Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 06/29/2016

Slow down…..beep beep

My last blog gave an overview of the Dickinson family’s automotive shortcomings.  This is an addendum to that post.

Wood and I drove to Lincoln, Nebraska early last week to visit our son, Andrew, who is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska.  On the way home, I had a one-on-one, up close and personal conversation with a State Trooper.

Flashing lights in my rearview mirror…..the inevitable crunching of tires on the highway’s shoulder….

STATE TROOPER:  “Where you headed?”

ME:  “To Lincoln.  To visit our son.”  (At this point, I am thinking that the June Cleaver approach might play well….hands-on mother, dying to get to Lincoln to see her sixth born…)

STATE TROOPER:  Big smile, as he asks, “No felonies or warrants, right?”

ME:  “Oh no.  You won’t have to worry about using your handcuffs….”  I am trying to match him laugh for laugh….thinking that this just might wind up, with any luck at all, with a warning…

State Trooper takes my license and registration and proof of insurance………

WAITING….WAITING….WAITING

STATE TROOPER:  Returns to car with my license and an insurance card that isn’t, unbelievably, expired and says, “Hey, you were right.  No felonies!”

ME:  “Well, they’d have a hard time catching me anyway.”

STATE TROOPER:  Big belly laugh..”Yeah, you could probably outrun us.”

And thud. He handed me a speeding ticket.

Lesson learned?  Realistically, probably not.

But I love a good, funny interaction with law enforcement.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 06/24/2016

Zoom zoom

109355180Okay. I’ll just put this out there. Collectively, the Dickinson’s are not very good drivers.

Don’t judge.

Fortunately, all of the car stories can be retold with an element of laughter. None of the car mishaps involved injury to other drivers, eighteen-wheelers or flipped-over vehicles. Nothing smacking of drama. No red and blue flashing lights. No screeching of sirens. No police leaning in the driver’s side window. No forgotten infant car seats on the roof. No one having any field sobriety issues.

Three days before Mother’s Day (hold on….the significance of that particular Hallmark holiday? I’m getting to that.) Kid #1 backing his car out of the garage. Kid #2 leaning out the kitchen door, yelling something. Kid #1 slows down a bit, opens his driver’s side door, continuing his exit from the garage, leaning out of the car in an effort to hear what his sister is yelling. This is what you call ill-advised multi-tasking. Kid # 1 is able to accomplish two, no three things — continue ever so slowly toward his destination, try to hear what his sister is screaming about and um, tear the door off the car with the side of the garage. And what was all the ruckus about from Kid # 2? “SIGN THIS MOTHER’S DAY CARD”. Yeah. I guess the silver lining is that Kid # 1 could, if he was so inclined, could now sit in the driver’s seat and pretend he is in a jeep.

First day of solo driving for another kid. Hands on the steering wheel at ten and two o’clock. Seatbelt on. Rear view mirror adjusted. Ditto the outside mirrors. Not sure if she kicked the tires or not. Drives down the driveway. Stops at the end, blinker on. But…but she is driving down the road with two wheels on the sidewalk. How can this be going so wrong, when her first two minutes in the car were chapter and verse out of the driver’s ed manual? She finally wobbled and then bounced her way back to four wheels on the street…….

Fender bender at the gas station. Not my kid’s fault. The teenage girl who hit my kid got out of her car, crying, distraught because she was already late for work. She begs my daughter to just take down her information and sort the details out later. Always accommodating, my kid agrees. The kids exchange information and my daughter drives off. A week later, I get a call from the kid’s mother. “Why didn’t you contact me about the collision your daughter caused at the gas station?”

Teaching an almost-ready-for-solo-driving kiddo how to put gas in the car. On our way out of town, it was her turn to put all her fill ‘er up skills to the test. Tank’s full and she removes the nozzle from the gas tank, only she forgets to stop pushing on the metal piece that activates the release of the gasoline. There is a virtual geyser of gasoline shooting in my direction while I scream “STOP”, heard by everyone in a ten-mile radius, while looking down at my sandaled feet that are being splashed with a continuous supply of fuel. I spent all afternoon worrying about how flammable I was.

