Sunday, August 26, 2012

Karma: The Reason I Wear Opaque Tights

There is a universal truth that the energy you send out into the world is one day going to come back to you. I’ve heard it called the principal of reciprocity, the boomerang effect, karma, and biblically it is spoken of as “what ye sow so shall ye reap”. No wonder the golden rule is so profound; it really is the way things work. Send good out into the world and it will come back to you. Every single time I give love or kindness to anyone I’m guaranteed a return on my investment, no risk and generally a 200% increase. Take that Goldman Sachs. But as with all things the converse is true. The second I make a snarky comment, say an unkind word, or lose my temper I’m literally asking for trouble.
Case in point: About the time I was thirteen I became friends with a wonderful girl we’ll call Laura Carson. Laura was the oldest of seven and her family always sat on second pew center at church. You know how it is, every family has “their pew” and if some unsuspecting person gets there ahead of time and takes the spot the world comes crashing down. Anyway, they always sat there because it was large enough to hold the entire family in one row. Laura’s mom always sat directly in the middle of said pew so that she could reach out in either direction and thump any child who was getting out of hand during the service. Her husband had a calling as the ward clerk and had to spent every Sunday up in front taking notes and wasn’t available to help her.

One Sunday in the middle of the meeting the Carson brood was getting a little riled up and the two smallest boys began a tag team maneuver on their mother. In a coordinated effort the littlest one took off running around the end of the pew and circled until he was directly in front of his mom in the row ahead. When she leaned forward to grab him and pull him back to his seat his older brother grabbed the back of her dress and flipped it up over her head.

There was a bit of uncomfortable silence in the audience and even the speaker stopped momentarily as Laura's mom grabbed the skirt hem from the top of her head and put everything back where it was supposed to be. Just so you know she was a great lady with a sense of humor and so she laughed it off with a little bit of a red face, reached out, nabbed her youngest and plopped him back down in his seat.

Several rows back I laughed... hard.

It was a crappy thing to do, the poor woman was just trying to keep her active little children quiet and with seven kids that is a monumental task. Unfortunately it was more than my immature character could do to keep quiet, I had no empathy at all for the embarrassment she must have felt.

Fast forward fifteen years and it finds me with two little rambunctious angels of my own who make every Sunday a circus from start to finish. In those days as soon as the last syllable of the last “amen” sounded I was up and headed out the door to my car, angels in tow. 

We went to church in a large ward in those days and many of the other members had the same game plan I did. There was always a large crush of people headed to the parking lot in a race to see who could get out of there the fastest. 

One particular Sunday I was way ahead of the pack having edged towards the doors before the prayer was even over. I was in a hurry and I was wearing a long black skirt that day with an elastic waistband on it. Not exactly fashion forward but these are the kinds of things you wear when you have just been pregnant and still haven't managed to get that last pound-and-a-half of baby fat off. (For you pregnancy novices pound-and-a-half is code for "wow is she still pregnant?") 

As I hurried my little boys out the door and across the parking lot I could hear the crowds of people behind us headed for their cars. As we walked Andrew began tugging on my skirt. "Mom, mom, mom, mom." Since I was determined to get to the car and away before we had to sit forever I ignored him. He continued to tug and all of a sudden I had the strangest feeling. 

What was this cool refreshing breeze on my backside? I reached back and realized that my skirt was no longer in its appropriate place. It had migrated down my tush and was quickly making its way towards the ground. This revelation did not prepare me for what came next. 

As I madly reached down to frantically correct the situation I tripped over the skirt that was now around my ankles and went headfirst into a blossom laden shrub that lined the sidewalk we were on.

There I was in all my glory, skirt around my ankles, headfirst in a flowering almond, in front of hundreds of thousands of people. I bounced back up as if I had come face to face with a cobra and yanked my skirt back up. With red face I pushed my hair back and laughed it off. 

Twenty feet away a thirteen year old girl laughed... hard.

I don't understand how it works but our thoughts and actions send a ripple out into the universe. They affect the people around us and after a journey of days and years those ripples come back to us. What we sow we reap. It's really pretty amazing, we decide our future happiness and ultimately our fate by doing small and simple things every day. 

