is in my development and gathering of information.  In order to truly listen to others, I’ve made it a point to read more from “the other side”.  I’ve watched debate analysis on “the other network.”  I am trying to listen, really, I am.

I expected, and maybe hoped, that through this experience I’d gain more empathy for those who vote differently than I do. In past election cycles, I’ve disagreed with “the other side” but I didn’t hate them and I didn’t fear them.  This time, I do fear what will happen if a certain candidate is elected.  I still can’t bring myself to evoke hate though.  What I am uncomfortable with is the amount of hate that people seem to have towards both candidates.  Again, I certainly dislike and fear one candidate but I still can’t say that I want him dead or that I want his family dead.  I can’t understand why there is so much deep hate for the other side.  Simply because there are differences in opinion, doesn’t mean we have to hate one another, does it?  My Christian beliefs don’t mesh with the hate-filled comments, rhetoric, and behaviors of so many; many of whom also claim to have Christian roots.  How can we as believers (be it as believers in a God or in humanity) dismiss these overt message s of hate, disrespect, and dismissal During Obama’s first election, I pushed back when I received an email labeling him as the Anti-Christ.  I don’t know how disagreeing with someone can lead you to identifying him as such.  I told a friend the other day that I feel numb.  I am trying so desperately to understand how we as a collective people can have such unbridled hate towards one another.  Hate based on race, religion, ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual orientation, political party, career, etc. etc. etc.  Are we in a time of the absolute antithesis of the Ubuntu philosophy?  Are we only capable of being in selfish battle with one another?

During other periods of emotional turmoil, I have found myself turning first to my church. I refer not just to my local church, but to the denomination and universal church; the big “C” in Church, if you will.  During the past year, however, I have felt my spirit at odds with the church.  Those who are familiar with the structure of the Methodist church are aware that we are a part of  a global congregational structure and refer to the “Book of Discipline” for our rules and order.  The Methodist Church has failed to evolve and continues to systematically exclude believers.  Clearly I have opinions, strong opinions, on this topic.  At last year’s General Conference, the Methodist Church tabled difficult conversations and decisions in an effort to avoid a division within the denomination.  While the church avoided division, an entire segment of the population continues to not be fully welcomed or affirmed within our doors.  I read the live reports of the conference with a heavy heart.  I continue to struggle reconciling my love for my local congregation with the knowledge that our global infrastructure does not permit inclusion.  Following the conference, I set up a meeting with my pastor to share my struggles.  As I explained to him, my struggle is not with my personal faith but with my faith in the church.  He listened and was completely authentic and appropriate but not able to “fix” the problem for me.  Logan overheard me talking to Trey about my feelings and asked for clarification.  My 10-year-old continues to ask why we attend a church that allows exclusion and I don’t know how to explain it to him.  I don’t know how to explain it to myself.  My attendance has been less regular since May and I’m really struggling. Exclusion and hate goes completely against what I believe as a Christian.

As I stated, my heart and head are weary. I’ve listened and I’m afraid of what I’ve heard.  It is time to interact, to seek change, to impact healing.  I will vote, I will pray,  and I will continue to listen.  I have to believe that behind the loud voices, much like mine has been at times, there are voices sharing messages of love, peace, and unity.  I have to believe that these quiet voices belong to the change makers.  I am fearful though.  I desperately want to believe in a country and in a church that welcomes all who are believers, that takes care img_5603-2of all who contribute, and that teaches all who will listen.  During a sermon, one of our church’s former pastors,  Lynn Kilbourne, challenged listeners to recognize that we focus what we treasures.  For example, if my treasures are material, there lie my efforts and energy. My treasures are my family, my faith, and my country.  My efforts and energy must go to making this a better place even when I’m weary and lacking understanding. I must continue to listen and strive towards unselfish interaction. I’m tired but this is too important to ignore.

I’m sliding. I’m slipping. (Part 2)

(This is the continued story of how I “survived” a week alone with three kids, two dogs, and a full time job.)

Wednesday – Day 6 – “I apologize for my behavior.”

