A Perfectly Mad(ison) Family Day Out

The trick to this sort of day is to leave as much to chance as possible: worry for the worst but have determination without doubt, and hope for happiness.

Prologue

            In a cozy condo, in a Midwest town resided a family of four plus dog and cat. The two-year-old boy had reached an age of few demands and many delights, whose fascination rested in flying aircraft. If two objects could be brought into a wing formation, it became an airplane and flew across the living room, including flapping garbage trucks or overlapping wood blocks.

In this group of four there was a stay-at-home mom who elected to keep fueled on black tea, leaving coffee as an indulgence. When the weekend arrived, she welcomed mild exploratory play dates and having her husband present for damage control, rustling up the grub, and roping a calf or two.

In the husband’s mind resided an appreciation for culinary variety especially when kicked up a notch by the application of spiced heat. Also in his mind rested a history of toy searches for a satisfactorily simple aircraft and having come up empty.

Finally, in the mouth of the seven-month-old could be found the item he had just managed to clutch by little fingers grappling for motor skills.

Sunday

            Breakfast commenced and concluded at an unnatural morning hour as deemed necessary by little stomachs with ambitious appetites. Afterward, the family strapped in and motored through the isthmus, which is to say downtown Madison sandwiched on land between two lakes. Due to a now apparent fortunate hour, traffic remained sparse and, minus a slight detour provided by residual floodwaters, the family headed north, following tips by other parents into unseen territory, only evidence of its existence provided by navigational maps. Would the business be open today? Will there be seating for a family more interested in the sights than the food? So many clouds infringed the mother’s internal mood while the sky outside remained nominally clear.

Wisconsin aviation off Corben Court proved not only open but bursting with customers. However, the building accommodated well with a wall of windows, spacious lounge, and the most wonderful sight to a mother of two boys–a complimentary coffee bar!

Applying adaptive skills, the mother stirs Swiss Miss into her cup and enjoys a pleasant caffeine cocktail reminiscent of a tall mocha.

The aforementioned wall of windows overlooked an airplane parking lot, the airstrip stretching out beyond. Several small aircraft awaited passengers and pilots who lounged with customers awaiting a table in the Jet Room. The mother’s toddler son proceeded to wind his way throughout the seated groups, occasionally drinking in the sights outside but happy for free movement though slightly tempered as a previous injury had made his parents a tad over-cautious.

Caution might have been thrown to the wind, or released from the cockpit of the toddler’s newest toy after it was located in the Not Just Plane Stuff gift shop. Scenic spots were forgotten as he propelled along widening loops indoors and outdoors. The younger brother observed these activities from his baby-carrier perch and attempted on several occasions to sample the mother’s drink held in visual range but just out of the reach of his arms. He had to suffice with gumming a plastic container.

Finally, the caffeinated, baby-wearing mother deemed it time to depart for their next destination and the family found themselves buckled in, headed back to the capitol square. The hour still rested firmly in the morning portion of the day. The need for parking, thus, was easily satisfied. With double stroller unfolded, boys contained, the family trekked uphill.

The four long blocks comprising the square surrounding the domed capitol building consisted of temporary booths unfurling their colorful menus under trees packed with leaves fringed with fall color. The toddler was released to the green lawn between the capitol’s entrances under the watchful eye of the father. They both would soon return under the hungry eyes of numerous mosquitoes. The mother and seven-month-old had kept to the cement and followed, content to a sedate pace awarded in these weekend moments.

The family passed a stage where a band plucked and plunked notes from guitars and saxophone, tuning before the big show. At this time, the clouds had converged closing out the sun’s harsh glare. This family would not be steamed vegetable at Taste of Madison 2018 as a slight breeze teased through the increasing number of attendees.

The time had come for transactions to take place. Following a trial of two paninis–Italian meat and turkey–with an accompanying dill sauce the mother enjoyed especially on the turkey panini, the family spun a wheel for free prizes. The toddler’s spin resulted in sunscreen, semi-useful in Wisconsin. The mother’s spin proved about as fruitful with lip balm. Then excitement arose as the wheel clicked along and the anchored needle held for a pair of sunglasses. The parents had cheered for such a result as the toddler had proven skilled at testing the structural integrity of such eye-protecting devices. In two previous rounds, the devices failed the toddler’s rigorous tests.

