Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back in 7th Grade

Does anybody miss french braids, big bangs and braces?

It never really goes away does it? I mean the "feeling" of Junior High School. It was as if I was constantly questioning. Does anybody like me? Will they like me tomorrow? Will I still have a seat at the lunch table or have they voted me off the island because they traded up for a Student Council officer? (Does that give you any sense of how low I was on the social food chain?)
So, my little sister, Jill, is dragging me into the 21st Century by pestering me to set up a profile on Facebook. After dinner last night, I got on and started the process. It's relatively painless with the hardest part being wrenching a photo of Steve and I in Israel out of the scrapbook to scan and upload.
I began to be overwhelmed by this pervasive feeling of uneasiness. Trying to diagnose the source of this, I ran through my mental checklist. Stove turned off - check. Kids in bed, nobody vomiting yet - check. Steve on the couch and not halfway across the world as usual - check. Nothing I could think of would cause that amount of rising panic, until it hit me. Facebook is all about having friends, adding friends and communicating with friends. And at this point in my Facebook life I had NONE. Never mind that I just saved my profile 3 minutes ago. I really truly felt like I was back at Campbell Junior High School, the first one in my desk in math class because I had nobody to talk to in the halls. For a minute, I considered making my husband create a profile just so I could have one friend.
Lest you think I'm pathetic and more mentally unstable than usual, I did snap out of it pretty quickly. As a middle school teacher, I think it was a reminder of what my students go through every day. People ask me all the time why I teach Middle School and my stock answer is, "My sense of humor got stuck somewhere around the 7th grade, so I still think they're funny." While this is undeniably true (tell a fart joke if you'd like to test this theory), I think there's more to it than that. I think remembering middle school with more loathing than fondness gives me a fair amount of empathy for what goes on in the halls of Scott Johnson Middle School in McKinney, TX.
By the way, I woke up and found I already had ten friends on Facebook this morning. Never mind that Jill had sent them all messages suggesting they add me as a friend. At my age, a friend is a friend and you're lucky to have one, but blessed beyond words to have more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hold on tight...

We just returned alive and only a little traumatized from our family vacation to San Antonio having taken in all the sights (Sea World, the Alamo, El Mercado & the Riverwalk). Lest you think this was a run of the mill, late summer jaunt to entertain the boys, you should know that when I say “family” vacation, that does not mean just the four members of my immediate family, it encompasses 17 members of my extended family. To truly appreciate the gravity of that statement, allow me to introduce the key players:
Meme and Grandpa McHenry (a.k.a. Susan and Jay).

The Corcoran Family (that’s us!) – Melanie, Steve, Brendan (8) and John Bryant (4).

The Hallmark Family – Meredith, Brad, Kayla (almost 5) and Will (3).

The Haywood Family – Jill, Andrew, Molly (3), and Ben (born in June ’08). Only Molly made the trip, because – let’s face it – a 1 month old at Sea World is just a disaster in the making.

The McHenry/Garcia Family – Neal, Leah, Zoe (8), Caleb Anthony (6), Caleb Taylor (4), and Callie (2).

Thursday we traveled to SA and crashed at our hotel (pretty low key). Friday we head to Sea World in plenty of time to get there right as it is opening. Everyone has a to-do list – shows, roller coasters, gift shop purchases. Steve (a.k.a. Turbo-Tourist) attempts to organize the clan. He keeps whispering the phrase “herding cats”. Well put. We stare danger in the face as we proceed: kids outnumber adults, it is 100+ degrees, we have 4 strollers packed with kids and theme park paraphernalia, and there are record crowds at Sea World.

We blunder our way through the day catching: shows (Shamu, of course), roller coasters (Steel Eel, not a fan!), and who knows what from the public restrooms. Around 4:30, everyone is near comatose, so Brad and Mer suggest a trip to the water park to lounge in the Lazy River. Bryant starts chanting “la-zy river” and in my heat exhaustion I join him for a moment. Brendan and Zoe strip down to their suits and plunge into the river. Steve wades in cautiously as I peel Bryant (thrashing and squeaking) off the hand rail and begin to drag him along. Maybe it was the mass of humanity swirling around us, or the swift man-made current that spooked him, but I drag him along until we score a donut shaped tube with handles for him to ride on. In trying to get him onto the tube he manages to climb up the edge of the river, park himself beside a lifeguard, cross his arms over his life jacket, stick out his lips in a world class pout and refuse to come back into the water. Fun times!

Brendan and Zoe, both great swimmers, are nowhere to be found, so I leave Bryant and his histrionics to Steve and take off after the two big kids. If lazy river navigation was an Olympic sport I would win no medals for grace, but maybe a certificate of completion because I eventually found them. I played cat and mouse with them for a while before finally bumping into Brad, Meredith, Kayla and Will. We pal around a bit before I start wondering what has become of Steve and the drama king.

