Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fishing, Fun and Family Vacations

With the price of gas now closely creeping up on the price of a gallon of milk, our vacation plans have changed greatly.  We will drink less milk products and drive fewer miles.  Spring Break was spent in-state, this year,  sipping on filtered water as we explored the mountains of the Ozarks.  As we loaded the car with all of our necessary belongings, I realized that our family can probably never fly again because none of us know how to pack in moderation.  For the life of me,  I don’t know why we had a dulcimer or a 30” supersized  pink polka dot kickball with us, but we did.   We traveled to a small church retreat on top of a mountain that was closed for the winter.  Apparently, they will rent a lodge that will sleep a small church for a deeply discounted price in mid-winter.  We were instructed to only use four beds and leave the other rooms untouched.  I had visions of “The Shining” and the empty rooms of a lodge closed in winter.   Realizing I would be alone on the top of a mountain with three children, I convinced my husband to tag along for one night so he could protect us from any two headed wolves that might be laying in wait at the wood line.   My thoughts raced to pictures of us running from the toothless man who lived down the path as I tried desperately to get a few bars on my phone.  I am not a wilderness girl and having no wifi connections or immediate access to Facebook was going to be difficult for all of us. Upon arrival, we found the camp to be quite nice. The lodge was simply a large home from the 50’s filled with twin beds.  It sat only feet from a cliff giving us the most amazing view of the valley below.  This was the perfect place to have an oversized kickball…. for about twenty seconds or until it rolled off the cliff.   As I unpacked totally un-necessary items, my kids practiced cheerleading stunts precariously close to the edge of the yard and the 400 foot drop off.  One bad hurkey jump and they would be plummeting downhill with the kick ball.   There was a small stocked pond outside our front door and my husband went to fish.   Why is it that men always think that fishing with the family will be fun, until they actually have to do it?  He instructed all three kids not to cast the reels so they wouldn’t backlash the line.  They were also instructed not to reel the line in until he verified that there was, indeed, a fish on the line.  Basically, they were to sit still holding a large pole and wait.  I knew this plan would never work, unless you are sixty, smoking, and sipping on a little whiskey under a tree.    The kids looked to me for a sign that this plan was not a good one and then slung those rods and line across the pond.  Fifty feet of line came whistling out at light speed.  Two feet reached the pond and the remaining 48 feet wrapped up in a large ball of tangled filament around the reel.    I tried, in earnest, to untangle the mess before my husband could see it, but was caught red handed and now fully understand what a backlash is. 
Fishing lasted about as long as the kickball and we moved on to horseback riding leaving my husband by the pond to wonder why he agrees to these trips.   We discovered a wonderful stable with an array of horses and baby animals all just waiting for my daughter to come and love on them.  As the sun set, my son and I went to the open air chapel to watch the colors of the sky change.  Since no one was around and neither one of us can resist  an unattended podium, we took our places at the front of our empty chapel.  My son belted out “Amazing Grace” from the mountaintop and I cheered him on in our two person service.  What we didn’t realize was how it would echo across the hills for others to hear.  While the rest of my family was a mile away, still untangling fishing line, they heard the soft voice of a child come whispering on the wind, singing God’s praises.   Everyone stopped and listened and took in the beauty of their surroundings as the sun disappeared behind the hills. The reels were put away, the campfire was prepared and we all gathered round to roast hot dogs and any other food product that would fit on a stick.   The trip was turning out to be quite the successful outing.  We hadn’t spent a fortune for a vacation and we weren’t punished for our excessive baggage.   The lodge was cozy and comfortable and provided a safe haven from the two headed wolves and crazy axe-man who might be lurking outdoors.  We will definitely travel this way again.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Let's Play A Fun Game of Touch the Sink

