(Don’t) Follow the White Rabbit

Sometimes I think I’m slipping. Now, don’t try to give me reassurance. Once you hear this tale, you might just agree with me.

I was heading to work. I wasn’t late but I was still hurrying. I needed to get there as soon as possible. I tossed my lunch into my lunch bag and then remembered my jacket was in my bedroom. I hung the bag by the door, where it resides every night. I knew I was taking a risk – my lunch had been left hanging there many times before. But I was just going for my jacket. Surely…

I shrugged into the jacket as I headed back to the front door. There, I grabbed my purse and a folder I needed after work that I had deliberately left by my purse so it wouldn’t be forgotten. And then I slipped out the door and headed to the car. Without my lunch.

This isn’t what has me wondering about my sanity though. If that were an indication, I’ve been losing it for years. Besides, I would remember the lunch before making it all the way to work.

Reaching the car, I sat down and placed my purse and the folder in the passenger seat. I adjusted the seat forward a bit and then the mirrors. I tried to call Jane but the car’s bluetooth was connected to her phone rather than my own. I hadn’t realized the car’s range extended to her bedroom. I sat at the end of the driveway and mucked with the bluetooth settings until I was able to call her and pass on some piece of information or ask some question that I can’t recall now.

About halfway to work was when I realized I didn’t have my lunch. I called my husband in frustration. I had a meeting that morning that I still needed to prepare for. I didn’t have time to return home.

“I can bring it to you,” he said helpfully.

“But I’m in meetings all morning,” I responded. “Just forget it,” I sulked. “Just put it back in the fridge. I’ll just go hungry today.” Which was silly – we have a cafeteria.

“I can put it in an insulated bag and leave it in your car,” he said. “Oh, but wait. I don’t have a key to your car.”

“I’ll leave it unlocked for you,” I said, relieved that I’d get to eat my planned lunch after all. “And then you can lock it after you put the food in there.”

It was a deal. (Imagined) disaster averted. I finished the drive to work without incident.

Once there, I parked the car, gathered my purse, and opened the driver’s door. I glanced down as I did so and noticed an empty Coca-Cola can in the cup-holder of the door.

I’m going to have to talk to Jane about leaving crap like that in my car, I thought to myself. Something felt off, but I couldn’t think what. The important thing was that I get into work and prepare for the meeting. I locked the door and began the walk in, texting the location of the car to my husband.

Several parking aisles later, as I finished up the text, I realized I had locked the door. Idiot, I thought to myself, turning around to go unlock it. The kinder, gentler part of my brain complimented me for remembering it was locked before it was too late.

There was a problem though. When I got back to the aisle I knew I had parked in, my car was not there. I scanned the handful of cars. None of them was mine. I focused in more closely to the exact spot I thought I had parked in. There sat, not a sea-foam green Prius, which is what I drive, but a rich dark blue Prius.

The puzzle pieces all fell into place. I was looking at my husband’s car. I shouldn’t have had to adjust my seats or my mirrors if I had been in my car. I shouldn’t have had to connect my phone to the bluetooth. I should have noticed both the different exterior and interior colors. I should have noticed how much dustier and more cluttered the car was. I should have remembered, when I gazed at the Coke can, that my daughter can’t stand Coca Cola. She’s a Dr. Pepper girl, through and through. My husband, on the other hand… And, I realized incredulously, I should have noticed the large wooden rabbit with chipped and faded white paint that he keeps on the dash, right in front of the steering wheel. But I hadn’t. None of that had sunk in.

I turned back toward the building. No need to unlock the car now. So I called him.

“I just made your life a whole lot more difficult,” I said, not amused at all. “But at least you can get into the car to leave my lunch.” After a brief pause, I finished with disdain dripping from my voice, “I drove your car to work.”

Now, my husband has a joyous, life-filled belly laugh. This laugh burst through my phone and continued for – I swear – a good thirty seconds. I imagined he was having to wipe tears from his eyes.

“That’s OK,” he finally said. “I can just drive the truck.”

