Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Terror on American Thunder

Last Friday evening I reserved tickets for the whole family to attend Fright Fest at Six Flags here in St. Louis (all SIX of us!!!  The twins were both home for the weekend, and Fright Fest is for sure a Family Tradition...just - not usually one that I particularly enjoy partaking in, and usually, not one I even do partake in).  To say I am not a huge fan of this annual family event is notsomuch an understatement as much as it is, at least in this family, an Understood.  It's a: No Questions.  It's a: Don't Even Look This Way.  Don't Think About It.  Mom. Doesn't. Like. Roller. Coasters.  Or scary stuff.  Roller coasters themselves are frightening beasts of sadistic humor, but add chainsaws and gory monsters chasing you through man-made foggy mist of Six Flags during Fright Fest, and it's a shrill, "No Thank You" from Yours Truly.  

Indeed, most years for this "age-old family tradition," I have opted to stay in comfy pjs in front of a roaring gas fire place working on a Shutterfly photo album or watching a rom-com at home.  I much prefer the occasional updates from The Hubby via darkly lit photos and cheerful family texts rather than brave the see-your-breath cold weather, the shoulder-to-shoulder lines and crowds, and the Fright.  But this year? This year my twin babies - who both happen to adore roller coasters and amusement parks and especially Six Flags during Fright Fest - were home, and I didn't want to be That Mom (the one who sits on the sidelines in peaceful tranquility watching her Little Lovelies enjoy themselves but never crossing the threshold to join in their spirited, spooky fun).  

This year was different.  

In fact, I decided to be SO "not this year" Mom that, without telling my family...or even informing myself, honestly, I purposefully headed towards the line at American Thunder right along with them, the first roller coaster to the left inside the park.  Right past the 1900s cars (one of My Favorite Rides EV.ER.).  Now, you may not know it, but "American Thunder is a wooden roller coaster located in the 1904 World's Fair section of Six Flags St. Louis in Eureka, Missouri.  The coaster was originally named after and themed to the famous motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel.  It was renamed American Thunder for the 2011 season."  According to Google.  But, actually, as you navigate the winding twists and turns of The Wait to Ride this 30-second metal chamber of horrors, the history of roller coasters in general and American Thunder specifically is unveiled through a series of well-placed bill boards marking the path, keeping your mind off the wait and the Impending Doom in which you are about to partake.  I know, because I stood numbly with my family in line to ride this wooden death trap for the first time in my life.  My husband stood in shock and awe, a bolstery "I'm so proud of you!" emitted from his lips several times that I continually and deftly ignored.  After all, one time.  One. Time. I rode The Boss - another roller coaster in the middle of the park, further past the ice cream cones and the turkey legs, and the little kid Tweety Bird section (it had taken longer to convince me/myself to ride back then).  That day, at the incessant insisting of my husband when we were there together on a date, just the two of us, pre-children era, I rode The Boss, clinging to the bar across my lap with an eagle talon death grip, my eyes rammed shut against my cheek bones, my quivering lips on a repeat loop of something akin to a self-soothing, suck-your-thumb, rocking in the corner kind of verbal self-massage of "you are fine.  you are fine.  you are fine."  That day, I exited the ride and burst into hysterical sobs, and my husband left me alone from thence forward - for the most part - about riding roller coasters with him ever again.  But, on this day, fast forward, I skip-read the billboards, noting with fascination my utter numbness to the task I somehow seemed to have chosen to do.  I'm not even sure I drove to Six Flags thinking I would ride a roller coaster.  Yet, here I was, snaking my way closer and closer to the front.

I thought I was calm.  I now see the fear in my eyes.

We rock-paper-scissored who would sit by whom, 2 to a car, three cars' full.  Sweet Matthew, my 16 year-old giant man-child cut from a cloth of athleticism, sarcastic humor, intelligence, fashion, and good looks got the short straw.  (He actually volunteered to go with me.  Did I mention he has a kind heart and a gentle, tender, and loving soft spot for his mom?)  Suddenly, we were next.  The silver bar jettisoned open, beckoning me to enter the cart.  I continued to marvel at the truest feeling of Numb I had ever encountered within my core.  Certainly that was a good sign.  I couldn't feel anything, so I must have emotionally matured over the last twenty years and would find myself wholly capable of riding - if not enjoying - this little side attraction with my family at Six Flags!  The metal bar collapsed tightly over my lap.  The coaster lurched forward.  I will be fine, I began to recite.  I will be fine.  I will be fine.  I will be

