Gravity

I recently lost my old fitness band, so I researched several new ones before settling on the Fitbit Charge HR. I originally wanted the smart watch version, but it got horrible reviews, so I decided to go with the smaller band that included a heart monitor. The model had yet to be released, so I had to wait patiently (HA!) for it to hit the market.

It finally arrived last Sunday. There’s something about a shiny plastic box with good package design that makes me happy; I admired the box for several minutes before tearing it open and playing with my new toy. It took several minutes to synchronize it with both my computer and my phone, but I finally figured it out.

I ran to the bedroom to change into my running clothes, checking the time on the new band every few seconds. As I tied my running shoes, I scrolled through the display again.

I took 58 steps already!

I called to the girls, who wanted to join me on their scooters. As they got ready, I walked around the kitchen, watching the pedometer. 77. 78. 79. 80. Finally, they appeared at the door. 95. 96. 97.

We walked to the end to the driveway as I synchronized my playlist with my Runkeeper app (which also feeds into my Fitbit app), and we were off. Meghan Trainor set a happy beat for my feet to follow (you lie, lie, lie baby!) and it felt awesome to get moving again. The weather was perfect. I pressed the button on the stats again: .04 miles and counting!

Yea!

We reached the end of the street, and turned right. The road slopes ever so slightly, and the spot where the asphalt ends is somewhat treacherous, so the girls gravitated towards the middle of the street. I called ahead and warned them to move closer to the side, in case traffic came. I realized I needed to heed my own warning as well, so I moved slightly right.

I could feel my legs wanting to stretch and break out into a full run, so I looked down and pressed the button again, trying to see where my heart rate was…

… and promptly face-planted straight into the asphalt.

My right ankle gave out, pitching my body to the left, where I landed simultaneously on my left hand and knee, the tiny rocks embedded in the asphalt ripping through my skin. I laid there for a moment on my back, stunned, until the pain set in. The girls immediately scooted back over to me, both cringing as the blood started running down my hand. My ankle hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up, and when I lifted it, I could see it had already swelled to the size of an orange.

Meghan Trainor gave way to Taylor Swift. I’m sorry, Tay Tay, but I can’t shake this one off. I called D to come get us.

About a half an hour later, I lay in the bed, ankle wrapped and iced, scrapes bandaged, and realized my Runkeeper app was still going.

.17 miles.

And this is why I shouldn’t be allowed to have technology while I run.

Riff Raff

When we started looking for our new home, we had a certain price range in mind. We were lucky enough to stumble across an incredible deal in a beautiful neighborhood, but we are definitely one of the “lower end” homes. Our house sits on almost a full acre at the end of a heavily wooded cul de sac; everyone on the street has automatic iron gates.

I found this incredibly amusing when we first moved in. I mean, I’m just a little redneck girl from the country, and now I have this fancy-schmancy gate with a remote control. Not like the gate at the front of the neighborhood, oh no…. my OWN fancy gate. So when I described the amenities of my new house to anyone who would listen, I made sure to jest about the gate that would “keep the riff raff out.”

The gate runs on solar power, with two small photo cells that recharge the main battery. What I didn’t realize is that the photo cells only get sunlight during PART of the day, because the cul de sac is heavily wooded, casting the panels in deep shade. That’s fine, most of the time. Unless it rains.

So, the first time it rained, we were not prepared.

The alarm went off at 6:00am, as usual, and it was still pitch black outside. We got ready for work, I loaded Alex into the truck, and hit the button, ready to start the day.

Nothing.

Why is it that when a remote control doesn’t work, we still feel the need to hit the button repeatedly, as if it will magically start to work for no rational reason?

“Open, damn it,” I cursed the tiny grey box. The red light flashed in response, but the gate ignored my plea. D came out, ready to go.

“Open the gate,” he said. I narrowed my eyes.

“I’m trying. It’s not working.”

“Press the button.” I narrowed my eyes further.

“I TRIED THAT.”

