Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mickey Lost His Leg and Why That's Okay

     The day after Thanksgiving, I pulled out the Christmas decoration boxes and started to unwrap the ornaments. Annually opening the tissue paper reveals treasures that come with a lot of memories we've collected over the years. One very sentimental ornament is Mickey and Minnie Mouse ice skating. In 1996, Marty and I were engaged and we took a trip with another couple to Pier 39 in San Francisco where we found Mickey and Minnie. It represented our first Christmas together as we anxiously waited for our wedding date to arrive the following Spring. It was old school Disney style, colors muted making it look a little more antique. And for 17 years, it made its way to the top of our tree. Every year I would tell the kids the significance of it. I even left the original tag on it to make it more collectable, not that we'd ever sell it. 
     Yesterday, Mickey and Minnie emerged from their tissue paper. I held them up, nostalgia filling the room, when instantly my heart sank. One of Mickey's legs had broken off. NOOOOOO!!! I had preserved this ornament all this time and wanted it to be a cherished heirloom someday, and now Mickey was an amputee. I immediately began to search through the box they were stored in to see if I could find the missing limb. I fell just short of asking God if I couldn't find it, could He grant a Christmas miracle and grow back another one. 
     In my disappointment, I wrapped the skating mice back up in their tissue paper and put them back in the box that was headed for the attic.  Later that night, I realized that was the wrong call. Legless Mickey probably represents our marriage better than before he was maimed. We've been battered and broken. We've taken our hard knocks. Life has thrown us some curves and storms have come, but the biggest revelation that came from our now imperfect ornament was we're not... perfect. However, we are blessed, we are healing, we are forgiven, we are learning. And we're trying to be like Mickey and Minnie regardless; side by side, smiling, and still skating through life. 
     I don't know where Mickey's leg is and I don't know if I'll ever come across it, but I just might crawl back up into the attic and bring the mice back down to be placed on the top of the tree where they belong. Sorry that I temporarily needed you to be perfect, Mickey. Hope no one expects that of me. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happiness Is...

     I realized I had a lot of anxiety today. Sheesh! The WORLD seems to be having an anxiety attack right now. So much turmoil and unrest. I needed a pick-me-up. On my desk sits a first edition of the bestselling book Happiness is a Warm Puppy by Charles Shulz. I consulted this deeply philosophical work for some cheer tonight.

"Happiness is sleeping in your own bed." Facing a trip overseas, I say a hearty "Amen."
"Happiness is a chain of paper clips." One of the first things I ever collected were paper clips in 6th grade. I still have them in my pencil box that I saved all these years. Paper clips... 
"Happiness is being able to reach the doorknob." Apparently I have been taking this one for granted for  the last 43 years or so.
"Happiness is a good old fashioned game of hide and seek." One of my best memories on Reimche Drive is of summer nights and playing Hide and Seek with the kids in the neighborhood. Yes.
"Happiness is finding out you're not so dumb after all." Yes. Yes, it is. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Smuggler's Blues

