Thursday, August 23, 2018

Beach Tents and Rental Cars

One last summer trip. A visit to Port Aransas. It's not the prettiest beach, but it's the beach I grew up going to and the one I know best.

The girls and I (both my girls and my IR girlfriends) planned a trip back at the beginning of the summer and we all made it happen. There are only a few units available at the IR and fortunately, we found one. We've stayed at other places at the beach, but IR is our home. We know the pool. We know the walk and drive to the beach. We know how to work the outdoor beach shower.

We had such fun. We laughed and played games. We tried to eat through 60 bags of chips (yes, 60) and three loaves of bread. We heard music playing and found a new spot to visit. We drank out of super cute dipped beach cups, We also had a s'mores bonfire on the beach.

We also set up the beach tent and chairs, packed up the beach tent and chairs and washed off the beach tent and chairs without help. I used a bungee cord in the back of Gervais' truck to make sure nothing blew out of the bed on the trip down and back.

Wonder if a bungee cord could have helped the flat tire I got on the drive down.

Nah. And, AAA didn't do a stellar job of helping either.

Seriously, while driving down I37S somewhere around Three Rivers and Oakville, I saw the low tire pressure notification. I turned down the podcast I was listening to and heard a bit of a flapping sound. I pulled over and walked around the truck to see the flat.

Ugh. Time to call AAA. Time of be disappointed in AAA.

The initial call was simple.

'Are you safe?' While I explained to the operator that is a relative term, I said we didn't have a gun to our heads, but we were on the side of the highway where the speed limit is 75 miles per hour and cars oftentimes go much faster than that.

'Where are you? Can you describe your location?' Hmmm. A bit south of a farm to market road. Didn't register with the operator. Close to Oakville. Again, didn't help. I guess AAA operators don't have a map because I had to work at the description of my whereabouts.

'Do you want text updates on your driver's arrival?' Yes, I do.

'The driver will arrive in 1 hour and 45 minutes.' What?

We negotiated and expedited arrival time within 45 minutes. That came and went like the 18-wheelers hauling down the highway past us.

After a few calls, no text updates and two hours, our tow truck driver arrived. He started the jacking, tire changing process, but had to stop because the tools to get the spare down could not be found.

Deep breaths, trying to remain calm, two 9-year-olds were closely watching.

So, the flat tire changing didn't work. Let's go find a tire shop. He asked me where I wanted to go. Let's see, the beach?

We finally found one and the people there were great. Got me in and out.

G asked that we load up the tire in the truck bed -- on top of the tent and beach chairs. No need for bungee cords. He also wanted me to stop at the Discount Tire in Corpus. Yeah, no. I was done with tires.

After the fun beach weekend and the drive home, I realized Chris would have had this flat on his drive to school with his furniture had he gone the week prior. He had already experienced a flat going up to school and a delayed tow and no text updates. (AAA, your service? We're 18-year members!)

Was it better I got a flat? I did share some thoughts with AAA that my girls heard. I did share some opinions with the tow truck driver with the girls listening. I later apologized to them for my behavior. In the moments of frustration, I sometimes lose my cool. Not explosive or out of control, but the words come a flowing.

I did call AAA after a few days of being home and they sent me a check for our membership. Now, that's service. I can use that check to pay for next year's membership because we will be members. We used it twice this year for flat tires and tows.

Make that three times.

Chris planned to go to Lubbock the Monday we got back from the beach. G thought better of that and wanted the tire we bought on our way to the beach to be replaced by the Discount Tire we know. Chris took care of that with intent of going to school Tuesday. After taking care of the tire (and us getting a refund for the one we bought in Three Rivers), Chris changed cars with G. On Chris' drive back home, he decided to try and drive over a large rock on the highway. Not good. He had to pull over and watch the oil pour from the bottom of his car. And, wait for the AAA tow truck.

Come on.

Thankfully, G knew my thin patience with AAA, so he handled the calls. When you put a more calm person on the job, there's little drama. It just works. Might be something to try.

With Chris' car towed, and his taking G's truck to Lubbock, we needed a rental. Part of my errands Monday was to pick up the rental. An old-fashioned, white mini-van. For G. To drive to two-a-days.

Funny, I was also driving a rental to the rental place because I had to take one on an out-of-town trip. Two rentals and a truck. That could be a TV show. Except I don't think our show would have been too funny.

I don't do well with car stuff. I don't know what expectations to have and how the whole estimates and appraisals and repair scheduling works. I do know how to pester and ask questions. G knows how to handle these things. A bit difficult for him to do while he is smack dab in the middle of two-a-days.

With a few days of perspective in place and a fourth part happening, I can think of the things for which I am thankful. The AAA membership, the unfound spare tools because driving on a spare to the beach isn't the smartest, the tire shop with the quick help, insurance, refunds, cell phones. I can also think of the things I could have handled better. My raised voice, the strong words, the impatience of inputting my AAA membership number too many times in a row, the not-so-nice attitude when asked to go pick up the rental because G had practice and couldn't get there in time.

