Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Story #26 We're armed and dangerous

Sorry about the very long delay in my posts. Without going too far into the TMI realm, let me just say that over the past two weeks I was unknowingly experiencing an entire year's worth of PMS. Don't you wish you had been with me?

Marc and I spent a lot of time together when we were growing up. I look back on it fondly, he probably looks back on it as having to babysit all the time. Marc educated me on the finer points of movie and television viewing at a very early age. Without him who knows how much I would have watched Land of the Lost, Charlie's Angels, The 6 Million Dollar Man or Star Trek. As soon as videos came into the picture he kept me well trained on what made a movie worthwhile (although I believe that definition may have changed over the years). Many of the movies we watched were a little scarier than I would have chosen for myself...but I didn't want to seem like a baby. We would watch all the James Bond movies, then all the Alfred Hitchcock movies and so forth. Most of our viewing entertainment was either a thriller, sci-fi or the (much dreaded) horror flick.

One night, as we watched some pre-Stephen King scariness I thought I heard someone outside. I mentioned it to Marc who immediately thought my movie fear level was affecting my senses. Moments later we heard some more noises....and heard the front door knob rattling. Hah! It wasn't just my over active imagination!! I asked Marc if we should call the police. Channeling some sort of Captain Kirk-esque macho-ness, he said no, went into the kitchen and came out with a big knife. He crept into the front hallway with me tiptoeing closely behind. The doorknob was slowly turning back and forth. Keeping a close eye on the door knob, Marc stealthily reached up and slid the door chain onto it's latch. (That 1/4" of chain link will keep them out!) I started wondering what Marc was going to do with this knife....every thing I imagined seemed awful or ineffective so I ran and called a neighbor who lived up the street.

I now have mixed memories on whether Marc tried to open the door and just reach the knife through...but I'm not sure.

We both jumped about three feet when there was a loud knocking on the door. "Kids, it's me, Larry! It's okay you can open the door!"

Relieved, we un-slid that all important chain lock and opened the door. The entire front yard was covered in toilet paper. Some of my sisters many suitors, knowing how a girl would swoon over the sight of toilet paper, had not only bedecked our entire front yard (we had an ENORMOUS maple tree), but had also covered the front door and the windows with shaving cream...thus the door knob jiggling - they wanted to be thorough, after all. I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins I couldn't sleep for hours. I think Marc may have been slightly disappointed that he wasn't able to get rid of the intruders, or better yet avenge the toilet papering and fly off into space. The next weekend, we chose a comedy - not as exciting, but no need for knives and sleepless nights.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Story #25 Jane of all trades, Mistress of none

Before I begin, a question...Do you get those emails from places like MyLife or Classmates that say "You are in demand!" or something similar? I keep getting those and I have to say I find it disheartening when I excitedly open the email, wondering who could be demanding me and lo and behold...in the past 12 months one person looked me up. I realize this is just a ploy to get me to join their site....but if they really want to get me they should bump up the numbers a little. Anyway.

My creative abilities, like my energy, comes in waves. Nothing, nothing, MUST CREATE, nothing. Perhaps this is why I have experimented with many moments of craftiness - and yet I am greatly lacking in expertise in any one area. My sister-in-law and her friend Jill have this wonderful tradition of creative Friday, which has always sounded heavenly to me. They make cards, labels, work on scrapbooks, or whatever project they are trying to finish. I have thought this is something I should do! Or I should crash their party! In reality, I wonder if I would just sit across the table from them and stare, mind blank, no creative juices flowing. I could be their cheering section. "Wow, way to create." "WooHoo!" Or maybe I would simply gaze into space mumbling things like..."You're so pretty." (I know - I'm in a really weird mood today.) Could I be creative on demand? No, idea.

Now, don't get me wrong....I am not all thumbs or completely inept. In fact sometimes I think I may have created something great - but then I see a project of someone who is very dedicated to their art and I realize mine looks like some kindergarten craft involving a toilet paper tube. I think that is the main problem - I just can't seem to dedicate hours on end to building skills in one area. My name is Michelle and I have crafting attention deficit disorder.

Many, many years ago I went with my cousin, Warren, to his water color lesson. Warren is a very talented artist, so I think the instructor was expecting some sort of talent from me. I just wanted to observe the lesson but she insisted that I join in. She said, "Water color is a very forgiving medium. Just paint." Ummm...I looked over at Warren...I was cheating already...what was he painting....I'll just copy it. She caught on very quickly and became very frustrated, "Don't you have any ideas of your own? Let your heart decide what to paint." So I did what any normal, television raised child would do, I channeled Bob Ross and tried to paint a happy little mountain with a happy little lake. It didn't go well. Too many years of laughing at Bob Ross to actually get help from him. I am pretty sure I caused Warren's teacher to have a mini-stroke. She finally grabbed the brush from me and muttering under her breath, tried to make something artistic out of my blue circle and brown triangle. Apparently an artistic flair and anger flare go hand in hand. All the while, Warren was thoroughly enjoying the interaction between the two of us. Giggling as he painted these incredibly beautiful flowers. I was the artistic equivalent to the child in the corner with the dunce cap on. I have been terrified of water colors ever since.

