Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ever heard of a 'birthday basket?'

I won’t be celebrating my birthday this year. Oh, before you classify me among countless Cathy cartoons and withered actresses who refute growing older simply by not celebrating the passing of any more years, let me explain. With my birthday of April 16, occasionally (exactly six times in the past and coming 20 years - including this year) my day falls on Easter weekend. When this happens, those closest to me know I defer my observance by one week. So, you see, although I won’t be marking my birthday this year, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be celebrating my birth.

As an only child, it’s said of us that we don’t know how to share. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I know how to share. I just prefer not to. And certainly not with Jesus. Easter is one of my favorite times of year. Aside from it being the highest of Christian holidays and all contained therein, it also ushers in white clothes, sleeveless tops, warmer weather, greener grass and relief from out under the cruel, oppressive winter. There’s enough going on that I feel no need to throw something else on that day’s plate.

In an effort to be clever this year, I went in to my profile on Facebook and changed my birthday by one week to April 23. I’m serious — anyone who wishes me “happy birthday” next Sunday will be met with a polite yet distant smile and nod. I will have my heart and mind on something far greater and I want everyone else to do the same. It allowed me to update my birthdate easily enough - suppressing those known both well and hardly at all wishing me sentiments - but then once complete, a message popped up saying “just a warning…you are only allowed to change your birthday so many times.” So, for those of you playing at home, the score is Valerie-0, Facebook-1. Well played, Zuckerberg.

Nevertheless, I wish you the happiest of April 16ths and a Happy Easter. It is indeed a day worth celebrating. 

Just remember to mark down April 23 this year, too. ;)

Wondering how Easter works? It’s simple, really:

In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Letter to Bird on Valentine's Day

My darling girl - 

With you and your friends on the brink of becoming actual teenagers, I watch as you all navigate   changing interests and evolving dynamics. Who has a crush on whom has become the topic of the day and now there’s talk of boyfriends and girlfriends. I’ve even heard the “D” word tossed around, although I’m not sure what that looks like for two 12-year-olds and am content in my ignorance. I’m afraid at 42, I am just about as awkward as I was at 12 and can’t offer a lot of advice in the area of pre-teen dating, being cool, and playing the field. What I can offer you is some motherly advice, anchored with some Biblical truth. 

Chase your dreams, not boys.
You will see some of your friends go after a guy. They will hunt and pursue like a lion in the Serengeti. Some of them will even be successful, but it will be short-lived and unfulfilling. I’m all for “girl power” and encouraging ladies to be strong and aggressive and going after what we want, but there is a natural order to things and the guy needs to take the lead on this one.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your dreams.”
Proverbs 16:3

Play hard, but not impossible, to get.
You don’t have to go on a date with the first guy who smiles at you and you don’t have to marry the first person you date. When someone shows interest in you, if you share that interest, be nice and kind but don’t fall over backwards with excitement. Let them know you have a life and interests and pursuits aside from them. Be approachable and available without being needy and desperate.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

Be a friend first.
Don’t try to like someone after you love them. Passion is powerful and strong and exciting, but it’s like a star that burns out over time. When the dust settles, you need a strong foundation upon which a true relationship can rest. Being friends first will allow you to be with people who share your interests and let you really get to know a person.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17

Be yourself.
It’s tempting to try to impress a boy you like. When the right one comes along, you won’t have to be anything but yourself. Also, people can see through someone trying to be fake or someone they’re not. Besides, if the only way to get a boy to like you is to pretend to be someone or something you’re not, he’s not the one and is not worth your time. And never, ever let a boy change who you are. If he doesn’t like your friends, your family, or your interests, then he doesn’t truly like you. 

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10

Be patient.
This one is hard. Especially when you feel like your friends have all moved to a different place than where you are. Know that God has chosen someone precious and suited just for you and you all will find each other in His time.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends al understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

Best of luck, sweet girl. Know that you are already immeasurably loved and you are a princess in God’s Kingdom.


