Thursday, August 7, 2014

40 for 40 (my apologies to ESPN)

I turn 40 years old this weekend.  I cannot lie, this weirds me out a little bit.  To soften the blow of my rapid aging, I have decided to focus on some of the things I've learned in my 40 years on earth.  Please do not misunderstand me - learning, knowing and doing are very separate stages. I've learned these 40 things. Unfortunately some are still not my natural reaction or first thought, but I keep on trying with every lesson. So maybe that's my "one to grow on" - keep trying.  
  1. There are too many books, too many stories and too many authors in the world to keep reading one that isn't grabbing you simply because it is popular.
  2. God is good.  All the time.
  3. Painted fingernails make me feel feminine.
  4. Be loyal, but not blind.
  5. Yes, people pay to dye their hair red, but that doesn't make you feel better until you are in your 20s.
  6. It is ok to be wrong, but admit it when you are.
  7. When you are at a low point, it isn’t the advice or the bible verses or the clichés that are immediately soothing - it is the person who sits beside you (literally or figuratively) and quietly cries with you that starts to heal your soul.
  8. Count Chocula is the perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  9. I would rather be healthy than thin, but if I’m honest, I’d like to be both.
  10. Count Chocula will not aid me in being healthy or thin.
  11. Stacy Welter’s dog bites when you get in his face. 
  12. Rabies shots hurt.
  13. Dewar’s is pronounced “do-ers”, not “de-wars”.
  14. The best moments in life are rarely planned in advance; surviving the worst moments in life cannot be planned in advance either. 
  15. Shampoo.  Rinse.  Do not repeat.
  16. Your parents’ religion will not always be your own, but their faith can be.
  17. Drinking water during a fast doesn't stop your hunger, just your thirst.
  18. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you've wasted everyone’s time, including your own.
  19. If my sunglasses cost more than $10, I should not take them to the tennis court.
  20. Add pasta to boiling water, potatoes to cold water.
  21. Take the sleeping pill only after the plane has taken off.
  22. I know I will never fully know the sacrifices my parents made for me.
  23. Look for the good.
  24. The ocean is my therapy.
  25. Tattoos are addictive.
  26. Your family is your family is your family.  They love you.  You love them. Everything else is irrelevant.
  27. Sometimes cheap ice cream is just as delicious as expensive ice cream.
  28. Everyone should have one summer in their life where they work a maximum of 3 hours a day, play sand volleyball a minimum of 4 hours a night and spend the rest of the time sleeping and swimming.
  29. No matter how good-looking, if a guy screams when a snake crosses his path, he immediately loses his appeal. 
  30. Someone somewhere may not like you.  Get over it.
  31. Being a bronzed goddess is never going to happen for me.
  32. If you haven’t worn something for two years, donate it.  Except Birkenstocks.  Those stupid things keep coming back around.
  33. There are a few truly worthy things to argue about in marriage.  Most everything else is about finding a compromise. Learning the difference is called “communication.” 
  34. You do not instantly gain communication skills with the exchange of vows.
  35. Only my family gets to make fun of my family. 
  36. Strawberry seeds are not poisonous. 
  37. Less talk, more action.
  38. If you have to look online to remember if women have an adam’s apple, you probably have a tumor in your throat.
  39. I've been alive for 40 years.  If I have a feeling in my gut, an intuition, a first impression or a sense of unease, it needs to be given serious consideration. But people and situations always deserve a measure of grace to change my original impression.
  40. Even cute, hip knick knacks have to be dusted. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

time keeps on ticking...

There is snow across the lake from me.  It is in the mountains and even the lower hills.  A coat is now required daily.  It is time for gloves, but I stubbornly deny it, jamming my hands in my pockets instead.

It is November 15.  How?!  It seems like I was just celebrating my birthday on a beach, wondering how long I could stand the heat.  August, September and October are a blur.  There was a surgery to remove the tumor in my throat and half my thyroid along with it.  There was a 3 credit hour class to move a little closer to my degree. There were never-ending rehearsals for a community theater show Don't Dress for Dinner.  There was a business trip to Boston and a 48 hour trip to Kansas City to hug my family.  There was mr. shoe's birthday and our wedding anniversary. 

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  Get up, go to work, go to the theater, do a show, catch a late train, get home, do my homework, wash an inch of makeup off my face and a half can of hairspray and wax out of my hair.  Crash into the pillow.  Drift off to sleep in the midst of a prayer of gratitude for the strength to get through the day...and for Nespresso. 

I'm glad I did this show.  I met some great people, built some much-needed confidence in my expat world and tackled something new.  But I am ready to find my normal again.  I've missed reading.  I've missed eating real dinners while the pups beg me for scraps.  I miss blogging. I've missed evening wogs (walk/jog) with mr. shoe. 

