Being the Cool Kid

I had the pleasure of going to the Fauquier County Fair in Virginia this week. My middle daughter has been raising chickens for two years and entered a few in the competition as well as some art work. My other daughters also entered handmade items in the fine arts exhibit. They all won a few place awards, and they are all perfectly happy bringing home ribbons and smiles and memories of fair fun.

Plus, they didn’t have to pay for squat, and they are perfectly happy about that, too. Mom and Dad are out three-hundred bucks.

Meanwhile, in Emily’s head is a mass confusion of mixed emotions. My brain is like the Freak Out ride, rising up, falling down, twisting and lingering on the edge of turning 360 degrees.

Up to the sky for a second . . .

I absolutely loved the bull-riding rodeo, the women’s barrel racing on horses, the freestyle motorcyclists, the ATV rodeo, the hypnotist show, and the escape artist show. It was such a wonderful time for people with talent to show off, to have people cheering, to take risks. The bull riders were awesome, I don’t care who your are, and the energizing music gave them instant superstar status, even if they were tossed to the ground right out of the bull pen. (The cowboy hats did it for me, too. I think my husband needs to be a cowboy next Halloween ;))

But, even the ATV rodeo, which was mostly young adults, but also a few middle aged adults who probably had day jobs, they got a chance to ride around, kick up some dirt, and have a blast in front of a crowd. The fair is a time for kids to dream of what they could do someday if they really wanted to. The announcer for the freestyle motorcycles said: This is what we wanted to do since we were kids—get paid to ride bikes, and that’s what we do. So motivational! These people are living the dream—doing what they want to do with their lives. And they all work hard at it because it’s what they love.

And now we are coming down (and twisting) . . .

I know people can swap dreams midlife, the sky’s the limit, you can teach an old dog new tricks, yada yada. But in so many ways, I worry that it’s too late for me to tap out and try something else, something bigger even though a tiny voice inside of me is screaming that I want something more. Growing up, I was also not a great dreamer—I would talk myself out of dreams before they could even ignite. I am pessimistic, rational, logical, right-brained, and safe. I was always that way, getting good grades to get in a decent college, get a secure job, save for retirement, now invest time and money into the kids so they can dream. I don’t even dress wild, even with a part of me wanting to take risks with hair color and biker boots. But, overall, it feels unfulfilling. I also learned that God’s in charge, and He designed us all to do things according to His will, not ours. But I often ask Him—why do I feel so small? When is my breakthrough? Who gets to have their dreams come true? And are my dreams just my human brain coming up with stuff or are my dreams from You, and You are waiting for me to make them happen?

And I don’t get answers. Or maybe I’m getting them, and I don’t want to see them.

I suppose the 19 agent rejections is an answer. I did get that.

I keep getting asked to be charge nurse, but I keep turning it down. I do get that. (Yuck)

And up again . . .

I see the people who have made their dreams happen, and, in my eyes, they are the cool kids. They are the ones we all aspired to be. They are the sweaty cowboys walking by after a bull ride, thinking about the next chance they get to do it again. Someday I just want to pour my heart into something I plain, fat love to do, and I don’t care if I end up sweaty or bleeding, I just want to know that I made my dream happen. And I wouldn’t mind a cheering crowd; that would be a great answer.

Dear God, please make me one someday–a cool kid, not a bull rider.



When the iPod Stops

I’ll confess vehemently that I do not like technology. Of course I’m lying; I actually love technology when it works quickly and flawlessly. What irks me is having to keep up with the changes and upgrades in order to keep things working nicely. Being a middle-aged person and a veritable cheapskate who has learned that money does not grow on trees, I find this requirement akin to getting teeth pulled without lidocaine and then having to shell out money for it.

I don’t spend a lot of money on tech. I never waited in line for the newest model of anything—except I do look forward to the latest Saucony Guide Running shoes, but I have yet to see a line outside a store for those beauties. I have an ASUS laptop from 2013 with no frills, a standard PC—from 2012 which is getting tired, a printer from 2006 that HP can’t run updates on because its too old, and a cheap AT&T smartphone that only has enough memory for the preloaded apps and takes terrible pictures. When I see little kids holding their sweet little iPhones that are bigger than their heads? Ah, the pain becomes real.

But it’s my iPod nano from 2006 that “they” don’t make anymore which is causing my current dilemma. It is a 2nd Generation which means it’s from the Industrial Age. Every year I seem to have been able to still keep it working with the upgrades, even having to manually move songs on it because it will no longer sync, and I learned how to reset it whenever it glitches. But, I’ve come to the point where the computer refuses to recognize it when I plug it in. It’s like the club doors have been shut, and the little iPod can’t knock loud enough for the big, bad updated bouncers to hear it. I’ve Googled fixes, but nothing has worked.