Being compassionate and kind, helpful and loving to others is in a very real way being those things to ourselves. 

So the next time you come across a lady head first in a decorative landscape item, be kind. You may be setting events in motion that will find you in the same position tomorrow. And remember, wearing tights is a good way to prepare in case you have have a ripple headed at you from when you were thirteen. 



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cheap Date

My family has certain genetic tendencies. We have strong bones because we are “pioneer stock” as my 
dad used to say. Much to my dismay I never got to wear those cool casts that all the other kids had at school and asked everyone to sign. In fact in the 3rd grade I spent an entire semester trying to break my arm so that I could get that coveted fashion accessory. There wasn’t a tree I didn’t fall out of, a fence I didn’t jump off of, or a bike I didn’t crash. No dice. The closest I ever got was a cracked nose when I got punched in the face for calling a red-headed sixth grader “tomato head."

To offset our unusually hardy skeletal system, providence blessed us with long ligaments which cause all kinds of dislocations, strains, and generally obnoxious but never really exciting injuries. "Why are you limping Brenda?" Never do I have an awesome “I fell out of a high rise” or was “I was snowmobiling in the x-games” story to tell. It is always “well, I tripped over a sock in the laundry room” kind of thing. Seriously lame.

Another of our traits is that most of us cannot hold our pain medicine. If you give any of us a narcotic pain pill, even the lowest dose, strange things are going to happen.

Take for instance my son David. Several months ago he and a friend decided that it would be fun to run a foot race in the pitch black dark down a little road next to the school. What was unknown to them was that for the first time in a millennium the school officials had closed the sturdy metal gate at the end of the lane. David won the race and for his 1st prize award ended up with a broken back.

In the emergency room he was a trooper and refused any medicine until the test results came back with the diagnosis and he had to admit it wasn’t just a pulled muscle. The doctor gave him a shot of morphine and he immediately got a look on his face I had never seen before. “Whoa mom, this is crazy.” Giggling then ensued. Not the manly “bwahaha” that normally emanates from this 6 foot 200 pound kid. It sounded very much like he had been possessed by a 6 year old girl who had just been presented with a rainbow colored unicorn and told that she got to be princess of Wonderland for a day. He then closed his eyes and upon opening them just a few seconds later told me about the puppies he could see that were shooting little lasers at each other.

Dave isn’t the only one like this. My mom has been in the hospital several times and my sister and I carry a list if the types of pain medicine she cannot have. If she gets the wrong stuff she enters a whole other dimension. One night I came to her hospital room as she was in the process of climbing out of bed so that she could go “get on the tractor” she was convinced was in the closet. Apparently the ground in that closet was in desperate need of being cultivated and they only way to keep her from her chores was to tell her the bed was farm truck that needed to be worked on.

I knew these facts about my family members but never dreamed I was in the same league. Several years ago my back suddenly decided it was going to walk out, contract negotiations with its daily grind coming to a standstill. Unexpectedly I woke up one morning and it had gone on strike. After coming to the conclusion that I couldn’t crawl to work or take care of my babies from a fetal position on the floor my sister talked me into going to the ER to get checked out.

When we arrived a couple of nice nurses peeled me out of the car and wheeled my groaning and moaning invalid carcass into an examination room. I heard a lady in the hall say “oh that poor thing is she very far into her labor?” Insult added to injury I managed to get myself up on the table so a doctor could come tell me the obvious.

“Your back is out” was his professional opinion. Dang it, I could have told myself that and spent the $300 I paid him on shoes. He then told me that they were going to give me a shot to “take the edge off.” I was looking for more than the edge of that agony to disappear but beggars can’t be choosers.

The nurse came back in and gave me an injection which immediately made me feel like my face was melting off. “Whoa, this is crazy” I said to my sister. I lay there on my back in a state of euphoria mixed with macaroni and cheese, or something like that. As I contemplated the ceiling tiles directly in my gaze I noticed that they began to move. Much like train tracks going by they increased in speed until they were just a blur. I could even hear the train whistle calling to me from time to time.