The family then shared gyros and grape leaves; the mother and toddler didn’t care much for the grape leaves. The seven-month-old added no commentary as he had sated himself on dissolving crunch puffs after applying his salivating techniques on the plastic tray and had succumbed to exhaustion. He slept peacefully in the baby carrier near his mother’s heart while said family member saw to her stomach.

The final food to fulfill this family’s palate followed Wisconsin tradition: beer-battered cheese curds with a side of dressing. These particular cheese delights were breaded in locally brewed ale of the brand, Spotted Cow. The line to retrieve this food was very manageable this year.

Upon their return to the car, the stroller went in the trunk, toy planes properly boarded along with passengers. Flights ensued during the drive; the mother doing loop-edy loops in the passenger seat because her toddler insisted upon a playmate to share in his delight. The seven-month-old enjoyed the ride with a few gurgles and coos while the husband traversed relaxed Sunday traffic until home filled the windshield at the ideal time to feed the youngest member of the family without trouble. All fears and worries of the mother had been eased, memories made, father fed, toddler toyed, and baby um … babied. A full day accomplished. The afternoon would see to itself, a day in as the clouds released their moisture surplus.

Epilogue

            A mother writes a blog post because she’s overdue for one and wants to hold onto the moment where everything had fallen perfectly into place when so many unknown variables had been initially introduced. Thank you to the husband who herded their two boys this morning as she spends a mini-vacation with her laptop open and ear buds in, listening to backroads songs plus an occasional baby squeal from the other room. The music makes life feel harmonious for this moment. Pause.

 

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Is This The Right Write Prompt?

Warning: Stream of consciousness follows. Expect random train deviation from mental track.

When given a question as a writing prompt at a workshop, how should one proceed? Remember words of advice and proceed. I wasn’t really interested in their question, but I was there to write so I did. The best way to get the words flying is to move the pen or tap the button. I repeated words from the question until meanings lined up into thought. Next time, I might re-frame toward a goal of dialogue, poem, etc…. But this time I just didn’t want intimidation to have the upper hand. I would write, darn it! Perhaps, as a guide, I share this. Maybe it’s inspirational, and maybe I just wanted to have another post under my name 🙂 with the potential for discussion.

Here is the process that led to the content of my previous post:

Conversation with the world. Conversation, world. Questions. I’d like to ask questions and see the variety of answers.

Dear World,

Do we really need another? Have you seen the variety outside your front porch? The foods, the fashion. Are we really bored with what we’ve seen? Then maybe we’ve been stuck in one place or one mindset for far too long. The internet opens up the world and yet is limited by the words we place in the search engine but also the cookies that decide what suits you best during previous searches. It would be best then to pick a search at a new computer, ask a stranger for a word, after a warm greeting, of course. Hugs for everyone like the man hugging police at protests.

What conversation do you want to have with the world? I wonder how many would wish to lecture; try to turn others to their point of view. I hope fewer than I think. However, that could backfire and make me sound very dark. I’ve had my own exploration to do in regards to how I’ve grown this cynical side of myself. I do not want to call it a side. It is inter-tangled with all the other roots of my being because the thoughts are there among the others and I push back, comb through with positive and Devil’s Advocate.

Yes, I think I would like to ask the questions that would get the discussion flowing among people and sit back, hear their responses. I hope they’d allow me to moderate in never allowing one voice to be the only view in the room.

An open floor, equal, yet how do we engage the introverts? I guess we’ll put them in a darkened closet with a computer and mannequin translator to do their talking into the room. I smirk during this sentence, because the mannequin would be poor representation of the person, but then is it fair to judge a person by appearance? Appearance says a lot, though, but could be altered for a diverting affect. Either they tanned from hard work in a garden or lying still in a booth. Where did that scar come from? I can see where they shop, what colors they prefer, and hair styles…. These can be limited financially and we must remember the things they had no choice over such as . . . well, I would say skin color, eye color, and hair color but those can be altered, even height and weight.

