December 2012

My Girl

by Priscilla on December 27, 2012

(Dear readers, I feel I must apologize because this is far from the best writing I could do for my dog, but while I want to write while my feelings are fresh, it’s just too hard to give it my all.  I hope this feeble attempt paints a sweet picture for you.)

Mama’s a lab, but there’s been a shepherd hangin’ round here lately. These words spoken in a Tennessee drawl by a harried, brunette woman looking to unload a mess of puppies are what I remember from the day my husband decided we needed to get  a Free to Good Home  dog. The ad he read ran in  the July 5, 1999 edition of the Leaf Chronicle, Clarksville, Tennessee’s, daily paper, exactly one day after our dog Scout, a six month old Great Pyrenees, was killed in a freak accident.

This one says free lab puppies, he explained. I think we should at least go look?  Don’t you?

No, I didn’t think we should at least go look.  In fact, going and looking was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to stay in bed and cry over Scout, but Mr. TIS was adamant so I crawled into the cab of our large white Chevy truck and drove the 25 minutes down to Exit 11 off of I-24 in Clarksville.  We wound around a working class neighborhood with its white framed homes and green indoor outdoor carpeted stoops leading up to front doors decorated with Americana wreaths.  Reading the numbers on mailboxes, we finally found the house that matched the ad, parked the truck and walked around to the back yard where a harried, brunette woman greeted us and showed us to a dog run filled with a  few lab/shepherd/along with a few other indiscernible  breed  mixed puppies.  Well, she greeted my husband. I held back and watched. I didn’t care for what I saw – large brown and black, short haired gangly, mangy puppies with enormous paws and floppy ears tripping over each other and dripping snot all over everything. The dog my husband buried one day earlier on July 4 was large and white and fluffy. In a word she was beautiful.  In another word these puppies weren’t.

What if we got two?  You know, so they could be playmates?  my husband pleaded with me.

I can only take one ugly dog.  I’m not taking home  two.  I whispered… hard.

Excited, my husband loaded up his new puppy into the truck.

His girl.

Indy.

Short for Independence Day in honor of the dog we’d just lost.

His. Girl.

Only she wasn’t.

I don’t remember when ugly, mangy, mutt became My. Girl.  But she did.

Maybe it was when Mr. TIS returned from a six week field training exercise and discovered our new sleeping arrangement included a dog at the end of the bed.

Or maybe it was one of the many times Indy let herself out of the back gate and ran like the wind the mile down to the end of our dead end street, and I’d have to retrieve her in my little gold Taurus sedan.  She’d see me coming, stop, wait for my arrival and jump in the front seat with me when I opened the passenger door as if nothing had happened, and I was just picking her up after track practice.

Maybe it was when I returned home one snowy Christmas Eve from the hospital after learning I’d lost my first baby.  Mr. TIS was away somewhere in a desert. My  closest family member was six hours by car, but a  90 pound mutt lay on the floor next to me for the two days I just couldn’t get off the couch,  instinctively knowing that the lady who fed her and walked her and yelled at her for stealing snacks off the counter shouldn’t be alone just now.

From Kentucky to Michigan to Indiana, Indy was My Girl.  She saw me through a miserable pregnancy  and greeted twin babies into our home with all the love and devotion a Free To Good Home dog has to offer.  She sneaked her way out of various front doors and back gates and ran through a multitude of neighborhoods only to stop, stare and come running back when she saw me following in the car.  If I came just walking, forget about it – she kept running, but if I arrived via car, well, that was another matter entirely.  Car rides were heaven. The Taurus became a Trailblazer became a Highlander.  She loved them all.

pris and indy

It wasn’t all roses. She’d aggravated me like when she ate an entire bag of almonds and left her trail tears all over the house for the next 24 hours. I’d aggravate her, missing daily walks after being just too tired to haul out the double stroller and load up the babies.

