Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dennis! Oh, Dennis!

Over the last few months, I've been ridiculously scatterbrained. For example, there was the time a few weeks ago when I dropped my boarding pass three times before my return flight from Portland--and then dropped my keys in the park that same afternoon. (Thankfully, a kind citizen saw the YMCA key fob and returned them to my gym.)

And then there was this past Monday. Because I know I'm prone to forget my keys when I leave the house, I have a longstanding habit of checking my purse and verifying, aloud, "Got my keys." That's exactly what I did before I left to pick up Allyson. Keys in hand, I pivoted in my tracks when my stomach growled savagely. A quick glance at the stove clock told me I had time to grab the heel from a freshly baked loaf of whole wheat bread (from fresh ground flour, of course). I tried to wrestle open the bread canister with one hand but finally gave up and set the keys down so I could release the four locks. After an agonizingly slow squirt of ridiculously thick honey, I grabbed my purse and the bread and ran for the door, twisting the lock and slamming it behind me.

At the car, I realized the keys were missing and gave an exasperated groan as I fished through the inner zipper compartment of my purse for my car's valet key. Yes! No need to sprint a mile to Allyson's school and get the bad mother of the week award for being 15 minutes late. (Yes, it would take me at least that long to "sprint" a mile. Cardio just isn't my thing.)

I ran a few errands, trying to kill time until Ethan came home, but it turned out he had band practice after school. Not that he would have been much help. Too bad he'd lost his house key just a few days before. And too bad the last working garage door opener had quit just two weeks earlier, and both doors were firmly locked. But surely one of the back doors would be open.... Nope.

I thought back to the time Bill had been locked out. "Didn't Daddy climb through Ethan's window?" I asked Allyson. "How did he get up there?"

"Maybe a ladder," she said.

"No, the ladder's in the garage."

"I dunno."

"If he found a way up, so can I."

I dragged the picnic table under Ethan's window and retrieved a metal chair from the shed.

"Shouldn't you just call Daddy?" Allyson asked. "You might fall and get hurt."

"I'm not asking Daddy for help." I climbed up onto the quite sturdy table and then onto the chair. Gripping two of the horizontal supports of the pergola, I gingerly lifted one foot onto the left arm. The chair just about flipped, and I had to jump back onto the seat. Undaunted, I did a partial pull-up on the pergola and jumped my feet onto both arms at the same time. Nope, way too wobbly to be any help. I climbed back down and thought hard. Maybe if I stacked all four chairs, they would be more stable. Certainly they would make a taller tower.

I dragged the other chairs out from the shed, one by one, and stacked them on the table top. Once I'd caught my breath, I sighed with satisfaction. Much sturdier! I found I could easily balance on the arms of the top chair, but it was a lot harder than I expected to shimmy onto the pergola. The beams were too close together, and way off center compared to the chairs. And they were kind of splintery. I wished I had weight-lifting gloves.

Slowly, slowly I pulled myself up, careful to put weight only on the support beams and not on the netting between them. Allyson, who evidently wasn't that worried about my safety, called from the swing set. "Ha, ha! You're flopping like a fish."

"Uh huh." Grunting, I pulled myself onto my stomach and wiggled my legs up behind me. Sweating now in my fleece jacket, I lay spread-eagle for a moment atop the beams, glancing over my shoulder to the corner of the overhang under Ethan's window. I hadn't realized it was so steep! But I'd come too far to stop now, plus I wasn't entirely sure how to get back down. So I pulled up onto my knees, distributing my weight between two beams--and getting my very first knee splinter, I later discovered.

I carefully maneuvered myself into a squat and then grabbed the corner of the roof as I eased over onto the shingles. I then found I could not stand, let alone walk; my worn walking shoes scrabbled over the surprisingly slick asphalt. So I rested on my left hip, clutching the corner of the roof with one hand and wrestling with the screen with the other.

After breaking three nails without getting the screen loose, I was thinking of aborting the mission--until Allyson called out, "Mama, you're not a boy!"

"Girls can climb, too," I said, just as one corner of the screen pulled free. "Got it!"