How do we want to portray ourselves versus how we really look? I guess to ask, how much would you want to change of yourself if you could in your history, personality, appearance, and ability?

Prose, letter, dialogue, short story….

“Hey, there. What conversation do you want to have with the world?”

Which part of the world? What sort of conversation?

I would like to walk through the evergreen forests of the mountains. Climb with each step to a more magnificent view. Have the land rise and fall at steep angles with consistently sturdy rocks, boulders to climb over. Granite under my skin, never smooth for interior design but hardened, rough, and coarse. The smell of clean mineral, arid landscape, sagebrush and juniper. The brush of bark, clingy with sap. A wind sighing through the trees, combing the needles with fingers, long and fine. My breath rushing in and out of my lungs with each struggling step higher, less oxygen, more effort, cleaner result. A sun-filled sky where clouds play tag and the light travels across the land as a result, illuminating peaks, shadowing valleys. Cool, no cold, ice-melt streams running along the trail, bubbling, dripping. Climbing higher, standing near the edge, clinging to rock. Quiet, grey, mountain.

 

What conversation do you want to have with the world?

I would like to walk through the evergreen forests of the mountains. Climb with each step to a more magnificent view. Have the land rise and fall at steep angles with consistently sturdy rocks, boulders over which to climb. Granite under my skin, never smooth for interior design but hardened, rough, and coarse. The smell of clean mineral, arid landscape, sagebrush and juniper. The brush of bark, clingy with sap. A wind sighing through the trees, combing the needles with fingers, long and fine. My breath rushing in and out of my lungs with each struggling step higher, less oxygen, more effort, cleaner result. A sun-filled sky where clouds play tag and the light travels across the land, illuminating peaks, shadowing valleys. Cool, no, cold, ice-melt streams running along the trail, bubbling, dripping. Climbing higher, standing near the edge, clinging to rock. Quiet, grey, mountain.

P.S. This came about after I asked further questions, typing whatever in order to initiate my fingers hopping on keyboard buttons: Which part of the world? What sort of conversation? What do I want?

 

Mechanic Outtakes

What’s it like to be an accident-prone–but somehow lucky–perfectionist while working for the service department of a car dealership? Well, I believe it’s time I tell you:

