Sunday, January 16, 2011

I May Have Left A Lung On the Mountain

I've been to the mountain and back and all future vacations will be at sea level where oxygen is plentiful and nothing more then shorts and a t-shirt are needed.  I had grandiose plans of taking the family to the Rocky Mountains for a little fun in the snow.  In hindsight, I realize now that bouncing back from bronchitis doesn't necessarily mean you are ready to don 50 extra pounds of clothes and trek up a mountain with three children in tow, all of whom need assistance getting their own snow gear on.   I believe I was approaching a near death experience as I sat on the bumper of the jeep in the extreme cold of the public parking lot trying to shove my son's foot into a boot that looked like he could walk through swamps or pools of nuclear waste.  These were the biggest, heaviest boots I've ever seen and I had to wonder why he selected these.  They warded off cold and water and probably cute girls, too. As I gasped for oxygen and forced children into clothing that didn't fit, I had to wonder where the fun was.  Something told me it was on the slopes and I just had to hang on. 

As my blood thinned and oxygen levels depleted, I attached lift tickets to everyone's jackets and soon we were headed up the mountain for a little tubing. Now, my idea of tubing was nothing like what waited for us.  I envisioned gently skirting down a hill in white powdery fluff, laughing all the way. What I paid $150 for was an over-inflated tube of air and four icy runs that we go careening down after my daughter screams "Spin Us" to the attendant at the top of the hill.   Certain all oxygenated blood had now left my body, I spun upward into the bank of the run only to come shooting down backwards at speeds surely prohibited by OSHA and any safety conscious ski-patrol. 

As my daughter mapped out new and exciting ways to come down the mountain (backwards, upside down.... connected in a chain of death) my son made two runs and excused himself to the warmth and comfort of the lodge. Had there been little oxygen masks in there like they had on the plane, I would have joined him, but instead stayed with my daughter to make a few more runs down the mountain while I denied the obvious signs of sudden onset heart disease or decompression sickness from the lung that I was certain collapsed from the last time I flew upside down around the bend of the tubing run.   On our last run, we had five people in a chain and I was in the lead position.  It didn't take long before the tail of our chain came swinging past me telling me I was about to be whipped down the slope in a violent shift of energy.  That's about the time you could hear my daughter yelling, "Wheeeee........"   We landed in a pile of giggles at the base of the run where we gathered our tubes and my collapsed lung and headed to the lodge to join my son who already wore the look of exhaustion and winter fun.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Unexpected Friends


Wolf!!!!   No.... This is my backyard where Randi Hope and Jaci are checking out the new snowfall.  In an earlier post, "Hope Comes in Many Forms" I told the story of how Randi Hope came to be.  This is simply a quick update on Randi and what she's up to.  I've received comments from people who wonder why the deer is not afraid of the dog, but you have to understand that they have been raised together. I'm not certain the deer even knows she's a deer.  She imprinted on my husband and she believes she is supposed to lounge around on the pool deck eating pistachios and sipping Sam Adams beer when nobody is looking.      She is free to roam the woods, but she stays here with her dog friends in a make-shift stable where they all pile together at night.   She is gone at the moment and I can only guess that her boyfriend, Turner from the woods, has lured her out for some reindeer games or a little mischief.   She always comes home after a few days and I'm guessing that this time she may come home with a surprise.  I suppose we will know in the Spring.   

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tiny Snowflakes and Quilted Goodness

