The Art of the Detour

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I hung a wreath made of autumn leaves on our front door. Fall had announced it’s arrival by splashing the trees that surround our home with brilliant orange and yellow, and vibrant reds and rich brown hues. I was just beginning to enjoy the entrance of the new season when my throat began to have that old familiar itch. Ugh.

I immediately pulled out my arsenal of preventives and began a regimen of salt water gargles, zinc lozenges, and saline spray. The symptoms grew worse by the hour. My throat felt like it had been groomed with a metal rake, and my sinuses felt like they had been replaced with rising yeast dough. Reluctantly, I went to the cupboard and pulled out the nasal rinse bottle. I once wondered why anyone in their right mind would voluntarily bring themselves to near drowning by way of a nasal enema. Yet, desperate times bring desperate measures. As much as I hate this procedure, I have found that it often wards off a head cold and can also reduce sore throat pain. For me, it’s like bringing out the big gun. However, this time I lost the battle.  Along with my balloon head and raw throat, I felt like a rusting tin man who needs oil in every joint. I retreated to the couch and crawled under a soft, cuddly throw.

“I don’t have time to be sick!” I complained.

My husband has heard this at least a thousand times in the course of our marriage. One great thing about our relationship is that we usually know how to make each other feel better. He knows a great foot rub can tame the growling beast, so he served me hot tea and worked on my feet. The next morning he built me a warm, cozy fire in the wood stove before he left for work. Sweet guy. I hauled my blanket and pillow from the bedroom and sat in the recliner, with a box of Kleenex on my lap, and watched a gentle rain through the sunroom window. My energy was zapped. The week’s agenda came to a grinding halt.

But I found that there is something good that can come from sitting in a stationary position, and not wanting to move anything but your eyeballs. You start to notice things that you have missed. My gaze followed the length of the sleepy summer flowerbed. It made me a little sad that it was beginning to wither back into the ground. Then I saw them. Just beyond the glass umbrella table, grew three or four giant, deep purple and soft white, dahlia’s that gracefully balanced atop their tall, slender stems. Image                                                          It was an unexpected second bloom. I had walked by the back window all week without noticing this perfect work of art. If I hadn’t been curled up with my pillow in forced rest, and in full detour of the day’s schedule, I may have missed this completely. I couldn’t help but smile.

My friend, Sharon, has mastered the art of the detour. We often get together when my husband is away on business, or when he has retreated into the Trinity mountains to go hunting. I have learned the most from Sharon while on day trips to various places that we have read about, and then made plans to explore.

It has been my nature to take the shortest point from  “A” to “B”. My motto is: Get there. But when its Sharon’s turn to drive, she prefers to find little side roads that in a round about way will eventually lead us to our destination.

It was fall and we made plans to take our first long day trip into Northern California wine country. I had grown up in that area and absolutely loved being there during the harvest season. So I was excited to go back for a visit when grape clusters still hang on the vines and are surrounded by leaves that are tipped with a hint of fall color.

We left just after sunrise and Sharon was in the driver seat. She mentioned that she wanted to take a nice little drive on a back road that would eventually drop us into the Napa Valley. In fact, she thought it might even be a short cut. I had never heard of this particular route, but if it was short cut, I was all for it. Soon we were on a road that wound its way up through a wooded mountain range. Up and down, and around and around we went. I have to admit that I was a bit antsy to, well, get there, so after what seemed like days, I asked, “Are you sure you know where you are going?”

I was use to zipping down a four lane highway, then taking a short jaunt on a two lane highway – and “Ta-da!” I was back in the valley where I had grown up. We had been on that road so long I could swear we were headed to Canada. I began to wonder if we would be viewing the vineyards under the midnight moon.

“Yeah.” Sharon calmly answered. That was it. No explanation.

So stated that I had never heard of the route we were on – and I use to live in that valley. At least that was where I hoped we were headed.

She chuckled. Then she commented on how lovely the trees were along the roadside. I looked out the window and thought, we are so lost.

One thing I really like about my friend Sharon is that she can maintain a certain state of serenity, even when I am getting a little on the wound up side. It can have a calming effect on me…most of the time.

Another great thing about my friend is that she totally cracks up when I make sarcastic remarks like, “Excuse me sir, can you tell us where the Napa Valley is because we have no idea where we are. However, we are enjoying the lovely trees along the way.”

Laughter makes the heart merry – and sometimes calms a wound up friend.

The road eventually led us on a curving ride into the golden foothills and then dropped us into wine country – just as Sharon had said it would. I ate my words.