  • Let’s start with the least shrinking-into-the-corner event when I filled the position of Lube Technician i.e. performing oil changes, wiper, filter and bulb replacements at the express service facility of my employing dealership. Talk about a busy Saturday. We were rolling; cars were lined up in double rows out to the street; we implemented a reliable system of getting these cars out ASAP. If we busted out another awesome month, maybe our head, Mrs. Honcha would take us to that fancy Fresh Fish Company for an amazing dinner again or monetary bonuses. The lifts we used were four posts meaning we drive the car onto two long runners and up it goes. There is room for standing on the runners, narrowly. As one vehicle ascended, I remained near its fender checking fluids as someone else would begin breaking the drain bolt and cracking the filter below. I don’t know what had my perfectionist side so focused, but I’d forgotten the ground was some feet beneath me now. I stepped off the runner and didn’t touch ground in a few inches as expected. My leg took the brunt of it. I can’t recall much of the pain just mostly the stupidity and how it could have been worse. There were few witnesses, fortunately. I was driven to get back to work and in the process discovered one of those many uses for duct tape. Grabbing an ice pack, I taped it near the sorest part and moved on to the next car in line.
  • This one, I very much wanted to huddle up into myself, shoulders rounded behind the steering wheel as they chose me to pick up the owner of the vehicle I had just mangled. This, also, was back in my lube tech days and the air compressor had failed at our facility so we were running cars back and forth to the big, intimidating, real-life service department where they tear down transmissions and engines for Pete’s sake! (It was one of the coolest experiences when I tore down my first manual transmission–with the shop foreman’s supervision of course-and replaced the worn parts in the process of re-build before installing it back in the vehicle. But that was later-on during my one-year stint as main service tech-in-training.) The clearances for driving customers’ vehicles were different in the main building; we didn’t have a long, straight shot to line up the car with the lift. There was a trick to it, but I hadn’t been aware it existed at the time. Turning into the slot for another four-post lift (this one an alignment rack), I decided it wasn’t looking too good, so I reversed in order to try again. The front fender hooked on the post and brought its predicament to my attention when the sound of destruction ensued. Oh, man, that customer was upset. Thankfully, maybe, he was the silent, angry type, leaving the quiet very uncomfortable as I drove him to the main dealership in a loaner. He sat in the passenger seat arms crossed, very stiff posture. Far from eloquent in my young age, I managed a weak but sincere, “I’m sorry.” His arms loosened slightly and he said something to the effect of “It’s okay.” That was the extent of our exchange. Phew! The body shop then got me out of the rest of that mess.
  • Okay, this one still causes me to squinch my face in a true wince any time I think upon it. Hardly for the pain but for the many witnesses of my truly idiotic behavior. Man, should I have known better. Obviously, if I hadn’t been driving myself again to prove how capable I was to serve the customer during another busy Saturday, I might have slowed down and engaged a brain cell or two. This instance occurred during one of my many years in the parts department. (I had finally found the area of automotive service that seemed to suit me ‘just fine.’) We had the part, and I asked the customer to pull onto the service drive where I could install it for them because it was such a simple piece especially for one so familiar with it during my tech years. I went in pursuit of a tool. I was friendly with a few techs during my training days and hurried over to one tool box in particular. I just wasn’t as friendly with the box to know exactly in which drawer the tool resided. Some veteran techs might already see where this is headed. More so when I say that I had left drawers open. I still swear it was hardly more than a few and I think I had some co-worker support when they advised the box’s owner to wedge up the front, but the box owner insisted it had to be more drawers than that. Anyway, the weight of those drawers hanging open caused the whole thing to tip toward me and at least I wasn’t stupid enough to try to cease the fall with my minuscule mass against all that metallic weight. I got dinged in the face as I attempted to bail from the behemoth’s angle and acceleration of descent. Drawers spilled tools across the concrete floor–a disaster of a mess from which I was dismissed from attending to because technicians can be very specific about where every last tool goes. I had pain in my face, felt fearful of how bad, but in the end I only ended up with a black-eye (never had one of those before). That didn’t sting as much as having to go through the rest of the day with techs coming in for their parts and witnessing me holding a cold pack to my face and them knowing my intelligence-absent choice of action because the cacophony of hundreds of tools clanging had brought all the eye-witnesses running. Therefore, why let someone else have the fun of telling you when I can do it myself? 🙂

At the end of this, do I toot my own horn and declare how many co-workers lamented the loss of my presence when I finally moved on to writing and family-rearing so as to make sure you’re aware I was quite proficient in my various positions? These were the odd instances but still seem to consume so much of my past because they left me with intense emotion like being so da–uh, darned–embarrassed. I was good, though. Why else would they have kept me? 🙂 [No, it wasn’t just because of equal opportunity. They had several other female lube techs to keep besides myself.] And I still have real winning memories, numerous in fact, with strong senses of satisfaction like that manual transmission I mentioned. They just don’t make as juicy a tale. Finally, you want to guess the tech whose box I tipped? Yeah, he’s my husband. Wow, huh? :O

IMG_2589
The behemoth I mentioned

It’s not the biggest out there, but it packs a wallop.

‘I don’t have back problems.’ Read This

Huh! What do you know? The docs were right. My tendinitis did resolve itself over time. It healed so gradually I didn’t really think about it until today when I felt the first pulls along my forearms as I supported my swaddled 7-week old. Right now, I’m shaking it off because now I know it will go away and I’ll just endure. Considering the crippling back pain of last year, I’ll take the tendinitis. This is part update for my previous post, Tilt, Swivel, and Pop: Wrist Malady Gone Serial, and a decision to encourage healthy individuals to increased self-awareness.

My oldest son cried, having hurt himself, and I knelt to pick him up like always because of the immediate soothing effect as some would kiss a ‘boo-boo,’ or place a bandage over the nose no matter where the injury occurred (true from another mom’s experience). I shifted to stand and debilitating is the most encompassing description of the pain. My body refused to cooperate for the intense shock of piercing discomfort. How many adjectives and the like might convince you how it left me crawling toward the dining table for my phone? I stammered across the connection to my significant other who was at work, couldn’t explain what was going on. I had no frigging idea! Finally, I got out, “There’s something wrong with my back.” He left work, intent on hopping the next bus. Now what was I to do?

