Life is an Adventure

I’m No Angel

AngelI’ve never been one to look over my shoulder while walking in a parking garage. If someone is following me, I’d rather not know. Panic would only cause me to stumble and drop my keys. I don’t have a bomb shelter, stock-piles of food, or a gun in my nightstand. The aluminum baseball bats beside my bed and at the foot of the stairs are sufficient enough for me. I’m certain I could knock someone’s head off in one swing if my life depended on it. And then I’d double-tap just to be sure.

Normally, I go about my business without taking mental notes of the cars I pass, the faces I encounter, or the voices I might hear in a day. To be honest, I am oblivious to my surroundings. At the grocery store, I usually write my next great novel in my head as I run up and down the aisles picking up things I forgot to buy the last time I was there. In the car, I am either singing at the top of my lungs, crying to a sappy love song, or talking to the person in some kind of Honda that is driving like an idiot in front of me.  I don’t worry about a zombie apocalypse (I’m pretty sure I could out run them), or how the world will end (I think I’ll be long gone).

My husband often accused me of being too naïve, to which I disagreed. I wanted to believe everyone was good, and that bad things only happened to people in the news. I have since learned that isn’t true.

BACK THEN:

When I was around 19, I drove a Buick Regal with plush velour seats, four doors, and an appetite for oil. The mechanic gave me not so explicit instructions prior to departing on my road trip from Oklahoma to Tennessee to visit my then boyfriend/now husband, Mike.

“It has a bad seal so it might burn a little oil for the first 100 miles, so check it after 50 miles and then you should be fine. But,” (I should have known the “but” would be a biggie) “if you start to hear a rattle in the dash, that means a spark plug needs to be changed with an A-wrench. Otherwise, the engine might freeze.”

No problem. With a case of oil (far more than I was going to need, but hey, I’m a safety girl!), I took off on a beautiful, sunny, spring day. I didn’t have an A-wrench and I didn’t even know what that was, nonetheless, I was assured by my mechanic it would be easy to obtain at any truck stop along the way. Ok, no problem.

I pulled onto the shoulder after the first 50 miles and, of course, my plush Buick needed 2 quarts of oil. At the 100 mile mark, another 2 quarts. When I reached 150 miles, I pulled over, just for good measure. That decision might have saved my life.

While standing on the side of I-40 about 50 miles from the Oklahoma-Arkansas state line, and with my head under the hood of my Buick, a 16-year-old red-headed Richie Cunningham look alike, freckles and all, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I needed any help. To this day, I don’t know where he came from or how he snuck up on me. His name was Clint and he was hitchhiking home from his sister’s house after spring break. He needed a ride and since his exit was right around the next 50 mile oil check (yes, 2 more quarts went in on that stop), I agreed. I know what you are thinking. Do you know how dangerous it is to pick up a hitchhiker? In my defense, I didn’t pick him up; we just kind of met, so technically, it doesn’t count. Besides, I could have been saving his life. Didn’t he know how dangerous it was to hitchhike?

We chatted it up and jammed to the radio, and when we came to his exit, he helped me add another 2 quarts of oil. I was a little sad to see him hoist his backpack and walk towards his exit. It was nice to have the company and we hit it off like old friends. Just as I was about to drive away, he flagged me down, told me he was going with me, and then called his mom to get permission. He had $25 in food stamps, his backpack, and a huge heart.

The Buick never stopped drinking oil. Every 50 miles we added 2 quarts and when the car started chugging a bit, we kept it running. We were like a pit crew at a Nascar race and had the routine down to a 3 minute stop. At two in the morning somewhere in Arkansas, the gas gauge was getting low so we took the first exit with a gas station sign.  Within seconds, we knew we were in trouble. The gas station was closed and by the looks of it, had been for years. The road was dark and isolated and had I been alone, terrifying. That’s when the Buick died.

A pick-up truck slowly crept up on us and Clint became a man, jumping out of the car and getting assistance while I kept a low profile in the driver’s seat. The scruffy driver of the truck got the car started and for that I was grateful, despite the awkward glances at me from behind the hood. Creepy.