Indy and I spent countless hours together rising early to the sound of crying babies and staying up late together watching movies and eating popcorn, and repeating this pattern day after day after day, until one day the girls went off to school.  She’d greet me at the door after morning school drop off,  dancing around in delight that maybe now after years and years of waiting and having to be satisfied with chasing a tennis ball around the back yard, she and I could get back to our walks.  Just the two of us.

indy at meal time

(We have a million of these kinds of pictures from when the girls were little.  Indy’s head in each frame ready for any scraps coming her way.) 

Christmas night 2012, the girls and I pulled into our driveway after spending a few hours with family, and Indy’s big nose was not in its normal place poking through the curtains of the front window watching for us. As I unlocked the back door, she wobbled into the kitchen looking shaken and disoriented…and I knew. I knew that 13 and a half years after unwillingly agreeing to take this Free to Good Home gangly, oversized mutt who’d stolen my heart, it was time to release her from her misery.  My daughters and I got our sleeping bags and comforters and bedded down with her on the kitchen floor crying and laughing over all the memories.  We took turns stroking her heard and whispering into her ears. I’d wake up every hour and check her breathing and her pulse. Steady.  Just like her.

The snow came later the next morning. It blanketed a new grave out by our fence overlooking an area where runners and bikers trek …where Indy loved to stand, floppy ears erect watching all that motion. She loved the snow. She loved to run in it and throw it up in the air with her nose and eat it.

Earlier, thanks to a phone call from my out- of- country husband who knew I just couldn’t dial the number to the animal clinic, we’d managed to transport her  to the vet, where a kind assistant came out to the car, loved on Indy, talked to my teary twins about what love is when it comes to the end, told me to hold Indy’s head and inserted the syringe that would end her suffering.

13 and a half years ago there was a woman who wanted nothing to do with a mangy mutt.

My Girl changed all that.

indy on fence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 10 comments }

#26 Acts

by Priscilla on December 21, 2012

The idea was simple that Ann Curry, whom I follow on Twitter, threw out to all her followers – what if we did 26 random acts of kindness for the kids and teachers of Sandy Hook?

The responses started pouring in, and I,  being a weepy weepy soul, haven’t stopped crying over them so I just need to not look at my Twitter feed for a while, but I’d like to share some with you if I may:

hugging a crying lady in the ICU and gave her my number and told her she was not alone….

Gave a soldier at the airport a $10 Applebees gift card….

Paid off  lay away gifts at K Mart for two families with children. Cashier and I both cried….

Adopted 2 Veterans at Veterans Home for Christmas and brought them gifts….

Bought party dress, coat and boots for 11 year old daughter of a parapalegic mom on SSI.

Proudly walked a blind man home with his groceries….

Exchanged pleasantries with a SA bell ringer.  He mentioned he was hungry.  My son bought him a sandwich.

My friend paid an elderly couple’s utility bill…

(my favorite so far) Finally did what I’ve been talking about forever and started the paperwork to become a foster parent…

Sometimes the greatest gift is to listen.  I stopped and listened to a stranger’s sad story tonight.  He thanked me….

It was small but I brushed the snow off of my neighbor’s cars and shoveled their sidewalks….

Just called Newtown’s florist and paid some bills for floral arrangements for Newtown’s families….

Bought white tulips for the lady in the parking lot who was rude to the cashier. She cried and hugged me and told me her mom just died.

And on. And on. And on.  People donating to fund surgeries for children in India. Kids writing soldiers. Strangers paying for the food and coffee for the next in line.

