"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
My dad has a serious woodworking accident this morning, cutting his hand so badly that three fingers were amputated. I, living thousands of miles from home, came home to this message on the machine, "Hi Dawn, this is Mom, I need you to call me. Things are O.K. but they are not O.K". Why the odd message? Well, my family does not normally leave messages unless there has been a death, it was my mom's way of letting me know no one died, but that something had happened. They have spent the entire day at the hospital, with consultations and surgeries. Family members have tried to be supportive, with one comment that almost sent my mom over the edge "it's not so bad, at least it's only his fingers". Luckily, mom held her tongue, and did not lash out with the response that she really wanted to say, which was "oh yeah, lets chop off your fingers and see how you feel". My poor dad, he is a woodworker at heart; every room in the house has some piece of furniture that he has built. Either that or he has built the actual room (one "family bonding" project we had as children was building the addition on the house). To take away his ability to hold a hammer and nail is devastating. Do you know what worried him more? It was that they had to cut off his wedding ring. In the 40 years he has been married, he has never removed it. I think that action really brought home the seriousness of the injury more than anything else. My mom, well, she was forced to face the fact that she may lose my dad some day, and it may be sooner than later. It scared her, a lot. Dad, in his attempt to make us feel better, told us to tell the grand kids that he would not play rock, paper, scissors any more since he'll only be able to throw rock. I told this to Jman early in the day, in the evening he asked me if Papa had cut off both hands, I said no. Jman responded, "well, then he can play with his other hand". He's trying to process it too.
I decided today's task would be cleaning out the spare bedroom's closet - stuff in there has never been unpacked from our last move 7 years ago. I think it is safe to let it go. Of course, I did have to go through every box first, just in case. I find plenty that I had no use to me any more: old school papers on archaeology that I would not be referencing any time in the future, give-away totes that needed to be given away themselves, old textbooks (whose info is quite outdated), etc. I did find a few treasures too: hubby's watch from our first anniversary together, missing for over a decade; part of my fountain pen collection that I thought had been lost in a military move years ago, and lots of letters from hubby during his many deployments plus a few from his squad members, one of which still touches my heart to this day. Back when we lived overseas, the wives had a "birthday club" that made sure that every soldier got a card for his birthday, no matter where he was that day. We drew names, and would often send a cake as well if possible. I sent a card to my soldier while the company was deployed in Bosnia (this was the initial deployment, tents only, no showers, no rec area, bare minimum everything), making sure it was sent out in time to arrive on his birthday. The dear boy actually wrote me a letter back, telling me how his card brought him happiness for his birthday since no one else had taken the time to send him a card or to acknowledge his day. He commented on how he felt that we wives appreciated him and his fellow soldiers and that we a good support for them and that we brought a smile to his face in place where that was not happening very often.
Do I need to say that that letter got tucked back into a box, to be saved for another 15 years?
I wish there was a way to know if you made a difference in someone's life, something like the sound of a bell ringing, like in "It's a Wonderful Life". It would help so much to know that your actions really do make a difference to someone.
Summer in Texas is hot, there is no denying it. It is also humid, and this summer, incredibly rainy. However, I love summer. It gives me the freedom to enjoy my time with J, without having to fight over things like homework and project due dates. He has grown into such a remarkable young man. I know that I can trust him and that he will help around house without complaint, all I need to do is leave him a list. When I come home from work, he is brimming over with thoughts from the day, and he wants to share them with me. I am treasuring this time, because I know soon enough, he will not want to talk to me at all. It'll probably start with the new school year. I am so appreciative of the fact that I've recognized this, and that I am taking the time to be grateful for this.
Lately, J has been asking us to teach him to drive. I'm not sure why, but my almost 12 year old has go it into his head that now is the time, and honestly, I don't see why not. My husband took him out tonight to practice in a local church parking lot.
