Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Colonoscopy Prep

A couple of months ago I turned 50.  Now this event happens to people every day...and it's fine.  For some people there's a party or a special trip to embark on to mark the occasion.  For others, it is just another day...nothing to see here...and all that.  But for the majority of us, it means that we are moving on up the age ladder...having to check that dreaded "50-54" box instead of the far more innocuous "45-49."  But that isn't the only thing that is turning over on the virtual odometer.  We also have things like menopause, ED ads in everything we read, harassment by the slightly creepy (and seriously persistent) AARP to join their ranks...and, of course, the dreaded colonoscopy.

Yes.  THAT.

Tonight I am five cups into the heaven knows how many cups that I have to consume of the plastic jug that is in the refrigerator.  (Yes, Beverly, I got it really cold...)  The first two or three weren't that big of a deal because I was kind of thirsty/hungry anyway.  "Kind of" being defined as "I haven't had any food to speak of today so I needed something so that I wouldn't be tempted to eat the stack of napkins sitting beside the computer."

One eight ounce cup every ten minutes.  Really?  REALLY?  No.  That's impossible...unless you put it in a funnel or put margarita mix in it. Oh...wait...gotta go...

I'm back.  Wow.  This stuff totally works.

Oh, I'm measuring those eight ounce cups and as of this writing...I'm now six cups in.  I've put a little bit of Crystal Light in there because the flavor packet that came with this handy $70.44 (with insurance) kit just really wasn't pulling its weight.  Of course, I could have chosen another flavor...they put four different options in the box o'fun for me to choose from.  And while I am normally very decisive..."none of the above" is really the preferred option.  Except that isn't an option.

For the record, I don't know what genius thought that "pineapple" would be an excellent option for colonoscopy prep.  But apparently someone did.  I didn't choose it because - NO.  Orange was discarded because I can't drink anything with orange flavoring after serving it and trying it a few times when I worked at McDonald's in 1979 where it was pronounced "urr-unch" so frequently that I began to call it that myself.  The third option was "cherry" - which is my favorite flavor - so I didn't want to mess that up or I'll never be able to take Nyquil again.  This is important to me because the green Nyquil is just heinous.  Finally, I opted for the last one "lemon-lime" a flavor that has been such a faithful friend through the years that I'm willing to risk it.  I think our friendship can withstand this.  I hope so anyway.

Make that seven cups now.  I just chugged down that last one because I'm told that this is really the best way to do this by the two guys in the house - both of who have been down this particular road before.  Brian had his on Halloween when he was 15.

Worst "trick or treat" EVER.

In case you have never been through this particular experience, I will tell you that the prep for such varies from doctor to doctor.  Some of them go all "old school" on you and make you drink what looks like two gallons of stuff, and others give you a pill and half of that amount.  Some will give you two pills and no drinking of anything awful, and others will make you go on a fast over a period of time so as to avoid all of the above.  My doctor went the half and half route...a pill and then what I'm guessing is eight cups of this stuff.

I sure hope so...because that means I'm almost done.  Well, with that part of it anyway.

The most noticeable thing about this stuff is that while it looks like lemonade...it actually has the consistency of the juice in canned fruit.  Not the "no sugar added" but the old school thick stuff that we all grew up on and drank with wild abandon before we knew words like "heavy syrup" and "carbs."  Oh, you didn't?  Well, I totally did.  I will tell you, however, that it most assuredly didn't taste like that stuff.  It was more like drinking unsweetened bitter lemon thick stuff with an undertone of a most undelightful mixture of vegetable oil and Pledge.  That was my take on it, anyway.

Bottoms up!  (No pun intended.)  I'm DONE!

"Done" being a relative term here, by the way.  Because I'm by no means "done" from what I'm beginning to understand.  For instance, I have taken several trips back and forth across the house as a result of said consumption...that should really officially be counted as "cardio."  Because if you are moving faster than you have moved in the previous 30 days and vaulting over fighting dogs, a family heirloom rocking chair, a closed door and a laundry basket to get to a coveted seat with a Suduko book...I totally think it counts.

Multiply that by eight and that's pretty much been my night.  Make that nine.

There's a near empty carton of chicken broth on the counter and I'd like to get up and heat it, but between us...I'm a little afraid to move.  Plus, I've managed to get through today on two cups of chicken broth and eight cups of awful and my head hasn't even spun around once although it hurts like the dickens.  I'm sure that this will become secondary in the very, very near future.  So there's that.

I don't know if any of you have had to go through this lovely ritual of "fifty-dom" but let me encourage you to get right on that if you haven't. I have a personal reason for asking you.  See, my mother-in-law and father-in-law were both diagnosed with colon cancer.  Her only request to me when she was in the middle of chemotherapy was to make sure that Big Dave found his way to be screened.  She then made me promise to stay on him about it.  I will do that.  And probably everybody else I know.

