Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Responsible One

In my family I was always known as "the responsible one." I'm the oldest of five children, so I guess I came by the nickname naturally. (I'm also known as Bubbles and Moochie, but explanations for those terms of endearment are not for this post.)

Because of the experience I had today, I think one of my siblings is going to have to take the title away from me, as I am no longer deserving of such an accolade. I hang my head in shame to admit to the following story, but those of you who follow my blogs understand that I am entirely capable of doing this brainless thing.

It all started very innocently. Christina was accompanying her second grader on a field trip today, so she asked me to take her foster daughter, "Angel", to her visit with her mother. No problem--I've done it before, I could certainly do it again. The one-hour visit went well and Angel and I returned to my car. I unlocked the passenger side of my two-door T-bird, threw my keys and purse onto the console, and securely fastened Angel into her car seat in the back. I slammed the door and went around to the driver's side to get in. Lifted the door handle, but nothing happened. I figured I hadn't hit the button from the other side that would unlatch both doors, so went back to the passenger side to do so. Lifted the handle--nothing happened. Yep, right there in the parking lot of DHS I had managed to lock a 2-year-old foster child in my car!

What's a grandma to do?? Angel smiled at me from the back seat, enjoying the yummy treat Mommy had given her during their visit. I yelled through the window that I would be right back, and ran through the icy rain to the back door of DHS and rang the button that would let them buzz me in. When a man answered and said I could enter, I opened the door and said to the faceless voice on the intercom, "I need some help!" He came out and I explained the situation, feeling like a complete idiot. (I kept an eye on my car this whole time, though the chances of someone being able to drive off with Angel in my locked car were pretty slim!)

Long story shorter, the case worker came out and stood in the rain while I went in and called AAA. I couldn't give them much info, as my AAA card was locked in the car, but as soon as they heard I had a two-year-old in a locked car in wintry conditions, and eating a snack that she might choke on, they said they'd make it a high priority call and get someone there as soon as possible. I went back to the car and spent the next fifteen minutes making faces through the window and singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to an adorable little girl who stayed happy and didn't choke. (The case worker and I decided we'd break a window if necessary.)

Finally a tow truck pulled up and a big old guy got out, hitching up his pants as he made his way to my car. He worked and worked, putting wedges in the door, snaking a wire in to try to lift the door lock. (Every time he moved, his pants slipped down, his shirt slithered up and showed off an over-indulged stomach, but he was still a hero to me!) He tried for nearly 20 minutes, but wasn't having a lot of luck.

Another tow truck pulled up then, dispatched by the local police department. The guy got out and brought his tools around to the driver's side and started working. I've heard of dueling banjos, but dueling locksmiths? Forty-five minutes after trapping my keys, purse, and ... oh, yeah, a child in the car, I was rescued. The first man was able to get a wire to grab hold of my bunch of keys and bring them out through the wedge in the door.I was chilled to the bone from having stood in a big puddle all that time, and was ready for lunch, but oh, so glad that Angel had found the whole episode hugely entertaining and hadn't fussed at all.

Yes, I will be exceedingly careful to keep my keys in my hands or pockets at all times when I'm putting Angel in the car (if Christina ever trusts me with her again,) but the bigger lesson in all of this was for Angel. It was a day of teaching her opposites: warm--cold; dry--wet; full--hungry;
responsible--not so much!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Around the Bend

I awoke to beautiful sunshine Friday morning. Such a nice change from the arctic blast and snow of last month. When I opened the blinds and took a closer look outside, I saw the trees and driveway were covered with frost.

A little later I jumped in the car and headed to town to do my Curves workout. As I pulled onto the highway I noted the countryside was covered with white, but it wasn't snow. It's what we call pogonip, which I think is a Native American word for the icy fog that sometimes forms and encases the trees and each individual blade of grass with a frozen grip. Two curves later I entered a fog bank. Where was the sun? It had been streaming in my eyes just moments before.

For the next 16 miles I drove through the thick cloud, unable to see more than a few yards ahead of me. I got to Curves, did my my exercise routine, and headed to the grocery store. About two blocks from the store the weather changed yet again, and snow covered the ground. It fell against my face as I walked into the store, covered my windshield by the time I returned to my car. I retraced my way home, my headlights straining against the dense fog. Suddenly I burst out into sunshine and blue sky, but with the pogonip still painting the countryside ice-crystal white. The contrast of the icy trees against the azure sky was phenomenal. If I'd had a camera with me, you'd be looking at that beautiful winter scene right now.

My simple journey made me think of my life. I wake up in the morning having no clue (no, don't stop the sentence there!) of what will happen that day. Of what will be around the next bend in my life. I may be walking in sunshine one moment, then suddenly halted by dark circumstances that surround me, making it hard to see more than a few steps ahead. And when I think it can't get any worse, it does! Then there are those times when the pogonip and blue skies come together, the harsh realities of life mixed with the hope of more luminous days ahead.

I'm reminded of the verses from Isaiah 42 where the Lord says,"I will lead the blind along a way they never knew; I will guide them along paths they have not known. I will make the darkness become light for them, and the rough ground smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not leave my people." What a great promise to hold on to, no matter what the weather in your life.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I've Been Taking a Pounding!

I've got a few snippets of things to share with you this time, but hopefully you'll see the common thread. (I must confess, however, that I'm not a very good seamstress!)

Fifteen pounds: When I got home from the ACFW conference in September and stepped on the scale, I was appalled. Then when I saw pictures taken of me there I felt even worse. Where had this overweight woman come from? I used to be way too thin and found it impossible to gain. I would read magazine articles having to do with weight loss and do the opposite of what they said, trying to put a few ounces on my tall frame. Way back in high school I'd been so thin that a doctor had put me on pills that he gave to football players to make them gain weight. While I took those, I gained 1/2 pound a day, but as soon as I was off them, the weight slithered off. Decades had passed and trying to gain weight was no longer a problem. Now the opposite was an unwanted part of my life.

