April 29, 2011

A Simple Wave

If you were sitting here with me sharing a cup of tea and sitting on the porch, you'd experience a beautiful spring night.  The kind of night where you still feel the faint reminder of winter's chill, but hear the sounds of spring all around.  If you looked at the sky, you'd see an endless inky blackness dotted with stars and blinking satellites. To the east there'd be the faint outline of the smooth, time worn mountains.  It is a night where there is a stillness to the air.

It is also the night after.  The night after ghastly winds ripped apart the small community I've lived in my entire life.  The night after homes were tossed on top of automobiles.  The night after ancient trees were ripped from the ground and flipped carelessly across fields.  The night after men and women died.  It is a night not to be forgotten.


It is also the night I rocked a sweet, innocent infant while her mother showered.  It is the night I talked to a man who spent the day picking through the rubble of where his home once stood. It is the night I talked to a former student who is now a volunteer with the Red Cross after he spent the day working in the hardest hit areas.  It is the night where hours have been spent stocking endless supplies for those in need.  It is a night where the faintest glimmer of hope can be seen.

As I stopped at the shelter on the way home to see what was needed, a father and two young daughters were walking in, too.  I don't know if they were helping or seeking help, but that's neither here nor there.  The youngest girl looked at me as I was getting my key out of the ignition, and her eyes locked on mine.  Then, a smile spread and her hand waved to me.  A stranger.  No one she knew.  A simple wave from a child who may not even have a home left. 

We will wake again tomorrow and begin the process again.  Assessments will begin taking place, and people will start piecing together their lives as best as they can at this point.  Funerals will be planned.  Fundraisers will be planned.  Such is the way in my small southern town. 

I will not forget anytime soon the sounds that rushed over my home last night or the spectacular lightning I witnessed.  What I will also not forget is the smell of sweet babies who are blissfully unaware of the tragedy they survived or the haggard looks of the volunteers who'd been up for almost two days.  And I most certainly will remember the wave of a child, who, without saying a word, reminded me there is always a reason for hope. 

April 20, 2011

Give'n It Up So I Can Fill 'Er Up

Growing up, we were the consumate church hoppers.  My dad had grown up one religion and my mother another, so we bounced between those two and everything else available.  We shopped based on the people and how we felt when we attended. Kinda like Goldilocks and her porridge...some were too stuffy, others too stiff.  At about 14 I called it quits for the next 15 years or so.  I never felt like I "fit" and wasn't real sure what I believed anyway.  It felt fake to sit there and say the words if I wasn't sure I believed in them.

Fast forward through the college years and searching...I realized somewhere along the way my faith was my faith, and I really didn't need a name for it.  I suppose when you quit looking, you find what you're looking for.  We found a little country church where the people come in suits and blue jeans.  They put their money, however meager or much, where their mouths are and help out those less fortunate at every turn.  Everybody knows you, they speak no matter what, they take care of everyone when a marriage happens or a baby is born, and (most importantly) it feels like I belong when I plop on my pew. 

On Ash Wednesday, we went to church and our very wise pastor explained the purpose of giving up something for Lent.  For the past couple of years that I had tried (I swear, I tried, really...) to give up something for Lent, it had been the standard sweets or carbonated drinks.  I had only replaced sweets with more potato chips.  I somehow don't think that's the point.

What I chose to ditch this year was the anchor on my life ~ the ambiguous monster that always holds me back...I gave up fear.  That doesn't mean I'm skydiving or tempting a nest of bees; It just means I'm taking chances when I usually would've let fear hold me back.  A few opportunities have popped up recently.  Before I would've convinced myself I was too stupid or not connected enough to get the chance, but now I've put myself out there.  And, truthfully, they may not happen, but it's okay.  Point is, I tried.

Trust me when I say you don't have to worry about me knocking on your door to try to convert you.  I figure you believe what you believe, and I should respect that just the same as you respect mine.  Just posting this is about letting go of that fear of offending others.  Some may read this and never come back.  And that's okay. 

I understand now what she meant.  The point isn't about giving up...It's about replacing a negative with a positive.  It's about filling up that space with something that is good.  Something that makes you a better, well, you.  I'm going out on a limb here, but I think that's a general human thing we can all aspire to regardless of the time of year or what label we place upon ourselves.

April 15, 2011

Feet: A Love-Hate Relationship

I'm not the spring chicken I used to be.  It's quite possible I've been a bitchy old hen since birth, actually.  My body is starting to give me not-so-subtle hints it needs more TLC, so I've started going to yoga.  The most serene and wonderful woman who teaches the class told us one day to put our fingers between our toes and then we did something (can't remember what, but I know I felt better later even if I can't pronouce it.)  And can I say it was all I could do to comply?  But, she asked nicely, and I am a perfectionist.  Still, feet make me gag.
BUT.  Yesterday as I walked around at work in my old Birks, I looked down at my feet, and I started to kinda like them.  My toes are painted a sassy pinkish-red at the moment and my annual professional pedicure is holding up quite nicely.  I had one of those flashes of clarity and suddenly I thought of how much those feet had carried me through in life.

