Chicken Salad Vacation

Two of my favorite self-care options are “time with a friend” or “time away”.

Time away can be almost anything out of the ordinary. A vacation would be nice, but since that is not an option right now, I manage to find even small amounts of time and declare them to be vacation minutes.

Oxygen in. Oxygen out.

So naturally when my friend Deb invited me to stand in line for the Grand Opening of the Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in Oakley, Ohio, I was lured in by a double win potential. Time with a friend and the first 100 people in line would win FREE chicken salad for a year.

Ummmm…out-food guaranteed monthly? Yes, please.

I set my alarm for 4am. I made a checklist of equipment needed: folding chairs, Cudl duds, triple clothing layers, boots, hat, gloves, a scarf, and a book to read. I downloaded the Chicken Salad Chick App and read the Grand Opening rules.

The temperature was 20 degrees as I pulled into the parking lot to find my friend taking a selfie next to the “first in line” sign. She became famous for the next several hours! People were in awe of the line leader. “What time did YOU get here?” people asked her many times.

My face froze into a smile. We set up camp and settled into the cold darkness. I visualized that the parking lot was a beach just ahead of my toes.

We giggled a bunch when we learned the first three of four people in line were named Deb! What are the chances?

3 Debs

We saw the kindness of strangers help one another with various challenges. Extra blanket? Extra chair? Information and legendary tales of how this works? These were no problem for complete strangers to handle in the dark before dawn.

The Chicken Salad Chick employees, photographer, and Chamber of Commerce arrived as daylight approached. The wise employees brought us toe warmers. The line grew.

I watched my Deb of the three Debs manage a conference call as if she was not freezing. I busted out laughing at the contrast of her serious work and the fact that we were waiting in line for a chance at free food.

When the dark sky turned winter white, I felt a ping of sadness. The fun was nearly over.

After the official store ribbon cutting, we scanned our free chicken code proudly as Miss First In Line #1 and Good Friend #2.

We sat with the new friends we made in line and already have a favorite Chicken Salad Chick employee. Shout out to Tamika!

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Then we headed to work. Back to reality. It was a good tiny vacation!

May peace find you this holiday season–perhaps in a most unexpected way.

Love,

Glenna

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil….

* This post is dedicated to Dr. Phil of Marysville, OH because Deb and I (or Ethel and Lucy as he sometimes calls us) think you’d get a kick out of the story!

* And extra love to my Hubby who I simply told after leaving the house “I may have a fun story to tell you later”. I was so frustrated with home life the night before Chicken Salad Chick bliss. Then he sees me on Deb’s Facebook and types, “Who is that lady with my (his) hat and gloves?!” He can be a pretty funny guy.

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Gus Deployment Part Two

Before soaring on United Airlines one day in August, two TSA people panicked when I placed a pet carrier on the security conveyor belt.

I said to their reaching hands, “It’s empty. Don’t worry.”

Whew! Their blue shirts relaxed a bit.

“I am heading to get my son’s cat,” I said to more people than probably wanted to know that day.

My mission: Get the cat. Keep my emotions in check. Spend as little money as possible. Stretch granola in backpack.

One thing I’ve learned about being a military mom is that tears are the enemy to be embraced. I can be happy for our son = tears. I can be proud = tears. Saying hello = tears. Saying goodbye = tears.

Fight them and the tears are worse. I attempt to embrace and let them pass. If you’re a military parent, you know this roller coaster.

Son-1 and I strive for what we call “the good good-bye”. He tries to laugh when my face swells. There is something about military life that makes the words “gut wrenching” meaningful as an experience rather than a phrase.

Once in New Mexico, I see in our son right away that he is feeling about his cat a little like what I feel when he and I separate for months at a time. He hugs Gus, plays with Gus, and takes long looks at Gus. I imagine he is burning the memory of Gus into his soul with enough love to last for many months until they reunite.

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Meanwhile on minimal sleep for a 24 hour trip, my mind focuses on how to get a cat across the country without losing him.

“Ok, Mom. You guys have to go now,” Son-1 said about 40 minutes before I planned to leave that morning. He did not want to cry. I understood.

We place a “calming collar” on Gus and put him in the pet carrier.

“Here. I got you these,” Son-1 hands me breakfast. It was thoughtful of him to stop at a gas station for Pepsi and Swedish Fish with me in mind.

I stress-nosh on the red fish when Gus begins to wail in the car. Have I mentioned that Gus and I had to drive 90 miles to the airport?

Son-1 and GF warned me that Gus does not like car rides, but I know his wail is more than a dislike of the car. Gus knew I was taking him from his people.

Gus cried.

I cried.

Hubby called once while I was stopped in the desert by a police blockade. Missiles were being tested nearby. Stopping only made Gus cry louder.

