Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Do You Remove a Rabbit From a Sousaphone?

Remember when I confessed to y'all that I'd never been to the ocean?

Well, check that one off the bucket list.  Sort of.  I guess it depends on who you ask.  I technically went to Galveston and the Gulf.  There's lots of argument about whether the beach of Galveston counts and whether to qualify the "gulf" as an "ocean".  But for a kid who's always been able to see the opposite shore of whatever body of water she's looking at, it's the damned ocean.  It was mesmerizing.  The wind, the waves, the seagulls fighting over dead fish.... all of it.

I wound up going to see my friend, Allison, who is in nursing school down there.  Allison was one of my favorite campers like a 1,000 years ago at summer camp.  Since she's 30 now, I guess I can stop referring to her as one of my "kids".  Allison leads the kind of life of adventure that I always think I want to lead.  She's been so many different places -- studying in Mexico and Guatemala, doing desert conservation in Arizona, leading canoe trips on the Canadian border, blowing up dams, and measuring tree growth in Alaska, just to name a few. 

Then I remember that I really treasure things like television and microwaves and toilet paper.

Allison's adventures both make all the "responsible" adults in her life insane and jealous all at once.  Now she's settled into pursuing a career in nursing.  I think it's just a cover to work a couple years in civilization before she's off delivering Pygmie babies in the Amazon, but whatevs.  I'm just hatin'.

Here's a little photo re-cap of my Bucket List weekend:
This is Allison.  Allison went to OU.  The burnt orange scrubs are both required by school and sure to cause a fierce rash to her Sooner blood.  I will not take this opportunity to point out the obscenely white tennis shoes.  I will also not point out that someone advised her to get Skechers Shape-Ups.  Or that she took their advice.  That would just be cruel.
The Skrehart family is one of the most intelligent and creative thinking families I've ever known.  It does not surprise me at all that Kathy used her evil genius to exploit Pinterest for this:  Skittles-infused vodka.  Literally, you just take vodka, drop in a handful of Skittles, and then strain out the weird gelatin coating that melts off.  What you're left with is neon-colored jars of Heaven.  I drank a lot of Neon Heaven.
 Oh yeah.  We went to the beach.  It was dreadfully, dreadfully cold.  I did not stick my foot in as planned.
 Kathy and Allison looking for shells on the beach.  And freezing. 
 If you live in Galveston, in a house without a verandah, I'm thoroughly convinced you're not doing it right.  I wanted to knock on doors of houses without verandahs and ask the resident within what the hell they were thinking.  This is a relatively tamed down version of a Galveston home as it's not hot pink or turquoise, like below:

This is the view from Allison's verandah.  It was a dreary day, so my camera didn't really capture the vibrancy of the house colors.  We had a weekend-long debate about what color we would all paint our houses if we owned homes here.  There's also a marigold yellow house directly across from Allison's apartment that I kind of coveted.  It mattered very little that they *might* have drug deals happening on the front porch or that there was a port-a-potty stationed in the front yard.  Truthfully though, I think that if you don't go with some sort of rainbow sherbet motif, you're really letting the entire city down.
 Apparently, if you cut down a tree at your house (or it's blown down by a massive hurricane -- whatevs), this tremendous artist with a chainsaw will come carve it into something magical.  This yard's tree stumps turned into the Tin Man and Toto from the Wizard of Oz.  The Tin Man and Toto happened to be celebrating Mardi Gras at the time.
 Back to drinking.  If you look closely, you'll see that, in celebration of Mardi Gras, we drank the grape, lemon, and lime vodka first.  You'll also see, if you look closely, that we drank out of Allison's "Sip and Strip" glasses.  When the glass temperature changes, the rejects from CHiPs begin to shed their tank tops and tighty-whiteys so that they're wearing nothing but unbelievably out-of-date facial hair and a smile.  I really can't describe how proud this child makes me.
So... apparently the coast is Hurricane Country?  Hmm... I seem to remember something in a book somewhere mentioning this.  All around the city, there are water line markers from the big storms.  The middle silver plaque is the big storm of 1900.  The blue mark at the very top?  Hurricane Ike in 2008.  Allison's there for reference, and she's like 5'6".  I took this moment to have a very serious discussion/review I entitled, "Hurricane Warning = Get the Hell Out".  Really.  Get the Hell out.

