Cleaning Days

mom-funny-quoteSaturdays often remind me of my childhood. This beautiful Saturday morning is no different. Growing up, Saturdays were cleaning days.

Like most families, it took both my parents working to make ends meet. Dad would work day shift and mom would work nights. They alternated their work shifts, so we wouldn’t have to be with a sitter for an extended period of time. My Mom would drop us off at the babysitter’s house before heading on to work. About an hour later, Dad would pick us up before taking us home again. My parents always put me and my sister first.

On this beautiful Saturday, I’m reminded of these earlier days. I had a wonderful childhood.

What I hated – what I could have done without was our Saturday cleaning days.

On cleaning days, our loving home became a war zone. Dirt and mess and chaos were the enemy. It was my Mom’s personal mission to eliminate and destroy any filth that may have built up during the week. Nothing was safe from inspection and her Saturday cleaning regime – she cleaned under furniture, scoured the fridge, washed curtains, scrubbed walls, shampooed rugs, organized closets, and went through every bedroom.

These Saturdays were a day of trouble for me and my sister. It never failed, our bedrooms were never up to par. Truth be told, we were sloppy. It’s almost as if we delighted in creating chaos.Thinking back, I remember a few of our worst infractions – a raw egg cracked open and left to dry on my sister’s plastic kitchen stove, every toy and book we owned torn out littering the floor of our bedroom leaving anyone entering or exiting our room the distinct pleasure of taking their life in their own hands, walls decorated with drawings in bright colors of crayon, a broken closet bar rod that we used to swing on.

It wasn’t until I became older that I began to learn. Cleaning my room while Mom was busy systematically scouring the rest of the house cooled her wrath. It kept me out of my Mom’s hair and saved me a scolding or a restriction. Being a kid, my room was never quite up to her standards, but my efforts helped.

I tried sharing this trick with my little sister. Although, she never quite learned. Her and Mom would continue to war over the sheer disaster that was her room.

Saturday cleaning days were the bane of my existence. However, I must admit there was no better feeling than the one I would get after we’d weathered the storm of a cleaning day. After the day was done and the house was sparkling clean, I’d be filled with a sense of calm relief. I’d lay in my fresh laundered bed listening to the sounds of my quiet house, happy to be done with another cleaning day. As I would slowly drift off to sleep, I’d think about what Sunday would hold. Sundays were our family’s fun day.

House, work, kids, and marriage – my Mom juggled it all. Dad was always there too, but Mom ran our ship. To this day, I don’t know how she managed it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sakura-Con

sakura

An annual anime convention, Sakura-Con takes place at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA.

Excitement hangs in the air. Costumes decorate the city streets. Sakura-Con is here.

My daughter has spent months planning, crafting, and sewing together her costumes. She loves anime, and this particular convention holds a special place in her heart. It is the first, she attended.

Walking into the convention center, I’m instantly transported into a world of imagination and make believe. It is a world, I struggle to understand.

There are throngs of people everywhere. Hesitantly, I follow my daughter’s lead through the crowd. I don’t know what to make of the scene around me.Looking around, I wonder if saying “yes” to this event was such a good idea. People are everywhere in various states of dress – women and men in skimpy outfits, furry creatures, people decked out in armor, women and men in beautiful gowns, and anime characters galore. Moving about the crowd, I’m struck by the overwhelming sense of friendship and camaraderie. People talk, laugh, and pose for pictures with the characters they like.

Picking up a schedule, we map out our day. There are numerous activities, we can participate in – various panels, costume contests, fashion shows, meet and greets with different voice actors, band performances, anime video premiers,  gaming competitions, and more. The options are endless.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. Constantly on the go, the events run from early in the morning until after midnight.I’m exhausted by the end of the first day.This anime world is a crazy, but I’m comforted to know it is all in good fun.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. The events run from early in the morning until after midnight, entertaining everyone and keeping them on the go.

On the second day, I know what to expect and better prepare myself. Bringing my laptop and camera with me, I sit myself at a central location while my daughter goes to the events with her friends. Sometimes, I join them. Surprisingly, there are events that hold my attention. Other times, I simply wander about taking pictures.

