So, We Meet Again, Again.

 

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Today, I was almost mowed down by Nicea DeGering. You know, the local television personality on Good Day Utah? I mean, it could have been her doppelgänger or sister—I’m always mistaken for my sister, Em. Of course, we both wear bug-eyed sunglasses and drive the same car, soo…

Anyway, I was navigating the endless maze of road construction heading to McDonald’s. I had to get into the left lane, but a massive GMC wouldn’t let me in nor would it allow me to slow down and go behind. The woman driving the mega SUV was steadily talking on her cell phone and kept in exact pace with me. I slowed down. I sped up. She mirrored my moves while simultaneously ignored me.

As I approached the road where McDonald’s is, the small car ahead of me sped up, and I was able to dodge into a spot. Still, the white GMC continued driving the same speed and was soon looming over me in my rear view mirror. That’s when I recognized who it was—or at least her twin.

I turned left. She turned left. I drove into the drive-through lane at McDonald’s. So did she. The whole time she was ordering, not once did her cell phone leave her ear. It was strange as well as surprising. I can’t drive, talk on my phone, and order all at the same time!

This is not my first run-in with the news reporter. Several years ago, when the gym, Life Time Fitness opened, I met her—kind of. One day I noticed a tall blond in the dressing room. We were both dressed, so it wasn’t like I was inappropriate when I approached her. I walked up to her and said hello. I told her I was a fan. The whole time she looked all around as if searching for someone to save her. I took the hint and turned around mid-sentence.

I returned to my locker and pretended to look through my bag. I saw her race passed me and out the exit. I waited a few minutes before leaving. That day, we both happened to take the same group fitness class. When I walked in the room, before the music started, I saw Nicea dart into the back corner. She pushed the woman accompanying her in front of her so I couldn’t see her anymore.

I felt terrible. I hadn’t meant to scare Nicea—for the life of me, I had no idea what I had done or said to make her fear me.

Typically, for a Zumba class, I take a spot as far away from the front of the room as possible, but that day, I couldn’t very well go to the back. Nope.

To my horror, the last remaining spot in the room was right smack in front of the instructor who, in the microphone attached to her head, made sure I knew I lacked dance ability.

“No honey, you’re doing it wrong,” she’d boom. I knew I was! I was too worried about offending the semi-celebrity in the back of the room to focus on a dance routine—that and that I’m not a great dancer anyway.

For weeks afterward, whenever Nicea and I saw each other at the gym, we’d run in the opposite direction. Soon I stopped going to that particular dance class. I also stopped going into the dressing room, at least for a while.

There have been a few more times where I’ve been at the same place at the same time as Nicea DeGering. Luckily, she doesn’t recognize me anymore!

 

 

 

 

The Boy in The Blue Trench Coat

 

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I saw him again, today, the boy in the blue trench coat. He is probably fifteen or sixteen-years old. He had on a camouflage hunter’s cap, the kind with flaps that lay over the ears.

The coat wasn’t purchased for him, evident from its enormous size—the way the epaulette straps extended over his arms. The way the sleeves hanged and the amount they bunched around the outsides of the pockets his hands were shoved into. The belt was knotted and cinched at the waist—although it was not purchased for him, he owned it now.

The boy’s chin was down, at a slightly descending angle. His eyes fixed to a few paces ahead. His shoulders rigid and pulled forward as if he were heading into a bitter wind or combat.

I was in the student loading and unloading zone at the school. My son had exited. The line of cars behind me swelled, urging me to move on. The boy went by me in a flash. It wasn’t the first time he had.

I’d seen the kid a few days ago. I was driving to pick my son up after school. My daughter was with me, and so was my dog. I was late. The stoplights were off forcing me to stop and start, stop and start, and then wait some more. It was cold. The sun was out.

In the distance, I saw a figure in a long dark coat sprinting through a field. The snow was deep. White ice like frosted glass coated the roads and sidewalks and he ran in the opposite direction.

We arrived at the school. We picked up my son, and we headed towards home. After a few miles, I saw the boy in the blue trench coat out of the corner of my eye, still sprinting, still speeding as if he had all the energy, and the air and ability in the world.

He dashed along a hilly trail that wove in and out next to the road. He ran and ran, fast and hard.

Gray jogging pants hanged below the coat hem grazing his calves. He wore tennis shoes. Bright red ears poked out on either side of his head. His hair was brown, crew cut on the sides and back and kept long on top. Loose strands jumped and bounced with each of his steps.

As we passed, I glanced in the rearview mirror. White puffed from his mouth making him look like a steam engine. His cheeks blotched ruddy. A giant smile spread wide across his face. He was running. He was running and fearless and constant. He was inspiration. He was music and poetry.