“Do you see that?” I asked my bemused sis. “And another thing Evonne, I love you. I really, really, love you like a whole lot. Like, I never knew how much I just really love you. And I love this table, it is such a nice and beautiful table.”

I’m not sure how long that all lasted but eventually my trip to the 1960’s ended and they sent me home. After that experience I found that I could understand how people might be tempted to re-enact that type of thing for fun in their living rooms and become addicted to it.

As temporarily amusing as it was there was something very troubling about not being able to control my thoughts and actions. I was very grateful for the wisdom of my parents and church leaders who warned me in my youth of the dangers of illegal drug consumption. Without them I could have very possibly made some decisions early on that would have seriously altered my life course and caused me and my family untold heartache.

People in my family are lightweights when it comes to chemicals. It’s good to know our weaknesses and even better to know how to avoid falling into actions that exploit those weaknesses. Pain killers are a blessing as long as they are used under the direction of a doctor. I believe that God gives us access to things like that to help us when truly needed, but as with all things there can be too much of a good thing and that is just as destructive as the really bad stuff in life.

So will I take the meds the next time my back deserts me? Yes, but carefully and only as little as will do the job. My closet can wait for it’s next cultivation.



Friday, August 17, 2012

Skinny Dipping for Prudes

At seventeen I was a good kid. I had wholesome friends and spent my weekends going to the movies, playing church volleyball, and any chance I could getting up into the mountains hiking and enjoying nature. My friends and I didn’t drink, smoke, party, or mess around with boys. The guys we spent our time with were mostly farm boys, all of sterling moral upbringing. It was a great way to spend your teenage years but didn’t allow much room for the normal rebellion that is known to well up in even the most well-behaved teens.

Granted, a little bit of that repressed rebellion was taken out on my poor parents. I made it my goal in life to drive them absolutely batty. If there was a curfew- I broke it, a chore to be done- I avoided it, an argument to be had about clothing choice- I made it. There was also a lot of talk on my part of trying the afore mentioned drinking, smoking, partying, and fraternization but my conscience and the influence of my friends always (and thankfully) kicked in before I ever really did anything newsworthy.

It was in this state that plans were made for a “girls trip” up to the family cabin of my friend Laura. There were five of us who wanted to go and after much begging and pleading by all of us our parents consented, with one exception. Laura’s mom would go with us to “keep us out of trouble”. Laura’s mom was somewhat of a free spirit and generally a fun person so we agreed to the supervision and packed up for the weekend.

The cabin was located an hour-and-a-half away from our homes in the central mountains of Idaho. Ponderosa pine that smelled like vanilla lined the banks of the Payette River which has one of the premier runs of white water rapids in the entire country. This river is fed by the crystal blue lake Payette that is the product of glacier and snow melt and the temperature of the water reflects its genesis. Water in that lake is somewhere between “burrrr” and “d@mn cold.”  It was a popular place for fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts of all types.

Once we had arrived at the cabin and settled in, our standard conversation kicked off. The “now what are we going to do” discussion. A few ideas were thrown out such as walking up to a nearby hot springs to soak, taking a hike, and putting together some tin foil dinners to cook on a fire.

And then someone came up with the suggestion of skinny dipping in the lake.

There were peals of laughter and then the dares began. “There’s no way you would do that” and on and on. We finally made a group decision that this was something that everyone needed to do once in their life and Laura’s mom, who I don’t think believed we would actually go through with it, agreed to drive us to the lake.

After searching for a secluded cove, out of sight of the sportsman and vacationers on the water, we finally found the perfect spot. As we stood on the sandy shore in the slant of the late afternoon sun my inner modesty program began to kick in. There was no way I was going to strip down in a public place in front of my best friends. I didn’t even like changing in gym class and usually waited for the locker room to clear out before I would show any skin. After some discussion about this it was agreed that we would each disrobe one at a time while everyone else had their backs turned. We would then get into the water and call all clear once in up to our necks and far enough away that no one could see anything. So much for carefree teenage rebellion.

One by one we each made our way into the frigid water leaving our clothes in neat piles on the shore. I was second in because I knew I was a strong swimmer and had decided to get a good ways off to make sure there was plenty of distance between me and any of the others. Laura’s mom even decided to join in and in a screeching white blur ran about knee deep into the liquid ice and squatted down. That lasted all of about 30 seconds and she bailed out declaring that frostbite was going to set in if we stayed in any longer.

