Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Am in Charge of Celebrations

Nine years ago on Tuesday I was involved in a head-on collision on my way to school in the morning. Sorry I didn't write about it on the very anniversary--I'm two days late. Byrd Baylor wrote a book called I Am in Charge of Celebrations (gift from CHH) and "Head-On Collision Day" happens to be one of my celebrations. That's right, March 27th.

It was a spring snowstorm and I was living West of where I teach. A roommate called to let us know there had been a four car pile-up on the highway due to a snow storm and that she was glad she had a book to read. I decided to take a back road to work, a dirt road that has since been widened and paved.

Because of the weather, I felt that I should pull over for a moment and pray. I asked for a blessing of safety. I made sure my windows were clear, my lights were on, and my seatbelt was secure. Unable to think of any further preparations, I proceeded on my chosen course. I drove a stick shift back then and recall that I didn't dare take it past second gear on the icy road. So, no, I wasn't speeding or anything like that. In fact, I wasn't doing anything wrong.

A car came at me, head on. The end. That's all that happened. There was no way to escape him. No citations were issued. No ambulances were called. We both walked away. His air bag deployed. My car was too old to have an air bag. My glasses flew off my face. My head hit the head rest hard enough that my hair came all undone. I just sat there, processing at first. Oh good, he's getting out of his car. He's alive.

After thinking for awhile, I decided I could try moving. Nothing really hurt too much and Mr. Collision was tapping at my window while talking on his cell phone. I cracked my window open. I heard him say, "Yeah, Jim, I just wrecked the company car." I reached for my cell phone. Mr Collision asked, "Who are you calling?" I replied, "9-1-1." He said, "Oh yeah, good idea." We were blocking traffic in both directions and it was still snowing. The four car pile-up on the highway wasn't a good option for all of these other people either.

I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door. I stood up and felt okay. I didn't look too closely at my car, but I knew, of course, that the damage was severe. Fluid was leaking out onto the road. I called the school secretary to let her know I would be late. The police arrived. They offered an ambulance to me approximately five hundred times and I declined each and every time. They asked questions and I answered. They gave me a report to fill out and I filled it out in the officer's passenger seat. He commented approximately fifty times that I was very lucky. I remembered my prayer. It's not every day you walk away from a head-on collision. No citations. No ambulance.

The tow truck came and the officer dropped me off at my school. The principal and the secretary were so kind and solicitous. The substitute was there and I let her stay, because when you are involved in an accident, you suddenly have several things to do. And it was my teacher neighbor, SW, that helped me do them. She had a student teacher, SY, who took over her class so that SW could drive me to the tow truck place to clean out my totaled car. I didn't ask her for this favor. She thought of it all by herself. Then she helped me take the stuff back to my house and unload it. Afterward, she took me back to school so we both could teach for awhile. It was the Maturation Clinic that day and I was doing a hygiene class for all of the fifth grade boys. The officer wondered why I grabbed an empty box of laundry detergent out of the trunk of my car (visual aid).

As the day wore on, my muscles contracted. The bruises on my body were nothing short of glorious. I had my roommate (WPC)take pictures that evening in case I needed to prove something legally in the future. Those seatbelts are amazing! The wonderful SW volunteered to take me to my doctor's office after school to get checked. This was WAAAAY out of her way, but I will never forget her kindness. I cannot.

My doctor was busy with other patients, so I sat in the examination room for quite some time. I was problem-solving. How to get home without to get home? I called another roommate, SG, who was oh so willing, however, the clock ticked away and snatched her opportunity to help me because of her long term promise to help others. I called another friend, PC, and left a message.