“I’m really getting worried about my mental stability,” I said. It had only been a few days since my daughter had surprised me (on his behalf) with three roses in a wide mouthed vase one morning. At the time I had thought, but not stated, that they looked rather forlorn – just three lone roses sagging to their respective edges of the vase. One for each kid.

That evening, when I came home from work, I commented on the baby’s breath and greenery now in the vase. The arrangement looked lovely.

“Where did you get the baby’s breath?” I had asked her.

“I haven’t touched those since last night,” she said.

“That other stuff wasn’t in the vase this morning,” I tried.

She looked at me like I was crazy. “I’m telling you mom, that stuff was there. I haven’t touched it.”

My mind was blown, but not nearly as blown as realizing I had managed to drive the wrong vehicle to work. Same make and model, but still. The wrong car.

In response to my stated concern, my husband said, still chuckling just a bit, “I think you’ve got a lot of miles left in you yet, babe.”

“Seriously, honey. My brain is kind of our livelihood. If it goes, we are in trouble.”

I told my story to some coworkers, who kindly told me they hadn’t noticed any problem in the meeting. So maybe it’s just what everyone else seems to think – I’ve been going at it too hard for too long in too many different areas of my life. I’m exhausted and it’s starting to show.

Maybe that’s it. But we all have our most deep-seated fears and I know what mine is. It’s the fear of losing my mind. Losing my grip on reality. Not being able to trust what my brain tells me. I know there are probably worse fates, but that’s the one that makes all the blood drain out of my face. Even worse knowing that, if it happens, I probably won’t even see it coming.

I’m still a little stunned. I remember taking a situational awareness test in a training class once. We were instructed to count how many times the people in the video passed the basketball to each other. While they passed the ball, a person in a gorilla suit jumped into the circle, waved its arms around, and then jumped out. I was one of the very few people in the class who had even noticed the gorilla. Everyone else was so focused on counting the passes that they had tuned everything else out. I now understand their disbelief when showed the video again. I now understand why some insisted the second video was different from what they watched the first time.

I can tell you one thing though. Whether I’m losing my mind or not, it’s one dang funny story to tell!

You Have an Uncle?

My children and I were sitting around the dinner table last night, having a rare, slow evening. I asked them what they were looking forward to the most about summertime. After a bit of animated response, Daryl asked, “Are we going anywhere this summer?”

“Denver,” I said, reminding them of our annual trip to visit my husband’s family.

“Anywhere else?”

“Well…,” I said, “If your sister doesn’t get that wild card spot to Globals in Knoxville, we were talking about going to North Carolina.” I said it in a tone that hinted I was annoyed with her possible wild card berth.

“Oh, my!” she exclaimed in false excitement. “North Carolina!! Oh, my goodness! I’ve always wanted to go to North Carolina. It’s just so exciting!! I’ll totally give up Globals for that! I mean, come on. It’s North Carolina!”

I rolled my eyes but otherwise ignored her.

“What’s in North Carolina?” Daryl asked.

“My uncle.”

“You have an uncle? I didn’t know you had an uncle.”

“Yes, my Uncle Matt and his wife and their daughter Anna and her husband and their kids. Here,” I said, showing him a picture off of Facebook.

“He looks just like Grandpa Ted!”

“Wow!” injected Jane. “They must be related!”

“They are brothers,” I said.

“Well, I didn’t know! I’ve never met him before.”

“Yes, you have,” I said. “You’ve been to his house even. You just don’t remember it. You were pretty small.”

“I don’t like visiting family I don’t know very well,” Daryl said quietly. “It’s uncomfortable.”

“Yeah,” said Jane, who then started in with a loud and energetic voice tinged with that homey sweetness that older family members often use: “‘Oh, sweetheart! You are looking so good! My goodness, I haven’t seen you since you were THIS tall. You sure have grown! I remember when you could barely walk. How old are you now? Are you in High School yet? I bet you’ve got all the girls lined up waiting for you, don’t you! Quite the ladies’ man, I’m sure.’ See?” she asked, dropping the fake voice and turning to me, “I’m ready to be an old family member. I’ve got this down.”

