When One Gets Too Proud…

Life has a way of humbling a person when they get a little too proud of themselves. Or, at least, it does me. Doesn’t seem to get through to the likes of Donald Trump, but that’s a different story.

I was feeling a bit smug – ok, a lot smug – when I pulled out of the local Wal-Mart parking lot at 6:21 Wednesday evening. I had just left my friends’ house a mere 14 minutes earlier. I had parked out in BFE because the entire town was at Wal-Mart. I had rushed in, navigated around the swarms of lollygagging shoppers, grabbed my jalapenos and evaporated milk, and bee-lined to the self-checkout, where only one person was waiting ahead of me. Score!

I thought about my imminent drive to family the next day and grabbed a box of Junior Mints so I wouldn’t have to stop anywhere. Then I remembered I was out of gum at work and quickly restocked. Then my eagle eye caught someone leaving a station that the less-attentive woman ahead of me had missed. I pointed it out to her and moved to the front of the line.

As soon as the next person left, I hurried to that station and displayed my check-out prowess, efficiently scanning each item and dropping it into the bag as I scanned the next. I grabbed that receipt and was probably out the door before the next person even noticed I was gone. Man, I was good!

Efficiency continued when I got home. I had three hours before bed and I was going to make the best of it. (My family was away from home so my time was all mine). I let the dog out of her crate, fed her, then hauled the laundry to the laundry room as she ate. Started the washer and then took the dog out to potty.

Back in the house, I started up Pandora and began making the super-easy but tasty Jalapeno Cheese Squares recipe I’d been given. I’d get it in the oven and then finish up some other tasks and pack.

That’s when I noticed that the 18-count carton of eggs only had one egg in it and I needed two. I was stunned. Defeated. All that efficiency!

I live outside the city limits. I don’t really know my neighbors. One couple won’t answer the door when I knock – I’ve tried too many times to try again. Plus, I’m pretty sure they think my dog attacked their dog and sent it to the emergency room. I’m not saying she wouldn’t try if given the opportunity; but that particular day, she hadn’t been out of the house.

The couple we did know moved out. The people who moved in, I don’t feel comfortable approaching. And the people at the end of the road have a sign that reads “We don’t call 911” and has guns on it. No way I’m going to their door after dark!

Guess it’s the convenience store around the corner. I loaded the dog up in the truck so she could have some fun and headed that way. Maybe I shouldn’t have already removed my bra for the day, now that I was going back into public. Oh, well. It’s just the convenience store.

Except they were out of eggs. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

Ten minutes later, I was standing in line at a grocery store even busier than Wal-Mart. I had picked a line that only had three people who each had only an item or two on the conveyor belt. Except the first person was in one of those motorized carts. The reason she only had a couple items on the conveyor belt was because she couldn’t easily reach the others.

An employee asked us all to back up and she then began filling the belt with all the items that I could now see in the basket and even riding alongside the woman’s feet. This was going to take awhile.

The next person in line had a runner. While we waited for the first woman in the scooter to check out, his runner kept returning with more items. They had a dozen by the time it was their turn. I grabbed another pack of gum.

My second trip to the place you never want to go the night before Thanksgiving had been exactly what you expect it to be. I had been given a gift the first time. And I thought it was all me. Don’t tempt fate! Karma bites!

Waiting on Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t like to read book series that aren’t finished yet. My husband knows this about me. It’s too stressful for me to wait until the next book comes out. The anticipation kills me. I was late to the Dark Tower waiting game but it was still tough – especially when Stephen King was struck by a van. What if he had died?! It took him 22 years to finish that series of seven books. And no, that doesn’t come out to a book every three years because the last three books all came out in a little over a year span. Readers were waiting five or six years between books.

Speaking of authors dying before finishing their masterpieces, I found my way to The Wheel of Time before the series was completed and not long before the author, Robert Jordan, died, work unfinished. That fourteen book series took 23 years and two authors and introduced me to Brandon Sanderson, the author brought in to interpret Jordan’s notes and finish the series.

Betwen Harry Potter and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (another not-finished series I’m engrossed in) and Wheel of Time, I had been caught up in a small circle of authors for a number of years. When I came up for air, my first instinct was to read some more Sanderson. So I did.

