Friday, January 11, 2013

Some Things Get Better with Age

Last fall we became the joyous owners of a 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit. The Rabbit replaced a 1995 Toyota Camry and joined a 1992 Toyota Camry in our driveway.  Due mostly to our aversion to car payments, we have always owned older cars and purchasing a four-year old car was like landing smack dab into the lap of luxury.  Instead of asking questions at the car dealership like, "What is included in the warranty?" and "Does it come in leather?" we were asking questions like, "Does the car's air conditioning work?" and "Will the car accellerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 30 seconds?"

Our Camry is our A to B car, in that it will get you from point A to point B.  Never mind how long that will take, or how many times you will have to restart the car after it dies on your way to your destination, but yes, you will eventually get there.

When the Camry began smoking under the hood, we took it to the mechanic. He inspected it, drove it around and called us. He made a list of every single thing wrong with the car and wrote out how much it would cost to fix it. He told us that the car was safe to drive, and that the cost of getting it completely fixed would outweigh the value of the car. Basically, I think he rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath, "What do you want from me? It's old and it burns oil!"   He gave it back without charging us (I think he felt bad for us) and encouraged us to keep topping it off with oil.  Yes, the Camry is a lot like an old lady.  She's slow, breaks easily, and is a little smelly.

On the bright side, driving an 20+ year old car has given me more compassion for my fellow drivers. It's given me a new perspective on other people's woes. For example, it never occurred to me that drivers of vintage vehicles aren't necessarily trying to convert me to their style of music during the summer. It's just that the weather is hot and the airflow is better with the windows down.  But perhaps most of all, in my more than ten years of driving, I never realized that when I've been screaming at the slowly accelerating car in front of me "Go! Go! GO!" that the driver of that car may have been screaming the exact same thing

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Monday, November 05, 2012

Goodbye Grammy

My grandmother, Sharon Schutz, always made sure you knew what she liked.  And she liked a lot of things.  Freshly fried seafood, pickles, olives, garden-fresh cherry tomatoes,  Cadillacs, chocolate cherries, red licorice, scented candles, her dogs, and mercilessly teasing you until you were red with embarassment. She was a woman who had experienced dark days, but who had done her best to put them behind her.  She always drank nonalcoholic sparkling cider at the holidays. She never complained about the pain the car accident had caused her. She didn't even tell her family about her cancer until she had already undergone radiation and they thought her prognosis was good.

Which was why everyone was surprised when they learned last week that Grammy was in the hospital with pneumonia.  While scanning her lungs, the doctors had discovered that the cancer had returned a year later and it was non-operable.

Some of my most favorite childhood memories are of time spent at Grandma and Papa's house.  Looking back, I realize that my parents must have really needed that time away from my sister and I. Grammy always made sure that we ingested our weight in sugary soda, cookies and candy and easily gave in to our badgering and took us to McDonalds to buy us happy meals.  She let us watch as many movies and as much television as we wanted and let us scream and jump on the beds. We ran around their large yard playing with junk, riding the lawnmower, "helping" in the garden, jumping in leaf piles that were taller than we were and delivering raspberries to her in the red radio flyer wagon.  Grandma's house was like child-heaven. Whenever my parents' car pulled in the driveway to take us home, we ran to our fort that Papa had built us or to the tall trees in the back yard and defied them until the tone of their tone of voice changed and they meant business.

Saturday morning, I received a text message from my Dad, her oldest son, that Grammy's condition had worsened. I booked a flight for that day, hoping to make it to see her in time. As I boarded my flight, the person in front of me was wearing a UCONN sweatshirt, which I thought was odd, given that the first leg of my trip was to Philly. The person smelled like stale cigarette smoke, a smell that I still associate with my Grandmother from when she used to be a chain-smoker. Instead of recoiling, I inhaled deeply.  The woman who scanned my ticket had her blonde hair pulled back exactly like Grammy did hers.  I took a breath. A flight representative pulled me aside and asked me to check my bag my the final destination because of space constraints. Reluctantly, I agreed, but teased her that I would be calling her if my bag didn't make it there.  She gladly agreed and told me her name was Sheri.  The same time that I was boarding my flight, at sunset, my grandmother peacefully passed away surrounded by family.