Then there’s parking tickets. A kid who shall remain nameless has racked up enough campus parking ticket fines to put another kid or two through four years at an Ivy League school. He keeps telling me that it’s cheaper to get parking tickets than it is to get a parking pass. I am not sure he has done the math on that.

Lest I be accused of throwing the other family members under the bus, I will admit that I have a little issue with speeding. I have attempted any number of ways to try and talk my way out of said tickets. Last time I got pulled over, the policeman was so nice that I thought maybe he would humor me and go along with a deal I was attempting to make him. He said, “Do you know how fast you were going?” I said, “How about this? How about if I guess the right number, you could just give me a warning.” My husband, in the passenger seat, has his head in his hands. The policeman can’t figure out whether I am kidding or not playing with a full deck. A little of both. Fast forward to me having to mail in money for the ticket.

My speeding issue has only gotten worse, as technology has brought us increased ability to use GPS to get to a destination. Unfortunately for me, the GPS also tells the approximate time of arrival. Cuts right to the heart of my competitive spirit. GPS says arrival time is 4:37? I immediately go into how-many-minutes-can-I-knock-off-the-time mode. I am really over the top, and I recognize that. I am irritable when it’s time to fill up the gas tank, because it messes with my arrival time. Get something to eat? I think that a human being can go four or five days without food, so why would we need to stop? It kills me to pull back onto the highway after refueling and having to pass the same cars all over again.

Zoom zoom.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 08/08/2015

Who does what around here?

36607474Funny how early on in our married lives, we set the stage for what household chores we would be taking on.  Either until death do us part, or one of the partners throws up their hands and heads for the divorce lawyer.

I am married to a man who was ahead of his time.  He changed diapers, got up in the middle of the night with a screaming baby and kept me company while I nursed that bundle of aerobic noise back to sleep.

I mow the lawn more than he does.  It plays to my tendency for order and neatness.  In the house with eight stairsteps, there was not a shred of that, even though I tried.  Legos everywhere.  Puzzles dumped.  Tea party water spilled all over the living room couch.

But the lawn.  That was different.  It took a good week for it to need doing again.  I loved the pattern of zig-zagging whenever the spirit moved me, or doing the perimeter-to-the-middle pattern.  Vertical, horizontal or diagonal.  I loved the variety and I loved the endorphins coursing through me.

Loading the dishwasher.  Now that is a point of contention.  We have a good dishwasher.  It is pretty forgiving re food remnants.  But no, Wood Dickinson has to rinse every plate until there is not one speck of food on it, before strategically placing it on the bottom left side of the dishwasher.  Me?  From table to dishwasher.  Bypassing the sink. Period.  Loading?  Haphazard.  I throw the silverware in any old way.  Wood has to have the part you eat with facing up.  Who cares?  Clearly I am not a domestic goddess.  If the spoon, facing down, comes out dirty or stuck to the one next to it with food-glue, just throw it back in the dishwasher for another try!

At least I put stuff in the dishwasher.  Sort of an unspoken rule when the kids lived at home was that if you opened the dishwasher and it had clean dishes in it, then you were the one who was supposed to empty it.  Ha.  Any, no all of my kids knew telepathically, when the dishwasher had clean dishes and no one would open it.  They would find a paper plate to eat on, drink milk right out of the carton, forego meals.  It was just ridiculous.

I am able to compartmentalize my compulsions.  I don’t care what the garage looks like.  We have leaves in there from 1974.  I am not even tempted to sweep them up.  Ditto the basement.  It’s mostly Wood’s stuff.  It’s a mess. I don’t care.

I am meticulous about the rest of the house.  I almost had to be hospitalized when I realized that our youngest cleaned out her fish bowl with the kitchen sponge.  She meant to throw it away.  That meant that I had fish-gunk all over all of our countertops.  Where is the Board of Health when you need them?

