|Every Life is a Story
A place to
share my own family stories
I'm a Contributing Writer!
Utah Mama contacted me recently to write an article about the best gift I ever received. Since it was close to Valentine's Day, I wrote about my best Valentine's Day present ever. You can find the story at:
As far as the best gift I ever received from OTHER holidays, there are so many it's very difficult to narrow it down. I love getting presents, but like most people, the best gifts aren't anything you can ever unwrap.
A Bad Day
Last week I had a bad day. Another one of THOSE.
It started with dog vomit. A wonderful way to wake up in the morning, let me tell you. Then, after driving kids to school, I found the internet was down. BAD. I sicced my husband on fixing the internet, and I cleaned up the dog vomit. I got the good end of the deal, as it turned out.
After hearing my husband talking to a thousand different people in India to see how to fix our internet service, I left to take care of getting the emissions and safety inspection done for my car. I had delayed this to the last week of the month for a lot of reasons none of which were good enough because I had four days left to get my car registered, and both tests failed. NOW I had to get my car fixed, take it BACK to the emissions place, and try again.
Grumbling over the failed tests, I went to Sam's club to pick up contact lenses, and return my tainted peanut butter and cracker snacks. It's a great thing we didn't need our 72 hour kits this year, or we wouldn't have died of earthquake or flood, we'd have died of salmonella poisoning from eating our peanut butter and cracker snacks. On my way home, my cell phone rang. It really never does, so I was surprised, and grabbed my purse to scramble for my phone. I didn't see the red light. I missed it completely. There may as well not have been a red light there. I DID see the police car flashing his lights at me, and pulled over. I was surprised because I couldn't imagine WHY he'd be pulling me over! I received a stern warning, and was feeling pretty low and stupid as I CAREFULLY drove home to meet the piano repair man.
The digital piano getting repaired was the one good part of my day. The piano is old enough now that I can't get parts for it anymore, and the volume control was broken. I was very grateful to get my piano back. While the repair man was working, the phone rang. It was the nurse who gave me my mammogram a couple of weeks ago. She politely informed me that they "found something" and I needed to get more tests and meet with someone right away. She scheduled me for the next day, and wished me a good day.
The floor fell out from under me.
I said goodbye to the repair man, and started to shake. I KNEW in my head that it was probably going to be fine, and that there was no real reason to worry, but the rest of me wasn't buying it. I called to tell my husband, and started to cry, then talked to my best friend, and cried some more. I would have logged online somewhere to forget about things, but the internet was down, and so I puttered around the house doing nothing effective until the kids got home from school.
The dog threw up again around four in the afternoon.
Several days later, I can happily say that everything has been resolved. The dog is better. It took five days, but the internet is working again. After buying parts at Checker only to find out they were the wrong parts, and having to take the car in to the mechanic ANYWAY, then going BACK to the emissions place, I am now legal to drive my car, and have sworn away from ever trying to answer the cell phone while driving. I'm a reformed citizen. I drove all the way out to the big downtown hospital the next day. It took me half an hour to get there. It took them ten minutes to test me. They solemnly informed me that I had "fibrocystic changes", small benign calcified lumps in my breats. I knew I had those ten years ago, it's why I got a baseline mammogram five years ago. I drove all that way, and had all the stress and crying so they could tell me something I already knew. The fallout from the really bad day has left me with a cold, but other than that all is well again.
I noticed that the last time I wrote about a REALLY bad day, it was the same time of year, and it also involved vomit. I find this trend strange and disturbing, but I suppose if it continues, then I have a year before I have to endure another one. I hope.
Dungeons and Dragons
I play Dungeons and Dragons. I know, it’s true, and astonishingly enough, I am not a teenage boy, I do not live in my parent’s basement, I have absolutely no tape anywhere near my glasses, which I only wear when I’m ill, and I have never owned a pocket protector. I’ll admit when I started playing, I didn’t expect it to become a lifelong hobby, but I’m certainly not complaining.