Now here’s the thing about me & D; we have an awesome relationship. He truly is my best friend in many ways. But when it comes to matters of home improvement, there are moments I’d like to drive a long screw through his head with a power drill, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. For whatever reason, our incredible patience for one another’s shenanigans quickly poofs into smoke at the slightest home challenge. So add the stress of the new commute, plus getting Alex on the bus that will be rounding the corner in less than three minutes, not to mention it was cold, wet & rainy (a deadly combination for me), I bit my tongue until I tasted blood to keep from chunking the remote at his head. After all, he was going to get wet and be late to work, too.

I quickly ran through the options in my head.

1) Call Out: ”Yeah, I’m not coming in today because my gate won’t open.” I figured I wouldn’t get much sympathy for that one.

2) Ram the gate. No, that can’t be a viable option. Yet.

3) Go figure out why the damn gate won’t open, despite the fact that I have absolutely no prior knowledge about solar cells or iron gates. Sure, that sounds awesome. I’m sure I could come up with the solution in under three minutes.

D grabbed the flashlight and handed me an umbrella, and we walked down the driveway to the solar panel.

“What do you think is wrong with it?” he mused, moving the flashlight around the large metal case.

“It won’t open,” I replied. He shot me a dark look.  ”Try opening the box.”

As soon as he touched the back panel, it fell off onto the ground, making a small splash in the puddle that was forming beneath it.

“Well, that might have something to do with it,” D mumbled. He started to reach his hands into the box to mess with the clamps on the battery.

“What are you doing?? Don’t do that!” I snapped.

“How am I supposed to fix it?”

“You’re standing in a puddle!!”

“Do you have a better idea?”

I leaned forward, trying to see, but the umbrella tilted, sending a small river of cold water straight on top of his head.  ”I can’t see,” I mumbled when he dropped the flashlight to protect his head from the stream of water.

And this is how divorce happens.

After a few moments, the tension started to skyrocket, so we decided to just unbolt the whole freaking control arm on the gate, manually push the damn thing open, and wait for a sunny day to fix it.

And that’s when I realized God was putting me back in my place, because it became obvious that the fancy-schmancy gate not only keeps riff-raff out….

…. but it also keeps it in.

(But the damn deer can still get in somehow.)

Another Day

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“I’m doing the laundry, and Dan is out digging up a dead body.”

“Hahah…. wait a minute. You’re not kidding are you?”

“Um, no.”

“You guys are so weird.”

“I know, right? Who would want to do laundry on a day like this?”

Oh, Deer.

Early one chilly Saturday morning, I was laying in bed when Pixel started to bark incessantly. This is a big deal now, because since we’ve moved, I had to put a bark collar on the dogs to keep them from annoying the neighbors (which is another story to come).

So when Pixel, the biggest puss of my two doxies, is STILL barking, there is something big going down.

He was barking with more ferocity than I’d heard since we moved into our new house. His normal yap-yap was punctuated with an uncharacteristic snarl and growl. I shook D awake.

“The dog is going crazy,” I informed him. I expected him to pop out of bed and grab his gun, but he did nothing. I pulled my robe around my shoulders as I moved towards the patio door. If something was going to kill me, then I was going to… meet it at the door, damn it. I know taekwondo. Sort of.

I slid my fingers between the blinds, and saw Pixel barking furiously at something that was making a huge splash in the shallow end of the pool. His lips were curled back in a vicious snarl, baring his teeth as he yap-yap-yapped at the monster frantically thrashing in the pool. My eyes took a moment to recognize what I was seeing; my brain took a few more seconds to comprehend.

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. Now D was paying attention.

“What is it?”

“There’s a…. a…… freaking DEER in the pool!” I exclaimed over Pixel’s yapping. I moved quickly from the bedroom to the living room, watching the deer thrash about helplessly in the water as it started moving towards the deep end. Pixel followed him along the lip of the pool, never shutting up.

“Oh my God!! D! What do we do?” I cried, compelled to act before we had a deer drown in our pool. It was too large to pull out, and it was too cold to get in, anyway (Sorry, Bambi, but until that water hits 85 degrees, you’re sleeping with the fishes.) Not to mention the trauma that would ensue with my children when the story got back to them since the last deer incident.  And to top it all off, I’m pretty sure a deer carcass would clog the filter.