Jacked locked us outside the house during on trip out to load the car.  Logan climbed in a window to let us back inside.  Logan’s ear ache seemed to be getting worse but I don’t have any sick days saved up yet.  I felt like a horrible mom for not being able to take him for three days and cried all the way to work.  I arranged to leave work early to take him to the doctor but when I got to his daycare to pick him up for the appointment, he argued that he was fine and wanted to stay and play basketball.  I may have called him ungrateful in the car.  After his appointment, we went to get his haircut.  He took clear advantage of my mom-guilt and I agreed he could get a “soccer style” if he would style it each day.  When I entered the daycare and was signing in, I heard a sweet voice say “Hi mom!  I’m in trouble!”  Jack was in the office for not being a good friend.  “Mom, I am a bad bunny!”  After dinner, (I have no idea what I fed them…did I feed them?) I decided we ought to take a family walk to burn off excess energy.  Logan argued that his sweat would mess up his new hair and Jack fought me for control of Norah’s stroller.  They boys began throwing rocks at one another and I’m sure there was also some stick swinging.  I began shrieking and threatened to spank everyone if they didn’t stop.  A rock then hit me in the temple.  I blacked out momentarily but when I “came to” I realized we were standing at the end of our neighbors’ driveway, which was full of cars.  “Oh good”, I thought, “they have guests over to see their new screened in porch…”  I later texted an apology for my behavior.  I sat down to nurse Norah and lick my wounds.   I made the mistake of noting that everything seemed calm.  Logan then began arguing about chores and Jack began yelling “I’m slipping.  I’m sliding.” over and over.  After I finished feeding the baby, I discovered that Jack was indeed slipping and sliding around the hardwood floors on a banana peel.  I was too defeated to clean up the banana slime.  I fell asleep on the couch but woke up on the floor with an imprint of laces from Logan’s shoe on my face.

Thursday – Day 7 – “-raspberry noises-”

Even later out the door because Logan had a complete meltdown that he didn’t know how to style his hair.  I found a toad in my bathroom.  No clue.  Jack was dropped off at daycare screaming “I want to be a bad bunny!”  Norah was dropped off also screaming.  Since she has no words yet, I can only assume she was pleaing with her higher power to find her a less chaotic family, preferably one without Jack.  Trey came into town to see Logan’s play and left soon after.  I attempted to appear as though I had everything under control.  I’m fairly certain my inability to complete coherent sentences led him to know my true functional level.  It began to rain on our way to Logan’s play.  When we pulled into the church parking lot, Jack announced “It is raining!  We’d better dance!”  He refused to walk inside until both Trey and I danced in the rain.  Jack required significant wrangling through the play and kept yelling “I’m going to see Logan!”  When my mom offered him a phone to take pictures with, he became upset because Logan wouldn’t “cheese.”  Trey and I had a minor spat due to both of us being fatigued and neither feeling as though the other had empathy for aforementioned fatigue.

Friday – Day 8 – “The day I completely lost my shit.”

We were late to work but not due to any chaotic events.  A summer rain storm caused us to slow down and ease into the day.  I worked diligently to practice mindfulness throughout my day as to keep a sense of peace within my soul.  Trey will be home tomorrow and we are going to celebrate surviving the week with friends tonight.  Deep breaths.  Deep cleansing breaths.

