Kidnapping fears and realities

Not my baby.  Mine was even cuter.Before my eldest was born, a baby was kidnapped from the hospital where I would eventually deliver.  It was in the news every night.

A woman, dressed in scrubs, walked into the maternity ward, took a baby from its mother “to return it to the nursery,” and left the hospital with it.  It took months to find the child.

This was the incident that made the hospitals in our area enact strict procedures for visitors checking in and out of the maternity, constant badge checks of nurses and doctors, etc.  None of that allayed my fear that someone would snatch my child.

Before going to the hospital, I made my husband promise that he would Not Let The Baby Out of His Sight.  Ever.

He did not want to agree to this, but knew that I could not deal with one more fear, rational or not.

I hadn’t planned for a hospital birth, and was already terrified of the c-section which was required to get my son out (he was breech and quite literally stuck, having somehow hooked his foot under my pelvic bone).

So, as they were sewing up his wife, he reluctantly but dutifully left the room so our son would not be out of his sight.

When he walked into the recovery room, without my baby, before I could say a word, he exclaimed, “It’s okay.  Your mom is with him.  I told her not to let him out of her sight.”  She didn’t.

We made it out of the hospital several days later without ever having lost sight of our child, so, even if he had not been the only newborn in the building with bright red hair, we would have no doubt that, not only had he not been kidnapped, but that he had not been switched with another baby.

Fast forward about three years.  It was beginning to dawn on me that all mothers find their own children exceptionally beautiful, even the ones who the rest of the world can see are mistaken.

So when the mother of a preschool classmate asked, “Do you worry a lot about your children being kidnapped?” I tried to sound nonchalant, and lied, “I try to be cautious, but, no, I don’t obsess over it.”

It seemed the prudent thing to say, so her reply shocked me.  “If I were you, I would worry all the time.  Your sons are so beautiful.  They look exactly like the sort of children who kidnappers want.”

Yikes!  I had been right to worry those past three years!  My sons really were the ones who would be the most likely prey for kidnappers wanting to sell off healthy, beautiful toddlers.

As you may have guessed, my children never were kidnapped.  Whether that is because I remained hypervigilant or because they really weren’t exceptionally desirable targets we will never know.

Now, it all seems funny.  Good stories of a new mom, so in love with her children that she was convinced that any lurking kidnapper would, of course, prefer her sons to every other child on the playground.

The reality of kidnapping is very different.  One of my friends experienced it this week.

She and her eleven year old were taken at gunpoint, although she was released soon afterward.  You can read her story here.  I promise it has a happy ending.

One man’s treasure, trashed.

Mid Century Modern Basement with Bar

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

I went to an estate sale this morning.  I’d never been to one before, but the craigslist ad said there would be pink pyrex there.  I’m wanting a set of pink Cinderella bowls, so my husband and I went to breakfast then stood in line for the sale.

It was a small mid-century house, which had never been remodeled or redecorated.  So it was filled with mid century modern furniture and decor.

We were the only people in line who were not dealers, all of whom were looking for specific types of items.

The first young lady in line has an etsy shop for vintage clothing.
The second one wanted the starburst clock.
The next several people were furniture dealers.
Then us.
Then the lady who was a pyrex dealer.  She got the only two pieces that were available.  I was looking in upper cabinets, while she was moving quickly through the lower ones, where they were.  They were casserole dishes, not the bowls I’d wanted, so I wasn’t disappointed.

The interesting part of the morning was the wait in line before the doors opened, listening to the dealers.

Some were quite pragmatic.  They tended to be the older ones.

Conversation Pit, Modern Decor

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

The younger ones – mid to late twenties, I’d guess – were more idealistic.  They were lamenting how often older people ruined mid century furniture.  Original owners and their children committed such travesties as drilling holes to refit pieces for new technology and – gasp – painting the wood.

I just listened, amused.

I grew up in a mid century home, with mid century modern furniture.  Many of my neighbors had it, too.  When it went out of style, it was sold at garage sales, given to Goodwill, or – gasp – painted.

When my parents moved to a new colonial style house, very little of the mid-mod stuff was kept, including the starburst clock.

Mid Century Modern Living Room

photo credit: ooh_food via photopin cc

Maybe it takes a decade of adulthood to realize that there is a difference between collecting things and living with them.

Or maybe it takes becoming a parent.

When you live with your stuff, you get tired of it, or it no longer suits your needs, and you either replace it or remake it.  In the meantime, your kids bang up the tables, spill things on sofa, and leave dripping cups on everything.  It’s called life, and, yes, sometimes it ruins the furniture.