He had his colonoscopy last year and everything was fine.  If you want to know how I know this...it is because they gave me some mighty graphic pictures that told me so.  Photos that really need to be burned and the ashes buried because - NO - JUST NO.  Of course, I had no prior warning that I was about to be handed something that still haunts my dreams, but with Big Dave all happy and acting like Lindsay Lohan out for a night on the town...it was all I could do to get him out of there without embarrassing us further.  Because you think "Honey Badger don't care?"  Trust me..."Big Dave don't care..." either.

Can't wait until I get to pay him back tomorrow.

So, if you haven't scheduled your colonoscopy and you are over 50...get on that.  I can't speak to the procedure...but I can tell you that I've survived the prep.  Um...pretty much.  I'm thinking that the night is young, so to speak.


But whatever it takes to get through this...it will be worth it.  It isn't the most pleasant topic...but we need to "bring it out of the dark" so to speak.  Here's a funny video that my friend, Tommy, put on a post this morning that pretty much sums it all up.  Followed by that is Dave Barry's hilarious take on the colonoscopy compliments of Erin.

Get tested.  Now.  Please.

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andyshowed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!' I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,'which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America 's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor. Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon. The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that?  Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked. Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn down your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by Abba. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' has to be the least appropriate. You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said.

And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like. I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, Abba was shrieking 'Dancing Queen! Feel the beat from the tambourine ...' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors.
I have never been prouder of an internal organ. - Dave Barry

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bad Days and Tough Seasons

I woke up today after a nice long sleep and told myself that I'd find something to do to be productive.  My original plans have changed somewhat and so here I sit with a few extra hours and a whole lot going on in my head.  It is a quiet morning, with the exception of the fact that Riley, my shih tzu male, who is not even a year old yet...is acting like a belligerent teenager.  He's been picking on Dixie, my shih tzu female who is nine...who is being amazingly patient with him.  But I know what she's capable of...so I just let them both out so that he can learn a lesson in what happens when you are a jerk.

Dixie really needs to school a whole lot of people, too, while she's at it.

I have the capacity to be a bit of a jerk myself.  I'm fairly certain that most everyone does.  Mostly when I am beyond a line that can get crossed.  A line that I cannot tell you the exact location of...but can tell you when you're over it.  I suppose that everyone has that line...some of us just go from "annoyance" to "sending out the flying monkeys" a lot faster than others.

From a faith perspective...we are to be long-suffering.  We are to not retaliate.  We are to let our grievances go.  We are to not give people the power over us that a bitter root or resentment will most certainly bring.  I know all of these things.  I've lived all of these things.  I've prayed Romans 12:17-21 over people and saw that it freed me from the desire to kick them in the throat or wish plagues of locusts on their houses.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That "heap burning coals" thing?  I'll be honest...it happens.  And as much as you think you'll enjoy seeing it...you won't.  In fact, after praying blessings on someone you detest for a long period of time, you'll feel bad that you ever disliked them in the first place.  But I'm human, and sometimes I forget.  And sometimes someone is there to remind me.

I've spent the last 24 hours being a little bit enraged about something.  There are a few groups of people that I will defend to the point of being irrational...and my children, parents, and those who are being picked on...are at the top of that list.  But apparently, the moratorium on being enraged is a mere 24 hours...because this morning I've been reminded that hurting people hurt people...and in that context...I'm pretty much already over it...and really don't want to rehash it all again.

Not that I won't go all ninja on them if it comes up again.  Because that will totally happen.  

I think that we all have to stop and remember that life has its moments that are amazing and also its moments of pain.  But while we are living those moments, we have to remember that some people would trade our moments of angst for the seasons of heartache that they find themselves in.  It is one thing to have a bad night.  It is another thing entirely to have a bad year.  To get bad news on an almost daily basis...and to try to manage all of that while being strong for others.

I have a sweet friend who is in a season right now.  She is dealing with the needs of ailing parents and she is also working to care for her children who are in high school and college.  She has had so much pain flooding into her house that it is about to shut her down.  I've had friends with critically ill children, marriage issues, business failures, children with addiction problems, terminally ill parents, premature loss of their life mates, and the aftermath of accidental death and suicide to work through.  Those seasons seem to go on forever.  Sometimes you can take over a casserole, lend an ear, mow their front yard, or keep their kids for a few hours.  Other times, you can send a card, a gift card for food or a service, sit with them and hold their hand, or take them away for a weekend.  But more often than not...you can only pray for them.  And that "only pray" part is extremely powerful.  Don't underestimate its impact.  That "only pray" can put the wheels in motion to have the people who are meant to serve them feel a stirring to do so.  That "only pray" can be the difference between a "handling it okay" morning and despair.  That "only pray" can open their eyes to the lessons that God is trying to teach them through it.  That "only pray" can be the balm that their raw hearts need as they take one painful step after another.

