Monday, December 27, 2010

Tip to avoid holiday weight gain: poison yourself on Christmas Eve.

It's still a guess as to whether I poisoned myself, if I had the stomach flu, or if it's all part of some strange twisted scheme in the universe to make sure I can't truly enjoy a holiday, but I started my Christmas Day at 3:00am, hoping Santa had filled my stocking with Pepto-Bismol.

Let's rewind a day...

Christmas Eve gets a little hectic, so I planned ahead and tossed some food in the crock pot so dinner would be ready when we needed it. So when mealtime came, I ate all my food, my children picked at their plates (as usual) and my husband also downed a fair portion.

Fast forward to Christmas morning, and I'm seeing my crock pot creation in a way no one wants to.


My husband, having ate his fill as well, also wasn't feeling the best, but he was managing better than I.

Of course we had grand plans of traveling on Christmas Day to my parents house. I have a strong will and was not about to let nature ruin another holiday for me.

Last  year, a state-wide blizzard kept everyone home on Christmas. Boo! Hiss! And my Thanksgiving travel plans a month ago also got whacked due to inclement weather. I was NOT about to let some pot roast ruin my Christmas!

So I showered, packed our van, and was determined to hold my digestive track hostage for two hours. With the lack of "rest stops" on the route to my parents, it would require a lot of prayer and a little Lamaze breathing to get me to our destination without the need to throw open the passenger door and dot the fresh, white snow with something a little less fresh. (My husband also noted that he has never driven that fast to my parents' house. God bless him.)

I made it, but as I swung open the door to my parents' home that smelled of ham, potatoes and all the fixings...I didn't even get out a "hello" before I dashed into the nearest restroom. (Sure glad they built one right off the entry!)

But here's the 'up' side to it all. The table spread with every delectable fudge, peanut cluster and candies galore that normally would have me salivating and filling my plate to excess...didn't appeal to me in the least.

I managed to escape this calorie-packed holiday weekend unscathed. I even managed to lose a couple pounds.

I have now developed a ferocious head cold so with no sense of smell, I still have little desire to eat.

So you could say it turned out to be the perfect holiday. I was able to spend it with my family, I didn't eat too much, and I don't feel the need to crank up my gym routine in order to drop the holiday weight.

I guess the biggest thanks goes to the farmer who blessed us with contaminated beef several months ago. Or, if it wasn't food poisoning, I should thank whoever shared their flu germs with me.

After all, Mary didn't let some intense labor pains keep her from traveling. If she can make the trek on a donkey, wind up in a smelly barn and still produce the Savior of the world, I should certainly be able to rejoice in my own circumstances!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Road Less Traveled...only because I can't find it!

I don't consider myself to be a slow learner. Honestly, I can typically pick up on things pretty easily.

For instance, I was the first kid in my high school typing class to master the skill.

I could do a lay-up with very little practice.

I figured out how to repair my own toilet with a paper clip.

I can even understand the various steps of the oil refining process.

But this. This one thing has me gripped in ineptitude.

It has left me frustrated, confused and completely at a loss numerous times.

The problem? I cannot figure out how to get anywhere in my neighboring town.

I just don't get it. It is a smaller community than where I currently reside.

It is just a bridge-crossing away.

And yet, I have not - at any time - successfully driven into that town on the correct route to my preferred location.

Here's the problem: there are at least 4 different entrances and I will inevitably choose the wrong one.

Take today for example. I needed to travel to that "city across the river" to deliver a small package.Was it critical that I deliver it?


As a matter of fact, whenever possible, I just mail stuff that has to go there. That's how much I fear venturing west.

But I felt it was important to hand-deliver this, so I diligently mapped my route online, printed a copy of the map and directions and thought SURELY nothing could go wrong.

But it did. Because I'm apparently cursed to repeat the same mistake over and over and over.

I can NOT drive into that town correctly. I forever choose the wrong exit.

But in my defense, it is a poorly designed area. I mean, come on. What's with these exit signs? They couldn't be more confusing.

They all have 14 names for one road on them. Unless you're a speed reader, you'll likely miss the one word you're looking for!

But today I was feeling confident behind the wheel. I truly thought I would conquer my shame of always getting lost in this town.

Alas, it was not to be.

The directions seemed simple enough...until you're actually on the road.

"Merge onto I-94 W toward Mandan."

Okay, I would like to merge, but I'm frozen in fear because the very next line says (if you reach I-94 W you've gone about 0.3 miles too far.)


I was to merge onto I-94 W and yet if I get there, I've gone too far?

Someone please explain the logic in that!

So as I approach that exit, I have to make a split-second decision because the brainiac highway engineers made sure you only have a one-lane option, and if you're in the wrong lane, too bad. You're well on your way to circling the city multiple times.

Which, incidentally, is what I've done more times than I care to admit.

Yes, I am quite familiar with the long stretch of highway that seems to be leading to a great abyss, only to surprisingly pop you back onto the interstate with very little warning.

So the trip that was detailed to be 8.1 miles became closer to 30 miles.

If this was the first time this happened, I wouldn't be so annoyed. But sadly, this is typical for me whenever I attempt to drive the route that hundreds of people travel every day. I realize there are very likely people who could do the trek in their sleep.

I, on the other hand, am white-knuckled and terrorized by the mere mention of the destination just over the hill.

You would think with all the times I've driven or been driven to that town, at some point it would click. That my brain would finally say, "OH! Now I get it!"

But my brain hasn't even remotely gone there. Not even close.

At first, I felt like the entire community was out to get me. But now I've found myself in complete awe at all the people that reside and work there. They're like superheroes.

They can actually drive the roads leading to their town and not end up on a "scenic byway."

And it's a shame, because I have friends over there. And business contacts.

But I resign myself to the fact that they will forever be a P.O. Box to me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

If you visit me when I'm old, please remind me to smile.

I had the privilege this weekend to visit a seniors housing facility. I call it a privilege because observing people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond is incredibly interesting.

People that age don't naturally look happy. I realize there is that whole elasticity thing where our skin sags and our eyes droop a little more with every passing year, so some of it you simply can't help. But while wisdom comes with age, so does the realization that we're falling apart.

One body part at a time, sometimes two.

I observe the elderly woman in a wheelchair with a white board up against her nose in order to read the instructions from her caregiver. Obviously her hearing and sight isn't what it used to be.

And even though the physical ailments grab my attention initially, it isn't long and I'm enthralled by the social activity.

Or the lack thereof.

Six women, all lined up side to side - some in wheelchairs, others with walkers and a few with just a cane. Their formation reminded me of the stereotypical cheerleading squad. Was this the old widow's version of a 'clique'? I was fascinated!

They didn't speak a word to one another. Even as I smiled at them, there wasn't a single movement of a facial muscle to acknowledge the pleasantry.

But they were lookin' fine. They were all dolled up - the way old people get when they finally have a chance to leave their room for something special.

They stand together like the front line of an army - piercing the room as if to say, "Watch out. Here we come."

I can't help but wonder if there are a handful of other women around the home coveting a spot within that band of babes. Do we revert back to junior high tendencies when we inch closer to the century mark?

My gaze drifts to a daughter who has come to spend the day with her aging mother. The resemblance is uncanny. Just fast forward 30 years and this daughter is easily peering at her own image. The mother takes the daughter's cell phone to make a call.

It's a sight to behold. It's odd, yet fun, to see someone that old holding a cell phone. I feel like I should run for a rotary dial plate.

But it's not long and she's connected...speaking so loudy it would be uncomfortable anywhere else. But not here.

Even with the amplified volume, very few people seem to notice.

But finally, the best picture of the day was smack dab in the middle of the entire party: an elderly couple snuggled together on a sofa.

They don't say a word to each other.

They, too, have stoic frowns stamped on their faces.

And yet they don't look unhappy. They look content.

And maybe that's the secret.

Let's face it. These people don't have their health. They no longer have the home they raised families in. Many no longer have their spouse.

But they seem more content than this frazzled mom of three, trying to keep on top of homework, art classes, housecleaning and my own work demands.

And for a moment, I'm a little envious.

There are no little kids tugging at their pant leg screaming for attention while they attempt to make a meal that is slightly healthier than chicken nuggets and a juice box.

There are no bosses or co-workers to put demands on their time.

A trip to the grocery store doesn't require Hercules strength and agility to push a mile-long cart with a race car attachment, a battle at the checkout for suckers and gum, or stuffing a parka-puffed child into a car seat.

They get to nap whenever they want.

And they have a chauffeur for every outing.

Sign me up.

Friday, December 3, 2010

NOT a good bedtime routine.

There are certain pains we incur that will debilitate us to the extent of utter paralysis.

For instance, a stubbed toe. Isn't it odd that we can walk, run, skip, kick and beat the living tar out of our feet, and yet clip that toe on a chair leg and we're cryin' for our mommas?

Or the infamous "funny bone" that is anything but funny when you smash it against a desk or door. Again, it takes us to a place where speech isn't even possible. We just writhe in pain.

And don't even get me started on a paper cut.

Last night I plopped down in front of my computer in hopes of cranking out some work to put myself at ease about looming deadlines. I admit, I was tense. But then I made a foolish mistake.

I got up from the computer and crawled directly into bed.

Remember, I was tense.

So I went to bed...tense.

But due to exhaustion, I slept anyway. But I slept...tense.

So when morning arrived, every muscle in my neck, shoulders and back was wound tighter than the belt of a Baptist minister at a church potluck.

I could not move. But nature was calling.

I enlisted help.

"Honey, I can't move and I really have to go to the bathroom. Please massage my neck for a minute so I can get out of bed."

My heroic, yet comatose husband asked no questions, just obliged. I am convinced he was not remotely coherent. The sweet soul just naturally defaulted to caring for me. Good thing, or he would have awakened in a pool of urine.

I managed to sling myself out of bed and whimpered to the bathroom.

I had become immobile overnight and I was starting to panic.

I shuffle to the cabinet for the muscle pain relieving cream and try not to scream like a banshee (yes, I just used the word banshee. I'm not myself when I hurt. Apparently, I'm my mother.) as I attempt to lift my arm to rub it into my neck and upper back.

