Shoulder Work Ahead

Shoulder Work Ahead Road Sign

I am not sure if I heard it rip or if I merely felt it rip. One thing was certain, the 35-pound kettlebells I held in each hand as I ran around the gym had just contributed to tearing something in both of my shoulders. Being new to the world of Crossfit, I was still learning the limits to which I could push my body. Apparently, I had just exceeded that limit.

Vivian Cumins Shoulder SurgeryNot wanting to overreact, I nursed my injuries with aspirin and a heating pad for a few days, but the pain in my right shoulder was intensifying. I made an appointment with Dr. Watson, an orthopedic surgeon, who ordered an MRI.

The MRI showed nothing. No tear or damage—literally, nothing. Dr. Watson informed me he could do exploratory surgery to see what might be causing the pain, but he couldn’t guarantee anything. It was a risk, he said, and one I needed to decide if I was willing to take.

I left that appointment confused as to what to do. I didn’t want to deal with the cost or hassle of an unnecessary surgery, but then again, maybe the MRI was wrong. I decided I needed to seek wisdom from God on this one. I prayed silently all the way from the clinic to an overpass bridge approximately two blocks from my office. Typically, I don’t ask God for signs; I just say a prayer and go about my day. But this day, I was so conflicted about what to do that I blurted out, “God tell me what to do—give me a sign if I need this surgery or not!” Just as I was descending the overpass, there was a big, bright orange sign in the middle of the road. I had to slow down and swerve to avoid hitting it straight on. It said, “Shoulder Work Ahead.”

Road crews use those kinds of signs all the time to notify the public they are working on the streets, but I have never noticed them before. But this day, there was no ignoring the sign. It was in plain sight. I began laughing out loud at the way God had chosen to answer my prayer. He literally gave me a sign!

As soon as I parked my car, I walked to my office and made the call to Dr. Watson’s office.

The surgery revealed I had a labrum tear where the bicep tendon attaches and a rather large bone spur. I would find myself hanging out with Dr. Watson a year later to perform the same surgery on the left shoulder, but that time it showed up on the MRI, so no sign was needed!

What I love so much about this memory is it is not only a great lesson in faith, but it also shows God has a sense of humor. Have you ever been given a “sign”?


Grandma Schmidt’s Green Stuff

Green Stuff

My Grandma Schmidt was the best cook in the universe. I could go on for days telling you about all her yummy homemade creations, but today’s story is set aside for my favorite dessert—Green Stuff.

Because my family lived in Oklahoma and Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt lived in Iowa, we didn’t get to see them as much as any of us would have liked. But when we did get to visit, Grandma would spend hours preparing a variety of special treats for us. She would make coffee cakes, bars, cookies, gooey pull-apart monkey bread, and Green Stuff.

Its official name was Watergate Salad, but when you are three, you tend to call it like you see it, and the pistachio pudding mix used as the main ingredient turned the sweet, fluffy dessert green. I think Grandma put extra marshmallows in there for my benefit because every bite spilled over with them. She also served it up for breakfast (also for my benefit), although it really wasn’t a breakfast item. She would display the pretty dessert in a large bowl smack dab in the middle of the table amid the sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, grapefruit, toast, homemade jam, and cinnamon rolls. My mom knew she was outnumbered and lacked control over what Grandma chose to serve her guests, but that didn’t stop her from shooting me a stern look for diving right into the Green Stuff before even nibbling any meat or eggs.

My entire life, Grandma always had a batch of Green Stuff waiting for me when I came to visit. Every bite would immediately take me back to when I was three. Even though I had grown into an adult, she never let up on the marshmallows—it still overflowed with them, and I never minded. She eventually gave me the recipe, and I began making it for my own daughter. She is now 28 years old with a family of her own, and when I ask her what special treat she wants when they come to visit, without skipping a beat, she says, “Green Stuff!”

What food items take you back to your childhood? Below is the recipe for Watergate Salad, a.k.a. Grandma Schmidt’s Green Stuff.


