Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My West Texas Home. In Which the Author Provides an Exposition on Travel, Home and Grandparenting with Bonus Descriptions of Midland, Texas, and Birth.

Wherein I Explain My Four Years in Absentia, Starting at the Very Beginning, With the Possible Side-Perk of Making You Feel Either Squeamish or Downright Queasy

In the moment, birthing Bridgette wasn't that troublesome. I got an epidural early on.

I read magazines mostly.

When it came time to push, the hardest thing was trying to *stop* pushing with the head of an infant only centimeters away from emerging from my birth canal.

This is unnatural (stopping), and the effort of keeping my baby inside of me took me to the very precipice of a fully-hyperventilated blackout on the birthing table.

If you're wondering why I would try *not* to birth on a birthing table, it's because the nurse had said, "First-time moms take a long time to push their babies out. Hours. Don't worry. I'll call the doctor when the time is right."

But fifteen minutes later, this statement was followed by her screaming, "Stop! Stop pushing! You've got to stop!"

Complete underestimation of my first-time-motherness.

By-the-by, she also stepped on my IV tubing somewhere along the way, and I started bleeding-out all over the floor. I was understandably busy with other things, so I might not have noticed had my left hand not distracted me by growing icy-cold.

Upon further examination, I realized my forearm had turned various shades of pale. And although the term "sheet-white" is cliche, it is also acceptable as my fingers -- which endured the worst of it -- did in fact blend in with my hospital sheets.

Looking for the source of the trouble, I peered over my railing to discover a deep puddle of my own blood pooling largely around the IV stand.


Back to pushing. I mean to stalling.

Seven excruciating non-pushing minutes later I saw my doctor's feet behind the curtain at the door, so I stopped hyperventilating and curled up, using every muscle in my core to get that baby out.

This cleared my mind, and the rest of the scene is oddly sharp in my memory. Every edge of every person, every edge of every object was exceptionally well-defined. I could delineate atoms with my eyes.

And it didn't much concern me that although my doctor had arrived, she wasn't actually ready to doctor. I decided to push anyway.

Hm. On second thought decided may not be the right word.

One push as I watched my doctor vigorously, swiftly scrub her hands.

Another as the techs dressed and tied her, a flurry of rushed servitude.

Another push as she sat on her stool at the end of my bed, gloved hands splayed to catch a baby.

Actually, the only pause in the action came during that push, when my doctor exclaimed, "Oh!"

Which got a mid-push halt and a, "What!?" from me.

Which, in turn, got a sing-song reassuring reply from her. "Nothiiing. Just keep goiiiing. You're doing gooooood. One more biiiiig push nooow."

And she was right. At least about the one more big push.

My baby, her nose and jaw squashed to one side from an almost-birth 2 months before, was hoisted to my breast where she lay, body covered in creamy-gray vernix, head covered in blood. Her cord was still attached.

It was so good to meet her.

I meant to remember the first words I said to her, but I can't.

I do remember the first thing I thought.

"Who are you?"

And as it ends up, I'm pretty much still asking myself that everyday.

So that's it. An easy-peasy birth.

One hour and over fifty stitches later (wrapping up your curiosity about the reason for my doctor's, "Oh!"), they finally moved me to a recovery room where I held Bridgette (as we decided to call her) in my arms.

She slept peacefully.

We only enjoyed a few hours with her before things started to go terribly wrong, but I sure did like that time when we thought everything was right.

While the entire story above is something of a side-note, it does help explain why I hadn't visited my West Texas home in over four years. Those after-birth complications made it difficult to get away.

Traveling hasn't been impossible, and we've tried it from time to time, but it usually starts or ends very badly.

So for the first time in my life, I've learned to (mostly) stay put. I learned to stay near Bridgette's children's hospital in Salt Lake City because you just never know...

And to be honest? It's been really hard.

Outside of all our other Bridgette-related troubles, I really, really like to travel. So staying put has been difficult for me.

Now, skipping a bit . . . 3 1/2 years later . . .

The past 12 months have gone so well health-wise that I recently got the traveling itch. It was time to take Bridgette with me to see the world, as has always been my desire.

Where to go first?
Where to go?
Where to go?

But then it struck me.

First stop? Duh. Home!