I have some old furniture, things that belonged to my grandmother, things that are not really my style but which I love anyway.  Although I wish they were in better condition, I look at them and see generations of people who cared more about their family than their stuff.

I am keeping up a fine tradition, then, even if one day collectors will turn up their noses at everything in my house.

Weight Loss and Body Image

Am I this size?Although I often discuss body image and my eating habits with you, I’ve been reluctant to share my actual weight, not because I’ve ever been ashamed of it, but because I know that it is easy to be discouraged by comparison.

Listening to someone talk about needing to lose 10 pounds is annoying when you are trying to lose 40.  Listening to someone talk about being 40 pounds overweight can be disheartening to someone trying to lose 100.

I don’t want to be a source of discouragement.

I want all of you to recognize the beauty in who you are, and to know that your appearance is merely a reflection of that beauty.

Happiness, confidence, kindness, love – these are reflected in our faces and in our body language, and these are what make a person beautiful.  Beauty and self worth cannot be measured in pounds and ounces.

Having said that, I know that most women have an idealized vision of beauty for themselves.  A body type, a weight, a form to which they aspire.  I also know that many of us do not have an accurate body image.

I know I don’t.  My perception changes with my moods and hormones.  Some days, I’d describe myself as heavier than I am; other days, I think I am considerably thinner.  My husband pointed this out to me earlier this year, when he saw this post.Some days I feel bigger than I am.

That day, I had trouble believing him, but when I’m shopping it is noticeable even to me.  Depending on the day, I’ll grab clothes that are sizes too big or too small.  I don’t recognize my own size when I see it.

My self perception has never been accurate or stable, unless you count it as stable because it does not matter what size or age I am, my body image remains skewed.

Despite that, I feel content with my appearance.  I was content before I starting losing weight, too.  I did not enjoy the feeling of being overweight, but I did not feel ugly because of it.

I began tracking calories in order to assess the healthiness of my diet.  My perception of that was delusional, too.  It turned out I grossly underestimated my sugar intake and overestimated the rest of my calorie consumption.  Healthier eating was my goal.  Weight loss was incidental.

Incidental, but significant.  I’ve now lost over twenty five pounds.  I’m within ten pounds of “ideal weight” for my height.

So has anything changed?

I am a size smaller, but I don’t feel more attractive, prettier, sexier, or any of that.  My proportions haven’t really changed, just their dimensions.  There are parts of me that look better now, and others that looked better then.

My legs are trimmSome days I feel  They’re still dimply with cellulite, but I think they look great below the knee and fine above it.  Lumpy, but fine.

More importantly, no more chub rub.  My thighs are not sticking together with sweat this summer.  Since I wear skirts almost daily, this is significant.

On the top side, I miss my chubby girl breasts.  I knew I’d lose a cup size or two when I lost weight, but I was hoping the skin would firm up so they wouldn’t look empty.  No such luck.  My breasts now look way too National Geographic, and I have not yet found bras that fit exactly right.

My neck is still waddlesome and crepe papery, a genetic gift from which there is no escape.  The former double chin is, while not quite a single, perhaps more like a chin and a half.  My face is more slender, and I think that is what people have noticed when they say, “Have you lost weight?  You look great!”

Since dissatisfaction with my body was not the reason I began calorie tracking, I find it disconcerting when people compliment me on losing weight.  I know they mean well, but I dislike the notion that thinner is always better, always prettier, always healthier, always happier.

Model Me in purpleLast summer, I was more physically fit, riding my bike several miles daily.  This summer, I’ve been a slug and have barely taken my bicycle out of the garage.  I usually take a stroll in the evening with my husband, but I don’t sweat or raise my heart rate.  I just walk and talk.  Sometimes I don’t even talk.

I’m also not happier, which is another thing people say.  “You must be so happy with…”  No, losing weight hasn’t impacted my happiness.  In fact, I don’t think I would have lost weight if I’d started out unhappy.

I think it is hard to lose weight when you’re unhappy with your appearance.  It’s a lot easier to lose weight when there is no emotional baggage to lose along with it.  When calories are just calories, and eating is just eating, not an indication of your value as a person or an indicator of your character, it’s easier to make healthy choices and not be bothered by the occasions when you don’t.

Unwelcome in Iowa

New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly, rude, brusque, but I’ve never experienced that in NYC.  I’ve had strangers hold doors for me while I navigated a double stroller, patiently give me directions, and make change for me when I got on a bus with only dollar bills.

IowaMost of the places I’ve been in the USA have been more or less friendly.

The exception is Iowa.

