Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 01/17/2019

The train is a small world…

39202445The train is a small world moving through a larger world.  – Elisha Coope

I recently rode the train from Kansas City to St. Louis.  A quick, no-stress five-hour and forty-minute ride. No crazy drivers to contend with, no detours, no work zones with double the fines, no stops for gas or snacks (I’m a big believer in snacks — I’m like a twelve-year old with ten dollars in a 7-Eleven!)  I was traveling solo, so I had lots of time to gaze out the window of the “Missouri River Runner.”

We certainly have no lack of cornfields in Kansas and Missouri.  But I also got a glimpse into what could be considered the underbelly of the Midwest landscape, depending on the mile marker, a series of staccato snapshots.

I saw lots of newly-harvested farmland, and the Missouri River. Interspersed were some cows.  My NYC background certainly doesn’t make me an expert on bovine-behavior, but I believe that there Is a direct correlation between lying-down-cows and impending rain.  I actually asked a real farmer at the Kansas State Fair if there was anything to that old wives’ tale  – while my husband stood by, smug, smirking and eye-rolling.  The farmer rubbed his chin, in the thinking posture and said, “Well, little lady, when cows are lying down, they’re tired.”  The look on my husband’s face was enough to get us a quick, uncontested divorce.  I wasn’t too terribly happy with the farmer either.  Maybe he wasn’t really a farmer, but a faux farmer dressed in overalls.

I saw barns, lot of them.  All in disrepair, with tired red paint, bleached-out siding and caving roofs, abandoned long ago.

We passed a rundown trailer park, clothes lines laden with clothes, little kids running around, too-thin dogs barking and cars being worked on.

There was a razor wire prison, where we warehouse those that just can’t follow the rules. Signs warning to not pick up hitch hikers.

Under concrete bridges, with rebar showing through where the concrete had fallen away.  Gang graffiti, with its splash of color, enhanced the look of this worn out bridge, that begged  for attention. Along the tracks, a scattering of teens, who on this weekday, non-holiday should have been in a classroom somewhere.

We passed several homeless camps.  Down-on-their-luck human beings who just couldn’t find the resources, wherewithal, or motivation to seek shelter.  Many , if the statistics are right, with significant mental health issues..

All this with the background noise of a hissing train engine that slowed  and sped up as we chugged our way into to small towns.  And always, preceding our arrival, the sound of the train’s whistle, a mournful sound.

So, what’s the takeaway?  This is probably a microcosm of what ails our society.  The prison, not about rehabilitating, but sticking men and women in a cage. Human beings who are treated no better than animals.  Teens wandering the railroad tracks.  Besides tacking a truant label on them, can we not find out the why?  What’s the why? Is there no adult that even cares they’re not In school?  Is there not one single teacher in the school building who would take an interest in a kid who’s lagging behind, struggling, sporadically showing up and then disappearing for days at a time?  Just think, if every single teacher in the United States – 3.6 million of them, took an interest in just one kid….the difference could be staggering. No need to even do the math.

Our country is vast, diverse, terrific.  But there is room for compassion, room tor every one of us to roll up our shirtsleeves and do a little more.  Just a little.  I’ve worked with the homeless for a long time, and I still can’t get my head around homelessness.  It’s both a lifestyle and a mindset.  They would joke with me,”Hey, I have no car to worry about fixing, no Visa bill to pay, no electric bill, just what I can carry with me.”  But what they didn’t say was that there is no safety, no respite for whatever weather is thrown at them and strangers for companions.  Most of the time, family that has long ago discarded them in disgust.

Come on, America.  Do something.

Before the train leaves the station.

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Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 01/15/2019

Tick tock

45382458I had time.

Time enough to understand that this young woman, irrespective of her addict-status, needed to talk.  About her mom who just broke her hip and dislocated her shoulder in a fall on an icy Kansas City sidewalk.  About her psoriasis, that oozed and stung on her glove-less, chapped hands.  About the mammogram she had two years ago which uncovered three lumps in one breast and two in the other.  She never could scrape the funds together to go and do the biopsy she needed.

