Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter, Treadmills, and Kevin James

This has been a hard winter.  The weather has been far more winter-like than I enjoy.  Subzero temps and so much snow that I almost long for the color green.  With the loss of Linus adding to the hardship of the winter it is safe to say that we are ready for spring to arrive. 

We have missed a great deal of school due to the weather and when we get these unexpected days off we tend to spend them watching movies and reading books.  Yesterday we had one of these days and as I woke up, I thought of how I had sat much of the last three days due to the weather and not being able to get out. It occurred to me that perhaps my muscles and bones were starting to atrophy.  I decided to get up and get on the treadmill to get some exercise.  It has been quite some time since I exercised, so I started out on level two.  I started out pretty strong for being so weak.  But then I started feeling quite weak. 

I was walking up and down small inclines and thinking how useful it would be when we take our trip to the sandy beaches this year.  I was encouraging myself that this was good to be exercising my muscles this way when ...I started feeling a bit nauseous and light headed.  I had five minutes left and I was not going to make it.  My thoughts then turned to whether I would throw up or pass out first.  I stopped it and got off and sat down (if I insert here that I sat on the Bowflex do I get extra exercise points?).  My son brought me water, asked if I was going to be ok, and then got back to the business of Minecraft.  As I am trying to cool myself off and considering if this is in fact what it means to be a heart attack waiting to happen the phone rings.

I pull myself to standing and walk slanted to answer the phone.  It was a woman wanting to set up an appointment with my husband and me.  As the room was currently spinning and I was noticing the amount of sweat pooling on my back I informed her that I was going to need a minute as she caught me figuring out that I was in fact alarmingly out of shape and that I was having flash backs to every Kevin James movie I'd ever seen when he had to do any physical activity ever.  I checked the calendar made the appointment and got off the phone.

It was at this point that my eldest daughter came downstairs and I informed her that I was a heart attack waiting to happen and that she gets the exact amount of exercise I do so she may be too.  I then told her to go get on the treadmill.  She declined and went after some Frosted Flakes for breakfast.  I went after some oatmeal because....fiber.  I also used a packet instead of making it myself from the large container so who are we kidding here, I wasn't going for completely full.  I also worked on drinking my bottle of water, also known as the stuff that saves you when you are having a breakdown on a treadmill, also you needs water.  So I'm having breakfast and trying to convince her to exercise with me and she says she can't because she has to work that night and she needs to be able to move.  When she finished breakfast she promptly when upstairs to shower and get ready for the work she had coming in seven hours. 

I finished breakfast and soon went to finish my last five minutes on the treadmill.  After which I did a couple of things on the Bowflex and a few crunches.  Later when I talked to a friend on the phone I told her about my exercise adventure.  I also told her that someone had once again asked me to go to zumba.  I told her that there was no way I'd be able to keep up in a zumba class if I can't finish thirty minutes on a treadmill and while I knew that in schools they have defibrillators in many hallways I had never seen one in the church where these zumba classes take place.

I had very good thoughts about getting started on physical fitness this year.  Those thoughts were trumped by Ben and Jerry's and the fact that everyone sends us fudge for Christmas and I eat when I'm sad.  It's a starting point this last adventure on the treadmill though.  I may get introduced as the fat cousin at my cousin's wedding this next month but I think that is OK.  Everyone should be looking at the bride anyway.  Plus it would be a shame to be dieting when we go to the wedding.  Rumor has it they are having a dessert bar and who wants to miss out on that?  That being said I think we have more snow coming and there is a very good chance that we are not finished with the unexpected days off from school.  Perhaps instead of spending the entire time sitting and reading two books this next time I'll read a bit while I walk on the treadmill.  Even more sad than missing out on the dessert bar is being wildly out of shape and not being willing to make a change.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Day Gone Bad and a Goodbye to Linus

There are days in this life that we wish we could get a do over.  It is not yet five on a Monday morning and I am wishing it were Sunday so I could restart that day and try again.  And yet I'm not sure what I could have done differently other than not opening my front door.

A simple act really.  Just opening the door to let my cat out so that he can get some fresh air and stretch after napping on the couch beside me most of the afternoon.  But this one act would set a course for the day that I'm not sure reveals the best of me.  Perhaps only revealing my cowardice.

