Thursday, December 18, 2008

She's Come Undone

I have come to the conclusion that I must have a touch of OCD. We are in the process of a small scale kitchen remodel. It started in August with promises of actual work being done in October. Well, the work started a week ago. So the stress of getting it started was already pressing. But the actual stress of not having a usable kitchen is a million times worse for me.

Some of you know that I am a fairly neat person. I try to keep the dust off the furniture and cobwebs off the ceiling. Here in Texas, that is not an easy feat. I have been known to pick up toys and put away clutter and I have even cleaned the bathrooms. Generally, the biggest challenge of my household chores is the clutter. I like for everything to be in its place and when you live with a 31 year old man, 9 year old boy and 22 month old toddler, it can be challenging to keep up with the clutter. At this moment, my whole down stairs is consumed with clutter. It has swallowed up every inch of space. You can not see the tops of my dining room table or kitchen table. The dining room floor is covered. My coffee table is even burdened with the clutter. All of this clutter is the contents of my kitchen which makes it worse because everything was clean when it was taken out of the kitchen. Now that it has been sitting out in random places of the house for toddlers, husbands, children and dogs to "play" with, I feel the need to wash it all before it goes back. But that task is not really the source of my angst. I think the combination of the clutter and the fact that I can’t open the refrigerator, or use the sink really brought me to a whole new stage of anxiety. Although I did not know it until it actually became my reality- this is clearly one of my worst nightmares.

People told me that it would be hard to be without the kitchen. I am sure they even said things like you won't be able to cook, clean dishes etc.. But all of their warnings to me just didn't register. I guess the idea of not being able to use my kitchen was so unfathomable that I blocked out all of these "negative comments". As I look back on these conversations, I realize that I was obviously listening with filtered ears. And now that I am experiencing this elevated level of anxiety, I don't know that I could have heard it any other way.

When I walk into my house, I can't even think. The kitchen remodel is messing with my already abnormal degree of insanity. Nothing is getting done-even things that I could do with out the kitchen. I just can't bring myself to think a clear thought. All I can see is the clutter. Christmas is barely coming together. My parents are here on Tuesday and we can't find the granite guy. My contractor thinks he must be out of town. And the clutter is still there- forcing me to escape into the dark recesses of my conscience. To a place where I can forget about the clutter. Unfortunately, I forget about everything else while I am there. So I ask you to pray for me. Pray for the granite guy. And most of all pray for my family as they cope with a mentally absent wife/mother/taxi driver/maid/nurse/social organizer. If we can’t find the granite guy before Christmas, I may seek professional help.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Frontier

My parents live in a little tiny town in rural Oklahoma. This is the town where my Daddy grew up. He is the third generation to live in Walters. I think that we are related to at least a third of the town in some way, shape or form. Even though I never lived here, it feels like home. Everyone seems to know who I am and they always greet me like that long lost family member who finally made it home. They are wonderful selfless people and I am proud to be a part of their history and family.

Another thing I enjoy about the frontier is the beauty of the place. Its beauty attacks all your senses. From vivid green wheat fields in the winter to the beautiful old farm houses of families long ago, I just want to stop and memorize the landscape of this stunning and untouched world. I did not know or appreciate silence until I quieted myself here. Its deafening silence is intoxicating. I can hear God breathing in the silence. The smell of fresh air is one of the experiences I most enjoy. The natural clarity of the air almost smells sweet. My body enjoys every purifying breath. I did not understand the beauty of a sunset until I saw one here. Every shade of yellow, orange, red, and purple dance across the sky while the sun slowly submerges below the horizon. At night, the darkness is remarkable. The darkness illuminates every single breathtaking star in the heavens. Every time I am here, I am always astonished by the beauty of this place.

Experiencing this raw creation is such a grounding event for me. As someone who lives in suburbia, I am constantly surrounded by what man has created-it's inescapable. It is an awesome feeling to be surrounded by what God has created. The vastness of His creation makes me feel small and insignificant but loved all at the same time. That feeling is something I crave; something I need. Whether it be the connection of three generations of family or an faint instinct from mother nature, I know God wants me to meet him in this place. To love him in this place. To know him in this place.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Season of Cancer

Cancer seems to be every where. Yesterday, a mother of two, wife and model christian was welcomed into God's kingdom. She lost her battle with cancer. I found out today that my estranged Aunt recently died of cancer and we missed the funeral. My friend's husband has cancer. My husband's aunt is in remission (praise God). One of my former students, 12 years young, died at the beginning of this year from cancer. I am not sure why this happening around me. Why is all this cancer at my door step? I am almost afraid of any answer that God will provide. I don't even want to ask the question in prayer. I do know that all of this is in his plan and we are not in control. We must trust in him. He knows the story of every life from birth to death. This devotional was shared with our staff at MDO today. I thought it was very fitting given all the recent events in my life. I am reminded not to fear the future but be thankful for what God has given me and what he has in store for me.

Welcome Home
by Max Lucado

Homesickness is one of the burdens God doesn’t mind if we carry. God has “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Eccles. 3:11 NIV). Down deep you know you are not home yet.
This is not our forever house. It will serve for the time being. But there is nothing like the moment we enter his door.
Those you love will shout. Those you know will applaud. But all the noise will cease when the Father cups your chin and says, “Welcome home.” And with scarred hand he’ll wipe every tear from your eye. And you will dwell in the house of your Lord—forever.