And then one day...they'll begin to heal.  A ray of sunshine will peek through the clouds.  A giggle will bubble forth.  A spring of joy will make its way to the surface.  Of course, sometimes, the healing seems to take forever.  But keep looking for the rainbow in the clouds.  It's there...you just can't see it yet.

I hope that those of you walking through seasons won't let whatever difficulty it is define you.  I hope that you will ask yourself what it is that God is teaching you through it.  That you will grab the hands of comfort that are being offered you and say "yes" to whatever kindness someone can do for you instead of being too worried about accepting help or putting people off by being sad, depressed, or worried all of the time.  I believe that sometimes seasons are prolonged because people do not understand that it is at times like these that you need more people...not less.  Sure, you need some time to process and yes, it is faster and easier to do some things yourself.  But when you accept a gesture of love and support from someone else...it gives that person some hope that they have done something to lighten your burden.  Eventually, you'll begin to feel a little lighter in the process.

But for those who are dealing with the days of something awful instead of a season...don't feel like you can't express yourself.  Take that rich soil of resentment away so that the bitter root has no soil in which to sprout.  I have found that it is far easier to get it out than to find a spiritual machete at some future point in time when the vegetation sprouted by that bitter root is in full bloom.

It kind of reminds me of that innocuous bamboo that a neighbor of my grandmother's planted to build a hedge between her backyard and his side yard.  I don't know if you know anything about bamboo...but it easily gets out of control...and it takes a whole lot of effort to keep it at bay.  During my growing up years, it would be cut back every so often...but as my grandmother got older...getting that managed in the backyard was less and less of a priority.  Until the day when those living in that neighbor's house complained to the City and action had to be taken.  

"A massive undertaking" would be an understatement.

So, if you are reading this today and you are fed up, sick of, mad about, done with, way beyond, past your point, or have exhausted your last nerve...hang in there.  Write a letter that you don't mail.  Give yourself some space to get over it.  Find someone who knows nothing of the situation and be irrational when you tell them what happened.  And after you do?  Get over it.

I am fortunate that I have a special friend who has no problem with me being in the irrational zone.  In fact, she enjoys seeing me riled up because it reminds her that she is not alone and that we are all bothered by things we cannot control.  Likewise, I will take her calls or e-mails as she vents about something that is going on...and we just "get" each other.  Usually, we end up cracking each other up...probably because she is one of the most hilarious people on the planet to me.  In fact, I got a text from her in yet another "fun" situation with our "codeword" at the end so that I know how much (not) she is enjoying whatever it is.  By the way, having a friend like that is really rare...and I'm very appreciative of her friendship for this reason...among others.  I don't have to pretend to be anything that I'm not...and I trust her.  I'm pretty certain that she would say the same about me.

Which is pretty great, by the way.

But I have other friends for companionship, shared interests, because we have kids the same age, those that we attend church with or Sunday school, or just because we've known each other forever.  That's all pretty great, too.  When you are going through a season of life...you'll find that you have a few friends who cross over to be more than you would ever expect them to be...and others who seem to fade into the woodwork.  Don't feel defeated or angry with them if they do.  Just know that God is providing you with the people that He wants to serve you through that difficult time.  More often than not...it won't be the ones you expect.  Some of us are either too overwhelmed with our own lives, too afraid to do or say the wrong thing, or dealing with our own "stuff."  But the right people will be there for you.  Don't resent those who aren't or break up a perfectly good friendship over it.  Just know that there are different shades of friendship just as there are different shades of pink.  

Some are deep and clear and vibrant...and others are pale and soft and subtle.  But both are pink as we define that word.  Friendships are just like that.  The person who won't visit you in the hospital will be the one who will have your back when you go through your divorce.  The person who won't know what to say as you go through your divorce will be the one who gets you to the gym and out of hibernation.  The one who won't darken the door of the gym because they would rather have a gynocological visit or a root canal instead will be the one who will bring food to your house.  The one who won't bring food to your house will be the one who will visit you in the hospital.  Seriously...it seems to work like that.  

To all of you going through a day of angst...just pray about it and it will pass.  For those of you going through a season...know that help is on the way.  In fact, when I've gone through my seasons...I have prayed the following over and over...and it helps...(Philippians 4:6-7):

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Just don't forget the "with thanksgiving" part.  Praise Him for all that He has done for you and expect that peace.  And it will come.

It really will.

Now that I've done a little "bitter root" gardening this morning...I'm off to do the other 4,938 things on my "to do" list.  Have a great - and blessed - day.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

You Can Mess with Me...But Leave My Wonderful Kids Alone

Last night, I had the occasion to go to a party given for a young couple  that are to be married in August.  While she is not from around here...she is a lovely girl...and everyone at the party was just delighted for them.   There were a lot of people present who were happy to be invited to celebrate this special event or were hosting it.  The setting was lovely, and the conversation flowed, and everything was right with the world.

