Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Shut Up Song

There’s a difference between smooth talkers and people who are good with words.  I’ve been drawn to both.  The smooth talker is the guy trying to sell you cars and time shares.  He’s the star basketball player who says all the pretty words that make you think he is interested in you.  He plucks a verbal flower and saunters toward you, simultaneously holding your gaze as you think, “I can’t wait to hear what comes next.”  Then he walks right past you and hands the spoken gardenia to the prettier girl behind you.  She giggles, and you roll your eyes and pretend you were never really that interested in the first place.

People who are good with words, on the other hand, have the ability to walk up to a regular tree, pluck the most ordinary piece of fruit and describe it so eloquently that you want to devour the whole thing.  You want to be the branch that helped grow such a delicious wonder just so you can claim you were a part of it.  The words flow so effortlessly that you just want to stand there and study how it’s done, hoping one day to exhibit a similar stroke of brilliance.  I grew up surrounded by people who were good at this, so perhaps that’s why it appeals to me.

At this point in my life, I’ve come to loathe the smooth talkers.  I’m no longer the permeable sponge who soaks up shallow lines.  Not only do I see through the smooth talkers but I want them to know I am on to them.  They can say the words alright, but the delivery will never arrive within the window they gave you.  They are like the plumber who promised to be there by 5:00 but ignores your calls and shows up 2 days later with a reason why it was all your fault.  People who are good with words, however, are still my virtual cocaine.  I can’t get enough.  I want more.  I want to float in their carefully chosen sentences and invite them over for hot chocolate so they will stay a little longer. 

And then there’s Cory.  When I met my husband I was attracted to his quiet confidence, his subdued drive, and his integrity.  He wasn’t boastful but he believed in himself.  He wasn’t a workaholic but he worked hard and I could tell he was going places.  When his parents offered to help him out with college tuition he essentially said, “thanks but no thanks” and got a job and a small student loan.  And now that we got that over with I should add that he was also easy on the eyes.  However, the boy is an accountant.  He is a numbers guy.  He works with graphs and spreadsheets and data that has clear input and output; logical results.  Although he has gifted me with several versions of his vulnerable written word it is safe to say, words are not his thing.  Cory uses words to describe cause and effect, what happened and why, facts and logical consequences, but not poetry.  Not feelings.  He is literal, not literary.  A good punishment after a fight would be pulling out a copy of “The 5 Love Languages” and requesting that we start on page 1 to analyze all the things.   

Several years ago I became a fan of the movie Notting Hill and decided to buy the soundtrack.  One afternoon as Cory and I drove along to the CD there was a line that rang through the car singing, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”  I turned to him and said with a smile, “Babe, I dedicate this to you.”  As he continued to listen and pay closer attention to the lyrics he concluded, “So…what you’re saying is I should just shut up?”  We laughed, and from then on it became affectionately known as, “The Shut Up Song.”

It has taken me a while to fully appreciate it, but I have decided that one of Cory’s more beautiful gifts is what he says when he doesn’t say anything.  I have stood in closets, sat on couches and paced the hallways of our home ranting about my frustrations of the moment.  He sits quietly, lets me get it out, and typically follows it up with a supportive embrace.  The silence says, “I don’t have the answers, and you’re a little bit crazy, but man I love you.”  I have picked fights born of insignificant matters and left the door open for him to respond in kind.  He never does.  If tensions rise and I’m pushing him to the edge he stops and says, “I don’t want to say something I will regret later so I need to walk away.”  What he says by walking away is, “Our long-term relationship is more important to me than this argument right here.”  In addition, the man has seen me as a size 6 and he has seen me as…not a size 6.  My weight fluctuates like the tempers on Bravo TV and in 24 years of marriage, NOT. A. WORD.  But I hear him speaking anyway.  You’re beautiful, you’re good enough, you’re my wife, not a number on a scale.”  

Recently we have entered new territory.  His burden is increasingly heavy.  He can’t say anything, but his moistened eyes tell a number of stories.  The fact that his eyes are ever teary at all is practically worthy of a front page spread but the fact is, something is happening.  Without ever opening his mouth I have been hearing him say:
“This is hard.”
“I love you.”
“I am in over my head.”
“I care about people.”
“Seriously though, you are the best.”
“I’m worried about everyone I know.”
“Jesus is real.”

Not a smooth talker.  Not a master of words.  But what he says when he says nothing, that’s what impresses me.

