Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
While wandering around Blog-land one day, I discovered Chatting at the Sky and it quickly became one of my favorite places to visit. Today, Emily is encouraging us to celebrate the small things, to "unwrap the gift of the everyday." You can participate or read what others have to say by clicking the button below.
Posted by Bee at 8:13 AM
Friday, November 28, 2008
It was before sunrise when I woke up this morning. The only light in our bedroom was the soft glow from the little lighthouse nightlight on JD3’s chest-of-drawers. In spite of the swish-whirr of the ceiling fan, the low hum of the heat pump, and the not-so-low snores of Prissy, our little Shi Tzu, the room was quiet and still. Reluctant to be fully awake, I burrowed deeper into the covers, warmed by the knowledge that, for now at least, all was right in my little world.
My sweet baby girl was home and sleeping in her own bed. Herman, her big white cat, was snuggled up close to her side. Keeping watch at the foot of the bed was Gracie, our goofy, immensely lovable 60lb puppy. Percy, our wild-child kitty-cat, had refused to come inside the night before and was asleep in his secret warm place outside. In our room, the previously mentioned noisy one had made herself into the small ball of fur that was snoozing in front of the bookcase. And sleeping beside me, hiney-to-hiney, was JD3, the man that I love and am growing old with. All the pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that is my life were in place.
As I lay there, trying to convince my bladder that I really didn’t need to be up yet, JD3 stirred and turned over. He tucked his knees into the bend of mine, threw his arm around me and settled back into sleep. It was no big deal, something married people do all the time. I’m not even entirely sure he was aware of it. But I knew that in that simple touch was the essence of everything that I am most grateful for in this life.
I know that I have family and friends who are always ready to throw their arms around me or hold my hand or hug me or pat me on the back or just sit beside me and make me feel safe and loved and part of something good. I have sisters who make me feel like I belong when they sit beside me and we talk about stuff; our childhood, our children, other peoples children who aren’t quite as special as ours are; just stuff. I have a mother who hugs me good-bye and makes me know she’s glad I was there and she hopes I’ll be back soon. I have a husband who makes me feel treasured by simply putting his hand on my knee as we ride along in the car, (or by throwing his arm across me in his sleep.) I have a daughter whose good-night kiss can right all the wrongs of the day. I have nieces and nephews whose hugs just plain make me happy.
What’s really exceptional (at least in my opinion) is that I have friends who give this kind of love long distance! These are the friends who held my hand as I worried about Anna after that awful wreck. They sit beside me every day and we talk about our families, our homes, our hopes for the future. If I’m having a bad day, their words make me feel like I’ve been held close in what one friend calls a “big ol’ boobie crushing hug,” the best kind of hug there is. With gentle pushes, they encourage me to try things I’ve never done before and then pat me on the back when I succeed. The fact that we’re so far apart seems insignificant. They’re my best friends and I’m oh, so grateful for them.
Yes, I’m thankful for my family. And I’m thankful for my friends. But what I’m most thankful for is God‘s presence in my life. During hard times, He wraps me close in His arms and, while I’m crying on His shoulder, He says, “Don’t worry. I’m here and I’ll never leave you.” He holds my hand when I’m walking through dark places. When I need direction, He puts His arm around me and says, “Listen, Bee. This is what I want you to do for me.” (Sometimes, I wish He’d just talk a little louder.) When I mess up, as I often do, He hooks my chin with His finger, tilts my face up to look at Him and says, “No, that’s not how I would have you do it. But I love you and I forgive you. Just try and do it my way from now on.” And I do try. I try every day to be the kind of person he wants me to be.
Thanksgiving Day is now officially over. Anna, Gracie and Herman are settled in for the night in Anna’s room. Percy, of course, is outside in his secret place. In a few minutes, I will turn off the lights here in the kitchen and head off to bed, where JD3 and Prissy are waiting for me. The room will be dark except for the glow from the little nightlight. I’ll crawl beneath the covers and hear the swish-whirr of the ceiling fan, the hum of the heat pump and the snores of my beloved little dog. As I lay there in the stillness, I’ll be warmed by the knowledge that all is right in my little world. I’ll know that I’ve been blessed beyond measure, and as I fall asleep, I’ll know that, for me, thanks giving day will never be over, but will come again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And every day.