Are we crazy? No, we have a standard 1995 Neon that we are using to teach him to drive. We hold this theory - the passenger can throw the car into neutral and pull the emergency brake. Plus, he is not allowed to shift out of first gear. It is an easy car to handle, and honestly, if he burns out the starter or the clutch, well, it is a 1995 Neon, it is not much of a loss. As it is, to quote hubby, "he turns like the Queen Mary" (does a demonstration of hands at 10 and 2 o'clock, primly turning a pretend steering wheel). Also, J is still young enough that he is actually listening to us when we explain things, unlike an older teen.
J came home very excited, he told me he "parked" the car all by himself . He told my husband that he is pretty sure that he is the only (almost) 12 year old practicing to drive in the neighborhood. He also informed me that I get to take him out practicing next time. Not sure how I feel about that one...
This weekend we searched for a missing teenager, a teenager that disappeared a month ago. They don't know if she was abducted, murdered, or even if she wandered off to commit suicide. There is absolutely no trace of her. I was searching side by side with this poor girl's grandfather, for who the process of searching was his only hope of recovering his granddaughter. Of course, while searching for someone else's lost child, I could not help but think of my own.
So this afternoon, I sat my son down for a serious conversation. My family has a history of depression, on my mother's side, so I thought it would a good time to talk to J about it. When I was younger, my sister was suicidal and spent time in a psychiatric hospital. She had a chemical imbalance, and she needed counseling and medication to help her get better. I also remember something my brother once said to me as an adult, that he wished someone had noticed how depressed he was as a kid. It was hard, to bring about such a "taboo" topic, but I don't want him to ever get to the point where he believes life is worthless, that no one wants him, that he should just "disappear". So I told him that it would crush me if he ever disappeared like this poor teenager, that it would also shatter his grandparents who love him more than you would think possible. I mentioned that it is o.k. to be sad, but that sometimes, that sadness just does not go away, and that sometimes we all need more help, such as talking to someone ( not necessarily me) or even medication. I wanted him to know that he is worth something, that his life has purpose, something that he would not necessarily believe if he was depressed.
As a parent, this is not a topic that I was ever warned about that I would need to discuss, but with cyberbullying so prevalent these days, and it's evil effects, I had to broach this topic. He is a very "sensitive" kid, and more isolated than some. J's reaction was interesting, he told me it made him feel like he needed to draw or to write, I'm guessing to express his feelings. When I checked him after bedtime, his light was still on, and he was writing. Instead of my normal reaction of turning the light off immediately, I simply closed the door to let him finish.
J had his court of honor tonight and moved up in the Boy Scout ranks. It was interesting watching him interact with the other scouts. He was so mature and attentive. At the ceremony, he was accidentally given an award he had not earned. He spoke up immediately and said he did not earn it. As far as his troop was concerned, they had already logged him as accomplishing the task; he could have said nothing, but he didn't. He is an virtuous boy and would never accept reward for something he did not achieve completely. It made my heart swell, knowing that I have raised him to be an honest individual with good morals and character.
Quick survey - who here has ever set about to do simple household maintenance and had it take as long or less time than planned? If your luck is like mine, the answer is never. Yesterday was a perfect example of this. Now that the weather is warming up, I decided it was time to tackle some of our plumbing maintenance items, that even if they took longer than expected, it would be OK, since the warm weather would make it so hot water was not an absolute necessity. My list of items mainly centered around J's bathroom and the water heater. I needed to purge the heater (get rid of the sediment on the bottom of the tank to help extend its life and keep it working well"), auger the tub drain (it has been a very slow drain for a while), clean out the sink pipes, soak the shower head in vinegar to get off the mineral deposits, clean the exhaust fan of its years of dust, hair, and whatever build up. The other goal was to get rid of the awful smell coming from that bathroom, which was yet to be determined exactly what it was and from whence it was coming.
I started with the sink, first trying to remove the drain trap (the u-curve pipe under your sink). Normally there are two rings you unscrew to remove this. However, on this sink, there was not. It seems when the sink was replaced three years ago by an "expert", instead of putting the rings on both ends, he only did it on one and sealed the other end. I was not about to try to remove the other end, since this surely result in a trip to the local hardware store for some new piping. Instead I did the old dissolve any gunk in the drain by using boiling hot water and hoped for the best. This actually worked well.