My introduction to the game came in the 7th grade with Ben, a guy in my class who had a crush on me. One day, I noticed that he was gathered around a table in the library with a few other guys. They had books and papers, and dice, and it sounded to me like they were telling some kind of story together. Ben would describe a scene, and the boys would in turn tell him how their characters were reacting. Fascinated, I asked him what they were doing, and he told me they were playing Dungeons and Dragons.
I didn’t start playing right then, because apparently Dungeons and Dragons was something only boys played, but oh, I was intrigued. I had spent the entire previous year pretending to shoot Cylons at recess, and I was ready for something new. No, I started playing when my Home Room teacher, Mr. Byrne taught a class on how to play it. The half hour after lunch was spent in something the school called “Exploratory”. Teachers were allowed to teach something they really enjoyed like crafts or hobbies, and we could sign up for the classes we liked. Mr. Byrne actually offered a class on Dungeons and Dragons, and I HAD to sign up!
Mr. Byrne became my first Dungeon Master, the person who told the story. He taught us how to make characters. Characters had their own jobs and abilities that they brought to the game. There were types of fighters, who could use swords and other weapons to fight enemies. There were thieves who were good at sneaking and disarming traps. Magic users could use magic to cast spells, and Clerics could heal. My first character was a thief. Using a purchased adventure, Mr. Byrne carefully described to us our first dungeon. He’d tell us what the rooms looked like, and using our characters’ abilities, we would tell him what we’d choose to do. As a thief, my character took the lead, sneaking through ancient hallways to uncover traps and search for treasure. We’d run into monsters, and fight them using our character’s skills, and some dice. I was hooked. It was absolutely the best thing I had done since last year's Battlestar Galactica days.
At the end of the class, I had graduated from my first dungeon, and was ready to try something new. Thankfully, because Ben had a crush on me, he graciously allowed me to play in his game with the other guys. I joined them around the library table, and I’m pretty sure I saved their character’s pretend lives more than once.
Unfortunately, the game didn’t last forever. Ben moved to a new school, and the game dissolved. I wandered off to do other things. Occasionally, I’d have a chance to play in high school, but never in a regular steady game. If you asked me then if I’d still be playing when I was a grownup, I would have answered no. It’s funny how life changes things.
I hate winter. I hate snow. I hate being cold. Anybody who knows me, knows this.
Why I ended up living in Utah where there's lots of snow is a mystery. Especially considering that I live in the state where the license plates say "Ski Utah" and I don't ski. I never have. There's a very good reason for this. See the first line of this post. Now add the fact that I'm a complete klutz, and I can't see paying a ton of money for the opportunity to be cold and miserable and falling on my bottom or breaking a leg for fun. These days my favorite winter activity is standing in front of the fire.
I DID participate in one particular winter activity growing up. We went four or five times when I was a teenager, and I really did like it when I went. I went inner tubing. It's basically skiing without any control over where you're going or how fast you can go. The ski lifts at some of the Oregon resorts where I grew up would cater to inner-tubes, and our church youth group would go and have a crazy time. We would hook our innertubes to the part of the ski lift especially designed for tubes, lay down, and get a lazy ride up the hill. Then we'd turn around, and slide down. If you wanted to stop, you simply had to roll off the speeding inner tube at the end, then pay attention to where the inner tube ended up so you could go find it and start all over again.
I should note that inner tubes are infinitely more dangerous than skiing is. We had someone get hurt every single year that we went. It didn't stop us, because I think all of the high speed tumbles from the inner tubes gave us brain damage. Either way, I am now happily a cave troll all winter long, and gleefully watch my children outside in the snow from my perch in front of the fire.
Santa Shops at Shopko
When my youngest was three years old, we went shopping with my mother, my grandmother, and my sister to Shopko to grab up last minute Christmas items. As we were walking through the parking lot, a pickup truck pulled up, and a man got out. He was wearing denim overalls over a flannel shirt. He had long white hair, and a bushy white beard, and a pair of glasses perched upon a cold-reddened nose.
I blurted, before my brain could catch up with my mouth, "Oh, look! There's Santa!"
My little three year old turned and looked and cried out with absolute joy, "SANTA!!!!! Hi!!!! IT'S ME!!!!"