Posted by Bee at 1:12 AM
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The light changed from green to yellow as she approached the intersection. If it had been a bright, sunny day, she might have tried to “squeeze the lemon,” her daughter’s way of saying, “Give it some gas and hurry on through before the yellow light turns red!” But it wasn’t a sunny day. Rain was spilling steadily down from a fuzzy gray sky that seemed to sag with the weight of all the water it held. She adjusted the windshield wipers from Intermittent to All-the-Way-On, pressed gently down on the brake pedal and, instead of squeezing that lemon, came to a soft, easy stop just as the light changed to red.
She loved weather like this. The pavement was as black and shiny as the brand new, patent leather Mary-Janes she‘d worn every Easter when she was a little girl (except for that one year when, for some unknown reason, she‘d worn white.) The shimmery reflections of the red and white car lights on the wet street sent a little shiver of Christmas spirit right through to her soul, even though it was a warm September day. She had turned the radio off and the patter of the rain on the roof of her car had muted all of the normal busy-day traffic sounds. She felt secluded, happily cocooned in her own little world with just her thoughts to keep her company.
As she sat there enjoying the wait for the green light, it occurred to her that whether she turned left or right or continued straight ahead, she’d still get home, her favorite place in all the world, in about 20 minutes. And, no matter which direction she chose to go, there would be something to see along the way that would make her smile. Of course, no matter which direction she chose to go, there would the possibility that something would annoy her and make her scowl a bit, too.
If she turned left, she could cross the little creek that ran through town. Always lovely, it was especially pretty in the rain. After making the turn, she’d drive straight for about a mile, at which point the road would curve and she would cross a kind-of-bridge. The houses that lined most of the street would fall from view, making her almost forget that this was a residential area and not a country road. On both sides of the bridge, she’d see lush green ferns and willows and that plant with the pretty white flowers; the one she didn’t know the name of. (Granddaddy would have known what it was.) She would see trees standing straight and tall in the dark water, with kudzu and Spanish moss wrapped around the trunks and hanging from the branches. Maybe, if she was lucky, she’d see an ibis or a crane. The surface of the water, more graphite-gray than black, would be sprinkled with thousands of little pewter-colored rain dots. But - and there was always a but - that mile before you got to the creek had a reputation for being a speed trap; a well-deserved reputation that she could personally vouch for. And, once you crossed the creek, the country road once again became a city street lined with non-descript, (some down-right ugly,)houses and businesses.
If she turned right, she could ride by her favorite house in town, the little cottage with the stained glass windows hanging on the porch. A picket fence enclosed an overgrown garden filled with late-blooming flowers, birdhouses and quirky yard art. The owner was in the process of painting, so the house was half pink and half green. And had been for years. Though they had never met, she was sure that the woman who lived there - and she just knew it was a woman - had embraced her inner Bohemianess just as she had, and must be quite a wonderful person. The thing was, to get there she’d have to go through that goofy intersection, where she’d have to cross a busy street at an odd angle, zigging to the right, then zagging quickly to the left. You had to be very careful there because, when the light turned green, drivers unfamiliar with the area, thinking there was no opposing traffic, would turn left smack dab in front of you making you call them and their mamas ugly names.
Straight ahead, the road was lined on each side with massive oak trees whose branches met overhead and formed a lacy green tunnel. Traveling through it, she’d pass some of the town’s oldest houses; houses that were built when this area was still considered “way out in the country.” On her left, she’d see the new built-to-look-like-an-old-farmhouse house with the oh, so cool tin roof. A little further up on the right, would be the pretty white house and it’s wrought iron trellis that was all but hidden beneath a big yellow-flowering vine. What would be her most favorite thing to see, though, was the little garden that had been planted on land bequeathed to the town by the Shack Lady. For a long, long time, and to the consternation of her affluent neighbors, an old woman had lived in a broken-down, not very pretty little house on a much desired, very valuable piece of real estate. After her death, it was discovered that she had been quite well off and had owned the land outright. In her will, she deeded the aforementioned real estate to the townspeople, with the stipulation that no houses would ever be built there; that it would become a garden, instead. Now, instead of being ugly and unkempt, it was one of the prettiest places on the pretty tree-lined street. But - here’s that infamous but again - those pretty trees had big ol’ roots that had buckled the pavement in places and years of bad weather had caused pot holes that had never been repaired properly. The bumpy street just plain needed paving. AND, it headed straight into Five Points, the intersection where six, (not five, but six,) of the busiest streets in town came together. The state-of-the-art traffic light did a good job of keeping things sane, but sometimes you had to wait what seemed like forever for your turn to go.