And then came the afternoon from hell.  Logan was upset that I picked him up during a basketball game at his summer day camp.  Jack was upset that I interrupted his playing with his best friend.  Norah was simply upset.  The drive home was full of spit and vinegar.  I’m certain all four of us were crying at some point during the 3 miles between daycare and the house.  When we entered the house, it was clear that Norah needed to eat NOW!  Her whine had escalated to a blood curdling scream.  Logan disappeared with my phone and I asked Jack to find a toy.  As soon as I sat on the couch, disrobed, and began feeding Norah, I heard Jack talk about eating the chocolate on the floor.  Mmmm!  Chocolate does sound good.  WAIT!?  We don’t have any chocolate and even if we did, it wouldn’t be on the floor!?  The lightbulb went on above my head and I began screaming at Jack NOT to eat the dog poop on the floor!  He argued that it was chocolate and I argued that it was not.  Norah kept eating.  He signaled comprehension that the poop was not chocolate by yelling “It’s ok, Mom!  I won’t eat it!  I’ll step on it and dance on the poop!”  (because we all dance on poop, right!?)  Before I could respond, Jack stepped on the poop and began smearing it with his foot across the hardwood floors.  Norah kept eating.  I screamed, “Stop!  Sit down!”  Jack obeyed and sat…right in the smeared dog poop.  He then took off his shoes, stood back up, and began standing in the poopy smear in his sock feet.  I ripped Norah off my bosom (that word makes this story more classy, right?), laid her on the floor (different floor than the poop floor), and rushed topless towards Jack to stop the insanity.  As I reached him, the doorbell rang.  I stood up and found myself making eye contact through the glass door with a door to door salesman…well, I was looking at his eyes.  His eyes didn’t know where to look.  (left breast, right boob, eyes, floor, repeat)  I quickly covered myself, threatened Jack to not ever move again, and answered the door.  We had an awkward exchange and I sent him on his way, probably scarred for life.  I don’t remember much after that.  I know that the poop was cleaned and we had a great time at a friend’s house but there are a lot of blanks in the story.  I wish I could blame the lost time on alcohol or mental illness but the only excuse is that I lost complete control of anything.  (But have I ever really had control?)

Saturday – Day 9 – “Trey’s epic return”

Trey’s return was epic not because of any one incident but simply because my partner came home.  Even though he returned and napped all afternoon, knowing that there was another adult around made all the difference.  I definitely am in awe of parents with more than three kids and am in awe of parents who don’t have a coparent for moments in which they need to tap out.  Parenting is hard.  Kids are tough.  Life is crazy.  I slipped and I slid from control to chaos but we all lived to tell this story and more stories in the future.

 

I’m Sliding. I’m Slipping. (Part 1)

Last week was my third week back at work since my maternity leave ended.  This was the week I dreaded more than the first week back.  Each summer my husband takes a week to participate in an Arkansas-based mission trip, OMP (Ozarks Mission Project).  He looks forward to this experience each year and I certainly don’t want to take it away from him.  However, knowing that I’d be alone for 8 days with three kids, two dogs, and a fulltime job, had me scared.  Then I learned that my mom would also be out of town for part of the week.  Eek!?

I realize that there are many people that would roll their eyes at my concerns.  There are families with more kids, single parents, parents who parent alone due to the other parent traveling for their job, etc.  Everyone has experiences that bring stress and hardship.  I am fortunate to have family and friends nearby and to have supportive coworkers. Still, I was apprehensive.  Similar to an athlete before a big game, I pumped myself up and prompted people around me to give pep talks.  I’ve got this!  I chose to view it as a field trial.  An experiment of sorts.  Could I keep from losing my shit for one week.  Surely, surely… After all, I am a strong, confident woman who has been through two deployments, lived in three states, work in a difficult profession, and have weathered many personal storms.  Surely, surely…

Friday-Day 1 – “A Confident Start”

Trey took Logan to my in laws on his way out of town.  One less kid.  I can do this!

After work, I picked up the littles and headed to the grocery store.  Norah’s carrier took up much of the buggy so I had to use the child seat for groceries and have Jack “walk” untethered trough the store.  We did fairly well.  He only climbed one shelf, ran off once (I took Norah on a wild ride to catch him – she’ll either be traumatized or grow to be a thrill seeker/adrenaline junkie, and made it to the checkout with only three unexpected items (Summer’s Eve, cookie dough, and a single mushroom – we bought the cookie dough).  On the way home, I told Jack we were going to have a pizza and movie party.  He requested a “sad movie where everyone cries and [I] will laugh and laugh and laugh.”  Despite my sudden fear that he might have some psychopathic tendencies, we had a great night.  I even broke from my normal rules and let him sleep in my bed.  I went to bed feeling victorious!

