Life Lessons

It occurred to me today while playing “kitchen” with my third and 3 foot tall, 3-year-old, that our family has once again been unhealthily busy. Instead of serving me a well-balanced meal of plastic food on a tin tray, like she usually does, Haley handed me a brown bag filled with french fries, donuts, a straw, and even a prize. Awareness raised. Lesson learned. Will do better tomorrow night.

les-son: noun or verb: a structured period of time where learning is intended to occur

Therefore, a “Life Lesson” to me= noun/verb (could be “John” or “Rob”, and a host of places, things, or ideas, or fun activities that take place from birth to death that we are intended to learn from. I will add: active participation versus passive recommendation, as well as having a strong desire to change future behavior based on prior failures in order to avoid punishment, injury, or embarrassment improves odds that learning will take place.

The other day Rick came downstairs reporting, “That is it! We are done with pets!” ” I’m serious!” ” After we kill this last hamster we are done!” “No more fish, no more hamsters, and a dog is definitely out of the question… PERMANENTLY!”

As you read in Warm Blooded Love , our family grew by two rodents several months ago. Harrison let’s say loved his to death recently. I remember him asking the pet store owner if his hamster would last longer than his fish. She told him that a hamster should live about 2 years and he seemed content with this idea and was ready to start a long friendship.

I try not to be gender bias, however, while working on my psychology degree, I remember reading a study that I found particularly intriguing. The statistically significant conclusion was: when good happened in a man’s life they tend to base the results or outcome on internal factors that they influenced or caused. However, when bad things happen, they blame external factors beyond their control or having occurred due to chance. Women unfortunately and unsurprisingly to me, quite often say “the stars must have just lined up” instead of taking recognition when good things happen to them; yet often blame themselves when negative outcomes occur that couldn’t have possibly been due to something they did or didn’t do. This study’s results were supported when Harrison reported to me that his hamster must have obviously spent the first year and a half of his life at the pet store and that his playing techniques were not possibly the cause of his death. It had to have been unfortunate timing that was to blame for poor Mickey’s imminent death 6 months following living with us . This Y chromosome rationale did however seem to help my sweetie thru the grieving process. You can read more about some of Harrison and Mickey’s favorite things to do in 12 Things I Should Probably Quit Doing

I discovered that Mickey was not just demonstrating nocturnal sleep patterns one day on my lunch break, when my 6-year-old was at school. Since I didn’t have the time or the stomach to manage the remains while I ate a quick sandwich, I had the opportunity to internally debate my options and to seek counsel. I was torn between letting him experience death outright or taking care of it myself and simply telling him about it. I asked a man I consider wise and he didn’t pause a moment or blink an eye before responding, “He needs to see it.” “Death is a part of learning about life”.

My dad was ultimately right I think, however there were moments I was concerned about what life lessons my 3-year-old had learned that day as I later heard her recap the scenario. “Harrison loved stiff Mickey and that’s why he was crying, but Sophia said not to bend him before he put him in the ground so he would grow straight.” “We put a rock on top of him so none animals will come and eat him up before he is done and can play again!” “Yay!”

Rick was a little hot but cooling down as he explained to me that he discovered that Sophia’s Daisy upstairs didn’t have a seed in her bowl and her water bottle was laying BESIDE the cage. Additionally, I’m sure that if Daisy had the ways and means to get on I would have found a tiny brown box the next day on my front porch containing a hamster sized gas mask in attempts to avoid ammonia asphyxiation. He went on to say, ” I told you I was against the idea and would have nothing to do with them and then I had to sit up there and hold little Daisy’s water bottle so she could get a drink!” “I told you it was a bad idea”.

“Now Rick, kids need to learn from their mistakes. Do you want our grandchildren to be fed and watered and played with like this? They have to learn! I know several adults who without a doubt should have raise a couple more hamsters before moving on to children.
And what about us? No one asked me, but if you’re not pausing daily in a moment of gratefulness that you live with someone who has had the opportunity to hone her life partner skills via multiple failed past relationships, I think the ball is being dropped somewhere.” And what about your first car? I bet as soon as I quit talking you are going to jump up and call my parents, thanking them that I am not learning to drive and responsibly own a car that you’re making monthly payments on.”