Wherein I Describe A Place that Few Visit and Even Fewer Revisit, Yet Some People Live There and Like It, While Others of Us Grew Up There and Will Not Move Back but Think of It Fondly, Mostly

Midland, Texas, has been made famous by three things:

1) Jessica McClure who slipped down an 8 inch diameter pipe in 1987 at the age of 18 months and was rescued alive after 58 hours and a herculean effort,

2) President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush who claim Midland (when they feel like it) as home,

3) and Friday Night Lights (published 1990, H.G. Bissinger) from which both a movie and a television series have been produced that delves into a long-standing rivalry between Odessa Permian (our sister city) and Midland Lee (whose football practice field I could hit with a rock from my front yard.)

Here's more on Friday night: ESPN 2008: Football Defines West Texas Towns      (Check out the crowd in the top photo of this article.)

Favorite quote:
"Ain't nothin' like a Friday night in Midland, Texas.
Those who play it, coach it, cover it and watch it have a hard time
explaining to those outside of West Texas why it matters so much."

"The area's general isolation is a major reason."

And they're still at it: 2011 Season: Panthers vs. Rebels 17-16

An aside: As a youngling, I woke up every morning to the Lee Rebels marching band playing Dixie. Sounded like they were in my front yard. I still twitch a little when I hear that song.

Ooh! A second aside: The most embarrassing moment of my life happened at that football field. Ask me about it sometime.

Now since I bet you didn't know any of the above about Midland, my statement "has been made famous by" is a bit of a misclaimer.

But it is flat.

Really, really flat.

And dry and desolate and flat. And hot. And flat. And windy.

Welcome to my hometown of Midland, Texas!

I didn't take this photo because I was caught
out in that sucker, circa 1997.

If you visit, go for a drive outside the city limits and you can witness an outrageous number of stars in the night sky. It's stunning. Though you might also witness a massive anvil cloud, complete with destructive hail the size of baseballs and/or a tornado. Which is also stunning, in its own way.

Photo by Eric Nguyen, Storm Chaser, Outside of Midland
Mesoscale 2002

It does turn cold (frigid even) during the winter months for at least 7 or 8 days, rarely in a row.

If luck holds, it snows twice a year.

And school is always cancelled, even for a 1/16 inch of snow because no one knows how to drive in it.

When I moved to Utah, I kept waiting for them to cancel my university classes for snow. But they never did. Not once. It was so disconcerting I managed to get an article published in the Salt Lake Tribune on that exact subject. No lie!

Unbenownst to most, Midland was not founded on oil or cotton or cattle but was a water stop on a train route between Dallas and El Paso.

Thus the name "Midland" because the name "Midway" was already taken.

But now its primary industry is oil, and that's the reason I grew up there. My father is a geologist.

The oil industry is not for the feint of heart. Midland is about extremes: in weather, in sports, and in industry.

It's boom and bust there all the time due to a myriad of factors (general supply and demand, political action, public rhetoric, OPEC, production costs, etc.)

While it's true that there is a literal fortune invested in oil exploration, only some have seen that investment returned while many others have lost their livelihoods.

In "good" times, the town is flooded with people.

That's what is happening right now.

Pump jack as neighbor.
Photo by Dave Fehling, StateImpact Texas, Jan 2012


Derricks and pump jacks everywhere you look!

But there are also tons of shortages.

It's like a John Steinbeck novel.

Houses are sold before they're officially on the market, frequently for above asking price.

People who move to Midland to work may have to live in tents outside of town for months. Normal people. With families.

Oil field companies rent multiple floors of hotels, contracting into several-year commitments.

The overall community is short thousands of employees. This year, 500 are needed for the school system alone, but there is no housing available for people moving in (see above.)

You can wait up to two months for car repairs at dealerships. You can wait hours to be seated at a restaurant and then *more* hours for your food.

If your washer or dryer breaks, the repairman may schedule your repair for 6 months down the road.

And it's not just the home-sector that's affected. There are severe shortages in oilfield services and goods as well. Instead of salesmen calling the office to sell their wares, oilmen call them. And then they're put on a long wait list.


In "bad" times, there are massive layoffs.

It's like another John Steinbeck novel.

All those newly built houses begin to empty and fall into disrepair. U-hauls go to the highest bidder; people walk away from houses in the middle of the night.

Brand new oil field equipment is sold at scrap prices.

There are honest to goodness runs on banks, managers anxiously locking the doors at 5PM just like in It's a Wonderful Life.

You can't get good service (again) because people move away in droves and supporting businesses shut down.

Everybody gets nervous, the industry is decimated, and many former geologists permanently get out and move on.

Our family has survived such times.