I read a great novella called Legion. I read his Mistborn trilogy. I read the Rithmatist and Steelheart, accidentally stumbling into two more incomplete trilogies. And then I paused to consider what to read next. My husband suggested I try another author besides Sanderson.

He suggested The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A friend of ours had met Mr. Rothfuss and even had him sign a copy of the book for my husband. The note the author wrote to my husband made it clear he was of a similar personality to the friend, which is, to say the least, a bit off-kilter.

I was blown away my Pat’s writing. The fantasy world he created was impressive, as was the characters, the magic system, the storytelling. But it was the writing that really stood out to me. It was like reading poetry in novel form. In the epilogue of the book, he described silence. Specifically a silence of three parts. I could feel that silence. My ears pulsed with the absence of sound. I was mesmerized.

I’ve read many fine authors who have told gripping stories. Many deliver great dialogue. Gabaldon, in particular, tells a story with such an impressive vocabulary that I’m in search of a dictionary. But I cannot recall another author that created such vivid imagery, who described what I should see and hear so beautifully. I quickly started the second book.

And then my husband dropped the bombshell. The series wasn’t finished. That’s right. It wasn’t finished. I was furious – not with Patrick Rothfuss, whose third book I was now dying to read. But with my husband, who had led me into this trap.

As is the case with most readers, though – well, as it should be with most readers – I eventually fell into a comfortable state of waiting. The burn for the next book died down as I went on with my life and other books. I’m now in a state where I’ll need to re-read the books to regain that eager, give-it-to-me-now state of anticipation.

And then I followed Patrick Rothfuss on Facebook. He tells really cute stories about his kids and posts some funny stuff. That’s why I followed him. Then I learned that not everyone is capable of falling into that comfortable state of waiting. Some people get downright irate if authors don’t publish within a window that these readers think is appropriate. And they tell the authors about it every chance they get. And they get pretty ugly about it. And then other people defend the authors.

The arguments don’t change much and it doesn’t seem to matter what post is there. They’ll complain on any post, whether it’s about his books or not. I found it laughable. And sad. But it also got me to thinking.

Do authors owe anything to their readers? The complainers say yes. They say that the authors are getting paid to do a job and they need to get off Facebook and quit operating charities and do their job. Dammit. The supporters say the authors are sharing their creative talent with us and they don’t owe us anything. They can share or not share, their choice. The complainers turn red in the face at that and remind the supporters that these authors are getting paid! They aren’t sharing – they are selling a product.

I basically fall on the side of the supporters. I mean, of course, if an author is on contract, he or she needs to finish the book(s) on whatever schedule he or she agreed to. But otherwise?  Are movie makers required to make more movies after a big success? Are artists required to draw more or paint more? Does Annie Leibovitz have to keep taking pictures even if she’d rather operate a charity or become an accountant?

And the complainers seem to forget this is a creative process. If the writer gets writer’s block, he can’t just churn it out anyway. It’s not like building a house. He’s creating a world and immersing us in it. The complainers will remind us all that Rothfuss said the books were all finished – he was just editing. Ok, so he has since said he regrets making the comment and for him, the bulk of the work is in the editing. He’s kind of obsessive about it. So get over it. He’s not ready to share the story.

Ironically, the complainers have often presented one of my other favorite authors for contrast: Brandon Sanderson. They talk about how many books he publishes and how good they are. I like Sanderson. I enjoy his books. A lot. He’s a great story teller. But his books are not Rothfuss quality. They don’t have the same artistic imagery. He’s pulp fiction in comparison. So of course his books don’t take as much time.

But even if they were as good… who the bleep cares? I know a lot of computer programmers. Some of them code really, really fast. Others take longer. Some have more bugs in their code or it’s not structured well or not easy to read. Whatever. Fact is, you can’t ask the slow coders to code faster. You either accept their pace or you don’t. As a supervisor of computer programmers, a person can decide the person’s pace is good or fire them. That’s it. Readers have the same choice. Accept the author as he or she is… or move along.

So if I could, I’d tell all the complainers this: grow up. No one owes you anything. You are just being ugly and childish. There are so many good books by good authors out there that there is absolutely no way you could get through them all before Pat finished the final book in his Kingkiller Chronicles – even if it took him twenty years. So go read some of those. Read Sanderson. He’ll keep you busy. I get it. I know what it’s like to want the rest of the story. But yelling at the author won’t do any good. Get a life. Please. Let the rest of us enjoy the person without your vitriol.