That sweet man turned and said, "Well, so it is! It's so good to see you! You've grown so much!"
My daugther smiled and nodded, and jabbered something about Christmas. He asked her if she'd been good, and told her he was looking forward to coming to her house in just two more nights. Then he wished her a Merry Christmas and went on to do his shopping.
My daughter's holiday had been made. She exclaimed over and over about how she had really seen Santa, and not just at the store all dressed up. She jumped up and down, and made up songs about the event. She brought it up year after year after year.
The North Pole might be hundreds of miles away, but I can say with absolute confidence that I know Santa shops at our Shopko.
Playing Pretend Some More
I've mentioned that my favorite childhood pasttime was playing pretend. It wasn't until I hit middle school, and sixth grade, however that playing pretend got really GOOD.
I had a friend named Chris who was fun and creative. She read all the good fantasy and science fiction books, and we'd have fun making up stories. I would have sleepovers at her house a lot, and we'd act out scenes from books, or stories that we made up together.
The BEST game, though, was just after Galactica '79 came out. We were both big fans of the Battlestar Galactica tv show, so when they remade the series to actually bring the Galactica to earth, we were glued to the television set. The series was awful and didn't last long, but we were in sixth grade, and had no taste. We watched EVERY episode. The basic premise was that the Galactica arrived at present day earth, and the evil Cylons had followed. So instead of just beaming everyone down to the planet, they sent some of their soldiers to work on ways to safely integrate the Galacticans with the earth population. They did this by turning invisible and talking to brilliant scientists. Like I said, we had no taste.
Chris had the brilliant idea of a secret society of scientists who worked with alien technology far more advanced than current civilization. They had already made contact with other alien races, and had a secret government funded lab where they could work on their advanced projects. She called it the EX team. We were agents of the EX team, and our cover was to pose as middle school students in an ordinary American school. When the invisible Galacticans made contact with us, we ended up trying to save the world from Cylon invaders every lunch recess in the sixth grade.
Shooting Cylons at recess ended up not being the popular activity among the other girls at school- they preferred playing jump rope. I really didn't care. I was having a great time, and there was an endless line of boys who were thrilled to play Cylons or other EX team members. Nobody EVER had as much fun at recess than we did.
My daughter came home the other day telling me about a game they were playing at school where they all had secret superpowers and were fighting bad guys at recess. You go, girl.
As a child, I had a ton of toys growing up. I had Barbies, and Fisher Price "Peoples", and board games like Battleship and Candyland. I never got an Easy Bake Oven, but when Fondue was really huge, I had Kiddie Fondue pot that melted chocolate chips for dipping. None of them held a candle to my absolute favorite toy of all time. The costume box.
My mother had an old hamper that she filled with anything that could be counted as "Dress Up" this meant that old formals, and nightgowns, and costume pieces found their way there. Really, though, while dressing up was always great, it was only what was necessary to play my favorite game- pretend.
I had an active imagination, and whenever I could get anyone to play along, then it was time to play pretend. Most of the time, we played that we were orphans or runaways, and would have to find ways to deal with the harsh realities of life on our own in my backyard. I remember running a restaurant, and playing house, and once we lived in the "Land of the Lost" populated by dinosaurs and lizardmen.
My FAVORITE pretend game, however, was Logan's Run. There was a brief television series that came out based on the movie. The premise was a futuristic society where everyone was killed once they turned thirty. People trying to escape their fate would become "runners" and be hunted down by the government. I didn't really understand the social message behind the show, I just became fascinated with the idea of ESCAPING the evil society. We had to become runners. We ran up and down my cousin's suburban street, pursued by futuristic police (all the boys). We would sneak through yards, and find hidden paths to elude our pursuers. We always got caught, and we always escaped again. At least until our Moms made us come home for dinner.
I look at toys in catalogues, and think about when my children were little, and what toys they wanted the most. Really, it didn't matter what they ended up with as presents, as long as the costume box was full...
"To be a person
is to have a story to tell."
- Isak Dinesen