Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Good In A Crisis

I am an excellent person to have around in case of an emergency.  When matters of life and death are at hand all of my emotions shut down like a switch that has been flipped and what is left operational is rational and logical.  I am able to separate myself from the terrifying experience and look at it as a puzzle that needs to be solved quickly and efficiently.

I remember driving to my uncle's house one December evening in my parent's Ford Taurus with my mother in the passenger seat.  I had recently gotten my learners permit and was excited to get in some drive time.  I was going over the curvy bridge that connects the 590 South and 390 South expressways.  As I reached the end of the bridge I hit some black ice and started to spin... once... twice.... three times across the expressway and toward the ditch.  I vaguely recall my mother screaming; I'm not sure if she was saying anything or if it was just a noise.  My mind blocked out the sound because it was not useful information to correct what was happening.  I was not afraid, even when I saw headlights coming at us.  "Pump the brakes.  Turn gently into the spin.  Hands at 10 and 2."  That's all that there was. 

We eventually came to a stop and I put the car in park.  We were far enough off the road that we should have been tipped into the ditch, but the car was level.  I took a deep breath, put the car in drive, looked both ways and pulled back out onto the expressway.  I don't remember anything between that and when I pulled into my uncle's driveway to meet up with the rest of our family for dinner.  All I know is that by the time we got inside the house my mother was calm and I completely lost it.  It was finally safe for all the fear and panic to come out, and boy, did it ever!  But I was calm when it counted, and that's what matters.

In high school I was at a party at a friend's house.  We were all having some good clean fun when one of my friends suddenly said, "Are there nuts in these cookies?"  Apparently, our friend's mother had ground walnuts into a fine powder before adding them to the cookies.  This kid didn't realize that until he had downed about half a dozen of them.  The other kids started to panic as his face quickly swelled and turned the oddest shade of reddish-purple I had ever seen on a human being.  It was my first experience with a peanut allergy but before his tongue swelled up like a brisket I was able to get some basic instructions from him as to what to do.  I stayed calm and got him the things that he needed to recover from the attack of the legume.  The two of us ended up sitting outside on the porch in the cold with a glass of milk and a box of Kleenex until he looked... well, less swollen.  I kept my cool and periodically asked if he was alright.  "Emb oday," he would assure me and we continued to sit.  When I got home later that night I got physically sick.

A couple of years ago I got a phone call from my mother.  My Dad had been hit by a bus while waiting at a red light and was being taken to the hospital.  Mom was clearly shaken but I was proud of her for how well she composed herself.  I told her I would be right there and immediately packed up my kids and husband along with a bag full of bottled water and snacks and headed to the scene of the accident to pick up my mom.  I collected all the paperwork the police officer had handed to my mom and kept it safe and organized until my mom was in a state that she could submit things to various insurance companies.  I stayed with her and my dad at the hospital until things seemed under control, offering water and snacks.  I took pictures and made jokes to lighten the mood.  When I got home I crawled into bed and cried for what seemed like forever at the sight of my dad in a big neck brace.  And that was before we found out that he was going to have to have his spine fused together with a big metal plate.  But again, I was calm when it counted.

The point of these memories is to remind me that I am able to handle tough situations.  However, I'm not feeling confident that I will be able to shut off my emotions and think logically this coming Thursday when I hand my baby boy over to a medical staff to perform eye surgery on him.  I don't imagine I will be thinking about how this is the right decision and that I am preventing a future problem and the likely loss of vision in his right eye when they take him from my arms.  I can't believe that I will be thoughtful and practical while waiting for two hours while the doctor's cut into my little boy's eyes to readjust the muscles.  I don't think I can be rational, calm, cool and logical when it comes to my kids.  I think I'm better in sudden emergencies because I don't have time to contemplate everything that is going on.  I just take care of business.

Just this morning a friend of mine posted this on Facebook. 

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Philippians 4:6

I know that God exists the same way that I know my husband, children, family and friends exist.  I have interacted with him.  I have talked with Him.  I have asked Him for help and listened to His voice as He guided me through trouble.  I know He will comfort me as I sit waiting for my son to come out of surgery.  I know His peace will be with me as it has been before.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Am The Alpha Diner

My authority at the dinner table first came to my attention several years ago while enjoying a meal with my husband's family at The Cheesecake Factory.  After a few interactions with the waiter I noticed that he was really only addressing me.  Why, I wondered, were all of his questions being directed at me when there were three other women who have never held back on letting people know exactly what they want, plus my husband sitting at the table with me?  The answer was clear.  I am the Alpha Diner.  Whether I like it or not, I am in charge when dinning out.  For some reason when asked, "Do you need a few more minutes?" the table is silent and defers to me.

