Turtles Are Off Limits

There are those days. Those days when you look back at the end of them and can see all those tiny little insignificant decision points that if you had just gone the other way on any one of them, the day would have turned out so differently. So much better. So much less painful.

Friday was such a day.

I picked the kids up from school because my husband was heading out of town to setup a pottery booth at a festival. Jane wanted to go to Starbucks and spend the rest of her gift card. So we went through the drive-thru. If only we hadn’t stopped at Starbucks…

From there, we promptly forgot to stop by the grocery store on our way home. If only we had remembered our plan to stop there…

As I pulled in the driveway, past the mailbox, I paused. Had the mailman picked up those cards I stuck in there that morning? There was no flag to stick up. I backed up to check. If only I had gone ahead and parked instead…

The cards were still in the mailbox. *sigh* If only I had driven them to the post office that morning instead of assuming the mailman would come…

I glanced at my kids. Two were asleep and one was drowsy. Maybe I should drop them off. Let them go in the house and chill. But I wanted them with me for some reason. If only I had let them out of the car… If only I had left the cards for the mailman to pick up the next day…

The drive to the post office was uneventful. I dropped the cards in the box and headed home. As we approached the last major intersection, I noticed that all three were asleep. I smiled at the peaceful silence, the relaxed faces. Then I noticed a very large turtle scuttling across the highway. If only I had ignored the turtle…

But, no. Turtles are cool. Little boys like turtles and this one was so big. And it needed help crossing the road. I suspected it was an alligator snapping turtle so I had my doubts about actually picking it up. But little boys… they love turtles…

I had already turned off the highway toward home when I turned back. I paused for a brief moment. The boys were asleep. Was I actually going to wake them up to see a turtle? To possibly see a turtle get run over before we could do anything about it? If only I had turned around again and continued home…

When I got back to the intersection, I saw that an SUV had stopped in the left turn lane of the highway. I watched as a young gymnast hopped out of the back seat. She was very lean and tiny, barefoot, and dressed in nothing but a leotard. If only I had left this family to their task and returned home…

But I was fascinated by the barefoot gymnast. I watched her try to pick it up. It had to be about a foot wide. It snapped at her. She removed her hands. I wanted to be part of this moment. I wanted to help rescue the turtle. If only I hadn’t cared about the turtle…

I crossed through the intersection and pulled over on the shoulder. I contemplated calling out to the driver that the turtle was dangerous. I contemplated waking Daryl up to have him help. I wasn’t sure how he could. Or if he would.

That’s when I saw one of the most incredible things I’d ever seen. The tiny barefoot gymnast had picked that giant alligator snapping turtle up by its tail and was carrying it swiftly to the side of the road. I wouldn’t have done that. I know for a fact Jane wouldn’t have. And I had my doubts about Daryl. The girl returned to her SUV and they drove on.

I couldn’t wait to tell my Facebook world about the cool young barefoot gymnast and the turtle. If only I hadn’t been so eager to tell the story… maybe I would have remembered to look both ways…

I watched the highway ahead of me and inched slowly forward. There was no traffic coming. None at all. I started my U-turn. We’d be home soon. Only we wouldn’t. I looked over my left shoulder when we were approximately perpendicular to the direction of traffic. Just in time to see the large vehicle hurtling toward us. Too close. Way too close. I may have stuck my hand up to the glass, as if to stave off impact. I’m pretty sure I uttered a futile NO!

The vehicle slammed into us, sheering off the front driver-side quarter panel and spinning us around 90 degrees. It disappeared down the road and I sat there stunned. I don’t think my brain was working too well. All I really knew was that my forehead hurt from where it had hit the window.

I don’t remember worrying about the kids. I think this is because I couldn’t comprehend how bad it was. I tried to turn the steering wheel and apply the gas. I should really get over on the shoulder. The middle of a highway was not a safe place to be. But the car wasn’t going anywhere. Uh-oh.

That’s when I finally started focusing in on what Jane was saying. “Mommy? Mommy? Are you okay? Are you okay, Mommy?”

Momentarily giving up on me, she turned to her little brother, “Hal, are you okay? Here, undo your seat belt. Come over to me. It’s okay.”

Daryl sat stunned in the front seat. He would remain quiet and still for most of the experience. Jane tried me again. This time, the concern rose in her voice. “Mommy?! Are you okay? Do we need to get out of the car?… Mommy? Should we get out of the car?”

Get out of the car. Yes. Sitting in a car in the middle of a highway is not good. But neither is walking across a highway. Or standing on a shoulder. But, yes, those are probably better than staying in the car. “Yes, let’s everyone get out of the car. Jane, take Hal. Please watch for traffic.”

Noticing that Daryl’s door wouldn’t open, I told him to come out my side. As I got out, I could plainly see why the car wasn’t going anywhere. The front tire wasn’t attached to the wheel anymore. The wheel wasn’t straight. The quarter panel was gone. The bumper was loose. And I don’t mean the plastic bumper cover that everyone calls the bumper. I mean the actual metal bar behind that.

