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UNEXPECTED OLYMPIC LESSONS

Unexpected Olympic Lessons      

(Article first published for WTAD.COM 8/23/16. Bobbe writes weekly under “The White Pages!”)

    ryan hair                                                                                            

We expected doping allegations. We expected unfair judging. (Cough, Russian Boxers, Cough). We expected a few ballplayers to be caught in a brothel.(“Oh wow! We’re in a brothel? Who knew?”) But we didn’t expect The Ryan. America is still red-faced, both from embarrassment and anger that an athlete of this caliber could be such a dope. You really have to try. You really, REALLY have to try. But if these are some lessons we needed reinforced, then we were awarded some real gold, through Ryan’s immature behavior.

The lies. How long does it take a human to realize that concocted alibis just don’t hold water? And his mama believed. What a dopey mom she must now feel like. The truth is so much easier to retell over and over, than lies, especially when you’ve got a tag team of four dudes being asked to retell it. Mais oui, they had soggy brains from the French Hospitality House. Oh, please. Do you really think the French would over serve these guys to the point of stupidom? Maybe the hospitality houses were all lined up, like Frat Row, during recruitment week and Team Ryan crossed all 205 nations’ welcome mats. I would be surprised zee French would find zee boys funny, if they were this, how do you say, “kaboozled.”

The damage. If there’s one thing travelers need to remember it’s that we are guests in the host country, any time a shop, home or Shell station is entered. Damaged property is so junior high schoolish. By 6:00 a.m. how could any part of this not begin to look like a bad idea? A soap dispenser, a sign and a mirror. A trifecta in their foggy minds. Oh yeah, and the kicked in bathroom door. Impressive, you idiots. You make me want to spit on your Speedo.

The sacrifice.  If  Speedo and Ralph Lauren, among other sponsors, were lining my pockets handsomely, there wouldn’t be one day I’d awake and say, “Puhtooey on them!” It takes years to develop a good reputation and about one bathroom soap dispenser to destroy it. Beyond the reputation, though, is ALL. THAT. MONEY. He was set. During his swimming career and far beyond. Ryan was America’s Darling. Unfortunately, what you do in Rio, doesn’t stay in Rio. Or anywhere. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

The hair. Ryan’s hair color was, in one word, ridiculous. Personally, swimmers hair is to die for, but not to dye for.  In an attempt to identify what product Ryan used to achieve his hair color, I researched the Clorox Company and here are my findings:   It might have been Tilex, by mistake: he was in the shower and thought it was shampoo. Or it might have been S.O.S. pads, as he had that blueish tint for a while. Then it seemed like Lochte’s Locks may’ve been doused with Pine-Sol, because of the green water tinge. That was weird.  Or perhaps, he used Clorox No-Drip Concentrate. But that would’ve made it whiter, wouldn’t it have?  THEN I FOUND THE PRODUCT. Scoop Away, super clump cat litter.  Because, clearly Ryan Lochte has (pardon my French) sh*t for brains.

Olympic Fatigue

Can someone please pass the toothpicks? My eyes, and those of quite a few coworkers, are bleary-eyed these days, from staying up late, to watch the Olympics. Sure, Katie (Ledecky) and Michael (seriously, you need a last name?) have worked hard to churn the pool for gold, but do they have to wait on the public, wanting to do their banking? Accurately, of course. No. So, Michael’s pool cap ripped about two nano-seconds before his relay leg. Did his office run out of coffee? I don’t think so. And, yes, the cupping marks (weird circle bruises) on athletes’ arms and shoulders are cause for conversation, but do my customers think my chin resting in my coffee cup is appropriate? Not in a million flip turns. So, why don’t we just Go. To. Bed?  Because we can’t! Are you kidding? And miss the 4 x 200 Women’s Free Relay? Not a chance. If Michael can swim 200M Individual Medley at midnight in Rio, I can hang on my couch in Quincy (IL) at 10:00p.m. for a few minutes longer, it’s the least we mere mortals can do.

