Friday, July 24, 2009

Not a Day Over Sixty-Two

Happy Birthday to me! I get a special gift this year—monthly social security checks! Wow!

Here’s a list of 62 things I’ve done during my 62 years—in approximate chronological order.

1. Managed to be born on my parents’ first wedding anniversary, which thwarted their plans for romantic celebrations for the next seventeen years.

2. Saw Harry Truman (Okay, I was two years old and don’t actually remember it, but it counts, doesn’t it?)

3. Spent 6 weeks in the hospital as a small child

4. Went to Disneyland the first year it opened.

5. Played in an accordion band

6. Watched a taping of the old Truth or Consequences TV show

7. Went up into the Statue of Liberty

8. Acted in a play

9. Attended a Billy Graham crusade

10. Took lots of trips along Route 66 between southern California and Oklahoma

11. Preached a couple of sermons (once as a senior in high school, and the other many years later)

12. Worked as a sales clerk in department stores (I liked the china department best.)

13. Got married (and stayed married, which was much harder than getting married)

14. Heard Martin Luther King, Jr. preach

15. Sent a husband off to war and gratefully welcomed him home

16. Attended concerts by some famous musicians (Peter, Paul, and Mary; Pete Fountain; George Winston, The Mamas and the Papas; Emmy Lou Harris)

17. Earned a college degree in Elementary Education

18. Learned to drive a stick shift

19. Watched the first moonwalk live (I kept falling asleep; I was tired that night!)

20. Taught in rural Virginia during their first year of integration

21. Hiked part of the Appalachian Trail

22. Earned a master’s degree in reading and worked as a reading specialist

23. Took a canoe trip on the Illinois River (It almost dissolved the marriage.)

24. Worked as an apartment manager

25. Published a book

26. Wrote a bunch of books that haven’t been published (but I still have hopes for some of them)

27. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out again

28. Went whale watching

29. Participated in a teacher strike while my mother, who taught in the same district, crossed the picket line to teach

30. Served as a counselor at a church camp for middle school kids

31. Became tipsy only once, after drinking strawberry daiquiris while pregnant (We didn’t know any better back then!)

32. Gave birth to three beautiful babies (To tell the truth, one looked like a miniature, skinny version of my dad, but I thought he was beautiful.)

33. Gave birth to two babies without medication in an out-of-hospital birth center

34. Published stories, poems, and articles in more than 20 different magazines

35. Taught every grade level in public schools except kindergarten and fifth grade

36. Worked as a “stay at home mother”

37. Taught prepared childbirth classes during a time when women often had to fight for the right to make choices for themselves

38. Appeared on a local cable TV show

39. Saw the Space Shutter Columbia when it landed at Tinker Air Force Base in 1981

40. Shopped in tons of thrift stores and found thousands of bargains

41. Taught in a summer program for gifted children for over 15 years

42. Taught English to young adults from other countries at the English Language School

43. Learned how to talk to people and teach large groups, even though I’m an introvert

44. Read lots of books

45. Acted as a facilitator in the Human Sexuality Ministry for young teenagers

46. Rode lots of steam trains and cog railways

47. Taught grandparenting classes for grandparents of new babies, even though I wasn’t a grandparent

48. Taught sibling classes for siblings of new babies

49. Traveled all over the United States (I have only two states left to visit.)

50. Saw Haley’s Comet (a total dud)

51. Watched babies being born (It was awesome every time.)

52. Taught at an alternative middle school, where the students had been suspended from traditional schools because of their behavior (I loved the kids!)

53. Collected over a thousand teddy bears (What was I thinking?)

54. Survived a robbery at gunpoint (and was only a little traumatized by it)

55. Marched to protest starting the war in Iraq

56. Worked on a Habitat for Humanity house

57. Acted as caretaker for my mother for many years

58. Survived having my gallbladder removed (not fun)

59. Fell out of a raft during a river rafting trip on the Rio Grande (It took three people to pull me back inside.)

60. Ate lobster in Maine, pasties (meat pies) in Michigan, and pineapple in Hawaii, but couldn’t be convinced to eat crawdads in Louisiana

61. Made lots of wonderful friends

62. Enjoyed great times with my husband, children, siblings, and other relatives

What a good life! I am blessed.

Finally, a few words of wisdom:

Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.—Reverend Larry Lorenzoni

Inside every older person is a younger person—wondering what the hell happened.—Cora HarveyArmstrong

The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.—T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thirsty? Go to POPS.

We’d been hearing about POPS, a gas station/convenience store/restaurant/soda pop establishment on Route 66 in Arcadia. So a couple of weeks ago, on a hot Thursday afternoon, Dr. Lobo, Little Guy, and I checked it out.

