Saturday, March 31, 2012

BFF in a Box

BFF, bestie, bud, mate, pal, does your best friend have a title? Or, what friend category do they fall into? Not what clique do they belong to. Thankfully we do not live our lives in a perpetual state of high school divisions of cool kids, nerds and jocks. This week, in my life, there has been an abundance of questions on the topic of friendship. Ranging from the appropriate title for an eleven year old boy's best friend, it was ruled that BFF was too feminine, to the very simple list the first name of your best friend.

After pondering these different scenarios I realized that by the time you reach grown-up status you no longer have a group of best friends. Instead you've filtered through your compadres and now have them broken down in certain categories to serve various purposes in your life. If you're anything like me, and I hope for the sake of your family and your sanity that you're not, your categories might break down something like this:

1. The Mirror: These are the friends that are so much like you that it's not a good idea to ever live together. Unfortunately, since you're such good friends, you probably already know this from experience because you gave it a try at some point. This is a great friend to go shopping with since you have the same taste and you own some of the same things to begin with.

2. Oldie but Goodies: (aka: Childhood Friends) Thanks to social media sites, like Facebook, the resurrection of these nostalgic relationships is more popular then ever. High school and workplace friendships may fade, but there's nothing like having someone to chat with that shares your memories about first sleepovers, school plays, little league games and trick-or-treating. It's amazing to see how life can take you down very different or similar paths. My earliest pig-tailed pal moved away more than twenty years ago, but our family focused lives have turned out very similar, right down to each having a set of twins.

3. The "Yes Your Butt Looks Big": The friend who will tell you like it is, whether it's about your outfit, political view or the fact you haven't called. A fresh honest relationship that always leaves you smiling. When you go to lunch with this friend three hours passes in the blink of an eye and as a souvenir you take home ribs sore from laughing. As a side note this is not the person you could ever count on to bail you out of jail, because chances are they're the reason you ended up there in the first place and they're sitting right next to you.

4. Blood: It is possible for family to be friends. Sometimes I think it's easier when you inherit them like I did. When I married my husband I collected five sisters. Maybe you got in-laws, but I got sisters that are also friends. Very handy for gossiping, child rearing, shopping and general girlfriend type activities. Caution: inheriting blood friends leads to less fighting then between actual siblings, but is not a guarantee.

5. BFF: Whatever you might call this friend they are your nearest and dearest and could come from any of the above categories. This is the person that knows you better than anybody and still likes you. When something exciting happens this is the first person you think to call and vice versa. I had to fill out a survey this week asking me for my best friend's first name. Following my first instinct I put down the person that fit all those criteria, my hubby.

We may not be living in high school anymore, but our friendships still fall into some very distinct categories. What separates us from our teeny bopper alter egos is our ability to not spend our time boxing our friendships into groups, but cherishing and cultivating them. The beauty of being a grown-up is seeing the value of having friends and lifting them up as much as they do you.

When's the last time you showed your BFF, best buddy or soul mate some extra love?

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Pirate Goes Camping

I seriously considered writing a post entitled "Unfortunate Swimsuit Decisions and Tragic Tattoos". After spending a week in warmer climates I was an unlucky witness to a multitude of both. I have three children, two of which came at the same time, and a love of all things chocolate. I know the importance of shopping for a flattering swimsuit. It is my firm belief that many people, both male and female, grab a suit off the rack, put it on and strut out to the pool or beach with out ever looking in a mirror. At least I hope they don't know how they look. I digress, crayon sketched tattoos of mangled mermaids and poorly worn Speedos are not my focus this week. These observations were made because of something that has become very precious to me and my husband, relaxing time away.

I know what you're thinking, that's great for you, but not everyone can flit off to the beach. Well most of the time neither can I, but it doesn't matter where you go it's the peace you get when you arrive. Several years into our marriage my husband and I were stressed to the max and money was tight, which probably added to the stress. Our solution to a relaxing getaway, camping.