If only a little naptime could be found. It occurred to me yesterday, when I got into my car at lunchtime, how delicious a power nap would be. Alas, there is cleaning to pick up, oil to be changed and a peanut butter sandwich to be consumed. Besides that, at 94 degrees and 94% humidity, the car is the worst place for ten winks with the windows down, and it isn’t good for the 2004 Pacifica to crank on the A.C. while idling either. Maybe I could steal an itty-bitty nap after work and before the nightly coverage. That’s a great idea, except Lily White, the black Lab, has been snoozing all day and is ready for her own Tricathlon: walking, eating, barking. Maybe I could sleep through the first few events – swimming and gymnastics are ALWAYS later on the schedule, to keep us engaged. Right, have you tried sleeping through Women’s Beach Volleyball, when Switzerland is taunting our USA team, “Bisch du am Gold schurfe*?” First of all, you’ve got four beautiful women, built like Diane Von Furstenberg’s girls. Plus they have braids down their backs that are thicker than my thigh.  And does anyone else out there think it’s odd that volleyball outfits are skimpier than the swimmers outfits? I’d think the gals would prefer those lycra Bermudas, so sand doesn’t get into their Chuchichaschtli**.

Oh well, once every four years, I -and much of America- can tough it out and fight Olympic Fatigue, with the rest of the world. Besides that, there’s much more to watch in the next week ahead. Not only that, the water polo pool is green this morning, and that is another “oops” Rio hadn’t planned for. And do you want to know the very BEST part of Olympic coverage? Political Spuckaffares*** are forced to take a back seat. Thank heavens for small favors. bw

 

*Are you digging for gold?  (Alternate translation: Are you picking your nose?)

**Kitchen Cupboard? Call it what you want…

***Spitting affairs. Exactly.

Bobbe 21

Bobbe tries  to pull herself out of the garbage of life, to carry on.

It’s Friday, June 17, 2016…

…and it’s a tough world out there. Within the past week,

  • A talented singer is killed in Orlando,
  • 50 people gunned down in Orlando nightclub,
  • Two-year old is killed by alligator outside of Orlando.

Poor people, poor families, poor community, poor Orlando.  Makes a person understand what “being under a dark cloud” means, right? If we ever needed to feel better, it is now. But where do we start and what can we do? Is there anything right in the world? It’s called, “basic”, People, “basic”.  Basic comfort for pain. What’s that?  It might be a chocolate chip cookie, cuddling your child or sipping a nice glass of merlot. Basic pleasures for uplifting your attitude: pet your dog, peak at a sleeping baby, watch Jimmy Fallon and President Obama write thank you letters out loud, set to melodic piano. Then, try to live with Positive Expectancy (Steve Wilson). What does this mean? It means: approaching life, as we know it, not as a Pollyanna, but with hopes for good things, which make living worthwhile. To me, it means looking harder than ever for bits of humor, wherever they will pop up. And they WILL pop up, if you play attention. That’s right, it’s not a typo, I said, “PLAY” attention. Be aware, be alert, be alive! It’s okay to carry on. And besides, (queue Leslie Gore), “It’s my birthday and I’ll smile if want to, smile if I want to, smile if I want to. You would smile too, if it happened to you!”  Yep, it’s my birthday and at the risk of sounding like a goat, I’m going to have a goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood day. Why not? At my age, that’s 427 years old – in dog years, I don’t know how much time I have left. And in dog years, I might have 14 glasses of wine and 7 pieces of cakea tonight!  You’ve got to love dog years. Cheers and happy weekending in spite of it all.  bw