All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

It was getting late in the day.  I was exhausted.  My back hurt.  My feet hurt.  I was weak and my stomach was growling so loudly that the neighbors called to ask if we had a new dog.  But I needed to push on.  Our to-do list was long and most of it simply had to be finished that day.

Most of my day had been filled with garage sale prep.  Some families from our Financial Peace University class are having a joint garage sale next weekend.  Since we will be out of town right on through the first day of the sale, we needed to have all of our stuff cleaned, sorted, priced, and delivered to some friends’ house by the end of the day.

I was almost done.  Then I noticed a bag sitting on a chair instead of in a box.  Oh, yeah, I thought.  I have some more bags and purses I was going to put with that.  I almost blew it off.  But, no, might as well get it all.  So I trudged into the laundry room and glanced at the shelf that held the tub full of old purses and bags.  It was underneath the tub stuffed full of gift bags and tissue paper. Oh, man, I thought.  I don’t want to move that heavy tub…  Oh, come on, just finish up.  And with that, I moved the top tub, opened the bottom tub, and extracted a half dozen purses and bags.

Back in the dining room, I opened one purse and dug out all the old receipts and what-not that I had been too lazy to remove when I stopped using it.  I stuck a price sticker on it and set it aside.  I picked up the next one.  One dollar, I thought to myself, noting how small it was.  It was remarkably clean inside.  No papers or other debris.  Check the inner zipper pocket, I told myself.  It looked empty but I stuck my hand in anyway, feeling for anything left behind.  On my last sweep, my fingers hit metal.


It felt like a ring.  I smiled, wondering what bubble gum machine find I was about to extract.  What memories of brief childhood obsession might flood my mind when I took it out.  And then I looked at what I held in my hand.  I dropped the purse and clutched the ring tightly in both hands.  I looked quickly around the room and felt dazed.  My knees were weak.

I rushed to the front door, bumping boxes on my way out.  I fumbled to open the door because my hands were shaking.  I stumbled out and croaked my husband’s name.  He looked up, not quite alarmed, but concerned.  He told me later that he knew something significant had happened but he couldn’t guess what.

I ran to him.  Failing to slow down, I raised my hands so the one not occupied hit flat on his chest as I crashed into him.  He grasped me in a giant bear hug and asked me what was going on.  I cradled my clinched fist against his chest and pressed my face into his shoulder.

This was the moment.  I was only going to get to tell him once and then the moment would be past.  I wanted to savor it.  I wanted to shout from the mountaintops yet whisper it in his ear yet delay so the moment wouldn’t be over.

Finally, I pulled away and pried open my fingers.  He looked down into my hand.  Looked down at my long lost wedding ring.  And laughed.  He laughed and laughed and hugged me tight with such joy before asking, “Does it still fit?”

I swear my hands shook more than any bride on her wedding day as I gave it a try.  I had to stick my knuckle in my mouth in order to slide the ring past it, but I got it on.  And on it shall stay.


“I guess I can’t give you a hard time about that anymore,” he said with a smile.

See, that ring was “the story.”  You know, every couple has at least one.  The one that gets trotted out to such great effect.  It usually happened something like this:

Someone would notice our tattoos on our left ring fingers and ask if we got those when we got married.  We would explain that we had gotten them for our 13th wedding anniversary.  And then we’d explain why: because we were always taking our rings off when backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, etc.  My husband wanted it known that he was married all the time, so why not get tattoos?

Then the someone asking the question would ask another one.  “Well, do you still have your wedding rings?”

I do,” he’d say significantly.  All eyes would then turn to me as I finished the tale.

I’d shift a bit in mock discomfort.  “Well,” I’d say, slightly defensively, “we were going on an outdoor trip.  Three high points and then rock climbing.  I was afraid I’d lose it if I kept taking it on and off.  Or someone might steal the car while it was in there or something.  So I decided to just leave it at home.  But I didn’t want someone to steal it if they broke into the house.  So I hid it.  Really well.  Really well.  We still haven’t found it.”

