Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Story - And No One Shoots Their Eye Out

I am reposting this for Christmas.  I wrote it five years ago and was reminded of the story by a friend.  I hope your Christmas is filled with the joy that comes from helping others, the ability to find and count your blessings (though they're sometimes buried among the pain and struggle of life), and the hope that came into this world through the sacrificial love of the One who breathed life into us all and calls us to Himself. Merry Christmas.

I don't think I can top the Bumpkiss' dogs or the fish-net leg lamp. I can identify with Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" when he has to suck on a bar of Lifeboy soap. I became a regular connoisseur of the latest "on-sale" bar soap when I was a kid. Lux, Lifeboy, Dial, Ivory. Apparently getting cleaned from the inside out was the way to approach child rearing. Maybe it was a chaser for the bleach I accidentally drank from a Ball canning jar several years earlier. My heart may have its stains but my intestines are clean as a whistle.

It was during this same period my Christmas story takes place. It wasn't humorous but it was definitely happy. I remembered it today when the kids and I were part of the follow-up team for handing out Christmas food and gifts for the company Jamie works for. We volunteered for the privilege because who doesn't want to be part of that kind of Christmas cheer? Of course, I groused about schedule logistics (note last blog) even though I truly, truly wanted to do it. I mean really, WHAT is my DEAL?!

We drove across town to the warehouse, picked up seven boxes of groceries and a few toys, and headed to the home of a single mother with lots of children. The neighborhood was down-trodden but several neighbors stood against the blight with cheery light displays and decorations.

The home sat on a quiet corner, surrounded by a chain link fence. A chewed rope hung limply from a metal pole advertising a dog no longer tethered there. I walked up and tapped lightly, feeling slightly awkward and apologetic. The door creaked open and out peeked little shining faces, obviously excited to see strangers bearing gifts. A teenage son arrived home just in time to help unload the car and serve as translator. His mother spoke only Spanish and I spoke only English. He stared at us through dark-lashed eyes that were guarded with a mixture of suspicion and embarrassment. He couldn't have been much older than my son and I wondered if he would have felt much the same in a similar situation. I sensed the boy's gratitude but also felt the sting that charity might bring to a young man. He quietly complied with my request to let his mother know I had been on the receiving end of a Christmas delivery when I was child. I suppose I wanted her to realize (and him to understand even more) that I knew how it felt on both sides and it was a blessing to give back. Her shy smile showed her appreciation, and discomfort as well. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

I wanted to share my own story with them but I couldn't invade their emotional space. He needed me to leave; she needed me to leave; and they couldn't have been more quietly gracious about it. I drove away remembering a Christmas that wouldn't have happened but for the intervention of friends and strangers.

I was ten and my sister and brother several years older. It had been a year of great upheaval. Well, come to think of it, I guess all of our years were years of great upheaval but this one came with even less money. My mother had just landed a good job but found out right before Christmas there would be no paycheck. It was a government job and the policy was to withhold the first check to be used for future severance pay.

The morning of Christmas Eve arrived but there was no sign of Christmas at our house. We had often gotten our tree on Christmas Eve because they were rock-bottom priced then. But on this day there was no discussion of a trip to the tree lot. The pantry was pretty bare and there hadn't been any talk of presents except to say there wouldn't be any. I don't remember being worried that we would eat beans for our Holiday dinner, but I do recall wondering afterwards what the menu would have been.

I think, on that day, I must have been in that beautiful place children live in their minds; the place that helps them believe everything will be alright somehow; the place where magical thinking rules and reality doesn't have a prayer. And it was in that moment that a knock came to the door. My sister and I opened it and saw our mother's friend, "Aunt" Fran. She had her husband with her and much more importantly, to our minds, the most beautiful white-flocked Christmas tree in tow. Now, our trees had been pretty much the bargain variety and we had never entertained the idea of a tree this grand. This was purview of the rich; the domain of the entitled. We were suddenly and at once part of this club of exclusivity! Aunt Fran was the prosperous owner of a nursery school that was much in demand. It was always immaculate and beautifully appointed. Each year, at the school, she prominently displayed her faith in God and her exquisite tree. It would normally have remained up through the New Year but this year she and "Uncle" Austin dismantled it and brought it to our house, along with the ornaments.