Back pain, of any kind, is arguably worse than giving birth. And my last childbirth was a doozy, so I know of what I speak. It is the pain above all pain, because everything is connected. There's really no such thing as "just back pain" because eventually it creeps into everywhere else. Soon you can't move your arm, your head is throbbing, and the mere stubbing of a toe could quite possibly send you over the edge.

That edge is where I found myself this morning. I tried to be strong. I had kids to feed and send off to school, after all. I had responsibilites. There was no time for back pain.

But despite my best efforts, I was soon scrounging for the phone book to make a chiropractor appointment. I haven't been to one here yet, so the first office I try says, "I'm sorry, we don't have time for a new patient this morning."

Well, then guess what. I will never be your new patient.

My second option was successful. Hooray! They could get me in within a half hour. I was hopeful I'd be feeling better in no time.

But the diagnosis was not good. I was misaligned, my joints were surrounded by swelling, and I had massive muscle spasms. Sadly, I couldn't even get on and off the exam table without significant help.

It is a dreadful feeling to be so crippled.

Two treatments later and I'm not experiencing any greater mobility. I want to pluck the muscles out of my back and drive over them.

Years ago, I remember being prescribed muscle relaxers. I have been dreaming about them all day. I may find myself at the walk-in clinic by morning begging for a prescription.

But just watch, I'll finally have those relaxers within reach and in my excitement, I'll snatch the bag from the pharmacist...and get a paper cut.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Confessions of a Black Friday Shopper

"This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever done," he said.

Hundreds of us stand outside in gusty winter wind at wee hours of the morning. Our line snakes through the enormous parking lot of a local home improvement store.

Because we want one thing:

To prove we are the dumbest among mankind.

Oops. No, I mean...a good deal. Yeah, we want a good deal.

But as the gentleman behind me in line uttered, "This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever done," I just had to laugh.

Here we are, dressed like eskimos trying to stay warm in gale force winds on one of the coldest days of November anticipating the opportunity to grab a coveted item at a rock-bottom price.

I had never taken part in Black Friday festivities before. I was a newbie to the game.

I spent Thanksgiving afternoon combing through all the ads, making my list - my plan of attack.

Though I crawled into bed by 9pm in hopes of catching some brief shut-eye, I was much too excited to sleep. After tossing and turning for hours, I got up at 1:30, pulled on layer after layer of clothing and headed for the door. I would arrive at my first shopping stop by 2am to wait in line for an hour.

I was officially a Doorbuster. Awesome.

The line wasn't too long yet, so I was feeling pretty good about nabbing the three items I would scamper for when the doors flew open.

Oddly, people don't have much of a sense of humor at 2am. I find that shocking.

Seriously, look at us. We're standing in line, freezing to the point of numbness, just to say we got something for 60% off. That in itself is hilarious.

But no one seemed to find my jokes funny. There was, however, a guy who showed up around 2:30 and spouted a great joke. I laughed heartily.

I was the only one.

Come on, people. Maybe their faces were frozen?

I was taken a bit aback when some 4th or 5th grade boys came along peddling hot cocoa for a buck to weary shoppers. Truth is, their parents were doing the peddling. The boys were just holding the cups.


Honestly, you're going to get your kids up at 2am to try to make a few bucks? And I mean a few. I only saw two people even take them up on their offer for that toasty beverage.

Black Friday shoppers take their job very seriously. No laughing at jokes. No unplanned purchases. Keep it on the straight and narrow. I was learning a lot about my new position.

As the hour we eagerly anticipated draws near, the crowd becomes restless. Soon there is squishing, shoving, and suddenly I am nearly hugging a perfect stranger.

The doors open. The crowd forges ahead.

I'm appalled as a woman behind me grabs my coat to stay within the fray. If my jacket gets ripped because of this nonsense, my sense of humor will be gone, too.

As last-minute cheaters attempt to squeeze in along the sides, they break the department store door. Yes, actually break it.

It's mayhem.

And sadly, I'm a part of it.

Whew, we're in. I go dashing off to find my deals. I am fortunate enough to snatch the last pair of boots in my size (yes!), and there are a plethora of the other items I came for, so I gather my wares and head for the checkout line.

Wow, these people move fast. The checkout line winds so far back, most people are muttering expletives under their breath as they walk endlessly along in search for the end of the line. As I wait in line, I get to listen to various conversations. It is wildly fun.

"How much are those things?" she asks.

"Five dollars each."

"Five dollars?! I would never pay that much for that."

Ooh, never mess with a shopper who thought they were getting a great deal. I can see the fury in her eyes.

Fortunately, a husband to one of them interjects to change the subject. Whew! Good move, man. That's why you came along, isn't it?

But kudos to this department store. Service is fast and plentiful. The line moves along quickly and soon I'm out the door to my next destination.

But this store is at the mall. My biggest challenge: parking.

Since newly-fallen snow has blurred the lines, cars are parked every which way. As I'm tempted to join in with that technique, I spot a patrol car.

Rats. Because I just know I'd be the one to get a ticket, guaranteed.

So I drive around and around and around and around until finally at the far end of the lot, I find a spot.

Again, I find my items swiftly, checkout is painless, and I'm ready for what's next.

Ugh, next store isn't open yet. So now I'll be doorbusting again. This one is significantly less violent, though. And these people had a sense of humor. Note to self: apparently nothing is funny until 4am. Or maybe it had to do with the fact that they were still drunk from the night before.

Fine with me, I'm just grateful for a responsive audience.

I should have appreciated the simplicity of this store. Because the next door I would bust through would be my greatest challenge.

It is here where I meet "This is the dumbest thing..." man. I appreciated the gentleman next to him, too. "People just go nuts. I don't get it. It's just stuff," he said.

Truth is, I feel the same way. But then why were we both standing in line at 4:30am for "stuff?" Because we all have an element of "crazy" in us. That's why.

Mayhem and chaos abounds. I get what I came for, but the multitude of people was overwhelming. If I hadn't needed a cart in order to haul the heavy item I was purchasing, the experience would have been much less daunting, I suppose. It's hard enough to maneuver you're own body through a crowd, let alone a huge shopping cart too. I don't think I've said "I'm sorry" that many times within an hour in my life. It was impossible not to smack into someone at every turn.

It's incredible to me how not 12 hours earlier it is likely that most of us were sitting around a table overflowing with food, giving thanks for all that we had in life.

And now? People are cussing, they're frustrated, they're cold, they're hot, they're frantic.

What a difference a day makes.

It gives the "Black" in Black Friday a whole new meaning.

But even with all the grumblers, there are the girlfriends, the mothers and daughters, and college buddies enjoying the chaos - er, fun - together.

In fact, my only regret of the morning was not having someone with me to experience the craziness. That would have made it more fun. And whoever it was would probably have laughed at my jokes at 2am.

You can't put a price tag on that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I'm no Madonna, but I may get her face.

I had the privilege of discovering how "the other half" lives today.

I was treated to four hours at a luxury spa. To say I was looking forward to it this morning at 7am is a big understatement.

Because my 8-year-old daughter actually said, "Mom, why are you acting so happy?"

If you came to my house on any other day at 7am you would understand her confusion. I am NOT a morning person and trying to get everyone dressed, throw breakfast on the table, pack lunches and snacks, and fly out the door to the bus stop in less than an hour is not a mood-enhancer in my book.

But today definitely was different.

I was going to be pampered.

Of course plenty of guilt pours over me at the thought of actually taking time to do something for myself.

Fortunately the price was right and I wasn't about to let an opportunity like this slip on by - guilt or no guilt.

On one hand, I like to think I'm not all that different from the typical clientele at a spa. I use my manners. I'm courteous. I like to drink water with fruit in it.

But on the other hand, I'm a complete idiot when it comes to actually knowing how to utilize the place.

You see, I'm one of those people that needs to read a book called "Spas for Dummies." No really. I'm quite unaccustomed to the ins and outs of a spa experience. And the people working there are so used to the environment they forget to mention the details.

Like how you won't be able to see your hand in front of your face when you enter your private steam/shower room. So you'll turn on the shower just so you can break through the steam, only to discover a soft - now sopping wet - towel lay folded on a bench for you to sit on and a drowned cup of water with - yes, fruit in it. If I would have been able to even see seating in there I could have enjoyed that whole experience a lot more.

Or it'd be nice if they'd tell you that you may burn your leg on a steam jet because you are, well, an idiot. Or that you simply stepped into a poorly designed corner of the shower. Either way, ouch.

Not exactly relaxing.

But I like massages. Generally. Only they should ask you if you're ticklish. The tension in my body obviously elevated as my massage therapist began to rub my upper arm just gliding near my armpit. He kept massaging with deeper motions and I was doing all I could to avoid laughing out loud! When you're sighing with relief when the guy finally puts your arm down and moves on, the massage probably isn't reaching its fullest potential.

My problem is I can't stop thinking about what the massage therapist is thinking. I imagine it to be, "What a strange place for a mole." or " "Wow, her fingernails need clipping." or "I've never experienced such tense upper arms!" Or I lie there and wonder if his hands are getting tired. Did he want to come to work today? Is he daydreaming about his lunch plans?

It kinda ruins the whole "it's all about you" concept of a spa.

But overall, it was a good massage and I would recommend it. Just be sure to tell him if you're ticklish.

Next it was time to hit the facial room....

Where a sophisticated woman rubbed crushed diamonds all over my face until I was red as a beet....but on my way to looking five years younger!

I even underwent the "Madonna treatment" (as it has been touted) - an oxygen infusion. Basically pumping oxygen into my pores and forcing the serum of my choice into various layers of skin. But it sounds and feels like someone is passing gas on your face.

Seriously. The technician even said, "It's going to sound really strange."

Translation from sophistication to simplicity: "It's going to sound like a fart."

Who knew Madonna would be so in love with flatulence. Nevertheless, I don't look like Madonna. At least not yet.

So far, just red, blotchy "wind-burned" cheeks. But I'm told in a few days I'll look so young I'm sure I'll be grabbing a wooden spoon belting out "Material Girl."

After a catered cuisine, my final stop was the pedicure chair. Ah, a place I at least recognize. (Not that I frequent them, but I see them at the mall!)

As crazy as it sounds, my favorite part of the day was probably seeing my sparkly purple toenails as I put my magazine down to grab my keys and head home.

