totally random

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  • Last week on the  car radio I kept hearing this ad for a “solar energy” system for your home.  Anyway towards the end of the ad they say “call for a quote on your solar system”. So I can purchase my own private solar system? Do I get to pick my planets, and constellations  or are there set packages?  It just struck me as funny.
  • While driving home from PA 2 weeks ago, I saw a road sign that said “Keep a safe distance when following”. I understand the principle behind that and I am sure it is true while driving.  But I got to thinking about my spiritual walk and being a follower of Jesus. After pondering that for a few days, I came to the conclusion that sometimes I “keep a safe distance when following” and I probably shouldn’t.
  • This past weekend my sister and I had to sort through stuff at my parents. (See “It’s on the Ho Chi Minh”) We needed to get some personal items out of my dad’s totally out of control library. Imagine floor to ceiling books on shelves going in every direction and some have collapsed.  We weren’t even sure where the light switch was. Well, I tried to talk my sister into letting me video tape her crawling in and over and around stuff so we could put it on YouTube and then it could go viral.  She didn’t like the idea but I was really laughing at the whole concept. She finally said “Wow!! You are cracking yourself up.” Which I was and I think the reason the whole thing made me laugh so hard was I barely know how to video using my phone, I don’t know how to put something on YouTube and I am not even sure I understand what going viral means. lol
  • I have discovered a couple of ways to guarantee that the traffic jam you are caught in will start moving. The first way is deciding to put hand cream on your hands. As soon as the lotion is on your hands but before you can rub it in, the traffic will start to move. The second way  is deciding you want to take a photo of 1 WTC.  Open your window, get ready and as soon as you go to hit the button the guy behind you will honk. Works every time.

“It’s on the Ho Chi Minh”

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I have spent a good portion of this past week removing my family’s personal items from my childhood home. Next week my childhood home will go on the market. My dad has been in a nursing home for the past 5 1/2 years.  My mom is currently in rehab and will not be returning to this house. Over the past 5 years, my mom has insisted on staying in her home so she could be near my dad.  My siblings and I honored her wishes. It wasn’t the best solution but it was what she wanted. One of the lessons I learned through this process is you can’t make someone want more for their life.  You can show them the possibilities but you can’t force them.  Growing up I remember hearing the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.”

The house that is being sold wasn’t my only childhood home but it was the one I lived in from third grade until I got married.  I have a vague memory of sitting on the side steps of our house in Salt Lake City and crying because I didn’t want to grow up. Before that I had lived in England and Oklahoma.  I was born in Oxford, England and came to the USA when I was a toddler.  My mom would say “We gave you a good start and after that you were on your own.”  My Oakie dad met my British mum when he was in England during the Korean War. I remember hearing the story of my dad arriving in England on a ship headed to Germany and my dad and some other airmen got off the ship. Oops!! so they were reassigned to the North of England. I am sure there is more to that story. Anyway that is how my dad met my mom.  Yesterday, my sister and I found a box of “Old Letters” and some great old photos. I am looking forward to reminiscing with my mom. When my dad’s military time was completed, we moved to Oklahoma so my dad could finish college at the University of Oklahoma (OU).  My earliest memory is being handed into a tornado shelter. Years later my mom would refer to Oklahoma as “that God forsaken place”.  My mom was only 24 years old when she left her family and her country and traveled to the States alone with me.  My dad had “gone ahead”. She tells the story of arriving in NY and the cab driver telling her she spoke good English for a foreigner.

After England, Oklahoma and Utah we moved to Phoenix, Arizona where we lived for about 2 years before moving to New Jersey. One of my strongest memories of Arizona was riding my bicycle home from school through the desert and my handle bars fell off.  Yes that statement resembles “I walked to school everyday uphill both ways with only one shoe” but it is a true story.  The housing developement we lived in wasn’t completely built so there was a road through the desert to the school. One day while riding home my handle bars and some other kids handle bars fell off.  Luckily a neighbor drove by and helped us.  Some “big kids” at school had loosened the bolts on our bikes.