So... to recap.  I saw the ocean.  I hung out with great friends.  I drank delicious drinks and ate delicious food.  Additionally, I was introduced to the delightfully awful 1970's tv show "Emergency!" whereupon I learned about the history of paramedics (a couple of upstart "rescue men" and one young doctor's willingness to put it all on the line for 'em), what to do if a child swallows a quarter (pick him up and shake him -- literally, this is what the doctor did), and how to get a bunny unstuck from a sousaphone (hint: chloroform and a strong air flow, but I'd just recommend not putting your rabbit inside a sousaphone.) See for yourselves here:


I am now chock full of wildly irresponsible medical know-how.  And views of the ocean.

All in all, time well-spent.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This Face...

I've been pretty down lately. Morose. Gloomy. Downtrodden. Plain ol' run-of-the-mill sad. 

I've been angry. I've been doubtful. I've been questioning.

But tomorrow, I will refuse to be any of those things. This is my pledge. Because on February 24th, I plan to think only of something amazing -- the birth of one of the sweetest pieces of joy I've ever seen. 

It's this guy. 

Sam and Rachel at Halloween.
"I pity the fool who doesn't think I'm cute!"
This is Sam. This little dude beat some incredible odds and defied almost every medical expert's opinions just to make it into this world. Born at just 30 weeks, with little to no amniotic fluid to support him for more than half of the pregnancy and 4 months of bedrest for his mom, Sam made his appearance after what I can only guess must have been the most exciting episode of American Idol ever.

When I think of hope, I see his face. When I think of faith, I see his dad's face. When I think of strength, I see his mom's face.

I am ever grateful for those three faces. They fill my heart.

A few years ago, something told me that my school friend, Chris, and my camp friend, Rachel, should meet. I had known them both for years and never thought this thought even once. But as I was talking to Chris in the hallway one day, Rachel's face flashed in my mind. I had never before set anyone up on a date, but I wondered if maybe they might like one another. Just about a year and a half later, they were married. I would jokingly tell people that it must've been God whispering in my ear. Jokingly, because I had never (knowingly) felt God tell me anything before.

Yet when I look at that face, it's hard to think that it was a joke. When I look at that face, I listen closely for the universe's plan. Because when I look at that face, God doesn't whisper. He shouts.

And what a joyful noise it is.

Happy 1st Birthday, Sam Drury. Your presence is the greatest gift of all.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Going Home

So, this weekend, I took a trip up North to the beautiful Texas Panhandle to see my parents.  This is a pretty significant trip as it's the first time I've been home since my dad was moved to a nursing home.  It was something I'd been dreading, not because I don't love my parents, but rather because I love them so immensely that to see them in pain brings about actual physical pain for me.  To make a long story short, it was a worthwhile trip that I'm now ashamed to admit I had dreaded.  And -- I love my parents.  No matter what has happened in the last 4 years, I don't know that I'd ever wish for a different two people to have raised me.  It's good to remember that all the best parts of me were inherited from them, and all those parts are important.  I don't think any of us do that enough.

If you're in for the longer, and more random, version of the story, here it is -- transcribed via nursing home observations, tweets, and ramblings recorded on my trusty iPhone recorder.

10:30 AM:  Just leaving the MetroMess.  Where the crap are all of these people headed this morning?  Get out of my way.  I have painful emotional scarring to attend to!

10:35 AM:  Listening to the Edge (102.1 -- not the guitarist from U2).  Heard "Landslide" by the Smashing Pumpkins.  Almost had to pull over to sob like a baby.

10:38 AM:  Next on the Edge: Rage Against the Machine.  Almost had to pull over to beat the crap out of a random stranger.  I shouldn't be allowed to listen to Rage.

10:42 AM: New song by Florence and the Machine.  Rolling down the window to scream the lyrics into the driving rain.  Because her songs make me sing loudly, damnit!

10 seconds later: I am an idiot.  The driving rain doesn't give a flip about my righteously indignant shouting of lyrics.  The driving rain has only one goal -- to drown dumbasses like me.  Darwin's theory at work, people.

