Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It Always Helps to Own the Stolen Vehicle You are Being Arrested for Driving

It is one thing to have your vehicle stolen from your own driveway while you sleep. It is another to be pulled over months later driving that same stolen vehicle with your kids in tow.  We had owned a popular version of a Chevy Silverado that had a spectacular paint job that sparkled in the sun.  The first time it was stolen from us out of a local parking lot should have been a signal to us not to purchase the exact same vehicle. When it never returned and was probably being sold off for parts, we did exactly what we shouldn't have done and bought the same style truck again.... same paint job... same shine.... same invisible sign that screamed "Come Steal Me."  Several years later, as the paint began to fade and the shine wasn't quite so obvious, it sat tucked safely in our carport full of all things a hunter would love.... guns, bright orange vests, Columbia jackets and more.  My husband rose early the next morning to take to the woods and join the masses in the first day of deer season.  Not being a good hunter wife, I only rise that early one day of the hunt and it's not to prepare eggs and bacon.  I join him because I'm the only one who knows where all the hunting gear has been stored for the rest of the year. We stood outside with our steaming cups of coffee admiring the moonlight as it cascaded over the garden and the sleeping dogs who obviously failed in their guard duties.  It was at about the exact same moment that we both realized there was much more space where we were standing than there was the night before. Something was missing.....the truck!  It's one of those moments of disbelief where you have to have a few more sips of coffee to understand exactly what has happened.  There is no great sound of realization, but rather a subtle whisper of "hmmmmmm.... the truck is gone."  Of course, we belong to that special club that gets to add one more word to that whisper of realization...."again!"   The truck was gone again.    There had been no dog barking during the night and no sound of engines roaring.  The vehicle had driven off silently as we slept away.   The funny thing about having something stolen is that is makes you crazy for a few weeks. You begin to look at everyone with suspicion and you see your stolen goods all over town out of your peripheral vision, never quite able to focus on them and you convince yourself you're seeing things. We went through all the motions of reporting the vehicle stolen, filling out all of the paperwork, and leaving it for the detectives to find.  They never did.  However... a month later a few boys on bicycles came out of the woods behind our house and spoke of an abandoned truck stuck in the mud miles down the powerline.   Being a good southern family, we jumped on the 4-wheeler (mom, dad, baby and a rifle) and shot down the powerline where we found our muddy truck, stripped of everything except for our Federal ID badges. I suppose the thieves knew that it was much more serious to steal those than our hunting truck.  Here is the funny thing about finding your own stolen vehicle.  You need to make sure the police log in their database that it has been recovered.  We informed the police, the insurance agent, our neighbors, the crazy guy down the road who we suspected all along and even told our friends and family about our fantastic find.  However.... somewhere deep in the police station, I suppose the report sat on a desk and never quite made it to data entry and unbeknownst to all, the truck remained listed as a stolen vehicle.  Can I tell you what happens when you are driving down the highway with your husband and a baby, none of whom have a shred of identification on them...... usually nothing..... unless they are driving a stolen vehicle!  As the blue lights flashed across the less shiny truck, a fearful realization took over that we were indeed going to be arrested for driving our own stolen vehicle. I hugged the baby, kissed her on the head and told her "Daddy's going to jail!"  The good thing about actually owning the stolen vehicle you are being arrested for driving is that you get out of jail free.  Of course, that's after your friends stop laughing and bring your identification to the jailhouse.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Early Morning Visits from God, The Utility Guy and the Crying Eyed Cat

