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Off and Running

11 Jan

Why begin the new year with mediocrity?  Well, to answer the question as plain as I can, we are not.

To kick start our meander into 2013 we had the awesome pleasure of learning our daughter’s first semester as a full time college student ended with her gaining  “A” grades in every class.  And since my mother was in town when the good news arrived (her last visit before moving full time to the south American country of Nicaragua) we decided to have an ‘out to dinner’ celebration.  Which we did, at a local Japanese-California fusion type restaurant.  We had a magnificent time until I looked across the table and over at my son, only to realize with a single hand he was (literally) squeezing a restaurant spoon with such force that the head of the spoon found itself visiting with its tail.  My son is strong to be sure, but this action was not customary even to him.

Turns out he was experiencing a significant amount of pain which led me to square up the bill in a hurry and get him home where his pain medication innocently awaited his return.  Unfortunately not even prescription narcotics could avert the intensity of his anguish.  Mind you, he has been through a lot…brain surgery, eye surgery, kidney stone passing, combat zone activity, etc.  And yet, this amount of pain was causing him to have respiratory failure to the point his hands were numb and had turned blue.  We watched him attempt to pull his hair out as he writhed on the bathroom floor awaiting the emergency crew who had just been summoned by me, via telephone.  We were at a loss, what with no bloody wound to apply compression to.  And no apparent heart attack, choking, or drowning in process.  Only an abdominal pain so severe that the five of us (Cole included) weren’t sure if this was his last hour.  HAPPY NEW YEAR! 😉

So off to the emergency room we went…for further celebration, of course!  Thankfully Cole is still with us.  He had an intestinal blockage and the ER doctor gave him the necessary shots, IV’s, and nutrients so Cole was able to return home and suffer out the rest of the process here at home.  Now the day after our celebratory fiasco, my mom had to get to the airport, my son to his doctor, and my daughter to the store for a couple international necessities (voltage converter and the like).  Those errands were accomplished and Esther was packed and ready to go.

Brian and I took Esther up to LAX airport (insisting to Cole he remain at home due to his tenuous circumstance and uncertainty of requiring a second trip to the hospital).  We left our young world traveler in the hands of the long security line with the loving words of a TSA agent as her new found guide, “Where is your boarding pass?  You need to be prepared!”  Esther, in her inexperienced manner, had clipped all of her paperwork together…annoying the agent because she had to rifle through a few pieces to encounter the boarding pass.  Brian and I left our little girl smiling anxiously, knowing the next step was unfamiliar for her, but having confidence she would learn even if from her mistakes.

LAX International

The sea of security, LAX International

LAX security line

Mom’s shaky hand manning the camera, notice the boarding pass!

So she is now in France.  She has already experienced a class at the university, the marketplace, the local cuisine, a 16th century apartment, and been introduced to various people.  She called us this morning (via Skype) because she said her brain hurt from so much French–meaning, she is truly in an immersion situation and her abilities are being utilized and stretched beyond their present capacity.  …mission accomplished!  At this moment, with her host family, she is on her way to the coast and tomorrow they will venture into Spain.  We couldn’t be more excited for her…and she is truly enjoying every moment of being there. …Touché to the movie, “Taken”…touché!

Now on another front, you might not believe this, but I am still sick!  I actually finished my regimen of antibiotics last Friday, but after our trek to the hospital and then the days which followed with quite a lot of activity, I have again landed back on my ass (buttocks, not to be confused with my imaginary mule).  What the heck?  This is one tough repiratory virus, that is all I can say.  And of course, when combating such a fierce microscopic bug, I do recommend staying far away from their known watering hole…the hospital.  But like I was going to send my son off in an ambulance with a kiss and well wishes…NOT.  So to the watering hole I went, and here I now sit as result.