Screaming.  A guttural, piercing, shrill, terrifying sound came from the utter bowels of my center, my core.  I had no control of it.  I began to scream, and I continued screaming for the entirety of the ride.  Through every twist, turn, drop, and pull.  In my ear, my son calmly cajoled, "here comes a big hill..." and other soothing sounds including, "it's OK Mom.  This isn't for everyone."  By the time the coaster came barreling to a stop moments later (years, really), I sobbed uncontrollably in a squishy wet puddle of trauma and embarrassment on the oil, dirt, and probably COVID-encrusted textured floor of the coaster cart.  Matthew took my arm, lifted, and escorted me from the barn, out into the dark, man-made foggy mist of the night.  We shared ice cream, searched the boardwalks for games to play, and then we drove the family home.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

On Re-Beginning


I've always thought I didn't like my last blog post, the one dated 2/22/2016, the one I wrote before I just sort of gave up writing.  It felt choppy, unprofessional.  This morning, however, I reread it, and I see theme, sequence, relatability.  I see imperfection, but not...badness.  (I have always been my own worst critic.)  And for what reason did I "just sort of give up" writing?  Time.  Mostly time.  Criticism.  The world is full of it.  The thing about criticism is I've heard it all before.  In my own words in my own head, so I get to take that back.  I get to own that, and I get to hold those thoughts over here in my left had while in the right hand I hold the Truth that the greatest thing we can give others is our Story...and "[j]ust because someone has already said it doesn't mean you can't say it, too, [because] You saying it may be the first time someone finally hears it" (Emily P. Freeman).

From a "writer" perspective, I used to love to write short stories.  I won awards through school for my writing, was published in the local paper, and earned money for it.  My high school English teacher begged me to write the class graduation speech.  I wasn't chosen, but it was quite philisophical - about water and sand, how things change, and how things stay the same.  In college, I took a creative writing class.  I wrote a poem about a tiger I had photographed at the Kansas City Zoo, and the professor spoke of passion, conflict, and imagination in my narrative.  It made me laugh.  A classmate leaned over and suggested, "it was literally about a tiger.  Wasn't it?"  And we laughed out loud together.  But then, nothing.  My voice grew silent, and I didn't write for a decade, until the blog - where I wrote for almost a decade, and now it's been that long again.  (Or four years.  Apparently it's only been four years.)  But not being a writer, not allowing the words to stop growing swollen, sloppy, and stuck like fermenting nonsense at the bottom of my brain and instead rise up on wings like eagles and soar, float, and swivel on the air currents of Life ... is a paralysis that I shed.  I choose, right now, today, to acknowledge who I am.  I am a writer.  I will call myself a writer.  And I will write.  This is my re-beginning.  This is where the timeless sand and the water may change, but indeed one thing remains the same: I write.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Love: Week 6 Challenge

  • I love coffee laced with chocolate.
  • I love icee mochas - which are coffee laced with chocolate and blended with ice into perfection.
  • I love chocolate.  Like an extra large cut of moist rich chocolate cake topped with fudgy, creamy milk chocolate frosting kind of chocolate.  Otherwise?  Meh.
Chocolate covered strawberry cake on the table Valentine's morning

  • I love my husband.
My eyes are teary.  It had been a rough day.

  • I love my children.  And my mom.
  • I love my friends.  I am so blessed to have old and new friends.  There was a time when I stood in the back yard of our old house in tears because I felt so isolated and alone.  My husband put me to work digging something up in the yard because "Nothing beats sadness better than hard work," he said.  That year God brought me two friends from two mission trips that have been by my side through thick and thin since then.  And my two longest, dearest friends who remain so and can pick up right where we left off in spite of distance.  I tell my kids, you don't need lots of friends, you just need a few good friends.  I am lucky to have a few very good friends.
Me, my BRE, and Crazy Timi