I need to acknowledge that it’s old and decrepit, and I might just need to replace it. But besides the cost, I feel bad for my iPod. She’s been with me for twelve years; she’s been the perfect size and weight—I don’t want something bigger. She’s been to all of my races—even the one where she glitched at the starting line and wouldn’t turn on, so I had to run with earbuds and no music. When she shuffles songs, she’ll sometimes play Christmas songs in July which makes me laugh. She’s lived in five different states. She’s been on airplanes. She’s been in hotels with me when I run on the treadmills at 5 am while the rest of the building is sleeping. She’s actually the only reason I can tolerate running on a treadmill in the first place.

Maybe by some miracle, the next music player I find will be even better, and I’ll make peace with the replacement. But, right now I’m truly grieving and mad at technology. Like a kid, I will stick my tongue out at it. Like a rotten teenager, I will flip it off. Like an adult, I will blog about it, then figure out how many hours I have to work to buy something brand new that will be old in five years.

Eh, at least it’ll keep me running.

Worlds Away from Royals

As news networks are getting infected with wedding fever, gearing up for the coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day, I am not. And apparently, many Brits are not either. According to a YouGov poll of 1,615 UK adults, 31 percent of respondents were “not very interested” in the wedding and 35 percent were “not interested at all.” Only nine percent were “very interested,” and 23 percent declared they were “fairly interested.”

I am interested in why people are not interested. Is there a poll for that?

In 2011, I woke up at 3:30 am for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding coverage on the Today show. I made scones. They were very good. But I felt something weird that day, disconnected from the world that I was trying to connect with, and I couldn’t shake the feeling. I also didn’t understand the feeling, and I wondered if I was the only one. It was a beautiful occasion; my grandmother came from Great Britain so there was a social bond; it was going to give me something to talk about with family, friends, etc. But I felt empty—some may call it jealousy, but it was more complex than that. Here was a picture of a dream world, a fantasy, a peek at a $434,000 wedding dress, but it was a reminder that only one in 7 billion people get to live that dream, most don’t even get close. I woke up using a 20-year-old radio alarm clock that I had in college; I made scones from Bisquick and drank Walmart brand coffee and sat on a stained, carpeted floor in faded pajamas before gearing up to work my ass off for 13 hours. And some people don’t even have homes or coffee or jobs to wake up to. We, as in most people, never had one of those fancy, British hats people were wild about—where the hell would I wear one anyway? Even if I had an occasion to wear a fancy hat, I would feel out of place, like I didn’t belong.

When I get in these melancholy moods, I have to remind myself of the bigger picture, the one God has planned. I have to remind myself that living in this world is an infinitesimally small part of our existence; whether we are given much or given little, it only lasts as long as a blink. The real treasures are not stored in Windsor Castle for a handful of people, but in heaven, and we can’t begin to imagine how wonderful it will be.

In the meantime, I am working again on this royal wedding day, and I will not be watching, unless a patient has the news turned on in their room, which is very likely. And if they do, I will smile and ask them about it; I will remark at the dress, the carriage, the elegance . . .

all the while trying not to grit my teeth.

I’m sorry; I’m human.

I was also born on a Wednesday.

Are You One of “Those” People?

. . . who’s never on a diet, so you innocently bring in donuts for all your coworkers?

. . .  who told everyone at work how much money you make? And then made sure no one was mad about it?

. . . who saunters into work at the very last second, misses all the announcements, then wonders what’s going on?

. . . who never checks their work email because of log-in issues, then wonders what’s going on?

. . . who’s always the first one at work, perky and organized all damn day?

. . . who’s always the last one at work, still at the computer, making everyone else feel guilty for leaving before you?

. . . who gets coworkers to finish discussing work-related issues over beers or cigarettes?

. . . who never comes to staff meetings but still has a job?

. . . who always signs up to bring a veggie tray at potlucks because it’s easy and safe and doesn’t require talent?

. . . who is on the clock when you do personal things, like Facebook?

. . . who is quick with an excuse every time someone calls you with a request?

. . . who takes a long lunch, plus maybe a breakfast break, or dinner break, or two or three snack breaks?

. . . who answers your work phone with complete exasperation, “YE-ES?”

. . . who forgets to sign up for mandatory training? Or forgets to attend?

. . . who always eats the same, predictable packed lunch every single day?