Southern Snow!  Nothing is more exciting than the possibility of snow in the southern Delta.   Moms race to the grocery store to stock up on bread and milk so they are prepared should the seventh seal be opened or we are snowed in for more than a few hours.  It's not like we don't already have enough groceries on hand to sustain a small army, but you never know when one might need some fresh guacamole and home-made salsa to fight off the cold.  I stand ready to meet these needs.  Kids begin mining for hats and gloves and full Arctic expedition gear in case we get that 1 - 3 inches of snow that will stop everything in its tracks.   The news anchors report about being prepared and sheltering in place.  That particular term, "Shelter In Place"  makes me think of a concrete bunker, cans of tuna and bottles of water.  My children understand that to mean that we have raced to the video store and have half a dozen of the latest movies, we have ice cream in an assortment of flavors,  frozen pizzas are readily accessible at all times and someone actually knows where the TV remote is located.   There is a community pulse that beats faster and faster as the weathermen show digital forecasts of what may be coming our way.  The kids pace back and forth watching for the first hint of snow, sleet, or any other frozen precipitation.  When that first tiny snowflake falls, there is an immediate flurry of messages on Facebook announcing that the storm has arrived. Shelter in Place!  Cook those pizzas!   No matter what the time of day or night, kids who normally never venture past the boundaries of their wifi connections come outdoors in groves.  They are dressed in fully Arctic gear, each with a personal all-terrain vehicle and make-shift sled.    As I write, we have passed through several phases of fun involving sledding, 4-wheeling, building snowmen with giant sparkler arms, chasing the dog who stole the boot, fishing the youngest child out of the muddy hole of water in the back yard and much more.  Each of these children is now passed out asleep across my living room.   Their snow gear sits in a pile on my laundry room floor slowly depositing melting snow everywhere.   (Note... I have true respect for the moms of the north who do this on a daily basis)  Abandoned cups of hot chocolate and slices of pizza are left near each exhausted child as they rest from the fun they have had.    But I realize a terribly important thing as I sit here taking it all in.  We have plenty of food, drink and dry clothes to accommodate every person in this house and I can take comfort knowing we will successfully make it through this snowstorm.  However,  we are down to one roll of toilet paper!  What was I thinking?!?  I thought I was prepared to survive even the Apocalypse, but something as simple as toilet paper, or the lack of, can bring a household to its knees.  It no longer matters if we have food, heat or water....  toilet paper is now the founding support of our hierarchy of needs.  Somewhere between basic needs and self-actualization, I forgot about the importance of two-ply softness.  Someone is going to be traipsing through the snow for this precious commodity before the night is over.    While the roads are ice covered and all signs say "Shelter in Place",  the call of Charmin will drag us out into this winter wonderland to forage for  rolls of quilted goodness. Surely, somewhere out there is a 24 hour gas station providing respite for weary travelers and moms who forgot about about the strength and softness delivered by toilet paper in the middle of a southern winter storm.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Broken and Beat in Kyiv

The classic game of Monopoly comes in many different versions.  My daughter has the "Pink Boutique" version that comes in a fashionable pink suede box and offers trips to wonderful shopping spots around the globe with a simple roll of the dice.  My son owns the latest Monopoly World edition that comes with titles to cities around the world, six credit cards, and an ATM machine.  Somewhere in my past I owned the traditional game with paper money and a race car playing piece that we all fought over. 

At the beginning of our modern day game of Monopoly, we each had 20 million dollars.  I was the only adult at the table and sadly, twenty minutes later, I was broke, had mortgaged seven large European cities and owed my daughter a million dollars for an illegal loan not allowed by the Monopoly guy.  My son was building sky-rise hotels in Istanbul and Kyiv and charging his own mother $9 million every time I stopped by to say hello.  It didn't take long to realize that my children had taken all of my money and I was in debt up to my ears.   

I was fully aware that this was just a game, but a sinking feeling came over me as I looked at all of my foreclosed properties that my kids were scooping up for pennies. I had to wonder if I was simply part of a generation of people who did not invest wisely.  I thought buying Athens, Greece would be a good decision.... Apparently not.     I invested in space travel and it seems you can't build hotels in space yet, so there was no future income there.  I should have bought Cape Town and Belgrade and loaded them with huts, houses and swanky hotels.  But no.... I was paying luxury taxes and income taxes and investing in solar energy that just didn't pay off. 

My millions dwindled to nothing when I arrived at my son's doorstep in Kyiv.  He was in jail when I arrived, but was quick to get the message to me that I owed him $9 million dollars and he hoped I enjoyed the view from the monster hotel he had built. I swiped my credit card in the ATM machine and it made the most unpleasant sound indicating that I had insufficient funds.  It's the kind of sound that elicits a Pavlovian response when heard and I immediately began shuffling my feet and making apologies. My daughter did not want me to leave the game broken and homeless and kept offering me free passage through her cities and money under the table.  It would carry me for another round until I wound up in Kyiv again and could hear my son's laughter echoing from jail.  He never got $2million dollars for passing go, but he didn't need to. He laid around in jail all day and watched the money roll in from friends and family who strayed off their paths.   

I was broke and homeless and my children owned everything.  But who do you think they turned to when their bellies needed filling.  Mom, of course!  It's good to be needed.

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...