The good news, 2012 shall not be outdone!  We roll into this new year like a band of wild horses who know not which way they are headed; just off and running, as is their custom.  Sweet Jesus, can you please keep the minions at bay?!  For we just might want to nibble a small crumb of mediocrity for a spell.  …I don’t know, it’s just a thought. 🙂

Cookie Dough and the Haircut

15 Dec

The Cookie Dough:

Earlier in the week I took a hike with a girlfriend.  We are very close friends and have known each other since our teenaged years.  Why include that information in the intro?  Because it should highlight our deep rooted connection which has been forged by many decades of interaction.  …it should, I hope it does.  So here we were huffing and puffing up a hill when my friend told me of her cookie dough dilemma.  Apparently, several months back she had succumbed to the charms of a young boy and his door-to-door knocking plea of, “please pre-order cookie dough, pay now and I will deliver it to you in a few weeks.”  Being that her children are in the private school sector, she thought this a good opportunity to support the local, public elementary house of education.  And so she handed over her twenty dollars, wrote the boy’s name down, and tucked her anticipation away until the three week marker was set to arrive.  Well, according to her, three weeks has turned into three months.  And her question to me was, “I have his name and I know his school, should I call them and ask for my cookie dough?”  My answer was quick and firm…”No.”

I went on to explain that life is unpredictable (as she too is aware), and as such, impedes upon plans and/or intentions.  I suggested that we don’t know the circumstances surrounding the boy’s life and perhaps, in this instance, he (or his mother and father) could benefit from receiving a little grace.  I also recognized the potential that the boy took her money and also enjoyed her cookies as well.  But my thought is, if we look at the circumstance as if weighing it out on a balance, the extension of grace proved the ‘heavy’.  …’nough said.

The Haircut:

Thursday, (only a few days after solving the ‘cookie dough caper’), I took my son for a haircut.  It was an unplanned excursion (especially as I am the usual coiffeur to the Bent family), and took place because we had to kill some time and he needed a cut.  The little barber shop is located within the Long Beach VA facility and the resident barber is Judy, a woman.  She was on the brink of finishing a cut for an older male veteran, so she offered us a place to sit while we waited.  In a short amount of time Judy and her prevailing customer learned of my son’s “Wounded Warrior” status.  And wouldn’t you know, when the man in the salon chair was finished with his cut he turned to Cole and said, “Son, it would be my honor to buy you your haircut.”  Flabbergasted Cole said, “Are you sure?”  To which the white-bearded man replied, “Yes.  I thank you for your service and it is truly my honor.”  …well he tried to get that out, but honestly he got so choked up the words were having to fight their way out (if you know what I mean).  And of course, me being a sucker for a kind deed and an adherer to the policy of “no one cries alone”, I got watery eyed and was (still am) incredibly blessed by this older military veteran.  Not only because he paid for the haircut, but because the plight of my son made a mark upon this experienced man.  After thanking the stranger for his kind act, Cole carefully stepped into the chair of honor.

Judy proceeded to tell us of her credentials and a few personal accounts of her life, while in process of cutting Cole’s hair.  Once finished under her experienced hands, he asked if he could give her a five dollar tip and then handed her a twenty dollar bill.  She thanked him and handed him back a five.  Now the haircut itself cost $10.00, which the kind stranger had taken care of;  so in truth, Cole should have been given back $15.00, not $5.  I watched this transaction which then jet-propelled my ‘momma bear’ tactile instincts.  Though something within me held my tongue.  It could have been that Judy shared with us that she is a four time cancer survivor who lost her “dream retirement home” because of her medical bills.  She shared with us that the circumstance ended up being more of a blessing to her in the long run, and then gave Cole’s knee a pat and said, “see it was a good thing after all!”  It could have also been that she had another man awaiting her services and there was really no way to tactfully call attention to her monetary error.  Or it could have been that I had the twenty dollar cookie dough advice still fresh within me.