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Last First Day



This morning while the rest of my neighbors flooded Facebook and Instagram with pictures of their kids on the first day of school, I got up 15 minutes before my son had to leave and didn’t even make him breakfast.  I always get butterflies in my stomach before the start of something new so I asked him, “Do you have butterflies?”  “No,” he said.  “I have depression.”  I chuckled, knowing he was only half kidding.  He fished around on the desk, grabbed two pencils, slapped them down by his backpack and declared, “School supplies.”  Before he could ask I grabbed two notebooks of paper that I spent 21 cents on earlier in the week and dangled them before him.  “Purple or red?” I asked.  He replied, “Both.”  Not because he is planning on taking that many notes but because he is probably planning on losing one of them before noon and needs a backup. 

I told him I loved him as he walked out the door.   He returned my sentiment as he shuffled out wearing just his socks, and explained that his shoes were probably in his car.  I stood in the doorway and watched him slump into the front seat, throw his backpack onto the passenger side and locate his shoes.  Seconds later the engine was fired up and he inched out of the street as I said a silent prayer for the millionth time.  “Please.  Please let this be a better year.  Watch over this one.”  Then I shut the door, grabbed a breakfast smoothie and headed to the deck to watch an episode of The West Wing on Netflix where I would postpone reality for 43 more minutes. 

Today is my last first day of school with my children.  If I sound sad about it then perhaps I should give you our school guidance counselor’s phone number; there’s a litany of concerns he desires not to help you with.  If he’s not available there’s a Vice Principal in the wings waiting to make your smallest request feel like federal legislation.  Not satisfied?  Don’t worry, our school security has your back.  They only require your driver’s license, fingernail clippings and a blood sample to walk 20 yards to drop off your money to the Athletic office which, incidentally, might make the school safer from parents waltzing in unannounced in their mom jeans but not actually safer from bad guys.  Mind you, this doesn’t actually pay for your sport.  This is more of a down payment on the fundraiser where you will be required to solicit all of your family and friends to donate a kidney if you really want to be on the team.  They try to pass this off as “school spirit”.

So no, I’m not sad or melancholy about this last, first day.  Video of me dancing naked to MKTO’s “Classic” in my family room is on its way.  (You wish.) 

Monday, October 17, 2016

I Don't Know About You, But I'm Feeling 82

I went to take care of some business at my local bank.  The friendly bank teller asked me, "How was your weekend?"  I stared back at her and said, "I wish I could remember that far back!"

I was invited to hike a 14-er (for you non-Coloradans that's code for a 14,000 ft mountain peak) and I replied, "I don't think my knee can take it."

There are hormone pills, iron deficiency meds and vitamin D supplements in my cabinet, I have an assortment of creams trying to address my childhood in the sun, and I even went off dairy/sugar/flour/all things bright and beautiful for a whole month trying to reduce my cholesterol.  It worked.  I celebrated with dairy/sugar/flour/all things bright and beautiful for the NEXT 30 days.  So maybe the point wasn't to improve my cholesterol so much as make me empathize with alcoholics who come out of rehab and immediately toast their sobriety with a beer. 

The point is, I'm feeling really old, you guys.  I knew it would happen, I just didn't expect it to be so soon.  At 45 my mom had a toddler and two kids in elementary school, but I'm shuffling around my house trying to make sure I don't mistake cool whip for eye cream.  How much longer before I accidentally frost those cupcakes with Preparation-H?  NOBODY KNOWS.  I've already been known to hit up Texas Roadhouse for their early bird special (the Dallas Filet needs time to digest, y'all!) so anything is possible.

In other news, I would like to update since the last post.  It's been 10 months, it's the least I can do.  I didn't think anyone would notice because reducing writing to once a year doesn't tend to draw an audience.  However, I have had a few emails requesting an update so this is for you.  Long story short:  all is well.  Short story long:  On the weekend that my daughter was leaving for her mission my son was two weeks into a very puzzling set of symptoms.  We had been in/out of various doctor's offices but the day before Samantha's farewell we were called into urgent care (that's right, THEY called US) because he had alarming results to the blood test taken the day before.  At 10am they told me they were worried that his symptoms were pointing to leukemia.  They drew more blood, put a rush on the test results and told us we should hear back by the end of the day.  When we got in the car Drew tried to remain calm and asked, "Mom, if I have cancer can I finally get a dog?"  It was funny/not funny.  When my phone rang at 5:30pm the buzz of nervous energy surrounding our visiting family went radio silent as they watched and listened for my response as I talked to the doctor.  Results were back to normal.  I repeated it out loud as I nodded to my family in the other room, everyone exhaled, and we went back to focusing on sending Samantha off in style.  Cactus coolers all around!

