Archive for May, 2011
Wednesday afternoon following the end-of-school party (see earlier blog, Summer’s Dance) Rachel and I walked into the house and I was planning to start dinner – a celebration meal of one of my family’s favorite dishes. However, as I walked upstairs from the basement I was smacked in the face by the realization that the house felt extremely warm. Here in Atlanta we were blessed with an extremely pleasant Spring and have recently entered the summer days that push temperatures into the 90s. I checked the thermostat and held my foot up to one of the air conditioning vents. Everything seemed to be working properly. Stalling on dinner because I knew the oven would be involved I made a few phone calls, checked my email, and put away some laundry.
About an hour later the house was still getting warmer and I had a growing concern that we were in for some bad news about our a/c system. Not something we wanted to have to deal with any time, but especially with Richard and me both unemployed. By 11pm on Wednesday night the temperature was a sweltering 81 degrees inside the house! Then I remembered we had a cheer uniform consignment sale scheduled to begin the next morning which meant a house full of moms and cheerleaders trying on uniform parts and pieces trying to save a little before ordering a brand new uniform from the rep.
We decided to go ahead and call our heating and air guy, George, and leave a message so he would know first thing the next morning that we were having trouble. I was shocked when he answered the phone – it was after 11pm – but very thankful. He stayed on the phone with me while I checked a few things before concluding that, in fact, we were going to need a service call. He was planning to be out late in the afternoon on Thursday. I got up early Thursday morning and opened all the windows trying to move air through the house and was grateful to see that the skies were overcast.
Consignment sale went well, temperatures stayed moderately comfortable, and the sun stayed hidden behind dense clouds most of the day. Thank you, Jesus. Sitting at the computer late Thursday afternoon I looked out the window and saw really dark skies moving in our direction. Yes! Rain is coming! I love, love, love rainy days but it seemed especially welcome knowing that it would carry with it dropping temperatures and breezes. Boy, was I right! We had a whopper of a storm – thunder, lightning, lights flickering on and off, and hard rain.
George finally made his way to our house well past dinnertime. After checking a few things he determined that the pump had gone bad. Great. How much is this going to cost? And how long before we have air? George could tell by the look on our faces that we were near panic mode. I finally bit the bullet and asked, “how much? and how long?” He broke into a huge smile and said, “Let me tell you a story.”
George then began to share with us that he had installed a brand new, several-thousand-dollar system for a customer earlier in the week. This same gentleman had bought a new pump last year but when he opted for the new system he wanted everything brand new, high quality, and that had resulted in another new pump. The guy could easily have sold the pump to someone else or even sold it back to George but he didn’t. He told George to put it on his truck thinking that someone else might be in a jam and need one. Really? Richard then asked how much the ‘used’ pump would be. George smiled again and said, “you know, I could sell it but I’d rather bless you with it.” Really?? Arrangements were made for the new pump and Richard walked outside with George to pay him for the service call – we should at least pay for that. George wouldn’t accept a penny.
We have been navigating the jagged-edge State of Uncertainty for quite some time. Our jobs (or lack of), our finances, even our housing is on shaky ground. I have to admit I’ve been questioning if God is hearing my prayers or cares that my hands and knees are getting bloody. What began yesterday with overcast skies as a gentle reminder that He knows, He hears, and He cares ended with a shout out of provision for me and my family.
In case you’re wondering, yes, Jesus loves me. This I know.
Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids, 3rd and 6th graders. Correction: they are now officially 4th and 7th graders. We met them at the bus stop, arms flailing out of bus windows, kids screaming at the top of their lungs, tears flowing, and the bus driver looking like he had either taken several too many Valium or already crossed the line into shock, awe, and complete denial. Within seconds of their freedom, Stephen wanted to know how many friends he could invite over and Rachel reminded us of the end-of-school party she had been invited to attend.
Stephen ended up going to a friend’s house in our neighborhood and I helped chaperon her friend’s party of somewhere around 15 middle schoolers – they never were in one place long enough for me to get an accurate body count. The boy/girl ratio was staggering: about 11-4 in favor of the girls (or boys, depending on your perspective). When I was 12, I still thought boys had cooties. My crush was David Cassidy and I was quite confident the opportunity to actually meet him would never present itself, thus relieving me of any pressure to actually have a conversation with the opposite sex.
