March 30, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas

I've decided to make my Flashbacks an every-other-Friday kind of thing because I always have too much to say and not enough time to say it. So this week instead I will bring you some news.

I am officially a Texan.

OK, I know I moved here in May of last year, I have a house and, at one time, I was even employed here, but it's really not official until you get your driver's license. I believe the law states that you are supposed to get it within 6 weeks or some nonsense like that, but the law doesn't take Slacker Standard Time into consideration. I didn't want to get my license with my in-laws' address on it so I had to wait until we got a house. Then I was told that I couldn't get a license until my van was registered, but I couldn't get it registered until it passed inspection, which wouldn't happen until it was repaired, which had to wait until we had money. You know, one of those things.

Ten months later, Suzy has given up her beautiful Mt. Rainier license plates and she's now sporting brand spankin' new plates with the TX state outline and colors. The kids were a bit worried that without her signature "Suzy" plates they wouldn't be able to find her in a parking lot but I assured them that there aren't a lot of purple mini vans out there. That meant it was my turn. I did the requisite hair and makeup and endured the soul-sucking pit that is the DMV. I never quite understood why people were so against the institution. Yes, there are always long lines, and yes, they employ some very...colorful characters but it's not all that bad. Turns out I just wasn't visiting the right DMV. I now understand it all. The cracked, concrete floors and the matching grey walls; the hard, plastic chairs crammed tighter than the seats in coach where you will inevitably be seated next to the screaming baby; the bark of the lady in the information line who informs you that, after standing in line for an hour just to get a number, you don't have the right paperwork and you'll have to come back; the cesspool of germs that is the waiting room where people with questionable hygiene practices--and even more questionable fashion sense--cough and hack and wipe their noses with the backs of their hands; the vacant, glassy eyes of the employees behind the counter who have long since given up hope of escaping the pit. It all makes for a very depressing way to spend an afternoon.

But I survived. And after giving up my WA license (*sniff, sniff*), I was given my temporary TX one until the real one arrived in the mail. And now it's here. I'm happy to report that I ended up with a good picture even though they made me take off my glasses leaving me less than clear on where to focus. At any rate, I will never be embarrassed to whip that thing out (unless I'm having to pull it out to show a cop). And now that I am a Texan once again, I've decided it's time for me to embrace my new status. Instead of complaining about all the things I don't like about TX, I am going to share with you the things I do like. It's not a huge list but I think I should get extra credit for the effort.

1. The big, open skies.  Even here in Mesquite where there are trees and the occasional hill, the view of the skies is unobstructed. This means that when the sun sets, you get a panoramic view of red, gold, pink and purple skies. At night, the stars are endless, just a solid canopy of twinkling lights. And when a storm comes in, even if it's miles off, you can watch a dazzling show of lightning from the safety of your livingroom.

2. The bluebonnets.  The bluebonnet is the TX equivalent of the tulip in WA. You can't grow up here and not get spring pictures taken in a field of bluebonnets. And they grow crazy along the sides of the highways so as you're out driving, you'll find people pulled over taking pictures of their kids all dolled up in their spring best. Just don't pick them and try not to trample them in your quest for the perfect photo op--as the state flower, there are penalties for destroying them.

3. The restaurants.  I'm not a big BBQ fan and I don't eat Tex-Mex, but what I do like is Chili's and The Black Eyed Pea. MC and I used to drive an hour to get to one of the only Chili's in WA but then it closed down. Now the only one left is in Spokane which is on the other side of the state. I'm happy to say that I now live within 10 minutes driving distance to both. TX also has CiCi's pizza, which always reminds me of the old Godfather's restaurants. They don't have the best pizza but they do have the best cinnamon rolls that aren't baked by my mom. It's worth going to the buffet just to fill up on those!

4. The people.  All of MC's immediate family is here--brothers, sister, nieces and nephews, and Dad--and his extended family is close--Grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins. I love to spend time with them all. They are the ones who introduced me to Nertz, Canasta and Chickenfoot, Oreo balls, co-ed softball and Firefly. They are my family away from my family. We also have a great network of friends through church and even work. They all--family and friends--make living here worthwhile.