I am grateful for the experience, but honestly I wouldn't pay money to do it again. But that's why it was a gift, and I'm appreciative of it.

But I'm also appreciative of the fact that I can spend a couple bucks on sparkly purple polish, throw a strawberry in my water glass, and be just as happy.

As for those diamonds? I still treasure the ones on my finger more than the effects of those on my face.

And let's face it, I'm the mother of two boys. I can get that gas-in-the-face thing on a daily basis.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Because you can be "too" healthy.

Life Insurance companies crack me up.

Or, I should say, their attempt to determine the date of your demise cracks me up.

My husband and I applied for some additional life insurance recently. Our financial advisor told us this company has several different levels of coverage - the highest one is for the "least risk" and thus your premium is the lowest. So we're shooting for the sky, of course.

They send over a nurse to do all the vital testing - poke me with a needle, make me pee in cup, take my measurements, ask me if I've ever done drugs.

I was feeling pretty good about my overall health. After all, I've started running with some girlfriends - even getting up at 5am to get 5 to 7 miles in some days. So adding this additional running to my normal workouts should be keeping my heart pumping appropriately, I suspect.

I know, you either think I'm crazy or you envy me. Either way is cool with me.

But then I get a phone call from our financial advisor's office.

"Hi, Maxine. Your application has been put on hold due to low cholesterol. It came back at 124, and they are saying that's too low unless you're anorexic or a vegetarian. Are you either of those?"

I try not to burst into laughter into the phone as I pinch an inch and recall the big, juicy burger I ate the night before.

"Uh, certainly not."

Turns out the lovely life insurance people will not open my file again until I have a written explanation from my doctor as to why my cholesterol is "so low."

Honestly, I never thought this could be a problem. Has our unhealthy and obese nation now determined if your cholesterol isn't high there is something wrong with you?'s time to call the doctor. Ugh. I cannot tell you how much I despise going to doctors.

But I make the appointment. And the receptionist asks why I'm coming in.

I tell her the story.

She pauses, then adds that she's never heard of "too low of cholesterol" either.

The next week I'm sitting in the exam room with Doogie Howser (seriously, he couldn't have been more than a couple months out of school). Side note: Since I avoid doctors like the plague, I do not technically have a "primary care physician" so I just took whoever had an opening. Figures I would get the 5th string QB.

At any rate, the good doctor needs to examine me since I'm there. He asks me questions regarding children, family, lifestyle. Then he shrugs his shoulders and picks up the scope. Ears, nose, throat - all good. He has me lie down and he starts pushing on my stomach. Apparently fine. Albeit I'm wishing it was a little less squishy! But I'm ravenous since I had to fast for the blood test and as he pushes on my gut I'm struck with the realization of how long it's been since I last had food. I tell him nothing hurts, I'm just hungry. He tells me to go home and eat some fat. Yes, people. Direct from the doctor's mouth. Don't worry. I'll get you his phone number.

He asks me if I have any complaints, any concerns about my health.

"No. I could use more sleep though!" I say half-jokingly.

He looks at me and says, "Sleep? You said you work from home. You should get plenty of sleep."

Dear Reader: Let me reconnect you with a previous paragraph where we establish this doctor's very young age. And the other paragraph where I tell him about my children.

"I have three small children," I remind him.

"Oh, yeah," he says, rather cluelessly.

So after a clean bill of health, and another 124 cholesterol score, Doogie sits dumbfounded.

He shows me the chart showing 124 is in the 'normal' range.

He scratches his head. "I don't get it. It's normal. I'm supposed to write a letter explaining that you're normal?"

Then Doogie continues, "Just wait here. I'll find someone that will know what to do."

I'm assuming he's running to find a doctor whose white coat isn't quite so fresh from its package. A few minutes later he returns and says, "I'm going to write a letter that says 124 is normal and they can call me with any questions."

So that's exactly what he did.

And a week later I gained access to the top level of the life insurance.

Sounds like they were fishing for anything to bump me out of that level. I guess they figured if I was going to get the best insurance rate I had better pay for it one way or another. In this case, with a medical exam fee I didn't need to incur.

So my life insurance company decided I'm bound to live another 20 years. Or is at least willing to take that risk.

Personally, it sounds like a good time to eat potato chips and ice cream. After all, I can spare a few cholesterol points.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm still here, just trying to stay afloat!

Wow! I haven't blogged since August? Time sure has a way of slipping past, doesn't it.

To say I've been busy is probably the world's biggest understatement. But I can tell when I've gotten too busy when it takes weeks to get to my DVR'd TV shows! I keep telling myself, "Oh, one of these days I'll get to watching that." I'll be watching the season premieres sometime in March, probably. But hey, when everyone's tired of re-runs in the summer, I'll just be nearing the suspense of the finales.

But my busyness has been good. I've stepped up my freelance work a bit, so that's keeping me hopping. And once I plop my kids into bed, I've got a to-do list a mile long waiting for me in my office.

Seems there's always something to research, write or review.

Thus, my blog...well, it takes a back seat.

But I'll be back. I promise. But right now I think I'm going to settle into bed with a good book. Or even a half-decent one. When your reading repertoire typically consists of Dr. Suess or Amelia Bedelia, it doesn't take much to stimulate this mind.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Selling Loot or Securing Literacy?

The PTO should be renamed MMM. For Money-Making Machines.

Have parent-teacher organizations always been fixated on fundraisers and frivolous activities? I have attended a couple PTO meetings in the short time I've had school-aged children, and I'm in awe of how the officers are dumbfounded as to why there isn't greater parent participation.

Uh, maybe because all you talk about is where to beg for money next? Who wants to conclude their Tuesday night in a meeting like that when reruns of The Office are calling?

I think PTO volunteers are getting lost in their own fundraising fervor. If they stop and look at what they're actually raising money for, perhaps things could change.

For instance, money raised pays for Pastries for Parents.

Really? We need another lame excuse to get kids out of the classroom so they can fall even farther behind in their literacy? And our society is obese as it is - why are we inviting everyone to consume more fat and sugar? Great lessons we're teaching our kids, huh?

Frankly, I think inviting parents or grandparents into school for "special" events like that is simply a bad idea. And here's why.

I attended an elementary school that did the "Donuts for Dad" and "Muffins for Mom" and "God-knows-what for Grandma," and it left me feeling sad and foolish.

Because my Dad had to work, Mom didn't always consider it a good use of time to make a 17-mile trip into town to eat a muffin for 6 minutes (I don't blame her one bit! Besides, my most vivid memory of "Muffins for Mom" was getting poisoned by the pointless pastry and being home sick the next day!!), and well, to be blunt - Grandma was dead.

So I spent those "special" events sitting by the other orphaned kids wallowing in self-pity. Or worse yet - I remember not even being included in the festivities one year if a family member didn't come. Sheesh, let's just stamp "NO ONE LOVES ME" on our foreheads and call it a day.

Ugh. I just don't see the point in the torment. Save the money you'd spend on those doughnuts and ask those parents to come to the classroom to volunteer - you know, actually contribute to a child's education instead of their risk for diabetes.

Because that's what I don't get. Parents are given a mile-long list of activities with a plea to check the box of whichever ones they'd be willing to volunteer for (Cake-walking Carnival, Bingo Bliss, Store Day for Six Graders)...but it doesn't put any emphasis on say, coming in once or twice a month, taking a mere half hour of the day to review spelling words. Listen to kids read. Or - gasp! - hear them count to 100.

No, let's send catalogs home so that kids can beg family and friends to buy worthless junk so the PTO can claim only a percentage of the profits to buy flowers for the secretary on Secretary's Day.

Is this really the best way to go about these things? I'd rather have someone simply ask me for a donation than to turn my kids into wrapping paper salesmen.

And don't even get me started on how they use our kids as pawns.

"Mommy, you have to fill this out so I can get a duck!" my daughter pleads as she rips the fundraising packet from her backpack.

A duck?! Huh?

Upon further inspection, I see that if I fill out these forms, the school will mail them to all of our out-of-town family and friends to beg for their support of their precious little niece or grandson.

Now, come on. If my family hasn't heard from me in over a month and the first correspondence they get is solicitation from my child, that just seems wrong.

And all this so my kid can earn a little rubber duck.

Are you kidding me?!

But those desperate little faces beam at the thought of earning a duck, so they grab a pen, shove the forms in my face, and wait for my response.

I wasn't the most popular parent that afternoon, but they'll get over it. It wasn't days earlier when my son was insistent upon ordering IronMan's Friends and Foes from the book order form sent home that day. Newsflash: the library is full of books. And I can get them for free!

Honestly, if I got as many A+ papers sent home as I do "buy me and sell me" packets, I'd feel much better about the educational institution I'm sending my children to on a daily basis.

Instead, my kid is supposed to sell six ounces of gummy bears for $8 so they can host a book fair. Which will then cost me even more money as my child begs me to buy the entire Junie B. Jones series.

Hey, I understand funds go toward legitimate tools for the classrooms, too. The ActiveBoards are helpful. Computer labs are important. Teachers needs supplies. I get it. But I also know there are grants for many of those things, and when I find out all the box tops I've been feverishly clipping are only going into the treasury of the Boy Scouts, I get a bit miffed.

I don't consider it wise stewardship to give money to some kid so he can learn how to fly-fish. I'd much rather give to a teacher to utilize in a classroom so children learn the three R's instead of the three P's. (Parties, Pastries and Peddling.)

I completely understand why participation in these PTOs is poor. Until there's a good reason to show up (ie. the betterment of my child's education), I'll be helping my kid with his homework at 7pm instead of discussing the significant number of "insufficient funds" checks received with the latest fundraiser.

And I'll gladly hand my child's teacher money out of my own pocket so she can breathe a little easier when it's time to replace that broken headset or buy new supplies. And I won't even demand a bag of gummy bears in return!

Because I'd love for my kids to race home from school and shove their well-earned test grade in my face instead of an order form.

Who knows? I may be so proud I'll spring for a duck.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Finding My Way

It's that time of year when new college students stuff their possessions into a trunk of a car and jet off to what they believe is the beginning of freedom, future success, and happily ever after.