On to the tub, where the drain plug seemed not to be working correctly, like it had become unattached to the actual part of the drain lever that plugged/unplugged it. I tried the simple solution first, scalding hot water down the drain to dissolve possible clogs. This was a strong possibility because J seems to dissolve a bar of soap a week, and we can't quite figure out how he does this or where the soap is going. While I let the hot water sit, I moved on to the water heater. First, I tried to turn off the main water source to the heater, since it does no good to try to drain it if more water is still pouring in. I needed a ladder for this, since my heater is approximately 2 feet off the ground, tucked into a little closet area. As I got to the top ladder, to the end of my reach was the turn off valve, which had been spray textured! It seems the builders must of have forgotten to finish this closest before they put the heater in, and sprayed the wall texture on later. If you have ever dealt with an old painted-closed window, you know how difficult it can be to open. Imagine that difficulty x 10. I'm already on my tippy-toes, and now I have to attempt to whack the water handle into its closed position. After some sweating and swearing, I succeed. On to the next part. On the bottom of most water heaters is a spigot that can be used to drain the heater. In theory, you should be able to connect any hose to this spigot and then put the end of the hose out the window or lead it to a drain. I found a length of hose for this job, attached it, ran it to the window...and found it was 6 inches to short. Argh. I then jerry-rigged the hose to go across our hallway, over a banister, and into J's bathroom, with the hose barely making it to the sink. I clamped the hose in place, a tricky balancing act of not too tight since then it would stop the flow of water and not too loose since then it would fall off, and headed back to the heater. At the heater I started to drain the water, only to hear a "clunk" as the clamp released and the hose fell to the floor. Quickly turning the water off I head back to the sink to reattach the clamp and hose. Back to the water heater, I turn the spigot on, only to have the water overflow from the connection where the hose meets the spigot. For some reason or another, my hose connector is too big for the spigot. After grabbing a larger towel than I already had to clean up the mess, I decide to drain it once basin at a time into a large bucket which I will dump as it fills. After I fill this 10 gallon bucket 6 times or so, the tank is drained and I ready to relight the pilot light. I turn my gas back on, dial the knob to pilot, depress the red button which releases gas and hit the ignite switch. Nothing happens. I click the switch again, still nothing. I continue to do this for about 20 minutes. By this time I am frustrated and getting a blister on my pointer finger from holding and click the switch. Thinking perhaps the pilot light area got wet when I emptied the water, I decide to move back to the tub, to finish that job. The tub, it is not draining still, even after trying to dissolve whatever it is in the drain scalding water. Time to auger it, which means removing the overflow plate to run the piping. I do this, find some resistance, get through the resistance and remove the auger. In theory, the tub should now drain. Only it doesn't. What might help it is running that scalding water again, to flush out the dislodged "whatever" in the drain. Only, the pilot light is out on the water heater, and I don't have hot water with which to flush the tub. Back I go, click, click, click, no success. I am tired and frustrated. What can I do? I certainly do not want to call a plumber out on a Saturday, can you imagine the expense? Then a light bulb goes off, I'll call my Dad, he has talked me through many a repair in the past. I call, no answer. I wait, I try again, this time Mom answers, Dad is not home, he's visiting their neighbor, his brother. She'll get him to call me back. In the meantime, while I wait for the phone call, I decide once and for all to remove the excess grout that was dripped onto our tile floors when the house was built. We did not notice it when we moved in, but over the years it has gotten dirty and always looks like there are spots on our tiles, even after a fresh mopping. I get the Dremel tool, with a sanding stone attachment and get to work. Within a minutes time, a fleck of grout ends up in my eye. Realizing that I would like to maintain my current state of vision, I take another trip to the garage for safety glasses, and come back ready to sand. I