Archive for the 'random thoughts' Category

tales of the bike…

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

I am the wife of a motorcycle rider. Before that, I was the girlfriend of a motorcycle rider. Think what you like but Robert always has been and always will be a motorcycle rider. As most of you know, he was in an accident on his bike last week. He was injured but will fully recover. My emotions have been some combination of roller coaster and maze since I got his call after his wreck on Tuesday. Let me elaborate…

When Robert and I were first dating, we would go for long rides on his motorcycle. Trust in Robert was never an issue for me. He was not trying to be anything other than who he is. He wasn’t trying to be cool or a rebel. He wasn’t a reckless driver – he was always very careful and attentive to everyone and everything around him. We would ride out to Shelby County and tour the back roads…County Roads 25, 41, 43, Sicard Hollow, Grants Mill, Highway 119. There was very little traffic all those years ago and we would ride for miles without seeing another person or vehicle. It was quiet save the purr of the engine. At that time, we had no communication system to talk to each other while wearing helmets. You learn a lot about a person in that quiet. I learned that Robert can spot a hawk from a mile away. I learned how to read the road ahead and respond to the twists, dips and turns in a way that made the ride smooth and easy. I learned to let go. There was no stress about work or school or family or anything for that matter. Just the cliche of the wind in your hair and sun beaming down. We were young and falling in love. It was wonderful.

It was quickly clear to me that riding a motorcycle isn’t just another activity on Robert’s agenda. It is a part of him. He recently wrote an article for the monthly employee newsletter where he works on this very subject. He explained that his love of riding is beyond explanation. It is in his blood. In his soul. A part of him. Even in the years that we didn’t own a bike, he was a rider. I have no desire to ride alone but riding with him became a part of me too.

Last summer, after a long motorcycle hiatus, Robert bought another bike. He fixed it like he wanted and started to ride almost daily. Pure joy. He and I started to ride together again…early Saturday trips to the farmer’s market, rides to lunch, any excuse to get on the bike for a little while. He discovered new roads closer to our part of town and was excited to take me on them. I was thrilled to go. He took the girls for little adventures. He went on longer trips by himself and we talked of doing those together as the girls get older. Being a more mature man this go around, Robert put more into safety. He invested in more gear than he had before and made his bike as safe as possible. He was meticulous. He wore all the gear all the time. We all did. No exception. It was this extra effort that saved his life last week.

His accident was a freak. No amount of preparation or maneuvering could have changed the outcome. He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t miss any sign that it was about to happen. No omen, premonition or warning. Just a freak accident. This is the hard truth about motorcycles. You are out there exposed and something small can become something big in the blink of an eye, no matter how careful or prepared you are.

While my heart overflows with happiness that my one true love is still here with me and that he will recover and be fine, there is a profound sadness that has crept in. I am sad for my husband that this part of him has been wrecked. I am sad for my marriage that we will not have those times on the bike together. I am sad for my daughters that they will not have that one-on-one time with their Dad on the bike. We will find other ways to have that connection, but it still makes me sad. I know that some of you are probably rolling your eyes with aplomb at all of this and that is ok. Not everyone will understand. I get it.

Robert has said “No more motorcycles” several times in the last few days. I believe him. This was too close. A few people have joked that surely I will never let him on a bike again after this. I am not that kind of wife. He is a grown man who is more than capable of making that decision for himself. I would be surprised if he ever straddles a bike again. But he will always be a rider. And I will always be his copilot.

I realize that I wrote this post for myself…thanks for reading. AK

home by another way…

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

When I was in high school, I had the privilege of attending a week long camp in the mountains of North Carolina with my youth group each summer. There was a different theme each year and it was a moving experience every time. One of the years, the theme was “home by another way”. It made for a cool logo and a neat t-shirt that I wore for decades. I got a lot from that week but I have to admit that the deeper meanings of that theme were not apparent to me until many years later.

