Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Taking Turns in a Crisis

In my corner of the world - this month has felt like never-ending snow, ice, and record-breaking cold temperatures.  While I was outside cleaning off/digging our vehicles out of the snow the other day, I had a flashback to the most unforgettable time I dug a car out after a snowstorm.

It was Christmas Eve during my senior year of high school. My Dad, my sister, and I were cleaning off cars and shuffling them around in our driveway.  I remember that we started with my car - a little white GEO Metro with a manual transmission.

I don't remember why we started with that one.  Could have been because it was the smallest, could have been because I had to get up early and go to work the day after Christmas and I wanted to make *sure* it got done.  All I know is that it was cleaned off, and it was at the end of the driveway closest to the street.

Dad was messing around with my Grandpa's old brown pickup truck that was parked at our house.  My knowledge of the inner-working of cars is limited to where you put the washer fluid and the transmission fluid, so I have no idea what was wrong with it. What I do know is that Dad was standing there with the hood open, and he finally got it running.

And that's when we heard him shout that he was hurt and he needed a towel.  NOW!

This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy.  I don't remember who ran inside, grabbed the towel, and yelled at Mom that we were headed to the emergency room.  I don't remember Dad telling us what happened or even who *decided* we were going to the ER.  What I do remember is that the only car ready to go was my GEO, the only one who could drive a stick (that wasn't bleeding profusely) was me, and the roads were covered with ice and snow.

I think it's important to note that we only lived a little over a mile from an emergency room.  This trip should have taken like 3 minutes... max.  But I kept killing the engine.  (In case you've never driven a stick, "killing it" is what happens when you let off the clutch without giving the car enough gas. The car lurches, then dies, then you have to restart it.) Not to mention I kept sliding backwards down the icy hills when I stopped at the stop signs, and I was crying so much that I could hardly see.

My sister stayed pretty silent from the backseat, and my Dad kept murmuring encouraging things and reminding me to breathe while holding his towel-covered hand tight against his chest.  We eventually made it to the hospital, and I pulled right up to the door.  My sister helped Dad out of the car and took him inside - while I continued to sob and look for a place to park.

I found a spot, and headed inside still taking those shuddering breaths that always seem to happen when I'm trying to make myself stop crying. The sight of my sister weeping in the waiting area was enough to make MY tears go away completely.

In case you were wondering, things turned out fine for my Dad.  He ended up having surgery to repair the ends of his fingers that were injured when his glove was pulled into one of the rotating belts inside the truck.  While a couple of his fingers are a bit shorter than they used to be, he still has enough of a middle finger to use when the occasion arises. 

Joking aside, even 18 years later I'm still fascinated at the idea of how my sister and I "took turns" crying during this mini-crisis.  I was nearly hyperventilating trying to drive us to the hospital, and she was calm.  Stoic even.  Then the second we got Dad inside and the medical professionals took him away, she crumbled.  And it took her falling apart to calm me down.

People have written endlessly about the things that humans *really* need in life beyond food and shelter.  Someone to love, something to look forward to, connection, vitality... the list is infinite.  But I'd like to argue that everyone needs someone to "take turns" with them during all of life's major and minor crises.  So find the people that will stay calm when you're completely panicking (and forget how to drive in the snow)... and remember to soothe them when they need it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Still Conducting

When I was a junior in high school, I became the Drum Major of my school's marching band.  In case you weren't lucky enough to be a "band geek" - this position (also sometimes called a Field Commander) is essentially in charge of keeping the tempo for the ensemble while they are playing/marching.  Some drum majors use a whistle or a baton, but I just used my hands to clap "commands" and conduct the music.

I have no idea if I was a good Drum Major.

Conducting a Memorial Day performance at the local cemetery in May 2001.

Unlike my predecessor, I never won any "Outstanding Drum Major" awards for my precision or style.  I'm pretty sure I was MORE concerned with the fact that I was wearing a short jacket with white pants and giving a clear view of my butt to the Friday night football crowd than I *ever* was with making sure I was giving cues in a clear and concise way.