It sounded like a good idea at the time. Just thirty dollars a night and a borrowed tent, what could be better? Famous last thoughts. With everything packed and ready to go my hubby came home late from work with an eye injury. You may not have noticed, but telephone lines are wrapped with a wire. While working on a telephone pole that guide wire had sprung loose and stabbed him in the eye. Go ahead, cringe. Had we been a little older and smarter I would have insisted on going to the emergency room, but we weren't so bright and we were desperate to get away. After twenty minutes on the road he was blinded by tears and in a good deal of pain, so we pulled over at a Wal-Mart and I went in to search for a solution. I knew his patience was waining so I raced through the pharmacy aisles scanning the shelves for anything that might help. My solution, eye drops, pain killers and an eye-patch padded with tissues. If a peg leg and a parrot would have helped I'd have bought them, I was beyond desperation.

The pirate routine bought us some time. We were able to get to the campground and set-up the tent, but then he was done. He collapsed on the empty floor of the tent in pain, while I unloaded the truck and established our campsite by the beam of the flashlight and prayed. Exhausted I stumbled through the woods to the showers and prayed some more. Settling the dog under the truck and zipping us into the tent I was finally done. Oh, and did I mention I prayed?

Saturday morning broke sunny and beautiful. I was woken by a very large rock in my back, which was a bad sign considering we had been sleeping on an air mattress. My hubby cracked his good eye open and then gingerly lifted his patch. There was a slight dot that looked bloodshot, but no swelling and no pain. The prayers of the faithful were answered.

With joy in our hearts we bounced out of our tent only to be slammed back by...what exactly was that smell? It was so overwhelming we couldn't immediately distinguish the acidic stench that was burning our eyes. Then it hit me. During the night we had yelled at the dog to be quiet and settle down. Surely he had not been sprayed by a skunk while tied to our truck, in our campsite, in the middle of a very crowded campground. We peeked out at the pooch. He kept his nose in the dirt and wouldn't make eye contact. Yep, that's exactly what had happened.

I don't know about you, I pack a lot of things when I camp, but not skunk remedies. Checking out the camp store the closest thing we could find was V-8 juice, and it wasn't cheap. We bought two bottles and rationed it out between the dog and the truck tire that had been in the line of fire. Low and behold it worked. I'm telling you, the Lord helps those who help themselves, and He was definitely helping us.
Our day went on to be fabulous. It was the first time we spent just completely relaxing together, no activities, just sitting under some trees reading magazines and taking naps. I might have put enough effort forth to paint my toenails and later we went fishing, but the point is we took time to quiet our minds and check ourselves out of reality for awhile. The peace and sanity we gained that day was life saving. It didn't matter that we were camping in the woods, we could have been on a beach or at a park. The experience is what counted. The fact that there were challenges in our path made it all the more worth while. Things that come to easily also come with less meaning.

Take time for yourself, your marriage, your sanity and don't let anything stand in your way no matter what ridiculous thing pops up. Even if it means taking a pirate camping. Maybe it's the very thing that could save you from a disastrous swimsuit decision or tacky tattoo.

So, when are you going to find a little peace?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Unveiling

Since I'm going to be travelling for a little while I knew I wouldn't be able to update the blog in the next week on my normal schedule, so I wanted to do something a little special. To tide you over so to speak. After careful consideration I've decided to share the first chapter of my book Devils Among Us. It's a hard thing to put your writing out to be judged, but I thought what better people could I ask for then those that have found their way to my blog already. So enjoy and please feel free to critique and leave comments. ~ Chastity

Chapter 1
May 2001
Devin Dushane’s feet pounded out a steady rhythm on the steamy pavement of the jogging trail. The humidity reminded her of her time in Thailand, not late spring in Virginia. She could feel beads of sweat sliding down her neck, soaking into the edge of her white tank top where one of her tattoos barely peaked out between her shoulder blades. She glanced to her left and saw the amber sun sinking into the river. This was the forty-seventh time she had run this five-mile course around the city of Richmond in the last month. Sometimes in the baking heat of the setting sun, sometimes in the cooler morning mists that floated off the river, and many times she ran it both in the morning and the evening.

