My Wish Came True

My wish came true. On my annual trip to Destin, Florida for a human resources conference, I learned at hotel check-in that my guest room would be in the Emerald Tower on the 14th floor.

I smiled.

This would be my third stay at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort Hotel and Spa. My first time with a room that high that looked out towards Florida’s Emerald Coast.

I nodded along as the receptionist explained where the elevator was located.

Once in the room, I did my usual hotel check: looking behind the shower curtain, opening the closet door that held the ironing board, kicking under the bed to hear the thud of the base, and glancing behind the couch and chair.

I slid my patio door open and stepped out. I studied the brick wall to my left and right. A person would have to rappel up to get inside my room. Who would do that?

Kids’ laughter floated up to me. I viewed the white sand, the people walking on the beach, and the boogieboarders. I leaned back breathing in the sun’s warmth. I closed my eyes to bring even closer to my core the sound of the ocean waves. Ah, this was lovely.

For a moment, I held my breath. Could I leave my patio door open and fall asleep to the ocean waves?

Looking at my hotel from the beach. My room is on the 14th floor.

It took me years to feel safe enough in my own home to fall asleep while napping on the couch. I had to work hard to not chastise myself for relinquishing my watchful eye. Growing up, it had been my job to be vigilant. Being on alert sleeping or awake was my natural way of being. I had to teach my body that it was okay to rest. I did this by using an eye mask and earplugs. My signals to my body that it was time to sleep.

Even so, it was me who woke a moment before one of the babies did. I must have heard their rustling in the crib before they started whimpering. Later, it was me who woke Jody before one of our toddlers fell out of their bed in the hotel room. I reached across from my bed where Juan Jose’ and I were sleeping to theirs. I nudged Jody, “Crystel’s falling out of bed.” She quickly scooped the child up.

I have grown to be most comfortable with Jody sleeping beside me. She is a source of comfort. I have my deepest sleep in her presence.

I travel to Grand Forks, North Dakota, one week a month for work. I can’t take Jody with me. It helps to request the same hotel room. One that doesn’t have a connecting room. I continue to use earplugs and eye shades. I take the ironing board out of the closet and set it up against the hotel door. I push the rolling chair next to the ironing board. I figure, I’ll wake before the door opens.

All of my senses told me that I was safe in my guest room at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort Hotel and Spa on the 14th floor. Could I leave my patio door open and fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves? I took a deep breath. If not now, when?

That evening after our Welcome Gathering and dinner on the Sunside deck, I retreated to my room. After completing my hotel room check, I took the ironing board out of the closet and set it up against the door, pushed the rolling chair up next to it, and put another chair against the connecting door.

I walked out to the patio, listened to the rolling ocean waves. Even in the darkness you knew the ocean was there, splashing against the shore.

In bed, I imagined the universe holding me, embracing me. A mother and her child.

For the next four nights, I slept to the sound of waves breaking against the shore. When I’d wake in the night, I’d let it lull me to sleep again.

 

 

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My First High School Prom ever!

High School Prom.  59 years old and I’m finally able to scratch attending a prom off the list.

Raising my children has made for a lifetime of do-overs.

The closest I came to attending a high school dance in my teens was stepping just inside the entrance doors. A younger brother asked me to go with him. Earlier, he had stashed a bottle of peppermint schnapps. I had never tasted anything so good. I told him that I’d wait for him outside the high school doors.

The best part of this prom night was before the dance at a friend’s house where the girls were having their hair done.

“Well, since you’re going to be there tonight,” one of the moms said to me, “you can take pictures.”

With excitement in her voice, a teen spoke up, “You’re going to be there? Yeah!” Another girl quickly chimed in her delight.

My date.

This surprised and pleased me. As a Police Reserve Officer, I attended all of Juan and Crystel’s middle school dances, even when they didn’t go. I thoroughly enjoyed joshing with their friends. It warmed me that I continued to be welcomed.

Up until now my involvement with this high school prom was as an observer. I witnessed the teens’ enthusiasm and angst over what they were going to wear, who they were going to go with, and what they were going to do before and after the dance. I didn’t say a word. I watched. I asked questions. I raised my eyebrows.