Getting Max Fixed

There are many things I would like to fix about Max. The high pitched constant barking. The chewing up of everything. The fact that he will not come and finds it entertaining for me to chase him around the house. But, unfortunately, none of those things have a quick and easy solution. But there is one behavior that we can have him fixed for- humping. Yes, mother nature is calling Max to reproduce with anything he can get his paws around. I have had to remove his bed from the house because he was becoming way to intimate with it. My leg has been his next choice. Because of his need to answer nature's call, we are having him "fixed" this thanksgiving. My sister-in-law says not to hold my breath that this will end his humping days. I am hoping that it will at least slow down his little humping drive.

This announcement to my family regarding Max's upcoming special surgery has brought several reactions from various members. My husband, who is not particularly fond of Max has actually felt a little sorry for him. I am not sure what it is about Men and their opinions about neutering that causes them to react with fear. I am guessing that their ultimate fear is that their wives will want them to have special surgery one day. At any rate, I have been touched that Gerry actually feels sorry for him a little.

Little Gerry didn't really react at first. He didn't know what we were talking about. But then, in the car the other day, he asked his Dad what it meant to have Max fixed. This totally caught my husband off guard. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. So, my surprised husband went ahead and told him straight up that they were removing that special part of his body so he can't make more puppies. When little Gerry got home, he was so excited to tell me what Max was going to be missing. Now, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Soon he is going to put together that the girl dog is the one who has the puppies. How does the boy dog's special parts "come into play" so to speak? If any of you have any suggestions on how to handle this one, please share. We haven't even told him about Santa yet!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Drama and my Mama

It's not what you think. My Mom and I get a long great. However, we both have had a fair amount of drama in our lives. And our drama is always entertaining to the outside world. Sometimes I think that our lives are meant to be entertainment for others so God can keep up mankind's spirits and so on and so forth. In recent history, my poor Mama has had mower drama, dog drama, grandkid drama, and daughter drama (that would be my sister of course since I am a perfect child). Her most recent drama has been rat. Yes, you heard me correctly rat. They are having a rat plague at their house.

My parents live on what I like to call the "frontier". They reside outside a little town in Oklahoma called Walters which is about 5 miles past where Jesus lost his sandals. They have had many plagues at their house. I think they are actually experiencing the plagues described in the book of Revelation, but my Daddy says I am exaggerating. They have had the grasshopper plague where a swarm of grasshoppers ate an entire tree in one day. They have had the cricket plague several times which is really creepy because the crickets somehow make there way into every light fixture of their house and die. They have had the stink bug plague which actually closed down the town library one morning while my poor mother carried out the task of disposing of thousands of stink bug bodies that died there the night before. Up until now, the scariest plague they had was the scorpion plague where my very pregnant sister was attacked while leisurely watching T.V. on their sofa. I very reluctantly visited them that summer and had a run in with one myself that required some therapy. If you are familiar with my earlier post on my bug phobia, you would understand why. At any rate, this year the plagues have hit a new high. They are dealing with rats. In their garage. Yes, rats are living in their garage. Not the cute rats you see at the pet store, but the giant rats that are like the ones in the movie Princess Bride. And they are living in their garage. My mother has assured me that they do not live in their house. She swears that if the rats move in she is moving out. Life on the frontier will be over at that point.

When they first noticed the problem in the garage, they set out mice traps. They assumed that they had a few mice which was no big deal out on the frontier and the traps would solve the problem. The rats ate the bait and destroyed the traps. My poor Mother was beside herself. These "mice" were a force to be reckoned with. So she called the town vet(somehow in her mind he would be the one to call) and her told her to buy rat traps. This was the moment when she realized there were actually rats living in the garage. Again, she was beside herself. How could they have rats?! Moreover, how could she go to the store in her small, tightly-knitted town and buy rat traps?! In no time at all, it would be all over town that the Adkison's had rats! But living with the rats in the garage was worse than the rumors of the rats in the garage so she donned her Jackie O sunglasses and scarf and bravely went to town to buy the traps.

After the rat trap purchase, I got a series of e-mails over the next few weeks that described their latest body count. I also learned they were reusing the traps which was totally disgusting in my mind. I offered to send what ever amount of money was needed so no one had to touch rat bodies but they declined my offer. My Daddy explained to me that it was okay for him to dispose of the dead rat and reuse the trap and I was being overly concerned. Apparently, life on the frontier is altering their ability to think rationally. I have also had many conversations with my Mother about our upcoming visit and the rat plague's interference. I can deal with a grasshopper or a cricket in the light fixture. But rats in the garage will defiantly give me nightmares and unless we negotiated what portion of my therapy bill they were willing to pay, our trip must be postponed indefinitely. Since that conversation, she had called me several times and giving me optimistic news regarding their success in riding the garage of the rats. I have agreed to go through with the trip, but I am still very apprehensive. If you don't hear from me after thanksgiving, you will know that I am being held hostage by rats out on the frontier. Thanks for your prayers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Being Thankful

When bad things happen to the people around you, it makes you think. I am so thankful for Gerry. I have a great husband. And he is here, alive and in good health and he loves me. And even though his job in education doesn't pay very well, it is a job that will weather this economic storm that has gripped our country and we can pay our bills. I have two healthy and wonderful children. The fact that I can have them is a miracle I can not take for granted. Their existance on this earth is a reminder to me that I am not in control and He is. As the little things in life seem to take over, I can't loose sight of these blessings. And be thankful for every moment. These moments I am blessed with are not mine, but a gift from Him.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

God's Purse Lesson

Well, the blonde hair strikes again! I have done something stupid. For those of you that know me, you know this is not uncommon. I can easily create my own drama with little to no help from anyone or anything around me. The stupid thing I have done has upset my son, made me call the police, cancel my credit cards and given my husband a good laugh in Indiana.

