Falling Prices

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Something is going on in Wal-Mart. And it’s not good. I think there must be a lack of oxygen in there. Like the complete opposite of whats happening in Vegas casinos. Everyone in there is in a bad mood, despite the 80 cent mangoes. That’s right, eighty cents. The employees, minus the occasional friendly greeter, purposely don’t look you in the eye when you desperately need their help. They actually look the other way or hide from you. Where did that blue vested guy just go? Maybe he has passed out, from the lack of oxygen. Today I circled that random crap cup, water bottle and thermos section numerous times. I almost grabbed some to buy. Almost. I tried to find the four things on my list with my three kids in tow. Stopping and touching every end crap, cap, along the way. “Nope. Put it back. We’re not getting that.” Whatever. I said it a lot of times but somehow we still managed to buy too many 97 cent plastic toys that will undoubtedly break in the first five minutes of play. Or they will junk up the family room floor, and I will step on them while carrying a load of laundry causing me to say the most suitable cuss word, “WAL-MART!”

I really needed to get one of those plastic baby pools. They’re not stacked up against the outside walls of the store anymore. They’re father away, in the parking lot. In the “lawn and garden” section, I learned. Makes sense, the parking lot section of the store. I’m certain that most dying hot summer stricken people just take them, especially after learning the process in buying one.

I asked an employee, “Can’t I just tell the lady at the register the price of the pool?”

“No. You have to go out and get one and bring it back into the store.” She {so helpfully} said.

I was on a mission. I abandoned my cart inside of the store. It would have been fine by me, though highly unlikely that somebody would move it. I prodded my kids to hold my hands or grab a leg while we crossed the parking lot to grab that plastic pool. Out there in the lawn and garden parking lot aisle. I rearranged a stack of pools, grabbed the big orange one, carrying it while balancing it on top of two of my children’s heads as we walked back across the road, into the Wal-Mart store. I proceeded to push our cart and try to walk through Wal-Mart with that hard plastic pool balancing on my three-year old’s head and wobbling side to side on top of the cart. Trying not to knock everything off of the shelves. I got to the cash register with our mangoes, and other straight-up crap. When we got lost, I had let my kids get Lunchables AKA kid crack. And I got a tube of Golden Oreos, a Wal-Mart souvenir of sorts. Really. I’m never going back to that store. Never. Ever. Even for the cheap mangoes. And pineapple.

We eventually made it to one of the two check out lines that were open. Cue the Wal-Mart plastic pool kicker of sorts…The employee at the register could not find a price on the pool. Anywhere. Imagine that. If only she could have overhead paged the nobody that was working in the hot parking lot section. I started lifting and holding the pool up. Trying not to take out one of my children in the process. Turning it over. Nope. No price. So, she just made up a price, which I’m pretty sure is a prerequisite for every employee operating a cash register. I thought it was $14.97. She did too. If it were possible for a non-stalker-ish person to have taken photographs, I would have wanted one of all of us carrying that pool to the car with the three boys in tow, several underneath helping/hiding. Then, maybe one of me opening the back of the van shoving it in, unintentionally making a plastic pool fortress for my boys the whole car ride home. I could only see orange, my boys giggled, hidden under the pool. Amazingly and surprisingly enough, I learned it was made in the USA. Score. I found the whole scene pretty hilarious, eventually, after all of the oxygen returned to my head.

Pad Thai

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“Do we need to go to the hospital?”

My husband asked me this yesterday. We had an awesome date night, but things took a turn down the wrong road. I had mistreated my fragile guts and they quickly got out their signs. A protest of sorts. They were on strike. Not working. As a result, my stomach became the intimidating bouncer, circling the crowd, the big scary one that everyone listens to. “EVERYBODY OUT!” Forcing food, drinks, and bile to dramatically exit. Out the front door. My husband knows the signs. He knows the drill. What he may not know is how much his words, “do we need to go the hospital?” affect me. Not do “you” but do “we.” We are a team. What happens to me and my body affects him, my kids, my whole family. It disrupts, rearranges, and alters plans. Also it makes people worry about me. A lot.

He knew before we got married that this disease could occasionally dictate my life. No matter how hard I fight the disease, it just wins sometimes. Or it thinks it does. “You want to get married in August?” I don’t think so. The disease does what it wants. Often in a destructive, chaotic, and cruel way. I get to choose how I will respond. We had to postpone our wedding. Ironically, I sent out the cutest “save the date” lottery scratcher cards. You scratched the wrong date, folks. If having to postpone your wedding due to surgeries gone wrong is not enough to scare a potential spouse away, then you’ve got to be really into me. Or a little crazy. Or both. Not everyone gets the opportunity to witness how “the one” will react to sickness, real sickness before they sign the papers. Seeing someone you love moaning in pain, hurting, pissed, crying on the bathroom floor with greasy hair. Hopeless. Apathetic. Scared. That’s a lot. For even the most saintly of folks. I didn’t have a lot of money, either. Actually, I had credit card debt.