At the stoplight, the green arrow signaled us to turn left. The boy continued on the path that dodged to the right and disappeared.

I saw the boy in the navy blue trench coat, this morning, before the sun was fully up, among the swarm of teenagers wiping the sleep from their eyes, staggering into the orange brick building where school was to begin. He was different from the first time I saw him. He was drawn into himself. He was ready for a day of battle.

I wished they could see him, the way he was a few days ago, sprinting through the frozen world, speeding past the broken world, pushing beyond the humdrum, the teenaged politics, the dread of another day. Because if they saw him when he ran, it would change their lives forever.

A Chiweenie with Thumbs

 

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Zoey in the Princess Leia buns she despises!

I think my dog, Zoey, wishes she had thumbs. For now, she has wicked claws on either side of her two front paws that curl, as if she’s holstering daggers like an old-school Arabian warrior.

If Zoey had opposable thumbs, I think she’d drag a kitchen barstool over to the fridge and raid the meat and cheese drawer several times a day. She’d ransack the pantry and get her own snacks and treats without having to perform first.

With thumbs, Zoey could fix her sweaters when she steps wrong and misses an armhole. Sometimes this leaves her wearing what looks like a one-armed knitted toga or a black and white strapless, or even a skirt without a top, which is just plain scandalous. She wouldn’t be above stealing cashmere sweaters from my closet or anything else of mine that is toasty, soft, and warm like socks.

During the winter months, I don’t bathe her like I do when the sun is out. This results in long periods of uncleanliness and stench that embarrasses her.

She sits on my knees, head bowed, muzzle pointed at her chest, ears down, shaking and looking up at me. Her expression is of shame as if she’s thinking, “Look away! I stink! I’m a monster!”

Then I feel bad and take her to the kitchen sink. I fill it with warm soapy water. I place her inside and leave the faucet running on sprayer mode.

Zoey with thumbs would probably draw her own bath, filled with Epsom salts and essential oils—something along the lines of orange blossom and vanilla. She’d lean on the sides of the sink with her two front paws out, her bottom half submerged and watch out the kitchen window for birds on the backyard fence or mothers pushing strollers down the street. She wouldn’t wait until her body aroma overpowered us all.

I picture her with her own vanity set; a silver metal mirror and matching horsehair brush she’d keep on my dresser. She’d comb through her fur every night counting a hundred brushes from ears to tail before coiling up on the goose-down comforter she stole from my bed.

My dog suffers from thumb remorse. I bet she wishes she could drive the car and go from fast food restaurant to fast food restaurant—because that’s all I seem to do when I leave the house without her.

She’d drive a car and be meticulous about it, stopping at stoplights, staying the speed limit. She’d blast the heat, turn up the seat warmer and keep all the windows rolled down. I think she’d be a good driver, as long as teenage boys aren’t getting off a bus somewhere close where she could aim at them with the front of my car.

Zoey wouldn’t run errands though—no dropping off or picking my son up from school or stopping at the grocery store for a gallon of milk. She’d do what every typical lady of leisure in the suburbs does and go to Starbucks.

Instead of having to be tied to a metal table leg outside, Zoey would go inside Starbucks. She would order a Grande of nothing but whipped cream, and she’d sit at the round table in the corner—the one where two wall-sized windows butt together.

She’d sit with her back towards the rear of the store, and her head pointed at the entrance and watch through the glass for magpies and people on the streets. If my canine had thumbs, life would be sooo sweet!

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Happenings

kid in a school library

This morning a mass email went out to all parents of teens who go to the nearby high school. The message was a somber one as well as confusing. A student died over the weekend. The Principal asked each parent to discuss openly and honestly about the situation and if we had questions or concerns to call the school.

I don’t have any information. I decided to call the school. I left a message with a counselor who quickly called me back.

I wanted to know what happened. Before I could ask, the counselor cut me off. He told me that the family had not released information to the public and therefore, he couldn’t tell me anything. However, if we did know the boy, counselors and grief managers would love to talk to Nate about his feelings on the subject. What?

He went on to say there was an announcement made over the intercom that a student died and that if any student was struggling with it, to make an appointment with their counselor. Okay, but what if they didn’t know the student, but did know the rumors surrounding him and are worried about those? Too bad. The counselor can’t discuss anything specific. Huh?

I know I sound ghoulish wanting to know what happened. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to know every minute detail, but I’m wondering about what information I should share with my kid and how to anticipate which questions he might have.