My doctor poked and prodded. He x-rayed. "Good news! Nothing broken." He prescribed. My muscles were tighter than tight. I couldn't walk without severe pain. It was time to go, but I didn't have a ride. PC called back and my doctor volunteered to drive me to the pharmacy if PC could pick me up there. They thought of this all by themselves. I didn't even have to ask! People are so kind. I cannot forget this. The doctor called his wife as we left his office to explain that he had a patient in the car who needed a ride to the pharmacy. And people wonder why I love him so. The doctor pulled right up to the front of the store and said, "Wait here!" He ran inside and grabbed a motorized cart and drove it out to the passenger door for me! I had a camera in my bag and snapped a photo of his smiling, motorized, approach. He helped me into the cart and made me promise that PC really was on his way.

As I motored toward the pharmacy counter, PC caught up to me. He waited patiently while I got my prescription filled and took me home, completely out of his way. He helped me up the front steps. None of my roommates were home. PC didn't want to leave me alone on the ground floor, knowing that my bedroom and sleepwear and bathroom were upstairs. He also didn't want to seem inappropriate. Being a practical fellow, he offered to get my pajamas for me. Hah! You might say he was trying to get me into bed! For my own good, not his.

He offered to haul the stuff from my car that SW and I had thrown on the floor in the entry way to my room upstairs so that it would be out of the way of my cohabitants. This was a huge concern of mine at that moment; I had already inconvenienced enough people. I finally relented and told him how to find my pajamas (flannel). And then I said something like, "I'm worried about letting you see my room. I'm pretty sure there's a box of tampons on my desk!" PC smiled and said, "I've never seen those before--I have sisters." Funny what you remember about the day of your head-on collision.

It was about then that our Relief Society president arrived on scene. I think PC was pretty relieved. It didn't take long for him to make his exit. She had a candy bar poster for me. I don't remember everything on it, but the starting line read, "I heard you had a little CRUNCH!"

Catching a plane the next day for my nephew's baptism in the midwest was not the ideal way to heal. However, I tipped people to push me around airports in wheelchairs. The standing up part of going through security was painful. TSA winced when I winced. My sister put me to bed with a Lortab saying, "You poor thing," as she turned off the light and closed the door. I improved daily. No wheelchairs necessary on the flights home.

On 4 April 2003, I mentioned to my roommate, BY, that I was going to buy a car after school that day. She asked, "Oh? Just like that, you're buying a car? Have you shopped? Do you have one picked out?" I answered, "No, but there are a lot of people who are willing to sell a car to me today and I need to stop bumming rides." The ever-serving SW took me to a dealership after school and I bought my car. Brand spankin' new. I took SW out to dinner to thank her for all of her assistance. It's been a trusty little thing all these nine years and it's about to hit the 95,000 mile mark. I paid it off in less than fifteen months, and then this park ranger asked me to marry him. But that's another story.

Everyone gets so happy when early March seems sunny and warm. Not me. I sort of hold my breath until after March 27th. And then I celebrate. I breathe. I celebrate God's watchful care over unimportant me. I celebrate friends and coworkers and doctors who dropped everything to help unimportant me. I celebrate by saying another little prayer, one of gratitude, that I can still walk and talk and see and hear. All of these gifts open up like the blossoms on the tree. Every year. I celebrate.

So there you have it. March 27th is Head-On Collision Day.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Visiting Teaching

There she is! Timpanogos in her Spring outfit.

If you don't know, the Relief Society has a program called Visiting Teaching. You can look it up on if you want to know more. My poor VT companion just had surgery, so I'm sort of doing my VT solo this month. I called one of my girls that I visit and said, "Instead of me going to your place and sitting on the couch, etc., etc., how's about we take a little spin up the canyon?" She was all for it. Sadly, I did not photograph her (sorry!).

The pics above were taken from Pine Hollow (a.k.a "the end of the road show" since the gate is closed on the Loop road).

No ice on the reservoir. People standing in waders while fishing. I don't know that I've seen it that dry up there this early in the Spring. It wasn't a very good snowshoeing season.

Dam water. I like the texture. We stopped at Swinging Bridge and looked up toward the cave exit. I'm going to miss working at that old cave this summer, but I still feel good about my choice to take a break. The bushes were leafing out already down by the river. Everyone is so happy about the mild winter and the early spring, but personally, it kind of freaks me out. What kind of drought could we be headed for? What will be the impact of Climate Change?

