I take great joy in observing life. I spend a lot of time pondering my observations. So, one day I thought I would write them down. These are my ponderings. -dana

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Same time next year.

Here is my thought on having children.  The minute we give birth we begin the process of letting them go.

There's the first time we let someone else hold them.  The first time someone else feeds them.  The first time we leave them with a babysitter and let them stay overnight with a grandparent.  The first time they take steps without holding our hands. The first time we leave them in Sunday School crying.  The first time we turn loose of the bike seat to let them take off on their own.  The first time they sleep over at a friend's house. The first day of school. The first time they are last up to bat when the teams down by one and they strike out.  The first time they hurt and we can't fix it.  The first time we hand them the keys to the car and they drive off alone. Their first love.  Their first heartbreak.  Their last night at home before their first day in college.

Yep. The minute we give birth, we begin letting go--little by little every single day until one day we realize that we no longer have a starring role in the story of their lives, but rather a supporting role.  Then, just as we begin to adjust to this new role and even begin to like it a bit, it happens.

Moving day.

Just like magic, we once again become the stars in our childrens' lives...in the short film titled, "Moving-Day Memories--99 Ways to Have Fun In 104 Degree Heat".   And why are we the stars?  Because no one else auditioned for the part--that's why!

Like clockwork, every year since 2003, Todd and I have been invited to help our offspring relocate.  Some years, it is only one child.  But every now and again, like this year, we get to move at least two of them and possibly even a third!  It's how we celebrate our anniversary every year!  Suffice it to say, this wasn't something we considered when we married in August some 29 years ago!

So this year, the story goes something like this.

I,  a.k.a mover #1, finish up work on Thursday and meet up with my daughter, a.k.a,  the movee.  We gas up the truck, drive 75 miles to the city where we meet up with my husband, a.k.a, mover #2, who has just driven in from San Antonio to secure his starring role in this film.

A strained back prevents me from doing any of the heavy lifting, so I attack the kitchen while father and daughter maneuver mattresses and heavy furniture down to the street level to load in the truck--which is parked in an alleyway with hazard flashers blinking out the "please don't tow us" prayer.  About three feet of rope is all the hope we have for tying down mattresses and other objects that could potentially become airborne in transport.  I bite my tongue and I purposefully remove myself from the conversation dealing with mattress restraint.  Back to the kitchen.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't ever have things in my fridge of questionable origin, but I AM saying that I don't ask other people to clean them out.  But, if this is the price I pay to be a star in my daughter's life again, then so be it! Even while removing a bag of fermented something from the veggie bin, I have no complaints.  After all, I was blessed with no sense of smell for moments such as this.  So actually this role suits me quite well.

Eventually, at 9:30 pm or so, my husband starts the 75-mile drive home with a loaded truck.  He should be home by 11:00.  When he gets there, he will unload our daughter's things into our dining room where they will be housed for a couple of weeks until her new place is ready.   At that time, we will reload everything into the truck and repeat everything...in reverse...sort of!

Meanwhile back in the city, mother and daughter work side-by-side packing up the kitchen.  We take a couple of loads out to our second vehicle.  Against my better judgement, my car was parked (not by me) in a space that TECHNICALLY wasn't available, even though no one else was parked there.  In the time it took to take an elevator up to the 4th floor, grab a load, and come back down, the car was gone.  MY car.  GONE. VANISHED.  The time is 11:30 p.m. Seriously?  Yes.  I've come to understand that towing in Austin's west campus area is an inconvenience that leaves few unscathed.  It is just a right of passage that must be dealt with.  Okay.  Well, I'm glad we got that out of the way.  My daughter's roommate says she knows just where to find the car--this will be the fourth time she has assisted others in retrieving their towed vehicles.  Well, that's good news.  Along with the fact that the towing place is open 24-7.  Then again, I was raised believing that nothing good happens after midnight, so I'm slightly concerned.