The house being sold has many memories of “us 3 kids” – that is what my siblings and I called ourselves.  There were Halloween costumes built my dad, fun fairs organized by my mom and summer shows put on by the kids in the neighborhood. There was music by Mario Lanza – mom’s favorite and Gilbert and Sullivan operas courtesy of my dad.  There were times family from England would stay with us as my parents were sponsoring them so they could emigrant to America. There was the birth of my baby sister when I was 12 years old and “us 3 kids” became 4.

Many memories and lots to organize and pack up.  There is adage “How do you eat an elephant?” and the answer is “one piece at a time”. I would add to that “you need to know when you are full.” So we took a lot of “stuff” and then we said “we are done” and it is okay. My sister and I laughed as we worked and we cried but it was good. There are memories we will always carry in our hearts, there are books, photos and trinkets we will share with other family members and there are sayings that only mean something to us. The buffet pictured above is called the Ho Chi Minh.  My brother named it.  I guess because it has an Asian flair to it. “Where is such and such?” and the answer many times would be “it is on the Ho Chi Minh”. My youngest daughter didn’t realize that wasn’t the real name for that type of furniture until she studied the Vietnam War in high school. As my sister was heading to the house today she heard a story on the radio that mentioned Ho Chi Minh and she thought of our deceased brother and that buffet.  And that was a gift. My childhood wasn’t perfect and my childhood home has seen better days but my parents did the best they could with the resources they had. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

Driving home in the light

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I like when I get home from church on Wednesday nights and it is still light out. At 8:00pm in the winter it is dark but this time of year the sun hasn’t set yet.  It seems like I have more time. Once while I was teaching a kindergarten ballet and gymnastics class a concerned student stated “Miss Ann, I think you have kept us at dance too long because it is dark out”. After a quick lesson on the concept of changing the clocks and reassuring her that mom would arrive to pick her up at the regular time, class continued.  A side note: when I was in Alaska, the time change and the extended hours of light were annoying. I never knew what time it was. But usually I enjoy the extra hours of daylight especially when I am driving home.

When my daughters were young, they would come to the studio after school. And depending on the day they may stay until I finished teaching or Bruce would pick them up and take them home. One Monday evening, Bruce came to pick up the girls and my youngest really wanted to stay. After some “discussion” she did go home as planned  which was good because the experience I had on the way home would never have happened if she had been with me.  It was in the late Spring so it was still light out and I was glad to be driving home in the daylight.  My route home that evening was Route 208 North, over Skyline Drive and then around the reservoir heading towards Greenwood Lake.  There isn’t usually traffic that time of evening. Unless it is in the winter and there is snow this is a pretty boring drive. So imagine my surprise as I rounded the curve and there is a car stopped on the side of the road and a woman is standing in the lane waving her arms. I drive around her and then pull over to see if I can help. I know nothing about cars but really felt I should stop.  Well, this is where it gets interesting. She says she has run out of gas.  There is a gas station just a little further down the road so I say I can go get her some gas.  The only problem is she has no gas can and no money. I only have a few dollars in cash but offer to go buy a little gas. I do notice that there are random items on her backseat a hose, tape, clothing but I don’t think that much about it.  Sometimes the stuff on my backseat may make people wonder. Anyway, I head to the gas station but the gas attendant won’t let me borrow a gas can so I can purchase gas.  I finally talk him into letting me borrow the gas can and promise I will bring it right back. I don’t remember what I said but I do remember the rest of the evening. When I get back to her car, we put the gas in and the car still doesn’t start. And suddenly the woman burst out “I can’t do anything right. I was parked over by the reservoir, trying to kill myself and I ran out of gas”.  My first thought is “Oh my, I am in way over my head”. Think, think…