As a kid, I remember when my father's office downsized from hundreds of employees to three.

He was one of the three.

I'll never forget that when he came home after that awful day, our family spent the rest of the evening rolling up all the coins we'd saved in our family money jar to donate to charity, grateful we had been spared.


Then there are the "in-between" times that are pretty normal.

And anyway, I grew up there, so everything seemed normal to me.

My little brother and I had picnics in the backyard -- grape jelly sandwiches or baloney with single-slice American cheese -- childhood staples.

My older brother and I fought about whose turn it was to take out the trash, and he tried to scare me scared me with horrific stories of the "trash monster" that lived in the ally.

We went to school. We went to church. We played sports and learned math and sang in choirs. I hung out with my friends.

Normal stuff.

This is the place I grew up. This is where my parents live. And this is where I took Bridgette to visit my folks.

Wherein I Recall Some Aspects of Our Trip, Post a Video and Old/New Photos, Provide a Short Discourse on the Evils of the Las Vegas Airport, and Give Thanks to My Parents for Being Great Grandparents (Where "Great Grandparents" Is Purposely Typed Without a Hyphen)

Now, in all fairness, Bridgette had been to Midland once before -- during Christmas 2007.

But since she was in utero, early in gestation, mostly she made me vomit the whole time.

Also, she didn't remember her grandparents from that trip.

So this excursion was very exciting for both of us.

Every morning here in Utah she woke up talking about airplanes, and since she hasn't yet formulated a concept of time that aligns with the adult world, I made a countdown chart for her.

Each day until our trip she removed one butterfly. Then she counted how many more butterflies until our departure.

The whole experience was little more than a long weekend away from home, but Bridgette has not forgotten it.

Even though her Grandparents Hoose have come up here on multiple occasions and helped us out in some tough times, the last she had seen them was July of the year previous. Technically she was still 2 years old.

Now she's made the connection that she and I both have mommies.

Despite it being a short visit, I have copious photos. So I put them together in a little video, good for all your loving-aunt and doting-grandma needs:

If you took the time to watch, 
here are a few explanations of random tidbits 
you may have noticed in the video:

1) The house

Okay, I guess it's because I hadn't been home for 4 years, but this trip felt extra nostalgic for me.

Perhaps it's because I know my parents will move someday, and since "someday" is loosely defined, I also know this might have possibly been my last trip home, ever.

So, I took photos of the front of the house, the back of the house, the yard, the kitchen, etc.

It looks a little different now, but this was my home from the day my own mother birthed me until I moved away for college.

I have many memories stored there.

Front to back: Jon, Kelly, Scott, and
Mr. Chevy Malibu Classic (oh yeah)

 Still one of my favorite family pics, circa 1981.

Bonus points if you can accurately count
the number of guns protecting the fort.

In addition, you'll see these items in the video from around the house...

...an end-table;

My father built it in the early 1980s. It started as rough walnut planks, and he learned how to use a bunch of different kinds of tools to construct it.

The joints are various, including dowel, mortise and tenon.

He said he hand-sanded it, ". . .which was a mistake and lots of work."

I love it, and remember it as a constant piece in our ever-changing cadre of household furniture.

Here it is in 1982, brand-new.
It outlasted the carpet, that's for sure.

In the video-photo of this same table 30 years later, you can notice a few items that are as equally nostalgic to me as the end-table:

  • a small squeeze bottle of Neutrogena hand lotion
  • some books

These items remind me of my dad as much as the actual furniture.

Especially because the stack of books includes scriptures (on top), a scripture companion study guide (on bottom), and The Age of Federalism (sandwiched in the middle).

...a bookcase;

Many of the books still on the shelves in this living room case (especially the middle shelf) are books that I grew up with.

I could read their spines every day, even if I never cracked them open (although in many cases I did): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James A. Michener, O.Henry, James Burke, Lewis Carroll, and David McCullough to name a few.

...a crystal bowl;

A hand-cut piece from Europe that was given to my great-grandparents as a wedding gift over 100 years ago.

...a family Bible;

Printed in 1881 and presented to my great-great-great-grandparents in 1891, it is chock-full of names and dates pertaining to my family's history clear back to 1772.

...an upright piano;

I think my parents bought this early in their marriage, and it has certainly been a centerpiece in our home. Not so much because it's an ornate piece but because my mom plays it so beautifully.

My mother is a self-taught pianist, and I grew up listening to her playing almost every day.

She would often sing as she played.