By the third and final day, I’ve learned a few things. The panels have helped enlighten me. The anime videos have entertained me. The detailed work put into the costumes have astonished me. The friendly open people have helped to welcome me into their world.

We’ve attended several Sakura-Con’s over the years, and I still struggle to understand the world of anime. I couldn’t begin to tell you which character belongs to which anime. However, I have fun every time I go.

More Information on Sakura-Con

The Musings of a Mom Raising a Teenager

 Raising a teenage daughter has been one of the scariest experiences of my life, but the end is in sight. At nineteen, my daughter and I can almost close the book on these years. At this point, I’m feeling pretty confident. My chances of surviving this war and coming out the other side without any significant wounds seems to be extremely promising.

The teen years aren’t easy. There were many times I wondered if I’d make it through unscathed. I happened to be one of the lucky ones. Many parents aren’t nearly as lucky. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. There is no predestined parenting path anyone can take to guarantee your child’s safety, well being, and happiness.

When my daughter was younger, I’d worry and stress over nonsensical things. Anxious that her head size wasn’t within the normal range for other infants her age, I worried that this would somehow affect her ability to learn. I drove myself crazy wondering if she was getting enough protein in her diet because she would refuse to eat meat. A working mom, I didn’t want to be an absentee parent causing my daughter to resent me, so I’d kill myself trying to juggle and rearrange work to make it to every recital, play, and soccer match. If only I’d have known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried quite so much. Perhaps, I’d have a few less grey hairs or gotten a little more sleep.

As children get older the dangers compound. My mind swirls with the possibilities of dangers lurking out there threatening to damage or destroy my daughter’s well-being: peer pressure, bullying, depression, a destructive unhealthy self-image, eating disorders, cutting, underage drinking, drugs, smoking, texting while driving, sexting, car accidents, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, rape, fighting, school violence, being kidnapped, shop lifting, an over-inflated ego and a sense of privilege, and my list of worries goes on and on. Ever vigilant, I was often accused of being over protective, but it didn’t matter. I simply didn’t care. I would do everything within my power to ensure my daughter’s well-being.

A relatively good girl, my daughter is a sensible, intelligent, and beautiful young woman who has the world in the palm of her hand. After taking this last year off, she’ll be attending college in the fall. Some would say my vigilance paid off, they’d be wrong. The truth of it is, I simply got lucky. My daughter could have easily fallen prey to any number of the dangers I feared. There is absolutely nothing any of us can do to guarantee our child survives the tumultuous teenage years. All we can do is watch out for them, love them, and hope we get lucky.

A Day in My Crazy Life

image

On average non-travel mornings when we aren’t exploring and trekking across states, I sleep late, wake leisurely, and pull myself out of bed around eight-thirty or nine. Once I open my eyes, I lay there willing myself to move. To get up, to get going. Creativity and productivity waits for no one. I move as if I’m in a trance, stumbling my way to our small kitchen, I pour myself that ever important first cup of coffee. As my morning java seeps in, I pull myself together, and grab my shower. After I’ve showered and put myself together, I’m ready to go. I grab my second cup of coffee, my laptop, and head outside. I let the fresh air filter into my system as I spend the better part of the day, pounding away at my keyboard.

It is a beautiful routine that is distinctly mine, and I love it. Perhaps, I value this part of my day so much because for years I was forced to wake at five every morning, rushing from the time my feet hit the floor. After doing this day after day, year after year, you’d think it would have become an ingrained habit, but it never did.Waking at this ungodly hour was something I easily relinquished. Now, I sleep late and stay awake into the wee hours of the morning.

This morning started off just like any other. It was a perfect morning then suddenly it wasn’t. Setting my coffee down on the picnic table, I looked at the clouds moving in and wondered if we’d see the storms earlier than they were predicting. Sitting down, I allowed my mind to wander over the possible adventures I’d share in today’s blog. Which will it be? Would I write the time I kicked up my heels and square danced in Missoula, Montana? Would I explore the time we boogie boarded at Smyrna Beach, Florida? Would I explain how we once went on a quest for Lebanon Bologna in Pennsylvania? The possibilities are promising.

Suddenly, my day comes crashing to a halt. My laptop turns on, but no matter what I do the screen remains blank. Nothing I do helps. My laptop which is less than three months old is fried. After calling the company’s trouble shooting hotline, I learn that it is likely a problem with the internal hard drive. Translation, I will be without one of my most prized possessions for two and a half weeks while it is out for repair.

