Have you ever taken a walk down ‘memory lane’ and ended up stopping at a time in your life that at first makes you laugh, then boggles your mind as you question, “Why did I ever do that?” “What was I thinking at the time?” And as you continue to park there for awhile, you do one of three things….keep on laughing until you cry, turn your car radio up so loud, it drowns out your thoughts or you shake your head, do a quick repentance, (even though you have already repented 100 times,) and thank God for His grace and that He got you through it. 🙂
We all have something in our life, that if we could take the “know how” that we have acquired as we’ve grown older and wiser, would go back and change…but instead, we take all that we have gleaned from it, look at it for what it was and know that somewhere between our youth and now, we are stronger, embody more self worth, have a wittier sense of humor and actually have a great Ice breaker story to share at social events. (As long as our ‘episode’ is rated. PG-13 ) 🙂
In the happen-chance that I am going to share with you in this blog, I had what you would call a ‘season of immense stress and insanity,’ but I also call it my “Summer of transformation,” as I certainly was not the same person going into the season as I was, coming out. I learned new coping skills and that stress doesn’t always kill you. 🙂 I added to my repertoire of strengths and knowledge , how to laugh when I wanted to cry, that the bestowal of a praying mom is a priceless gift and that it’s “Okay,” if your unpopular for awhile as it gives you such an appreciation for when you’re back in everybody’s good graces. 🙂 This fluke occurrence was one of many life lessons, (accompanied with others,) that would bestow upon me a wonderful new freedom in my life…the ability to follow my own convictions, no matter the price and to say “NO.” Certainly an important character trait to own in order to live a more winsome as well as peaceful life. 🙂
I hope you enjoy the writing , perhaps it will bring you a chuckle or two, a smile and cause you to “really check” your next drivers license when you get it renewed… 🙂
“When you are saying YES to others, make sure you are not saying NO to yourself.” Paula Coelhon
“Each moment of worry, anxiety or stress represents lack of faith in miracles, for they never cease.” ~ T. F. Hodge
“The storm before the calm.” ~ Cameron Conaway
“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.” ~Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I’d Like to Give to You
Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” ~Helen Keller
The beautiful thing about setbacks is they introduce us to our strengths.” ~ Robin Sharma
Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival.” ~Martha Gellhorn
Releasing the pressure, it’s good for the teapot and the water. Try it sometime.” ~Jeb Dickerson,
“NEVER ALLOW SOMEONE TO BE YOUR PRIORITY WHILE ALLOWING YOU TO BE THEIR OPTION. HAVE SELF LOVE.” Author unknown
“I try to avoid stress — it makes me feel like I’m rubber-stamping all my organs “Urgent!” ~Terri Guillemets
True story …. Tell me what you would have done?
Picture this! I was a mere 20 years old when the Department of Motor Vehicles issued me, (by accident through a clerical error) a Class 3 – Truck and Bus Drivers license. For quite some time, I was not even aware that I had been unwittingly graced with such an appanage as it stayed tucked away in my wallet until one day, while requiring our drivers licenses for paper work, my boss at the YMCA discovered it. Here begins my story.
The glorious season of spring, the time when the earth is awakening with new birth and the land is filled with brilliant and majestic blossoms at every corner had come to an end. Arriving in all of its grandeur and spectacle was the long awaited and widely adored “Good Ole Summertime.” There is no other season like it, as we are all captivated by the blue skies, billowing clouds, lush green landscapes, lazy days, fishing trips to the pier and the challenge to be creative and build superlative sand castles at the beach. It is the time where all of the swimming pools are brimming with the sounds of laughter, water splashing and children’s chatter as they celebrate their newly acquired gift of ‘no school for 3 whole months.’
It was my first summer as the Assistant Director of summer camp at the YMCA in Orange County California. I was thrilled at my promotion and eager to start the season with over 80 highly energetic kids, my friend and boss Monique, (the summer camp director), and our staff of counselors and volunteers. Our summer-tide calendar consisted of an abundance of beach trips, Knots Berry Farm, San Diego Zoo, Disneyland, Sea World, Marine Land, recreational parks and of course the kids weekly favorite, Skate-land.
