Wednesday, July 22, 2015

and so it is, another chapter concludes

Last Friday, we closed on our new house in Texas.  This week, our Virginia home has been swarmed by packers who are loading up everything and preparing for the move south this Friday.  In this time and space between moving from one place to another, we've been saying goodbye to so many wonderful friends that we've been blessed to know in our nearly five years in this area.

Like the amazing people we knew in San Diego, our northern Virginia friends will be sorely missed. So rather than dwell on the sadness of moving away from these incredible people, we are trying very hard to revel in the gratitude of having the opportunity to know them, at all.  Even still, I'm sure there will be tears because we really adore our friends.

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As I've told the children, life is a book comprised of chapters. Each chapter teaches us something different, and with each chapter, there comes an eventual end.   So while we're in that chapter - it's important to learn what we can, and do our best to enjoy it to the utmost.  Almost daily, I imagine the chapter coming to an end ... and so it is, I've become pretty good at cherishing moments.

Our moments today were epic.  

We spent a sun-drenched afternoon and starry evening, with some of our best friends, at our neighborhood pool.  What I want to sear in to my memory, is the way that we all felt so comfortable with each other, and how we laughed until our cheeks hurt.   I want to remember our beloved friends.  Tomorrow, our last full day in town, we'll be back at the pool with more dear friends who are carving time out of their busy lives, to come spend moments with us, and say "see you later."

Because we absolutely will see them later ... of that I'm sure.

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What I also want to sear in to my memory, is the 14-year old son of our good friends, who is an extremely accomplished swimmer, that has been on a year-round swim team for the past five years. Those early morning practices are surely what has contributed to him becoming one of the top swimmers in his club, and the region.  A swimming scholarship for college is likely in his future if he stays on the current trajectory.

Today when we were in the pool, I asked him what was his best stroke, and he responded, "Fly."  As in, butterfly.  Because I absolutely love to talk smack with the kids, I asked him if he thought he could beat me in a race across the pool, and without hesitation he politely said, "Yes, M'am."

So I said, "Really? You really think you can beat ME?" Then I added, "Did you know that I swam a bit when I was in high school?" and his cheeks flushed as he replied, "Um. No, I didn't know that you swam a bit in high school. But yes, I'm pretty sure I could beat you in a race across the pool."  And so I said, "BRING IT."  And he said, "What?"

And I said, "YOU HEARD ME. LET'S GO."

So this young man, on the verge of earning his Eagle Scout rank, made his way to one lane, and I made my way to another lane, right near the edge of the pool. Charlie made his way to the middle of the pool, where with his hands above his head, he shouted, "Swimmers! Take your mark!"  Nearly all the eyes in the pool were directed at me, the mother of four, perched next to the 14-year old ranked regional swimmer, as Charlie yelled, "GO!" and threw down his hands.

The young whipper snapper bolted off the wall so fast, he was an instant blur.  As he did this, I flung myself out of the pool as fast as I could and SPRINTED down the deck of the pool hoping that: 1) the lifeguards wouldn't blow the whistle and publicly chastise me for running; and 2) I wouldn't slip and break a hip. Even running at nearly breakneck speed, I could barely keep up with him in the water.  I made it to the end of the pool, did a shallow dive and free-styled it the last two meters to the wall.

Miracle of miracles,  I hit the wall just an instant before he did, but it was unquestionable - I was there first, smiling at him when he surfaced.  People around us burst out laughing.

The look of absolute astonishment on this young man's face was priceless. PRICELESS.  He stammered, "Wow. Did you say you swam competitively in college? How did you do that? How are you so fast?!" And I replied, "That was nothing ... like a brisk stroll in the park."

He was stunned in to silence, but you could tell he was extremely impressed.

And humbled.  

Because so many of the kids had been swimming behind him, seeing if they could keep up, they were not even aware that I'd run the distance.  All the kids that is, with the exception of my son, William.  He was aghast and said, "MOM, oh my gosh, MOM! You so totally che...." But he didn't  get to finish that sentence because I put my hand on top of his cute little head and playfully pushed him underwater to silence the chap.  Then I pinched his bottom which is my code for, "ZIP IT."

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Eventually my conscience got the better of me, and I came clean and told the young man how I'd won.  As I did, I added, "Just so you know, it wasn't really 'cheating', because I challenged you to a race across the pool. But never once did I say I'd SWIM it. Ah, ha! That's what you call a loophole!"

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have told him.

It'd be fun to end this chapter, as the middle-aged mom who whooped a state-ranked swimmer.

Friday, July 10, 2015

the no mercy rules

I had to host a fairly large conference call this afternoon, and since I've been working from home and my office is essentially the kitchen counter - Charlie took the kids out for the day.  Elizabeth had to get fitted with her new retainer, because her braces were removed yesterday ... and Henry had to have a plantar's wart removed from his hand, because ... well.

He had a wart that required removal.  

In the midst of these appointments, which were spaced nearly three hours apart, Charlie took the kids to the park with a bucket full of baseballs, a bat, three bases, and a couple gloves.