Several things I do at the bank for customers:
-Complete the debit card form for traveling customers going to different states/countries. (I designed the form and am quite proud of this.)
-Increase debit card daily limits temporarily, as requested
-Open, close, or rearrange most kinds of checking or savings accounts
Recently, I’d explained to customers how to freeze their credit, to thwart further fraud. What a grand idea, so, to be prudent, I froze my own credit. I’m so resourceful.
Occasionally, I get customers who’re ready to pull their hair out, because of some financial frustration. Recently, I got an opportunity to feel that kind of pain…
Last month, I visited our daughter, Korey, in Denver. Call me “Savvy”, regarding my traveling abilities, when it comes to being prepared financially. This includes taking a debit card, two credit cards and cash. With Uber now, less cash is needed than before, and my bank refunds me up to $20/month on ATM fees, so no problem, if more cash is needed.
Denver, Night #1: Alert informs me of “questionable credit card charges”. The fraud line representative described the suspect charges, but was difficult to understand, seeing as she had a heavy accent. I cancelled the card immediately.
Mountains, Day #2: Saturday, we used my debit card for coffee, en route to skiing. What’s sweeter than sun, moderate temperatures and spring skiing? Between Korey and her roommate, I was fully outfitted: jacket, gloves and helmet. I could’ve packed ski clothes, but they’re bulky. Except Korey had no extra pants and Meghan’s about 5’9” and slim. Surely, there’d be end-of-season sales in Keystone Village. Sadly, sales boiled down to one pair of ill-fitting, men’s, ski pants for $195 (I know…) and no further options. I prayed the snap wouldn’t pop getting on the lift each time. My debit card was declined. Hmmmmm, I wasn’t overdrawn. Wait…NOOOOOOOOOO: I’d neglected to complete my traveling debit card form! Apparently, the card worked at Starbucks, but using it twice, rather rapidly, unfurls a red flag. If I hadn’t designed this form myself, it wouldn’t be so ironic. Plus, I’d helped customers with this form, the day before at work! The card would remain frozen from until Monday. I’m now: 0 for 2. Declined debit and compromised credit cards. No worries, as I, the savvy traveler, present credit card #2 for the pants. DECLINED; I break a sweat. Korey uses her card for my pants, lift tickets and lunch. I call customer service; apparently, my credit limit is just $500. WHAT? Who even has a credit card this low? Me, apparently. I requested a limit increase and paid off my balance, by phone, to reinstate the card. However, the payment wouldn’t show for 2-3 days. Lovely. Soon, an email regarding my credit limit request arrived: request was on hold. It seems that my credit was frozen. ARRRRGGGHHH. “Inform us when you’ve lifted the freeze.” Right. Except I couldn’t remember my password for Transunion, the credit reporting agency. What else is new?
I survived on Korey’s credit until Monday; when my debit card was revived and my credit card payment was applied. We’re back in business! Yes, I owe Korey oodles, but she saved me, and besides, she earned air miles for the assist. Eventually, credit was unfrozen (once I found my password) and a letter arrived, regarding the two, suspect credit card items. The first: $5.00 charge to Yad Vashem, Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem. A worthy cause, but this wasn’t mine; the other item, Amazon.com credit, for returned merchandise. “A credit”, you say? Who on earth call’s a credit for returned merchandise suspicious? I’m not sure when I’ll travel next, but remind me to fill out the traveler form, make sure my kids always have a higher credit limit than and leave ski clothes at Korey’s. For now, I must run to an alterations appointment to make my ski pants a bigger! bw