Last night the girls and I took cookies and coffee to the fire station around the corner. On Tuesday night after reading of this idea I sat in the middle of a swim team parent meeting while several disgruntled parents were complaining about the lack of a head coach since ours quit mid season, and their kids aren’t  getting better because of it, and blah, blah, blah, and I thought of Sandy Hook and the parents who don’t have kids on teams to complain about anymore, and I slapped my hands down hard on the table and interrupted,  I will come in. I will come in whenever and work on stroke development because these kids need some help.  So starting last night, I found myself in Lane 1 with five new swimmers showing them the do’s and don’ts of the breastroke kick and turn.  (You swimmers know that breast stroke can be a killer for new swimmers and can lead to a lot of tears after a disqualification for scissor kick at a meet.)  And you know what? I had more fun, and I heard stuff like, Wow, Priscilla, you are good!  Do you know what it does to a 41 year old saggy, jiggly dimply woman in a bathing suit to hear the words, Wow, you are good.

Turns out, James Mattioli and Daniel Barden, two sweet victims, loved to swim, so every Monday and Thursday night when I jump into the pool, I’ll send up a prayer for their families and friends, and thank God I have the ability to jump into a pool full of young swimmers who think I’m good.

Please consider joining in will you? Comment here or on the FB link about what you are doing.  At first I didn’t want to say anything b/c I believe being good is its own reward, but the great thing about all of this sharing is that people are sharing ideas – not bragging.  I’ve gotten more ideas just by reading what others have done.

If you are on Twitter, follow Ann Curry or the hashtag #26Acts. Here’s the story of how it all started.

Love. Wins.

(By the way, I’m not real big on the whole Twitter thing yet, but this kind of thing keeps me on it.)

{ 2 comments }

Shiny Happy People Update

by Priscilla on December 19, 2012

I’m so glad I have friends who send me pictures like this…

shiny happy six people

My friend, Tammy, who clearly takes pictures while she’s driving so stay away from her on the road,  opined that maybe these people use their shiny happy people stickers as a safety function.  She surmises, We have six kids. We have no money. Don’t bother breaking in. (Also, Go Colts!)  Tammy might be onto something here.  I may have to rethink my shiny happy people stance.  Tammy also thinks it would be fun to start adding these to school buses.

A few minutes later, I got this FB message from my former neighbor, Nikki, who, by the way is hands down, the best dog sitter ever.

zombie family sticker

Like Nikki, I’m not a zombie fan, but this made me giggle. Kudos to zombie mom on keeping all her curves in all the right places after popping out three kids.

Have a great day everyone!

 

{ 0 comments }

Goat in a Car and Swiss Mister in a Tree

by Priscilla on December 18, 2012

So I get this photo from Mr. TIS the other day…

goat in car 3

 

Mr. TIS has traveled all over and seen lots of things I haven’t.  In the past two months my life travels have taken me from school to the orthodontist to swim practice to the grocery store and back home. All these activities are within about a four mile radius so this greatly cuts down on the probability that I will encounter any farm animals in cars.  Here is Mr. TIS’s explanation:

That was for the holiday of Bajram here – Eid El Adha as the Arabs call it.  Anyway, it’s the one that celebrates Abraham and Issac (or Ismail as the Muslims teach it) and the whole providing of the ram.  This is how this family transported their feast purchase.  A lot of families will buy it live and do the killing and share with those less fortunate.  It’s a lot of family, neighbor type stuff like our Thanksgiving.  Anyway, I was flying out this day, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this.  That’s a Jetta by the way..

I’m glad he cleared up the fact that this is a Jetta.  I don’t know about you, but when I saw this, the first thing that popped into my mind was, “What kind of car is that?”

Not to be outdone, he sent me this one a few days later….

20121214_160218

That nice man dangling from a crane and giving us the thumbs up sign is a member of the Swiss military.  Now don’t quote me here, but according to this picture I think those delightful neutral Swiss folks who bring us the cheese I don’t care for, decorate their giant Christmas trees with real live people. What a great tradition!  Kind of puts the whole Elf on the Shelf crowd  to shame I think.

Well, readers, that’s my cultural update for the day.

{ 3 comments }

Prayer and Pretzels

by Priscilla on December 17, 2012

This morning’s church service included a time of corporate prayer as our congregation bowed, some on bended knee, for a time of soul searching before a holy God. Like I child, I slid off my chair, got to my knees and turned and lay my head down on the seat and cried and held my girls.