I lived in the same house until I was a senior in high school. My father had the same job my whole life. I went to the same church. My parents did a great job of exposing me to diverse people – different skin colors, varying religious and cultural beliefs, political opinion, socio-economic background, etc…, but my home routine was static. No complaint, just fact.

I assumed that my adult life would be the same.

I can hear you all laughing…..

Robert and I have been married 21 years. We have moved 10 times across 5 states. Ten doesn’t sound like a big number. Trust me when I tell you that it is. Keep in mind that 7 of those moves were with 3 children in tow. By the 6th time I relaxed a little and knew that things would fall into place but it is still an incredible amount of work. Every. Single. Time.

Each move was with reason and purpose. We weren’t flitting about the countryside in a van singing and planting wildflowers along the way or anything. Every move was a deliberate and thoughtful step in the right direction. I knew this but I also had this nagging feeling that we were scarring our children for life.

During all of our adventures, our girls were exposed to many different life situations. Sub zero winters with feet upon feet of snow on the ground for months. Communities with great wealth where many parents didn’t have to work at all. Traffic. Beach life with sand on your toes all year. A town with one stop light. Blue collar communities where all members of the family worked to make ends meet. We were at the top of the socio-economic ladder in some places and much closer to the floor in others. We moved during the summer, in the middle of spring, over winter break, in the middle of fall…we have done every possible combination. I just knew that my children would require years of therapy for being hauled around on a journey they didn’t ask to go on.

What I discovered instead is that I am the mother of some awesome children. Our daughters told their “new kid” stories and eased into place. Granted it wasn’t always seamless. There were a few stumbles but that’s life, isn’t it? Life isn’t about always getting your way. Life isn’t always fair. It just isn’t. (If your life has always been easy and fair, I don’t know if we can be friends.) Our girls learned from all of that. They walk into rooms full of new people with confidence. They know how to find a friend in a room of strangers. They are happy just being themselves. It makes me weak with pride. I chalk it all up to the fact that the bond among our family of 5 is as strong as an ox. When you are new in town, you have to find strength and courage in the one place where it is a guarantee…at home. Being that strength for your sisters and even for your parents makes you stronger. Somehow my girls became fearless, appreciative and empathetic. Most of the time anyway…

We moved back home 3 1/2 years ago. It was time and we were ready. We were greeted by family and friends with open arms of love and gratitude. It was a wonderful thing to experience.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change much at all. I certainly wouldn’t take back any of our moves. We have at least one friend-for-life from each place we have lived. Treasures.

If you have never been on an adventure with your family – and I’m not talking about a week out of town – I’m talking about a real departure from your comfort zone…a place where you can only rely on each other…the kind of adventure that brings inside jokes and laughter through tears…you should try it. You can always come home, you just might come home by another way.


bitter lettuce

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

This year we planted a garden. In my state of constant list making, I have a mental list of things that I want. This is not the same as the “if we ever won the lottery” list. That is purely for fun. My list of things that I really want but do not have is incredibly short but one thing on it is a vegetable garden.

Our current house came with a fenced garden in part of the back yard so we were good to go! We planted seeds in little peat pots inside months ago. Around Memorial Day I got a local man to till up the garden and we planted our seedlings in neat little rows. The girls had fun playing farmer and it was a nice family activity. Then school got out and we headed south for three weeks to catch up on our family, friend and beach time.

We got back home and discovered that a lot of growing had been going on. Grass growing, that is. It was everywhere and it was thick. I was determined so I started weeding. Every morning I headed outside in my grubby jeans and got to work. Pulling grass on my hands and knees until I was exhausted and too hot to do anymore. It took just over a week but I got all of the plants cleared out. Even though about half of the garden did not survive the onslaught of grass, I was left feeling rather satisfied.
When we started all of this I had a whole list of reasons why it was a good idea. Eating better, fresher food, teaching the girls about growing food and all that is required. The list went on. But I have come to realize that this was something purely selfish. I wanted it. My sweet husband, of course, knew this already and humored me by being a good farm boy and responding to my laborious requests with a kind “as you wish”.

