Beginning the Small School Transition…

At 8:30 one morning last week, I got a call from the lovely Larrabee Elementary “lunch lady.”

“Hello?” I asked when I answered my cell phone. I was actually parked just outside the school, having just dropped off Eva and Vincent.

“Hi,” she replied. “I’ve sent a note home with Eva for a few days regarding her overdue lunch balance.”

“Oh!” I said. “Ugh! Sorry about that! I didn’t see the note! I will run a check in today.”

“I’ve let the children charge lunches even with an outstanding balance,”she said.

“But I have to tell you,” she continued, “That I’ve spoiled all of our children. I refuse to serve them the “alternative lunch” when their balance is overdue. But this won’t happen at their new school. They will have to keep on top of their balance. I’ve spoiled our children here. But I just wanted to let you know.”

“Oh, goodness!” I said. “Yes, of course. For one thing, I will put more money on Eva’s account. I will also talk to her again about being responsible for her account. Thank you!”

I felt sort of sad when I hung up the phone. I also felt grateful for our lunch lady, who has so patiently waited and helped over the years as thousands of kindergarteners learned lunch numbers. Who has given a pass to those whose balance was overdrawn. Who recently, and  so sweetly, passed my two-year-old, Valerie, a cup of cereal when we joined Eva and Vincent for breakfast before school one morning.

When Valerie was first born, I would call our school school each day. “We will be late!” I’d say. Or, “I told Eva I’d pick her up, but now she needs to ride the bus home! Val is still sleeping!”

“No problem,” our secretary would reply. “I’ll let Mrs. Wilson know. Thank you for calling, and take care.”

I recently called our school to find out if enrichment activities were still on this week, the week before spring break.

“Didn’t you get the schedule?” someone asked me. “It’s on the schedule. Didn’t you get it?”

“Uh…yes…I’m sure it’s here somewhere, but I’m not sure where…so I thought I’d just call…” I said.

We got it sorted out. However,  I missed the person who sat at the desk before our school was slated for closure. Who would have told me with enthusiasm, “Yes! All activities are on this week. Any other questions I can answer?”

As I hung up, it just reminded me this is something I must get used to. So many of us in our current environment are used to life in a small, loving, close-knit public school. We are used to being “spoiled.”

We must now begin to transition…children and parents alike.

Celebrating Those Who Have Returned From Sea, Mourning Those Who Will Not.

George and the crew have returned from the 2014 Dungeness crab season. I have not yet gone down to the harbor to snap pictures of the post-season gear work that consists of getting 500 pots off the boat, stacking them in lockers at the harbor, and a variety of other tasks. This year’s crab season was not great, as there were very few crab around.

The upside is that George said there were many “recruits.” Recruits are all the female and young crab the guys throw back into the ocean. These crab indicate a potentially boom season in the next couple of years. Fishing seasons run in cycles, and we don’t get too upset about a slow season, knowing it will come back around as it always does.

The important thing is that everyone arrived home safe and alive. You never know, when you wave the boat off at the start of a season, if that will be the last time you see one of the guys you are waving to. Without fail, I go to the harbor and wave and hug and send the boat off  at the start of every single season, because you just never know.

Tragically, the Oregon commercial fishing community will not receive one of their fishermen home this year. Just last week, our sister fishing community lost one of their own to the Bering Sea. Eric Eder, who by accounts from every single person in the Oregon fishing family was an upstanding, awesome, fun, friendly, wonderful man, leaves behind a beautiful wife and young family. You can read more here.

This hurts everyone. Personally, news like this always causes me to reflect back to 1997, when my own brother-in-law, Danny, was lost to the sea during the Alaska crab season. Married just a few months, my sister’s vibrant and exuberant husband was never found. I’ve written a bit about Danny here. I have never shared much about the grief of our families on my blog or otherwise, because the grief is so private and painful.

However, I will never forget going about my regular morning all those years ago. Then, the phone call. The panic. The confusion. The denial. The hope that it was all a mistake. The realization. The horror.

The fact that another family is experiencing this right now leaves us all with a heavy heart. We welcome and celebrate the fishermen who have returned safe to the harbor, but mourn the ones who will never return. We cry for  their wives, their children, their families, their friends.

And please, don’t forget the Lady Cecelia. Just two years ago, in March of 2012, I wrote about my thoughts concerning the tragedy of this Oregon trawler that disappeared into the sea in a matter of seconds off the Washington Coast, taking all four crew members with her. You can read that post here.