My first car was actually my brother’s first used, but new to him car. While it was sub-par to be safe or reliable for out-of-town driving back and forth to his first year of college it had many local driving lessons to teach me. I’m not really sure how my parents came across it for him in the first place. It had been abandoned for years in the back of an old woman’s garage, which kept the mileage low of course. Once the squirrel’s nest was cleaned out of the backseat she was good as new; with adventures to be found and lessons to be learned. I’m not quite sure where I was going with her but when I was behind the wheel I knew I had arrived!

Without a doubt I know that the price tag of our little car did not have a number in the ten thousandths place and the number in the thousands place when rounded could have easily tipped to nothing. I learned how to check my oil, top off my washer fluid, and learned that when the gauge is on “E” you really don’t have long to make sure that you are at the top of Washington Street so you can coast down to Simms Exxon’s self-serve. I’ve learned to jump my car and also how to jump on the end of my ratchet to loosen a stubborn lug nut so I could drive home cockeyed on a small doughnut tire.  After “bumping” a few, I’ve also decided that all mailboxes really should be installed sitting on top of a swiveling hinge so when you back into one they simply bend over and POP back up as you drive on. I learned to allow extra time, on those cold frosty winter mornings, to not only scrape the outside of my windshield but the inside as well. I also had the opportunity for artistic expression in my car; altering the designs and patterns of the thumbtacks we stuck in the ceiling to hold the lining up so that in the summer when we were driving with insufficient AC we could put down the windows and it wouldn’t flap around and hit my passengers in the backseat. Oh the stories I could tell and the places we went together.

Each story started off same…One day we were driving down the road in my baby-blue, Ford Tempo GL 5 speed and the GL stood for good-looking… And this particular story started off just like that…

Living in a small town you don’t think about things like people do in bigger cities. For example, I found it a great help to simply keep my keys in my driver side door pocket. I would simply pitch them in, slam the door leaving it unlocked of course, and go on. I always knew where my keys were. Simple.

Well, every year in August our little town hosts the West Virginia State Fair and with it we get a huge influx of Fair folk. Not to say that these Fair folk aren’t fine Fair folk, I’m just saying you could have the same number of monks and nuns per square foot, who volunteered to take the local elementary school kids on a field trip, and the heat, and the whining, and the waiting in the endless line for your overpriced corn dog could make anyone turn. Not to mention feeling the stimulating Red Hot Chili Peppers’ songs pounding through your body as you go round and round on the Hit 2000; true colors are going to show and a few bad apples are going to be found.

Following one said night at The State Fair, I woke up early at a friend’s house because I was expected at home to learn some life lessons about hard work in the yard, and left my friends asleep in bed. I went out into the driveway and it was empty!?! My car was gone!?! Well, being aware of my flighty attendances even back in High School, I ran back inside to question my friends that yes, we had driven my car home last night and parked it safely in the driveway. Like any good, WV raised girl, one of my friends suggested we look over the hill to see if the emergency brake had come loose like had once happened with her mother’s truck while under her supervision. No such luck. It was gone!

Calling my parents to tell them that my car was missing was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever made. Anyhow, due to my prompt police report and the fact that my car couldn’t exceed 65 miles per hour without the dashboard bouncing up and down so high and shaking the car because I had once, as a new driver at night, underestimated the time required to slow down before making an almost 90 degree turn.  In addition, someone had the brilliant idea to contain their mulch with wooden railway ties and hitting one with my passenger side front wheel shot my friend Mary into the sky landing on my console, throwing her juice all over us and the car. This is possibly what threw my car off alignment and why a piece of wooden railroad tie was found wedged in my frame during its state inspection that I happened to know nothing about at the time when I was asked.  We all knew that my seat belts we’re more decorative than functional but were donned anyway to be legal.

The fine Fair folk were caught surprisingly yet unsurprisingly at the same time in a high-speed chase somewhere in North Carolina and my baby blue Ford Tempo GL 5 speed was returned to me unharmed. I did tell my father that if I was ever stopped in a routine traffic check and some dog sniffed marijuana or worse in my car that he would have to explain to them the story and that I was taking absolutely not responsibility for any paraphernalia found.

So, while I do occasionally approach my car finding it unlocked accidentally I ABSOLUTELY…. rarely leave it running and unattended to drop off or pick up a child.

“Now Rick, aren’t you happy that I have learned these lessons?” “Don’t you want our kids to have these learning opportunities as well and hopefully turn out like me?” “Basically, I am in complete agreement with you that the Leatherman household is still not ready for a dog, but I am however, more than prepared to continue my argument that Harrison and Sophia both obviously need to kill….. mean raise…..a few more hamsters.”

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