                                                  Image        Along the way, we passed by beautiful country vineyards that I had never traveled far enough north to see. Some of the vineyards were small and quaint and inviting. Others spread majestically over several hillsides. We rolled down the windows and breathed in the fresh air. I relaxed into my seat and soaked in the perfect scenery. It was indeed a lovely drive!

    Sharon found a small park off the beaten path where we enjoyed a picnic lunch, then we continued to drive along the back roads and found several smaller wineries with beautiful grounds where we could stroll about and snap pictures. And after a long day of exploring, wine tasting, and trying new foods, we got into the car and headed home. This time, we took the four lane highway. It was dark and late, and my eyelids were heavy. I arrived home under the midnight moon.

That day I discovered a richness that can be found in taking the road less traveled. It slows your pace, offering you a break from a high-speed world. Your breathing slows and your muscles relax. And the road less traveled often leads to new discoveries that you would have otherwise missed. Since that day, I have taken many more detours, and have enjoyed all that the backroads have to offer.

Sometimes I forget that the art of the detour isn’t limited to road trips. It can happen right here at home. Like stopping for just a moment to look out at the flower garden, where I may find something unexpected and beautiful. I have also come to realize that a detour may present itself in a completely different way.

Sometimes my plans are abruptly interrupted. Often times that can mean those plans go right out the window. I do not like it when that happens. In fact, I can down right resent it. When I have made a specific plan, I like to stick to it until I have completed it. There have been times when an interruption has changed the course of my life, and at the time I couldn’t see the good in it.

Yet I have found that those interruptions can often lead to a detour that brings hidden blessings that I would have otherwise missed. I have made different decisions that have yielded better outcomes. I have gained new perspectives on life that I may not have seen without the detour. I have found that some interruptions require selfless acts of kindness, which sometimes entails a major attitude adjustment on my part. Yet there is a goodness that comes from that, a goodness that reaches to the depths of the soul.

And at the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, I sleep well.

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At Nest’s Edge

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      I gave birth to my son six days after I celebrated my twenty-third birthday. Although he came into this world four weeks early, while I was lying on the couch with my feet propped up, and staring at the basketball my belly had become, it seemed like an eternity before he would arrive.

     I had always looked forward to being pregnant and to becoming a mother, and to be able to experience all the joys I had heard were attached to those roles. Yet my first experience with pregnancy was anything but joyous. Two weeks into gestation, morning nausea rolled in, and soon stretched into the afternoon and evening hours. I kept hearing that it would end in a few weeks, but those weeks turned into months, and I felt like I had been given a permanent sentence on the deck of the Andrea Gail in the perfect storm. Everything came in waves. Waves of oatmeal and toast and peanut butter, waves of turkey sandwiches on wheat and yogurt with fresh berries. Endless, relentless waves. Even the suggested ginger ale and saltine crackers made their way up the shoot, and sometimes would bubble right out my nose, which felt like a vinegar and baking soda experiment was being performed in my nostrils.

     I dreaded climbing into our old Ford truck on work mornings, knowing that the storm would rise up as soon as I shifted into drive. It didn’t matter that I had already seen my Wheat Chex twice, there was always more waiting in the bilge. It was only two short miles to the office where I worked, and I would fight back the waves as I punched the gas pedal, praying that I would make it there before the second round of barfing would hit. It didn’t matter how fast, or slow, I drove, the nausea swelled up from my stomach and sloshed into my throat with every curve on the road. I would tense the muscles in my esophagus, and press my tongue tight against the roof of my mouth and fight it back. But like clockwork, I would make it to mile marker 1.2, where I would have to whip the truck over into the entrance of a dirt driveway in front of a cute little old house and barf in their ditch. I never looked toward the windows of the house, but I’m sure I spoiled someone’s morning breakfast more than once.

     I read all the books I could about pregnancy and delivery, and I took a natural childbirth class so that, despite my months of suffering with nausea, I would be fully prepared to experience a wonderful delivery. At least that’s what my natural childbirth instructor indicated. I admired this laid-back woman, whose belly bulged with third term pregnancy, and who had already delivered four children au naturele. She surely must know what she was talking about. I listened intently from her sofa as she took a squatting position, to keep her birthing muscles limber, and shared her labor and delivery secrets to a room full of wide-eyed, young women with swollen bellies, each having great hopes of an easy, pain-free birth.

     My co-worker had already given birth to a son and was pregnant with her second child. She told me that that woman was full of bologna and I was wasting my money. Then she said that I had better get ready for the worst pain I’ll ever have in my life. I didn’t like that she told me that. In fact, it really irritated me. I told her that she wasn’t being a very nice friend. She responded by saying that she was my only friend because she was the only one who was telling me the truth. I still didn’t like her for saying it.

