From crisis to serendipity

Wednesday night at about 6:30 PM I was lying in bed, preparing to continue reading The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. Then my phone rang.

At first, no one replied to my “hello.”  I pressed the phone to my ear, repeating my greeting. The caller was identified by my iPhone as the mother of my daughter’s friend where she was spending the night.  I half-expected the voice to be my daughter’s.

Finally, though, the mom’s voice came over the line.  “We’re at the beach,” she said, and then she added the phrase, “Um, first of all, she’s okay.”

Why, when you hear those words, do you picture a dismemberment or maybe an explosion?  You don’t?  Oh, maybe that’s just me.  I did not find comfort in “she’s okay.”  I wondered why she was calling to tell me my daughter was okay . . . and what was all the noise in the background?

Then she told me that my 10-year old was stung by a stingray.  A stingray!  Hello?  A stingray killed the Crocodile Hunter!  But . . . my daughter was okay.  Or so she said.

And then, she said they were with lifeguards and could she call me back?

As soon as we disconnected, I told my husband what happened and then I did a Google search and found these scary instructions:

1. Bathe Wound in Seawater

  • While still in water, irrigate wound to remove fragments of spine and tissue.
  • Get the person out of the water.

2. Stop Bleeding

  • Apply pressure above the wound if it is bleeding.

3. Soak Wound in Hot Water Until Bleeding Stops

  • Hot water inactivates any remaining venom and may relieve pain.
  • Apply a hot pack if the wound is still bleeding.
  • Gently remove obvious pieces of spine. Do not remove pieces of spine from the neck, chest, or abdomen.

4. Scrub Wound

  • Clean with soap and water.
  • Apply dressing. Do not tape it closed.

5. Go to a Hospital Emergency Room

6. Follow Up

  • At the hospital, the barb and remnants of stingray spine will be removed.
  • X-rays may be done.
  • A tetanus shot may be administered, if necessary.
  • An antibiotic and pain reliever may be prescribed.

So I found my shoes and prepared to drive to the beach so I could rush my daughter to a clinic for medical care.  Meanwhile, my husband called a doctor friend to ask his advice.  I drove to the beach, expecting the phone to ring any second.  I reached the beach and still hadn’t heard back, so I called my friend to see where exactly they were.

She gave me more details and put me on speaker phone with the lifeguard while she asked him questions.  Everyone sounded remarkably calm, nonchalant, even.  He said that she was fine and there was little chance a barb was still stuck in her.  She was stung on the hand and it had already been treated, cleaned, and bandaged.  I talked to my daughter and she sounded cheerful and perfectly okay.  She also sounded horrified that I planned to take her to the Urgent Care Clinic.  She wanted to spend the night with her friend as planned.

So, with assurance from her, the lifeguard and the mom, I relented.  I dropped off the extra clothes I’d brought at their house (they were not yet home from the beach) and began driving toward home.

Then I noticed the sky.

I checked the clock.  It was about 7:10 PM.  A quick check of a phone app showed me that the sunset would be at 7:44 PM.

I called my husband, told him I’d decided to stay for the sunset.

And so I detoured into a parking lot, walked across the sand and got a front-row seat.  The beach was nearly abandoned.  I guess most tourists have headed home since school’s starting soon.

I only had my iPhone with me but at least I had it so I could snap photos.

As for my daughter, she declared she never plans to go to THAT beach again.

Today, she wore gauze wrapped around her two fingers.  When I suggested that band-aids might be adequate for the two small cuts, she said, “But Mom, that would not be dramatic enough!  I want people to ask me what happened!”  (She also told me today that she quite enjoyed having the lifeguard truck with its sirens and lights drive down the shore to transport her to the lifeguard headquarters for treatment.)

So, truly, all’s well that ends well.

And it ended very well.

My Summer Vacation (only it was actually just a Summer Saturday) in Pictures

Last Saturday, I set my alarm to wake up at 6:30 AM.  Getting up at such an hour is painful when you’ve gone to sleep only five hours earlier.  However, a sacrifice had to be made.

This is where I went with my daughter and our friend.  Notice the oh-so-cool surfer van at the bottom of the picture.