I also know I had a habit of jumping around a bit on the podium when I was standing up in front of the field.  Thank goodness for some friends in the pit who would signal to me when my toes were hanging over the edge.  But honestly, if I had fallen off... I think that the band would have been able to keep on playing and marching without me up there waving my arms.  It's hard to imagine anyone watching/hearing our field show and exclaiming - "Wow!  What an amazing conductor!"  If I was doing my job right, the sounds our band was putting out into the world should have been getting all the glory.       

I realized today that I'm still doing that sort of behind-the-scenes "conducting."

When it comes to my 7-year-old daughter, my husband is clearly her favorite parent.  And while I'll be the first to tell you that he is an excellent father, what she doesn't know is that many of things that make him "super cool" in her eyes... were actually orchestrated by her "boring old Mom."

That time he was out running errands and surprised her by borrowing a couple of movies that she'd been dying to see from the library?  That was me sending him a text message asking him to swing by before he came home.

That Christmas present he gave her that earned him a giant smile and a hug around the neck?  Yeah... that's what I told him to buy.

Those times when her little brother is driving her crazy and Daddy suggests that *just* the two of them go on an adventure to Target or to a trampoline park? You guessed it - that's my doing too.

I'd say there is almost a zero percent chance that my daughter will ever see me direct a marching band.  But I'm still "conducting" - whether she knows it or not.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Toddler-Like Forgiveness

My 2-year-old could teach me a thing or two about forgiveness.

I do TONS of horrible stuff to him. I attempt to comb out his tangled hair after his bath. I make him sit still so I can trim his fingernails. I tell him it's time to change his stinky diaper when he is obviously in the middle of playing something very important. I make him settle down for naps/bedtime when he isn't ready. And WORST of all - I occasionally have to leave him (in tears) with someone else for a while.

And he forgives me for all of these things. And really quickly, I might add. Sometimes there's some pouting, but he usually comes around within like 5 to 10 minutes. And those times when he's really worked up at having to be left behind with someone else for a few hours? The next time I see him... he's all grins and excited shouts and hugs.

The times I offend him the MOST are the times that he forgives me in the BIGGEST way.


When do we lose that as adults? Granted, there are probably some really wonderful, selfless adults out there. People who constantly turn the other cheek... people who always smile and love their neighbor with open arms... people like Mother Teresa. (But she's been dead for what? 20 some years?) I'm willing to bet that the rest of us could probably use some more "toddler like" forgiveness in our lives. And maybe we should start with ourselves.

A friend of mine was recently posting online about how she caught her 1-year-old son watching her do push-ups... and then she saw him attempting his own. And this observation made her more fully aware of how he really is a little sponge. She went on to say, "I so need to live a better life with these little eyes watching. Makes me feel guilty for all my shortcomings." I immediately replied with something encouraging about how much love I know she has for her sons... and how she shouldn't forget to love herself too.

But maybe what she really needs to do is FORGIVE herself. I know there are things I need to forgive myself for. Those silly things from years past that keep you up in the middle of the night, robbing you of sleep while you replay ways that you could have handled them differently. Regrets you have about not making time for the right things (or the right people) at certain moments of your life. Being ashamed about choosing a nap or mindless Facebook scrolling over something else on your to-do list that was infinitely more important.

I can remember my mother once telling me to try to put "things on yardstick." I think she meant that if you back up, and look at the moments of your life as marks on a yard stick, you might see how something might not be a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Everything is just a little mark. Life changing days, like the birth of your first child or little things... like sighing as you pick up the Legos for the four-hundredth time - they are all little marks. And YOU can decide which marks have significance.

Forgive yourself for some of the "little marks" you aren't proud of. If my toddler can do that in 10 minutes, maybe you could do it in the next 24 hours.