I handed her the list of services available to her at our free clinic. She clung to that sheet of paper, embracing this unexpected resource.  Grateful. Maybe not just for the piece of paper, but for not being judged for the ragtag clothing she wore. Pants swallowing her, held up with rope, too small a coat, that barely wrapped around her, not quite able to merge the two parts of the zipper together.  It had a campfire smell, mixed with odor of stale tobacco.  Hair that begged for a shampoo.  Fingernails dirty. After she left, I sat for a bit, ignoring the fact that there were others waiting to be seen…and had an epiphany.  This volunteer job wasn’t about handing out flyers.  It had nothing to do with agencies that could help or phone numbers or pamphlets about safe sex and drug safety on the street.

This was about having time.  Time for whoever came through that door.  Offering those down-on-their-luckers warmth, someone smiling, instead of the disgust of passersby who used the sidewalk as a way to get somewhere rather than a “dwelling”, where they lay their head each night.

Time. Fleeting.  Never-get-backable.  It keeps going, in much the same way an escalator doesn’t wait.  But I could be that agent of change.  I could throw the ticking of the clock out the window and give everyone who came through the door the gift of stay-awhile.

And how many times have I not taken the time?  Rushed a toddler, trying to get out the door, already late.  Or been short with someone on the other end of an l-800 number trying to sort out a billing issue.  My voice becoming more clipped as I am asked to recite what seems like an annoying and unnecessary litany of security questions.  Or someone in the grocery checkout ahead of me, when she realizes that she’s forgotten milk and makes a mad dash back to dairy while I wait.  Tapping my foot.  Exchanging a knowing glance at the cashier.  Not quite an eye-roll, but close.  Or begrudgingly letting someone over into my lane when the traffic is already backed up for miles.

Yup.  The Catholic in me roars to the surface every so often.  “For whatever you do to the least of my brethren….” (Matthew 25; 40-45)

Tick tock.

 

 

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 01/12/2019

#ThisLife  ………….reminiscing

White chrysanthemum flowersWe just celebrated our forty-fourth wedding anniversary with dinner at one of our favorite Kansas City restaurants — Lidia’s in the Freight District.  We are no strangers to a sort of stream-of-conscious reminiscing, nestling it into the conversation at a celebration of our lives together.

The reminiscing began with some basic math.  We’ve had kids “boarding” for thirty-four of the forty-forty years.  Without even needing a calculator, we added eight Baptisms, eight First Communions, and eight Confirmations.  We have eleven grandkids, have six married kids and have lived in three houses.  Our kids have participated in eleven different organized sports – soccer, tennis, baseball, wrestling, basketball, swimming, softball, track, gymnastics, cross-country and volleyball.  We’ve negotiated the purchase of eight kid-cars on some very questionable and very-used car lots.  We have two Eagle Scouts, we’ve sent seven checks to Outward Bound, sent one boy to Space Camp, and sold more than several thousand boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

We’ve had forty-four Christmas trees tied to the roof of the car. Two fell off.  We’ve attended dozens of school skating parties, hosted a boatload of slumber parties, resulting in sleep deprivation all while listening to the stereophonic sound of giggling girls.  We’ve attended 120 school conferences, some of which went better than others.  We’ve waited by the mailbox for sixteen ACT test results.  I don’t even want to know how many college tuition checks we wrote, even with scholarships factored in.

We’ve called in hundreds of lukewarm pizza delivery dinners and buckled in for eight hair-raising efforts to teach kids to drive.  We watched one kid take her “maiden voyage” riding with two wheels on the sidewalk and two on the road, halfway down the block. (They couldn’t have covered that in Driver’s Ed???)  We spent dozens of Christmas Eves putting together Little Tykes kitchens, tool benches and outdoor playhouses.  We’ve picked up thousands of Playmobiles and Legos scattered throughout the house, including under the couch cushions, in the air vents and in the dryer’s lint catcher. We’ve walked the neighborhood in rain, shine and sleet conditions for Halloween trick-or-treating.

We’ve read thousands of bedtime stories, poured gallons of milk into sippy cups, and made hundreds of trips to the pediatrician – including two broken collar bones, one from a kid running around the corner in socks on a slick wood floor, the other from a kid catapulting herself out of her crib. And oh yeah, a compound fracture on the playground.

We’ve played hundreds of games of Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders and Old Maid.  We’ve scheduled untold number of every-six-month dentist visits.  I’ve said a million “Hurry ups”.  We’ve ridden to Osceola, Missouri for Boy Scout Summer Camp a dozen times.  We have one sorority kid who pledged Theta. I baked a stratospheric number of cupcakes and cookies for school functions.  There were many, many skinned knees, covered by any number of cartoon band-aids.  We buried both sets of parents.  We scheduled five tonsillectomies.  We’ve welcomed two cats, one snake, dozens of hermit crabs, two rabbits and dozens of gerbils who didn’t even pretend to understand overpopulating.