By the time everyone had made it in my lips and a few other odds and ends had begun to lose all feeling and turn blue. With chattering teeth I agreed it was time to end this super fun and exciting activity. In reverse order we began to exit the lake while everyone again turned their backs.

As my turn approached I noticed a faint roar that seemed to be coming closer. I glanced over my shoulder and in horror watched a boat with several fishermen on board close in on my position. I treaded water while waiting for them to pass which they did. Again, just as I was about to head for shore I heard it again. The same boat had made a u-turn and was making another pass. Holy crap, this was a really terrible idea. Did the fishermen suspect what it was we were doing out there?

After pass number five it was pretty clear that we had been noticed. Luckily they were gentlemanly enough not to get too close and instead made a nuisance of themselves just going back and forth a couple of hundred yards out. I assume they felt that if they waited long enough the cold would drive us out and they would get an eyeful. Obviously they had no idea just the level of prudes they were dealing with. The Park Rangers would have to pull my dead body out of that lake before I would allow some random fisherman to see me in the buff.

Thankfully, just as severe hypothermia was about to set in the sun made its way below the horizon and the fishermen gave up headed home. I made my way out of the water and put my clothes on, all while everyone’s backs were to me.

Exhausted and half-frozen we drove back to the cabin secure in the knowledge that we could mark skinny dipping off our life long “to do” list.

That experience drove home some nuggets of wisdom that up to that point I had missed. First, was that things that sound exciting and dangerous always have unwanted unintended consequences. Second on the list was that all the rules my parents and society put out there were mostly for my good and protection. Last of all was that sometimes it is good for the soul to do things that are out of your comfort zone, at the very least you are going to learn something.

So, in life calculated risk and spontaneity are good things. Do I want you all to run out and go skinny dipping?

Sure, as long as everyone turns their backs as you get in.



Friday, August 10, 2012

Supersonic Little Red Car

Is it possible to fall in love with an inanimate object?

Cars are a part of my DNA. Both of my parents were motor enthusiasts or “petrol heads” as they call them in Britain. In fact my parents fell in love over the engine of a 1969 Corvette Stingray.

My dad was a genius for anything mechanical and Mother was a bit a of a speed demon. A lot of people are surprised to learn that inside the body of a 5 foot 2, somewhat introverted school librarian beats the heart of a Formula One champion. Mom was an amateur driver, who in her earlier years could be found at the track on Saturdays blowing out the competition.

ferrari formula 1They met at a church social. Both at that point were considered to be a “menace to society” which is the Mormon term for those not married by the age of 25. Dad noticed a cute little brunette in the parking lot with the hood up on her sports car. He swooped in to save the day and show that little miss just what a knight in shining armor he was.  He was stunned to find that no help was needed. Mom proceeded to tell him exactly what the problem with the carburetor was and fixed it in front of him in no time flat. For dad it was love at first spark plug.

 With that background it is easy to see why I have an affinity for cars. I grew up with picture of a Ferrari Testarosa on my wall instead of the Backstreet Boys. Our family listened to the Indy 500 every year on the radio and we often found ourselves at the Meridian Speedway near our home. I was pre-programmed to drive fast and to drive well and I couldn’t wait to get on the road myself. My parents knew this and it was reason they bought “the boat”, our butterscotch colored, purple tinted window Brady Bunch Wagon. (If you want to know more about that story please see my earlier post Boating on Memorial Day.)

Anyway, fast forward a couple of years and the summer after my Freshman year of college found me with recently acquired cash and ready to buy my first car. I had $2000 and that procured me a 1985 red Toyota Tercel, with the hatchback mind you. Granted it was not an Escalade, but it was peppy and fun and I loved the new found freedom it afforded me.

The Little Red Car, or LRC as it soon became known, was with me when I moved to the mountains of eastern Oregon and met my future hubby Buns. Much time was spent completing doughnut contests in the ice covered parking lots LaGrande during our courtship. Much time was also spent in meaningful "conversation" in that car during that period of time but we aren’t going there.

