Monday, December 12, 2016

Are We Cleaning for Michelle and Barack?

“Let me know when Michelle and Barack arrive” smirked my son as I was frantically cleaning my house for the arrival of my parents one weekend back in October. Maybe it’s just me, but I always tend to see how almost uninhabitable my house looks just before company is due to show up and then I launch into crazy-panic-cleaning-mode. My mom and dad aren’t judgy people by any means but whenever they (or anyone else for that matter) are coming over I always feel compelled to make my house look like, well, we don’t live there. I’m not kidding. A few years ago I insisted we buy new carpet shortly before it was my turn to have the euchre group over to our house. It was one thing to have my family see my filthy carpet, but my friends and co-workers? Absolutely not. On this particular occasion it was Tom’s birthday and it had literally been over a year since we had had any company at all. It doesn’t matter that I have someone who cleans my house twice a month because these visits, whether planned in advance or not, always happen long after the crisp smell of my freshly cleaned house fades. After the dog hair shows up in clumps on the couch. After the socks have reclaimed their resting place on the living room floor. I headed downstairs to grab those plates I use for entertaining that now need to be washed because it’s been so long since I’ve entertained that they’re dirty from just sitting on the shelf, and I noticed those random “spring cleaning” type jobs that I never notice unless company is due to arrive in less than 45 minutes. As one thing after another popped up, I ran around frantically barking orders with a Swiffer in one hand and a dirty sock in the other, and my husband gave the kids that “Mom’s having her usual company’s coming melt down” look while calmly saying to me,
“No, we don’t have time repaint the entire first floor. The house looks fine. Go take a shower.”

I really don’t know why I get so worked up when people are coming over but I do it all the time. The other day a friend had to stop by and drop something off. She wasn’t coming in any further than the foyer but I lit a candle then got the vacuum out and not only vacuumed the living room, but the living room furniture, the upstairs hall, and balcony because I suddenly noticed the dog hair that I don’t usually see. I’m not sure if, after all of that, my house would be clean enough to host the Obamas, but I am sure my parents appreciated the effort and I hope someday, when my kids are visitors, that they will too.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I Notice You Have a Lot of Shoes

“I notice you have a lot of shoes.” A simple observation by a co-worker that at one time would have been met with an enthusiastic response of “Yes! I love shoes! I think I might possibly be a distant relative of Imelda Marcos!” now casts a dark spot over what was once the subject of a past column. Yes, I do have a lot of shoes. And yes, I still love shoes, but now the simple truth is that shoes don’t love me. I collect all kinds from flats to flip flops to boots. I have shoes in a rainbow of colors so that I can be certain of one thing. I won’t leave home with footwear that doesn’t match my daywear. As I listened to people at work lament about their various foot related issues like plantar fasciitis, I still happily wore my terrible-for-feet-toe-squeezing-no-arch-support but “gee aren’t they cute?” flats. I have these memories of my grandma’s orthopedic shoes, which she had to wear because of fallen arches. They were black with buttons on the side. She wore them with everything. Every outfit. Every color.  That was never going to be me. Until a year or so ago, that is.

I started getting out of bed in the morning and hobbling from foot pain to the bathroom. But I shook it off because by the time I came out of the bathroom my feet were ok. I chose to ignore this little warning sign because I wasn’t willing to give up the vanity of having the cutest of cute shoes to go with my semi-fashionable yet age-appropriate wardrobe. But as the pain followed me into my day, it became clear to me that the cutesy flats would have to be replaced (most of the time) and I would need to buy better, more supportive shoes. It appears as though I have come to the age where my shoes need to be sensible if I don’t want to be in pain. Thank goodness we live in a day and age where we aren’t stuck with my Grandma’s ugly orthopedic shoes. A good friend of mine has pretty much the most impressive collection of Dansko shoes that I have ever seen. It is remarkable to say the least.  When I see her I immediately look at her feet to see what super-cute pair she has on today. When I inquired about them she told me that they are great shoes for people with foot issues, they’re just a little pricy. But best of all, they are stylish! So my updated shoe collection consists of 3 different pair of Birkenstock sandals, (for summer of course) and 3 different pair of Danskos with no plans of stopping there. The good news is that I can have it all. Only now the comment will be “I noticed you have a lot of highly fashionable orthopedic shoes.” 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Rules? There are no Rules