And to that I say, get real.

You're going to get fat. You're going to miss your Mom. And you're going to want to suffocate your roommate in her sleep within the first 30 days.

Or maybe that was just me.

Whenever I think of my freshman year of college, all I get is chills down my spine. It was a mess.

It started by loading my luggage in the back of my roommate's Dad's pickup and making our way to the University. Only the tailgate of that pickup fell open, and one of my pieces of luggage skidded out. It was full of my sweatshirts, namely a brand new yellow sweatshirt with my beloved college's name on the front.

I was crushed.

But in hindsight, I could have let the bag be squashed in rush hour traffic for as much as that school eventually meant to me.

But, I'll get to that later.

(The police department called my parents a couple days later when someone had found ithe bag and turned it in - all contents still in tact. Even my cherished yellow sweatshirt.)

En route to campus, we decided to stop and shop for furnishings. And spend too much money on puffy pillows and antiperspirant.

But we had stars in our eyes and big plans.

We could have purchased sleep-inducing-drug-laced pillows and I still wouldn't have gotten a decent night of sleep my entire freshman year, either. It wasn't always because my roommate was inviting her boyfriends (yes, she went through several) over, or talking on the phone into the wee hours of the night to one of them. No cell phones back then. I know. Shocking. She actually had to use a phone with a cord.

A cord that didn't go nearly far enough out of earshot, mind you.

But anyway...the bigger reason for my insomnia was the creakiest, most frightening loft bed ever created. My roommate purchased it from a former student and we were excited at first because it provided much-needed floor space. Only, we were afraid of setting anything under it in fear of the crash that we concluded was certainly imminent. And since my roommate had seniority, I was relegated to be the one to sleep on it.

Amazingly enough, it never did collapse. Which is shocking in itself for all the weight I gained that year.

When you start the year as the thinner roommate, and by Christmas break you have to swap jeans, you know you have a problem.

But that was only a slice of my problem. And by slice, I mean pizza. I ate a LOT of pizza.

I felt lost.

You have to understand. I was, what my roommate referred to as, 'the jock.' I wore sweatshirts and jeans every day, did my hair the same every day, and wore very minimal makeup because I didn't really know what I was doing in that category of personal hygiene.

To my roommate, that translated to: The Maxine Project. It's sad, really. She curled my hair and dressed me up in frills and pearls and sent me to the Underground. Don't worry, that was really a legitimate place. "Safe" college hangout.

But it had to be incredibly obvious I was a jock dressed in sheep's clothing. No, really, I think I wore some kind of wool sweater. Because it certainly didn't help my social life like she thought it would.

By the time I was half-way through the second quarter, I knew I would be transferring to somewhere more "jock-friendly." The University was a good school, but pretty artsy. I'm not artsy. I had no friends, no car (a fairly critical component to living independently, I found), and no life. And my roommate was "in love" and wallowing in all that it implies.

I, on the other hand, was swooning over a guy I was tutoring in math. (Now, for those of you who know how pathetic I am in math, please pull yourself up off the floor from laughter and continue to read. Because actually, I was stellar in Algebra. And that's what I was tutoring him in. Maybe it's because there are letters in the equations.)

Unfortunately, I don't think the guy saw me as anything other than his ticket to a passing grade. And even though he was awfully cute, he was dumb as rocks. So, it wasn't too tough to say goodbye to him.

But I had bigger problems. I was barely passing one of my classes, myself.


I blame my high school History teacher for my lack of knowledge in this area, though. All I learned in his class was how to fall asleep during yet another boring film with my head upright.

However, if it hadn't been for that college History course, I may not have discovered my life's work.

You see, History exams were multiple choice. But I found out several tests later, that you could opt out of them if you preferred essay tests.

I figured I couldn't do any worse with essay questions, so thought I'd give it a shot.

And guess what?

I found out I could write my way to a passing grade. And not just a passing grade.

I was able to pull my low D up to a high B by quarter's end.


I started my sophomore year as a transfer student at University #2. And my journalism teacher whipped me into shape.

I thought I could write until I met that guy. He could make Walter Cronkite cry.

But he made me better. And I still feel him peering over my shoulder when I'm writing a news story, critiquing every sentence. It keeps me humble!

So even though "Freshman Year" might be the pits, it doesn't last forever (thank God!).

I eventually learned how to eat pizza in moderation, get back into my jeans, and actually enjoy my old roommate again (she really did mean well).

But please don't ask me what year Taft became president.

Because then you will be forced to listen to me talk about how he was such a large man he got stuck in the White House bathtub, that he liked to play tennis, and that he never really wanted to be president...meanwhile I will hope to lose you in the dialogue enough to make you think I answered the question.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sorry to wake you, Mr. Secretary.

I'm driving myself batty these days. I've become a little obsessed with politics.

It happened innocently enough. I accepted a story assignment to do an election preview. It involves me interviewing the candidates running for office in my state.

Prior to this, I wasn't typically one to bury myself in political news, so I had to do some research before I sat myself in front of these people and ask them pertinent questions.

After surveying a variety of business people (the article is for a business magazine) as to their thoughts on the election and what issues are of importance to them, I hit the internet to find out everything I could about the candidates, the issues and in some cases...

What in the world the job even entails.

Seriously, who knows what the Secretary of State does? Pretty dull job, really.

Until you screw something up. Then you're on the front page of the news and suddenly everyone's mad and saying, "What the heck happened?"

Personally, after simply reviewing his job description, I was ready for a nap.

As far as the error he made, in all likelihood the guy probably fell asleep due to boredom. So he 'misplaced' some paperwork. Eh, it's probably in the stack he used as a pillow and it got drooled on so he pitched it.

But I digress.

After every interview, I'm more and more intrigued by the candidate and the job potentially ahead of them. And inevitably they use some word that I've heard before but never took the time to care what it meant, so as soon as I get home I'm Googling like a maniac.

Tort. You know, as in tort reform.

What a weird word. In case you were wondering, it's a French word that means "a wrong."

Or maybe I'm the only one who didn't know the real meaning of the word.

At any rate, as it turns out, it's kinda important.

And I'm sure glad I worked at a civil engineering firm for awhile because it helps a lot when candidates talk nonstop about "the need for infrastructure." Kept me from having to Google a lot of stuff.

But what might fascinate me more than anything is the persona of each candidate. You've got the guy who just wanted his name on the ballot to give another option to people who are fed up with the traditional candidates. He doesn't have much for answers, and he's not presuming he has any chance of winning, but you have to respect his efforts.

Then there's the guy who makes you feel like you're talking to the guy next door. He's friendly, funny, and down-to-earth. He's the kind of guy that makes you think you could possibly run for office someday, too.

And then you meet the guy who knows just what to say, pays little attention to the questions because he really just wants to give his pat answers and move on, and frankly, he has more important things to do than to talk to me.

So then I get wrapped up in all the issues. And I obsess about the economy, taxes, and stuff like tort. And I want to know more. I want to see what was happening with social security 10 years ago when the unemployment rate wasn't so high. Was it at risk then, or was it a non-issue because we had everyone working and paying those taxes to fund it?

It's consuming me now. But tomorrow I interview a Secretary of State candidate. Which is good, because after staying up late every night scanning the internet for more information, I'm going to need a nap.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life in the "Past" Lane

They say home is where the heart is. I say it's where the good food, jokes and news-you-won't-find-anywhere-else-is.

I packed up the family and headed to the "Central City" this week to visit my parents and celebrate my Dad's 77th birthday. A couple of my sisters and their families were there too.

It never ceases to amaze me how I drift through a range of emotions spending a weekend with extended family.

From hearing stories of farmer woes, updates on aging family members struggling to hold on to some semblance of normalcy, and our former hometown seemingly in the crime news every other week, it's a reminder of all that is wrong in the world.

And sister shows up. With wonderful news. News that fills the entire weekend with an inexplicable joy.

It's not news of a baby.

Not news of a marriage.

Not even news of a free tropical vacation where she can invite her 10 closest friends and relatives.

Instead, it's news of...


Her husband is the new mayor of their town.


That brings to mind only one word:


Because that makes my sister First Lady.

Okay, so he only ran because some people begged him to and got all the signatures for him. And he ran uncontested.

Nonetheless. He's the mayor. And that's just cool.

I was having so much fun with her new title as First Lady all weekend that eventually even her own children were asking, "Mom, what did you just text the Mayor?"

Really wish the Mayor could have joined the family festivities. But hey, I understand.

He's a busy guy. He's got a town to run, after all.

And I'm a mere peon.

Maybe I'll get him to name a day after me. Like on American Idol. I'll get a key to the city and everything.

Or not.

Truthfully, since this fabulous news came, my real dream is see my sister and her Mayor hubby as grand marshalls of a parade.

You know. In a convertible. Sitting on the backseat in her sequined gown, 2-inch thick makeup and fake nails waving the elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist wave we've come to expect from royalty.

Yes, I get stoked about the little things.

Like a swollen jaw.

My poor nephew recently had jaw surgery and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to come to Grandma and Grandpa's house, smell my mothers outrageously good cooking and suffer through watching the rest of us gobble it down as he sipped on blended chicken noodle soup from a can.

He just turned 21. You'd think he'd be smarter.

I think the only reason he was able to do it is because he's been eating his own mother's cooking for about a month, so he's been getting good stuff. To miss a few meals at Grandma's probably is no big deal.

I, on the other hand, have subjected myself to my own cooking for years and had someone told me I could not gorge myself with my mother's ham and scalloped potatoes or roast beef or sausage and all the fixings (plus don't forget dessert!) I would have had to find a way to rip out all my senses. How do you smell ham cooking and not sit in a corner whimpering knowing your meal will consist of yet another bottle of Boost?

It was downright inhumane.

But the mayor wasn't there to save him. And that First Lady was in line next to me filling her plate with all the goodness of I-didn't-have-to-cook-this-meal-so-it-tastes-10-times-as-good, too.

I rarely escape a trip back to my parents home without some sense of nostalgia. Even though this isn't the house I grew up in, it still has remnants of 50+ years of their life together...which eventually included me.

So as I help my mother prepare for mealtime, I get a bit misty.

I open a cupboard and get lost in its contents.