March 28, 2012

The Creepy Crawlies

I can't believe I'm going to admit this...okay, I can. I mean, what DON'T I share in a public forum...Anyways. We just had to de-louse everyone. That's right...head lice. We've all heard the same lecture about how it doesn't matter how clean you are and it's just highly contagious, blah, blah, blah. But you know when you hear someone has head lice you get all creeped out like they've just crawled out from a sewer somewhere and are just waiting to infect you with their disease. Rationally, I know "hey, it happens" but inside I'm still a little skeeved out.

It turns out that it's being passed around between the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse...uh, I mean, Sassy and her friends. Who knows where it originated--school, church, family, practice, there's just no telling. But Sassy was at least the 3rd girl in her class to get it that we know of. And how did we discover this? As I walk into the hair salon with my 3 little minions in tow, Sassy tells me that her friends picked a bug out of her hair in the lunch line and told her it was head lice. And they know this because they both just got rid of their own lice. Ewww!!! "Turn around, we are leaving RIGHT. NOW."

Sassy had been complaining about an itchy head but my kids have always had a tendency toward a dry scalp so I didn't think much of it. I just chalked it up to the fact that she is showering herself and figured she just wasn't rinsing out all the shampoo or something (hey, it made sense to me). So we go home and I scour everyone's scalp. The boys seem fine but Sassy has a 3 ring lice circus going on. Great. I show Howdy what to look for so he can check my head but he doesn't find anything. Whew! Then I call "I"'s mom who had just been telling me that afternoon about their lice ordeal. She offered to bring over an unused lice remover kit she had leftover and commiserated with me. Just in case, though, I made her go through my hair when she got here. "I see a nit," she announced. WHAT!? Really? Oh, man. It figures.

I went my entire childhood without head lice and now I've had it twice since having kids. It broke out around us when Bubba was a year old and out of the 4 of us, we were the only 2 to get it. At the time, he'd never had a haircut and had the most beautiful curls. I didn't want to have to deal with trying to keep a one year old still while I picked through his hair so I shaved it all off. My hair wasn't quite as easy to deal with. Now, 10 years later, I've got to do it again. The only positive thing about this is that we cut off Sassy's waist length hair a few months back and only have to deal with hair that's just past her chin.

I gave her the full 3 step treatment and made everyone else wash with the special shampoo. Then MC helped me pick through my scalp and it reminded me of those monkeys who groom each other and pick out the bugs. What followed next was a frantic but thorough scouring of the house. Twelve sealed bags of pillows and stuffed animals, 13 loads of laundry to wash the bedding and linens, a run through the dishwasher of all combs and brushes and hairclips, $29 in shampoo and spray, and we are a lice free zone. Of course, knowing we are lice free hasn't stopped us all from compulsively scratching our heads and I am still completely grossed out over the whole thing. I've told my kids to start drying their hair with a hair dryer after every shower and reinforced the "do not share brushes or hats or hair accessories" rule, especially since they have actually seen the consequences now. I just hope it doesn't come back...EVER! In some cases, the third time is definitely NOT the charm.

March 26, 2012

The Sum of Our Parts

"I'd imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for a reason." ---Hugo Cabret from the movie Hugo

That quote is one of the reasons I fell in love with Hugo. How many of us go through life seeking our purpose? We devour books like The Purpose Driven Life and take aptitude and gifts tests, all in a quest to answer that universal question "Why Am I Here?". This quote doesn't answer that question, but it does confirm that we do have a purpose, we are not disposable. And this wisdom was summed up so simply by a 12 year old orphan.

What's even better about this quote is that is reflects God's plan for us. In Romans 12:4-6, Paul writes "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." We all have different talents, different gifts, different functions. We couldn't survive if we all did the same thing. Can you imagine a world where everyone was a gifted musician? Who would build the instruments? Who would feed us during recital intermissions? Who would provide the gas to attend the concerts? It's a silly little example, but you get the point.

Howdy is quite proud of the fact that he is the "creative" brother while poor Bubba is the "mathy" one. He is so happy to not be saddled with that lamentable talent. And conversely, Bubba is quite happy concentrating on math and skipping anything that falls under the "artsy" category. They are a good balance, both providing for the other's weakness, as it was meant to be. The times when MC and I have difficulties are when we are both trying to have the same function, performing the same role. With both of us concentrating on the same thing, how can anything else get done? Read through
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 with me:

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jew or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (emphasis mine)

Every single one of us has a purpose, a place, a role created specifically by God. We may not understand each others' roles--for that matter we may not understand our own--but we are where God put us, to fill a need that He saw and created us for. None of us is an independent entity, we are all a part of a bigger picture, connected in ways that are beyond our understanding.