Until someone asked me a question - wholly unrelated to the reason we were there to celebrate - and then someone else did.  And someone else...

Now, I won't go into all of that, but it reminded me that sometimes people do not understand how they come across.  They ask a question - seemingly in conversation - but you know that it is more to beat you across the head with it than to satisfy their social duties in polite conversation.  They find the one thing that seems out of place in your life and play an adult version of the "Sesame Street" game "One of These Things Just Doesn't Belong Here...One of These Things Just Isn't the Same..."

It is a game meant to shame or embarrass you.  And it isn't funny.  They don't talk about the good things...they want to pick apart something that seems out of character or out of place.

Now, a little background might be helpful to those of you who have no idea what in the world I am talking about here, but I'll see if I can put you there.  Big Dave and I have been here in the Montgomery area for the past 28 years and have pretty much built a life here.  Both of our children were born here, and we've attended the same church all of that time.  Some people we have known most of the time we've lived here, and others we met through the years as people tend to do in various activities from baseball to cheerleading to scouts - but mostly through the private school that both of our children attended and graduated from in 2008 and 2011.  It is a school where everyone pretty much has the same ideals - although there are still "haves" and "have nots" - but nobody seems to harp on that too much since we're all one big happy family.  We've worked together on class parties, proms, recitals, programs, plays, special days, projects, sporting events, and the graduation reception...and we all have a kinship of sharing the same experience that I've loved and appreciated.  A sense of belonging and a feeling of pride in all that our children - or anyone else's children - have accomplished.

If somebody needs something and we can help them...we do.  If someone is celebrating...we all are.  If someone is hurting...we try to comfort them.  It is that kind of place.  After all, many of the same kids were there from kindergarten and at least half of them start and finish out there as a general rule.  You get to know people over time, and you appreciate those friendships.

Most of the kids grow up and go off to do something fabulous.  They excel in their studies, marry (often) someone else from the same school, and begin lives being very much like their parents.  I've watched most of them grow up, and have celebrated their accomplishments with excitement and shared the joy of their parents.

Some of the kids grow up and honestly aren't really ready to decide what to do with themselves.  They try this major or that...or take off a little time during their studies.  They may end up having some additional difficulties that have to be worked through or they may make a mistake along the way.  The beauty of it is...most people are very forgiving.  They understand that none of us is perfect and that sometimes what is perceived as a wrong turn can actually be a springboard that God uses to get someone from point A to point B more effectively.  They understand that while 100% of these kids are accepted into college - and the vast majority of them begin college - that not everyone is supposed to go to college.  God gives each of us different gifts...and sometimes spending a decade in college just to say that they've done it is not really the best use of time...or money. (That was Big Dave's story, by the way.  And yes, he finally graduated.  I'm not trying to offend anyone who changed their major or who just couldn't pull it together.  Far be it from me to sit here and judge while I'm ranting about other people judging my kids.  The point I'm making is...it is just as honorable to find a profession that suits your unique talents.  Find it and go with it.)

When I was in high school, some of my classmates went on to college, some went to the military, some to work, and some got married.  And all of these years later...the vast majority of us grew up to be pretty awesome.  I'm confident that those who take a different path in this day and age will probably be just fine as well.

But back to my rant...

My children have been treated very kindly by a group of fabulous people who have surrounded them, loved and supported them, and who think that they are pretty amazing people.  And they are.  But with all of that support, there are a few who believe that any deviation from the "norm" means that I have either failed as a parent or that they have gone off the deep end.  They are supposed to tow the line and do everything just right for that loving support to continue.  If they don't, then maybe I need to hear about it so that I can "fix" it since everyone is watching, you know.

To this, I say..."It is none of your business what my children do, who they date, or where they choose to go to school.  It is none of your business to comment on anything negative whatsoever regarding my children.  Yes, you may ask about anything that involves what they are doing and their general welfare.  But if your comments aren't designed to build them up...then shut up.  Their lives are their lives...not yours to observe, pick apart, and talk about behind our backs."

Because, folks, it honestly is none of anyone else's business.

I have overlooked the things that some of their children have done, how they've treated other people, and how they've abused the good nature and finances of their parents.  I've not been upset (in their presence) when their children have been so unkind to mine that I've actually had to have a conference with the school on a couple of occasions, and I've not made them feel bad about it because you can't control 100% of what your children do.  I've ignored mistakes, shortcomings, failures, rehabs, craziness of numerous kinds, and people just being young.  I expect the same respect.  No, I don't expect it...I demand it.