Another car stops to help but I have a weird feeling about the guy so I inform the guy that we are okay and I offer to drive the woman home. “First, I have to return the gas can and then I will drive you home.”  I drive to the gas station, return the gas can and then tell her I need to call my husband.  This was years ago so there weren’t cell phones.  There was a payphone.  I call Bruce and say “I stopped to help someone and she was trying to commit suicide and you need to get her some help”  So he suggests calling our pastor but I remind him that Pastor Steve is away.  think, think… I ask him to go on our second line and call friends we have in Ringwood and ask them to call their pastor. So I am on one line waiting for Bruce to call friends on the second line and this woman is in my car.  And it is getting dark. Long story short, I tell the woman I haven’t eaten dinner and we go to MacDonald’s where my friend and her pastor are waiting to help. My friend’s pastor speaks with the woman, suggest that she seeks professional help and offers to pay for her to go to counseling.  She can’t believe that someone will pay for her to get help.  He gets her contact information and says he will call her tomorrow. And then I drive her home. The whole evening was like an out-of-body experience. As I drove home I was totally humbled. I don’t usually stop when I see someone stopped on the side of the road. I usually pray for someone to help them but this particular time I guess I was the one that was supposed to help.

a very productive day

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It was a very productive day today.  Not that I really did anything but things related to me got accomplished. YES, I can cross things off of the list.  Lists are part of who I am. I still make lists on paper because physically crossing it off is more fun than deleting it from your smart phone.  I have a dry erase board that contains the “big list”. Usually meaning it needs someone other than me to do it. There is big satisfaction in crossing those items off. And yes, I add things that weren’t on the original list that were completed because then at least something “got done”.  Such as the flag pole – that was a “write in”.

So exactly what was accomplished today. Well, my house was cleaned. I didn’t do that. My two wonderful friends and cleaning people did that. The laundry got washed and dried (but not folded). I did do that and plan on completing that task later. New garage doors were installed but I didn’t do that either. One of the bi-vocational pastors from church did that. I made some phone calls and sent some emails. I talked to my daughter and mother and texted my sister.

And the flag pole was repaired. I didn’t do that either but I did help a little with that project. Last Winter, I realized the string for the flag pole in my front yard was broken. So I haven’t been able to fly the flag. With Memorial Day rapidly approaching, I wanted to get it fixed but who fixes flag pole strings. I figured you would need a bucket truck or something similar to get the hook that was snagged in the pulley down. The other day my neighbor was outside and I asked him “who would I ask about fixing this and how could it even be done without costing mega bucks?” He said “I will work on it”. And he did. He came up with a plan. And today he and his wife with very little help from me fixed my flag pole. The tools involved were a new rope, a ladder, a fishing pole, knowledge of knots and duct tape. Amazing!! And you know what he said after the first attempt was not to his satisfaction and he redid it. “I want to make Bruce proud”.

After my neighbor and his wife left, I set on my porch swing and thought about that statement “I want to make Bruce proud”.  I realized many things I have done over the past 10 years have been for that very reason “I want to make Bruce proud”.  But even more importantly I want to make my Heavenly Father proud – I want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant”

a bag lady

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I have been a “bag lady” for years.  I have a different “bag” for the different areas in my life. For me it helps to keep me organized and to not be overwhelmed.  Currently I have a Tribute Center bag, a Wacky Wednesday bag, a Kids First Ministries bag, a Quizzing bag and a mom bag. Twenty years ago the mom bag would have been because I was a mom with small children but now it is because my mom is in rehab and I use the mom bag to transport her mail and laundry. Through the years I have had a dance bag, a diaper bag, a bag of tricks for entertaining children in the car, and a lunch bag. I even had a cancer bag for when I had chemo. The chemo bag had peppermints, a bottle of water, tissues, magazines and a book. That bag transitioned into a radiation bag that held aloe lotion with vitamin E.  At one point in life my dance bag had my ballet shoes, a copy of Backstage, my leotard, tights, hair stuff and makeup. But through the years the dance bag changed to carry choreography notes, cassette tapes or CDs with music, new stickers for the kids at the studio, bank statements and drawings from my students.

When my daughters were little the diaper bag contained the normal kid stuff – diapers, change of clothing, bottle, toys and wipes.  There were times I thought I should have packed a change of clothing for myself due to the fact they had thrown up on me or wet through their diaper. As my girls got older, I decided they should pack their own bags especially when we were going on a trip.  When packing for our 5 week National Park camping trip, the girls were allowed a backpack of stuff for in the truck and the rest of their stuff went into a “restock bag”.  They were also allowed one stuffed animal. My younger daughter did pick one stuffed animal but it was a white bear that was as big as she was 🙂

For some reason my bags make me think of “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Motherhood

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I am the mom of two grown daughters.  It seems like only yesterday that they were born. My first daughter will turn 28 years old on May 31 and my second daughter will turn 25 years old on June 3.  Being a mom is an amazing journey.  As I have commented before there are eternally long days but the years are a blink of an eye. I can remember waiting for my first child to arrive – waiting and waiting.