What would happen if all of us acted not as individual cogs and gears, but if we figured out how to work in unison as we were designed to? I think that would be Heaven. Literally. I think that is our ultimate goal here on earth, to work together to read God's schematics and perform as a well oiled machine, one that loves God, loves our fellow man (or woman) and spends this life worshiping our Creator. That's our goal, but all too often we fall short.

"Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do. Maybe it's the same with people. If you lose your purpose, it's like you're broken." ---Hugo Cabret

Feeling broken? Lost your purpose? Reconnect with others. Get plugged back in somewhere until you can find that rhythm, until you're not just watching the gears move but you're helping them do their job better. Nobody is here by accident, everyone has a purpose. Yours may not be like that of your neighbor or your parents or your closest friends. It's not supposed to be. You were made for a unique purpose, a singular task, a job that only you can fill. Never forget that. You are not an accident and God mourns for you while you are broken.

March 23, 2012

Flashback Friday--Where, Oh Where Has Our Daughter Gone?

An incident occurred on Sunday that reminded me that no matter how hard we try to avoid it, we grow up to be just like our parents. Deny it all you want, but it's true.

Sunday was an interesting day in our house. In the morning, Sassy and Bubba stayed home from church with me because they had both had low fevers the night before. They were dealing with the tail end of a week long battle with nasty germs but were getting better. I thought it best for them to stay home and take it easy to make sure they were well enough to go back to school the next day. So it was just MC and Howdy at morning service. By the time evening service rolled around, Sassy was doing much better but Bubba only so-so. I sent her off with her dad and brother while Bubba stayed home with me. Service is over at 7pm and at 7:10 I got a phone call. It was Sassy. She was using her friend's dad's phone to ask me if I knew where Daddy was. Um, probably in the Family Center where we always meet wondering where on earth his daughter is. She insisted that she'd waited for him but he never showed. I, in turn, insisted that if class got out late she would have missed him and of course he was in there waiting for her and she wasn't left behind as she feared. We went around like this for a few minutes until she informed me that Mr. H (her dad's friend) said our van wasn't in the parking lot anymore. We are good friends with this family and they know our vehicles so that actually sent up a little alarm in my head. Maybe it was time to call MC.

I called him and when he answered I asked, "Where are you?" Halfway home as it turns out. Sassy was indeed left behind. MC promptly turned the car around and went back to get our daughter. He told me that after church got out he asked Howdy if they had brought Sassy with them or not and Howdy said no, so they left. I called Mr. H back who, after laughing at us, said he was happy to wait with Sassy until her dad got there. She was fine, surprisingly no tears. It helps that she was waiting with 2 of her girlfriends. However, anytime she brings up Sunday she refers to it as "the day I got stranded."

She is in good company, though. See, I was once stranded, too. I was a bit older but I was still stranded. I played volleyball in 8th grade, middle school. I wasn't all that great at it but it was fun. On this particular day, we had an away game. I will never forget this day because it will go down in the history of my life as the only time I stood out as an athlete. The way our games were played, you could only score if your team was serving and the first team to 15 won, as long as you were ahead by 2 points. When it came my turn to serve, I was nervous as always but I managed to serve it just over the top of the net. The other team assumed it hit the net and let it go. We scored. See, I never could serve overhand but I had a great side arm serve. It took a few serves before the other team caught on that all my serves were like that--just barely clearing the net--but by then we had a few more points on the board. If left up to me, I'm sure I would have bungled the game, but thankfully it's a team sport and we kept racking up the points. By the time I was done, we had scored 13 in a row. We ended up winning the game!

Needless to say, I was on cloud 9 all the way back to our school. I was so excited that I couldn't even be bothered to change before showering--I just stepped in fully clothed in my uniform. I did finally change but it was with wet underclothes that I dug out just enough change to call my dad from the pay phone and told him I was ready to be picked up.