     This one is a tad hard for me because its a little embarrassing. A year ago this month, Marty and I were at a minister's retreat home. Beautiful grounds up in Taylorsville, CA surrounded by mountains. Picturesque little home in the style of a bed and breakfast. Several pastors and spouses occupying the residence for some time of refreshing and decompressing. We had called ahead and asked if they could accommodate some specific needs for we were both on a no sugar/no flour diet since joining Overeaters Anonymous. At every meal, the cook would present us with our special dishes that were tweaked a little, so I took it upon myself to explain to our new friends why we were dining differently. Marty had already been in the program a year before I started, so she was pretty established. Up to that point, it had been six months of falling off the wagon and getting back on, and falling off again. I was struggling to break up with candy, soda, and fast food, my abusive lovers.
     Though the cook was kind to oblige our special requests, she was also my tormentor because each night she would put out fresh baked goods to be enjoyed whenever we wanted to help ourselves. So, in the light of day, I was eating my abstinent meals, but under the blanket of night, I heard them calling... calling... Marty had fallen asleep, it was late, most should be in bed. So I ventured out to the dining room where the little lovelies were serenading me from. I looked outside to see if the coast was clear. I listened for anyone coming down the stairs, I checked the sun porch that was adjacent to the dining room, and then I made my move. I piled six or seven brownies onto a napkin and fled for the common bathroom in the hallway. I locked the door and uttered these words: "This is crazy." Then I ate as many as I could, feeling so out of control, feeling the insanity of smuggling brownies into a bathroom to eat in secret. This is what my life had come to? Sad. Yes, it was very crazy.
     When we got home, I told my sponsor what happened. After I confessed, he, pardon the pun, ate my lunch. He said I could live that way if I wanted, sneaking brownies and binging in a bathroom, but he reminded me that I had told him that my feet hurt, my knees hurt, I had high blood pressure, off the chart triglyceride levels, I wanted to be around for my kids, I wanted to be healthy, and many other reasons for there not to be another brownie incident.
     Today is my anniversary. One year ago, I had my last taste of sugar and flour which, to me, are two very addictive ingredients in food that cause me to want as much as I can get. I need to avoid them at any cost.  I know not everyone battles like I do with eating, but for those who do, you don't have to. I'm going to be very transparent (as if I haven't exposed myself enough already): I feel for those who fight with food and it shows. I am not writing this because I have seen anything recently so I have no one in particular in mind, but I am sad when I see someone who is struggling with their weight post a picture of themselves on facebook having a rich dessert or a fatty meal. I can say that, because I have struggled, too. I didn't need to post pictures of my problem because everyone could see it on me when I was 50 pounds heavier. I am not trying to shame anyone. I am simply sharing out of my brokenness, hoping it connects with someone else's and offers them hope.
     So this is how I want to celebrate my anniversary. If anything in this blog post resonates with you, email me or private message me on facebook. I would be happy to share with you more about my journey and how much better life is now compared to when I was a brownie smuggler. Take good care of yourself. You're worth it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dad: Best Name Ever

     I've been called a lot of things, especially growing up with the last name "Couch." Shane Sofa, Shane Loveseat, Armchair, Hide-a-bed... I've heard them all. And "Shane" rhymes with approximately five thousand, four hundred and seventy three other words in the English language. Someone from my childhood used to chant, "Shane McBain, sleeps in the rain, and is a pain, and has no brain." Yeah, real mature, Gramma. Yet, the best way I've ever been addressed is "Dad."
     I've always wanted to be a father. I became an uncle at the age of 7 so I pretty much grew up with nieces and nephews coming into my life ever since then. I loved being an uncle, so I knew I would love being a dad when my time came. I was right.
     When my kids were little, it was a gift to me to walk in the door after being at the office and hearing their little voices cry out with genuine excitement, "Daddy!"as they rushed me for hugs.
     One thing I always looked forward to after becoming a parent was having a conversation with my kids. I wanted to be able to banter with them. I loved the baby years, but I longed for somewhat intelligent discussions. Some of my favorite times were spent walking my firstborn to kindergarten and chatting with her along the way, then picking her up from school and hearing about her day. On one walk home, Julia said, "Dad..." (there's that name), "... I'm writing a story in class. Do you know what the title is?" My guess was, "'My Dad's the Greatest Dad in the Whole World'?" "'The Mermaid With Magical Powers.'" "Oh." (I was close).
     I still can't believe I've been blessed with three exceptional children. Sometimes they call for me and say, "Dad?" In that moment, silently and to myself, I relish the fact that I am their dad, that my name is "Dad."
     All that being said, Father's Day is my favorite date on the calendar, not necessarily for the gifts and the attention, though that is enjoyed and greatly appreciated. I love the day simply because I have been lucky enough to be a dad. It has been my privilege and honor to change messy diapers, feed, burp, and receive spit up, sit up late at night during sickness, rush to the emergency room, walk to school, go on field trips, attend talent shows, cheer at ball games, pray with and teach Scriptures to, worry about, yell at, cry over, laugh with, miss intensely during travel, apologize to, help with homework and projects, volunteer in classrooms, and all because I have the name of "Dad." For all that, I bless the day that Julia, my "Baby Girl," Ella, my "Sister," and Max, my "Buddy Boy," came into my life and turned my world upside down in the best possible way.
     So this Father's Day, I am going to revel in my moniker... "Dad," because I got to be one. Lucky and blessed me.
     (For another time, a post about growing up with the first name "Tracy.")