I hate to say this, but she’s kinda right. The older we get, the more obnoxious we seem to get when we see people, especially young people, that we haven’t seen for awhile. But having had the occasional “Oh, wow! You look just like your mother!” or “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown up!” slip out of my mouth unplanned, I’ve gotta say, she doesn’t have to fake it. By the time she gets there, she’ll be doing it too.

I just hope that I can continue to stop it after the first sentence and not go on with the annoying attempts to relate and sound cool. Thing is, kids are so aloof that it seems to me to not be a very comfortable event from the other side either.

Iron Man

{I just found this post in my drafts folder. I guess I wanted to add more to it or add some commentary or something. But I think I’m going to let it go as is. Because sometimes kids just don’t make sense and there’s no point in doing more than just putting it out there and letting people scratch their heads. Or laugh. Or both.}

Sitting at a traffic light in front of a thrift store, Hal gazed out our window into the store’s window and announced, “Hey, mom! They have an Iron Man costume in there. We should get that for me to wear for Halloween.”

“Nope,” I said. “Not gonna happen. Your daddy hates Iron Man.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “I do too. But it’d still be cool to dress up like him.”

 

Poop

I wrote a couple of blog posts between the time that my father-in-law passed away and when I finally felt ready to write about it. I didn’t publish those posts because it seemed… trivial? Insensitive? To write about anything else before acknowledging his passing.

I wrote another short fluff piece about a week after finally putting some feelings down about our loss. It was obviously time to schedule these drafts before they stacked up on me.

I picked my favorite and scheduled it for the next day. Another I scheduled a couple of days later. Before scheduling the last one, another draft caught my eye. It had a title – not all my drafts do. This title was simple and succinct:

Poop

I wonder what that post says…

So I clicked on the draft, which I had started a year earlier and that’s all it said. Poop.

I never start with a title. I almost always tell the tale and then struggle for the right title. But this time I apparently had just the right attention-grabbing headline… and no story.

Wonder what I had in mind?

Who knows?

Whatever it was, I’m sure I was full of s**t.

ba-dum-dum… ching!

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I’ll be here all night.

No really, I mean it. I’m sitting in my bed typing away at a laptop. I don’t even have to get out of bed to turn off the light.

Let Them Eat Cake… Or Not

Non-verbal communication is fraught with peril.

I arrived at work to find the place in quiet chaos Monday morning. The server migration that the system administrator had attempted on Sunday had not gone well. Rather than revert to the old one, he had stayed the night attempting to fix the problems.

He had not been successful by the time I arrived at 8:30 and I got an earful from my disgruntled engineers unable to make progress on their own tasks. After getting the state of things, I was standing in a hallway talking to some of them when Sam arrived at work.

Sam is very knowledgeable in all things sys-admin and is often pulled in to help when things go awry, as is Bob, one of the people I was talking to. When Sam came into view, Bob drew his hand across his neck in a slashing motion.

Sam stopped about 20 feet away and raised his eyebrows.

I widened my eyes and shook my head.

He gave us a questioning look and raised his hand, as if gesturing toward his cube.

I gave a thumbs-down.

Bob shook his head and mouthed Not Good.

I waved my arms in front of me.

Still a third person indicated the situation was not good.

Sam looked unhappy but shrugged and entered his cube.

When he exited to put his breakfast in the microwave, I approached and said, “Even though the server migration didn’t go well, I need you to stay focused on your project. We can’t afford for you to help out.”

“Ok,” he replied. “But what does that have to do with my cake?”

“What?” I asked.

“My cake. Why was my cake bad?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, I walked in and everyone started making all these gestures about something being bad so I held up the cake I was holding in my hand {which he had retrieved from the front sharing table} and everyone made more emphatic gestures. And I didn’t see how the cake could be that bad but figured if you guys felt that strongly about it, I’d just throw it away.”

“Wait. You were holding cake in your hand?”

“Yes and I threw it away.”

“But we were talking about the server migration!”

“I see that now.”

“The cake is wonderful!” said Bob.

“Well it’s in the trash can now and I don’t think they change the liners that often so I’m not going to retrieve it.”