Taking the trash to the end of the driveway?  Mostly me.  And that is because I have chased the trash truck down the street, nightgown flapping in the wind, too many times.

Changing the oil in our cars?  We each take care of our own.  Frankly, I like sitting at Jiffy Lube seeing if just once I can get my oil changed for free if they don’t have it done in under thirty minutes.  Hasn’t happened yet, but I like listening to them go through the checklist on my car. “Belts good, fluids good…..tires showing some wear……windshield wipers probably need to be replaced at your next visit…….”

It’s funny because there really isn’t any rhyme or reason to how this division of labor just sort of happened.  It wasn’t any conversation that we ever had.  But what both of us do, spoke to our strengths.

Although I must admit that when I do go to the basement, I sigh. Loudly).

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 08/06/2015

Grouchy, tired, hot, thirsty, sweaty and bossy

16292994Schlepping a college kid’s stuff around Manhattan, Kansas, Wildcat Country. Home to K-State, where they bleed purple.

Long story short. Meghan moved houses. She had to be out of her old house seven days before she could get in her new house. Yup. The storage locker was the answer. Which essentially meant moving twice instead of once.

We went yesterday to do part two of the move. 162 in the shade. August in Kansas.  T-shirt soaked in under seven minutes. Of course she chose the bedroom on the second floor. Stairs with almost no depth that would never, ever pass building code inspection. Fourteen steps, I counted. Four of us working. Meghan and Isaac, Wood and I. The two women had lots of ideas on how to load the truck. Of course, none of those ideas meshed with what the men had in mind. It is part of my DNA (and apparently at least one of my offspring!) to freely express my opinions, especially where moving things is concerned. I just know, on a cellular level, how to get a dining room table through a doorway that upon first look, is too small. So I make a few suggestions. It’s not an I-want-my-way sort of thing, it’s more mentioning something that the others may not have thought of that would be a shortcut to getting this thankless job done in a great big hurry.

But it got done. And despite the heat, despite the aggravation, as we drove I-70 eastward back to Kansas City, Wood and I had one of those long talks – again. How did we go from diapers to a senior preparing to be a social worker? In a blink. How she is dating a young man very much like her dad. Respectful, a calm demeanor, funny, kind, gentle. Things that all moms want for their daughters. That poor guy loaded all her earthly belongings into a truck, only to drive 3 miles to unload it all again. He never complained. I had all that handled!

It’s about launching a kid. The very thing that makes it so hard to let out the apron strings, is the very thing that we made sure she knew how to do when it was time for that to happen. Figure out life. Order the truck in advance. Make sure you have the code to get in the gate of the storage locker. How to sign a lease, negotiate who gets which room, all of it.

I guess we teach without realizing it sometimes. We certainly didn’t practice signing leases when she was yay-high. It’s trial and error. It’s taking on more and more responsibility confidently. And what more can a mom want than to raise a daughter who knows who she is and knows her value. In a blink my little curly-haired kid with her thumb in her mouth, morphed into this beautiful young woman.

Lucky me.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 08/03/2015

It all began with “Meltdown Monday”

88342047In Dickinson lore, the first ever Meltdown Monday occurred about thirteen years ago.  Kathleen walked into her first day of high school at Bishop Miege only to find that she had been placed in a sophomore math class.  Claire, her savvy sophomore sister, walked her to the door of the classroom and said, “Go.  Sit next to ______, she’ll take care of you.”  Then turned on her heel and made a quick exit.  Yeah, we all knew the meltdowns that Kathleen was capable of.  Claire wanted no part of that.

Thus was born the phrase “Meltdown Monday”.  Now we call any calamity or disaster that. Even if it’s a Tuesday or Friday.  Meltdown Monday is Dickinson-ese for an “ohhhh no”, the wheels just fell off the day.