The red striped salt and pepper shakers. They were the "fancy ones" when I was a kid, because they were glass. The "everyday" ones were tall and plastic - unstable enough that they were forever dropping out of the overhead cupboard, dumping pepper just where we didn't want it.

Usually in the butter dish.

With no kids in the house, the striped ones are the new "everyday."

Even the aluminum canisters for flour and sugar remind me of many Saturdays sitting on the kitchen counter licking cookie dough out of the bowl.

Nearly every picture on the wall has a memory attached to it. Intermingled with them are the new things. Particularly the photos of grandchildren.

How did they go from splashing in Grandpa's kiddie pool to furnishing their own apartment so fast?

It's strange to see them grown. And then I think of my own aunts and uncles. I remember their look of disbelief to see I had become a young lady at one point too. I'm them now.

And I get it.

I get the "You've grown so much!" and the "How do you get your hair to do that?" and "What kind of gadget do you have there?"

They did it 20 years ago.

And I'm doing it now.

But I say, bring on the family reunion. Mom is cooking, my nephew will be healed up, and there could be an appearance by the mayor.

I don't care who ya are. That's worth coming home for.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Been Farmin' Long?

As I'm working diligently to not burn dinner, my husband arrives home from work, walks into the kitchen and says, "I want to go farming!"

At this point I don't care if the food is carcinogenously charred, I turn around with the hope that he is about to utter the punchline to his joke. But he's serious. He says he thinks it would be fun to do some farming again.

My gaze leaves him and is directed to our backyard, where a lawn in need of TLC or maybe even just a simple mowing stares back at me.

"Uh, you can't find the time to mow the lawn, and now you want to go farm?"

He smiles, gives me a hug and the conversation is dropped since a child or two is clinging to his leg, begging for some "Daddy time."

I know he won't really go do any farming, but I understand his desire to do it. We both grew up on farms in rural North Dakota, and the peaceful solitude that comes with farm life can be pretty appealing when you're in the midst of noisy neighbors and constant interruptions at the office.

I've even gone the "farming" route a bit myself. This summer is my first attempt at a garden. One of the amenities of our new home was a large garden plot. Just wish the previous owners would have left a green thumb behind.

Translation: I have no idea what I'm doing.

The only thing I really know about gardens is from a ghastly error I made when I was about 7 years old. My mother sent me to the garden to bring in onions for dinner. I didn't know what I was looking for, so she told me, "They're the things with long green stems sticking out of the ground."

Okay, that sounds easy enough. Except I failed to thoroughly inspect the garden before I started pulling up the first long-stemmed green things I found. Believing I was being a big help, I pulled up A LOT of them.

As I rush into the house, my mother gasps. "You pulled up my flowers!"


In my defense, they hadn't bloomed yet, and they indeed were long, and green. But she made a good point when she asked, "Didn't you notice there weren't any onions on the bottom?"

Oh yeah. That should have been a clue.

Again, whoops.

So flash forward 30 years to my own garden. I'm still having difficulty identifying the crop. For the first month I was afraid to go pull weeds because I was worried I would pull up the vegetables too. I don't know a weed from a green bean, to be quite honest.

Now I have an excellent grasp of what is a weed. And I've got a lot of them.

And not so much crop.

Not that I was expecting much on my first time out. But I am genuinely disappointed that despite all the corn I planted I don't have so much as a measley stalk. I had high hopes of making my way through rows of corn this summer, plucking ears for our dinners.

Just like when I was a kid on the farm.

I'll just have to use my imagination as I stroll the produce aisle in the supermarket instead.

On a positive note, I can grow lettuce. It's my pride and joy of the garden at this point. (Perhaps because other than the radishes, it's the only thing I can succinctly identify.)

My only problem is I have no idea when to harvest it. It looks nice right now, I hate to pull it up. Maybe it will get even nicer? Or am I missing out on delectable salads?

The whole process is pretty stressful, actually. Is it getting enough water? Enough sun? Did I plant them too close together? Not close enough? Are the weeds out of control?

This gardening thing was supposed to be relaxing.

That's probably what my husband was thinking when he said he wanted to go farming.

I also lived on the farm long enough to face reality. Which is, his first day out the grain truck would get a flat, the combine would need a part and just when things got going, he'd get rained out.

But that's farming for ya.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mr. Clean to the...rescue?

Not that I needed one, but I found a new excuse to not waste time cleaning my house.

In a word: Noah.

This past week I actually did get to the laborious task of cleaning.

Namely, bathrooms.

Big mistake, apparently.

Maybe my problem was the fact that I did it in the company of Noah. Even though I'm thinking at the time it is a good thing for him to watch his mother keep the house tidy, that proved costly.

You see, a few days ago my little 2-1/2 year-old Wonder diligently watched me scrub the toilet clean. Spray the soap, wipe it down, scrub the inside, etc. etc.

Last night I put the children to bed and went downstairs to clean up the kitchen a bit. I heard some noise upstairs and double-checked the situation.

No worries - Caleb was just using the restroom.

So I didn't jump when a few minutes later I heard a bit of noise coming from the bathroom. Sounded like Caleb was probably just getting a drink before heading off to bed.

But then the noise continued, and I heard some odd clanging noise.

So I go take a peek.


Not in bed.

In the bathroom.

"Cleaning" the toilet.

Earlier that day I had filled the soap dispenser in that bathroom with liquid soap. To the top, mind you.

The pump now lays next to a thick streak of soap on the counter. Meanwhile, Noah stands at the toilet bowl, soap bottle in one hand, soggy bits of toilet paper in the other. By this time, there is maybe a half inch of soap still left in the bottle, and the toilet is covered in an oozy mess.

I'm appalled at the clean-up I have ahead of me, so I pull the "cleaning supplies" from his hands, and after a scolding, send him back to bed.

As I'm wiping up the sloppy mess, I stop and realize what he was doing.

It's what he always does in this stage of his development.

He mimics.

He probably thought he was doing ol' mom a favor, after all. Givin' her a helping hand, as it were.

He probably crawled back into bed completely confused.


Poison control centers are always saying to keep those cleaners out of a child's reach. But I don't know...if I left him the correct supplies, maybe I wouldn't have to clean another toilet for awhile.

Just a thought.

Now if I can just get him to pay better attention when I do laundry...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

RIP, Customer Service. Because apparently you're dead.

Last I checked, "Fool" wasn't stamped on my forehead. So why someone would think I'm dumb enough to fall for this trick is beyond me.

I'm talking about my local furniture store. They obviously have lost their ability to provide customer service.

Let me back up and bring you up to speed.

Several months ago, I ordered a headboard for my daughter's bed. Apparently the trees needed to be cut down for the lumber and the paint needed a month to cure, because it wasn't scheduled to arrive for 6-8 weeks.

So when it finally arrives, I make my way to the store to pick it up (saving myself $50 on shipping).

I'm told to "go to door #2 at the warehouse." So I motor on over and wander through a door with a big "2" on it, into a dusty old building packed from floor to ceiling with boxes and furniture.

Nobody's there. Hmmm.

I call out, "Hello?"


I wander in a little further, feeling like I'm completely violating the space.

"Hello?" I call a little louder this time.

I'm a little annoyed at this point, but I wait.

Finally, a frizzy-haired gentleman with a dirt-smudged forehead and greasy fingernails appears from seemingly nowhere.

He seems to know exactly what I'm there for though, and pulls out a large box.

I ask him to take it out of the box so I can inspect it (I've had way too many instances of broken or beat up furniture delivered to me to take a chance with not checking it out before I load it into my vehicle).

Much to my dismay, it has several bumps and bruises. The guy gets out his little paint wand and proceeds to attempt some patch-work. I'm not impressed, and I'm feeling a little uncomfortable with accepting this headboard with all the nicks in it. Then I walk around to the side and notice one of the posts is completely a mess. It looks like the wood is beginning to split.

I show him and he admits it is shotty craftsmanship. So I refuse the order and he tells me to head back to the store and have them ship out a new one to me.

My personal sales rep isn't working that day, so I get the first perky furniture salesman to come to the counter. I explain the situation, he assures me, "We'll do whatever it takes to make it right, Mrs. Herr."

Very nice words. I think that is appropriate having waited so long for the headboard to arrive in the first place. But I discover...

They are JUST words.

A few weeks later, I get a call from the warehouse guy.

I found it odd that I wasn't receiving this call from my sales guy, or any sales guy for that matter.

"Your headboard is in and you can come pick it up at Door #2 again."

Wow, that was pretty quick delivery. They told me it would be another 6-8 weeks. But for some crazy reason I thought maybe they rushed it for me in an attempt "to make it right."

I did push the envelope a bit and called my sales rep and asked him if, in their attempt to 'do whatever it takes to make it right,' they would consider delivering the headboard to my home, free of charge.

Answer? Nope.

I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised. Customer service seems to be on its way out in our society.

So yesterday morning I drove down to Door #2 to see my new headboard. Again, not a soul to be found. All I could think was, This place is a piece of cake for a thief! A guy could lift enough stuff to furnish an entire house by the time anyone showed up! I find it ridiculous.

After my attempts again to shout "Hello?" and get no response, I walked into the little office that should be staffed with an employee of some kind and I looked at the phone.

Hmmm. A page button. Let's try it.

So I paged someone to come to Door #2.

I wait.

Still nothing.

Oh, good grief, I could have driven off with a dinette set and six barstools by now.

I decide to use the guy's phone to call the store to see if they can reach someone, but just as I reach for the phone book, a young man appears looking like a deer in headlights.

Feeling a little foolish for being caught with his phone in my hand, I said, "Hi. I was just about to call the store to see if they could get someone here to help me."

I explain why I'm there and he asks me for a sales slip. I have none because, again, it was the warehouse guy that called me to come to Door #2 - not the salesperson, so I didn't go to the store first. I did see my old headboard leaning against some boxes and I told him that was what I refused before and there should be a new one in a box somewhere.

I was a little baffled as to why it was still sitting there after all this time. I would have thought they'd have taken it to their clearance center by now and tried to sell it 'as is.'

He looks confused but grabs the paper off the old headboard and walks off.

When he returns he says, "Yeah, that's it right here (pointing to the old one). I can help you get it in your vehicle."