In all of the hours out in the garden pulling grass, I have discovered how much I enjoy it. I think it’s in my blood. My father grew up in rural North Carolina. In his community if you wanted to eat it, you’d better know how to grow it. This was not a matter of what was trendy or being organic. It was survival. He was one of 9 children and the only one to leave NC. My whole life, we have traveled back to see the family and I have always marveled in their gardens and the shelves of vegetables that they have grown and canned to feed their families through the winter. It is one of the most basic tenets in providing for one’s family and I find the whole thing rather appealing.
Unfortunately, I am not a very smart farmer. I shared this revelation with a friend and he said that he’s not a smart farmer either. But he’s a little smarter than he was last year. And smarter than he was the year before that. There is hope after all! I already have a list (shocking!) of what to do differently next year.

I have also realized that I am a very hands on person. Literally and figuratively. I love the feel of the dirt as I pat it down around young plants. I enjoy finding the grass that dares enter my Eden and ripping it out by the roots. Dispatching the enemy never felt so good. I enjoy sewing, baking and crafts for the same reason. I like to get my hands on it. I am a hands on mother and wife. I take the things that I am responsible for very seriously and I give myself fully to those things. Call it being a know-it-all, nosy, bossy, control freak, or whatever you want. It is just who I am.

Through all of this I am left with what promises to be a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, herbs, cantaloupe, peppers and kale. And even though my garden will never grace the pages of a magazine (except maybe as a “before” photo), I will continue to weed, nurture and prune until the season is done. I will look lovingly upon my beautiful lettuce in its fresh shade of bright green and try to forget that it is too bitter to eat.


Friday, August 2nd, 2013

A long time ago…on August 2, 1959 to be exact…something amazing happened. In a tiny, one traffic light town in North Carolina, a city girl pledged her troth to a country boy. Helen Graham and Felix Yarboro got married. And the story of me began…

37 years later I stood at the altar with my soul mate and did the same thing.

4 years after that, Robert and I welcomed the first of our three lovely daughters into the world.

So August 2nd is something of a phenomenon in our family.

As a young Southern girl, I thought about my wedding dress and all of those things that little girls daydream about but, as I got older, those thoughts gave way to opinions on friends, school, music and all of the randomness that fills a teenage mind. I was dating someone who talked of spending our lives together but deep down I knew that my heart wasn’t in it. (My parents should now be smiling since they were right all along!) Enter Robert Donovan. Within a few weeks, I knew. He was the man for me. I found out later that he knew too. Strange how that happens, isn’t it?

Shortly thereafter, the marriage word came into play and at some point, the calendar was consulted. There it was. Plain as day. August 2nd fell on a Saturday. I still remember the tingling feeling in my stomach. We could share the day with my parents. There was no question. So, on 8.2.97, I put on my mother’s wedding dress and became Mrs. Donovan.

Four years later, largely pregnant with our first child, my OB said, “What about next Thursday?” I was completely calm until I realized the date of next Thursday. August 2nd. More stomach tingling. Abigail arrived perfectly according to my OB’s plan, making us parents and forever catapulting the date into the Yarboro/Donovan Hall of Fame.

It is not just that we share the date with my parents and the birth of our first child. It is so much more than that. My parents have been a great example of what a marriage should look like, from both the outside and inside. Their relationship is not without fault or flaw but its about as close to perfect as it can be. My husband and I have an amazing relationship. I am grateful each and every day for that. Our daughter is an incredible person. She is a lot of me and even more of my husband intertwined into a young girl who is smart, beautiful, kind and capable of anything.

So, on this, the second day of August 2013, I wish my parents a happy 54th, my sweet husband a happy 16th and our darling daughter a happy 12th.