The kicker is that my husband has never made me feel that guilt, embarrassment or shame. That’s something I do to myself. I think a lot of us do. He’s constantly there holding this massive amount of grace, understanding, compassion and humor too. That I desperately need. It wakes me up, the laughing. I’ve always been a sucker for laughing at inappropriate times. Especially at my own expense. He’s holding his arms wide open for me, always, showing me what unconditional love does. More than words. The action oriented, super hero fighting kind of love. It lays in your hospital bed with you. It holds your hand through the grossest procedures. It takes over every household duty. It doesn’t keep score. It tells you “you’re so beautiful” when you feel the farthest from beautiful. I can only hope that my sons will learn this most graceful way of handling hurt and pain from watching their dad. He knows when I’m fragile and he handles me with the most gentle tone and touch. I imagine that if every person felt this kind of unselfish love and sacrifice, the world would be different. Better.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s not perfect. Like me. He leaves clothes, shoes, hats and receipts everywhere. He gets really pissed when he steps on Legos or when the boys have opened his good guitar and maybe played on it. He loses stuff too, like his wallet and keys. Though, it’s hard to get annoyed with that tendency. If only in our irritated, frustrated, pissed off with each other moments, we could just stop and focus on how great of a team we make when life is hard. Really hard. And that’s what matters the most.

Leonard Cohen, who my husband happens to love, has a song “Anthem.” A part of the chorus says:

“There is a crack, a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in.”

So once again, I’m thankful to be reminded, in a rather unexpected way, that my cracks are there to help reveal the most beautiful parts of others. The helpers. The encouragers. The love-you-so-incredibly-much they would take all your pain away. Through my struggles, others, especially my husband, teach me that the cracks invite people in. They let the light in. And they prove that brokenness can actually be quite the opposite of what it looks like from the outside.

Emotional Hangover

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Some Monday mornings I am emotionally hung over. I get home after midnight, and try to process some really hard moments, often until 3:00 am. At the kitchen table, usually in the dark, while my boys sleep soundly upstairs. One of them talks in his sleep. He sometimes calls out,”Mama….Mama.” This cues me to stop thinking so much and go console my half-asleep little boy. They wake up revved up and ready to go. Like every other morning. They’re running around. Now they’re out of school. They could ask me to do just about anything and I would say, “Yeah. Yes.” A hundred times, yes. My eyes hurt from crying, especially the right one. I wonder if I may be getting pink eye again. Or if it’s just exhausted, dehydrated and sore from over crying. My accidental exfoliation with the mascara that bled down my face may have something to do with its over-irritation. It serves as a visible reminder this morning of a painful, draining night.

Hard, awful stuff happens sometimes at the end of a really long shift. Normal people don’t want to hear about it. I get it. Last night I walked out of work hating that place. The halls seem never-ending when you’re ready to vanish, escape, get out of there as quickly as possible. You crave the ability to erase your eyes, your heart, and your mind from seeing what you’ve seen. Will five days off really be enough? My husband called to help talk me through my drive home. I could barely speak. Overthinking, sobbing, attempting to process the unfathomable. My chest physically ached and I wanted to throw up. There was nothing in my belly. I had last eaten “resigning or going away” cake hours before to honor an amazing co-worker. I envied her last night. Who wants to know about and experience firsthand the awful, painful, incomprehensible stuff that can happen to kids? Why would somebody choose to work here?

After the cake eating and goodbye party, it got crazy busy. Up and down the halls, popping in and out of rooms, hold your pee for hours kind of busy. I left a trail of spinners, bubbles and other toys in every room that I entered. Except the last room. That last room will forever scar my heart. I will remember the faces of the nurses and doctors. The faces that can not hide the deep gut punching unfiltered reaction to devastating, mind jumbling, heart piercing hurt. Everybody wanted to cry. Everybody. Paralyzed. Daniel Tiger played on my iPad. I turned it off and left to go get some warm blankets. I made eye contact with a nurse outside of the room. She saw the hurt and the pain in my eyes, the same way I saw it in all of my co-workers faces that stood around her bed.