The euphoria lasted while I waited with my other teammates. One by one they all got picked up until I was the only one left. I waited. And waited. The sun started going down until it was completely dark. And still I waited. I lived close enough to the school that had it been daylight, I could have walked home but I know better than to leave the relative safety of a lit school to going walking home in the dark. I started to worry, of course. Had they forgotten me? I wanted to call but I didn't have any more change. By this time, that spur of the moment dunk in the shower seemed like a very poor idea considering I was now damp and freezing, and my joy over our win had disappeared along with the sunlight and warmth.

By the time 8 o'clock rolled around, I knew I had to do something. I was cold, alone, in the dark, and I'm not ashamed to admit, a little scared. I finally used to pay phone and called my house collect. My mom answered. It turns out my dad had forgotten that I called, had never left to pick me up (obviously), and had never passed along the message. Everyone just assumed I was still at the game or up at the school doing...something. Before you take my dad to task over this you should know something. On a good day my dad's memory resembles Swiss cheese. Between years of sniffing paint fumes without wearing a mask and drinking beers with all the guys, not to mention more than one head injury, those memory cells have lost their elasticity. (Sad to say but I seem to have inherited his memory but without the fumes, alcohol and concussions to blame.) I should have known better (and have since learned my lesson) than to leave an important message in my dad's hands. Mom was understandably upset when I told her that I had been waiting alone at the school for hours. She dropped everything and came up to get me.

I really do understand how both incidents happened and it is no reflection on the ones who were left. I believe with each generation we are cramming more and more information into our brains that we are expected to keep at the forefront at all times that it makes it easy for things to just slip right off our memories like they are Teflon-coated. Neither Sassy nor I were permanently damaged but I guarantee she'll be telling the story of how Daddy left her stranded at church for the rest of her life.

March 19, 2012

Texas Wildlife

Have you heard that saying "Everything's bigger in Texas"? Well, it's absolutely true. Hair is bigger, trucks are bigger, guns are bigger. Everything here is Texas size from the thunderstorms to the makeup to the sporting events. I think the term "super size" might have originated here and it covers everything--even bugs.

The weather is getting warmer and it's bringing in hordes of crane flies (those I can handle) as well as heralding the return of the cockroach (which makes me want to vomit). I'm not kidding. When I lived in WA, I worked at a food bank downtown one time and I can remember there being cockroaches and I was so disgusted at the sight of those creatures. Those were nothing compared to the ones here. That's like comparing a salamander and a boa constrictor--there's no comparison. If you've never lived here, you might think I'm exaggerating, and usually that would be true. But not this time.

Let me tell you something about the TX cockroach. They are nasty creatures that I secretly believe have escaped from the bowels of Hell. Their bodies are 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length with their antennae being even longer (see photographic evidence--I actually took that photo). They like to show up wherever they please with no regard to the cleanliness of your house or your socioeconomic state. In fact, I think they secretly lie in wait, forelegs rubbing together in glee, for just that precise moment when you are trapped on the toilet or reaching for something in your closet to come out and surprise you. They are devilish little things that move at the speed of light. Oh, and the icing? They can fly. Yeah, I found that one out the hard way.

Before I explain that one, I feel I should tell you of a bargain MC and struck when we were first married. I've always had an irrationally strong fear of spiders. You might even say it borders on arachnophobia territory. It didn't help that my sisters, like lions pouncing on an injured gazelle, would seize upon this weakness and use it to torment me, but I digress. Let's just say that my fear is so strong that one day I almost got in a car accident when a baby spider dropped down from the roof of my car and onto my lap...while I was turning left at an intersection...and had 3 other people in the car. They had to force me to keep driving, otherwise I would have just stopped right there and abandoned the vehicle until that critter was found.

My husband isn't necessarily fond of bugs either, although his problem mainly comes from the fact that he hates the "crunch" sound they make when you squish them. Better squished than procreating, I say. So we made a deal. If he would kill all the spiders, I would kill all the rest of the bugs. I sooo got suckered on that one. See, I was still new to TX and had no idea about the pony size cockroaches that were just waiting and plotting.

More proof that I am not exaggerating? I was in my laundry room one day when I heard this weird noise. Thinking it might be a mouse (which is waaay better than a spider), I stop and listen, trying to pinpoint where it's coming from. I discover it's coming from our bin of dog biscuits. I was hearing the "crunch, crunch, crunch" NOT of a mouse, but of a cockroach eating the dog treats! It sends shivers down my spine just remembering it.