Two weeks before camp was to begin, the assistant Director of the YMCA, Terrance, was busily training all of the staff with his skills, on HOW TO DRIVE A SCHOOL BUS. The sessions lasted about two hours.
“It is easy,” He said, “Anyone can do it.”
Well, not so! All of his trainees were not able to pass the D.M.V tests to obtain their licenses. Perhaps because it was a ‘crash course’ training session and there had not been enough time allotted to properly train these potential bus drivers. Terrance had me on the bus as well just to ‘learn the ropes’ as they say. He had assured me that I was not even in the running as a first choice as I was the assistant camp director and my attention was needed elsewhere.
Well, can you guess what happened next? When Terrance found out that I was mistakenly issued a Class 3 bus driving license, he nominated me to be the designated Summer Camp School bus driver. (After all, legally, I could drive a bus. ) My life as I knew it had come to an end.
Besides perspiring profusely, tension headaches every afternoon, anxiety filling my entire body and my personality changing from bubbly and sweet to stressed out, edgy and irritable, I managed to begin to “chill out,” (a little) and accept my newly appointed ‘berth.’ Driving around town was not too bad and with in a short time I actually felt a tad bit comfortable. It was our ‘day trips’ that ruffled my feathers, rocked my boat and turned my life upside down. Now, as I look back on the summer of my youth, I can laugh at my story. At the time, I cried!
One exceedingly hot California day, when traveling over an hours distance to take the kids to Marine Land in Los Angeles, I found myself cruising up a steep hill, (which normally was OK, but this particular street had a stop light.) Oh Joy! Operating our over sized, stick shift, ‘bucket of bolts’ was pressing all my hot buttons and so, once again, I began to experience the abundant perspiration as well as a thousand butterflies invading my stomach accompanied by stress headaches. You have to understand that I had a hard time driving through Laguna Beach with all of its winding roads and steep hills in my little red Volkswagen Bug…there was just something about my foot, the clutch and first gear as I sat on the peak of a hill. I would always go backwards before I accelerated forward…I hated hills until I changed to an automatic. Thus, there we were, (all 95 of us,) In the humungous “big yellow bus,” idling on this steep hill. Every time the light turned green, I would try, attempt again, and strive to get the bus going, only to no avail. Therefore, our bus sat at the green light, (sometimes turning red,) for quite some time, with plenty of angry people behind us honking, waving their hands and exhibiting angry sign language, thinking that somehow, it would give me the ability to move the bus! In order for me to successfully make it up that hill, the Director Monique, had to jump in my seat and get the bus going and then at the next stop, (where we arrived to level ground), we switched back into our original seats . (She did not possess a wrongfully administered Class- 3 license as I did.) 🙂 Talk about stress! My heart rate went from triple beats to single when I knew the hills were gone and our trip home would be smooth- sailing,( level, even and flat all the way).
During this time, my sister Gin and I shared an adorably quaint apartment in Irvine California. Our little haven was quite the gathering place for all of our friends and family . This particular summer, we were blessed to have two of my favorite people in all the world come for an extended visit. My younger brother Patrick and my mom….both visiting from South Carolina. I could not wait to get home each night to spend time with them as each evening, we all enjoyed one of my moms renowned, scrumptious home cooked southern meals and plenty of catch up chatter. (Plus we had plenty of Ibuprofen.)