. . . who parks in visitor parking instead of employee parking because it saves you an extra two-hundred yards of walking?

. . . who seemingly asks questions at staff meetings, but really only wants to voice a complaint?

I’m actually not ranting, if you can believe that; I am honestly amused (insert laughter here). Furthermore, I am two of those people. My husband is at least two of those people.

How many of those people are you? How many other work annoyances can you think of?

Luck? Hello? You There?

Luck seems like one of those things that you really, really want, but know that it really, really doesn’t exist, at least in a realistic, scientific sense. Like magic, luck is elusive and hypothetical, dreamy and sort of peculiar. It’s a bit fairytaley. Luck seems like it’s only for certain people, too. Or, if you are fortunate enough to get it, it doesn’t last longer than a wink. It’s superstitious and paganistic and probably a whole lot of other terms that Christians aren’t supposed to want.

But I do.

I got to thinking about luck today because I’ve lost one of my car keys. How the heck does someone lose a key, especially a bulky, programmed Jeep key that are expensive to replace? I don’t know. I live hectically. I take my key off my ring when I run outdoors. I might have stuck it in a strange pocket I’ve forgotten about or laid it on the ground when I helped my youngest fold up her scooter. Who knows? God does, but he’s not revealing it to me, so as I’ve been cleaning the house in search of it and finding all kinds of useless shit that I don’t care about, I’ve been hoping for a slight stroke of luck.

Then I started thinking further, which is probably not smart for someone already frustrated, but alas, I did. I can’t remember ever feeling lucky. Blessed, of course, but that’s deeper (and, yes, before any critics can point it out—blessed is far greater than luck). I don’t recall ever winning a door prize. I suck at BINGO. Please, don’t ask me to do one of those scratch-offs. 50-50 raffle? I’m just giving my money away. And don’t even get me started on a claw game for stuffed animals.

Sarah, my second oldest, on the other hand—she’s the lucky one. She won a hat at BINGO night. She has won a door prize at an event—a pretty vase. When she was about 7 years old, she bugged and bugged and bugged to try the stuff animal claw game at Kroger. She had her own dollar bill, probably from a lovely birthday card, which was fortunate because I wasn’t about to hand over a hard-earned dollar. With a huff, I conceded. “Fine. But go ahead and give that dollar a kiss goodbye before you put it in the machine, because you are going to lose it.”

Seconds later, she got to flaunt the bright orange shark she won on the first try.

When Sarah gets off the bus today, I got a little job for her.

It involves a certain key.

And a stroke of luck.


A Yearly Deadline Approaches

The end of the school year is approaching as it does every year. But why does the Last Day of School always seem to arise so abruptly? It’s like this enormous DEADLINE that reminds you of all the projects and goals you wanted to get done, but haven’t. It’s also a reminder of how fast the kids are growing up, which adds a level of heartache, not just reserved for birthdays.

I suppose it’s a good time for reflection, as a student or a parent. But if other kids are like mine, they would rather look ahead to pool parties and breakfast in pajamas than look behind to academic growth and handwriting improvement. So, as I proceed with my own reflection of the waning school year, I conclude:

–No Emergency Room visits!  (If we don’t count urgent care—because ear infections always hit on weekends)

–Ten teeth lost (8 pulled by a dentist, which, BTW, isn’t cheap)

–One library book missing (I swear it evaporated)

–Five lunches left at home (I might have eaten them . . . )

–An estimated $100 spent on food my kids gave away to other kids (this does not count celebrations, this is just the three of them being nice and forgetting Mom will say: WHY ARE WE GOING THROUGH THE GOLD FISH SO FAST? I JUST BOUGHT THEM LAST WEEK!)

–No pee pee accidents at school (at home when a soccer ball slams into a stomach doesn’t count)

–Five hugs given to 14-year-old daughter by two different boys (can we keep this statistic for four more years?)

And, finally . . .

–We have three beautiful daughters, growing up too damn fast, and I am one frantic mother, trying to keep up.


What about you? Got any deadlines approaching? Any milestones coming up, worth reflecting on?

You Wanna Make Me Cry?

I can cry on demand. Just give me five minutes and my imagination, and I’ll be able to do it. But you would never, ever guess what I can imagine that would bring on the waterworks. So by that token, you can rule out grief, loss, childhood memories, and fears about grief, loss, and childhood memories; it is so much more than that.