A curious game that my children enjoy is one known as "Touch the Sink."  This game only works if one child has an unhealthy fear of germs and in my family, that fear is alive and well.  My daughter is a true germaphobe and has developed very detailed plans on how to enter and exit a public restroom without ever touching a door handle or bathroom surface of any kind.  I have learned to manage this fear by employing my own internal time clock that tells me if she has been in the restroom too long and is trapped on the other side of the door waiting for the next person to enter so that she can make her escape.  It is common practice, while dining out, for me to leave the table in mid conversation, chewing on my last bite of buffet turkey from the Luanne Platter, to push open the restroom door and return before anyone can ask what I'm doing. This child of mine is the same one who will not use an eating utensil if it has touched the table at any point before or during dinner. Should her fork accidentally fall from her plate to the table, she will instinctively hand it to me, take my fork, continue eating and watch to see if I fall to my death as I put her tainted fork to my mouth. Once my possible demise is no longer a concern, dinner continues on with no notice to the strange exchange of germ laden forks and spoons that occurs throughout the meal without question by those at the table.  It is as natural to our dining experience as buttering a dinner roll.  We accept it as a normal practice and things go much smoother this way.   I learned a long time ago not to make a big deal of her anxieties or I would be fueling them with my own fear of germs.  I have come a long way, licking dinnerware that has fallen to the wayside simply to convince my child that we are stronger than the germs or her fears. There are times however, that my insides turn to jelly as she hands me the next germ covered item.  We were in church recently and it happened to be the day we were taking the Lord's Supper. They began by passing out tiny crackers that represented the body of Christ.  We each took our cracker and as we waited for the juice to arrive, I heard a gasp come from my child's lips as she stared down at the floor at the tiny representation of our Savior, now lying amongst the germs. She carefully picked it up and handed it to me.  She instinctively took my cracker and left me with the one from the floor.  Panic set in as I realized you can't just throw out the cracker that represents Jesus.  I had to ingest it.  I stared down at the cracker in my hand and knew that I had to place it in my mouth after it had been on the floor where many a sinner had trod.  With wide eyes, my daughter looked on as I carefully put the tiny cracker in my mouth and swallowed, praying that eating from the floor would not kill me.  As luck would have it, I was saved and life continued on. We deal with my daughter's fears as best we can and have taught her to laugh at the situation whenever possible. Which brings us back to the nighttime game of Touch the Sink... My son will grab his sister and drag her down the hallway, giggling and screaming, in an attempt to make her touch the bathroom sink.  While the sink is clean, to a germaphobe, it is teaming with bacteria and deadly organisms that can cause you to drop dead upon contact.  She will scream with fear and delight as she knows the sink is getting closer and closer. While my own brother used to tackle me, pin me down and threaten to let spit drool down onto my face, I can't imagine that "Touch the Sink" could be much worse.  I survived my brother's spit and I'm certain my daughter will make it past a few nighttime games of "Touch the Sink."   I understand that facing your fears is a cognitively sound way to move past them, so I allow this game and will continue to lick a few dirty forks on our way to wellness.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Homey the Autocrat

Many a stray animal has sought refuge at our home and while some are simply passing through, others tend to stay for a while.  The latest addition to the clan is Bella, the lab that nobody noticed was pregnant until suddenly there were eight dogs in her house instead of one.  We have taken in flying squirrels, tail-less lizards, baby deer and a chicken that fell off a Tyson truck on its way to certain demise.  My daughter claims each and every one of these pets, immediately names them and picks the smallest, weakest one to begin dressing it in tiny pet clothes much against its silent protests.  My son makes it quite clear from the onset that none of them, but one, is his.  He lays claim to a temperamental Siamese cat named Homey.  Homey is a self proclaimed autocratic leader of all the animals in this little Kingdom.  He has no use for the sick, lame or lazy and will run them off when nobody is looking.  Thank goodness my daughter is two steps ahead of him, nursing the ill in private hideaway places out of sight from Homey and his unfair practices.   Our guest bathroom has seen its share of injured woodland critters. 

Homey spends his days roaming the woods and stalking the neighbors.  It is nothing to see him bolting across the neighbors yard, four or five houses away (That’s four or five towns away in people distance).  I catch glimpses of him racing from the woods or jumping from the roof. He will dart in front of my car at precariously unsafe distances and he always comes out unscathed.  I have great respect for Homey and his survival skills.  While I don’t have an ex-husband, I think that Homey is much like one would be. He’s always out there, somewhere in my peripheral vision, just out of clear focus, having fun, chasing she-cats and enjoying life.  He is smart enough to know when a storm is coming and always makes it home just in time, to shoot through the back door, completely unnoticed, and bed down in my freshly washed linen or lay backwards on my couch.  He is quiet, sneaky, bold and self-sufficient, yet still has an attachment to us that will never end.  He is one of those guys that you will always love, even thought you know they are absolutely up to no good.   For a short period, we hosted a family of chickens that lived behind the pool near the wood-line.  Homey’s mouth watered for just one big tasty chicken and he would lounge on the roof of the chicken coup mapping out a plan of how this might come to be.   His tail moved back and forth in this rhythmic pattern of anticipated satisfaction while droplets of cat drool fell from the roof onto a few nervous hens.  Unfortunately,  someone or something beat Homey to his Chicken delight meal and one morning we woke to find the chickens were all gone.  This was, oddly, just about the same time, we discovered a den of red fox living even further back in the woods.  I don’t know if Homey felt he had been robbed or if it was just his natural curiosity, but he went to meet the fox family.  This was not one of his wiser choices.  I was lounging in my hot-tub that particular afternoon, enjoying the peacefulness of the day, when Homey came bolting from the woods like a streak of lightning.  Right behind him was a red fox with the same chicken-eyed look that Homey had recently had.  Homey flew over the top of the tub and while certain that I was about to be bathing with the fox, he stopped short, turned and ran back to the woods.   It only took a few days before Homey came limping home with a giant red fox bite out of his leg.  My daughter immediately scooped him up and planted him on a bed of clean towels in our guest bathroom to begin his recovery process.   A few weeks passed and he was soon good as new.   He currently spends his days lounging on the lid of the hot-tub, soaking up the heat and moisture to continue his healing.    I can only imagine that late at night, when all is dark and still, there is a tension out there behind my house as a family of fox are keenly aware of Homey, seven puppies hunker down in a bed of hay unaware, two white shephards patrol the property eating shoes left outside and one mean cat sits on the roof swooping his tail back and forth just waiting for one wrong move and an opportunity to exert his complete power over them all.  

Homey in his early days learning of the world....

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...