3:15 PM:  Surprise my dad in the dining room of the nursing home.  Huge tears for 12 seconds and then immediate introductions to every person wheeling by his table.  My parents are those furiously proud kind of  parents.

3:17 PM: Whispered gossip and low down about every other person in the dining room, including how he and my mom got ousted from a table by a 102 year old woman (named Granny) on my mom's first visit.  Apparently, no matter how old you get, the hierarchy of the cafeteria remains.  Good thing my dad has his own table now.  I made sure I quickly learned how to make that woman's coffee.  I am well-versed in the art of kissing ass.

4:05 PM: Received my first (but not last) beat down at dominoes by my dad.  I was then quickly beaten by my mom in the second game.  In 35 years, I'm fairly certain my parents have never "let" me win at anything.  My competitive streak is definitely genetic.

8:00 PM:  Came home with mom.  Realization that my dad is not at home fully sets in.  My dad is the type of person who fills a room even when he's not trying.  His empty chair is difficult to look at.  The only safe place to cry is the bathroom, but I knock over my make-up bag into the sink causing my mom to shout, "What in the hell are you doing in there?"

8:01 PM:  I am thankful, for the millionth time, for my mom and her ability to bring me back to normal.

My mom, by the way, has found jigsaw puzzles as a means to occupy her mind during the evenings, and she chooses the most incredibly difficult ones.  You know, the ones with millions of flowers and greenery and no discernible differences within pieces.  I am amazed at her ability to focus on something I find completely insane.  I feel the same way about her addiction to golf and her handheld Scrabble game.  When she claims to have no patience, I remind her of these things.

10:30 PM:  I am sleeping under the same bedspread I used when I was in the 5th grade.  That makes it a quarter of a century old.  It's a verifiable polyester heirloom.

I go to my dad's room at the nursing home to get him when we arrive.  His room is too small for visiting, and his roommate is a hardcore napping machine so we spend most of our time in the dining room where I endure my public beatings at dominoes.  On his bedside table is a vase full of moldy stems from the flowers I sent him 2 weeks ago.  He refuses to throw them away.  Note to self: either send a plant or fake flowers next time.  My dad is far too sentimental for things with a 3 day shelf-life.  This, too, is a genetically inherited trait I have.  In his bottom drawer is a stash of Little Debbie Nutty Bars and Tums.  This makes me smile.  Some things never change.

Additionally, everyone calls my dad "Pappy".  This is a nickname an orderly gave him during a hospital stay several years ago.  I didn't realize how much he liked it, and I wish I could tell that orderly that he truly did have an impact on my dad.  I can't even remember that man's name, and this thought makes me incredibly ashamed.  Throughout my visit, I notice how when the nurses and aides pass by my dad, they lay a hand on his shoulder even if they don't speak to him.  I am grateful to these people I've only just met.  I don't know how they do what they do, but I pray they continue to do so.  A few days ago, my dad was voted as the Valentine King.  He got a crown and a teddy bear and a chorus of "All Hail the King".  The nurses told my mom that when they announced his name, he turned his baseball cap sideways, gave a big goofy face, and wheeled himself up to the front.  Like I said, my dad fills up a room wherever he goes.  I smile at this too.

I spent most of the afternoon trying to eek out a couple of wins at dominoes, and I did manage a few.  Progress is slow but sweet.  They also had church in the dining room.  I realize that I don't know that I've ever been to a church service with both of my parents (unless you count funerals or weddings).  It was weird to see them singing from the hymnal.  Weird but comforting.  My mom's singing reminded me of when I was little and she would sing along with the car radio.  She always knew every word and blended perfectly with whatever singer came on that old Thunderbird radio.  I still maintain that she has a beautiful voice although she will vehemently deny it.  This is not a genetic trait I inherited unfortunately.  The singing, not the vehement denial. 

10:00 PM:  Watching the local news with my mom at home.  This is another comfort.  No matter what you're doing, at 10:00 PM, you watch the news.  I so rarely watch the local news here.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's because the DFW doesn't lead with stories that inspire Tweets such as this:

At the Amarillo Civic Center today, you could get a tattoo, a handgun, and an antique teapot. Texas, in a nutshell. #WTFAmarillo?

