On the bright side

If you’re following along, you know that yesterday I rented a Rug Doctor© and cleaned my living room carpet in anticipation of having some people over today.

Today, I returned the Rug Doctor© and picked up a few groceries at the store while I was there.  I returned home to finish preparing for company.  Somehow, overnight, every single plate and bowl appeared in the kitchen with dried-on sticky guck on them.  (Since when is “guck” not a word, Spell-Check?)

But I didn’t start in the kitchen.  I started at the front door, so first I moved all the furniture back into place in the living room.  Then I removed dog hair from the furniture and tidied up.  I worked in concentric circles, until I had narrowed down the mess to the kitchen.  (This took an unanticipated and shockingly long time.)

That meant I had finished cleaning the guinea pig cage and did Poop Patrol in the back yard and the Swiffering was done.  Then, I faced the towers of plates and dried on guck.

I took a drought-friendly shower and drove to Costco for provisions.  Miraculously, I had enough time to drop food off at home before heading to school to pick up the carpool kids.

All that and the afternoon and evening did not turn out as expected.  For whatever reasons, my friend’s friends weren’t able to show up, so the two of us sat and talked and watched her delightful and talkative two-year old.  He threw rocks into my fountain and picked a million tiny flowers and ate grapes for the first time in his life.  He walked my big dog until the big dog nearly pulled him over in her hurry to reach me.  He played with Little People and their vehicles and threw a ball.  He called the guinea pig a “dog” and the picture of a pig on the fridge a “rabbit.”

(Two year olds are so fun, especially when you are not directly responsible for their happiness and welfare.)

I would have done it all again.  The Rug Doctor, the guinea pig cage, the scalding dish water.  For one thing, my house is cleaner than usual and all that stuff needed to be done.

But beyond that, it was so great to talk to Carrien.  She is a remarkable person and I’m amazed that a blog friend turned into a real-life friend . . .  furthermore, it’s amazing to me that she’s living this brave, gigantic life in Thailand with her kids and husband.  She’s a superhero but in disguise as a mom of five who is changing the world in a remarkable way.


Boys, boys, boys

I have decided to try to post every day this month . . . I realize I missed yesterday and it’s very late tonight and I’d really rather just go to bed.

But here we go. A quick little something.

Because of Veteran’s Day, my kids had no school and my husband was home from work. At about 7:20 AM, the dog went nuts because the doorbell rang. One of my 16-year old’s friends arrived to spend the day. As the day wore on, more teenagers arrived until I had a table full of teen boys. It was like old times when we used to have a steady stream of kids show up in our house.

I remember one time saying to a boy in my kitchen, “Oh. Hi. Who are you?” He’d wandered into my house, following the crowd, I guess, during a snowstorm. I had never seen him before.

(You should know that I started this post last night at 1:10 AM, but then my mom walked into my office–she’s staying for a while–and we started talking and before I knew it, it was 2:15 AM and I had to go to bed, do not pass Go, do not collect $100.)

Anyway, having a house full of boys reminded me of the “old” days.

So, I guess that’s it for now. I am still working–taking a quick break to get this posted–and then heading to bed sooner rather than later.

From crisis to serendipity

Wednesday night at about 6:30 PM I was lying in bed, preparing to continue reading The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. Then my phone rang.

At first, no one replied to my “hello.”  I pressed the phone to my ear, repeating my greeting. The caller was identified by my iPhone as the mother of my daughter’s friend where she was spending the night.  I half-expected the voice to be my daughter’s.

Finally, though, the mom’s voice came over the line.  “We’re at the beach,” she said, and then she added the phrase, “Um, first of all, she’s okay.”

Why, when you hear those words, do you picture a dismemberment or maybe an explosion?  You don’t?  Oh, maybe that’s just me.  I did not find comfort in “she’s okay.”  I wondered why she was calling to tell me my daughter was okay . . . and what was all the noise in the background?