Saturday – Day 2 – “Confident Within Our Cave”

Our day began at 6:15am when a chubby three-year old finger poked me in the eye while saying “You got eyebrows, mom?”  The rest of the morning was spent snuggling my sweet littles and slowly preparing to venture out of the house.  Things were going so well that we opted for a lunch out with my parents before heading to a birthday party.  Lunch went well.  Jack ordered for everyone at the table “salad, salad, pizza, crackers” and assured every server that passed by that “we are good.”  Mom and dad offered to watch Norah while I took Jack to the birthday party.  Score!  …Oops, birthday party is tomorrow.  I redirected Jack and took him for a haircut and to grab the grocery items we’d forgotten the day before.  We then ended the day back in our cave.  The only crises involved Jack peeing in the bathtub, painting the kitchen cabinet with yogurt (paintbrush is now hidden), and feeding the dogs cornmeal from the pantry.

Sunday – Day 3 – “Shaken, not Stirred”

Today was quite a bit more challenging than the previous two days.  Jack fell in the toilet, while I was changing Norah’s diaper, and got the back of his head wet.  I still can’t figure out what the heck he was doing!? We were 30 minutes late to church due to me not being able to nurse Norah and keep Jack from disrobing simultaneously.   After church I decided to try out the new van’s automatic start button.  It worked!  The van started!  And the van was locked…it wouldn’t unlock!?  There I was in the middle of the church parking lot, holding a baby, with a locked running minivan.  Fortunately, a friend pushed the key fob button in a magical way and it unlocked for her…not for me.  I successfully (or, rather, she successfully) avoided the first frantic call to Trey of the week.  We survived lunch and headed to the birthday party that I thought was yesterday.  Jack became convinced that there were additional birthday party games located behind the “employees only” door so I spent the majority of the party redirecting, grabbing, and wrestling him.  Thank goodness for forgiving friends who will look the other way when you fall on the floor while child-wrangling and hold your baby so you can wrangle again…and again…  Logan came home and I realized that three are much easier to handle than just two, IF, the third is my awesome 9 year old helper!  Tonight I would give him all the gifts in the world for helping distract Jack.  The weekend has me shaken but I *think* I can make it a few more days.  I think…

Monday – Day 4 – “Is that a facial tic?”

Well, crap!  Monday morning began with me oversleeping.  Logan had a meltdown while I was in the shower because he no longer wished to be in the church play…play practice started at 8am.  Jack coated his hair with yogurt.  Jack had to be pried off of my body by two daycare employees because he didn’t want to stay at school and Norah spewed a gallon of milk the second I set her down in a bouncy chair at daycare.  I didn’t have time to dry my hair so I opted for the “beach hair” look that later in the day looked more like the “homeless woman” look.  Logan cried all evening because of an ear ache.  I served grilled cheese sandwiches and dry cheerios for dinner.  Banjo broke into the pantry and got into the trash approximately 37 times tonight.  I fell asleep on the couch with the bag of pretzels in my hands.

Tuesday – Day 5 – “I only cried a little.”

Logan had trouble sleeping due to his ear ache and began the morning in a serial-killer mood.  I had to change my shirt in the car because I’d put it on inside-out.  I left the diaper bag at daycare leaving us only one pacifier (we call it a plug) until the next morning.  I kept screaming at Logan and Jack, “Where’s the plug!?  I can’t lose the plug!?”  Logan declared it the “golden paci.”  Banjo ate the pizza I planned to eat for dinner.  Jack ran across the couch, tried to jump over Logan, and fell off bumping his head.  AFter screaming and crying for several minutes, he announced “I need to try it again!” forcing me to grab him and restrain him before became concussed again.  Mojo peed on the nursing pillow.

Half way…

 

 

Pokémon Ponderings

I’ve been watching posts and stories about Pokemon Go with amusement. While I haven’t engaged in the trend, as of yet, I certainly know many who are excited about this new explosion.  Last week, I read people’s posts wondering why their typically indoorsy children were suddenly excited about venturing outside for long walks.  My favorite post compared those walking around staring at their phones to zombies from The Walking Dead.  My 9 year old son heard about the app at his summer daycare and was initially a skeptic.  He made jokes about “pale gamers” wandering around looking for fluffy bunnies and other strange electronic creatures.  While leaving a doctor’s appointment, he began ranting about gamers being careless as they walked around with their eyes glued to their phone screens.  During this rant, he kept his eyes glued to a soccer video on YouTube and walked into a wall, although he now denies this ever happened.  As I predicted, his joking and criticism began to morph into a deeper curiosity about Pokemon Go and he ultimately spent a couple hours trying to find whatever it is these people are trying to find while on a walk with our resident game guru, my brother.

