Friday, June 3, 2011

It's a weird, weird, weird, weird world -- Take TWO

Well, a while ago I found a program that let me create my blog post somewhere else and add the pictures and stuff where I want them and then post it here without much trouble.  Being totally OCD,  I can't stand it when there are too many spaces (or not enough spaces) in my blog, when the words don't divide right between lines, stuff like that.  I can't tell you how many times I've posted a blog, then viewed it, and then discovered messiness like that.  I go back to the post and try to fix it, only to find more problems when I re-post it.  Drives me crazy!  Well, I thought I had solved it.  NOT!  Now I can't remember what program I used!  So I sat down this morning to write my next post (hopefully less depressing than the last), telling myself I could get it out quickly and then get on with stuff I've got to get done today.  Then I wasted at least an hour trying to figure out what I used.  (I didn't use it for my last post because I didn't use any pictures.)  So much for getting something out quickly and easily!  If anybody knows what program or tool or whatever I might be thinking of, let me know!  It's driving me crazier!  And I will TRY to post this one and walking away so that I don't spend all day trying to fix it so it looks perfect.  UGH!  WHO CARES?!  (except me?)
OK THEN! When I last wrote (not counting the most recent one), Jill’s babies had been born and I had returned home from the joy and exhaustion of taking care of two newborns plus Jacob and Kadence and Jill and Jared. A few weeks later it was time to go back to Arizona for the babies’ blessings. I thought that there would be too many people wanting to stay at Jill and Jared’s place, so I was looking for a hotel room for us. Of course my dad (aka Grandpa) would be going, and of course Jimmy, and I hoped Jenny. Joanna and Shayler had already told me they were going. Joanna was flying down earlier in the week to help Jill with the kids, and Shayler was flying down a little later because he got a new job (YAY!) and had to work. My whole family was (hopefully) going to be there! And it might be the last time for a while because (as I may have mentioned before) Jill and family were moving to Virginia, like SOON. So, I had been looking around for a reasonable-but-decent hotel room for us to stay in without much success when I found out that Jared’s family were all getting hotel rooms, which freed up Jill and Jared’s place for us to squeeze into. I figured I could bring my aerobed for me to sleep on, and I’d round up the other air beds I have in the garage for other people to sleep on. Jimmy could take the couch, and Joanna and Shayler said they were getting a hotel room for the days Shayler would be there. I preferred to stay at Jill and Jared’s place, anyway. You get to spend a lot more time with them when you’re under foot every minute!

Jenny wanted to bring her newest boyfriend, Mike (not to be confused with M*ke, my ex husband #2), with her, so they were driving down in Jenny’s car. Besides, I wanted to drive down on Friday morning, and Jenny couldn’t leave town until mid- to late-afternoon on Friday because they had to wait until both Jenny and Mike got off work. Yes, we might have been able to squeeze all of us into my car, but I wanted to get to Arizona as early as possible so that we could spend every possible minute with Joanna and Jill and her family. So Jenny and Mike were coming in Jenny’s car. I had arranged for my friend from work, Lynn, to house sit and take care of our doggies and kitties. Toss in the fact that we had just had a new alarm system installed in the house. I’d had a sub-par system for a while and was basically just waiting until my contract with them expired before I got a new one. (This little fact might seem random, but it does factor in later on.) (And since when does the fact that something is RANDOM stop me from including it anyway?)

Of course all (my) plans fall apart soon after they are made. Jenny’s car started overheating, so she didn’t know if it could make it to Arizona. Of course she HOPED it would make it, they would just keep stopping to add water. I wasn’t too happy with the idea of them driving that far with those risks, especially, probably (knowing them) leaving late at night, so I decided that maybe I could get a cheap rental car and Jenny could drive down in my car. I consulted with Jimmy (the only person I currently have at home to consult with – the animals don’t contribute much), and he thought that I probably shouldn’t spend the money; I am sort of broke all the time. If Jenny’s car couldn’t make it, they didn’t have to go. The voice of reason. I had already reserved a rental car at a very good price, but I could always cancel. I mentioned it to Grandpa, and he said that maybe we could ride down in his car. That sounded fine, except I decided that Jenny and Mike could ride down in GRANDPA’s car and we would take mine. Let them use the older vehicle! Sounded good to me.

The plan was that Grandpa would arrive Thursday evening and we would leave for Arizona on Friday morning. He was already here when I got home from work that evening, and I could see immediately that my plans were already starting to fall apart. He had a meeting with a fellow land surveyor that afternoon, so part of his trip to Vegas was business related, so he brought his truck instead of his car. So much for my plan that Jenny would drive his car! I would have to let Jenny take my car, and just the cost of gas to drive that truck would probably be more than the rental car I had reserved (I did get a really good deal), so we were back to getting the rental car.

Of course none of this stuff could be SIMPLE. That would be someone else’s life.

It was too late to pick up the rental car that evening, so early the next morning, Jimmy and I drove to the rental car place near the airport to pick up the car. When we got back home, we loaded it up and took off for Arizona. I’m sure there were plenty of “adventures with grandpa” moments along the way, but those things have been crowded out of my mind with everything else that was going on.