That was something like seven years ago.  I thought for sure I had tucked it back in a drawer or on one of the shelves in the closet.  But we remodeled the closet and it wasn’t there.  And we sold the dresser and I thoroughly checked it before we let it leave.  We also gutted the bedroom – all the way down to the studs (not looking for the ring – just remodeling).  No ring.

I have insisted all these years that the ring would turn up.  Just like the five year anniversary ring did.  I took that one off while rock climbing indoors and then couldn’t find it.  It was missing for at least a year when we decided to get the tattoos, which were patterned off the anniversary ring.

I woke up the morning after the tattoo and broke out in a cold sweat when I saw my finger.  “Oh, my God!  Oh, my God!  What have I done?  What have I done?  I can’t cover this up!  It’s always visible!  A tattoo on my hand?!  What was I thinking?”

Eventually, I rolled out of bed and, for some reason, went looking for something in the closet.  What I found, in the inner zipper pocket of yet another old purse, was my anniversary ring.  I took it as a sign that the tattoo was not the end of the world after all.

So when I lost the wedding ring shortly thereafter, I told my husband it would turn up.  Just like the anniversary ring.  At first, I wasn’t worried.  I always knew I would find it.  Or maybe I should say that it would find me.  I knew that some day when I least expected it, there it’d be.  Unless I was being pessimistic.  On those days, I would resign myself to the fact that the ring must be gone.  After all, where could it possibly be?

Which brings us to today.  When I came *this close* to selling my ring for a dollar and never, ever, ever knowing what had happened to it… unless the lucky recipient was generous enough to bring it back.

Circumstances then lined up just right that we found ourselves childless at dinner time.  We decided that celebrating the ring was in order.  We chose Chinese food and sat across the table from each other, both staring at the ring.  And I ordered a Strawberry Daiquiri, my drink of choice from our younger days.  And we smiled.  A lot.

Now we just need his Senior class ring to show back up.  Yes, I lost that too.  It probably still has the maroon ribbon on it.  Wherever it is.20140712_202306

Be Patient. Please.

“I want to die real quick so I can go up to heaven and see what Jesus is like. I wish I could die right now.”

“Ok, Hal, you realize that you don’t get to come back after you die?”

He looked stricken.

“So let’s just be patient about going to see Jesus, ok?”


Then we finished brushing teeth and hurried off to bed.

Seeking Wisdom

What happens when one control freak delegates a task to another control freak and then takes it back? Well, for the second control freak, the results are not pretty. She’s highly likely to have her feelings hurt and be extremely angry. She’s liable to cry and rant to her spouse about the problems of being micromanaged, of not being allowed to do the task, of how she could have done the job and done it well. No, not just well, better than it’s ever been done before. She wants to call the first control freak and tell her about the terrible thing she has done. She wants to make the first control freak feel badly for what she’s done to the second one.

But if she has a modicum of wisdom buried deep down in her brain, she’ll recognize her response is not rational. She’ll carefully consider her husband’s question, “What do you want?”

If you call her, what result do you hope to achieve? What do you want? And are you prepared for the unintended consequences? Because they are always there. There will be unintended consequences to the conversation. Are you ready for them? Can you accept them?

This was my situation this morning. I had been given a task for a group I am involved in at church. As I tried to gather the information I needed to do the task, the leader of the group kept interfering, telling me it should – no, not should, would be done this other way. She asked for intermediate information and then dismissed me, saying she would explain when she saw me, but she was going to go this other route. I never got a chance to put together my brilliant plan. I was devastated.

What do I want?

I want to build the plan. I want to solve the puzzle. I am a problem solver, an optimizer, an engineer. I am logical and organized. She is frazzled right now. I know I can do this better than she can. I know it.

Realization #1

As I ranted to my husband, he commented, “You’ve been here before. In fact, I’m convinced that if you didn’t have me in your life, you’d be just like her in 30 years.”

He’s right. Why am I so upset? Because she wouldn’t give me the control. She offered it but then took it back. And. I. Want. The. Control.

Ok, so part of my problem is that I’m dealing with an older version of myself. A version that never had the moderating effects of a spouse and children. So what now? I still want to confront her. I want her to know she hurt me. I want her to know how her behavior stifles the willingness of the people around her to volunteer. To give her the help she needs.