When I was little, she'd play music to which we would jump around, slink around, and/or dance. Specifically I recall many requests for The Pink Panther and something we called The Miss Piggy Song.

Then as I got older, she played increasingly more difficult/ elaborate/ emotional music. And she'd play for family sing-alongs. Or to accompany us as we learned competition pieces. Or she'd play for our friends and for church groups.

Sometimes we still danced.

I've pretty much tried and failed to teach myself to play, but my older brother took up the call and is a talented self-taught pianist too. He's very good and creates a lot of fine, catchy original compositions.

...a piano-seat cover;

My grandfather John Summa (Jr.) made it. I'm not sure why he chose the violin and flowers, but it's a lovely piece of work.

Here's a picture of him that I adore. His kilt is made from our Scottish tartan.

...a lamb and a lion;

This is an olive wood piece I picked up from Omar's in Jerusalem back in 2000.

I snagged a number of small olive wood sculptures while I was there to give away as gifts. They were mostly religious in nature, but I got an elephant for myself, of course.

When I saw this one, it made me think of my dad. So I bought it for him. It's been on display ever since. I still like it.

...the fireplace;

This is the same brick fireplace where I hung my stocking every Christmas (although the mantle is brand-new).

I don't really know if there's a story behind the clock, but if there isn't one, there should be.


Well, I thought I had included a photo of my parents bedroom wall, but apparently I did not. So I'll put it here instead.

The reason I highlight the wall is to show you the woodworking piece that is positioned between the clock and family photos on the right. It says, "ALL MY LOVE," and my dad made/gave it to my mom back when they were dating.

Seriously! Check out that presentation!
Can anyone say super-awesome daisy-chain?

Cute aren't they? Not the kids. (Please.) My parents!
This was taken of them when they were still dating.

2) Activities

So, I won't explicate most of the "activity" photos. They are self-evident play.

But you will see two photos of us waiting to see Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance which came to Midland's new Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, a building that is beautifully unique inside and out. 

We sort of planned the visit so we could see a performance at the center, and Lord of the Dance was the only one from the Spring 2012 line-up that I thought might interest B.

In reality, I mention this mostly because I can't wait to share this piece of trivia.


Michael Flatley holds the world record for the most number of times a person has tapped his/her foot in ONE SECOND.

Guess how many times!


Okay. Did you guess?


Did you guess 35 taps per second? Because you should have.

Besides that? 

There are only two other things I want to write about specifically, and then I promise to stop.


3) Travel

Of course it's hard to travel with children. 

Or at least much harder than traveling by yourself.


Not-funny moments have been flipped into humorous anecdotes at every written stop in the world.

So instead of detailing all the ways in which it is hard to travel with a child, I will dwell solely on the Las Vegas airport, where we had our layover on our way to Midland.


I naturally hate the Las Vegas airport, but it's much, much worse with a 3 year old.

Samples and examples --

-- When you get off the airplane in Las Vegas you are immediately accosted by slot-machines that walk up and slap you in the face. They are noisy. They are flashy. They steal your money. 

-- This is annoying on a good day, but when you have a 3 year old they are much worse. Why? Because your child thinks you are at Disneyland! But you're not.

-- So then you spend the entire layover with your child saying, "Ooooh!" at every new slot-machine with its electric call in sounds and lights. 

-- Your child is drawn to them, pulling you mercilessly by the hand, "Please mom! Oh pleeeease!" or running to them independent of permission in crowded, stranger-infested lands while you clumsily chase her down trundling your two carry-ons, her two carry-ons, and a car seat.

-- Knowing that 1) I don't want her to gamble ever, let alone at the age of 3, and 2) I'll get slapped with "under-age" fines if she touches the machinery, and 3) we have to get to our gate AND we have to go potty (in itself quite a process for my little girl in a scary public bathroom) AND we have to buy food AND we have to . . . 

. . . I mean, what I'm saying is, we have other things to do.

-- So, I have to draw her away.

-- In drawing her away, we inevitably turn toward yet another slot-machine because they're bloody everywhere!

-- This causes us both consternation.

-- Increases in whining, pleas, and sighs ensue. Add them to the already predictable travel whining. Compound that with the sound of unsilenceable slot machines that are at every juncture, wall, and corner of the airport. And also in the open, blocking my path. 

-- It gets under your skin real-quick-like. 