must say, this was great. I was able to get off all the excess grout without damaging any of the tiles. I was even able to get off the lacquer that was dripped on the tile from when the lacquered our banister. My father does call back, and I try to explain to him what the problem is. He agrees I'm doing what needs to be done, but now we need to take it a step further. I need to remove the safety plating. I explain that there are wires and tubes and such that I am afraid to just dislodge. Then a great idea hits us - Skype! We'll video conference. I bring my laptop to the computer, he talks me through the removal option, I get the casing removed, I look inside, and ...the pilot is actually already lit. Oops! It seems that the little glass opening that you usually look through is unusually opaque. The pilot was not bright enough to shine through it. Luckily, Dad taught me a trick for times when I think the pilot might be out but I don't want to unscrew the front plating. If I lightly tap the thin tube leading from the pilot dial, it sends debris into the pilot light, which causes it to flare and burn orange instead of blue, which is more visible. I thank my dear father, who is truly a resource of knowledge that I do not want to ever lose, and go on my merry way. Shower head gets reattached, and water gets run through the tub, on extra hot. Hallelujah, my repairs worked, the tub drain looks like there is a whirl pool going on, the drainage is so good. These little projects, which I thought would take me at best 2 hours, took me 5 hours. I had to go up and down my stairs (these projects were on the second floor) more times than I want to count, with multiple trips to our garage because the tool bag was lacking in the tools I needed. Happily, I did get them done and I fell better checking off some items on my list.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning and I decided to jump start my workout plan by digging my bike out of the garage for a short ride to our neighborhood fitness center. I had joined a "100 miles to nowhere" race to be held in May, so I really needed to get back to riding. I dusted off the sawdust, brought the water bottle in to wash it and fill it with clean, cool water; pumped up the tires, put my cell phone, some change and an ID into the bike pouch and took off. About 2 miles into my ride I looked down to grab my water bottle and was greeted by the empty cage. My nicely cleaned bottle was not there, in fact I knew where it was, on my counter, at home, right where I left it after I dried it off. No bother, I would be at the fitness center in another few miles and they have water there. As I rode, I realized that I really need to ride more often, my legs were tiring easily. I was having to ride with my mouth open, to get enough oxygen to my lungs. You know what else gets into you mouth when it is wide open? Little bugs. The tiny black ones that stick in your throat, that are so small you really can't cough them up, but still are big enough to annoy you. The one that flew into my mouth reminded me of a piece of popcorn kernel skin stuck in my throat. If I only had a drink to wash it down. I approached the center, with one more turn to make, and heard a loud "pop". Yup, my tire blew out. No worry, I have a repair kit and tools in my bike pouch for this type of emergency. Only one thing could stop me, a hole at the tube stem. You can't patch those. I peaked under the tire to see if I could see or hear where the hole was. I saw neon green ooze bubbling out of ....you guessed it, a hole at the tube stem. I'm not sure what the green stuff was, possibly "self-sealing" material to fill small holes. All I know is it was not able to stop the air from escaping from my tire. In defense of my tire tube, it had done an admirable job of holding air for the last 15 years. It was the original tube, so I really am not surprised that it did pop. I think the rubber just weakened over time at a point of stress. Luckily, as I stated before, I had packed my cell phone. I called hubby for a ride and waited patiently in the shade. I hadn't had plans for my day before, but I'm thinking I might now, a stop at the local bike shop.
Something odd just occurred at my house. My son just walked downstairs to tell me that his shower needs fixing, something about the water pressure and temperature. Nothing unusual about that. The odd part - he walked right by my husband (who happens to be home this week) to ask me. I'm not sure if I should be proud that he recognizes that his Mom can fix many things around the house or saddened that he did not even think to ask his father to fix it.