I pressed my sweaty palm against the glass and tried to slide it to the right. It didn't budge. What? Surely it couldn't be locked. Ethan's window had been open for a couple of days, up until the latest cold snap, anyway. But surely he'd be too lazy to lock it.

"Find my phone, Allyson," I hollered. "Call Ethan and ask if his window is locked. I'm not getting down until I'm sure it's locked."

As she fumbled with the phone, it dawned on me that I wasn't getting down at all. The roof was way too steep, and I didn't think I could get onto the pergola and back down on that stack of chairs without seeing what I was doing. To make matters worse, my butt was burning. Who knew that shingles could get so hot when it was only in the 60s? I shifted to my knees, carefully shed my jacket, and threw it on the patio.

Just then I saw the neighbor's white truck pull into the driveway behind our house. I heard the door open but couldn't see over the hedge. "Dennis!" I hollered. "Dennis-Dennis-Dennis!"

No answer. Surely he could hear me. I took a deep breath and screamed myself hoarse, "DENNISSS!" Now the whole neighborhood could hear me. Everyone but Dennis. I hollered again.

A tiny voice answered. "It's Leticia."

"Oh. This is Sarah. Do you have a ladder? I'm stuck on the roof."

God bless her, Leticia didn't ask any questions or express any surprise. "I'll be right over," she said. Two minutes later, Allyson let her into the gate with her extension ladder.

She extended it and leaned it against the overhang, right at my feet. "Come on down," she said.

"Let's try to get Ethan first," I said. "I want to make sure this window really is locked." I then walked Leticia through finding Ethan in my contacts, which was about as hard as climbing up onto the roof had been. I'm about the last person left on earth who doesn't have a smart phone. (Even my mom has an iPhone!) At last she and Allyson figured it out, but it went straight to voicemail.

I was pretty scared to climb down, but Leticia calmly talked me through climbing down to squat on the pergola and then sidestep onto the ladder. I descended on shaky legs.

Safely on the ground, I finally got ahold of Ethan, only to learn that yes, he had locked the window and no, he still hadn't found his house key.

"Call Daddy," Allyson urged for perhaps the tenth time.


I humbly explained the situation to Bill, who was just as gracious as Leticia had been. "I'm still at work," he said. "It'll be at least 30 minutes."

"I'm sorry," I said, on the verge of tears. "I'm just being... me."

"What can you do?" Bill answered. "It's no big deal."

The last bit of the adventure was returning the ladder, which we could not figure out how to collapse. I convinced Ethan to carry it for me, but he was inexplicably humiliated over carrying a 12-foot ladder in public. As I lifted my hand to knock on the door, he hissed, "Wait! I don't want them to see me."

I shrugged as he disappeared back around the corner. He has no idea what embarrassing is, I thought. He should try sitting on the roof and shouting "Dennis!"

Oh well. It could have been a lot worse. The only thing bruised is my pride.

P.S. Yes, I am getting two extra keys made and hiding one in a safe place.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Safe Hands

On Wednesday my whole family drove to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, to spend three days in a giant cabin. I'll share more about our time there later as I hope to bum some pictures off my siblings. In the meantime, I'd like to tell you about something that happened while we were there...

On the 4.5-hour drive up, we passed lots of trucks loaded down with tons and tons of giant logs. As we marveled over the massive weight of these loads traveling at 70+ miles per hour on the two-lane country highway, Ethan just had to bring up a scene from Final Destination, a movie about a group of teens who narrowly escape death in a plane crash only to be relentlessly pursued by Death in various freak accidents.

"Remember the scene with the logging truck?" Ethan asked.

"Oh yeah," his friend Clayton answered. "A log broke loose and went right through a car."

"It impaled the driver," Ethan added eagerly.

I shuddered. "Let's talk about something else."

A Similar Logging Truck

Thankfully, our trip was uneventful, though I did get pretty scared on the ridiculously steep gravel road up to the cabin. As we bounced over and around deep craters, my little Sentra careened all over the narrow road. "Give it some gas," Clayton urged when the car started sliding backward and spewing rocks. "Lots of gas."

I pushed the pedal to the floor, and the tires spun out repeatedly, but we finally made it up. I breathed a sigh of relief as we reached our final destination.