The stupid thing started when I was scheduling an appointment to be finger printed for my new preschool job. They wanted my driver’s license. So, I went to get my purse. I am not one who puts her purse or other important belongings in one specific place. It lands where it lands- usually after I find landing places for the child, diaper bag, keys and shopping bags. Well, panic set in when I couldn’t find it in one of the many, many landing places in my house. So I immediately looked in landing places outside of my house. Sometimes it lands on the freezer in the garage. When it lands there, I usually have every intention of going back to get it after I put down child, diaper bag, keys and shopping bags. However, as many of you know I am easily distracted and sometimes I forget to retrieve the purse from the freezer. In fact, it isn’t just sometimes, I admit, it is many times. It wasn’t on the freezer! Then I remembered that my son left the garage open for a short time this evening when he went to ride his bike. That is when I was sure that it was stolen. I have never had my purse stolen before. So I went into super panic mode. Unfortunately, it involves a complete interrogation of my son. I tried really hard not to upset him or lead him to believe that it was his fault in any way shape or form, but I don’t think I was successful. He is a bit of a worry wart and I failed him by even telling him that my purse was missing from the garage while he was riding his bike.

The first thing I did was check the credit card and bank card on line. No one had used the cards. I called and reported them stolen. Then I called the police. They took about 45 minutes to get here. In the meantime, I called my husband. He is in Indiana. He is never in town when drama erupts in my life except during the birth of a child and we were both out of town for that. That is another story I am not going to get into tonight. Of course he is from Mars and I am from Venus. He asked all the questions a man would ask. Are you sure it isn’t in the house? Did you check the car? Did it fall out of the car? Did you look under the car? Are you sure it isn’t in the house? Did you cancel the cards? Can I still use my cards? Etc… At the time, I didn’t think he was sufficiently panicked. He had an “Oh, well I am sure it will work out” typical man attitude towards it. I wasn’t impressed with his support. A woman’s purse is an emotional thing in her life and he totally doesn’t get it. What is wrong with him?

After I get off the phone, the very nice supportive police officer arrives. He asks me about my purse and the contents. After I tell him that the purse itself was worth $10, there was no cash, phone or other valuables in it, he decides that the thief probably didn’t see any need to keep it and maybe discarded it somewhere near my house. I was a little insulted that my purse wasn’t worth stealing, but relieved that he was so optimistic about finding it. He went to look. While he was looking, I looked at the dead petunias in my flower bed, victims of the 110 degree days we have had here lately. I decided to pull them up. Then, I went inside to get a wal-mart bag to put them in. And sitting on the counter in the kitchen was my purse. OH MY GOD, how embarrassed I was but incredibly relieved at the same time. I went back outside to find the nice supportive police officer. I had to yell for him down the alley, which of course drew out a neighbor. I am sure I will have fun with that tomorrow. I told him I found it followed by many apologies. He said not to worry- it made his job easier. This was no big deal and then he told me about the similar calls he gets about parents misplacing their children. That made me feel better, but since I have blonde hair, I am really going to be keeping an eye or two on the children.

After the very nice and understanding police officer left (with a good blonde story to share with his buddies), I went inside and woke up my poor worry wart son and told him I found my purse and it was in the house the whole time. He still was worried and we talked everything out for another 30 minutes. He admitted to me that he needed to come downstairs to get water and saw the police car which really means that he heard me talking to the policeman, immediately became thirsty and curiosity got the best of him. I think having to call the police was a little scary for him, but I think and hope I talked all the scary parts out of him. I am sure that this will be one of the many stories about his mother he will share with his therapist in his adult life.

I am really happy to have found my $10 purse with my identification in it. And in 5-7 business days, I will be able to spend money again. I look back on my conversation with my dear husband and now I realize that he knows me too well. I am positive that my stupid thing is another lesson that God has placed in my path: I need to make sure I know where all the precious things in my life are landing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On Being 30...

Well, it has been 352 days since I turned 30. I am still trying to get a grasp on the situation. Turing 30 is a big shock. When you are in your 20s, you are still young, stupid and have your whole life ahead of you. Mistakes are made and you are shaped and made wiser by their consequences. And you shake them off because you have your whole life ahead of you. You are in the wonderful place in society where the “old people” consider you an adult and the “young people” consider you cool. You are in style, keep up with all the trends and understand everything about today’s pop culture. When you are in your 20s, aging is still a lifetime away.

When you turn 30, this whole philosophy of life is turned upside down. You are becoming one of the “old people”. You are too wise to be foolish. Mistakes made in your 30s are almost embarrassing because you know you should know better. When you turn 30, keeping up with the pop culture doesn't seem as important. I have two young kids and keeping up with them takes nearly all my physical and mental energy. As I am forced to learn more about Elmo and Ben 10, pop culture seems to have passed me by. Now that I am a 30 year old mother of two, showing up to a PTA meeting in the lastest trend seems a little silly. You begin aging when you turn 30. When you see pictures of yourself from 5 or 10 years ago you think “wow, I looked young.” So logically, you must look older now. In my 20s, I started running as a hobby and for exercise. When I turned 30, the elliptical machine became a whole lot more appealing due to the aches and pains in my back and knees. And I thought to myself, so this is it. Here I am at 30 and I can’t run with ease anymore. That part of my life is over. As I examine my new wrinkles in the mirror, I realize that I am aging. I am entering a new part of my life. And it is not exciting. At least not yet anyway....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What it Means to Miss New Orleans