And then we began to see a pattern.  There were categories for these meltdowns.  One for generalized life issues:  whether Kathleen should go straight from Knox College to Chicago to “ta da” her way into some work as a Stage Manager.  That decision was talked through with Wood.  NCLEX jitters?  That one was for me.  Calmly talk Mary, right out of Regis University Nursing School into believing in herself.  “You can do this.  You know this stuff backwards and forwards, now go and pass the test.”  She did.  The first time.  Boyfriend issues?  Wood gets those.  Maybe it’s because we have a half-dozen girls and they think that Wood can give them the male perspective, or maybe and more likely, they know that I will go into overdrive, throwing reason to the wind and going full-tilt with the emotional end of this, which is exactly what they don’t need.  From me or anyone else!  Money?  They call me, because I think I am the only one who knows the thirteen numbers/letters for the password, so that I can transfer funds.  Those calls usually come when the amount is two digits.  I’m talking the two digits after the decimal point!

We are pros at this, my husband and I.  Both of us can sense the beginnings of a meltdown, with the warble in the throat of the caller.  For some reason, the kids feel as though a hello is in order before the waterworks begin.

We make a good team, Wood and I.  The kids know that.  They know that there is always an answer to a problem, and that talking things out is a healthy way of dealing with what life throws their way.

Wood?  I can remember maybe a handful in our entire almost-four-decade marriage.  All of which were related to major MacIntosh failures, most of which involve Word.  Me?  Two meltdowns a week.  I believe that if I don’t reach that number, more than one person feels as though maybe I am doing a disconnect.  In other words, people are whispering, “Is she still in touch with reality?”

Most of my meltdowns are related to school issues.  It’s what I call “Compassion Fatigue”.  Wanting a kid to do better and seeing them fail.  That two steps forward, one step back.  Some days feel like sixty-three backwards steps.  Now that is a meltdown.  My colleague in alternative education and the school counselor both know when I am about to burst into tears.  Both give great hugs.  And there are days that I have melted into those hugs.  I also meltdown when I try and print something on one of the three printers we own and it won’t print.  On any of them.  And when Wood says, “Did you check to see if the printer is out of paper?” that just is the wrong thing to say.  I know, I know, this isn’t a meltdown, it’s more of a three-year-old temper tantrum.  As Wood scrambles to get something, anything to print, I pace the kitchen ranting and raving, throwing my hands around. But I am convinced, and no one can convince me otherwise, that the three printers hate me.

Mary and I were talking on the phone last night.  She’s a really funny kid.  A goofball through and through.  She said that we ought to redo our land line answering machine recording.  “Hello.  You have reached the Dickinson’s.  Press one for a meltdown with Mom, press two for a meltdown with Dad, press three for financial issues, press four for advice, press five for listening, not advising, press zero for the operator (or whoever is home and not too lazy to get off the couch and get to the phone).

Now that’s an idea.  And I am not giving out my phone number, it’s all we can do to handle the Dickinson kids’ problems!

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 08/03/2015

Your face is a road map

19195095Your face tells the world about you. Left “unworked on”, it is a roadmap of your life.

I never did get that “worked on” mentality. 60 trying too hard to be 45? No thanks. I have earned every single line in this face of mine. There are worry lines, a smudge of an eye droop from occasional sadness, with the chin-quiver which tends to come on spontaneously. Without much warning, Good friends know this about me. Easy to tear up, happy tears, sad tears, surprised tears. All salty.

My face shows that I have spent a lifetime laughing. Two parentheses on either side of my mouth. I’m lucky. My face didn’t stop at one. I can’t think of a day when I haven’t had one good belly laugh. Not a demure, half-hearted chuckle, but at least one that brings me to tears and a stomach that thinks it can’t hear one more funny thing. Crows’s feet? Absolutely not. Those are eye crinkles. It’s all about how things are phrased, right?  I’d take crinkles over some ugly black bird foraging for food.