She should be exhausted, but instead, adrenaline flowed through her veins and crackled around her like electricity. This would be the night. She knew it as surely as she knew every curve in this trail. Her father had always said her grandmother Bennett had passed on “the sight” to Devin, the gift of knowing when evil was lurking. She was more inclined to believe it was a keen awareness of her surroundings and elevated sense of details, two skills that had helped her excel as a police detective. It also helped that she was as tenacious as pit bull, which is how she ended up on this sting operation in the first place. She grinned a little to herself as her earpiece crackled.

“Well, your form is definitely improving, Twister.”  Her partner, Greg, had nicknamed her “Twister” because, “You either get caught up in Devin’s energy or flattened by it like an Oklahoma Twister.” 
A perfect example of that energy was Devin’s first encounter with her hand-to-hand combat instructor at the police academy. The drill sergeant flunky had planned to put her in her place when he called her up to demonstrate a technique. Instead she put him flat on his back, ten feet across the mat. The story was legendary among cadets, one Greg loved to tell.

“Thanks, Greg. You know my running form is my biggest concern out here tonight,” she murmured under her breath.

To any onlookers she would look like a typical jogger talking to herself as she ran. It was impossible to tell that the ear buds to her mp3 player were actually tying her in to the communication center of the surveillance team.  Nor would they know that her sporty sunglasses and the fancy emblem on the back of her running tank were actually equipped with small cameras that were also transmitting to the surveillance team. Undercover officers were scattered around the park, keeping pace with Devin as she moved up the trail.

This operation had been her idea, and as much as her commander had disliked the plan, he knew it was their only shot right now of catching what the press had dubbed “The James River Killer.” So far four women had been brutally raped and stabbed to death just feet off the jogging trail that wound around Richmond and the James River. The fifth victim had barely survived and had been able to give them some details about how the attack took place. That’s when Devin had come up with the plan to offer the James River Killer exactly what he was looking for: a pretty, young female runner with a predictable schedule who always ran solo. Bait, so to speak.

At twenty-nine, with her tan, athletic physique and mass of mahogany hair, she fit the bill perfectly. It was their hope that the killer was stalking her this very moment, and that when he made his move out of the shadows, the team would swoop in for the grab, containing the situation with minimal collateral damage.
They had no idea how very right and very wrong they were about to be.
Devin sensed his presence a half a second before the James River Killer stepped out of the dense thicket onto the trail behind her. As she whirled around, Greg was screaming in her earpiece.

“Devin, behind you, to the right. Turn around. Turn Around!”

Just as the fifth victim, Kaitlin Alvarez, had described him, the James River Killer was dressed in black from head to toe, cloaked in black fatigues, boots, a ski mask and gloves, so it was impossible to identify race or distinguishing marks. But Devin could tell he was six feet tall and at least 200 pounds—and he knew how to handle the seven-inch blade he was wielding.

She had to occupy him for thirty seconds, tops, before the rest of the team would surround them. She was ready as she faced off with him. He didn’t hesitate as he drove the knife towards her throat, but she thrust her arm into the inside of his elbow, knocking his blow high so it grazed her shoulder. In the heat of the moment, she didn’t even feel the pain of the cut that should have seared her flesh, and instead landed a punch in his windpipe, followed by a rapid combo of a knee to the groin and then a smashing elbow to the nose. He stumbled back, but only a half a step before he dove forward, sinking the blade into the left side of Devin’s abdomen.

If she hadn’t been a fighter trained in the streets, she might have fallen, but she was fueled by a vengeance that would have to be answered for. When the killer moved to plunge the blade into her stomach a second time, Devin caught his arm and flipped it around, snapping the bones in his wrist, making him drop the knife. She twisted his arm behind, flipping him on to his back and slamming him to the ground, much like she had the academy instructor. 

Officers poured into the area around them, weapons drawn. Devin stumbled back, feeling her injuries for the first time. Like the strike of a snake, the JR killer flicked a semiautomatic from under his jacket and rolled to his knees. It was so fast that by the time Devin had screamed out, “Gun!” he’d already sliced a round of bullets into the crowd. Greg and two others went down, and a young mother with a jogging stroller just down the path stood in harm’s way. The raining gunfire kept the officers pinned down, and with no open shots that would not further endanger the civilians in the park.

