Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Shower power

The other day I found myself in the midst of a dilemma. It had been three and a half days since my last shower and I was good and ripe, but there was a problem. The problem was: our one and only shower was broken.

For those of you who don't know, the five of us live in a small house built in the 1930s with one, tiny bathroom. Now, to be clear, I love my house and the song 'Love Grows Best in Little Houses' is my theme song...BUT occasionally the one bathroom thing can be a problem.

Over the past couple of days, Andy had been trying to fix the stupid thing. He had gone from hardware store to hardware store looking for the right parts, but everywhere he went he heard the same things:

"They don't make parts like that anymore."

"I've never seen anything like that before."

"Are you sure this came from a shower? Looks like parts from a sink."

Apparently, our shower is so old and unique that it defies all categorization. Anyway, we tried to make the parts we had work by rigging them with other parts. No luck. We tried just, you know, pushing on it harder. That didn't work either. So we finally had to give in and call a plumber. He came, he saw, he laughed, and then said he could do the repair the next day.

So there I was, three and a half days without a shower and faced with one more. What should I do? I could make it one more day, I thought. But I had to go out in public a couple of times before the plumber returned and what if someone came up to me and tried to start up a conversation? I smelled like a pickle. No, going one more day was not an option.

The cold water part of the shower still worked (sort of) so technically I could take a freezing cold shower if I was desperate enough. But it's winter people! Sounds like a good way to catch pneumonia if you ask me. So no, that wasn't an option either.

I briefly considered hooking a garden hose up to the sink and running it into the tub but all the hoses are tucked away in the shed for the winter and it would take too long, so I finally decided there was only one thing left to do. The one thing that, in my life, is the step right before dialing up 9-1-1. I called Sarah.

Now Sarah lives across the street, is one of my very best friends, and is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing person. Unfortunately for her, I call her quite often when I find myself in these kinds of interesting dilemmas. Anyway, I explained the situation to her and asked her if pretty please I could maybe just run over super fast, while my daughter was taking a nap, and take a shower at her house.

"I'll be in and out in less than ten minutes," I assured her.

Ever the gracious and generous friend, Sarah was happy to oblige and the ten-minute shower took place. I emerged from her house a new woman with a fresh scent and fresh perspective on life, humming the words to 'Love Grows Best in Little Houses' to myself. So what if our house is small and old? I thought to myself. At least it's ours.

Then Andy called to let me know what the bid from the plumber had come in at.

"It's going to be a little over $500," he said.

Sigh. Did I mention how much I love my house?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Seems like yesterday

It was the winter of 2002. I was a freshman at Western Washington University, where it rains 300 out of 365 days. There was nothing extraordinary about my life at that time, but something happened that day that I'll never forget.

A group of about eight of us had taken to visiting a nearby nursing home every other week or so. We would usually play games with the residents, help them make Christmas cards or Valentines, or just sit and chat until they fell asleep mid-sentence. I enjoyed going there; I could relate better to the old folks than people my own age for some reason.

Anyway, on this dreary, rainy day our group was going to enter the restricted-access, locked-down Dementia Unit that we had been spending time in and do something we had never done before. We were going to sing.

It doesn't seem like a big deal, that we were going to sing. Singing is easy, right? But I was supposed to play the piano and none of us had ever practiced together, so I was nervous. We were supposed to sing hymns, which I was familiar with having been raised CRC, but I had my doubts about some of my friends' abilities to follow along to By the Sea of Crystal and Great is Thy Faithfulness. I feared the worst.

We got to the Dementia Unit and entered the key code to enter the wing. Having been trained to be alert, we slipped through the door and quickly shut it behind us so no one could escape. Only residents with severe dementia and high flight risk lived here.

The first person I saw was a woman I liked to call Nervous Nellie. She had wispy, white hair the length of her chin and never did anything but pace up and down the hallway, wringing her wrinkled hands. As she passed I said hello, but she didn't hear me. She was in her own world somewhere far away, muttering unintelligible words and frowning as she paced back and forth, back and forth. Wringing, wringing, wringing.