Since the time that I was pregnant with my first child I have struggled with insomnia.  I wake abruptly and all throughout the night with sudden realizations that I forgot to put Downy in the rinse cycle or failed to mail the water payment in a timely manner.    I never wake from the thoughts that should wake someone, such as..."The iron is on and the curtains are beginning to smolder."  The thoughts that throw me awake are subtle whispers that I failed to accomplish everything on my "Mom" To Do List.    A pattern began to emerge over the years and most nights I wake at exactly 3:33 a.m.  Instead of finding this odd, I find comfort in the fact that I am keeping to a schedule.  While I am acutely aware of numeric patterns, this has never stood out to me as strange.  When I was eight months pregnant,  I would wake from a foot lodged in my bladder and joke that it must be 3:33 a.m.  It always was. It was playtime for the baby.  My son has had the same crazy sleep habit since gestation.  As he moved into his teen years, he once again began to wake at exactly 3:33 a.m.  Now there are two of us in this house of no sleep.  In an attempt to keep to our daily schedules and not be late due to an absence of R.E.M. sleep, I moved my alarm clock ahead ten minutes.  And yet...when I am thrown awake each morning trying to smell the burning curtains or Downy April Freshness, it is again 3:33 a.m.  My manipulation of the clock has had no effect on our odd sleep habit.  It was just recently that I heard tale that this is a common phenomenon and people around the world experience the same early morning wake up call at exactly 3:33 a.m.  There are many reasons listed on the internet and they vary greatly in explanation. Some say it is God whispering to you and others claim it to be a more scary call from the underworld guy.  (I knew the devil ran the water company. He’s peeved about my bill and wants to talk)  I'm curious how we can jump from one end of the spectrum to the other in explaining this common sleep pattern and exactly how does one gain this privileged information about how God and/or the devil communicate...Wikipedia, I suppose.    I like to think that it is God, but it concerns me that all these years He has been speaking to me and I assumed it was the laundry calling me.  What a gross error in judgment!   I read about how the soul can travel to astral planes and this is the time of the morning that it returns to the body.  I'm uncertain exactly what an astral plane is, but I'm quite concerned about the chance that souls are coming and going all throughout the night in my house.  There is enough activity in my house at night and now I'm led to believe that there is another dimension of activity occurring.  Does anyone ever get any sleep?   While this turn-style for souls has possibly manifested in my house, you must know that there is also a little boy who sings in our kitchen at night.  Perhaps he got off at the wrong house.  Nobody has ever seen him, but each of us has heard his sweet song echo down our hallway.  I teach my kids to enjoy such things and not be afraid.  We don't make it out to be ghosts or lost souls- we simply accept that something has occurred that cannot be explained by any of us. To add to the night’s activities in this house with no sleep, my daughter has two hamsters that feel that nighttime is the best time to run and run and run on that dang metal wheel of fun they have in their cage.   Maybe they are running from the singing boy or from the smell of burning curtains.  Most likely, they are running from the crying eyed cat that sits in front of their cage at midnight.  It’s a sad little kitty, born way too early and without any tear ducts in one eye - so it cries non-stop.  Disturbing, but cute in a cuddly “I need something else to take care of” way.    So tonight,  after I turn the iron off, comfort the kitty, and thank the Lord for my working utilities, I will drop off to sleep and hope for another wake up call from a higher power.  I have a lot of things I need to thank Him for and a little lost sleep is well worth the chance to do so.  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cutting Your Own Hair is Never a Good Decision

Most people learn by the age of four that it is not a wise choice to cut your own hair.  It took me forty five years to learn this valuable lesson.  I am cursed with fine, straight hair and I have spent a lifetime paying good money to have tiny snippets of hair cut off in a simple straight line.  I’ve watched this precision cutting take place multiple times.  How hard could it be?  My barber is a magician and makes it look so easy to do.   After three failed attempts to get an appointment for a trim and one particularly hot summer day that left those straight locks of hair plastered to my face and neck, I got this brilliant idea that I could perform this same simple cut on my own hair.   Let me preface this by saying that I now know why beauticians pay hundreds of dollars for high quality sharp scissors.  One should not attempt this act at home with the same scissors that are used for opening freezer pops or cutting cardboard boxes open.  Being somewhat intelligent, I knew that I could not cut the back of my hair, so I called for my children to assist.   This rare opportunity to cut their mother’s hair was welcomed with great joy and excitement.  