“It will be ok, Gus.” I turn him so he can see me through his net. That didn’t help. I wonder if his claws will rip the carrier netting. Then I remember that I packed a small roll of duct tape. Hopefully I will not need to figure out how to repair or get him back in the carrier if he escapes.

I hyperventilate on the phone to Hubby, “Don’t. Tell Son-1. That. Gus. Is.” Inhale, “Crying.”

“Honey, catch your own breath. It will be ok.”

Sure it will. I am in new territory: alone with a cat, saying good-bye to our son for his first deployment overseas, and driving toward El Paso, Texas which dripped with sadness in the air from recent events.

There are security options with a pet in an airport. I could take the cat out of the carrier and walk through the screening device. No way. Or I could request the private room to take the cat out of the container. Sigh.

In the private room, the TSA agents share horror stories, “One time a cat died right here at this check point.”

What?!

“Yep, the owner overmedicated the cat.”

I feel so glad we did not medicate Gus. I zip him back inside with our new bonding and determination. We can do this, Gussie-boy. G-ma will protect you.

At our layover, I bravely allow Gus to walk around an indoor pet spot.

I pose him for a picture near the airport’s USO. “We are on task, buddy.”

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He and I people watch at airport gates.

Inside the carrier is one of Son-1’s worn t-shirts. I explain to the cat that the shirt is for comfort.

“Don’t worry, Gus, your owners will be back for you.”

The t-shirt also connects the dots of smells for the pets waiting at home. Once back in Greater Cincinnati, there was minimal quarantine time and/or hissing by our welcome wagon pets. They recognized Son-1’s scent. They gave us looks like, “WTH? Meow. Ok, fine.”

Gus settled in with cat toys, scratch pads, and favorite play-sleep spots. He marvels at the new sights through our window: chipmunks, leaves, grass, snow flurries. It’s different here.

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And sometimes Gus hangs out near the door patiently waiting for Son-1 and GF to return.

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Posts about Gus are dedicated to his cat parents who are currently deployed separately in the military. Please pray for the men and women who endure loneliness in the name of freedom during this holiday season.

Let there be peace on earth.

GF, Son-1, Gus, & their promise rings.

Gus the Deployed Cat

Our oldest son, let’s call him Son-1, has been in the military 3 years.

After moving out of an Air Force base dormitory and into an apartment in New Mexico, he began considering pet ownership.

He talked the idea over with us and his girlfriend (GF) for several months. Son-1 and GF landed on a cat being the best option for them. “But,” he asked me. “If I have to deploy, Mom, would you come get the cat?”

Would I come get the cat?! The words stuck with me for a while. I convinced myself that Oh, it will be a while before that could happen. And Oh, maybe if he deploys, then the timing will work out that his girlfriend or someone else can care for the animal. I won’t really be needed.

We are the type of family that stick with a pet for life. Ultimately I am glad Son-1 got that memo. Pet care is a serious commitment. He’s turning out to be a responsible guy. I think surely my son won’t need me in this way, but if he does, I said, “Yes. I’ll be there.”

I pause here to mention that when our first pet, an insane nearly untrainable and somewhat aggressive 10 lb. dog passed away, then it was a full 9 years before we were willing to have a pet again.

And–once upon a time, I was not a cat person at all. I harbored years of judgement against cats. What I saw and smelled at various homes growing up was not something I wanted in my life. But then one day in 2010 I fell for the tiniest little kitten in Jackson County. I remember our young boys whispered to Hubby, “Mom. Picked. Up. A. Cat.” And Hubby whispered, “Yeah, something’s going down here. She never does that.”

We brought that sweet baby home.

I bought good cat litter. We established twice per day scoop policies. The next year we gave her a friend. Two cats. Clearly I lost my mind.

Fast forward back to last year, Son-1 and GF chose a cat named Gus from a shelter. He had been left behind by other people once or twice. Gus would be left behind no more.

“He is cross-eyed, Mom,” Son-1 said over the phone. “The vet doesn’t think he’ll do well if he is out in the wild.” So Indoor Gus began a sweet life with his new mom and dad.

And Hubby and I felt somewhat like distant cat grandparents.

The first time I met Gus I observed that because of his eye situation he tilts his head back to see when you walk into a room. It looks like he says, “Whaz up?” every time.

Gus out of NM Window

For several months we enjoyed pics and texts about their life with Gus. They were a happy little pet inclusive family.

Then GF received notice of deployment. She had several months to prepare. The couple thought they’d cuddle with their cat until she left. Then we were all surprised when Son-1 received notice that he also would deploy but with only 3 weeks notice. Eek! Gus moved up on the extended family priority list. I had made the promise, so you know what happened next.