Fascinating. Awkward. Frightening. Weird. The world of adolescent and pre-adolescent boy/girl relationships. The simple fact that the girls look like high school sophomores and the boys still look like fourth graders cracks me up. The girls are easily 4-6″ taller and becoming shapely young women. The boys’ voices are still vacillating between tenor and soprano, cracking like the eggs I boiled for Easter Sunday dinner. They have baby faces, baby fat, and baby attention spans.
No matter, the girls mostly ignored them and focused on hugging each other, writing on each other with Sharpie markers, and finding out who could scream the loudest. Music blaring, the boys actually danced. One of them was quite good so I complimented him. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I wasn’t even trying. Watch this!” What followed would have made Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga collectively blush.
Four hours, six pizzas, five soda bottles, and all around ice cream sundaes later it was time to go. The boys gave a ‘peace out’ and headed for their bicycles. The girls hugged, cried, hugged some more and exchanged promises to see each other every day. In the car on the way home my daughter declared it was the BEST party she’s ever been to.
Rachel has not mentioned one of those classmates today. No phone calls. No texts. No negotiating if one comes here or she goes there. She slept late this morning, watched some TV, and did a little housecleaning with her Mom.
And so it begins…the dance of summer vacation.
Last month I wrote about the mutual crush my 9-year-old son and I have shared since sometime around Christmas (see My Son’s New Crush on this blog site). Sadly, the honeymoon is over. I know this because I endured a shameful public break-up yesterday afternoon. Stephen and I were perusing the aisles at our local Walgreen’s in search of tennis balls before he went to a friend’s house. I detoured past the toilet paper aisle (we were dangerously down to two rolls, not a good plan at our house) and then over to the wall of refrigerated drinks to grab the 3/$5 bottles of Gatorade. It’s travel baseball season and we go through Gatorade like most kids go through frozen popsicles during ‘adult swim’ at the pool.
Stephen and I reunited at the front of the store and headed for the cash register. The man behind the register is the same familiar smiling face who usually rings up my purchases and is always quick to look through the flyer to see if I’ve missed a sale or a coupon. He heard me call Stephen by name as we were standing there and after I ran my debit card through the machine, he looked at Stephen and asked, “Are you going to help Mom out today, Stephen?”
In a moment of in-your-face-alien-abduction my son shrugged his shoulders and answered, “Probably not.” And then, to add utter humiliation to my shock and awe, he turned and walked toward the door with his tennis balls. “Stephen Clay Hood! Turn around and get back over here [pause for effect and lower voice before continuing]. Right. Now.” There was no mistaking the steely tone of my voice or the fiery darts shooting from my blue eyes. It is unfortunate for me that so many people were in the check-out line to witness my son’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde moment. It is indeed very fortunate for my son that there were so many witnesses to what could have been a horrific crime of parenting rage right there in front of the bubble gum and breath mints.
The only words I could muster after he lazily sauntered back over to the counter were, “We are still in the store young man, and I can easily return those tennis balls I just bought. Now pick up the Gatorade and go to the car.”
Ruth Bell Graham was once asked during an interview if she had ever been tempted to divorce her world-famous evangelist husband, Billy. She wittily replied, “Divorce? Never. Murder? Yes.” I know exactly how she felt. Honestly, in that nano-second of anger and embarrassment I visualized several ways I could rid the free world of my son’s belligerent and disrespectful attitude. There’s not a parent on Planet Earth who would convict me: we’ve all been there, done that, and hidden the t-shirt.
The ensuing car ride was stifling in its quiet. Stephen dared not say a word and I was biting my lip afraid of what I might say if I opened my mouth. By the time we turned back into our neighborhood I was able to calmly but firmly express that his behavior was inappropriate and unacceptable. I’m fairly certain he got the message and is afraid to find out what the woods behind Walgreen’s look like after dark.