Years ago, I caught a clip on the news of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Do any of you recall that spectacular opening? The ceremony itself lasted four hours and cost $100 million dollars—double that spent in Athens four years prior. More than 30,000 fireworks were used. And 91,000 spectators were in the $423 million dollar stadium built for the event. When they say China took the world stage, they weren’t kidding. But the segment that resonated with me the most was the drummers—2,008 of them (get it?)—and the sheer booming sound of them drumming together in unison. I may have had my TV volume turned up quite a bit, but I remember the brilliant sound of the final beat, when all had played their hearts out and made such an impact performing together. It was a sound that could rock right through your body and put you in awe.

I’m not done, yet. That won’t make me cry, unless I have enough time to come up with a heartfelt story about how one of the audience members was there with the Make-a-Wish foundation and always wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Oh, man, I am getting a knot already.

A few years after I saw this drum performance on TV, and being that I am an emotional person who puts seeming random things together, I managed to link that sound to my favorite Scripture in the Bible. It’s Philippians 2:9-10: Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. According to the Population Reference Bureau, that would be 108 billion people who have ever lived. If 2,008 drummers can produce an awe-inspiring beat together, imagine the thunderous sound of every single human being who is living and every single soul who has ever lived being brought simultaneously to their knees. Imagine students in every classroom, workers in every business, patients in every hospital, everyone walking the streets of New York or London or Tokyo, every celebrity, every politician, every poor person, every rich person, and every driver on the road, stopping what they were doing and bending to their knees to pay heed to the very Creator of all things. The overwhelming power of God could be reflected in a sonic wave of pure awe and reverence for His name. Think about it. His name is simply a label; we can’t even fathom the endless power He actually has. That’s how big He is.

When I imagine that kind of power in God, I am so overwhelmed that I cry authentic, roll-down-the-cheek tears.

Usually when I tell someone this tiny detail about myself, they look at me like “oh, that’s nice.” And they probably walk away thinking I’m a bit odd. This includes my kids, who shake their heads at their silly mother. That’s okay. But surely out of 108 billion people who have ever lived, someone else has imagined that sound, too.

Maybe someday I will hear it. I just hope I’m well-hydrated.


Use It or Lose It

The universe offers all kinds of advice about skills, but none so much as the need to practice whatever it is you are trying to be successful at. You want to be a good writer? Write every day. You want to be a good runner? Sign up for a race and then lace up your shoes. You want to play an instrument? Close your door so no one has to listen to it, but get going. You want to be a housekeeper? Sweet; give me a ring. It is a use it or lose it world, people, and the competition is fierce, which makes the advice to practice that much more severe, and then makes me fret over every lost minute.

On Sunday at work, I was assigned to sit with a dementia patient, who was very impulsive and at risk of falling and wandering. The TV in her room was set at a random station, and an infomercial came on with this millionaire who had a wonderful idea to sell! He discussed his theory about forming habits that are going to help you succeed! After all, every year, 1,700 Americans become millionaires! His advice was to study your day and look for the time/energy/tasks that pull you away from your life goals, and, of course, get rid of them! Awesome! Gives me my excuse to buy precut vegetables at the grocery store and expensive clothes that never have to be ironed. But I still had a question: what about competing tasks that are both helpful, but you only have time for one?

Well, my patient turned off the program because she thought the remote was her phone, so I’m not sure if Millionaire Guy ever talked about competing tasks.

My conundrum is whether to spend my limited (free?) time studying writing techniques & literature or just freaking write. With my shelves full of writing books, my bookmark tab overflowing with writing websites, an email folder full of unread writing advice, and a list of books I should be reading that would last me until I develop dementia like my patient, I am entirely torn. I have a desire to soak up all the writing advice, listen to podcasts, read tons of literature, and take online courses, but I wouldn’t be doing the very thing I need to do: Write!

In an alternate universe I could do all kinds of stuff at the same time, then come out of it with a mind-blowing breakout novel, faultless grammar, prose that will stun and inspire, perfect comp titles, and, finally, be able to discuss how all the important authors contributed to my writing. And then I’d create an infomercial! And convince everyone to do what I did! After all, 33 people can make it onto the NYT Bestseller list each year! And one of them isn’t previously published!

Daydreams aside, time must be spent wisely because we don’t get any of it back. If tasks are competing, I’m gonna pick one for today and go for it with everything I got and then do the same tomorrow. Readers, I hope you are all pursuing your goals with tenacity, and I wish you all major success.

I am going to go write and see where it takes me. If you find me wandering around, though, it might be time to adjust my goals.


Service with a Smile (and a twitching eye)

Yesterday, a patient of mine stayed in my mind for much longer than she ever intended, I’m sure. She lingered in my brain hours after the shift ended, straight through the next morning, was the number one reason I praised God that I was put on-call, and then she later inspired this blog while my head still pounded with an ache the size of Alaska. So, what could make someone so genuinely memorable? The sheer volume of requests.