We had barely begun redecorating the tree when there was another sound at the door. Representatives of The Lions Club stood on our doorstep with arms full of boxes filled with ham, canned goods, and items far more tempting than beans. They left everything on our dining room table, wished us well and "Merry Christmas" and were gone. Here was food and here was a gorgeous tree. How could it get any better? In a matter of minutes it did. Another rapping at the door brought members of First Baptist Church bearing more food and wrapped presents. I can still see the white tissue paper and red ribbon wrapped around what I knew was a game. I couldn't wait to open it the next day. I don't know what the other gifts were that year but I was the happy recipient of "Sorry" and it's the game the kids and I still use after all these years.

Apparently, Aunt Fran had placed us on a few "needy family" lists and I'll be forever grateful that she did. It wasn't until years later I realized how close we were to having a very different Christmas experience. It was nothing short of a miracle to me and yet it lived up to my faith that all would be well. And for that time and for that day, it was. And that was enough.

I hope it will be the same for the dear family we met today. I pray a bright memory of Christmas miracles lives on in the hearts of the kiddos there and, if only for a short while, a burden is lifted for a weary mother. I hope a tentative young son feels compelled to drop his guard. I think that might be the case. I hugged his mother and then turned to him to pat his arm. He started to lean in for a hug, too, then caught himself. But it had happened, nonetheless, and in that moment, if only for a moment, I think all was well.

May you have the merriest of Christmases, my friends, and may God richly bless you.

With Love,


Copyright 2008

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Oh Doctor, stop! You're killing me! Incredulity is coming out my nose!"

Child number two down with fever and big time cough. He's had a nagging cough for two weeks but was handling it and getting better until yesterday when he tanked after lots of school, late nights, and early mornings. Schlepped him to the doc earlier today only to find out that our beloved doctor quit and is now a work-at-home mom (sad for us but happy for you, Dr. C!). Sooooo, naturally, my patiently-putting-up-with-me friends, we had to get a NEW doctor within the practice. And BOYYYYY was she new. Like just-bought-a-stethoscope-on-her-way-to-work new. Young, no wedding ring, so probably no children but she knew ALL the theories and all the answers, even to the questions I was apparently too mentally challenged to ask.

I was informed that I had neglected my 18-year-old son. He would not have been so sick if I had been treating his Reactive Airway Disease (seriously? When did he get that? EVERYTHING is a disease these days including getting a secondary infection when you've had a cough.) Had I only had him on his inhalers that had been prescribed for him in March (mind you, that was for the PNEUMONIA he had which cleared completely and he never coughed ONCE after it did), he would not be sick today. And when asked if he was running a fever and I said, "Yes, but only around 100," I was informed this is NOT a fever. It is not a fever until it is 100.4. I think his was only 100.3. And no, I could NOT get cough medicine with codeine to help him sleep even though it works like a miracle. Older doctors write for that but those of the brand-new-stethoscopes don't anymore. It's bad for them (though they take it only 3 or 4 nights a couple of times a year). But they should live on daily meds and inhalers for diseases they may (or more likely do NOT) have. Boy, the THINGS I'm LEARNING! And she wrote a prescription for antibiotics but it would not cure his airway disease, she informed us, because I was apparently wearing an expression on my face that looked as if I thought antibiotics cured everything, including incredulity. I expected CPS to be called in any minute. Except, being 18 and all, it's hard to find the right foster home so, maybe we'll be a low priority.

But I think we can ALL agree that I AM neglectful and just don't amply treat my children or seek appropriate medical care, as is evidenced by my adult daughter who has been to four doctors now and had 2,874,389 tests run in the two months she has been sick with her mystery illness. Not to mention holistic approaches like healthy organic food, massage, stress management, and even travel to a healthier climate.

Time to get my son established with this adult daughter's doctor. We've been in the same pediatric practice for 23 years and we've had wonderful ones and you-can't-be-serious-and-you-did-NOT-just-say-that-to-me ones; watched 'em come and watched 'em go. THIS one may go but if not, she's in for a rude awakening. I may have been sitting before her and nodding like a demented bobble head (seriously, NOT worth the battle), but there WILL be others after me (I'm almost done with pediatrics) who will school this dear girl so full of knowledge and devoid of wisdom. You cannot accuse and dismiss experienced moms VERY often without your life becoming terribly unpleasant. Thank you, Dr. Who (must-not-be-named). I AM writing a book about these migraine-making-medical-mishaps and you just gave me yet another chapter. But hey, UNIVERSE, now hear this: I'm REALLY okay now. I have enough material in so many areas of my life and it's time for you to share with someone else. Seriously. Next in line, please! I have to go now. I have children to neglect, for Pete's sake.

©  Robynn's Ravings 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Your Advice Needed - If You're a Skilled and Professional Masochist

Okay. It's true confession time and a rant so look away while you have the chance.  I am about to blow a gasket and I KNOW I'm not alone.