We arrived at the beach around 7:30 AM.  SEVEN THIRTY IN THE MORNING.  Oh my.  We found a parking place easily and walked down the stairs toward the beach.  And then we practically bumped into Bethany Hamilton, the surfer we’d come to see.  She had apparently finished warming up and was showering in the outdoor shower.  A man approached her to ask for her autograph as she finished her shower and headed toward us and I heard her say, “I can’t do that right now.”

My daughter and our friend and I looked at each other, mouths open.  “Did you see that?  That was HER!”  We were kind of star-struck, I admit.

Do you know who Bethany Hamilton is?  She’s the Hawaiian surfer who had her left arm bitten off by a gigantic shark while surfing when she was 13-years old. In the ten years since then, she’s continued her professional surfing career and been the subject of both a documentary and a major motion picture.

We set up our chairs and began watching the first heat of surfers.  Four surfers at a time had 25 minutes in each heat to surf as many waves as they could.  I’m not entirely sure how points are scored, but it was fun watching them catch the waves.

Then, as we sat waiting for Bethany’s heat, I turned my head in response to some commotion and saw her jogging in my direction.  I grabbed my camera just in time to snap her picture.

What?  I couldn’t have planned that picture if I’d asked her to please jog past my chair in slow motion.

We had the best day.  In addition to watching the surfing, we had our hair braided and got free stuff and had lunch at Dairy Queen before watching more surfing.  More and more people joined us on the beach as the marine layer burned off and the hours passed.

All in all, it was a pretty great day. (I love the shirts the surfers wore – this was the Supergirl Pro Surf competition.)

This is one of the professional surfers, preparing to surf.

And this is Bethany Hamilton, surfing while we all cheered and took pictures from shore.

And then she had to contend with the crowds when the heat ended.  I think she was lingering in the waves, waiting for the other three surfers to make their way through the crowd first.  All the surfers were mobbed for their autographs, but Bethany actually needed security to escort her through the crowds.  She was scheduled to sign autographs at 4 PM but we didn’t even attempt that since the line started forming by about 1 PM.  We heard that the day before she signed autographs in another town and some moms and their daughters waited in line for four and a half hours, only to be cut off when she stopped signing at the appointed time.

At any rate, we had an excellent time.  How much do I love living in a beach town?  (Answer:  A whole lot.)

Friends are not friends forever despite what Michael W. Smith says

While driving to soccer practice, my 10-year old daughter chatters non-stop.  One day she mentioned that she and a teammate want to have a playdate.  I suggested the waterpark or the beach and then she said, “It’s weird.  Whenever I go someplace like that I always meet someone and make a friend.  And then I never see them again.”

I said, “Yes, they are just friends for a day, huh?”

I hate the idea of a friend for a day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the occasional conversation you have with a stranger you meet in random circumstances:  in the airport or the beach or while walking your dog down the street on a balmy Southern California morning.  I like a temporary intersection with an acquaintance or the getting-to-know you exchange of information and ideas with a potential friend, even if nothing really comes of it.

But what I hate is the abandonment of old friends, dear friends, those friends who have toured the inside of your heart and seen you cry.  I hate it and I don’t understand it.

Maybe I am that kind of person, the kind of person who walks away and forgets her friends, the kind of woman who drifts away on the currents of busyness, the loser who plain-out abandons her friends.  But I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t think I am like that.  I spend a lot of time wondering if I am.  Is it me?

Admittedly, I am an introvert, one of those weirdos who would choose reading over partying.  I am never the life of the party, like some people I know.  I don’t gather people to me like a magnet.  I like solitude and peace and quiet.

But when I find a friend, when I connect with someone on a deeper level, when I find someone who laughs at my jokes  and makes me laugh, who “gets” me, I treasure that person.  Over the years, I’ve had some of the most amazing friends.  We have walked parallel paths as we became wives and mothers.  We’ve shared our lives, our sorrows, our gripes, our dreams, our fears.  We have history together.

But at some point, silence has crept in.  Distance both geographical and emotional has turned from space into a wall, an impenetrable wall without a gate.  I’m alone.  I don’t know why.