My children are pretty awesome individuals.  My daughter is employed after finishing college with a marketing degree from the University of Alabama in four years.  She has worked since she was 16 years old, worked holidays and summers, and her entire senior year of college...and she had a job before she graduated.  She unloaded trucks at Ulta on Friday mornings at 5:00 a.m. her senior year of college...which meant that she had to be in bed about the time that others were going out.  She has had her own apartment for a year...and she is closing on her first home this week.  She has been an excellent daughter and she is a kind and thoughtful friend to those who have given her a chance.  The problem is...she's very beautiful...and that apparently threatens people.  She's not perfect...but then again...she has never pretended to be.  She has always had every mistake she's ever made dragged publicly through the marketplace, so to speak.  She loves people anyway.

My son is a junior in college with no student loan debt...so far.  He stayed at home to take advantage of a scholarship that was offered him...and now he's going to venture off to school and finally make us empty nesters in the Fall.  He has a sweet little girlfriend who lives in Kentucky, and they have dated long distance for over a year.  He is moving to Huntsville to be a little closer to her and because that school has an excellent mechanical engineering program.  He just received a scholarship from UAH and he'll be co-op'ing after his junior year to help pay expenses.  He is the greatest kid...although he had friends who were kind to him during the school day...but who completely ignored him socially in high school.  Yes, when I saw that happening...it hurt.  But I didn't take it out on the offenders.  He loves people anyway.

So, when people ask me about something that they think my kids are doing that is below their standards for how my children should behave...they can kiss my entire behind.  And if you know me...there's a whole lot of territory to cover.  We may never have a lovely engagement party for either of my children...but I can assure you that I care less about that than I do them finding the people out there that God created just for them.  And I trust God's standards far more than anyone else's.

My children have the right to pursue their versions of happiness and are under only the expectation from me or their Dad to bless it but under no obligation to anyone else to fit into the mold that other people have cast for them.  They are expected to answer to God for what they do and we hope to us...only for our blessing.  Now don't get me wrong...we have high standards and high hopes for our two.  But people need to remember that the way something appears on the surface isn't always the whole story.  If you know me...you can rest assured that I know the whole story...even if I act like I don't.  Seriously.

People need to remember to look at their own pasts and lives before they consider picking up a nice round stone to hurl at what they perceive to be someone else's shortcomings.  Frankly, I expect better out of so-called Christians.

You should also know that I'm somewhat talking to myself here.  I have actively chased away many people who got near my children because of one thing or another.  And I felt justified in doing so because I had to answer to God about it.  In some cases I was right...in others, I was wrong.  But they are both now adults.  They have to make their own decisions...and their own mistakes.  All I ask is that people love them anyway.

Give them the same consideration that I give their children.  And, unfortunately, in some cases, the same consideration that I give THEM when they have too much to drink at a party and run their mouths too much for my liking about something that is absolutely, positively none of their concern.  If you say "this is none of my business...but..." when you start to talk to someone...stop yourself right there.  Because it IS none of your business.  All you succeeded in doing was hurting me.

Forgive me for being angry enough about this to write it down, and if I've offended someone...maybe you should think about that before the next time you cozy up with someone to go over the latest "gossip" or run-down of someone else's children.  I know I will.

Next time, though, I won't let them ruin a perfectly lovely evening.  I'll just have Towanda tell them that it isn't any of their business...and move on.

Finally, keep in mind that love comes in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, ages, and social standing.  That what shows on the outside is not indicative of the inside.  That circumstances can be overlooked if you know the whole story.  That getting a tattoo at age 18 that seemed cool might look ridiculous when you hit 30 to other people...but it is what it is.  That people don't always have the support networks that others take for granted and must do what they can with what they are offered.  That being a little different isn't necessarily a bad thing.  That being divorced doesn't necessarily brand someone as unacceptable or as a permanent failure.  That some people make stupid mistakes when they are young and see the light a few years later...and aren't the same person that they were at 16.  (I know I'm not.) That owning up for mistakes is far more honorable than covering them up like a dropping in a cat box. That "complicated" to one is "whatever" to someone else.  That shaming someone is never a good idea.

I'm quite confident that had I been under such a microscope in my younger days that people would have wondered if Big Dave and I could have made our 28 year old marriage work.  But it has.  Fortunately for me, I just had people who knew that I'd pick someone fabulous for me.  And I did.  When we married, they were right there celebrating with us.  And it was awesome.

People make mistakes or have something thrust upon them that they didn't ask for...and it takes a special person to be able to overlook all of that and choose to care for them anyway.  Ask yourself if it matters so much to you to comment on what you think is an issue...that you'll risk hurting someone deeply by saying something unkind about their child in a social situation that is supposed to be about celebrating someone else's happiness.

Because if you think it is...something is seriously wrong with you.  That's my take on it, anyway.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Patience

Some weeks I feel like the person that I am in my head.  Patient.  Understanding.  Kind.  I'll change the toilet paper at work when it gets close to the end instead of using less paper so that the next unfortunate soul draws that short straw.  I'll fold my son's laundry instead of leaving it in the dryer and yelling like Rosanne Barr for him to come get it out.  I'll take my daughter to dinner and won't make a single negative comment about anything that she's doing that will make her tell me that I'm being intrusive (even though I sometimes am).  I'll even pick up the tab.