If you are able, I encourage you to take a moment and give to the family of Eric Eder. Donations can be made here.

Imagine if you were a fishing wife one moment and a fishing widow the very next. If financial giving is not an option, please pray for Eric Eder and his family. I can tell you that time does not do much to ease the excruciating pain of a fisherman lost, but every little bit of kindness, love, and support does help.

God Bless, Eric Eder.

God Bless, Eric Eder.

 

Great Wolf Lodge and Smooth 70′s iTunes Radio

Each week, I begin doing laundry on Sunday mornings. By Monday afternoon, I’ve finished washing and drying laundry for four (not including George). I toss all of the fresh and clean laundry into baskets in the hallway. I like to walk by and observe the baskets of clean clothes until Wednesday morning, when I fold and pile it all on my bed. At bedtime on Wednesday night, I move the piles neatly to the floor. I admire my floor piles for a couple of days until Friday, when at last, I finally put all the folded laundry away in various dressers and drawers throughout the house.

That’s basically my laundry routine. Yes, I stretch it out. There’s just so much! Eva’s outfits are many and layered.  Vincent insists on wearing a new pair of pajamas each night. I have two set of clothes each day; workout and regular. And let’s not even mention two-year-old Bunny and what she goes through each week!

This week, though, I’m hustling more than usual. I’m trying to get the laundry done, folded, and put away by tomorrow morning because come tomorrow, we are leaving town! I’m so excited. We are making our annual trek to the Great Wolf Lodge. We go every year about this time. The holidays are long over, spring has yet to arrive, and it’s just time to get out of town. G takes a break from the crab season and we go. Some years I have met him at the Lodge and some years he travels with the kids and me.

I got a text message from G last night telling me he’d be home to travel with us this year, which takes some pressure off of me as far as preparations go. I just love going to the Great Wolf Lodge. I am not one to go on the slides or have the giant bucket of water dump on my head (for one thing, I have Valerie to care for, and for another, I have a shoulder that dislocates. Also, I don’t like buckets of water dumped on my head). Still, I love going. We park the car in the lot and never look at it again for three or four days. Meals are taken care of. Housekeeping is taken care of. Kids’ entertainment is taken care of.

We walk around the grounds in sweats and flip flops, adult sippy cups in hand, watching the kids have a great time and having a great time ourselves. Some of my extended family is coming this year, too, as they’ve done in years past. I can’t wait to get there!

After I got home from the gym this morning, I began folding this week’s laundry. As I fold, I like to listen to the Smooth 70s station on iTunes Radio. Don’t laugh! It’s calming. A little James Taylor, Don McLean, and Van Morrison can do a girl some good. Anyway, as I was folding laundry today, G was home and nearby. When the song “Brandy” by Looking Glass (1972) began to play, I sang along. “Brandy” has long been a favorite of mine.

“I love this song,” I said.

“I always have, too,” G replied, surprising me.

All of these years, and I didn’t know we both liked the same song.

See you in a few! Great Wolf, here we come.

Brandy

There’s a port on a western bay
And it serves a hundred ships a day.
Lonely sailors pass the time away
And talk about their homes.

And there’s a girl in this harbor town
And she works layin’ whiskey down.
They say “Brandy, fetch another round,”
She serves them whiskey and wine.

The sailors say “Brandy, you’re a fine girl; 
What a good wife you would be.
Yeah, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea.”

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the North of Spain
A locket that bears the name
Of the man that Brandy loves.

He came on a summer’s day,
Bringin’ gifts from far away.
But he made it clear he couldn’t stay;
No harbor was his home.

The sailor said “Brandy, you’re a fine girl;
What a good wife you would be.
But my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea.”

Yeah, Brandy used to watch his eyes
When he told his sailor stories.
She could feel the ocean foam and rise;
She saw its rage and glory.

But he had always told the truth; Lord, he was an honest man.
And Brandy does her best to understand.

At night when the bars close down,
Brandy walks through a silent town
And loves a man who’s not around.
She still can hear him say:

She hears him say “Brandy, you’re a fine girl;
What a good wife you would be.
But my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea.”

“Brandy, you’re a fine girl;

What a good wife you would be.

But my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea.”