I don’t have forty-seven other friends tucked away in a banquet room.  I have loved these few friends with devotion and faithfulness.  I have saved every letter these friends have ever sent yet I feel like my actual friendship has been shredded and tossed out in the recycling bin.  (I know.  Real letters with handwriting and postage stamps and everything!  So old-fashioned.)

Sure, this could just be life, that time in the life-cycle of an American female human being when she only sees her children and her husband and her job and her to-do-list, but I have a hole where those friends used to be.

I can’t stop probing the hollow space.


p.s.  I already know that some friends are “for a season” and some are “for a reason” and all that trite stuff.  I just feel a sense of abandonment and it’s probably me, not you.  I don’t need advice or comfort.  I just wanted to stay what I’ve been thinking because it helps me think better and sort through things.  (I almost didn’t post this but I can’t seem to post anything else until this post stops blocking the traffic in my head.)


My daughter is 10 and she never seems to be tired even though she regularly moans, “I am so tired.”  Today, she attended Jr. Lifeguard Camp where she learned CPR and how to save someone from drowning.  She had to jump in the pool and drag out a lifeguard who pretended to be in dire straits.

I picked her up at the waterpark after six hours of camp and headed immediately to the doctor for an appointment where the doctor questioned her and listened intently in an effort to figure out why her ankle hurts sometimes.  (Likely diagnosis:  Tendonitis.)  The x-ray results will confirm the diagnosis tomorrow.

Anyway, after that, we returned home for a short time where she changed clothes again.  Time for soccer practice!  While she practiced, I read in the car.

It was nearly 8 PM when we got home and I took a quick nap before working. While my daughter avoids naps at all costs, I try to nap whenever I can.

My daughter finally drifted upstairs and went to sleep.  She has camp again in the morning.  She will be groggy when I wake her at 7:30 AM but not as groggy as I will be.


My husband’s gone to Minnesota for a week’s worth of meetings.  I’m home as usual working, driving kids here and there, doing laundry, occasionally grumbling, and wishing for more sleep.

And that’s why there’s no time to write anything decent in this blog.



My 10-year old is attending the local Vacation Bible School this week at a church just a few minutes from our house.  This is good because I can stay asleep until the very last minute.  She is old enough that I can drive her to the church door and drop her off, no walking in required. I do not have to appear in public.

So I drop her off–getting up only six hours after I go to sleep–and then returning home to walk the dog, work, shower, pick her up at noon, work, drop off another kid at work, work, work, work, wonder what to make for dinner and so on and so forth.

I am sleepy.


Only two more days and then next week . . . Junior Lifeguard Camp.  I’m not sure exactly what that entails (besides a new one-piece Speedo), but I do know that all next week, I’ll be waking up early to get her off to camp.  Fortunately for me, another mom and I are sharing carpool duties.  She will do the morning drop-off and I’ll do the afternoon pick-up.

Just for kicks, this Saturday I have to get up before the sun gets up to drop off my husband at the airport.   It’s like the universe is conspiring against me and I’ll never get to sleep eight hours in a row again.


In other news, today is my twenty-sixth wedding anniversary.  I married my husband when he was 26, so now he’s been married as long as he was not married.  They say the first twenty-six years are the hardest, so I expect it will be all sunshine and rainbows from here on out.

Actually, he’s such a good husband and father that I’ve always known marrying him was the best decision I ever made.  I do feel sorry for him sometimes because he has to live with me and my accompanying ridiculousness but he’s been a good sport and never tells me that my hair looks terrible, for instance.

He did not know what he was getting himself into when he said, “I do” all those years ago–and neither did I.  How can you know when you’re standing there in your home-sewn taffeta gown in front of God and everybody and you’re only twenty-two and you don’t yet know that your husband-to-be hates maps?  And you don’t know about the rocks in the road or the detours or the dangerous stretches ahead?

But I still do and he still does and that will get us through the next twenty-six years.

If it’s four o’clock, that means I have no idea what to cook for dinner

One of my favorite shows to watch is Chopped on the Food Network.  Have you seen it?  Four contestants are given a basket of “mystery” ingredients and they must concoct an appetizer in twenty minutes.  One contestant is chopped, then the remaining three get a basket of more “mystery” ingredients and in a slightly longer time-frame, they must create an entree.  Another contestant is chopped and the remaining two contestants compete in the dessert round.