I asked God to forgive me of a life filled with “me” moments instead of “us” moments.  “Us,” my family.  “Us,” my community.

I asked God to remind me to pray for my children and for all children more than I do, and to find those prayer moments anywhere they were made available.

I’d promised the girls we’d make pretzels this afternoon.  This might not seem like a big deal, but I’m not a “share the moments” kind of mom.  That’s what Grandma is for.  I’m not proud of this fact, mind you.  I’m the “here just let me do it for you because the kitchen is kind of small and we will make a huge mess with all this flour,” kind of mom.  I wish for my kids sake and for my sake I were “that” mom.

While kneading the pretzel dough, God showed up in my thoughts, and I started to pray.  Funny how that happens when you ask God to help show you when and where to pray.

Up to my elbows in flour and baking soda and yeast and water, I prayed that God would always provide for my girls physical and spiritual needs.  I prayed that just like kneading dough is quite dull but necessary, that He would grant them perseverance in life’s endeavors even the small, seemingly simple ones. I prayed that they would be the kind of girls that would see the needs of others and provide for them whether through charity or job creation.  I prayed that God would bless then and that they grow to be strong, leading women whose work can change the lives of other families for generations to come.  I prayed they would be brave and courageous when the time comes just like the teachers we are hearing about on the news.

And then the kneading was done. What a beautiful mundane moment. Prayer and Pretzels.  Go figure.

Then we had some fun.

Twin B

IMG_0617

Twin A

IMG_0619

Creepy She Elf Dolls who showed up to scam the finished product. (Admit it, you’ve missed these gals!)

IMG_0621

 

Finished product (The Pioneer Woman can rest easy on this.  Her job is so safe.) Seeing that I’m not especially crafty or bakey, I was pretty darn pleased with our attempt.  Very yummy too.

IMG_0623

 

I wish you all a blessed week. Listen and look for  those small prayer moments and rest in them.

{ 3 comments }

Sometimes no words are the best words.

by Priscilla on December 15, 2012

Ecclesiastes 3:7 b A time to be silent and a time to speak….

In light of yesterday’s national tragedy, I’m choosing to be silent.

{ 0 comments }

The Little Shoppe of Horrors

by Priscilla on December 14, 2012

My BFF’s super smarty husband who jets around the world to give talks about sciencey things sent me this. (How is it that I always find myself surrounded by super sciencey people, and yet I cannot grow a stupid salt crystal for a 3rd grade science fair.) I do not know at what airport this is, but I cannot believe TSA has not shut it down.  WMDs right out there in plain sight (and I’m not talking about the pointy bras – titter, titter – oh, my, I just realized how loaded that word is on this one.) and no one says a darn thing. Nothing says Honey, I’m home, and look at what I brought you!  like a big ass body shaper.  (Dear lone man walking past, they aren’t real.  Keep moving.)

 

 

 

{ 4 comments }

Spencerville by Nelson DeMille

by Priscilla on December 12, 2012

I used one of my monthly Audible.com credits for this, and I’m so glad they have a “if you don’t like it, you can exchange it program.”

I like Demille.  I’ve read his other stuff and enjoyed the suspense and pace and strong characters, but this one completely bored me, and quite frankly I was surprised by how bad it was.  I kept wanting it to get better, but instead it was like listening to Guiding Light or Days of Our Lives on end.

High school sweethearts Keith Landry and Annie Prentis reunite in their hometown of Spencerville, OH after years of separation.  He’s been gone 25 years with the military and government work.  She returned home after college and married Cliff Baxter, who is now the town police chief and Grade A jackass, physically and mentally abusing Annie and tormenting townspeople.  Enter – dum, dum, dum, DAH – Keith Landry.  Mr. Here I Am To Save the Day.