-- It's also impossible to sleep, read, or otherwise find peace in that airport. When you've raised your child from the dead of sleep in the wee hours, sleep during the layover (at least for one of us), would be nice. But forget rocking her to sleep in the Las Vegas airport.

Eventually, we finally found a nice, relatively "quiet" nook, sans gamblery, in which to pretend we weren't so wound up we could play together nicely.

Play was intermittent though, and depending on the moment in which you passed by our vicinity, you'd have cooed at our cuteness or glared at our tantrums. 

We did our best.

There's a picture in the video of Bridgette laying on the Las Vegas airport floor.

But in case you didn't watch the video, here it is again:

Bridgette just saw this photo and said, "Look, Mom! A airport!"
Apparently, we both remember this place.

4) Grandparents

Last, but absolutely the most important part of this post -- my mum and pop. 

Two of the best people on the planet.

If you refer to the whole "birth" sequence at the top, you might notice that you don't immediately notice family gathered in those photos. That's because I told my parents I didn't need them there. 

I was older than a great many first time moms, and we felt pretty prepared.

But the moment I called my parents to inform them that something, we didn't know what, seemed to be going wrong, they took action.

They bought tickets and boarded a plane within hours.

They arrived in Utah County about the time the life-flight crew was prepping Bridgette for transfer, so after a short visit in the NICU, they immediately turned their car around and followed us up to Salt Lake County.

That's where they found and paid for a place for us to stay and took night-shifts with Bridgette in the hospital.

They stuck around and helped out for several weeks. And boy did we need it.

Since then our in-person visits have been considerably more sparse, of the frequency that is only natural when you live in different states. But mom came up for Bridgette's second surgery, and we've seen them a handful of other times too, always pleasant.

Having spent a lot of years becoming great parents, it's only natural that they would be wonderful grandparents. 

I know they care a lot about all their children and grandchildren and think about us often.


Bridgette just walked in and said, "Mo-om, want a type a message a gramma an grampa." 

So here she is:

09-9=-093   e543 90099-   80-8009--= =8-9-=9=-5424e545443321 ```````````````````````````````````````````` er6666666666665444444444444444444444 4444444444444444444444444444444 44444444444 ========= --00--9999889988777777oiooikqed33333344444555566622221111````` o099 4eweedwedrw54   assddsddrr4 dew3eettrt weddsdwewediu er45549o                                           ii980o80-99-9090     0p0-  0p-0;0-90-0=09-0-pop     rdwe5re54rw45r5w0i8-9i0 0-0909i0342380909r2e df e4r5tkolpolk4re539op90-0435r430l;5e8l4 

Well, her brows were furrowed and she click-clacked in great concentration, so I can only assume she gave her grandparents a Little-Orphan-Annie-Secret-Decoder ring for this while we were in Midland.


This trip really helped cement in Bridgette's mind who G&G Hoose are as people and that they are important to her.

Here are my favorite photos of her with them from our trip.


We thank you both very much for a fine stay. 

You were perfect hosts, and we love you lots.


Lore said...

Oh, I am so glad to get to read this post (and all of the linked articles) before I get onto an airplane and go into the stratosphere. We sure love you guys and are so happy that you could make the trip to visit home. I am glad to hear that Bridgette understands who Gramma and Grampa are, now, and please thank her for her well thought and profound comments in the post. Grandparents don't need a decoder ring to understand.

Lisa Merkley said...

Loved this post for many reasons!
1. You've got a cute kiddo.
2. Sigh. I will never again get to visit "home" so I understand why it's sentimental that it might be your last visit.
3. The embarrassing story...does it involve a fence and possibly a boy? A tall skinny boy at the time?
4. You do have fantastic parents.

Lisa Merkley said...

Oh, and
5. I remember some things in that house...particularly the piano bench, the book cases, and the fireplace.

Jennifer said...

What a great post, Kelly. It also makes me miss Midland. What a fun trip you two had!

Tammy and Alvin said...

Admittedly, I did not watch the entire movie, but I kept it playing while I scrolled down and finished reading the post. Great music selections!

I'm so glad that I'm lucky enough to have visited the great land of Midland and that I have experienced your parents' awesomeness for myself. Bridgette is definitely a lucky girl to have them as grandparents (and you as a mom!).

Brenda Johnson said...

This Auntie loved, loved, loved the big smiles found from the beginning to the end of the video and I'm so glad you had such a good visit! And for the not so good - i.e. Vegas airport - well you'll always remember those too :) Probably with more of a laugh later on than now.

Love you guys!!