Was it a car accident? Am I supposed to talk to Nate about the hazards when behind the wheel or crossing the street? Was it due to an illness? Was it a drug overdose? Suicide? If it was a suicide, was it purposeful or accidental? (This might sound horrendous but there is a difference. If the student was messing around with a gun and it went off, that is different than if he shot himself on purpose.)

How am I supposed to talk openly and honestly with my son when I don’t know anything?

Who can blame the student’s family for wanting to keep their son’s death from strangers? Not me. But I find it only adds to rumor and gossip when an email goes out making a statement without a follow up; we have a terrible secret. Now you know we have a terrible secret. We want you to talk to your kids about us knowing a terrible secret, but we’re not going to give you any tools as to how to handle the limited amount of information we have given you. Have a nice day!

I live in a community where death is immersed in the culture. Mormons talk very openly about death and what happens afterward. For the most part, death isn’t a scary subject for the LDS. The way it happens though could be, especially when it comes to a child passing away.

My culture is also one of worry. When it comes to our kids, we tend to skim over the nitty-gritty and hope there are no follow up questions we need to answer. Sex is a no-no subject. So are drugs, drinking, mental health issues, and suicide. I understand why. We live in a big, big world that is mostly out of our control. Why add to the bad we already know is in it? Why must our kids have to take on the burden of knowing a specific terrible going on in the world?

Also, there’s this underlying concern that if certain subjects are breached and discussed, they are also given as permission. I understand all of this. I just don’t agree.

If I want to help my kid, I need to know what I’m helping them with. I need to be able to talk to them directly and have solid answers.

I’m not trying to be insensitive. It’s horrible that a teenager has died. I feel horrible for his parents and friends and neighbors. I have no idea of the pain they’re going through. I just wish I knew what I could say or do to help my own kid get through some pain or confusion on the subject.

 

 

School Zone Antics

 

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Photo from http://www.shutterstock.com

Before my daughter inherited my husband’s car, my husband or I would drive her to high school and drop her off. We hated doing it. The people who designed Herriman High School’s parking lot and loading zones are people who share the same ideology of those who came up with medieval torture devices.

A terrifying aspect of dropping Lorrin off was that we would have to turn left. We would have to turn left on a two-lane road that fifteen minutes before school started and fifteen minutes after it ended would swell like an angry river. To understand why it was harrowing, one must know the makeup of the loading zones.

At the front of Herriman High School is a one-way loading zone that starts on the main road and travels in a crescent shape moving east, then north, and ending up west. The cars are spit back onto the main road and have to turn right into a torrent of traffic.

A second loading zone follows a path running along the side of the school where the student parking lot is also located. Those who drop kids off on the side must use the same main road and try to turn left at the same time the front-of-school drop-offers, as well as students needing to get to their parking lot, are trying to turn right. Chaos!

My experience in turning left comprised of flinging my automobile into oncoming traffic; white-knuckling the steering wheel, eyes squeezed shut and breath held. I’d jam on the accelerator and hoped to make it through unscathed. When driving Lorrin, I don’t recall a single fender-bender. However, I do remember honking horns, cussing, and middle fingers flipping left and right.

Once my daughter got a car, relief spread through the family, at least between her father and I—we no longer had to navigate the maze of irrationality! We didn’t have to play dodge-car anymore!

That was a few years ago, and now we are back to driving my son to Herriman High School and dropping him off. I noticed right away a difference in the experience. There was a calmness that settled over the situation. No, the parking lot and loading zones haven’t been changed to make sense. No, the traffic hasn’t been reduced, in fact, I’m sure it has doubled or tripled. The most significant difference is the drivers.

Every morning as I sit in the suicide lane, I’m surprised at the level of manners demonstrated by teenaged drivers.   Traffic turning right off the main road to get to student parking will go into the never-used bike lane and then, one by one, every other car, will let someone turning left go in front of them. They take turns!

It’s evident that a great shift has happened in my morning routine and it has affected everyone else as well. The drop off zone is now a smooth experience. No more screaming obscenities at the driver in front of you—that guy you know is just trying to pick at your last nerve on purpose. No more breaking out in a sweat knowing that any minute an oversized SUV will pummel into the side of your vehicle. This is made possible all because some teenager had the state of mind to let someone butt in line.

Teenagers get a bad rap, a lot. They’re accused of being mobile device-deviants and gadget-junkies with zero attention span and yet, the only people who seem to aggressively cut the line, almost plowing into all surrounding cars, are adults talking on their cell phones. It’s not the kids. They are organized. They are patient. They are courteous. They make the morning commute tolerable. They are the ones who make me want to be a better person—at least behind the wheel.

