Monday, February 23, 2009

Unsafe Streets

The time has come ... and don't say you weren't warned. Lock your cars in the garage and pull down the shades beautiful granddaughter, Cheyenne, has been given a legal permit to drive a 3000 pound piece of machinery around on public streets, independently. It seems like just yesterday she was driving her three-wheeler, so how did this happen so fast? Yes, I know she's intelligent and careful ... but I'd much prefer to keep her in a glass case for a few more years. Sixteen years old seems younger and younger every year! But so far, so good. It helps her mom out, and her sister, Ciara, is secretly loving it. I think they both feel like they've grown wings. I'm working on the second generation of worrying and I'm getting proficient at it. Be safe, girls ... you are transporting precious cargo.

Personal Note to Tammy Papritz

Dear Tammy the Orphan,

In response to your touching and hilarious comment, I must say that I don't recall an excessive amount of time that you ever spent at my house when you were younger, which means that you must have fit in like a member of the family.

Regarding the teaching you to cook, all I did was share recipes ... you taught yourself to cook! And amazingly well, I must say.

As far as your reception, Annette Berger and I did that together. It's like saying, "Daddy and I killed a bear. Daddy shot it!" She no doubt did the lion's share, as I was always too dependent on her. That's why I've never been the same since she moved away. Much like when you did. San Antonio wasn't too bad, but Oregon?? Come on!!!

Illness, surgery or just for grins, anytime I have ever come to your house it has been for selfish reasons on my part. I cannot think of a more fun place to be or better company to be with. So, do I think of you as one of my kids? Once upon a time I used to, but not anymore. Not really. I don't even think of you as my equal. You surpassed my equal. You are my go-to girl for wise counsel, advice, an opinion or example of how to conduct myself in a difficult situation, such as a death in the family, today's economy, world affairs or just for invigorating conversation. Have you forgotten that I even entrusted one of my children to your good care for a time? Turns out, the priceless friendship that ensued has been one of the best things to have ever happened to that person. Although I do think of your children as my adopted grandchildren, you would be better described as my mentor than my child. I so much enjoy your keen sense of humor ...

When I am missing you, all I have to do is envision us at the side of your beloved grandmother's freshly dug grave, gathering flowers to make potpourri sachets for the family. The memory of your leg being sucked into the mud, like a reverent rectangle of quicksand, unable to pull yourself out, gives me a much needed belly laugh, even after all these years. I was so grateful that I had my back turned so you could not see me laughing hard, (but silently), until I heard you start laughing and accusing your poor grandmother of trying to take you with her. Right now, I can see your "white" sandal as clear as day in my mind, so covered with mud that it looked like you were barefoot, with no way in sight to wash off. Surely that is an example of what they refer to as precious memories!

Or how about the time we sabotaged the Berger's car interior the (very) early morning of their departure date of vacation? We had "Fang" the rubber snake, blasting the A/C and radio, etc so that when they started their car, they would be "surprised" and know that they were going to miss us ... I mean that we were going to miss them. Icing on the cake was filling the car with balloons that caused a patrolman to check on our proceedings toward that end. Good Times. Good Times.

So how can I call you a kid? Just because you are younger, thinner, smarter and better looking? Nope, you will have to settle for being the best little orphan I have EVER had in my life. You are immensely loved by me and my family. Don't you ever doubt it for a minute!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Laceration Laces

What will they think of next?!! I am forever proud of ALL my children with their unique personalities and individual attributes. Each one so bright and beautiful that it is truly a pleasure to be in their company. Case in point ...

A few days ago, Melissa, my eldest daughter, told us something that impressed me enough that I wanted to share it. She is a R.N., working at BASF and she saw an employee in the health clinic with a laceration about 1 1/2" on the back of her scalp. There was not a doctor available to stitch up the wound at the time and Melissa was contemplating sending her to the ER when she remembered something a doctor she had worked with long ago told her and they (she & the patient) decided to give it a try. She cleaned it well, took strands of hair from either side of the laceration, pulled them firmly and french-braided the hair to draw the laceration closed. After the appropriate number of days for healing, the french braid was simply "undone" and stitches were not necessary! Wow!! Now, you may think me simple, but that is just about the smartest thing I have heard in a very long time!!

It wasn't that long ago that this same daughter was out of town at a nursing convention when she and a fellow nurse were leaving a class that had been offered but had filled to capacity so they were unable to attend. Just as they were passing by, a gentleman was having a heart attack in the elevator. Pretty smart to have it during a nursing convention. Melissa and friend performed CPR and were successful! (During an EMT class I took, I was taught that even if you do CPR 100% correctly, the patient only has a 60% survival rate) He is alive and well. Somehow, the patient and his wife were eventually able to contact Melissa and express their gratitude. She is not the only life saver in our midst.