Happy happy happy!

all in a flurry…

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

For those of you who do not know me, I am a Southern girl. Born and raised in the great state of Alabama. University of Alabama graduate married to an Auburn University graduate. Even though Robert was born in Ontario, that is merely a technicality. He is a Southern boy and we are a great fit. My girls are Southern girls being raised as such. Manners and respect reign supreme. I’m not saying that we’re all good at using our manners and being respectful all of the time but we’re working on it. I’m also not talking about the “high falutin'” society Southern girl. Not redneck either. There are a great many stereotypes but in my mind it just means being polite and hospitable whenever possible.

Over the past 7 years, we have lived all over the Southeast. Alabama, Tennessee, back to Alabama, South Carolina and then Florida. We never wanted to leave our home town but in our lives, the deal is so often unexpected that it has become expected. But I digress.

The problem is that I now find myself living within throwing distance of Canada. If you have never studied Geography, that is NOT in or anywhere near the South. As the crow flies, we are 12 miles from the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Across the water lies Kingston, Ontario. I’m not kidding. I am a cliche. A fish out of water. A sore thumb. One of these things is not like the other…..that is me in Northern New York.

And now winter has arrived. I know that technically winter will not begin until December 21st but whoever decided on that date was out of their minds. The temperature has not risen above 45 in the last month. It is cold. My van is prepped with new snow tires and antifreeze. Robert has a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We have snow shovels and a service to plow the driveway when necessary. We have a closet full of jackets, snow pants, boots and all of that paraphernalia. I am relieved to have that taken care of but I have to admit that it feels wrong. Just plain wrong.

During my childhood, Mother Nature reserved snow for the times when it was most inconvenient to close school. Just to remind all the grown ups who thought that they were in charge that, in fact, they were not. We had maybe one good snow every other year and it was glorious. I remember one year watching my dad dig a tunnel so the dogs could get outside to use the bathroom. Another time the power went out stranding the staff at our church. We happened to live next door and somehow wound up with them all at our house for a time that felt like forever. I remember it taking 30 minutes to make it to our neighbor’s house across the street for a steaming bowl of chili. Good times.

Here in Northern New York, however, we are in for a world of winter that neither my husband nor I have ever experienced. We are talking about feet upon feet of snow that stays on the ground from now until March. The folks on the Weather Channel keep using the term “lake effect snow”. We had to look it up. One of the items on the school supply sheet from the elementary school was “sturdy snow pants and boots”. We are in for it. There is no negotiating or rationalizing our way out of this one. The time has come.

Today we are having our first real snow. The girls are so excited that they can barely contain their joy. It is adorable and annoying all at once. We have watched the flurries off and on for the past few days but today was the first time that any of it accumulated. We’ve had maybe an inch today. Nothing by New York standards. But it was something major to the girls. So, of course, we had to put on our brand new snow pants, jackets, boots and all of the accouterments and head outside. They made one snowball and quickly used up all of the available snow in the yard. After coming in for lunch there was a little more white on the ground so they made another pass. I don’t know how but they wore themselves out with an inch of snow. No complaints here! They have had their obligatory hot chocolate, a warm bath and are all bedded down for the night. I’m sure that before very long, the newness will have worn off and we will be wishing for greener grass and the warm days of summer again.

As the snow continues to fall outside, I am wondering what all Mother Nature has in store for us this year. I may be ready, but I am definitely not in charge.


Saturday, November 24th, 2012

It is the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving. The turkey feast with all the trimmings has been cooked, eaten and reworked into several variations over the past few days. There is not much left at this point and all of the bellies in our house are full. The parade has been watched. The Iron Bowl has been played. The dishes have been washed and put away for the hundredth time. It is the same song and dance of Thanksgivings from my entire life.

Thanksgiving is not the only time of the year to be filled with gratitude but it is a great reminder that we should always be appreciative of the many treasures in our lives. Despite all of my imperfections and shortcomings, my list of things to be thankful for has grown yet again. My family remains at the top of my list. Always has been. Always will be. That is closely followed by food, shelter, good health, friends, humor and feelings of self worth. Also making an appearance is the fact that I am not a shopper and I am not married to a shopper. In our house, Black Friday is a day meant for wearing sweat pants, watching movies, doing puzzles, eating leftovers, playing cards and spending time together. Perfection in my book! But I digress….