Here's news that will (not) shock you:  Very few people actually do their job these days, or follow through, or keep their word.  Anywhere.  Anytime.  ALL the time.

This is not my way.  If I say I'll do it, I do (barring serious illness, laundry pile avalanches, and/or death), and I have some friends I can count on for the same commitment. We don't expect trophies or awards, we just do it.  You don't have to suck up, kiss up, or indulge our diva-ness to get good treatment from us.  Of COURSE we make mistakes but when we do we own them and then try and fix them.  We don't cop an attitude and we don't blame it on others.  We don't ask anyone to PAY for our mistakes - with time or money.  Why is this such a rarity? Why am I surrounded with people lately who have made rather large mistakes and yet take the offensive and get in MY face with no acknowledgment of their responsibilities to answer calls or read emails (or even to read copious notes I have created, by hand, for hours on end, sitting at your table, so things will be understandable and run smoothly? Hello, mother).

And can YOU get a doctor's office staff member to call you back?  I can't.  I mean, hands down, I cannot.  I call and call and call.  I write emails.  Unless you are in the office and looking them in the eyeball, nothing happens except attitude as if you're bothering them by making them respond to you and do their job.  And may I just add, as an aside.....do not EVER presume, from a doctor's office, that no news is good news on test results.  My mother-in-law died this way.  When I examined her chart during the last days of her life I found an entry from three years earlier stating they saw a spot on her lungs and that it should be followed up. No one informed her.  No one followed up.  It took her life. No news is NOT necessarily good news.

My daughter, during what has turned out to be a very mysterious two-month-long illness, was supposed to see a cardiologist a week ago but it took nearly a week just to get one of the girls from her regular doctor's office to call me back.  Not call me the first time, mind you, because that never happened.  I mean, call me back after my calling THEM several times when days had gone by and I had heard nothing.  Her doctor had said he wanted her SEEN within a week - not referred within a week.  And when I pushed for the referral after not being able to get them to contact me, it was  accompanied with attitude and heavy sighing.  Fast forward to the cardiologist's office when the referral finally got there and the same thing.  It clearly stated she was to be seen STAT and the names of two doctors she could see (either one was fine).  The appointment we got, I found out at the last minute, was with a different doctor.  That's a no-go.  Her very competent doctor had picked the other two specialists for a reason.  It's now been two-and-a-half weeks.  I just called the scheduling woman at the cardiologist's office AGAIN. She said she will text the doctor.  She forgot. Dear lord.

And then there is the mini spa package my husband bought me for Mother's Day this year.  Made my appointment and, after an especially harrowing series of events three weeks ago, couldn't WAIT to get in for my facial and massage. But the day before, I got notified that the aesthetician quit and would, on Saturday morning, instead of giving me a facial, be cleaning out her things.  If she was going to be there anyway, couldn't she have just honored her final commitments that were ALREADY PAID FOR and honor the appointment she had actually made herSELF?  Apparently not.

And there are other situations I could describe that would raise your eyebrows or maybe your blood pressure but I'll spare you - to protect the guilty.  And I'm not a victim.  I'm not alone in this.  You go through it, too, but how do you handle it?  Do you throw it all at the feet of Jesus and just give up?  Do you soldier on and arm yourself for battle? Do you unplug/turn off the phone and go into retreat mode? Do you turn the other cheek and just let the kickers give it to you in the teeth until they are satisfied? If you confront them, do you win the battle but lose the war?  Is it so much beating of an ant hill and then the ants just swarm and bite?  I honestly don't know.  While I had my head in my glacial freezer yesterday thawing out the Titanic worthy icebergs, I alternately cried, blew my nose, and dried dripping water and tears with the blow dryer.  I came away with no answers.  So, what's your advice?  I would love to hear how YOU handle these daily vagaries.  Most of it isn't life threatening and in the big picture, each thing alone is manageable - except for my daughter's issues which still confound me.  But it is a steady barrage and assault that takes its daily toll and makes me want to live in a hermitage with vicious, protective dogs as my only companions and greeters of would-be visitors. 

If you've read this far you are obviously a masochist which, apparently, makes you my kind of people and qualifies you to advise me.  Go for it.  I'm not Dr. Frasier Crane but, I AM listening.

© Robynn's Ravings 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

More Pool Fun With Count Dracula and Countess Oblivious

Except for running into Loogie Man at Trader Joe's shortly after his, uh, doNAtion to the pool water at the gym last week (see last post), things have been pretty quiet there.  I only see most people once as they do their one-day-a-week workout or they choose a different time and we never cross paths again.  The time I've settled on seems to be a slow one at the pool which is, of course, why I chose it.