Then she told me that my 10-year old was stung by a stingray.  A stingray!  Hello?  A stingray killed the Crocodile Hunter!  But . . . my daughter was okay.  Or so she said.

And then, she said they were with lifeguards and could she call me back?

As soon as we disconnected, I told my husband what happened and then I did a Google search and found these scary instructions:

1. Bathe Wound in Seawater

  • While still in water, irrigate wound to remove fragments of spine and tissue.
  • Get the person out of the water.

2. Stop Bleeding

  • Apply pressure above the wound if it is bleeding.

3. Soak Wound in Hot Water Until Bleeding Stops

  • Hot water inactivates any remaining venom and may relieve pain.
  • Apply a hot pack if the wound is still bleeding.
  • Gently remove obvious pieces of spine. Do not remove pieces of spine from the neck, chest, or abdomen.

4. Scrub Wound

  • Clean with soap and water.
  • Apply dressing. Do not tape it closed.

5. Go to a Hospital Emergency Room

6. Follow Up

  • At the hospital, the barb and remnants of stingray spine will be removed.
  • X-rays may be done.
  • A tetanus shot may be administered, if necessary.
  • An antibiotic and pain reliever may be prescribed.

So I found my shoes and prepared to drive to the beach so I could rush my daughter to a clinic for medical care.  Meanwhile, my husband called a doctor friend to ask his advice.  I drove to the beach, expecting the phone to ring any second.  I reached the beach and still hadn’t heard back, so I called my friend to see where exactly they were.

She gave me more details and put me on speaker phone with the lifeguard while she asked him questions.  Everyone sounded remarkably calm, nonchalant, even.  He said that she was fine and there was little chance a barb was still stuck in her.  She was stung on the hand and it had already been treated, cleaned, and bandaged.  I talked to my daughter and she sounded cheerful and perfectly okay.  She also sounded horrified that I planned to take her to the Urgent Care Clinic.  She wanted to spend the night with her friend as planned.

So, with assurance from her, the lifeguard and the mom, I relented.  I dropped off the extra clothes I’d brought at their house (they were not yet home from the beach) and began driving toward home.

Then I noticed the sky.

I checked the clock.  It was about 7:10 PM.  A quick check of a phone app showed me that the sunset would be at 7:44 PM.

I called my husband, told him I’d decided to stay for the sunset.

And so I detoured into a parking lot, walked across the sand and got a front-row seat.  The beach was nearly abandoned.  I guess most tourists have headed home since school’s starting soon.


I only had my iPhone with me but at least I had it so I could snap photos.

As for my daughter, she declared she never plans to go to THAT beach again.

Today, she wore gauze wrapped around her two fingers.  When I suggested that band-aids might be adequate for the two small cuts, she said, “But Mom, that would not be dramatic enough!  I want people to ask me what happened!”  (She also told me today that she quite enjoyed having the lifeguard truck with its sirens and lights drive down the shore to transport her to the lifeguard headquarters for treatment.)

So, truly, all’s well that ends well.

And it ended very well.

Thar She Blows!

Before today, I’d never been whale-watching.  This seems incredible since I grew up in Washington State, close to the Puget Sound where orcas swim.

It could have been Seattle today here in Southern California.  Yesterday, it was sunny.  Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be sunny.  Today?  The clouds threatened to rain.  The wind blew turning all the ungloved fingers red. It was cold.

I brought a wool hat that a blog reader knit for me.  (Best birthday gift ever, all those years ago!)  I wore the kind of gloves that look like mittens until you flip back the end and then they are fingerless gloves.

(I love her hair.)

We’d been out in the open ocean, maybe five miles from shore for an hour and fifteen minutes.  Some moms were leaning over the railing throwing up, but I was taking photos of  the shimmering sun on the waves, bummed out that we weren’t seeing any whales.

And then, the captain got all excited and told us to look at “one o’clock” and though I looked and looked, I saw nothing.

Time passed and my nose grew colder and then, suddenly, he told us the whale was at “eleven o’clock”. I couldn’t see it because I was on the wrong side of the boat.