14 February 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

As I Live and Die

Well, I almost died yesterday. 

I tried to soften the melodramatic tone of that statement, but that just about sums it up. I ran a red light during busy, rush hour traffic. Totally my fault. I was second in line at a congested intersection. Tired from a day's work, I sat waiting my turn and reviewing my mental "to do" list for when I got home. The car in front of me suddenly went (a right turn, as it turned out) and the car across the intersection scooted up a bit, giving me the idea that our light had turned green. I proceeded to drive across and, as I passed under the traffic light, I looked up. A couple of things happened, all within a millisecond. 

  • I noticed the light was still red. 
  • I looked and saw a car stopped in the intersection where I had just driven in front of them and they had to brake quickly. 
  • I heard a horn blaring and realized another car from the other direction had to do the same thing (except they took the time to honk and wave at me with one finger).

And I sailed right through that intersection unscathed. (I'm sending my guardian angel a gift basket today.)

But something else happened that I hadn't really experienced before and am maybe OK never doing so again -- my life flashed before my eyes. You hear about it. You see it depicted in movies. But it actually happened, like a quick little Facebook "your life in pictures slideshow, dummy, 'cause you weren't paying attention back there."

It seemed like a lot of images, but these are the ones I remember vividly. Note, these are still photos I possess. The actual images during my near-death experience were moving, like the pictures in Harry Potter or little snippets from home movies.

I saw a younger Daddy, smiling and waving at me.

I saw this little girl, whom I barely remember.

I saw a young and healthy Mom, laughing.

And I saw a young Jason, waiting anxiously at the altar as Daddy and I made our way down the aisle.

So, the morale of the story? I guess pay attention at red lights and live each day to its fullest. Be careful out there. Especially if you see me at an intersection.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

In with the new

I’m excited about inauguration day tomorrow. There, I said it. Not because of the changing of the proverbial guard, not because “my team” won, not because it’s the closest thing we have to a royal wedding with all of the red carpet pageantry and the “what is she wearing?” comments, although all of those things are good reasons. 

I’m excited because it’s a great opportunity for all of us. It’s Day One. It’s a beginning. There’s something comforting about tabula rasa - a blank slate - that allows you to take a deep breath and restart. You may not agree with President Trump’s election, his viewpoints, or comments he made 11 years ago. That’s OK. I’m probably not, either. But, like it or not, as of tomorrow, he’s the leader of the greatest country in the world for the next four years.

My prayer for him will be the same that it was for Obama:  Lord, please watch over this man and his family. Please don’t let anyone hurt him or his children. Be with him each day, in his words and actions, and let us see You in him. Let his decisions please You and better us.

Mr. Trump has chosen to take the oath upon two different Bibles:  his personal one and President Lincoln’s. How appropriate that he chose the Bible of another leader not liked by everyone and who lived (and died) trying to unify a fractured nation?

For a good piece about the choice of these two Bibles, check out this Post article.

A Facebook friend posted this meme a while back:

Indeed, we are all on the same plane and the pilot has crazy hair but he also has some pretty exciting plans and ideas. So, let's all try to enjoy the ride and behave. That means you, guy with the stinky sub sandwich shoveling chips in your mouth like you're loading coal on a locomotive. That means you, mother with two little kids screaming and crying. That means you, Chatty Cathy. See my headphones and book and slightly bothered look on my face and know I don't want to hear about your grandchildren, your destination, or the rash on your elbow. That means you, flight attendant. Yes, you already look bothered and we're still on the ground and the lady in front of me hasn't summoned you with the call button 8 times yet. Go get in your little jump seat and buckle up, sister. And, yes, it means you dude in front of me who reclines while we're still on the tarmac only to have to be told to return your seat to its upright position before we can take off. If those three centimeters actually provide you some comfort or solace, go for it. I guess I don't need my tray table.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

WWYD (What Would YOU Do?)