My Grandmother was one of the only people in my family who expressed how proud of me she was for marrying a pastor. She was one of the only ones who thought it was a respectable career and didn't have any questions about how we would ever make money or worry about the "hard life" I would surely have.  She did have questions about great-grand children though. A lot of them.

When I entered the hospice room full of family members and looked at her small frail body in the bed, my first reaction was, "she's not there. This body is not my Grandma." And it was true.  My grandmother's body was there, but her spirit had moved on. She had faith in Jesus and she knew she was going to heaven. When it was time to leave, my family sang Amazing Grace. I gave thanks for my Grandmother's presence in my life and for the assurance that I will see her again one day in heaven.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

I Corinthians 15

In the last week, I've received bad news about the health of two different family members from opposite sides of my family.  Both have cancer and both have received poor prognoses.

Everyone has their own personal way of dealing with illnesses and dying. Some people want to be physically present at all times with the person when they're ill.  Some people want to send gifts.  Some people organize campaigns and races and rallies and pass out colored ribbons.  Me on the other hand, my personal style is denial. I try to pretend it's not really happening. "Once they do chemo, they'll be fine," I tell myself.  "They probably don't want all that attention anyway. Everything will be ok.  Everything will be as it always has been. Why should anything change?" But life has a different idea. Life always changes.

I'm trying to reroute this denial now, before it's too late. I'm trying to make sense of it all in my head before denial is no longer and option. "No," I tell myself.  "This person doesn't just have cancer.  They are dying."

And dying is such a strange thing.  People are here now, but they won't be for much longer. You feel like you need to tell them you care about them. You feel like you need to make the most of the time you have while they are still here.

And yet. Yet you never really know who's actually dying. It could be the friend who has cancer and is capital D Dying, or it could be the brother who is about to be in a sudden head-on collision car wreck. We don't really know who will be with us and for how long.  In reality, we are all dying because we all die. No one escapes death (or taxes for that matter). And yet, in spite of death, we keep living.

I think about my Bubbie (grandmother) who is 102-years-old.  She has seen scores of friends, family and loved ones pass away and leave her behind.  She has lived the equivalent of multiple lifetimes with multiple phases.  When she talks about her mother, (my great-grandmother) a woman who has been gone for more than sixty years, Bubbie's voice softens in admiration and respect, as if it were only yesterday that she was here on earth. She loved her mother deeply and I think is still grieving her loss.

And maybe that's why I prefer to be in denial about death. I don't fear my own death. But I don't want to lose others to it.  I don't want to be the one left behind. 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Arts and Craftily Challenged

It's no secret that I love to cook, bake and otherwise feed people delicious things.  So when a friend made me the matron of honor in her wedding, I was like, YES! I will throw your bridal shower and cook for 25 women and they will EAT MANY CALORIES AND THEY WILL LOVE IT!!! The only reason it took me an hour to plan the menu for this gathering was because I wanted to find the very BEST baked french toast recipe. And the perfect fruit salad. And create the perfect balance of savory and sweet dishes while also offering enough options to please the possibly vegetarian/gluten free/Atkins dieting guest.  You know.

However, the one thing I hadn't considered when agreeing to throw a party of this kind was  how one goes about decorating for a party.  When it comes to crafts and decor, I'm like a man in a the feminine products aisle of a grocery store. it? Which one do I... choose?  Where does it...go?

Instead of allowing the decor to defeat me, I decided to straighten up and think back to things that I've seen other women do. Creative women. Artsy women.  Women who single-handedly brought bedazzling back into fashion while Pinteresting their way to world peace. Those women. They would lead me.