For real, the lead story was about the 3 different events all being held at the Civic Center that day: the Live Ink tour (apparently tattoo artists tour the nation and you can get inked or pick up tattoo tips or get a blue mohawk), the GUN SHOW (handguns, switchblades, brass knuckles, anyone?), and an ANTIQUE show (pick up a delicate china pattern to go with your AK-47).  So, you see, my randomness is not a genetic trait. Purely environmental.  Nature vs. Nurture, live and in action.

Woke up to 55 mile an hour winds this morning.  It's been a while since my first question of the morning was "Is the roof still attached?"  In case you've never visited, the Panhandle is the land without trees or tall buildings, therefore, the winds of Mother Nature know no boundary.   If these winds happened in the metroplex, grocery store shelves would be picked clean in anticipation of the Apocalypse.  And Channel 8 would have named the windstorm some ridiculously awful name.  On a side note: I follow many people on Twitter who happen to live in the Raleigh-Durham area (go Duke!) where apparently they had a little snowstorm this weekend.  They too, believe in weather overreaction and liberally apply sarcasm where needed.  I saw many, many tweets about hiding your milk and bread from the looters.  They also hashtagged the storm as #SNOMG.  This never failed to make me laugh, and I found myself hoping for a snowstorm of our own so I could steal their hashtag.

On the way to see my dad (about a 35 minute drive), this was my view of the road at times.  The tiny speck up ahead is my mom's car.  This was one of the clearer moments, believe it or not.  I actually had a 30 minute detour on the way home because of a gigantic wreck on 287 which was I'm sure was due to the dirt storm and the severely decreased visibility.  Sometimes the ridiculousness of the Panhandle weather is terrifying.

After 3 days in a row of visiting, my dad was clearly tired.  Whipping me at dominoes takes a lot of you apparently.  But so does holding it together, so I was tired too.  I was afraid of the moment when I'd have to leave.  This is usually a time of many tears for all three of us, and I was terrified for the first tear to fall. because the first tear is just the precursor to the dam burst.  But that tear never fell from any of us.  I'm not sure why.  Resignation?  Acceptance?  Stubbornness?  All three?  I just don't know. 

I said my good-byes.  I hit the road for my now 4 and a half hour drive home.  I stopped for fuel and the customary Allsup's burrito.  I felt pretty good until it got dark.  There is no dark like the Texas dark, even on a fairly busy highway.  And it hit just as a patch of almost non-existent cell phone coverage begins (which means no calls to friends to fill up the lonely downtime).  I stopped one last time at the world's most disgusting bathroom -- which I was forced to go to because it was on the "right" side of the highway.  Even though I'm a grown-up, with my own car and everything, I still follow my family's travel rules -- start 30-45 minutes later than you planned and never, ever cross over a highway just for something as trivial as food or a bathroom where you probably won't catch a third world level case of dysentary.  While I was waiting in line to pay for my fried pie (stop judging me) and Diet Coke, I downloaded a podcast I'd seen on Twitter earlier in the day (from another sportswriting Duke guy), and I'm so glad I did.  It was not his usual basketball podcast which I always enjoy.  Instead it was basically him and a friend just talking about random and ludicrous articles they'd read.  I loved it because it was the Raleigh-Durham boy version of me and my friends on any given night -- various tangents of conversation, lots of laughing, and the obligatory poop reference (although they upped the ante with crocodile dung).  Shane's and Jim's voices and laughter in my ear gave me 42 minutes of peace from the tears that were waiting for the right lonely stretch of road to appear.  If you have a spare 42 minutes, here's the link:


Shane's also a pretty good follow for all things sports-related (@tobaccordblues on Twitter) and a wonderful writer for Grantland.  And thus my totally unsponsored plug for a total stranger.  You're welcome, America.

The tears stayed away right until I began seeing the lights for Fort Worth.  For some reason, that was it, the trigger.  Maybe it was the nearness of the end of the journey.  Maybe it was the fact that in just a relatively short time, I was suddenly a world away again.  Because they are two different worlds -- There and Here.  Then Green Day sang "Time of Your Life", and I was a mess. 

But sure enough, 102.1 wouldn't let me down, and they followed it with good ol' Florence.  And this time, there was no driving rain to drown me out.  And if you watch the video, ignore the "Eyes Wide Shut" masquerade theme.  At least it's not creepy clowns in the woods this time.