I'm coming up on my 30th class reunion and I couldn't be more excited. It should be well attended and pretty fun. Reunions are fairly predictable so I'm actually not excited about the reunion itself. Oh, it'll be nice seeing people I haven't seen in years and reconnecting with them face-to-face. But that is really just a sidebar to the real reason I'm going. Girls night. Me and some of my dearest, been-friends-since-middle-school, friends are going to get together and just catch up after years of absence and hundreds of miles of separation. Robin, Glenda, Heidi, Beth, and I are going to eat, talk, laugh, and drink some wine for as long as we have stuff to talk about. These women know the secret to friendship and what it means to have relationships that span the decades. No rules. These are girls whom I can not talk to for literally years and if I shoot them a message to check in I can count on the fact they will respond like it was only yesterday. They don't fire back an angry response with a “you don't follow the friendship rules” scolding. They wouldn't dare! Because they don't follow them either. They don't get feel rejected if I don't call because they don't call me either. Robin, Glenda, and I keep up by reading posts on each others Facebook accounts while Heidi and I text once in awhile. Every 10 years or so Beth tracks me down or I track her down via email. And it's always the same. They understand like I do that life gets in the way most of the time and that a lack of contact doesn't equal a lack of caring. It's just life. We all have kids and jobs and dinners and sports and other stuff that wears us out and makes time fly by. But in a couple of weeks we will pick right up where we left off all those days or months or years ago. I am so excited to see these ladies that I get butterflies in my stomach. I can't wait to see their faces, ask about their families and hear about their lives while they ask about my family and hear about my life. We will make big plans to get together again and promise to do more than Facebook, email, or text, even though we know deep down that it won't happen. Nobody will get offended, or feel slighted. We will enjoy the moments we are together as much as we enjoy the few times we touch base when life gets in the way again. No judgement. No accusations. No rules. Just as it should be.

Yes, You Can be a Biker and a Wimp

Ever since I’ve been riding motorcycles either as a passenger, or a driver, I’ve been a “fair-weather rider.” Literally. I usually say “no thanks” to a ride that’s going to take place if the temperature is below 60 degrees (no, we don’t own anything battery-operated that will keep our fingers and toes warm).  I also don’t care to ride in the rain (sleet & hail included). Most of the time, once you get wet on a motorcycle, you get cold.  When I protest about riding in less than ideal conditions Tom will say, “You can’t be a biker AND a wimp.” Now that I have my own bike, this summer I was out to prove that I am a real biker.  A few weeks ago we went to downtown Charlevoix to support our friends’ fundraiser, a motorcycle poker run to benefit military veterans in the area. Since the forecast showed rain, we decided we would just ride down, buy a couple of t-shirts and then head home. But when the sky started looking OK’ish, we changed our minds and joined some friends on the poker run, heading south of town (the exact opposite direction of our house).  Somewhere around Norwood, the rain started. I had on my leather jacket and jeans, but no real rain gear. It rained for roughly a minute and then it began to pour. Buckets. And buckets. And buckets. I thought to myself, “Ok so I’ll get a little wet. My jeans will dry. At least I have my jacket on.” As the rain refused to let up I thought, “I won’t turn around. I can’t be a biker and a wimp.” Around Eastport, my boots began to fill with water. My jeans were completely soaked and then my coat soaked through to my shirtsleeves. It was like that kids’ song “I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor and I don’t like it very much!” We inched our way to Bellaire in the monsoon conditions. When we got there I took my boots off and squeezed the water out of my socks. I was wet and cold to the bone. We checked the radar and decided to cut our losses and head home. The ride home was worse. We were already wet and cold, but the wind had kicked up. My teeth were chattering and I was thinking “This is the worst. I am never, ever, ever, going to ride if there is even the slightest chance of rain in the forecast!” As we neared our home I pictured myself hugging the hot tub.  Looking back, some would say I passed the wimp-test. But I disagree. That miserable ride was enough for me even though I’m not giving up riding. I’m here to tell you that you CAN be a biker and a wimp. So if you ask me to ride on a day with a questionable weather forecast answer will be “Call me a wimp, but I don’t ride in the rain.”

Friday, July 29, 2016

She Wore a Cotton Day Dress

She wore a cotton day dress
all flowered and sensible
With her orthopedic shoes
            for her fallen arches
And a smile that lit up the room

She wore a smile to cover
            the secrets and the scandal
With her beautiful eyes
            and snow white hair
And those mints in the
            “be careful” glass jar

She wore costume jewelry
            and a corsage every Mother’s Day
With her clip-on earrings
            to hide that one earlobe
            longer than the other
And a heavy green coat that
            buttoned at the neck

She wore her title of Nurse
            proudly although she hadn’t
            worked in decades
With her sister Bea
And unspeakable memories
            too frightening to repeat

Sometimes I see her
            long after she’s been gone.
God’s gift to me. A reminder
            that she isn’t far.