A stray dog that looked to have some pit bull in him was at my front door earlier in the day.  I had only noticed him when my son's friend came over to play.  I told the dog to go home.  He didn't and stuck around.  I posted on facebook asking for anyone who might know the owner.  He stood on my porch shaking and howling before disappearing.  I didn't see him.  I thought he had run off in search of home, although I venture a guess that he had no home or not one that wanted him back as he looked hungry and was not wearing a collar.

My cats are indoor/outdoor cats.  They like to come in and rest but they also like to go out and play and feel the fresh air and roam around the yard.  This had never been a problem before.  The number of times I have opened my door to let cats in or out are too numerous to count.  It would be like trying to number the stars.

Close to ten years ago my mother lost her battle to cancer on a July evening during a lightening storm.  The following April on Easter my cat Lucy was found having been hit by a car.  We had had Lucy for four years.  We got her as a kitten and she was our cat Gabby's best friend after she decided to let her stay.  Gabby was not happy about the addition to our family at first.  Lucy was a great mouser and when I was pregnant with my son both she and Gabby followed me everywhere guarding me even if I went to the restroom.  When she died we were devastated and it only compounded our grief over losing my mom.

My husband not one to want us to be hurt took us to a coworker's home a couple months later and let us pick out a kitten from her litter.  We sat among the kittens and Linus was ours from the moment I first held him.  Linus we were told was a girl.  Which is when our adventures with Linus began.  We named "her" Lilly and took "her" home.  When I took "her" to the vet you can imagine their surprise that we had named this cat Lilly.  As it  turned out Lilly had testicles and was a boy.  Linus had long hair and we never looked for ourselves.  I then had to come up with another L name on the spot and Linus' identity crises ended.

Linus has been with us since 2005.  He quickly became my buddy.  He liked to be where I was.  Often sleeping at the foot of my bed or sleeping on my favorite white couch beside me.  Sometimes he would lay on my kitchen counter in front of the window and when we told him to get down he would look at us like he had no idea what our problem was.  One evening I even found him investigating the washer and dryer.  He was so funny and full of life which he helped to breathe into us after suffering a few tough losses.

I opened my front door.  I stood there at the door to make sure he didn't want to come back inside.  Then I noticed he was looking at something and his hair started sticking straight up.  I turned to see the stray coming out of the igloo we keep on our porch for the cats.  I told him to come back inside but he wouldn't, his eyes fixed on the dog.  I told the dog to go.  The the cat jumped and bounced out off the side of the house and took off to the neighbor's house with the dog chasing him.  I tried to find a number for help but I couldn't see straight.  I grabbed my shoes and ran to get a baseball bat and took off to find my cat at the neighbor's house being circled by the dog.  I rang the doorbell and asked for help.  The came out to help and the dog attacked.  I hit the dog on the back with the bat but he wouldn't let go.  Eventually we got them separated and I got my carrier and we got Linus in it and carried home.  The neighbors got the dog tied up and called for someone to come take the dog away.

We kept him in the carrier until my husband got home and we took him to the vet.  Linus was in shock and cold.  We warmed him up and gave him pain meds and well...they tried everything they could but only Jesus could save him.  So He took him home.

Our four legged friends become a part of our families.  Often times they are like one of the kids or one of our closest confidants.  That is what Linus was for us.  I imagine what it is like for him in Heaven.  Running around with Lucy even though they never met and driving my mother crazy.  The sadness we feel over the loss of him is like a hole is inside us and it won't close or perhaps like being punched so hard and the ache just won't go away.

If only I hadn't opened the door.  If only I had called to have someone take the dog earlier in the day.  I kept thinking maybe someone would claim him.  I kept thinking if I call and have him taken away they may kill him.  I didn't want to end him I only wanted him to go away and I thought eventually he would, that he had.  And for this moment and for this week I am going to wish I had called and wish I could have shot that dog the moment I opened the door.  I'm going to wish I had ended the dog and my cat were still here to lay on the couch beside me and follow me upstairs and lay in my closet.  This week in my grieving I am not going to feel sympathy for the dog who killed my cat, my friend, my four legged kid, my confidant.  And yet even as I type that I know that even if I did have a gun, I'm not sure I could have just shot the dog when I opened the door and what does that say about me?