More Than Just a Pink Suede Coat

I have been dealing with sleep disturbances for quite some time now. I can pretty much count on waking up from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. every early morning. I’ll start thinking about my children, my marriage, our school, whatever transpired the day before, and what is coming up, for good or not-so-good.

The other night, though, I suddenly burst awake, startled by something different. My coat! My pink, suede, leather coat with lamb’s wool. Where on earth did that coat go?

Ugh! I totally forgot to clean it up from the dry cleaners…four years ago! I remember the day I dropped it off. It was not at my regular dry cleaners, but it was close to where my then-four-year-old Eva took ballet. While Eva was at ballet, I walked with three-year-old Vincent down a block and dropped off my coat at the cleaners.

I have been known to leave things behind, but I usually figure out what’s missing within a week or two. But four years?

I called the dry cleaners this afternoon. I began with “This is the craziest phone call you’ll likely receive today, but…” and went on to explain.

“Hold on,” the woman said. I heard voices in the background. I didn’t hold my breath; for one thing, it had been four years. For another, the coat is not one I would wear around town today, and it wouldn’t even fit if I wanted to wear it. I guessed it really didn’t matter whether they still had it or not.

“Yes!” she said. “We have it!”

“Are you serious?” I said. “No way.”

“Yes,” she replied. “I won’t charge you. There is some sun damage to one of the sleeves from being in the window so long.”

“Oh,” I said. “No, of course I will pay you. That is not your fault. I left the coat there for four years. I will come and get it!”

I smiled in disbelief as I hung up the phone. You know what? It’s true that the coat will not fit me now. And it’s true I would likely not wear it around ever again.

I began to reflect. When I was 28 and desperate for a baby, this is the coat I wore when I traveled from Ballard to Renton to take line dancing lessons with my sister at a wonderful big old barn. Having just had surgery and diagnosed infertile, after years of trying to become pregnant, this is the coat I wore when I cried each week alone along that drive from Ballard to Renton.

I wore this coat and my gold-tipped cowgirl boots along the drive to the line dancing lessons each week, tearful, regretful, mourning the children I would never have, blaming myself, and hopeless about my future as a would-be mother.

I mourned that whole winter following surgery and my diagnosis. The one thing that made me feel better was meeting my sister and line dancing. I remember smiling and laughing together as we learned dances to Suds in the Bucket by Sara Evans and Christmas Cookies by George Strait. After class, I would get in my car and drive alone home to Ballard, where I would resume blaming and regretting and mourning.

Thank God  for doctors who can at times work past infertility with hope and a prayer. Thank God for my first miracle baby, Eva, who arrived the following year. And my second miracle, Vincent. And years and years later, little Valerie.

My pink suede coat does not fit any longer. I wouldn’t wear it even if it did. But it is there waiting for me to pick up, and I am going to go get it.

Always Looking And Learning Along The Journey

I like to stay alert to what is going on in the world directly around me, remaining on the lookout for messages I need to pay special attention to and heeding lessons I’m meant to learn.

I wrote a lot last year about all of the (mostly unpleasant) changes that kept being thrown my way. I won’t rehash them all again, because at this point I am just grateful that things are starting to calm down and 2014 is getting off to a much smoother start. Yes, I’ve faced difficulty and discouragement before, but never in such a relentless manner. Needless to say, I learned a lot of lessons I won’t soon forget.

On Facebook recently, two messages came through my feed that struck a chord with me. They weren’t directed at me specifically, but I took special note.

The first was from my friend, Katie, who posted a picture of a beach at sunset with the caption “Relax. Nothing is under control.”

The second was from my friend, Molly, who wrote “An amazing part of having faith in the Divine is the reassurance and peace that comes from knowing that everything will work out for good.”

As I move into this New Year, I am also forming my writing plan. Each year, I set publication goals,  jot down essay ideas, and see what I can realistically accomplish as a busy seasonally-single stay-at-home-mother of three young children. I had a telephone conference with my writing mentor, Christina Katz, who has been indispensable to me these last many years as I have transitioned my writing career from that of a gal with nothing but time to travel and write, to that of a wife and mother.