She wears a cotton day dress
            all flowered and sensible
With her orthopedic shoes
            for her fallen arches
And a smile that lights up the room.

Sunshine and a Little Pink

There’s a wooden sign at a store in downtown Charlevoix that says, “Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.” I know that it’s meant to be hung up in a little girl’s room because it’s displayed in the baby section. However, when I saw that sign I wanted to buy it for myself; for totally different reasons. Last year I got my first motorcycle. It was matte black, which to me said “guy’s bike.” But we knew that our sons would want to ride it too, so I thought that would be a good place to start. What we didn’t know was that the boys would want to ride it, but would be vehemently against riding “Mom’s bike.” So this year, they both decided that they would buy their own motorcycles. Since Sammy rode mine the most, it really made more sense for him to buy it from me. Suddenly, I was on the hunt for a replacement. Tom came across one that was white with pink flames. I was in love. It screamed “Dawn’s Bike.” You see, when I was young I was a girly-girl, a bouncy curls and dresses girl, an “only boys wear jeans” girl. I thought Pinky Tuscadero, the motorcycle-riding girlfriend of Fonzie (remember Happy Days?) was so cool with her pink name and her pink scarf around her neck. Knowing that about me, you can see why I fell in love with this pearl white with pink flames and blingy rhinestone emblems bike. But the more I thought about it I wondered if that was maybe a little bit too “girly” for an all-grown-up woman. Would I get sick of it? Do I really want the attention that a Pinky Tuscadero ‘esque motorcycle would get? It would match my black with pink flames helmet though. Then Tom found another black motorcycle on Craigslist that had everything that this one had without being too “girly.” Maybe I should be safe and get that one instead? I wondered.  I flipped and I flopped, finally rationalizing that if I got sick of the pink, we could always repaint it. The decision was made. On the day I got the bike I stopped at the Secretary of State’s office. On my way out, two women walked past me as I was getting ready to leave. “That is the most beautiful motorcycle I have ever seen!” said one, and the other woman replied with “Yes, that is really pretty.” So I guess I did make the right choice after all. “Sunshine and pink?” you ask. “Yes,” I say. “Now anything is possible.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

If you Don't Think God is in the Public Schools

I hear and read complaints by Christians about how “God isn’t allowed in the public schools.” I beg to differ. If you don’t see God in the schools then you aren’t looking hard enough. Sure, we aren’t allowed to pray (out loud) or read the Bible to kids, but He definitely is in the schools. Here are just a few examples.

On the Monday before spring break, my friend and colleague posted this on Facebook:

As a teacher, this week is hard. It's hard to get homework ready for students who are leaving early, or will be returning late. It's hard to keep students interested when their minds are elsewhere. But the hardest, most heart-wrenching thing for me are the students who know that they don't have a fun-filled spring break to look forward to, and their worry is if they will get any food next week because they aren't at school where we make sure they get breakfast and lunch. So when I get a text from a friend saying, "hey- are you making food bags for some of your students like you did at Christmas? If so, I will help you," it literally brings me to tears. So thankful! So blessed!

The results were overwhelming. By the time they left for spring break, 70 children had bags loaded full of food (heavier than the average kindergartener) to take home thanks to Sara, and the community members who showed up with food and bags.
I saw God there.

Last fall as it got colder more and more children came to school without what they needed. Children arrived without socks, clean clothes, or with worn out shoes that no longer fit. Stephanie and Theresa came up with an idea for a “kids closet,” spread the word, and it began to take shape. What we have now is a fully stocked room with underwear, socks, clothes (sizes 2T to mens and womens large), shoes, boots, and winter snowclothes. If children have accidents or forget their boots they simply go with an adult to get what they need, returns not necessary.
God was there too.

God was in school when a teacher took 3 special needs children home with her for the weekend so their dad could stay with their mother in the hospital when she had major surgery.

He was there when we collected food and gas cards for the family who took weekly trips to Grand Rapids to take their son for his chemo treatments. He was also there with the children who sold ribbons and had bake sales for that same family.

I saw God in the public school when the teachers spent their own money on school supplies and paid field trip fees for kids who didn’t have them. I saw Him with the teacher who tutored a girl after school for free because she knew it would be a financial burden on the parents.

If you think that God isn’t allowed in the public schools you aren’t looking hard enough. He doesn’t need to be invited. He just shows up. And if you don’t believe that you are grossly underestimating the power of God himself.