So thanks to that over-classified generation (aka Gen Z’s, iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, etc.) following the Millennials! You guys might be the key to salvation after all—at least between 7:10-7:25 am and again at 2:10-2:25 pm. Your efforts are noticed and well appreciated!

 

 

 

 

 

DNA or DN-Nay: Why are so many so trusting and what’s wrong with me?


Maybe it’s the fictional writer inside me but every time I see a commercial about submitting DNA to discover your genetic origins I cringe. I understand why a pie chart with percentages of the genetics making up whom you are is compelling. However, what bothers me is what happens afterward. So, I did some research, which only added to my cringe-worthy concern.
AncestryDNA is the latest service for testing DNA in the world and is owned by ancestry.com a family history website. They’re responsible for the commercials where a man describes being raised practicing German traditions only to discover he was mostly Irish; “So, I traded my Lederhosen for a Kilt.” It’s funny. It’s human nature to think we’re one thing when we really aren’t. So for a sale price of $79, you too, can spit on a Q-tip and get your own genetic profile! What’s wrong with that? Well, for starters, what happens to the Q-tip?
According to http://www.thinkprogress.org, a lot of things are wrong with this. The writer of an article for the site, Joel Winston, contends that people who give up a DNA sample may be giving up a lot more than they thought. Winston urges the donor to read the fine print of its Terms and Conditions before you agree to them. When one clicks Agree, one is giving consent to AncestryDNA to own your DNA and doing whatever it wants to do with it forever. So what? Who cares? You should.
In 1951 an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer at the John Hopkins Hospital. Without her family’s permission, doctors and clinicians took her cancer cells, mixed them with plasma and grew them in a lab. These are called HeLa cells, and they have been instrumental in developing vaccines, progress towards in vitro fertilization, and medical treatments for hundreds of millions of people. Fantastic, right? Yes and no.
Although the Lacks family found out about HeLa cells twenty years after Henrietta’s death, they weren’t given any kind of restitution for them. While doctors and pharmaceutical companies grew rich, Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave because her family couldn’t ever afford a headstone for her.
Another issue is that the data gained isn’t for your eyes only. DNA testing looks at 700,000 genetic markers that give information about not only your genetic origins but also any of your genetic health conditions. With that little spit-swab, technicians can see if you carry a genetic abnormality, or disease that may be passed on to your offspring like cystic fibrosis or down syndrome or ones that haven’t even surfaced yet such as breast cancer or Alzheimer’s (can you imagine if Germany had this kind of information in the 1940’s?) Still, it’s good to be forewarned, right? Not always.
Today’s concern is that insurance companies armed with your genetic profile can refuse you coverage. Law enforcement can use it to identify you and your relatives for investigations or employers could use it to deny hiring you.
What happens if some unknown relative gets a genetic profile done and gets an alert for carrying a particular disease, he or she can be traced to you, giving the insurance company, law enforcement, and employers reason to panic about you.—and don’t go crying about your medical information being protected by HIPAA, either!
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 aka HIPAA can’t protect you. DNA testing through any place other than health providers or insurers etc. doesn’t fall under HIPAA. So, AncestryDNA can sell your DNA to whomever for whatever and there isn’t very much you can do about it. Even if you didn’t agree to the terms, but a relative of yours did, you still can’t do much about it.
There are a lot of uses for DNA other than discovering which side of the pond you are (mostly) from; there are many practical uses for it, too, such as cloning.
Cloning is the copying of a gene resulting in a slew of ingenious uses from developing pest resistant plants to medical treatments, which sounds like a worthy cause for your own DNA to be used for—but what if it isn’t?
The Sci-fi writer inside me worries about this. I think about the issue of carrying capacity, the idea that earth is overpopulated and a disaster is overdue, and if the conditions of the world get so bad that only those who can pay to have genetically altered food or can buy medicines will live, while everyone else will die. I’m not too far off! Remember the EpiPen price jump in 2016, where life-saving shots to stop anaphylactic shock had a price increase of between 400 and 600%? At the same time, opioid antidotes also shot up in price 600%.
Another concern I have with giving up DNA is Biometrics. Biometrics is a way for automated identification by a certain physical characteristic. Think, iris scans in an overly secured building in an action thriller. Think, fingerprints scan or even hand geometry. One iris, one print of a pointer finger, and only one per person allowed to go inside said overly secured building in an action thriller seems pretty safe. I mean aside from removing someone’s iris or pointer finger, no one would be able to penetrate the building, right? Wrong! Two words; Stem Cells.
As recently as last year, Japanese scientists grew an adult human ear on the back of a living rat. They took a specific type of stem cell and placed it into some ear cartilage. Those cells were then put into a tube molded in the shape of a human’s ear and then implanted the mold under the skin of a rat. It remained there, topside, for about two months and grew up to two inches long. If someone can grow a human ear on a rat’s backside, couldn’t someone grow an iris or the tip of a finger, too? Maybe even your iris or your fingertip?
I know I sound like a raving lunatic-conspiracy nut, but it’s only fiction if a fact hasn’t been discovered, yet. Here’s my conclusion, you must accept that you are probably a mixture of everyone and of everything, so why prove it? It’s okay to keep the Lederhosen and wear it under your kilt! Consider that it’s also okay to keep your spit in your mouth!