On Friday, we drove from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  It was dusk when we arrived in Cedar Rapids, and we exited Rte 30 at a sign that claimed lodging was near.  We didn’t see any motels, but signs don’t lie, do they?  We drove on, looking for a place to stay.

Moments later, flashing lights were behind us.  Since my husband was driving slightly under the speed limit, we were surprised that the car pulled in behind us instead of passing by us.

A young Iowa State trooper walked up to the car and told us he’d pulled us over because our license plate was obstructed by our bike rack.  He asked for my husband’s driver license and proof of registration, which were handed to him.

Then, he started asking questions.  Why are we here?  Where did we come from?  Where are we going?  Why are we on this road?

Now, we know we don’t have to answer, but we also know that not answering often takes longer, so my husband politely told the officer that we are driving back to Colorado from the DC area, looking for a motel that will accept our dog.

“What were you doing in DC?” he asked.  We were visiting family, and told him so.

The officer walked away to run our tag and we discussed how weird Iowa is, because the last time we drove through it, we were pulled over for the same pretense.  That time:  different road, different vehicle, no bike rack, more kids, different dog, and that state trooper claimed that the license plate was obscured by its frame – that plastic thing that car dealers put on a license plate with their name on it that in no way covers the name of your state or the numbers on your license.

We had plenty of time to discuss the validity of the “obstructed license plate” excuse for traffic stops, because the officer was taking forever, leaving us wondering how long it takes to run a tag.  As we wait, another police car pulls behind the first, and that officer gets out and begins talking with the original one.  Then a third car pulls up and a mini conference ensues.

By this time, bafflement had given way to annoyance.  Okay, mine had.  My husband was bordering on irate and ranting about the unprofessionalism of the line of questioning and the absurdity of needing two back up officers for an “obstructed license plate” stop.

I was being the calm one, saying things like, “I’m sure it is their training.  They’re probably told to be conversational,” and, “Maybe he’s new and nervous.”  As you can imagine, this did not have a soothing effect. It’s really hard to think of pleasant excuses for poor behavior.

There is also no good speculating why three police cars were needed to pull over a middle aged couple with a bike rack on their car.  I suggested that they were profiling middle aged people with sullen teens and sleepy dogs.  My husband suggested they were on a fishing expedition.

We were relieved when the conference finally seemed to be over, and the first officer returned to our car.

Until he asked my husband to step out of the car.

I admit:  up until that moment, I was annoyed, but not worried.  When my husband got out of car, I began to imagine news stories of cops gone bad looking for reasons to beat up fellows twice their age or shooting small dogs without provocation.

While I watched in the rear view mirror as two of the officers quizzed my husband about I did not know what, the third came over to my side of the car to ask me why we were in Iowa.

I resisted the urge to say, “Doesn’t anyone ever visit Iowa?  Are we the only people to cross your borders this year?”  Instead, I reiterated that we were traveling home and looking for a hotel that takes dogs.  Trixie was asleep on my lap, but since the young man’s eyes were searching the back of my car, I thought he might not have noticed her, which did diminish my dog harming fears, but increased my concerns for my teenaged daughter in the back seat.

As if to answer my unasked question, he responded, “Most people take 80.  What are you doing way up here?”

I was right!  Nobody does visit Iowa!

I explained that it was the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, so we were driving it.  We’d only left it to look a motel.

At that point, whatever had transpired between my husband and the other two officers had ended, and he was back in the car.  The officer questioning me backed away and we drove off.

My husband has sworn that we will never drive through Iowa again.

Once is forgivable, but twice is ridiculous.  What is going on in Iowa that they feel the need to harass those who are just passing through?  What did they think we were?  Terrorists?  Or do they simply find it entertaining trying to intimidate travelers?

It’s no wonder nobody visits Iowa.

Eating what I’m served.

During my visitation, I try to be an agreeable guest when in the homes of my family and friends.  Although I am known to be a picky eater, I do eat what I am served unless I know it will make me sick.

That means I eat a lot of food I would never eat at home, which is not a bad thing.

“Would you like a grilled cheese sandwich?”

I so rarely eat in other people’s homes now that I forget that they use white bread and American cheese when they make a grilled cheese sandwich.  I don’t think I have ever purchased American cheese or white bread, although at least one of my children wishes we’d been a white bread family.  It might have been a bland sandwich, if my friend hadn’t also offered tomatoes.
Farm Fresh Tomatoes
This summer, the local farm stand tomatoes are delicious, bright red to their center, juicy, and flavorful.  I’d almost forgotten what a real tomato tastes like.  No wonder I rarely buy them at the grocer’s.

“I know you don’t eat meat, so I made chicken.”