I remember my first date with my husband.  We probably went to a movie that I don't recall, but then we went to Friendly's for dinner.  (I remember it being Perkins, but Mike assures me it was Friendly's.)  Anyhow, we were in "Friendly's" and apparently, the waitress forgot part of my date's dinner.  This is when he did an abhorrent thing.  With a look of disgust on his face he snapped his fingers to get the waitress' attention.  It worked; she came right over.  I was appalled, and before he could even make his request I... well... explained to him how a restaurant server is a person, not an animal, and should never be summoned by snapping fingers.  I insisted he apologise or I would walk out of the restaurant, which he did.  I don't think the problem with his order was ever resolved.  I'm also not sure how he got a second date with me.  He must have slipped something into my Pepsi.  To his credit, he has never snapped his fingers to get any one's attention ever again.  This may have been the beginning of my Alpha Diner status.

My father is also an Alpha Diner.  When I was a kid Dad was always the one who would flag down the waitress and make a request no matter who at the table needed something.  Maybe it was because he was the only guy in a house full of women and he's a chivalrous kind of guy.  Maybe it was because my mom was always kind of shy and, like her mother, didn't like to be a bother to people by asking for things even if it was their job to do so.  Maybe it was because he was the one paying the bill, so we just deferred to him.  I don't know.  Whatever the reason, when I have dinner with my dad my status goes from Alpha to Beta.

I like to play a little game I call "Spot The Alpha Diner" while I wait in restaurants.  I look at each table around me and try to pick out the dominant diner.  Some of them can be a bit obnoxious, but sometimes it's much more subtle.  Usually, it's the person who makes the most eye contact with the waiter or smiles the most.  Sometimes you can spot the Alpha Diner because they are the one who calls the waiter by his name.  If someone complements the waitress on her pretty earrings, they are likely the Alpha Diner.  Go ahead, play it the next time you go out to eat!

I'm apparently influencing my children to grow up to be Alpha Diners as well.  Both my 7- and 4-year-old girls have independently flagged down our waiter or waitress to ask for a refill on chocolate milk, a bowl of applesauce, or a side of Ranch dressing without any help or prompting from us.  Actually, they did it without us even noticing because we were trying to prevent the baby from chucking his food into the next booth.  My surprise was not so much in the fact that they asked, but that they did it with so much authority and grace that the teen aged wait staff actually responded to them immediately!

So, who's the Alpha Diner in your family?

Monday, May 9, 2011

WebMD Is Not My Friend

I'm not the kind of mom that worries about every little sniffle.  My general philosophy is whatever doesn't kill 'em makes 'em stronger.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a modern mom who carries hand sanitizer in every purse, stroller, diaper bag and car I have.  Since my son is not skilled at keeping his food on his plate I always keep those self-sticking place mats on hand for restaurants.  And after my sister visited with her new puppy every one's hands and face got a thorough scrubbing.  But if my kids decide to try and feed each other dirt from the backyard or pop the occasional bug into their mouth, oh well.  A little extra protein for the day.

But on occasion, I get a little obsessed about my kids to the point that I can't think about anything else.  That's when the trouble starts because that's when I start visiting WebMD.  I've done it for each of my kids and drove myself crazy staring at disgusting pictures of rashes trying to figure out which disease to inform the pediatrician my kids have, as if my 20-minutes of research online makes me more qualified to diagnoses than the years of education and experience that the trained medical professionals have.  It's shameful.  I'm not proud, but I can't seem to stop myself.

I also turned to WebMD about two weeks before my planned C-Section and watched a video of EXACTLY what the doctors were going to be doing to me behind that big sheet that would separate my head from the rest of my body.  Let me tell you ladies, there's a reason they don't let you watch your own c-section.  It's grodey.  Nobody should ever, EVER see that happening.  Well, needless to say, I freaked out.   The thought of my insides being on the outside was just too much to handle.  I tried to convince my husband that the baby should just stay inside me like a kangaroo, but he explain to me that I am not a marsupial and a pouch was not an option. 

He made me promise never to visit WebMD again.   Well, I haven't gone to the site for a long time, but my son... my baby, was diagnosed with strabismus or "lazy eye" (by an actual medical professional, not me!)  He is scheduled to have surgery on May 19th and, once again, I turned to WebMD for more details.  The idea of having my little baby in an operating room under anesthesia is enough to make me cry.  The thought of someone, even a highly trained doctor, the best in the state, I'm told, cutting away a piece of muscle from my baby's eye makes my heart stop.  Seeing pictures of what they will be doing... no words.  Just tears.