While she was sitting there trying to name all six points that came together up ahead (much like she sometimes tried to name all eight of Santa’s reindeer or Snow White’s seven dwarves,) the light changed from red to green. She slid her foot from the brake to the accelerator, pressed down, and for no better reason than just because, went straight. “Hmm,” she thought. “Wonder what it would be like if life were like this; if every time you chose a particular life path, you already knew what was up ahead, the bad as well as the good.” In her heart, though, she knew that it wouldn’t be a good thing; that fretting over all the bad that could happen would keep you from fully enjoying all the good that was to be had. And besides, she just loved surprises.
Posted by Bee at 12:53 PM
Monday, November 3, 2008
to all of you who left such nice comments on Anna's story. When I posted it, I somehow got something out of order and she wanted me to fix it. The only way I could do it, it seemed, was to delete the whole stinkin' thing and re-post it. Just as I was hitting that blasted Delete box, I realized I would lose all of your lovely comments. I'm so sorry. They mean so much to both of us and I would never so callously delete them on purpose.
Posted by Bee at 7:24 PM
Since I am a notoriously slow blogger and my sweet, baby girl is something of a writer, herself, I asked her if I could share some of her work with you. I’m so glad she agreed.
Impressions of College LifeBy Anna L.
The rain forests aren’t in danger of disappearing. They are just in the process of migrating to Columbia, SC. Don’t believe me? Let us consider the similarities: The rain forest is a humid place. Columbia definitely has that area covered. I don’t believe there has been a single day with humidity below 89 percent. The rain forest is abuzz with the sounds of birds and insects. Indeed, Columbia, or at least parts of the USC campus, seems to demand the use of earplugs. Yes, animals, I understand that it has recently rained and is unbearably hot, but must you serenade us students as we hike to our different classes? And if you absolutely must, is there any reason that you can’t keep it down to a level slightly below ear-bleeding? Yes, Columbia is what one who has never been outside of the continental US might imagine the rain forest to be like: Hot, muggy, humid, steamy, hot, noisy, wet, hot, unpleasant, hot.
Speaking of animals, the squirrels in Columbia are just a little too comfortable with people to lend one peace of mind. Truthfully, the little buggers are downright terrifying. Should you be unfortunate enough to come across one of the furry fiends, DO. NOT. MAKE. EYE. CONTACT. Especially if they happen to be holding any kind of food – an acorn, a stray French fry, the remains of that freshman that just couldn’t get away in time. There is some sort of genetic quality about these squirrels that is just off, they don’t look like regular squirrels; they are more like the carnival workers of the rodent world. Sure, you know what they are by looking at them, but you still don’t quite know what else they could be. The squirrels are only rivaled in numbers by the cockroaches. All the t-shirts and posters that say “Go Cocks”? Yeah, those are actually shortened versions of “Go away Cockroaches.” If not, they should be. The little critters are everywhere. But if you see one at night, your new friend will kick them. Because he has a new mohawk and that’s the kind of things guys with mohawks do. Maybe.
A world of dining opportunities await you…in theory. Having a meal plan is a pretty nifty thing. You just swipe your card and voila! Your meal is paid for without the hassle of waiting for change, or even signing a receipt (a feat that not even Visa has managed yet). But speedy paying is about where the convenience ends. Should you want lunch, there are a few on-campus options with a decent location. You have an always crowded cafeteria, which those pressed for time usually avoid. Then there are your “fast” food options. Old favorites like Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Chick-fil-a are in a line just waiting for you to choose. Of course, everyone else has to choose too, and as we should all expect, everyone else also just happens to be in a cheese pizza mood. On days when you don’t particularly feel up to the limited selection of the steady familiars, there are some slightly slower options, that are just as frustrating. Pandini’s is a “fast” food Italian restaurant, similar to Fazoli’s. Word of advice: don’t get the pasta. Even if it has just come off the stove, through some natural phenomenon, it will be cold. The pizzas are pretty good, but ridiculously large for a single serving. Then there is the joy of supper, or lunper as I like to call it (because it comes at that odd time between lunch and supper). Yes, lunper is available (at Preston anyway) from 5:15 until 7:45. Which makes sense, because everyone knows that college students are all in bed by ten or eleven, and couldn’t possibly be hungry again by that time. Preston dining is good for certain types of people. You know, the ones that will randomly sit with a stranger, introduce themselves and strike up a conversation, all while you have grains of rice stuck to your lips. If, like me, you prefer to keep socializing and rice eating (I say rice because it is always the first thing in the line of food), Preston dining is a place you go to eat (because you have to) and awkwardly stare at your friends, who are also enjoying some sort of rice dish.