Samantha has been serving as a full-time missionary for Jesus Christ for 8 months already.  We receive weekly emails, and we got to Skype with her for about an hour on Mother's Day.  We look forward to being able to do that again on Christmas, but otherwise we only hear from her via email once a week.  Sometimes I have dreams that I am hugging her.  Only 10 more months.  I'm already planning her homecoming party.  I'm thinking...cupcakes?  I know I have some frosting in a drawer somewhere....


Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's OK. It's Not OK. It's OK.



The halls of my home are stilled, and quiet fills the air.  

There’s a gentle hum in the basement that comes and goes with familiarity.

The oven has been on all night; a routine move reserved for tried and true methods for the best Sunday roast.  

But these halls, the basement, the oven; they do not speak for me.

There is nothing quiet about the thoughts that wake my mind at 5:00am on a Sunday and refuse to retreat and let me sleep.  There’s nothing gentle or familiar about spending the last seven days in facilities all over town trying to figure out why my  15-year-old, 6’ 2” son can’t walk up the stairs without gripping the rails or eat more than a piece of toast.  Routine doesn’t even begin to make the short list of words to describe how I feel about putting my daughter on a plane with a few skirts and a toothbrush and telling her goodbye for eighteen months.  

People say change is good.  I support that notion when change is defined as, “Hey, let’s eat shave ice in Hawaii for Christmas instead of scraping ice off our cars in Colorado!”  But the kind of change that says, “Hey!  We don’t know what’s wrong with your kid and your family that you have devoted your entire life to is never going to be the same!  And while we're at it we're taking Downton Abbey off the air and Costco is replacing the Ghiradelli chips with the Kirkland brand,” is the kind of change that can shove it.  

I do have to be fair, though.

My phone has buzzed incessantly this week with messages and calls from loving family and friends.

There have been gentle nudges from divine intervention to remind me that this little family of mine is no accident and is never going away permanently.  

I am routinely thankful for the good people who surround me and make the stresses of life easier to shoulder.

Mercifully, that is all too familiar.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Same Boy

The boy who has an hour before a lacrosse game but waits until five minutes before we have to leave to ask me if I've seen his navy blue shorts...

The boy who comes home from school and plays on his phone for 2 hours but waits until it is time for bed to put in a load of laundry and then has to wait another 45 minutes so he can put it in the dryer before morning...

The boy who has enough clothes in a pile on his bedroom floor to clothe all naked children in every third world country but claims he "has a system"...

The boy who was sent into the store to buy himself a winter coat and came out with a canvas windbreaker ("It's FINE Mom")...

He is the same boy who looked me square in the eye and told me I was a good teacher.
He is the same boy who went into Costco to get the protein shakes he needed and came back with a 2-pack of Vitamin C because he knew I wasn't feeling well.
He is the same boy who when I asked, "Would you rather bring in the trash cans or unload the groceries?" replied, "BOTH."
He is the same boy who says things like, "I just want to curl up in a ball and eat boxes of candy surrounded by a bunch of cute puppies."
He is the same boy who dressed up in a unicorn costume to deliver a birthday gift to a friend of mine that needed a good laugh.
He is the same boy who was summoned by an adult last week to ask a certain girl to dance and he immediately agreed.

The boy that drives me crazy but that I am crazy about...

...is the same.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What A Difference A Year Makes



Exactly a year ago I was in my family room pacing back and forth, sobbing and absentmindedly running my hands through my hair as I tried to understand what was happening to me.  I didn’t feel upset.  I wasn’t necessarily panicked (or so I thought).  I felt like I was under control but my body was responding otherwise.  It’s not like nothing was going on;  I was preparing to drive my oldest child, my daughter, off to college the next morning.  But I was happy for her!  And I am not dramatic!  (Much!)  So what was with all the crying?

I couldn’t understand it but I knew I needed help, so I called the only person I knew with the ability to calm me down. 

God.  

I have a lot of questions for Him on a regular basis, but on this night I only asked him one.

“Will you come with us?”

I uttered a few other concerns in my prayer.  Something about it being January...icy roads…two girls in a car for 11 hours…driving across Wyoming…oh, Wyoming, I’m sorry for whatever you did to deserve being Wyoming.  Do the overpopulation enthusiasts know about you?  Because I feel like it would help.  I’M GETTING OFF TRACK.  Sorry.  Heavenly Father, I know you love us.  I know there are bigger problems in the world than sending my daughter off to live in Idaho for seven months but…actually, no.  THIS IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FACING AMERICA.  Just, please.  Will you get in the backseat and come along?  We could really use your company.

And He did.

I swear, He did.