She did it to my husband too. When he came back with the rough draft of his assigned task, she brushed him off and said she’d decided to go this other route and had already drawn it up. My husband, being who he is, was hurt for a few minutes but then embraced the freedom of no longer having the responsibility and the even greater freedom of knowing that he wouldn’t be volunteering for anything else in the future. And he was content.

That’s not going to work for me. I can’t let go of the task that I want to do. And I still want to talk to her, even though I suspect that everything I would say would go wrong. Unintended consequences.

So I pondered the situation some more. I became convinced that while I wanted to be blunt with her, I shouldn’t. Any time I have stepped up to be blunt, it has gone poorly. But what about Christian accountability? Don’t I owe it to her as her Sister in Christ to let her know how her behavior affects the people around her? Don’t I owe it to her to help her be a better person? Didn’t I just write about this?

My husband is not enough like me. He gives good advice, most of the time. But sometimes, even when the advice is good, I implement it poorly. I needed another perspective. So I contacted a friend in the same church group. And I hit wisdom gold.

She sat quietly on her end of the phone while I explained and whined and ranted. I poured my heart out about what had happened and how I had reacted and what I wanted and then I asked her opinion and shut up and listened.

Realization #2

Control freak number one is freaking out right now. My friend is also a control freak and she can relate to what number one is going through. She explained to me that number one knows she needs to delegate and she tries but there is this constant swirl of stuff that must be done going on in her head and she just can’t stop it. And she actually can’t delegate it, even though she tries.

My friend talked about how she knows her mother raised children and she knows she is competent and able. Yet when my friend was trying to master the new mother thing a couple of years ago, she was convinced that no one else could change her son’s diaper as well as she could, even when she needed the break.

Realization #3

When my friend was in that mode of trying to keep all the balls in the air all by herself, she went with speed, not diplomacy, in her interactions with those dear loved ones trying to help. That’s why I was hurt. Because number one didn’t (couldn’t?) take the time to let me down gently. She felt an uncontrollable urge to make sure it was done right and there’s simply too much going on in her head to consider how her actions would affect others.

Realization #4

I told my friend that my urge to do the job was so strong that I was tempted to develop the plan anyway and then show it to number one. In her calm patient voice, she responded, “From everything I have heard you say so far, if you did that, and she rejected it, you would be devastated and hurt again.”

She was right. I didn’t want to just do the job. I didn’t want to just solve the puzzle. I wanted to do the job and have it be accepted. Have it be used. I don’t want praise. Praise, in fact, makes me very uncomfortable. But I want to be useful. I want the most efficient process in place. I have to live with it too, after all.

And if I succeed. If I succeed in developing a more efficient plan and then it gets rejected anyway, I will have to follow the other plan with the full knowledge that mine was better. Ok, the full belief. I am wise enough to know my plan might not actually be better. But if I feel it is, the effect is the same.

How much more devastated would I be if I spent my precious time developing the plan and then had it rejected? Wouldn’t it be better to stop now? To set aside my desire to implement the solution? To live with what number one comes up with?

Realization #5

I told my friend that I wanted to ask number one why. Why won’t she let me develop the plan? Why? This has always been the most important question to me. Why? Why do people do what they do? It’s what I’ve always wanted to know. Who, what, where, and when have never been as important to me as why.

My friend then dropped a bombshell that I’m pretty sure I’ll still be processing months from now. She had learned something while working at a psych hospital. You never ask why. Why immediately puts someone on the defensive. Ask them why and they shut down. They have to defend their actions. There are ways to get at why without asking why. “What am I doing that isn’t working for you? How would you like me to proceed?” Questions like that. Questions I’m not very good at.

There’s a feeling I get deep inside when someone tells me something that I had never understood but I now, immediately, know is fundamentally true. I got this feeling several times in the course of this conversation and this was perhaps the biggest.

Number one doesn’t know why. If you ask her if she wants help, she will say she does. She believes she wants help. In fact, she does want help. She just doesn’t know how to let people help. If I ask her why she won’t let me, she’ll think I’m accusing her. She’ll get defensive. And that’s when I realized… that’s exactly what I’d be trying to do with the question. Asking someone why they are doing something or why they are not doing something is an accusation phrased as a question to absolve the accuser of the guilt of making the accusation.