And those horizontal forehead lines? They are the result of waiting for the restroom at a gas station. Hearing something unexpectedly awful at a kid’s school conference. Trying to find my keys. Looking at the scale. And then stepping off, then back on, this time leaning a little to see if that shaves off a pound or two. It doesn’t. Usually it adds more weight, so I spend the rest of the day wondering why I thought that was a good idea. A response to a kid who is doing everything possible to get me to take the bait. Opening the ACT score envelope, wondering if all is okay when your kid misses his/her curfew by 30 minutes, knowing upon arrival, first it was going to be a hug, then a grounding.  Gazing into the glaring sun at a kid’s softball game, trying to figure out which blond-haired kid is mine.  All of the above have given me bragging rights for the forehead line-wrinkles.

Our faces are our external scaffolding. It’s what we build with our lives. It’s how we represent ourselves to the world. The terrain upon which we have expressed every single emotion that we have ever had. Even my ears. Pierced. Done when I was 15 with a great friend, Irene, an ice cube, a needle and an apple and the bravado that only a slumber party brings.  Halfway into the first ear, after 7.5 seconds with the ice cube, which Irene deemed was enough anesthetic, she began the uncivilized torture procedure with the needle, followed in short order by Irene screaming, loud enough to peel wallpaper, “Ew, it’s making a crunching sound.” After which she accidentally pulled the half-in needle out. Eventually, I had two pierced ears. When I look in the mirror those are the kinds of things I see, I remember. I don’t think age, I don’t think Botox, I don’t mush my face around and wonder, “What if this part was firmer……”  Nah. I don’t think anything but the pallet upon which rests a well-lived life.

Be you. Warts and all. Well, maybe the warts should go……..

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 07/30/2015

180 Points

giveA Sunday late-afternoon trip to Hen House. Completely out of paper towels and this household wouldn’t know how to exist without paper towels.

The store has a promotion going on. With enough points, earned by spending in the store, you can buy dinnerware. My daughter, Meghan, liked the pattern and so little by little we’ve been accumulating plates and bowls.   She and her boyfriend, Isaac, had gotten some of the pieces when they were in Kansas City last. That consisted of two plates and two bowls. Clearly they were bare-bones-ing it.

I decided that I would get her the remaining pieces and instead of using points (I only had 27), just purchasing what I didn’t have points for. While explaining all this to the checkout girl, a man in the lane beside me, said, “Here, I have 180 points that I’m not going to use. You can have them.”

Who says the world is falling apart? Not while this nice human being is walking around.

Who says people just won’t go out of their way to help someone else? It’s not like I was dying on the sidewalk. I was getting dishes. Who says that the jerk on the freeway is the norm?  He won’t let me get over without knocking his bumper off, so that I can exit.

Of course my grocery store comrade’s thoughtfulness doesn’t make front page news. This is a guy who made no big issue of his generosity. Just a nice guy. Guessing that this is what just comes naturally to him. And I bet he has a mom that is the same way, maybe even a couple of brothers and a few kids. All impacted by his goodness.  See? See how those ripples get wider and wider, encompass more and more people?

I work with a lot of people like this. My closest colleague, who works with alternative kids too, has, on more than one occasion said, “Are you okay?” when she felt, emanating from me that I-can’t-do-this-job-one-more minute vibe and prepared herself for a meltdown of monumental proportions. I find Dots in my mailbox on a regular basis. I have custodians that greet me like they mean it, who fix/move anything I need help with at the same speed Jimmie Johns  delivers. Fast. I work with an office staff that doesn’t frown when I deliver my attendance sheet a good two hours late. Appreciation on a regular basis from the school counselor. A science teacher who goes out of her way to say, “I am glad you are here and you do a great job” after an irate parent said, “What are you doing here?” in a meeting. A kid who says, “How’s your hip, Mrs. Dickinson?” prior to my surgery. Or the parents who went out of their way to find me after eighth grade graduation to thank me for what I have done for their student. And to hug me like they mean it. Not a side hug.  And yup, you guessed it, a phone photo op.