Best Friends
  • I love the front of our house.  I drive up and think what a lucky girl I am that God allowed us to have this house.  I like the inside, but I don't love it yet.  There is still a lot of work to be done on the inside and it paralyzes me in the magnitude and the choices and the opportunities and the what ifs, and I just do nothing.  That, and there's never enough time.  John is great at making lists every weekend and working on those projects to completion.  Like the linen closet in the basement.  I pulled some sheets from the bottom of a box last weekend when my brother came to visit and the box and the closet exploded on me.  Yes, a box we had packed two years ago and moved to this house and shoved in the bottom of a basement closet exploded.  A size XL packing box from Storage USA.  I couldn't even push my entire body weight against the door to shove it closed to hide the explosion.  That kind of a blowout.  My sweet guy tore the closet apart and built new shelves for me yesterday afternoon.  All I have to do is place the sheets and blankets on the new shelves as soon as I get a few minutes.  I love that man.  Once, I made a list of things that would help me begin to love the inside of this house.   It included updating the pantry and the laundry room.  Both are done.  I'm still a little wishy washy about the inside of the house, though.  Weird, I know.  But I do love it.  Just not all the way.  We lived in our old house 17 years and built it from the ground up aesthetically.  I think I'm sentimental about it.  A lot sentimental about it.  I do love this neighborhood, though.  I love that the kids have friends across the street, and they are either all here or all over there all the time.  Even the adults go visiting, often with their 6-packs.  When Jerry's garage door is up, we all know the bar is open.  It's a cul-de-sac and the littles down the street are coming out more and soon they will be one big pack of kids.  Sara is rarely without a playmate between her own siblings, the next door neighbors' granddaughters and CeCe across the street.  Luckiest girl on the planet.  I can't keep snacks stocked.  In the summer, it's ice cream bars.  These kids can eat.  I love it (even though I complain about the grocery bill).
Snow on Valentine's Day
  • I don't love the back of our house nor the yard.  I really miss our old pool.  But I do love the land behind us.  Someday I fear it won't be there like it is today - it will be sold off into a subdivision with too many houses and not enough yard.  I would love to buy the tract right behind us when that time comes.  Or the whole thing.  We'll see.  In the meantime, I like the yard and I love watching the kids play there and there is plenty of space, so I really should love it.  It's OK.  :p

I love the view out my bedroom door,
that I have a bedroom door out to the back
and that to the left in this picture is a glowing fireplace.  In my bedroom.
And snow is falling.  Love.
  • I love studying the Bible.  I love Bible studies that help me understand the intricacies and the stories and give application to life in this season.  We are in the middle of a good one right now called Rooted written by Tim Wesemann, who is a friend of ours.  We're in the final stretches, and it has been interesting how this Bible study has been there for me in the middle of some difficult moments of processing life these last few weeks.  God is good like that.  Very good.
  • I love this cat that just climbed into my lap.  He may be my favorite of all time.  The dog I love but I kind of just "like" him because I hate it when he runs off.  Or gets skunked.  HE *loves* the neighbors' bird feedings.  He can be found there licking the ground at least twice a day.  They live four houses behind us.  Some day he won't come home.  I know for sure he will get skunked again, and that I hate.  I need to add peroxide to my grocery list.
  • I love the pictures my brother brought down last weekend.  I love that he came and that bonds were re-established and there is good and there is bad and there is family.  No matter what.
Me and my brother.  His hair is crazy.
These are his bunnies.  They were all albino after the first litter.
  • I love seasons.  I especially love snow.  And new flower blossoms.  And canon balls.  And dramatic foliage.  I kind of just love it all in its time.
  • I love spanish.  I love that my husband is taking me to Spain for our anniversary because I once told him I'm not the girl who gets to go to Spain.  He told me I am.  Our community ed spanish class we are taking this semester is kicking my butt.  I love it.
  • I love mornings when the house is quiet and the coffee is hot - or cold - and the day is ahead with opportunity and I haven't lost my patience or yelled at anyone yet.  Not even once.  I'm a great mom in the morning before everyone else wakes up.
Guess it's time to get everyone up.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Unfocused: Week 4

Wednesday.  We sit at the table with the pages of his planner filling the space between us.  "Did you talk to your teacher about your missing writing assignment?"  He answers, and the beginning of doubt pricks my heart and mind.  We continue to talk.  A sound becomes present in a corner of my hearing.  Crunch. Smack.  Slurp.  Munch.  My head snaps towards this cacophony while the once undetected burning ember of impatience ignites within me.  Before a thought crosses my mind, I react. "Chew with your mouth closed!" The unsuspecting recipient of my wrath looks up.  Suddenly my attention turns to this one, and my words are not chosen wisely.  My heart pounds, my temper flares, my focus scatters.