I wanted her to feel bad for not letting me do the task. And asking her why she won’t let me is a way for me to accomplish that. But now that my friend has enlightened me to number one’s state of mind, I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t want to make her feel bad. I don’t want to contribute to the chaos and stress.

But I still want her to know she hurt me. I still want her to have the opportunity to learn from the situation. To be better. And I told my friend that.

Realization #6

“Then tell her. But do it after the event. Do it once it’s all over and the stress is passed.”

Oh, man. I’m a gotta-do-it-now kind of person. Shoot, I’m writing this blog right now instead of taking care of several other more important things because I feel I’ve just got to get it off my chest. She hurt me. And I want to let her know. Now.

But now’s not the time when she can hear me. Now, I would be contributing to the problem, not helping her be better in the future. The “you hurt me” talk needs to wait.

So now I need to decide what to do. Do I call her? If I do, what do I say? What do I want? If I can’t have what I want, can I settle for something else? Can I let it go?

Here’s what I want. I want to develop the plan. But more than that, I want to stay in the group. In my anger and frustration this morning, I contemplated not showing up this afternoon. I even contemplated dropping out completely. Those thoughts stabbed me in the chest. I couldn’t breathe with the thought of not being part of the group. It is seriously a highlight of my crazy, overbooked existence. I can’t imagine life without it. It. Is. That. Important. To. Me.

So compared to that? The plan is not that important. My desire to confront is not that important. I can’t jeopardize my participation in the group. Moreover, I can’t jeopardize my typically positive interaction with number one. To some extent, I have to accept that an idea will not be a good idea until it comes from her. That is who she is. Perhaps she can change, but right now, that’s who she is.

Now I have to consider who I am. Can I keep offering help under number one’s parameters, as my friend suggested? Or do I need to follow my husband’s lead and not volunteer in the future? I’m only human. I have to consider what I can handle. And I don’t think I can handle being rejected again. And now we get to…

Realization #7

I want to grow. I want to be a better person each and every day. To do that, I have to learn; I have to listen; I have to be willing to critique myself as much as I critique others. More. And I have to know the right people to talk to. My husband and my friend made a good team today. They talked me away from the edge. They forced me to look at what I wanted and why I wanted it. They helped me see the other person as a flawed human instead of a frustrating beast.

And I learned, as I have learned before and will probably have to learn many more times in the future, that I can only improve myself. I might be able to help others improve if they are willing. If they approach me, like I approached my friend. But I can’t make someone be better. I can only make me better. I can’t fix number one and her issues. No matter how glaringly obvious they are to me, I can’t fix them. I can only fix me and my issues. And I can only do that when I calm down and listen to the people who know me and who have a healthier perspective on the matter at hand.

It’s a humbling experience and I am not, at my most fundamental, a humble person. But if there is one thing I want to master before I die, it’s this. To humble myself enough to hear the wisdom of others. To seek that wisdom. And to be wise enough myself to see and implement that wisdom.

UPDATE: I wrote this on my lunch break. That afternoon, I went to church. She had modified my spreadsheet, added identifying stickers, and was having everyone record the information I had already recorded instead of verifying what I had recorded. It soon became apparent that she still intended me to develop my plan, but only after she had collected the information the way she wanted to.

When I requested that people record certain information that I needed to know, she glared at me and said no. A friend (different from the phone friend) reminded me to breathe. Just breathe. Breathe. And don’t volunteer again. But right now just breathe.

By the end of the evening, she had explained herself in a satisfactory enough way. I was still frustrated, but not angry. I was still being micromanaged. I had my job but I was not empowered. I still don’t know if I will ever volunteer again. As frustrating as the situation has been, however, I’m glad it happened. I’ve learned a lot. About her. About me. About navigating the sea of humanity. And I’m a better person for it.

Not A Laughing Matter


Dear Nurse Practitioner,

I understand you guys get backed up.  I get it.  Especially when you had to reschedule my appointment for the following week after you got sick and had to cancel my original appointment.  I bet you packed the schedule tight to get us all worked in.  And my 11:15 appointment was likely at the end of the morning batch of patients, so I knew I’d bear the brunt of all the little delays that built over the course of the morning.  But I also knew that my time with you would be brief so I was hopeful that I’d be back at work by 1:00.

