I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes….well, snakes are ok.

Puppy and spider

Isn’t this picture cute?  I don’t know where he finds them, but my husband seems to be able to snag these cute pictures and send them to me a few times a week.  This one in particular, he sent to me after we were talking about that time when he had to get the spider out of the living room.

Several years ago when we were living out in the country, my husband and I would get up early in the morning and drive into work together.  We lived about 45 miles from town and in an effort to save gas, we would drive both cars into town on Monday and share a vehicle home all week, then drive separately home on Fridays.  Every little bit helps as they say.  When I say we got up early, I mean 4:30 in the morning early.   It was about this time of the morning when The Great Spider Incident occurred.  <cue scary music>

Living out in the country, we didn’t have any blinds on our windows.  We had no neighbors and lived on a private road so unless someone was lost, they would never end up down our street.  Being a city girl, this took me some time to get used to, but after roughly a year in the house, I was pretty comfortable walking around in the dark by the moonlight through the windows.

It was any random day of the week and late in spring, so it was starting to get really hot in the house overnight.  We had installed an attic fan in the walk-up attic over the weekend to help regulate and move some of the heat out of the 3rd floor and still had the boxes out on the screened in back porch.  I had gotten up about 4:30 to open some windows and let the air move through to cool down the house a bit.  Maneuvering through the house by moonlight, I had opened windows upstairs and had moved downstairs walking through the rooms, starting with the windows on the front of the house.  As I opened the window in the living room, I turned around to step and noticed something, a shadow or something on the dark green oriental rug.  Even though I didn’t have my glasses on, I knew something wasn’t right.

I turned, clicked on the lamp and was paralyzed by the sheer size and hariness of the spider that was on the rug before me.  It gives me shivers to think about it now 15 years later.  I heard Michael moving around upstairs so, while keeping one eye on the spider, I moved toward the stairs to call for him.  I got his attention and told him there was this huge spider on the carpet in the livingroom.  I told him it was far too big to smush and I wouldn’t go near it.  I am terrified of spiders.

Michael, thinking I am over-exaggerating as if saying a tiny mouse is the size of  a New York Subway Rat, takes his time coming down the stairs.  He walks around the corner to see what all the fuss is about and when he lays eye on what I was talking about stopped dead in his tracks and exclaimed “Holy Crap!”  He stammered a bit, looking around to try to figure out what to do.  It was far too big to put a cup over and slip a piece of paper under like one would with a small spider.  So he asked me to keep an eye on it while he went to get a box.  It felt like 100 years until he came back with the box that the attic fan came in.  It was a bit awkward because the opening was at the top of the box, not on the wide part of the box, so you can imagine that he is at one end, with the opening away from him and trying to reach across with a stick to coax the monster into the box while I watched in horror.    Once the spider was in the box, Michael put it upright, closed the top flaps and put something heavy on it so the spider couldn’t get out while he went off to put on shoes.

It was that time of day where the sun isn’t up, but the sky brightens enough that you can see fairly well where you are going and what’s before you – so long as it is large enough.  Michael now had his shoes on and is ready to dispose of the monster.  He has with him a flashlight, the stick he used to coax the spider and the box and heads out to the garden to set it free.  Michael is big on setting things free (except for that one cotton mouth under the house that one time, but that’s a different story).

The garden was about 100 yards from the house.  From the front door, you went through the circle part of the driveway, turn left to the end of the pasture fence and where the driveway turns right to go out to the road, just keep walking straight to the garden and the shed beside it.  It seemed like he was out there forever.  I had gotten the coffee ready and was cleaning up in the kitchen when he came flying back in the front door a bit breathless saying “I hope you didn’t want that box for anything, because I am leaving it out there and I am not going back anytime soon!”.   Surprised to hear this exclamation, I ask why and this is what he described.

He got out to the shed and gently set the box down with the flaps to open it facing away.  He could see pretty well, so once he was ready, he used the stick he brought out to slowly reach over and pull open the flaps.  When he pulled the top flap up, he saw this hairy leg (paw is the word I think he used) reach over the flap, grab it and threw itself onto the top of the box.  It faced him, reared up on its back 4 legs with its front 4 legs in the air and started to move toward him.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, was it the light?  Was this thing really thinking about coming at him?  As he was rolling that through his head, it began to run at him like it was going to lunge or take flight at his face.  Michael was so stunned he turned and double timed it back to the house, not looking back.

I have been known Michael for a long time.  Michael is a Marine.  I don’t think I have ever seen him even nervous about anything, let alone scared.  And for this,  I would not say he was scared, I would call it surprised.  For me, even imagining what he saw scares me.  I can picture every hair on the creepy little crooked leg of that spider.  I imagine the 8 freakish eyes staring me down with its fangs sticking out ready to bite.

As I write this story, it is one of the first warm days of the season.  We have a large retaining wall in the front yard with vines covering the ground from the wall down toward the street.  I have seen large furry spiders, sometimes with babies on their backs, when doing yardwork near the wall.  I always make a face and stare in horror until they go away.  They creep me out, but they are nothing like the horror of that monster spider I found that hot morning in the middle of my living room rug.