Monday, June 2, 2014

Not a Sunshine Day

     Someone I grew up with passed away today. She has always been there as long as I can remember. I'd come home after school and spend an hour with her each weekday. She was a big part of my childhood. Her name was Ann, but most people knew her as "Alice." Alice Nelson, live-in housekeeper, girlfriend to Sam, surrogate parent to the Brady 6, friend to all.
     I truly was sad to learn that Ann B. Davis had died. The Brady Bunch was a show that helped me escape the chaotic and tumultuous 70's, and I'm not just talking about the era. The decade was bad enough culturally speaking, the fashion, the music... Come on, "A Horse With No Name"? I fail to see the brilliance of that two-note versed song. And "Afternoon Delight"? Wait, I kind of like that one, but for the harmonies only. More specifically, I look back on that time span while I lived on Reimche (Rem-key) Drive and peeking through the windows of my mind... let's just say it wasn't very Brady-like.
     So, those opening notes to that classic theme song would take me away to a two-storied house with an astroturf lawn, and let me forget for a while that there was unscripted reality swirling around me. The nine people living in that home without a toilet genuinely cared for each other (though I've noticed over my 40 years of watching reruns and dvd's that no one on that show ever uttered the words "I love you" to another family member, so I guess they're not perfect). They pulled together when bullies would tease little girls with lisps. They tried to solve each other's problems like performing on an amateur hour on TV to pay for an over-priced anniversary present (those kids always ended up on TV somehow!). They covered for each other by hiding goats in the attic. Squabbles over missing Kitty Carry-All dolls always turned into understanding. Accidents that caused orange hair were eventually forgiven. They took in wayward cousins even at the expense of killing their show.
     It's a show, I know. With writers and actors and sets. None of it was real. But for this elementary aged kid, it was a great place to imagine living. And what's wrong with a little escapism?  And what's wrong with still watching episodes 40 years later? It is not that I need to escape to Clinton Way with a dropped "y"at this stage in life, but it helps to know that I had the Brady's to tune in to when memories of childhood can be a little sad.
     So, so long Ann B.. You were a part of something meaningful though it may have seemed mundane at the time. Thank you for being America's housekeeper. Nobody makes pork chops and applesauce like you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Stroll Down Jelly Bean Lane

     It starts in September and goes all the way through April. Candy season. And I was a fan. From that first fun size chocolate bar to that last jelly bean purchased for 50% off after Easter. And as long as there was any holiday sugar left in the clearance shopping cart at Safeway, I would be a consumer.  Here it is, April, and Target is filled with baskets and bunnies... and jelly beans. This was my favorite month of Candy Season because I love jelly beans. Every name brand that specilaizes in confectionry puts out a jelly bean. That used to thrill me to no end. It wasn't that there were so many to choose from because there was no choosing one over another. All had to be sampled and then favorites bought over and over again. Brachs Spiced Jelly Bird Eggs, Nerds Jelly Beans, Hawaiian Punch Jelly Beans, as well as Starburst, Jolly Rancher, and Sweet Tart Jelly Beans. I tell ya, from the time they cleared out the Valentines Day wares, I was stocked up. It's a wonder I have any teeth left.
     I was in Target today, and I decided to take a stroll down the Easter aisle to look in on my old friends. Of course there was a type I had never tried yet, Laffy Taffy Jelly Beans. I picked up the bag, looked at the contents, and put it back. I silently said hello to my two favorites, Nerds and Spiced. And then I walked away. That was probably very confusing for them because I was so faithful in bringing them home every year, ever since I earned a paycheck. But things are different now. I thought all those years I wanted them, but I realized once I tried to give them up that I needed them, and it wasn't a healthy relationship. I thoght I was choosing them, but they were actually controlling me. Someone had to say it was over, and it was me.
     So good-bye, Jelly Bean Lane, and Brachs Cinnamon Jelly Hearts, and Peppermint Christmas Nougats, and any wrapper that has the words "Fun Size" on it. We had many years together, too many. I've had enough for a lifetime or two, so this is where we part, for I just took my last stroll down Jelly Bean Lane, and how sweet it is.