Once they arrived at the park, Henry recognized that one of his good friends from 1st grade was there. So while the kids all ran off to play, Charlie struck up a conversation with the boy's mother.  In the course of small talk, she indicated that she was a fire fighter and was telling my husband about all of the training and conditioning that she needs to go through.  My husband told her that he was afraid of heights and our 74-year old neighbor, a retired fire fighter himself, recently came over and cleared out our gutters because he totally froze after reaching the eighth rung.

According to Charlie, they laughed about this. And I laughed upon hearing the story, because I love his honesty and no-shame policy.   He owns his fear and it's awesome!

At one point, they looked down to the field, and upon noticing that the children had recruited more children - and had divided in to teams for a baseball game - they commented how nice it was that the children are at an age where they can keep themselves entertained.

Shortly thereafter, Charlie said he saw that Henry was loudly crying as the third baseman. Even from far away, Charlie could see their pitcher had tears on his face.  Suspecting that something was amiss, he questioned how the team's had been divided?

Could the mother of Henry's friend see how they had split up the teams?

She could not. So Charlie walked down to investigate.  And what he discovered is that William and Elizabeth and several other athletically inclined kids aged 10 and up, were on one team.  And Carolyn and Henry and several other not as athletically inclined kids who were aged 8 and under, were on the other team.  According to a nonchalant William, "Mercy Rules" were in play so the first team to reach 10 won.   At that point, William's team was up 8 to 0.

So Charlie, being the awesome Charlie that he is, said to Henry, "Hey little man, can I be on your team?"  Henry tearfully nodded yes, and Charlie ran out to the outfield, where he caught the next three pop ups to quickly end the inning and get his team up at bat.

He then coached the kids so that at each bat, they advanced to a base. By the time he got up, with no outs - the bases were loaded. That's when my husband knocked the ball out of the park, and in to the lot next door.  A few minutes later, he did it again, and the game was tied much to the dismay of William's team who were complaining, "Hey, it's not fair...!"

Not fair?  

According to Charlie, since the kids seemed to know all about "mercy rules" he felt it was his duty to teach them about "no mercy" rules. Those are the kind that precipitate when you unfairly gang up on someone else.  So as Henry's little friend was running home for the 10th run, effectively winning the game, my husband yelled out, "You are burning up this game little dude, your hooves are on FIRE!" 

The little kids were laughing deliriously, the bigs kids were sulking, and the mother firefighter said next time she comes to the park, she'll drive her water tanker.  William and Elizabeth politely told her that wouldn't be necessary.

Oh, I love when a good life lesson is learned in the course of outdoor fun!

Monday, July 06, 2015

my two new mottos

I've been talking with my sister, Beth, every single day for the past month.  The average length of those conversations are about an hour.  But we talked for 6.5 hours on Thursday night and in to Friday morning, and I was amazed that:

1. We didn't run out of things to talk about, and

2. My cordless battery held up as well as it did.

Miracles never cease to exist!

During our ritualistic phone call last night, Beth asked me why I've been so negligent about updating my blog, lately.  Of course she said this tongue and cheek, because holy mackerel. 

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We're in escrow on one house that following the inspection, had questionable stucco integrity (read: potential of devastating mold), and we're getting another house ready for sale.  That sale was delayed only slightly by a tree that almost fell on top of the house.

FYI:  Under normal circumstances, that huge red oak in the backyard isn't leaning at a 60-degree angle over our house.   Although a new roof (and two new vehicles) would be nice, that's not something I was planning. Especially since we just finished our kitchen and master bath remodel; both are which are on the IMMINENT COLLAPSE TREE side of the house.

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And last week, as said tree was being removed to the tune of $4,700 ... we discovered that we need a new septic because it failed the inspection (located beneath the fence sections because the inspector wouldn't even cover the tanks up again.  Leaving a 2-foot deep hole in the middle of the yard, didn't bode too well for me and my safety-oriented mind since a tree was partially removed and I had contractors still walking around with chainsaws).  Ruh-Roh!

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The list of our house in Virginia has been pushed back two weeks, the close on the Texas house is scheduled for next week, and the moving truck is scheduled for the week after that.  I'm still not sure how we'll host an open house with four children who have been attempting to undermine our move by destroying things, and have an insane infatuation with Legos that they leave all over the house; two guinea pigs that seem to be pooping a lot more in the past month than they ever have in their entire lives, and one dog who keeps running away.    What's insane is that these situations are absolutely eclipsed by a much larger situation, that has had me talking to my sister Beth every night for the past month. But I can't write about it.  Which really pains me, you know.

In the midst of this:  There have been a lot of tea parties.

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Muscle-man competitions with best friends.

The boys

Swimming.

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And our littlest one turned eight.

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The only thing I do know is that life is never boring.  And I'm feeling so blessed, because just about every obstacle that we're dealing with right now, are what I consider "First World Problems."  My new motto has become, "Can you solve the issue with money?"  If so, it really isn't an issue at all.

Until you run out of money. 