It was January, 1999

LOVED being pregnant. I got to eat whatever I wanted, didn’t worry about my body image and had an awesome man for my child’s father. I also swelled up to the size of Cleveland, waddled around (though I truly didn’t ever think I waddled) and at some point had to go buy a pair of really expensive “clog-slippers” because my big fat swollen feet would not fit into anything else. I was most definitely nnot one of those beautiful Madonna-esque mothers to be.

Michael and I had purposely not found out the gender of our child. I told him if I was going to have to go through labor, I wanted some sort of a surprise at the end. On this particular day, I got my surprise. It was 4 weeks until my due date. Thankfully, I had managed a project for my company to implement remote access and given I was a piloting member, I was able to work from home. Being as swollen as I was, I had promised my doctor I would work from home at least 2 days per week.

On any given day, I may have tummy troubles. I have been blessed with a pretty messed up inside and as a consequence, my intestines get tangled up fairly easily. A tangle can equal an awful lot of pain, a visit to or stay in the hospital, or in my case, I got to get a nice chunk of my intestines removed while vising Michael when we were first dating. (That’s another lonnnnnng story or later). This particular day, I was having tummy troubles. It had gone on for a few days and was escalating rather quickly.

Michael and I lived out in the boonies, about 45 minutes west of Richmond. It was a month before my due date and Michael was in a day-long session for work. At some point in the early afternoon, I called him to say I wasn’t feeling well and was going in to see the doctor. Nothing to worry about, I would just let him know what was up after I saw the doctor. By the time I got to the doctor’s office, it was getting worse. My normal doctor wasn’t around, so I had to see some random guy who didn’t know anything about my history.   Without a thought, he decided I was in labor and sent me over to the birthing center.

Now, I have never been in labor before, but I could tell you I wasn’t in labor. I called Michael on my way over, told him I didn’t think I was in labor, but they were going to hook me up to monitor me and check it out. My doctor showed up what seemed to me to be a few hours later. She agreed with me that I wasn’t in labor, but she didn’t know what she should do. By this time, the pain had escalated to a point where I could barely concentrate when people were asking me questions, so I wasn’t much help.

Thank goodness for Michael! He came in about 30 minutes after my normal OB arrived, took one look at me and started asking the right questions. Remember, he had seen this before. He reminded my doctor of my previous surgery and the reason for it. They talked about options for awhile, but the bottom line was, the baby was going to have to get out of the way or I was going to be in some serious trouble.

The neo-natal doctor was called in along with a GI doctor to deal with my insides after the baby was born. They prepped me pretty quickly and wheeled me back into the operating room. Michael scrubbed up and was allowed to be in the room for the baby’s birth. Due to the nature of my illness, they didn’t do the nice little “bikini” cut for the c-section, but had to follow my original scar from above the belly button down. Michael would later describe what he saw as one lady on my right and one on my left side, each one pulling as hard as they could to move the muscles to allow access to the baby. Then when the baby was removed and laid on my abdomen, he thought they had removed my liver!

They took the baby away to clean her up and do all that stuff they do with newborns and in moved the GI doctor to finish the rest of the surgery. They told Michael he could leave or they would raise the curtain, but he asked to stay and watch. The doctor just shrugged and said sure and went about his business. All was well…….they patient was going to live. J

Later that evening, after the baby had settled in the NICU and I was resting in the recovery room, Michael came to say goodnight. He left with me the polaroid the nurses took of him holding the baby with me so I could see our little girl when I woke up.

I didn’t get to see her in person for 2 days, but finally insisted they take me down so I could see her. For showing up a month early, she was still a 7lb 9oz baby – fully baked in most edges of the universe. She was beautiful then and now at 16 is tall, beautiful, brilliant and talented.

I have heard people say that God puts some chemical in our brain or erases our memories to cause women to forget what labor is like almost immediately after birth. They say if He didn’t, then women would never have more than 1 child because they would never go through that again on purpose. I agree.  I remember all the details of that day, everything except the pain and discomfort….

And then………there were two………..

 

 

Memories of Christmas Past

This year, as with every year, I took my Christmas decorations down on New Years Day.  I don’t know when this tradition (if you can really call it that) even started, but I have been following this timeline for years.

As I always do when I put UP the Christmas tree, I drift off down memory lane as I put the Christmas tree away as well.  I can tell a specific story about every single ornament on the tree.  Today, I want to share a story about these.

Todds Ornament

The first ornament is not a pretty one.  It is made of plastic and is supposed to look like winter flowers.  My brother Todd made that ornament while he was in Boy Scouts probably 50 plus years ago.  When I was a little girl and decorated the tree, Todd’s ornament was always the first one I would put on the Tree – even on the ugly Silver Aluminum Tree.

Nana's ornaments

The set of 3 are a small example of how my Nana would spend her time in the late 60’s.  Even with her arthritic hands, my Nana would spend hours upon hours in a chair watching the Cubs play (she was a die-hard fan) and making Christmas Ornaments.  These are made by starting with a satin covered Styrofoam form, stick pins, pearl beads, ribbon, sequins and whatever else your imagination could come up with.  Between myself and my mother, I suspect I had over 100 of these at one time.  Not one exactly like the other, they are all amazing and I truly cannot pick a favorite.  Unfortunately, over many moves, I am down to about 20 of these ornaments now.