Written September 2005- Post Katrina

New Orleans is my home. I didn’t realize that until I moved away. When we moved, we were satisfied that we needed to leave and that we would not look back. We were tired of the poor school systems, persistent crime, listless economy, and dirty politics. We convinced our selves that the grass was definitely greener in Texas. I don’t regret our move, but I didn’t realize that missing New Orleans would be such an emotional event.
I lived in Slidell, a suburb across the lake from New Orleans. I graduated from High School there and returned after obtaining my degree from Loyola University in New Orleans. My husband spent his whole life in the area having grown up in Kenner and also attending Loyola. To us, New Orleans was normal. We grew up with Mardi Gras, gumbo, folklore, and other countless traditions and customs that are unique to this wonderfully historic city. We had no idea what a privilege it was to grow up in New Orleans. To see the grandeur of the river Mark Twain wrote about, and dress up in costumes and attend the parades that have rolled on the streets for a hundred years. To walk on the avenues that inspired Tennessee Williams and hear the music played by the countless jazz greats who call New Orleans home. To kneel in churches that have been standing for hundreds of years and to eat in the best restaurants in the world. To us, all this was normal. We assumed all cities had such culture and character. Now that we are gone, we realize how special New Orleans is and how we took it for granted.
We left because we were tired of the apathetic attitude which we thought held this great city back. New Orleans was a battered city laden with poverty, crime, and bad politics. I think that we wanted the city to be better and that is why we chose to be teachers. Through education, we thought we could make a difference and help the city’s children follow a new path to the American dream. Our idealistic attitudes changed as we struggled with cash strapped school systems in communities who did not pass the value of education to their children. We thought we could make a difference but then realized what a big problem it all was. We became overwhelmed and tired. We made the difficult decision to move because we wanted a better life for our family. We wanted to excel in our careers and we wanted our son to attend public schools that are able to educate and prepare the next generation for today’s world. Leaving New Orleans was supposed to be easy because the life awaiting us in Texas would be utopian compared to life in the crescent city. For the most part, life in Texas has been what we expected it to be. But leaving New Orleans was so much more difficult than we ever dreamed.
After we left, we understood why people won’t leave New Orleans. It is the biggest small town in America. The people in New Orleans are warm, friendly, generous and carefree. You can have a perfectly pleasant conversation with a stranger about anything while you are waiting in the line at the grocery. The people of New Orleans just have a way about them. They make me feel at home and comfortable with my self. They welcome me like family. I grew up with them and I naturally assumed that people are like this all over the country. I have come to discover that the people of New Orleans are as unique as the city itself.
We miss the history, music, traditions, and atmosphere, but most of all we miss the people. And that is why we are grieving over the disaster that has struck our city. Katrina has left a terrible hole in our hearts. When we lived in New Orleans, they always talked about “the big one”. They would mention it on the local news at the beginning of each hurricane season and it was a topic of conversation from politicians to environmentalists. They talked about the coastline, levees and flood control plans. But I don’t think anyone ever realized what would happen when the big one finally came. Talking about the big one was like talking about how California would fall off into the ocean. It just seemed unlikely. Unfortunately, Katrina would prove otherwise.
We are blessed that our family and friends from New Orleans are alive and safe. We know people who have only lost a few shingles and those who have lost their homes. I can not imagine what it is like to find your home and all of your possessions under 12 feet of water. What would we do? How would we begin to rebuild our lives? It is unfathomable. The people of New Orleans have a great task ahead of them. Katrina has left trauma that will take years to overcome. After the mess is cleaned up and the neighborhoods and businesses are rebuilt, the people will only have begun to heal. It breaks my heart to see them suffer.
Even in the wake of this devastation, I miss New Orleans more than ever. I feel blessed that God moved us to Texas. But I feel more blessed to have experienced New Orleans before this crisis. New Orleans will never be the same. Fortunately, many of its historical sites and areas were not flooded. However, the people of New Orleans are forever changed. They are scattered across the country wondering what lies ahead. They are waiting. Waiting for jobs, loved ones, meals and word about their great city’s future. I wonder too. What will it be like to walk down Canal Street or visit Audubon Park? Will I ever eat at the great restaurants in the West End, or party at Tipitina’s after so much death and destruction? Now, it almost seems like sacred land, land that should be respected and revered. What kind of scar will New Orleans bear? Is her innocence lost?
Missing New Orleans is particularly hard when I attend mass here in Texas. In college, I came to respect and admire the Catholic Church. After my confirmation in my sophomore year, my love and admiration for the Church continued to grow. My faith was nurtured in the walls of the great old churches scattered throughout the city. God spoke to me in these sacred places. From the smell of the hundred year old wood to the music of the pipe organ in an acoustically perfect house, the grand old churches bring peace and tranquility to my soul. I have not found such a place here in Texas. I am sure it exists and one day I may find it, but it will never be as special. My spirit will always be connected to New Orleans. When I kneel in her pews again, I will pray for her healing and for her people. May God have mercy on us.

My Phobias, the Ant Farm and my Son

Written Summer 2005

Ok. I admit it. I have a phobia. I am terrified of bugs. I know it doesn’t make sense. I mean we are a lot bigger than most bugs so it should be the other way around. Somehow, in my genes, the whole illogical fear that a bug is going to attack me and leave me to die is real. I understand that they are important to the whole circle of life thing, but that circle does not exist in my house. Therefore, insects will not exist in my house. I fear that I am passing this fear to my son who is 5. So now, instead of franticly screaming, I am putting on my brave face and using a calm voice to call my husband to kill what ever insect is torching me with its existence. This is my life. I am held hostage by bugs.