I doubt I’ll download the app but not because I’m opposed to the idea. I won’t download it for two reasons, (1) my phone needs to be taken to Oz and repaired so it will allow me to download new apps, and (2) because I don’t need another distraction from my (or Logan’s) daily life.  While I don’t anticipate joining in the Pokemon Go revolution, I am enjoying the rise in popularity.  I, personally, enjoy games and opportunities to explore new places and meet new people.  I love the idea that within our communities there are relics and adventures waiting to be discovered and often overlooked by those not paying close enough attention.  Additionally, don’t we all want to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves?  This is exactly why I have enjoyed geocaching, letterboxing, and book crossing at different points in my life and perhaps why people are drawn to stories like the ones in The DaVinci Code and the National Treasure movies.

Note: If you are already familiar with geocaching, letterboxing, and book crossing, please skip to the next paragraph. If not, read on for a description of these nerdy hobbies.  Geocaching involved the use of GPS coordinates posted on a website (geocaching.com) to find hidden objects or logs.   Many state parks and national parks have geocaches available for hunters.  Letterboxing (atlasquest.com or letterboxing.org) is similar to geocaching but adds personalized rubber stamps, often handmade.  When finding a letterbox, one leaves their stamped imprint on the letterbox log and also uses the provided stamp, often created to coordinate with the box theme, in their own logbook.  Book crossing involves leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.  The website, bookcrossing.com, provides the opportunity to log where the book was found and where it was left for readers to follow the book’s journey as well as find other books that have been left.

Perhaps Pokemon Go has tapped into our desire be distracted from the heartbreaking violence and hateful actions occurring around the world.  My brain and heart have grown weary of screaming, shooting, dying, and an inability to move towards solutions.  I can’t help but believe that the younger Pokemon Go players have tuned out the day’s hate-filled rhetoric and purposely tuned into the light-hearted distraction.  What might look like generational apathy, I wonder, could more likely be political weariness.  For this reason, I have resisted reading the often bogus posts about the app luring children towards harm and giving rise to crime.  Surely we can just enjoy something at face value.  Surely we can rememember how to have fun.

Time will tell how long the Pokemon Go phenomenon will last.   Surely some people will grow weary of the trend and move onto the next big thing while others will continue wandering around in exploration of new creatures.

Recently, when going to visit my grandmother at her retirement community, I could not find a parking spot. I was forced to park across the street and walk a greater distance than I preferred.  The parking spots were all occupied by people meeting for a regular bridge club gathering.  I have no idea how to play bridge and don’t know anyone in my age group that is a part of a bridge club.  This led me to daydream about retirement home social events and activities for my generation.  Will retirement villages boast about their “Aladdin’s Castle” game room or have Madden and Halo tournaments on the schedule?  Perhaps there will be Hamilton sing-a-longs and rap battle nights.  I’m sure I will be willing and eager to participate in anything that connects me to others of my generation and my community.

I wonder if the retirement homes my children enter will offer Pokemon Go nights. Can you imagine elderly players wandering around with a cane in one hand and their phone in the other while searching for a horned snake thing?  At least, even with their eyes down, they’d be engaged in an activity around others rather than isolating, rather than fighting.  A long life, a distraction from hate, a fulfilling hobby, and being apart of something bigger than one’s self…what more can we ask for?

Anticipating My Epic Return

In four short days, I will drop all three kids off at various daycares and head back to work following my ten week maternity leave.  This is not a blog post about how badly I long to be a stay-at-home mom and it is not a post about how much I love my job.  No, this is a post about humility, pride, and grace.  As I plan for my return, I can’t help but feel my face flush with embarrassment.  (If this were Wayne’s World, we’d now be waving our fingers in the air, saying “do do do, do do do…”, and signaling a flashback.)