"It's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love is a Battlefield

Today was one of my least favorite days -- Valentine's Day.  Not so much because it's Valentine's Day, per se, rather because it was Valentine's Day, and I work at a junior high.

Oh, the drama that can arise via teddy bears from Walgreen's and wilting roses from Kroger.  I saw the first tears at 8:55 AM, endured some awkward Valentine writing from some seventh graders, broke up a near French kiss on the 200 hallway, and perhaps brought about an extreme epic fail of a love declaration in a theatre arts class.  Thankfully, I did not witness that crash.

I guess why I hate V-day in my job so much is why I like my job so much... because the painfully awkward moments of my own junior high days are still relevant in my mind.  Therefore I understood the morning tears, slightly weird valentine cards, and, yes, even the humiliation of a love declaration gone wrong. 

But we all survived today with hopefully very little emotionally scarring, and instead of venting about all the things I hate about February 14th, I'm linking you to a post about all the things I love in my everyday little world. 

So here it is.  And know that I'd buy you all a drugstore teddy bear or a grocery store rose if I could.

And a special shout-out to my former colleague and funny friend, Annie G., for my post title today.  In junior high, perhaps more than anywhere else, Love truly is a battlefield.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Ocean's an Ocean...

This weekend, I plan to knock a little somethin' off the ol' bucket list. Seeing the ocean.

I know. Right? How has a grown woman lived her whole life without seeing an ocean?

Well, it's not that complicated. I work all. The damn. Time. And I was born to parents who hate to travel. And I was born with highly flammable skintone AND a zip code in the panhandle of Texas where, literally, it's almost as quick to drive to California as it is to get to the Texas coastline. I've been deprived, my friends. De-prived. That ends now. Granted, I'm only going to Galveston and not King Crab season on the Bering Sea or anything.

But at this point, an ocean's an ocean, dude.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Day in Court

I cried in court today.

In all my days, the thought of finding myself in a courtroom with an actual judge -- in actual black robes with an actual gavel -- would make my knees quiver.  Today, it was only my lip quivering.  I wasn't sure what to do... where to stand... what to do with my hands.  So instead, I walked up the stairs behind the judge's bench and stood behind her to take a picture.

In the picture?  My friend, Heather, and her son

He pressed his face against her neck, wary of the judge on her bench and weary of all of the cameras and tears.  She stood, facing a lawyer, who asked her a zillion rapid fire questions that basically boiled down to one:

"Do you choose this child forever?"

And she said yes.

So just like that, after 8 months -- ironically almost the length of a pregnancy itself -- the labor was over.  The home visits.  The paper work.  The anxiety.  The fear.  All done.

And, in the blink of an eye, the story of Marcus James Wilson, looking especially dapper in his new hat and surrounded by family and friends, officially began.

And we all said, "YES!"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Today's Post, Brought to You by the Number 3

Tomorrow is the 3rd birthday of my sweet boy, Elliott.  Elliott is the son of my best friend, Courtney.  He is the first of our village's burgeoning 2nd generation, for which Courtney might be mostly responsible .  But Elliott is the first.  The Pioneer.  And I cannot believe it's been almost 4 years since Courtney showed me a picture on her little ol' flip phone, and I asked in earnest confusion, "What the Hell is that?  Is that a pill you dropped?  Why are you showing me a picture of a dropped pill?"  But it wasn't.  It was a picture of that fateful little plus sign.

In my defense, camera phones nearly 4 years ago were incredibly, incredibly crappy.

But tomorrow is the day for 3, and so to commemorate, I've chosen to celebrate my darling little friend with a series of haiku poems -- 3 lines each for my favorite 3 year-old.

Even at five weeks,
Your good taste astounded us.
Heck of a shirt, kid.

Bookshelves overflow
Your love of turning pages
Makes your Deana proud.

You read us stories
Even when they're upside down.
Sweet imaginings.

Smile, bright like the sun,
Sweet as that bag of candy,
Infinitely so.

Luscious eyelashes
Surround those crystal blue eyes.
Forseeable swoons.

The first tricycle
Mere shadows of growing up.
How cute are you here?

"Teach Your Children Well"
Perfectly captured,
Your "bewief" in the home team,
Melts sports fans all 'round.