“Oh man, we didn’t mean that!” one of us said as everyone dissolved into laughter. The laughter resumed when Sam returned to the table to find that all the cake was now gone.

Meanwhile, in a nearby cube, Dan glanced at his cake sitting next to him. He didn’t catch the whole conversation but heard that the cake was bad. He pondered for a moment. And then he broke off a small piece and tasted it. He shrugged. Tastes fine to me! he thought before quietly consuming the cake.

So the lesson for today is this: Don’t attempt silent communication unless both parties know sign language… or you are an accomplished mime.

Oh, and trust but verify. Be like Dan, not Sam.

Or be like Sam… life is a lot funnier for the rest of us!

 

THAT Old?!

We were visiting with some friends when my husband used a phrase I had never heard of.

“Where do you come up with these things?” I asked.

My friend looked up from the game board and said, “That phrase has been around forever.”

“Ok,” I replied, “but I’ve never heard him use it. Sheesh! I’ve been with him for over half my life. You’d think I’d have heard all the phrases he knows by now.”

“You are that old?!” Daryl asked.

“What?”

“You are old enough to have been married to Daddy for half your life?”

“Well, I said ‘been with him’ but we’ve actually been married for over half our lives too.”

“But what about your childhood?!”

“My childhood was a lot shorter than adulthood has been at this point.”

“Besides,” my husband said, “We were 18 when we got married. We were kids.”

Daryl had another hysterically funny-yet-insulting-to-his-mother line after that, but by the time we got home, I had forgotten it. Guess I am getting old.

Hello, It’s Me.

Hi. Remember me? I’m the person that used to write here. In fact, I used to write here a lot. You might have even gotten a little tired of me – I don’t know. But it’s been 2 1/2 weeks since my last post and at least 5 weeks since the one before that. I thought maybe you might have forgotten about me.

I thought of some really great stories over that 5 weeks. I did, really. Do me a favor, okay? While looking at the screen, chuckle softly under your breath. Go ahead – I’ll wait. Just a light little chuckle will do.

Now grow it into a loud guffaw. I just said the funniest thing in the world. Wasn’t it great?

Okay, new story. Widen your eyes. Make sure the whites are clearly visible. Let your mouth drop open. I know, right?! I can’t believe I lived through that moment either! It was so stressful! But we came out the other side. It’s all good now.

Last one. Stare in awe at the screen. Isn’t my kid wonderful? He’s indeed special. Now nod your head slowly at the wisdom I imparted on closing. The moment was so powerful for me and you see that. You see the majestic lesson I learned and you are so happy I shared it with you.

How was it? Did you enjoy the stories? See… I can’t remember the stories I wanted to tell. I’ve been trying for several days now. What I do remember are the emotions I wanted to evoke. And I have a rough idea which child each story was about. But that’s it. I really wanted to tell those stories and I feel an odd hole when I try to remember them. Since they aren’t coming back to me, I’m going to have to move on. But I hope I succeeded in making you laugh and smile and nod your head anyway. It’ll have to do.

If you are, instead, shaking your head at my pointless post… If you are wishing you could get the last couple of minutes back… then I’m sorry. I am. I didn’t mean to waste your time. I just needed to get back in front of the keyboard. And the story had to get published or it’d be just like all the other drafts sitting in my folder. So I had to do it. I hope you don’t mind.

See ya tomorrow.

I hope.

Home Alone Heart Attack

Being home alone is an interesting experience. When you are used to having a houseful, it’s actually kind of depressing and lonely. People thought I’d enjoy it – find it peaceful. But I haven’t. I enjoyed the week before when the kids were gone to camp and it was just me and the hubby. I took the week off work and got a lot done around the house. He wasn’t there all the time so I still spent a lot of time alone, but I wasn’t lonely.

This past week, however, has been a little depressing. My husband took the kids to see grandparents and I went back to work. I worked long hours too. I mean, why not? What was waiting for me at home? The dog?