We discussed many things over the hour, and I took five pages of notes. Christina helped me see that some of my goals were simply not realistic and would take me in too many new directions, which would only create more chaos. She showed me where I could simplify and streamline. We also talked about steering clear of toxic people and negative situations that would also pull me in directions away from what I want for my family, my writing, and me. Here is some of what she said:

“Draw a circle around your family and let the rest go. You are the orchestrator of your life and you decide where your energy goes. Don’t be thrown off track or taken out of your process. Don’t fall into all of the potholes you come across; run around them, jump over them, do any and everything to avoid them. Don’t let the world toss you around like a ship at sea.”

Thank you so much, Christina!

Yesterday, I got to read at our local bookstore from the most recent anthology in which I have an essay. The anthology is called “Journeys.” Although my essay was  about an event from over a decade ago, in which I suddenly changed course and decided to go down a different road from the one I was on, I think the title “Journeys” is relevant to each year of our lives.

George is at sea, so he was unable to attend the reading. My parents came and I also brought my two oldest children with me. In fact, my eight-year-old, Eva, stood right next to me as I read into the microphone. I held her close as I read, hoping she would always remember her mommy this way.

Not her mommy who is so often torn in many different directions, but her mommy who likes to write stories. Her mommy who likes to read books. Who especially likes to read from her own stories in books, with family and good friends in the audience and her firstborn girl by her side.

 

Website Malfunction

Hello! A quick note to let you know that some of the links and images have disappeared on the pages of this blog. I am currently trying to get this fixed. Thank you for your patience and I apologize for the inconvenience!

Bon Voyage, G and Happy Birthday, Valerie!

These weeks are flying by. Even my 8-year old, Eva, said as much last night. I don’t know where the time is going but I wish it would slow down for a minute!

George and the crew steamed out of the harbor a week ago, Westport-bound for the January 12, 2014 dungeness crab pot “Dump Day.” G had a couple of days to spare after arriving in Westport, so he drove home for one day to attend an important meeting regarding boundaries for the schools our children will attend following the closure of our own dear school. I was glad G came home for that. He even went and blew up a map of the proposed boundaries, put it on poster board, and glued a printout on the back that explained why we were (are) contesting the proposed boundaries.

But he went away the next day, and it has been just the children and me since then. Back to business as usual! Of course we miss G very much and think about him all the time, but this is what we are used to!  I am accustomed to being on my own.

George is out in the Pacific Ocean dumping 500 crab pots, picking them back up, running back to town, running back out to sea, and trying to catch a couple of hours of sleep in between. In fact, I just heard from George and he said to not expect to hear from him for a week or more, as he will be well out of cell service. G and I are sort of old school; we don’t Skype, Facetime, or even simply call much when he’s at sea. He is busy working on the boat, and I am busy working at home. He always calls when it is a good time for him, though, and I always answer. This is the best system for us and the one we’ve used  the past fourteen years!

Our youngest daughter, Valerie (aka Bunny), turns 2 on Sunday. I am celebrating her birthday this evening with my  family and some cake. I just love this little doll, Valerie Joy. We all do! She was such a surprise, such a wonderful blessing.  We laugh at the way she runs down the hallway and adore the way she is starting to talk and give kisses. Even after two years, we still can’t believe we have somebody as young as Bunny in the house! We love dressing her up and giving her baths, and picking her up for hugs and kisses out of her crib every morning. Little Valerie is just too precious, as are her brother and sister. I don’t know what I would do without any of them.

IMG_1395

G and the Dungeness crab crew, 2014.

IMG_1399

IMG_1370

IMG_1375

Happy 2nd Birthday, Bunny!

IMG_1403

My Personal Top Memories & Moments From 2013

I thought it would be a fun project on New Year’s Eve to make up a list of some of my personal favorite happenings of 2013. In a year that has included a bit more disappointment than in years past, I knew there were still so many sweet and fun occasions to remember! Here are a few of my personal favorites from 2013:

Eva Making a Larrabee Bumblebee for Vincent.  

Vincent was surprised on his first day of kindergarten this year with a handmade Larrabee Bumblebee from Eva. Eva drew the bee at the end of last school year and gave it to our kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Wilson, to save over the summer and present to Vincent on his first day at Larrabee Elementary.

Vincent and I were both taken aback and grateful for the thoughtfulness of 7-year old Eva, who planned three months in advance for this surprise. I was also grateful for Mrs. Wilson, who kept Eva’s picture for months and remembered to present it to Vincent on his first day.

V & E Kinder Bee

The Larrabee Elementary Neighborhood and Community Coming Together.

