Tuesday, January 16, 2018

8-Minute Memoir: Games

I've always loved them. As a child, I just wanted to learn how to play. I loved the colors, the tactile sensation. Winning didn't seem to matter and rules were fluid in my head. Much of the time, I was thinking about ways to change the rules in order to make the challenge greater or include new ways to play. As I grew older, winning, of course, was important, but I always felt slightly disappointed when I did. It meant the game was over; we were finished playing.

As an adult, I realized that I could learn a great deal about people by observing how they played games. I would often throw the game simply to provide me means to observe how my opponent would react to winning. This was often the case when playing online Scrabble with a person I could not see. I'd play three times, lose each time, and learn how my game partner thought and reacted. I would also learn their strategies which made it easy to beat them in subsequent games. Needless to say, I have few continuous Scrabble partners. Danny, alone, continues to play with me. For him, the game is less about winning and more about finding words on his tray.

I have two children similar to me in that they love creating and bending the rules. I have one child who hates it. To him, changing the rules means the game is no longer fair or fun. I once put together two Monopoly boards and invited my children to a game of double Monopoly. It was played, loosely, in the same way that the REAL game was played, but, of course, there were two sets of property, lots of money and houses/hotels, and four dice. In addition, I randomly announced "gifts" (because I was the banker) and distributed money whenever the whim took me.

Alex and Natalie thought the game delightful. Within 15 minutes, Chris had pronounced the game "stupid" and refused to play. This might be because I had just proclaimed a new rule because I was not only the banker, but the rule maker. Regardless, the random nature of the game left him frustrated and angry. He was so upset that we never again played Double Monopoly. Which is not to say I stopped making up rules and games. I was just more structured about it. After all, the point was to play with my kids, not make them unhappy.

Friday, January 12, 2018

8-Minute Memoir: Little Things

1. Having the silverware on the correct sides of the plate.
2. Going barefoot.
3. Lying in the grass.
4. Watching bugs.
5. Feeling the wind on my face.
6. Walking into my bedroom when the bed is made.
7. Soap and shampoo that smell amazing.
8. Sunshine coming through my windows.
9. Clean sheets.
10. Clean floors.
11. The individual scents and colors of dinner ingredients and the ways that they combine to make a new scent.
12. A safe hug.
13. Giggling with my kids.
14. Sitting close to someone I love.
15. Singing.
16. Practicing the piano or the violin or the oboe or any musical instrument at all.
17. Reading books.
18. Re-reading books.
19. Typing.
20. Creating something with my hands.
21. Phone calls/hearing the voice of someone I love but cannot be with.
22. Spider webs.
23. New leaves on trees in the spring.
24. The smell of rain.
25. Autumn.
26. The first snow of winter.
27. Fine quality chocolate.
28. The tiny, crispy marshmallows that come in hot chocolate packets.
29. New socks.
30. Down blankets.
31. My own pillow.
32. Sleeping next to Aaron every night.
33. Flowers.
34. Learning something new.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

8-Minute Memoir: Adventure

My father made the mundane seem adventurous. I remember, as a very small child, loving it when he was home to help with chores. He often traveled, so this was rare, but he would challenge us to contests and tell stories about highly unlikely things each stray sock, toy, or leftover piece of trash had experienced. It made the drudgery seem like an amazing game.

My father took us places. They weren't exotic or far away, but nearby places took on new luster when we told us about them. We explored our neighborhood, nearby towns and cities, and any mountains or wilderness we could drive to and still arrive home for supper.

My father loved amusement parks. I suppose I still love amusement parks because of him. And hiking, he loved hiking. We would walk all day in the mountains, discovering hidden meadows and waterfalls and caves. Each year in the winter, he would tell us where we would be exploring when the snow was gone. The anticipation was as delicious as the experience.

And then we noticed the adventures began to be less rugged, less frequent. My father seemed to be resting a lot more. And at night, sometimes I would hear him whimpering or moaning. My father was sick. Very sick.

Post-polio syndrome took him away from me. He's still alive, but adventures are not something he can do anymore. They increase the constant, daily pain he lives with. They assure him of days in bed and difficulty eating. They are nothing for him to look forward to.

Still, when I visit, he reminds me. Remember when we visited the cowboy museums in Montana? Or when we went to see the Grand Canyon, but didn't arrive until dark, so we saw it, but not really? Or the walk in the mountain meadow covered in butterflies? Or that time we forded the river  to go fishing and I stepped in a sinkhole and he had to pull me back up by my hair? Or the berry picking day when I found the bear?

I remember, Dad. I remember.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

8-Minute Memoir: Billboards

I don't really have anything to say about this. On another morning I might. But around 8 p.m. last night I drove Alex to the ER because he'd had a severe headache and been vomiting for three hours. His solution was to keep taking showers. After shower four, I put him in the car and said we were going. He was very upset.

At the ER they gave him an IV (which was why he was not willing to go in the first place). But that's all. We waited two and a half hours before seeing a doctor, and he only came because I kept going to the nurses station and whining that my son's pain was increasing, and could he please get some help. After the doctor visited with Alex, he finally got some medication.

Intravenous meds work almost instantly, so we were ready to leave within minutes. Did we get to leave? No, we did not.

Aaron went to the nurses station at midnight to ask if Alex might be discharged. They said they'd be right there. Nothing happened.

At 1:00, Alex suggested he could, perhaps, remove his own IV and we could just leave. At this point he was very thirsty and hungry, not to mention tired beyond belief (as were Aaron and I), and we all had to be at work within the next six hours.