A few years ago, out of budgeting concerns, I decided that I would not take on any new hobbies. Whatever hobbies I had experimented with at that point was it. I could try and excel in those and nothing more. So, for some reason that shut me down completely. In the past I have done:

tole painting
scrapbooking
cross stitch
sewing
quilting
Russian needle punch
sketching
calligraphy

Just to name a few. I decided that nothing could be added to the list. Because, if you are crafty, you know that every craft comes with 4 billion necessary accessories. There is always some new invention, book or product that will improve your crafting abilities. I blame Martha Stewart. She made crafting accessories so cute you just had to have them - then all the other crafting companies followed suit.

So now that I have limited myself to these areas I have produced very little in the past few years. I have done a needle punch for my Dad and his wife, a cross stitch for my Mom, a few sewing projects for friends and the girls and that's it. What I would like to do is just put my girls on a couple of pedestals and say..."Look what I made!" Is that crafty enough?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Story #24 Is this my story to tell?

I always try to be very aware of whether or not I have the "right" to tell a story. There is one about Nicole that I have wanted to share but didn't want to take away from the fact that this happened to her...I just happened to be the mom. I can only tell what happened on my part - she was unconscious for most of it anyway.

Remember when the Olympics were in Sydney, Australia? I clearly remember those particular games. I remember that my parents were visiting. I remember that Bob was working a swing shift job and therefore gone in the evenings. And I remember that Nicole almost died.

I had just put the girls to bed. My parents had begun watching the games upstairs in the family room - so I went in and joined them. After about 2 minutes a thought came into my head, "Go down to bed." I thought this was very strange. It wasn't very late and I wasn't tired - but I definitely had a thought that I should go to bed. I ignored it. The thought came again, more intense than the first time, "GO TO BED." I turned to my parents and apologized. "I'm sorry, but I have to go to bed." I quickly went downstairs. First I peeked in Kristen's room...she was fast asleep. Then I peeked in Nicole's room - she wasn't there, but her bed had vomit on it. I went into the bathroom - she wasn't there. I looked in my room and saw her lying on my bed. "What are you doing, sweetheart?" I asked. She didn't respond. I could tell from the reflection of the hall light that her eyes were open. I walked in and turned on the light and discovered that Nicole's eyes were open but she was unresponsive. Strange noises were coming from her throat. I ran over and sat her up - pounded on her back - thinking she was choking - but got zero response. Her skin was grey and her lips were blue. I was terrified, but calm. I called to my parents. They helped me wrap her up and my Mom and I raced to the car.

I have never driven so fast. I flew down the hill - knowing that there would be green lights and absolutely no one to interfere with our drive to the hospital. I honked the horn at each intersection to warn people that I was coming through. At one point my Mom said, "Slow down!" But I knew I couldn't slow down and I knew we would get there alright.

I pulled in front of the emergency room doors, scooped Nicole out of my Mother's arms and raced inside. Right there in the hallway was a doctor and two nurses who were just going on a break. They saw me, came running over, and snatched Nicole up in their arms as we all raced back to a gurney.

They fired off questions:

"Has she had any medication?"
"Does she have access to anything poisonous?"
"Did she fall or hit her head?"

No. No. No.

"I read her stories, we said prayers, she went to bed. Everything was fine."

Her oxygen level was at 40%. She had aspirated on vomit. She was having a grand mal seizure. She was not regaining consciousness. I was so scared - and yet I felt the hand of the Lord with me the whole time. Why would the Lord prompt me to go downstairs, why were there only green lights and no traffic on such busy streets if she were not meant to live?

Her small little form was surrounded by medical personnel talking over one another and working on her all at once. They were able to clear her airway. Her oxygen levels were improving, but she was still unconscious.

They took her back for a CAT scan. Through the entire process she remained unresponsive. When the doctors determined that she was stable they loaded her into an ambulance to head to Primary Children's Hospital.

It had been over an hour and a half and she had not woken up. Even with strong faith, it is frightening to see your little one in such a position.