Are you kidding me? I’ve been stripped of the tool I use to write. How could this happen – my laptop is less than three months old. I’m super careful with it. It has to be shoddy manufacturing. When I come up for air, relief hits me. My laptop is under warranty. I won’t have to worry about digging into my own pocket to come up with the money to repair it, and I’m thankful that I didn’t loose any of my work. I’d had the forethought to back up everything on flash drives just in case something like this ever happened.

Some of you who follow my blog, might be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. This entry is different than my others. Normally, I explore the different experiences I’ve had, places I’ve been, and people I’ve met while living and traveling across the states. Believe me, that was my plan.

However, today’s misfortune gave me the opportunity to explore something a little different. I hope you enjoy this little excerpt from my crazy, but amazing life.

 

 

A Road Trip Through Childhood

route_66My love for travel was instilled in me at an early age. Vacations and weekends free from work inevitably meant a road trip of one kind or another.

My mom would pack and organize the car to keep us kids comfortable, entertained, and separated. Separation was key to any successful road trip. Only a year and a half apart in age, my sister and I would often end up fighting like animals. On our own, we were both quite civil and well behaved. It was only when we were together that things had a tendency to turn ugly. To preserve everyone’s sanity, separation was mandatory. Neither of us dared cross the imaginary middle line between our two sides. Crossing it always meant trouble that wouldn’t end well for either of us.

To avoid the chaos of traffic, we’d set off on our road trips in the late evening hours and drive late into the night. Happily tucked away into my side of the backseat, I would cuddle down with my pale pink pig pillow, soft lap blanket, and my backpack filled with books and activities while my sister was secure on her side of the car with her round grey hippo pillow, her own soft lap blanket, and respective backpack filled with books and activities. Traveling this way never failed to lull me and my sister to sleep. To this day, I cannot ride in the back of a car without nodding off.

pink pigOur road trips led to all kinds of adventures, both big and small. The memories come one after another.

Riding the cable cars in San Francisco, I stood outside a shop in China Town staring in horror at the ducks hanging in the window until my mom insisted I go in to see all the things the shop had to offer. If memory serves, we bought spices from that small shop.

Camping deep in the mountains, we are delighted to find a small creek close to our campsite. My sister spend those few days wading and playing in the creek.

The storm was one for the record books. Creeping through snow and ice, we were cautiously making our way through it when we were stopped short by a man flagging cars down. My dad stopped, assuming the man had been in a wreck and needed help. As it turned out, the man had narrowly missed the seventy car pile up on the road ahead of us. He was flagging down cars to warn them, so no one else would get hurt. For the next hour or so, my dad and that man flagged down other unsuspecting cars until emergency personnel arrived.

Standing in what seemed to be a mile long line to ride the Matterhorn at Disneyland, my dad and I were both visibly dragging our feet. We both hated high rides while my sister and mom loved them. For some unknown reason, riding this particular ride was deemed a family affair. As we drew closer and closer to the front of the line, my dad and I grumbled about plummeting to our death. Almost to the front of the line, my mom either felt sorry for us or had enough of our grumbling and told us we didn’t have to go on the ride if we didn’t want to. Looking at me, my dad asked me if I’d like to get out of line. Instead of jumping at the chance to free myself from this horrendous experience, I was filled with righteous indignation. We had waited nearly an hour and a half to go on this ride, and that was exactly what I was going to do. As I was hurtling through the dark caverns at a thousand miles a minute screaming for dear life, my regret was swift and unrelenting.

Traveling along highways and back roads, we’d often stop at little road side stands seeing what treasures they had to offer. Fresh fruits, vegetables, ice cream, and curios at these little places always held my fascination.

Sitting cross legged on the floor of a longhouse, we watched in awe and delight as a Native American tribe danced.

Flinstones2Piling out of the hot sticky car, I lift my face to the sky and gratefully take in the fresh air. We’ve finally arrived. We are in South Dakota. We’ve come to visit my grandparents, but this trip also means we get to see Mount Rushmore and Flintstone Land. I think I was most excited about Flintstone Land.

