December 21, 2017

Twelve and Twenty-Six...


I was twelve once and I seem to remember it fondly.  I think I had a boyfriend for a hot second, but I know I had great friends.  Maybe not the greatest fashion sense, but I spent lifetimes pouring over fashion magazines and believing there'd be a day I'd create such iconic ads.  For real, who doesn't remember the Guess ads of the 80s?!  I'd bet that boyfriend I had for a hot second probably does...


I was twenty-six once, and I definitely remember it fondly. Parts of it anyway...It was more great swells of overwhelming happiness tempered with harrowing troughs of survival.  That was the year I was introduced to my Grace.  I have no doubt God knew exactly what he was doing when He sent her to me.  God's light, indeed.

Twelve and twenty-six.

Twenty-six symbols: A ballet of strokes on paper that dance into words and leap into sentences and spin into stories of joy, despair, life, death, laughter, and tears.  Some use these to create characters we love as our own and dream of knowing in real life.  Journeys we can only experience by turning to the next page.  On our own, we write love through these symbols and say goodbye through these symbols.  We construct hate-filled diatribes and then, hopefully, ask for forgiveness with the same twenty-six symbols we just used to inflict hurt.  Twenty-six symbols shaping our existence.

Twelve notes weave themselves together through the artists who hear the music before it's brought to life. They tell stories, too, but ones without words.  Twelve symbols stirring the cauldron of emotions dwelling inside us, making us feel.  Whispering notes and crashing notes.  Roller coaster rides where you never leave your seat.  Memories entwined with the sounds from the car speakers.  Dances in the kitchen with the one who was brave enough to say, "I do."  Wails of "Amazing Grace" as loved ones are laid to rest.  A soundtrack serenading our existence.

I am one of those people who breathes in books when I read them.  Some have affected me so much I've never read them again; others I read a couple of times a year. I love the characters they have shared with us and the words they cast upon the universe.  Sometimes those words were all that carried me.

Music is in the same league.  I get goosebumps when I hear certain notes plucking away and I'm transported to somewhere where everything is right in life.  I listen to the sounds and marvel how they are woven together as the most delicate tapestry into songs.  Sometimes when it's late and my brain has been driven past its capacity, I lie in bed and the notes of a distant song carry me to sleep.  It's rare and I know it means it's time to rest, but it carries me away and my anxieties are left behind.  

As I walked through Biltmore house with my daughters a few nights ago, a lady behind us made repeated remarks how all the art was tacky.  She eventually (and thankfully) decided she was tired of being "herded like cattle" and cut her tour short.  I was sad for her (although still grateful for her absence!) that she could not appreciate the beauty of standing in the library filled with books and priceless works of art.  As I walked through there, I could hear laughter and tinkling notes of crystal stemware making toasts while music played in the background of the grand gatherings.  Maybe it's my crazy imagination, but I'd much rather have that experience than to hear nothing.
Twelve notes and twenty-six symbols carrying me through life. 

July 13, 2017

A Tiny House? Totally. Or Not. No, Maybe Not.

So, that whole tiny house thing...I've been thinking about it and I think I would be awesome at it.  As long as I had about 900 square feet of storage somewhere to put my stuff.  Ya' know, all that stuff I can sorta live without, but not really so it has to stay somewhere if I decide I might need it again. Important things like the decorative pillows off my bed from 1983.  You think I'm kidding, but you'd be wrong.

In my quest to convince my husband (aka financial partner) this is a great idea for retirement, I often strategically turn on various tiny house shows when we're watching television. I comment on how crafty they are about utilizing space and how the people who live there must be, like, total zen 24/7 because they have simplified their lives and gotten rid of "stuff" that clutters their visual fields and lives.  I brag about how I could (probably) totally do this and that I'm really just trapped in all this furniture and "stuff" because of my children and preserving their memories.  Really, I could totally do this.

He thinks I'm am overestimating myself.  Like, a lot.

Understand he lived in the same house basically his whole entire life.  I love that idea of the family homestead, but mine is like the white farmhouse with the attic full of trunks that bulge with family secrets  Wide porches and haint ceilings...grand staircases children will tumble down as toddlers and sweep down as brides or grooms.  (Of course all the children will get married there. Duh.)  I made this dream up when I was younger and we looked at a house much like this, except it had some weeds growing up through the baseboards and I'm pretty rats were the only thing tumbling down the stairs at that time. So it needed some love.  Don't we all?

We moved a lot when I was a kid, but we never left our town.  Might I add that "town" is about 17 square miles.  From about age three until graduating from high school, we moved five times, and lived in one house twice.  (I guess we just wanted to make sure it really wasn't the house for us.)  We moved several more times before I turned three, but I have no idea how many.  I kept the family tradition alive and kicking by moving several times myself after becoming a tax-paying adult with a mortgage (or rent, depending...)

I use my history of geographical dexterity and mad packing skillz to further my case.  Then it begins.  His rational investigative inquiry.

"So, what about the piano?"

"What are you going to do with that couch?"

"You can't keep that secretary."