I climbed into the ambulance beside her. Bob and my Mom were going to drive separately. The ambulance was surprisingly quiet. The paramedic who sat along side me gave me a sad, awkward smile. For some reason, that was the moment that my eyes finally filled with tears. And that was the moment a little voice said, "Momma, where am I?"

Never was there a more glorious sound in the world. I explained to her that she had been sick and the doctor wanted her to have a special ride to the hospital to make sure she was okay. She said, "Alright." Then closed her eye and went to sleep.

After testing and another scary seizure the neurologists discovered that Nicole had abnormal electrical activity on the lower left side of her brain. They didn't know what was causing the problem, but they could treat it with medication. The type of seizures she had were somehow triggered in the process of her falling asleep. I haven't slept through the night since. I always have to check on her and on Kristen. I remember when she was about 10 and I peeked in her room in the middle of the night she murmured "I'm fine, Mom." Nicole's pediatrician gave me great advice. She said, "Epilepsy is something that Nicole has, don't let it define who she is." I tried very hard to remember that - but still felt a little nervous when she would swing, or swim or ride her bike.

My neighbor is convinced angels moved her into my room. "How else could she have gotten there?" She has asked. Maybe she is right. I certainly never would have done more then glanced in to see if she was in bed. She was 5 years old - we weren't at the point where I was holding a mirror under her nose to see if she was breathing. So it leaves one to wonder...

I'm happy to say that she has been seizure free for almost 5 years. We were very fortunate that she grew out of this form of Epilepsy. I feel very blessed that I heard that voice telling me to go to bed, blessed that my parents were there, blessed that the traffic was light and blessed that those medical personnel were so quick to resond - Because I can't imagine my life without Nicole in it!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Story #23 Mr. Meanie, the neighbor

Cheesy name, I know...but I'm still recovering from my illness. The main problem is I don't remember the man's name...I usually change names anyway...but I couldn't come up with anything so you're stuck with it.

When I was younger, my Mom found a puppy at school. It was a very, small puppy who had been left by the dumpster - so she brought him home. I would have done the same thing. I mean - who can leave a puppy by a dumpster? Anyway, I don't know if my Mom's original intent was to keep the dog - but, we felt pretty excited about him and someone quickly named him Freckles. Once he had a name we knew he wasn't going anywhere.

Freckles quickly grew into quite the energetic animal. He was some kind of cocker spaniel mix with the same amount of energy as 20 border collies. When he wagged his tail it turned his entire body into a macaroni noodle - and he wagged frequently. I was slightly afraid of him - he could jump ridiculously high and we had very limited control over his behavior.

One of his favorite behaviors was to dig under the fence and run down the street. At the end of the street was an immaculately groomed yard. On the corner of this particular yard was an enormous round juniper bush. I know it doesn't sound grand - but it was quite spectacular both in it's size and in the fact that it looked so perfectly smooth with one glaring yellow spot. The owner of the house, Mr. Meanie, spent a lot of time keeping his yard looking beautiful and in no way appreciated the efforts Freckles made in watering this particular bush. Mr. Meanie yelled at him, swore at him, and on the last occasion threw a wrench at Freckles.

Freckles was completely oblivious to his bad behavior and was far too quick for Mr. Meanie to actually hit him. But Marc and I were upset. We went into the house and told our Mom how truly mean Mr. Meanie was. We wanted her to take action!! She didn't say much, just listened and then ran to the store.

I don't know if it was the next day or the same day - but I do know that our house was filled with the most incredible aroma. Now, my Mom was a full-time working, single Mom so she didn't have a lot of time to bake - but there was one special treat we would get on birthdays and special occasions. This very moist, creamy chocolate cake with whipped cream frosting. Even as a child I was not a huge cake fan - this was an exception. I'm craving it now just thinking about it! Yum.

You cannot bake something in your house without drawing all of the house's occupants to the kitchen. Scent hypnosis. We quickly converged on the kitchen feeling very excited that we were having cake ...hooray!! After the torturous cooling period my Mom began to whip the chocolate cream frosting. Tensions arose....2 beaters 3 kids...you do the math. When eternities had passed the cake was finally assembled and we were instructed to put on our nice Sunday clothes. It was all very exciting! Scratchy but exciting!

We came downstairs and found that Mom had covered the cake. She told us that we needed to apologize to Mr. Meanie and let him know that we would try a lot harder to keep Freckles in our yard. As an adult I can imagine how frustrating it must have been to work so hard on your yard and to have the same dog continually thwart your efforts, but as a child I thought "Hey - I want that cake!" We slowly walked down the street - Lisa, being the oldest, was elected spokesperson. We went to the door and knocked. I said a silent prayer that no one would be home. Mrs. Meanie, who was not so mean, opened the door. She was taken back by seeing three dressed up children holding a 4 layer cake. Lisa said, "May we please speak to Mr. Meanie?" Mr. Meanie came to the door wearing his familiar green coveralls. Lisa gave a beautiful apology and handed the cake to Mr. Meanie. He looked at us, did not smile, and closed the door. Man was I peeved.

