St. Patrick’s Day Adventures and Surprises


My mother-in-law, or Mom 2 as she is known, thought it would be a great story to tell the epic weird and wonderfulness that was our St. Patrick’s Day. It was a wet and wild adventure to do something pretty amazing for someone pretty amazing in our family, because the fun family party we had planned had a day’s worth of not so fun stuff leading up to it. But it was something that made the end of the day pretty memorable for all of us.

About a month and a half back we decided to do a book project for Steven’s grandmother. When he and his sister Erica were growing up, she would charm them with whimsical fables while they were in her care. Steven’s parents broke up when he and his sister were very small (three years old and a newborn respectively,) so Sharon (Mom 2) came to depend on her very strong family network to get through that challenging time.

This was in 1974 when equal rights was still fighting for a foothold in this country, so that she was able to work, go to college, get a degree, make a career for herself and then build a life for herself and her kids without the help of a man all the more impressive.

(It also makes me want to beat that Wisconsin lawmaker, the one who charges that single motherhood is a dangerous environment for kids, with handful of ERA pamphlets. From what I’ve seen with family and friends the women are the ones who generally step up to the plate when guys decide it’s too inconvenient for them to be a parent and skip out. Which is more abusive? A woman who is there for her child as much as she can be while juggling all the responsibilities of supporting her kid? Or the guy who gets to come in every once and a while and play good guy, but have whatever life he wants on the side? Please.)

(ANYWAY… off soapbox…)

So Erica and Steven have a lot of fond memories of their grandmother’s stories, so when I realized that she had painstakingly written them out in long-hand on notebook paper I thought that this storyteller would love to see her work in a published book.

As a published author, I know how to make that happen. I embarked on the process of transcribing her stories onto the computer and then formatting the files into an attractive keepsake book for the family. This has kept me quite busy the last many weeks but it was a labor of love. I knew from experience, when Steven presented me a hard bound copy of one of my books, that there is nothing quite like seeing your name in print.

Grandma’s birthday was earlier this month (on the 4th) but there was a family memorial that day for someone who had passed away quite suddenly. Also Erica (Steven’s sister, who lives in Carmel Valley) was unable to come be a part of it, and we all really wanted her to be there. So we decided to wait to present this gift on a day where we were all together since it really was a family affair to get this project pulled together. Erica was able to come visit for this past week and the first few days were a flurry of activity as she and Steven wrote very sweet forwards for the book and we went through hundreds and hundreds of photos to pick out those we would scan for inclusion.

Finally the book was done and we had ten copies shipped to the house in what we hoped would be a special St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Grandma had no idea what was coming, neither did her son Keith or his son Tyler.

But as things generally work out in the Underwood/Voight family it becomes a real team effort to pull things together, especially since our Saturday turned into a marathon to take care of a few unexpected complications.

This family doesn’t even blink when such events occur. You just call them and tell them what’s going on and the first thing they want to know is how they can help. Every day I thank God for bringing me into their care because the minute Steven brought me home I was one of the family. I never had to “earn” my way into their good graces, they are just caretakers who put family first whoever that member of the family happens to be.

In recent weeks and months especially this has been a godsend.

About a week ago I realized there was a problem with the Jesus Mobile (what I affectionately dubbed my late uncle’s car that was left to me because it has four Jesus bumper stickers all around the car.) The brakes started squealing and within a week it went from nothing to noticeable, culminating on Friday as a “gotta do something now” kind of thing. Every time I brought the car to a stop the brake pedal would shake and it felt like it wasn’t going to catch.

I drive quite a bit and I can’t be without my car, so we knew we had to get it taken care of ASAP. We’ve had some big expenses of late but I had managed to save back a little bit of money, which I hoped would cover it. It had to, I knew it was a “do it now for cheap or fix it later for a lot more” scenario.

I also knew I had to take Tim over to the Anaheim Convention Center so he could attend the WonderCon, and I wanted to do that fairly early since his all-time idol Ray Park (aka Darth Maul) was scheduled to appear in the autograph section. I couldn’t let my baby miss this opportunity.

So we decide we were going to get up early to be at the Firestone by 7am. I got to sleep around 3ish and woke up at roughly 5am, courtesy of a nasty bout of acid reflux. (Note to self: do not eat pizza at 10pm at night.)

