An streak of boldness

What can I say? I’ve neglected posting daily due to adventure and experiment.

I’m in the middle of revisiting my old, finicky friend, watercolor. It is a temperamental friend that requires time and patience. This is frustrating when you’ve given yourself a sort of timeline in which to make a portfolio to be proud of. Watercolor has no agenda, it does what it wants when it wants. You simply follow it’s lead.

In addition to spending a couple hours a day on art, I’ve used the weekends to have adventures. On Saturday, some work friends and I kayaked the French Broad River in Asheville. The sunburn and the sore peddling arms were worth the deepened bond with these friends. We laughed, we prayed, some of us cried, and we had communion in the back of the car with turkey sandwiches, fruit, and Michelob Ultra.

I often think negativity in relationships can be cured with a little fun, honesty, and bonding experience. In the role I’ve currently been given, I strive to bring positivity and and encouragement to those I work with. We do not have a hard job. The biggest problem is hard hearted people.

What do you do when you cannot change these people? You assess that their behavior does not stem from a personal vendetta against you; it stems from insecurity and jealously. And if you can’t get on the side of friendship with someone like that, you’ll never do anything right in their eyes. A lot of the times one’s reputation can be chalked up to what Anne Lamott said best, “Maybe you should have behaved better.”

That said, we gotta keep loving them through whatever it is. God is most pleased when we are aware of how awful someone is and yet we still make the effort to smile and try to get a laugh out of them. I think He shows us His favor through this. He has to put up with them and us, after all.

 

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confession

The added weights at gym class last night coupled with running the connector walkway has exhausted me today. And tomorrow, adventure awaits. In truth, I will probably fall asleep between the time it takes to finish this sentence and begin the first episode of Boardwalk Empire.

Hope and, then, a reminder

It is almost ten at night but it feels much later. Maybe because there is more on my mind to think about in the hours between six thirty a.m. and now.

I am in a tough situation. You see, I cannot give you the details but I can tell you that it involves family and it is messy.

I’ve spent time in the Word trying to find an example of what I’m going through. I was hoping for a quick and easy parable where God points His finger down in the pages and says “HERE IS YOUR ANSWER- FOLLOW WHAT I TOLD THAT PERSON TO DO”. Even though we are not so different from the people in those stories, it does not always work that way.

I know now that I have to put the work in on this one. I have to spend more time reading and more time talking it out. Correction: less time talking it out to anyone I know and more time talking to the Lord about it. That said, I need to spend more time being quiet and listening.

The answer is there. I may not see it tonight, or next week, or even next year. It is a true test of patience and trust. When I do not know what to do I usually determine a response with: do the right thing.

Do what is honest. Do what is loving. Do that which does not hurt you or offend others.

Sometimes you can know all of those things and even do those things but when the final verdict is not up to you, how do you still go on when life truly seems unfair?

If this happens to me, I plan on doing just that: keeping on. Knowing that on this side of Heaven, nothing will be perfect. Sin gave us that. I plan to keep on and rest at night not feeling bitter or mistreated or angry.

Remind me of this post when that time comes.

Girly things

One thing about trying to post every day is that some days…I do not have too much to say.

To be frank, I’m more invested in the other three tabs I have pulled up. Pinterest “Clothing Wants” board. Lulu’s. Anthropologie.

Maybe it is the fear of one day waking up to the realization that I could be a hoarder that inspires me to be the exact opposite. To be a compulsive purger.

When you live in a house the size of mine, it is not such a bad quality. In fact, as much as I love to purge, I also love to organize. There are many secret hiding places in our home where one would be surprised to find winter coats, dvd’s, acrylic paint, and light bulbs. You gotta get creative if you need to keep things.

My husband tells me the only thing I really hoard is bed linens. This is true. I use the dogs as my excuse. “Oh, but they always get the ones we have so dirty!” In my defense, he buys green onions every time he goes to the grocery store. Every.damn.time. His reasoning for why we have three bags of oozing green onions in our refrigerator drawers? It is a nice, visual finishing touch to a meal. I reckon.

Despite what husbands may argue, Pinterest is a safe place. It allows you to create a dream home or dream closet without ever actually investing money in those things. (Unless you unlock the door to the Visit website feature.) Would I ever spend $132 on a blouse in real life? NEVER! Would I pin it as a clothing want? Of course.

The best description I’ve heard is: Pinterest is when your wife stares at her phone for eight hours and then you eat salad out of a mason jar. I’ll quietly raise my hand that yes, I’ve done this.