A Spouse’s Perspective

Women of the Gulf War:  Jill Norris Adams

Over forty years ago, Jill became pen pals with Terry, through a mutual friend. He was a marine, stationed at Parris Island, SC. She took a road trip there from Quincy, IL to meet him in person in June, 1975. Several other trips took her to Houston to meet Terry’s sister, then to Shreveport, LA to meet his parents. In September, she packed her possessions and headed to Parris Island, not knowing where this would end up. Fortunately, Terry was out of the Marines by June, 1976, so they moved to Quincy and in with Jill’s parents, until their September 1976 wedding.
One month later, Terry joined the Army, because the Marines said, “If we don’t issue you a wife, you don’t need one!” Jill quickly took a job in an engraving shop at Ft. Hood, Texas. She learned to make plaques, which got her promoted to engraver. One year later, Terry received orders to Germany, so Jill purchased a used engraving machine from her boss and they took off across the pond. Wives of generals and colonels traveled across Germany to Jill for engraved gifts, from 1978-1981. Their first daughter, Jenny, was born in Germany, in 1979. Stacy and Jon were born in Texas in 1982 and 1984.
Terry went to warrant officers’ school in 1984 in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. From there, the family moved to Ft. Polk, LA and back to Germany. In 1990, the family shipped their household to Hawaii for Terry’s next duty station. Then Desert Storm happened. Their furniture and truck ended up sitting on the beach in Hawaii. The family remained in Germany, until Terry deployed to Saudi. Jill and the children then returned to Quincy VIA England for Christmas, knowing Terry would head to Saudi before long. Jill recalls the heart wrenching, sinking feeling of watching Terry watching his family, through the airport glass, which separated them at the departure gate.
While Terry served the Army for six months, as a Radar Warrant Officer in the desert, Jill watched the war unfold on television. Terry rarely called, but when he did, Jill still remembers her first two questions, on every call, “How’re you doing? Are you okay?” Both of them felt numb to this separation from family, due of war. Their children, however, seemed to fare better than their parents. Jill would attempt humor on the rare occasion, when Terry was able to call home, “Did you buy me any gold?” Jill had heard that there was an abundance of cheap gold in Saudi.
After Desert Storm, Terry, Jill and family were reunited and stationed in Hawaii, until he retired in February 1994.
During reintegration sessions, Terry was informed by the unit chaplain, “Remember that you now have independent, capable wives; spouses kept your homes running, your children on task and were our troops’ biggest supporters. Terry did well as he reentered family life. He never talked about the war, although he shared many pictures. Terry is fortunate, in that he did not suffer from PTSD, but that doesn’t make war any less impactful. It tortured him to see orphaned kids and dogs, walking out of nowhere, through the desert.
After military retirement, Terry shared the advantages of a military career with Jill. She realized that he felt more valued in the service than in a civilian job. After being let go from his first post-military position in the states, they both appreciated the stability and security which military provided. “We always felt well taken care of in the service,” Jill commented. The steady pay was nice too.
While reflecting on the military experience in general, and the Gulf War in particular, Jill, truly feels it was never bad – always good. “We managed when the men were out in the field. As Army wives, neighbors became fast friends and could be counted on to come to the aid of another army wife, who might be falling on hard times. We were blessed in so many ways.”
Jill was told that she was the “Perfect Army Wife,” mainly because she held everything together so well, stayed strong, productive and positive. In fact, having the perfect Army wife found a place on one of Terry’s military officer evaluation reports. His commander literally wrote it into his performance category! (This author would bet a week’s wages, that this type of comment isn’t found in many reports!)
As backyard neighbors with Terry and Jill, we enjoy seeing them with their children and grandchildren on a regular basis. There’s nothing sweeter than seeing three-year-old Aubrey, in her pink rubber boots picking green beans with Paw-paw and six-year-old Alaina, in the kitchen helping Grandma make toffee and caramels. Another granddaughter, six-year-old Emily, Skypes frequently, as her family is living in England for three years. Oddly enough, Emily’s dad works at the Royal Air Force Base, where Jill and her three small children landed for Christmas 25 years ago, in December, 1990, to start her journey as the head of the family. Jill and Terry await the arrival of two new grandsons in May.
It’s a time-worn saying, but needs repeating here: “Behind every great man stands a great woman.” That man is Terry. That woman is Jill.

 

Imagine certain events which could be lengthened by quadrennial silliness…

1. Birthday: the obvious for anyone over 50. It’s like dog years for people. I’m 15. Cool!
2. Eye doctor: Vision tests make me feel like a total failure. I haven’t passed one since fourth grade. Not only is it the command, “Read the bottom line,” (Uhhhh, there’s a bottom line?), but also the part when the doctor asks, “Are these letters clearer, or was the last set?” It can be obvious, but I often feel like I’m on Let’s Make A Deal: “Door number 1, 3, 2, no, wait, wait, I’ll take 1!”
3. Dentist: Technically, I go semi-annually, except for last year, when a Jolly Rancher pulled the back off of my front tooth’s crown. That was an expensive piece of crappy candy, which I will never again eat. But I digress; just think if the dentist could be on Leap Years, and my hygienic efforts –which they tell me are stellar- allowed a visit once every four years. Sweet!
4. Colonoscopy: If my math is correct, using leap year would mean I’d only have to drink that wretched gallon of Gatorade and Musinex once every twenty years, instead of once every five years. Okay, Miralax, Musinex, tomato-tomatoe, potato-potatoe.
5. Mammogram: Once every four years, would be, like having a carport instead of garage door slamming my “girls” on the concrete floor.
6. Pelvic Exam/PAP/rectal: Basically, anything down there, right? Every four years works for me. I don’t care how many times you’ve done this, it’s forever awkward.
7. Spring Cleaning. ‘Nuf said.
8. Work reviews. Ditto.
9. Tax Returns. Heaven!
10. Drivers License Renewal: Anything delaying the mug shot, written test and that damn vision test, (here we go again) to sixteen years, instead of four (in Illinois) sounds great.