I always tell people not to plan meals around me.  I am quite happy eating the veggies and skipping the meat course of a meal; it’s what I do at home when I cook for my family.  When people tell me they made chicken especially for me, though, I am flummoxed.

Should I explain that chicken is meat?  It seems rude, so I eat a small a portion and hope my digestive tract doesn’t hate me for the next couple days.  I would not know if it did, Cupcake made with lovebecause my entire body is hating me right now for sitting it in a car for hours every day and eating dessert everywhere I go.

I can’t help it.  I’m special occasion to everyone, and they all make dessert for me.  Homemade.  It would be heartless to say, “No, thank you,” to a cupcake loving made and decorated by an eight year old.

“I forgot you don’t eat this.”

Until I arrived, my mother in law forgot that I can’t eat mayo (it does make me sick), so her beautiful luncheon of chicken and tuna salads was out of the question for me.  I was so happy when, without a fuss, she offered to scramble eggs for me.

I never realized she added condensed milk to her eggs before.  No wonder they taste so creamy.  I should try that for guests at my house.

I did remember that my in laws eat cool whip.

Pretzel Delight, the jello dish of my husband's childhoodThe only time I’ve bought cool whip was to make the very dessert she served:  pretzel delight.  I made it for my book club once, when we’d read Bill Bryson’s Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, which mentioned his memories of the many jello salads served during his childhood.  Pretzel Delight was the jello dish of my husband’s childhood.

I am not a fan of jello, or cool whip, and could happily scrape those layers away and eat the entire tray of pretzel, butter, and sugar crust.  I don’t, of course.  I eat a neatly cut square.

As I write about it, I am wondering what non-jello, non-cool whip concoctions I could place atop a pretzel crust.  I’m going to experiment with this when I get back to Colorado.  I’m thinking tart apples and a caramel sauce.  Or berries with slightly sweetened cream cheese.  Or peanut butter mousse and dark chocolate.

I’ll let you know if anything works out, because, if you’ve never had it, you need to try a pretzel crust.

Every movie a children’s movie?

My sister reminded me this week that Grease was the first movie she’d seen without an adult,  My mom dropped my brother, sister, and me off at the theater.  In June of 1978 that meant I was not quite eleven and she was a few months from turning seven.

Which led her to exclaim, “Who let’s a six year old watch that?” and reminisce about my mother’s look of shock when her tiny daughter danced and sang along to Greased Lightening.

Then I listed several more entirely inappropriate movies which I remember watching as a very young child.  Either my mother did not think about it at all, or she assumed that if the actors were clothed, we were clueless.

Even a naive child could not remain entirely clueless watching Natalie Wood steal her mom’s skeevy boyfriend in This Property is Condemned, and, unlike my sister, I knew full well that Gigi was being trained for prostitution.

Not that this is surprising.  I’ve told my husband for years that I never saw family tv as a child.  My mom only watched cop shows, variety shows, and MASH when I was little.  Quincy, Rockford Files, Starsky and Hutch, Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher, those I remember.  The Waltons?  Never.

Not that it seems to have harmed either of us, but my sister and I both exercised more caution with our own children.  I wonder if her girls have even seen Gigi?


Passport to Dream

Passport to DreamMy passport expired earlier this year.  I only used it a couple times in the ten years it was valid, and I don’t anticipate using it in the foreseeable future.  Yet, I’m sad that it is gone.

Without it, I cannot buy tickets to Italy at a moment’s notice; my husband cannot sweep me away for a romantic getaway to Paris; and I can’t decide that this is the month I should see the Great Wall of China.  Nor could I take an impromptu Kenyan safari or visit a friend in Brazil or England or anywhere else.

Not that I did any of those things in the ten years I had the passport, but I imagined I could.

Without it, I may as well schedule those dental exams six months out and accept the fact that I really will be home.  I may as well stop wondering if these shoes would be comfortable walking all day on cobblestone streets or which is the best season in Prague.

I enjoy my delusions of globetrotting, but are those dreams worth the $150ish fee for renewing a passport?

Three Minute Road Trip


My road trip looked nothing like this, but you really would not want to see a time lapse of Route 70 from Denver to DC.  The first half of it is pretty much nothing, followed by billboards and XXX Truck stops.  The second half is Billboards with Antique Villages rather than XXX establishments, which I find an improvement.

Also, many places claim to have the best pie.  They all lie.  Good pie is harder to find than one would think.

We drive Rte 70 because it is fast, not because it is scenic.

This year is the centennial of the first road across the USA, the Lincoln Highway, so we are thinking of driving it home.  I’m actually excited about it.  It will take longer, but I am hoping for good pie.