We are all well aware at this point of the ridiculous, senseless, and offensive closure of our little elementary school, slammed shut by our school board and superintendent, without any conscience or regard whatsoever. However, our Larrabee Elementary community coming together in a valiant, energetic, ceaseless, honorable way to save our school and fight for what was right for our children and neighborhood earns a top spot in my favorites list of 2013.

Kitchen/Family Room Remodel.

George and I bought a house that was built in 1984. It is a solid house and plenty spacious for us all, but has obviously required a bit of updating. Over the last seven years we have replaced carpet with hardwoods, remodeled bathrooms, painted walls, improved outdoor railings and front steps, and even dug into the earth for a nine-month project that resulted in the creation of an entire lower level of living space (otherwise known as the man cave).

Finally, finally, I convinced G it was time to tackle the one last remaining project….the kitchen/family room. It will be the last project, the last big money spent on the house, the grande finale. I finally get to say goodbye to my yellow walk-in closet galley kitchen and say hello to a modern, open-concept kitchen and family room. I’m so excited. This won’t happen until after the crab season, but that’s fine. We have builders, we have the design. We’re ready. YES!

Joining The Gym.

I did not expect to retire from teaching Jazzercise this year, but that is in fact what I did. I have to say that while there are many aspects of teaching Jazzercise that I miss, I love the gym. I have enjoyed taking a variety of different classes, from Zumba to Step to Body Pump to Body Combat to SHRED. I have also enjoyed cycling and jogging to my own iPod music set to shuffle. I needed to start dropping some pounds (three children and nearing 40 is a tough nut to crack) and my body was no longer responding to my usual exercise. The going is slow, but I’ve managed to drop about eight pounds so far at the gym all while enjoying the classes, the staff, and gym community. I also have much more stress-free, quality time for my children and their needs without the distraction of learning routines and planning classes.

Pacific Marine Expo.

Otherwise known as “Fish Expo,” this is always a huge event and kick off to the holiday season for my family. Thousands upon thousands of commercial fishermen, thousands of vendors, hundreds of friends. Writers, poets, authors, captains, crew, families. My old and dear friends from National Fisherman magazine, my fishing friends from real life and my fishing friends online. All together under one downtown convention center roof in Seattle to meet, greet, and have a drink. I also got to speak with a group of commercial fishermen’s wives on our second-annual panel, called “On the Homefront.”

I have attended Fish Expo more years than I can remember; first as a child with my own family, then as a writer for National Fisherman, and now as the wife and mother of my own fishing family. My dad comes every year, my husband attends every year, our children come every year. Fish Expo is a family affair, as commercial fishing should be!

IMG_0955

Winter Trip.

After Christmas, we went east of the mountains to join some friends on a winter cabin trip. It was only three nights and three hours away, but it seemed like so much more. I slept with Valerie in a room in our lodge, cuddly and cozy. I did not have Facebook access, which was actually a pleasant suprise! Val slept through each night and for the first time in months, so did I. I didn’t wake up from 2:00 am to 4:00 am tossing and turning like I usually do. Eva and Vincent and George and I all slept on one level in our lodge while our friends, about four other families, all stayed at the lodge home of the inviting family. We played games, the children behaved, we had a few laughs, came up with a Boggle Champion, and created memories.

IMG_1326

Jason Aldean.

I had not been to a big concert since before I was pregnant with Eva (eight years). When my friend, Dawn Michelle, told me that Jason Aldean was coming near her home in Portland, OR, she didn’t have to ask twice!! Sign me up! When September came, my whole family piled into the car and down the road we went. I couldn’t bear to be without my children for three days, so they “had” to come along! As it turned out, George couldn’t attend the concert, so I brought my little cowgirl, Eva, with me.

At the concert, Dawn Michelle, her partner Jay, Eva, and I found a nice place to sit in the very back of the outdoor arena. I wrapped Eva up in a blanket and held her while Jason Aldean came out and sang for over two hours straight. I was in heaven. I have been Jason Aldean’s #1 fan for about a decade and was beyond myself with excitement and bliss! I couldn’t believe I was seeing him live after all these years of watching on TV. Now, I am normally not a groupie (I’m too old for that and a mother of three!). However, I had not been to a concert in SO LONG. And now I was seeing my FAVORITE! I’d been concerned about the “crowd” and the possibility of “language issues” in front of Eva, but none of that occurred and we had the best night ever.