In the wee hours of Friday morning, two college-aged girls and one middle-aged mother navigate through dark streets and sketchy neighborhoods until we end up on a dead-end dimly-lit road.  A high chain link fence surrounded a lot full of towed vehicles--and somewhere in the midst was my little Jeep.  We approach a window, behind which hides the guy that would hopefully give me my car back.  We communicate only through glass, for his protection he says.  Eventually, after we settled our bill and thank the nice man, he instructs us to proceed through a gate to claim our car.  I pause and ask him if there are guard dogs inside because that was all I needed in one night---to have my car towed AND to be attacked by dogs.  He says no.  No dogs.

Back at the apartment, with my car carefully stowed for the night, there was the inebriated neighbor who showed up at the door.  He mumbles something about orange juice and then proceeds to lie down on the floor with half of his body inside the apartment and half in the hallway.  A slight predicament, but it resolved itself shortly and we crash on the couches at 2:30 a.m.   At 7 a.m. the moving again ensues.  It is already almost 80 degrees outside.  Todd shows up on the scene again with an empty truck just begging to be filled.  During this time it occurs to me again why my husband and I had  been chosen for this role. It's because of our incredible ability to know exactly how to position the legs of a table to get it through the door and how to trash things without a second thought.  And it's also because we have no inhibitions in asking total strangers if they want furniture (abandoned by another roommate and not needed for the new pad) so that we don't have to load and deliver them to another location.  SCORE!  The first half of the move is done just as the temperature reaches 100.  I've lost 8 pounds in water weight alone!

Todd heads to work.  I head home.   Our daughter heads to Colorado for a much needed vacay!  Thanks to heating pads and Advil,  we'll be ready for the second half of the move in a couple of weeks.  We have already secured our starring roles---no audition required!  And then, a few weeks after that we'll be on location in Michigan starring in the life of another offspring.  Hey, in this business it's either feast or famine!  When it's time to feast, we gladly oblige!

Soon, we'll settle into our supporting roles again.  The weather will cool off.  We'll probably even get some rain.  At least once a day we'll wonder about what the kids are up to.  We'll encourage them from nearby when we can and from faraway when that's our only option.  And all the while we will know that just around the corner is August and another moving day.  And we will once again be the stars.
Happy Anniversary, Honey!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Stop Sign.

I'm a goal-oriented person.  Once I set a goal, I can think of little else until I'm "there".  The beauty of the process is often lost in my rush to get to the goal.  When I gear up, it's serious business.  Gatorade for electrolyte stability and hydration.  Peanut M&Ms for protein and blood sugar boosts.  (I'm no medical professional, but it works for me!)  And blinders, so that I won't be distracted by anything to my right or my left--you know, so I can stay focused on my goal! 

I don't think I was born this way.  I actually blame this particular trait/flaw on timed math tests that I took as a child.  These tests didn't help me be better at math, but they did instill in me this need to rush.  Almost always.  From using mouthwash (really who has time to swish for a whole minute?) to pumping gas.  I have done a personal survey of pumps in my little town. Many have a  CFS flow slower than a dripping faucet AND they never have paper to give me a receipt.  Because I always get a receipt, I'm forced to take 25 additional seconds to go inside--and that's only if there is no line.  I boycott them!  And here's the thing about rushing.  Nothing drives a "rusher" crazier than those around us who refuse to rush!  I am married to a non-rusher, and let's just say he could easily swish mouthwash for 2 minutes and probably would not even notice that it took him a full 10 minutes to fill up his vehicle. If he had to go in for a receipt, he would spend an additional 15 minutes visiting with the guy behind the counter.  Real friendly guy, my husband. I've loved him for about 30 years.  That's 30 years in REAL time, but if you ask him, he'd probably say, "Thirty years, really?  Huh, It doesn't seem like it's been that long!"  That's because he's a non-rusher and live's on non-rusher time. 