Devin was unarmed and bleeding heavily, but she had the advantage of being behind the killer. Without thinking, she leapt forward into a spin, attempting a move she had seen only in the underground fights of Thailand. She had no prayer of performing it correctly, but if luck was with her, she could do it well enough to incapacitate the attacker. She was more than lucky. Devin landed the kick precisely at the base of the killer’s skull. In the roar of the mayhem surrounding her, the sickening snap of his neck still seemed as loud as a gunshot. The James River Killer slumped to the ground, motionless. He would do no more harm.

Devin shot forward to where Greg had fallen and began yanking off his vest. Of course the bullets had struck in the few vulnerable places the body armor didn’t cover, and Greg was gasping for breath as Devin began applying pressure to his wounds.

“Did you get him?” Greg gasped out. “Tell me you got him.”  His curly ash blonde hair and button-down shirt were quickly being soaked with blood. His round face and dimples had always made him appear boyish and too young to be a detective, but he suddenly looked much older than his thirty-four years.

“Yeah G-Man, we got him. He’s definitely down. No worries, ok?” Devin tried using her best sunny voice, but she was failing miserably.

“Devin? Promise me you’ll get me to Marcy so I can say good-bye.” He rarely called her by her given name; it was always Twister or Twist. “She’s at work at St. Mary’s.” He let out a choked laugh. “Hey, you can kill two birds with one stone.”

“You’re not funny, idiot. I’ll take you to St. Mary’s, but there are no good-byes involved. Understand?”

“Sometimes you can’t hold things together by sheer will.” With that, Greg’s grey eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell limp.

Instantly Devin began compressions, screaming at the nearest officer to get a bus. By the time the EMTs reached them, she’d gotten his pulse back, and he was just regaining consciousness as they were loading up.

“Devin, please,” he managed. “I have to see Marcy. Promise me.” His strangled words were just a whisper.

“Fine!” she snapped. “I’ll promise if it’ll shut you up. But just so you know, I expect you to be at work helping me write up the report on this.” She gave him the acidic glare she was famous for around the precinct, and he tried to smile, but couldn’t manage it.

Within a block of the hospital, Greg flat-lined. The EMT shocked his heart, and Devin began compressions again.

Protesting did the tech no good. “Detective, we’ve barely stopped your bleeding. You need to back down and let me work!”

“With all due respect, you need another set of hands, and bleeding or not, I’m all you’ve got.”

Her reputation preceded her, and the EMT stopped arguing to save time and instead used a mask to bag Greg, filling his lungs as they pulled up to the hospital. Devin rode the gurney in to the trauma unit, continuing with compressions the whole way, with the EMT running alongside. She glanced up to see Marcy’s pale face as they passed the desk. Someone must have called her down from the cardiac unit where she worked. With her petite frame and wide purple-blue eyes, she looked like a frightened child. Devin and Greg were covered in blood, and they arrived with a frantic flurry of activity. It was probably not an image that instilled confidence. Devin stayed where she was, trying to keep Greg’s heart beating until someone forcibly removed her and began carrying her into another room. She started to resist until she heard someone yell, “He’s back!”

They’d made it. She’d gotten him to Marcy liked she promised. Now the doctors were responsible for saving him. Devin didn’t want to admit to herself how unlikely that was. The doctors were saying things like “shredded left ventricle” and “pierced pulmonary artery.” She allowed for only a quick patch job of her wounds before she propelled herself back to Greg and Marcy. Stitches would have to wait.

Marcy had her forehead pressed against Greg’s; she was whispering to him and crying softly. She glanced up as Devin approached them. Devin half expected Marcy to be angry; it was well-known that many in the precinct thought Devin’s plan had been reckless and much too dangerous. In the end it had been the only choice they had with the current information, and the risks to the community had become too great to do nothing.

But Marcy wasn’t angry; she gave Devin a sad smile, her violet eyes full of despair. Being cautious of her friend’s injuries, Marcy gently wrapped one of her arms around Devin’s waist in a tender hug, still holding a hand to Greg’s face. She was so tiny she only came up to Devin’s shoulder.

“Thanks, Dev. Greg always said that if something happened to him on the job, you’d get him to me. Thank you for that.”