Since starting work in a pediatrician’s office, I overhear all kinds of things these days. Some of these jewels include:

“Where is your shoe?” 
“Where are your pants?” 
“Do you need to go potty?” 
“Did you just go potty here already?” 
“Don’t lick that.”

I am not an eavesdropper by nature and typically don’t have the time or concern to listen in on others’ conversations, but today, two women were chatting and it was a slower time and fairly quiet and here’s the jist of the conversation:

A man was diagnosed with cancer and given a pretty bleak prognosis. He sought a second opinion, but before that, made some pretty big decisions. The days that followed were filled with life-altering words and actions. In his defense, he thought his hourglass was about out of sand so he wasn’t wasting any time. He quit his job. He started selling some real estate and unfreezing assets. He reached out to a friend and a sibling, both of whom he’d lost contact with over the years, and rekindled those relationships. His wife decided she was down with the “health” part of the marriage vows but wasn’t as keen with the “sickness” part, so he cut her loose and she took off. He lost some friends he thought were true blue and gained the devotion and love from a couple of friends who surprised him. 

Then he received an equally alarming message in his second opinion:  “Your scans are clear. You don’t have cancer.”  What would normally be cause for celebration was met with more of a “what have I done?” reaction. He faced the equally-compelling conundrum of “what now?”

As I allowed my brain to wrap itself around this story, the one thing that struck me and struck me good was the thought that one phone call, one sentence, one word even, can have a domino effect on the rest of your life, however much is left.

“You have cancer.”
“I quit.”
“Can we talk?”
“I can’t do this.”
“Your scans are clear.”

The morale of this story, if there is one, is two-part. One, choose your words carefully as they may have a long-lasting and far-reaching impact that affects not just the intended recipient, but countless unseen others. And two, make the most of the day you have, for tomorrow is promised to no one.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Working for a Living

Today marks the end of my third week at a new job. After doing a little of this, a little of that, a bit more of this and then my own thing for a while, I stepped back into the world of working stiffs. I went cold turkey from “make my own hours” to “chained to a desk” and it’s been a transition, to be sure. But there are perks such as “having other adults to talk to” and “getting paid regularly.”  

My new job? Thanks for asking. I now man the front desk at a busy pediatricians’ office. I can’t tell you why, but it’s always been on my job “bucket list” and I decided this was the year to mark that bad boy off. You don’t have a job bucket list? Huh. I’ve had one for as long as I can remember. Let’s see. 

One stop shopping for small appliances, jewelry and home decor.

There was a local department store in Nashville called Service Merchandise. It went out of business years ago, but even if it hadn’t, Amazon would have been its undoing. I shopped there as a child because that’s where you went for everything from a new watch to a new toaster or a new piece of luggage. I thought it was a fun place, so that was where I went my senior year of high school to get my first job. I quit when, after just a few months of working there, I asked off for Halloween so I could go to a party and was denied.

100% synthetic, 0% comfort.

I always wanted to work outside, perhaps as a life guard or roller coaster operator. So, the summer after my freshman year of college, I applied for employment at the now extinct Nashville amusement park, Opryland. I thought I might roll in and be appointed to work the flume zoom or the Wabash Cannonball. Ha. I was handed a starched-within-an-inch-of-its-life 100% polyester sailor uniform and instructed to report to Kid Kountry, the small rides area designed for kids five and under. It was Hell right here on Earth. Each morning began with doing a sweep of each of the rides and attractions to look for snakes that could and did sneak into these areas overnight. Then I worked eight-10 grueling hours breaking up fights, reuniting lost kids with their anxious parents, getting kicked in the shins, called a “poopy head” when I insisted they wait their turn, and occasionally getting puked on. The shift ended by pulling a rope that hoisted all of the balls in the ball pit up into a net, allowing the night crew to hose out the bottom of the ball pit. You have not seen horrors the likes of which lurk in the bottom of a ball pit at an amusement park. I’m scarred from what I saw and, because of this, have never been in one since. There was “ball pit gravy," which consisted of leftover rinse water from the night before, dew, spittle, kid pee, and the occasional spilled drink. Also found in the ball pit:  shoes, socks, shirts, diapers, hats, sunglasses, loose change, paper money, a camera, park maps, various food items, watches, keys, oh, and snakes. After a week, I put in for a transfer to another attraction. I was assured my paperwork would be processed and I would be notified when an opening became available. I spent the entire summer in Kid Kountry. It was a long summer.