Going the extra 5,280 feet.  Isn’t this what everyone does? No, it’s not. Which begs the question, “Why not?” Have we become so focused on ourselves, so busy doing what we need to get done, faces in our i-phones, that it doesn’t even occur to us anymore? Are we busy checking our to-do list so that we miss those opportunities? When was the last time you sent someone a letter? In-the-mail kind of letter. Listened. Not give seventeen opinions, but just sat to hear what the other person came to tell you. Brought water to the Google Fiber installers when it’s 112 with the heat index. Been handed a nice note from a student and instead of a perfunctory glance and a half-hearted “nice” you gushed to the point of embarrassment if one of your colleagues was listening.  Handed the homeless guy a $5 gift certificate to McDonald’s. It just might be all he gets to eat that day. Have we become so blinded by our lives that we forget there are other lives in our very midst? Have we followed up? With a kid, any kid, who’s had a rough day. With an adult who’s close to tears.  With the man in the produce aisle who bonks his head on the cart, retrieving something he dropped.

One kind word can change someone’s entire day.  Make this your day to do that.

180 points.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 07/28/2015

We all put our pants on the same way

83950097It started with a photo envelope from Walgreens, thrust abashedly into my hands. The envelope was so well-worn it was fuzzy. I looked at this student of mine, a questioning expression on my face. He wouldn’t look me in the eye, likely because I would see the vulnerability there. I began to open the envelope —- in the hopes that he would give me the intro to what I was going to see.

Inside were about three pictures of Elijah’s Kindergarten graduation. Skinny little kid. Same cute face. A yellow cap and gown, standing there with his classmates. To me, eight years ago. To him, a lifetime ago. As I oooohed and ahhhed over the cuteness factor, he did the typical middle school hardly-able-to-contain-himself-with-my-outpouring-of-appreciation thing, while acting like he was oblivious to my opinion one way or the other for this once Kindergarten kid, now a good four inches taller than I.

I have the privilege of getting a glimpse into the lives of the kids I teach every day. Mine aren’t the kids who come to me well-scrubbed and eyes lit up with eagerness. What I see is nonsense, sadness, loss, brokenness. One, losing a year of his life locked up in the Juvenile Detention Center. One, who at the beginning of the year, cowered under the staircase during lunch, afraid to sit with the other kids for fear of being made fun of. Eight months later, he is swinging a trash bag full of recyclable metal cans that faculty, and my neighbors, bring to him. Happy.

Another boy, hardly the height of a third grader, who is in eighth grade, has found more than his fair share of mischief during his three years in middle school. Friday he came up to me and told me that he’s training to be a deacon at his church “The Church of Jesus Christ of Second Chances”. He is part of the “Men of Standard” group. The bike club. If another kid mouths off, he is the first to say, “Hey, dude. Stop disrespecting Mrs. Dickinson.” He’s half-launched.

I had a kid three years ago. A girl. Oozing attitude. Every single thing I did, she rolled her eyes at me. That would include clearing my throat, handing her a pencil, telling the kids to line up for lunch. We danced that dance for the better part of two years. And the last year of her stint in middle school, we developed a nice relationship. The eye-rolls faded and then went the way of all good eye rolls — to extinction. I used to joke with her and ask her to do her eye roll, and when she would, I would say, “That is pathetic. Your eye roll isn’t as good as it used to be, because you haven’t been practicing it!”

Then there’s the football/basketball star. Nice kid. But manages to find his share of trouble. Comes in my room every single day for a hug. Sidles up to me sideways and throws his arm over my shoulder. Polite. Handsome. As the kids say, he’s got it all going on. During his last year, he got sucker punched by another student. This kid was calling his mama everything that you can imagine, then got up in his face and said, “Ahhh…..too big a p**** to fight?” I made eye contact for a split second with the kid being assaulted and gently shook my head. With all I had, I wanted him to not take the challenge. And he didn’t. Miraculous. Middle school boys don’t take well to not fighting back. He did. And it was probably my proudest moment as a teacher.