I felt peace.  I slept that night.  We got in the car the next morning, sang along to “500 miles”, took potty breaks at Little America, and drove to Rexburg, Idaho without incident.  However, it’s not the “without incident” part that truly gave me comfort, it was the comfort itself.  I am humbled by the peace that comes from a loving God and I felt it keenly during the next three days.  I felt it as we shopped for groceries.  I felt it as we unpacked and set up her room.  I felt it as I hugged her for the last time before returning home, and I felt it as I slept that night in an utter state of calm.  I hope you guys are paying attention because I just divulged that Heavenly Father can bless you when you go to Wal Mart in a town of 25,000 people where 15,000 of those people are students who are also all going to Wal Mart for the same reason.  I’m telling you, He is a big, flippin’ deal.

Fast-forward to the present day.  Samantha has been through a whole heckofalot this year.  A lot of it crappy, a lot of it not crappy at all.  But there’s something amazing I observed as I sent my child to live somewhere else away from my bottomless supply of toilet paper and Honey Comb and it is this:  Heavenly Father didn’t leave her alone.  In the midst of the crap and the not so crap He was there for her, and she listened to Him.  She asked questions, and He gave answers, and as a result of many months of searching she has decided to serve as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  She will pack 2 dresses, 4 skirts, 3 shirts and a few personal items and move to Tucson, Arizona for eighteen months and try to teach people about the Savior, Jesus Christ.  With the exception of a weekly email and Skyping twice a year I will not see or hear from her for a year and a half.

I am a month away from dropping her off.  I haven’t started pacing and sobbing or pulling at my hair in bizarre, desperate ways, but I feel it coming and I sense that my plea to God will be similar. 

“Will you go with her?”

And He will.  

“Will you stay with me too?”

And He will.

And this time I don’t have to cross Wyoming.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Security!



Until this morning, no one had ever threatened to call security on me before.  But this mama bear was not one to mess with today.  I had been waiting by my phone for Samantha to send me the signal that she was warming up for her final race of her high school career.  Seven years she had invested in this sport and we were on our way to see her run one last time.  I will not miss going to track meets, but I will miss watching my baby girl lap that track and fight to achieve her goals.  She sent our signal and we headed out.

This year has been hard.  Cross country season was a phenomenal letdown as she had high hopes and painful injuries that kept her from doing what she worked three long years to accomplish.  It tested her commitment, her drive, and her faith but in impressive fashion she looked past, forward, and more importantly, she looked up.  Her body has been holding up during track season despite coming home on multiple occasions with bags of ice wrapped around her calves, but she had yet to push through that final wall.

The 800 meter run is her main event and all year she's had a goal for a specific time.  She had come within 3 seconds of it before, and within 5 or 6 seconds of it on multiple occasions.  It doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but when you’re only running two laps you would be surprised how hard it is to close that gap.  Today was her last chance.  The League Championships are a 2-day event and they hadn’t charged for day 1, but as we approached the entrance on day 2 we discovered that they were charging to get in.  “That will be $13,” she said.  We were unprepared – neither Cory nor I had any money.  “Well,” the cashier said, “there’s a 7-11 across the street where you can find an ATM.”

The race started in 10 minutes.  My head got hot and I replied, “Sorry, but I’m going in to watch my daughter race right now.  I’ll have to figure this out later.”  “Alright then, I’ll just have to call security,” she spit back.  “That’s fine, you do that,” I managed as I made my way past her with Cory and Drew in tow.  I had butterflies in my stomach the whole ride over and the threat of security only heightened my anxiety over this last and final event.

Last.

Final.

These words have become all too common lately.

I knew how important it was to her to do well, and I didn’t want to see her walk away disappointed again.  As I watched her line up I said what I always say under my breath, “Come on baby girl, this is your time.”  The gun shot off into the air and they were off.  Seconds and hundredths of seconds began ticking away on the scoreboard as they rounded off 200 meters, then 400 meters, and she looked strong.  Fierce, upright, determined; her first 400 meters had her leading the pack.  With my palms face together and poised at my lips, I watched intently as she headed into her second lap.  “Come on baby girl, this is your time.  Your last chance.”  When she passed in front of me I screamed my normal, “Go baby! Go!  You can do it!” but unabashedly added, “I LOVE YOU SAMANTHA!”  The seconds were ticking by but I knew she was having a good run and I prayed for her to have this moment.  I knew she deserved it - payment for a grueling year, reward for never giving up, and joy for finally achieving one more personal record.  As she crossed the finish line I shot my eyes up to the scoreboard before flashing them over to the coach on the field, gripping his timer with force; my answer was confirmed by his reaction – with a fist pump in the air and a sprint to meet her at the finish line I knew she had done it.  She did it!  I couldn’t believe it.  She was finally having her moment – she bent over in exhaustion before running over to the coach and giving him a hug.  A moment later I saw her look up into the stands where I met her distant stare – she found me, raised both arms in triumph and I raised mine in the air to match it.  

