Friday, December 10, 2010

Surprise-Eleven Months in the Making

cahoots (kəˈhuːts) — pl n
1. ( US ) partnership; league (esp in the phrases go in cahoots with, go cahoot )
2. in cahoots in collusion

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? When what you envisioned is exactly how it turns out. It doesn't happen often, but about a month ago, on the fifth of November, 2010, it did!
For years, my son had been after my father's white, 1987, Caballero pickup. He wanted it to use as a tailgating vehicle at Kansas State University ballgames. My dad started teasing Tyler, by saying, "You can have it when I die", to which my son quickly responded, "I don't want it anymore." Then a year ago at Christmas time, my son proposed to his girlfriend and the scheming began.
Being the sneaky granddad that he is, my father bought a new pickup about eleven months ago. He then proceeded to hide the new pickup every time Tyler was around. Dad's next step was to purchase two K-State Power Cat magnetic stickers and have the Caballero detailed with a purple pinstripe all the way around. Finally, because the apple never falls very far from the tree, my dad and I hatched a plan of how to surprise Tyler with the car.
On the day of my son's wedding, we attached a huge bow to the top of the vehicle and hid it near the church. The reception was to be held a few blocks away, so the plan was for everyone to leave the church immediately following the ceremony and head directly to the reception. Tyler and Bri greeted everyone as they left the sanctuary and my job was to usher people out and send them on their way. However, my secret mission, was to have enough people stay outside the door to cover up the arrival of the gift from my father. As the line began to dwindle, Tyler and Bri questioned me as to why the people outside the door weren't leaving. I played dumb and just told them that for some reason they wouldn't leave until the two of them came out. So, the unsuspecting couple followed me out, the wall of bodies moved as if on cue, and there stood my dad, opening the door of their new tailgating pickup.
Now do you know how hard it is to keep a secret of eleven months from leaking out? Somehow, just this once, we did it. The look of shocked surprise on my son's face, followed by his tears of pleasure (and relief that my dad was presenting the vehicle as a gift while he was still alive), were enough to tell us we had succeeded.
2 Power Cat Magnets: $11.90, Purple pinstripe detailing: $387.50, the look on my son's and dad's faces: PRICELESS!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

cul·mi·nate (kŭl'mə-nāt') v.
1. To reach the highest point or degree; climax:
2. To come to completion; end:

This year was a year of completion. Three of our five children have completed a part of their academic careers (I realize, technically, we only have four children but I am claiming our daughter-in-law as one of my own).
Cameron, our daughter, started us off. She graduated with honors with a degree in communication and a minor in business from Southwestern College in May. She had a summer job lined up with Music Theater of Wichita and spent a happy summer there. The day after that job ended we left home to take her to the job she had lined up for herself in Chicago. As proud and excited as we are for her, I always have that motherly pang of worry and wish she was closer.
Our daughter-in-law, Bri, completed a second degree in secondary English education in May. Our proudest moment came when, two days before her graduation, she received an offer of a teaching job, which in this time of budget cuts and reductions-in-force, is a rarity. She is learning a lot in her first year of teaching at Junction City Middle School.
That same weekend, the youngest, Spencer, graduated from high school.
The thing about being a parent and seeing one portion of a child's life end could make you sad if you chose to dwell upon it, but the cool thing is, each new phase of life has exciting things to offer as well.
I can't wait to see what happens next!

Move Over Nancy Drew

sleuth [slooth]
1.a detective.
2.a bloodhound.
–verb (used with object), verb (used without object) track or trail, as a detective.

I always did like Nancy Drew books as a kid and I continue to like mystery stories as an adult. My love of reading has been a part of me for as long as I can remember but I didn't get it from my dad! In fact, I don't ever recall him spending time reading, he was always too busy working.
However, since he retired (which is really a misnomer because he still works harder than most men half his age), he has developed a love for a specific type of book. He devours detective stories that revolve around Indian Reservations. He has become a collector of whole series' of work. He had every book written by Tony Hillerman and Margaret Coel and had read them several times. One day, when dad and I were shopping at his favorite secondhand bookstore, the owner, knowing dad's taste turned us onto a new series of that genre by Aimee and David Thurlow.
Since that day, one of my great pleasures in life has been playing "Nancy Drew" and keeping my dad stocked with books from new authors. Thankfully the internet has made the search easier and ordering a breeze.
Keep it under your hat, but last night I found a new bookstore, Better World Books, where I purchased 8 books for my dad's Christmas present for around $26 with no shipping fee. Five of the books are a new series by an author he has read before and three are from a totally new author. The other cool thing about this purchase is that this bookstore helps fund global literacy and is involved in environmental causes, two of my passions.
It has been fun getting to play detective and search out books for my dad. I can't wait to see his face on Christmas morning!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Sticking Problem

endoscopy en·dos·co·py [en-dos-kuh-pee] Noun 1. visual examination of the interior of a hollow body organ by use of an endoscope

I have had a sticking problem for over 25 years. Actually the name of the malady is esophageal stricture or narrowing of the esophagus. This is a hereditary condition I inherited from my father but it is actually a fairly common condition that many people suffer from.