Meeting people is not so much a difficulty as it is an annoyance. Believe me, I never lack for companionship. In fact, I look forward to the times when the only person I have to talk to is myself…not that I…do that. All sorts of people will shove their way into your life, whether it be the indie music obsessed Yankee that thinks you are musically deprived because you, like most everyone else on the planet, haven’t heard of such obscure bands as Smoosh or TV on the Radio. Then there’s the guy of indeterminable age, who dropped out, but still likes to hang around campus and publicly kiss his girlfriend. (“You can’t spell “pretentious” without “Preston.” Actually, Chief? You can.) And don’t worry about no one knowing your name. In some of your smaller classes you will be forced to go around and introduce yourself. Repeatedly. Sometimes using visual aids! Not enough personal contact for you? How about assigned seating in a class of almost 400? That way you will be sure to meet your neighbors over the course of 15 weeks.
Reliable internet service? We don’t need no stinkin’ reliable internet service. Apparently a college campus – the campus of the state’s flagship university, no less – is not able to keep its servers up and running. Have there been some mysterious power outages? Solar flares? Maybe the wires are just melting in the heat. Whatever the problem may be, they really need to get their act together, as the professors - You know, the ones responsible for passing or failing the students - Yeah, they kinda like to give assignments through the internet and e-mail.
You will walk. A lot. This will not be lessened by associating with people who live closer to the state of Georgia than they do to the rest of the campus. These people will, for some reason, want to hang out with you. At their place. Oh, and did I forget to mention the stairs? As South Carolina is not a plains state, and as Columbia is in the Sandhills region, there are a lot of hills. Many of these hills are far too steep to be traversed using sidewalks alone. No, they must have stairs of varying widths and steepnesses (have a new word). Elevators do not help. Why? Because to use one without looking like a jerk, you must either have poor or no usage of your legs, or be a human version of a pack mule. What if you don’t fit either qualification? Then take the stairs you pansy! If you are fortunate enough to be on semi-level ground, you still have to beware of the bricks. Brick walkways are nice to look at, but they lose some of their appeal when they are coming towards your face at the speed of “trip” because you decided to answer that text message while walking. Enjoy your concussion, Grace.
Dorm living is very much like staying in a hotel. The walls are thin, and there always seems to be some idiot running up and down the halls at one in the morning. Not that you are asleep. The fan – which is your only way of controlling the temperature – has most likely done its job overly sufficiently and has thus turned you into an icicle. If the cold hadn’t woken you, the person flushing the toilet two floors above you would have. Which brings me to the plumbing: like all hotels, the shower head in the bathroom is designed for people under five feet and six inches. The water pressure is sufficient, but it won’t be winning any awards. Of course, the fact that the water is always hot makes up for this. Except for the early mornings, when it isn’t.
Washing dishes in a dorm room sink sucks. Yep, it really, really does.
Being a scholar does not improve your sense of direction. At all. In fact, it may make things worse. Imagine, if you will, a person who has had to drive everywhere since they got their license. Naturally, this person may get lost a few times, but as she (or he) would have to drive all of the time, she (or he) would quickly learn where to go. Now place this individual in a setting where she (or he) doesn’t drive but about once a week. This is just asking for the person to never become acquainted with a city that is, in theory (a theory which I don’t buy anymore) laid out on an easy-to-navigate grid. Ha! I say. Ha.
