Posted in Life As I Know It

Grateful to Be Hooked Up to Life Support

If you read my post last week, then you know my vacation got off to a bit of a…shall we say…rough start. It was one challenge after another, but we made it through.

A major reason that this is truth is because of the life support system that I am blessed with. Sometimes when I’m within the swirl, it’s hard to stand back and truly appreciate it all. I’m grateful as it all happens, but that doesn’t do it justice. Not entirely. Continue reading “Grateful to Be Hooked Up to Life Support”

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Posted in Life As I Know It

I Just Need to Lift My Hood

Among the many flaws and weaknesses I have, there is one that masquerades as a positive quality—at least that’s how I’ve seen it for most of my life. It is only within the last few years that I realize that it isn’t a sign of strength but more accurately a sign of stupidity.

You see, I’m not very good at asking for help. I like to take care of things myself. Asking for help is a sign of weakness, of inability…of failure.

 

help

 

Stupid, right? Yeah, I know.

Unfortunately, that’s how I’ve been wired since I was a kid, so seeing it for what it is has really taken me some time. (Or maybe I’m just a really slow learner.) And then changing it? Well, that evolution is still underway.

But let me share a recent lesson in my progress.

The other day I was on “band carpool” duty. My son’s school shares a band with another school, so one day a week, we have to get up extra early, drive farther out to the other school, have class, then drive the kids back in time for their “real” school day to begin. It pretty much sucks. (Support the Arts in school, people!)

My husband does this every week…and I am very grateful. But last week he needed me to do it, and I did. All went just fine…until I forgot to turn my headlamps off. It was bright enough daylight that I didn’t see that they were still on while I sat in the car with the motor off and waited for the kids. It was very cold…and therefore didn’t take much for my battery to die.

 

ignition

 

Yep. As I went to start the van to get it warm for the kids, it sputtered and whined and then passed out.

Let’s say my language was colorful as I swallowed my disbelief and tried to understand what this meant in my little world. No van. Need to get kids back to school in a tight timeframe. Freezing. Idiot.

Actually, the idiot part happened right out of the gate.

I called my husband and shared the situation with him. He offered to drive out and help, but I knew that meant a lot of time to add onto the solution. It dawned on me that maybe I could ask one of the other parents to be my booster car.

You see, I am very well versed at jumping cars. Being the “I’ll take care of it” person that I am, I’ve done it many times both for myself and others. The only help I need is…another car.

 

cables

 

And that was my problem here. My plan was to get my cables out and ready and wait for one of the other parents I knew to show up. (They don’t sit and wait but return at pickup.)

I wanted to save time and do all that I could to be ready, so I got the cables and then popped my hood.

 

hood up

 

As soon as I lifted the hood and propped it up, the man who was helping direct the school buses for that school came over. He was wearing a yellow safety vest and a kind smile. “What do you need?” he asked. I told him I needed a jump, and he grabbed his walkie talkie and started to tell the guy on the other end to get the cables. I showed him that I already had those, and he smiled and said, “Well, give me a second!”

Indeed, within seconds, he had his truck over and his assistant and he were hooking up the cables. (I must admit that I quietly intervened and changed what the assistant did since he put them on in the wrong order.) The van popped right off within a few seconds.*

Problem solved.

We made it to school right on time.

(As it turns out, of the two parents I was looking for to help, one didn’t come that day and the other was running late. So my planned solution would have at best made us quite late.)

By lifting my hood, I inadvertently put the call out for help…and received it.

I may have had the cables and the knowledge, but I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed someone’s help. And I was not weak for needing it. The reality is I simply couldn’t do it on my own no matter what—I needed another car.

 

battery

 

Sometimes help is “needing another car.” Not being less than or incapable. Not being weak or not enough. Just not having all the Xs and Ys to solve the equation.

I’m still learning to embrace that…rewiring takes time. But I am learning. One of the things that helps me grow is remembering how I feel when I am able to help others. I don’t feel like I’m stronger or more capable or anything like that—I feel grateful to be able to help. I feel needed.

When I don’t allow others to help me, I am denying them that feeling. That’s lame. Remembering this pushes me to be better about asking for help.

As a work in progress, I am growing to accept that it’s okay to prop my hood up and signal that I need help—that I can’t do this on my own. That I need someone to be my booster car. One jump at a time, I am getting there.

 

*Turns out that the man in the yellow vest and the kind smile is actually the principal of the school. Seeing him help with the buses and then with my car, I never would have guessed it–and he never let on. Class act.

All photos are my own.
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Posted in Life As I Know It

Notes to My 17-Year-Old Self

I’m trying to rebound from some bug I was blessed with yesterday and not feeling full of ideas to write on, so forgive me if I pick a familiar theme to dwell on today.

Well into my 40s, I am still a major work in progress—not even close to being “finished,” which I don’t think is even possible—at least before the grave. As I share on my About page, I’ve learned a bit late in the game that being broken open is better than keeping everything sealed tight. At 17, I wasn’t about to let anything get close enough to even risk a crack in my facade.

Boy did I (and do I!) have a lot to learn.

Here are some notes I would share with my 17-year-old self:

Stay away from perms. They are not your friend.

 

Poodle Pic

 

Embrace your body—it deserves more credit than you give it. In years to come, you will look back and shake your head at what you once considered “fat.”

Know that several of the friends you cherish now will still be in your life in years to come. Let them in more than you do. It won’t kill you. In fact, you’ll be glad you did. But you are stubborn, and you won’t learn this for many more years.

 

friendsC

 

There are certain people in your life you will never be able to please. Stop trying so hard. It’s more than okay for your life to be a little bit about you.