So, my son received an ant farm from his great-grandmother, Nanee. I was relieved to find out that the ants were not included. Anyway, my mother-in-law assured me that the ant farm would be safe and she told my son that the ants would come in the mail which meant that I would have to really order the ants. I inspected the ant farm for security very thoroughly. In my opinion, the top does not close as tightly as I would like but when I think about it, the only standard I would hold it to is sealing it shut with super glue which would not be good for the well fare of the ants. I was disappointed to see that the ants needed to be kept in a cool place away from sunlight. Preferably, between 60-70 degrees which meant that the ants had to live in my house. I have come to the conclusion that Nanee must not like me very much or she is trying to drive me insane.

So, because I want my son to like bugs and not be a strange and twisted person like his mother, I went ahead and hesitantly ordered the ants. Several days later, a suspicious package arrived and inside the package was a small glass vial full of “harvester ants.” As soon as I saw the package, I became concerned. Not only was the package covered in warning labels about biting ants, I could not see how I was supposed to get the ants out of the vial and into the farm. Was I actually supposed to take the top off the vial with my bare hands and hope that they would all get into the very small and insecure opening at the top of the container? This seemed impossible and I was not ready to try the impossible with biting ants. I read and re-read the directions carefully only to find that my worst fears were true. I would have to get them into the hill on my own. I put them in the refrigerator like the instructions described. I decided to leave them in there for an extra minute or two for safety precautions. To my delight, the cold refrigerator slowed the ants into a trance. I donned my gardening gloves and took the cap off the vial and violently shook the ants onto the sand in the ant hill. The top was on the hill half a second later. Success!

So, we have been watching these ants. They dig tunnels which seem to have purpose. They are the busiest creatures I have ever observed. They need water and food. Unfortunately, I am having a hard time keep them alive. I fed them things which were listed in the book, but they are still dying. In fact, now most of them are dead. So I have another problem. How do I explain this to my son who is already weary of bugs due to his mother’s strange behavior? Now it appears that his mother is killing the bugs. I am not trying to kill them! I promise I am not lacing their lettuce with Raid!

So, I decide to hide the ant hill from my son. Maybe if he doesn’t see it, he will forget about it. Maybe, he is still a concrete operational thinker like Piaget suggested. Well, this seems to have worked, until the other day that is, when he found the grave yard in my closet.

I guess that you can not hide the circle of life from your children. It needs an explanation. They need to know what happens to life and how the circle exists and sustains its self. And how the circles involving bugs do not exist in my house.

2003 in Review: The Miller Family Moves to Dallas

2003 In Review: The Miller Family Moves to Dallas

Moving can be a stressful event in one’s life. It involves other people handling your possessions and paying them thousands of dollars to break your precious china. Or worse, it involves challenging your physical stamina by getting that piano out of the second story living room and into a rented truck that cannot hold everything you own and tops out at 45 miles an hour. Not only do you have to physically pack and move your stuff, but you have to find a job, buy a house, sell a house, enroll your kids in school, make sure you have every record about you and your loved ones, get the dog to the vet, get the cars serviced, change your address on everything, establish all kinds of new services at your new house, and disconnect everything about your life from your previous place of residence. And if you are lucky like I am, you also have to prepare for the holiday season. Now, let’s top this off with one more adventurous undertaking. While you are going through the long list of things to do in order to move, in the meantime, you and your young family are living with your in-laws in their very nice, expensive house. Are we having fun yet?

My husband and I have just seen the light at the end of this tunnel, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to document our moving experience. Also, I wanted to send everyone an update on our lives so you didn’t think we fell off the face of the planet. It was my intention to have a Christmas letter this year, but that didn’t happen. After reading about this moving experience, you will understand why. Just so you are not left in suspense, we are still married, all family members are still alive, we are sober, and we do not feel the need for family or individual counseling.

It all started last school year. We are both Band Directors who work very hard and want the best for our programs and students. My husband is so good at his job, that he was one of the most successful band directors in the State of Louisiana last school year. Unfortunately, the administration was very uncooperative with some of the changes Gerry needed to make to keep the program successful; so, to make a long story short, Gerry and I decided that he would be happier if he found a new job. He did. He landed a Head Band Director job at a Texas 5A high school in the Garland ISD. He also got a $15,000 raise and many amenities that make his new job easier and a lot less stressful than his experience in Louisiana. So, the State of Louisiana lost two promising and tax-paying teachers. I hope that my Louisiana friends and relatives will think of our story the next time they hear the phrases “lack of quality teachers” or “shrinking tax base” on the evening news.
Our journey to Texas began in June of this year. We put our house up for sale and got several estimates from moving companies. We were getting everything ready so we could move the moment we had a contract on our house. The reason we wanted to be ready at a moment's notice was so we could stop imposing on Gerry's parents. They graciously opened up their home to our family to make this move easier on us. However, I don't think that they nor we knew what we were all in for. It makes for a funny story.... now that we can look back on it. And let me give a little disclaimer here that this story is told from my perspective. I am sure that if Cathy or Gerry would put pen to paper, they would have a story to tell and it would all be embarrassingly true.