Looking back I was never seriously overweight as a child, but my best friends were all cornstalks in pastel Izod shirts.  I was chubby in weird neon jumpers.  I remember thinking at some points, "At least I've got cute feet."  Sam might have been able to do a front handspring, but my feet were better. Which, since I kept them firmly planted on the ground, was a good thing.

I remember the first time I could paint my toes after having Girlo Two (the eldest).  She was lying beside me snuggled safely in her blankets sleeping the sleep that only newborns can, and I watched her breathe in and breathe out.  I painted my toes pink, and I felt hope for the first time in a long time.

When my oh-so-sweet son was born, there were indications of problems.  Tests and surgeries were to come.  I missed those chubby baby feet I had loved with Girlo Two, but his feet spoke his story.  Flat, so that he sounds like E.T. when he walks down the hallway, and with no push-off ability, his feet are long and slender and marked with surgical scars...an elegant reminder of his journey.

When I learned my ex-husband was having an affair, I remember looking down at my feet and watching the tears dropped onto them.  My lungs felt as if the air had been stripped from my body, but I felt every sob.  I put my knees to my chest and cried long and hard while my feet rocked me. Heel to toe, over and over.  Then I got up, dried my face and feet, and they carried me on.

I walked down the aisle to my soulmate, whispered my vows and then danced with these feet on the night we were married.  We still dance in our kitchen when the spirit moves us. He complains when I put my ice cold feet next to his on winter nights, but misses them when he's away.  I suppose it's my subconscious way of making sure he's there in my slumber...

Shortly before bringing home our last little one, I painted them the brighest, shiniest pink I could.  They might have swelled like fat sausages, but they would be pretty, dammit!  The nurses all complimented me on how great they looked next to my lovely, stark white compression tights!  Again, I had found hope, and I would bring this baby home to wrap in snuggly blankets while I listened to her breathe the same hopeful breaths her sister and brother had several years before.

No matter how twisted and beautiful and lonely and heartbreaking and serene and hopeful my path has been, my feet have carried me along through it all...keeping me upright when I only wanted to fall, helping me dance and live life when blessed with joys.  Next time my beautiful friend and yoga genius tells me to squeeze my toes for the position I can't remember/pronouce, it will be done with love. 

April 13, 2011

Ya know, I really get on my own nerves...

I annoy myself, but I've decided it's okay.  I'm not sure if it's just one thing or if it's a lot of things that fall under a general umbrella of annoyance.  Whatever it is, I decided it was okay on the drive home today and just sang my way down the road to some Indigo Girls.

Most of my life has been spent on the verge of some health-related acronym.  Borderline OCD or ADD or some other something something.  I was never one to go through the house turning off lights repeatedly, but I had to have things "in their boxes" in order to keep that panic tucked in the mental footlocker.  As for the ADD, well, let's say there are times I start folding laundry and somehow end up scrubbing the bathroom only to find when I go back through the house, the laundry is still unfolded and somehow the dishwasher is open, too.  Not sure how that happens, but it's my life.

Lately there have been things that I've not executed with my usual OMG attitude.  We went out of town recently and I didn't pack two weeks before.  When my better half left today at what I consider "Oh, SHIT!" time to pick up the kids, I didn't say a word.  I started to get worked up about it, but thought to myself, "Why?"  I can't change the situation, so what's the point?

Letting a lot of the shitastic weight of life roll off my shoulders these days is what leads to the annoyance of me by me.  I used to stress and worry and perfect things.  I realized the other day I wasn't compulsively color-coding and alphabetizing some spreadsheets I was working on.  Mind you, these habits don't help the process or make it more understandable.  I just like it to be pretty:)  I typed it up and sent it on.  Something is amiss, I say!

So here's my list of why I get on my own nerves.
1. I promise myself I'm not going to care what others think, yet when I behave in that manner I spend the next month analyzing my every move.  It's not like I acted bad...I didn't dance naked on a table or wear white before Easter.  I just made random conversation or laughed. Ughh! Then I decide it's easier to stay in my cave, but then I realize that won't work either...and the cycle repeats.