There is something distinctly special about road trips. Cramming everyone into the car and hitting the open road is liberating. It allows you to connect in a way that cannot be done when work, school, and the outside world are continually knocking at your door. Some of the best childhood memories I have are when we  were road tripping across the United States.

 

 

New York City: An Experience

ny skylineHave you ever had a place you’ve always wanted to visit? For me, this place was New York City.

I imagined the sights, the sounds, and the smells long before I ever made it into the City. I dreamed about overloading my senses with the textures, the tastes, the energy, the excitement, the culture, and the wondrous people. A city unlike any other, I knew New York would be amazing. How could it not?

Sadly, I wasn’t sure if or when this dream of mine would ever be a reality. Traveling across the country to visit the city simply wasn’t within the realm of possibilities. Truthfully, it wasn’t a priority. I was too focused on climbing the corporate ladder, raising my family, and making my everyday life better. My dream would lay dormant in the back of my mind. It was one of those “some day” dreams.

Little did I know that “some day” would happen sooner than I ever imagined.

Unexpectedly, everything fell into place. My daughter’s business and marketing club was traveling to New York City, and they were looking for parents to chaperon. It was the perfect opportunity. After quickly verifying with my daughter that she wouldn’t die of embarrassment if I were to go, I took vacation and volunteered. The cost of the trip would be a quarter of what we would normally pay for air fare, hotel, and attractions if we were traveling on our own. We would also have the safety of the group for our first time in the big city. It was perfect. I couldn’t be more excited.

A cram packed itinerary kept us on the go from the moment we landed at Newark Airport. Being a school sponsored trip, we were extremely privileged to have the opportunity to be able to see and do many things, most tourists never get to do when visiting. It was an exciting whirlwind.

 

Standing at the top of the Empire State Building, we felt small as we took in the view of the magnificent city skyline at night. We took in the billboards, the lights, and the fantastic chaos of Times Square. Dining at Lombardi’s Pizza, we sampled original New York style pizza at one of NYC’s oldest restaurants. We received a rich history lesson when we boated out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and stood where millions of immigrants once stood, desperately hoping they would receive clearance to enter our great country. Touring several successful businesses around the city, the kids were given an inside view to help them understand first hand what it takes to succeed. We shopped at store after store, but the overall favorite was Century 21 with its the discount sales. Dressing up, we were entertained by shows both on and off Broadway. Exploring Yankee Stadium, we were given a sneak peek of what it would be like to watch a game from a luxury box. Visiting Radio City Music Hall, we received the grand tour and met a Rockette. We visited Louisa May Alcott’s house. Walking through Central Park, we paid our respects to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields. We haggled with shop keepers and street vendors in China town. We took breakfast at a local deli by our hotel. Paying homage to the victims of 09/11, we visited the memorial and St. Paul’s Chapel. We did it all and so much more.

The City was everything I imagined and more. I loved it all, every enthralling and exhausting moment of it. Best of all, I came to love the people.

Weaving our way around the city to get from Point A to Point B in the short time frame, we had between activities was no easy feat with fifteen teenagers, two volunteer parents, and one teacher. Thankfully, we had Jay navigating us all. Jay was our tour guide, a real New York treasure. An amazing man with a wealth of knowledge, Jay would heighten each activity and experience by regaling us with facts and informative New York stories. His love for the city shone through, and made our visit extraordinary.

Each morning, my daughter and I would wake early, get ready for the day, and walk to the corner deli where we would enjoy a leisurely breakfast served by the kindest man who always seemed to have a smile on his face and a kind word for anyone entering his shop. It was a simple activity, but perhaps one of the ones, I enjoyed the most. It was nice to enjoy this time with my daughter before meeting everyone else in the lobby of the hotel to get started for the day.

Wedged together on the elevator of the Empire State Building, we were treated to some crazy unplanned entertainment by a drunk mother and her two equally inebriated adult daughters. Laughing and carrying on, the daughters gave us quite the show when they randomly flashed us all. Their mom then began panicking, begging to be let off the elevator. Repeatedly, she pushed the elevator’s emergency button causing a voice to come on over the loud speaker asking if there was an emergency and informing us all that the button being pushed was sending notification to the police and to the fire department. Stepping in, we were finally able to get her to keep her hands to herself long enough to allow us to safely descend to the ground. This crazy mom and her girls gave me and my daughter an experience we’ll never forget.