We rapidly picked the 24 hours that I would fly alone 3200 miles round trip on a tight budget to get Gus. Hubby and I couldn’t help but feel like I was going to get our grandchild-cat.

G-ma is coming!

[End of part one. Stay tuned for part two.]

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Gus downward pose
*The story of Gus is posted with permission of his 21 year old active duty military parents.

One Less Thing

I realized my self-talk whispers “ok, one more thing” over and over each time a new daily challenge arrives. This came to my attention when suddenly I experienced a fifteen minute window where I soaked in the joy of One-Less-Thing instead.

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My car dashboard mirrors my life with its scattered warnings. The tire maintenance light is forever “on”. I’ve had 5 nail punctured tires over 5 months.

The service engine light greets me each morning. The oil change guy hooked up a gadget reader to tell me the light is nothing to worry about, but I wonder. The brake light won’t go out even when the emergency brake is released. I stopped looking up what the other lights mean in the manual.

The dashboard reminds me of the running narrative in my mind. It goes something like this: I’m still sick. Stress is not helping me get well. Drop the kid off at school. Go to work. Repeat. My voice refuses to come back. The cat puked. -One more thing. I need to make dinner. Sweep the house. Keep trying to sell the house. Clean the bathroom. Move the laundry. I really should write a letter or send a care package to our deployed son. What just fell off the house?! -One more thing. If you sit down, you’ll fall asleep. Get up. Give Hubby the light weight fork because it is easier for him to manage. Position his shoes in a way that will help him be less likely to fall. Move his phone to his next location so he is not thrown off balance by carrying something when he travels inside the house. Help the remaining kid with college applications. I need to go to Lowe’s. Heavy duty caulk. A new vacuum bag. Take out the trash and recycling. Prepare for presentations at work. Who do I need to call back? Have I followed through on all work tasks? Scoop litter box. Check personal email to see if anyone has responded to my manuscript query letters. Send more queries. Do we have gas in both cars? Pay bills in a way that hopefully does not cause an overdraft. It’s going to be close again this month. Is Hubby breathing? Is the cat breathing? I really need to make a vet appointment. -One more thing. There are other people I want to check in with. I text them. There are other people I would like to be there for. My capacity is too narrow. I can’t believe he hasn’t been able to work for a year. We need some mobility equipment. That will have to wait. The kid needs an eye appointment. -One more thing. I can’t make that work financially. How many hours of sleep can I get if I go to sleep right this minute? Why can’t I fall asleep? And so forth.

I try not to complain out loud. “Just keep swimming” as Dory says. But seriously, if there is a Santa out there who wants to buy our house so we can leave and start over, that would be GREAT.

Today I uprooted this tree growing into our fence and felt delighted by the image. Yes, we are ready to be uprooted.

In an attempt to make extra cash, I placed an ad to be a Pet Sitter. I can squeeze in dog walking and more cat litter scooping. I can love on animals and give neighbors peace of mind. The first response? Someone needs help with a cat until they get out of jail in February. So many thoughts. Bless their heart. Sigh….

One day I will not feel so stuck. I visualize selling a manuscript and being in an affordable and accessible home. One day I’ll be in the land of all three. I have learned hard lessons. I can do better.

This week our youngest got a job. Go kid! And he broke my heart by saying, “You won’t have to worry about Christmas, Mom, ’cause I’ll be able to buy my own presents.” The sentiment is good. The reality hurts.

A new job means he needs new pants. We make a plan to go to the store Wednesday. I secretly stress about how to afford the pants, but I think we can make it work. I don’t want him to know how close we are cutting it.

On Tuesday evening I drag my work bag into the house as the guys say, “We have a surprise.”

There on the kitchen table are new pants one day early. Hubby even used a coupon. In my book, that’s hot. Hubby had a decent afternoon and they worked together. I hear that the wheelchair got stuck in the JCPenny door, and they figured that out too.

In the moment, I physically felt something fall off the to-do list. One. Less. Thing. This felt magical. I soaked in the joy for fifteen intentional minutes. I smiled in my own home. This surprise felt so good!

This was a glimpse that things can be better. Will be better. I will trust the process.

To all those who struggle, I send you a giant cyber hug. You can do this. We can do this. Deep, slow breaths.

And now I must go.

The cat puked.

Love,

Glenna

Bestie Mantra Weekend

Driving 3 hours to her house, I think of all we might do in a 24 hour getaway. I will go as far as karaoke. I’m all in.

Good food and laughter are guaranteed. I need a minute away. Home is stable. This is my chance. Hubby wishes me well with my favorite, “Have fun.”

