Saturday, November 10, 2018

Not A Good Run

I told you about the former classmate of Thing One's who went missing recently but was found.  Another kid of roughly the same age from around here has been AWOL for a week or so now, apparently because he had a fight with his parents about his grades and took off.  Then, just yesterday, Thing One might have saved a third kid's life.

I was in the kitchen baking with Petunia when he yelled down from his room, "Mom, I need you to come look at this right now."  Something in his tone had me running up the stairs almost before he finished the sentence.  He told me to sit down and handed me his phone, which was displaying an Instagram post.  As soon as I read it I understood why he was concerned: the kid in question had written something that legitimately sounded suicidal.  Among other things, he wrote, "See you all on the other side when you get there."  We immediately reached out to the high school (for help identifying the kid since it was an IG account under an alias), and the vice principal called the police.  They actually came to the house to talk to us, although all we could do was show them the account and the post.  Thing One sent the kid a direct (private) message too, asking him to please talk to someone trustworthy before he did anything he couldn't walk back.

I'm really proud of Thing One.  Apparently, of all the followers this kid has on Instagram, he was the only one worried enough to talk to an adult after seeing the post.  I'm incredibly happy that the high school and police department acted so quickly.  I hope the kid is okay.  And I can't even fathom what would make a high school sophomore decide that life isn't worth living.  Reading back through his post history on my son's account, I can only guess that depression is involved, but what the hell do I know.  Hug your teenagers, folks.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Spirit of Halloween

They found that boy, by the way.  Thank goodness.

Thing Two has soccer practice on Thursday nights.  Last night, his coach sent him over to goalie training, which is at the back of the large field complex.  There was another team practicing between where I was standing and the field where the goalies were working out, but I wasn't paying a lot of attention to them until the coach of that team started dropping pinnies on the ground in front of me.

Thing Two is one of those specks in the background.

Pinnies are the mesh 'vests' that coaches have players put on over their regular shirts when they are separating a team into smaller groups by color, by the way.

The coach arranged the pinnies as you see in the picture.  Then he handed a couple of bags of Halloween candy to his assistant and told him to place the candy under the pinnies, Easter-egg-hunt style.  Except, and this is the part that threw me, he told the guy to put a lot of candy under some pinnies, one piece under others and none at all under the rest.  I had to ask why, since it seemed like that would be a recipe for disaster.

The coach told me that he wanted to see how well his boys would share with each other, as a measure of character and team spirit.  We left before their practice was over, but I hope they made their coach proud.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


Thing One always loved school starting from his first days in nursery school, so when he came home one day around Christmas of his kindergarten year telling me that he hated school and didn’t want to go anymore, I knew something was up.  It turned out that there was a kid in his class who was picking on him and generally making his life miserable.  I talked to the teacher about it, she had a chat with him and switched some seats around in the classroom, and things got back to normal. A week or two after this I was in the classroom volunteering and met this kid for the first time. Watching his behavior, I understood why he’d upset a lot of the other kids, but as an adult all I wanted to do was give this boy a hug. From my perspective, it was easy to tell that he was screaming out for love and attention.

I met his mother once in the school pickup line. She looked more like his older sister than his mother, and she had a couple of very young children with her as well. I wanted to give her a hug too.

This kid was only at our school for a couple of years, and then he moved and we didn’t hear anything else about him.

This morning, I opened my Facebook page and there he was.  I wouldn’t have recognized his picture because it’s been so many years, but I remembered his name as soon as I saw it. He’s listed as missing from a nearby city and people are desperately trying to find him. He’s 15 years old, just like my Thing One. There but for the grace of God.  If you are a praying sort of person, please say a prayer for his safety and well-being.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Cross-Cultural Moment

I got an email yesterday from a guy in Germany who is coming to the US next month for business and wants to find a series of my geocaches while he’s here.  These particular caches all require solving some sort of puzzle to get the final coordinates.  He’d gotten all but three of the puzzles in the series and was very politely requesting help with the remaining few, which is a totally ok thing to do.

One of the three is a complicated cipher but one that would theoretically work equally well in English or German, so it was just a matter of telling him what sort of cipher it is.  The other two made me laugh, though.  The solving of one requires both a knowledge of how to keep a box score in baseball and an understanding of the Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First” skit.  The other requires familiarity with certain episodes of the old “I Love Lucy” show.  It doesn’t surprise me at all that a native German would have trouble with those!  I can’t even imagine trying to solve puzzles that rely on a knowledge of German pop culture.  Talk about frustrating.  If the situation were reversed I would certainly appreciate kindness, so I sent him a bunch of links to helpful Wikipedia pages and told him to please get back to me if he still had any trouble.  My family is actually going to Germany next summer (Himself grew up there as an Army brat and wants the kids to see it) so maybe I will find myself in the position that he is in now while trying to find geocaches on that trip!  Who knows.