A couple years ago, daughter #2, Jennifer, an elementary school teacher, noticed a panic-stricken student turning blue and making guttural sounds. She asked if he was okay. He shook his head "no". She quickly did the Heimlich maneuver. Nothing.
She did it a second time and a sinister little piece of candy went flying across the room! He began to cry and she sent him to the nurse to get checked out. He was fine, but I'm guessing a little turned off by Skittles now.

Since I'm on a roll, might as share the story about Jen driving off the driveway at her grandparents house in San Felipe years ago. The back tire went flat when she landed in the culvert. My son, ( and her brother) Aaron, who was only about ten years old was in the car also. No one at her grandparent's was home at the time. That was before the event of cell phones and she didn't know any of the distant neighbors in the rural area. Frustrated and angry with herself, not knowing what to do, she began to cry. Tender heart that Aaron is, said in his little boy voice, "Don't cry, Jen-Jen ... I'll fix it!" Jennifer was grateful for his support, but skeptical of his knowledge or ability. I would be too. How could he know? But he did it. He changed that flat tire. I suppose all that hanging around with his dad paid off! He has rescued many a person stranded on the side of the road since then. It must be a gender thing. He can't help himself. Aaron is a prince of alacrity.

Daughter #3, Michelle (better known as Chelle) is a proven life saver for me regularly. When MY Mike was taking cancer treatment back in "97, she was away from home, but came back to help me help him. When he died, she stayed on with me and became my right hand. Both the other girls had family responsibilities but Chelle was single, so I leaned heavily on her.
Melissa, Jennifer and Aaron are all perfect blends of their parents and extended family, but Chelle is solid Van Horn. She is more like Mike than Mike is. After a time, she had the unmitigated gall to fall in love and marry HER Mike and move "all the way" to Pearland (about 40 minutes away). Her Mike has 3 children and she took to mothering like a duck to water, but she still continues to rescue me as needed.

I acknowledge that I am blessed far beyond merit with my "children". Color me grateful.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Clothes Do Not Make The Man

Gratefully, my father and my daddy-in-law are both still with us. My husband's father is the Jimmy Stewart in my life. "Dad", so handsome, has always been the quintessential gentleman who is meticulous about grooming and being prudent in all things social. He lives in Houston, no longer able to drive down for a visit and we miss his soft spoken wisdom and loving charm. It's easy to see why Mike grew up to be the extraordinary man he was. He learned it from his father.

My Daddy, on the other hand, lives locally and except that he is also handsome, his personality is diametrically opposed to that of "Dad". He is the John Wayne in my life. Rough, gruff, and almost deaf, but is able to fix most anything with some wire, duct tape and imagination wrapped in elbow grease. A king of improvisation. His standard uniform is a pair of coveralls and years ago, my kids dubbed him "Pinchin' Grandpa" because that is his typical approach toward affection for them, to pinch them on the neck when he greets them. He pretty much sums it up when, in describing our upbringing, he says "you kids weren't raised, you were jerked up!" (it also explains a lot about why I am the way I am :-) I am proud of both my parents and am amazed at their tenacity in bringing up six children, who all turned out to be good, productive, law-abiding citizens.

A short time ago, Jen and her children pulled into my driveway and there was a pickup parked next to my car. Jen mentioned that "Uncle Dan might be here". Her 5 year old Ella piped up with "It could be Pinchin' Grandpa. Does the truck have a scratch on the side? Is it dirty? 'Cause if it does have a scratch and it's dirty, then it's Pinchin' Grandpa's. If it's clean, then it's Uncle Dan's".

Now, I've always heard that "clothes make the man", but according to Ella, little says more about you than the car you drive. I may need to rethink my car, since I drive a '97 Honda Accord that was plenty used when I got it! Last week I emptied a can of WD40 on the door hinges so they wouldn't screech every time I opened or closed them. Then again, it does have a substantial number of miles on it and recently had to be repainted because it was down to the primer in some places, so it may be a better reflection of me than a new one would be! Besides, I enjoy the absence of a car payment, so I guess I'll just drive it a bit longer. At least my grandchildren will be able to recognize me when they see me on the street.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Am Nothing If Not Opinionated

Once I knew a man who appeared to be enjoying a full life. His home was lovely and he kept a manicured lawn accompanied by a vegetable garden that looked like a photo out of a Southern Living magazine. Working 16 hours a day, he was drawing lots of overtime and did his best to magnify his callings at church.

In spite of a cheerful facade, he was crumbling emotionally. Both he and his wife had serious health concerns while every one of his adult children were making poor, life-altering choices and he was physically exhausted, understandably depressed and feeling overwhelmed. In a weak moment during a short visit with me, he shared that he was unsure whether "life was worth living anymore".