As the weekend nears its end and the rest of the holiday season quickly approaches, let us be continually reminded of the things in life that are truly important.


Sunday, August 5th, 2012

This last week I had the task of taking Hattie to camp. She and I were both excited not only because it was her first time going to camp but also because we were getting a little mother-daughter time for the two of us on the way. We drove to the airport, wrestled with her trunk and duffel bag, flew to Charlotte, rented a car, wrestled with the trunk and duffel bag again and drove to our friend’s house. After a great dinner party of close friends, we slept like rocks, got up the next morning and drove into the woods to get Hattie started on her 10 days of camp fabulousness. Piece. Of. Cake.

Now it was time for me to go back home. I drove to the Charlotte airport and dropped off the rental car. I breezed through my first flight with ease, even getting complimented by TSA agents for my prowess in going through security. I was feeling like a travel superstar. Of course it all came crashing down like Vesuvius. That’s what cocky will get you.

My flight from Detroit to Syracuse was supposed to leave around 9. I already had a long layover and wasn’t going to be getting home until the wee hours but I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the airline I was using installed a new dispatching software system the day I was traveling. Let’s just say that the new software launch didn’t go well. As our flight departure time got pushed later and later, I began to hear horror stories. Now I know how people LOVE to share their tales of woe when the chips are down and I try really hard not to get sucked in but I was having a difficult time ignoring the words hanging in the air.

One woman had an earlier flight canceled because the co-pilot didn’t show up. Another had a flight canceled because there was a full crew but no plane. Apparently there was no coordination of who was supposed to be where and when. Delightful. Luckily I had my secret weapon. My husband is a platinum elite traveler and he has the credentials to prove it. As soon as I heard the word canceled announced in the same sentence as my flight number, I put in a call to my secret agent and he called his super secret phone numbers and got me a nice hotel room and a ticket for the next day. Of course, I did not share that information with anyone at the time. He’s a secret for a reason. Heh heh heh. Or he was…oops.

Anyway, I escaped from the line of miserable folks and got to the hotel just after midnight where I promptly passed out. I got up a mere 4 1/2 hours later and headed back to the airport to find out that my flight had been canceled. The plane that was supposed to be there for the early flight had never made it the night before. I worked with the ticket agent to find a seat on a plane going somewhere in the vicinity of home. You know, it’s never good when the ticket agent asks you, “What the hell happened here last night?”

I got a boarding pass and cleared security. Just on the other side of the metal detector I entered a war zone. Shrapnel from those unlucky enough to spend the night in the airport littered the floor. Bodies were strewn over every surface. Feet and hands dripping from seats like candle wax. It was ugly. The smell was worse. I joined the band of less-than-merry folks from last night and we made our way to our gate. Wait. Change gates. Wait. Change departure times. Wait. Watch “our” plane take off with someone else. Very adulterous, is it not? I certainly was feeling cheated.

To make a long story only slightly longer, after a dozen more gate and time changes, I finally made it onto a plane. We left a scant 4 hours late and landed 2 hours from my original destination where my secret agent was waiting. I survived. I was beaten down, exhausted and felt like my memory had been wiped clean but I made it.

In writing, it doesn’t sound as bad as it was. Let me clarify. It was BAD. Granted I did not have to sleep in the airport but it was still pretty bad. I began to doubt myself. It was exhausting to keep up with all of the gate and time changes. Paranoia sets in. I started to think that if I left to run to the bathroom or grab something to eat, I might miss some life-changing announcement and miss my chance to get home. Preposterous I know. But when you feel like you’re not being given all of the information, you cling to every word you get like treasure.