It was there on our wedding day and due to an electrical problem had no tail lights. Buns wasn’t one for driving a standard in those days and so as we exited the church, our friends throwing rice, blowing kisses, and well-wishes much to the crowd’s amusement, I got into the driver’s seat. The car was completely covered in toilet paper, balloons and shaving cream and had the obligatory contingency of cans hanging off the back bumper. I drove us away into the night, hazard lights blinking so someone didn’t rear end us on the dark roads.

In those early days of marriage the Little Red Car became our ATV as well as our regular transportation. Weekends would find us with camping gear stowed in it and on top of it, crawling up the Jeep trails of the mountains near our home. I can’t tell you how many times we passed hikers who just stared at us in slack-jawed disbelief as the LRC growled its way past them on grades that would make a normal person break into a sweat and start praying. Logging roads, horse trails, ravines, it gamely conquered them all.

Time marched on and little ones arrived. The LRC, now with 2 car seats in the back was beginning to be a little cantankerous in its advancing age. First the shocks went out which created a ride that was comparable to being shaken to death by an 8.0 earthquake. Then the muffler died and the engine was so loud that you could hear it in the next county. The accelerator also had the bad habit of once in a while sticking and you would have to pry the gas pedal up off the floor with your toe to avoid climbing a nearby tree or flying off a cliff as it raced into the distance. The windshield was cracked and a few dents had showed up. Never mind, in those days such things as shocks and mufflers and accelerators were luxuries and could certainly be lived without.

It was while driving down the road with my precious boys in the back one day that we began a tradition. With the muffler roaring I found myself having to yell to be heard by the kids in the back seat. They were “breathing each others air” or some other unforgivable sin and had broken out into a slap fight. Not very effective when both parties are chained in their car seats, nevertheless a distraction technique was required. I revved the engine until it reached jet engine decibels and then sang at the top of my lungs “Supersonic! Little Red Car!”

All fighting in the back ceased immediately. “Do it again, do it again” they cried. This time they joined in. “Supersonic, Little Red Car!!!”

Every time we would get into the LRC we would have to do this ritual several times a trip. Our neighbors thought I was completely insane. Here I was driving a decrepit little car and racing the engine as if I were and Indy driver every time we came around the corner.

Just about the time I took a picture of the odometer turning over 300,000 miles the LRC began smoking. I don’t mean a little exhaust smoke, I’m talking blacking out the entire neighborhood for 10 minutes after you’ve gone kind of thing. The neighbors also appreciated this. The reality of the impending demise of my little car finally came crashing home.

We had talked about getting a different car in the past but that had felt like I was betraying my best friend, and so it was always nixed immediately. Finally the time had come. I tearfully waved goodbye to the LRC as Buns drove it off in a farewell cloud of smoke that looked almost beautiful in the sunset on its was to the junkyard.

I adored that little car. I cherish the memories I have of it and all the silly, fun, and crazy things we did in that car. I  have feelings of fondness for the fact that it is so representative of who we were and where we came from. I tenderly recall the simplicity of life that the LRC was a part of. So is it possible to truly love a hunk of inanimate metal and parts?

You bet your fuel injector it is.



Monday, August 6, 2012

Purple Mountain Majesty a.k.a Adventures in Breastfeeding

I grew up in a very modest family. I don't mean modest in that we didn’t have much in the way of the physical trappings, although that was true too. I mean modest in that we were taught from a very early age to keep our bodies covered at all times. This was drilled into me by my sweet mother and progressed over the years in numerous discussions about the appropriate length of shorts and skirts (to the knee without exception), whether sleeveless was appropriate(never), and how tight clothing should be (consistent with a potato sack).

It was also a place that the subject of sex was only broached once in your life when mom sat you down around ten years old and gave you an anatomically correct biology lesson with charts and graphs. After that it was never to be spoken of again. I remember one day in the sixth grade when it finally occurred to me how the mechanics of the whole thing worked and I did a spit take at the lunch room table. Ughh, is that for real?!?