Packing our bags to return home, I knew I would return. How could I not, now that I knew how amazing the City actually was.

My daughter’s eighteenth birthday would be the perfect opportunity. She loved the City as much as I had, and would be ecstatic to visit it again. Buried in work, I was only able to arrange an extended weekend getaway this time, but it was good enough for us. Flying from Alaska to New York, I arranged our trip so we would have two travel days and two full days in NYC. Making the arrangements, I booked us a room at the Westin Hotel in Times Square, booked a shuttle from the airport to our hotel, and bought us tickets to see the Lion King on Broadway. This was the extent of my planning. Wanting to keep things simple this time around, I wanted us to have time to go with the flow and indulge in all the little things we never got to do last time.

Again, it was the people of New York City who helped to make our trip what it was.

Catching our shuttle at the airport, I was caught off guard when I learn the shuttle has a specific route they follow and wouldn’t be dropping patrons off at their specific destinations. Immediately, all my inner warning bells begin ringing. I am in New York City with my beautiful daughter, we have all our bags, and we are about to be dumped out onto some random street corner. Neither of us would stand a chance against a mugger. I see my daughter’s birthday trip turning bad on the turn of a dime. Mentally preparing myself, I wonder how many bags I can juggle myself while leaving the lighter stuff for her to hang on to. At the next stop, I gather my courage and ask one of the porters which stop would be the  closest to the Westin Hotel. The young man takes one look at me then looks to my daughter, smiles and asks me to give him a minute. Going up to the front of the bus, he confers with the driver who looks back at us and nods.

Coming back to where I’m standing, the young man tells me with a smile. “Don’t worry. We will take you to the Westin Hotel.”

Instantly, I’m relieved. Gratitude washes over me. I no longer have to worry about being lost in the City. This young man has erased all the fears running through my mind. I thank him profusely. I sit back down as we get on our way.

The driver calls out that the next stop will be the shuttle’s last stop, warning everyone they would need to disembark. Looking out the windows, I don’t see our hotel. Nervously, I wonder if they’ve changed their minds. Quickly, I tell my daughter we are going to have to find our own way to the hotel. Warning her to stick close to my side, I tell her I will take the heavy bags, and she will take our lightest one. When the shuttle stops, I nudge her to stand.

Looking in the rear view mirror, the driver calls out to her. “Little, Miss. Not yet. Please, sit down. This isn’t your stop. We are going to take you to your hotel. It’ll be the next stop.”

My daughter looks to me and sits down.

“Thank you so much.” I tell him with a grateful smile.

He returns my smile and helps the remaining patrons with their bags.

As the shuttle empties, I feel another nudge of nervousness. It is now just us and the two men working the shuttle. I can’t help but worry that I may have just gotten us into a worse predicament. However, my fears are unfounded. The shuttle lumbers up to the front door of our hotel. We’ve arrived safely to our destination thanks to the kindness and the generosity of these wonderful young men. Thanking them profusely, I show my appreciation the only way I could, giving them each a generous tip.

We spent the next two nights happily exploring, shopping, and experiencing all the wonders of the City that we could. Neither of us can wait to go back.

 

 

Embrace the Possibilities

It was only by chance that we came to Blue Earth, Minnesota. Exhausted after a long day’s drive, we pulled into the small charming town in search of the park listed on: http://freecampsites.net. Tired and ready to rest, we hope the park is everything the website promises.

We find the park easily. It is absolutely beautiful. Lush and green, it is better than we imagined. It is the perfect place for us to camp for the night.

Little did we know that we would need to stay longer than the one night.

In the early hours of the morning, I’m abruptly torn from sleep by an intrusive nauseating pain radiating from a right upper molar. Stepping lightly, I make my way to the bathroom trying not to disturb my slumbering family. Confronting my early morning image in the mirror, I am horrified to see that half my face is swollen. The tooth I’ve been babying for a couple of years has suddenly become an angry throbbing entity threatening to kill me from within. Needing to take the edge off the pain, I take a couple of ibuprofen before reaching for the clove powder. Mixing the cloves with water to create a thick paste, I apply it liberally around my infected tooth and gums. This home remedy has served me well in the past, and I’m praying it’ll provide me with the relief I need now.