The dog, however, was blissfully unaware of the situation he had gleefully created. He also  had no comprehension that one good deer kick to his stubborn little head could silence him forever, so my only solution was to yell at the dog.

“Leave it alone, stupid! What the hell are you going to do with it when you catch it???” I yelled through the window. “It’s TEN TIMES your SIZE!!!”

“YAP! YAP! YAP! YAP! YAP!!!!!!” he answered.

Thankfully, God took pity on me (or the deer was actually an accomplished swimmer), because as it thrashed towards the deep end, a hoof caught the sun shelf and enabled it to catapult itself out of the pool, running for the safety of the street. I looked over at D, who looked as stunned as I was.

“Nobody is ever going to believe this one.”

Apparently, the country is no place for a deer.  :/

Jesus Snow

Every Christmas I volunteer to work our church festivities. I’ll admit, I’ve come around 180 degrees when it comes to mega-churches; I used to hate them with an unholy passion. I don’t think I’ve ever told people why… I guess I’ll have to write about that someday.

But ANYWAY, I’ve been going to a mega-church for some time now, and I’ve found a home in their children’s ministries. Throughout the year, they hold several festivals, but their Christmas one is a huge production. This year was no exception, as they transformed parts of their front lawn into a snow-covered snowball party. One area is designated especially for what I like to call “the littles.” While my daily calling beckons me to the sarcasm and eye-rolling of the dreaded tween, Christmas is a different story. The joy and wonder that Christmas brings to a baby’s face renews my hope in humanity; and their epic meltdowns coupled with their parents’ frustration and embarrassment is hysterical, especially given the clientele of this particular mega-church.

Hey, we’re all human, Ferrari man. My kid did that, too. It’s okay.

Because the festivities are free, people come from all over to participate. That means rich kids next to poor kids, smart kids next to, well, not-so-smart kids. This is actually one of my favorite times to volunteer, because you get the not-so-churchy church crowd, too. You know, the ones that only come during Christmas and Easter.

So I’m sitting next to the preschool snow entrance, which is pretty slick because, let’s face it, snow doesn’t hold up well in Texas. As quickly as the rented trucked dumps a fresh layer of powder, the kids have trampled it down into a solid block of ice. So the mom trying to navigate the iced-over plywood entrance in sky-high Louboutin stilettos isn’t faring any better than the redneck dad next to her in a pair of worn cowboy boots.

Snow is the great equalizer of society.

Both slide about precariously with their tiny children balanced in their arms, first trying to avoid my helping hand, but finally grasping it in a desperate attempt to keep from dropping their children on the ice rink. They always smile apologetically, as if it was some disservice to help them. I wonder, when did we get so proud that we stopped accepting a helping hand? I directed them to the softer area further in, and they carefully navigated the ice field with all the grace of a Bourbon Street drunk on Mardi Gras night.

As each service let out, a huge wave of people would come through, and the area would get pretty crowded. Parents started to drop their kids at the gate and attempt to shove them through, trying to avoid joining them on the slick ice. Most of the kids would stand still for a moment, not quite sure what to make of the slippery foreign white substance. After a dramatic pause, they would do one of two things: run excitedly into the melee, or have a complete meltdown. Occasionally, one would pad it cautiously and plop down in the middle. A couple would attempt to build a snowman, but they never reached more than a foot high. I guess you’d call it a snow dwarf.

One tiny little girl toddled out to the center and plopped down, her diaper protecting her little bum from the cold. She plunged her plump little fingers down deep into the ice, and when she pulled them out, they sparkled as the tiny ice flakes reflected the light. She studied them intently for a moment, as if pondering the very meaning of their existence….

…. and then shoved them in her mouth.

She did this a couple of times before she decided that handfuls of snow might taste better. Her mother stood outside the gate, deep in conversation with another mom. Several parents snickered, some cringed. The kids around her flung snow carelessly, ignoring the child who was content feasting on her snow buffet, now shoveling handfuls of snow into her mouth with glee. Finally, one dark-skinned little boy slid to the side where his large, plump black mother stood.