The “mystery” ingredients are always odd, sometimes stuff I’ve never even heard of, other times, ingredients that would confound and sicken me (a whole sheep’s head, anyone?) and sometimes they’re just weird (a box of chocolate covered donuts for the entree round, for instance).

My whole life is an episode of Chopped except that I have a pantry rather than a basket and I don’t have any fancy kitchen gadgets and I am not a creative cook and I would rather be pretty much anywhere than the kitchen.  (Oh, and I have no camera crew, no good pot-holders, merciless judges, no training, and no possibility of winning $10,000.)

So today, after work at about 3:30 PM I was lying in bed playing Candy Crush on my phone when it rang.  My husband called and I told him I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner and he suggested:

  • Meatloaf
  • Spaghetti
  • Hamburgers

I shot down each suggestion because I didn’t have any thawed ground beef or sausage (which I use to make spaghetti sauce).  After I hung up the phone to continue losing Round 65 of Candy Crush, I pondered what I could make.

I did a Google search for a recipe for “Cheeseburger Soup.”  Doesn’t that sound like it’s a recipe?  I didn’t find it.  Then I thought maybe stuffed cabbage.  I settled on Porcupine Meatballs.

Not that I’ve ever made them but a quick scan of the recipe showed common ingredients.

I started gathering ingredients and thawing the meat and grabbing giant bowls and turning on the oven and all that jazz.  As if I were a real cook.

Then I remembered the recent incident of the Rice in the Pantry in which I discovered little black rice-shaped bugs crawling in the long-grain white rice. (Welcome to Southern California.)

At this point, a Chopped contestant would come up with a brilliant and tasty substitution.  I went upstairs, fixed my hair, slapped on enough make-up to disguise my utter fatigue and went to the grocery store to spend $2.69 on a bag of rice.

Start to finish, cooking dinner took me two and a half ridiculous hours.

Everyone liked the meatballs, mashed potatoes and asparagus.  And I did not serve any bugs with my rice, but I did hear a report of a Bernese Mountain Dog hair in a meatball.

And that, my friend, was my mystery ingredient.

(Sadly, I was not chopped.  I will appear in the kitchen again tomorrow night at 4 PM with absolutely no idea what to make for dinner.  I just hope the mystery ingredient isn’t rattlesnake meat.)


Like sand through the hourglass


As we drove to the beach tonight to meet friends, I doubted.  I felt disconnected and unsure of myself.

There’s really only one thing to do when you feel that way.  Do it anyway.  Go.  Be interested.  Stop gazing at yourself in the mirror and just grab the beach bag and forget what you hate about your reflection and go.

So, we arrived and found a parking place, connected with some people we knew and had a great time.

And afterward, I felt sandy and sticky and a little more connected than before.

Feelin’ groovy

Summer used to last longer.  I’m not sure whether we can blame global warming or the economy or Barack Obama, but someone did something unauthorized and now summer flashes by like lightning.

Don’t you remember being a kid and swimming through a summer day as if it were an ocean?  And you’d get so bored because the days lined up in a single file line that stretched a thousand miles between the last day of school and the first day of school?  You’d get sick of sitting in the dark living room watching the Electric Company with the drapes closed because you were bored with going outside and riding your banana seat bike around the block to visit all the off-leash dogs in their yards because you did that a million times already, almost as many times as you stubbed your bare toes and dripped melted Popsicles down your arms.

Now, you look up and find yourself practically in the middle of July and school starts in the middle of August and your daughter hasn’t finished that multiplication tables book and your son hasn’t started his summer reading and why, oh why, is summer almost over?  You haven’t had enough fun yet.  You haven’t even had a single Popsicle.

You could even prove to yourself that summer is fading away by going into Target and noticing the school supplies replacing the pool toys.  And you are tempted to buy more Crayola crayons until you realize that your kids don’t really color anymore, except for your baby girl who just got her ears pierced and thinks she is mostly grown up. And you have twenty packs already that you discovered when you moved two years ago, though who’s counting?