It will probably be a while before I summon the courage to shop again at my neighborhood Walgreen’s. I can guarantee you it will be a long time before I walk through those doors with Stephen at my side. I still love him and I know he still loves me. But in a moment of stretching his proverbial wings, he knocked me off my pillar of sweetness and light.
And the crush was crushed.
My Sentiments Exactly…: My Ghost Whisperer: “This past Friday evening I had the privilege to walk the Survivor’s Lap during the opening ceremonies of the Cherokee County Relay for Life….”
This past Friday evening I had the privilege to walk the Survivor’s Lap during the opening ceremonies of the Cherokee County Relay for Life. My daughter’s best friend, Meghan, had joined a team from her middle school to raise funds for the American Cancer Society – the “Official Sponsor of Birthdays”. When we arrived at the high school hosting the event, it looked somewhat like the inner circle of the Daytona 500. Brightly colored tents everywhere, loud celebratory music blasting from the speakers on the stage, and a huge inflatable birthday cake covered in blow-up candles. It was a long drive to the school, the traffic was terrible (go figure – Friday afternoon at 5pm), and it was one of the first really hot days we’ve had here in the area.
I was wearing my “The Chemo Made Me Do It” t-shirt with a pink breast cancer ribbon on it. The kids and I walked around from tent to tent admiring all the creative ways people show their support and raise funds for cancer research. Rachel and Stephen excitedly pulled me in the direction of the Survivor Wall of Fame and helped me sign it, adding their own personal touch to my autograph.
To say that I attend these events with mixed emotions is an understatement of epic proportions. It is with a deeply grateful heart and tremendous pride that I call myself a ‘survivor’ and I have gained laser precision accuracy at spotting others in the same camp. There’s something a little different about us and unless you are one, there’s no way to explain it. We simply know each other. But I have to admit, there is an indescribable pit in my stomach that rears its ugly head when I see a man, woman, or child walking around with the telltale ill-fitting baseball cap. It forces me to remember. It smacks me in the face and screams, “I almost had you, too”. And as proud as I am to be a survivor – as strong as I feel every day – it is my ghost whisperer. An unexpected ache or pain or an unusual lack of energy always provokes the inevitable “what if it’s back?” in the deep recesses of my mind.
Thankfully, my kids were with me and Meghan was happy to introduce me to her classmates/team members. The emcee for the event called all the survivors to gather around the stage and after a beautifully patriotic national anthem, we all sang Happy Birthday to each other. Rachel and Stephen were on either side of me and before we started the first lap we heard a couple of stories from other survivors who had joined the celebration. One young man was diagnosed with colon cancer barely a year ago and shared about his treatments and prognosis. His young wife and son were sitting on the grass as close as they could get to the front of the stage, obviously proud of their warrior husband and dad who was fighting hard and winning his battle.
Then we heard from a young lady (barely 19 years of age) who is preparing for surgery this week. She has had FOUR cancer diagnoses in the last few years. Four! She is a beautiful young lady, full of energy and a positive spirit. She talked about her cancer as if she were sharing with us her volleyball schedule. I felt some very familiar emotions start to rise as she shared about the support of her family and friends, and the daily conflict of emotions. She even made a statement that I remember jokingly sharing upon my initial diagnosis, “I’m too stubborn to let cancer beat me.”
As I was standing there I met two other ladies, Donna and Laurie, who less than a year ago were photographed at the lake together enjoying each other’s friendship, their families, and life in general. And here they stood this night, both diagnosed within weeks of each other, currently in treatment, and bald. I briefly shared my story with them and introduced them to my little hero (Stephen) and my private nurse (Rachel). We chatted as only survivor sisters can and then Laurie looked at me and said, “can I ask you a question?” “Sure. Anything.” She looked at me for a few long seconds and asked, “Is that your real hair?” I smiled. “Yes, every single strand of it.” Smiles. Hugs. Hope.