Anyway, Sister H. is doing pretty well under all her circumstances and we had a fine evening of Visiting Teaching! So glad she was up for it. We both decided our time in the canyon was soothing.

The Birds

On the way home from the Spike last night, my darling took me to...let me see if I can nail this...the Bear River National Wildlife Migratory Bird Refuge. Something like that. It was my first time. We outdoor parkies find thrilling things on such adventures!

Dinner Time! Everything was looking for dinner! The bugs, the fish, the birds, what have you. It was quite the frenzy.

So many fish were jumping. Big fish. We just couldn't capture them with the camera. The concentric circles will have to suffice as evidence along with our testimonies.

All kinds of refuge for all kinds of creatures. And the RACKET! Sorry I don't have a sound bite for you. The place was positively ALIVE with Spring.

We happened upon a Pelican Convention. Loved watching those guys manage their bills. Also enjoyed watching their take-offs and landings. Some of them were showing off their best flight school formations for us--total entertainment.

The sunset was fantastic. The weather was perfect. Alas, we left to hunt for our own dinner.

The Belle of Golden Spike

Meet Belle. She's employed in the Maintenance Division at Golden Spike National Historic Site, although she doesn't maintain much of anything. She's a good mouser, sounds the alarm when a rattlesnake enters the building, sleeps well on the second highest shelf in the office, and does tricks for treats. You might say she owns the place and keeps all the rangers in line.

Belle likes all people--she's one of those typically friendly park rangers. She has no qualms about walking through twenty-three pairs of legs--doesn't bother her a bit. However, her favorite legs are the ones of fellow rangers--something about green pants and brown polishable footwear.

Belle is a Total Babe. Green eyes, pink tongue, brunette all the way (though dusty while working)!

Every girl has to have a little Bling! She's got those bachelor rangers wrapped around her paws.

Ranger Stevie has treats for tricks. Belle's latest accomplishment is "SIT."

Good Girl!

Belle always has her tail ready to lovingly glide along the 119. She shines things up when she can.

"Pleased to meetchya! Feel free to stoop way down for the privilege of stroking my fur. No, really, the pleasure is mine!

Welcome to My Engine House!"

Funny Things My Husband Mentions

I took my first personal leave day of the whole school year this last Tuesday. Yep, I did all the work to prepare for a substitute and then graciously allowed the district to dock my paycheck to help pay for that substitute so that I could have a day off with my beloved because we have NO days off together. We had to do our taxes. We had to balance our last bank statement. We had to shore up our finances on Quicken. We had to set up for the dinner at the Church. K made a casserole for the dinner--such a MAN I married! We did laundry. We did dishes. We got passports (no, no real plans to travel, just creating opportunities for the future...or preparing to accept an opportunity should one come our way). And...drum roll please...we had LUNCH together! And we did a Costco run.

We parked the car in front of our dwelling and K leaned over to kiss me. It's one of our oldest traditions. It doesn't matter which one of us is driving. When the ignition is turned off, we just lean toward each other and kiss. I'm not sure when it started or even when I noticed we had a tradition, but I hope it never stops. And then he says, off-handedly, "By the way, Sweetie, we should be receiving a check in the mail from Chicago."

Really. Chicago? Long dramatic pause.

I asked, "In what sorts of clandestine activities have you involved yourself?"

And then he explained. "There's a guy in Chicago who wants me to get some sand in a baby food jar from the Spiral Jetty."

Oh. That explains everything.

Turns out it's legit. K rounded up a baby food jar from Ranger Dave after being told by the Superintendent that if he wanted to do this favor for this stranger, he could, as long, of course, as it was on his own time. The Spiral Jetty is a mere 16 miles of dirt road from Golden Spike, so there's a bit of gas money involved. Mr. Chicago collects sand from all over the world and he just had to have this sand.

K snapped a few photos, but as you can see, the Jetty is under water this year. We went a couple of years ago and I walked from the shore all the way to the very end of the spiral because it was above water. I wonder how long it will be until it's visible once again.