Cockroaches are especially hearty critters, too. I think it's true about them being able to survive a nuclear holocaust. They are like miniature tanks that can flatten themselves down to the size of a piece of paper. You can't really use a fly swatter on them--they'll just turn it around on you. But I have discovered a secret weapon. Wasp spray. That's right, a few drops of that chemical cocktail and they fry from the inside out. The only problem is, you have to get close enough to drip it on them. Trust me, you do not want to be spraying that stuff all over the house. And that's how I discovered they could fly. I spotted one on our entertainment center one night so I grabbed my spray and stealthily moved in. I was slowly approaching...almost there...can in hand, reaching out...when that nasty thing took flight! Cue frantic hand flapping, banshee-like screaming and manic running in circles and consider that lesson learned.

If there is a plus side to all this it would be this: Those spiders? They don't bother me so much anymore. In fact, my kids have seen me take care of them many times and they have no clue that I use to hyperventilate when I saw a picture of one in my Biology book. People freak out over bugs in WA and I laugh. You call that a bug? HA! You don't know what a bug is! My attitude at this point is if the bug is smaller than my thumb, I don't even flinch.

Well, most of the time.

March 16, 2012

Flashback Friday--She Chutes, She Scores!

Today's blog is sponsored by my frequent partner in crime, my younger sister--who I am fond of calling Sissy. We have been through many adventures together--road trips, raising babies, car accidents, etc.--and if there's one thing we can count on, it's that things are never dull. Even the mundane can be made exciting when the two of us get together.

Example? One time we were hired by an associate of our mother's to come and pack up his house for him. No problem. We were both stay-at-home moms at the time and welcomed any chance to make a little extra cash. So we go to his house where he lines everything out for us...and then leaves. Honestly, I prefer to work this way--much better than the homeowner breathing down your neck. I like to think he left us alone because he had full confidence in our ability to do the job but in reality, I think he just didn't want to be around when we discovered his filed-by-topic porn collection. Not kidding. Unbeknownst to my mom, Dude was a total freak! But that's a story for a different time.

So the packing went quickly and with no supervisor, we started to get a little bored. What to do to fill the time? Hello? Poke around and explore, of course. And what to our wondering eyes should appear but...a laundry chute! There's just something special about a laundry chute. It takes me back to the days when we would go to my Grandma's house and play with hers. It was just a hole in the bathroom that dropped down to the basement but oh, the fun we could have with it. We could drop secret messages down to the person waiting in the basement, or we could pile up all the dirty clothes and then drop each other down to the basement. Either way it was hours of (videogame free) fun. It makes me sad to report that laundry chutes are becoming extinct.

When Sissy and I discovered that square hole in the bathroom cupboard we were giddy with excitement. Then came the debate--who was going down it first? Mind you, it was just a hole in the floor that led straight down to the laundry room, so our debate wasn't "I wanna go first!" but "No, YOU go first!" I don't know how it happened, maybe because I happen to be the braver one or maybe because Sissy has slightly few more brain cells than I do, but I was chosen to try it out first. Yay me.

So, feet first, down I go. I lower myself through the opening thinking it's not so bad. I get the lower half of my body through so I'm resting on my elbows in this hole in the floor when I realize I didn't think through the mechanics of this all that well because now I am stuck. I can't maneuver around enough to get my elbows in to lower my arms...and I don't have enough upper body strength to pull myself back up. I am literally stuck, hanging half in and half out of a laundry chute in the home of a porn freak who could come home any minute. And keep in mind that, like all good siblings, seeing the other one in distress is freakin' hilarious so Sissy is laughing it up the whole time which only makes me laugh which, in turn, makes it that much more difficult to keep hanging on, even though I can do nothing else.

After much teasing and debating, Sissy got the brilliant idea of going down to the laundry room and trying to "catch" me. Yeah, that didn't work. I couldn't get myself down the hole farther for her to help me. She could grab my feet but, even if I could've let go, she wouldn't have been able to to take my weight. After what felt like forever of Sissy running back and forth between the downstairs laundry room and the upstairs bathroom and us tossing out ideas and then just as quickly nixing them, we finally came up with the solution of stacking things up so I had something to stand on. This wasn't exactly the safest solution either considering that one chair wasn't near high enough and we had to get creative with boxes and the limited furniture that was around but we were running on borrowed time and it was all we had. By then my muscles were aching--the ones used to hold me up and the ones from laughing. Once I had something to take my weight, I was able to move my arms around to work them through the hole and then climb down our makeshift ladder. I made it in one piece. Dude didn't come home until much later, which was good because we had no idea how we were going to explain that one (not to mention we feared it may have been one of his secret fantasies). I'm just grateful there weren't camera phones back then.