I seethed all the way back to the house. "He didn't even say thank you!" I ranted to my Mom. "That's okay, that wasn't the point. The point is we apologized and tried to make the situation better." Hmmm. That took a little wind out of my sails. I wasn't thrilled...but....

Later that day my Mom received a phone call from Mrs. (not-so) Meanie. She told my Mom how touched Mr. Meanie had been. No one had ever been so thoughtful. She was crying as she talked with my Mom. After the call, Mom let us know what she had said and we all felt pretty good. Important life lesson learned through chocolate...or the lack thereof.

We did not suddenly become best friends with Mr. Meanie...but there was a definite softening of hearts all around and we did try harder to keep Freckles in the yard. Freckles remained a super hyper dog until Lisa, Marc and I came home from visiting our Father in Illinois to discover that Freckles had packed up and moved next door. But that's another story.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I interrupt these stories for the following announcement

I am afraid I have scarred Kristen for life. You see, since Saturday I have been quite ill. I'm not sure what I have but the level of leg pain...yes extreme pain in my legs...and the ...ummm...fiber emergencies....and the fever has been rather unpleasant. So why has this scarred Kristen? Well, Friday - no - Saturday night things were really bad. I had gone into the bathroom with barf bucket in hand and the next thing I remember is Kristen saying, "Mom...Mom? Are you okay? Should I get Dad? Mom?" I came to folded over the side of the tub twisted in the shower curtain - but with a full moon shining. Poor Kristen. The scare of me passing out has left...seeing the full moon...still with her.

Oh - a note to Jill. I do have an exorbitant number of whoppers - this is why I think I was meant to blog:)!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Story #22 Our special kids don't have to take PE....or the first day of 7th grade

Every 6th grade elementary student feels ready for junior high long before they can actually enter. I was no exception. I hit my growth spurt early, so I was taller than a lot of my friends and most of the boys. Elementary school was sooo 5th grade.

I was under the delusion that I was not at all nervous for junior high, only excited. The truth came out when I woke up for the first day of 7th grade. I woke up with such a severe muscle spasm in my neck that my head seemed permanently tilted to the left - with my ear about an inch from my shoulder. I called my Mom, a school teacher, to beg to stay home. It was a crazy day for her...a total of 26 excited 5 year-olds would be arriving any minute. She told me to take a hot shower and as I moved around it would loosen up.

It did not loosen up.

I looked drunk as I walked to Jefferson Junior High School. Just experiment...tilt your head all the way to one side and then try to walk a straight line. Not so easy is it? Let's just say it was a very wobbly walk to school. I was mortified. It didn't matter that I had picked out the perfect outfit and was having a great hair day...if you can't move your head you simply look and feel weird.

As I stumbled to my first class I found that I could put my hand under my head, resting my elbow on my desk and look, already, oh so bored with class - but at least like I was doing it on purpose. My friends approached me in the hall...."What is wrong with you? You look weird." Thank you. It turns out I woke up as a living Picasso painting.

My favorite memory of the day was going to my first P.E. class. There was no desk on which to rest my elbow - I couldn't hide my temporary disability. The PE teacher called roll and asked us to raise our hands so she could put a face to each name. She then sent everyone out to the field, but asked me to stay behind. I am convinced she only called roll to figure out my name.

"Michelle" she tenderly began, as though talking to a 2 year old...or a puppy, "I think there has been a mistake with your schedule. Our special kids don't have to take PE. Would you like me to find someone to walk you down to the office?"

Some of you may think this was the perfect way to get out of junior high PE, otherwise known as, how to humiliate yourself and see how unpopular you really are. But I was slightly offended.

"I'm not a special kid....I mean....ha..ha...my Mom thinks I'm special." I stammered, "But I woke up with a crick in my neck and I can't seem to straighten out my head and neck."

Her sympathetic look turned to suspicion as she gave me the "once over." "If this is some kind of joke, it's not funny." she said. "Get out there with the rest of the students....4 laps."

If you thought walking straight was hard - you should have seen the running. I'm fairly certain I ran the equivalent of 6 laps that day.

After a long neck massage and another hot shower it started to loosen up. By the end of the week my Picasso days were over, I could walk a straight line again. But the damage was done. The P.E. teacher was convinced I was some sort of troublemaker and seemed to find great happiness in my lack of dodge ball skills for the rest of the semester.