Today was no exception. It was PERFECT.

When I walked in, the water was still with not one person in sight.  I had the pick of the lanes.  I chose the double lane (wide enough for two people) because it gives me the best view out the tall windows and as I do my side-stroke laps I can watch the tops of the trees swaying in the wind.  It makes my exercise more meditative. And there I was, meditating away, when I turned to see Count Dracula in my lane, three feet away.

He was older and balding and spoke in a very thick accent - a straight from Transylvania accent.

"May I SHARE your LANE vis YOU?" he inquired through furrowed brows and two very prominent eye teeth (read fangs) with no teeth between to bridge them from one to the other.

"Uh," I replied deftly.  "The whole pool is open and you can take any lane," I offered helpfully. He looked around but didn't move and I got the direct impression he wanted to be close to me.  So I offered to move....and I did.  He looked too motivated as he assessed me and fat people and pregnant women have more blood flowing through their veins.  I was a veritable Thanksgiving dinner.  He looked so disappointed while my liver and I swam away.  He probably had some fava beans and a nice Chianti under his towel.

Then in the locker room, I came out of the shower with my too-small-towel and too-much-acreage only to be confronted by an oblivious woman with her five or six-year-old son by her side.  She was much too engaged in her phone conversation to pay attention to him, but I wasn't.  I was in a TOWEL, and only SORT of.

"Excuse me, but, we are DRESSING and UNDRESSING in here."

"Oh," she replied vacantly. "I'll move over here," which was nowhere near where naked women would not be.

This wasn't a restroom situation where we've all taken our little boys because they were too young to leave alone, outside.  The restroom at least has partitions.  Our gym provides CHILD CARE - 30 feet away.  The little victim of Idiot Woman walked around the locker room singing songs while flanked by perfect strangers in various states of undress around him. I could hear him with his mother around the corner - him singing, her relaying some inane gossip, phone glued to her ear - and I got dressed in a herky-jerky fashion with layers of white towels draped over me thickly and haphazardly as if some demented surgeon were currently performing an operation on me, and I was assisting.

As soon as every article of clothing I owned was slopped back on to me, I marched to the front desk.

"Excuse me, but we have a NOT cool situation in the women's locker room," I announced intensely.  They stared at me wide-eyed as I described the problem.  "Would you let a dad walk in the MEN'S locker room with his six-year-old DAUGHTER in tow?"  The male factor of the three attendants looked horrified.  "Exactly," I replied.  They promised to take care of it.  I think it was the eye-level factor of a child this age that suddenly broke through the purple haze.

I knew what needed to be done.  The mother should have been thrown in the pool with Dracula but no one else came up with that idea so I didn't mention it. I do hate to be the one who always has to point out EVERYTHING.

Ah, the gym.  What a place of respite.  I realize why I go.  It's just SO good for your health.

© Robynn's Ravings 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gym Dandy or Why People I Work Out With Are Lucky I Don't Travel With Weapons

This is a ROTTEN way to come back to Blogland. No promised explanation of my absence (trust me, you'd thank me if you knew), no howdy-doo or by-your-leave or other weird saying that really makes no sense.  All I can say is hello and if I don't just drop a Facebook status update in here that I just posted a few minutes ago, I may never blog again.  So, if there's still anyone out here who's watching for a return from the dead, be encouraged. The zombie awakens.  Here's the post:

Sooooo.....I got up this morning at 6 to head to the gym...Hunter with me. Got to the gym, no lock for my locker in my gym bag. Back home. Walking in to procure lock, face planted into the dirt and a bush while tripping over my own garden hose. Borrowed Hannah's lock. Back to gym.

Pool lanes full. Wait...wait.... Get lane, two people try to get me out of it by getting IN my lane. No go. Two chubby girls stand at the pool windows from the gym side and point and laugh at chubby people in the pool. I am included. I stare at them and send thought bombs for their stretched-too-tight seams to split mid squat.

Guy in my shared lane proceeds to cough repeatedly and spit in the pool. Dear Lord. I am not the person who can handle this sort of thing, Mr. Loogies R Us. At 40 laps (I do 50) old ladies (trust me, the obvious that I could be one of them does not miss me), gather in MY lane for THEIR class which doesn't even start for 15 more minutes. I ponder why this is so as I wouldn't dream of getting on an exercise machine someone was already using. Unless it was one of these old ladies.