I was speaking with my father, who is now retired, and we were discussing different things he could do to keep busy in the winter months, when he is stuck inside due to the poor weather. Some how or another, we got side tracked, and he started to tell me about how he and my late uncle would go on Mondays, when our family business was closed, to their gun club for shooting practice and this led to other memories. As he was recalling some of his adventures, I realized that there is so little that I know about his life, especially as a child. I had given him a book, years ago, on Father's Day, which was titled something like "A Father's Memories". It is a journal type book that has questions that prompts you to write down various events in your life. My dad said that he "was not a writer, that he wouldn't know what to write". Personally, I just want any link into his past, I don't care about the grammar or the spelling. I want the history. After getting off the phone with him, I went to file some papers and I found one of those same books on MY bookshelf. I did not even realize I had one. Mine is organized by months, with the idea that you write down one memory per day. Some of the prompts are rather silly, like "When did you get your first bible? Who gave it to you?" , others are more along the line of the memories I would like to record, like "What is one of your favorite memories of your sibling/s?" Since I saw this as a hint from powers greater than me, I sat down and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I did about a months worth of memories. I want my son to have my history, to have the answers to those silly questions that I might not recall later on in life. It is also a good tool for my nephew, since many of memories are tied into memories with his mother (my twin). I'm hoping that I continue to fill it out, for his sake.
Jman and I went to the grocery store today, to do our bi-weekly shopping. Jman wanted to buy a pack of gum and had brought his own money, so I told him to go ahead and pick some out. My shopping cart was rather full, my cashier was a wee bit slow, and I did not want to have to wait for him to be rung up after me, so I told him to go over to the self-check out lane to pay for his gum. I noticed that he had a pack that was on sale, but he needed my shopper card to get the sale price, so I gave it to him (it was on my key chain). I finish getting rung out and notice that Jman still has not returned. I can see him at the self check-out, which now has an incredibly long line all standing behind him. I wheeled my shopping cart over as I see the attendant walk to speak to him. As I get into hearing range I hear them ask "where's your mom". I speak up, and they explain to me that he is trying to pay for his gum with the shopper card. I laughed, since it did not even occur to me that I would have to tell him what it was used for, since he has been shopping with me since he was a baby and I always use a shopper card. Of course, how would he know, as he explained it, he doesn't pay attention when I ring out my groceries. Yes, he has seen me use the card, but he did not realize that it was not like a credit card. "You should have told me Mom, I didn't know!". Of course, I bring up the fact that when he walked over the lane he had his money in hand and why would he think that I was going to "pay" for his gum with my "card", and why would I send him to another shopping lane if I am going to pay for it anyway, wouldn't I just add to my cart of groceries? I did feel bad for him, since he was embarrassed that he did not know better, but honestly, would you have thought that you needed to tell your child how to use the shopper card? What other "common sense" things do I need to tell him about?
Many years ago when we lived closer to family, my folks came out to visit us on President's day. My dear son, who had to be about 4 at the time, happily greeted my parents, and said to them that it was President's day, weren't they excited. My mother was amazed that my son had any concept of this holiday, and was in awe that he actually was excited about it. He reached behind his back and gave my father a gift and then my mother a gift. He then asked if they had anything for him. They were confused (rightly so I might add), asked him why and he said again "It's Present's day". You never know what little ears might hear or think they hear...
The weather that is swamping our nation right now is just crazy. I am so glad that I currently live in an area that is not prone to snow. True, we've gotten a bit of rain, but I would be very tired of shoveling out from the snow this winter. Another blizzard is set to strike the central states and the Northeast. Stay warm friends and family. I'll be thinking of you as I walk to work this morning.
Everyone I know has wondered once or twice, what would my life be like if I didn't get married, have kids, etc. It does not do much good to wonder, but I can't help but do it. I would not change my life now, but what if I took that other path, where would I be?
Well, if I did not have a child, I would probably still be an archaeologist. It was raising my son that stopped me from continuing my career, I decided to stay home when he was young, and to get a job which works around school hours as he got older. Even though we moved around a bit when we were first married, I was able to keep finding archaeology jobs, so I have confidence that I would be doing that if I did not have a child. It never paid much, but I know how to live frugally. Plus, my last archaeology gig was with the government, which would be a guaranteed salary, unlike some of my other archaeology jobs which relied on grant money.