They are well practiced with scissors and have cut pumpkins and many a dancing skeleton out of construction paper.    What damage could they do... I was only taking off less than a quarter of an inch.  Did you know that one fourth of an inch varies from one side of the head to the other and is especially deceiving when looking through a mirror or through the eyes of a child?   The first lop of hair was rough cut and uneven.  My concern began to mount that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.  Knowing we had to fix it, we took a little more off to even it out.  As panic set in, I sent the kids away and took matters into my own hands.  I snipped and cut and evened things out until I had nice full looking layers.....on one side of my head.   The other side was an inch shorter, yet did have a nice bounce to it.  I knew that this continued failed attempt to get both sides even would result in more cutting until I would be bald.  To make matters worse, there was no way I could call my magic man barber and tell him what I had done...unless I was five years old.   I just thought I had those same magical skills as he.  When they say, “Don’t attempt this at home” - people should pay attention!  Knowing there is a solution to most every problem, I discovered that I can tuck one side behind my ear and leave the other down in a kind of sporty way.   I can also simply lean my head to one side creating an optical illusion that both sides are even.  However, it unnerves people when you keep your head posed like that for extended periods of time.  They think you are trying ridiculously hard to be sexy and what they fail to realize is that you are simply a victim of terribly bad coiffure choices.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Google Thine Own Self

I have this secret passion for tiny six ounce cans of grape juice.  They are expensive, so I hide them away in the 'fridge like precious treasure.  Last night my daughter was serving them up to her friends explaining how she enjoyed this product at Communion.  She told them how "Back in the day, Jesus and his friends loved Welch's Grape Juice."   She went on to explain how once a month they all got together for a big supper and that they served bread and blood and grape juice. Before I had a chance to jump in and explain the representational association of grape juice and Christ's blood, the conversation immediately flowed to the Volvo Driving Vampires of Twilight and their thirst for blood and not juice products.    This is the same child that once explained the Ten Commandments to me and felt it was her duty to point out if I might be approaching the violation of any of them.   My favorite on her list of Godly rules is  "Thou shalt not cover the bare footed witness." I believe I'm pretty safe with that one and don't have to worry about crossing any lines.   She has a series of others that were somehow grossly lost in translation and involve Christmas characters such as Dancer, Prancer, Doofus and Don - Santa's chosen elite.    Over the years, we have added our own commandments to her modern day list of good rules for living. Somewhere near the top is "Thou Shalt Not Google Thine Own Self"   I've found that this is critically important for one's own self wellness.   One evening, while Facebook stalking my kids, past lovers, and that mean guy from the IRS, I decided to see what popped up if I searched my own name.  I am still emotionally traumatized by it. You would think that somewhere back in Leviticus, there might have been a reference to not peeking in the Book of Life and seeing your own true colors OR... seeing the true colors of 2179 other people with the exact same name. The first thing I discovered was that my daughter and I had obviously been in the "Race for the Cure."  I paid our $50 entry fees, but I didn't collect any additional dollars for the cause and the world could now see a big $0 contribution next to my name!  What!  I was shocked - mortified even.  I give to that very worthy event.  However, I'm guessing I will give much more than our entry fees next year.   Next came a Facebook profile for a young lady with my exact same name.  Her goal in life was to meet the Jonas brothers and kiss the cute guy in 2nd period.   I had to wonder if any of my previous bosses ever googled me and mistakenly thought that while they were paying me good money to come up with project solutions and funding dollars, that perhaps I was really spending my day dreaming about Nick Jonas.  That could explain that one year without a raise.   Each new hit on my name was equally disturbing and I immediately swore off all future self-googling.    I sought solace in my tiny cans of grape juice, but now I'm thinking that perhaps I should switch to other varieties of juice that don't quite represent the meaning of my salvation and that of the other two thousand people that share my name.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Igloo Coolers and Family Wellness