I have to keep reminding myself that he needs this surgery to avoid loosing vision in his eye.  I need to remind myself that the doctors are there to help him.  I need to remember that God gave him to me and He will keep him safe.

So now, I'm off to the pediatrician to check out a sniffle and make sure it won't interfere with the surgery.  I can't wait until this is all over.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Sound a Bunny Makes

When you ask most children what sound a bunny makes they will usually just twitch their nose.  That's a perfectly respectable answer, but not entirely correct.  Rabbits do actually make a sound.  It's a sound that does not at all match the fuzzy reputation of bunnies and if you heard it, you wouldn't believe it had come from a bunny at all.  Maybe bunnies don't usually make a sound because all of the other animals would make fun of them, but this cry is saved for moments of extreme duress.  I know that they only make a sound while under duress because of one reason, my friend Mike.

When I was a kid we had a seemingly unending stream of pet bunnies that came, I assume, from the previous owner of our first pair of rabbits assuring my father he had two male bunnies.  We used to walk our bunnies up and down the street on little green leashes before they became raging alcoholics who would barely even move to eat.  That's another story entirely. 

Anyhow, on one of our little walks our bunny, Thumper, got tired and decided to rest at our neighbor's house.  It seemed as good a time as any to visit our friends, so we tied Thumper's leash to the porch railing and went inside for a visit.  My friend, Mike, was a charmingly curious little boy who would often wander off and have little adventures of his own.  It was during one such adventure that we began to wonder where he had gone off too when we suddenly heard the oddest noise coming from the porch.  It sounded like a small pony or a donkey braying and we couldn't imagine what kind of creature it was coming from.

When we got to the porch, there stood Mike holding in his hand the little green leash with a very nervous bunny at the end.  He looked up at us with his big, brown eyes and quietly said, "He sat on a thorn."   Worst.... liar.... ever.  It was clear that the little boy decided the bunny was lonely and would have more fun in the house with the rest of us, so he grabbed him by the leash and attempted to lead him up the porch steps like you would a dog.  Except, bunnies don't really move like dogs.  Thumper, believing that he was going to die by being hanged from his own ridiculous leash (I mean, come on, who puts a rabbit on a leash?) gave out one last cry of desperation.  It's that cry that stopped the little boy in his tracks and attracted a house full of spectators to the scene, saving the bunny's fluffy little tail.

I hadn't thought about that day in quite a while, but was reminded of it when I heard that vaguely familiar sound very early this morning just before sunrise.  "Another bunny in duress," I thought.  Later that morning I went to my backyard and found a fluffy bunny tail.  No bunny.  Just the tail.

UPDATE:  We found a second bunny tail in the back yard.  Apparently, our yard is a fantastic hunting ground for a very skilled night creature!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Reaction to bin Laden

I'm sure many people will always remember where they were and what they were doing when the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed broke.  I won't because it was Sunday night and, since there wasn't anything good on TV, I was watching DVDs of The Big Bang Theory until I fell asleep on the couch.  But I will always remember the next morning when I logged onto my laptop while the kids watched "The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That" and I saw the horrible man's face on every news page.  The sound of Martin Short singing the happy ditty "Here we go, go, go, go on an adventure..." will forever be associated with the end of an evil man for me.

I was surprised at my reaction to the news.  I have the kind of personality that likes to see people get exactly what they deserve, especially if they've been horrible.  But my response was one of shock then sadness.  I realized that this man was really, really in hell.  He is really, really burning and suffering.  He's being tormented and abused, and it will continue for eternity.

Don't get me wrong.  He TOTALLY deserves eternal damnation.  But in all honesty, we all do.  You see, sin is sin in God's eyes.  There aren't levels or degrees of sin for God.  This horrible man who was responsible for the death of countless numbers of people, this man who used women and children as human shields in order to continue his evil life, is no more or less of a sinner that the mother of three who lied about having a headache so she didn't have to go to zumba last night.  A sin is a sin.  The price of sin is death.  Osama got what he deserved, no doubt.  But he got what we all deserve.

Thankfully, you and I don't have to suffer the same price.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.  The penalty for MY sin is my death.  It's not optional.  This fee cannot be waived.  I owe it.  I owe it, and Jesus paid it for me.  He died in my place.  He sacrificed his life for me so that I can live.  All I had to do in return was to thank Him, ask Him to be in my heart and to help me change and be a better person.  Yes, I still sin.  But I have a Savior to go to who forgives me when I ask for forgivness and sets me free.