Finding some way to distract and occupy aforementioned child, I decide my condition wasn’t life-threatening and considered urgent care, however, chose to attempt my primary care physician (PCP) first, because that budget-conscious lobe of my brain continued to operate, as long as I didn’t move. And as an aside, if you do plan on having a never before, ever, ever, back injury, make sure you wear a better outfit. I was in grungy sweats and some baggy shirt with paint stains, probably. Later, I’d attempt a joke with the nurse about how I’d have dressed for the occasion if I knew I’d be going out.

Anyway, I ended up on steroids and had physical therapy scheduled for the following days. In the meantime, they assigned me homework in the form of stretches slash exercises.

Image reproduced from: The Best Exercises for Herniated Discs that Relieve Pain Quickly

What I want to express here is I’ll never be the same, never have unknown, unacknowledged confidence in the capabilities of my back. The number one thing I would like to emphasize to those who lift is to think one word when you do it–Brace. Think about engaging those abdominal muscles right before you take the weight. Is your back straight and lifted? That’s one helluva start. Will it prevent herniated discs? Perhaps, I’d like to think so or else why am I writing this?

After my Cesarean, I returned to core-strengthening exercises ASAP by doc’s permission. Consider the bird-dog, standard plank, side plank, bridge, knee-lift, and prone press. The prone press is key for getting the padding between your vertebrae squished back into place so it stops pinging your spinal nerves. Can I say ouch?

We could work it from the other angle and say keep up on good posture, but that is too darn (parent cussing is so weak. :/) difficult, feels strenuous. Think brace and that’ll straighten you out briefly, but those core exercises will leave you standing and sitting a bit taller with hardly any awareness from you. Please keep it up though, at least every other day with 10-15 reps of each exercise at 2 sets per session. Good example for the ever active toddler as well who wishes to emulate his parents with every move.

Any exercise, I’ve learned, can leave you feeling energized. If your another parent with a toddler, you sure as heck could use the boost. 😉 I’d been in automotive parts for years and never had back issues. I’d never lifted anything like a toddler fifteen times a day every day either. Plus, I had weekends and nights off when working parts.

Please take from this what you will, if only a comical anecdote of how life can tilt on its axis in a moment. At least I’ve got another post on my blog after months! Yay. High five, fist bump, and handshake. I’m getting my toddler accustomed to all, but I wonder what will be the next celebratory gesture for his generation. Hey, the mom brain is always in action if sometimes the thought train jumps the rails.

My arms still feel funky and will do so for months but at least it will pass. Just brace yourself when lifting, trust me, so you can always trust your back.

Memory Written Stands Longer, Stronger

I don’t need any convincing right now that I’ll not overly desire being in this condition again anytime soon. However, I do know in the future I will observe others in similar situations and perhaps longing will sweep over me.

Therefore, I do this for my future self and seek to get the lighting of this present day grass as accurate as possible so not to be skewed by being seen from the other side of the fence.

Rewind to the first weeks when it was a guessing and counting game, taking tests and wondering if the negative would stick or if it was just too soon. Finally, the awaited answer and new questions begin. How long before the new arrival gets here? Can we confirm general health yet?

The first few months involved terrible tasting experiences. Gulping or sipping, either way, I could not quench my thirst with plain water. I turned to juices and carbonated water, always over heavy ice. Avoided heated beverages for the upheaval they caused. Once, I desperately hit the walking path to keep from nausea taking the worst turn. Green veggies turned excessively bitter. Some spices seemed to lose my appreciation forever, and my sweet tooth seemed the only saving device.

As I rounded that hump of diet shifts, I finally received more than what sound radar could detect, and it was wonderful. I lay there, semi-reclined, watching the real-life version of Beauty and The Beast, and in a relaxed state by one of its many songs, a part of me sought inwardly, body awareness at half attention. Flutter, flutter. This wasn’t digestion framing my abdomen, but directly in the center, a new life breaking from my own and making itself known. Water welled in my eyes with the delighted laugh escaping my lips. Yes, it was real, true. My little miracle indeed exist and was growing inside me.