The Fourth of July is upon us and that means a weekend of wet beach towels, BBQ sauce on every surface within a 20 yard radius of the grill and a sudden self-mastery of back yard pyrotechnics.  For the past twenty years I have spent many an Independence Day camping with the family.  Last year, I officially proclaimed that I am past the age of sleeping in a tent on the side of a lake eating out of a cooler.  Granted, I have done that on many occasions and the memories are wonderful, but there comes a time when you’ve experienced all you can possibly experience.  I learned early on that the success of a Fourth of July camp out is completely dependent on the contents of the cooler.   When I was in my twenties, that red igloo cooler contained beer, water, more beer, chips, salsa, limes and more beer.  Camping was relaxing and loads of fun.  The first camp out with children completely changed my cooler packing skills.  Now we had juice boxes, frozen breast milk, fresh fruit, and an assortment of ready to grill meats marinated in virgin olive oil and love.   Camping was still fun, but wasn’t quite so care-free.    A second cooler was added for dry goods such as diapers and an assortment of pediatric medicines for everything from runny noses to scraped knees to a sudden outbreak of whooping cough.    As the kids aged, yet a third cooler was added to our packing that contained all things we wanted to keep dry.  The contents included video cameras, cables, chargers, cameras of every make and size, cell phones, SIM cards, Game-Boys and more.    We were going to capture every moment of fun in high speed digital format.  We upgraded to a large SUV just to carry all of our coolers full of needed camping supplies.    We would arrive at the camp site and spend hours setting up our weekend home.  We discovered early on that every campground across the South has a family of twelve who has been at the park for two weeks enjoying the bliss that is camping.  I counted their coolers last time out and realized the cooler to child ratio did not fall within the accepted norm for family camping.   They had ten kids and two coolers.  What was their secret, I must ask!  Camping was so easy to them.   Somehow it was different for us.  We spread the dusty canvas tent across the gravel pad and prayed for success in setting it up since the instruction book had long since disappeared.  While the posse of ten kids was circling us on bikes watching us attempt to set up camp, my son was building a make-shift cellular tower to boost his signal strength for uploading photos to Facebook.  The happy parents down the way were preparing sandwiches by the dozens, toasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs I’ve never heard of.    It looked so right.  The mother wore a bright blue bandanna and had the complexion that Mother Nature surely must have.  Let me point out again… she had ten kids, I had two.  I stood there in sweat with Clinique mascara running down my cheek secretly wishing that I looked as peaceful and content.  My husband was busy trying to make tent stakes with twigs because he had failed to pack any stakes in those coolers.  He had every fishing lure known to man, but no device to keep the tent secured to the ground.  As he began to mumble obscenities and make strange gestures, my daughter headed off to the playground to map out who had control of which playground pieces.  Playground law dictates that the kid who can do the most back handsprings rules the playground.  That power, however, can be usurped by the kid that is known to sit quietly and eat the playground sand.  He can pretty much go anywhere he wants and all kids step back.  So while my husband was building our castle, my son was manipulating cellular signals and my daughter was strategizing playground control with well executed flips in the sand, I sat alone on my red cooler watching the families around me zipped up in their mosquito tents wondering how I was going to wring the cooler water out of the pre-formed hamburger patties that would eventually be our dinner.  Nobody was filming anything, the work had overtaken the fun and I knew that these days were numbered.   It is now days before the Fourth of July holiday.  My son will be at his friend’s house swimming in their salt water pool.  My daughter has a series of birthday parties and social events that will keep her busy all weekend.    I have to wonder what would happen if I grab the old red cooler, throw in a six pack of beer and ask my husband if he wants to go camping over the Fourth.  Without a doubt, I know where we would end up…… That’s right…at Embassy Suites in our terry cloth robes with a red cooler of beer at the end of the bed thanking God for the many memorable years of family camping and the wisdom to know when to let go. 

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...