IMG_0694

Whatcom Writes Anthology. 

Last but not least, I wrote an essay on the topic of “Journeys” and entered it into the Whatcom Writes call for anthology submissions this fall. The guidelines stated that all accepted writers would be notified during the month of December. I just commented to George this morning that I supposed my essay had not been chosen, because it was the last day of December and I hadn’t heard. However, I just did receive an e-mail notifying me that my essay has been accepted and I’ve been invited to participate in a public reading at our local independent bookstore in February. This is a real gift; I am beyond excited to have been included and to add this to my writing resume.

 

In spite of a few struggles this year, there were also many things that stood out for good and joy. These are just a few. Happy New Year and all the best in 2014!!

20131231-140541.jpg

Forging Gratefully Ahead into the New Year!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

On the contrary, I choose to look back on the past year to determine what I did well and I did not do well. I spend time mulling it all over, determining which choices could have been different and which lessons I might glean from the year, for better or for worse.

After taking stock of the past year, I move forward, resolving to do better and hoping not make the same transgressions.

As for my family and me, we experienced a lot of change last year. Our commercial fisheries changed for the first time in thirteen years. Our fishing schedule changed, which meant George was home more than ever in our years together. That alone was enough change for one year, but it didn’t end there

One of our good friends met with an unfortunate situation, and we lost that relationship for a while. Our crew changed for the first time in ten years.

And while my son, Vincent, entered kindergarten after surgery that enabled him to hear and a year of speech therapy, my youngest daughter qualified for speech services.

Our beloved and small neighborhood elementary school, for which hundreds of us fought to save, could not be saved.

What else? After teaching Jazzercise for seven years and bringing three children up in the studio, I resigned.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t respond well to change. In fact, I spent a moment or two in tears the last year, lamenting all of this change. I wanted our school to stay open. I wanted our crew to return as a whole. I never anticipated leaving Jazzercise.

However, I’m able to look forward. I also know people who have experience much worse this year. I have discovered along this journey of change that there are nice, friendly, smart, and funny people everywhere where you go.

I may not be at Jazzercise where I’ve spent nearly the last decade, but I enjoy my new friends at the gym. I’m taking classes that I am not responsible for (and have even lost eight pounds since starting) and have discovered that you can be greeted with a friendly smile, engage with others, and get a great workout pretty much no matter where you go.

I miss my friend and our regular crew, along with the nights out and traditions we held for nearly a decade, but there are also other gatherings, new friends and acquaintances with whom to experience life.

George has been home longer this year than ever in the past. In the thirteen years we’ve been together and the eleven years we’ve been married, he’s regularly been away nine months a year. This year was the opposite. It has been a challenging experience to say the least, but we are both still here giving it the good effort just like we always do.

So, yes. It’s been a year of change. Too much change. Change I wasn’t sure I would be able to navigate. But…I did. We did. I hope for calmer waters and smoother sailing going forward, but whoever really knows?

Going into the New Year, I will choose my friends more wisely. I will draw tighter boundaries some places and loosen them in others. Some friendships have crossed lines and need to be reassessed. I will offer more grace and understanding to those directly involved in my life and keep forging ahead along with everyone else. I will remain forever grateful and joyful about my three kind, sweet, and precious children.

I wish all of you a blessed holiday, a happy New Year, and peaceful waters going forward into 2014!

 

IMG_1268

 

 

Word of Advice: Know ALL Of Your Home Security System Passwords & Codes!

I was on the fence about posting this incredibly embarrassing story, but in the interest of anyone who has a home security system, I decided to take the risk.

First of all, if you have a home security system, I implore you to make sure you know ALL of the codes, passwords, and number combinations. Not just the number you press on the touch screen when you accidentally set off your alarm, but ALL of them.

Somehow, that piece of the home security tutorial did not resonate with me, and I paid a very embarrassing price for it last night.

The evening started out innocently enough. I spent the day at the ice rink with my three children and a group of friends celebrating the 8th birthday of my friend’s daughter. We decided to have dinner at my house following the party. George flew out yesterday morning to Nashville where he is spending Thanksgiving and celebrating his dad’s 75th birthday, so I was on my own and company sounded great.

George and I installed a home security system after a creepy encyclopedia salesman seemed to form a weird attachment to my house and me, and also because I am on my own with the children many months a year. We have cameras for surveillance in and out of the house, plus a traditional alarm system.