I love what I do. This small, inner city school has the same students as the private school in the tonier sections of town. They all put their pants on the same way, have to be reminded to tie their shoelaces. They will help shape the classroom they learn in, the household they live in, who they marry, who they sire, what they do for a living, how they contribute or don’t to the community.  I know my kids, with all their socioeconomic deficits, can overcome their raising.  It’s what keeps me going back every day.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 07/22/2015

Turtles and whirlwinds

19139291This morning I got up and waved goodbye to Wood and Margaret. Sibling weekend at K-State. Since the Winter Weather Watch was predicting 8-12” of snow, Wood drove and hid out in a Starbuck’s catching up on work while the Dickinson sisters ate lunch and went bowling.

Home alone. The only footsteps? Mine.

In my imagination, the day was going to be spent reading, horizontally, Oreos for lunch and ice cream for dinner.

What I actually did with my day? Sorted through paperwork. Did higher math trying to figure out the Royal’s season tickets, split among five families, what they owed and trying to schedule a time for all to sit down and divvy up the games. Two loads of laundry. Paid four bills. Took a bunch of little scraps of paper that had dates/times on them and put them on the calendar. Got on facebook. Took out the trash. The recycling. Went to the grocery store. Cleaned up the kitchen. Emptied the dishwasher. Did a snow dance. Optimistic about a three day weekend…..teacher translation: a snow day. And an oil change.

I’m just not good at sitting still. My good friend, Cheryl who keeps my unruly locks shorn, laughs because I don’t even sit in the chair long enough to have my hair blown dry. Nope. Enough sitting for me. The microwave is too slow for me. The 65 mph speed limit is way too slow. And I have a number of tickets to prove that.

Maybe it’s the 8-kid thing. So many snap decisions — “Can I have a slumber party?” Can you drive me and my thirteen closest friends to the movies?” “I need 26 cupcakes tomorrow.” “Where’s my library book, other shoe, homework, diorama.”  Wood and I used to laugh that we could buy a car in the same amount of time it took other people to decide a medium or a small Coke in the McDonald’s line. Apoplectic if the woman ahead of me in the grocery line decides, when it comes time to pay, she has forgotten to get a 1 pound package of shaved ham, Gulden’s mustard and a carton of Breyer’s mint chocolate chip. In the classroom, being ready for anything, ready to change course when the kids aren’t tracking (that can be determined by how many are snoring) I need a  light-on-my-feet, let’s-go-a-different-direction mentality that doesn’t lend itself to “slow”. Seems like I have spent a good deal of my life toe tapping. Sort of sitting in neutral, humming.

Conversely, I have one kid who didn’t get any of the genetic markers for this syndrome. We used to laugh that she had one speed. S.L.O.W.  She was the last one finished at every single meal. She was the kid who got left in the hotel bathroom while the rest of us went to breakfast, only to be escorted to us by the hotel maid. Ooops. In fact, she had a pet turtle! Meghan is a senior this year, majoring in Social Work at K-State. For her and her chosen path, slow is good. Patient is good. Listening with a gentle ear is good. Not an impulsive bone in her body.  Perfectly suited to her chosen career.  She makes lists, checking them twice.  Rarely multi-tasks.  A happy kid.  Content with her pace.

Funny how we wind up right where we belong. How we can mesh who we are with what we do.

If we all were like me, we’d all be crashing into each other with hair standing on end, blood pressure close to four digits, shirt untucked, in track shoes.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 07/20/2015

This old house and an empty nest

36608150Our first year of empty nest.

No boomerangers —– yet.

I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve learned that a bowl of Cheerios makes a darn good dinner and that Wood Dickinson is darn good company. We’ve raised eight pretty good kids who stay in touch just to say hi, to see that we’re okay, not to say their checkbook is in the red. Well, mostly.

I’ve learned that I am gratified by the work I do as an Alternative Education teacher and couldn’t do this job with a houseful of kids. So I am grateful that I can come home from school, throw myself on the couch and watch a recorded Dr. Phil.