Jills first ornament

One of my favorite rememberances, however, is that my Nana taught Keith and I to make these ornaments.   In hindsight, I assume my mother sent us down to Nana’s house to get some time to herself, but I loved to hang out down there and make ornaments.  The ugly sequined ornament pictured above is the very first ornament I had ever made.  When I put it on the tree each year, I have flashbacks to sitting with my Nana and Keith, watching the cubs on her console TV in the hot summer days and her patience as she showed us how to make ornaments too.

I have been telling these stories to my kids for years.  Not just about these sequin ornaments, but each one on the tree.  Now they tell the stories without me even asking as they admire each ornament while decorating the tree.  One day, I hope they will do the same with their kids.

THIS is how family stories are shared…….

 

 

 

1975 – The Filet knife Christmas

The year was 1975, I was in the 8th grade and Christmas was coming.  I had been babysitting, making pretty decent money between the two families who fought for my services since I was 10.  It was this year that I decided I was going to buy my dad a really nice Christmas present.

My Dad was a lineman for Commonwealth Edison, the Chicago based power company and for all the years I could remember up until this particular year, my Dad worked.  He would drop in at the Rouses’ Christmas Eve dinner in his CarHart coveralls and grab some dinner (if there wasn’t a storm going on) and work all night.  On Christmas morning, he would park his truck in our driveway within eyeshot through the window so he could see the orange light on the dashboard.   If the light shone, it meant he had a call on the radio.  This was high technology in 1975.

This year, however, my dad was going to be home because on December 26th, we were packing up our Pop Up Camper, throwing suitcases on the roof rack of the 1972 Ford Station Wagon – the kind with the fake wood paneling on the sides – and heading off the Florida for a 2 week vacation.  We were even taking Neal’s girlfriend Robin with us.

Christmas Eve we went to the Rouse’s house for the Christmas Eve dinner party.  As always, a great time was had by all and we came home to ready ourselves for Christmas morning and leaving on vacation the next day.

It was Christmas morning.  I was so excited to give my Dad his gift.  My Dad was a HUGE fishing fan.  He and my mother went fishing every year I can remember with my Aunt Marg, her daughter Marylou and Marylou’s husband Kent.  In addition to that, my dad would take the boys almost every summer for a long weekend or a week.  His ultimate favorite fish to catch was a Northern or a Walleye.  Not for the meat, so much as the fight.  His eyes would sparkle when he would talk about landing a Northern.  With this in mind, I had gotten myself up to Montgomery Wards and bought him the best Filet Knife I could afford.  It was the perfect size, with a carved leather sheath and a pearled handle.

It was pretty early in the morning as we were opening gifts.  I am pretty sure we had to wake my dad up so we could start opening, so he was a little groggy.  When he got to my gift, I sat on the edge of the couch to watch.  He opened the package and saw what it was.  He looked closely at the sheath, admiring the carving in the leather, then he unsnapped the strap around the handle, grabbed the sheath and pulled the knife out.  As he did, he sliced open the palm of his hand…….

There was blood everywhere!  He ran into the bathroom, put his hand under the water and tried to stop the bleeding.  After some time, he finally tore up a t-shirt and wrapped it around his hand.  He held it that way until we finished unwrapping gifts, then drove up to the hospital for stitched.   I don’t know how many stitches he received, but I do know it was a lot – and in such an unfortunate part of his hand.

I felt horrible.  Here we were leaving for vacation the next day down to Florida where my Dad could do all kinds of fishing.  We went deep sea fishing, snorkeling, to the beach and he couldn’t participate in any of it because of the wound on his hand.   All that driving, hand-cranking the pop-up camper up and down, building fires at the campgrounds.  I could only imagine how awful it was for my dad.

I have told this story of our trip to Florida a million times.  Every time I told it, I would include the part of ruining my dads vacation with my gift of a filet knife.

Fast Forward to 1994.  My mother had passed away.  All my sister in laws and myself went up to my Dad’s to help him go through some of my mom’s things.   We stayed the night and went out to my parent’s favorite Pizza place for dinner.  As we were sitting there talking and sharing stories, this one came up.  Only this time, it was my Dad telling the story.  As he began, he started talking about the Christmas Eve party at the Rouses’ and how he had too much to drink and how hung over he was the next morning……..and how being hung over is what caused him to draw the filet knife from the sheath wrong and slice open his hand.

It took me a few minutes to figure out what he was saying.  I’m pretty sure I was in shock at what I heard.  “WHAT???”  I said. ” You were HUNG OVER??? ”  “All these years I thought it was my fault!”  I felt redeemed.

We all had a good laugh and chalked that one up to another fun filled evening at the Rouses and my families rotten communication skills.

I still tell that story.  Its a fond, crazy memory and one day my kids will be telling it as well.  My family may not be the best communicators, but we sure make for some good stories.

Merry Christmas!

 

‘Tis the Season for Sugar Cookies

When I was a little girl, and frankly, until the time I moved away from home (the 2nd time), I would look forward to the month of December, not JUST for Christmas, but for the annual Christmas Eve party at the Rouses’ and the annual Christmas Cookie Decorating party that preceded it .

Imagine if you will, a small 3 bedroom, 1 bath ranch style house with a front door that opened directly into the living room and a side door that opened into a small hallway between the living room and the kitchen. The only reason for this small hallway was to house the door to the basement. The kitchen was about 10 x 10, had only a small counter space in the corner of the kitchen and an even smaller space between the sink and the cabinets to work with. The rest of the room was filled with the table and chairs where the family of 6 ate all their meals. It was in this tiny kitchen, kids from families of 3 different neighborhoods would gather one Saturday afternoon in December to decorate cut out sugar cookies.