We got there, and it was Jacob’s school carnival that evening, so OF COURSE we had to go. He was going to a charter school, and the carnival was their main fund raiser for the year, and I have to admit that the items they were selling by silent auction were pretty cool. Jill had already bought a bunch of tickets for us to use for food and games; they had a bunch of those jumping things for the kids (you know, those big inflatable little room things), and the place was utter chaos with the noise of all the kids screaming and music blaring. Add to that was the fact that the weather was unseasonably cold, so it was pretty chilly, too. We loaded the babies’ car seats onto Jill’s double stroller and we went to look at the TONS of stuff at the silent auction in the school gym, but it was so crowded in there and trying to maneuver that enormous stroller through the crowd was difficult (coupled with people stopping to look at the babies). By the time we were halfway through, I had completely lost interest in everything. I guess I am not good at dealing with chaos. I did it while growing up in a large family and again when my kids were small, and I just can’t tolerate it as much in my old age. I was anxious to get out of there, so I waited by the door until the others were ready to leave. We went outside, where it was quickly getting colder as it was growing dark, got the dinner Jill had already paid for (hot dogs and chips), and tried to find a picnic table to sit down and eat. The wind had started to blow and Jacob was kept busy chasing our chips and napkins. Again, it was so loud outside that you couldn’t talk. Jacob spotted some friends of theirs who were standing in line at one of the jumping things, so he asked if he could take Kadence over there with them. Jill said okay. About thirty seconds later, Jacob was back and he was in tears, saying he had somehow lost Kadence. I stayed with the babies while everybody else, including Grandpa, fanned out to search for her. Jimmy went back into the building, Grandpa went to check the food area, Joanna checked the game area, and Jill set off to look for their friends, who had quickly disappeared. The searchers would occasionally return for a report and then go off in another direction. I sat helplessly with the babies, who (of course) decided it was time to eat and started to whimper. I wanted to whimper myself.

Eventually Kadence was found (over by one of the jumping things) and we spent time rounding up all of the searchers. By then I’d had enough “fun” for one evening. I told Jill that Grandpa and I could take the babies back to the house, feed them, and get them ready for bed. We would take her vehicle because it had the car seat bases in it. I took her keys and planned to transfer her purse and other stuff to my rental car and then Jimmy would take the keys to my rental car back to her and stay with them. As we were exiting the school property, I noticed Jimmy answering his cell phone. Another crisis was brewing. While we were in the middle of the Kadence search, Jenny had arrived at my house. Although I had warned her that a new alarm system had been installed, she went inside anyway, causing it to go off. Lynn (the house sitter) had left to go gas up her car. I looked at my cell phone and there were, of course, many missed calls. The new alarm system is very LOUD, and there were increasingly frantic calls from Jenny with the alarm screaming in the background, calls from the alarm company, and calls from my friend Julie, who was unfortunate enough to be one of the backup people on my call list. Jimmy tried to call the alarm company back, but (of course) the cell signal at the school was really bad and the call kept dropping. The new alarm company had tried to impress upon me the fact that if the alarm went off and the person wasn’t on their approved list, that person would be arrested, no exceptions. Since it was new, I hadn’t taken the time to add who was permitted to be in the house (Lynn wasn’t on the list, either). So, while we were doing the Kadence crisis, Jenny had set off the alarm and the police were (apparently) on their way. It was so very loud at the carnival (and the cell signal was so poor) that we probably wouldn’t have heard it anyway if we hadn’t been leaving the school when we did.

Jimmy kept frantically trying to get through to the alarm company. I managed find a spot in the parking lot with a tiny little signal on my phone and called Julie. She had just had minor surgery that day, so she wasn’t in the best shape to deal with this problem, either, but she had confirmed with the alarm company that Jenny is my daughter. After Jimmy was able to talk to the alarm company, he was able to convince them that everything was okay, and the security patrol cancelled the call to Metro (the security patrol was already at the house). Of course by now the babies were screaming at the top of their little lungs, and Grandpa was trying to soothe them. He had taken the car seats out of the stroller and had one in each hand, swinging them back and forth. It worked for a few minutes! We put the babies in Jill’s vehicle and then had the fun of trying to maneuver the vehicle out of there. We had parked on the large unpaved lot next to the school, and of course other people parked three-deep, completely blocking some cars from being able to leave. We were only partially blocked, so Grandpa stood outside and motioned for me while I tried to inch back and forth out of there. The babies continued to cry and I was just about at my wit’s end, to say the least! We made it, though, with only a few scrapes and scratches (just kidding, Jill).

We finally made it back to Jill’s place and eventually everything calmed down. Jared and Shayler arrived together that night (they arranged to arrive at similar times so only one trip to the airport would be required). To make a long story short (and you didn’t think I could ever shorten a story), Jenny and Mike arrived so late that they just slept in the car.