I said hundreds of “Stop it’s”, wiped away a million tears and perfected multiple teenage “attitude correction” conversations.  (Okay, monologues)  I listened to “Maaa-ummmm” yelled from three rooms away, which meant something catastrophic happened, like an overflowing toilet, a toddler running around the house with a permanent marker with no cap or a baseball that just came through the living room window. Two of the kids won the M.S. Read-a-thon.  We spent our summer vacations, eighteen of them, in Chatham, Massachusetts.

I tied the laces on a million shoes and carted kids to before-school orthodontist appointments where more often than not I left feeling like the bad-mom because the orthodontist figured out that whatever-kid-it-was wasn’t being “retainer compliant”.

A life full, hearts overflowing.  Sometimes it was hard, when a day felt like a long week.  When the exhaustion was so overwhelming, I wondered if this parenting thing was a good idea – (don’t judge, you’ve had the same thought!) But always something yanked me back from that poor-me precipice…..a kid coming through the front door with a fistful of tulip flowers, crushed in their tiny hand, or an I’m sorry” with a quivering bottom lip and eyes ready to splash tears. Or an adult kid, managing a cross-country move, or new parents able to see the miracle of identical twin boys who demand so very much of the mom and dad, or a kid who stumbles, picks themselves up, brushing off the disappointment and trying yet again.

It is these moments, these moments, for which we live our lives.

 

 

 

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 01/07/2019

“Don’t Tread on Me”……

32238090I have written this blog dozens of times in my head.  I’ve done a fair share of mental editing as well. But 263 blogs ago, I found my voice. That first blog debuted in February of 2009.  Sometimes my voice shook, sometimes it stuttered or whispered or quivered.  Sometimes that voice was strong.  Today’s voice….hurt.  Angry.

It began with a Facebook post.  A back-and-forth about Trump and his approval rating.  I really should know better. I rarely get involved in what almost qualifies as bait. I am too thin-skinned for aggressive “debate”.  But I am Facebook friends with a handful of people who derive great pleasure in trolling the internet for bad news, controversial articles from obscure news services, posting it, then attacking anyone with an opinion that is different than theirs.  No civil discourse, just arguing for argument’s sake.  It is tiresome.

Her post….

The worst thing about Trump’s presidency isn’t what we learned about him.  It’s what we learned about our family and friends.  Many of us already knew what kind of person Trump was.   We just didn’t know that many people we know are like that too.

I responded…..

Trump represents a set of ideas that about half the country agrees with.They aren’t like him. I don’t support Trump, but boy oh boy you are making an enormous leap here.

And finally, her parting shot,

People who hang a Tea Party flag above their homes for years are leading us into this abyss. Thanks but no thanks.

Thud.  That flag was at my house.  Flying as a symbol of patriotism, it’s original meaning, Certainly nothing else.  Never ever would I put an aggressive comeback above a decades-long friendship. Our kids played together.  We stood together at the foot of a hospital bed when a dear friend lost her life to cancer. We visited an elderly neighbor together at the nursing home for months before her passing.

Imagine me singlehandedlyleading us into the abysss?

This isn’t about Trump.  Or his approval rating.  This is a sort of skewed intellectual foreplay.  Right-fighting, instead of finding common ground.    A verbal jousting that leads nowhere good. What could possibly come from a slam like that? That kind of stuff shuts down dialogue.

It’s all in the delivery.

Peace out.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 11/27/2018

When a Bargain isn’t a Bargain

For sale: Pottery Barn queen sofa sleeper. $500. Rarely used.

37054432

Several months ago, I found this “for sale” ad on a neighborhood website. Since we downsized by half about two years ago, sleeping space is at a premium when our kids come to visit.

So I bought it.

We hired “Bungii”, which is basically a heavy-lifting sort of service. You send them a picture of what you want moved and they shoot you a quote. $30. Seemed really low, yeah the old adage about if it’s too good to be true….he got to our house with the sofa. He – singular. One guy. Not too sure how one guy is going to get this up our stairs. He said right away that he’d have to call for reinforcements. Another guy came and after lots of grunting, out-loud problem- solving, a good bit of sweat, and the repeated thud sound of the sofa hitting the plaster wall, the sofa arrived at it’s almost-destination. It was in the upstairs hall. Upended.