I realized the seriousness of the problem the first time I swallowed a bite of steak and it lodged in my throat. That time, I spent several hours at home drinking fluids trying to force the meat down. I finally gave up and went to the emergency room where they had me drink liquid for another hour before bringing in a surgeon to remove the foreign body from my body.

About 15 years later, it happened again. This time when the steak got stuck, I knew it was pointless to wait, so we went to the emergency room immediately. After this surgical removal, the doctor suggested throat surgery to correct the problem. Nice plan but it was only successful for awhile and pretty painful in the process.

A few years later we ended up in the emergency room for a lodged piece of chicken. Fortunately, this time we didn't have to call in the surgeon because I managed to force the chicken down just prior to being called into the emergency room. Unfortunately, I couldn't be released until the emergency room staff checked me over. Their solution was to have me drink a glass of water in their presence to prove the chicken was gone. That was the most expensive glass of water I ever drank.

About three years ago, I ended up in the emergency room with steak caught again. This was actually the way I met my new doctor (my old one was retiring, probably due to crazy people like me who refuse to give up steak and forget to take small bites). My new doctor was leaving the emergency room and saw me in distress and made the emergency room personnel move me to the front of the line. After that surgical removal, which included dilation of the esophagus, I was told this procedure might have to be repeated periodically.

So that brings us to yesterday. I went in for a precautionary check for ulcerations, polyps, or other problems and to re-stretch any places that were constricted. Not the most fun way to spend a Tuesday but totally worth it if it keeps me out of a "sticky" situation in the future.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Price of Success

prac·tice [prak-tis] –verb (used with object)
to perform or do repeatedly in order to acquire skill or proficiency: to practice the violin to train or drill (a person, animal, etc.) in something in order to give proficiency

I know you've heard the old adage: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? And the answer: Practice, practice, practice. Well it's true and after years of practice I got there for a second time last month. Well, sort of...

Saying you got to Carnegie Hall implies you performed there and I wasn't the one who actually stood on the stage of that famous auditorium. I didn't tread upon the boards where countless famous musicians have stood and performed. I didn't cast my gaze upon the resplendence of that magnificent theater from the vantage point of a performer. I wasn't the one who actually attended all the rehearsals or spent hours poring over music scores, or practicing scales. I wasn't the one who had to learn: the phonetic pronunciation of foreign languages, the history of numerous composers, or to stand with bent knees so as to prevent fainting.

I was merely a the audience. An extremely proud mom! My 22 year old daughter Cameron, is in her senior year at Southwestern College and about to finish her choral career the way my oldest son, Tyler, began his. At the age of 12, he sang at Carnegie Hall with the Kansas Youth Choir. I feel like I do deserve part of the credit for the accomplishments of both children, however. After all, I was the one who initially thought they had singing talent and encouraged them to audition for the Kansas Youth Choir. I was also the one who chauffeured; chaperoned; and sold (poinsettias, candles, cookie dough, braided bread and heaven knows what else) to help finance the experiences. Credit should also go to their dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents and countless close friends who helped pay for the trips by buying all that stuff. It took a group effort to make those trips happen for both children over the course of ten years. From my vantage point it was money and time well spent to finance two experiences of a lifetime.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not Exactly Longfellow

The Word(s) of the Day: rhinitis and sinusitis


–nounPathology. inflammation of the nose or its mucous membrane


inflammation of a sinus or the sinuses.

Either or both of these conditions could possibly be the cause of my current fatigue. You see,
I've got my own version of Longfellow's, Paul Revere's Ride, going on. You know the saying, "One if by land and two if by sea". Well in my version it's, "One in my ear, and two at my feet!" I'm referring of course, to my one husband who snores, and my two dogs, who insist on waking me (the only one who can be awakened) to go outside and howl at night creatures, the moon, or very possibly their own shadows. So in words rivaling those of Longfellow himself....well maybe not, but at least in his rhyming pattern, I say:

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight snoring of one I hold dear,

On the eleventh of April, in Twenty-ten;

Hardly a woman can ever begin,

To sleep through the racket, or so I fear.

I’ve said to my friends, "If Scott’s
is stopped up to-night,

and the dogs scratch to go out

to bark in the moonlight--

One in my ear, and two at my feet;

with such a commotion, sleep cannot compete.

So I in the opposite bedroom will be,

hoping to sleep past two or three,

For the good of all who tomorrow I’ll see."