Another loop around and I see Bryant reaching out his arms for me. He was finally tired of missing out and willing to go for another spin. I turn to face him and grab him under his arms, squatting under the water and walking backwards. He holds on for dear life, gripping the back of my arms and saying, ”Don’t let go mommy.” We proceed like this until we reach a calm stretch of water. He relaxes enough that his feet touch the ground and he realizes he can bounce on the bottom. His face lights up and he visibly relaxes, but his grip on me never lessens. Never one to leave a question unasked, I say, “Why are you holding on so tight if you know you can touch?” His response brought tears to my eyes, “Because I always need you mommy, even when I can touch.”

God wants the very same kind of dependence and trust from us through every season of our walk. The same devoted, whole-hearted clinging to him in times when we are only ankle deep and in times when the water has reached your chin and you are sinking like a rock. Thank you, Jesus. I always need you, even when I can touch.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bikini Bloopers

(Who doesn't love Sally Field as Gidget?)

Finally free of all obligations to my family (the boys are spending the week at their grandparents and my geezer of a husband just wants a nap), I quickly select a swimsuit in which to rush to the pool for a few uninterrupted hours of sun and Southern Living magazine.

My bikini line is less than pristine, so I go with a suit that has a skirt. Now at 35, I can still pull off a bikini moderately well, meaning I seldom leave a trail of vomiting onlookers in my wake. I am, in fact, quite fond of this particular suit with its aqua, navy, and white polka-dotted bandeau top with optional tie around the neck – which I use because let’s face it, I’ve had two kids and my husband has yet to agree to my extreme makeover plan.

After a short drive, I sign in at the neighborhood pool with the teenage kid at the front desk, and begin to write my husband’s emergency contact info for unlikely event that I should need medical attention for a cannonball gone wrong. At this point any support I had from the top half of my bikini gave way. I immediately clench my upper arms to my sides like I was crushing a can between my shoulder blades and briskly walk to the bathroom to refasten my swimsuit. As I reach up into the back of my cover up, a large chunk of plastic falls into my hand. This confirms the worst of all possible scenarios, my Wal-Mart suit has given up on me after only two summers and there will be no pool day today.

I walk like a penguin out to the car, muttering something about leaving my towel at home to the kid who just signed me in two minutes ago. On the way to the car, I get a flash of brilliance and realize that all may not be lost after all. I’m in a swimsuit with a skirt for a reason, why not rectify that situation with a quick bikini wax?

In suburban McKinney, Texas there are strip malls as far as the eye can see in every direction. I think the zoning rules must say that in such shopping centers there MUST be a donut store, a dry cleaners and a nail salon. I decide to gamble just once on the flashing neon sign at my favorite pedi place that claims they also do massages, waxing, and microdermabrasion. Upon arrival I am ushered back to the room that I have always thought was the bathroom. There is a small treatment table covered with a fitted sheet. Quite frankly, it looks like an old dentist’s chair in the fully reclined position. The young girl asks me to take off my pants. If you’ll recall I’m in a swimsuit. Awkward.

I offer to come back on Monday, but she thinks we should give it a go anyway. Truthfully at this point, coming back on Monday was just code for “this may be my favorite pedicure salon, but I am never, I repeat never, coming back here again since you’ve seen me nearly naked.” Hot wax. Linen strips rubbed on. Ripping. Stinging. All the bad words I ever heard on the back of the junior high bus rushing to mind. I think the ordeal is over, but then she goes after me with tweezers that feel like they are electrified on my freshly abraded skin. When I hear the words, “Ok, you done,” I nearly hurt myself trying to get my swimsuit back on.

I pay and leave, walking like a cowboy that just got off a week long trail ride, all the while still clinching my swimsuit top on with the sheer force of my will. Next time I think I’ll opt for the nap after all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Let It Be

What is it about some people that makes them feel like they must be part of every situation, no matter how far removed they are from it? They carry on conversations and the glaring subtext always remains, "I'll get to the bottom of this because I have a vast network of sources that trust me and tell me things in confidence which I will reveal to a select few, if and only if I deem them worthy or they know the secret handshake."

What drives someone to take information revealed in conversation (aka - gossip, if we're being honest) and call that person to confirm if said information was true or not? Really? Seriously?? You had to call that person? Is it any of your business? What exactly were you hoping to accomplish? Did this person benefit from your "expertise" on the subject? OR did you just stir up additional controversy?

Growing up, I was taught, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." I think my generation interpreted that as, "If you can't say something nice, make sure to say it to someone who knows enough not to repeat it to the person being talked about and who will likely not use your name as the source of that comment." A pretty sketchy premise to operate under. A rule of thumb that more often than not ends in broken trust, severed friendships, and disappointment that "the rules" backfired.

I didn't think I would have to continue learning these lessons as an adult, but as luck would have it, here I am again learning the value and scarcity of trustworthy friends. In a world where most people are busy living, parenting, working, striving, there are still some who take a mere mention and ignite a firestorm of controversy just to satisfy their unquenchable desire to be right in the big middle of things - whether they belong or not.

It is taking everything within me not to lash back at this person, or to go to others involved and explain how what I said was taken completely out of context and then added to utter fabrication, but I feel led to stay out of it and just let it be. Lesson learned.