We walked the survivor lap, my children and I, arm in arm. To see several hundred people standing on the inside track clapping, cheering, and waving was incredibly moving. Tears. I couldn’t speak, and my kids don’t see me like that very often. Rachel held my hand a little tighter. Stephen put his arm around my waist. And then I rounded that last curve and looked up. Meghan was standing there with her team, clapping and cheering like crazy. It got the best of all of us and as I started to run to meet her, she and the others broke away and ran right towards us. We met in a huge circle of hugs and cheers and smiles. And we walked that final stretch together. I turned around and looked back through the crowd of other survivors. A few paces back, Donna and Laurie were walking arm in arm surrounded by their circle of friends. Our eyes met and we exchanged a ‘thumbs up’. New friends. New heroes. And a fresh reminder that beauty is often found in the most unexpected places.
Sitting in front of my computer last night, catching up on emails, and reading a detailed online article about what an “After Rapture Party” is (for those who remain after May 21st), I saw a new ‘friend request’ on my facebook page. I recognized the name and clicked on the picture to enlarge it. Sure enough, it was one of my daughter’s classmates from school. She and another friend had posed wearing spaghetti strap camisoles holding wine glasses up to their lips with what appeared to be white wine in their glasses. I can only hope it was apple juice or sparkling cider. They were clearly trying to convey a seductive look (as much as a 12-year-old is capable of) and pass themselves off as older, sexier, and ready to party.
Mortified doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction. This little girl (and yes, she is still a girl) is advertising herself on the internet very much like some of the ads you would be able to find on the back pages of any edition of Creative Loafing. At first I was angry and reached for my phone to call her dad and tattle on her. And then overwhelming sadness replaced the outrage. I remembered that she’s had ‘boyfriends’ all the way back to fourth grade. She was given a cell phone long before any of the other kids her age and has privileges at home that are part of the reason Rachel is not allowed to spend the night at her house. She’s a sweet, smart girl who refers to me as Mrs. Mom and runs to hug me every time we see each other. Maybe that’s one of the reasons her facebook page bothered me so much. If she were a ‘bad seed’ or a bully or just plain mean maybe it would be easier to write her off. But she’s not.
She’s one of millions of girls in our society today (yes, my daughter included) who are being blatantly told by the media, TV, music, and movies that the only thing they are good for is sex – and they better look the part. It’s everywhere, in every form of communication. Hip-hop and rap music seem to take it to an extreme but don’t be fooled. It’s in country music, too. And top 40. And rock. Pop artist Rhianna, who became the poster child for domestic violence about two years ago has now released a song containing the lyrics, “sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and chains excite me.” What?!?!? And my kids say the same thing to me that I said to my parents: “I don’t listen to the words. I just like the music.” Yeah, right – as they sing every word to every song on the playlist.
Our county’s school system has a dress code. Not uniforms mind you, but a certain degree of standards that must be adhered to during the school day. And I’m happy to say they are quick to enforce it. I’m also sad to note that I’ve actually heard parents complaining about it. Yep. Parents. Dads griping because their daughters can’t wear ‘booty call’ shorts and Moms whining about the fact that their daughters’ midriff must be covered at all times. Really? You, as a parent, are incensed because the school system is requiring your daughters to be modest? Who’s drinking the Kool-Aid now?
Because of my cancer and the grueling reconstruction surgeries that followed treatment, my husband and I have become more than just acquaintances with my doctors. We’ve gotten to know them and have taken the opportunity to talk about a myriad of topics other than just my particular procedures. We were shocked to learn that my plastic surgeon’s office does breast enhancements on girls as young as 16! My specific doctor does not, and as a whole the practice does not encourage it, but there are parents – right here in the Bible belt – giving their daughters plastic surgery procedures as high school graduation gifts. Excuse me, what planet are you from??? It’s one thing for ‘the world’ to be telling our daughters to go to any lengths necessary to make themselves a hot mess, but it’s another thing altogether for their parents to be footing the bill.
This has been my soap box for years. I’ve noticed even at our church – one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country – a growing number of girls and young women who obviously put a lot of thought into what they wear and how they wear it on Sunday. And not in a good way. It occurs to me, especially for the younger girls, that they are not old enough to drive nor hold down a job. So who is taking them shopping and who is paying for these clothes? Mom and Dad. Which means that as they are walking to the car on Sunday morning (or any other day of the week) unless Mom and Dad are blind they see what their daughters are wearing – and the message it’s portraying. I for one would have been locked in my closet for 30 years if I had ever tried to dress that way, much less leave the house.