The Jar.

K took pictures to prove to the man that he really did go all the way to the Jetty to collect the sand. He also printed one out and hung it on the bulletin board at the VC. I was there all day yesterday and I heard The Ranger tell many-a-visitor that he had just been to the Jetty less than 48 hours ago and THAT'S what it looked like. People said, "I can't see it." The Ranger said, "Exactly."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thank You for Shopping at Wal-Mart

I hadn't been in such a long time. I felt I had to go. There are certain things that are so much less expensive at Wal-Mart than at other stores. Sure, I could go at three in the morning, but I'm usually busy then. I don't hate Wal-Mart the way other people do, but I hate it in my own way. As I pulled into the vast acreage known as The Parking Lot, I said aloud to myself, "I'm just going to embrace this." I grabbed a stray cart on the asphalt and drove it right into the store.

My list wasn't long. And of course, I could have stayed away for a few more months, but I began walking the aisles and making decisions. There was an actual line for the knee-high stockings. I was in third place. We each had a cart and entered the aisle for nylons from the same direction, making it look like a drive-thru for pantyhose. And the customer in front of me took her sweet time, boy.

I bought laundry products. Yes, we get some of those at Costco, but I'm tired of the containers that are too big to easily handle. I don't like the blue drips, splats, and stains from the nifty dispenser. I chose to spend more in order to buy a smaller quantity. Go figure.

I rounded the corner to paper products and moved forward several feet without realizing that I had just passed the Puffs. Puffs Plus with Lotion to be specific. Having had five surgeries from the neck up and enduring life-long battles with allergies, asthma, and chronic upper respiratory infections, Puffs are my choice and we never have less than a dozen unopened boxes on hand. Don't judge me.

I pulled my cart to the far right hand side of the aisle in front of a wide array of paper towels. I stepped back a few feet to grab my Puffs and when I turned around to walk forward again, I witnessed a woman shoving my cart with her cart, not feet, but yards and yards down the aisle! Her husband was walking by her side, chatting amicably. My first inclination was to call out, "I'm so sorry! Let me get my cart out of the way for you." Because, you know, I was thinking I must have been parked in front of her favorite brand of paper towels. But as she kept going, I decided to remain silent, amused with her behavior. I really wondered when and why she might stop. She wasn't looking at paper towels. There were no other customers where she decided to take my cart on a joy ride. Something possessed her to stop, give my cart another shove, and then pull out from behind my cart and walk merrily on her way. I caught up to my basket, dumped the Puffs in and followed her to the end of the aisle, never saying a word.

I felt I was pretty much finished when I decided to call my husband. I hate to bother him at work, but I decided it was worth it and was sent to his voicemail. I said, "Hi, Sweetie, I'm at Wal-Mart and I'm not coming back for a long time. I'm just wondering if you can think of anything we need from this place before I check out." He didn't return my call.

Oh, the check out lines. I got in line behind a family with six children. The father was supervising the unloading of two baskets of groceries. At first, there were only five children, the eldest being a boy with glasses and facial hair--high school age. There was another boy with a shirt on from a junior high school and two other boys younger than that. The smallest child was a little girl sitting in the front of the cart with her petite legs dangling. I couldn't see a mother or a wedding ring on the father's hand or the influence of a mother. But that's just me. Maybe she was getting a pedicure or eating bon bons on the sofa at home.

The father was barking orders, the boys were all helping to stack things on the checkout counter: bacon, tubes of hamburger meat, frozen cans of orange juice, Cascade dishwasher detergent. The father was shrewd with his money. Very careful. He asked the clerk to price check something. Turns out the father was right. When it was almost time to pay, the other girl showed up. She was in high school as well. She was holding a couple pairs of jeans and her father said, "Are you happy with those then? Add them to the pile."