As a woman I was completely baffled by how someone as educated and well traveled as Annie would return home to marry this neanderthal, Baxter,  and as a reader, I was offended by the predictability and juvenility (is that a word?) of the conversations between all the characters who are all in their mid 40’s.  Lots of John/Marsha! John/Marsha! types scenes and, of course, the Jack Ass Police Chief is bound and determined to ruin this love affair brewing under his watch.

Someone has to die.

Cue….dum-dum- DUM background noise.

I got through half of part 2 of the three parts.  I really gave it the old college try, but in the end, life’s too short to finish books that bore me. Sent it back.

Next!

{ 2 comments }

For Elizabeth

by Priscilla on December 12, 2012

This past Sunday I slipped in late, into the very last row of the large auditorium of my Methodist church.  Not the last row among rows – the row placed against the back wall for ushers and people with disabilities to easily maneuver around. It’s the season of Advent so church is more filled than normal. We’d missed the previous week due to strep throat, and the three of us could feel it – that hole.  My girls are very in touch with their spiritual nature.  I can’t explain it.  It’s not something one can teach.  It’s innate. They truly love church and miss is when we are not there, and their mother misses it as well.  The older I get the more I realize I need my church community.  My mind and my heart remind me that I am a small piece in a very large puzzle that I believe God is putting together, and when I am not among my people, I don’t care much about the puzzle.  Only my piece.  And when I run off with my own piece, nothing much gets accomplished except I end up feeling worse about myself and everyone around me. My piece needs to be in church. Period.

Two Advent candles burned on the altar up front– one for hope one for peace.

The pastor spoke to us about a special service on December 21 – The Longest Night Service.  This is a service for those among us who have suffered loss, and for whom the holiday season is not merry and bright. For many it’s a reminder of a great suffering – the loss of a child, a parent, a spouse, a marriage, a job…hope.  Tis the season of the loss of hope for so many in this world. Our pastor reminded us of this truth and encouraged us to come together for a time of prayer and peace on this night if we so desired.

When he finished this announcement,  I felt my phone vibrate. Embarrassed, I thought I’d turned it off and went digging for it, and then recognized the number of a childhood friend who lived three hours away. I turned the phone off and placed it back in my purse. I thought it was funny that she’d call me now.  She usually just texts me unless she has a funny story that needs to be shared via real live voice. She knew I’d be in church.  In my gut I knew something was very wrong, and I knew it had to do with someone from our childhood school.

I may from time to time share stories from my Christian school experience. I was definitely a square peg in that round hole, and it seemed I was in a class filled with girls exactly like me. We longed to be good, but we also were ruled by curiosity and yearned to be wild and free, and sometimes, I think those adults around us just didn’t know what to do us.  So they did what a lot of adults do – they tried to hem us in to protect us from ourselves.  It rarely worked, but I really believe with all my heart that most of them had only the best intentions towards us. We were just a force of nature.

One thing I will always be thankful to our parents and teachers for is the gift of friendship they gave us as children.  When you attend K-12 with the same 18-30 people – our class was that small depending on the year – you become family.  You love like family.  You fight like family.  You argue and make up and retreat and return like family.  It could get ugly at times, but always there was love.  I always loved my classmates.  I wasn’t always the best friend, sometimes I feel wretched for the way I would behave towards others, but underneath my insecure childhood and teenage self was a huge well of love longing to fill up and overflow every one of my classmates.

After his sermon our pastor prayed this blessing over us, Now go and live an imperfect week preparing for an imperfect Christmas.  I sat thankful for the gift he’d just bestowed.  I felt like he saw right back to the back row to the beleaguered mother sitting between two young girls who by this time put their heads in my lap for me to stroke their long, dark hair.

Then I remembered the phone call, and I looked again at my phone.  There was a text.

It was simple.

Elizabeth took her life.