Funny, Sissy never did take her turn.

March 3, 2012

The Hills Are Alive...

Have I mentioned lately how much I absolutely love my family? Seriously, they are awesome. You know when you're watching a TV show or movie and there's a family driving in a car, all wearing their matching Gap polos and sporting perfectly coiffed hair, and they spontaneously burst into song? And of course you roll your eyes and maybe even gag a little because that is so ridiculously cheesy--no one does that in real life. I mean, come on.

Well, we are that family. (Only substitute mismatched thrift store finds for the Gap clothes and give everyone shaggy hair that is 2 months past haircut time.)

My family and I love to listen to music together and we are big fans of the Kidz Bop CD series. I know, I know. Those CDs of kids singing pop songs were created by the devil as torture for unsuspecting parents but they have their good points. Yes, those pre-pubescent tween voices frequently make my eardrums bleed, but I can guarantee they will never utter a word that I will have to explain the meaning to. Any questionable word or subject is changed to make it kid appropriate. In these versions, no one will kiss--they will hug. Any mention of having sex is now a mention of sending a text. I get to listen to artists like Pink, Bruno Mars, Rhianna, and Katy Perry without having to worry about skipping over words or even half the song. Another bonus? I can actually understand the words. While listening to these songs in their original format on the radio, there are lines that I mumble through or just make up my own words to because I can't for the life of me figure out what in the world they are saying. (You know you do it, too.) But I can figure out all the lyrics when it's kids singing them.

While Kidz Bop is our favorite, we are also fans of Weird Al and Straight No Chaser (an a capella band). We crank the knob up and sing along at the top of our voices. Howdy and Sassy sometimes get a little irritated because songs like "Amish Paradise" and "Another One Rides the Bus" will get Bubba breaking out his dance moves in the van, (They are not impressed with his dancing.) but in general, it's a good time for all.

And when music isn't readily available, we make our own. MC has a habit/love of changing words to songs to fit the situation, any situation. For example, if I'm doing laundry, it can be set to Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain":
"I'm doing laundry, all day
Even though I would, rather play"
It's a gift, really. After being exposed to this particular talent all their lives, the kids are picking up on it as well. And it makes us so proud!

In fact, they made my whole day recently--possibly my whole week. I came out of the bedroom singing, "I see you drivin' round town with the girl I love..." and all 3 of the kids, who were camped out in front of cartoons, jumped in with "And I'm like, forget yoouuu, ooo-ooo-oooo". Nothing says family bonding like CeeLo Green.

March 2, 2012

Flashback Friday--Arrested Development

Why are my recent Flashbacks so painful? I literally have a list of all the incidents I could blog about. When it comes time to write one, I look over the list and write about whatever stands out that day. The one I chose for today is one I've debated about actually telling, but not for any reason you might think. It's not that it is embarrassing (although it is), or paints me in a bad light, or further reveals my selective poor judgment. I hate to tell this story because when I am on my death bed, this will be one of the very few things where I truly regret my actions. Let me clarify that. I regret my inaction. I've made some questionable decisions in my life but the only times I look back on in regret are the times I didn't act, didn't react, didn't stand up at all. That is why this one is so painful.

But this wouldn't be my blog if I wasn't revealing some unflattering side of myself so here we go.

When Howdy was 2 weeks old, I left the house for our very first outing since his birth. I didn't want to go too far so I settled on my favorite craft supply store. Even then I was doing crafts and I wanted to get something new to work on. The carts at this particular store were very small and when I set Howdy's car seat across the basket, it pretty much covered the whole thing. In fact, as I wandered through the store picking out a few items here and there, I had to lift the carseat out of the way to get anything into the cart. Eventually I tired of this and threw a few items underneath--you know, that rack that is there for your big items that don't fit in the cart.