The first thing we noticed was the giant sixty-six foot soda bottle. At night, it lights up.

We parked the car in the rather large lot and walked through the gas pump area,

ate a good lunch at the restaurant,

and looked at 12,000 or so soda bottles.

This was one of my favorite finds, since it refers to Arcadia’s famous round barn, just down Route 66 from POPS. For two years, Dr. Lobo and I lived in the country just outside of Arcadia, and I drove past that barn every day.

It’s a good thing we came in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, when it wasn’t busy.

Go to to learn more about POPS. An interesting video shows the giant soda bottle being moved onto the site.

Visiting POPS is a fun little excursion. Just be sure you go sometime when it isn’t busy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Wild Child!

Once upon a time, I thought I was a practically perfect mother. My evidence for this belief was the quiet, sweet, well-behaved little girl who regularly brought me compliments from other parents. I was foolish enough to believe that she was so good because I was a fine mother.

Even before Child #2 made his way into the world, that theory began to crack. My first pregnancy had been remarkably easy, and I decided that pregnant women who complained were just whiners. With the second pregnancy, I gained new experiences along with the weight: morning sickness, backaches, swollen ankles, and incredible fatigue.

From the beginning, nothing about Wild Child was easy. Impatient little person that he was, he arrived a week before due date and half an hour ahead of the doctor.

He was a fussy baby who ate nearly ’round the clock, between bouts of projectile vomiting. (Thanks to all those calories I used to produce milk for him, though, I was the skinniest I’ve ever been, so I have to admit that was an advantage.)

Each year brought challenges. I quickly adopted a new slogan: “I used to have child rearing theories, but now I have Ben.” He was brilliant, creative, highly verbal, intense, and above all, ACTIVE. Everything I swore my child would never do, Wild Child did.

I made the vast majority of my parenting mistakes with him. His activity level exhausted me, and I tried too hard to make him “settle down.” His impulsivity and stubborn nature confused and challenged me. He pushed all the buttons that sent me into instant insanity.

Somehow, he turned out to be an incredible human being, in spite of me. (Maybe it was the fact that we sent him to Alaska to live with my sister’s family the year he was thirteen. That probably saved him from death at the hands of his parents. We strongly recommend that strategy for surviving that first teen year.)

Now I know how blessed I was to have this amazing kid. He humbled me, taught me to question assumptions, and helped me learn to assert myself, thanks to some interesting parent-teacher conferences where I felt forced to defend him. I became more compassionate toward other parents and more accepting of children who were different. Because of him, I became a better teacher and a better parent to all of my children. The bottom line: Loving him made me a better person, and I am grateful.

Happy Birthday, Wild Child. I am so glad you are my son.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Disadvantages of a Cat Door, Part 2

Remember this guy?

If not, read this.

Now let me tell you the latest.

For a few days, we thought we had solved the raccoon problem. We simply closed the cat door before going to bed. Then Mr. Raccoon got smart. He set his alarm clock earlier and started arriving in our kitchen around 9:00 p.m. rather than 11:00.

Then, while we were trying to figure out our next move, the situation became even more complicated.

MRS. Raccoon showed up. With her babies. FOUR babies.

They were SO CUTE!

But dang! I can’t have raccoons in my kitchen.

Time for a couple of asides . . . (Have I ever explained that I have Attention Deficit Disorder?) Anyway . . .

Sweet Girl says we are the weirdest family she knows. She asked why we’re photographing raccoons in our kitchen and putting pictures on the internet for the entire world to see, rather than immediately chasing them out. Furthermore, she was not amused when I told her Little Guy was taking the opportunity to conduct a scientific experiment; he moved the food dish farther away from the water each night to determine the distance needed for the raccoon to stop washing his food.

Wild Child has an opinion about our raccoon invasion, too. As a child, he loved raccoons. He wrote a cartoon series about a raccoon named Bloogy, and he owned an assortment of plush raccoons. He wants to know why raccoons are showing up in our house NOW, when he lives thousands of miles away, rather than during his childhood.

Back to the story . . .

At one point Mama Raccoon got spooked and departed through the cat door. Her babies apparently became confused and didn’t follow her. They darted under my Hoosier cabinet and huddled together.

(Please excuse the dirt under the Hoosier cabinet. What can I say? Many things in life interest me, but house cleaning is not one of them.)

(And please excuse yet another moment brought to you by ADD.)

Dr. Lobo bought dry dog food, made a self-feeding food dish for the raccoons, and placed it on our patio. Each morning there is less food in the dish, and our cat food appears to be undisturbed. It seems that dog food is the raccoon food of choice.

We’re hoping our raccoon problem is solved. But stay tuned. I’ll update if necessary.