Around four in the morning, a strange rattling sound began to shimmy the dash. No problem. I just needed an A-wrench and a truck stop. Close to the Tennessee state line, we found a Truck Stops of America; a giant franchise with no A-wrenches for sale, but in the back, there were more than a dozen trucks parked with engines running and drivers sleeping. Yes, I knocked on every window, pissed off every driver, and never found an A-wrench. Though, I did learn the A stands for allen.

So, I did what any nearly-broke-from-buying-oil 19-year-old would do, I drove on without changing the spark plug. We coasted into Knoxville, TN around 9 am with only two of the five gears I started with (yep, thank goodness for stick shifts). It died for the final time in a parking lot next to a BP.

Clint was my hero.

NOW:

A few months ago, I went to the movies to see Argo. Shortly after the previews began, a man took the seat a row down from where my girlfriend and I were sitting. I wouldn’t have paid any attention to him if he hadn’t seemed so anxious. He kept turning around, staring up into the crowd nervously. He fidgeted, bit his nails, and looked over his shoulder long after the movie began. What was his problem? A million thoughts came to mind as I watched him more than I did the movie. Was he stalking someone? Was he in cahoots with the second man that had walked into the theatre alone, and late? If he pulled out a gun, could I make it to the floor in time to dodge the random bullets? What about all the other people in the theatre who were oblivious to the danger that possibly lurked in the second row? What if he was a terrorist? Would I be able to give an accurate description to the FBI, if I survived? Am I really being paranoid or what?

So, I did what any mature, responsible adult would do—I memorized his face. Eventually I focused on the movie and forgot about the strange behaving man until the movie neared the end and I noticed he was gone! He disappeared without my knowing and at the best part of the movie. For a brief moment, my heart stopped beating and I fought the urge to run for my life.

No one was injured, no bombs exploded, and no guns were fired. I wasn’t an angel or a hero, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be!

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Unconditional Love

the three Anyone who has had a child knows the thrill and anticipation that comes with the start of a family. Aside from the usual fear that the baby will be healthy, we wonder what he/she will look like—eye color, hair color, and size. Personality traits were not something I thought about, at least with my first-born, but it was apparent within a few days my bright-eyed baby boy was a frustrated little person with his own agenda. To be honest, I think he was bored. He needed to be entertained and stimulated constantly.  As a young adult, he was sensitive, intelligent, and a perfectionist with a fear of failure. He was a musician. I miss him terribly.

With the birth of my second son, eighteen months later, I wondered what he would be like more than what he would look like. Much to my amazement, he seemed perfectly content in his own little world. Unlike his brother, he wanted nothing to do with school, books, or learning the alphabet song. He questioned everything. He had a crazy good imagination and I think he taught his brother how to “play”. As a young adult, he is funny, witty, and super smart, in a wordly kind of way. Don’t tell him I said that because he is always right and he will say “I told you so.”) He is a debater.

My family was shaping up to be quite diverse but I had adjusted to “my boys” and their habits. Enter the princess, two years later. My daughter seemed to have the perfect mix. To steal a line from a popular teen series, she was her own sun. She was sweet, kind, and imaginative. Before her first birthday, I had not bought her any girl toys—baby dolls—but that didn’t stop her from cradling the boy’s super hero figurines. As a young adult, she is an avid reader, an artist, a bit on the romantic side, and wants to save the world—one tree at a time. She is a nurturer.

You might be wondering why I have given you a break-down of my family dynamics and frankly, I am too. I think it has something to do with the conversation (instant messaging on skype) I had with my second-born son this morning. As you may know, he is spending a year in Japan as an exchange student. It wasn’t about what was said, but rather the interaction.

A few lines have been deleted to protect the innocent!

[8:38:40 AM] Ben:   I cant breathe, suggestions?

[8:38:54 AM] Ben:   It’s rather problematic

[8:40:49 AM] Me:   you need a walgreens. Saline, vicks, sudafed. If you can’t get those, try steam either in the shower or put a towel over your head and lean over a pot of boiling water.

[8:41:06 AM] Ben: I think you misunderstand

[8:41:21 AM] Ben:   I have a severely stuffed nose, in which steam can do nothing about

[8:41:31 AM] Ben:   also I would look like an idiot with my face over boiling water,

[8:42:18 AM] Ben:   And immediate cures would be nice, as, for some odd reason, I can’t sleep when I can’t breathe, and it’s nearing that time

[8:42:56 AM] Me:   does your host family have any meds?