I won't yell "BAD DOG!" when Riley leaves me a deposit that smells like a herd of goats has been on that puppy pad instead of one small, very fluffy (until tomorrow when the groomer handles that) shih tzu.  I'll just get up and take the radioactive waste outside and move on.  And I'll just bend down and pick up whatever poor unfortunate piece of paper that he has turned into confetti and throw it away before he eats it and throws up on the couch.  Because he totally will if I don't.

Some weeks I am patient with people who I've told the same thing to twenty-six times and I don't even mutter under my breath.  I'll stay in a line in the drive-thru while someone who is exploring the entirety of the menu asking seventeen questions about how something on the dollar menu is prepared and then after all that orders combo #1 because being adventurous isn't as much fun as being time consuming apparently is.  I'll be less inclined to scream "MORON!" at someone who steals my parking place at Target and I'll walk quietly behind the lady in a scooter blocking the aisle at Publix because it just isn't worth trying to get her to move.  After all, she's trying to decide between the 15 1/2 oz can and the 28 oz can and apparently that takes several birthdays to ponder.

Sometimes I can listen to my kids complain about how busy their lives are without pulling out the "you have no idea what busy is..."speech and can find dirty dishes in the sink and just quietly turn around and put them in the empty dishwasher instead of rolling the offender out of bed (or off the couch) and pitching a fit that makes Jerry Springer contestants look tame (and/or sane).

I'll let other people get the credit and be fine with it, watch the ridiculous reality shows that Big Dave is partial to (while sitting at the computer across the room...and hearing what I can above the snoring) and I'll even switch cars so that someone can have her oil changed at Big Dave's Free Oil Emporium when my car also needs it.  I won't ask people to change the channel at the gym when it is firmly planted on NBC News and I won't yell "Liar!" when President Obama comes on the screen.

Okay, maybe that last one happens even on a good week.  I have Political Tourette's.  I really do.

And then there are weeks that I can only look back and worry about just how much fun I'm going to be when I'm older and everything about my personality is magnified.  Because I somehow sense that this is not going to be pretty.

My grandmother taught me that whole magnification thing, by the way.  She would very tactfully whisper something to me that was a little bit...shall we say...tacky?  But nobody could really hear her and so all was well, right?

 Until she got a little bit older.

She kept up this practice...except that since she couldn't hear herself well...she said whatever it was loud enough for me to hear.  And everyone else within earshot.  Three tables away.

This sometimes was about as mortifying as discovering that you have tucked the back of your skirt into your pantyhose and paraded through downtown Montgomery like a poor unfortunate soul in a Morrison's Cafeteria uniform that I witnessed once walking down the street sometime in 1986 from the 2nd floor of the Union Bank building.  So not kidding.  And the stubbornness that was seen as "strong-willed and capable" in her 70's became "dictator-like and obstinate" when she hit her 90's.  (Of course, we loved her anyway.)

I will likely be put in a home and will be "that patient" that people are going to cringe when they are assigned to my floor.  Of course, what is "Towanda" today is going to turn into some special brand of crazy that I can only imagine will be not particularly fun to deal with.

Although I really hope that I'll be all sweetness and light...I'm fairly certain that dealing with me will be like eating an entire handful of Sour Patch kids all at once.  Sweet...but seriously unbearable at the same time.

Yes, I've actually done that.  Don't judge.

Anyway, this week has been more than a little bit interesting, and my fuse has been shorter than it needs to be.  I told a manager about a snippy counter waitress on Saturday because they spend a whole lot of money on radio advertising...and they need to know that she needs to not do that and to just go on break...temporary or otherwise.  I also loudly condemned the line jumping guy in Michael's the same day because if there is any store that the next person waiting in the LONGEST. LINES. EVER. needs to be served...it is in that one.  I got behind a lady doing a Girl Scout project involving no fewer than 700 items in the cart...and I stood there for ten minutes while that sucker was unloaded.  About halfway through her cart, someone took mercy on us and opened another line.  But did the next person in line go first (me)?  NO.

I've noticed that men of all ages forget their manners when it comes to waiting.  If a line opens up...they will jump ahead of you before you can say "JERK!"  And when they do...I say it anyway.  Let's just say that the guy in Michael's certainly heard it.

As did the three other unfortunate souls who were in line.  Bless their hearts.

But I waited on the lady who fumbled for another two minutes for a coupon in her purse before I was finally able to purchase my one item.  I won't even go into how much fun that was.  And yes, I had my coupon in my hand like a normal person.

During these times when everyone gets on my nerves...from the creeping along Mini-Cooper in Eastchase tonight that I was behind to the indecisive, non-rushed, or just plain slow for reasons known only to them crowd.  I seem to take it personally...and want people to just act with some consideration toward others.