Grandma Schmidt’s Green Stuff

1 box of pistachio Jell-O instant pudding mix
1 can of crushed pineapple (in juice; do not drain!)
1 jar of maraschino cherries (drained)
1 bag of miniature marshmallows
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 tub of Cool Whip

Combine ingredients, fold in Cool Whip. Chill for an hour, then enjoy!

Backseat Vacations

Vintage Car Steering Wheel and Dashboard

My family never took exotic summer vacations when I was growing up. There were no trips to the beach or weeklong voyages to Disneyland. We never boarded an airplane or stayed in a hotel. Instead, we road-tripped to Iowa, the land of endless cornfields, grain bins, and silos—and home to Melvin and Opal Schmidt, a.k.a. Grandma and Grandpa. I loved going to Grandma’s house, but even more, I loved the journey to Grandma’s house. For my parents and older sister, Vicki, our vacation started once we reached our destination. For me, vacation began in the backseat.

Made it to Grandma's House (Family Vacay, Iowa, 1977)
Made it to Grandma’s house (family vacation, Iowa, 1977)

Backseat vacations meant my mom would take me to TG&Y to pick out a few boredom busters for the trip. I would thoroughly examine the shelves stocked with toys, books, and trinkets and then selectively choose either a deck of Old Maid cards or an activity book. I loved activity books! They were full of coloring pages, connect-the-dots, and word-find puzzles. Sometimes I talked my mom into buying me a new box of crayons, too. As I got older, my mom still took me to the store prior to our trip, but my choices evolved over time. Instead of activity books and crayons, I chose TigerBeat magazines filled with pictures of teen heartthrobs such as Scott Baio and Shaun Cassidy.

The night before our nine-hour journey, I watched my dad map out our trip with the help of his oversized Atlas. For those of you unfamiliar with an Atlas, it is a book of printed maps that lists every highway, byway, road, and street within the United States. There was no such thing as GPS back then—the Atlas was our GPS. And my dad was a professional at reading them.

While my dad figured out the logistics, my mom prepared lunches and snacks for our mobile picnic. The main course included three types of sandwiches: peanut butter, ham, and bologna with mustard—all on white Wonder bread. Paired with the sandwiches was a large bag of Ruffles potato chips. For snacks, she stocked up on pretzels, crackers, and cookies. Drinks were a variety of Shasta pop—I always called dibs on the root beer. Mom neatly wrapped each pop can in aluminum foil before placing in the cooler. She said the foil kept them colder longer.

The backseat belonged exclusively to Vicki and me; it was our domain. Shoe removal, though not mandatory, was the first order of business, followed by pillow placement. The left side belonged to Vicki, and the right belonged to me. The space between us was reserved for our store-bought activities, which we would get to later—the first few hours were spent giggling and playing “Slug-bug,” “Rock-Paper-Scissors,” and “I-Spy.”

Naps ultimately followed, and, luckily for us, the backseat was long enough for Vicki and me to stretch out. Since seatbelts were simply a suggestion back then, my dad shoved the buckles into the seat cracks so they wouldn’t poke us while we slept. The humming sound of tires rolling down the highway lulled me to sleep in a matter of seconds. I slept like a rock in the backseat. I recall times when my mom had to shake me awake for a bathroom break.

Pitstops took place at either the Sinclair or Texaco gas station. As a little girl, I didn’t like the Sinclair station because it had a big, green brontosaurus statue out front. I knew the dinosaur wasn’t real, but it freaked me out. I still don’t like the Sinclair dinosaur.

Except for gas stops, my dad always drove straight through, which made my fidgety body uncomfortable. I loved backseat vacations, but leg stretches were few, and that made me cranky. Whiny inquiries of whether we were there yet would begin to invade the car after approximately seven hours. The whiny inquires came from me. My mom’s responses were always “no”—until fields of corn stalks came into full view. Only then would she tell us to put our shoes on. We were almost there!

From the front porch, Grandma and Grandpa waved as we pulled into the drive. Big hugs and lipstick kisses smothered us before they escorted us inside, where Grandma’s delicious food was waiting for us at the kitchen table. Before going in, I would take one look back at the car. My backseat vacation was officially over, but I wasn’t sad. I would get to go on another in two weeks when we headed back home.


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