Sunday, March 29, 2015

Science Camp

Jack just got back from a week at 6th grade Science Camp, an event he’d been looking forward to for about seven years. The trip is a “right of passage” of sorts for the middle school students, and for many—Jack included—it’s the first time away from home.

He packed enough clothes for a month. As I kissed him goodbye, I placed bets with a friend on whether or not he would come home in the same clothes he left in!

All ready to roll! 
I held myself together better than I expected as I hugged him goodbye. I felt myself choke up just a little as he squeezed me a little longer, a little harder than normal. But thankfully, my sunglasses hid any sign of tears!

We got daily emails from Jack’s teacher, giving us a brief recap of each day and letting us know that all was well.

When the bus pulled back into the school on Friday afternoon, he got off the bus looking a little older, a little more independent. But he wasn’t too grown up to give me a side hug, in front of his friends, nonetheless! 

Over dinner Friday night, we got a complete recap of the week, including every hike, every meal, and every moment in between.

He joined five “clubs” over the week:
  • The “Hard Core” Club: this entailed eating an entire apple…core and all
  • The “Polar Bear Club”: this one required him to dip his entire head in an ice cold stream, and hold it there for 10 seconds.
  • The “Banana Slug Club”: to join this one, students had to KISS a banana slug. Better than kissing a girl, I suppose!
  • The “Scrub Club”: this one wasn’t an intentional club…to become a member, you had to slip and fall, on accident!
  • The “Waste Warriors Club”: this one meant going three meals without wasting any food. No big surprise here…Jack is quickly taking over Steve’s title in the house as the human garbage disposal!

He had great counselors, and his teacher is a rock star for putting up with thirty 6th graders 24/7 for the week!

Jack with his teacher, Mr. Wheeler
Counselors Conner & Nick were Awesome!

It is a strange feeling having one birdie gone from the nest. I remember when Olivia went four years ago thinking how the house felt a little emptier, a LOT quieter, and how my heart had a bit of a void in it. So I was somewhat prepared for how it would be this time around.

It’s interesting how the family dynamics shift when one person is missing. I’ve noticed it over the last two and a half years that Steve has been working in LA, how we adapt to fill the void. But with a child missing, it's even stronger. Grant missed his best buddy. But he also was a lot more pleasant without a big brother intentionally bugging him a lot of the time! It’s almost as if a family is like a puzzle. Each piece is unique and beautiful in its own way, but it takes all of them together to complete the picture.

I think these little jaunts of independence stretch the apron (and heart!) strings to better prepare us for the eventual “launch”.

And in case you’re wondering (and much to my surprise!), Jack showered twice during the week. But he came home in the same sweatshirt he was wearing when he left! 

Before...and after. Same sweatshirt. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Real Life Horror

I've often commented that the main road heading in both directions from our house looks like the perfect setting for a horror movie. It's a two-lane windy road, lined with large oak trees. Much of the road has little to no shoulder, with an embankment on one side, and a steep drop-off on the other. It's a popular route for bicyclists, though riddled with danger since there is no shoulder to provide a dedicated lane for cycling. While the road is heavily traveled during commute hours with drivers trying to escape the traffic on the freeway, during the mid-day hours, very few cars are seen. It is not at all uncommon for me to drive the entire 2.5 miles to school and not pass another car.

I drive back and forth on this road, headed one direction or the other, at least 8 times a day.  I know it well. And aside from the occasional mudslide, or wild deer or turkey running in front of my car, have never had cause for alarm. Until today.

I feel like I should start the story with "It was a dark and stormy night"...but in reality, it was a crystal clear afternoon. I have been home sick in bed the last two days, literally only crawling out of bed long enough to get my kids to and from school. My energy is drained, every inch of my body aches, and I'm coughing with every word out of my mouth,

I left the house a little early, hoping to get to school in time to be in the front of the carpool line. As I came into the unincorporated part of the road, entering the small town of Sunol, I came around a curve and saw a woman ahead in the distance standing in the middle of the road. At first, it looked like maybe she was trying to stop traffic to help someone pull out of a long driveway. Besides me, there were no cars coming in either direction.

As I got a little closer, she appeared to be in some sort of distress. She was waving her arms around and it looked like she was screaming. At what—or who—I couldn't tell. I thought maybe she was on drugs, or suffering from some mental instability. After all, it's not entirely normal to be screaming and waving your arms around, all while standing in the direct line of traffic.

I slowed the car significantly, as she was literally standing in the middle of the road. As I approached, I made eye contact with her and realized that she was covered in blood. She had blood smeared on her face, down her chest and onto her shoulders, and her hands were obviously bloody. I had no idea what the situation was, and felt my heart begin to race. Had she killed someone? Was someone trying to kill her? There was obvious panic in her voice and in her movements, yet I didn't think it was a good idea to stop and get out of my car. I cracked my window just enough to call out "Are you okay? Do you need help?"

She responded with a scream "YES! I need you to call the police!"

In the distance down the driveway, I could see a man walking toward her.

I yelled back, "OK, I'll call the police!"

I kept rolling around the next curve, and about 200 yards ahead, there was a driveway on the right side of the road. I pulled in, put my car in park and dialed 911.

"911, What's your emergency?" the dispatcher asked.

As soon as I opened my mouth, my voice started trembling. I did my best to give an accurate description of my location, what I saw, and what I could ascertain from the situation. Within a matter of minutes, I could hear sirens coming from all directions. Police, fire, and paramedic crews were en route. The dispatcher kept me on the line until the officers arrived, in case there were any questions or problems in locating the site. After what felt like an eternity, she came back on the line and said that they had a suspect in custody, and that the woman was okay—she was just bleeding from her mouth and it appeared to be a case of domestic violence.

It took a good couple of hours for my heart to stop racing, and for the image of her bloody face and hands to begin to fade from my mind. Honestly, it felt like it was straight out of a horror movie. Thankfully, it wasn't more serious (though I in no way mean to infer that domestic violence isn't serious!), and authorities responded in time.

It is scary to think of what might have happened if I hadn't been driving right at that moment. Would someone else have seen her? Would they have slowed to ask if she was alright? Might it have been too late?

I don't know what this woman's situation is/was. But I could tell from her appearance that she had had a hard life. It would have been pretty easy for me to swerve around her, not make eye contact, or notice the blood on her face and hands, and just chalk her behavior up to a drug-induced craze. And who knows? Maybe that's how it started.

I'm reminded of a quote that goes something like this, "Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle." I hope that as I go through my life, I can remember this message. To look for ways to help, uplift, and even save another. And I hope that if I ever am in need of that kind of help, someone will be there to offer it to me.