More grunting, more what-if-we’s……..there was no way this 32” wide sofa was going into a room with a 29” doorway. Doorways have not one single bit of give. The Bungii guy suggests that we are just “that close” and if we could get the door frame off, the sofa would go right in.

Call another handyman who takes off the door frame. Call Bungii back. They send two different guys out. Déjà vu. Grunting, banging, sliding, guesswork, if-we-turn-it….heavy breathing. They come downstairs to give us their professional opinion. This couch in not going into the room. Both my husband and I are ready to cut our losses. So we tell them to bring the sofa back downstairs and we’ll just put it in the garage. Before dark, I will be posting my own want ad.

So I can’t possibly make this up.

They say they can’t get it back down the stairs. That it won’t fit. My husband reminds them that it got up the stairs so it’ll come back down. Suffice it to say that the plaster on the wall going downstairs looks like a demolition crew had the wrong house. Not just scrapes, holes.They have to take the bannister off. They leave the house with the screws to the bannister in their pocket.

So – we are out $500. 6 screws. A bannister that is off the wall. Multiple holes in the plaster that will require patching and painting, a door frame that has to be put back in, walls that need mudding, and walls that need painting.

But there is also tremendous value in a funny story. We can’t drive down a street in Kansas City that has a couch out by the street for pick up that my husband doesn’t take the opportunity to ask me if I think that sofa will fit. I have a lifelong propensity to leaving myself wide open to this kind of stuff. But I’ve got lots of funny stories.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 06/29/2018

Not Funny MapQuest

Road map

Road map

I was born without a shred of a sense of direction.   “East” and “west” are useless to me.

But up until now, I have always been confident getting behind the wheel of the car with MapQuest directions.  So it was on Wednesday morning at 9:00.  An eye doctor’s appointment.  The doc had recently moved her office, so I employed my go-to navigation assist.  MapQuest.

Everything was going along just fine for about the first three miles.  The instructions got me out of my neighborhood and onto a major cross street that would take me to I-35.  I merged flawlessly, and stayed in the right-hand lane in order to exit onto US 69.  So far so good.  Now I am careening along at 60 mph,  until— what the heck!!!  The next instruction said, “Take the exit”.  TAKE THE EXIT????  WHAT EXIT?

Rather than cause a fatality trying to make sense of the non-directions, I exited. And for those of you that don’t get lost, that know the four cardinal points and know where they are, that don’t need right and left to get them places, you don’t, nor can you everunderstand what it like to be directionally challenged.  I had 23 minutes to figure this out.

So I resorted to the GPS.

But this GPS is so finicky, it was absolutely useless.  It wouldn’t let me get from the street number to the street name.  Dead in the water.  Sidelined.  Stalled. A potential ophthalmologist no-show. I pushed “enter”.  I pushed the arrows.  I started over eleven times.  I checked to make sure I had the right part of the country loaded into this ridiculous gadget.  I pulled the manual out of the glove box, but it was the thickness of Webster’s dictionary, so I threw it in the back seat.

So I continued to drive. And miraculously, the street I was looking for was there.  Right there. I found it without MapQuest. Without GPS.  With only exasperation, with white knuckles. Without the radio, because isn’t that what we all do when we are lost, turn off the radio?  I found the street.   Without any of the accoutrements that our society has at its fingertips.  Right there.

Kind of ironic. Searching for the street on the way to the ophthalmologist. I aced the eye chart too.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 10/19/2017

IT skills and whose mess is this anyway?

19087739I know what skills are in my wheel house. I run at an alarming deficit in technology know-how. Embarrassingly so. I am very adept at typing, email, cutting and pasting and using the italics for emphasis. That is it. I am a constant, nagging source of frustration to my husband who just doesn’t ever lose patience with computers, modems, internet or servers (I do know some computer lingo). If I can’t remember a password I go into automatic blame mode. Apple is sabotaging me, I’m sick of this password society, why does this all have to be so complicated, I’m just going to use one password for everything and just take my chances on getting hacked, and on and on. I just don’t stop. My husband, completely unruffled by my nonsense, patiently tries password after password without even a sigh. And maddeningly enough, he always comes up with it. Every. Single. Time.

