Month: August 2016

Roughing It

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It is clear God did not create me to suffer in any way. The other day my husband and I needed to borrow a truck to load something. My husband said he would just borrow one from work. I immediately asked, “Does it have air conditioning?” We were driving quite a ways and it was going to be a really hot day. I’ve learned from past experiences with my husband to not assume certain things. He assured me the vehicle had air.

We got in the truck. It felt like 110 degrees and once you have lived in Arizona you are clear on what that temperature actually feels like. My husband turned the air on. It blew hot air. Not the hot air that turns cooler after a few minutes. It blew the hot air that would only continue to blow hot air forever. I began to sweat immediately and we had not even left the parking lot. I started to have flashbacks from my childhood.

Growing up in Arizona, my father refused to turn the air conditioning on in the house until the temperature hit 105 degrees. (Not even remotely joking.) Friends would invite me to their house instead of hanging out at mine because it was so uncomfortable. If my sister and I ever complained, my father would say, “You don’t even know what roughing it is.” Since he served in Vietnam and experienced extremely rough conditions that usually silenced us. And, my sister and I didn’t want to encourage his war stories.

The truck’s vents continued to blow hot air the further we drove. I complained to my husband (because he didn’t serve in any wars so it was okay). He shook his head and said, “You’re such a princess.” I rolled my eyes like I always do when he says something dumb.

He continued our one-sided conversation. “What if you were called to be a missionary? You wouldn’t survive.” Well, duh! When did I ever say I wanted to be a missionary? I rolled my eyes with more emphasis to end the conversation. It was too hot to argue.

The closest thing I’ve ever done to living in missionary-type conditions was camping. I went camping two times in my life. The first time I was a child. My mother refused to go. My dad made it sound so fun I didn’t understand why she would want to miss this spectacular adventure with us. I couldn’t wait to “sleep under the stars” and “really experience nature” like my father would say.

The place where we camped was nicknamed “Scorpion Gulch.” (I don’t like scorpions. That was the first red flag.) My Godfather and his kids went with us too. He slept while holding a gun on his chest like he was ready to fire it at a moments notice. (Second red flag – were we camping next to people that were dangerous? Escaped convicts maybe?) So, this is why my mom stayed home.

The second time I tried camping I was in my 20s. I thought I’d give it another shot or that somehow I had changed and would suddenly love leaving every comfort of my home to sleep on the ground and not take a shower for days. Afterwards, I was still the same.

My need for comfort may have influenced my teenage son a bit. When he was younger, he and his buddies pitched a tent in the backyard one summer and camped outside for the night. In the morning I woke up to find the back door open a crack with an extension chord plugged in. I followed the chord all the way outside to the tent. He said he and his friends got too hot and couldn’t sleep. (Yep. I ruined him.)

Needless to say, all this suffering was for nothing. After a long, hot day in a truck with no air conditioning we didn’t end up hauling anything. But, since I had sweated profusely and looked like I had been camping, I decided to count this as attempt number three. Big surprise – I still don’t like it.

 

(First published in the Atchison Globe 7.2.16)

Press Pause

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There are several remote controls in our house. We even have the kind that is supposed to be “universal” so essentially we would only need one. That isn’t the case. They all seem to only have one function no matter how we program them.

In my family I never seem to be the one in control of the remote that can fast forward, rewind, or pause the TV. I’m the queen of the remote that solely controls volume. Since life with a family of seven can get really loud at times, it’s the one I usually prefer. Now that’s changing. I want the one that has the pause function but I want to pause more than a television show. I want to pause life.

I want to freeze time right where it is and even press the rewind button a bit. With the school year about to begin again, I know it will only fly by. It will feel like life is in fast forward mode. I prefer to stretch out summer time so I can have the kids at home a while longer.

My oldest daughter is already halfway done with college. I feel like we rarely get to see her any more. I have a son who will be a senior this year and another daughter who will be a junior in high school. Thankfully I still have two children in elementary school because I know if I even blink it will be time for graduation.

I remember when the oldest three children started school. Some days as a stay-at-home mom it seemed like that day would never come. It was on the days I felt completely overwhelmed with toddler tantrums in the middle of the grocery store aisle, children refusing to eat their vegetables or anything relatively healthy, and the days when potty training felt hopeless. It was back when naptime was more for me, the exhausted mom, than for them.