The mind does funny things when hit with such jolting information.  I learned this a few years ago when a friend called me at 4:30 in the morning and said, Priscilla, there was a fire.  Brian is the only one who survived.  My dear friend and her two beautiful children perished, and my mind went to Oh, no, I was supposed to get some canned vegetables from her.  I’ve never forgotten that bizarre reaction.  Reality didn’t hit until hours later.  The same thing happened this time. I really don’t remember the rest of the morning.  I got the girls to their class and went on to mine, but I’m having a hard time remembering the faces or lessons going on about me. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism.

I hadn’t seen Elizabeth since graduation I don’t suppose, but it doesn’t make the grief any less. We were together for probably 12-13 years.  Childhood.  Teenage years.  The times you don’t forget.

Elizabeth was tall and beautiful with ivory skin and dark hair.  I don’t mean beautiful as in Cover Girl.  I mean beautiful as in Rembrandt or Degas.  She was witty and artistic.  As we got older she grew distant, but she was still always funny – one liners popping up when you’d least expect it in Mrs. Lenig’s English class or Mr. Hill’s science lab.  I don’t know if it was intentional or if we louder, more riotous ones unwittingly drowned her out, and she just gave up and moved to the sidelines to watch. We could all be a bit much some times.

Elizabeth married and moved away and lived her own life like so many of us did, and I lost touch with her…until this text.

I don’t know what happened in all those lost years, but somewhere along the way, Elizabeth lost hope.  This is just so hard to write because to use the words of another friend, I want to cry out Oh, Elizabeth, one more day.  There’s always one more day. Hang on, Elizabeth.  Hang on.

But for some reason she couldn’t.  And she didn’t.

I don’t know what it’s like to get so such a lonely, sad, hopeless place.  I do know what it’s like to be so depressed that medication and counseling and a lot of love from friends is needed just to crawl out of bed in the morning.  Thinking about that time still scares me.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Elizabeth.  It breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart for her husband.  It breaks my heart for her children.  It breaks my heart for her brother. It breaks my heart for her father.  It breaks my heart for her mother.  Oh, how it breaks my heart for her mother.

There is nothing I can do for Elizabeth, now.  Not one thing.  I do believe she is finally at peace.  This thought comforts me.

But maybe I can do something for just one person who reads this who is right now living The Longest Night.  Your mind whispers,  There is no hope.  Your heart murmurs, There is no peace. You somehow believe that you cannot go on.  Will you please hear my cry – the cry we all would have shouted from the mountaintops had we known the depths of sorrow Elizabeth felt?  You are beautifully and wonderfully made.  You are a creation worth beholding. There is a purpose and a design and a plan for your life, and it is good.  It. Is. Good.

 I love what one of my friend’s tells young girls: When God looks at you, you take his breath away.

You take God’s breath away.

There are people who want to hear your story.  There a professionals who can guide you to help.  There are clergy who can hold you up when you have no strength to stand.  There are friends and classmates and parents and siblings.   There are coworkers and teachers and coaches.

You are not alone.

You have worth.

All is not lost.

Do you know what happens at 12:01 a.m.,  December 22 – the day after The Longest Night?  Daylight grows.  It grows, and it grows, and it grows.  It’s not hasty.  It’s not obvious. But it is there, and it is emerging… and it breaks through the darkness.

Reach for the daylight, and hold on.  Hold on with everything you have.

{ 0 comments }

Spanx 1 TIS 0 The Grand Finale

by Priscilla on December 10, 2012

Warning – this is way over 1000 words, but I had to get the story finished as more things have happened in my life since then about which I must write as well.

Good morning, readers, and Happy Monday to you! Before I start, I want to give a big shout out all the nurses and staff at Edgewater Woods Nursing Home, in Anderson, Indiana.  My friend – the one who broke a boy’s arm while refusing to stop for his body lying in the middle of the road – informed me that as your boss, she prints off my blog and forces you all to listen to her read you my tales during your morning meetings.  First of all, I’m sorry.  I never meant to be a part of anyone’s power grabbing torture techniques in order to squeeze out more worker productivity.  Secondly, maybe I can write some kind of reader’s theater for you. My friend is also quite the actress, and I think she’d love directing a performance or two.  I’m sure the patients would get a kick out of it.