So here's to the sacrifices we make to shake up our routines.  May we always find the strength to enhance our lives, to learn something new.  And may we always find joy in every season, no matter how quickly it goes by.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I had a biopsy last Wednesday.  

For 7 days, I've been in suspended animation, not intentionally, but every time I would make a plan or schedule something in my head, I subconsciously thought, "assuming...."  If Surprisacation was a lesson in losing control over all the little details, the last week has been a 7 day final exam. 

The first couple of days were easy.  I think I was more relieved that having a biopsy needle poked into your neck wasn't as horrifying as it sounds.  Don't get me wrong, I had my eyes closed from the moment the doctor confirmed that he was going to stick a large needle into my neck until the moment he confirmed that the needle had been removed from the exam room.  mr. shoe had gone with me to hold my hand, but the doctor made clear that he didn't have the ability to focus on fainting spouses while poking the large needle in my neck and I wasn't going to argue with the man that would be poking my neck with the large needle. Did I mention the large needle in my neck?  (Not that I saw it.)

The weekend was a little bit tougher.  I was tired and sluggish, making my head go into overdrive.  Was I tired and sluggish because the tumor in my neck was bad?  Was I tired and sluggish and that's just the way it was going to be from now on?  Was I tired and sluggish because my body had already given up now that one part was "down"?  The reality is, I was tired and sluggish because I'm out of shape and have been eating like crap for the last two four weeks.  But I wasn't going to let reality crowd out my over-active imagination.  No way.  Pour me another full-strength Dr. Pepper and pass the left-over bacon.  Momma's gettin' her pity party on.

I try not to be what I call a "lottery Christian".  You know the type - if I believe in God, my bills will all be paid and I will never be sick again!  And my car will miraculously start!  And I will no longer have cookie cravings!  I don't believe that Christians are exempt from anything - heck, I think we have a responsibility to shoulder our burdens in humility and grace, if only to attest that good can come from bad when we acknowledge our faith in God.

I find having faith to be easy, but completely trading fear in for that faith is tougher.  I reason that if I have them both at about a 60/40 split, I'll be ready for whatever gets thrown at me.  This is utter b.s. of course, but that doesn't really stop me from trying to find some control in there somewhere.  The truth is, God isn't "throwing" something at me to be controlled.  Life happened.  Original sin happened.  Free choice happened.  And God is in this with me, not lobbing cheap shots that sit on the net only to bounce over on my side while I sit on the baseline, knowing I have no chance of hitting it back.  He's not the omnipotent opponent, but the coach in my game, wanting to volley with me to improve my skills, not shove aces down my throat or tumors in my neck.  But I digress....(I just love a good sports analogy and obviously I love bad ones as well.)

So knowing that making deals with God wouldn't change the outcome of my test results, I found myself making deals with mr. shoe.  

"Ok, if everything is fine, AND IT IS, but when we find out everything is fine, I need to really kick my jalking (jog/walking) into high gear if I'm going to do a half-marathon in April."  

"Ok, once we know the results, AND I'M SURE THEY ARE FINE, but once we know, I'm really going to get back on track with eating healthy."  

I guess it wasn't bargaining, it was trying to convince him that he hadn't married a broken down woman whose warranty was only good for the first 7 years of marriage.  I also needed to hear him say "I will help with those things in any way I can"...and he did, because he knew.  

The last couple of days have been strange.  I've been calm about the results.  I've had a few anxious moments, but there hasn't been any hand-wringing or consuming fear or crying or standing in the shower under the hot water, trying to figure out who will take care of the dogs if I'm not here.  (I really watch too much television.)  In my head I had two scenarios and I prayed that I would stick to the script, regardless of the results.  

Today as mr. shoe and I walked to the hospital, we held hands as we tend to do.  I asked if I would have to become a meth kingpin if the tumor was malignant.  He answered that I'd have to take chemistry again, settling that debate once and for all.  I don't look good in a fedora anyway.  

The doctor didn't even wait for us to get out of our chairs.  He greeted us with a "Frau Shoemaker, GOOD NEWS!" while we were still in the waiting room.  He showed us pages of reports in German, but highlighted the phrase in bold caps "KEINE Bösartigkeit", "no malignancy".  It wasn't how I pictured it because all of the best and worst case scenarios never come to life the way you expect them to.  I didn't cry.  I didn't throw my arms around mr. shoe.  I sat there and silently prayed, "thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou for being here in this moment and all the moments that led to here."  I want to believe that I would have prayed that prayer even if the results had been different, but for today, I won't know what I would have done in that other scenario.  
All of us know that none of us have a guaranteed tomorrow.  This afternoon I'm thankful for this afternoon.  Tonight I'll pray for those who don't have their test results back yet and those who lived out their worst case scenario this morning.  May your faith outweigh your fear.