But then.  The boat turned, the whale surfaced and I saw it!

So amazing.  Even the captain–who told us his dad built the boat we were on when the captain himself was in kindergarten–he was excited!


These were fin whales, the captain said.

And amazingly enough, not a drop of rain fell while we were on the boat.

Wednesday can only mean one thing

If it’s Wednesday, that can only mean one thing.  We’re going to Wild Waves.

I’m getting a little sick of Wild Waves.  Really.  The last time we went, Zooma Falls tried to drown me.  Alas, I am buoyant.  I cannot be drowned.

The teenagers won’t go unless forced.  So, it’ll just be my 11-year old and my 6-year old and me.  And far fewer people than last week when it was as hot as the surface of the sun.  In fact, the high temperate is only supposed to be 78 degrees, so it might be a tad chilly.

By Tuesdays, I always think, hey, tomorrow I can _________________ (fill in with whatever chore needs attention most).  And then I think, oh wait, it’ll be Wednesday and I’m going to Wild Waves.  Originally, I thought we could do other fun family activities on Wednesdays, too, but no.  Just Wild Waves.

Although, one of these weeks, we’re going to Mt. Rainier.

School’s coming.  All too soon and not soon enough.

Home, Sweet Home

My friend, Mindy, picked me up from the conference yesterday shortly after 1 p.m. I’ve known Mindy since college when she used to have dirty laundry piled waist high in her room. I’d be amazed because Mindy would emerge perfectly coiffed and gorgeous from her haphazard room, like a three-tiered wedding cake popping out of a hurricane.

Mindy drove me to gaze at the ocean and to watch surfers catching those legendary California waves. On a distant rock, we could see the lumpy bodies of sea lions at rest. What a beautiful place.

We spent some time at her house, catching up on news both new and old. Her husband–also a friend of mine from collect–arrived and we laughed and chatted some more. I also met her almost-18 year old daughter (we are getting old, all of us with our children rushing toward adulthood).

Then, we went to In-and-Out Burger, that famous California fast-food restaurant. I give two-thumbs up to the burger, but alas, the fries disappointed me.

Somehow, time slid away from us and suddenly we were frantically checking the clock and I was saying from the back seat, “So, are we close to the airport?” I wasn’t really that worried until Mindy said, “Well, if you can’t check your bag, we can always send it to you.” Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that I might board the flight without my heavy orange-red suitcase.

We arrived without a minute to spare (literally, the woman said, “One more minute and I would have said, “No.”). It was 6 p.m. and my flight left at 6:33 p.m.

I used my fluffy hair as a shield so that my seat-mates wouldn’t think of talking to me. After six days of talking to strangers and vague acquaintances, I dreaded making any more small talk. (I am not talking about the Mt. Hermonistas, my three new BFFs you can see linked on Annie’s blog. Oh, and check out the video she posted. We find it hilarious, but maybe you had to be there? I make a brief appearance, so if you ever wondered what I sound like, now’s your chance! Click here.)

But, my hair only worked for awhile and then a man on the other side of the man next to me said, “MELODEE?” And I said (with a feeble wave), “Yes, it’s me!” before turning back to my book.

So, I’m home. I had to work at 10:00 p.m. until midnight, then my daughter woke up at 6:30 a.m. to curl next to me in bed and talk, talk, talk. She’s such a hoot. I really missed her–and in fact, missed everyone. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder, it’s true. Although I feel no more fond of the cats or the litter box than when I left.)

Laughing with bloggers

Last year when I came here, I spent a lot of time sitting with random strangers at meal-time, asking them all about their projects, their kids, their hometown, and their backgrounds. I sat next to strangers during chapel time, singing harmonies with them. I met a variety of people–including one woman who wrote a book with a talking llama as a character (she self-published, how not surprising)–and I am grateful for that experience.