The beach is a restorative place for me. The water, the waves. My IR girlfriends are restorative. The ease in which we fit into each others' lives is a gift. The traditions we've established even as I am a late addition to the group are in place . . .pictures and dance parties just being two of them.

A fourth part restores my sanity. Without a phone call to make, a refund to request or a rental agreement to sign, a fourth part clears my mind.

I believe AAA is meant to provide peace and assurance. And, I suppose it does. It's that insurance policy that if something goes wrong, it is a company that can help. The timing might not be what I want or expect and it does come at a price, but it is there as a safety net.

Isn't the safety net and assurance what we all want and need? As Chris heads up to his senior year at school, I like that he has AAA just in case. I'm glad he has a place to live with kind neighbors who will help out two college boys if needed.

Just like I have my IR girls. Friends who will help without expectation of help in return. Friends who will wash off your beach chairs and watch your girls at the pool while you cook dinner.

Friends who will play a game with your girls even if it doesn't quite make sense. And, friends who welcome you in to a tight knit group even if you don't know all the stories -- because they see the value of making new stories.

That's the best kind of membership to have.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Back Handsprings and Sugar

Summer. While not my favorite season because, well, hot, it's a favorite season. I love summer because there's no school. No lunches to pack. No homework to fret over. No real bedtime rules and no rules around showering. OK, there are rules because well, summer. It's hot, ya'll.

With a relaxed schedule, we can take a break from rigorous meal planning. I love a meal plan and during the school year we spend Sundays planning meals for the week. In the summer, we plan but the schedule isn't built around school events or practices, it's constructed around swimming and badminton.

(We have a badminton net in our back yard and try as we might, our rallies are not as inspiring or jaw dropping as the Olympics version of the racquet and birdie. We cheer when a serve is returned.)

(It always starts out as fun with some laughter and encouraging words of 'oh almost' and then quickly turns to 'get it' and 'come on.')

(I usually walk inside when it gets too intense.)

When we are outside after it cools off . . . to around 90 degrees rather than 452 degrees . . . we play badminton and Camille starts flipping. She pulls out the practice beam and mats so she can practice. She has drive and determination. She will try and try and try and try to get a skill. We have to tell her to stop and come inside. We can see when she gets tired. But she continues. I mean, the persistence.

Outside during the summer in the evenings is a good fourth part. We are together. We are having fun. We have endless time. Remember, no homework or bedtime requirements.

Oh, wait. We have gymnastics each morning. We do get to sleep in a bit longer and this summer we do have carpool. (I love writing that. I've never had a carpool.)

Three families meet each morning at the CVS close to our house. Then, we all meet up again in the afternoon for pick up. We've had a few days of hang out and play after practice -- swimming, ice cream and juice bar are some of the outings the girls enjoyed. Camille comes home and takes a nap. Caroline rests, too.

When I've had vacation this summer, the afternoon nap time has been so pleasurable. Quiet. Everyone then gets up and goes for the rest of the day refreshed.

Getting up in the morning for gymnastics is a different pace for us. Camille wakes up on her own and gets dressed. I make her breakfast, we do devotion and I pull back her hair. Each evening, we pack her backpack with a lunch and water bottle. We get it done quickly because we like to then sit in a fourth part.

A couple of evenings this summer, there have been tears, though. Camille has struggled with one of her skills. Really struggled. She cried a few times and was just sad and quiet at other moments. We encouraged her and assured her the coach wouldn't ask her to do something she wasn't capable of taking on. After a few days, we decided to email the coach. Wow, the insight. The coach responded that this was the first skill Camille had struggled through and just didn't get right away. She had to build up to the ability of completing a back handspring on the high beam.

(I cannot imagine even doing a back handspring on the floor, much less a low or high beam.)

The coach talked with her and her attitude changed overnight. She understood some of the skills will take pushing through. She will have to struggle and work. Good thing she is persistent. She will not give up.

I wish I had persistence like Camille when it came to eliminating processed sugar from my diet. All summer, I have had a daily goal of no sugar. And, most days, I've had sugar. Some days it's only a bite of ice cream or a handful of Skittles. Other days, I'm eating a couple of brownies or Oreos. Why oh why can I not stop the sugar? It does not do a body good. It affects my skin and isn't helpful in the weight loss arena.

I rationalize that bite of deliciousness in the evening by telling myself I worked out and ate good all day. Boy, I struggle. Ideally, I'd eliminate all sugar in my house. Uh, I've two littles and a husband who can eat the sugar and not be bothered a bit. Sure, that isn't the best type of food to have on hand, but hey, it's summer.

(Caroline just shoved a powdered sugar doughnut hole in her mouth right now as I'm typing this. I don't even like them, but it sure looked good.)

(I haven't had sugar today . . . do you think I will make it through the evening. Does rose wine count?)

These struggles Camille and I face are not monumental. They are our struggles. I have friends who have had tremendous struggles this summer. Some have persisted and pushed through them, others are still sitting in them. Some have turned to medication. Some have cried and cried.

No matter the drive you have sometimes we have to struggle through things.

Makes me want some sugar.