 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.  "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…  Those passages from Matthew are what I cling to.  I will continue to go to my Father and seek his comfort and peace.  Please pray for us. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Applebee's and Seinfeld

We were recently snowed in for a week making our Christmas vacation from school three weeks off instead of the customary two.  While I am not a fan of snow in any amount I am a fan of a three week break.  Telling myself each day that the days off were God's way of telling me He loves me best.  The first three days were golden and while the final two days were equally as pleasing I had started to resign myself to the fact that we were never going to leave the house again.

My husband being in the line of work he is in had to go to work no matter what level of travel status we were.  I will be honest here and tell you that there were days we just stayed in our pajamas.  Other days we just hung out in sweats.  My hair was never styled and my make up never put on.  For what purpose would they have served?  If you can't relax and be real with the people in your house then who can you?  Laundry was done, meals were prepared and a great deal of movies were watched and some intense games of Scrabble were played.  I found myself in a place of contentment that told me that I could stay that way forever.  We were living in a frozen tundra what did we need to leave for?  My husband could bring home supplies.  We never had to leave again.  We would go through our lives as hermits and that was that.

Until Friday after lunch husband deemed it safe to take our son and his friend sledding.  He was off work for the day and couldn't wait to take the boys to have some fun.  I stayed behind with the girls.  One of my girls has a part time job and had to go to work later in the afternoon so we were staying behind so she could get ready and my other daughter and I could well much of what we had been doing for three weeks...sit and relax.

When my husband returned he as well as my daughter (the one who did not have to go to work heretofore to be referred to as the traitor) decided we would all be venturing out.  Sticking a monkey wrench into my hermit lifestyle plans.  It is an interesting thing to go out when you have been in for a week.  Mind you I had stepped onto the porch but that is as far as I had gone.  After all everyone has to have snow cream sometimes right?  But we went out out.  Out of the house, into the car, and onto the road not just venturing out of the house but into town.  It was an odd feeling.  The air was so fresh.  We took our oldest to work and then asked Megan where she wanted to go.

We ended up at Kohl's where we bought nothing.  Then we went to Hobby Lobby where we bought nothing but found so many things we wanted.  We ended at the restaurant that no one wants to go to alone and apparently everyone in the county decided to go to also, Applebee's.  We walked into a crowd resembling the Tickle Me Elmo fiasco of the 90's.  I walked up to the hostess to give her my name and she directed me to another hostess to put my name on her list first.  This has never happened at any time to us when we have gone here.  All of a sudden I'm in an episode of Seinfeld.

Megan and I stayed to wait out the 20-25 minutes is was supposed to take to get seated while the boys went to look at an electronics store.  So I look at Megan and say, "Two lists?  Why are there two lists?  Do we have to make our way up the first list to get onto the other list?  Are they even communicating with each other?  Do they have walkies?  Is it 20-25 minutes to get seated or just to make it onto the list inside the restaurant?"  Megan looks up at me and says, "I don't know."  "You don't know?  Hey! I see someone I know.  I think I'll go ask her, she was here before us."  I then get a glare and "Sure just leave me here alone."  "Fine I'll stay here but don't you have questions?"  "No."  She says.  So I stand there contemplating what is happening.  Watching the people come in and not once watching the hostesses communicate with each other.  My daughter sees an opening on the bench and we go sit down.

"Seriously?  Have you seen them talk to each other?  We've been here almost a half an hour.  Two lists!  What is this New York?  Why do they need two lists?"  A blank stare.  "Well I'm going to go up and ask where we are."  I go up to the hostess.  "Excuse me can you tell me where we are on the list?  Heather party of four?"  She responds with, "Which person did you give your name to me or the other lady."  "The other lady." (I knew there was a problem with this system.)  She looks up and down the list and finally finds us.  She points and say, "Well you are here and I am right up here."  I retreat to my seat.  "You are here?  What is she a map of the mall?  Time?  I need to know a time!  How much longer?  That was the question."  All things that I am saying in my head of course at this point because Megan apparently doesn't realize we are in the middle of a Seinfeld episode in my mind.