I could make cute tags to label all the food! (Food is my strength area, I need to distract from the fact that I only know how to use streamers to decorate!)  Where do you buy cute tags?  Target?  Walmart? The Internet will tell me!  Staples?!  That seems odd... I thought Staples had mostly office supplies...  I guess Staples does carry Martha Stewart brand labels.  She's like the queen of crafts, so maybe the Internet is right... Wait a minute, that can't be right... Where do crafty people go?  MICHAELS!  AC MOORE!  Yes!! I will infiltrate their lair and emerge triumphant!

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 31, 2012

As Time Goes By

For the last few hours I got lost reading my old journals from high school and college.  Hilariously, they are filled with stories about the boys I liked, the worries I had, the activities I did and people I used to see every day, who I haven't seen in years.  In a way, it's odd to realize that your life now is completely different than it was 12+ years ago. It's also a little bizarre to realize that your written voice over time changes. Thank God I'm not nearly as neurotic as I was when I was 16.  That girl needed a good adult mentor and a valium. Probably at the same time.

It's also strange to realize that one's priorities can completely shift with life stage changes.  I no longer spend my afternoons in rehearsals for plays or my evenings needing emergency math homework help. I don't pine for cute boys or complain that my mom and I have to go shopping together. But perhaps the similarities in my previous life are more instructive. I still have many of the same close friends. I highly value real relationships. I still enjoy singing. I'm still pretty introspective. And I still wish that I journaled more so that I could have a peak into my life 20 years from now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

In Celebration of Six Years

Because we are still clinging to whatever shred of youth we still possess, for our six year wedding anniversary, Adam and I decided to drive four hours to see one of our favorite bands play in Bristol, Virginia last weekend. We decided to make a trip out of it and do do some fun things in the mountains while we were there.  We were also able to visit with some friends who just had a baby and only live 30 minutes from Bristol. It was a jam-packed weekend and one of the best I have had in a while.

It turns out that Mumford and Sons is also favored by a lot of other people, so we joined the 14,000 person throng, staked out our very tiny bit of standing room and tried not to move around too much. I was really surprised by how orderly everyone seemed to be.  I occasionally get a little bit of crowd fright, but everyone was so nice! No one around us was drunk and belligerently yelling about their rights, no one was pushing or shoving the little people to the ground. People were smiling and using manners and apologizing for stepping on your toes. Maybe even ironic mustachioed banjo-lovers can't take themselves seriously, so they are always ready to laugh. How great! Here's a picture of our side vantage point in the crowd before the show.

 We were like sardines!  Little hipster sardines! Adam and I had gotten there early to see Dawes (a very disappointing show, by the way) and had positioned ourselves where my audio engineer of a husband said the sound would be the best (directly in front of the sound booth and midway between the sound booth and the stage, in case you were wondering).

By the time Mumford & Sons took the stage the sun had set and the air was cooling down.  They played almost every track off of their last album and a few new songs that will be featured on their album that is going to be released in September. If those songs are any indication, the second album will be very, very good.

I don't usually get the "chills" that most people describe when hearing really good music, but I am occasionally so moved by the beauty of music that it makes me want to cry.  It was definitely one of those shows.  That, and I think Marcus Mumford needs a hug.  That dude is either a seriously tortured soul, or he just really has his act down.

After the concert, we drove to Boone, NC where we stayed in this quaint little cabin at a Bed and Breakfast called the Mast Farm Inn.

The next morning we stuffed ourselves silly on baked french toast and brown sugar black pepper bacon and headed out to downtown Boone.  I was pleasantly surprised with Boone, as it is a quaint and tiny hill-town in the NC mountains.  Adam and I got lost in a huge antique store for an hour and we ate a delicious late lunch at Our Daily Bread.

After Boone, we headed out to Todd, NC where we did river-tubing at the recommendation of a friend.  I am so glad she told us to do it because it was exactly what I needed.  The river was lazy, the water was cool and the air was crisp and refreshing.  The tubes were seriously posh (head rests and cup holders!) and my only regret is that we only did it for an hour.

The ride home was a bit sobering, as our route back home was blocked for about an hour because of this accident. Overall, this trip was so wonderful, and I can't wait until our next trip west.