Those internal battles you face? Those struggles that mess with your head? They have names. They are called anxiety and depression, and once you understand that they are truly things that you can strive to manage—and it’s not just you—the world will start making better sense.

There is such a thing as being loyal to a fault. You will wish you knew this now rather than later.

Love Dad even more…get as many hugs as you can. He will be gone in a mere four years.

 

new mexico 87

 

You’ve got such a tight lid on things that you don’t even know the depths of this, but you are a mess—not messy, but a mess—and that’s okay. Really. It will take many years for you to realize that there is no merit in acting or thinking otherwise. And many years for you to embrace your messiness and realize that this is one of the best things that will happen to you.

You will walk many different paths in life. Each will lead you to the next right step, even though it is not obvious at the time. Please don’t feel the pressure to find that one calling in life that defines you. You are meant to live your life in chapters, and each one will have merit.

Brace yourself: you are not in control of things. You will learn this lesson (time and again) through a number of twists, turns, and crises that “you” did not plan. But it’s life. Let it happen. Give over the control you never really had. You will not understand how God works. Which is perfectly okay because if you did understand everything about God, he wouldn’t be God. Surrender to that. Surrender to him.

Let love in.

Start with yourself.

You have and are going to have some really awesome people in your life. You are blessed. Remember that when the really crappy people pull you down. Don’t let them grab hold. The Awesomes will not be defeated.

And, finally, you are a lovable knucklehead. If you could be brave now and learn to be vulnerable, life will be much different for you. Instead, you will wait until you’re a much older woman to face that challenge, and it will be harder to teach the old dog new tricks.

But you are one resilient kid. You’ll figure it out…eventually.

PS—invest in these things that are up and coming called “personal computers.” You won’t be sorry.

Posted in Life As I Know It

Life Lesson Courtesy of a Face Plant

pontoon2With vacation over Saturday, I already have that “did that really happen?” feeling…The routine of life is back, and I need to remind myself that it was just last week that we stepped out of our reality. While we had a delightful time, there are some memories that I want to stick with me over others.

Every summer we go to a family place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where we see familiar faces as well as new ones. This year we met a new family through an unusual experience. My husband, Mike, and I were out fishing on the dock one afternoon when one of the pontoon boats was returning. It had been just a few minutes prior that we wondered why there was a new wooden ramp added to the end of the dock, and in a minute, we were about to learn why.

The boat looked like it was headed straight for the end of the dock instead of pulling up alongside of it. I looked at Mike like, “Do these people know how to drive?” and as the boat ran into the dock, I suggested to them, “Are you sure you don’t want to come in on the side?” and the woman who was driving answered, “Well, they said I should come in on the end…” and it was at that moment that I really looked at them and saw that the man on the boat was in a motorized wheelchair. Then it all clicked. The ramp was so that he could get on the boat…and they needed to line up with it so that he could ride off. After I shook off my “dork moment,” I offered to help them dock the boat. Mike and I pulled them in and anchored them as tightly as we could, and then I bent down to pick up the ramp so that it could face the opposite way for the man to drive off the boat.

Problem. The ramp was fastened to the dock. As the man drove to the edge, the boat sunk down much lower than the ramp. What to do now?

Geniuses that we were, we realized that if we all moved to the back of the boat, the pontoon’s front would rise up and as the chair got closer to the edge, it met up nicely with the downward facing ramp. Problem solved, right?!

Yeah…no. We watched the man drive his chair to the edge, meet the ramp, and begin to drive down it. But with the majority of the weight of his chair no longer on the front of the boat, the boat began to rise…and the chair’s smaller back wheels that were still on the boat were lifted up…and the chair sprang forward. It was a slow-motion scene that I saw happening but couldn’t act on fast enough, and we all watched the chair throw the man onto the dock for a major face plant.

Thankfully, the chair—which we later learned weighed 400 pounds—did not land on him but returned to its normal position after jettisoning its occupant. A couple of other guys on the dock saw the fall and came running to help. Obviously, we were all very concerned about the man—now lying with the side of his face pressed against the dock. Kneeling next to him, I asked him if he was okay. He was a bit shook up, but he calmly said, “I’m okay. I’m fine.” Just very matter of fact.

And in that moment, I saw the vulnerability and strength of this guy. It was one of those times where so much seems apparent in just a second. He couldn’t do anything to help himself—he just looked kindly into my eyes and half smiled. Here was a vibrant person, face down on the dock, knowing that’s exactly where he’d remain if it was all up to him. He was completely dependent on others, and there was nothing else to do but accept that and keep doing things…like going on family vacations and taking a boat out with his wife and sons to catch some fish.

Wow. For someone like me, who is striving to be more vulnerable in this world, it was a real a-ha moment. Granted, I don’t really know how this man handles his challenges overall, but in that moment, he was graciously accepting complete surrender.

After we assessed that he was okay, his wife explained that he was 200 pounds of dead weight. We took a collective breath and formed a quick plan of getting the chair in a safe position and then lifting the man back onto it.

With some teamwork, we successfully got him seated and ready to roll. His knees and elbows were banged up, but other than that, he was fine. He took the face plant with amazing grace.

And that’s how we met Jay and Melissa and their two sons.

Melissa shared with us that they go through life laughing an awful lot—because what else is there to do? With the exceptional challenges their family faces, they keep laughing and living and trying in the best way that they can.

The “fish” I caught that afternoon turned out to be some really good soul food.

I’m so glad I got a chance to share in Jay and Melissa’s world even for just a teensy bit. Not only were they lovely people, but they helped me remember that no matter what “chair” you’re in, the best thing to do is just keep on rolling. And when the occasional face plant comes your way, accept help with grace and gratitude, and remember that we are all in this together.