[8:43:02 AM] Ben:   no

[8:43:07 AM] Ben:   they’re japanese I think

[8:43:27 AM] Me:   ha ha. surely they take drugs

[8:43:38 AM] Ben:   I never took you for an advocate of drug use

[8:44:07 AM] Ben:   They dont keep meds on hand like we do. It’s all prescribed

[8:45:30 AM] Me:   you need to flush your sinuses and that requires squirting warm salt water up your nose while you lean your head to the side over a sink. bet you would love some afrin about now.

[8:46:05 AM] Ben:   That sounds like an answer from google

[8:46:32 AM] Me:   nope. I know…I had sinus surgery and had to clear my passages daily.

[8:46:38 AM] Ben:   Ew.

[8:47:54 AM] Ben:   also i might have the flu as it were

[8:48:03 AM]Me:   It’s actually pretty nice. like the netipot. it works and saline is not medicated. try and get some. like I said, you can make it yourself but you need something to squirt it with.

[8:48:50 AM] Me:   You had better get to the doctor. Do they have tamaflu over there? If you take it within 48 hours, it will diminish the flu greatly.

[8:49:17 AM] Ben:   I’m not sure.

[8:49:29 AM] Ben:   I will speak with my tribal chieftan tomorrow, and will probably visit the witch doctor.

[8:51:22 AM] Me:   awesome. witch doctor might be able to whip up a concoction that will help you sleep…possibly even hallucinate! Don’t wait though. The flu can be dangerous and several perfectly healthy teens or rather young adults have died suddenly here. it is epidemic.

[8:53:01 AM] Ben:   I am aware of the dangers of infections. Though, as a relatively healthy active 18 year old male, with no problems regarding immune system, and a resting heartbeat of 61 bpm followed by relatively low-blood pressure, instantaneous flu inspired death is not on my list of worries. apologies for the severely large run on sentence.

[8:53:48 AM] Ben:   And yet I neglected to capitalize in my apology, I really am losing touch with English..

[8:54:40 AM] Me:   their flu might find your blood tastier and therefore, more deadly. don’t argue with your mother. As for your english…

[8:55:10 AM] Ben:   As for MY English, let us first address yours as well!

[8:55:42 AM] Ben:   *Third, you don’t need a comma after therefore, neglected to capitalize Don’t

[8:56:25 AM] Ben: ❤

[8:57:52 AM] Me:   My word program automatically capitalizes the first word of a sentence. so does my phone when I text. i can’t help it that skype does not. i also can’t help the fact that I am too lazy to stretch my finger over the shift key.

[8:58:10 AM] Ben:   Noted.

[8:59:42 AM] Me:   we are preparing for 1/2″ of ICE tomorrow morning. Probably going to lose power and a few trees. should be ugly but let me know when you get to the doctor. I will be praying for a speedy recovery

[9:01:21 AM] Ben:   I think even you may agree, that if everyone volunteered instead, the world would be a much, much, better place

[9:02:25 AM] Me:   okay. i volunteer to take you to tthe doctor and nurse you back to health.

[9:02:45 AM] Ben:   That would be far more productive, no?

[9:04:24 AM] Me:   well, no. I would have to pray for a miracle to get me to Japan. No?

[9:04:59 AM] Ben:   A miracle is a suspension of the natural order, getting to Japan would not require such.

[9:06:54 AM] Me:   In a world of unpredictability, there is one thing that remains consistent. You Are A Pain In The Ass. love you

[9:07:17 AM] Ben:   I’m not quite sure how to take that.

[9:07:24 AM] Ben:   Clearly unconditional love at its best though

[9:08:28 AM] Me:   Clearly.

As you can see in the example above, all the elements (characteristics) were there early on, I just wasn’t sure which would be the dominant.  Children are like grab bags. You may know there’s an assortment of candy inside but you’re just not sure what’s going to come out when you reach your hand in. I can’t take all the blame  um…credit since my husband had a hand in raising them.

I don’t know what the future holds for my children and sometimes that scares the heck out of me. But what I do know is this: We have given them their wings–life will teach them how to fly.

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