Out of pool, shower, head to locker as inconspicuously as possible because I have too little towel for too much acreage. Lock won't open with combo daughter gave me. I try ten times. I reverse said combo. No go. Arm is going to sleep from holding towel and other arm is going to sleep from working the lock. All clothes, keys, etc. are in the locker. I contemplate crying and talk myself out of it - aloud - and I'm overheard by someone who probably thinks I'm nuts - I am. I realize I'm going to have to seriously work on the lock while NOT holding a towel. I must get back into my wet suit as I am unwilling to entertain the other option. I'm also contemplating asking a stranger to go out in to the vast gym calling my son's name to see if he remembers a different combo. It seems best to approach strangers while clothed.

I achieve the near impossible of trying to stuff a wet beach ball into a water balloon and I am back in my suit, before an audience. I try the combo a few more times and, magically, it works. It is a possessed lock and needed me to humiliate myself before it would function. Wish granted.

Upshot: I shaved four minutes off my swim time today.

Personal motto I forgot to recite: Calm down and carry on.

Most pleasurable moment of the day: Lying down on my bed post gym, defeated, only to have my dog reach her front feet out, stretch, and claw the skin off my arm.

It's just how we roll around here. I mean, are there OTHER options?

© Robynn's Ravings - 2013

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why Sweet Pea?

My mind is working all the time now and writing and rewriting blog posts. In an effort to create space for the Big Reveal as to what in the HECK went wrong with me, I offer this little token and free up space for even more observations of this astonishing depth:

As a person of endearments (I use them lovingly and often), I wonder why we can use the flower and term, "Sweet Pea," when referring to someone as in, "Please grab that firefly, Sweet Pea," but we would never say, "May I please have more horseradish, Violet? Rose? Hydrangea? Marigold? Hyacinth? Bougainvillea?" You just wonder how the sweet pea won the garden lottery and using any other flower name would simply make you sound disturbed.

Copyright 2012

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Christmas 2011 - Birth of a New Tradition!

THIS IS A GREAT IDEA! And wouldn’t it be great if everyone would participate?!

As the Christmas holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with humongous piles of cheaply produced goods... merchandise that has been produced at the expense of our very own American or Australian labor.
This year Christmas will be different around here - and I hope it will be different at your house too.

This year, Americans will be giving the gift of genuine concern for other Americans.
There is no longer an excuse that at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands.

Because YES there is!

It's time to think outside the box, people.
Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone ~ and I mean EVERYONE gets their hair cut.
How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?
How about massages or manicures?
Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages - and who isn't thinking about some
health improvement?

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates - and that helps keep our money in our local community.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamin's on a Chinese made flat-screen?
Perhaps that lucky/grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed...or lawn mowed for the summer... or their driveway plowed all winter... or maybe even a few games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants around your area ... most offering gift certificates or vouchers.
And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort of person, what about half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint?

Remember, folks this is NOT about helping your big National chains get richer -- this is about supporting your home town Americans.
Americans with their businesses, jobs and homes on the line... and when it comes right down to it, this simple little idea can help them keep their doors open... and so that they don't go under.

I mean, for Pete's sake.... how many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or
motorcycle, one done at a local shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would probably LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW that I can find some young guy who's struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK... so you were looking for something a little more personal?
Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. Check out the local craft markets/flea markets or market gardens.

Plan your holiday or family outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave
your server a nice tip.

And how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre?
Do we really need to see "professional" actors, when it's even more fun watching the Bob the local butcher play Romeo... or the little girl down the street dancing to "The Nutcracker"?
And musicians need love too... so find a venue showcasing local bands, and rock the house down!

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese
lights for the house?
Sadly, when you buy a five dollar string of lights, only about fifty cents stays in the community. FIFTY CENTS!!
That's just beyond wrong!

Our parents and grandparents celebrated Christmas just fine without the lights and tawdry decorations and expensive gifts... so let's make this the year we get back to the REAL meaning of Christmas!
If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, at least please leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip in their Christmas card!

You see, Christmas should no longer about draining American pockets, so that China can build another glittering city.
Christmas is now about us caring about each other... and us encouraging our local American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams and keep this country strong!
When we care about other Americans, we care about our own communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't even begin to imagine.
This seriously needs to be the new American Christmas tradition.

So go ahead...Feel free to copy this and forward it to everyone on your mailing list
Post it to discussion groups.
Throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city.
Send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments.

This needs to be a revolution of caring about each other...
And after all, isn't that really what Christmas is about?
So c'mon people...let's start putting our own people first, and let's start thinking outside the square.