I’m a little bit upset about summer breaking the speed limits.  It’s a symptom of a much bigger problem, namely the probably of my rapid aging.  I read an article the other day by 80-year old Oliver Sacks called The Joy of Old Age and while I hoped that it might be true (the joy of old age), mainly I feel grim about the sands of time sliding in a great avalanche which leaves me sputtering and wondering how my babies grew so fast.  Why didn’t I take more pictures? My imaginary To Do List is pages long and I have barely even gotten started.  (For instance, I meant to travel back to Tahiti and yet I haven’t even had a valid passport in dozens of years, ever since that one I got when I was sixteen and still wearing that lavender crew-neck sweatshirt every day.)

I’m not really fighting it, though.  When I recently noticed a cluster of gray hair at my part–well, “cluster” might be an exaggeration, but at the sight of that gray, I decided on the spot to stop highlighting my hair and to revert to my natural hair color, only this time with strands of gray running through it.  This is as glamorous as it sounds.

How can you fight aging?  You can either let the future drag you along by your graying hair or you can stand up and keep moving.  Try to keep up.  Leave a trail of breadcrumbs, not that you’ll ever be able to go backward.  You can pretend that one day you’ll meander back and notice the things you missed the first time you jogged past.

Tomorrow we’re going to the beach.  I don’t want to hear that we’re less than six months away from Christmas.  SLOW DOWN.  You move too fast.

You’ve got to make the morning last.  (Okay, so I just drifted into a Simon and Garfunkel song . . . did you hear the tune in your head?  If so, you are ALSO OLD.)




I’ve really got nothing to say

I actually started a post on a particular topic the other night but it was very late and I was very tired and so the opening paragraphs of the post sit in my “drafts” folder.  I will finish it at some point.

But that doesn’t help you, does it?  (All three of you who read here.)   You’re wondering what’s happening in my life, right?  Ha.

We have a houseguest, the girlfriend of one of my sons.  She is a delight to have around.  Grace treats her like royalty and a sister rolled into one.  Having a houseguest is a constant reminder to me to wash another load of bath towels because we are constantly out of clean towels because my children can’t seem to use a towel more than once before leaving it in a damp pile on the floor.

On Saturday, some of us went to the beach for the afternoon.  I inched my mini-van into a parallel parking spot, backing up, cranking the wheel one direction, backing up another inch, cranking the wheel again, over and again about ten times.  Normally I am a competent parallel parker but for some reason, the car behind me on the road decided to stop right behind me while waiting for me to park, totally cramping my style.

Finally parked, I opened the back of the van and pulled out beach chairs and discovered my umbrella was missing.  My husband had just taken my mini-van in to have it washed and vacuumed and I figured the umbrella was removed from the back and mistakenly not put back.  Not having a beach umbrella is certainly a first-world problem, but I was upset about not having it.  Luckily, I had sunhats and sunscreen, so we managed.  Having a beach umbrella once seemed like a fanciful luxury to me but now it feels like an essential.  How did I live without a beach umbrella?

Two days later, my husband and I were talking about the missing umbrella again.  And as we talked and considered where it could be, I suddenly remembered propping it against a chain-link fence at a park weeks earlier when my daughter had a soccer scrimmage.  When I propped it, I said to myself, “Don’t forget this umbrella.”  And then the game began and ended and I walked to my mini-van and completely forgot my umbrella.

I wonder if that park has a Lost and Found.  I wonder if someone absconded with my umbrella.


You know what’s weird?

I found a Post-It note on my desk.  It’s in my handwriting, so clearly I wrote the note.

But it makes absolutely no sense.  It says this:

“accidentally kill

Meat Eaters

woman like two”

WHAT IN THE WORLD?  The three lines seem unconnected.  I just have no idea what it means.  Am I composing Haiku, only not?  Have I begun writing a novel about Meat Eaters who accidentally kill, only not?  HAVE I LOST MY MIND?  Why is Meat and Eaters capitalized?  I can’t bear to throw away this nonsensical note until I can figure out why I wrote it.


This week my daughter has soccer camp and one of my sons is helping at Vacation Bible School at church.  One of my sons is employed and the other is hanging out with his girlfriend.  I am just trying to stop myself from losing personal belongings and from writing myself cryptic Post-It notes.