But something I wasn’t expecting was that the house felt so empty. And that thought led to, “Maybe this old house is too big for just the two of us…..” We tossed that around over the course of months……even going so far as to consider moving to a small town. Nowhere far. Just a stone’s throw away from the chaos of the city. We took an occasional glance at Realtor.com.

We called a realtor. Got a ballpark figure. Even drove around an area that we like across the state line, looking for that next house.

But boy oh boy, what neither one of us was expecting was cold feet. And I am talking frostbitten.

We both know why that happened. We stopped doing what we both do naturally. We used our brains, our reason and common sense instead of our hearts to do all that geographical consideration.

We bought the house we are in when our youngest was almost five. We were a fledgling family of six. We fell in love with the hardwood floors and the massive treed lot. It was all fine and good, but hard on the pocketbook. We replaced plumbing, those old lead pipes had to go. My kids thought it was normal to take a bath in orange-tinted water. Then two sump pumps installed after a disaster of monumental proportions. When that drain was installed, the jackhammer workers would come up from the basement covered in mud.   Several years later, we still hadn’t done one single thing to the house cosmetically that anyone could see. No wallpaper. No new lighting fixtures, no upgraded knobs on the kitchen cabinet doors. And who shows off a sump pump?

I am the poster child for nostalgia and sentimental stuff. And I am married to someone who is the same way. Which makes any decision like this ridiculous.

This house has so many memories —- Mary being so mad about being put in time-out on the fifth step that she spit on it and never, ever walked on that step again. It’s where Kathleen came home with her arm in a cast. Where everyone lost teeth. Eight mouths emptied out under this roof. It’s where hundreds of games of dress-up happened, sparkly shoes, costume jewelry, wigs, dresses, tutus and discarded beaded purses from Grandma.  Oh we did dress-up big at this house. Where Kenny asked Wood for Mary’s hand on our front porch. Where Andrew lost the door of his car backing out of the garage. Where the kids played on the swing set on hot summer days.

Where the kids, three of them, would stand on chairs at the kitchen sink and I would throw kitchen utensils and bubbles in the water and that would be good for two hours of play when I thought I was not going to survive one more February day cooped up in the house with no one taller than my knees! Where Andrew learned to ride his two-wheeler with his friend Joe. Where Elizabeth chipped her front tooth. Where Kathleen and Mary broke their collarbones. Where we have celebrated 28 Christmas’s. Cooked just as many Thanksgiving turkeys. Trick or treated the neighborhood. Where stomach flu and pink eye, and a plague of chicken pox were suffered through. It’s where two-year olds threw themselves on the floor in fits of rage and where teenagers slammed doors for the same reason.  Where teen cars have been handed down, with dents and scrapes. Where eight kids learned to drive, careening out of this driveway, Wood, white knuckled. Home to two cats, a snake, 2 gerbils who had 573 babies (Wood thought he was buying two males), a succession of hermit crabs and a turtle. Home to stuffed animals, Baby Owlie, Oatmeal, Marshmallow, Skippy, Abbie, Cricket, the Doctor and a Beaver. Where Matthew learned to mow….mowing around the hoses, bikes, whatever was in his way. Where Claire dreamed up that her middle name was “Annette”, telling everyone in her elementary school classroom that her grandfather had invented the “clarinet”. Where Meghan made the Varsity Volleyball team in her junior year and Margaret managed to “off” just about every hermit crab she ever had. So many birthday parties, small celebrations, individual kid-victories. 47 photo albums. Hundreds of games of Candy Land, lost mittens, lost library books.  Thousands of bedtime stories.  Four of the eight kids conceived here.  So many good conversations with kids, sitting at the bottom of our bed, solving a plethora of problems.

I used to say that I was coming out of this house feet first. Might be. Maybe the right house will surface. But I do know that we will lead this charge with our hearts. The heart isn’t impulsive and feels no need to hurry. Hurry to get the sign in the yard, hurry to find a new place to lay our heads. For now, we’re not ready to leave this old house. Because this old house isn’t just any old house.  And I am not too sure that these tangible memories are for sale anyway.

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