Uh, I don't think so, Pal.

I stop him and say, "If it is new, where is the box?"

"Oh, my boss probably took it out to check it."

Yeah, right. Looking around at that place I know full well that no one is "checking" anything.

So I inspect it. And guess what?

It has all the bumps and nicks in it - in the exact same spots - as the "first" one. I look at him and say, "This is the same headboard I refused before. It isn't new."

He fidgets and shrugs.

I say, "It looks like someone is trying to pull a fast one on me."

And you know what he says??

"You didn't hear it from me, but yeah, they probably are."


Then the kicker, "You could refuse it and tell the store you want them to order a new one," he adds.

I ALREADY DID THAT!! THIS was supposed to be the NEW one!

I thank him for his time and walk out of there with steam shooting from my ears.

I mean, come on. Really? You're going to pass off the old one as new and think I won't notice? Why would it have been so hard to order a new one???

To put an end to the frustration, my husband went down there to talk to our sales rep and cancel the whole order - and get our money back. And you can bet I won't be going back there for any more purchases.

It was all very disconcerting since we had bought all our living room furniture there just a few months ago. So you'd think we'd be a "valued customer."

I just wish someone would have told me customer service was dead. I would have tried to get to the funeral.

Because I really do miss it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Instant Winner...of more junk mail?

A couple random thoughts rolled through my brain today. Just thought I'd write about them.

Oh, humor me. My summer so far consists of breaking up unending sibling battles and coming up with snack number 42 for these ravenous rugrats. Doesn't really conjur up a lot of creativity.

Okay, so here goes...

Does anyone ever win those drawings you see in the mall, at furniture stores or in the supermarket?

You know, those big plexiglass boxes stuffed with small slips of paper identifying your name, phone number, address and email...basically everything short of your social security number because we're so sure we're due to win...this time.

I passed one in the mall today. It was a chance to win a riding lawnmower.


Someone's going to give that away?

I never hear of anyone actually winning these things.

The gigantic grill at the grocery store. The free flooring at the furniture warehouse.

I would think we'd catch wind of it if someone was genuinely taking these things home. But I never do, so I'm skeptical.

Personally, I think it is just a gimmick to get you to provide all your contact info so they can send you junk mail. I bet there is never any intention to award anyone with a big prize.

If I'm wrong, someone please tell me about how you're grilling tonight's steak on the grand prize from Central Market.

Wouldn't it bode well for your business to put a big ad in the paper showing a picture of the lucky winner? I never see those.

Even the casinos have figured out that angle. I see pictures of people in the paper all the time who won a thousand bucks at the local casinos. You know there are suckers everywhere rushing off to that casino to press their luck because they saw that ad.

The other thing that made me ponder our society's stupidity is a sign I saw in a large department store. Hung on the rack of some merchandise was a sign that read, "As seen on Oprah."

This is our buying incentive now? If it was on Oprah then we need to rush out and get it? I know the woman has a lot of influence, but seriously? What is wrong with us that we need an endorsement for our purchases by some insanely rich woman in Chicago?

I just don't get it. And I'll tell you right now, I'm not walking to the checkout with it.

So there you go. Just a couple things that made me stop in my tracks today and crinkle my eyebrows a bit.

Maybe I will fill out one of those slips to win something sometime. I'll just put Oprah's name on it. That is bound to make me an instant winner.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Death of a Salesman

I'm skeptical of most salespeople, but today I gave in and let one in my house. Actually three of them.

Not my finest moment.

Around 11:30am, a young woman comes to my door and tells me she's from Kirby. She would like to come in to vacuum and shampoo one of the rooms in my house as advertising for her product. "We don't do TV commercials. Our only advertising is word-of-mouth, so if you would let me show you what my Kirby vacuum could do for your carpet you would really help me out," she said. "My boss pays me $35 to clean a carpet, so he says I'm cheaper than advertising."

Okay, I cave. What can I say? I'm a housewife with a post-birthday party mess to clean up from the night before and I could use a little help with some of the cleaning! I figured it was harmless. I knew I wasn't buying, so no big deal, right?


She tells me they'll be right over (who is "they" all of a sudden?). So I stop her and say, "Is it going to be noisy? My son needs to take a nap in a few minutes and I can't have loud noise."

"Oh, no. It's not loud," she assures me.

Salesperson #1: not a truth-teller.

So a few minutes pass, and two young gentlemen plow through my door with large boxes of vacuum parts. They're cordial enough, but I am irked that they don't remove their shoes as they enter. Um, wouldn't vacuum cleaner guys realize removing shoes is important if you're going to keep carpets in good condition?

I'm slightly annoyed, but they're all dressed up, so I cut them some slack.

Of course my mind is on those shoes now, so I look at the kid's shoes who is unpacking the chrome-glistening vacuum. His shoes are a fright. Completely peeling on top, and he informs me later his dog chewed the backs off of them.

I'm not buying it. I see it as a ploy for me to feel sorry for the guy and hand him a check.

Not happening.

He starts in on the small talk, acting interested in what my husband and I do for a living. In hindsight, my husband tells me I should have made something up. "You should have told him I sell vacuums," he jokes.

At any rate, I am feeling stuck in the room with this guy - with my son who should be down for a nap right now. He begins to start showing off his prize vacuum, bringing out gadget after gadget and having me test drive them.

And there is noise. Kirby is not a quiet product.

All I can think of is all the work I need to get done, all I had planned to do while my son napped.

But I try to remain cordial. I keep thinking, surely he'll get to the shampooing part soon and be gone.

It isn't long and the sales pitch comes. That monster of a vacuum can be mine for just $2700+.

If I had $2700 to spend, believe me, it would not be spent on a cleaning device.

But then he tells me he can knock $300 off that price because of his "contest promotion."

Ah, love these things.

The great line of, "I'm trying to win a trip to XYZ and you can help send me there, blah blah blah."

Oh pul-eeeze. I'm supposed to want to buy from you so that you can take a trip? Give me the trip, and we'll talk.

The kicker was the trip destination. And where these fine young gents were from.

They came here from Nebraska.

The trip was to Oklahoma City.

Uh, that's just a day road trip, isn't it?!? That's like offering me a trip to Pierre, SD. Woo wee. Sign me up.

Really? Oklahoma City? That's the big prize trip? Apparently people aren't buying the ol' Kirby if that's all they can spring for.

So I have very little interest in hearing about how he can win a trip if I "become part of the Kirby family."

They need to work on their main sales pitch, though. The "repulsion" factor. You know, vacuuming an area and showing you the filter, littered with dirt, dust and fuzz. Like I don't feel bad enough about how far behind I am on housecleaning, now I have some young whipper-snapper showing me I am not cleaning nearly well enough.

Thanks, dude. You now sent me into such a depression I'll need the $2700 for counseling and medications. Oh, I'm sorry. $2400, since I'm helping you win that extravagant trip.

But wait! He's grabbing his phone. This got really comical for me after awhile. He kept calling his "boss" to tell him about the nasty stuff he was getting on the filters.

"Hi, Mr. Snitzenbueler! Yeah, I'm here with Maxine and holy smokes! - you should see what we've pulled out of her carpet! It's awesome what Kirby can do!" Short pause. "Okay, great."

He hangs up and tells me Mr. Sneezyboo is taking another $200 off the price.

I feel like I'm a contestant on Deal or No Deal. Why does he need to keep calling "his boss?" And does that guy really answer every call on the first ring? Does he never have other appointments? Or for that matter, ever need to use the restroom? He is always available to take the call.

How convenient.

I call Vacuum Boy on it.

"Is there really even someone on the other end of that line?" I ask.

He looks at me in disbelief. "Of course! It's my boss. Here, look at this."

He shows me the last call on his phone. It means nothing to me. Just "Brian" somebody. Proves nothing. I figure, if it was legit, he would have rung dear Mr. Sloshfosh so I could speak to him.

But he goes through this charade at least 8 more times. Each time, Mr. Shooshibeans offers another price cut.

Now they're willing to give me a $700 trade-in on my vacuum. The one they claim is worth nothing because it doesn't pick up any dirt whatsoever.

I realize they have no need for it. The "trade-in" comment is just a ploy to make me think I could get a "good deal."

An hour and a half later, I insist that I need to get some work done, that I was not under the impression he would take this much time to vacuum and shampoo my carpet.

"Oh, go ahead and do your work," he says.

Okay, so I bolt. I've got dishes to do, an article to finish writing, and phone calls to make. I don't trust a complete stranger in my house, however, so I keep coming down to check on him.

Each time, he's got a nasty filter to show me. "Holy smokes, huh?"

Yeah, holy smokes, kid. Are you almost done???

I continue this darting in and out until his sidekick shows up again, this time saying verbatim what the other guy had just told me. The language was identical. Right down to the "awesome."

What's with using words like "awesome" and "perfect" 400 times in a sales pitch? Does that really resonate with people?

He claims he's sold 11 vacuums toward his 15 vacuums goal for the trip.

Good. What's four more, then, for a fine saleman as he? He doesn't need my help.

Not that it matters, but there is no chance of spending that kind of money without my husband's consent anyway, so he and his sidekick are practically begging me to call my spouse and see if he'll bite. The price is down to just $1700 now, after all.

I wanted to tell them that if I called my husband at work to ask him if spending $1700 on a vacuum today would be a good idea, he would laugh harder than he does at Jay Leno's Headlines on Monday nights.

So I get honest with the fellas.

I tell them the price isn't the issue - I'm not in the market for a vacuum, and furthermore I don't like their sales tactic. The girl tells me she'll be over to vacuum and shampoo one room, and then these guys show up and take up my afternoon.

I expected one clean carpet and a sales pitch. I did not expect him to drag Kirby upstairs and vacuum a mattress, try out every gadget on my stairs, ceiling fan and drapes. I did not expect him to pull out a filter every 3 -1/2 seconds to show me more dirt.

I return to my office and sidekick dude leaves. After I heard the shampooing finally end, I went downstairs to check on the trip contestant. He was packing up his gear. Finally! I thought.

I go back to working, and don't hear much so I check to see if he's still here.

He's at my front door gripping Kirby and company in his hands, peering out the window. He looks like a school kid waiting for the bus. A kid who has to pee.