When we finally get seated I tell my husband about being in a Seinfeld episode.  He smiled indulgently at me and by the time our food arrives nothing else exists.  A meal provided by someone who isn't me is a beautiful thing to all of us.  After dinner we walked the dying mall and it does not occur to me that I have left my umbrella in the restaurant until it is time to go home.  When I arrived I noticed they are still just as busy because like I said EVERYONE in the county decided to go to Applebee's after a long winter's nap.  I retrieve my umbrella and find people I know.  I stopped to say hello and then asked if they were going with the two lists thing.  They replied that they were and I went into my bit.  They smiled...apparently I'm the only one who thought it was like being in a Seinfeld episode.

Now that I can see the road and see the grass outside.  I can't help but wonder if my attitude about leaving the house this last week was a wake up call.  Now that I'm free to leave of my own volition I can see how I can get sucked into the mentality that I never have to move again from the comfort and confines of my own home.  While I did take a break and enjoy time with my family is that enough?  I communicated very little with the outside world and I was happy.  This is a frightening thought.  How can you make a difference if you settle in?  How can you share the love of Jesus if you aren't communicating with anyone except the people in your house?  While I believe that everything starts at home it is only when we branch out that we can change. I didn't write one word while on my break and maybe I could have gone the rest of my life never writing again.  Just sitting on my couch watching the world go by without me.  But then I wouldn't be able to make a difference at all in the world and you can't do that without going out into the world or at least writing to them.
So now that the deep freeze is over and Applebee's is hopefully back to normal we are going out.  We are venturing into town and looking at the world around us.  Noticing the Seinfeld bits that are waiting to happen in restaurants and I'm back to the laptop to share our stories and taking a break from my break on my favorite couch.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year and Some Straight Lines

A new year.  How can it be that it is 2014 already?  I remember 1996, or I should say that I remember one thing very clearly about 1996.  I became a mother.  I am one of those people who when I think of the 90's, I think it was only ten years ago.  Perhaps that is part of the problem.  It wasn't just ten years ago. 

My oldest daughter is seventeen.  She will graduate from high school this year.  In preparing for this event, I started cutting t-shirts into squares in an effort to make a t-shirt blanket for her.  Yes I own a sewing machine, no I do not use it much.  When my girls were little I thought I should learn to sew.  A very kind lady from our church then helped me to make beautiful dresses and things for my girls.  This lasted...well a short time.  Raising two girls nineteen months apart became very busy and my sewing machine got put away for several years.  It made a brief appearance to make a Halloween costume for my son several years ago as the thing he wanted to be was not sold in stores.  Again with that costume I had help. 

This week my sewing machine was brought out from under my bed and placed on a table in the family room to start the process of making a t-shirt blanket that I am not at all prepared to make both talent wise and emotionally.  As I sit here this morning at my desk I realize I am dragging my feet.  It it one step in the process of letting go and she woke up this morning not feeling well.  How can she possibly be this old?  In my mind's eye I can see her in her pig tails and footy pajamas carrying her teddy bear. 

But then how fair is that?  I myself was once a little girl in pig tails and footy pajamas carrying a teddy bear.  Yet here I am a grown woman married with children and although I wish I could keep her with me forever, I know it isn't to be.  It is not for me to clip her wings but to encourage her to spread them out and fly.  To soar amongst this life and seek and find all that God has planned for her.  For me to attempt to keep her is going against what my calling is as her mother. 

Next year she will be in college and while she won't be far away she has spent her winter break telling everyone that this is our last Christmas together as next year she will be gone at college.  I think it is her way of preparing herself for what is coming.  Although I did have to burst her bubble and tell her the dorms close for break and she will be home for about a month for winter break in college. 

I'm not prepared and yet I know that within the next few minutes I will be in there sewing the t-shirts together.  I will look at the representation of her school career with fond memories and a curiosity of the ones she will create in college. 

Life is a journey.  Parenthood is a journey.  We aren't necessarily prepared for any of it but it is comforting that we don't have to go through any of it alone. 

So I have some sewing to do today.  I don't remember how to get thread on that bobbin thing that goes inside the machine, I apparently should have gotten some sort of stabilizer so the t-shirts don't stretch when I sew them, and I am not exactly sure that this is going to go well.  But I'm going for it.  I'm going to start sewing my straight lines just as I am trying to walk a straight and narrow path.  After hard can it be?