At the register, the cashier was pretty friendly and I was in a good mood about having survived my first outing with a baby so we chatted it up a bit. I remember laughing about something but not anything that was specifically said. After paying, I pushed the cart out of the way and parked it by the front door for a moment. I put my wallet away in my purse and dug out my keys. I'm a firm believer in having your keys in hand when you get to your car; fumbling around for them out in the parking lot is just any invitation for someone to jump you. And I am nothing if not paranoid prepared. So, purse put back together and keys in hand, I head out the door and stop at the sidewalk. I scan the parking lot trying to remember where I parked. Just as I spot my car and take a step forward, a man comes out of the store and addresses me. He asks me if I can come back inside. I figure I must have forgotten something but that's not it. "Are you aware that you have unpaid merchandise in your cart?" he asks. What? I move Howdy but there is nothing but bags in the cart. Then I realize that I forgot about the items I stuck under the basket. Cue hand smack to the forehead and "I'm such an idiot" type phrases. As I explain that I completely forgot they were there, he asks me if I could step back inside the store. I'm a bit embarrassed but it's not the first time I've flaked over something. Of course I'll come back in and pay for the items. Only when we go inside, he doesn't head for the register. He says a cryptic, "Follow me" and then heads for the back of the store.

This is when the warning bells go off in my head. Why would I need to follow him anywhere when I all want to do is pay for my items and leave? I want to ask questions, protest but there are customers who are watching the exchange with baited breath and I don't want to give them any kind of show so I quietly follow. The farther we go, the more my heart sinks into my stomach. It dawns on me that maybe he thought I was trying to steal the merchandise. Of course this is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a tattle tale if someone is doing something wrong. Not to mention the fact that if I even think I might be doing something I shouldn't, I feel like I will wet my pants. I'm the worst candidate for a life of crime. I am honest, a goody two-shoes, a don't-rock-the-boat kind of girl. Which is why I silently follow the security guard through the store and up the back stairs.

At the top of the stairs, we run into a woman who, it turns out, is one of the owners. She gives me that up-and-down look that says I've been weighed and measured and found lacking. She obviously knows why I'm being dragged to the back room. Before I have a chance to say anything in my defense, she takes a look at my baby and says with a sneer, "You're teaching him kind of young, aren't you?" Then she turns on her heel and stomps off. As it sinks in that she thinks I'm teaching my 2 week old baby how to steal, the tears come. I'm given a seat by a desk and the security guard starts to ask me my information. I burst out in tears. "How could you possibly think I was trying to shoplift? Who would do that with a baby?" According to the guard, plenty of people do it. I spill out my story, trying to get him to understand that I am not some shifty criminal but just a woman who just had a baby and still hasn't recovered full function of her brain yet. He seems genuinely sorry but can't afford to give me the benefit of the doubt. I'm told I now have to pay a fine and I will be forever banned from the store. My heart sank even further. First, I'm a criminal. He is truly accusing me of shoplifting and nothing I say will change his mind. Second, I love this store. I buy all my craft supplies here because it is so cheap. Third, we don't have enough money to pay a fine.

I'm allowed to call my husband and so I do, pouring out my tear-filled story. We are stumped. What do we do? We briefly toss out the idea of calling our friend, who is a lawyer, for advice but neither of us knows his number, not to mention the fact that if we can't afford a fine, we definitely can't afford lawyer fees. We are at a complete loss as to what to do. I eventually remember that I do, in fact, have some money on me. (You'd think we would know by now never to carry cash. That's just asking for tragedy.) I was supposed to put the money in the bank so we could pay bills but it's still in my purse. Seeing no other option, we decide to pay the fine. It kills us both to have to do so because I wasn't shoplifting to begin with. It's like admitting that I did it, though, and that rankles.

The rub? I had to pay the $250 fine PLUS I had to pay for the stolen items. And then I didn't even get to keep them! I figured if I had to pay for them I might as well take them home, but no. By the time I cleared everything up and got out of there, I was crying, Howdy was crying, and I was on the verge of another ulcer.

After the fact, when we had the time to look at the situation objectively, we thought it might have been a good idea to refuse and have them call the police. We figured the officer might have believed me and helped straighten everything out. At this point, we'll never know. All I do know for sure is that I didn't stand up for myself other than some tear drenched begging. I was taught to not give in to anybody, to not let anyone walk all over me and yet, at the first sign of adversity, I do just that. My spine was absent that day. Whether or not I could have changed the outcome, I'll never know but I will always regret not trying.