This year, I came knowing another woman, Linda, who had the amazing experience of landing a book contract with Zondervan after coming to last year’s conference. Since we met, she started the blog, Spilt Milk, which is also the title of her book (out in 2009). Linda, an honest-to-God-real-housewife-of-the-OC, and I kept in touch over the year.

Linda brought her friend, Sarah, another OC-housewife and newish blogger. She has a blog called “the best days of my life,” which you will want to add to your blogroll and read daily (she updates daily, imagine that concept). She has a room adjacent to mine–the first night, I could hear her cell-phone conversation as clearly as if she were sitting on my lap. I held my breath, hoping that she wasn’t about to tell her husband about this frumpy housewife she’d met who was a friend of Linda’s. Fortunately, she never mentioned my name, nor mocked me behind my back. Which I always admire in a person, non-mockery of me, that is.

Anyway, we have bonded over our mutual weight-loss (she lost 60 pounds and has kept it off–well, she put it back on when she had a baby, then took it all off again). She’s a runner, a photographer, a mother of 2 little girls and a superb blogger. We got up for a 6 a.m. walk up to the cross at the crest of Mt. Hermon. We rock. Also? We’re tired.

Finally, last week, I received an email from a blogger named Annie. Annie knows someone who reads this blog (hello, you know who you are!) and that person told Annie that she thought I might be coming to this conference. So, Annie emailed me and asked and after I determined that she was definitely not a big hairy serial killer, I invited her to join Linda and me at lunch the first day.

And the rest is history. The four of us have been hanging out in our free time (between workshops, classes and meetings). I have laughed harder this week than I have in a very long time. Plus, they haven’t heard any of my stories. What’s old is new again! I accidentally made Annie shake with laughter during a prayer in chapel . . . the woman praying rambled on and on, running down a laundry list of topics she needed to speak with God about, including a dizzying request to “help us expect what we ought to expect and to lay down our expectations when what we were expecting fails to reach our expectations . . . let us expect what it unexpected and not expect what is unexpected and expect expectations that you expect us to expect . . . “

At that point, I opened my eyes and gazed at the back of the woman’s head and thought maybe she needed a hard thunk to get unstuck but I was too far back to be the thunker and then I shifted my eyes to the right and saw that Annie was also gazing at the long pray-er . . . who was, at that point, broaching the topic of Darfur with God and I am afraid that we burst into silent giggles. Because sometimes you have to laugh in church. It’s a rule.

Oh, so, anyway, Annie is hilarious and also, she writes a blog called “taking a step, towards my dream.

Last night in the coffee shop, I suggested that we need to start a critique group. And also, we need to find a pair of pants that will fit us all. (If you get that joke, thank you.) We also discussed the question of hobos and why our children all speak about hobos as if they’ve seen them down at the local train depot. Where are the hobos, we asked? We talked about their bandana-bundles stuck on sticks and then, incredibly, the next afternoon ran across a man at the State Park who carried a stick with a red bundle dangling off the end. He looked pretty much like a suburban hobo which caused a great uproar among us.

In my absence my husband has been dealing with dental appointments, a wedding rehearsal, a wedding, a meeting, teaching a college class, watching our four kids, buying a birthday gift for the neighbor kid . . . all while being sick as a dog. I had a cold last week, a mild, wimpy cold, and he has a nasty cold this week, the superpower of all colds. Poor guy.

Okay, well, if I were more coherent and if I weren’t in a dimly lit hotel room (wooden paneling from 1980, I think) standing at a rickety dresser typing this (there’s no desk and I can’t cope with sitting on a bed with a laptop–I am inflexible), I would pause long enough to come up with an astonishing ending to this post.

However. Sorry, no can do. But do check out those blogs. (Just don’t like them better than me.) Ha ha. Yes, I’m funny. (But, as my dad would say, “looks aren’t everything!”)

A call to confession

Have I been here lately? I can’t remember. My life is spinning a little out of control, in a good way of course. (More about that later this week. If you’re lucky.)