Why is he fidgeting so much? He's just dying to get out of here, isn't he? Wow, they don't like "no"s, do they?

I am amazed at how he could go from Mr. Perky Holy-Smokes guy to unresponsive ready-to-dash boy.

I go check out my freshly cleaned carpet. He only did half the room, but that's okay. He did the dirtier half.

But all those filters with the guck on them were left in a pile in the middle of my floor.

Really? You can't stash a trash bag within all that cargo you've got?

Worse yet, as he picked up all those filters to put them in a pile, the dirt and fuzz fell off them onto my carpet.

Why would you not have Kirby clean that up?

So I'm pulling out my own vacuum and cleaning up his mess. He's still in my house, but doesn't make a peep when I utter in disbelief, "You sell vacuums, but you leave a mess on my carpet?"

Then I head to the kitchen and come upon the huge mess of water splattered all around my sink. He needed water to fill his shampooer, but obviously couldn't make use of a towel.

Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. And as I watched his ride pull up, it looked nothing short of a bank heist.

Driver smoking a cigarette flies into my driveway. Scared boy runs out of my house, hustles to the back of the van to throw the vacuum in and jumps in the passenger seat. They practically burn rubber out of my driveway.

I shake my head and realize I've learned a hard lesson. It's best to just send those salespeople on their merry way when they come to my door.

Lest I shatter the dream of young people everywhere of luxurious stays at the Motel 6 in Oklahoma City.

Friday, May 7, 2010

7-Up. A health food.

If you spend any amount of time in the grocery store these days...

(...which I don't, really. My dear husband does the grocery shopping. Mainly because grocery stores are cold. I don't like to be cold. Enough said. But actually, the guy loves it. It's the thrill of getting the best deal possible for him. He considers it success when the clerk has to hand him money at the checkout.

And I'm not kidding.

It happens.

To be honest, I think the guy really believes he should only have to pay 1950s prices for 2010 merchandise. He's delusional that way, but I love him. But enough about my frugal husband...that could be a whole other blog.)

So back to that grocery store. Namely, the increasing number of grocery items with words like "Natural," "Fortified," and "Antioxidant" slapped on the label.

Apparently we're falling for this deception, America. Because there's a bottle of Cherry 7-Up "with antioxidants" in my house right now.

A friend brought it over as part of a dinner we hosted last night. And she left it here, maybe because she's concerned for my health.

Or...because I was so mystified by it she casted it off for me to study.

Antioxidants. In soda pop.


It claims to have 10% Vitamin E. Vitamin E acetate, to be exact.

And yes, I Googled "Vitamin E acetate." I mean, come on. It sounds fake. This needs to be investigated.

According to, "Vitamin E acetate is a powerful antioxidant, possessing the ability to increase the moisturization of the skin's horny layer and thereby improve surface relief."

Uh, my skin has a "horny layer?" I'm not even goin' there.

It also says, "Vitamin E acetate is a dry, powder form of vitamin E that has no antioxidant power until the acetate is removed in the intestine as it is absorbed."

I had to re-read that sentence about 14 times. Huh? "no antioxidant power is absorbed."

Okay, so it's good for my skin, if my skin ever gets the stuff. Because wouldn't you think all the other goo in that bottle of 7-Up is not likely to allow anything good to get past it? The second listed ingredient was still high fructose corn syrup, after all.

Get real, soda people. 10% vitamin E isn't likely to deter the probably 100% forms of sugar sloshing through my arteries. But nice try, 7-Up.

Then I check the ultimate source for information. Wikipedia. Look what they have to say about our magical vitamin E acetate. "It is often used in dermatological products such as skin creams. Some studies have linked this acetate to cancer."


The antioxidants have power alright....the power to KILL you, evidently. Add them to your high fructose corn syrup beverage and wa-lah! Snap 10 years off your life.

The sad thing is, if you really stop to think about it, there really isn't anything we consume that wouldn't kill us eventually anyway. Fresh produce - someone will claim it was treated with pesticides. Water - someone will claim the plastic bottle contains carcinogens. Even soy is getting a bad rap lately. One guy is claiming soy is feminizing, therefore causing kids to become gay.

There's a soapbox for anybody that wants one, I suppose.

I'm going to get on mine now with a sparkling bottle of Cherry 7-Up in my hand. I figure if all the ingredients are opposing each other, they must cancel each other out, so it is really like drinking a glass of water.

Or at least that's what I'm going to tell myself. Until my premature death.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is "Gumby" listed in the phone book?

I have a newfound respect for plumbers.

I'll be honest, when I think of plumbers, I think about a guy tinkering around under a kitchen sink. I'm thinking the most difficult part of the task is finding the leak and fixing it.

However, this is no longer my thinking.

Instead, I am pretty sure these guys are part Gumby. You know, that green clay humanoid character.

It's the only way I can fathom those guys actually getting the job done. I know this because I needed to do a "plumber-type" task in my home and I was nearly reaching for the phone to dial 9-1-1. That is, if I would have been able to get to the phone.

Which I couldn't.

And herein is where the newfound respect comes into play.

I had a wall-texturing guy coming to our house to texture the walls of our entry bathroom. Mind you, this is just a small half bath great for our kids to wash their hands before dinner and guests who need to "use the facilities." In my father's words, "That bathroom is so small you have to decide what you're going to do before you go in so you make sure you enter facing the right direction." To be fair, it's not that small, but my Dad likes to exaggerate a bit.

Anyway...I needed to remove the tank from the toilet so the guy could texture behind it.

I figured it can't be that hard.

My husband told me to call a plumber.


In his defense, we have a friend who is a plumber, so my husband really just wanted me to call him to find out how to do it - utilize our resource pool type of idea. My husband likes to consult the experts.

I thought that was ridiculous. I simply just Google anything I don't know.

So that's what I did.

And I came across a wonderful blog post detailing the process by a mother who also was left to do an unpleasant task such as this. Plus she had good commentary to go with each step. I like that.

Okay, it seemed simple enough. I wasn't worried.

Until I stepped into my bathroom.

And realized the toilet allows maybe six inches on either side of the bowl to maneuver. I thought maybe I could just reach my hand back there to remove the nuts from bolts.

Um, no.

NOT feasible.

Okay, I had no other choice. I had to get down on that floor and squeeze into that miniscule space.

So I get down there, and attempt to lift my arm to put that pliers to use, and I am stuck.

Instant panic.

Then I remind myself plumbers are not typically small people. And they do this. Certainly I can do this.

I wiggle my way out and try again. This time, making sure my arm is above my head before I get into position.

One is off. YES!

I proceed to the next one. This one is placed at a precise angle that is nearly impossible for me to move my arm enough to get a good grip. I struggle to get the pliers in place.

It slips from my hand.

I cannot physically reach to pick it up as I am not Gumby.

I am going to have to shimmy my way out of that tight spot again to retrieve the crazy pliers.

And I'm stuck.

Now I really panic.

And I'm sweating.

I think of what it will be like when my husband gets home from work in 6 hours and I'm stuck between a toilet and the wall. The school will have called repeatedly telling me I need to pick up my children, but I will be unable to get to the phone. My two-year-old will have eaten everything in the pantry that is at a 2 to 4 foot level, smearing crumbs throughout the house, giggling profusely as he refuses to hand me the phone.

I cannot allow these things to happen. I close my eyes and try to relax. Then I wiggle free and figure I need a new plan. The nut isn't budging anyway, so I head to the garage to survey the toolbox.

Wrenches. Well, that makes sense. But I never can figure out which one will fit. So I bring in a couple and give it a try.

Of course, neither are a fit.

Back to the tool box. I am confident I've grabbed the right size now.

Sure enough. It fits. But by this point, I'm tired. And I'm weak. And turning that ridiculous wrench seems impossible.

I'm starting to wonder if I could find the phone number for our plumber friend.

But I refuse to throw up the white flag. I pray instead. Then I gear up for one last-ditch effort to break that nut loose. And it budged!!


I had to return to the floor to get to the third and final nut on the other side of the tank. Ironically, my sense of accomplishment must have shrunk my head and shoulders instead of puffing them up!

Toilet tank removed. Goal attained.


And then, ewww.

Did you know your toilet is really dirty under that tank? Yeah, you probably didn't want to know that.

Cleaning that up seemed like a piece of cake compared to the tank removal.

Seriously, plumbers. How do you do that? I saw our plumber friend on Sunday and noticed his broad shoulders. He'd never have made it out of my bathroom. I would have had to turn him into a throw rug - something - because he'd be part of my permanent decor.

At least then the plumber would be the one to make "cracks" about the unsolicited viewing of another person's posterior cleft!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What They Don't Tell You At the Baby Shower

I firmly believe that at the moment of conception, all women should immediately find a huge "S" appear on their chests.

Because becoming a mother is synonymous with being Superwoman. And no one at the baby shower is going to tell you that.

But they really should.

Mothers will be able to perform feats that no man could possibly fathom doing himself. He wouldn't even attempt it.

But as mothers, we have no choice. We either become Superwoman or our children would probably cease to exist.

Today my "S" was beaming. Even if I wasn't.

For a variety of reasons - namely 3 reasons: Rachel, Caleb & Noah - I have gotten very little sleep in the past couple of weeks. This past Wednesday I only snuck in about 3-4 hours of shut-eye as Noah was hurling the night away.

Why do we always get the stomach flu in the wee hours of the morning? Has anyone ever STARTED the flu around noon or even a more convenient 9am?? So by the time bedtime rolls around the worst is likely over?!?

Noah hasn't been sleeping well for awhile anyway, so he's interrupted my sleep often and I really like my sleep. When it is time for sleep, I want ALL of it. So as you can probably guess, I got wore out. That is, my immune system got wore out.

And guess who woke up Sunday morning with the flu? Yep. Superwoman just got zapped. Picture the big "POW" slamming into my face.

But we all know moms are not allowed to be sick. At least, they are still responsible to do everything they would normally do if they were in perfect condition.

That's when that "S" seems to shine a little brighter...

So it's Monday morning and I am still not anywhere near 100% yet, but I take one look at my two sons and realize it is going to be a LONNNNNNNNNG day. Noah is the epitome of misery and Caleb says he can't even chew his breakfast because it makes his head hurt.