As a side note, I’ve been very surprised at how many stereotypical red-blooded American guys of my acquaintance don’t know how to keep a box score.  The critical piece of information as far as puzzle-solving is concerned is that each position on the baseball field has its own designated number between one and nine, but a significant number of people seem not to know that, judging by the number of questions I’ve gotten on this particular puzzle.   I didn’t even grow up in the US for the most part, but every summer we would go to one major league baseball game, and my father and my uncle taught me how to keep a box score. I still remember how. Makes me think of them every time I do it.  This puzzle was in their honor.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Had one of those fascinating “people talk to me” moments the other day.  I was chatting with the parents of a boy on Thing Two’s soccer team before pickup from practice, and the woman mentioned that she came to the US from Hungary at 22.  The husband added that he’d arrived at 17, joining his stepfather who had mysteriously disappeared from the family home in Hungary years before and then contacted him out of the blue from what might as well have been Mars.  The two had been high school sweethearts but then he emigrated and they broke it off.  Five years later, he called her and asked if she was married yet.  Since she wasn’t, he told her that she should come and join him!  She arrived alone, speaking no English whatsoever, and because of traffic he was three hours late to pick her up at the airport.  She said she spent those three hours sobbing and confused and frightened. I can only imagine. There was no going back, and she had no idea what she was going toward.

They’ve been married for almost 25 years now and have two beautiful children. It sounds like they’ve made a good life for themselves here.  And both of them have serious guts!  I’m in awe.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

OK, This Is Getting Weird Now

The universe has clearly decided to use me as a tool for bringing good into the world by repeatedly placing me into the right place at the right time to help somebody.  Granted, it beats the hell out of being an unwitting force of evil, but still.  Just a couple of days after the water bottle incident, another one today.

My younger two kids are playing in a gigantic local soccer tournament this weekend. Because Thing Two’s new club actually hosts it, all parents from his club are required to put in a certain number of hours over the course of the weekend to make everything happen.  Volunteers handle everything from concession sales to parking to supervising fields of play and lots of other stuff besides.  I spent from 8-1 today sitting between two fields acting as a field marshal, which primarily entails keeping score, making sure the refs and coaches sign the official score cards, getting the scores to the scorekeepers at the main tent, and making sure the refs get paid.  However, it also involves making sure that injured players are seen by the tournament medics, whom I had to call three times in that five-hour span for one reason or another (luckily none major.)

 My replacement arrived promptly at one.  By 1:15, I was comfortably ensconced in my folding chair in the middle of the parent sideline of an adjoining field watching Thing Two’s second game of the day.  At 1:18, I kid you not, one of the kids from the other team collapsed onto the field not 5 feet from my chair, clutching his ankle in distress.  I’d already turned in my field marshal supply bag, but the medic’s number was still in my cell phone.  By 1:20, he was at the field and shrinkwrapping an ice bag to the kid’s ankle.  Again, I didn’t do anything the marshal of that field couldn’t have done, but I happened to be right on the spot with the right number at my fingertips when the kid went down.  Uncanny.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Going Out With A Smile

This afternoon, I attended the viewing for an acquaintance who recently passed away at the very advanced age of 102.  She was born in 1916!  I can’t even begin to process all the changes she would have lived through in her life.  IMHO, viewings are a totally barbaric custom (who in the world decided that it was a good idea to make their loved ones make small talk for hours while standing in front of their open coffin??) but as Sheldon Cooper would say, one must observe the non-optional social conventions, so I went.

After giving my condolences to her loved ones in the receiving line, I made my way over to the kneeler in front of the coffin to pay my respects.  I understand that shouldn’t give me the willies, but it does.  I think it must all be in what you get used to growing up, and up close and personal viewings of those who have passed on was not part of my early life.  Anyway, I was jolted out of my disquietude by the sight of a small light brown wooden box propped next to her in the coffin.  There were letters engraved into the side of the box, which appeared to spell out the word PITA.  All I could think was that the acronym couldn’t possibly mean what it usually means given that the box was in the position of honor next to the deceased in the coffin! 

Her aide happened to be standing near me, and I couldn’t resist asking about the box.  I was told that it contained the ashes of her cat PITA, which she had requested to have buried with her.  Ok, all good.  It’s just the cat’s name.  Maybe it’s a foreign word or an odd nickname or something?  After all, we are talking about a very elderly woman here.  Then the aide clarified: the cat’s name was actually Pain In The Ass!  I burst out laughing right there in front of God, the coffin and everyone.  A dear friend of hers said that she would have enjoyed hearing laughter at her viewing so I guess it’s okay. 

Not A Good Run

I told you about the former classmate of Thing One's who went missing recently but was found.  Another kid of roughly the same age from ...