Now to be fair, I've been told I snore too. I suppose it's true, BUT, I rarely, if ever awaken anyone. Maybe it's the mother thing - light sleeping - because I used to be able to sleep through anything. I used to say, "A Kansas tornado could go through my bedroom and I could sleep right through it!", but not anymore. Now, a pin drops, on the carpet, in the far bedroom, in the basement, of my sister's house, and I jerk up and think, "What was that?"

I guess the only solution to our problem, short of hearing loss on my part, or sinus surgery for my husband is:
So he said "Good-night!" and with a slam of the door
jumped in his car and drove to the store,
Just as the moon rose over the hay,
Breathe-Right Strips might save the day
If not curing the problem, at least muffling the roar!
But as for the dogs howling each night
at the moon or whatever else is in sight,
their noise, which each eve is magnified,
no doubt will help to keep me wide-eyed.

Disclaimer: Upon reading this my husband said, "Great writing dear, but I don't snore".

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spreading Like Wildfire

The Word for the day: Panic

pan·ic [pan-ik]–verb (used without object)
to be stricken with panic; become frantic with fear

Normally, I don't panic. When placed in a new or uncomfortable situation, I get nervous just like the next guy, but today was different. I wasn't hysterical and I wasn't out of control but I was panicked.

The afternoon was winding down when Jaime approached me and told me I might have trouble getting home tonight. My first thought was that my new vehicle had been hit in the parking lot. That alone was enough to rattle me but what she said next jarred me even more. It turned out, there was a huge fire roaring out of control near the subdivision where we live. Roads were already blocked and I wasn't sure we could get through.
My first concern was for our pets: Bubby, Bart, and Meow. We leave them outside each day but if a fire approached would they make it out on their own? My next thought was of the irreplaceable things that everyone has in their home: family photos, videos, and heirlooms.

All of that flashed through my head as I grabbed for the telephone and called my husband. With a few terse words, I let him know what I had heard. I knew he could make it home at least ten minutes before I could and I was afraid time was of the essence. I threw my computer into my bag, grabbed my jacket and hurried to my car. As I headed north, I kept scanning the sky for the first signs of smoke. I tried to calm my panic and keep my speed under control as I prayed for the animals. When I was still miles away, I could see the plumes of white and black smoke and the urgency of the situation became more intense. As I neared the turn that I normally take, I could see that it was blocked by a sheriff's patrol car so I kept going, praying that the back road wouldn't be blocked. If it was, we wouldn't be able to get to our home and our pets. Luckily, that road was clear and when I got home my husband was starting to water down our lawn. My first act, after rounding up animals, was to go to the basement and begin packing photo albums, scrapbooks, pictures and home videos into suitcases in case we had to grab and go.

It took several hours and several drives around the subdivision, which only escaped damage by the width of a road, to lessen my fear.

The only casualty I am aware of was a fire truck that exploded when it got stuck in the sand and was overrun by the fire. Luckily, the firefighters were unharmed. On my final trip before dark, I drove around three sides of the fire zone. The land was scorched and smoldering, the air was acrid with the smell of smoke and in some places, trees were still aflame. It is clear to see how easily the fire spread through the rolling sand dunes full of dry natural grasses. One is also aware of how lucky some residents were to have escaped without any damage to their homes, and how fortunate we are to have dedicated public servants to protect us and our property.

Today, I got a lesson about wildfires and panic. Both can spread quickly, both can be fought, and both can be brought under control. Thank heavens for that!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And So It Begins

The Word for the day: Wordsmith

word·smith [wurd-smith] –noun
1. an expert in the use of words.
2. a person, as a journalist or novelist, whose vocation is writing.

I’ve always been a lover of the printed word. When I was little I could always be found curled up with a book and my dream was to become a published author. During college and into my early twenties, I pursued the dream. I wrote children’s stories and submitted them only to be rejected, over and over again. Finally, I put away my carbon paper and typewriter (yes, I said carbon paper and typewriter) and got busy doing other things.

I spent over twenty years filling every waking hour with parenting, volunteering, teaching, and socializing but deep down inside the desire to create something worthy of sharing with others remained. Most of my time was spent teaching math which was at the opposite pole from writing, but occasionally, an opportunity to use my creativity would emerge: a yearly Christmas letter, my childrens’ early 4-H speeches, teaching a yearbook writing class, editing for other people. The spark never died. It laid smoldering like burning embers banked on a winter’s eve.

Well the time has come! With the ease of blogging anyone can be an author these days. And I’ve decided, it’s never too late, so today is the day I start recording my thoughts. My mother, who turns 81 this year, recently lamented the fact she did not keep a journal and she wishes she had. It’s just that as time passes, we remember the big events but we forget the details…and I, like my mother, don’t want to forget. So there you have it folks, Renee’ Smith is a self-proclaimed wordsmith. I plan to share “the word” with all those who care to read.