I sighed and went into the Recreation Room where the piano was and my worst fears were soon confirmed. The other members of my group chickened out one by one until only I and one other girl were left to lead the singing. Alas! Such is the life of an artist! I thought.

Residents trickled into the room, encouraged by staff members to participate, and sat down facing the piano with expectant expressions. I consoled myself with the knowledge that no matter how poorly I played, none of them would remember my performance ten minutes after it concluded. Opening the hymn book, I selected a well-known, easy song, took a deep breath, and began.

Some of the residents sang along and others just smiled politely at me. After the first song, I selected another: Amazing Grace. Everyone knows that one, I figured. I sang the first line, then the second...then something happened. A woman entered the room. She looked like Nervous Nellie, but...but, it couldn't be because she wasn't wringing her hands. And she wasn't muttering, and she wasn't pacing or frowning. But it was her.

Nervous Nellie walked up to me and sat down in the nearest seat, her hands folded in her lap. Then she opened her mouth. As I sang line after line, verse after verse, she sang too and she knew every word. Her voice was clear and bright like it was coming from another time. Another place. And she smiled.

When the song was over, all too soon, Nervous Nellie stood up and walked out of the room. I continued the sing-a-long until I ran out of music and then our group prepared to leave. Back in the hallway, Nervous Nellie walked toward me, wringing her hands.

"It was nice singing with you today," I said.

She continued past me as if I wasn't even there. Whatever portal my music had opened, that had bridged the gap between her and me, between her past and my present, had closed again, never to be reopened. But I'll never forget that day, and how the notes of a beloved hymn gave me a glimpse of who Nervous Nellie really was: not a frail, old woman who had lost her mind, but just a woman.

A woman just like me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gray hair don't care

There are these t-shirts that say, "Messy Hair Don't Care." I want one that says, "Gray Hair Don't Care." Because I, as someone pointed out to me the other day, have started to get some gray hair. And I, to that same person's chagrin, just don't care.

I only have a glint of gray here and there at the moment. Eventually, however, the silver strands will take over my head and, with the deepening of wrinkles, sagging of skin, and weakening of body parts, the signs of aging will be even more undeniable than they are now. And that could be a depressing thought. Just think about it : We spend the majority of our lives deteriorating. Yikes. But there's another way to look at it.

Instead of trying to fight or avoid aging, I prefer to embrace it. The Bible says, "Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?" Indeed, who of us, by fretting over our gray hair or wrinkles, can add a single minute to our lives? If anything, when we fret over aging we are taking away precious minutes from our lives that could be spent living. And life is worth living, isn't it? Even if we have to get older to do it.

Sure that's easy for me to say when I'm 32 and all my joints still work. When I've got nothing but a few gray hairs and a tendonitis prone wrist to worry about. But even taking into account the longevity on both sides of my family tree, I'm still faced with the reality that at least a third of my life is already over. Probably more, statistically speaking. Meanwhile, I'm aging and getting more gray hair every day!

But no, I can't bring myself to get worked up about that. I'm just thankful to have another day. Some people aren't so lucky. I'm thankful for each strand of gray hair that tells me I made it through another day, another month, another year. I'm thankful for another chance to see the sky and the mountains. I'm thankful for my kids and most of all for a husband who likes the red and pink Starburst, because I like the orange and yellow. (He has other wonderful qualities as well. :))

So I'm not going to hide my gray hairs. I'm going to love them, by golly! Besides, some of the most beautiful people I know have full heads of gray hair in varying degrees of silver and white. So here's to aging, because as the sign at Churchill Retirement Home reads: "I don't mind getting old. It's the only available way to live a longer life."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dirty floors and six-pack abs

Because of homeschooling and writing at the computer, I do a lot of sitting. Which I don't like. So I try to walk on my treadmill at least every other day and on VERY RARE days I think maybe I can squeeze in time to do one of the gazillions of free fitness videos online. One of those days occurred recently.

Let's recap it, shall we?

I go to (which I highly recommend) to pick out a video. It has to be pretty short, I think. And for the abs. Yes, I need something for my abs.