And then, they wrapped his house with toilet paper. It must have been great fun because it was the best "job" of TPing I had personally ever seen. Now, in addition to the burden he was already carrying, he had the chore of cleaning up his beautiful yard, forced to leave unreachable shards of toilet paper in the tops of the trees for weeks as an embarrassing and constant reminder that he cannot do it all. Isn't that just hilarious?

Fast forward to life with my daughter, Jennifer. A mother of three beautiful young children, blessed with a full-time position as a teacher, active in church, with a supportive family and lots of friends. They have a lovely home and she is at this time, able to meet her financial obligations.

But for several years she has been plagued with chronic health problems, depending heavily on her husband at times. Then, he suddenly and unexpectedly died and she was hospitalized several times ~ even had surgery. In the midst of grief, with sole responsibility for the welfare of three very busy children, the daily quagmire of endless laundry, a job, maintaining a home and worrying about paying the bills, all the while feeling lousy physically, left her with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Now, that's laughable, isn't it?

And then they wrapped her house. It was about 3am and they rang the doorbell before they left, causing a panic attack substantial enough for Jen to call the police, who informed her that her yard had been wrapped. Terrified and unable to calm down, she called someone to stay the remainder of the night with her and her children Add that clean up job to her equation.

The lesson here is that we cannot possibly know what lurks in the lives of others. Victims make light of it and try to be good sports outwardly, rationalizing it away as an expression of affection for them. If I live to be a hundred years old, I will never see the humor in pouring water on a drowning man (or woman). My mother, who passed away August 2005, had lots of sayings. One of them was "Right is Right and Wrong ain't Nobody". Doesn't really make sense, but since I was raised with it, I knew it to mean that some things are just not appropriate.

May I suggest, if you want to show your love for me, place the largest package of bathroom tissue you can find, intact, on my front porch and I promise it will be welcome and appreciated every time! That's my opinion and I'm stickin' to it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Child's Ambition

Here in Southeast Texas, we tolerate the mosquitoes, humidity and heat so that during the winter, we can have as exquisite a day as today is. Bright sunshine, a gentle breeze, crisp air and mild temperatures.

Brennan and Ella were playing so well outside that I decided to work in the garage for a while so I could keep an eye on them since they were in the front yard. (We have a terribly busy street and little play area) After drawing on the driveway with chalk, making a "hopscotch" wannabe and rolling a basketball to each other for a time, they climbed up on the trunk of my car to watch the cars and dog walkers go by. They couldn't have been more content, sitting there like they were on the main float in a parade. Shortly, the time arrived for my garbage/recycling pickup to come. When the garbage truck came, the kids were completely enthralled, remarking about what a great job that would be! When the recycling truck followed, Ella and Brennan did some pretty serious sparring about which would be the better position to have ... driving or being the "picker-upper". Finally, they concurred. Being the picker-upper would be much preferred, no doubt about it. I feel certain the closer to driving age they become, the more they will lean toward being the driver of the truck, but for now, hanging onto the back of that slow-moving truck and getting to scoop up the plastic bags and throw them with wild abandonment into the back of the truck would just be the best job they could ever imagine!!

No stigma there. That's what makes children such fun to observe. They say exactly what is on their mind (sometimes embarrassing) and they see the positive in things even when their elders may be disillusioned by experience, stereotype, prejudice or preconception.

Days like today are my reward for hanging in there on days that are, well, let's say, days that I am less reflective.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Today We Sailed On"

There are some days that I feel are completely and utterly wasted. It doesn't matter if you are the caregiver of small individuals, suffer with health concerns that limit your mobility, are in what you consider to be a "dead-end job" or any other frustrating situation that prevents you from feeling accomplished, you must agree that we occasionally share that sensation.

I was having such a day when I heard a broadcast on TV from President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that he delivered on January 13, 2009 and it changed my thinking. You can view it also @

He cited possible scenarios such as I mentioned above and then quoted from the journal of Christopher Columbus. Surely Columbus bore the weight of tremendous responsibility and the burden of great expectations from many, including himself. Yet, what must have seemed to be an endless, day after day, view of nothing but water, he managed to keep his goal within reach. The journal entry read simply, "Today, we sailed on."

At first glance, one might consider his day wasted. They didn't accomplish any great feat. Then, I got to thinking, he faithfully continued on in his pursuit and that was no small act. As long as we keep moving in the desired direction, we improve our chances of sooner or later, reaching our destination! If we strive to be the kind of person we want to be in a patient, hopeful and diligent manner, we cannot go wrong.

I continue to have days that I accomplish little, but I am mindful of good ol' Christopher Columbus ... that my day DOES matter, that I matter and those I associate with matter in the broad scheme of things. I do the best I can and end the day with a smile on my face and the words floating in my head, "today, we sailed on".

You have to keep moving ... it makes it hard for the vultures to land!!