So when I wasn’t called back until 11:40, I was mildly annoyed but not upset or worried about my time.  These things happen.  The nurse took my blood pressure and then told me to strip from the waist down.  You’d be in shortly, she told me.  So I wrapped the little pink paper blanket around my waist and hopped up on the table.

I played Candy Crush until I ran out of lives and my back began to hurt.  I laid back on the table, propping my feet up in the stirrups to relieve pressure on my lower back, altered the time on my phone to get more lives, and continued to wait.  By 12:20, I was beginning to wonder if I needed to call work and reschedule my afternoon.  Eating lunch before my 1:15 meeting was looking very questionable.  Still, these things happen.  So while I had hoped the appointment would go faster, I still wasn’t upset.  Just resigned.

And then you walked in.  Forty five minutes after I stripped for the exam.  I suppose you were nervous about how I might react to having been kept waiting for so long.  You probably thought some humor would defuse the situation.  If you could just laugh and get me to laugh with you, then you could believe everything is ok.  We could be friends.  Or at least friendly.

You have a strange sense of humor though.  Let me suggest that when you have left a woman lying half naked on an exam table for so long that her hips and back have seized up to the point that she isn’t sure she can scoot that bare bum to the edge of the table, you might want to just apologize for the delay and promise a speedy conclusion.

Joking with her about how long she was left waiting is a terrible idea.  I bet you were wondering how long you were going to have to wait, huh? *chuckle* *chuckle* Silence from me.  Probably thought we should feed you lunch, huh? *chuckle* Silence.  That’s the least we could have done, huh?  You’re probably getting pretty hungry.  You ought to at least be offered a soda, right? *chuckle* Silence as I struggle into position.  Even airlines offer you a soda for a one hour flight, right? *chuckle* *chuckle* More silence.  I was on a one hour flight the other day and they rolled out the beverage cart!  I couldn’t believe it! *chuckle* Silence.

I was silent because I didn’t want to “make it all ok” by laughing, even fake laughing.  And I didn’t know how to respond.  What did you expect me to say?  Yes, in fact, I was hungry.  And about ready to use the bathroom again, as I said when you asked me if my bladder was empty and I said it was when I entered the room some time ago.  And now that you mention it, wow, it would have been kind of nice if the nurse had offered me something to drink.  Or at least come in and told me how much longer it was going to be.  Or check that I was ok.  Something. Now that you mention it.

Please remember that I was not particularly upset before you walked in the door.  But after you went on and on about the delay, you convinced me.  It was excessive.  And uncomfortable.  And your joking about it obnoxious and a bit offensive.  And now I’m upset.  So thanks.  And please do me a favor.  When I come back in about five years, just come in and say, “Hey!  Sorry about the delay.  I’m going to get you out of here as quick as I can.”  That’d work swell for me.


The Girl Who Waited

(Sorry, couldn’t resist a nod to Doctor Who in the signature line…)

The Labyrinth

Today, we took the boys walking around the ranch where we are staying this week. We found ourselves walking through an area we hadn’t been last year. It had rained so all the green seemed brighter than usual. The green leaves of the trees hung low with the weight of the rain water, dangling ever so close to the river, which was itself several different remarkable shades of green due to the beautiful varieties of moss and plants just below the surface. The wood chips that marked the walkway were also a brighter reddish brown than they would have been dry. All together, it felt like walking through a fairy tale land.

We saw a sign for a labyrinth and decided to search it out. The boys were hoping for a maze, a la David Bowie. We did our best to dissuade them of the notion, explaining that it’s a path used for prayer and contemplation. They still ran ahead in excited anticipation. When we reached it, they yelled “cool!” and headed in.

We looked at each other and smiled. I tried to read the instructions to the boys but I knew this walk through a labyrinth would not be as peaceful or spiritual as times past. Nevertheless, I started my walk, the last and the slowest of the four. I centered my mind on God and tried to block out the raucous traveling of my progeny. I asked God to show me how to be a better parent. To be more patient, especially on this trip. To find ways to handle the wild hyperactivity more successfully, without yells or threats or attempted intimidation.