As we were waiting, I grew weary of reading. I didn’t want to do any of the things I had brought along to occupy my time. So I started to people watch. I love to watch people. Especially in scenarios like waiting in the airport. Disney was a people watching paradise. I’m not there to judge. I’m just fascinated by sociology and psychology. In all of my hours of watching I realized that there are several categories of airline passengers that most people can be lumped into.

The Information Snob – The Information Snob knows everything. This person always has the latest scoop and cannot wait to share it with anyone that will listen. This person finds great joy in being the “go-to guy” for those less informed who are feeling desperate. Also sometimes called The Controller/The Leader/The False Idol. Just for your information, this person is often wrong.

The Charger – The Charger must have his or her phone plugged in to charge at all times. To be away from an operational plug causes great distress.

The Ignoramus – The Ignoramus has no clue about anything happening around them. They don’t pay attention in line. They smack people with their luggage. They wander around aimlessly. It’s a wonder they make it to the airport at all. They have no idea that you can’t take a 12 ounce bottle of shampoo in your carryon. Their most frequent utterance is “sorry”. They do not mean it. Ever.

The Runner – The Runner runs everywhere regardless of necessity. Faster is always better. Even with a 3 hour layover.

The Stinker – The Stinker thought that they could bypass the shower and/or deodorant without being offensive. The Stinker is horribly mistaken. However, The Stinker will find that he or she will often have the seats on either side of them free for their bags while everyone else is pressed together. Interesting, no?

The Drama Queen – The Drama Queen throws a huge tantrum and then expects to be petted and served and checked on and felt sorry for. Usually female. That’s painful to admit but it’s true. She expects first class treatment whether she has paid the first class price or not. I did not encounter The DQ until I was waiting for the shuttle to the hotel the first night. The DQ had gotten a hotel reservation and was sure that she knew which bus to get on. The driver was trying to tell her that he was not going to the hotel where she said she had a room. She started screaming at him. She was calling him names and starting to cuss. Classy. Then, just because she did not have the undivided attention of the entire airport, she reached into her bag, pulled out a full bottle of red wine and smashed it on the ground. The man next to me said “that’s a damn shame”. It was. (just so you know, the bus driver was right…they usually are…)

The Settler – The Settler must get “settled” at each new location. Each of their items has to have a “home”. The Settler in our group was a nervous wreck by the 4th gate change. She barely got settled before the next switch. I honestly didn’t think she was going to make it.

The Snacker – The Snacker always has food in hand. Stress eating at its best. The woman in our group who was The Snacker was having a particularly hard time. She was very concerned what other people thought about her title as The Snacker. She made a huge deal out of the fact that she was trying to eat healthy foods and make good choices. She was a big girl and I could understand her angst. But she also happened to be The Charger of the group and the two titles were becoming a more burdensome load than she could manage. When we got to our last gate and were promised that we were actually getting onto this plane, she declared “Thank you Jesus!”, unplugged her phone and disappeared. She returned moments later with the biggest cupcake I have ever seen. She downed it in magnificent gulps and proclaimed to all of us watching with mouths agape, “That was totally worth it!” Then she plugged in her phone.

The Expert Traveler – The Expert Traveler wants nothing to do with any of the above. This person travels enough to actually know all that is going on and never buys tickets to the airport circus. Ever.

The airports have figured all of this out. They have amenities for every category. Executive lounges. Rows of plugs. Snacks abound. Television screens with useful information. Kiosks of crap at discount prices. Television screens with useless information. Loud announcements from Charlie Brown’s fourth grade teacher. Carts and buggies. Moving sidewalks. Yada yada yada.

Looking back, the whole ordeal was over in a flash. My adrenaline, peanut and caffeine levels have dropped back to normal. Just in time to go back and pick Hattie up this weekend. Maybe I’ll figure out what category I belong to by then.

redefining beauty…

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Most people have heard this adage in some form or another. Something that is beautiful to me may not seem beautiful to someone else. Easy enough.