2.  I'm not THAT mom.  Honestly, I'm tired at the end of the day.  As much as I'd like to take the kids to the park to feed not-so-wild animals or expose them to some culture, there just ain't enough gas in the tank.  If they want to be fed and wear clean clothes, then that will have to wait till the weekend or until a grandparent feels sorry for them.  As much as I wish I could be the perky mom with nary a dilemma, they're stuck with grumpy, chaotic me.

3.  I may be a tad indecisive.  Or maybe a lot indecisive.  I'm not sure.  Big decisions make me sweat way more than a southern girl should, so I just ignore them.  None of my children were planned in that "We're trying!" kinda way.  That would've been too much pressure.  We talk about trying to sell our house, but it scares me, so I'm waiting on my better half to make the call.  My response is usually, "I don't care."  It would take entirely too long for me to debate the pros and cons for each option, so we can accomplish more if you make the decision.  

4.  My husband says I have conversational Tourette's.  I like to think it's my genius at work and only a small number of brains universally can leap this fast within such a small window of time.  His simple comment on a billboard can lead me into a 30 minute commentary on a childhood memory with no obvious connection to his.  In my mind, though, it makes sense.  He talks about the kids needing milk, and my mind goes something like this:  milk, cow, uncle's farm as a kid, sitting on fence rail, falling in cow shit, cousin's too-small shorts...So my response is, "Ya know, I always was kind of a chubby kid."  And he thinks I'm an alien.

5.  My mix CD's and playlists are without direction.  I love them because at the moment I chose them, they were exactly what I wanted to hear.  As I drove home today, though, I heard New Edition (tell me baby, can you stand the rain?) then Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine followed up with Charlie Daniels Band.  Not on different stations, but all on one CD.  If this is a reflection of my personality, I'm in trouble.

I suppose that part of my learning to breathe has to be about letting "it" go.  I can't worry about every little snit of a thing, because, frankly, there just aren't enough hours in my day.  So I suppose I will continue to overanalyze myself, hold DCS at bay (kidding!), procrastinate about decisions, and hopscotch through conversations all the while listening to Anthrax and Suzanne Vega.  As long as I'm breathing, it's all good.

April 9, 2011

When I said, "How are you?" I didn't mean it.

Long time, no write.  Life throws curveballs, granted, but the past week was an endless series of fastballs right to the gut.  All is getting better...if only the laundry would walk itself and wash itself in the laundry room. On to other things...

The other day I ran into someone who is somewhere between a friend and an acquaintance.  It was a random thing, a chance to say hello.  When she asked how I was doing, I responded with my usual response:  Truth.  I told her how my back hurt, I was deprived of sleep, and I was frustrated with my students.  I could tell after the first 15 seconds of my response, she regretted asking. Her eyes glazed over...her brow knitted...confusion washed over her face.  She didn't really mean to ask that, I'm guessing.

Thing is, I'm not really a negative person.  Matter of fact, I'll be your best damn cheerleader if you give me half a chance.  Granted, I'm sarcastic and a touch cynical at times, but overall I'm a fairly glass-is-half-full kinda gal.  Of course, now that I think about it, I always think I'm dying or am going to die in some random situation, but that's normal, right?  Besides, it only applies to me:  Everyone else is going to live a healthy and long life.

There are times when I deliberately skirt around a question.  I won't outright tell you your new boyfriend is akin to a llama, but I'll drop some hints to tell ya there are better fish in the sea.  For some reason, asking me how I am is not one of those.  I will tell you everything.  Every. Last. Detail.  Why? Because you asked, idiot.  That's what the question means.

I know when I ask the same question to others, I expect a truthful response.  If you have a problem, maybe I can help.  If nothing else, I love to offer unsolicited advice based upon any statement you make that I can identify with in any microscopic way.  Because I really want to know how you are.  Really.  And I want you to be happier than a pig in mud.

Alright, I know it's the courteous thing to say and blah, blah, blah. But, really, why waste the time and air to ask a question you don't really want to hear the answer to? You could just as easily say, "So, how 'bout Pluto becoming a dwarf planet? That's some stuff, huh?"  Or maybe, "Read any good Chaucer lately?"   I promise to be so dumbfounded that you could run away before I wiped the stunned look off my face and unloaded upon you.

I suppose I just hate the fake interest when you don't even really have to fake it.  A simple hello would've been fine.  Truthfully (cause I'm all about some truth these days), you can just smile and I'll be happy. Don't even have to push the air out of your lungs.  And I promise, in return, if I ask how you are doing...I mean it.  You can even talk about your gout or your ear wax or your annoying neighbor's dog barking or your crappy boss or your daughter who just won a full scholarship to an Ivy league school or your order at McDonald's that got screwed up or your heat bill that was entirely too high or your car that is about to up and die on you or your bra that just lost its underwire or your underwear that rides up your crack or your whatever...I will listen because I meant it.  Promise.