I was crying by now, and it took a few more minutes before I got to hug her myself and tell her how proud I was of her.  She cried into my shoulder as we held each other and managed through her tears, “Thanks Mom.”  When she pulled back I spotted the huddle of team members rushing over to congratulate her as I stepped aside and paused to take it all in.  Lots of smiling, hugging, and celebrating ensued. 

Her moment. 

My girl.

Samantha stayed behind to cheer on her other teammates for the remainder of the meet while Cory, Drew and I headed for the exit.  We hit yelp for the nearest bank, grabbed some cash and I went back to pay the cashier.  “Hi,” I said as I approached the kiosk.  “I believe I owe you $13.”  

And security never came.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Phone Call

These days when the phone rings it’s usually one of two possibilities.  It is either a telemarketer or it’s my friend Jill calling to tell me she almost hit a goat/clown/wild turkey.  Jill’s not a good driver and she used to live in Montana so those references are not fabricated.  That’s not the point of today’s story, although sometime I would be happy to share how she got lost going from Provo to Orem (helpful hint: when you pass Thanksgiving Point you’ve gone too far) or how it used to take her 20 minutes to get to my house which was only a mile away.  But.  Today’s story is about a telemarketer.

The phone rang last night and my 13-year-old son, Drew was closest to the one downstairs so he picked it up.  “Hello?” I heard him answer as I simultaneously grabbed the upstairs phone and hit “Talk”.  That’s when I heard the woman on the other end begin her pitch.  “…and with your generous donation today of $75 you can really help us make a difference….”  Drew listened politely as he made his way upstairs to hand the phone over to me.  When he got to me, however, I turned him away and mouthed silently that I didn’t want to talk and told him to handle it.

Game on.

After said telemarketer made her pitch Drew grew emotional with her and responded while Sam and I listened on the other end on speaker.  “Well, I’m so sorry but I have 5 kids and I just lost my house and…” *sniff *sniff “…I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!”  He was not too emotional to invite suspicion so the telemarketer showed mild concern.  “Oh, wow.  I’m so sorry.  I definitely understand.  (Um, really?)  But, you know, you don’t have to do $75.  You could just do $50 and pay it off over time.”  How thoughtful and generous of the telemarketer lady!  Realizing he needed a little more grease on his wheels, Drew upped the ante.  “And my MOM JUST DIED!”  I wondered if the woman would know she was being played at this point but it seemed as if this new revelation made her genuinely concerned.  
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.  That’s terrible,” she said.  And then, “How old are you?”  
Abort!  Abort!  We’ve been found out!
But Drew didn’t back down.  “About…32.  Almost 33.”
“Oh,” she continued.  “You sound more like you’re in your early 20’s.”  Seriously lady?  Are you actually falling for this?
“Wow, THANKS!” Drew responded, as if he felt complimented on appearing younger than his age rather than the other way around.
“Well, I’m so sorry for your loss.  I don’t want to bother you, maybe we’ll call you again some other time when it’s more convenient.”
“Ok, thanks.” Drew said, and hung up.

The three of us then dissolved into laughter on the floor of Samantha’s bedroom and the poor telemarketer lady ran off to her next victim.  Preferably they are nicer, more attentive, and are willing to part with seventy-five bucks.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Everything

As I shut the back sliding glass door behind my 13-year-old boy this morning, there was a fresh two inches of powder on the ground.  He quietly made his way to the bus as I headed toward the front to shovel our driveway.  When I came back I glanced out the rear window and saw the trail he left behind.  It felt rather symbolic of the last few months and elicited the following thoughts:



Everything

The babes I once held close
To whisper away the cries
To rock to sleep
To hold
Just because I wanted to.
I was their everything.

They learned to walk.
My hands outstretched
To catch (just in case)
To steady
To encourage
To engulf in a hug when they made it.
Aside from fruit snacks
I was their everything.

Their feet grew.
Their world got bigger.
Their strides grew longer.
Now they walk
They run
They jump
They do everything.

But the trail has shifted.
The footprints face away
Instead of toward me.
Positive they know what to do
Positive they know the way
But I wonder.
Are they ready?
Have I taught them everything?

It is what I want for them.
It is how it is supposed to be.
This hollow breath in my throat
It has nowhere to go,
No way to feel right.
Have I done my job?
Is this all there is?
Is this everything?

Dear God,
I hope you know what you’re doing.
Lead them
Guide them
Walk beside them
Please make sure my babies make it.
They have to.

They are
After all
My Everything.

Drew's footprints left in the snow this morning