Party 101

Next on the job bucket list was “work at a party supply store.” After the debacle of working at Opryland, something cool, indoors and air conditioned seemed like the next logical move. Now in college in Memphis, I applied at a new party supply store that opened close to campus, Party Headquarters. My boss was high all the time and was eventually fired when they caught him in the back eating wedding favor jordan almonds as fast as he could. When the phone rang, we had to answer, “Thank you for calling Party Headquarters, where every day is a party. This is party animal, Valerie. How can I help you get your party started?” It was a lot. A new store came to town and opened up just across the strip mall from Party Headquarters. They sold clothing that was cute, fashionable and reasonably priced. I spent most of my paychecks at this place called “Old Navy.”

Once out of college, I ticked off other roles and jobs from my list:

  • answer phones at a busy switchboard
  • graphic design
  • work for an ad agency (Bonus points for having strategic meetings like Darrin Stephens and Larry Tate. Bonus points for you if you know who these people are.)
  • work for PR firm
  • work in glamorous world of marketing

Any day ending in "Y" is a day to have cake and celebrate.

And then some items on my list were very specific:

  • work at a place where you have to wear a lanyard/security badge and swipe it to get in places

Note:  not all it was cracked up to be. Totally stunk when you got to work and realized you’d left your badge at home or sitting on your desk on the other side of the security checkpoint.

  • work at a place that has a cafeteria (or gym)

Note:  I worked at a place that had both. They also offered free/all you wanted snacks & soft drinks, had Friday lunches, and had someone who would pick up and deliver dry cleaning right to your office. The down side? They expected you to work a 60-hour week without complaint and that was a typical week. Who needs to see their family? That’s what picture frames are for.

  • work for a non-profit

Note:  Learned quickly that “non-profit” is just a tax designation and that non-profits are very much about the profit

So, as you can see, my resume is varied and comprehensive. I decided the next item I would tackle would be “work in a busy doctor’s office.” Yes, it surprised me as much as it did you because I am a self-described germaphobe and, on top of that, I don’t really like kids, other than my own. And she’ll tell you, there are days I’m not crazy about her. But I’ve sat in various doctors’ offices and watched them take calls and make appointments and play with patient charts with the stickers for the first three letters of the patient’s last name, and then talk about which pharmaceutical rep was coming with lunch today and I thought it seemed fun. 

Now, here I am at the two-week mark working in a pediatrician’s office. I don’t know about fun but I’ve really enjoyed my time so far. It’s busy. From the time we open to the time I walk out, I don’t have a lot of free time. In fact, there are days I get home and think, “I haven’t eaten or gone to the bathroom today.” It’s like that. But the good thing I’ve already learned? There’s no work to take home. There’s nothing to sit up working on after everyone else is in bed. There’s no “get up early to prepare for the next day.” I go in, I work hard while I’m there, and then I come home. It’s that easy. And that, my friends, is money in the bank.

Stay tuned for more Adventures from a Pediatrician’s Office. Until then, take your vitamins, wash your hands, and get your flu shot if you haven’t done so yet.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Doggone Dumb

I love animals, especially dogs. If you know me at all, you know my motto is “I tolerate people; I adore dogs.” I have actually swerved while driving to avoid a dog or squirrel only to notice afterwards that there was a pedestrian whom I did not register being there at all. I sacrifice decent sleep and comfort on a nightly basis so my pups have room to stretch out. My girls eat breakfast and dinner before I do. I’ve spent more on a dog sweater than I have on a people sweater for myself.