I was born with several extra sets of cleaning genes. Sifting, sorting, organizing?  I can do that. I also am very good at telling others how they should organize. To some, this could probably be construed as slightly bossy. I love sticky notes, bulletin boards with magnets, to-do lists, multi-colored file folders and multiple methods to store things. Containers and More is one of my favorite places to shop. For example, our important papers are in wicker baskets, in file folders. Yup. Freezer repair? I can lay my hands on the manual before you can say “Yuck, there is ice cream melting all over the freezer”. Income tax return from 2011? No problem. Safety deposit key? Yup.

I do have one drawer in the kitchen that is my intent to appear flexible, laid back, go with the flow. It’s a mess. And it is only a mess because there is no way to organize a 3.5-inch deep drawer that has no theme – it contains a tape measure, some white plastic thing that no one knows where it came from or where it goes. Six hundred forty-two 39-gallon blue plastic ties, which I never use because I prefer to tie a knot in the top. Three two-cent stamps that have lost their stickum, gorilla glue, a rusted outdoor hose nozzle/diverter, 26 AA batteries, a 9-volt and 2 D’s, a broken ruler, in two pieces, severed at the 8 and 3/16” marking, one chop stick and 7 stale candy corns.

Dishwasher organization is another area that I am pretty laid back about. I see no sense being militaristic about getting dinner and salad plates in some kind of symmetry in the suds. If it doesn’t come clean the first time, I just run It through again with the next load. See that throw caution to the wind attitude?

I’ve perfected this skill of mine over the years. Need a stamp? I know just where they are. The charger for the Fitbit? That, too. It’s really something I can’t help. I can’t walk through a room and walk by stuff that isn’t in the right place. I have even gone so far as to straighten up a counter at a doctor’s office while the receptionist is busy doing something else. Unconsciously rearrange the paper/pens and the sign that says, “Payment is expected at the time of your appointment”. You know, so it’s a little more of a House Beautiful look.

It reminds me of when all eight kids were at home. I would tell one of the ruffians to put something away and that was their shorthand for put it on the bottom step. Then I had to readjust my vocabulary to “put it away away.” That usually got whatever it was that needed to be relocated, upstairs. Where it belonged.

I have exactly two kids who have been the recipients of this genetic stuff. Mary threatens just about every day to throw her computer out the window because it isn’t doing what she wants it to. Meghan has a spic and span apartment in Topeka. No gloppy jelly jars in her refrigerator. No stray cat food crumbles on the kitchen floor. 25% of my kids got that genetic bonus. The other six? Not so much.

We’re empty nesters now. My husband likes to roll up his sleeves every once in awhile and use his limited culinary skills. Oh boy. The kitchen quickly turns into a tsunami. Nothing in the dishwasher. Every counter evidence that he has commandeered the area. Me? I clean as I go. Done with the measuring cup? In the dishwasher. Egg shells in the sink? That’s what the garbage disposal is for. It’s not as though he leaves the mess for me to clean up. Nope. He’s a good man. It’s just that he doesn’t see an expeditious clean up as either necessary or laudable.

But that’s just how we roll. Somehow messy and scoured and scrubbed co-exist.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 10/07/2017

Who I Was at that Moment, 49 years ago

Broken pencil and sharp pencilsAbout six months ago, on a whim, I put the name of a friend that I went to grade school with in the search box on Facebook and bingo, found her on the first try.  I sent a friend request and within the hour had a reply.

I could hardly sleep that night.

She knew who I was when I was in sixth grade. She knew who I was at that moment.  In 1969.  She wore the same saddle shoes.  She probably had cranberry-colored wool pants, slightly flared, and a pink shirt to match.  She was an eyewitness to the humiliating moment when Sr. Clare made me stand up in music class and sing the entire Star-Spangled Banner by myself since I was goofing around. She knew me in side-by-side desks and spraying a handful of water at the water fountain. She knew who set my heart on fire.

She knew me when.

She knew my twelve- year- old self.    She knew me with two left feet in my scuffed-up saddle shoes.  Gangly legs that looked like stilts, with all the grace of a drunken sailor.  She knew me when my mom cut my bangs too short.  She knew me in my light blue glasses with the little sparkly faux diamonds in the corners.

Yesterday, after two days of torrential rain, we had a puddle in the basement.  I had to empty a box that had gotten wet.  In it?  My composition book from St. Gabriel’s School.  Circa 1968.  Terrific Catholic school handwriting.  “JMJ” at the top of every single page.  (To the non-Catholics reading this, that stands for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.)