 But in all seriousness, thank you for the work you do caring for those in our society who can’t care for themselves.  I consider it a great honor if I can brighten one small part of your day as your work is what I consider one of the highest callings there is. Much love and gratitude to all you.  

 And now, back to our program.

 Our little sextet (that means six people for those of you out there titter-tittering thinking I’m getting ready to talk about camping)  entered the beautiful Lerner Theater and stood in line to claim our will-call tickets. I need you to understand how lovely this place is so you can get the correct backdrop of my wrestling activities.  (Or wrastlin’ as my friends south of the Mason Dixon might say.)  Before we moved here, it was in  great disrepair, and the community, believing it to be something special worth saving, banded together and poured a lot of time and energy and money and love into it, and now it stands impressively as beautiful as any theater I’ve been to in Chicago or New York. Gorgeous beaded woodwork and wall coverings.  Ornate ceiling designs. Magnificent chandeliers.  Even the bathrooms are beautiful with marble and tile interchanged throughout the floors and counters.

The trouble came when we found our seats up in the first row of the balcony – the perfect spot for little girls to hang over and announce what classmate they just saw down on the first floor or notice someone eating snacks and asking three times where the concession stand is and when are we going. 

The minute I sat down,  the top band of my enormous stomach shaper folded over and cut into my ribs. I tried to discreetly put my hand up my shirt, under my cami and shove it back up into place all while nodding to my sister-in-law who was telling me about the world famous scientist she just noticed sitting a few rows behind us.  Ladies, and gentleman, you may not know her name, but if you or anyone you know suffers from diabetes and have used test strips, you can thank Helen Free, a leading researcher and brilliant woman who with her husband were pioneers in the area of glucose analysis.  Mrs. Free is the inventor of the home diabetes testing test. You can watch a short movie about her here or read a little about her here . She really is quite an amazing woman.  Here she is getting an award from President Obama in 2010:

 (My super smart brother, Dan, had the privilege of meeting her a few years ago as he continues her research in the same field.  Kind of cool.) 

I believe she was able to do all this wonderful, literally life saving work, because she had the good sense not to ever put on a stupid piece of shapewear.  Mrs. Free had all the oxygen flowing to her brain so she was and still is firing on all cylinders, unlike the hapless housewife 10 rows down from her pulling her children back off the precipice of death.  

Knowing that such an accomplished woman was sitting mere yards away only exacerbated my misery because here is where my mind goes in these situations:

Wow, what an amazing woman. Look at what she has accomplished, and she was married and had kids even, and this was back way before anyone burned a bra.  I tell you what, I’d like to burn a bra or two right now.  Only I can’t because I’m wearing three layers of flame retardant shapers, and I couldn’t get to my bra if I had to.  How did this happen?  How is Helen Free up there all smart and chippy at age 89 while I am reduced to publicly manhandling myself at age 41? What is wrong with me? I bet I could have been a world famous chemist too if I hadn’t almost burned down the high school with my Bunsen burner.  I tell you what, you turn your head one minute to tell your friend that you think you like someone, but you don’t know if you like him-like him, and the next thing you know the chemistry  teacher is spraying you and your lab partner with an fire extinguisher.

The lights dimmed and in a few minutes drunken Santa appeared onstage.  You remember the drunken Santa from Miracle on 34th Street?  I’ve never in my life been jealous of a drunken Santa, but the moment the spotlight shone on him, I grew green with envy.  There he was.  All large and roly poly.  Not a shred of guilt about his jiggly belly. On top of that, his Santa suit was undone in some place that allowed him a little more breathing room.  He was publicly drunk and half dressed, and the audience was laughing and clapping.  Meanwhile, I sat miserable with  every jot and tittle of my body pressing into my internal organs and for what?