I had been a member of Curves for over a year by the time I returned from ACFW, but hadn't taken it seriously. I would go when I could fit it into my schedule (it's 25 minutes away), or when I didn't have anything better to do. Needless to say, that meant I rarely showed up. But after seeing those pictures ... well, enough was enough! Since the first week of October I have worked out at Curves three times a week, with the only exception being when we were snowed in for two weeks at Christmas. I've been more aware of the size of my portions and have lost 15 pounds. That's a great way to start the year!

Four pounds: When I walked into Curves today, the staff person told me she needed to take my picture. Usually I have other places to go after working out, and have my hair and makeup done. But today I'd basically rolled out of bed, pulled my hair back, and only put mascara on before heading out the door. Certainly not at my most glamorous. When I asked why she needed a photo, she said I had been the woman to lose the most weight over the holiday season! It was only four pounds, but hey, it was a loss and I had worked hard for it. Another great way to start the year! (And I convinced her to wait until Monday to snap the picture!)

Seven pounds: John and I rarely have a date to the movies because we have a wonderful home theater and wait to see videos there. But last night was an exception. Christina, Kevin, and the kids were gone for the weekend. Instead of enjoying the unusually empty house, we heated up leftovers, gobbled them down, and headed off to the movies. And you probably know what we saw, if you're picking up on the theme of this post. Yes, Will Smith's latest--Seven Pounds. I'm not going to say what it's about, as it's so much more fun to discover it for yourself. As a writer, I was taken with how the information was given to the viewers in a way that we had to piece it together. It certainly wasn't spelled out, and we weren't told what to think about it. It was a very thought-provoking movie and one we discussed on the way home. Go see it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Light Look at the New Year

So here it is, the beginning of a new year. The busyness of the Christmas season is over, the kids are back in school (finally!), and it’s time to take a few minutes to think through what we’d like to see happen in 2009. Maybe you’re the kind of person who sits down on New Year’s Eve and writes out your resolutions for the year. Or perhaps you’ve learned from experience that there’s no sense to bother doing that, as you never keep them anyway!

In an attempt to make your transition into the new year a little easier, I offer you these resolutions that you can tweak and make your own:

1. Do not, under any circumstance, forget to remove all the tags from new clothes you purchase. It is extremely embarrassing to find out at the end of the day, after traipsing all over town, that you are wearing a sweater that still has the clear plastic strip stuck across your chest, with the letter “L” running its length. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

2. Make this the year that you care more about the environment. Do your part to conserve energy. Do not put the detergent, bleach, and fabric softener in your washing machine, start the load of laundry, and later discover that you forgot to put the clothes in the washer. Especially do not allow your son-in-law to be nearby when you discover your mistake. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

3. When you’re eating a plate of spaghetti on the couch in front of the TV and the doorbell rings and you put the plate down on the cushion while you answer the door, do not forget that the plate is there when you go back and sit down. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

4. Do not attempt a gymnast-only type move atop a big exercise ball, even in the privacy of your own home, when you are a woman of age. This can result in a scraped nose that takes two weeks to heal, as well as a sprained wrist. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

5. Finally, lighten up. Whether that means losing weight, getting rid of “stuff” around the house, or taking yourself less seriously, do something to get rid of the thoughts and habits that keep you from living an abundant life. Look at the funny side, even when you make mistakes. (I know this from personal experience!)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wrapping Up Last Year

As a new year dawns I always get a rush of organization that comes over me. I go through closets and cupboards, tossing out things I no longer use, or use so infrequently that it's not worth the space they fill. This year I need to do that with my blog too. Thus, a brief synopsis of my Christmas.

Here in western Oregon we were hit with a big snow storm that started on December 14th and lasted for two weeks. Our house is atop a very steep driveway and we ended up being snowed in most of that time. The guys were unable to get vehicles up and down except for the four-wheeler, and that soon became an impossibility also. Kevin (Christina's husband) would stop at the store as needed after work, then carry heavy grocery bags home through the snow from the bottom of our hill where he'd leave his truck. My parents, who only live 18 miles away, were to be with us for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but there was no way to get them up to the house. So near, and yet so far!

Our plans for a calm, cozy Christmas began to evaporate. The morning of the 24th, our power went off. Living out in the country, we have a generator for such emergencies, though we've only had to use it for a few hours in the past. It certainly paid for itself this time, as we were without power for 2-1/2 days. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are not the two days I would have chosen, but we managed. Christina's family packed up and came downstairs to stay with us, as our heater can run off the generator, but their heat pumps can't. Joshua (age 7) was running a fever and spent most of his time on the couch while the rest of us idled away the hours playing Pinochle, Hand and Foot, and a few other games.

After a nice dinner prepared by Christina in my kitchen, we gathered around to open our gifts as we traditionally do on Christmas Eve. The only trouble was the Christmas tree, surrounded by presents, was upstairs in the Berry's living room. John and I didn't have a tree since we were going to be celebrating with them. It was way too cold to be in the unheated upstairs house, so Santa's elves whisked the gifts down to our bare living room. You just do what you have to do!

John left on a piano tuning trip to Nevada on the 26th. On Saturday the 27th the roads were passable enough that Kevin was able to ferry the rest of the family down on the four-wheeler in three different runs. We crammed into the pickup and made the trek to my parents' house to have a late celebration with them. It was a very special family time and I only regret that John wasn't there to enjoy it.

The weatherman said this was the biggest snowstorm to hit Portland in 40 years, and I believe him! Chances are we won't run into the same problems next year, but I think we'll be prepared, just in case!