So many fond memories from those days in Riverdale.  John R*** chasing me across the footbridge over Henry Hudson Parkway, to ask me to go steady.  I was running from him.  What in the world must have been going through his mind?  Or the better question, what in the world was going through my mind?  (John, it was nothing personal. Really. And for the record, when you decided that another girl in the class was more to your liking, I survived.  Self-esteem a little banged up, but it all worked out.)

It was on the grimy streets of NYC that I learned to walk fast.  My born and bred Kansas spouse had to work on increasing, exponentially, his mph. It was in that same city that I rode the subway with a friend into Manhattan, in my white high heels that I graduated from eighth grade in.  It was all about trying to be the young sophisticate.  But I paid for that look.  Blisters that took weeks to heal.

It was on that same subway ride that a man sat next to me and slid his hand down my back and a little bit beyond.  I didn’t know that “no” meant “no” in those days, but I sure knew how to spring off the bench like a missile and find other seating. I had my first job in NYC.  Babysitting.  $.50 cents an hour.  It was the year of “California Dreamin’”.  Mama’s and Papa’s.  Ed Sullivan and the Beatles.  Marlo Thomas.  Mary Tyler Moore.  Leave it to Beaver.  The New York World’s Fair.  I went with my Girl Scout Troop. The first blackout in NY.

I love my NYC roots.  My accent has sadly, faded long ago. Geographically, it’s where my coming of age story began.  Life does come full circle.  A friendship rekindled.  Thanks, Betty.

49 years later.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 10/04/2017

The kids don’t want our stuff………WHAT?????

autumn background with leaves and pumpkins, thanksgiving and halloween cardA year ago we downsized.  Significantly.  From a big house where we raised eight kids, to a house that would be just right for the two of us.  Less to heat and air-condition, less yard to mow, lower property taxes and just less upkeep.  Implicit in that plan, was that we were going to cull through our stuff and either toss, donate, give to one of the kids, or keep.

Tossing was easy.  That included a broken stapler, a cracked plastic bin, and a broom so old it had pinking-shear-like bristles, stray keys that we’d held onto for decades that we didn’t have the faintest idea what they could unlock. Manuals for appliances that we no longer owned and a hand-held can opener that refused to cooperate.

Donating wasn’t so easy. That was anything that didn’t fit or was badly frayed or furniture that we didn’t have space for.  That was the beginning of the trouble.  The discomfort.  The anxiety in the pit of the stomach.  Case in point:  We have placemats that are a pale shade of blue — pale because they’re so old, but now a very faded shade of Williamsburg blue.  Vintage.  We have twelve of them, and they’re reversible – checks on one side, stripes on the other.  I put them in the donate pile.  My husband walks by the stuff that’s heading out the door and he stops dead in his tracks and says, in complete disbelief,  “You giving these away?????”  I said, in a measured, admittedly clipped tone,  “Yup, every time I use these I have to tuck the wayward threads in…they’re just shot.”  The reply, “Oh…..well….. they just remind me of all our family dinners.” Out of the donate pile, back into the drawer.

We are getting nowhere in a great big hurry.

Giving stuff to the kids was ridiculous.  Seems this generation of Dickinson kids doesn’t like much of what I have to offer.  I have talked to other parents with kids my kids’ age and they say much the same thing.  When I was in one of my don’t-get-in-my-way-I’m-all-about-getting-rid-of moods, I had my cell phone in easy reach.  I’d call a kid, say “I have this bench, it’s about  4 feet long, it’s the greenish-blue one from the bedroom that I had plants on…” and I could almost feel them wracking their collective frontal lobes coming up with a nice way to say, “No thanks.”

But I didn’t give up easily.  This was going to be no easy surrender on my part.  I would make suggestions about where in their house it would look wonderful.  Or how when they moved to a bigger house, it would be a nice start or how it would only increase in value.  Or list 341 uses for said item.  Nope. They were nothing if not steadfast. I should mention that ultimately the kids in their collective understanding of mom guilt-tripping them into taking stuff they didn’t want, would answer the phone with, “No.”  Not “Hello”, Not “Hi, mom.”  “NO.” One of the downsides of caller id. In fact, I suspect that there was some collusion involved….as in a group text, “Hey, just an fyi.  Mom is on one of her cleaning frenzies and she’s got us all on speed dial.  Consider yourself warned.”

