Good vibrations

Three of my kids have cell phones.  They’ve had them for years now.

Yet, half the time when I try to reach them by telephone or text, I get no answer. Do you know why?

I’ll tell you.

It’s because they all keep their phones on “vibrate” only.  This is excellent when you’re holding your phone in your hand or perhaps when you are concentrating on your pants pocket and can feel the buzz of the vibration.

However, if you are more than three feet from your phone, you will not hear it vibrate.

What’s up with using that setting?  I’ve noticed my kids’ friends have the same thing happening . . . no ring tones, only vibrations.  We went to pick up one of their friends the other day and seven phone calls and five texts went unanswered.  Seriously. It’s weird.

Also weird is when you are with someone who goes into a trance every five minutes, reaches for their silent cell phone, texts a few words and then tucks the cell phone away, all without a sound.

* * *

In other news, I inadvertently wore slippers to Costco today.  I didn’t mean to, but after I picked up my son from school, he reminded me of something he urgently needed from Costco.  I was wearing my moccasin-style slippers and I just pretended I was wearing super comfortable shoes.

I doubt anyone noticed, of course.  Around here–maybe everywhere in America now–people wear their pajamas to stores.  I’ve seen a polar bear fleece pajama pant, flannel pajama pants, obvious pink pajama pants.  That is a line I just won’t cross.  Slippers, maybe.  Pajamas at WalMart?  Uh, no.

So tell me.  Do you keep your phone on vibrate?  Do you wear pajamas in public?

Friends are not friends forever despite what Michael W. Smith says

While driving to soccer practice, my 10-year old daughter chatters non-stop.  One day she mentioned that she and a teammate want to have a playdate.  I suggested the waterpark or the beach and then she said, “It’s weird.  Whenever I go someplace like that I always meet someone and make a friend.  And then I never see them again.”

I said, “Yes, they are just friends for a day, huh?”

I hate the idea of a friend for a day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the occasional conversation you have with a stranger you meet in random circumstances:  in the airport or the beach or while walking your dog down the street on a balmy Southern California morning.  I like a temporary intersection with an acquaintance or the getting-to-know you exchange of information and ideas with a potential friend, even if nothing really comes of it.

But what I hate is the abandonment of old friends, dear friends, those friends who have toured the inside of your heart and seen you cry.  I hate it and I don’t understand it.

Maybe I am that kind of person, the kind of person who walks away and forgets her friends, the kind of woman who drifts away on the currents of busyness, the loser who plain-out abandons her friends.  But I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t think I am like that.  I spend a lot of time wondering if I am.  Is it me?

Admittedly, I am an introvert, one of those weirdos who would choose reading over partying.  I am never the life of the party, like some people I know.  I don’t gather people to me like a magnet.  I like solitude and peace and quiet.

But when I find a friend, when I connect with someone on a deeper level, when I find someone who laughs at my jokes  and makes me laugh, who “gets” me, I treasure that person.  Over the years, I’ve had some of the most amazing friends.  We have walked parallel paths as we became wives and mothers.  We’ve shared our lives, our sorrows, our gripes, our dreams, our fears.  We have history together.

But at some point, silence has crept in.  Distance both geographical and emotional has turned from space into a wall, an impenetrable wall without a gate.  I’m alone.  I don’t know why.

I don’t have forty-seven other friends tucked away in a banquet room.  I have loved these few friends with devotion and faithfulness.  I have saved every letter these friends have ever sent yet I feel like my actual friendship has been shredded and tossed out in the recycling bin.  (I know.  Real letters with handwriting and postage stamps and everything!  So old-fashioned.)

Sure, this could just be life, that time in the life-cycle of an American female human being when she only sees her children and her husband and her job and her to-do-list, but I have a hole where those friends used to be.

I can’t stop probing the hollow space.


p.s.  I already know that some friends are “for a season” and some are “for a reason” and all that trite stuff.  I just feel a sense of abandonment and it’s probably me, not you.  I don’t need advice or comfort.  I just wanted to stay what I’ve been thinking because it helps me think better and sort through things.  (I almost didn’t post this but I can’t seem to post anything else until this post stops blocking the traffic in my head.)

Shoo shoes, don’t bother me

The last thing I want to do is be taller.  This desire to avoid tallness causes me to recoil in horror from the shoes currently in fashion.

Because, seriously.

They are cute but I don’t want to be six feet fall.  Ever.