If I had not gotten married and if my parents had steered me in my education choices instead of letting me randomly pick what I wanted to do, I believe I would be working for Doctor's Without Borders. I truly love the medical field (it was my alternate choice when deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up) and I would be "making a difference" which matters to me. Without having to worry about spouse or child I would be willing to place myself in more dangerous situations. I still contemplate this idea, or course there are few barriers, not the least being that I do not have a medical degree. I am contemplating correcting this, weighing my options, debating my fears, we'll see.
What would you do if you did not have children? If you were not married?
Sheesh, I was optimistic for this year to begin, but it has been a rough one. One friend had his son die over the holidays due to icy roads, another just lost the baby she was carrying (5mth along), hubby is possibly switching into a more dangerous job, sister has major surgery scheduled, and I have my abnormal test results to deal with... What happened to 2010 being a good year,the start of the upturn? I can try to be positive, both hubby and son have their health, Jman has actually had his artwork submitted for competition again and has moved up a level in gymnastics, and I am still employed. I can appreciate the little things, like how listening to Blue October puts me in a peaceful mood, the weather is turning so that I can start walking to work again, and I am loved and supported by family and friends. Positive thinking, I have to maintain it, otherwise life will get the best of me, and I am not going to allow that.
So, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I received a Shark floor steamer/cleaner for Christmas, about which I was very excited. This little machine claims to steam sterilize your floor as cleans, absorbing all dirt into terry cloths pads on its head, which can then be laundered in the washing machine. It is for use on all solid sealed surfaces. No cleaning fluids are needed, it is just hot water dissolving the dirt. This is a very light machine, easy to use, and fun to use (at least for me). It took a moment to warm up, but once it got going it was great. I could see it cleaning my floor by looking at the dirt on the cleaning head. The floor itself, didn't get wet like it does when you mop, just damp (this is a positive, I have tile floors and it is very slippery when wet). I had just mopped three days ago, using a traditional mop. When I finished with the Shark, the cleaning pad was very dirty, so it is picking up dirt that I had not known I was missing. I was having so much fun that I decided to steam clean some, shall we say areas that it was not necessarily originally designed to clean. With a fresh pad, a cleaned my counter tops. What better area to have sterilized than the counters on which we prepare food? I had just Fantastik them less than a half hour ago and you would not have guessed that by looking at the cleaning pad, they were that dirty. So, since the Shark comes with 5 pads (2 rectangular, 2 triangle for hard to reach corners, and one terry-loop one), I decided to delegate one of them as my counter top cleaner by marking it with a permanent marker (Can you imagine mixing them up and using the bathroom one on your counters? Eww). It is so easy to use, that I am going to let my child use it. I'm not worried about the steam burning him, since I'll change the head for him if need be (when you change the heads, the steam releases from that opening). It actually make floor cleaning fun, and I wanted to mop every other day, something that I would never want to do with a regular mop.
A new year has come and with it so many folks have created resolutions. Now, as loyal readers know, when I make a new year's resolution, I truly strive all year (if not permanently) to achieve it, so this year's resolution is...nothing. My hubby jokingly said "you don't need resolutions because you're perfect so you don't have to change anything". That's not quite it. I have a feeling that this year will be better for many, but that there will be challenges that may prevent me from doing any of the normal resolutions, so I will not make them just to break them. I'm already on a fitness plan, so I don't have "work out" as an available resolution; we don't eat junk at my house, so "eating healthy" is already in place, and "spend more time with the family" was something I strived for and achieved this year. No, I really do not have any resolutions that I can think to do this year. Well there is one - I could go with a simple one, the one my hubby chose, which is to floss more often, but you know what? I probably would not keep that one either.
I have a true doppleganger, but many say that I look just like (fill in the blank). Love found me years ago and luckily I invited it to stay. My most recent journey is raising my son to be a gift to rather than a burden on society. If I succeed at that, I will have succeeded at life.