Obviously, it is not prudent to have infrequent medical tests, as suggested above. I get that. This is just pretend. Everyone knows the valid reasons for annuals, semi-annuals or even quarterlies. Except for the time in 2012, when my mother, who was 87 at the time, was scheduled for a mammogram. Seriously? It seemed as dumb as giving her a pregnancy test. Cancelled it forever. Besides, she wasn’t even tall enough anymore to get her girls on the plate. Logically, if she didn’t have breast disease by 87, she probably wasn’t going to get it – or worse- die from it. These ten are just a start; no doubt there are other annual appointments you have, that I haven’t thought of. Do reply to me and share the quadrennial fun! Happy Leap Year!

A mother’s worst nightmare: February 25, 1991, Vivian Drees’ son, Tony, was critically injured in the worst scud missile attack of Operation Desert Storm. This very special mom talks about it as they celebrate “25 Years Alive Day!”

MOTHERS OF THE GULF WAR: VIVIAN DREES

A Mother’s Perspective

By Bobbe White

 

If we are lucky in life, we will meet someone as impactful as Vivian Drees, a woman with a heart as big as Montana, make that, North Dakota, which is still bigger than most hearts. As a child, Vivian watched her parents take in babies, years before the term   “foster” parents became a silent badge of honor.  Years later, Vivian and husband, John, found themselves following in the same footsteps as her parents. John was an Army Reservist, a farmer and a solid man, whom Vivian met in June 1970. Their love and commitment for each other grew quickly, they were engaged by August and married in November 1970.  They knew they wanted a family and soon, they found kids entering their lives. Oh boy, did kids enter their lives! Altogether, John and Vivian had thirty children, including one of their own, a step parent adoption, and of 30 foster children, they were able to adopt five.

 

Each time a new child came into their home, the Drees explained to the children, “A new foster child is arriving soon. The child might have to return, at some point, to his real or adoptive home.”  Their biological son, Matthew, watched children come and go. One day, he asked Vivian, “When do I have to go back to my “real” home?” They’d never explained to Matt that he WAS at his forever home. She was touched and proud that, biologically or foster, the children were equally loved.  “Honestly,” Vivian stated, “I can fit every one of these children into my heart, even the ones who are damaged.” And damaged, some were.

 

One foster child, Tony, came to the Drees family at age 13.  He was a runaway Air Force base boy, from an abusive home.  Tony’s mother loved her husband more than her children. In the past Tony called his stepfather, “Stepmonster.” Tony felt angry, cheated and thrown-away. Vivian recalls, “On his 15th birthday, Tony asked to call his birth mother. I was apprehensive about the reception he’d receive.” Knowing her headstrong Tony wouldn’t give up until he was batted away from his mom again, Vivian stayed close during that call. “I’d hoped my instinct was wrong,” but her keen, motherly, sixth sense rarely failed. Everything John and Vivian had done to build Tony up was torn down by a short conversation with his birth mother on the phone, much like the day she said in open court, “I don’t want him, you take him!” Vivian’s sense was correct.

 

John and Vivian were inherent teachers; he taught expertise through modeling mastery, work ethic and critical thinking. As Tony’s frustrations and anger mounted, John instructed Tony to remove a tree stump in the field.  Armed with an axe, Tony assaulted the stump for hours upon days. John helped Tony learn valuable coping skills through physical work to ease mental angst. John taught in his classroom, “The Shop”, where he shared his ideology about being a father, a provider and a community servant. Vivian’s invaluable life lessons were taught by always being present, something she was able to do as a stay-at-home mom.  She taught her children, “The most important lesson in life is to realize that things aren’t fair.”  It is only then, that a person can move on.