Oh, joy.

I check their temps - fevers for both. So I send Caleb back to bed and call the school to let them know he won't be joining them this fine Monday.

Then I take a better look at Noah and I'm greatly concerned. He's a rashy fright and I either seek help or I'm in for a day of constant whimpering and whining.

Of course our pediatrician has no appointment opening, so I have to settle for some 5th string doctor who I'm pretty sure just got hired last week.

Once I meet her and we begin to dialogue about Noah, I'm convinced I was right. She has no clue what to do and soon she's running for my pediatrician.

Next thing I know, we're in a new exam room with our pediatrician, two medical students and the doctor I made the appointment with...I don't think she knew as much as the med students.


Anyway, turns out Noah is a wreck but no one really knows why. It's time for x-rays and lab work.

This is when it gets interesting.

First stop, the lab for a blood draw.

If you read my blog about Noah's surgery you'll know the nurses struggled to find a vein to put the IV...I would discover this to be an ongoing problem. Ugh.

As I clutched my little boy in my lap, the lab technician poked and prodded until she finally hit a vein. Meanwhile, Noah is screaming uncontrollably and I'm feeling so horrible about putting him through this while in a conscious state that I am now crying too!

I take several minutes to calm him (maybe, us) down as we make our way to x-ray. I have to manually turn him into a contortionist to get the pictures she yeah. You know what happens. He's bawling again.

I'm fighting back the tears only because I may be more irritated than sad at this point.

Once it is finally over we're ushered back to the exam room where we will sit for another half an hour waiting for some results. It is well into Noah's normal naptime by now, so he is crying incessantly.

The pediatrician pops her head in briefly (probably heard all the wailing and figured she better check in) to let me know they're still waiting on a few test results.

I'm so physically and emotionally exhausted all I want is to take my children and go home. But we wait and Noah refuses to settle down even slightly unless I am standing and rocking him.

So here I am: ON MY FEET as I still fight the flu myself, rocking a 28-pound fitful child. Considering in the past 24 hours I've had nothing but dry toast and Sprite as an energy source I am amazing even myself.

We're finally able to leave - of course at this point we're all ravenous so fortunately McDonald's is only a block away.

I suppose if I was truly Superwoman I'd have a healthy gourmet lunch simmering in the crockpot at home.

Get real.

On a side note, I was so proud of Caleb for sitting patiently all that time as his little brother went through continuous torture - he was such a trooper and he earned that Star Wars Happy Meal toy! Shoot, he earned the entire line of toys!

Instead of the crockpot - awaiting me when I got home were six voice mail messages.

I had a meeting at 10:30 that I missed.

My husband is wondering where in the world I am. Several times.

So I settle the boys in with their Happy Meals and start returning phone calls, desperately trying to reschedule my meeting that HAD to be done today...deadlines don't care if you're a mom.

Fortunately I salvage the meeting situation and I'm set-up for 2pm. Whew!

The meeting goes great, only I discover later in the day that I conducted the entire meeting with a Wonder Pets sticker on my shoulder blade. Thanks, Pediatrician's office. And thanks, Noah for snuggling me so much the sticker transferred itself from your chest to my back.

What can I say? I'm a Mom. It happens.

So I finish my meeting and drive over to the school to pick up Rachel. I'm early, so I enjoy the few minutes of solitude and quiet in the car.

I was actually starting to feel a lot better about the day.

So that's why when I stepped into the school hallway I had to laugh. It probably should have made me cry, but I think when your "S" is so wrinkled and worn you realize it's just another part of motherhood and you better get used to it.

Head lice. The hallways were lined with large black garbage bags full of each child's belongings in an attempt to stop the spread of the vicious bugs.

Some classrooms were checked for head lice and since some was found, parents are turning OCD. Bedding, stuffed animals, coats and carpets will be under Superwomen.

Personally, by that point in my day I was so done that I didn't even get worked up about it. So far, neither of my kids that attend that school have been checked and I have no reason to believe they have head lice yet.

After all, tomorrow is another day. And there will have to be something for this superhero to tackle.

I just wish it were a good book and a pillow.

Instead I'll probably be boiling that pillow. Oh, well. The steam will be good for my shriveled "S".

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In The Eyes of a Stranger

I'm really not used to hospitals. And frankly, I really don't want to get used to them.

My 2-yr-old son Noah had surgery recently to remove a nevus sebaceus (medical term for really weird mole on his scalp). The event itself is enough to make one uneasy, but now add an environment you just don't comprehend. It's unsettling.

After registering, we were sent up to the 6th floor to get settled into a room and dress him in hospital pajamas. (I must say he can even make those things look cute!) The pediatric nurse introduced herself and said, "I will be Noah's nurse today."

She failed to mention only for the few minutes he was on that floor! We never even saw her again until we returned for a half hour post-surgery.

But whatever, lady.

Sure. You're his nurse for the day.

Anyway...soon we're ushered down to surgery - actually the pre-op room - where we anxiously await the anesthesiologist's arrival.

And meet more medical staff.

I really don't even know what their jobs were. And you would never recognize them again if you passed them in the grocery store or sat by them at a ballgame because they're so garbed with scrubs, booties and hats that they could be anybody.

I completely understand now why in TV shows the actors trying to sneak into a hospital can just slip on some scrubs or a white jacket and parade right by without any suspicion.

More staff pop in and out. Someone hands me a snap-up shirt, booties and the ever-fashionable blue shower cap thing. I now feel like strutting into surgery myself and uttering a few lines stolen from an ER episode.

And I probably could have. The swarms of people in blue get-ups racing here and there were nothing short of nuts. Who knew it took so many people to get us in and out of surgery?

Another staff person comes in to keep us company. Or so I thought. Actually, he was comic relief. He was great with Noah and did a good job of calming my nerves.

What I'd soon discover... he was the person I needed to trust most that day. Because eventually he was the one to send my son into an unconscious state.

Some might think, "Well, Maxine, you should have been more nervous about the surgeon, or the anesthesiologist!" Perhaps.

But this is the man who had his hands on my son at the moment I had to leave him behind.

And there was something special about him. Between his scrub cap and mask were incredibly bright - yet comforting - eyes.

I was told Noah would very likely fight the mask a lot - start screaming, pulling it away, reaching for me.

That I would have to stay strong.

It would only be 5 breaths...and he'd be in dreamland...that's what this stranger in blue told me.

But Noah didn't fight the mask at all. He went to sleep without an ounce of struggle. I couldn't help but notice Noah was looking into that man's eyes.

Then it was waiting room time.

I was in a daze. I couldn't read a magazine or pick up a newspaper. I even saw someone I knew but couldn't utter a simple "Hello." My only focus was on that big TV screen in the room that told what "stage" he was at in surgery.

"Procedure" it said.

30 seconds pass.

"Procedure" it read again.

5, 10, 20, 30 minutes passed.

It still said, "Procedure."

Ugh. The surgeon said this would take 15 minutes tops.

Finally. The surgeon approaches me.

Everything went fine, but basically my child is full of holes.

"It took just as long to get an IV in as it did to do the surgery itself," he tells me.

All that toddler chub makes it hard to find a vein, apparently.

I wouldn't realize just HOW MANY places they attempted to get a vein until I was at home, putting him in pajamas later that evening. They obviously had quite a struggle and turned him into swiss cheese! Thank goodness the poor kid was out cold for all of that!

So it was off to the recovery room. This is where I determined I made a wise career move to not pursue the medical field.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of "regular" staff are the med students. Like deer in headlights, they are bombarded with techniques and medical jargon that made me dizzy.

How do they remember all that stuff?! I'd inadvertently kill someone for sure.

One guy sitting at the computer and monitoring my son's vital signs, gives me a brief run-down of the surgery. And encourages me to touch my son and help him come out of his deep sleep.

Noah is sawing logs. And I'm so grateful.

Before I left Noah in surgery, I asked if I would be able to be there when he woke up. They told me they would have him in recovery cleaning him up, so it would be a couple minutes before he'd see me.

Truth be told, that bothered me. But I realize they're just doing their job.

So I was secretly very grateful God kept Noah snoring away until I arrived. Because when he opened his eyes, my face was the first one he saw.

Thank you, Jesus!!

Noah immediately put his arms out for me to pick him up. I held him snuggled against me, so grateful for this moment. And feeling so blessed to have the opportunity to be there.

Not just in that recovery room. But in every step of this process. Because it opened my eyes.

Here's an example:

As we waited in the pediatric unit prior to surgery, Noah went to explore the large play area on that floor. I sat down to watch him and as I scanned the area, it hit me. I had been there before.

You see, over 10 years ago, we lived in Bismarck and I worked as a reporter at a local TV station. One day I did a story about a man who would come to the pediatric floor and sing songs for the children to encourage them. He had some tear-jerking stories to tell about his experience with children fighting for their lives. That particular day the play area was buzzing with several pint-size patients.

He sang "Puff, The Magic Dragon." You know, the one where the dragon can't be brave without his life-long friend.

I'm with you, Puff. I'm not so good at this bravery thing, either.

At the end of my report, the video concluded with a little girl driving a child-size car, waving at the camera, and the music fades...

Touching, yes. But this was before I had any children.

Before I knew what it felt like to be a parent of a child in the pediatric unit.

And I just never know what the future will bring.

Had you told me 12 years ago I would be sitting in that play area with my own child as a patient one day, I could not have comprehended it.

Here was my son puttering around the room in the same car that little girl was in all those years ago.

And there I was. A young, inexperienced reporter, attempting to describe the meaningfulness of a man singing songs of hope for sick children and their parents.

Believe me, it had meaning now.

My mind darted back to the present as I heard the nurse say, "We're ready now. I'll take you down."

One week later, I walk into the doctor's office to learn results of the biopsy. And I had to ask myself, Am I okay with whatever God does here? If the news is not good, will I crumble? Or will I trust?

Fortunately, we were blessed with good news. No cancer. Nothing to worry about.

And honestly, I was grateful that I wouldn't have to be brave anymore.

I know it was a gift, regardless of the outcome. Because I know the Giver.

I saw Him in the eyes of the man holding my son when I had to walk away. I'm convinced Noah saw Him too.