I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure I’ve posted more than a week’s worth of celebrating the ordinary topics for Marie’s blog challenge. I’ve never been one to color inside the lines, so if I post more than a week’s worth it will come as no surprise.
Today’s topic: handwritten thank you notes. I love them. I’ve written about my love for them before, and likely will again. I’m a sucker for good paper products, and have a stash of folded notes, flat cards, and all varieties of stationery. I recently had occasion to write a thank you note to a cop. No, not a bribe or a buttering-up, but a genuine expression of gratitude. My favorite girl and I had a car crash on a rainy highway last month, and ended up stranded for a few hours because of deployed airbags. The sheriff who was the first on the scene was a peach. He was calm, patient, and knowledgable. He stayed with us from start to finish, even though it was hot & humid on a late summer afternoon following a Gulf Coast rainstorm and even though he found himself in a patch of fire ants that bit him mercilessly. He engaged my favorite girl with everyday conversation to reassure her and get her mind off the scary scene she had just starred in; she runs toward a bit of worry and anxiety, and he recognized this right away and did the gentle work to calm her. I was busy putting on a brave face, so passing that job off to him was a relief.
When the tow truck arrived to haul away my battered car, the sheriff chatted with the driver as he did his work. When The Hubs arrived to drive the girl and me home, the sheriff admired The Hubs’ car and spent a few more minutes of his long day talking horsepower and zero-to-60 stats.
All told, the sheriff went above and beyond in doing his job that day. At one point I told him how much I appreciated him hanging out with us until our ride arrived. He mentioned that he’s the father of two girls and that he’d hope someone would do the same for his wife and kids if they were in our shoes. And that the stretch of highway we happened to be stranded on is a bit of a rough patch, known for being populated by drug runners moving product from The Valley to Houston. He’s seen some ugly stuff on that stretch of road, and said he just wouldn’t feel right about leaving us to fend for ourselves.
After we got home, I thought about how kind the sheriff was and how he made a terrible situation bearable. I sat down to write him a note expressing my gratitude. He’d given me his business card, so I had the address of the sheriff’s office. Write a few lines, lick the envelope shut, slap on a stamp and I was good to go. But I wasn’t quite done. I googled the sheriff’s office to find an email address for the sheriff’s boss. Figured he needed to know what an outstanding job his charge had done. I imagine they get plenty of complaints at the sheriff’s office, so why not take a few minutes to pay them a compliment? Trouble was, there was no email address, so I printed off a copy, put it in an envelope and sent it old-school style. Snail mail.
I didn’t think much of it as I waded through the insurance red tape and dealt with my service advisor at the dealership. Days ran into weeks, time passed, and the upsetting incident on the side of the highway faded into a memory. Then a few days ago I got a call from the sheriff’s office. My first thought was something bad: the sheriff had forgotten to write me a ticket, or some other trouble. But no, it was just the opposite: the sheriff’s boss’s boss was calling me to say he’d read the thank you note I wrote to the sheriff and to the sheriff’s boss, and he wanted to tell me that in all his years of law enforcement, they’ve never received a thank you note. Not once.
That’s a crying shame.
I’m certain I’m not the first person who’s had a positive experience with the Victoria County Sheriff. Yet I was the first person to take five minutes out of my day and spend 44 cents on a stamp to say thanks, you really made a difference in my life? I was shocked. I still am shocked.
The Deputy Commander wanted to know why I took the time to write a note to the sheriff and to his boss. I didn’t have an answer beyond, “Because that’s the way my mama raised me.” As my dad instilled in me my entire life, “It’s just what you do.” And now I know that this simple, ordinary act — one my mama taught me — means something. It always means something to me when I write a thank you note, and it’s nice to know that it means something to the recipient as well.
The best part: Mr Deputy Commander said the sheriff is up for a promotion, to a detective, and that my two notes would be a part of the review process. Who knows, maybe a couple of notes will be the tipping point and he’ll get the job. Then he can write me a thank you note!