I breathe in awareness.  I breathe out apology.  Refocus.  Scouts.  "I'm going to make a list of calls you need to make tonight for merit badges.  How are you coming with snow sports?  Have you printed off the worksheet why haven't you printed it off let's find it do you remember who your merit badge counselor is let's write down a script of what you should say what do you mean you don't have his number," I fire in rapid succession.  His white flag is raised.

Focus.  Unfocused.

Writing this brings tears to my eyes.  There are a series of channels replaying in my mind.  Each a similar show.

Tuesday.  Started dark and quiet.  Alarm ringing.  Regret.  Snooze.  Alarm again.  I stumble down the stairs for coffee and hope for a moment of quiet reflection before chaos.  Chaos is not expected, however, as I leave for work before the kids are up.  Morning chaos is the dad's worry today.

Snowy roads.  Backed up traffic.  Work.  I leave for the orthodontist.  Late.  I pick up the oldest daughter.  We go to lunch.  Phone rings.  School warns detention for another.  This one coughs.  Now more phone calls, a doctor's appointment, asthma, medicine, after school, grab snacks, back to work with everyone in tow.  Late.  Tonight our family presents a talk on communication to top notch nursing students.  My badge is missing, the elevator opens and a brand new baby comes on, we exit because my bigs have big germs and this little needs to fight.  My hands shake, my heart pounds, not ready, I smile, we begin.  Everyone home.  Everyone shower.  Everyone bed.  I sit.

Focus.  Unfocused.

Webster defines the word unfocused as "not relating to or directed toward one specific thing (such as a particular goal or task)."

I argue internally.  You're unfocused.  I am focused.  On the calendar.  On the next presentation.  The next game.  The next assignment.  The next book.  The next class.  The next need.  The next unexpected.  Raising children.  To reach their potential.  To love their Father.  To have opportunity and respect that opportunity.  A job.  That stretches me but pulls me from those children at times, and other times brings us together.  On being a Proverbs 31 wife and rising to the task of being the wife God calls me to be.  Being a daughter.  Knowing what it means to be the daughter of a woman who raised me well and is independent and growing in age.

I am.  Focus.  Unfocused.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Week 3: Simplicity

Simplicity is beginning to mean back to basics.   Simplicity this week meant homemade chocolate chip cookies on a surprise snow day.

Sweet helpers in the kitchen

Everyone is willing to help EAT the cookies!
When the kids were younger and I stayed home full time, we baked a lot.  Back then we didn't eat a ton of sweets except for what I baked in my own kitchen.  Today, with everyone running hither and yon and kids making choices at school for lunch that include cookies and sugary snacks every day, we just don't have time nor caloric back space to fill with sweets at home.  On Wednesday, though, when I came home from work and most of the kids were out playing in the snow, I decided to grab cookie ingredients from the cabinet and throw together a batch of goodness like I did when the kids were smaller and times just seem to have been simpler.

It may sound small, but this act was a simple one of love, of tugging out memories that are fading so quickly from the brain spaces.  I am so grateful that this week we were able to slow down on a snowy day to enjoy an afternoon at home at a slow enough pace that we could enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes of this childhood treasure: warm chocolate chip cookies dunked in a glass of creamy cold milk.

Yum - oh.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Week 2: Interpret a Song - Breathe

My favorite song right now is Breathe by Jonny Diaz.  Every time it comes on the radio, Meiners says, "Mom!  The right song at the right time!" because really?  I need that song every moment of every day.  After the millionth moment of absolutely losing my marbles this week, I posted this in our kitchen:

"No Drama Momma" became my battle cry.  I have to admit - it helped.  Mostly.  I would guess my moments of complete and utter loss of control of my patience reduced by...maybe 10%?  Nah.  I kid.  Mostly.  

Way more like 12%.

Grandma and Grandpa came for pasta dinner and a sold out Beginning Violin concert!

Grammie enjoyed dinner and the concert, too!
Yikes.  Just breathe?  Baby?

Ouch.  Breathe. 
Xopenex helps her Breathe!