Wish me luck.

Stuck and dull and Groundhog’s Day

I sit behind this big cluttered desk for hours every day and night.  It’s mahogany or cherry or some kind of wood that I never would have chosen had I picked out this desk myself but I didn’t.  The previous owners of our house offered to sell us a few items when they moved.  I am convinced that’s because they didn’t want the hassle of moving this giant desk with its interlocking bookcases and cabinets.

I’m not really a fancy desk kind of girl.  Really, if it were up to me, I’d still be sitting at a desk cobbled together from an old door balanced on two short filing cabinets.

All this to say that today at some point, the left drawer on this fancy desk got stuck in the not-quite-closed position.

Something’s apparently fallen and can’t get up way back in the way back of that drawer.  I’ve done the obvious things to solve this problem.  I’ve pulled the drawer out as far as it will go and yanked up and felt around for a magic release button and I’ve used a plastic ruler to sweep around the back of the drawer like you’d sweep a finger into the drooly mouth of a baby who has a Cheeto stuck in the back of his throat.

What?  Your baby doesn’t eat Cheetos?

(Either does mine.  I don’t have a baby.)

So, I have this drawer that looks like it just needs a gentle push to close it but that’s a lie.  The drawer will not close.

I did a Google search, looking for a solution and found nothing.

I’ve always wondered why this drawer didn’t pull out more in the first place.  You can’t really see or reach the stuff in the back of that drawer.

(You think I’m going to write a whole post about a dumb struck drawer, right?)


Tonight one of my sons got his first-ever paycheck.  He gave the envelope to me and told me I could open it and I did and read out the number so he could be impressed by how much money he earned already.  We talked about taxes and withholding and then he said, “Just keep it.  I don’t know what I’d do with it now anyway.”

So . .  . Mommy’s going shopping!

Just kidding.  I’m just hanging on to it until he opens a bank account.

Tomorrow I have nowhere I have to go, nothing I have to do unless you count the pet store to buy dog food.  I’m planning to take the rest of my very dull knives to the Farmer’s Market where I’ve found that my neighbor was right:  there’s a guy there who will sharpen your knives on the spot and charge you just a few bucks.  Last week I took in my 26-year old chef knife and had it sharpened.  I used it as soon as I got home and promptly nicked my index finger because as it turns out, sharpened knives are sharp.

My husband’s birthday was last Sunday which makes me feel like this Sunday is Groundhog’s Day . . . hello Father’s Day, but I already cooked a roast and mashed potatoes and made perfect sweet tea and baked a chocolate cake from scratch and picked out thoughtful cards from all the children and bought a gift.  Now I have to do it all over again?  I mean GET TO do it all over again?  As I recall, on Mother’s Day, my husband left me alone in the world with these four children while he gallivanted off to a tropical island for 20 days.

Okay, fine.  It was a missions trip and he did make sure the kids gave me cards on Mother’s Day and my own mother was here. Still.  (*DISCLAIMER* My husband is awesome and I adore him and I’m just kidding around.)

Today my friend, Claire, and I took Grace to get her ears pierced.  We surprised her by taking her to a jewellery store.  She was shocked and I think a little scared–even though she really wanted to have pierced ears, she wasn’t too excited about the actual piercing part of having them pierced.  So, we have pictures of her cringing and when it was all over, she cried a little and said, “Katie lied when she said it didn’t really hurt!”

I felt like a monster who let my baby get hurt.

Well, before I had my drawer crisis and before the ear-piercing torture and the first paycheck, other stuff happened this week.

My husband and I went to see a taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  He got a high-five from Jay at the opening of the show, but I was crowded out by a guy in an orange shirt who just stood clapping, blocking my path to Jay.  (We’re on a first-name basis now since this is the second time I’ve seen him in person.)

We went to a graduation party. (My husband and me, not me and Jay.)

Then there was work, soccer practice, and shuttling kids to and fro, reading (Torch by Cheryl Strayed), napping, cooking, laundry, dog-walking and all the other mundane and routine tasks that stitch together the days.

And so it goes.

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