After a quick search, I find an "Ab Blasting" video that's a cool 24 minutes long and I think, 'Perfect! My son plus two extras (that I'm babysitting) are playing downstairs and I can get this done before my daughter gets up from her nap or parents come for pick up.' Piece of cake, right?

I suspect I'm in trouble when three kids come up from the basement before I can even click Play and say they want to go outside. Okay. Sure. Everybody put on your snow-pants and boots. No, those boots are on the wrong foot. Whose gloves are these? Why are all the fingers inside out? No, those aren't yours. Zip, zip, snap, snap. Out the door you go.

Alright, press Play. Here we go. Yikes, they're not easing you into anything here. We start with jackknife crunches and knee tuck crunches. It feels good to be moving though. I can do this.

At nine minutes in, there's a commotion at the back door. I press Pause and go check it out. 'We want to come in,' the kids say. You're kidding me. If they were all my own kids, I would probably say, "Too bad. You're not coming in until dinner." But two of them aren't mine and I don't feel right about doing that so in they come. Coats off, boots off, unzip, unzip, unsnap, unsnap. They had been outside just long enough to get mud and snow on their boots and track it inside. Oh well. Just leave the boots on this towel and I'll deal with it later. Now go back downstairs, because baby girl is still sleeping.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, jackknife crunches. Oh wait, now we've moved on to back bow crossovers. Holy cow, these are hard. And they bring my eyes to floor level, which reveals a very dirty floor. I better sweep. No, wait. I have to finish this video first. What the heck's a Russian Twist?

The phone rings. Press Pause. It's dear hubby, calling from the store. Did I want the cranberry or raspberry Emergen-C? Cranberry, of course.

"That's what I thought," he said.

Back to the Russian Twists. These are kind of fun, but my abs are getting sore now. Only four sets left, the woman in the video assures me. Four? Four? Why does the number four make me feel like I'm forgetting something? Oh yes! I need four chicken breasts for dinner tomorrow. I'll write it down when I'm done working out. No, scratch that. I'll forget. Press Pause. Better write it down now.

Press Play again. On to Side Hip Raises and Toe Touch Drops. There's a noise on the stairs. Here comes a child. She needs to go potty. No biggie, she's old enough to take care of that on her own so I don't stop what I'm doing and she walks past into the bathroom, wondering why I'm laying on the racecar rug that doubles as an exercise mat. Ten more Toe Touch Drops.

"I need help Miss Katie!" I hear. Uh oh. Press Pause. In the bathroom, a potty stop has turned into more than that and assistance is required. No problem, just another glamorous day in the life of a mom. Press Play.

Now you want me to do a REVERSE crunch? I'm getting kind of tired here, but a strong core is important so I push through. The phone rings again. Dear hubby finally found this particular item at Wal-Mart that he's been looking for forever but he needs me to measure something to make sure he gets the right size.

"Can you take the tape measure out to the Dodge and measure the size of the trailer hitch real quick?" he asks.

Alright. Press Pause. I'm in shorts and socked feet, but I slip on his boots and his puffy green vest and go outside. Couldn't find the tape measure but I've got a red plastic ruler from my son's homeschool drawer. I hold the phone between my ear and shoulder, hoping no one will see me, and stand in the empty carport like I'm lost.

"I can't measure the Dodge," I say, still panting from the reverse crunches.

"Why not?"

"Because you drove the Dodge to the store."

Press Play. Back on my stomach on the floor for Swimmers. Swimmers are one of my least favorite ab exercises. Ugh, now that I'm down here I remember how dirty the floor is. The afternoon sun shines on the crumbs, cat hair, and muddy footprints like a floodlight. I really need to clean the floor. But I'm almost done.

My abs are burning as the video finally comes to a close. I can't wait to grab a broom and deal with the floor situation. It's been 56 minutes since I started this 24-minute video and I wonder what a 56-minute video would have been like. Before I close the online tab, the website congratulates me on burning 170 calories.

170 calories?

"That can't be right," I think, as I stretch out my weary torso and try to catch my breath. "It had to have been way more than that."