The next afternoon, most of us caravaned out to Beavers Bend State Park for hiking and fishing. Accompanied by Ethan, Clayton, and my niece Hillary, I gingerly descended the gravel hill behind my sister Emily's Ford Expedition SUV, which was loaded down with Allyson and her cousins.

We'd scarcely turned back onto the two-lane highway when we spotted another logging truck in the distance behind us. Ethan made some comment about Final Destination, and I said, "What if we all had to slam on the brakes, and some logs came flying at us?" I dont' know why we thought that was funny, but we all chuckled over it.

Maybe a minute later, I pulled to a stop behind the Expedition, waiting to turn left into what we thought was the state park. (It was actually a couple miles farther.) The highway was surprisingly busy for a Thursday afternoon, and I tapped my foot impatiently as car after car flew by in the oncoming lane.

A blaring truck horn soon changed my annoyance to indignation; a trucker coming up behind us sounded his horn over and over. "How rude!" I thought. "We have a right to turn. He can wait."

The relentless horn blasts continued, gaining volume as the truck approached. I didn't really have time to think about it, but gradually I perceived that this was not road rage. I looked into the rear-view mirror just in time to see that logging truck bearing down on me, horn still blaring. Realization dawned at last. "He can't stop!"

My heart thudded as the truck grew larger, but I felt frozen to the spot, the way you feel in a bad dream when something's coming after you and you can't run. I hesitated for a fraction of a second more, then simultaneously jerked the wheel all the way to the right and jammed the gas pedal to the floor. The Sentra's petite engine roared as the car lurched forward, seemingly in slow motion.

At that same moment, a break in traffic came, and Emily's husband Paul started his left turn just as I surged around them toward the right shoulder, narrowly missing the right corner of their bumper. The logging truck rolled slowly on, passing between our two vehicles and on down the road.

My whole body shook as I drove to a parking lot where I could turn around. "Do you realize what almost happened to us?" I asked. "We just about got smashed like a tin can."

"Nah," Clayton said. "That truck was going pretty slow. It would've just pushed us forward."

"I don't think it mattered how fast it was going," I argued. "With a load that heavy, we would've been crushed between the truck and Emily's Expedition."

By the time we reached the actual state park, my heartbeat had returned to normal, and we were joking about the incident.

"Without my lightning-fast reflexes and the Sentra's hair-trigger responsiveness we would have been smashed for sure," I said. "Or maybe it would have been just Hillary and Clayton. As long as Ethan and I are safe, that's the main thing." But a moment later, I said, "No, I don't have fast reflexes. My reaction was very slow. God must have been protecting us."

Just then, we started over a long bridge over a dam. "Remember that scene in Final Destination 5 where the bridge-", Ethan began.

I held up my hand. "Enough with the Final Destination talk."

That evening when I shared the story with the rest of the family, everyone agreed that all 12 of us in both vehicles were lucky to be alive. Emily and Paul (and Allyson!) had only been saved by the timing of their turn. Like me, they'd heard the horn without realizing the truck driver couldn't stop.

"What a terrible vacation this could have been," Mom said soberly.

On the way home the next day (yesterday), I began to wonder if there might be something to this Final Destination thing. After seeing an electronic highway sign warning of a backup, I had exited the interstate, and my navigator--the same navigator that once tried to kill us by leading us to into a seedy part of Memphis late at night--was leading us on a merry chase through some scary parts of downtown Dallas.

At one point we had to stop at a green light as a fire truck turned in front of us. Eager to make up lost time, I proceeded into the intersection even though I wondered why the car in the next lane wasn't moving.

"Wait, Mama! There's another one," Allyson said.

I stomped the brake, stopping in the middle of the intersection. Sure enough, another fire truck was barreling toward us, but thanks to Allyson's quick thinking, it passed safely around us. I'd heard the siren, but I thought it was the first truck.

"Man, we were just about T-boned by a speeding fire truck," I said. I pointed at Ethan. "You and Clayton would've been smashed."

Ethan shrugged.