Is there harm in lusting after expensive clothes or brand names? If you took a look in my closet you’d have to say no. Because desiring those things has not led me in to any sort of credit card debt or therapy for the overspending (I think we’d call this couple’s therapy).

Gifts is not my love language. It is my husband’s. We had a difficult time figuring this out when we first got married. He could not understand why I didn’t worship the ground he walked on when he bought me something and I could not figure out why he didn’t act like he loved constant affection.  We are still working on this.

I’m not a gift kind of girl. That said, I am a girl. A girl who likes to wear beautiful, fun things. So if you happen to meet my husband, please let him know about the “Essential Jumpsuit” from Lulu’s that I’ve kindly bookmarked on my laptop. Feeling good and looking good is essential, after all.

 

July 18

Places in Time or Yes, I know I owe you two

I have recently spent a fair amount of time in the town where I went to college. It will forever be a “college town” in my mind because of this. A place where on Thursday nights we felt we owned the town and where sometimes when we went out to our favorite bar we’d come home with a shot glass and no bill from the night before.

College Town is also a nice little community of artists and musicians. The down town area has blossomed in to something beautiful and hip. Topiaries and brick buildings with green awnings beautify the Main Street which was, many, many years ago, known as “the longest main street in America”.

When I lived in this place, I hated it. I found it and the people to be pretentious. I found fault in every little thing and even though I was in the art scene, I hated dealing with everything and everybody in it. I thought it was because they treated me differently. I thought it was because things were handled unfairly. It was not until much later someone told me, about something unrelated, “Why are you so worried about those people’s opinion of you? I guarantee you they are not thinking about you. In fact, people are probably thinking of you far less than you believe they are.” This punched my insecurity and self obsession and vanity in the face.

This morning I went to College Town and grabbed a coffee before my runnings around. The barista was a guy who used to play music at the bar I worked at back then. I mostly remembered him as the guy my friend Catherine and I had a crush on, even though he is a short fellow. A short fellow with a beautiful, soulful singing voice and eyes the color of Werther’s Originals.

He represented the kind of person I thought of when I thought of this place. He didn’t get to know me, he was quiet which came across as judgmental, and he was someone I wanted to get to know me but knew it would never happen. Today I realized that one, I didn’t get to know him either; two, he stays stoned a lot which explains the reserved demeanor, and; three, if I had not been so hostile or hung up in myself and my melodrama, we could have been friends. Maybe more. Or maybe not. We will never know.

I’m not going to regret the time in College Town because it truly was one of the best experiences of my life. But I do see how insecurity plagued me there and other places in my life. And how I do not want it to trickle into the new life I have here.

Age really has nothing to do with a secure self. It mostly has to do with the wisdom that comes from the actions we took or didn’t take. It’s not regret, it’s not remorse. It’s not hating yourself for what you did or didn’t do. It is the good and the bad. It is hope in the darkness of your future and a flashlight casting a glow in the tunnel of your past. Like Leonard Cohen wrote:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

 

July 17

A Family Gathering, Part Two

Aunt Donna finally showed face, right on time so that while everyone was hugging and saying the how you beens, she snuck ice in the freezer and the coleslaw from Red & White on the two long tables of food that awaited the hungry crowd.

By this point Aunt Susan had gone in to full blown, tight lipped dogging on anyone who sided with Aunt Donna’s case of the unassuming, mystery half quart of pasta salad. There really was not a side to take. But she was the kind of person who you’d rather be on her good side than her bad.

“You need to just move on from this- look, we are here. We have ice. We have unexplainable pasta salad, and it’s time to eat.” I said, hoping to sway her back to the sane, calm side. Mom said I lived in that world, that I was a good mediator in that way. Calm in the face of crisis. Able to see both sides of the story.

“That might all be true but it doesn’t explained the fact that she hung up on me. Why can’t people just do what they are told?? How many times did I…”

At that I left her trailing off to go say hello to the great aunts and uncles and to smell the heads of all my cousin’s babies. All the while sneaking my way up the front of room near the buffet line.

Mom, dressed in a clean, pressed white blouse and floral pink and green shorts with cute, lace-up sandals, was making the rounds as well. We both like to float a room, listening to interesting stories in just the right amount of time so as not to get bored or become boring. We always find each other’s eyes during the prayer though.

Big Mama prays the same way every time. She does not waver from what is familiar and safe. Once, she slipped up and couldn’t remember what goes after, “…we thank you for your love, your mercy, and your grace.” Mom and I held our breath, hoping someone would collapse in a diabetic emergency just so Big Mama could get out of the awkwardness.