“Momma!  That little girl is eating that nasty snow!”

“It’ll be okay, honey. That’s Jesus snow. Ain’t nothin’ bad in Jesus snow.”

I couldn’t help but smile. We exchanged a secret mother’s glance and laughed as the little girl’s mother finally realized what was happening, shrieking with dismay as she slid across the ice to grab her tiny snowflake-stuffed princess.

I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas.

Haunted

The annoying notification light on my phone blinks incessantly, so I decided to log on to my email from my computer to finally clean out my inbox. As I started moving backwards through the years, I found so many emails that I wish I’d deleted, and others that made me laugh and smile.

Back in 2008, the old love letters that I sent my husband… and the responses I got from his then-girlfriend, branding me a homewrecker.

Old letters from a boyfriend long, long gone… now happily married. I’m sure I’m just a bad memory to him now. I was horrible to him. He deserved so much better than me. I’m glad he found it.

Arguments with Alex’s father… and I can see why he tired of me. God, I was long-winded and self-righteous. I don’t know why I bothered to respond half the time.

The pictures her husband sent to me of them together. Why would I keep this stuff? It’s like I enjoyed twisting the knife in my own heart.

Letters to my ex-sister in law… who showed up at a time when I needed her most. I wish I had nurtured that relationship more than I did. It’s never too late, though.

Memories of an old business partner… I made her promises that I couldn’t keep, and I let her down. One of my many, many regrets.

As I scrolled through the old folders, I also found the last email my father ever sent me. It was a YouTube video of the Muppets singing Bohemian Rhapsody. I suppose that’s the perfect end to our digital correspondence. I know why I kept that one; because no matter how bad the day may be, you can’t help but smile when you see the Muppets.

And after that awful little trip down memory lane, I needed to click play to chase the demons away.

I Moved

I’m sure several people thought I’d died by now. We moved at the end of August, to a small country town nestled north of Houston where my husband grew up, and dangerously close to his ex. I was worried about that at first, but after being here for a few months, I’m happy to see the town isn’t quite as small as I first imagined. Life has settled into the closest thing that could be called normal in my household.

It’s taken a while to adjust to country living again; namely, the wildlife. Snakes and spiders are the obvious scourge; deer and rabbits are the unpleasant surprises that you’d think would be awesome. Who wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning and see Bambi sitting in your front yard?

Oh, the stories. And we’ve only been here a short time. Stay tuned, my friends. But let me tell you, Bambi has no fear. In fact, as you drive by, Bambi will stand dangerously close to your vehicle with his herd of henchdeer: so close, that you could roll down your window and punch him in his smug little nose. And there have been mornings when I am sorely tempted. You have no idea.

So let’s try this writing thing again. Maybe, if I get a running start at 2015, we can get this thing going.

I miss you, Internet.

Winding Down

The school year is coming to a close. It’s been a tough one, to say the least.

I understand why so many teachers quit before their fifth year. I actually interviewed for a technology position this year, and just missed the cut coming in as a second choice. Something keeps pulling me back into that classroom, though. Like my work isn’t through yet.

More students come back every year, telling me how much they loved my class. But that’s not enough for me. I don’t want to be the one that they just remember. I want to be the one that changed their life.

I know that sounds narcissistic, but it’s not like that. You’d have to know, to see, my kids. If I ever spoke to an adult the way these children speak to me, I would have no teeth left in my head. Respect, in their world, is not taught. It is earned. It is only after I hunt them down for skipping class, or break them down for getting caught making out in the stairwell, or hold them down as they try to beat the crap out of another kid for the stupidest of reasons. It’s only after those moments, when I break them off from their herd and have a one-on-one conversation with them that I EARN their respect, and then they speak to me with quiet, hushed tones and a remorseful attitude. They are capable of civility.  They have empathy. They have manners.

But only if they trust you.

Working in this environment is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Every time I throw my hands up in disgust and scream, “I QUIT,” an old student will walk in. And they make me so proud.