Now they are on the other end of the spectrum with school and I cannot seem to slow time down. Before I know it I will be ordering graduation invitations and my son’s cap and gown. We will be shopping for dorm room essentials that he will care less about but I’ll insist he’ll need. Then his sister who is just a year younger will be walking across that same graduation stage in no time.

I want the days back filled with light saber fights, dinosaurs, and Legos. I want the days back when my two older daughters wobbled in my high heels and played dress up instead of borrowing my shoes because they fit.

Where did that boom box with the CD and cassette player go? The one my son used every night at bedtime to play the Toy Story theme song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” over and over again. Now their music is downloaded onto phones and everyone has headsets.

I may not be able to press pause or rewind but I can choose to live more in the present moment and take it all in while it lasts. I still may need the volume control occasionally but I’ll take the clamor over quiet any day.

 

(First published in the Atchison Globe 8-13-16)

Mrs. Incredible a.k.a. Elastigirl

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We often have houseguests and usually give them a key to our house so they can come and go as they please. When we stayed with my brother-in-law a few months back, his wife offered us a key. I said we didn’t need one because my brother-in-law had already given me the keypad code to their garage door and their code to disarm the security system. I didn’t know how much I would regret this.

We were driving back to their home from a wedding late at night. My husband, a.k.a. the Bathroom Nazi, would not stop for his wife or any of his children to use the restroom on the two-hour ride back. I should be used to this by now, but after giving birth to five children any time I have to use the restroom is pretty much an emergency.

We finally arrived at their house and I jumped out of the car to enter the garage door code. I entered the numbers, the pound sign, and then pressed enter. The garage door didn’t move. Instead the entire keypad started blinking. I tried again. This time without the pound sign. Still nothing just a blinking keypad mocking me.

My husband got out of the car and immediately started questioning my ability to enter a garage door code. “Are you sure you did it right? Here. Let me try.” No success. He then repeatedly texted his brother to try to wake him up. (Knocking wasn’t an option since we didn’t want to wake their children.)

By now my teenage daughters were getting impatient and they were confident their parents did not know how to operate a keypad. My oldest daughter stomped out of the car in her high heels and demanded the code. (Did I mention she and my husband are very similar?) Nothing happened. I smugly felt good about this except that by now my need to go to the bathroom was far outweighing my need to be right.

Without saying a word, my son calmly got out of the car and started opening the gate to the backyard. I have no idea where he gets his calm demeanor. He definitely did not inherit it from me or my husband.

I didn’t have time to question whether or not going in the backyard after 1 a.m. was a good idea. I was pretty confident it wasn’t. In this case there were two obvious reasons why it made me a little nervous. One, my brother-in-law is a police officer and I was worried he would mistake his nephew for an intruder. I didn’t see that ending well. And two, they had a dog. Max was a fat bull dog with large, scary bottom teeth. Lucky for us, Max had a doggy door. Bingo!

It was clear my husband and teenage son would not fit through the tiny doggy door. I don’t even know how Max gets in and out to be honest. My teenage daughters and I were wearing sleeveless, cocktail dresses and heels, and our little children weren’t with us. Argh.

Although I was wearing a white dress (of course, the one time I opt for something other than black), I felt responsible for our situation. Unfortunately, by now the bathroom situation was at a mock 10 level. I told my husband he had to take me to the nearest gas station before I could even attempt to squeeze through that thing.

After returning and finally able to exhale, I said a quick prayer that Max wouldn’t eat me and that I wouldn’t set off the home security system and wake up the entire neighborhood. I slipped out of my high heels and ignored the fact that I’m a little claustrophobic. Instead I channeled my inner Mrs. Incredible and squeezed through the small opening as fast as I could.

No alarm went off and the dog was snoring in a corner. (Why was I ever afraid of him?) I stood up, looked at my family and was tempted to wave good-bye and go to bed since the majority of them were angry with me. Then I saw the look on my husband’s face. He was in complete disbelief by what I had just accomplished. It was like I had saved the world from destruction just in the nick of time like a super hero. He was totally impressed. I had to let him in. He was so proud of me.

The next morning we learned my brother-in-law gave us the wrong keypad instructions and he felt terrible. As for me, from now on I will always opt for the house key and save my Elastigirl skills for another time.

(First published in the Atchison Globe 6-4-16.)