Happy Birthday my sweet Ell.  Your charms and smiles make "bewievers" of us all.  And please, don't ever stop saying "bewieve".  It's so dang cute, no matter what your speech therapist mom says. 

Love always,

Warm Biscuits, Cheap Books, George Clooney, a Cute Dog, and a Side of Pickles

That last post was tough to write, y'all.  It's not easy for me to tell those things to my dearest friends, let alone put it out on my social media front porch.  But your kindnesses, your comments, your shared stories all helped me feel not-so-alone.  I've been doing my normal ritual of licking my wounds and hunkering down as a result of emotional turmoil.  My friends and I jokingly refer to it as "Wallow Time" only they're not really joking, and neither am I.  By the way, their knowledge of me and what I need most never fails to astound me.  Do you have friends who constantly astound you?  I sure as heck hope so.  They're invaluable.

"Wallow Time" refers to a few things including but not limited to: cussing, junk food, tears, books, and bad television or good movies.  Sometimes, if I'm on the upswing, it might involve a pedicure.  But no matter what, everything is done by myself because I'm not very fun when I wallow, and wallowing doesn't always involve showering.  (Unless I'm at work because not showering leads to not having a job.)

This weekend I planned for a full-on wallow.  The fact that it coincided with the replacement of all of the windows in my house and nine workmen who were definitely not ready to take on Depressed Girl only made me feel worse.  Not only would my self-imposed depressive state be interrupted, I was forced out of my prime wallowing real estate (also known as my couch).

So there I was on a Saturday morning at 6:30, in my car, pissed off at the world because my stupid landlord didn't call ahead for my depression schedule.  And my car headed in the only direction it knows at that time of the morning -- the Dixie House -- because my car, much like me, can sniff out a plate of biscuits and gravy within a 20 mile radius.  While I was there, I finished my book.  I had a wonderful chat with the sweetest pair of WWII veterans.  For almost 2 hours, I was warmed by hot biscuits and good service.

Then I headed to the only other thing my nose can sniff out at 9:00 on a weekend morning, a bookstore.  A used bookstore.  Half-Price Books is to book lovers as the pound is to animal lovers -- a dangerous, dangerous place.  On a mission to bulk up my classroom library, I spent almost as much time in the Young Adult section as I had with my biscuits and gravy.  That, my friends, is a very long time.  Seriously, there was an irritated tween tapping her foot impatiently, waiting for me to finish browsing and planning various ways to kill me should I snatch up the last copy of The Hunger Games.  The YA section is just not meant for multiple person browsing.

27 books for $82.  Deal. 
Realizing neither I nor my wallet could sustain a full-day in the bookstore, I mapped out my movie plan for the morning and afternoon.  First up was The Artist.  I have never before seen a silent movie in its entirety, let alone seen one in the theater.  It was hard to realize that the characters would not speak "any second now" as my brain kept telling me they would.  Almost half the movie had gone by before I finally felt comfortable with just the music.  It was one of the strangest and coolest experiences I've had in a while.  I will caution you, however, that you will never be so aware of the volume of your own tics and twitches (let alone those of others) as when you're watching a silent movie in a public place.  That aside, the movie was gorgeous.  I was fully invested in both the characters and their story, and, in the end, I was breathless.  And the dog.  Let me tell you, that dog will be the cause of another Jack Russell boom such as the world has not seen since Frasier premiered.

I also saw The Descendants.  Here's what I can tell you:  I want to go to Hawaii.  George Clooney, even in pain and suffering, is still charming and mind-numbingly good-looking.  The only kind of sullen teenager I find amusing is one on the big screen. And?  Don't see this if you're having a personal, family kind-of meltdown in real life.  The acting is fabulous.  The scenery is beautiful.  But the plot will rip your guts out if you're not prepared.  I thought it was just me, having my own private fall-apart, until I looked around at the rest of the 7th Streen Movie Tavern to see a theaterful of patrons crying into their baskets of fried pickles.  I'd say that unless you're on an awards-movie marathon (like I was), wait 'til it's out in Redbox.  George has plenty of money.  He doesn't need your ten bucks that badly. 

And even Mr. Clooney knows that there's no good reason to ruin a perfectly good basket of fried pickles.