And I cannot–I will not–tolerate suffering for beauty.  I don’t want my feet to hurt.  Perhaps this is a sign of old age.  I have almost certainly turned into a fuddy-duddy, but I don’t want to hobble around with aching feet.

I have yet to reach that age when I wear only white athletic shoes, however.

I just want to wear my Chuck Taylors.

Now, that’s a shoe.

I do apologize to young whippersnappers for lowering the cool quotient of said shoes.  When junior high kids see a woman my age wearing the same style of shoes, they must question their judgment.

Then again, what am I saying?  I am utterly invisible to junior high kids.

Written with tears

The past week has left me weary with the sort of fatigue that even a good night’s sleep fails to solve. We drove up last weekend to spend time with some friends from college, but my husband had to drive back through notorious Seattle traffic that night because he had a funeral to do the next morning. After the funeral, he again navigated the Seattle traffic and arrived in Bellingham at about dinner-time. All told, he spent about fifteen hours driving back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.

When we returned home the next afternoon, the red light was blinking on our answering machine. A friend from our church was in critical condition at the hospital. My worn-out husband responded with, “I have to sleep for an hour,” and did so. Before his nap was over, another phone call came, reiterating the message about our friend in the hospital. And so, with meetings and church business sandwiched in between, my husband began sitting vigil at the church with the man’s family.

Here’s the story as I know it. I think the details are accurate.

Our friend, Jeff, went outside last Saturday to do yard work. He came in after fifteen minutes, complaining of exhaustion. He’d suffered from shortness of breath all week. His wife took him to the doctor because something just seemed off. The doctor x-rayed his chest and said, “Friend, you have pneumonia. You’ll have to stay in the hospital a few days until you feel better.”

The night, his wife kissed him good-bye and said she’d be back after church Sunday. But Sunday morning she called the church music director and told him that she couldn’t sing the solo as scheduled. “I feel like I need to go back to the hospital,” she said.

When she arrived, a nurse blocked her way from Jeff’s room. And then the nightmare began. Sometime between her departure from the hospital and her arrival that morning, Jeff’s body crashed. The medical team revived him, but his heart was beating dimly. He’d been intubated. He was no longer conscious.

And so Jeff lingered between life and death for four more nights and three days. My husband spent every available minute the hospital, buying food and offering comfort, until Jeff’s kidneys shut down and his heart beat its last beat. He was 62, I think.

He left a wife, grown children, some grandchildren and a giant circle of friends and acquaintances.

Last Saturday, he went out to do some yard work. Today, I believe he’s running in heavenly fields, basking in eternal daylight. I will never cease to be shocked by the sudden ending of life. At least with birth, you get months to get used to the idea of someone new. Even with some warning, I never get used to the finality of death and the loss of someone dear. We spend most of the days of our lives living as if we have an infinite number of days to frolic and work and squander time. And then the days run out for someone–what? so soon?–and we stop for a moment, until we forget again that our days are limited. Each time someone dies, it’s a stunning shock all over again that life on earth is limited.

On Sunday mornings, I hurry into church without my lipstick on, cringing as I’ve just noticed that my children have chosen pants too short, shirts too shabby and shoes that don’t match anything. Always, as I pull open the heavy wooden doors with stained windows and rush inside a minute or two behind schedule to teach my Sunday School class, Jeff scans me and my unkempt kids and even though I try to be invisible most Sunday mornings, he says from his seat in the entry-way, “Good morning, Mother,” in a voice brimming with wry amusement. He never let me slip past without this greeting.

But now he’ll never say it again and I can’t tell you just how much I’m going to miss him.

On death and dying

She walked into my room with the old hooded towel from her baby days on her head. Her fist flew to her eyes, a sure sign of impending tears. I said, “Hey, what’s wrong?” in alarm and pulled her onto the bed. (But not onto my lap because she was in her wet swimsuit, having just returned from the pool.)

She cried, then, rubbing her eyes. I ran my hand over her legs. “Are you hurt? Did you fall?” She shook her head. “What’s wrong?” She sniffed some more.

Then, finally, “I don’t want to be dead!” she said.

“You aren’t going to die,” I assured her.

“And I don’t want you to die!” she said.

“I’m not going to die until I’m very old.” Perhaps a lie, but I offered it anyway.

“Like great-grandma?”

“Yes. Great-grandma is still alive and she’s 101.”

“What about my regular grandma?” she asked.

“She’s alive, too.”

Then, fresh tears and, “I don’t want to die!”

“You aren’t going to die.”

“Because children don’t die?” she asked.