My last Monday of work before having the baby, began like many others.  I woke up physically miserable, emotionally drained, and mentally absent.  I somehow trudged through our morning routine of screaming at everyone that we’d slept in and were behind schedule, cleaning Jack’s yogurt out of his hair, reminding Logan that we never watch tv in the morning despite his daily amnesia on this rule, and hollering the day’s schedule to Trey while I scrubbed my hair.  We raced out the door and I dropped both boys off at the appropriate locations.  I decided to meander rather than going straight to work and justified a donut treat because I was, after all, creating a human being.  I sat in the parking lot adjacent to the donut shop eating my treat and wishing I didn’t have to drag my pregnant self into work.  When I got to work, most of the parking spaces were occupied.  This was my punishment for being tardy.  Due to the cursed jeep being in the shop…again…I was driving Trey’s beast of a truck.  I typically avoid pulling into tight spaces because his truck is wide and difficult.  However, this morning my options were to pull into a slightly tight spot or park elsewhere and have to waddle further.  I pulled into the spot and was fairly proud to have done so.  In my memory, there was an empty spot next to me when I pulled in, but once the NPR story I was listening to ended, there was a little car next to me.  I turned off the car and opened the truck door.  Well, I tried to open the door.  The space between the car to my left and the truck door was not enough to allow my large body and pregnant belly to get out of the door.  No worries, I’m a problem solver.  I laughed to myself and began scooting my body across the truck seats to let myself out the passenger side door.  Well, I tried to open the passenger side door.  Again, I was too close to the van next to me to get out.  No worries, I’m a problem solver.  I decided to pull out of the spot and park on the other side of the lot.  Well…I turned the key…AND NOTHING HAPPENED!?  The truck was dead.  Let us recap.  I can’t open the driver’s side door.  I can’t open the passenger side door.  I can’t pull out of the spot.  Doesn’t this remind you of the children’s chant and book, “Bear Hunt”?  “Can’t go over it.  Can’t go under it.  Gotta go through it.”

Begrudgingly, I called Trey.

“Trey, I’m trapped in the truck.”

“What!?”

“I’m trapped in the truck.  I pulled into a space.  You’d be proud of how straight I’m parked in the space!  However, I’m too close to the other cars and can’t get out.  The truck is now dead and I am trapped.”

(I’ll let your imagination fill in his response.  It isn’t quite appropriate for this setting.)

Trey had been dropped off at the auto shop and was waiting for the jeep to be repaired.  He patiently (creative licenses are being taken) informed me that I’d need to wait for an hour or so for him to be able to come get me.  I remember wishing I had another donut.

I then called my boss to let her know that while I was at work, I wasn’t being very productive.  Once I assured her that I was fine and promised I wouldn’t go into labor, we laughed.  She then came out of the building with another administrator to check on me.  Again, I assured them that I was fine, promised that my water hadn’t broken, and the three of us laughed some more.  The word began to spread that pregnant Lauren was trapped in her car and people began to gather.  I suddenly empathized with animals at the zoo.  One coworker came rushing out of the building because she heard that I was in labor. Nope…just simply in emotional distress.  After what seemed like 3 hours (probably only 20-30 minutes) 400 people (20 were actually counted) were standing outside of my vehicle to provide emotional support (or laugh at my newest catastrophe).  The CEO and the CFO of the agency that employs me (although I suspect they may question my ability to carry on basic duties at this point) joined the crowd and asked me to pop the truck hood.  They were able to spot a disconnected battery cable and the truck started right up.  At that same time, another person had located the owner of the car to my left.  The car moved over and I could then get out.  Again, I assured everyone I was fine, that I wasn’t in labor, and laughed.  I waddled into the building and into my office, where I closed the door and spent significant time considering hiding under my desk for the rest of the day.  I finally decided that since there was a significant chance that I’d get stuck underneath my desk and would again draw a crowd, I decided to sit in my chair and count minutes until maternity leave.