Each year, Lisa Rouse would cut out and bake what seemed like hundreds of Christmas cookies. She would make the frosting from scratch using powdered sugar with milk, vanilla and food coloring. She would fill bowls or tea cups with the frosting and give us the food coloring to mix our own colors. There would also be all different kinds of sprinkles and baubles and all the fun other trinkets we may want to bedazzle the cookies with. Lisa would let us eat one or two, but for the most part, as they came off the kid assembly line, they would be stored away for the annual Christmas Eve Dinner. Each kid usually would pick one cookie that would be their “feature” cookie for their parents for the dinner.

I would look forward to this Christmas dinner with such anticipation each year! I couldn’t wait to get down to the Rouse’s house to find my special cookie. This Christmas Dinner was typically for 40 – 50 people. As you can imagine in this small house, there were people everywhere and Lisa would have plates scattered all throughout the house with frosted Christmas cookies on them. You had to get there early if you were going to find your special cookie and be able to give it to your parents before someone ate it. All the kids were doing the same thing. Not unlike a scavenger hunt, we would all be rushing to find our cookie and once found, would run it to our parents so they could save it for their dessert after dinner.

Now I have my own kids and I still love nothing more than to bake cut out sugar cookies and frost them together. We have a big party every year where all the neighbors come by and I always have our frosted cookies out for everyone to enjoy. We eat, drink, and are merry together to ring in the Christmas season, just like at the Rouses house.

I thank Lisa Rouse for all the years she hosted the most wonderful Christmas cookie decorating parties and Christmas Eve parties ever. A Christmas will never go by without me thinking of the wonderful times decorating cookies and spending Christmas eve with all the neighborhood families to walk home late at night with the crunch of snow under our feet, sleep and wake up to surprises left by Santa.

Every Family Has One

If you have ever seen the movie A Christmas Story, you know what I mean when I say:  “Every family has their own version of a leg-lamp”.  It just may not actually BE a leg-lamp.  For some people, its the creepy shelf elf, or some Christmas cookie platter your distant aunt gave you from her attic, something you put out out of obligation, not because you really like it.  For my family, ours was an Aluminum Christmas tree.

I grew up just down the street from my mothers parents.  To give a bit of background, my mom was a middle daughter of 4 daughters.  One of them passed away at age 12 (my mom will forever say she was the favorite) and the other two married people who my grandfather did not approve of and ended up quickly divorced.  While my grandfather didn’t approve of my father initially, he grew to love my father and helped my parents out when they were first married.  Ocoassionally, he would gift my parents things to help make their house a home.  A beautiful Cherry hutch, a Cherry dresser and one time, it was an Aluminum Christmas tree.

The tree was made up of an aluminum pole that stood about 5 1/2 feet tall and had holes all up and down the pole.  In each of these holes, an aluminum branch would fit in, the longer ones on the bottom and moving up to the smaller ones on the top (similar to the modern day artificial trees).  The tree itself sat in a stand that not only rotated the tree, but it played music too.  The tree with the stand was placed on a 2-piece mirror  that was about 6 feet in diameter.  And to top it off, my grandfather had also given us Pink and Blue ornaments to decorate the tree.  Why Pink and Blue?  Why, to go with the Pink and Blue spotlights that shone on the tree, of course!

This was a tree that you simply could not hide.  If you were to stand out in front of our house at Christmastime and looked at our picture window, there would be our own personal “Leg Lamp.  A Silver Aluminum Christmas Tree, decorated with only large Pink and Blue ornaments, lit only by a Pink spotlight on one side and a Blue spotlight on the other side, rotating on a musical stand.

As I think about it now, I imagine what this gift meant to my grandfather.  A man who raised his kids during the depression, and  pulled himself out of it to have a comfortable living, this was like buying her a Cadillac.

I applaud my mother for continuing to try to make that tree special for our family.  She tried to honor him by putting it up each year even though I knew she secretly hated it.

Its now 50 years later and as I walk through some of the stores at Christmas, there are trees in all kinds of colors.  Pink, Blue, Green, White.  But never Silver……….you never see Silver…….images (5)

 

Lipstick

There is a woman in my neighborhood who walks faithfully every morning.  If I am out and about early enough, I can catch her walking her speed-walk and she waves or says good morning.  She is not one to stop and chat.  She almost always wears Pink.  A Pink hat, a pink jacket or both.  She also always……always wears bright red Lipstick.

My mother was a lipstick wearer.  I don’t know that I can remember a time when my mother didn’t have lipstick on.  The colors ranged from a darker brown-reddish color to a more peachy-reddish color.  She never wore RED DOOR red, but she always wore lipstick.  In fact, I cant remember a time when my mother went anywhere without lipstick, her hair fixed just right and her fake eyelashes.  My mothers fake eyelashes were not like those worn today – the ones that really look fake and no one seems to care.  She painstakingly glued individual eyelashes onto her eyelids in an effort to look like she even had eyelashes.  Like me, hers were sparse and very blonde.  Thankfully I have enough that I don’t feel I need to glue any on.