Football Foot-in-Mouth

Is there a Razzie (Golden Raspberry Award) equivalent to the Mother of The Year Award? If so, I’m your girl! Last Wednesday my husband and I went to my son Nate’s first sophomore Football game at Lone Peak High School in American Fork. When we got there, the other team hadn’t scheduled Herriman High School in their calendar and therefore wasn’t planning on a game. However, an hour later, Lone Peak had gathered a sophomore team to scrimmage against us.

Bry and I sat on the top of the bleachers, next to a Herriman football player out with a broken foot. He was asked to man the camera used to take footage of games and then as a tool to examine moves, procedures, etc. of the team and or individual players. I should have put the two together—me at a game rooting for my son plus a recording.

I did think to move down the bleachers when the camera was brought up to the kid, but then the kid told us that the coaches always mute the video when they show it to the team.

Tonight, Bry and I went to pick Nate up from Football practice. He got into the car smiling. I thought he was proud of how he performed during practice. He was. He was also smiling because of what happened during another part of practice.

The team sat, ready to view the recording of their scrimmage game. The video played. In the background, some woman is yelling and screaming for her kid. No one could see her, but everyone could certainly hear her.

One of the players turned around and smiled at Nate. Then another one did. Then Nate heard what the lunatic Mom was saying, ”Get ‘em, Nate! Get ‘em, Nate! Get ‘em, Nate!”

It was me!!! I’m the weirdo out of control Mom on the video! I asked Nate if anyone knew it was me.

“Not at first, but then Jaron and Wyatt told everyone it was you.”

Brian started laughing. Nate was still smiling. I was horrified. Thoughts of every possible thing I could have said ran in a loop through my mind. On any given day, subjects include how beautiful and talented my Natey is as well as his equally beautiful and talented older sister, Lorrin. I’m sure my crazy- probably has canine autism (would that be daugtism?)-dog Zoey came up.

I have no idea how to play football. I don’t know what the positions are called and mix up what their purpose is (when Nate played Flag Football I kept screaming for him to grab that other kid’s sash). I can picture a ninety minute long commentary between my husband and me about who’s doing what and why for the billionth time. But what if it was worse I mean a lot worse?

I’ve been known to swear (often, daily, and predictably—hey, we’ve all got hobbies, right?) and tell dirty jokes (a practiced craft of mine). I’m not a big fan of the big orange monster residing presently in the White House. I can see myself talking politics. How much did I talk about my frustration with the book I’m writing?

What if I said something really, really horrible? What if I said something about someone everyone knew? I don’t think I did because I’m very proud of those football players (they work so hard!) that, and I can’t tell anyone apart and don’t call them by name or number. But what if?

I asked Nate what I said. He said he didn’t know. I’m sure he’s lying, and I appreciate that. I heard Bry ask him what I said, while I was going upstairs. Again, Nate said he didn’t know. The sweet kid is covering for his dim-witted freak show of a Mom—this is why I root for him! This is why I root for each of my kids—they seem to accept me. If they were normal teenagers they’d roll their eyes and pretend not to know me, but then maybe I’m getting a head of myself. Maybe the eye roll and my implied non-existence is coming (especially after tonight’s display)?

I feel so bad about the whole thing! When I apologized to him for the nineteenth time Nate told me it was fine, that he thought it was funny, then he added,

“I would like it to never happen again, though.”  Me, too, buddy! Me, too!

For the rest of practice teammates walked up to Nate and ask, “Hey, Nate, did you get ‘em? Did ya get ‘em, Nate?”

When I started this blog, I didn’t set out to write about my constant burs and blisters. I didn’t set out to tell how often I make a fool out of myself, but I seem to do only that. So if there’s a Razzie award out there, I’d like to thank all the normal people out there for making me stand out among them! I accept that I’m your cautionary tale and I guess I’ll see you at the next game!