I paused. Then chose to lie. “That’s right. Children don’t die. You’ll live for a long, long, long time. Probably.”

The In-Laws buy

Her tears had stopped by then, comforted by my lies. My husband said Grace had been talking to a little girl at the pool and the conversation was about death. Grace could not stop talking about it when she got home, and apparently on the drive home from the pool, she carried a terror of dying which she could only hand to me in person.
During her bath:

“Mom, what would your mouth and eyes look like when you’re dead?”

“Mom, what does God look like?”

“Mom, are you going to die?”

“Mom, when are we going to die?

I believe in heaven. I believe in God. I believe that death is not the end, only a doorway to another life. But looking in the blue eyes of my 4-year old daughter, I offered lies because I can’t bear for her to consider a loss that great.

I’m sure we’ll be talking about death for days and weeks to come. I can only hope that no one in our family–including 101-year old Great Grandma–dies anytime soon. Or ever, really, as long as I’m hoping and wishing.

* * *

I should note that we often talk about death around here . . . I am matter-of-fact about the topic. My kids know that my dad died when he was 47 and they’ve asked about that over and over again. But yesterday, she was so worried about dying RIGHT THEN that I felt it was not appropriate to have a rational discussion. We will talk about it again soon, I am sure, and than I will clarify . . . I say this in response to the comments advising me to be truthful. I have been in the past and under normal circumstances, I am forthright on this topic, but yesterday? Yesterday I chose to assure rather than offer facts. (Geez, do I sound defensive or what?)

Dinner Party Conversation

Tidbits from a dinner party, all uttered by different people:

–He drank so much coffee, he couldn’t sleep.  So, “after I ran fourteen miles at 4:00 a.m., I started to feel better.”

–Someone mentioned having a gun.  “I have a gun!  I have a Derringer and a 22.”  This said by a refined, elegant, silver-haired, woman who retains a Southern accent.  The gun owners outnumbered those of us who are unarmed.  

–After being trained by the military to be a supply clerk, “I thought the curriculum was so boring, so I asked about becoming a SEAL.”  When we all gasp, he says, “I was one of the ones who actually liked the training.”  (He served in Vietnam, among other places.) 

–And what do you do, someone asks another man.  “Oh,” he says, “I train pilots to fly 737s.”

In the company of such humility and wealth of experiences, all I had to contribute to the conversation was my knowledge of Philip Yancey and Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz.  I have never trained to become a Navy SEAL, flown a jet, owned a gun or run more than the required one mile during the Presidential Fitness test in junior high.  I have given birth twice at home in a birthing tub surrounded by women and not a single doctor, but somehow, I’m thinking that’s not fit conversation for a dinner party where not only did we use silverware, but also fancy china with silvered edges.

Why do boys spit?

And why don’t they flush?

Why do boys love to dig holes?

Before guns were invented, did boys turn everything into swords or arrows?

Why do boys smell?

Why don’t boys notice that they smell?

Why don’t boys care if their hands are sticky?

Why do boys hate haircuts?

Why do boys put the empty milk carton back into the fridge?

Why don’t boys notice that they have gunk stuck to their teeth?

Why are boys so gassy?

On Time

This afternoon, I fell into the past.  My grandmother’s birthday sparked questions in my mind.  Where, exactly, did her parents come from?  I know my grandfather’s came from Sweden, but I didn’t know about her relatives.  I asked my grandmother herself, but she was a little mixed up and so then I asked my mother.  A few years back, she typed up some family history and gave us all copies, but I couldn’t locate mine.

Until today.  My mom emailed me back which prompted me to go get the box labeled “Family Tree.”  When my dad died in 1989, I gathered all his research into a single box.  I’ve hardly looked at it since.  But today, I sorted through and found immigration documents and baptism certificates and deeds to land and military discharge papers in addition to his handwritten notes about our ancestry.  I found the information my mother gave me in the same box.  (Occasionally, there is a method to my organizational madness.)

I found and loaded the information I already have into a family tree.  I’m still trying to pinpoint when certain ancestors came to this country–one ancestor was a native American, but the rest came from various parts of Europe, but in the early 1800s or maybe even earlier.  I don’t know yet, but I hope to find out.