In addition to BREATHING and REMEMBERING that Jesus wins in the midst of the chaos of single-parenting while The Mister worked out of town with a winter concert this week and extra rehearsals, basketball practices, breakfasts and dinners and crazy school lunch spending, three different school starts, work, two hour bean bag snuggle conversations discussing painful childhood moments for one of my people, and additional doctor's visits because someone broke his arm, we also enjoyed an exorbitant amount of coughing that led to a stethoscope to a chest and every-four-hour breathing treatments.  Oh yeah.  Breathe.  And Just Be.  Because chaos calls and all I really need is for Him to blow air into my lungs (and into hers!) and to keep me moving and going and ultimately worshiping because truly, that is the only point.  He reigns.  He gives.  He wins.  It is good.  It is good to rest at God's feet, and to just be.  Take it in.  Fill your lungs with the peace of God that overcomes.  Lay down what's good and find what's best.  

Love this kid!

He is just the best!


Lyrics to Jonny Diaz's song Breathe:

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Want to make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
So let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

And the video:

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Week 1: Beginnings

2016 is upon us, and I am challenged by the beginning of a new year and a dear friend.  Let's get started!

I do try to keep the kids' activities to only one apiece, but this year I threw all restraint to the wind.  The kids are doing more than ever, and so are The Mister and I.  First up, ice skating lessons.

The kids' big brothers and big sisters invited them to ice skate in December.  The idea is a great one in theory, but only Sashi has ice skated before.  With the fear of Pookie falling and the awareness of how sore my back was after helping only Sashi skate with Girl Scouts last year, I knew having them go with the med school kids would be disastrous.  Insert ice skating lessons as an experience gift for Christmas.  Great idea!  Only The Mister didn't think so.  He was convinced someone would get hurt.  "But the first thing they'll learn is how to fall safely!  What could go wrong?!" I questioned repeatedly.  

First Ice Skating Lesson Day came on Friday.  All the kids were excited!  A few of them eagerly awaited the start of class so impatiently that they insisted on going out on the ice before lessons began.  Initially, I firmly said, "No!" but my resolve abated and out they went.  Except the oldest.  He said he would stay put.  My absent-minded-because-I-was-intensely-preoccupied-with-worry-about-the-three-already-on-the-ice response of "Do whatever you want T" came across as a taunt, so out he went.  He made it to the middle and back - I was thrilled!  When he shuffled out one more time, however, he took a tumble while I wasn't looking, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Arm broken, skating lessons, snowboarding lessons, and basketball on hold.  (I said I had thrown our cautious schedule to the wind, right?  Maybe this is God's way of saying I really should slow down.  Maybe.)

Another first and new beginning is CYC basketball for Meiners.  He played with Upward for five years but looked for a more competitive league this year.  Unfortunately for my little athlete, he didn't make the Junior High team :( :( :( so he decided to try the catholic league.  It hasn't been without bumps in the road - boys who have played together themselves for years found it difficult to welcome a new boy, but his second game was this weekend.  They didn't win, but last year his team was Division III and they won the league, so they were moved up to Division I.  Then, the team they played yesterday was the team who won the entire championship last year.  Great competition for Meiners to improve upon!  He came off the court red faced and sweaty, having loved every minute of it!  Seems it will work out just fine.

Other beginnings include new books for Sashi.  At Barnes and Noble this week, she chose the newest American Girl book.  She was thrilled to discover Lea is from St. Louis!  I love that the St. Louis heroine is traveling to Brazil and will be studying animals.  Little S thinks for now that she herself will be either a vet or a teacher.  We also bought her a pristine, new Kumon book to practice her multiplication.  That particular book thrills her far less.  I'll take the good with the bad.  ;)

For me, the end of my quiet, leisurely mornings by the tree before dawn, sipping on toasty chocolate-laced coffee and immersing myself in bible study, listening to the newest Amy Grant Christmas CD or simply reading for pleasure has come.  Instead, 5AM workouts have begun again.  6AM kid wake up calls have returned.  Slurping cold coffee between trips to school and hopping in the shower at the last minute before running to work has become my new normal again.  I've contemplated words for the year and resolutions, loosely landing on "Joy" and "Prayer," neither finding itself on a necklace or refrigerator magnet.  Resolutions are more contemplations in my mind than decisions, yet this one - this 52 week challenge - came at the right time.  A good time to begin photos and writing, connecting and catching up.

Here's to Happy Beginnings in 2016!
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