First of all, you should know that I took my son’s dead iPod to Best Buy. I had purchased replacement insurance back in December–the salesperson told me it would cover “any damage.” At least that’s what I recall because why would I purchase insurance that didn’t cover accidental damage when the iPod was destined for accidental damage in the possession of my careless son? Anyway, the girl behind the counter said, “And what’s wrong with it?” and I said, “It went through the wash. I washed it. In the washing machine.”

And she said, “Um, that’s not covered.”

“Not covered? What is the point of insurance? What does it cover?”

“Well, if the screen went blank or the hard-drive crashed.”

I said, “Well, in that case, the screen went blank and the hard-drive crashed.”

She made an exception for me since I didn’t know the rules. Wasn’t that nice of her? And then I refused her offer to buy another insurance policy for the replacement iPod.

* * *

My 5-year old daughter poked herself in the eye with her finger this afternoon. I was standing nearby, folding socks, when she injured herself. She was mostly okay the rest of the afternoon, but while playing games with her daddy before bedtime, she excused herself three times to go lay down and rest. Then she’d come back: “I’m okay now,” and play awhile longer. At bedtime, she came in crying, her eyelid and cheek reddened . . . I examined her eyeball and it was barely bloodshot. I am hoping that a night of sleep will cure all that ails her.

I still can’t believe she inexplicably poked her own eyeball. How does that happen?

* * *

I stuck the new car tab onto the license plate today. Then, ever responsible, I replaced the old car registration with the new car registration. I checked the insurance card, too, and found it woefully out of date. This discovery propelled me through all the paperwork on my desk, on my kitchen counter and in the handy basket in the kitchen that catches all the mail that can’t be immediately discarded.

I never found the insurance card. Maybe it’s hidden somewhere in the glove compartment? I surrender. At least the new card is due in March. Until then, we will be on extra good behavior so the police have no reason to pull us over and demand to see our proof of insurance. (I haven’t had a ticket in fifteen years.)

How about you? When was the last time the police pulled you over? Don’t you hate that moment when you realize the flashing lights in your rearview mirror are flashing at you? Tell us all about how you broke the law. Come on. You know you want to. Confession is good for the soul . . . and far better than a sharp stick (or a finger) in the eye.


My husband scheduled the cleaning lady for 9 a.m. Saturday morning. I left a list of things to clean from most important (kitchen!) to least (windows). I was dreaming up stuff to add to the list because I didn’t really want much done, just the kitchen and guest bathroom made presentable. Then I took off for the day. I shopped for bargains and then saw a movie (“Atonement”). (The movie was good, but make me want to read the book because I have a feeling the book is better. The book is always better!)

My cell phone battery was dead, so I dug up four quarters and found a pay-phone so I could check in with my husband and let him know what time the movie would be over. (I had to see a later show than I had hoped.)

“So, did the cleaning lady come?” I asked him.

“Well, she did, but she thought we just need a routine cleaning, so she couldn’t do it.”

“She couldn’t do it?”

“No,” he said, “She looked at your list and looked at the areas and said there was no way she could do that in four hours. She offered to get a co-worker and come back. She said it would take two of them at least four hours working together.”

“And how much would that cost?”

“Two hundred and fifty dollars.”

“WHAT?! Are you kidding? That’s crazy!”

“I told her you probably wouldn’t go for that.”

A cleaning lady refused to clean my house! (So, it is true. You really do have to clean your house before the cleaning lady arrives.) I would have happily paid her $100 for four hours worth of work, but she rejected me and my money. Furthermore, she cost herself a customer because I will never again call her and offer her work.

I am mortified and mystified that my kitchen and bathroom were deemed too big of a job for one person to handle in four hours.

So, I cleaned them myself. (It did not take four hours.)
If ever there was a time for you to drop by, that time is now. Come one, come all! By tomorrow at 11 a.m., my house will be the cleanest it has been in years (but please, do not open the door to the Boy Cave because I simply did not have enough time to tackle that job. And the cleaning lady probably would have charged me a thousand bucks to deal with that.)