Going to bed the first night, pulling the door closed behind me for no reason beyond habit and a theoretical fire block if the house caught on fire, I actually felt just a little bit scared. I got over it and slept so soundly that I had aches the next morning from not moving.

I went to work each morning and had a couple of meetings at church in the evenings. I saw people. I spoke to people. But then I’d come home and feel like doing nothing. Sometimes it felt like I was just waiting until an appropriate time to go to bed. Most evenings consisted of having a glass of wine with dinner while watching an episode of Firefly. I was enjoying myself, but people were missing and I was feeling it. There was simply no action. No energy. No life. No spark.

The last night, I had worked eleven hours, gotten off work about 8pm, and picked up some McDonald’s for dinner. That was another thing – it was hard to work up any interest in cooking for myself. I had a lot of salads and sandwiches and by Thursday night, I was tired of salads and sandwiches. McDonald’s was on the way home.

I sat down with my McDonald’s and my glass of wine (that makes the meal classy, right? It was even sparkling wine). Sat down on the couch and started up another episode of Firefly. About halfway through the episode, I started getting the loading screen every few minutes. At one point I decided to pause it, let it buffer, and try to get something done so I’d be ready for bed when the show was over.

Ah, yes, I thought to myself. I need to unload the dishwasher and get the dirty dishes in there. Can’t have the counter cluttered when the kids get home. That would undermine all my efforts to get them to stay on top of the dishes.

So I headed into the kitchen, grabbed the silverware out of the already-open dishwasher, and turned around to the silverware drawer. In one quick and practiced motion, I opened the drawer and prepared to drop the forks and spoons in their proper places, already turning my attention back to the next item in the dishwasher.

But something wasn’t right. Something didn’t compute. The drawer was not as I had left it. And since there was no one there but me and the dog, and the dog has not yet mastered the ability to pull open drawers, this took me by surprise. And then my mind interpreted more clearly what the not-quite-right situation was with the silverware drawer. And I shrieked and moved quickly back to the living room. Where the dog slowly raised her head to inquire if she should be concerned about whatever had just happened.

I’m actually proud to say it wasn’t quite a shriek. More of an exclamation of surprise, tinged with maybe just a hint of panic. My voice stayed in its usual octave. The noise was brief. If it had been anything more, the dog would have come running to take down whatever had scared her mama. I’m not sure this would have been a good thing.

I grabbed my phone off the couch, as all good first world people of the social media age would do, and creeped back into the kitchen. Where I got a better look at the snake hanging out on my tablespoons.

snake_silverware

 

A couple of quick shots and I was back in the living room, sending it first to my husband, then posting it on Facebook, then sending it to my daughter, who is the usual putter-away of dishes. She promptly submitted her resignation. My husband said he wished he had been there to witness my reaction.

Which just highlighted my on-my-ownness even more. In normal times, Jane would have been putting away the dishes. She would have shrieked much more satisfactorily than I would have. She would have run into wherever we were and breathlessly told us there was a snake in the kitchen. The boys would have yelled “cool!” and dropped their electronic devices to go check it out. The dog would have hurried to see the cause of all the excitement. There would have been a crowd in the kitchen. I would have laughed at Jane, secretly relieved that it hadn’t been me, and I would have suggested that my husband relocate the snake to the outdoors.

But there was no husband. No Jane. No eager boys. Not even a curious dog. Just a lazy, I-slept-all-day-in-my-crate-and-now-I’ll-lay-here-on-the-couch-while-you-have-a-silent-heart-attack-and-die dog. And a snake. In my silverware drawer.

I think I’m a tougher woman than most. I’ve done a lot of things that many women wouldn’t do. I’ve ridden a kayak down a fourteen foot waterfall by myself. I’ve gone on rigorous backpacking trips. I played roller hockey, even acquired stitches on my face and a chipped tooth. I experienced natural childbirth – three times! And one of them a home birth. I participated in a rock climbing competition just 10 days after my third child was born. I’ve done stuff. I’m tough.

In certain situations.