Last summer was pretty bad for me and my family. It started innocently enough, with a bilateral mastectomy at age 40 on May 13th, and while I healed quickly and nicely from that, it all went downhill fast.
Just after my 41st birthday, I got a nasty post-surgery infection. No one saw it coming, and to say it took us all by surprise would be a gross understatement. The odds of contracting a nosocomial infection are not small, but my infection is somewhat rare, quite wily, and super slow to treat. In the scope of inconvenient infections, I won the lottery.
Last night was the first game of the All Star tournament for Payton’s team–something I missed entirely last summer. Being present last night to watch my boy do what he does best with his team of like-minded and uber-talented buddies was one of the simplest yet deepest thrills of all time. We take a lot of things for granted in this life of ours, and being able to sit on metal bleachers in the Texas heat in June to watch youth baseball is one of those things. I’ve sat through thousands of games for my little ball player, and hardly thought twice about it beyond the random, mundane thoughts associated with this endeavor: who are we “versing” (as our catcher, #10 Carl says)? Where is Payton in the line-up? Are we on the shady side of the field? Did I remember my stadium seat? How many times will Macy hit the concession stand? How many pieces of bubble gum does Pay have in his mouth at once?
Those are the thoughts that traverse my brain during a game, along with the usual baseball stuff: What’s the run rule in this tournament?; How did we fare against this team last time we met? If the ball hits the bat then hits the batter, he’s out, right? Rules and regulations course through my head as I follow the many games my boy has played.
Last night was different, though. As I was ready to walk out the door, our bestie Ed reminded me that I’ve come a long way since this time last year. Several of the parents on our team remarked at the park that it’s nice to have me there this year. A couple of the coaches said something about having missed me and my big mouth last summer; once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader.
I have come a long way since last summer, and watching my kid play ball is something to be savored, something to most definitely not take for granted. The metal bleachers, the roar of the crowd, the (gross) smell of hot dogs, the infield dirt blowing in my eyes…every bit of it is special to me on a whole ‘nother level.
Last night also marked the first time a newspaper reporter has covered the game, and seeing my boy’s name in print in association with his rock-star team’s blowout and his personal success is something I’ll be savoring for a while. Before cancer came into my life, I would have enjoyed reading the article, and likely would have forwarded it to our nearest & dearest, but this time, I’m carrying the feeling of that article along with me, inside my heart, in that little space where the gratitude lies.
I was flipping through my old Caring Bridge blog, and happened upon this entry, which seems even more prescient a year later. I wrote this on the morning of my mastectomy, before leaving for the hospital. No doubt I was antsy, preoccupied, and ready to get the show on the road that morning. It seems appropriate to reprint it today, in light of the theme of today’s blog.
I realize that when cancer comes into one’s life it disrupts everything and changes “the normal” forever. Dr Dempsey, my superstar breast surgeon, told me you no longer schedule cancer around your life, you schedule your life around your cancer. Life takes a backseat to war.
With cancer, I join a club that I never signed up for and for which I never wanted to become a member.
No matter, I now have a new normal. The new normal is all about taking care of what’s most important. We hear this all the time, but when you really put it into play in your own life, you know exactly what it means. For me, it means facing this beast head on and telling the bastard repeatedly that it doesn’t stand a chance. It means never once, not even once, considering that this cancer will win. It’s not even in the game.
It also means all the pithy stuff you hear about, like savor every day, make the most our of whatever you’ve got. That’s also true. For me it means truly embracing and enjoying my kids and my family, and letting my friends into my life — warts & all — on a whole new level. Y’all may well see my house a mess, which doesn’t happen much. You may see me in a grumpy mood (ok, you’ve seen that, esp on the tennis court!). You may see me just a teensy bit vulnerable, but only for a short time so don’t expect a repeat performance. No matter what, there is a new normal, and I’m all over it.