Today, beauty comes to me in the form of a washer and dryer. Materialistic? Yes it is. It is horrible of me to even think of a washer and dryer set as beautiful but the arrival of the appliance store truck almost brought a tear to my eye this afternoon.

The laundromat is not for wimps and my last trip was apparently taken on a very wimpy day. Three hot girls, their sweaty mom, three baskets filled to capacity and a rolling duffle big enough to hold a rhino brimming with dirty clothes. We were hot, in foul moods, bored, without a bathroom and just not up to the task of entertaining ourselves. Then we ran out of quarters. Not a great moment in Donovan history.

Before you get on your soap box, let me add a disclaimer. I know how fortunate I am. I know how lucky I am that I live in a world where I have running water in my house, more than enough food on my table and power to heat and cool my home. I know that there are still huge masses of people who bathe and wash in the same river as their animals. I know that my life is a life of ease when compared to millions of others. I know how blessed I am to have a husband and family who love and support me every day. I have three smart, healthy girls. I am thankful for all that I have each and every day.

BUT…in my little mommy world, being without a washer and dryer has been a splinter in my heel and the day of reckoning has finally come. The inaugural load of laundry is now in my new washer and my mommy self is at peace knowing that everyone will have plenty of clean socks and underwear by morning. I say this knowing full well that the excitement of doing laundry will wear off far too quickly. Much like new car smell. But I digress.

Today my eye beheld beauty in the sight of my girls riding their bikes up and down the street ad nauseum, in the fact that half of the garage is now empty of boxes, in the youngest Donovan giving into her need for a nap after playing outside all day, in the sight of Robert lighting the grill for dinner and yes, in a new washer and dryer.

We tell our girls that they are beautiful a lot. We also tell them that they are smart. Sweet. Bossy. Kind. Creative. Loving. Obnoxious. Helpful. Life is about balance, honesty and love for ourselves and each other. Beautiful!


the state of things…

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

The state of my minivan has been bothering me for over a month. Yesterday I couldn’t stand it any longer. Regardless of the fact that the house is a lesson in chaos and boxes, it was time to do the big van clean out.

To be honest, it wasn’t all that bad. My van is usually pretty pristine. I have some friends who use their vehicle as a traveling trash can. Or dog kennel. Or mini warehouse. Or toy box. Or sports equipment closet. You get the idea. But my van is the place where I allow my OCD to run free. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I have just enough OCD to enjoy the office supply store and to keep my van clean but not enough to keep my desk straight. It’s a daily conundrum that exists only to irritate me and my slightly more-OCD-than-me husband.

Back on track….once I finally found the vacuum and attachments and got started on the clean out, I realized the enormity of what I was doing. Embedded in the seats and carpet of the van was sand from Sarasota, grass from about a dozen yards throughout the southeast US, glitter from all of the artwork sent home on the last day of school, road grit from over 3,200 miles of road trip in a month, hay from Elkin, NC and sand from Ft. Walton. There were finger, shoe and hand prints in every size. A million wrappers from Capri Sun straws. Markers and coloring books shoved in all the seat back pockets with packaging from a myriad of junk food, movie ticket stubs and lists of license plate sightings. A forensic nightmare. The family truckster in all its glory.

You see, I have a theory when it comes to spending long periods of time in the car. There is only one goal: survival. Whoever makes it to the destination alive wins. If this means watching 12 movies back to back then fine by me. You want pop tarts for your snack from the gas station? You bet! A fifth piece of gum, Hattie? You’d better believe it! It’s all about getting there without going there. The first there might be the grandparents house or the beach or our new house a million miles away. The second there is that dark place that resides in the deepest caverns of all parents. That there is the place that makes you want to say things like, “I WILL PULL THIS VAN OVER RIGHT NOW!” and “DON’T MAKE ME COME BACK THERE!” It is also the place that breeds asinine questions such as, “DO I NEED TO SWAP YOU OUT FOR A HANGING BAG?” or “DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO PEE…AGAIN???????”