I arrived at the dance fifteen minutes before it opened. This time I had no peppermint schnapps or alcohol of any kind. I walked through the front door, past the registration table.

A scattering of students were milling about. This was not like the middle school dances where students packed themselves at the entrance doors impatient to get in. Tonight, there was a deliberateness in the air. Like you had to time your entrance, not be too early, not appear too eager and definitely, not appear too much like middle school.

When my date arrived, we had our picture taken under the balloon rainbow. For us there wasn’t any angst about what to wear or how our hair was done. Once the doors opened it was our job to observe and escort students who returned to their car to change into shoes that didn’t hurt. A few times my date and I circled the dance. On one of those rounds a student was being crowdsurfed.

Crystel and Juan Jose’

Later, Crystel and her group of friends walked over to where I was sitting. I was near the exit, informing students that were leaving they wouldn’t be allowed back in to the dance. I leaned into the group and whispered, “Seems to me, it was more fun before the dance than the actual dance itself.” They expressed the same opinion. Picking outfits, getting hair done, pictures, and dinner at a friend’s house was more entertaining. They soon left for a sleepover.

For me, there would be no waking up the next morning with hives from poisoning myself with peppermint schnapps and I could scratch my first prom dance off my bucket list.

Your Moms Are Going into The Peace Corps

I told the kids that after they graduated from high school that their moms were going into the Peace Corps. Even though it is 4 years from now, I believe in giving plenty of notice. Juan Jose’ has already told us that he isn’t leaving home. He’s going to live here forEVER. It was clear that the moms were going to have to leave to get on with their life.

I had been in the Peace Corps in my early 30’s. After 1½ years, I received a phone call that my mother was dying of cancer. I went home for a 30-day leave, returned to Tonga in the South Pacific where I was stationed, only to learn that I didn’t have the stamina to wait for a call telling me that she had died. Though our relationship was contentious, I needed to be within driving distance when she took her last breath. We never spoke of my decision.

It has always been in the back of my mind to return to the Peace Corps as a couple. I’m excited that Jody is willing. It will be an adventure we can share.

I mentioned Fiji, Tonga, and other South Pacific Islands.

Until now, Crystel had not been verbal about her plans after high school.

“I’m coming,” she said. I thought about that. Many people do have family members visit during their two-year stint.

“Yes,” I agreed. “A visit is possible. Maybe you both can even travel to New Zealand and Australia with Mama Jody and me.”

“No. I’m coming.”

“Oh, okay.” I had no answer other than that. How does one hide their 18-year-old daughter for two years in a hut? I’m not sure that the Peace Corps allows for extended stays. As her Uncle Scott mentioned, maybe they have a university she can attend.

When I was in the Peace Corps in 1990, most people went off the island to New Zealand or Australia to get their education.

Still….

“Is college important?” asked Juan Jose’.

Both Jody and I answered him in the affirmative. I wasn’t satisfied with my answer. How do you tell a ninth grader that college is important when he thinks that the stuff he is learning is useless?

I support the kids doing a gap year and traveling overseas. As a human resources manager, I learned that the most important work strength one can have is knowing how to get along with others. If you can’t get along with others you most likely won’t hold your job long and you’ll be stymied for promotions.

I thought about the foundry workers, the press and extrusion operators and other laborers at the companies where I’ve worked. All jobs which the kids are familiar with from plant tours that I’ve given them.

I explained to Juan that the people who do those jobs work much harder than me, but they make less money. “It’s another example of how the world is unfair,” I said. “The hardest working people make less money because they don’t have a college degree.”

I went on to say that if you get a college education you are more likely to be in a job you want, make more money, and do less work.

Juan was quiet. I imagined him living at home and attending a community college. “The college you go to is far less important than one would think,” I said. “It’s the 4-year degree that holds the importance.”

It never occurred to me that Crystel might do her gap year with Jody and me.