We got down to the Firestone in La Habra about 8ish in the morning and they said they’d be able to look it over and do the inspection, then call us with a quote. We decided to hoof it on over to Denny’s for a cheap breakfast while we waited.

It was a rainy day in SoCal on Saturday, but though it was wet and cold and overcast there was no real precipitation falling when we walked across the street to the shopping center where the Denny’s was located.

We went into the restaurant, ordered our $4 breakfasts and decided we could take a little time to chat and all while we waited for the phone to ring. At this point Tim’s attention was caught by something going on at a table behind me.

A family sat, two middle-aged parents with their teen son and pre-teen daughter, “enjoying” their family time. I use quotation marks because I don’t know how much you can enjoy family time when your teenage ingrate of a son is cussing you out in public, which is what caught Tim’s attention.

As my son (and Dan’s son) Tim knew that this kind of behavior was NEVER tolerated in our home and he was automatically ticked off this kid had no more respect for his parents than to tell them “f*ck you” “you can’t control me” etc in a public restaurant when they, presumably, were paying for his meal.

Tim, like me, abhors disrespect and with this kid being so aggressive verbally he was ready to get involved if the situation turned physical. He’s not one to shy away from confrontation, and has gone to bat for bullied kids at school before.

By this time the kid is getting fairly loud and it is flying all over me. When I have limited sleep I have no filter when it comes to speaking my mind on something I find upsetting, and this was upsetting me BIG time. This is not how I was raised and what bothered me most is the parents were just sitting there letting it happen. So finally when I could stand it no more I said as loudly as I possibly could without screaming, “You know it really f*cking PISSES ME OFF when kids do not respect their parents.”

This caused the kid to look over our direction, where he realized Tim was glaring at him from where he sat. He shut up after that but by this time I was pretty aggravated. I can’t stand disrespect of any sort but a child to a parent? Uh uh. That will not fly with me. I’ll let you manage your own family business provided you are actually HANDLING it. If not, sometimes the disapproval of a couple of strangers is enough to let the kid know the behavior is inappropriate and he needs to chill.

HOPEfully that taught the parents that if you stand up to this and refuse to let it happen you can curb the behavior.

(I kinda doubt it.)

Eventually they leave and my feathers began to smooth again, but after about an hour the garage still hadn’t called. Tim and I decided to go walk off our breakfast and explore the huge shopping area there. We walked fairly far until my back started to protest, then we decided to come back again. By the time we reached the Denny’s it had started to rain and by the time we got back to the Firestone we looked like a couple of drowned rats.

They still hadn’t gotten to the car so we had to sit in their waiting area until they could get to it. That’s when the “monsoon” hit, disrupted their cable service and poured rain right in the door of the store. If you follow me on Twitter you can see what it looked like when bands of rain were falling horizontally as the storm marched into our area.

I was so glad we had made it indoors at this point.

By about 12:30 they gave us the news. The front brakes were about two compressions away from locking up completely and the back brakes were non-existent should we have needed to use them. The total for the repairs needed had a comma in the number. Needless to say this was not good news. Like I said I need my car and this work had to be done.

Mom 2 had to come get us and she was nice enough to drop Tim off at the convention center to attend his WonderCon. Once he was there he let us know that he didn’t have quite enough for the Ray Park autograph session (they charge, doncha know) and so with his phone battery dying he just had us come pick him up.

He didn’t even get a chance to see him.

(He did, however, get John Saxon of Enter the Dragon fame to sign Daniel’s Bruce Lee book that Tim inherited, which he signed “To Dad and Tim” – which was very special.)

By this time we were all back at the house trying to decorate it for the big party we still intended to have. Uncle Keith was in charge of picking up the food from Knott’s Berry Farm (which, after the day we were having, it was a relief not to have to cook a traditional Irish meal) while we made sure that everything else was handled.

By 4pm we picked up Tim and by 6pm we got the car and the rest of the things needed for the party. By the time Jeremiah and I got home everyone was here and the celebration was in full swing. We ate and chatted and waited for Steven to come home so we could finally deliver Grandma’s gift to her.

And this is what made the whole day worth everything:

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