The sitting arrangement is always the toughest choice of a family gathering. Because I want to get things going, I jump in line earlier. I do not empathize nor understand the folks who linger around like they don’t know getting in line to make a plate is why we are here. As if we don’t do this year after year. Being one of the first to prepare their plate means deciding which end of either two long tables to sit at.

Each table sits about twenty people. It is smart to sit in the middle so no one has to squish in. But sitting at the middle with no one else around means you are the first target someone else looks for to sit with.

This is okay most of the time, as our family tends to have quirks and freaks but none who are absolutely dreadful or threatening. The worst one is a second cousin who mostly talks about himself and how great his life, his wife, and his children are. We all know he is full of shit. But we raise our eyebrows and exclaim, “Oh, wow!” anyway when we hear they are traveling the East Coast in an RV for the summer. We are kind because we know he lacks those things that money and bragging rights cannot buy.

Such as joy, honest soul bearing connection, fluidity in the dynamic only families can create, and deep, dinner table laughs with macaroni casserole hot on your plate and red velvet cake waiting on the counter. The same visceral sort of things that also cause you to call each other dumbasses on Holy days wearing beautiful pastel outfits.

A Family Gathering*

*Some names and events have been edited for story purposes.

“Donna, I’m at the church. What is this half bowl of pasta salad doing in the fridge, you make it? And where is the ice?” my Aunt Susan asked. She was turning into her party planner alter-ego, Psycho Susan, putting herself in a tizzy while we planned the Big Lunch for Easter.

It occurred every year in the social hall at Nazarene Methodist. A cold, brick building where all of our family events were held because we were too big to fit in Big Mama’s house anymore. And with age, Big Mama got more and more fussy about the kids going in and out of the damn door.

“I know you didn’t make that pasta salad? It wasn’t on the list for you to do.  And why make a half a bowl full? YOU were supposed to bring the ice and the coleslaw. Where’s the coleslaw!” Psycho Susan carried on as she walked back and forth from the main room where two long rows of tables were being decorated by me and my cousin Becky to the kitchen which was hidden behind a brick wall with an open window counter where tea and lemonade urns sat.

Becky and I exchanged looks. Both our eyebrows raised to suggest how high the tension would be when Aunt Donna arrived. Becky was Susan’s daughter and while she loved her mother’s gift of planning and decorating, she also knew to step away when she got ready to blow if something didn’t go according to her plan.

“Donna!”- she continued, yelling in to her cell phone, but the line was dead. And it wasn’t because there was no service out in the woods where the church social hall was located.

“I know she didn’t hang up on me. I know she didn’t!”

Here it comes.

“Now why in the hell would she not get what was assigned to her on that list and only get a half a bowl of pasta salad!”

Becky calmly interrupted, “Are you sure she saw the right list? I think there were two. The one you sent out and the one Aunt Lynn sent out.”

Lynn is my mother. She’s willing to do anything she’s told but she is not organized or on time. She sometimes gets the information crossed that’s supposed to go out and she’s usually thirty minutes late for the Big Lunch every year. Which is why we tell her to be there at 12:30 so we can eat by one.

“What list did she send out?” asked Susan, while she arranged the flowers on each other the long rectangular tables. “I don’t know no other list! I I I I just can’t- I can’t deal with my family today. They’re a bunch of dumbasses.”

 

To be continued in the morning…

J

 

uly 14

 

A sort of apology to the parents

It is a truism that when you are small you believe you’re dad to be the largest, tallest man in the world. When they lift you up in their arms you feel as if you may hit the ceiling. But you know you will not because he is your dad, he’s got you.

Many stories have been dedicated to what happens after you stop seeing a parent as a parent and start seeing them as a person. Faults in their character may explain some childhood difficulties. The thing that drives you the most crazy about them does, in fact, slowly and sneakily slide in to your own nature.

For instance, my mother is known for her corny jokes. She is the queen of saying something completely ham and then laughing at her own self. She can charm anyone she meets. Including herself. This used to bother me. Until my husband pointed out that I do the exact.same.thing.

Maybe I am beginning to soften a little. Or maybe I’m just tired of putting value in the things that are too heavy to keep carrying. Either way, I think those of us who are growing up could be a little easier on the parentals. Especially the only children and firstborns (needless to same I am in one of these categories). Why them? Because when it was your first time being a baby and a kid, it was their first time being a mom and a dad.

We are all going to get it wrong sometimes. We are all given abundant grace from the one parent who matters the most. Why not spread that around? Lather up that grace like sunscreen and apply it to mom and dad (and sister and brother) so that they will feel cared for. You can start out small with this. Say, SPF 15. Or baby oil for those of us who start with baby steps.