In the midst of my pregnancy, we bought a house.  The plan had been to close on the house in late April, have the baby the beginning of May while we were still living in our apartment and then officially move after the baby was born. Oh, did I mention my annual recital for my studio was the beginning of June.  As her due date came and went, the moms at the studio would peek into the classroom and then I would hear them say “she’s still here!!”. I thought I was going to be “pregnant forever”. When I was two weeks overdue, I went to the hospital to be induced but they couldn’t get me to go into labor so they sent me home. Really!?!  I couldn’t believe it.  Now we would have to officially move before the baby was born as there was only one weekend left in May and our lease was up as of June 1. We moved on Memorial Day weekend. There was a scripture verse that I held onto – Psalm 139:16 “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” I knew that my baby won’t be born before the day ordained for him/her to born and even better my baby won’t be born a day later than had been ordained for him/her.

The first time I used the dishwasher in our new home I realized I was standing in a puddle of water.  I thought “wow, my water has broken” but then realized my pants weren’t wet.  True story.  The dishwasher leaked 🙂

When I was three weeks late my doctor said “we would try again and one way or another I would have the baby”. Bruce and I had to be at the hospital nice and early.  As I walked out to the car with my “baby bag” and my bag, the hood of the car was up and he was checking the oil.  I guess people react to stress in different ways 🙂 Then as we drove down Route 17 to the hospital, he drove through McDonald’s to get himself coffee and cinnamon bun.  I was ready to kill him.

When we get to the hospital, I have one contraction and the baby goes into fetal distress. I am turned onto my side and oxygen mask is placed in my face and the baby’s heart rate returns to normal. My doctor comes in and suggests that he do a C-section but he also suggests that we can wait until both of my doctors can be there later in day. And my husband says “don’t you think we can just wait until she goes into labor by herself.” Very calmly, I look at my doctor and ask him “to please excuse us a moment I need to speak with my husband in private”. With total disbelieve I say to my husband “are you nuts?” And he says “well, everyone has been praying for a smooth delivery.” To which I say “If God wants me to have this baby naturally I will have it by 3 o’clock. If not, I am having a C-section.”

At a little after 3pm, my doctor does allow Bruce to be present in the delivery room and when my doctor realizes I am trying to watch through the reflection in the lights he gets me a mirror.  I did watch the whole procedure. The one weird thing was because they hang a drape so you can’t see directly it seemed like they were so far away – like half way across the room which isn’t possible.  I am tall but not that tall. I tell Bruce he can take pictures but not gross pictures.  And our baby is born by C-section on May 31. She is totally wrapped in her cord and my doctor comments “a guardian angel was looking out for her.”

Fast forward 3 years and I am pregnant with baby #2. Five days before her due date I start with contractions in the early afternoon but continue to teach and then see my doctor as I am heading home.  My doctor says you are having contractions but not really dilating so go home and call me later. After I get home I call a good friend and say “you all lie”. See all my friends who “had” labor told me it isn’t that bad.  Anyway my doctor calls me around 9:00pm and when I say the contractions are 20 minutes apart he says to head for the hospital.  We drop child # 1 off at my parent’s house and head to hospital.  At the hospital I am still not dilated. I comment to my doctor “let’s be honest here, I could be in labor all night and in the end you will do a C-section because my first baby was a C-section. The goal is a healthy baby. So let’s do the c-section now.” The nurse wasn’t happy with me but I knew that was the right choice and on June 3, daughter # 2 was born via C-section and she was also totally wrapped in her cord. When daughter # 1 came to meet her baby sister, she thought you got to pick which baby in the nursery to take home.  She liked the one with the head of dark hair. Sorry you get the bald one.