My husband came home with frozen pizzas tonight and suggested I go out for a walk in the early-evening sunshine and so I did.  The happy daffodils are blooming everywhere.  The trees are suddenly covered with fuzzy, pastel pink blossoms.  I spotted some lilac embryos when I got close to the Puget Sound.  I thought how temporary all this is–from the weather to the buds on the trees to the houses perched with their views of the Puget Sound.  My relatives lived full lives, experienced heartache and triumph, lived through wars and death, weddings and holidays.  My grandfather missed World War I because of a cataract on one eye.  My other grandfather fought in World War II, though he never told us a thing about it.  Their wives had babies, raised toddlers, fussed over schoolchildren, worried over teenagers, cried over their young adults, rejoiced over grandchildren. 

I wonder about those women in those decades so long ago.  Did they fret over their kitchen floors and yell at the children to wipe their muddy feet?  Did they recognize their individual lives were like drops of water?  Or did they see their lives as rolling waves of ocean, stretching as far as the eye can see?  All their worries are gone with them, evaporated.  My worries seem momentary when I realize that spring will transform into summer and summer will fade into fall and then winter will creep into our bones again . . . and time rolls downhill faster and faster like a snowball gaining speed on the mountain.

And yet.  The days have grown longer since Daylight Savings time started.  Now, the children are still outside at 7:00 p.m. playing makeshift games of baseball in the front yard (today with a tennis ball and a stick).  And while I’m thrilled to see my children playing childhood games with neighborhood children, I want the days to end sooner rather than later.  The children have no concept of “dinner-time” and “night-time” and “time-to-go-home-time” while the sun still shines until 7:00 p.m.  (And it will only get worse as summer approaches.)

Time flows, trickles, sometimes seems to go back uphill until suddenly, it rushes so fast it knocks you off your feet.  All you can do is swim with the current and enjoy the view as you float past.


What would Jack Bauer do?

If an intruder entered under cover of darkness, what would Jack Bauer do?

I am nothing, if not attentive to details.  And so, I grew suspicious.  Yesterday, I took steps to confront the intruder.

This morning?  I heard rustling.

I caught the intruder.

Now, the question is:  what would Jack Bauer do? 

He would most likely kill the intruder with a swift blow to the head.

I am considering the merits of suffocation versus drowning. 

My husband refuses to be a party to this murder.

I wondered if it would be cruel and unusual to discard the intruder in a Trader Joe’s grocery bag.  Let it die slowly in the trash can.

What would Jack Bauer do?

He would have thought through the logistical problem of trapping the intruder in a glue trap.  Then again, a prisoner struggling against a gluey base might be just the way to extort information out of an intruder.  If this sort of intruder could talk, which of course, he cannot.  He can only scurry and flick his whiskers and . . . leave a trail of tiny poop on my kitchen counter.  That poop is the reason he’s imprisoned in glue under my sink.

But, what would Jack Bauer do?

How does one kill a furry little gray mouse? 

I cannot even smash a bug. 

What would you do?  (He’s not dead here, this mouse.  No.  He’s merely resting.) 


Update:  I wish I had never posted this sad tale of the mouse.  I wish the dumb mouse had never crawled into my house.  I wish I weren’t a grown-up so someone else would have disposed of the mouse.  When I read the comments, I realized that I could no longer ignore the stuck mouse under the sink.  So, with racing heart and shaking hands, I used a dustpan to sweep it into a paper Trader Joe’s bag.  The mouse looked mostly dead . . . he’d not only gotten stuck, but he’d eaten some poison first.  I couldn’t bear to look closely at the poor little creature.  So, he’s in the trash.  I cannot stop shuddering.

We shall never speak of the matter again.

The Inconvenient Truth

A newspaper article caught my eye the other day about the planet Jupiter. This quote especially gave me pause:

“We think the ocean leaks onto the surface,” said McKinnon, a planetary scientist at Washington University. “What does that tell us about the chemistry of the water that’s down below? And the 64 billion dollar question is, could any of that stuff have the signature of life?”

Apparently, life is most valuable on far-flung planets in the solar system. Imagine if a human embryo were found in that “vast, warm, salty ocean – bigger than all of Earth’s put together” on Jupiter. The scientific community, indeed, the world at large would be thunderstruck, in awe of the discovery. Can you imagine the furor? (The story might even push the Anna Nicole drama out of the news.) How many scientists have devoted their lives to the search for life in our solar system?

Now, put that same embryo in the uterus of a random woman in this country and you’ll hear that “life begins with the mother’s decision” (as General Wesley Clark asserted during his presidential campaign).

That life in a warm ocean on a distant planet would be a breathtaking miracle.

That same life inconveniently located in the womb of a woman on this planet is disposable.

I guess that old adage is true: It’s all about location, location, location.