So for any one who tells me they've been praying for us ... I'd like to know, who exactly are you praying to? And also, are you maybe holding a Voo-Doo doll during those prayers and jabbing it in the pocket book?  

That was supposed to be a joke. I think it's hilarious.  Which leads me to my other motto of, "Always laugh."  Despite the most seemingly grim circumstances, there's bound to be a glint of humor in there, somewhere.   Do your best to mine that glint and light up the world with it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

... on the upside*

While I'm in Texas this week house-hunting ... Charlie is in Virginia with the children, trying to get things buttoned up so we can list our house in the next two weeks.  His list of items still to-do, which was approximately two feet long, had been reduced to just a few items. Until, this afternoon, when a tornado touched down in our back yard.

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Now he just needs to figure out which box he packed his saw.

(*The good news is that the tree didn't slice the house in completely half. Although it will need to be entirely removed and Charlie's fort that he had worked so hard to build, has been reduced to debris.  More good news ... because I'm trying really hard to stay focused on the positive ... our house isn't supposed to list until the end of the month so we have time to clear up the hardwood carnage. Then again, at the rate the Universe keeps throwing us curveballs, I'm afraid to commit to which month that is exactly - but we'll just aim for June.)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

on being wonder woman

Henry, who is going through a particularly big super hero phase at the moment, came home from school on Friday and told me that during "Show and Tell", he informed his 1st grade class that his mother is actually "Wonder Woman."  That he feels that way about me, despite my less than stellar maternal moments the past few weeks, is encouraging.

I love that little boy. He is my medicine.

This past month has been a whirlwind.  Between major home renovations, a pending list and sale of our current home, a future selection and purchase of a new home, a relocation that was slated for four weeks from now, mentally preparing for a new community - office - schools - church - grocery store, Carolyn's surgery (which has been scheduled and canceled twice), William's heel (he injured his Achilles'), and my father's passing ... it's no wonder I've been a bundle of cranky nerves.

My dear friend is a clinical psychologist, and when during one of our walks I was talking about recent and forthcoming events, she asked, "Do you realize you are going through about three of the five most stressful situations in life ... all at once?"  

When I went to see my doctor this week for bronchitis I haven't been able to shake for the past month, and recounted for him just some of the things that we have happening (there are so many other things that are causing stress, which I'll maybe write about later); he just shook his head and gave me the advice to slow down and take some time for me.   

But, but.  Doctor!  How can I possibly slow down when I have so ... much ...  to ... do?

People are counting on me!

Contractors, realtors, supervisors, teachers!

On Friday, I had lunch with a co-worker, who was telling me that several young women we work with, who recently had babies, were anxious to return to work before their newborns were even two-months old.  I was aghast that they were pushing themselves so hard ... these new mothers are granted more time off from our employer, so why aren't they taking it?  Someone needs to tell them that the world will not stop spinning if they take some additional time for themselves, and their families.

As the words were leaving my mouth, I recognized the irony in my statement.

Why are we so resistant to nurturing ourselves?  Why are we so keen to keeping up appearances that we are more than capable of doing everything, and more, on some compressed schedule?  Perhaps it's not even intentional that we impose requirements upon ourselves and expect that we can sustain them - over time?  Why do we work so hard and furiously fast??

I sat in the parking lot of a the restaurant for a few minutes, thinking hard about what I really needed to have happen in order to get that weight of an elephant off my chest.  And then I sent my boss an honest e-mail that indicated I will not be ready to fly to Texas this week and buy a new house, nor will I be ready to list our house next week.  The moving truck that was scheduled for June 29th will need to be postponed until sometime in July. Or maybe even August.

I'll admit that I was nervous to tell my boss these things, so it helped that a doctor, someone from the medical industry, a trained professional (!), had told me something I already knew: my first priority is my health, and the health of my daughter.  It also helps that I am in a situation where I might be offered some latitude. I cannot comprehend how people that have no choice continue to function.

First, I need to get healthy because the last time I was under a lot of stress, I nearly died. Some stress = Good Motivator.  Too much stress =  Not Good.  It can be a fuzzy line, but when it feels like your heart and/or head are going to pop (and you find yourself swearing a lot), you've likely migrated in to the Not Good zone.  Once I'm well, Carolyn needs to have her tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery.  And once she is recovered - which will take approximately two weeks, we will list our house.  It would be less than ideal to show our house while someone is recovering from major surgery.  So ... we won't do it. 

My boss immediately wrote me back and said, "Agreed. We'll see you when you get here."

I am so, so fortunate to have such a good boss, since my last one was so ... awful.  

The rest of the stuff, the buying a new house, the selling of our current house, the move - the acclimation to an entirely new environment ... those things will all happen, and fall in to place - just as they are meant to be.

But not today, so today I don't need to worry about them.  Today, I am just grateful for the beauty outside my window.

Amazing. The world is spinning on it's axis and I'm not even helping it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

in memoriam - 2015

Taking a break from a basketball game (the kids) and cleaning out the garage (Charlie and I), to put up our American flag …

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And remember those who gave all for our country.