I learned that the University of the South Pacific includes Tonga. Maybe, that will have to be part of the deal if she starts packing her bags and sets them next to ours when we join the Peace Corps. The university is jointly owned by the governments of 12 island countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Western Samoa. All places that she wants to travel.

Jody and I have our work cut out for us. We have to start teaching Juan Jose’ how to take care of the yard, the house, and the pool. Oh, and to run the dishwasher and throw his socks down the clothes chute. We have four years.

 

Had I Prepared My Daughter?

Photo by Uncle Scott

My 14-year-old daughter was half way to Wisconsin Dells with girlfriends for a birthday party when my gut tightened.

The party was a sleepover. She’d be gone for a couple of nights.

Maybe it was the distance that was the source of the fear. Maybe it was because it would be a couple of nights. Maybe it was her age. Maybe it was how beautiful she is. Maybe it was her innocence. Maybe it was her growing independence, her getting out into the world. There would be more days away from home. There would be longer distances.

Had I prepared her for an unwelcomed glance or touch? Was she prepared if that would happen? How would she respond?

I could almost hear her nervous giggle.

What if it became an unwanted advance?

I put myself in her place. My body froze. That’s what I knew how to do.

It helped when I thought of how differently Jody and I had raised our daughter from how I was raised. Even from a very young age, she was taught that her body was hers. She was taught that she had every right to expect privacy. She was taught that it was okay to lock the bathroom door. She was taught that it was okay to lock her bedroom door. She was taught that she had every right to expect respect. She was taught to say, “No”.

This calmed me.

If my daughter wasn’t respected she would recognize that. She knew what respect was.

That’s what Jody and I had given her. Her ability to recognize a danger signal by showing her acceptable behavior in our home.

This calmed me.

I realized that Jody and I had taught her a lot of things. We taught her love, and therefore she will expect love. We taught her kindness, and empathy, and to be herself. We taught her to dream. We taught her to travel domestically and internationally and to do so safely.

We’ve also taught her that it is okay to be alone, to feel pain, and sadness.

Most importantly we’ve taught her she can always come home. We are home.

She will travel far.

 

What We Don’t See

First off, my love to Beverly Cory and to those who loved her. I didn’t know Beverly but she could have been my friend or my financial advisor. The financial advisor Jody and I work with is also our dear friend and aunt to our children.

While volunteering for Richfield Police Reserves, near the 8-mile mark of the Woodlake half marathon, I positioned the police car to block the street. I turned on the squad lights, indicating that the intersection was closed. Half marathon runners could run safely up 71st St E.  Many would shout out some thanks as they went by. I’d wave in acknowledgement.

With the police car doing most of my work, my mind was on what I was hearing on the police radio.

The speed of information and the rapid coordination of agencies astounded me.

 

A person had been robbed at gunpoint. Police chase ensued. Car crashed into swamp. Man fled into nursing home. Perimeter set up. Command post opened. Swat team deployed. Help requested from nearby agencies. Police dog on scene. Request for another police dog. Photo of suspect received. Witness identified suspect. Snipers placed on roof tops. Squad cars, armoured vehicles, and helicopters surrounded the area. Area on lockdown. Evacuation of White Pine Living Center begun. A methodical door-to-door search of the center. Buses on site for residents and staff.

Though it was peaceful at my post, with runners yelling their appreciation, my heart rate increased, my blood pressure rose, and my breathing quickened.

In Mendota Heights, attention had turned to the office building.

Dispatch continuously fed the command center with information: persons who could possibly still be in the office building, the vehicles they drove, and their physical description.

Intensity continued at the senior center and at the same time increased at the office building.

A door-by-door search of the office building begun. A robot deployed. Beverly Cory found. My heart sank.

Long after I took off my Police Reserve officer uniform, I couldn’t stop thinking of Beverly and what might have transpired in her office. I don’t know what did. When I change into civilian clothes, I become a member of the public. I receive news the same as you.

One thing that I knew for sure, is that the police would work 24/7, and use all the resources that they had available to catch the murder suspect. I felt safer knowing that. I also knew that the police were doing a job that I could not possibly do.