When I start walking down this memory path, I am  reminded of a time when ladies, including my mother, wore wigs.  Lord only knows what possessed sane women in the late 60’s and early 70’s to don a wig, but it was popular.  In our neighborhood, Margaret Weil, Lisa Rouse, Trudy Sieffert and my mother all wore wigs regularly.  My mom and Margaret wore “frosted” wigs.  Essentially, the wig was supposed to look like their normal hair, though more voluminous, and had a “frosted” or “streaked” look to them.  Trudy and Lisa’s wigs were less flashy and were closer to their true hair color.  Sometime later, I think when I was in 3rd grade, I used one of my mothers old wigs to dress up as Phyllis Diller for Halloween – it was perfect.

Back to the ladies who wore wigs…..I recall this one random Saturday.  It was fairly early in the day, say mid-afternoon and we kids were all out playing.  Me, Lisa Weil, Lynn Rouse and some of the Klemp kids.  It was warm enough that the house windows were open, so it was likely early summer.  Who knows what we were doing, what game we were playing, but we started to hear some raised voices coming from the Weil’s kitchen.  The noise wasn’t as much of a yelling/screaming as it was some sort of a squealing, laughter, gasping noise.  It was definitely a female.  Then it got louder with more voices.  We were just kids.  We weren’t going to go inside and get in the middle of whatever was going on, but here’s how the story goes afterward:

The ladies were in the kitchen around the table.  There was liquor involved.  I can tell you my mom and Lisa didn’t do much drinking, but they did once in awhile.  This day, they were ALL drinking.  The conversation went to clothes, looks, makeup and finally hair.  Trudy said something about Margaret’s wig.  Margaret claimed not to be wearing a wig, Trudy disagreed and snatched the wig right off Margaret’s head.   Margaret was incensed and the rest of the ladies started to giggle.  Margaret stood up, reached over and yanked the wig off of Lisa’s head.  They laughter becomes a mixture of squealing, screeching and more laughter.  Lisa grabs my mom’s wig off and finally Trudy’s comes off.  By the time one of the husbands gets there, these ladies (ages ranging from 50 down to 40) are hysterical with laughter all around the kitchen table in their wig-caps while they continue with their little afternoon party.  Eventually, the husbands come along to get their wives and everyone goes to their respective houses to sleep off the afternoon.  My dad took us to Dairy Queen for dinner since mom “didn’t feel well”.

I sit here writing this and have to stop to giggle at the thought of these ladies getting wild in Windsor Road.  When you’re a kid, you don’t get it at all and you think your parents are crazy.  As an adult who has great friends like these ladies were, it makes me think of all the belly-laughs I have had with my long time friends and that everytime we see each other there is typically some incident, discussion or story that causes us all to squeal with laughter until we cant breathe!

Finally, and my long-time friends can attest to this too, I am indeed my mothers daughter.  I do not now, nor will I ever wear lipstick, BUT I will get up, shower and “put my face on” to cut the grass.   I can still hear Sue and Nancy teasing me about that when we were in Canada…….where we laughed a lot.

 

Bumbles Really DO Bounce

I like to surprise my husband (Michael) on special occasions.  Those can range from a birthday, Christmas, anniversary or just some random day.  To tell the truth, I just LOVE to surprise those that I love.  Its fun.

Since Michael does all of our finances and I am one of the lucky ones who never even has to slice open  the envelope of a bill, I try to further the surprise by saving for these purchases via “skimming from the grocery bill” and then use whatever I was able to save to purchase a gift.  (I know, my secret is out).  The goal to be so he doesn’t know how much I pay for stuff in addition to the surprise factor.   One particular year I had some BIG plans.

Michael has just about everything that a guy could want.  I have purchased every power tool and re-build your car engine tool one could want.  The longer we are together, the more difficult it is for me to come up with a really good gift idea – something better than a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, although he appreciates that just as well.  This particular year I had a good bit of cash saved up and decided to get Michael his own Kayak.  Michael and his buddy Blake (aka –“Godfather”) have been kayaking together for years.  Blake owns 3 of his own and Michael ends up borrowing or renting one for every trip.  They took kayaking the rapids classes together and had talked about the two of them going down to the river after work on Fridays to kayak rather than hit Penny Lanes for beers over the summer and heck, its something he can do on his own too.

The Process:

Part 1 – I called Blake for guidance on a GOOD kayak.  I cant afford the kind of kayak Blake can, but with my budget we went online together and we picked one out.  Blake wanted me to get a sit-in kayak, but I insisted on a sit-on-top as I fear that whole drowning thing AND those don’t require they be fitted to the owner.  I ordered it and had it delivered to my neighbors’ house for safe storage in their garage until the big reveal day.

Part 2 – I arranged with Blake to invite Michael on a day trip kayaking on the Saturday of our anniversary weekend.  Michael was excited to go and after some touch and go with the weather (and water temperature in early May), it was set.

Part 3 – The Friday before, I rushed home a bit early, got the girls to make a big Happy Anniversary poster and when Michael got home from work, they were sitting in the kayak in the front yard holding the poster.  Might I say…………..it was the best surprise EVER!

Early the next morning, Blake came to get Michael, they loaded up the kayak and off they went for the day.  About 4pm, Michael calls from the road to tell me to get dressed and he is taking me to dinner.  When he and Blake got back, it didn’t take long to notice how badly Michael’s legs were sun burned.  Evidently in all the excitement he completely forgot to use sunscreen on his legs (having been used to a sit-in kayak) and it was too late before he remembered.  So, he was moving a bit slow, but we headed out to dinner.