It’s a heavy tugging hurt that weighs you down. Consumes you. Smothers you. If you don’t put up a fight. It makes you think this world is full of awful, cruel people. Sick fucks, for lack of a better word. It scares you. It makes you overprotective, under trusting, and hold those you love extremely close, like always within arms reach. Piled on your lap. By your side. You’re always doing everything in your power to secure their safety. Knowing, deep down that even that may not be enough. It’s so hard to understand if you’re not in those rooms, in those breath robbing moments. Trying to inhale. Then exhale. Just breathe. Don’t cry. Not yet. Soon. When you leave, no one is in the halls so you give yourself permission to cry while you clock out, while you ride the elevator, while you look at the Kansas City skyline and walk to your car. The whole drive home.

The doorbell rang this morning. I still had my pajamas on, I had not brushed my teeth, my hair.  It was almost noon. I came to the door. My sweet neighbor stood there holding dinner for us. With the most genuinely kind and caring look on her face. She said that she knew that Monday mornings are really hard. She wanted to help. Pay it forward. She was right, especially today. Perfect timing. Just too perfect. God’s timing. I started to tear up, especially that right eye. She gave me a hug. And she unknowingly did something so much greater than providing dinner for us tonight. She proved that there is a world full of truly kind and loving people who are working around the clock to make it better. I hope that God will nudge me to do something as thoughtful and unexpected as paying attention and showing up for someone when they least expect it, yet need it the most. Thank you, Leslie.

Sexy Princess Stickers

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One of my nurse practitioner friends pointed out some “sexy” princess reward stickers at work today. And how they were a little ridiculous. I agreed. What happened to their floor length princess dresses? Snow White looks like she may have acquired a couple of STDs, perhaps from the seven dwarfs? Their dresses got traded in for cropped tops and short skirts. These were the “teen princesses.” Scantily clad with pouty lips, and just wrong on many levels. I proceeded to discuss how it somewhat offends me to even give out Barbie dolls. Maybe I’m getting kind of old in my age. No woman looks like them. No girl should try to aspire to be them. They are not real.

I can’t help but wonder if our culture’s obsession with girls being pretty and princesses and perfect has also created women who fear aging, fear having confidence in their imperfections and who strive for the unattainable. I didn’t have any Barbies of my own growing up, but, ironically, I get to clean them every weekend at work. Co-workers tell me, “Stop playing with the Barbies.” I’m typically looking for Ken’s pants. Where do they always go? To be honest, Barbies drive me a little crazy with their perky boobs, little waists and high-heeled tiny feet. I think if they could talk they might say, “Let me out! I don’t wanna make out with Ken anymore. I’m tired of standing on my tippy toes.” I could be wrong… They may just want some fries and a milkshake.

It worries me that girls today are being nudged to grow up too fast. And made to feel like they need to look pretty and perfect. Or look sexy, pseudo-mature, a lot older than their chronological age. I don’t have young girls, but I once was one. A long time ago. I loved playing “heart and soul” on the piano, making up dances, playing house, climbing trees, playing sports, riding bikes, wading in creeks and a ton of other stuff. I hardly ever wore matching clothes. I don’t think it mattered to me. In fact, I had this one pair of flowery jeans as a kid that I wore all the stinking time. My nine-year old niece actually texted me the other night and asked if I would give her permission to wear her favorite shorts several times a week. Her mom had told her about my love and bi-weekly wearing of my flowery jeans. I texted her back, “Of course you can. Send me a picture.” When the hot weather rolled around, I cut those jeans off into new-ish shorts. Made perfect sense to me. I was hardly a fashionista. More like a tomboy. My sisters’ closets typically offered me my best chances at a good outfit.

To this day, I love dressing up for about fifteen minutes or so. Then, I want to put my hair in a ponytail and throw on some jeans and flip-flops. It’s too much pressure to try to walk and talk and wear high heels. All at the same time. It’s hard for me to do my head back, open mouth, ungirly like hard laughing without falling down. Or rolling an ankle. My feet admire women that wear them everyday. I also applaud women who can accessorize and put an outfit together that just looks awesome. Similar to my admiration for musicians, artists and others who have natural gifts that I just do not possess.

I know that I have told little girls, nieces and friend’s kids, even girls in the grocery store, “you look so pretty.” I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if I am telling them something else empowering also. I try to be more observant, and notice and recognize other characteristics too. I hope if you know a girl, or meet a girl and have the ability to influence that girl that you tell her how smart, creative, funny, brave, amazing, strong or perfectly imperfect she is a lot more times than you tell her that she’s pretty. That way, she doesn’t have to feel like her whole self-worth lies in being “pretty.” Acting pretty. Talking pretty. Or pretending to be pretty. Being pretty to me strictly defines an outward appearance.  Flowers are pretty. Women have so much more to offer the world than being pretty. Women often possess limitless grace, indescribable beauty, and a gentle strength that reveals itself when given the opportunity. When encouraged, nurtured, and respected, girls and women possess the power to change the world.