Critters in my house, especially of the slithering variety, are not in that subset of situations. So I stood in the living room, trying to imagine myself coaxing the snake onto a long stick and taking it out the front door. The image turned into the snake deftly and swiftly traveling up the stick and leaping onto my face. I calmly revised the image back to the snake wrapped around the stick. Then the dog entered the image and attacked the snake on the stick. The snake fought back. A war ensued. I forced the mental image back to a stick with a snake traveling out the front door. But the dog was a real concern. Lock her up in a bedroom? Just how long should the stick be? Open the front door first? How many bugs will come in the house before I get the snake on the stick and out the door? Do I really care about mosquitoes when there’s a snake in my silverware drawer?

I decided to go check on the snake again.

And it was gone.

I was actually relieved. I didn’t have to worry about being brave enough to move the snake. I would have done it. Of course, I would have. I’m tough. I do what needs to be done. I totally would have taken care of the snake. But now it’s back in the walls, hopefully eating mice and bugs and being useful to us. I’m good.

And then the Facebook friends started talking about it maybe being a copperhead. And I started imagining it stalking me once I went to bed for the night. My skin crawled. I told my tough (remember how tough you are?!) self that I was being silly. Cooler heads prevailed on Facebook and I employed my Google-fu to confirm that the snake was not a copperhead.

I finished watching Firefly. I finished putting the dishes away – including the silverware and the stuff that goes in the drawer below the silverware. I went to bed.

I swear this stuff only happens when my husband isn’t home.

 

Age is Relative

At dinner last night, Hal told his older brother that he had figured out why he (Daryl) was so mean to him (Hal) when Daryl was hanging out with his friend Tony.  Now, I already know why.  No one likes their little brother trying to hang with them – especially when that little brother is five years younger.  Hal pretty much hit the nail on the head:

“It’s because you are acting like a teenager.”

Jane jerked her head up, correctly interpreting that she, as the only teenager in the family, had just been slighted.  But it got her to thinking.  “Wow.  You know when Hal is a teenager, I might not be living at home anymore.”

“You better not still be living at home!” her dad said.  “I’ve got plans for that room.”

“But when Hal’s a teenager, I’ll be…”

“Twenty-one,” he finished.

“I could be attending the local college still.”

“But hopefully not living at home.”

Hal looked up from his Daddy’s lap and gave him a big hug.  “When I’m twenty nine, I’m really going to miss you.”

“Well, honey, you don’t have to miss me.  We can visit each other.”

“You mean you’ll still be alive then?!”  He sounded surprised but hopeful.

“I sure hope so!” Daddy responded.  “I’m turning 40 in a few days and my parents are still alive.”

“Mommy,” Daryl cut in, “You know that lady at church?  She’s got short gray hair and wrinkles?  She’s only 37.”

“Who are you talking about?” I asked.

“She always helps with the potlucks.  She’s only 37!”

Figuring out who he was talking about, I responded, “Um, honey, she’s older than 37.”

“But you look younger than her, Mommy!”

“I am younger than her, sweetheart.”

“But she said that if I kept doing what I was doing that one day that I’d make her older than her 37 years.”

“It was a joke,” Jane responded.  “She was joking.”

“Oh.”

Age is such a tricky thing for kids to get a handle on.

Help Me Rhonda

Some folks recently moved into an area near my work area.  Quite a few of them, actually.  Now there’s a lot more people in the halls, bathrooms, and break rooms.  Some of them are completely new to me, but some I recognize from other projects in times gone by.

I encountered one of the latter on a recent morning and a name jumped front and center. Tim Smith.

Immediately behind the name was a strong sense of doubt.  That is not Tim Smith.

I played it safe and gave a cheery and familiar, “Good morning!  How are you today?”

He said he was good.  We went our separate ways.  I conjured up my mental image of Tim Smith.  Yep.  Not Tim Smith.  I couldn’t remember who this guy actually was.  No matter.

That afternoon, we quickly passed each other as we rounded a corner from opposite directions.

“Hey, Rhonda,” he said. “How are you?”

“Fine.  And you?”

Rhonda?!  Who’s Rhonda?

I stifled my laughter until I was a safe distance away. At least I hadn’t called him Tim.