We had a bit of wine before we left for dinner and shared a bottle while we were there.  Toward the end of the meal, Michael announces we need to leave quickly as his legs are absolutely killing him.  On the way home, we stopped at Rite Aid to get him some Benedryl.  I am not certain where he got this notion, but he believes that Benedryl will take the pain away from his legs.

We headed home, he took a Benedryl and we opened another bottle of wine.  We ended up watching the end of The Blues Brothers (can you believe he had NEVER seen it before??), finished the 2nd bottle of wine and went to bed.

The fun starts when about 5am I hear Michael get up to use the restroom.  I hear the toilet flush then a strange guttural noise, a stumble, something thunk and a glass shatter.  What concerned me was what I DIDN’T hear.  I didn’t hear any cursing.  In fact, I waited about 15 seconds and I didn’t year anything……so I investigated.

When I get to the bathroom door, I can’t really get in because Michael is sprawled long-ways across the double sinks while still standing and his back-side is blocking the door.  I called his name, but he didn’t move.  Is he breathing I wonder?  I reach in and barely touch his back, “Michael?” I said.  He jerks up, stumbles by me in the doorway and says “Wow, that was weird”.  I tried to get him to stop and wait, but the momentum was in play.  He stumbled forward, I tried to keep him from falling but couldn’t.  He slipped out of my hand and fell, like a 100 year old oak tree, to the ground.  He didn’t even make a move to break his fall.  The floor shook.  Heck, the whole 2nd floor shook.  HE BOUNCED….like the Bumble in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I am surprised Hunter didn’t wake up in the next room.

When I got to him, he didn’t move.  Was he breathing?  It was hard to tell, but when I touched him, he snapped out of it again and tried to get up.  I made him stop and wait for me to ensure he wasn’t hurt.  He had cut his chin, but other than that, no injury.  I helped him get back into bed and he went back to sleep.  Of course, I couldn’t sleep anymore.  I had some coffee and continued to check on him to make sure he was breathing and not stumbling around getting hurt.

About 2 hours later, he was waking up and groggy.  He said “I’m not sure we’re going to make it to church today” at which point I laughed and said “You aren’t going anywhere today mister.  What the heck happened to you?”  He had no memory of what had happened (stunned!) so I filled him in on all the gory details at which time he said……

FAMOUS LAST WORDS “Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that Valium with the Benedryl and the wine”.

Note :

Do NOT drink wine and take other stuff

Do NOT mix Benedryl or anything

Do NOT drink wine, take Benedryl AND a Valium.

DO……..make sure the insurance is paid, cuz momma is getting a swimming pool.  :)

I say the swimming pool thing as a joke.  Michael knows I would wait at least a season to put in the swimming pool…..its cheaper off-season to have it installed anyway.

 

There was a Bear on this Yoga Hike and…..

I have these friends, Johanna and Laura.  Its funny, we all three worked at the same company for at least 16 years.  I would see each of them individually outside of work, but once I stopped working there (they both still do) I thought……….I need to get these two gals together.

I like them both for many of the same reasons.  They are both smart, extremely well read (I sometimes have to ask them to explain a word to me), love to laugh and they crack me up.  They love their pets, their families and when we hang out I never want the time to end.

A few months ago, I thought it would be fun to invite them to one of those “painting party” places.  You know, a bunch of (typically) women in a room with paints, canvas, an instructor to step you through what to do to get your painting just like the example and most importantly, wine.  So the giggling begins.  By the end of the night, my cheeks hurt from laughing,  Laura and Johanna had gotten to know one another, found they had a lot in common and once again, I didn’t want the time to end.

Fast forward.  Johanna had found this website for a weekly Sunday ritual called YogaHike.  The instructor takes folks to various local and state parks, you start with an hour hike and then an hour of Yoga.  Its not easy to get 3 busy ladies to find a Sunday when they can get together to do this, but we finally did and landed on Byrd Park in downtown Richmond.

We got there and met the instructor.  In total there were about 12 people.  Another threesome of ladies, a few singles, one guy, us and the instructor.  We ventured off on our hike, down some steps and through a narrow path in the woods where I began immediately to worry about poison ivy as I am highly allergic.  Little did I know that Byrd Park is actually very near the James River.  We walked maybe a mile to “The Old Pump House” which is a beautiful old stone structure no longer in service, but with great bones.  As it turns out the instructor had been to an event there the week before – a charity event to raise money to get the building fixed up for….events!  We oohed and ahhhed for a bit and moved down the path, crossing railroad tracks to get to the James River.  There are two railroads that cross not far, the tracks we crossed which go east/west and then a lovely trelace bridge right over the river that carries north/south traffic.    Again, we ooohhh and ahhhhh, and move on.  Through the woods, down to the side of the river on a path.

By this time, the instructor, the 2 single ladies and the guy are all ahead of us.  Then Laura, me, Johanna and the group of 3 other ladies trail behind us slightly.  As we are walking and talking, I see a deer across the river.  I stop Johanna to take a picture as she had been snapping pictures throughout the hike so far.  We notice we have lost Laura so we speed up to catch her.  Behind us, the threesome of ladies are not in sight.