Devin couldn’t believe they were having such a peaceful conversation in the midst of the chaos around them. Greg looked up at her then, and as their eyes locked, she knew with that familiar tingling assurance that he was leaving them. Devin reached out to grip his hand—it was as if the two women wanted to anchor him here to earth with their touch, to keep him with them.

“Thanks, Twist, for getting me here. You really got him, right? You’re not just pacifying a dying man, are you? He’s gonna get what’s coming to him, right?” He looked desperate to know that his sacrifice would not be in vain, that they had subdued an evil in their city.

“Yes, G, we got him. And he already got what was coming to him. That SOB is rotting in hell as we speak.”

She squeezed his hand gently and then let him go so Marcy could have him completely in his final minutes. He studied her for just a moment and then nodded ever so slightly. His silver eyes flicked between the two women.

“You two take care of each other. Devin, Marcy is going to need your strength, and Marcy, Twist sucks at the emotional stuff, so don’t let her bottle this all up, ok?”

With that he stared into Marcy’s eyes as if trying to will her to feel all of his emotions.  They’d been married one short year, but the intensity of their relationship surpassed an eternity of normal marriages. He breathed out a final “I love you,” and then he was gone.

The mayhem in the room reached a fevered pitch as a code blue was called, but as she slipped quietly out, Devin knew no medical miracle would save him. She was halfway down the hall when her commander, Captain Morris, stopped her.

“Dushane, what the hell are you doing? You look like something out of bad horror flick. Get in there and get stitched up!”

She heard most of what he said, but the adrenaline rush was over, the loss of blood was catching up with her, and grief was threatening to crush her. The last thing she heard before she hit the floor was a stream of curses from Captain Morris.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ticket to Rudeness

What does the world owe us? Does the purchase of a ticket or membership to a club allow us special privileges? By definition yes, but in travelling cross country this week I've observed that many people believe it entitles them to say and do anything they please. According to this theory I should sell my kids tickets to allow for their fits of rudeness and attitude. Or maybe they could buy a punch card, ten sassy comments and the eleventh one is free.

I was amazed at the liberties passengers took in criticizing the airline, flight attendants, coffee shops and other passengers. One pair was disgusted with the amount of carry-on luggage another couple brought on the plane, a small suitcase, two duffel bags and a back pack. The holier than thou twosome didn't bother to keep their voices down about how ridiculously excessive that amount of baggage was and really the stewardesses should do something about it. Obviously they were just trying to avoid paying fees to check their luggage. What I should clarify at this point is that the couple with all the luggage had an infant with them. An infant that they kept content and entertained through an entire five hour flight, to the delight of the rest of the passengers.

Yet another duo took issue with how all the "fun" had been taken out of flying. They missed the days when you were free to roam around the plane smoking and drinking in the lounge and not chained to their seats. You know, by those pesky seat belts. Flight attendants had apparently lost their charm as well. Why did they give up the white gloved luxury service of the past? I had to bite my tongue to keep from suggesting they upgrade to first class if they wanted to be spoiled. In our lawsuit happy society and post 9/11 flight attendants are there for our safety, because there is a segment of the population that can't follow the rules and have to be babysat. If we get a beverage I say goody for us.

It wasn't just the passengers that showed an attitude of entitlement. While waiting in the security line at LAX a group of pilots used their I.D's to move to the front of the line. Which no one begrudged them, after all we all want our crew to be on time. What the crowd minded was the pilots' complete disregard of the rules that held up the line for an extra ten minutes. One pilot set off the metal detector four times because he refused to take off his shoes. Another crew member became very annoyed when the security agent insisted he remove his watch. The flight attendants came through with no issue, as you would expect seasoned fliers too. I realize they were dressed like pilots and had the correct identification, but they should be the last ones that want security to be lax.

Rudeness and entitlement runs rampant in the world I realize that, but it just seamed very condensed while I was travelling. Is a five hour flight fun? It depends on how you look at it and where you're going I suppose, but the whole experience is pretty exhausting. Does buying that ticket entitle me to criticize everything and everyone around me as rudely as I possible can? That's certainly not what I want to teach my children.

If you can purchase the right to be rude, what's the cost of kindness?

Thank you for reading! Don't forget you can use the Facebook share button below to share this post with your friends.