I couldn’t block the boys from my attention, however. I soon noticed that they were sticking out their hands for a light hand slap as they passed each other on the winding paths. Completely missing the point, I thought. Introspection is the name of the game here. And then I noticed my husband approaching me on an adjacent path. We looked at each other and smiled. And stuck our hands out, mimicking our little boys.

The boys noticed. At that point, any person who passed any other person quietly put out their hand for the touch. It didn’t lessen the experience one bit. In fact, it deepened it considerably as I was drawn into my boys’ world. They entered the center of the labyrinth much sooner than I did, of course. And what they did next made my smile go all the way down to the tips of my toes and back.

I had explained that this was a means of prayer and meditation. So when Daryl made it to the center, he sat down with crossed legs. He put his hands palms up on his knees, lightly pressing the thumbs to the index fingers, and started humming “Ohmmmmm…. Ohmmmmm… Ohmmmmm”

Without questioning, Hal sat down behind him and did it too.


Now, I know they were just having fun. I don’t think their trip through the labyrinth deepened their spirituality or anything significant like that. But it had a profound effect on me. God showed me my boys being their usual selves in an environment in which I should have been extremely put-out at their lack of reverence yet couldn’t be precisely because of that environment. He answered my prayer by showing me how to extend grace and patience to my boys, by drawing me into their play, by sharing their joy.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Most of our friends have children. Such is the lot of parents: so much of your life centers around those children that your friends tend to be the people you hang out with on the soccer sidelines or in the auditorium as your child warms up for a recital. They are also the ones that don’t roll their eyes and try to back away as you regale them with your latest potty training trials and tribulations.

We do, however, have a few childless friends. They are younger than us by a fair piece and may indeed join the parenting ranks at some point in the future. That is, if our children do not persuade them through their antics that the DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle really is the more attractive option.

I was speaking with the male half of one of these couples on Saturday. His girlfriend works in my husband’s studio and he had accompanied her for the day. Since the studio is at our house, they both see a lot of our children. They even babysit for us at times. They come over for game nights and hang out at kiln firings. You could almost call them family.

Hal had just done his unintentional Tasmanian Devil imitation as he spun through the studio and back out on his energetic run through the land of make-believe. I was preparing to wake Jane up so I could drop her off at softball and then pick up Daryl from his Destination Imagination practice. Our friend commented, “Yes, I’m pretty sure we will only have one child.”

I looked up at him as he continued, referring to his girlfriend, “She’s not as patient as you are.”

There are many adjectives that people have used to describe me over the years. Patient is not one of them and I told him so. “I’m not exactly known for my patience.”

“Well, you put on a good show then.”

It occurred to me as I pondered his statement over the following couple of days that it could be taken several different ways. He could have simply been commenting on his girlfriend’s extreme lack of patience, not on my abundance of it. It could be that he would view the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland to be in possession of a higher quantity of patience than her. She doesn’t strike me as particularly impatient though, so I don’t think this explanation fits.

It could be that he finds my children obnoxious and exhausting and completely out-of-control. The fact that they are still alive and I am still standing a testament to my good patience. There might be some truth to this but even my pessimistic personality won’t accept that my children are horribly more difficult than a standard collection of three young, intelligent, happy children.

That leaves the interpretation that I assumed the moment he spoke the words. He actually believes I exhibit motherly patience to a degree that impresses him. This stunned me. I think I pulled together enough wits to say thank you. I hope I did. I doubt he understands the power of his words.

Every mother loses her cool. Every mother explodes at one too many whines from a tired child or yet another neglectful performance of chores. It’s easy for me to dwell in those moments, to remember the monster from within bursting forth to scare my children.

His words reminded me that there are times that I take a deep breath and handle a crisis calmly. There are times when I listen attentively to a laundry list of Pokemon characters and their defining traits. Well, ok, there are times when I put on a good show of listening attentively to the laundry list. There are times when I handle a discipline situation from a controlled and reasoned point of view. There are times when I stand in the eye of the tornado and wring order out of chaos.

And best of all, these times happen in front of other people. They see it and they believe it’s the real me. And they are impressed. Of course, it is the real me, just as the monster is too. Two sides of the same coin. Perhaps realizing that people have noticed my patience, thin though it might have felt to me, will motivate me to flip to that side of the coin more often.