If you came to visit me, you'd basically walk into a museum of our lives  Kitchen table is his grandparents'...Living room furniture is an olio of my grandmother's secretary, a piano from a great-aunt (I think?) on my dad's side, a couch my parents grabbed off the side of the road about 40 years ago, and a chair I remember my mom buying at an auction that was stuffed with hay and blue jeans (it's all about the vision)...Bedroom furniture came from various grandparents...children all sleeping in beds passed down from other generations of our peeps.  Literally, if you have a piece of furniture that was at some time in my family, I'll probably take it even if I don't need or want it.  I have designated myself the family caretaker of all furniture forevermore apparently.  

When I think of getting rid of this "stuff" to go tiny or at least get some zen into my life and reduce my "visual clutter", I get a little queasy in my gut...kinda like when you've eaten a fat, greasy burger dripping with cheese and a HUGE serving of greasy, hand-cut french fries slathered in ketchup and the server brings you a homemade, four-layer chocolate cake with about 3 inches of icing so sweet your teeth ache and you eat it, too, because you can't NOT eat it and besides it would be rude to not eat it when the server was kind enough to bring it to you and all.  Yeah, that kind of queasy.

It's just stuff, but it's my stuff.  It's my memories and my childhood and my stories.  When I walk into my son's room and see the bedroom suite of my grandparents', I think about how much my Pepaw would've loved to have met my son and how alike they are.  The secretary holds my books now, but I remember the things it used to keep safe.  I have two brass keys: one belonged to my aunt and one to my grandmother.  They hang on my wall just as they did on theirs.  I know we only have 7 chairs to our table because Daddy Frank got mad and tossed the broken one.  These are the stories of my stuff.

I wish I could be one of those people who could make those decisions to downsize and lovingly pass along furniture to others (or sell it at a yard sale and make some dineros).  But I can't.  Maybe it's because we moved so much and this is my connection.  My homestead is not the walls and floors of a house where I lived, but it is the furniture that provided a constant while I grew up.  I raise immortal hell on my mother when she even remotely mentions getting rid of the kitchen table I grew up with because it's riddled with etchings of my youth.  Granted, I let her paint it a few years ago, but still.  I won because it's STILL THERE!!!  I never lived in the house where my parents now live, but it's still a home to me because it's filled with things that tug at my memories and bring a smile to my face.  I'm afraid if they go away, my memories will fade.

So, yeah, can I go tiny?  Yes.  Yes, I can.  I can totally live in a 500 square foot or less home (okay, not less than 300 cause that's just asking for a divorce) and be happy.  I can embrace sitting on my tiny porch and pondering the meaning of life while letting zen wash over me.  I could live without a bathtub and fold my kitchen table down from the wall.  All these things are possible.

As long as my tiny house is in my backyard and all my stuff is waiting inside my house next door waiting for someone to ask, "Where in the world did you get this?!"  "That?!  Oh, it's the funniest story!  Let me tell you about it..."

November 10, 2016

Counting Sheep and Weighing the World...A Teacher's Night

One sheep...Two sheep...Three sheep...

I crawl into bed, fluff the geriatric pillow into place and peck the on button for the alarm clock. Then I slowly try to shut-off the valves in my mind.  I think how I should have walked on the treadmill.  I think how I should have graded one more set of papers.  I think how I can fit onemorething on my plate.  I think and I think and I think...

You ask what keeps me up at night?  When darkness envelopes the room and moonlight creeps through the shade...when eyelashes slowly weave into one another and breathing paces a slow, peaceful rhythm?

It is me, asking why my alphabet was suddenly mixed into my numbers and being told to sit down and just do it.  It is my friend, being called into the office because he was chasing a girl who just didn't look like him.  It is my brother, surviving as a round peg pounded into a square hole. 

What keeps me up at night is what I see...snapshots of lives...vignettes of tomorrows shaped by todays...because as water shapes the rock, we shape the by and by of those who pass through our care.

It is my firstborn: smart, sassy, and a little smart-assy.  Graceful and full of God's grace, but not so great with ones, twos, and threes. Oh, but give her a pencil and witness the gift flow from her. Where does she fit in a world of AP and Honors?  When art is her language, but everyone else's tongue is data and algorithms and procedures, what future do we paint for her?

What keeps me up at night is the young girl swirling through life, grasping at willow branches, smiling and shining and singing and working and reaching and then...gone. Plucked from her day and herded and shuffled into strange places with strangers...strangers trusted with her heart and soul and safety...No longer the girl reaching and smiling, but a girl with a casefile and a social worker. Gone.

It is a brown-skinned girl rushing into the room, tears caught on the tops of her apple cheeks and eventually cascading down her face. Because someone called her black and black is ugly to her and she'd give anything to step out of her skin in that moment, but none of us can.  We can change our hair, our eyes, our job, our spouse, but we are forever in our skin and her's is itchy and uncomfortable at that moment.  

What keeps me up at night is greatness...greatness I was fortunate enough to receive and witness.  It was teachers giving and giving and giving of time and wisdom and energy.  Souls laid bare every day...sacrificing so much so I could arrogantly waltz through their classrooms stealing bits and pieces of their knowledge without so much as a thank-you.  

So, while others slumber and dream, I lie wistfully thinking and thinking and thinking about how I can sell the great dream of education and knowledge to children who are poor in love and short on time, about how I can cast the net farther than the last day, about how I can...So I check the alarm clock one more time and begin to count again until, finally, at last, sleep rescues me.