 

As the years progressed, Tony and his high school buddies started finding trouble as some teenage boys commonly do. During his junior year, some boys robbed a Coca-Cola machine; Tony claimed responsibility. The summer before senior year, Tony stole the family car; a diesel station wagon. The transmission blew and Tony became “Foster Care Scared” and ran away. His parents needed the insurance money to fix the car, so charges had to be filed against Tony. Vivian reluctantly agreed with recommendation of the social worker and Tony’s attorney that he be sent to the State Industrial School for Boys for ninety days.  The Drees hoped this punishment would help Tony recognize his choices and behavior. The program worked. Tony went on to have a positive senior year and graduated at the age of 17. After graduation, Tony attended the University of North Dakota (UND) and then enlisted in the US Army for four years, serving in West Germany. When he returned to North Dakota, he returned to school at UND to excel in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) as a student, an officers candidate, and student athlete, while finishing two years as an Inactive Reservist.

 

At the age of 22, Tony then requested to be adopted; an unusual request for a 22-year-old. His wish was granted and Tony finally had a real, forever home with the Drees family.

 

In January 1991, during Desert Storm, Tony received orders to join the fighting in the Gulf War. A week into Tony’s deployment, Vivian – again- had a cold, sixth sense feeling for her son. The evening news on February 25, 1991 confirmed her fears: a U.S. barracks was hit by a scud missile in one of the deadliest attacks of the Gulf War. She witnessed the chaos unfold on T.V., and knew it was bad, in general, and for Tony, personally. The Drees waited five long and agonizing days before hearing from Tony, who’d suffered life-threatening wounds: shattered, shrapnel filled femur and the backs of both his legs blown off.  After the first of 58 surgeries, Tony was transported from Saudi Arabia to Germany for his recovery. A nurse asked Tony what he needed, “My mom,” he answered.  He was running out of courage, he was abroad, alone and critically injured. This request activated the American Red Cross to get involved and within days, Vivian headed to Germany. As fate would have it, Vivian was met at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, by one of her foster daughter’s younger brothers who was stationed there. With this effort to accommodate her, Vivian realized that the kindness, which she’d so generously and selflessly given to her foster children, was being returned to her as life had come full circle in her foster parenting journey.

 

Tony was further transported to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, MD with Vivian by his side. His high-profile injuries found The U.S. President, top military leaders, nationally publicized journalists at his bedside, and the mother-son photo appeared in People Magazine. During Tony’s long and arduous recovery, Vivian was his fiercest cheerleader.

 

Upon Tony’s hospital discharge and Medical Retirement from the Army in March of 1992, Tony returned to North Dakota, bringing with him, the constant companion of war pain, both physical and mental challenges.  Tony’s recovery of body and mind would need to begin by building strength. A topic, to which Tony is no stranger even today, he keeps his body tuned, as any serious athlete does. Vivian and John were the yin and yang to his recovery. She was the compassionate, soft-spoken figure; John was the strong, quiet component. They both served as the “buoys” to a man drowning in a sea of pain.

 

Vivian is more than proud of Tony’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) management.  His negative experiences are now channeled into a positive career of helping others heal and succeed. A number of John and Vivian’s children came to them damaged, some succeed, some struggle perpetually. Their unwavering support for each of their children remains a constant vigilant journey. Those two were quite a team. Now, by visiting her parents in Canada, seven children, seventeen grandchildren and one great grandchild, Vivian is trying  fill a huge void left by John’s death last year. Without question, losing John feels so unfair to Vivian, but she knows the lesson; some things just aren’t fair. Serving as a dedicated Military Mom, a community servant and an advocate for foster children, she also knows she can fit the growing family into her home and her heart, and that is what keeps her going.

 

When asked directly about her bond with Tony she replies,”I am proud he is my son, I love him.”

 

 

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