Later that week, I had my annual employment review and much to my surprise, I maintained my job without any productivity goals related to my being a goober.  I have decided that being trapped in the parking lot has set my personal bar low.  My postpartum fatigue and “parent of three children-related mental fog” will be overlooked because “at least I’m not trapped in the truck today?”  I’ll look like a model employee…until the next incident.  Sigh…

Family Legacies

My Grandma has been in the hospital for the past week.  (Nothing too serious…just a quick tuneup following a fall)  I didn’t get to be with her as much as we both would have liked because we agreed it wasn’t wise to have my 2 month old baby around hospital germs.  During the time we did share, I caught her up on recent antics of my crazy boys and we reminisced about past adventures in parenting/great-grandparenting.  We laughed about Jack exposing himself at the birthday party (last post) and about the time Logan hung onto the rising garage door.  Grandma and I also wondered what tales Norah will add to our collection.

On my drive home from the hospital yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about other family stories.  Cars next to me must have wondered why I was grinning and laughing to myself.  I am fortunate to come from a long line of storytellers and have spent much of my time listening to the same stories be told over and over.  My paternal grandfather once had a country music show in Branson, Missouri and was a gifted storyteller.  One of his life mottos was that if a story gets a laugh once, it bears repeating.  Granted I never lived with Grandpa Jim, but I never grew weary of hearing his “greatest hits.”  Over 10 years since his death, I fondly recall some of those tales.  Each family member seems to accumulate their own portfolio of personal tales.  In family gatherings, I know that when stories are told about my dad someone will tell about Dad getting chased by a rooster multiple times because after the first rooster attack his older brother told him that he had simply approached the rooster incorrectly.  I know that my mom once tattled on her older brother when he “hitted [her] back.”  I know that I will never live down licking the peanut butter off a mouse trap (when I was a toddler), misunderstanding a story about hallucinogenic frogs, or declaring myself a “badge hog” in Camp Fire (a scouting-type youth organization.)  I don’t mind that the stories retold the most are goofs or mishaps.  Wouldn’t it be boring if your legacy was just that you were meek and mild?  I’m sure that one of my cousins played nicely but that story just isn’t as fun to tell as the time he mooned the entire family…including my grandmother.  (Right, Potter?)  I enjoy hearing the stories because it means that I’m remembered.  Someone remembers me with love and laughter.  I’ve often grieved for the foster kids I work with that there often isn’t anyone to collect these stories and retell them throughout their lives.  We continue telling these stories long after people move out of our lives.  Trey and I tell our boys about their Papa Jack and Great-Grandpa Jim all the time.  Jack is too young to have any memories of his Papa Jack but he already knows that Papa Jack loved to watch sports and that Papa Jack wore his pants up very high.  My Grandpa lives on through these stories.

“Meatloaf” is a cue word for my family.  Anytime someone mentions meatloaf, giggles are sure to ensue.  As the story goes, my mom prepared a meatloaf one Saturday evening to be popped in the often before we left for church the next morning.  When we came home from church, we sat at the table and Mom served us our meal.  She made meatloaf fairly frequently so this was not a new recipe but this time something was different.  The meatloaf had small crunchy things on top that had collected the cooking grease.  Dad, David, and I raved about the delicious meal as we tasted the crunchy pieces.  Mom agreed that something was particularly good about this meatloaf but she couldn’t figure out what was different.  As she began cleaning the lunch dishes she continued to search her mind to understand what made this meatloaf better.  She considered the regular ingredients, reflected on the time in the fridge, and checked the oven temperature…and then she realized what had occurred.  After removing the loaf from the fridge, she failed to take off the plastic wrap before putting it in the oven.  The oven had melted the plastic during cooking and the juice from the meat was captured in the little crunchy pieces of melted plastic wrap.  Mom began crying that she’d fed us plastic.  My brother tried to calm her by saying, “Its ok, Mom.  Our poop will come out in little pre wrapped packages.”  Poor mom will never live down feeding us plastic wrap and the rest of us will never live down enjoying it!

I often wonder what stories the kids will someday tell about me and Trey.  What crazy family antics will become our legacy?  Last week, when my best friend and one of her daughters came to visit, I caught the oven on fire while cooking frozen pizzas.  For several days, Jack played out the incident with his plastic pizza and toy kitchen.  He’d put the pizza in the oven, close the door, and exclaim “Oh no!  The pizza is on fire!  Time to go to the restaurant!”  Perhaps this will be one of my parenting legacies.  It could be worse, right?