I appreciate and love my girlfriends so much. They keep me sane. I could listen to stories about what goes on in their lives forever. They listen to me too. And this bestie, Bestie B, was my college roommate. We survived living together, studying together, random outings, heartbreak, and the dawn of adult living. She knows the recipe for my go-to final exams breakfast omelet. She knows I clean to alleviate stress. I have not seen her in many months. Every second will be savored.

After visiting with her daughter and a tour of her new place, we moms go out to eat Mexican. We dive into life stage ponderings and problem solving which leads to a weekend project and of course, duh, the craft store stores. We visit JoAnn’s, Target, Walmart, & Michael’s. Shopping is something I hardly ever do these days. It feels good to wander.

Back at her home, the project ensues. We seek words that will lead to a personal mantra. A mantra is a slogan or phrase that one can use to meditate. It may be for a season or a lifetime. We hope creating a mantra will help steer our brains in a healthy way. Through conversation, we write down positive words and watch for the most important words to elevate. Our intent is to have a ready thought to help with current challenges.

I mean, my gal is an engineer and I consider myself a social scientist, so this was fun. Hours unfold. Words emerge. We are well past our usual bedtimes. I anticipate she will land on 3 separate words, but I am wrong.

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With a sound effect of introduction well after midnight, a word phrase moves to the top of the post it note chart. We agree to sleep on the results and see if the mantra sticks. She has a mantra statement “Manage My Mind”. I have a mantra question “Is that thought helpful?”.

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I wake up in a different place and watch Netflix undisturbed for an hour. As if I wasn’t already in Heaven, then I share in a bestie chocoholic breakfast. Yum.

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Our fresh minds agree that the mantras fit even after sleep. These are our phrases for this season.

We move into craft time. She makes vinyl stencils with her Cricket (Thanks Daughter M for helping Bestie B figure it out over the phone). We place the stencils on decorative wood from Wal-mart ($2.97ea). We use one of the 12 paints in a set from Michael’s ($9.99set) and sponge brushes ($4.97set) to paint the words.

While paint dries we listen to the podcast “My Favorite Murder”. On the second round of paint drying, I nap a little and have to Google the rest of the podcast story. Then it is time to remove the stencils and fill in any missed spots.

I want to add glitter. We find cute large rounds of glitter at Walmart ($3.99). I use Elmer’s Glue to apply the sparkle.

Wah lah! Our mantras are ready to be placed in a spot where we will be reminded daily.

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When it’s time to depart and without discussion, she finds a Ziploc bag to keep my new favorite sign from leaving glitter in my car. #Love

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My mantra “Is that thought helpful?” reminds me of the Bible verse that talks about taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I’ll pay attention to how my brain functions over the next few months with this mantra hanging in my office. I don’t want to get stuck on “thinking” that is not useful. I want to train my brain to keep moving my thoughts and actions in a good direction.

If you get a chance to do a mantra making project, I would love to hear about it. I hope it is as fun and useful to you as it was to Bestie B & me.

Love,

Glenna

Military Mom

20190717_120253Of my many jobs and titles in life, one I didn’t anticipate began about three years ago when our son joined the Air Force. Or I could say four years ago if I count the year of paperwork and appointments that led up to him swearing in officially.

Since 1% of young people choose to be in the military that means there’s only about 1% of us momas inside the tornado of being a military mom also. The tornado involves support, concern, pride, and wondering how your child could be this brave, among other things.

There are private social media groups where I see posts from moms all over the USA updating the “club” with needs and requests. I find myself praying daily for someone somewhere.  A parent or grandparent is sick or a funeral is happening. A baby or a relationship needs divine intervention. The strained hearts over a countless number of miles is endless.

I am struck by how isolating it can be to be in the military and even in my small role as a military mom.

Our family figures out how to visit our son on a tiny budget. Some families never figure out the cost of travel to see a loved one.  We are blessed that our son has adapted well.  But for some in the service, they may struggle to adjust or to make friends and then lose those friends to deployment or a new duty station.

People say “that’s what they signed up for.” And of course they did, but no one really knows what it fully means until they live the life.

On our last visit, I saw several ferral cats that reminded me of the isolation. My heart hurt thinking of the lonely metaphor parallels.

 

The suicide rate is high in the military. It is easy to forget that when any service member is lost for any reason there is a ripple effect which impacts other people and families.

Whether in the military or not, much needs to be done in our nation as a whole to help people get help before it’s too late.

Would you pray with me for the mental health needs of both citizens and service members? Please encourage people in your life to seek support.

* It is ok to not be ok.

* Talking to a professional when you feel blue is a healthy choice.

* Offering to go with someone to an appointment (without judgement) can be helpful.

* Don’t ignore anything serious. Get help when you need it in order to help someone else or to help yourself.

* Don’t ignore gut feelings. Ask the hard questions so you know if someone is safe.

Signature GSE