And maybe that’s the key. My Mom taught me – by her example – what was appropriate. She dressed like a lady. When we went shopping together she would let me pick out what I liked. If something didn’t fit properly or wasn’t appropriate we would discuss the why behind the ‘no’. And after we talked about it, 90% of the time it was still a ‘no’ but she taught me to use good judgment and good sense and to be careful what I presented to others. But here’s the key: she didn’t hesitate to say ‘no’. My mom wasn’t so obsessed with being my best friend that she stopped being a parent. And my Dad didn’t use the excuse of “giving me a competitive edge” to justify allowing inappropriate behavior.
Maybe we should add a new line to the children’s tune, “Oh be careful little eyes, what you see.” It might go something like this:
“Oh be careful, Mom and Dad, what you buy.
Oh be careful, Mom and Dad, what you buy.
For the world is standing by and your daughter will pay the price.
Oh be careful, Mom and Dad, what you buy.”
I blogged about this during the week of Mother’s Day but thought you might enjoy a different spin on the same thought…
My friends, let us serve well today.
Some time before Thanksgiving last year my dishwasher went kaput. I opened the door one morning to unload the previous night’s dinner dishes and noticed detergent baked onto the bottom of the dishwasher floor. Along with last night’s dinner baked onto my dishes, glasses, pots, and pans. Apparently the tube thingy that comes out of the middle to spray water everywhere had snapped. So instead of actually washing the dishes with hot water, it simply baked at high heat everything I hadn’t rinsed off. Note to self: Mom was right – rinse the dishes thoroughly before placing them in the dishwasher.
After fiddling with it a few times, we determined this was something a little more advanced than a do-it-yourself superstore fix. I called a reputable appliance guy in our area and after his assessment and estimate, we realized we could replace the dishwasher for about the same price as repairing the existing one. One problem: with my husband and I both unemployed, it didn’t matter how comparable the costs were – neither repair or replace was an option. Now, let me say I love to cook. I really do. But I love it a lot more when I can stuff all the evidence into the dishwasher, press a couple of buttons, and walk away.
So it was with mixed emotions that I began washing dishes at the sink. And let me just tell you, a sink doesn’t hold as much as a dishwasher. It seemed like every time I turned around the sink was full again. Yes, I enlisted the help of our kids to gather dishes, help rinse, and put away (I’m very particular about the washing part). But it’s still a time consuming process and something about standing over the sink really bothers my lower back. Not to mention, I have dropped and broken more dishes from slippery dish washing liquid than I care to admit (maybe a Freudian way of justifying less elaborate meals?) Anyway, after a particularly big meal one evening – roast in the crock pot, potatoes, carrots, green beans, biscuits and gravy – Richard half-heartedly said, “I’ll do the dishes tonight. You cooked a nice, big meal. It’s my turn.” Woohoo! I was out of the kitchen before the kids took their last bite of biscuits.
A few minutes later, feeling a little guilty about taking such great delight in my mini-vacation from the kitchen, I walked back to the sink and began rinsing the growing pile of now soapy dishes and glasses. At first we just stood there, side by side, my husband washing and me rinsing. And then Richard, never one to be quiet for long, started making small talk. Nothing major, simply news of the day or something he had heard on the radio or something about the kids. The conversation started flowing, moving seamlessly between us. And before we knew it the dishes were done. A few nights later he helped me do the dishes again. And so the pattern has continued. There have been a few nights when Richard and Rachel have taken clean-up duty. I think there may have been more soap sud battles than actual dish washing but it was great to hear them laughing from the other room. Stephen has helped a few times but usually ends up asking for something else to eat, making more dirty dishes. You see where this is going, don’t you?
My point is this: sometimes the unexpected, even aggravating circumstances in our lives create an open door for us to discover a whole new way to connect with one another. The dishwasher is still broken, and I still do the bulk of the clean-up after dinner, but I may wait a while to replace it. That broken dishwasher has given me a new place, and a new way, to connect with my family. And I love it.