The second trimester moved on gratifyingly well, and eventually rounded the corner into the third. A month or so in, I could definitely admit I felt pregnant. The bulkiness had finally begun to hinder movements, made some motions cumbersome. I even waddle at times. Pizza had become a four-letter word but food commercials accompanying football games continued to make it look delicious, especially with my knowing how forbidden it was. Because in order to consume some, I must sacrifice an evening’s sleep to wrenching, burbling heartburn. My toddler would happily address the other ingesting woes as any good lover of gas jokes might.

Others might see my hand at my belly, stroking its roundness and think I’m marveling my condition. If I’m settled in that mindset, it can be true. Presently, I am verifying location of his head in the continued breech position as I ponder the experience and after-effects of the ECV for which I have scheduled later in the week.

Pillows multiply on my bed as the midsection weight requires more support. Otherwise my back muscles belt out complaints halfway through the night. Throughout the day, pressure and nerve jolts rattle involuntary gasps from me as I am prodded from the inside.

Seeing live images on ultrasound restore my knowledge of the tiny human beyond the unbelievably hard to identify bulges and curves that sometimes press out from under my skin and thinned abdominal muscles. He is the baby I know him to be.

Positive light to pushing through involves more than holding him in my arms. I wonder what color his eyes will be, and his hair, how tall–long–will he be? Will he settle against me peacefully or squirm about? Because each life is unique and has their own way of accepting the world.

This may be only one small moment in his life, and it shrinks each day, but to me this day is also my whole life, for a second can absorb all of one’s senses, intellect, and emotions, especially when one is excessively focused on it. Looking backward and forward allows expanded perspective and could help me stay grounded. As in, stop freaking out, Mom! There’s more hills and possibly mountains to come beyond this next little hump you’re about to climb. Know that but glance over your shoulder once and a while as you always keep one eye on your feet.

 

 

 

Mechanics Run On Breakfast Burritos

Back in Colorado, I learned the best way to smooth ruffled feathers over a late arrival is to dole out breakfast burritos to your fellow automotive technicians.

In celebration of Release Day for my romantic suspense, A Running Heart, I’m going to step back for a moment from writing the second book in the series, Rocky Mountain High Heels, and share our tried and true burrito recipe, the one to which my main character, Amanda Hudson, refers on more than one occasion. Plus, an eight-month pregnant woman should be allowed her occasional distraction by thoughts, or fantasies, of food. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 16 oz. green chile sauce* (Most mechanics I’ve known request medium or spicy beyond my capacity to ingest.)
  • 1 lb bacon or ground sausage such as chorizo
  • 18 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 12 extra-large tortillas
  • Aluminum foil

*If you are unfamiliar with green chile, please click here for an example of the sauce we’ve most recently used and explore their website for a better idea of green chile peppers.

 Directions:

Thoroughly cook sausage or bacon in your preferred method. Once cooled, crumble into small pieces.

Beat eggs and milk together in a bowl. Pour into large skillet over medium heat and allow to cook until egg batter begins to set.  Sprinkle the meat into the eggs and scramble until done.

Pour chile sauce into a small saucepan and heat over a low setting. This is essential for a creamy sauce inside your burrito.

Warm tortillas either on a griddle (preferred method) or by microwaving briefly.

Tear off sheets of foil about the size of a tortilla, one for each burrito. Place a still warm tortilla on a sheet then add egg and meat mixture (figure 1 1/2 eggs per burrito), sprinkle cheese, and spoon over the hot green chile.

Fold one long side of the tortilla over, bring up the bottom flap, then the top flap, and then fold over the other long side. Bring to one corner of the foil sheet and roll the foil, tucking in the ends once you reach the other corner.

Stack the completed burritos together so they’re ‘spooning’ (I couldn’t resist, being a romance author and all 😉 ). This aids in melting the cheese into the sauce.

Distribute to your favorite mechanics for best results.