Which ever the case may be, it donned on me (as we were leaving the facility) that most likely she had forgotten that her previous client covered the expenses of her next.  Thus when Cole offered to give her a five dollar tip, his rightful change, from a twenty (considering his haircut cost ten) would have been a five-r.  But it wasn’t until my shower this morning that I was given the true message of the triangular transaction.  You see, I was viewing the circumstance from the perspective of my mommy lens.  And what I thought to be an infraction against my son, was actually an INTENDED double blessing from The Good Lord himself.  As she communicated, Judy’s finances were tight.  And unbeknownst to the stranger, Cole’s spirit was depleted.  In one fail swoop, Judy picked up an extra 10 dollars, and my son received a little boost to the soul from the sincerity of the gentleman.  Both were blessed, just as each one needed.  …Oh how my vision is so impaired!

To that end, the answer to my cookie deprived girlfriend still stands.  In fact, now more emphatically.  As if the two stories are not enough, I have more reason to advise my friend to consider the unknown before taking action.  This past week has been grueling for our family…to say the very least.  The “short” of it (as if I can tell a story short-handed):  We introduced a new medication to Cole’s regimen, last Thursday, which caused several severe adverse reactions.  The one I will focus on is the emotional spiraling which occurred on Monday (after my hike with my friend).  Oh there were other, very obvious, overtly physical, negative affects as well.  But the hopelessness that Cole was left to contend with spun him in the direction of suicidal ideation.  And he attempted to overdose on his pain medication, though his actions were thwarted by the entrance, into the room, of his little sister (who remains ignorant of her brothers actions).  Not a fun place for him, not a fun place for his parents (my husband and I).

Unfortunately we didn’t put 2 and 2 together that first night, and it wasn’t until Tuesday eve that we realized this new state of low, was directly related to the collision course of the new medication.  Now I beg of you, as I tell this story, to kindly refrain from offering loads of advice on the subject of suicide ideation…my armor is a bit weary.  The purpose of my sharing is to illuminate the full circle effect of choosing the road of grace, also known as mercy, especially when another option is present.

I will tell you that amidst our tumultuous week, the ‘normals’ of life continue to go on.  In fact, I was the email liaison/coordinator for a magazine photo shoot happening at our house yesterday (Friday), for a London based quarterly.  The photographer, the models, and the stylist were looking to me to ensure the times and locations were set and in place.  Now earlier in the week one of the models called to complain because the schedule for the event had to be tweaked slightly and he was irritated at me as a result.  …keep in mind, my son had just tried to OD…  But you know what I realize, the circumstances of my life do not cause the lives of others to stop.  He was completely in the dark about our familial hardship.  And yes, I could have enlightened him (and his single, no children life), to our heart wrenching scenario…but to do so was (and is) unnecessary.  Let me interject here…I had called upon my “prayer warriors” a few days earlier and my request was simple, “wisdom, please pray for wisdom”.  Not only does my Heavenly Father offer to grant wisdom to those who ask, as written in his word, but he provides the necessary tools for the actions required to enact the wisdom given.  Hallelujah for that.  And at this point in my story is where, for me, I see the fulfillment of prayer most profoundly.

Now back to “the short of it”…haha!

For him (the aforementioned male model), the change in plan was infringing upon his convenience.  And being he was receiving no remuneration for his time, he had every right to be a little testy.  I didn’t need to use my “E ticket” as I call it (E ticket=passport to the very best rides at Disneyland–until the changeover to the ‘all day pass’ was enacted), to override his concerns.  So I apologized and together we worked out a viable plan which ended up being the best choice for all involved.  After all, the beauty of gaining in years is that one is also gaining in wisdom (hopefully).  Now what good would all my wisdom be if it were left as an untapped resource!

Ok, ok…truth be told, the older I get the less I know.  Though there is one lesson life has been teaching me over and over again:

“Much grace I must give, for much grace I often require.”

Spark Notes

10 Aug

Today’s title, ‘Spark Notes’, has been patiently awaiting my attention while in the holding cell of my “drafts” folder.  In fact, my opportunity and drive to write, this week, has been somewhat prolific.  And I say, “take it while I can get it,” because I expect next week to have to linger on the tails of my past three postings (this one included).  I have even had time this week to peruse a few blogs I have been introduced to over the past year.  I feel much accomplished, as far as having invested in a few writings and readings that give me a little spark.  AAAhhhh, my segue into the title at hand.  What is your spark?  What is mine?