I am a pretty happy nurse when I clock in for the day. I’m even known for my smile, and I enjoy offering comfort in the shape of a warm blanket, a fresh cup of coffee, a witty joke, a trip to the bathroom or pain meds before a patient has to hit their call light. I always tell my patients, well, if you gotta be here, you might as well have a positive experience! And when I can be a part of that, I find satisfaction in my work.

But every so often there is an individual who can take my full bucket of patience, poke a hole in the bottom of it, and drain it for twelve hours until only frothy bubbles remain.

The gown is too big. Milk needs to be warmed up. Not warm enough. They didn’t bring me Splenda. Need a straw. Walk to bathroom. Pull-up is too small. Wipes are too cold. Need warm blanket. Can’t find toothpick (we looked everywhere). Need another blanket. Trip to bathroom. Wipes are too cold. Gown is too big. Four blankets is too much, just three. Trip to bathroom. Gown is too big. Four blankets instead of three. Lift blanket to scratch leg. Blankets are wet (they weren’t). Need warm blanket. This isn’t what I ordered for lunch. This needs more salt. Can’t find toothpick. Blankets are wet (nope). Lift blankets to scratch leg. Table is touching knee. Trip to bathroom. Gown is too big. Need warm blanket under the other blankets.

She was in isolation, too. Gown and gloves every time you enter room.

I would try, almost plead, (with a smile!) is there anything else (before I leave the room)? Nothing? Okay. Take off gloves, take off gown, wash hands. Four minutes later . . .

Call light.

Anyone who has worked in a line of service will probably relate, or perhaps even if you have had to live with or eat with or room with or sit next to a needy individual, you know what I’m talking about. The extremely needy people in our lives probably have no idea that they fall into that category. They probably have no idea how exhausting they are to be around. And in some circumstances, their requests may be just as much about securing human interaction as it is about managing their comfort. But, phew, it’s a lot for us to handle.

I tend to think of myself as low on the maintenance scale. I have a very hard time asking people for anything, other than my kids who are learning discipline and chores and not to take Mommy for granted. Does this make it harder for me to serve those on the other end of the spectrum? Or easier? I don’t know. All I know is that I need a whole lotta Holy Spirit to stay at peace around them, and by the next day my head hurts.

How do you deal with needy needy? How do you refill after a complete draining of patience?

And do headaches manifest as new gray hairs? I better go check.

Uh, Too Rushed for a Title

RUSH. What a great word today; makes me think of my life in terms of pacing. Like many people, I am perpetually in a rush to get something (usually multiple things) done before the end of the day. I rush through workouts, work, errands, cleaning, cooking, writing, editing, emails, eating, reading (sometimes), and getting the kids out the door. There are only a handful of things I do not rush through—perhaps within these are clues to some metaphysical, spiritual plane I’m supposed to be able to find.

Things I do not rush—

  1. Good cup of coffee. If it’s the perfect, dark blend and currently not too hot and not too cold, I really want to savor it. Whadya know? I’m having one right now!
  2. Eating last Cadbury Cream Egg from my Easter basket. Unlike some consumers, I make myself wait until Easter for these, and then I am very sad when I get to my last one. BTW, I have one left. (Sigh)
  3. My drive to work. Unusual, right? It’s because I have so much to ask God for in this 13-minutes. It’s hard for me to feel ready to face a shift without being completely spiritually and mentally prepared. Alas, God really needs me to do the work and not just spend all my time preparing for it.
  4. Reading books to my kids. I have one child left who reads books with me at night, and I cherish those moments with her. I don’t rush through a book just to get to bed. Oh no. Reading books is like putting on a play—the characters, the voices, the timing, the tone; all aspects have to be considered.
  5. Usually I have a song that becomes the highlight of my iPod for a while, and I look forward to hearing it when I run, and I don’t want it to end, so before the device moves on to the next song, I’m hitting replay. Right now (don’t laugh), it is the theme song from The Never Ending Story. Yes, the 1984 movie. C’mon, you all know it, right?

Rhymes that keep their secrets
Will unfold behind the clouds
And there upon a rainbow
Is the answer to a never ending story

Darn it, in my rush to get a blog done and converse with my husband who called in the middle of writing, my coffee got lukewarm. Now I have to rush to finish it. And come up with a title for this blog before I move on to laundry. Perhaps I will play the song, though, and just set it to repeat. After all, rushing through the day is the never ending story of my life.