My mom, dearest friend and the one person who knew me better than anyone in the world was ‘beyond shocked’ and disconcerted at the fact that her 20 year old, untrained daughter was driving a school bus with over 80 boisterous children all over southern California. She was ready to go and confront all of my superiors to tell them to take me out of the drivers seat and replace me with a real, licensed driver. (However, she decided to ask the Lord to do it instead.) Talk about ‘prayer warriors’… My mom loved the Lord with all of her heart and when she prayed, things happened. 🙂
The first contretemps came about during a trip to the beach in beautiful Corona Del Mar. Upon our arrival to the parking lot, I had no choice but to parallel park amongst many other cars and a bounty of prodigious palm trees. Parallel parking was not my forte, even in my little red V.W. Bug. I tried several times to ease my way into my spot as all the kids cheered me on. To say I was full of fear and feelings of inadequacy is an understatement. I was hoping that someone would offer to park it for me, but there were no volunteers. Finally, I made it into the space allotted only to hear a loud, cacophonous noise. On top of that were a few screams and then a break out of laughter. I had managed to park so close to a towering palm tree that it actually came crashing through the window. Fortunately, no one was sitting in that seat or the seats nearby, thus, no one was hurt. I thanked the Lord for everybody’s safety and the gift of laughter that day. An important lesson I learned during the fiasco’s of this disquieting summer was that when we can laugh during moments of mishap and calamity, suddenly an unexpected gift arrives to our souls. Our anxiety fades and our world is once again filled with a kaleidoscope of peace and hope. (Truly one of God’s blessings to us in this life!)
When we arrived back to the Y’ from our day at the beach, my Palm tree incident was the talk of the entire office. When the parents would arrive to pick up their kids, my little campers would stop, point my way and say; “Look mommy, that is the lady who crashed the bus.”Terrance called me in to his office to have me fill out an accident report for the Y’s insurance company. I was embarrassed yet I knew that I was never trained properly to parallel park the honker bus and I knew I had tried my best. I was hoping he would say he wanted me to stop driving. Not a chance. With just a warning to be more careful and a smile, I was on my way back to the kids.
The Y decided to invest in a brand new ‘big yellow bus.’ ( Their motto being, “Out with the old and in with the new.) 🙂 It was a top model, very classy as it came with all the bells and whistles. The Director of the Y’ even had our YMCA title detailed on the side. When I shared the news with my family, my mom was so funny…in her charming southern drawl she said;
“Well honey, don’t you think for one moment, that just because they got a new bus that I am going to stop praying! …You need to be out of that drivers seat.” 🙂
To be honest with you, I do not know what I would have done that summer without her support and understanding… when I look back at those frenzied months of fear and stress, I still shake my head that something like that could ever happen, or even worse, be allowed…(and I still surprise myself that I did it.)
One of the kids favorite activities during summer camp was our trips to the skating rink. It was only a short distance as it was a local rink. I had peace as I thought ; “No problem…we are only going a short distance and there were no hills or palm trees…it would be a cinch.” As we pulled in to the parking lot, I once again was challenged with my parallel parking skills. I accelerated forward, then back. Forward again and back, inching my way in to my allotted space with my boss Monique directing me as I looked through my rear view mirror. Seeing that I was not going to make it, she motioned me to drive forward and try parking the bus another way, so I did. As I was accelerating, I felt a slight pull on the side of the bus. I then heard a screeching noise….soon everyone heard it. I immediately stopped but it was to late! There was no longer a skate land sign sturdily implanted and standing straight in the ground. It had yielded to the direction of our bus and was now resembling a wilted plant that someone forgot to water. As Monique and I, sadly stared at the sign, we knew it had met its maker. Our brand new bus had a thick, embossed 39 foot scratch along the side of it’s bright shiny body with the YMCA signage no longer spruce and classy. Monique immediately called Terrance to try to explain what had happened…this time he sounded a little miffed. I was thankful that no one was hurt, and quite embarrassed once again that I had yet another accident and was hoping and praying that Terrance would say; “Your days as our bus driver are over.” (Surely he would see it was time.)