My trusted home remedy doesn’t work this time around. The pain is all-consuming. I can’t rest. I can’t eat. I can’t think. Admitting defeat, I know the time has come. I have to go to the dentist. We call around hoping to find someone who is open on a Saturday and willing to take a walk-in. Miracle of miracles, we find a dentist only two hours away in Minneapolis.

We debate for a minute or two, but the decision was easy. Driving our beast of a motor home to Minneapolis was out of the question. Traffic on a Saturday in a big city would probably be horrendous. We hadn’t researched Minneapolis to know if there would be any open campgrounds available for the night, or if city ordinances would allow us to boon dock in a pinch. Leaving our beast at Blue Earth would be our best option. It would allow us to make the trip much faster, and it would guarantee us a safe place to stay for the night. Hopping in the car, we drive the two hour trek.

After arriving, I nervously sit in the lounge filling out the paperwork while waiting for my turn. I don’t hate going to the dentist, I just hate the cost. Visiting the dentist is expensive, and it becomes more so when you have to have an emergency procedure done like what I’m having done. As I wait, I watch as a couple of people are turned away because they don’t have dental insurance or the money to pay the steep required price. My heart goes out to them. Fearing the price myself, I know this little adventure will definitely cut into my savings. I just hope it doesn’t deplete it.

The dentist gives me Nitrous Oxide and numbs the affected area before pulling my tooth. Thankfully, it was a back tooth, so it didn’t affect my appearance. Superficial as that may be, it’s how I feel. Sucking on gauze to soak up the blood from the extraction, I’m extremely groggy but I’m feeling no pain. Weaving my way out to the waiting room, I’m greeted by my concerned family. It’s times like these that I feel extremely lucky to have them.

With a prescription for pain medication in hand, we head off to the nearest Wal-Mart. Waiting on the pharmacy bench, I’m overwhelmed with the need for air. Asking the family to grab my prescription for me when it’s ready, I head outside. Crawling into the car, I sit there in a daze as my world begins to topple. Everything is spinning. Opening the car door, I breathe deeply hoping the air will help. It doesn’t. The world is now turning at an alarming rate. I need help. Moving to get out of the car, I can’t stand. I simply slide down to the pavement where I sit up against the car. I need help.

“I need help.” I tell a lady as I see her moving towards her car. She doesn’t hear me or ignores me. I can’t be sure.

An employee collecting carts comes into my view. Again, I try to reach out. “I need help.” Busy working, he doesn’t seem to hear me or see me.

I’m not going to last much longer with the world spinning this way. Suddenly, a familiar voice. My family is beside me. That’s all I need. Laying down, I know I can rest now. They are here, they will help me. Face down in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I’m happy to find the cement is a cool compress against the raging heat of my face.

Shocked to see me laid out on the ground, my family tries to get me to get up. I warn them not to touch me.

“Just let me lay here for a minute,” I mumble. I never want to move again. I’ve finally found a place where the world doesn’t spin.

They try to reason with me, but nothing they say has any affect. I refuse to move. The pavement is my own little piece of paradise. I don’t need to get in the car to go to the hospital, I’m fine where I’m at. I don’t care if I’m making a scene. I don’t care if the woman who parked beside us had to step around my body to get to her car. Faintly, I hear talk of an ambulance.

Now, I’m on alert. It’s time to get up. “No!” I protest. Riding in an ambulance is one adventure I don’t intend to have. Slowly, I pull myself up to my hands and knees. As I’m kneeling there, my stomach heaves. Violently, I loose the contents of my lunch. Thankfully, I hadn’t been able to eat, so my lunch was only a ginger ale hours earlier. After purging the poisons from my body, I gathered what little strength I have and stand. I’m shaky, but I’m happy to see the world has stopped spinning. Climbing into the backseat of the car, I lay down and promptly nod off to sleep.

Living life on the road, you never know what to expect. One day you may find yourself in a charming little town like Blue Earth, and the next day you may find you are in Wal-Mart parking lot making a spectacle of yourself.

Blue Earth, Minnesota is home to the Jolly Green Giant and Museum

 

 

.

Continue reading