For an instant I had the idea of just unzipping and unbuttoning my costume and saying to heck with it, maybe everyone will just laugh at me.  Then I remembered Mrs. Free, the world famous scientist who met President Obama was sitting a few rows behind me, and my better sense prevailed.

I don’t remember much about the first half of the musical except that everyone in the cast except for Santa was younger and thinner than I, and no one seemed to be wearing shapewear under his or her costumes.  

Then came intermission.

I found my way to the second floor bathroom because even though I had thoroughly dehydrated myself in anticipation of the night’s events and what I was wearing, I still needed to avail myself of the facilities. Luckily, the only ones in this rest room were my kids.  They kept coming in reporting: Mom, you need to see this painting.  Mom, have you seen the Crystal Ballroom?  Mom, this chandelier out here is fantastic. Meanwhile their  mother was in the wrestling match of her life and was wondering if she needed to call Mrs. Free in and ask her to adopt Twins A and B in the case of her death.

A few minutes earlier I had started up at my breast bone and shoved at least six pieces of clothing all the way down to the floor in one fell swoop.

No problem.

 I don’t know what happened then, but when I wasn’t paying attention, those garments started playing Duck, Duck Goose  with one other around my ankles because when I went to pull everything up, their orders had all gotten confused  and shifted and in one case reversed,  and somehow, and I still don’t know how, my hose and shapewear were up under my breasts while my panties were straddling my thighs.

I’m not sure about a lot of things, but I’m pretty sure world famous scientist, Helen Free, has never found herself in this position. I’m also pretty sure she’s never yelled,  If you want to live to see Act II you will never come in here again with one of your little architectural announcements, do you understand me?  at her kids racing in and out of the bathroom while standing half naked,  leaning against a bathroom stall wall in an effort to steady herself while trying to untangle the mess she’d made with her undergarments.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind a Pilates move popped up, and I remembered something with a name like Cracking Dawn pose and I tried it.  I bent over reaching through the leg holes of both my panty hose and my shaper.  My head was against the door and my feet were sliding all over because FYI kicky boots have no traction on the bottom of them.  I fumbled around and felt for my panties, grabbed them and yanked them up to their proper position, put the waistline of my hose back around the waistline of my body or at least somewhere in the vicinity of it.  At this point I wasn’t too picky. And with the little energy I had left,  hoisted that stupid stomach shaper back up over my abdomen and rib cage.  Thank heavens the toilets flushed automatically, because I had no strength left to hit the flush lever.

I flung the stall door wide open like a crazed woman finally freed from the clutches of a Edgar Allen Poe scene, and stumbled to the sink where I washed my hands and looked at my unruly mop of hair – a reminder of all the thrashing that transpired moments earlier. Actually, that’s not true.  My hair is always an unruly mop no matter what situation in which I find myself, but for effect, I had to put that in.  I emerged from the bathroom and made a beeline for the drinking fountain, where I drank at least a liter of water completely parched from all the calisthenics I’d performed in the past five minutes. I straightened my skirt, patted down my blouse and marched back into the auditorium right past Mrs. Free with my head held high and my stomach shoved squarely back in my tailbone where it belonged.

The rest is a blur. Santa goes to court for saying he’s Santa.  A few soft shoe/tap numbers  remind the judge of his childhood Christmas experiences with Santa, and then Colombo puts the kid from the Wonder Years back to bed.  That’s not right.  I’m getting  Miracle mixed up with Princess Bride. I’m noticing my story telling abilities have been a bit off kilter ever since my oxygen deprivation experience.  No wonder the girls looked at me funny last night when I began Charlotte’s Web with It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

I don’t know if there is a lesson to be learned here.  Well, there is for me I guess.  1.) I learned about Helen Free and her enormous contribution to our country and the world. 2.) Ever since that experience, I’ve been hitting my workouts harder than normal.  I might need double knee replacements in a few years from excessive running, but that sure beats losing a wrestling match to Spanx in a public bathroom any day.

{ 4 comments }