It doesn’t seem possible that was 25 years ago. I firmly believe that the job of parents is to raise responsible, caring human beings. I believe parents need to love their children unconditionally just as God loves His children. I believe that parents need to “stack the deck” in their kids favor. Parents need to set boundaries and choose their battles carefully. Parents need to give their children the best of associations. I always told my kids to make me the bad guy if they needed to.  For me, motherhood was a few  years of “all hands on deck” and then it was like being a hovering helicopter ready to swoop in at a moments notice. And now it is the sweet moments of reflection, conversation and hugs.

130 lb pound lap dog

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Recently I was organizing one of the closets at the Barn when I came across Buster’s old dog bowls.  And I smiled to myself as I remembered Buster Brown the biggest lap dog in the world.  He wasn’t a lap dog but he thought he was. He was a very tall, 130 pound Rottweiler and a great dog.  When my daughters were very young, they said they wanted a dog and I told them when you are 7 and 10 we will talk about it.  They must have been really young because 7 and 10 years old seemed a long way off. Well, when they were 8 and 11 years old they really started bugging us about a dog. They remembered my comment as “when you are 7 and 10 we can get a dog” – really, my girls didn’t remember when I asked them to put their toys away but they remembered that off-handed statement about getting a dog.

Late one Sunday afternoon our phone rang and it was Bill.  Bill had a wonderful dog named Bo who was the “dad” for a litter of Rottweiler puppies. We had been at a party together earlier in the day and I guess there had been discussion about puppies. He wanted to stop by and show us one of the new puppies. Bruce said “sure, come on by”. I gave him a weird look and he said “no problem when Bill mentions how much the puppy is we will just say we can’t afford it” which was the truth.  Great, we have a plan. Well either God has a sense of humor (which I believe He does) or my kids had really been praying because what happened next was amazing and only God. Bill stops by with this adorable pure bred puppy with very big feet.  He tells my kids that they can name the puppy.  My girls pick  Buster Brown.  And then Bruce says “So how much does a puppy like this go for?” and Bill says “Free to a good home”  Bruce mentions “we are going on vacation”. “No problem, we will keep him at our house until you get back.” Really!?!  what just happened here. And that is how at 8 and 11 years old my girls got a dog.

When my kids told my mom we got a dog, my mom thought I was having some kind of mid-life crisis because growing up I didn’t like big dogs. I told her if I was having a mid life crisis it won’t involve getting a big dog maybe a fancy car but not a dog.  My dad loved Buster right a way but didn’t let on in front of my mom. My dad would say “most people don’t keep a small horse in their house”. My mom did eventually love Buster.

When Buster was a year old, we went on a 5 week camping trip – our National Parks tour as we affectionately called.  We were a family of 4 traveling in a Ford F-150 with a cap, pulling a pop-up trailer with New York license plates and we had a Rottweiler.  We were sure most people thought we were drug dealers. There are many stories from that trip that I will share at another time.  I would like to share one Buster story from that trip.  We visited Bruce’s sister in Kansas. She has a built-in pool. I was out by the pool watching the girls swim and Buster was pacing back and forth.  He really didn’t like that they were in the pool. He looked like “oh no, if something happens I am going to have to jump in.”  When they got out he won’t let them get back in. He kept herding them away from the pool. We finally had to hold him by his collar so the girls could get back in the pool.

One year a few days before Christmas, Buster pulled down the Christmas tree.  The girls were watching television with Bruce and I was taking a relaxing bath and I heard “boom”. The Christmas tree had fallen over. At first we didn’t realize how it had happened but then we figured it out Buster had walked up to the tree to take an ornament off – he did that when you weren’t paying attention to him. Anyway, his collar got caught on the tree and as he pulled away the tree fell.

After September 11, when there were so many different people stopping by the house to see if we needed anything or to bring food, Buster would stand between me and the other person.  But if the girls walked into the room, he would go stand between them and the person. Buster took his job of being “the man of the house” very seriously.  Buster died 5 years ago.  He was 11 years old which is actually kind of old for such a big dog. He was a wonderful dog and a “priceless” gift to our family.