Saturday was going to be a big day, and this brings us to another little factor that I haven’t mentioned before: Jill’s biological father, Ira. I hadn’t actually seen him for many (MANY) years, but I had written to him occasionally over the years, sending updates and pictures. When the Internet arrived, we started doing it by e-mail. As Jill got older, I gave her the option of meeting him, but she was never very interested. Also, over the years I have told him about various events that Jill was involved in that he could attend if he wanted to, such as Las Vegas Youth Orchestra concerts. In recent years, Jill has communicated with him by e-mail and she has allowed him access to her blog, but she was still not very interested in meeting him. She felt that her family is complete and she didn’t want to complicate matters.

Well, without going into too much detail (actually I don’t have all the details), Ira has been sending gifts to Jill and her family over the years, and more recently he has been sending money. He’s actually been quite generous, sending money to celebrate their new house when they got it and other events I can’t think of right now.

A year or so ago, Ira started thinking about religion. His parents are LDS, but they were basically inactive the whole time he was growing up. He was baptized as a youth and stuff like that, but their church participation was basically minimal. Long story short (ditto what I said earlier), when I married him, he said he wanted to return to church and we attended the temple preparation classes to get ready to get married in the temple after our first anniversary. It turned out that our marriage didn’t last that long. We got married in February of 1979; by October of that year, Ira had decided that he didn’t believe in the church after all and for that and other reasons, I decided that I didn’t want to be married to him anymore (even though I was pregnant with Jill by then). I moved out in October, we were divorced in January, and Jill was born in April.

Anyway, Ira’s current wife, Dee, is Catholic, and she is serious about her religion, but Ira wanted to return to his LDS roots. (His parents got reactivated in the church shortly after we got married and have been going strong ever since.) He started going back to church and got bit by the Holy Spirit bug, so to speak. He has reactivated himself and is hoping to go through the temple soon himself.  (Actually he just texted me that he's going later this month.)

When Ira found out that Jared lost his job last November, he wanted to send them money every month to help them get by. He asked for my opinion and I said that if they didn’t want the money they’d either send it back or just not cash the check. (They did wait a while before they cashed another check he had sent earlier, trying to decide whether or not to accept it.) They just didn’t want to feel obligated, even though Ira told them (and me) repeatedly that he just wanted to help, no obligation was required. Jill and Jared had some financial challenges between job loss and new job, so they gratefully (if hesitantly) accepted his help.

Ira holding Ben
His constant prayers, possibly combined with his financial help, led Jill and Jared to decide to invite him to the babies’ blessings. Since everybody was traveling pretty far for the blessings (my family and Jared’s family), Jill and Jared decided to have the traditional “post blessing Sunday luncheon” on Saturday so that everybody could head home after church. I had suggested that Jill might want to invite Ira to the blessings at church (I thought I could handle having him in the same church building), but I hadn’t thought about the luncheon thing. And now it was happening on Saturday!

Mary-Lou and Lee Gardner holding the babies
So here I was, planning to see him and his parents (who, of course, had hated me not only for leaving their son but cutting them all off from seeing Jill) after more than 25 years. I wasn’t really nervous, but it felt weird. Really weird. On that Saturday, of course Jared’s family was already there, which included his parents, maternal grandparents, and one of his brothers with his wife and two kids. I was there with all of my family. The doorbell rang and in walked this tall, kind of skinny, sort-of-older (sorry, Ira, it seems I always think people around my age look old) guy with his wife and parents. They all looked vaguely familiar. I hugged everyone.

I knew Dee years ago when we both worked at the City of Las Vegas, so I talked with her for a while. Eventually Ira, who had been holding and feeding one of the babies, joined us. All of us laughed and talked, and it was completely, totally surreal. That’s all I can do to describe it. S.U.R.R.E.A.L. And a half! Of course all my other kids were rather fascinated with the whole subject. They’d been hearing about him all their life and here he was.

I’ll wrap this up with more pictures and a few more comments. I’m all talked (typed) out.

First of all, in case you didn’t know, Grandpa’s latest new project is making violins. The violin in this picture is his first masterpiece. YES, HE MADE THAT VIOLIN!  Jill played the violin for us and Ira recorded it on his camera as a video, but I grabbed a few still shots from the videos.  (Grandpa played it for us, too, don't have a picture of that.)

The next day, after the babies were blessed, we took a few family photos outside the church.

Ira and family with Jill and family (plus Grandpa)

The kids with their daddy's support

My family (Kadence was sick of taking pictures by then!  Apparently Jacob was too!)
Jill and her family.  Yes, Jill has Sam and yes, Jared has Ben, you just can't see him very well from this angle.

Proof!  Another angle of the above shot.  I just liked the smiles in that other one better!

If I can muster up any more energy, I’ll later post another “weird weird world” post about my final visit to Arizona, just before they moved to Virginia.

One more thing I must mention was that Grandpa slept on a cot in the loft area of Jill and Jared's house, where the kids' toys were kept.  Every morning we were there, I woke up hearing Grandpa playing Princess Barbies with Kadence outside my door.  So so sweet!