Gerry's parents live in a very nice house. It has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, spacious living areas with beautiful dark hardwood floors, artistically landscaped front and back yards. The finest feature that I want to share with you is the white carpet. Yes, you heard me correctly- white carpet. The white carpet was a bit of a challenge for my son, dog, and sometimes my husband, especially since my gracious Mother-in-law has stain radar. She can sense a stain the moment it happens, even if she is on the opposite side of the house. She comes running, armed with stain removers, rags and vacuum cleaners. She finds stains that are unseen by the naked eye. She has a true gift. And in the true mother-in-law spirit, she still has not let me forget that day in Florida when my dog threw up on her antique-white wool rug, which left a permanent stain. I suspect that she spent many unsuccessful hours cleaning and researching the removal of this stain, and she has not let me forget it. She even gave me the rug so I can stare at the stain for the rest of my life. Given this history, you can imagine how my state of mind deteriorated during our stay on the white carpet…which led to the drinking.
Yes, members of both households drank heavily during our stay on Voyager Drive. I am sure the recycling man was very concerned when he encountered the overflowing bin of wine and vodka bottles. I am surprised that he did not turn us in to the local AA chapter. Ironically, the drinking contributed to the staining of the white carpet. For those of you who do not know, I am a bit of a klutz. While carrying a glass of red wine downstairs, I slipped and wine spilled all over the carpet, wall, and my new blouse. Luckily, my Mother-in-law was there in seconds, thanks to her stain radar, and we were able to get all of the wine out of the carpet before disaster set in. Unfortunately, Pops did have to repaint the wall, and well, my blouse was another story. Apparently, Cathy's stain radar is not exclusively for carpet use – it also comes in handy with laundry. I am quite glad that she made it her life’s work to get this stain out of my blouse. After three different stain removers and many trips through the washing machine, she finally gave the blouse back to me. Unfortunately, her stain radar is a curse for her because she still says she can see the stain. I see no trace of it, but I must admit that can be due to the heavy drinking.

And then there is my three-year-old son, the white carpet, beautiful dark hardwood floors and the Lexus. When we came to live with the Millers, my son was not potty trained and resisted the whole idea of potty training adamantly. Potty training was a must because he needed to start preschool, and I wanted to have the potty training under control before his little life was turned completely upside-down. So, we began potty training. Needless to say, urine did end up on the white carpet and unfortunately, so did some other bodily substances. They also ended up on the hardwood floors and some of the furniture. Fortunately, we were able to keep it off of the leather furniture. However, my chronically nauseous dog decided to “christen” the leather chair. It is almost as if she sensed that little Gerry hadn’t gotten his bodily fluids on the leather, so she took it upon herself to make sure that base was covered. As far as the Lexus is concerned, I have already chronicled that event in our lives with an e-mail entitled “Mommy and Little Gerry’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The title itself should speak volumes to you but, if you would like to read about a daughter-in-law’s worst nightmare, it is in an earlier blog.

Here I am going on and on about Cathy’s stain detection gift that I almost forgot to mention Gerry’s (that’s Old Gerry or Pops in case you are confused) gift of making sure that everyone in the household is able to watch every televised sporting event. He will race the TV through rigorous channel surfing to find a sporting event- any sporting event to watch. One evening when I ventured downstairs, he was trying to get Cathy to watch bull riding! His favorite thing to do is watch numerous sporting events at the same time where he is constantly switching back and forth between 3 or 4 channels. To the almost drunk non-sports enthusiast, this proved to be quite confusing at times. I am glad we were able to move out before the college football bowl weekends.

Anyway, Pops definitely has control over the remote control, which didn’t really bother me, but I think some power struggles occurred between the three men of the household. Both of the older Gerry’s got fed up with the youngest one and soon after we moved in, a VCR and DVD player appeared in the upstairs living room, and all Thomas the Train videos were banned from downstairs viewing. I will admit that those Thomas songs are really hard to get out of your head no matter how much wine or vodka you consume. Then there was the constant changing of the channels when the other male left the room. If you were hoping to watch an entire TV show, movie, or just 10 minutes of the same channel, then you were out of luck. I should let you know that at one point there were seven TVs in the house. However, their behavior was almost as if they were trying to establish territorial dominance over the TV viewing. It didn’t matter how many available TVs were in the house for their viewing pleasure. They each wanted control over the viewing process for the “clan”. It would not have surprised me if they started peeing circles around the remote control. The whole thing was humorous to watch from the sidelines with a good bottle or two of Australian wine...almost better than TV.

Another conflict we seemed to have with our wonderful parents was the time of the evening meal. Like most families, my husband, son and I usually eat dinner around 6:00. The Millers like to have the food ready by 6:00 and then they stare at it, smell it, and wait for it to get cold until about 9:00. Then they finally reheat the food, sit down and eat at 10:00. I hope that you agree that this is unusual behavior. My husband and I have developed some theories to explain or understand their strange eating habits. It is no secret that my in-laws are aging. Now, when one ages, things in one’s life may change to accommodate the lifestyle of the aged person. Sometimes, one such accommodation is meal times being pushed up. Let’s take a look at my Grandmother as an example. She is up at 5:00 A.M. and is sitting in the dining room waiting for breakfast. She eats lunch at around 10:30 and dinner is served at 4:00. My husband and I think that my in-laws are aware of the possible changes one makes in the aging process, so they are making the opposite changes in order to reverse the process. Instead of eating dinner two hours earlier, they delay the meal for four hours which apparently makes them feel better about their aging. Now, my mother-in-law fully accepts that this eating schedule is highly unusual and lets us know on several occasions at every meal time that we were welcome to eat at any time. Usually, she started asking if we were hungry at around 5:00 and the same question would be asked about every 20 minutes until we finally decided to eat dinner. And this was our daily routine from day one until the day we moved out. Needless to say, most of the alcohol consumption occurred during this time period every day. The longer we waited to eat dinner, the more concerned the recycling man became. I do sometimes wonder if God is putting these challenges in my life to help me “grow” as a person (I don’t think he planned on the drinking).

