Saturday, May 9, 2009

Real Men Don’t Use Baby Wipes!

Quad riding was one of the fun activities available at a recent family reunion I attended in Arizona. The reunion was held at the Bumble Bee Ranch which is nestled between Sedona and Prescott in a 2,000 foot mountain valley.

Quad riding is dusty business. Riders sometimes wear goggles, but they almost always wear a bandana over their mouth and nose to keep the dust out. Even still, after the ride, a trip to the bathroom is usually needed to clean up a bit.

In the men’s room at the Bumble Bee, I took a few pictures to help explain this clean-up procedure.

The man wipes…

The Sink and Man Wipes...

The truth of the matter (side view of the man wipes)…

Shhhh... Sometimes real men do use baby wipes, we just rename them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Serendipity, Providence, or a Friendly Universe

Occasionally, I am a knucklehead. (I have witnesses!) And often, I'm blessed.

While waiting around for school to let out, I described the student I was waiting for to another co-worker. "This 6th grader weighs 193 lbs. and is about 5' 9". I need his dad to sign some papers."

While waiting for this dad, I got to talking to another co-worker about some help she needed on an assignment for a class in her Masters' program. While I was talking, I saw the student come in, but I didn't see him leave. I didn't see his dad sign him out.

(It's not always fun being a knuckle-head.)

I would have missed my signature-obtaining opportunity except that the first co-worker was watching me missing the whole thing!

"Hey, Don! Isn't that the parent you're waiting for?"

"Duh!" (I ran out the door and got my signature.)

My co-worker came by my classroom later to laugh at me up-close-and-personal. I laughed too.

Her help was needed and appreciated. (One of my affirmations is: I can reach my goals, but I can't reach them alone. I need God and others.)

But this was just a small scale "miracle." A bigger one happened at my family reunion. Let me elaborate...

At the reunion I was nursing a bad back from a biking injury. On the last morning, of the last day of the reunion, I approached the wife of my cousin's son to ask for help: she's a licensed massage therapist.

Katrina, the therapist, helped my back and my mind. She's trained in a sort of acupressure massage called Jin Shin Do, in addition to Swedish massage. This training, and her gift for healing, enabled her to find long-buried tensions in my muscles.

She found the pressure points associated with grief, and I was able to cathartically release tensions of grief that I'd been unknowingly holding on to for over 12 years. (To say I cried would be a gross understatement.)

What brought about this wonderful meeting? My back injury! When all was said and done, I knew why I had hurt my back: I needed to meet Katrina and learn a few things. Plus, I needed healing.

A week or two ago I had a disturbing dream: I was high on a cliff, rock climbing towards an exit with my first wife. She slipped and fell several stories, landed in a shallow pool, broke her neck, and quickly died. I couldn't do a thing. I couldn't get myself to leave the cliff. Then I woke up. (Nobody ever dies in my dreams, at least until this one. It was not a nice dream.)

Twelve years ago, at the last family reunion, my first wife discovered a lump in her belly that turned out to be pancreatic cancer. That discovery led to life-altering changes that culminated in her death 5 1/2 years later.

Driving home from the reunion on Sunday, I remembered the dream... and understood it: Someone I loved deeply had died, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That was sad, very sad.

When did that downward spiral of sadness start? At a family reunion. At some sub-conscious level I was dreading going to the reunion, but I went.

Providentially, at last weekend's reunion, I was able to release hidden, pent-up grief I had held on to, because at the time, I needed to "be strong for the kids." I did grieve at the time, but apparently, I had held back.

I hurt my back bike-riding, but God was moving me towards a rendezvous for my benefit. God is good. He loves us and cares for us. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and if we let Him lead us, He will bring us to places of healing and wholeness.

Who knew? The children knew! They're the ones who sing, "He's got the whole world, in His hands..."

Call it what you like, serendipity, Providence, or a Friendly Universe, but I'm grateful that I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

"I can reach my goals, but I can't reach them alone. I need God and others."

Thank you Katrina.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reunion time: a family re-unites!

I learned something over the last weekend: reunions can serve to unite and re-unite. You guessed it... I went to a family reunion.

I have 36 first cousins, 33 are on one side of the family: my mom's side.

A year ago, three of the cousins started organizing a family reunion: the first since 1991. Most of the Schmitz clan lives in north central Iowa, but some of us live in the Southwest. The Croxton Kids, Aunt Glennys' children, put together a long weekend at a dude ranch setting in Bumblebee, Arizona. About 40 miles north of Phoenix, at about 2,000 feet elevation, the ranch is set in a mountain valley surrounded by saguaro cacti, open range, and ancient Indian petroglyphs.

But the highlights were not in the surroundings, activities, accommodations, nor the setting: it was in the people. (People came from many places: Australia, California, Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado and Iowa.)

I caught up with cousins who I'd not seen in 35 years, or 20 years, or 1/2 year. I met the grown kids of some cousins, and grandkids of others.

It was enlightening, enlivening, and a bucket load of fun!

Because of a greater shared past, family reunions outshine school reunions. In the 1920's and 30's my grandparents had a brood of 12 children. Eleven are still alive, four showed up, along with a dozen or so cousins, and a dozen or so of their kids, and a half dozen of their kids' kids. Forty some of us were there. Some of us were reuniting, but some were uniting for the first time. We all share a bond of family that runs over 90 years back. It was special.

If you ever get the chance to attend a family reunion of your own, go. It's worth the effort and expense. Like the old song says, "Make new friends, but keep the old: one is silver and the other's gold."

I made some new friends. I reunited with some old friends. And the best part of it is... they are my family: silver and gold.