“Mommy?” Jane’s voice broke through again. “Do you need to turn off the car?” Oh. Yes. That might be good. That’s when I noticed the rapid-firing ticking sound coming from behind the dash. I’d learn later that part of Jane’s distress was fear that the car was about to blow up like in the movies. I reached in and pushed the button.

We moved to the shoulder. I saw the other vehicle, what would turn out to be a solid eighties model Suburban, about 40 or 50 yards down the road, nose-down in a ditch. It would dawn on me much later that night that the man in the other car never braked. There had been no screeching. There were no tire streaks on the pavement. I don’t know if I didn’t give him time to react or if he thought I was going straight and fancied shooting around me. The speed limit was sixty. We’d essentially been hit by a tank going at least sixty miles an hour.

Jane sat down holding Hal. I set my purse down and tried to decide what to do next. A man in a truck had stopped. Looked like he was on his phone. The other driver was on his phone. Surely someone had called 911 already? Was there a reason for me to? Surely someone had already called?

As if to answer my question, a Constable pulled up. How did he get there that fast? I called my husband. “I just totaled the Prius,” I managed in a shaky voice. In response to his question, I assured him everyone was okay. The Constable and another man stopped by to check on us. They looked at the bump on my forehead. They decided to call an ambulance “just in case”.

I thought I might be in shock because the world looked so surreal. Why couldn’t I focus on anything? Was my eyesight messed up? That’s when it hit me. “Where are my glasses?” I looked around frantically and touched my face repeatedly. “Where? Where are my? Where are my glasses?”

“It’s okay, Mommy. It’s okay. Come sit down.” My pacing was making Jane nervous. The man who said he was an officer and a former EMT told me to sit down. I sat. Before long, the Highway Patrolman arrived. I know exactly one such officer and this happened to be him.

After he took all the information, he walked up and smiled. “You know this is on you, right?”

“Yes, yes, I do.”

Yes, it’s all on me. If only… if only any of those if only’s…

Then again, if I had pulled out just a second or two earlier, I might not have been talking to him at all. Or Hal… sweet little Hal… If only I could quit thinking about what had almost happened…

A friend drove us home and everyone was fine. I had a few tender bruises. Jane was a bit sore the next day. Daryl was still sporadically complaining about a sore neck a couple days later. Hal had no complaint.

And, really, I guess I have no complaint either. We are all alive. We are all intact. We have such wonderful church family that we have a nice, reliable, spacious vehicle to drive on an upcoming trip. We have two different vehicles offered to us as a long term borrow while we wait for the insurance to settle. We have been surround by love and support and prayer.

No, I have no complaint. And while there’s no point in pondering the if only’s, the family all agrees that I am to have nothing to do with turtles. Ever again. Even if they are a foot wide.


When Pop Stars Tell You What To Do

It was a rough day.  I’m guessing most of my problem was just my own reaction to the frustrations of life, but still.  I can’t get out of my skin… or my head… so, it was a rough day.

It started out with a fight with Jane.  One of those fights that I don’t understand what happened.  I just know it’s ridiculous and I don’t know how we got there.  I just know I’m being yelled at because I said something to my husband that she thought was directed at her and she interpreted as about her when it wasn’t at all.  And since we weren’t on the same page, we continued to frustrate each other until we were yelling.

Then my husband yelled over the yelling for me to get in the shower.  Which ticked me off further.  I fumed through my shower.  I fumed through my morning routine.  I was still fuming when he came home from taking the kids to school.  I had turned on some music in an attempt to calm my nerves, but maybe my running playlist isn’t the best for settling a person.

Or maybe I’m just stubborn.

Because as he tried to help me see her side of things, as he confirmed that I hadn’t been wrong but couldn’t I see where she was?  As he tried to remind me that I was the adult and had to find a way to respond differently to her (the same talk I had given him the night before), I noticed that P!nk was trying to help too.  In complete context with my husband telling me to not give up and withdraw, she was belting out, “Try!  Try!  Try!  You gotta try!  Try!  Try!”

I sighed and tried to ignore her.  I expressed my frustration that I could be kind and supportive and loving and perfectly calm for days and then after one fight, I’m someone my daughter “just can’t talk to.”  All that good?  Poof!  Right out the window.  Counts for nothing.

“She isn’t carrying around a scorecard,” he said.  “She’s a two year old.  She’s living in the now.  She doesn’t remember what happened the day before.  She’s here now and that’s where you have to be.”

{Side note: not completely true… anything bad I might have done in the preceding days, weeks, months are brought up regularly.}

Anyway, as he tried to sooth my frazzled nerves, Steven Tyler provided his two cents as he crooned that we should “Come Together… Right now…”.  I began to think that P!nk and Aerosmith were conspiring.  I tried to absorb what they said – and what my husband said – but I was simply too heartbroken and defeated.  I went to work with my head hung low.