One day, I tailgated a couple of non-rushers.  This is that story.

I live about six miles from town.  There was a time when I made that trip  an average three times a day.  It was before gas was so expensive and when I was busy raising the kids.  I knew exactly  how long it would take me to get down our little winding roads to the highway.  My ETD's and ETA's were carefully timed and I was proud to have relatively few delays.  I was the mother that was NEVER late to pick up my children.  One particular day, I pulled out of my drive and immediately in front of me was a white truck, apparently just out for a casual morning drive. With the sun almost blinding me, I followed closely up to the first stop sign, hoping he would go straight.  Then came his left turn signal indicating he was going my way.  Drats! My blood pressure slid slightly up. I turned on inspirational music and ask the Lord to calm me, as I would be stuck behind this truck for the next 2 miles.  For a rusher, 2 miles at a slow pace feels like twenty.  With the sun out of my eyes, I began to notice things about the truck.  It was kind of banged up--a much older model.  I also noticed that he wasn't alone in the vehicle.  There was a woman with him, scooted over and sitting right next to him.  Hmmm.  That's odd.  Don't really see that so much these days.  Kind of silly at their ages, I thought! They must have been completely smitten with each other, because they didn't seem to notice or care that I was riding their bumper.  They appeared to be in their 60's.  Yes, I could see it all.  I was that close!

I followed them through a couple more stop signs. Just my luck they always turned the way I was going.  Then we finally made it to the stop sign at the highway.  In just a few seconds I would be zipping around them on my way--you know---with my eye on the goal!  But at that stop sign, something happened that made me pause.

They came to a full stop in front of me.  They turned to each other and kissed.  Then the man looked both ways and pulled out on the highway and they continued on their way.  I'll admit, the sweetness of that moment threw me off schedule for a moment.  I was instantly glad I had witnessed it, and I thought God had sent me a little lesson.  And I figured that was that.

Over the next couple of months and for a few years, it was uncanny how many times I ended up behind this same little couple in the same beat up truck.  She was always sitting next to him.  And  at the stop sign at Highway 29, they always did the same thing.  They always kissed.  Every time.  I would share every encounter with my family over dinner.   From time to time they, too, would end up behind them, and they would witness the kiss.  Every time we mentioned it, we would all smile.  That kiss was a symbol of something we found hard to articulate, but it made us happy always.  We found ourselves hoping we would end up behind them.  They were the one thing that made me more than happy to slow down.

I don't remember when I quit seeing them.   I just didn't see them for a long while.  Our kids grew up and left home.  My schedule probably changed a little bit.  Maybe I wasn't rushing about so much anymore.  Then, years later, when I'd almost completely forgotten about them  and their wonderful kisses, there they were in front of me again.  Same truck.  Same slow drive.  I could not believe my good fortune!  I followed not nearly as closely as I had years before, giving them all the space and time they wanted.  As we approached the stop sign at the highway, I remember thinking "please let them kiss, please let them kiss".  I don't know why their tender tradition had affected me so, but it had.  For some reason, on that day, I needed them to kiss.

And they did.

Love.   Joy.  Peace.  Patience. Kindness.  Goodness.  Faithfulness.  Gentleness.  Self-control.
Over the years, the kisses of these two strangers had come to embody these things to me.  The fruits of the spirit. Even though I didn't get it before,  God was reminding me each and every time he let me drive behind this slow, old beat-up truck.  He was reminding me of two things.  One. That it is impossible to bear good fruit when we're alway rushing about.  Two. The most beautiful moments in this life aren't scheduled or planned.   Nope.  The most beautiful things in life can sometimes happen at a stop sign. When life just is.

I hope I get to drive behind these two again in my life.  But this I know.  There will never be a time when I pull up to that stop sign, that I don't think of those kisses and the simple reminder they carried with them.  That's when this rusher takes off the blinders and has a good look around.  Because there is just no telling what I might see.

a reminder.