As you can imagine, living with my young family in a museum was a definite challenge, so we were overjoyed when the offer on our house came in early November. Yes, you heard me correctly, NOVEMBER! At this point, we have spent four long months living in the very expensive house with very expensive things and white carpet consuming more alcohol than a barroom full of mechanics. Of course we quickly negotiated and nailed down a contract and began dreaming of the light at the end of the tunnel. We frantically searched for a house to buy and found a lovely foreclosure in a nice neighborhood in McKinney. We were ecstatic (at this point we would have been ecstatic about a one room hut in the middle of a corn field and I am pretty sure my inlaws were building one for us). After we both turned in blood and urine samples to the mortgage company, we made our real estate agent promise that he would orchestrate the quickest closing on the face of the planet. I suspect that my in-laws had the same conversation with him. Little did we know that the banks selling foreclosures do not have feelings or care that you need to move out of your in-laws to avoid AA meetings or family counseling. They were uncooperative each step of the way, and by the time we actually signed our lives away in blood, we were ready to fire bomb the bank. We were a little stressed.

Do you remember how I mentioned that God likes to put challenges in front of me? Well, December seemed to be the biggest challenge I have faced recently. It actually started over Thanksgiving. We went to Slidell and closed on our house and packed all of our possessions on a big truck to be moved into a storage unit in Plano. When we came back, I had a parade at which my Junior High Band was to perform. The day before the parade, I got very sick. I still went to the parade after which I drove myself to the emergency care center and was diagnosed with the Texas Flu. What a nice welcome gift! I was in pretty bad shape so the doctor thought I should have Vicodin. I slept for the remaining weekend and returned to school on Monday to prepare the K-4 Christmas program which involved the performance of 250 students. We were also supposed to close on our house on Wednesday of that week but the bank we were buying it from delayed the closing. The program was on Thursday evening, and it went well. We were able to close on the house the next day. The flooring projects started on Saturday (did I mention that the house had no flooring, so we had to have all new floors installed?). With the flooring half-finished, we decided to move all of our stuff on Sunday. We had to move on Sunday because Gerry was going to Chicago for a convention on Wednesday and was unavailable to help…how convenient for him. On Sunday night, the flu came back…or at least if felt like it did. The next day, I drove myself back over to the emergency care center where they decided that I did not have the flu again…this time I had pneumonia. Armed with antibiotics, narcotics, and other various medications, I returned to school the next day because I had to prepare a concert for the band that coming Thursday. Thank God the school nurse came to check on me frequently. Oh, and I almost forgot! When I came down with pneumonia, Little Gerry developed an ear infection and my father-in-law managed to have a freak accident with a wreath and a tack which left him with a punctured cornea. My poor mother-in-law will never forget that week. Her house turned into Miller’s Infirmary where she was the head and only nurse (let us not forget that my husband is out of town). I don’t think she wants to see the inside of another Eckerd’s anytime soon. The following weekend (the weekend before Christmas), I started unpacking and moving out of 4499 Voyager Drive. My in-laws most graciously helped me pack my car, my dog, and my son. They made a few more trips for me all by themselves. I have never seen them more eager to help! I could actually hear the cork popping on the champagne as they left my house for the final time on Saturday evening. My parents, who heard of my ailments, also decided to come help me, which was a good thing because I only had three days to move out of the Miller’s and work in the house before we left for New Orleans to celebrate Christmas.

So, let’s recap. I had three concerts, moving into a new house, the flu, pneumonia and a sick child all over three weeks time. And let’s not forget my necessary preparation for the holiday season and our impending trip to New Orleans to celebrate. Of course at this point, it was a little hard to focus on celebrating – I think you can understand why. Anyway, I am still wondering what sin I committed in a previous life to deserve those three weeks. If I have to look on the bright side, I will admit that the narcotics were a bit of a treat.
Now we are all moved in to our new house. It has been vacant for almost a year so it is quite dirty. I fear it will take months to rid the house of the dirt. The previous evicted tenants decided to take a few items with them so we have had to install flooring, a garage door opener, light fixtures, a microwave and other odds and ends. We have also been trying to evict some of the wildlife that moved in over the past year. My husband has been hunting down an elusive mouse for two days. He has developed complicated theories on the activities of this mouse so the traps can be placed in the most strategic positions in the house. I think he is disappointed because I don’t seem quite as interested in the theories behind the movement of this mouse. It only proves to me that men are hunters, and women are civilized. Of course, his latest theory blames the fact he has been unable to catch this mouse on me. You see, he says that when I discovered the mouse in my son’s pajama drawer I screamed so loud that I scared the mouse into the darkest recesses of the house never to be seen again. It is always amazing to me that when a husband is wrong or makes an error in judgment, he can always find a way to blame the fault on his wife. Maybe we do need family counseling.

Despite the difficulties and challenges we faced, we have enjoyed our move to Dallas. We think this is going to be a better place to raise a family and progress in our careers. Now that we have sobered up, we are very thankful to the Millers for opening up their home and taking care of us during this transition in our lives. Without their help, this whole thing would have been a great deal harder and a lot more boring. And I wouldn’t have been able to entertain you with another story of our lives. Stop in and visit if you are ever in our neck of Texas.