Laura has stopped a bit up the path to wait for us and we catch her.  We continue together a bit, but cant find or hear the instructor.  We decide to head back to see if we missed a turnoff somewhere and find the other threesome, but no instructor.  We all six quickly decide to go back to the tracks where we went into the woods to see if we find the instructor waiting for us there.  Nothing.  An executive decision is required.  We split up.  The threesome went back the way we came and we forged ahead assuming someone would notice we were missing and stop to wait.    Did anyone ever tell you what ASSUME means?

We went about as far as we thought made sense before we started getting nervous that we would be all the way down in Pony Pasture before we turned around and went up to the train tracks.   It was probably about 90 minutes into our 1 hour hike by this time and we were just giggling up a storm.  We decided we needed to start making up a story.  “So, there was this Bear” is how it would begin and it went on from there.

As we were walking down the tracks, we could not help but draw a parallel to the movie Stand By Me.  The next thing you know, there is not only a Bear in our story, but a kid named Ray Brower.  Maybe the Bear killed him by the tracks.  The kid stumbled across him while he was fishing for salmon in the James River.  Wait, there are no salmon in the James River.   We moved on.

Laura and I were in front, singing Lollipop Lollipop, oh Lolly Lollipop just like the boys in the movie – we even did the little skip down the tracks.  Johanna is behind us taking pictures and we start talking about the scene where the train came while the boys were on the bridge and they barely made it off before getting hit.  I even went so far as to bend down and feel the rails to see if they were vibrating……..then the more we talked about it the more nervous I got.  We were around a curve.  A fast moving train could indeed catch us by surprise.  I started planning our escape route.  Where would we jump if a train did come.  The closer we got to the walkover we needed to reach, the more nervous I became, looking over my shoulder, listening for a train.  At some point, there was a train whistle and I admit I got a bit more panicky… Johanna and Laura thought I was nuts.

Once we got to the walkover, a collective sigh of relief and we continued to follow the path we originally came to get back to the starting place.  Of course, we couldn’t EXACTLY remember, so we were once again detoured, but not as drastically, though the woods.  I stopped someone and asked to ensure we were headed in right direction.  My partners in crime said “You cant ask for directions – ye of little faith!”.

FINALLY, almost 2 hours into our adventure, we made it back to the starting point.  We found our instructor along with the rest of the yoga-hikers doing their yoga-thing.  It actually took them some time to acknowledge we were there.  We were invited to join the rest of the class (all 10 minutes), but we opted out.  You see, we had planned long before that after our yoga-hike, we would need some sustenance.  Such as a cocktail and some snacks.  Now we found we needed them more than ever.

Johanna had picked this place called “Starlite”.  My first reaction:  Isn’t there some seedy place in Vegas called the Starlite Lounge?  This was most certainly not the “Starlite Lounge” I was told.   We hopped in the cars, drove over, got a seat, ordered a YUMMY YUMMY cocktail and some snacks along with a LARGE glass of water each.    There was more giggling, expanding on the Bear story (no one ever even asked!) and plans for the next adventure.  As the waitress reached over to re-fill my water glass, I look down to find “The Starlite Lounge” emblazoned on the glass.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, this is exactly what the sign at the one in Vegas (or the one I dreamed of in Vegas) looks like.  Starlite Lounge

Finally, as we were leaving the lounge, I look across the street and what do I find in front of someone’s house?  A HUGE BEAR!

Its a Bear

Laura and Johanna, this one is for you…………..until our NEXT adventure.  ;)

 

They Call Me “Hurricane Jill”

As Hurricane season kicks off in the mid-atlantic, so does Vacation season.   Since I have moved to Virginia, I have been to or attempted to go to the beach for vacation 6 times.  5 times I actually made it there, 3 times evacuated for a hurricane in the beginning or middle of the vacation week and that 6th time we never even left our house.  The hurricane didn’t hit where we were going, but it sure as heck hit my house – so I had to stay home.  (side note – Michael was off camping in the WVA mountains unable to be reached during #6).

There are stories around all of the beach trips and hurricane evacuations, but I have to say my favorite is the last “family” beach vacation where we went along with our neighbors, the Lacombe family; Steve, Candy, Hannah and Andrew.

We spend a lot of time with the Lacombes.  Hanging in the cul-de-sac sharing our love of wine and stories with Steve and Candy, Hannah was our babysitter as was Andrew once Hannah got a “real job” and all this time Steve and Candy both talked about how much they would love to go on a beach vacation and hadn’t found the opportunity since Candy was “in the chair”.   So one year, we decided we were going to make that happen come Hell or Hurricane :) .  We needed some special accommodations given Candy is in a wheelchair, so I did some searching for a wheelchair accessible rental house.  Once we nailed down a few that sounded right, Steve and I got on the phone with the rental agency and spoke with an agent at length who was familiar with all the properties.  We need to be sure there was a roll-in shower for example.  There had to be an elevator so Candy could have access to all the floors.  We also wanted a pool at the house and easy access to the beach.

We were going to do this up right.  The kids were all allowed to invite 1 friend.  We rented a “beach wheelchair” for Candy who’s only want was to put her feet in the ocean again.  We packed up 3 vehicles, had Michael’s new Kayak on the roof of mine and Hannah drove the 3rd vehicle on her first ever road trip as a new driver. 