I don’t like to go to that dark place. I want to arrive at my destination feeling like I have accomplished something without destroying my children’s youth.

We have moved a little farther away from our home town each time we have moved (5 cities in 6 years) so we have all slowly grown accustomed to longer and longer car trips. We have also learned to stay in hotels with pools and make the girls jump rope, run laps around the van and stretch at every stop.

The more important fact is that we made it. We survived a 4 month separation from Robert…and the end of school…and the beginning of a new job…and moving 1500 miles to a section of the country never before inhabited by this family. We made it.

And my van is clean. Woo hoo!

Sam, Sam the BT man…

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Once again our life’s vehicle is merging onto another highway headed to new territory. Robert has taken a job in upstate New York and for the first time in my life, I will soon be living outside of the Southeast. Gasp! It is a good thing for our family but like all big changes, the transition period is stressful. More on that later…

Unfortunately in the midst of the chaos, we had to say goodbye to our sweet dog Sam two weeks ago. He was just shy of his 15th birthday. Sam had an awesome life but the time had come for him to find a comfy spot on that big sofa in the sky.

Rewind 15 years…….while Robert and I were engaged, we decided that we wanted a puppy. So my information hound fiancé researched dog breeds and found the perfect one for us. We settled on a border terrier. We found a breeder a few hours away and began the journey to canine parenthood. Our breeders are serious folk in the dog world. We were interviewed and vetted to make sure we would be good parents. Somehow we passed the test and were allowed to bring Sampson home to become an official member of the Donovan family.

We picked Sam up on the day we got back from our honeymoon and began our life as a family. Robert was commuting an hour each way to work while I finished up my last year of college. Sam was the perfect little dog for us. He had a stellar personality and we were a great match. One of my favorite Sam stories occurred within the first 6 months of his life with us.

I am a Reese’s cup fanatic. I often have them in the house in large quantities. There it is. Out there for the world to know….but I digress. SO, I have this beautiful silver bowl that we got as a wedding present and I had it on the table beside our sofa filled to the brim with miniature Reese’s cups. Sam had never paid any attention to the bowl of deliciousness.

One afternoon I got home from class to find Sam racing up and down the hallway of our apartment. He had a crazed look in his eye and was doing this weird “ruff, ruff” growl/bark as he careened back and forth. I looked around and realized that the bowl was empty. E-M-P-T-Y. Not a wrapper in sight. Not one. He had eaten them all. For those of you who are not dog people, that’s bad. Honestly, that many Reese’s cups in that short amount of time is not good for anyone but it’s really not good for a dog. So I’m thinking, oh crap I killed the dog. Robert is going to freak. The breeders are going to hunt me down and tar and feather me for sure. I trusted Sam out of his kennel and left him a giant bowl of death for the taking. It might as well have had his name on it with a liver treat trail up the sofa. My potential-for-being-a-good-mother-someday evaluation was not off to a good start.

I was having a regular freak out when, all of the sudden, Sam’s race was over and he laid down for a 4 hour nap. I kept checking his pulse and waiting for the disaster to happen. Somehow the calamity never showed up at our door. A week later he pooped out a Reese’s wrapper Christmas ornament and the balance of nature was restored.

Miraculously we survived the ordeal. Through the years we survived several Sam challenges but at the heart of everything he was a wonderful member of our family regardless of how many times he stubbed his toe jumping off the bed at 3 in the morning.

He was not happy when we brought home our big dog but he got over it. He was not happy when my belly, growing little Abigail inside, took over his favorite spot on the sofa and his sleeping spot in our bed but somehow he knew it was okay. He didn’t particularly like the drive from wherever we were to wherever we were going but he always forgave us. He was always happy to see us. He loved our girls and was a loyal buddy through everything. He put up with us and we with him, always.

So, for my first baby, my sweet furry brown dog, I loved you dearly and I always will.