I remember when we were starting out as a newly-married couple.  Wood’s mom had a sofa/loveseat that she wanted us to have. They were very faded nubby, itchy, and worn out.   The kicker?  They didn’t have arms.  Mid-century modern in all its ugliness.  To go with it?  A coffee table that had a laminate top that was peeling loose from whatever it was glued to.  The table was shaped like an amoeba.  Kind of a free-flowing kind of look.  All our friends thought this living room was a riot.  We also inherited Wood’s grandmother’s dining room set.  I think it was walnut.  It was large enough to do some decent over-the-road hauling.  The legs were twice the size of Hulk Hogan’s.  The sideboard was heavy enough to bury a man well over six feet six inches tall.  Frankly, when all this furniture was put into the room I wondered if the subfloor and joists were strong enough to handle this kind of weight. Awful, awful stuff.

But our tastes changed.  I thought eventually I was going to have a brand spanking new Ethan Allen dining room. Glaringly smooth and shiny.  But time passed, the ugly stuff held up and kids came along and we found an old farmhouse table in Greenwood, a small town outside Kansas City.  It has mismatched chairs and is weathered just the right amount.  This is stuff that Sotheby’s would look at and get rushed by ambulance to the ICU. This is distressed.  Beat up enough that the kids could do homework at this table, play cards, have family meetings, smush playdough into, or spill anything and it would be just fine.

It was where we celebrated birthdays, First Communions, election to the Student Council, great ACT scores, carved pumpkins, dipped candles for Advent, and conversely, it was where family meetings got heated, where we reminisced the first Thanksgiving after my dad died, going-away dinners before we launched another kid to a University, how to subtract fractions, struggled through a World Geography class, and solved boyfriend and girlfriend problems.

It was where they learned not to chew with food in their mouth, to not interrupt and not burp and never ever double dip. It was where life happened.  It was a place for matters of the heart.  It was where kids came to unburden the sadness and celebrate the victories.  Lives were changed at this table.  Lessons were learned.  Tears were dried.  It was where the kids learned that they had a voice worth listening to.

It was where two double-stuff Oreos could be the salve to make things better.

Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 09/26/2017

Crossfit at sixty-something

36114206Just returned home after my first one-on-one session of Crossfit.  The pamphlet for this place has been on my desk for easily three months.  I hitched up my big girl pants and made the phone call.

It was time.  I have, for all intents and purposes, taken a ten-month sabbatical from exercise, other than walking.  No weights, no machines.  I had a knee replacement and believe me when I say that that surgery is not for the faint of heart.  Long recovery and some heavy-duty pain.

Post-workout musings:

Let’s just say that my core is shot.  Kaput.  Waving the white flag of surrender.

An hour post-workout, my body was in shock.  My muscles were still humming a little bit, and I was nauseous.  I had finally stopped sweating.  I had drunk enough water to float a small row boat.

About 35 minutes into this workout, I glanced at myself in the mirror.  You know, just to see if there were any obvious improvements yet — like some well-defined arm muscles, a la Michelle.   Calves that could turn heads, or an hourglass waist.  Nope.  What I did see was a woman with a maroon face, t-shirt all stretched out at the neck from using it to wipe the sweat off my face and my hair looked as though it had been caught in a blender, with a generous dose of fuzz.  Whoa.  And did I mention that I was breathing so hard I needed one of those inhalers.  I’ve never had an inhaler, but I thought this would be a good time to consider owning one.

Tim, the coach, was nothing but encouraging.  He didn’t even laugh when I nearly catapulted off the escalator-type stepper.  He played to my confidence level, telling me that I was stronger than I knew.  (I think he saw the look of disappointment when I looked in the mirror.)

He ran me through a routine called the “Gauntlet”.  I wondered, between swiping my forehead with my t-shirt, the craziness of paying good money to do so.  He talked of “clean” eating.  I gently reminded him that I was not adverse to an occasional Twinkie.  He smiled.

I am glad I went.  I told him, as I was leaving, that I almost called to cancel but knew that he’s probably heard every single excuse dozens of times before.  Besides, I can do anything —anything for an hour.

I have no intention of carrying this to an extreme.  I won’t be the woman with muscle thighs or having to let out my short-sleeved shirts to accommodate gigantic Popeye arms.  Nah, I just want to limber up a bit, push myself to see what kind of stuff I can do in the gym.

And oh yeah, remain vertical when getting off the escalator!

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