And then I remember that I've dodged out of replacing the toilet paper roll at work because I didn't feel like it.  That on days I don't work...I enjoy not having a timeline to get things done and so I meander around like I'm clueless...and I like it.  That sometimes I want to ask a question at a drive-thru window about something on the menu because I tend to be a "Combo #1" girl most of the time...and I'm not responsible for the schedules of the individuals in the three cars behind me.  They can always run in.  The line is probably shorter in there anyway.

So, tomorrow, I'll try to look for opportunities to make other peoples' lives better...or at least easier.  I hope that I won't take it personally when some yahoo fails to put on his blinker so I would have known he was turning and wouldn't have waited at the stop sign for him to give me a clue as to his intentions.  That I won't yell at the television at the gym that I'm shocked that Brian Williams is actually reporting the news on NBC instead of the dribble that I think he normally spouts.

Wait, that last one was a little Towanda-ish.  Sorry.

Maybe if I'm a little bit more tolerant with people I can stay out of the classroom called "Patience"...where I am probably one of the oldest students in the class.  I've failed that one so many times that I already know the syllabus by heart.  I just can't seem to pass the final exam.  I probably never will.

But I'm hoping that I can at least be a nicer person...and someone that my children won't hate to visit when I'm older.  Someone who is thought of to be a little bit more awesome than I really am...instead of a cranky bitter impatient person yelling at a line-breaker.

Although he really deserved it.

But, frankly, that isn't for me to judge.  That's God's job.  And if I just sit and wait...eventually I'll either quit worrying about the little annoyances of life...or I'll see God pull off a lesson plan that is extremely memorable.  Or maybe I'll find myself back in the "Patience" classroom again.  At least I'll be happier than I ever am being a rabid banshee...which I can honestly pull off, y'all...don't be fooled.

Tomorrow is a new day.  Here's hoping its a good one.  But if it isn't...stick around.  At least it will be entertaining.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Yesterday in Thomaston

Yesterday, I fulfilled an obligation to my folks that I made a year or so ago involving cleaning out a storage facility that they have rented in my hometown of Thomaston, Georgia.  It is the repository for the final remnants of what was in my grandmother's house along with some furniture and odd pots and pans (from my grandmother's storage facility) and some old stuff of theirs that was just sitting in there.  I estimated that they have spent over $13,000 keeping this storage facility over the past thirty some odd years that currently houses items that are collectively valued at approximately $500 if you're being generous.

I know that when someone passes on, we are afraid to part with items that we don't know the value or history or...or that were lovingly kept for a lifetime in a box to be pulled out and viewed at a later date. Sometimes people pull something valuable out of an attic or basement and become instant millionaires.  But this stuff?  No.  It had already been sorted once and deemed "too good to throw away" or "we don't have time to sort it right now so we'll wait."  Of course, one doesn't want to callously toss letters that a person kept, or the dress that someone wore their senior year of college in 1927.  But then again, there comes a time when that just has to be done...even if it isn't easy.

My grandmother was a college student and then a young bride during the Great Depression.  I grew up hearing stories about how she had three dresses that doubled to six because a friend and she were the same size.  They would trade out for various dates with young men, and she just made do instead of troubling her parents for more than she knew they could offer her comfortably.  As a result of surviving those lean years of American history, she - like many of her generation - kept everything.  And when I mean "everything" - I mean old Kool Whip containers, televisions that no longer worked (because the wood cabinets were still good), patterns for clothes that nobody wanted to make or had been taught to make, and tin foil.  I remember as a young girl thinking that tin foil was always wrinkled...instead of smooth...because she would reuse it instead of throwing it away if it was clean.  (And I also know that it will eventually disintegrate...and when it does, it was okay to throw it away without asking.)

Looking through boxes of old books that came from family members long deceased, 45 records that we have no means of playing now because none of us owns a turntable, and a box of lightweight aluminum pans for cooking were sorted through using a powerful flashlight as quickly as possible.  Thirty minutes into the sorting process...we realized that there was no way that we could accomplish all that we needed to without a box of black garbage bags and more time...so we got out what we could...filled up the truck with the big pieces...and left the boxes for another day.

But being there going through the remnants of a life well lived, I could only think about how different it might have been.

Sometime in the 1980s, Big Dave and I took a trip to Thomaston with the express purpose of cleaning out the garage.  We were dressed in old clothes and we were there to honor Gammy's request to help her get the garage in order so that she could unload the storage facility she had and look through what she has put there in the 1960s.  This was a different one than my folks took out in the 1980s and after her death they consolidated what was left of her things into theirs.  But back to the garage...as we stood there throwing away a cardboard box that a television had come in that had long been troubled with water damage, we got about five bags filled before her anxiety was so high that she told us to stop.  She was afraid that we were throwing away valuable things that only she could approve or deny.  The truth was...we were only throwing away things that were too water damaged, soiled, or clearly beyond hope to ever be of any value to anyone.  It didn't change her perception, though.