We left on a Sunday, drove the 4+ hours down to the house.  Everyone stayed in the driveway and started to unload vehicles while I went to check in and get the keys.  By the time I returned, Steve had been around the house several times and reported that there was no ramp or entryway that Candy’s wheelchair could fit through.  While we were talking with the rental agent, we indeed asked about wheelchair accessibility into the building, but never used the word “ramp”.   In short, this house was set up for someone in a MANUAL wheelchair, not an electric one (which weighs about 400 lbs empty).  I went back to the rental agency, explained our dilemma.  They were terrific and sent a guy over right away.  We decided that if he can build a ramp, we could get Candy through the patio doors by the pool.   It took an additional hour or so, but between the rental agency maintenance guy and Steve, a ramp was built and Candy was in the house.   Problem 1 solved.

That obstacle behind us, we moved on to the elevator.  This particular kind of elevator has a standard door and inside the door there is a “sliding/folding” door with a magnetic catch.  It seems that the magnetic part needs to be connected before the elevator will work.  Unfortunately, for a quadrapalegic, sliding the folding door can be difficult.  Poor Candy got stuck in there the first time.  We waited and waited for her to come up and finally sent someone to the first floor to see what the hold up was.  Once we finally got to her, we decided someone would always be in the elevator with her to ensure we got a solid connection and no one got stuck in the elevator.  Problem 2 solved.

Of course we all wanted to hit the beach so shortly after we got everything unpacked, we grabbed our stuff and headed down to check out the water.  The kids and I went ahead to find a spot, set up shade, etc.  Heck, its August in the south – even at 3pm its hot as hades.  It took awhile, but finally I notice all the people around us looking at the walk-over that goes over the Dunes.  They are watching Michael and Steve carry Candy down the steps in her beach wheel chair.  This is not unusual for them, but the Beach Wheelchair made it particularly difficult.  Imagine a wheelchair built out of PVC piping, heavy duty mesh for the seat and back and HUGE inflatable tires.  The entire design of the chair was to make it light so it could easily move across the sand.  The smile on Candy’s face was terrific.  She had waited so long to see the beach and it didn’t take her long to want to get down there and put her feet in the water.  I remember her saying – “I know I can’t feel it, but I want to get in that water and put my feet in the sand”.   You ask, Ms. Candy, and you shall receive……

Steve and Michael roll Candy down to the waters edge and put her in close enough so the water will rush over her feet.  Everyone is feeling great about overcoming the initial obstacles, we are now at the beach and Candy has her feet in the water.  With Steve on one side of Candy and Michael on the other they all three are looking out at the ocean, watching the waves when all of a sudden some rogue wave comes in, lifts Candy’s wheelchair and flips her forward face-first into the ocean!  It took a second or two before the boys noticed she had gone over.   I hear a HOLY SH&T from Steve as both he and Michael reach down to grab the arms of the chair and pull Candy back up.  At the same time I turn around to see Hannah (who is a lifeguard at this time) running across the beach at us like Pamela Anderson in Baywatch.   Once Candy is pulled out of the water, all you can see is the ear to ear grin on her face.  “That was AWESOME” she says……” I don’t want to do it again, but that was great!”   I thought poor Steve was going to have a heart attack.  Once you get a neck injury, it could easily be worsened by something like had just happened.  I am happy to report, all is well……but the story is not over. 

You may not know (and I sure didn’t until we took this vacation) that if you are confined to a wheelchair, you should NEVER wear your seatbelt while in your chair when you are near water such as a pool or around a lake.  The reason for this is if you happen to go into the pool with your belt on, you will get dragged down to the bottom of the pool right along with your 400lb wheelchair.  Consequently, since Candy had to exit the house through the patio doors out to the pool, then through a gate on the side yard to get out to the car, she never had her seatbelt on.  Candy was extremely consciencious about the seatbelt issue while we were outside, so much so that she would not be outside without someone else with her (smart, right?).  Until the day that we were EVACUATED due to a hurricane……

It was Thursday morning and Steve and I had gone down to the beach as we are early risers in our households.  Early mornings in the outer banks of NC, you can often see dolphins frolicking just outside the surf and I just love watching the sun come up over the ocean.  It was about 7am when we headed back to the rental.  Along the way, one of the neighbor houses said “did you get your call yet?  They are evacuating the island”.  Ugh………….it felt like we had just unpacked and now not only did we have to evacuate, but so did all the other vacationers on the single lane 12 mile stretch of the island.  Traffic…..here we come.  Once we have just about everything packed up, Michael and Candy come out the patio door, past the pool to the gate to get in the van for the trip home – no seat belt.  There was a good 4-inch drop from the concrete of the patio to the yard and with Michael behind her, Candy moved forward a bit too fast and BOOM – the front wheels went down too hard and threw Candy right out of her chair onto the grass face-first.  Michael was stuck behind the chair and Steve was over by the van in the driveway.  He FLEW over to Candy, picked her up to check her out and got her back settled in the chair.   Confirming no injury, we moved on to leave our treasured beach vacation. 

To this day, Michael talks about this story and reminds himself that he was the one watching over Candy each time she took a tumble.  Candy remembers it all fondly and still says taking a tumble into the ocean was FANTASTIC. 

That was the last “beach vacation” I think Michael will go on with me.  It seems I am the common denominator to every vacation coming right along with a Hurricane.  I don’t know why they haven’t named one after me yet.  J