Lori Gerry III Gerry IV Minnie Dolphin……... and the mouse

Mom's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

A hot day in Texas, August, 2003

This day started with good intentions. I was going to take little Gerry around to some pre-schools so that we can get him enrolled. I just got little Gerry potty trained so I was ready to stop at any time and location and beg for the use of the bathroom if he so desired. I had trained myself for this moment. I thought that this would be the most challenging part of my day. I was wrong....

First, a little back ground information. For those of you who are unaware, we are in the process of moving to the Dallas area. Currently, we are staying with my in-laws in Frisco while we are waiting for our house to sell in Slidell. They are very nice people with very nice things in a very expensive and nice house. Some times three-year-olds can be worrisome in such situations but little Gerry (whom we like to call little Niles sometimes) has done well. Monday, Old Gerry (Pops) left for New York on a business trip and Cathy (Grandma) left for New Orleans because she was bored (or I suspect needed a well deserved break from us). So, we are alone in the very nice house with very nice things.

Well, like I said, the day started out with good intentions. I got Gerry ready to go look at schools and I was mentally prepared for the bathroom thing. At 11:00 we left the house. Now, my car is currently loaded up with boxes and stuff for my classroom, which I haven't been able to get into yet- another story. So I made a risky decision. I decided to use my Mother-in-Law's Lexus. I kind of felt like I should call and ask her, but I knew she wouldn't mind. She insisted that I use it to drive and pick her up from the airport and she has loaned it to me in the past. So, we load up and we are off. Of course I am driving carefully in the Lexus when we reach our first destination: the store to get a map. Afterward, Little Gerry decided he was hungry so then we stopped for chicken nuggets. While he was eating, I carefully studied my map. Then we were off again. I took a back road to get to the town I was going to and it was rather bumpy and curvy. As I was turning off of the back road to the main road, Little Gerry informs me that he "hurts". Well, because I am in the bathroom mindset, I immediately assume that he needs to go potty. So I speed off for the nearest gas station. As I am pulling into the lot, he starts vomiting all over the place- yes my son just vomited in my mother-in-law's LEXUS!!!!!!! The Lexus that I borrowed with out her knowledge! But I am a calm person and I can deal with a stressful situation on occasion. I carefully get my vomit-covered son out of the Lexus. Of course, he continues to vomit. So there I am at a gas station parking lot at a busy intersection watching my son vomit all over the place. I am sure that my new neighbors were NOT enjoying the show. Anyway, I am feeling very sorry for him. I know he doesn't feel good and he is covered from head to toe in vomit and this is when I realize that the emergency bag I keep in the car is not in the Lexus. I scrounge around the Lexus and all I could find was a napkin. One little lonely napkin to clean a three-year-old covered from head to toe in vomit and my Mother-in-law's Lexus! I actually thought about going inside the gas station to buy something to clean with, but my son just vomited all over their parking lot and he was going to have to track it into their store in order for me to buy something so I decided that they would definitely kill me. I had mentally prepared myself for begging for the bathroom- not asking for help to clean up my son's vomit. Anyway, I stripped him down to his underwear and put his clothes in the booster seat. I cleaned him up as best as I could with the napkin. I found a plastic bag in the trunk which I placed on the front seat and that is where I put my miserable child and we proceeded on the 30 minute drive back home with the windows down. Just for your information, today's high was 104 degrees. Anyway, I was petrified that I was going to get pulled over or in an accident and my son was not going to be in a booster seat. After thinking about it, I figured that if I were pulled over the officer would immediately let me go due to the smell.

After a long and fragrant drive, we finally get home. First I take him inside and give him a bath. Then I lay him down to see if he will take a nap. I then take a deep breath and go outside to clean up my Mother-in-law's Lexus. Did I mention that it was 104 degrees today? I will spare you the details with the clean up. I'll just say that leather is easier to clean up then carpet and I pray that my Mother-in-law's sense of smell has dulled over the years.

Well, you may think that this is the end of my story. It is not. It seems that when bad things happen to me, they happen over and over..... After all is cleaned up and I am sure the vomit smell is all in my head, my son announces that he is hungry. It has been several hours and he has held down diluted juice so I decide to give him a piece of toast. Well, that went fine. About 20 minutes after the toast, he announces that he has to go to the bathroom. He had just gone to the potty and made pee-pee right before he ate so I immediately assumed that he had to have a bowel movement. So I asked him if he had to go poo-poo. He said no- pee-pee. So he starts to go up the stairs and then immediately comes back down. He give me a strange look and starts to have diarrhea all over the beautiful hard wood floor- just missing the expensive wool oriental rug in the foyer of my in-laws very nice and expensive house. I got on my knees and thanked God for two things: that my in-laws are not home and that he missed the rug.

In conclusion, my son has had two baths today and is now only wearing his underwear out of fear for the unknown. I have cleaned up more in one day then I ever want to clean up again. However, being a Mom and a teacher, I know that it is possible I could have worse things to clean up- but I pray this is it. I just don't understand why it had to happen in my Mother-in-law's Lexus and in the expensive, very nice house. Please don't share this story. I haven't worked out how I am going to tell my Mother-in-law about my terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. With the way my luck is going, it will find its way back to someone in her very large family and they will share it with her. Then I will be homeless. Thank you for letting me vent. I hope your day was better than mine.

P.S. I told her and she laughed. Then I realized that she raised Gerry and Kyle. I am sure she has her own stories.... By the way, I am not homeless.