Which probably explains why my work day was no better.  I became frustrated with asinine emails coming my way.  I remembered why I never wear the shirt I had chosen and resigned myself to a day of tucking my bra straps back under the edges of the too-wide neckline.  I became frustrated with the new-to-me structure I was trying to work in and my feelings that the veterans grew tired of my questions and lack of understanding.  I felt trapped.

I took a break and as I was in the bathroom washing my hands, Demi Lovato came over the speakers and encouraged me to “Let it go!  Let it go!”  Now, I know that if I were to truly follow the full advice of the song, I suppose I’d be “not holding back anymore” and really letting everyone hear what I’m thinking.  But that wasn’t the message I heard.

And I tried to listen.  Really, I did.  I mean, those are some pretty famous people trying to help me out.  Now if I could only find a way to apply messages from pop stars to my state of mind, I might be able to get somewhere.  But like I said, I’m stubborn.  I don’t know how to let it go.

And then I got so busy working that I lost track of time and missed my yoga class, which was really my one big chance at letting it go.  You know, some days it’s all one can do to keep from running home and curling up in a little ball somewhere quiet and waiting for the world to move on without you.


UPDATE:  {Yes, yes, I get the irony of ‘updating’ a post that hadn’t yet been published.}  My craptastic day continued with my husband ranting to me about a failing program at the school that we are heavily invested in, which got me even more depressed.  More frustrations with my assigned task.  And then I noticed a coworker had mis-dated a log entry.  I went to tell him about it and he asked if I had changed it for him.  When I said I hadn’t, he was like, “Oh, so you just wanted to come rub my nose in it huh?”  When I clarified that no, I was just having a crappy day and wasn’t motivated to make momentous decisions like whether to fix his date in the log book, he asked, “You are having a crappy day?!”  And that’s when I remembered that his (brand new) pants had ripped right down the back, it was our boss’s boss who had brought it to his attention, folks had been giving him grief for a solid hour about it, and he was now walking around with strips of duct tape holding the seat of his pants together.  Suddenly, I felt worlds better.  More crappy stuff followed, but all I had to do after that was think about his pants and the world felt just a bit brighter.  For me, at least.

With Family Like This…

Back in elementary or perhaps early middle school, I remember tracking biorhythms.  My primary takeaway was that sometimes we have bad physical, mental, and maybe emotional(?) biorhythm days.  We could plot it out and know when our bodies or minds might not be optimal.  I have no idea if this was quack science or the real deal.  It was being taught in the public school so it had to be solid, right?  (There was snark in that question if you couldn’t read it).

Anyway, I got to wondering this past weekend if it was possible to have a bad other-people-impacting-your-physical biorhythm day.  Maybe you exude some energy that says “harm me!”  I don’t know.  But that’s all I can come up with for Hal’s unfortunate 24 hour window that began Friday afternoon.

It all started with his sister messing around with him.  She picked him up and started spinning and swooping with him.  He was laughing and carrying on.  It was great fun.  They were both just a tad manic.  She hauled him into the cluttered kitchen to turn up her already loud music.  As she struggled to reach the volume control while juggling a squirming Kindergartener, she knocked over a cup.  (Not just any cup – my favorite porcelain hand-made, one-of-a-kind cup.  Just the right size, height, shape, thickness, and such a lovely shade of blue.  But I digress.)

When her Daddy called out that she was knocking over her mother’s favorite cup, she attempted to catch it.  And in so doing, dropped her brother just enough to smash his forehead into the kitchen counter.  Much crying and head holding and apologizing and scolding ensued from all parties.  Eventually, life resumed.

Soon after, we all headed to the church to drop Jane and her friend off at the lock-in.  The boys played outside in the front yard, some strange version of football, I think, without the ball.  As the boys ran toward us, Hal slightly in the lead, Daryl called out, “Hey, Dad!  Look at this!”

Dad turned just in time to see Daryl reach his foot out and trip his little brother.  Hal’s left knee hit the ground as he crumpled.  He grabbed his knee and rocked back and forth, crying, remarkably like an injured football player.  His dad checked it out while scolding his older brother, who apparently did not understand that tripping is not an acceptable part of football, or indeed, any other sport.

The next morning, Hal walked stooped over, complaining that his bruised knee hurt.  That afternoon, he was sprawled on the floor of the living room, watching Netflix.  His shoes had been tossed carelessly to the side and were in the walkway.  Since we were about to carry a heavy piece of furniture through there, I began to scoot the shoes toward him.  They were gripping the floor remarkably well, so I began to kick with more force.  One of them went airborne and smacked him in the side of his head.

Daddy was once again watching.  Hal was again shocked and crying.  “What is wrong with you people?!” my husband asked incredulously.  “Can’t you leave that poor boy alone?”

Poor boy, indeed.  I hope our strengths outshine our weaknesses, but I wouldn’t be surprised if late Saturday afternoon, Hal was wondering what other living arrangements might be available to him.