So, we got what we could to the street, and then we went upstairs and visited with her for awhile...our purpose for being there pretty much thwarted.  When I mean anxiety...I mean something almost akin to terror.  It was the strangest thing I'd ever seen.  But then again, if you knew my grandmother and her ability to take charge of a situation...perhaps maybe not so much.

Fast forward twenty five years...and we were all standing in her house after she passed trying to decide who was to take what where and when.  And sometimes it wasn't pretty...although everyone is still speaking and trying not to think about it all too much.  Which, I suppose, somewhat rocks.

So, yesterday, we stood in the room with the last of it.  The letters from her parents to her while she was at Wesleyan.  The lap desk that she used to write letters sitting on the couch watching her beloved Braves before her eyesight failed on her and frustrated her more than falling three times and breaking various leg and hip bones ever could.

And it was a little bit bittersweet...I'm not going to lie to you.

On the other hand, Big Dave's parents turned 70, and decided that they wanted the kids to come get what they wanted.  And so we did...long before my mother-in-law died...because they weren't attached to things.  They were, and my father-in-law still is...incredibly attached to people.  Family, friends, people that they met the week before.  And although my sweet sister-in-laws had to finish up the cleaning out process...it was done in two weekends...instead of over a four year time period that is actually more of an eleven year time period if you count the storage facility.


The older I get, the more I realize the futility of keeping so many things.  So many reminders that I lived a good life that I'll never be able to take with me...and that my children will have to deal with someday.  Will they know that the striped blanket that is on the edge of the couch was purchased in Cabos San Lucas in 2006 when Big Dave and I went on a trip with his company?  Will they care about the histories of the various family pieces that I possess?  I have no idea.

So, I'm going to be combing through what is here and hoping that I can pass these gems along with the stories as soon as they set up their homes.  For my oldest one...that will hopefully be in a few weeks when she purchases her first home.  For my younger one, it will be a few years...but since he's really the more sentimental of the two...I know in my heart that he'll be a good steward of some of these items that mean so much to me when that time comes.

Being back in Thomaston yesterday gave me the opportunity to eat at Piggie Park...a ritual that my family followed at least once a week from the time I was eight until I left at age 18.  We used to take old towels out with us to catch the crumbs and Mom and I laughed about that memory while we were sitting there in the rented brand spanking new truck hoping we wouldn't christen it with some barbecue sauce, ketchup, or a spilled Coke (an occurrence that was far more likely when Linda was little).  I told them that the food tasted the same but that Charlie wasn't bringing it to us...so that was different.  Mom said he ran himself to death and stayed skinny providing for the seven children that he had.  We talked about going out to the Norris' "Steak 'n Stuff" restaurant every Friday night...where the highlight of that meal (in my humble opinion) was the lemon meringue pie.  I can still remember watching my sister leave the table and "visit" (and charm) everyone there because she was so stinking cute with her waist length straight blond hair and little barrettes to keep it out of her eyes.

We drove by Big Chic (where I got a lot of my "starter" cellulite and fat cells) and I could almost taste the chicken filet sandwich with mayonnaise, mustard, and extra pickles.  And fries.  Definitely the fries (because that used to comprise a meal at lunch back in the day.)  We were able to stop at Cake House Bakery...the shop opened by my friend Debbie Culverhouse, and got to actually indulge in some of what I'd previously only seen posted on Facebook...and I got to hug her neck for the first time in 32 years.  (And if you are reading this and live in Thomaston...you totally need to go by there.  Often.)  Leaving town, we saw the turnoff to River Bend (what my grandmother always joked was "Rubber Band") and I only regretted that we couldn't stop in for dinner.  (Then my friend Tommy posted about being there that night on Facebook...which only made it worse.)

I know that it seems odd to be all tied up with the food of home...but you must understand that it is a great comfort to me to know that the places I loved as a child are still there.  And although our home on Johnston Drive now has new owners and is painted a different color than the yellow that it was painted from the 1960s until it was sold in 2006...I can still go back and have a delicious meal...and remember when.

So, while we were letting go yesterday one more tentative thread of our tie to Thomaston...we were also indulging in that continuous thread that is still there after we are gone from the area...Piggie Park.  I have found a close cousin to it here in Montgomery - Sam's Barbecue...but still.

Also strangely comforting was being fussed at for not calling various parties to let them know that we were in the area...even though it was a very, very short trip.  We're going back soon to eat at the Peachtree Cafe with our precious Johnston Drive neighbors, Billy and Charlene Daniel, because I miss them and want to catch up in person.  Those who say "you can never go home again" are dead wrong. Today, I am very happy about that.

Very happy.