Needless to say, my parents took a traditional view of both subjects consistent with their upbringing.  I paid attention and outside of home whenever the subject of body parts or anything else came up I would react with the obligatory red face and toe scraping. It was so ingrained in me that after Buns and I got married I would get dressed in the closet. That’s how modest I was and no, I’m not kidding.

Mom also had her kids all in the late 70’s and early 80’s when mothers everywhere were being told that formula fed babies were healthier. As the oldest of four, all I had ever seen was bottles and quite of few of them.

By the time I was pregnant with my first baby things had changed. “Breastfeeding was best” and I wanted only the best for my babies. Little did I know that the joy of nursing that all the books talked about was not exactly what it was cracked up to be.

First, the books do not tell you the truth about those first days after you give birth when you “may feel some discomfort when your milk comes in”. 


What actually happens is that one morning you will wake up  with mutant exotic dancer boobs. Hard as rocks, the size of Mount Kilimanjaro, throbbing, excruciating, exotic dancer boobs. This pain and suffering is made doubly worse by the fact that your precious newborn will want to eat exactly every 15 minutes and in the process of “learning how to nurse” themselves will be basically suctioning pieces of your flesh off. Please see blisters, chaffing, raw, and bleeding in the dictionary.

I’m not sure who cried more during these early days, me or my babies but this much is true, Mom’s who nurse deserve an award. Maybe one called the Purple Mountain Majesty Medal for Injuries Sustained in the Act of Nursing would be appropriate.

Another issue the books don’t really prepare you for is that once your milk has come in it will sometimes decide to turn you into a sprinkler system without warning. The first time Buns and I left the house after having my oldest, we were standing in the middle of a crowded Wal-Mart when someone’s baby decided to cry. Cue the irrigation system. I looked down in horror at my rapidly soaking shirt, ripped Bun’s jacket out of his hands, wrapped myself in it and took off for the exit like a bat out of you-know-where. I’m surprised that the associates didn’t try to tackle me in the aisle. I’m sure I looked like I had shoved a something under my coat and was making a break for it.

All of that does get better after what seems to be about a hundred years, but what in reality is a few weeks. With exception, and she is always exceptional, was my daughter Bella. All the boys were voracious eaters but Bella just couldn’t seem to figure it out. With her I tried the football hold, the cross-carry hold, the pledge of allegiance, begging, pleading, praying and everything else I could think of to get her to latch on properly.  About a week in, I was sure she was going to starve to death and so I called my doctor who got me in touch with a lactation specialist.

For those who aren’t familiar with this there are nurses out there who specialize just in helping mom’s and babies figure this stuff out. I promptly made an appointment to see her and was invited to the support group that met the half-hour before my appointment. “That sounds great” I thought, “support groups are where everyone sits in a circle and talks about their problems, that might be ok.”
When I arrived the group was already in session. I was right about the circle part. What I wasn’t prepared for was that every single woman in the room had her shirt either open or completely off and was nursing a baby. I stood in the doorway like a deer in the headlights, the modesty program in my head spinning out of control. I was grabbed by the elbow by the lactation specialist and propelled to a spot on the floor in the circle. They were going around  telling everyone how much milk they produced in a day. Apparently this was a big deal. When it came to me, with red face and trying to look at the ceiling I told them. Thunderous applause rose up, I guess I was quite the milk truck. Go me!

When I finally got out of there I had a whole new understanding of how excited some people really are about this subject and I say good for them. Motherhood is an awesome privilege and if you find nursing to be a joy I think it is wonderful. The up side of all the drama is that there is something really lovely about being that close to your little one for those few short months and it is all completely worth it to give them all the benefits that we now know nursing provides. But for me, I’m tremendously glad I won’t ever have to do it again.



P.S. About an hour after I initially published this post I got a call from my angel mother who informed me that she did actually nurse all us little rascals for the first six weeks before switching us to bottles. Who knew? Apparently I was not really paying attention to such things back then. Kind of like when my brother Kent was born, and while staying with my grandma she asked me whether I would rather go see my new baby brother or go to a Conway Twitty concert at the state fair. No hesitation. Conway Twitty. 

So to my mom and all you nursing veterans out there, Purple Mountain Majesty Medals for you all!
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