All seven family members had dark hair. The children were plain looking as far as clothing was concerned. I noticed the smaller girl did have a cute brown leather belt around her jeans with a pink shirt tucked in. The older girl was wearing jeans without a trace of bling on the butt and a solid blue t-shirt. Her hair was straight and brown. The boys were similarly clad in dark solid t-shirts (except for the one with the name of his junior high school proudly displayed), plain jeans, and black shoes that were certainly purchased in bulk and on sale. The boys looked like they were all in need of a hair cut. You could tell they had all received hair cuts at the same time last time, and that each identical cut had grown out at the same identical rate. Like the shoes, I imagine the hair cuts were purchased in bulk and on sale.

Here's the thing about this family. I fell in love with them while standing in line at Wal-Mart. I don't know where the mama is. Maybe she died. Maybe she's sick. Maybe she took off and ditched them all. Maybe she's around and they have the happiest life ever together. The vibe I was getting, however, was that she was absent. Dad is doing his absolute level best keeping it together. His kids are smart and bright and handsome. He's taught them to work. He makes what concessions he can for the older daughter, not realizing what it means to be a teenage girl. Nobody else had a clothing purchase. Just her.

I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to be a reporter for NPR and delve into the personal details of their lives. I wanted to tell the father, "You are doing a GREAT job! I can see you're working so hard." I wanted to give the boys hair cuts and give the girls some flower clips or head bands to shine them up just a bit. I'm not even good at doing my own hair and shining myself up, but I could have added a little something.

I wanted to congratulate the dad for keeping all six kids healthy and happy and for providing for their needs to the best of his ability. I just wanted to cheer them on! It's so hard these days, in this economy. Although I found myself wanting to give something to this family, to add something positive to their situation, I couldn't help but think, "They'll be just fine. Plain jeans and plain shirts and too much time between hair cuts never hurt anybody. They'll be just fine." Dad is teaching them to work, to shop smart, to budget, and to go without some of the flashier things life has to offer. They will probably grow up to be some of the finest citizens a community could ever hope for!

I checked out. The clerk was so nice. Glen was his name. He made sure I didn't forget anything. The last thing he said to me was, "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart!"

I left the store. A family of three was selling Girl Scout Cookies. I bought four boxes--K will be thrilled! The mom and the dad are so proud of their fifth grade Girl Scout. She was all smiles and had countless badges sewn on. Such good folks. Another set of dedicated parents, willing to do whatever it takes to help their kid succeed.

When I arrived at Wal-Mart, I said I was going to embrace the whole experience. It would seem the experience has embraced me. Thank you for letting me shop at Wal-Mart.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raven Snow

Raven is my friend and neighbor. She is obviously young and beautiful. And SO accomplished. She's married with three small children. She has a master's degree. She plays the violin. She speaks Spanish fluently. She is our neighborhood book club organizer. I could go on. There's just one little thing that Raven needed to add to her resume and that thing was SNOWSHOEING!

Raven and I have had this little "deal" going since December, but we haven't had much snow. Finally, we had a day, and it was a Bluebird Day. Raven asked what she should wear (because being raised in El Salvador didn't really prepare her for snowshoeing) and I counseled her, "LAYERS!" Yeah, I personally started peeling my layers off the second we stepped out of the car. It was SO SUNNY! Combine that with thermogenesis (hiking uphill) and I couldn't rip clothing off fast enough.

So we went over the river and through the woods. We stopped and breathed and chatted. It was good to learn more about her and find out about even more of her accomplishments! Such a lovely person. And then we ran into some friends.

Meet Ranger Logan and Ranger Andrea. This is not the first time I've run into my fellow rangers in the great out of doors! It's happened so frequently it's no longer very surprising. TICA Rangers play outside on their days off.

We got to the big meadow and I asked if she wanted to break trail or investigate the river or make a snow angel or anything else. She headed for the river and decided that this was far enough.

There's no way I'm going to insert sweaty pictures of myself today, so I'll let Raven represent the happiness we both felt at spending a little time together in a beautiful location with sparkling snow and sunshine. Thanks for a great time, Raven!