Now obviously I cannot answer the question for you.  But I can share a bit of the sparks in my life, and in that, in the lives of my nuclear family.

For me, dyed black hair is a pleasure I enjoy.  And if I encounter true, naturally black hair, elation wells up within me.  I began dying my hair black back in high school.  My then boyfriend (who happens to now be my husband) and I bought a bottle of some sort of “cover the gray” black rinse and we applied it, each to the other, without the use of protective gloves (uh oh, in the category of teenagers this could sound like a covert innuendo–I promise it is not).  And because we used our skin exposed hands for the job, we consequently went through the next month with the evidence not only imprinted onto each of our strands of hair, but also emanating from every skin pore on the palm of our hands.  The box said, “washes out with several shampoo’s,” and though our hands recovered after a months time, my long tresses did not.  In fact two years after the occasion, on my wedding day, my long hair was sporting a half and half d00…the top half naturally brown and the bottom half unnaturally black.  My husband, on the other hand, had shaved his hair off long before our betrothal.  Now in between that time and now I have experimented with reds and blondes and blacks.  I like the reds though I don’t like them with my skin tone.  Blonde, I am just not.  So black it is for me.  And though it began as a love affair with the color, it has sadly become my battle cry against father time and his minions in white.

The Black Bottle

Naturally, unnaturally beautiful!

I realize that sharing hair dye as one of my “sparks” is a little weak…at face value.  But truly my greatest spark comes from humor.  Humor in all things, aging included.  And in consideration of the humorous undertone of the black bottle bit, you can better understand my spark.  I am also fueled by that which fuels my husband and children.  I find their happiness to simultaneously fill my cup (this is a very weird sentence structure–any help on it, if it indeed is incorrectly written, is most appreciated).

Thus I will indulge my fancy further by writing about the newest spark in the Bent clan…

A sailboat.  Yep, a 25ft fiberglass hull vessel.  My husband and son have ventured into this purchase together (one has the money and the other has the brawn–read my past post to guess which is which); and it is through their adventurous spirit the rest of us (my daughter Esther, and I) become sailors.

As most of the readers of this blog know, Cole has suffered a very significant loss in his quality of life.  He was a strapping and strong young United States Marine, prior to having his brain tumor removed.  And now he is dependent upon others due to the physical impairments which are his.  Result of cranial nerve damage from having a growth on his brain stem removed (death was the alternate option).  In all reality, we are so very fortunate to have him alive and in as good of shape as he is in.  We know that, but he doesn’t.  He struggles so much–every day.  Every night.  And so becoming an owner of a boat, alongside his dad, is a step in the right direction.  The hope is that there will be a piece of flint lurking about his new adventures…it will find its way to the concrete of his soul and scrape against it.   And when it does, I pray it will create a spark which will turn into a roaring fire.  A fire within my son’s being that will give him back purpose, feeling, and desire.  I do believe G-d can do this with a little 25 foot sailboat.  I just don’t know when.

Brian and Cole

Gilligan and the Skipper

Cole catching a fish

Fishing off the stern

Yet in the meantime the four of us are enjoying the open seas, the calm of the harbor, and each other…at least we are making every effort in this direction (I am prone to seasickness of all things).  We have yet to spend the night on her, but these warm summer nights are like a siren’s call.  I’m sure it won’t be long before we yield.

Esther at the bow

Ahoy Matey! Esther catching some sea air

My last two posts (‘Shut the Hell Up!’ and ‘Betwixt, Bothered, and Be-Whining‘) came fiercely and quickly as the intervention of my cathartic pen was needed for the health of my psyche.  But this post, this patiently awaiting its time, post…this is my spark note.  Please feel free to share yours.

Brian the Skipper, Cole as Gilligan

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailing man,
The skipper brave and sure….
source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/gilligansislandlyrics.html

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