Two instances are in my memory reel of when I was a straight up little shit to my mom. The first time she wanted me to clean my room so I tied up each end of a jump rope to either sides of the room and told her to close her eyes when she walked in so she could “be surprised” at how clean it was. The other was went we were throwing a ball in the pool and I told her so coldly, “You could never be a ball player.” This was probably during that one or two year phase of softball (which I myself completely failed at).

Those moments do not make me a bad kid. A bully, yes, but not necessarily a bad person. When I ask my mother if she remembers this, she says no. She, like the Lord, sees the perfect and the mess.

 

July 13

The day got away

Technically I have about an hour until I owe you another coffee.  

Today was full. I ran with a new running friend. I find it amusing how much faster we tend to run when it’s with a friend. Showing off maybe? Or possibly forgetting to tell yourself to be slower than necessary.

I tended to the yard while Cedar got groomed and Mable moped around because he wasn’t home. Keeping up with plants has taught me that we are not so different from the flowers. Just when you think they are nearing the end, they find a little light and a little water and spruce back up again. 

Three loads of laundry and five mopped floors happened with encouragement from Tedeschi Trucks Band. I forgot how much I love mopping. Dirty floors are not unlike people. Given a little care and attention they’ll shine.

Poorly written blog posts are not unlike me. Given a busy day they’ll almost be forgotten.

It’s hotter than Hell down here, y’all

Every Tuesday at 6:30 pm I can expect to sweat, complain, and have a fantastic time with a group of women at the Rec Center. It’s HITT (high-intensity interval training) class. Thirty minutes of working off the fries and cakes that I run to like Pavlov’s dogs during the weekend. Thirty minutes of sweating in unmentionable places. And after it’s all over, the satisfaction of completing something that was hard. That really, eloquently stated, sucked.

Tonight we did outside running intervals. Keep in mind that the sun does not set until almost nine this time of year. That’s roughly fourteen hours of sunlight beating down. Also keep in mind that it is now nine o’clock at night and ninety degrees. At 6:30 it felt as if the sun had gathered up all the heat it cast down today and directed it like a stage light on us. Backside, frontside, there was no escape.

The girls and I ran a lap, then did ten burpees, ten push-ups, and ten crunches. From there we counted down with a lap in between. Dianna- my go-to partner in class and former co-worker for the company whose membership I am discretely still under- and I hung together. She hates the push-ups while I hate the burpees. Luckily, we are both runners so that part usually isn’t so bad. Notice how I said usually.

Something about running- hell even standing still- in the heat of the day creates that gurgly mucus that hangs in the back of your throat no matter how much water you have. The last thing you want to happen is for that gunk to come up. When you feel a burp coming you gotta be quick enough to lock in it before it spews and makes you woozy.

This is not an indicator of failure. It is an indication of pushing your limits. And that you should probably sit down for a minute.

I will never forget how hard it was when I ran track in high school,. How hot it got. How I wanted to rip all of my clothes off and go jump in the cow trough the FFA club had for the small farm behind the gym.

Freshman year was when I signed up for the track team. I never was that great at it, like I’m- not great at most sports. (I’ll never know why they assigned me to be a sprinter instead of a distance runner.) But I am outgoing. Stubbornness is also a good quality to possess when the only person you want to beat is yourself. (This is not a great quality for team sports, however. I found this out when I tried out for tennis and no one wanted to be my doubles partner.)

One particular afternoon practice stands out in my memory. Instead of running down the dirt road and through the grass around the school, we stayed on the track. Heat and asphalt are magnets and whatever stands between them might actually melt. This is what happened to some of my teammates.

As I rounded the corner facing the tennis courts I began to notice some of the other runners falling to the side. Literally, falling. They steadied themselves hands on knees and began to yak. One by one they fell behind, like the chocolates Lucy Ricardo couldn’t keep up with on the candy conveyor belt.

But not me. I was not going to be that girl. I was going to be the freshman that made it. The one that was not only stupid enough to run in the hundred degree weather but also the one who was not going to need a cold compress on her head to stop it from spinning once she finished. I can tell you, with all the pride from my fifteen year old and now almost thirty year old heart, that I made it. That me and Sam Shealy, two years ahead of me, were the only two whose cafeteria lunch did not end up on the steaming asphalt at Saluda High School.

Tonight’s running felt like that day. I think the humidity might have been about the same as it was in 2003 (ninety nine percent). It is that same stubbornness, and the encouragement from Dianna and the rest of the incredible women we work out with, that kept me going. Time ran out before we got to one but, hey, I am proud of getting to four. I am proud of not stopping. Mostly I am proud that I did not throw up in public.