I finally went back to the nurse's station and said, "It's after 1:30. We still have to drive home. We're very sleepy and would like to be able to not end up back here because we were too tried to drive home safely. And all of us have work in the morning, so we'd really like to get some sleep. We were told Alex would be discharged over an hour ago. At this point, it sort of feels like you're just keeping us here so he can be charged more money than is necessary."

Alex was discharged within 10 minutes. I should have been nasty at them sooner because we didn't get home until after 2:30 (had to stop for food and gas on the way home), and I'm so tired. Three hours of sleep is not enough. But Alex feels better. Sort of. No headache, anyway. Aaron took the day off. Lucky!

Monday, January 8, 2018

8-Minute Memoir: I Don't Remember

This one is difficult because I don't really think about not remembering things. I have a very good memory unless it's trauma-blocked. However, I do remember, when I was in my mid-20s, my sister, Kathy, would often say, "Do you remember when..." and then continue with a story of which I had no recollection. I would wait until she was finished, then say, "No. I don't remember that." For a long time I just thought the blank spots in my memory were things that were unimportant. I understand now that those existed because, however benign they might be, they were linked, somehow, to things that caused me distress when I remembered them.

There was a time when I sought to recover many of the memories. This was triggered by the discovery of a box filled with items that belonged to me, things I collected as a youth. There were letters and photos and mementos, but I was very upset by the box because I didn't have any memory of saving the items, and some of them came from people I didn't remember corresponding with. I sorted through the box, becoming more and more agitated. It was clear the people knew me well. Why didn't I remember them?

In addition to the box, my yearbooks from high school were nearby. The anxiety increased as I read notes from friends citing events I did not recollect. To make matters worse, some of those notes were posted near photos of me participating in the events. There were some trophies and awards I didn't remember winning and stories and poems by me that felt as if I was reading them for the first time.

In the end, I packed everything back into the box, drove to a nearby rest area, and threw it all away. I remember my mother being very upset that I would do such a thing. To me, it felt like the only way regain equilibrium in my life. Driving away from the boxes and books felt like salvation. I knew where I was going. There were no gaps in my current life. The past could stay in the past.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

8-Minute Memoir: I Remember When

I'm taking a page from FoxyJ and doing the 8-minute memoir thing. I might do it daily or a few times weekly. I haven't decided yet. But I need write with more focus. I think it's healthier. And I might discover some things about myself that I need to know. Day One topic is "I remember when." This topic causes millions of memories to race through my brain which reminds me that I am old enough to have millions of memories.

I remember when winter meant at least four feet of snow which meant sledding every Saturday morning. We had to get up early, before the sun melted the top crust. My mother used to say we had to come home as soon as the sun rose above the mountains or the snow would become so soft we'd slide into it and be buried alive. She often made dire predictions about about our ultimate demise, but I believed this one.

So we'd rise as soon as dawn began. We weren't the family who had snow pants and sweaters for everyone. Our outdoor clothing was chosen from a bag of cast-offs sent to us from relatives for our "chore clothes," which simply meant we could wear them in the barn and to work on the farm without worrying that they might get stained or torn. The clothes might or might not fit, they were years out of date, and we loved them.

We began with wool socks and thermal underwear borrowed from my father, giggling about the way they bunched and bagged, then layered t-shirts and sweaters on the top and sweats on the bottom. I always wore at least two pairs of sweats, then found a pair of pants large enough to accommodate both me and my extra layers. We helped each other put on our boots because bending at the waist was no longer a viable option.

Then we set out across the top of the crusted snow. We walked for about a quarter of a mile to the hills that were steep enough for coasting, and spent as much time as possible sliding for all we were worth while keeping an eye on that pesky sun. As it rose higher, we usually took one more ride, then another, and just one more...

Which meant we all panicked when we realized the crust was getting thin and our feet went through a little when we walked to the top of the hill. So then, of course, we would have to run, wearing all those layers, barely able to move our limbs in the thickness, only to arrive home drenched with sweat and laughing with exhaustion.

I'm sure there was no danger. Still, it was fun to believe. I'm guessing today I'd still believe it, just because.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I am supposed to be writing lesson plans. Instead, I am sitting on the couch, contemplating all the things that have happened in the past year, and feeling exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. Part of this is because I've done a great deal in the last 10 days, but also, the last year has been a lot. And I accidentally kicked a pickax as I walked through the garage carrying something that obscured my vision.

Usually, there's not a pickax out, but Aaron was using it for something and had set it against the wall where my foot found it. So for the past four days, my foot has looked like a stubby-fingered surgical glove someone inflated with air. Except it's not air and there was a sizable lump on the top. Today everything looks considerably less swollen. I have an ankle again (yeah, the swelling was from the top of my foot just behind the toes, all the way to my lower calf). The top of my foot is still a bit swollen and sensitive and colorful, but everything is working as it should. I think tomorrow I will be able to wear shoes again.

And somehow, I have gained long purple bruises on the undersides of both of my upper arms. One of those came from a ride mishap at Lagoon. I think the other might be a lawn mowing casualty but I'm not sure. I look a bit worse for the wear.

School started Monday while I was finishing up some business in Laramie. My plane back home landed at midnight last night. I'll start my first day tomorrow, four days after school has begun. I'm a little nervous about that. I've had very little prep time. The assumption that I'd get some time to do prep while I was in Laramie was flawed. I had no spare time while I was there.

So today I will write lesson plans and visit my classroom and try to figure out how I will make this new job work. I have never directed a middle school choir (grades 7-9) before. Nervous. I am nervous.

I was hoping to get some down time in the coming weekend. Then I realized I have yet another wedding to attend, and some other commitments I had forgotten. Also, the lawn needs to be mowed again. Maybe the following weekend? Alone time is becoming a very precious commodity.