What can I say?  I’m an optimist.


Modern slang? Not me, ducky.

Nifty slang, like a fine mustache, never goes out of style.All week, I’ve been trying to remember to write and say “audiobook” instead of “books on tape.”  I think “books on tape” makes me sound like someone who cannot keep up with technology.  In writing I was 100%, but when I went to the library’s drive through window, and was asked if my holds were books or dvds, I automatically said, “Books on tape.”

Why did I bother?  I routinely use outdated words, phrases, sayings, some of which were long past their heyday even in my own youth.

Words like heyday.  Does anyone still say that other than me?

Here is a short list, some of the words, phrases, and sayings which are a regular part of my spoken vocabulary:

Words, like fashion, fall in and out of style.

  • spiffy
  • lollygagging
  • pernickety
  • discombobulated
  • flabbergasted
  • high-falutin’
  • trousers
  • knick-knacks
  • flibberty-gibbit
  • dunderhead
  • Don’t sass me.
  • You scared the bejeebers out of me.
  • gentleman
  • lady
  • slugabed
  • fuddy-duddy
  • luddite
  • For crying out loud!
  • pokey (as in moving slowly)
  • shoddy
  • frou-frou
  • hanky panky
  • thingamajig
  • Oops!
  • You’re a crotchedy old man.
  • cantankerous

So why should I worry about “books on tape” making me sound odd?  It may have been the most normal thing I said all day.

Now, please, tell me what you say that is hopelessly untrendy or old fashioned.

The monotony of travel

On Friday, I’ll be leaving town for two weeks.  It’s the same trip we make every summer.

It is one of the unanticipated downsides to moving here.  When we lived within a few hours of our parents and siblings, we took vacations every year.  Since moving here, we’ve used our vacation time and funds to visit our families.

Mount RushmoreAt first, we tried to invite them to come here, or plan joint trips.  That worked exactly once with each parental set, but at least we were able to visit the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore before our parents decided we live too far away for them to travel here again.

So every year for almost a decade, sometimes more than once a year, we pile into the car and make the trip from Colorado to Maryland.  I love my family, but these trips are not vacations.  They’re visitations.

Yesterday, I spent hours selecting and putting audio books on hold.  Nearly a dozen of them.  Because there is nothing worse than driving 26 hours on route 70 without books.

Sometimes we drive straight through, not even stopping for the night.  By we, I mean my husband; I barely drive.  Sometimes we try to break the monotony by getting off the beaten path for at least part of the drive.

Rocky Ridge, home of Laura Ingalls WilderOne year we visited Rocky Ridge, the home Almanzo Wilder built for Laura Ingalls Wilder, and another time we stopped by the site of the Little House on the Prairie.  Well, my daughter and I toured Rocky Ridge; my husband and son walked the dogs.

Last year my husband and daughter visited the Grave Creek Mounds in WV while I walked the dog around the fence line.

Another year we stopped in Columbus, Ohio and saw a replica of the Santa Maria.  It was early Sunday morning, so we walked the dogs around the park while looking the ship.  It, like the Dunkin Donuts we were seeking, was closed on Sunday mornings.

The dogs may be a nuisance when we play tourist for a few hours, but I like having them with me when I arrive at my mom’s.  They give me a reason to go outside, away from the television which is always on.  Besides, I worry about Trixie dying if I leave her behind.  (She has cancer and sometimes refuses to eat when I’m away.)

On the road, they help me, too. Wherever you go, there you are.  I always volunteer to be the dog walker when we stop to eat.  I’d rather walk around than go from sitting in the car to sitting in a restaurant to sitting in the car again.

I also volunteer to stay in motel rooms while others eat or swim so the dogs don’t bark.  In the morning, I take them for a walk while my family eats breakfast.

I walk the dogs more away from home than I do when we’re at home, because it is a good excuse to be alone and active.  Honestly, I value the time alone more.

Walking is definitely beneficial.  Sitting in a car for 26 hours wreaks havoc on my crooked back, but the psychological effect of solitude and quiet restores me in a different way.  Walking the dogs makes me feel purposeful instead of anti-social.

St. Louis Gateway ArchEvery year we debate stopping at the St. Louis Arch, but we never have because my husband and I cannot agree on who will go up to the top with our daughter.  We both want to walk the dogs while the other goes inside.

I’m not sure if or where we’ll be stopping this year, but if you see a lady in black compression knee socks walking a dog, it’s probably me.

This post is part of a BlogHop at Generation Fabulous, where you can read tales of more Transformative Travel.