Well, since trouble tends to come in threes, I shouldn't have been surprised this afternoon when Death made another attempt, again while I was driving. This time I was driving Ethan to his dad's house when I idly noted that the pickup truck ahead of us had a large pillow-top mattress in its bed. Now, I've had a mortal fear of mattresses ever since my teenage years, when our vacuum cleaner salesman was killed in a freak accident involving a flying mattress on the highway. So I've always given vehicles with mattresses a wide berth.

But today I was lost in thought, my mind on heavy things, and I didn't give the truck a second thought even though the mattress wasn't tied down. Normally I'm in a hurry while driving; I always go with the flow of traffic, even if that's over the limit. But today, I guess I was thinking too much to be in a hurry. So as we sped up for a major highway interchange, I lagged behind that truck with the mattress, about a football field or maybe a bit more.

Just as the driver reached the junction with the other highway, the wind caught the mattress, and it came tumbling at us, end over end, borne aloft like a napkin on the wind. I caught my breath sharply, hitting the brake and moving to the right. The mattress thudded to a stop about 100 feet ahead of us, and a couple of cars behind us swerved to miss it, passing in front of us.

My hand flew to my heart. "What IS it with this Final Destination stuff?" I asked. This time I wasn't kidding. I was really spooked. "Three near misses three days in a row. That's creepy."

Ethan pulled his iPod headphones off and shrugged. "I don't know," he said.

I glanced heavenward. "Thank you, Jesus!"

Ethan put his headphones back on, and I was alone with my thoughts again. As my heart returned to normal, peace washed over me. I pictured myself cradled in God's giant hand as danger swirled harmlessly around me. In that moment, I realized death has no power over me! Nothing comes against me without God's permission. Nothing. He has ordained all of my days, including the last one. One day when He's ready to bring me home and let me see Him face to face, I will go to meet Him--and not a day sooner.

For the rest of the day, I've rested in the security of that truth. Lately I've felt so out of control, with all kinds of things coming at me that I don't want and can't change. This morning I had been struggling with my own emotions, battered back and forth like that flying mattress. But I realize now that I don't have to be so unsettled. God loves me, and He is always in control. No matter what threatens me--physically, emotionally, or spiritually--I am always safe in His hands. There's no place I'd rather be.

P.S. This evening I learned that I wasn't the only one who had a near miss on the way home from Oklahoma. My sister Amy, traveling with Mom and Dad, was caravaning behind Paul and Emily when both of their vehicles almost got into a horrific accident involving two semi trucks and two other cars, plus one reckless driver, all travelling about 70 miles per hour. God had his hand on them all.

P.S.S. Do you think we should all stop caravaning behind Paul?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Ecstatic Cowgirl

Last night was Allyson's long-awaited Daddy Daughter Date, a western themed night of food, fun, and... line dancing! I have to admit that I'm pretty impressed Bill agreed to go. To my knowledge it was his first time to wear a cowboy hat even after12 years living in Texas. Although line dancing probably ranks right up there with root canals, he just couldn't resist Allyson's enthusiasm.

The western wear was optional, but Allyson insisted they both needed hats and boots. Last Sunday she got so worked up about it that I finally said, "Let's not stress about it. I'm sure you will have fun no matter what you're wearing. The most important thing is that Daddy will be there."

When I mentioned the event a day or two later, Allyson protested, "I thought you said we couldn't talk about the Daddy Daughter Date."


"You said we couldn't stress about it any more."

I laughed. "Well, that doesn't mean we can't talk about it."

Allyson needn't have worried. Bill borrowed a hat and boots from his best friend Troy, and then he took Allyson shopping at Target, where they found the cutest hat and boots, plus a checkered shirt from the boy's section.

Although we both assured her no one would be able to tell it was a boy's shirt, she decided on a jean skirt over jeans, just in case. Isn't she the cutest cowgirl you've ever seen?

And the happiest, too.


I was surprised to see that Bill looked great in a cowboy hat. I made sure to get a good look as it's probably the first and last time he'll ever wear one.
In her ecstatic summary this morning, Allyson told me that he actually did some line dancing with her. "And we got to do a slow dance, too," she said, grinning wide. How wonderful that her very first slow dance was with her father.


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