With all this said, I’m getting ready to say something seemingly uncharacteristic:

Dogs don’t need to be everywhere, all the time.

There, I said it. Your pooch is not an accessory. Now, time and schedule and weather permitting, I’ll load up one or both of our girls to make the drive to school in the morning or afternoon, provided it’s going to be a quick, non-stop flight. They love to get out and ride and see things and sniff things. But I’m seeing an epidemic of people with dogs in all kinds of wildly inappropriate places and I wonder “what are you thinking?”

Here are a few recent examples:

1.  At school.
There are only a couple of Moms who do this, but they’re repeat offenders. If it was a “Fido has been sick and I’m keeping an eye on him” situation, I’d be all over that, offering to make canine-friendly chicken soup. But it’s not because it happens regularly. What it does come across as is “I’m an introvert and this furry crutch I’m holding will help me in conversation.” Totally fair, coming from this world-renowned introvert. But still, not OK. Here’s my issue with it:  not everyone likes dogs. I know, I don’t get it and trust me, I trust dogs a lot more than people. But it’s the truth. As a fairly empathetic person, I realize that there are people out there with fears and allergies and just general wariness and ambivalence that I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to help them overcome by forcing my dog into their inner circle.

2.  At sporting events.
So your kid is playing a double header soccer game Saturday and you’ll be at the ball park from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon on a Saturday in August? For some people, this means dragging a drooling, panting dog all over God’s green earth, desperately seeking shade and water. Not to mention, anywhere where there will be a ton of small children is not a good environment for any dog, no matter how well trained or behaved. I’ve never met a dog that loved seven different short people coming up, surrounding it, shrieking in their little kid voices and touching him all over. It makes the dog nervous and a nervous dog is never good.

3.  In the car.  
Of course, most of us know not to leave our precious pups in the car on crazy hot days. And if you don’t, I promise I’ll be more than happy to break your window if I stand there and watch your dog suffer more than 10 minutes on a blistering hot day. But what about the other, not-crazy-hot days? Is it fair to drag your pup along with you as you run a day’s worth of errands?

4.  Chained in the yard. All. The. Time.  
We have one of these in our neighborhood and it breaks my heart. Especially as I’m giving my pups extra snuggle time and asking them which treat they’re in the mood for while hearing plaintiff cries down the street from a dog who just wants some attention, good or bad. I’ve never understood why people get a dog when they don’t seem “all in.” Now, I know not everyone is willing to share their lives inhales/exhales with their pets as I do and that’s fine. But what is the point of having a dog chained up in the far back corner of your yard? You might have wanted a pet but perhaps a goldfish or plush, stuffed animal would have been a better option.

5.  As a photo prop.
This is my last one for today. Again, I adore dogs. I truly do. But I respect them, too. Regardless of how I treat and speak to mine, I know deep down they’re not human. They’re animals. And because of this, there is a tiny part of them that is unpredictable. And that’s why I cringe every time I see a photo like this:

It’s not cute. It’s not wise. It’s selfish and not thought out well by the new parents who are probably stumbling around in a sleep-deprived stupor.

Now, in closing, I’ll offer some good suggestions for places to take your pet:

1. Find a dog park nearby. Take a leash, a ball, a collapsible bowl and a bottle of water. Adhere to the posted rules, especially regarding size.

2.  Go on a picnic. Find a secluded, shady spot somewhere just off the main drag of a park. Bring a tether or tie out so Fido can roam further than a leash and explore the surroundings.

3.  Go for a drive, but don’t get out. Roll the windows down as low as you’re comfortable doing and let them soak up the smells out there. You get bonus points for driving by the vet, but not stopping.

4.  Visit a DIY dog bath and get Scruffy, well, less scruffy. They give you all the supplies you need and you walk away with a healthy back and a clean bathtub at home.

5.  Schedule a play date with a friend’s or neighbor’s pooch. Make sure ahead of time that their temperaments are compatible but social interaction is just as important in canines as it is with your other kids.