This summer is needed. If you know a teacher, please, for my sake, tell him/her thank you for giving their heart and soul to your children. Because they are, if they’re doing it right.

The Troops Are Gathering

I knew that there would be consequences when we flushed that damn roach. I told you he was going back to his sewer-home to conspire with all his little roach relatives… well, today, it happened.

We’re closing in on the end of the school year, and with that comes every teacher’s favorite event: yearly evaluations. That’s where one of the school principals become your “evaluator,” and sit in your classroom for an entire hour to make sure you’re not warping the minds of the children. These particular evaluations are rather important, so they give you a heads-up so that you can prepare accordingly.

Now, many teachers use this time to put on a dog & pony show, but I own dachshunds who are completely uncooperative and the pony poops too much, so I just wing it.

I chose a time with one of my most talented classes (note that talent does NOT translate into cooperative behavior, but my kids are pretty awesome, so I wasn’t afraid.) The “bad kids” require a little more attention, but seriously, I got this.

Until the roach showed up.

It wasn’t long after The Evaluator sat down that a chorus of high-pitched screams erupted from the second row. I know the scream well; usually, mine is part of it. But today, I had to LEAD, so with false bravado, I called out, “Is it a roach?”

“OH MY GOD! OVER THERE!!! OVER THERE!!!!!!” came the replies at a decibel level that could shatter glass. My entire second row of students were perched like parrots on the back of their chairs. I looked back at The Evaluator, who was click-click-clickity on her computer, observing my classroom management skills with a slight but distinguishable frown. I looked around the room at my boys…..

….. who left me hanging.

Damn it.

I took two steps toward the roach, who recognized me immediately, and ran kamikaze-style at my size 10 Sketchers. I looked down, took a deep breath and summoned every ounce of courage in my body. As I lifted my foot, I subconsciously thought about how thin the soles of my shoes were. Damn comfortable shoes. I closed my eyes and stomped with a grimace.

I looked down quickly to find I’d only gotten HALF of the roach, and he was now writhing his germy arms wildly, suicide-terrorist until the very end. I tried to kick him, but he was stuck to my shoe.

I’m going to pause for a moment, so you can truly appreciate the level of freak-out I was at. ANYONE who knows me understands that this situation sends me into DEFCON 1. This is my second worst nightmare (with the kitty incident being the first.) This is very close to peeing-pants freak out, except the stigma of being the “teacher who peed her pants during her evaluation” somehow outweighed the complete terror I was having at that moment.

I know it’s a BUG, but I have seen these bugs CRAWL INTO SOMEONE’S EAR. And not just on YouTube, but IN REAL LIFE!

So, I shook Half-Mashed Zombie Bug violently from my shoe, but he continued to crawl back towards my leg. I tried to give him another kick, but I missed, and when I looked back down…

….. he was gone.

But I know I missed him, which meant the only place he could be….

….was in the deep cuff of the hem on my dress pants.

I walked over to a student sitting at the end of a row and leaned over, speaking quietly. “Is the roach on my pants?”

“Ummmm…. no.”

“Will you look for me?”

He looked at me like I was insane, and I just realized that DURING AN EVALUATION, I asked a student to LOOK DOWN MY PANTS. “NO!!!” I quickly backpedaled. “I meant at the bottom, close to my shoe!! Do you see anything stuck to my pant leg?”

He glanced quickly. “No.”

I knew he didn’t look, and I knew if it was in there, he couldn’t see it anyway. Behind me, at the front of the room, I heard more clackity-clack-clack. I took a deep breath, shook both of my legs HARD, and continued to teach the lesson, constantly waiting for the scratch-scratch-scratch on my leg. It never came.

The hour ended without any further drama, and thankfully, it was my conference period. I ran to the bathroom, slamming and locking the door quickly behind me. I came out of those pants faster than a senior boy on prom night. As I shook the cloth, my fears were finally confirmed.

The roach dropped out of the cuff and onto the floor.

And that’s when I died.*  The end.

This story is 100% true, except the part where I died. I cannot make this shit up. They are OUT TO GET ME.