Not many people knew what was going on and to my family members who did not know, please accept this as my explanation. Feel free to be glad or offended that you didn't have to participate in the 7 day waiting game. I can handle It was a defense mechanism to avoid talking about something that was complete speculation at this point and also to avoid "helpful" stories about "so-and-so whose goiter eventually closed off their larynx and they were never able to sing again.  Hasn't heard his own voice for 73 years."  Selfishly, I couldn't take on worrying about other people's reactions or fears.  That might ring hollow now that I'm writing a blog post about it, but I've warned you - this blog is my therapy.  If it entertains, that is just a happy coincidence.  

Guess this means I need to put the cake away now and find my running shoes.  
Thank you anyway.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Part II

Had Surprisacation's story ended with me lying on the beach, the salt water working its magical destruction in my hair, it would have been everything I needed.  But let's be honest, I like to eat.  Starting a trend that would last throughout the entirety of our stay, I went from salt water to fresh water, threw on as little clothing as possible and popped in a ponytail.  A short walk down to the marina found us sitting outside of Pusser's Landing, a cold beverage and fish 'n chips in front of us.  Boats were pulling in after a long day on the sea, there was a local trio playing Michael Jackson and I smelled like Hawaiian Tropic.  Aside from mr. shoe's frequent bathroom trips, it was paradise.

Back at the villa, we unpacked and settled in for the week.  While putting away the groceries, I noticed the freezer wasn't working.  Having fully adjusted to a life without ice cubes, it was no big deal but we called the clubhouse to let them know in case the next guests weren't so "European".

Bed was calling our name, but mr. shoe was camped out on the patio reading so I laid down on the couch, letting the sounds of the water lull me to sleep.  It was shortly thereafter that the doorbell rang.  Assuming it was someone coming to look at the freezer (I'd been asleep, cut me some slack), I told mr. shoe that someone was at the door.  "So open it," was his loving(?) reply.  Dressed only in a swimsuit cover up that wasn't actually covering up a swimsuit and a head of hair that was having violent reactions to the humidity, I opened the door.  

The people standing in the door didn't care how I looked.  They never do.  They just stood there with their bags and screamed...I don't remember what they screamed, I just saw three people whom I love dearly, the ones mr. shoe calls "the gang", my "So You Think You Can Dance" crew, my besties.

They came inside in a flurry of bags and hugs and screaming.  Off came the zip tie on the extra bedroom door to reveal two beds and a cot.  Out came the Cheez-Its, Donettes and Skittles.  Around the kitchen table we landed.  Stories tumbled out - how long mr. shoe had been planning this, how Briggy was trying to text me on their layovers so I wouldn't wonder why she had fallen off the face of the earth as we made our way to Tortola, how mr. shoe's frequent trips to the bathroom were to answer Michael's urgent texts about their early arrival, how many flights my gang had taken from Chicago and Dallas and California to make my 39th birthday one to remember. 

The thing about good friends is well...everything.  

Still exhausted, I crashed hard that night, happy to the very tips of my toes.  When I woke up, mr. shoe smiled and said, "I had a weird dream last night.  We were in the British Virgin Islands then the gang showed up. It might have been a nightmare."  Like a cat, I stretched out in the sun that was shining through our patio, smiling because I knew it was true.

I can't tell you that our time together changed the world, but it changed my world.  Together with mr. shoe, these friends of mine......I just can't. 

We read, we swam, we kayaked, we snorkeled, we explored, we ate, we hunted seashells, we drank, we napped, we tanned, we pooled, we festival-ed.  We found empty beaches with turquoise waters and shady palm trees. We found caverns made from thousand year old volcanic rock and blue lizards.  We found rest and encouragement and laughter and confidence and strength in each other.  Some of us found sharks (supposedly), some of us found mysterious monsters in the moss that wanted to eat our feet (supposedly), some of us found a curious deep-seated need to skinny dip and I found at least five extra pounds (for reals).  

It was a gift and I'm not sure that mr. shoe will ever realize how thankful I am for it.

If you have the chance to make friendships that last decades, I highly recommend it.  I know there have been and will be times in our friendships that don't include fruity drinks and crystal clear waves and soft beaches.  I know that the dynamics will change as partners join in the circle.  But I fully expect to celebrate my 59th birthday on a beach in Tortola with those people.  

And this time, Tricia, we skinny dip.


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