     When my labor started I was a little anxious, but mostly excited. Soon I would be holding a new little life in my arms, and I could fit into my skinny jeans again. The first few hours were easy and I was proud that I had learned so much from my au naturele instructor. But as the hours passed, I began to wonder why the labor magic wasn’t working so good. By the time my labor pains were close enough that it was time to drive to the hospital, I wanted to slug my husband. I accused him of hitting every bump in the road, which intensified the pain of each contraction. Where did he learn to drive?

     When we arrived at the hospital, I was quickly rolled into labor and delivery. Everything hurt. Every movement of the bed. Every time the nurse checked my vitals and moved the monitor on my belly. Every touch. Every sound was magnified. I wanted to yell, “No talking!”, but all my muscles were contracted, immoveable, including my voice box, which was silently screaming. I finally was able to drum up a loud, “SHHH!!” The room fell silent. I glanced up at my husband and saw him looking wide-eyed at the nurse. Then he took a step back away from my bed. Smart guy.

     Then suddenly it sounded like all the bells and whistles went off from the equipment surrounding me. There was a blur of nurses and doctors entering and leaving the room. Baby was in trouble. I was being prepped for an emergency c-section.

       My concern for the little life inside of me surpassed the intense pain I was experiencing. It didn’t matter what I had to go through, the pain, the probing, the needles, as long as our baby arrived safely into this world. Through some quick maneuvering by the nurses, and with the help of two doctors, a c-section was avoided. I gave one last gut-breaking push and heard the first cry of our son. I had witnessed my first miracle.

       As they rolled me out of the delivery room, I thanked God for watching over our baby boy, then I wondered how I was going to break the news to my husband that I was never going to go through that again. Two years later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  Then a few years beyond that, our second daughter arrived, adding to our joy. They say that time heals wounds, or sometimes bad memories, but I think God gave me a slight case of amnesia between births, so that I could have the little family I had always dreamed of. He has a way of knowing just what I’m going to need, sometimes in small doses, and sometimes in big doses. 

       Many seasons have come and gone since my husband and I entered the role of parenthood. Our son grew up and moved three states away. That made me cry. Our second child grew up and got married. I cried at her wedding. At least she stayed in town. Then she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I cried again. Recently, I hugged our third baby goodbye at the airport. She’ll be living miles across the Pacific ocean while attending nursing school. You guessed it, I bawled. She did too.

    Crepe paper streamers were left strung across our living room ceiling, and for days I tripped over balloons in every downstairs room of the house, all remnants of a surprise going away party given to our daughter by her friends on the weekend she said goodbye to our small town. I just couldn’t make myself take the decorations down right away. It would be like saying, well, that’s that – that phase of life is done. Mooovin’ on.

       There was a point in my life when I began looking forward to empty nest. In time, each child wobbled at the nest’s edge and I held my breath when I saw that they were ready to spread their wings and fly. But now that I was standing at the edge of the nest watching our last baby fly away into the sunrise of her new life, I wasn’t sure I liked it. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to leave behind a noisy house full of kids, and night-time talks, and mocha dates.

       The once full dinner table has been dwindling, but I have left both leaves in, because it is big and long and inviting. I like to remember how it was when it was crammed full of our kids, and the neighbors kids, and kids from the church youth group, and when our kids teammates gathered there for meals. It was exhaustive, yet fulfilling, and I really loved every minute of it.

       It didn’t matter that on one family vacation, while traveling across Utah in our minivan, with a whining two year old in the back seat, accompanied by her two siblings who were pushing each others hot buttons, that I had threatened to sell them to the nearest family, because people who lived in Utah liked lots of kids. It didn’t matter that there were years of clothes left on the floor, and a continuous parade of socks without a partner. It didn’t matter that I was a constant chauffeur to soccer games and baseball games, basketball games and track meets. It didn’t matter that I had spent hours sitting in the waiting room at the orthodontist office while awkward smiles were turned into lovely grins, or that I spent many long nights in our wooden rocking chair comforting a feverish child.

       There were late nights when I laid restless in bed until I heard our teenagers turn the lock on the front door. There were times when I prayed on my knees for them when they were struggling, and growing, in a very tough world. Sometimes I wondered if we were going to make it. But deep down I knew we would, and we did, and every minute of it was worth it.

       The day I took the crepe paper streamers down, I walked through the house and popped every colorful balloon while reminiscing all those moments, and days, and years that I hold like shining diamonds in my heart. And that’s the truth of it. I don’t have to leave them behind. They will always stay with me, and for that, I am truly grateful.

   

   

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