The children and their friends like to use the cameras to make movies. One child will watch the camera screen, and the others will get in front of the cameras and make goofy faces and act up. It has all been pretty funny and fun for them…until last night.

Last night, one of the children accidentally pressed the PANIC button on the touch screen. The ear-piercing alarm went off. The child who pressed the button was frightened and jumped into his mothers arms, crying.

My phone rang. I answered it, knowing it was just the security company confirming all was well.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “It’s all fine. Sorry about that! My mistake.”

“I need your password,” she said.

“Password?” I asked. “I punched in my code and stopped the alarm already.”

“Right. But I need your password.”

“Um, I don’t know what you mean,” I said. “In fact, could you show me? I’ve been meaning to call about that because I’ve never understood what you mean by password.”

I walked over to the touch screen and she walked me through it. Cool! I hung up, reassured my friend’s son that all was fine, and poured myself a post-birthday party-and-scary-alarm cocktail.

Two minutes later, my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but something told me I should answer it.

“Hello?”

“This is 9-1-1. We have an officer outside your home. Please give me a description of what you are wearing.”

What? I just talked to the security people and told them all was fine! But, uh, I’m certainly not arguing with 9-1-1.

“Maroon sweater, blue jeans, white socks, brown strappy flats.”

“That’s a great description,” she said.

I decide it is not a good time to explain that I’m a writer and big on both details and description. And, wait! My friend is also wearing a maroon sweater. Maybe I should send her out instead.

“I need you to go outside and meet the officer,” she said.

Oh, no. My head spins. I ditch my cocktail down the drain and head for the door.

I step outside, but I don’t see anyone. Is this some kind of joke? Nobody is here. Visions of the fake cops that pull unsuspecting people over on the freeway visit my head. I stand on the top of my stairs, paralyzed. I decide to call George for advice and start to dial.

“Please come here,” a voice says.

I set my phone down and descend the stairs to the street and what is indeed a uniformed officer.

“Everything okay in there?” he asked.

“Yes!” I answer.

“Can I come inside?” he asked.

“Sure!” I say, heart racing.

Next thing I know, I have a 6’8” policeman standing in my doorway. Vincent walks over.

“Hey, Vincent!” I say with a fake and cheerful–and what I hope is reassuring– smile as I try to mask my panic. “Look! It’s a real, live policeman!”

“Are you SWAT?” Vincent asked.

“I am,” the officer replied.

“Wow, cool, right Vincent?”  Then I turn to the officer and for some reason decide to inquire on what the protocol is for police car ride-a-longs, thinking Vincent might like to take one.

“Well, you have to be 16,” he said.

“Ah,” I said. Maybe in ten years.

My friend and I went on to explain the alarm mistake and that we didn’t know the password. That we’d just had a birthday party and were having dinner and letting the kids play.  That all was well.

“I’m so embarrassed,” I said to the officer. “Did this go out on the scanner? Will anyone know you were here? I am so embarrassed. And I’m sorry for wasting tax payer money.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Believe me. This is not embarrassing. It’s what I’m going to be responding to the rest of this night that is what’s embarrassing for people.”

“Thank you,” I said.

He gave some advice on managing and monitoring the alarm system. He was kind and patient. He explained that having me come outside was for my own safety in case something odd was going on inside. For some reason, in my nervous state, I decide that dropping a few names of the policemen I sort of know is a good idea.

“Do you know Ty? Brock? Or Jon? Jon was a year younger than me in school.”

The policeman was a nice guy. He showed my friend, me, and our children grace and kindness. And although there was nothing wrong at my house, I was grateful for the quick and thorough response in case there ever was an emergency.

After he left, I joined my friend in the kitchen. The whole situation left me in a minor state of shock.

And oh, no!

George! He was going to kill me!

George had been gone for less than twelve hours when I managed to let this situation occur. He might be angry…but on the other hand, he might not. I’d have to call and find out.

I call him at 10 p.m.

“Wow, so this is a pretty crazy story….” I begin.

“…and I am so embarrassed,” I finish.

“I’m sure you are,” he said.

“We need to get ALL the codes and passwords to the system,” I said.

“Yes, we do.” he replied.

What a way to cap off a tough and strange week. Can you guess what call I am making first thing Monday morning?