Soon after we returned to the Y, Terrance, Stefano, (the Head Honcho of the entire Y’), Monique and I just stood there in utter silence, observing the undeniable , unattractive appearance of our new, once chic, big yellow bus. It was certainly side-wiped, just not by a moving car or a second party… I went in to file another accident form for the insurance Company. By this time, I was obtaining a new reputation as the ‘accident lady’ amongst the kids as well as office staff. I got many a smile, a few smirks, laughter and a few shaking of the heads from my co-workers, office staff and the kids. Terrance, on the other hand was a bit anxious as he knew I had never trained accurately and why I was the one chosen to be the bus driver. I was once again told to be more careful. THAT WAS IT? I was in shock by this time that he still wanted me to drive the bus…Totally bewildered, I left his office.
After my two misadventures, my mom was thrown for a loop as well as astounded that I was still driving the bus. In my boss Terrance’s mind, there was no other option as no one else passed the D.M.V. tests. He was the only one certified , besides myself, and had many other job responsibilities to tend to with the programs he ran out of the Y’, during our summer camp trips. My mom, like the Ever Ready bunny, just kept on going….praying and standing in faith that I would be released. (Bless her heart.) 🙂
The song that best described me at this point in my summer was, “Don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge…I’m trying not to loose my head.” ( I always think of that adorable little baby penguin singing that song in Happy Feet.) I totally agreed with Confucius in the saying “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But, I was getting to the place that even though I loved my job with all the kids at the Y, (Day Camp in the summers, Latchkey and Directing Tiny Tots in the months of September through June), I was ready to give notice . I felt I was burdened with undue stress, not to mention, being taken advantage of. The head secretary, Lillian, a woman I respected immensely, took me aside one day. She confirmed everything that I was feeling and admonished me to write a letter, documenting everything that had transpired from day one and to send it to not only the head of the Y, but to his boss as well. I think at my young age of 20 , I blindly trusted those in charge and was very gullible as well as naive, but also reluctant to tell Terrance I would no longer drive the bus in fear of being fired. I began contemplating what my letter would say.
Okay, have you heard the saying, “The third time is a charm?” One sunny and warm afternoon while backing out of a very crowded YMCA parking lot, (Why was it always in a parking lot?) 🙂 I collided with what seemed to be an abnormally long and gargantuan Cadillac Seville. Very thankful I was alone, (no kids present at the time,) I was overwhelmed, my nerves were spent and I just wanted to go home , take a hot bath and go to bed. The next day, I was called into the office. My face was bright red, ( as I felt humiliation, frustration and was on the verge of tears.) As Terrance asked me to fill out the Insurance papers once again, he also spoke the words that I had given up hearing;
“Susan, our insurance company has demanded that you be released at the driver of the bus, due to the number of accidents you have incurred.”
I thought for sure I heard fireworks in the distance, as well as a choir of angels singing and the voice of my mom shouting “THANK YOU JESUS.” I was elated with joy and could not wait to arrive home to tell my mom that her prayers had been answered. The rest of my summer was then free of stress, well at least the stress of driving a bus. 🙂 I didn’t have the butterfly stomach, extreme perspiration , tension headaches any longer and was actually excited to go to work each morning.
I am happy to say, I did write the letter and it was given to the two senior Directors of the YMCA as well as the board. It was received and I did not get fired. 🙂 I got my license changed immediately…(To be on the safe side,) and to this day, I have never driven a big yellow school bus again…(not even tempted to look inside of one.) 🙂
What did I glean from the summer of my youth? My beliefs were reinforced that God hears our prayers, (and does work in mysterious ways.) 🙂 I appreciated my mom more than ever, I learned to not quit even though I felt like giving up, I was learning to become a person that would eventually be able to freely say NO, no matter the consequences and I learned that laughter is a gift in times of stress, anxiety and fear. Lastly, though I know there are many ‘happy’ bus drivers out there who enjoy and do their job well, this particular profession has never been, still is not, and never will be one of my gifts, loves or dream jobs. Writing is much calmer on the nerves! 🙂
PHOTOGRAPHS: In placing your computer mouse upon any of the photos or graphics, it will display where the picture originated from.