College doesn’t really change you. At least not right away. You will still think and believe the same way. The same things will still annoy you. You won’t go to sleep any earlier. You will still like the same books, movies, shows, and music. Your family will still be the most important thing to you. You will still be a picky eater, and you will still prefer cereal over a hot meal. You will laugh at the same things. You will still be the crazy person that you have become in your life thus far. No, you don’t really change. What does change is the atmosphere. Though you will still think the same way, you may be more open to someone else’s opinion. If something annoys you, you won’t be as quick to roll your eyes. Sleeping habits aren’t something that are really up for debate, but you will appreciate the need for sleep a little more. Your tastes will be the same, but you might be a little more willing to branch out if that means a better conversation with someone in the future. Family ties won’t change – they are too solid, but you may take more of an effort to stay in touch. You may be a picky eater, but you may try to behave like an adult and actually attempt to eat a vegetable every now and then. You will laugh at the same things, but may find yourself laughing more often (sleep deprivation has a tendency to make everything funny.) You won’t magically become sane; you will just realize that there are a lot of nut jobs that are worse off than you are.
Posted by Bee at 7:14 PM
Thursday, October 23, 2008
This is dedicated to my friend Joanne, who has sent her own beautiful daughter out into the world. I‘m sure she‘s feeling a lot like I do right now.
The afternoon sun was shining on her hair through the back door window, making her curls look all shiny and coppery. She stood there with her purse over her shoulder, holding her keys in one hand and the doorknob in the other. As she leaned forward and kissed me on my cheek, she said “ ’Bye. I love you.” “I love you, too,” I told her. “Be careful and call me when you get there.” We had stood in this same spot and spoken these same words so many times before. Only this time, she wasn’t meeting Lauren at Starbucks or going to hang out with Chloe; she wasn’t running the Mama-forgot-a-bunch-of-stuff-at-the-grocery-store errand or picking up supper for the three of us. This time, she was headed back after her first weekend home from college.
I followed her out of the door and stood on the top step as she walked to her car, threw her purse in the passenger seat and got in. The glare on the windshield kept me from seeing clearly, but I knew all of the little things she’d do to get ready for a road trip. She’d start the engine to get the air conditioner going, then decide if she was going to listen to XM radio, her iPod, or the CD player. When the decision was made, she’d push the appropriate buttons or turn the right knobs and queue up her music. She’d put on her sunglasses, buckle her seat belt and adjust her mirrors. If her daddy had been the last one to drive her car, she’d let out a little snort and say something caustic about him “messin’ with her seat and mirrors!” Then she’d shift into reverse and be on her way.
After a minute or two, she was all set. With a little wave and a half-smile, she was backing out of the drive way and heading down the road, the road that was taking her away from me. As I stood watching her car get smaller and smaller, I opened the picture book in my heart and watched my little girl grow up. There she was on the day we brought her home from the hospital, surely the most beautiful baby in the world, lying there on the new quilt her grandmother had made for her. I saw the toddler with the soft, golden curls and a red pacifier in her mouth that proclaimed, “I love Mommy.” And there, smiling back at me was the gangly 10yr old, the one with crooked teeth, 2 long braids that couldn’t quite contain her wildly curly hair, and glasses that were much too big for her face. (What were we thinking?!) I saw her grow from an awkward teenager with braces to a lovely young woman with a beautiful smile.
It had all happened too fast and I needed more time - more time to be a better mother. I wanted to go back and say, “Yes,” every time I had said, “No,” because I was tired or busy. I wanted to take that quilting class with her even though “quilting wasn’t really my thing.” I wanted to read Splishy Splashy Day one more time and I wanted to watch her as she watched The Little Mermaid over and over, again and again. And again. I wanted to play games and bake cookies and draw on the sidewalk and play dress up. I wanted a do-over as much as I had ever wanted anything in my life. Hoping very much that she had heard more of the “yes’s“ and less of the “no‘s,” I turned and walked back into the house.
I stood there, in our spot, and looked around the kitchen. There was Herman, Anna’s big white cat, still sleeping in the ugly green computer chair ( a yard sale find that was going to find its way to the dump very soon.) Our magnet collection was still scattered across the refrigerator and Anna’s funny notes were still written on the chalk board over the pantry. The only sounds were the rickety-click of the ceiling fan and the hum of the appliances. Everything seemed the same as it had 10 minutes earlier. But it wasn‘t. It was different. Very different. It was as if the room knew that, this time, our lives really had changed forever. There was a hint of melancholy in the air - a longing for the good old days when the three of us were here together almost every day. It wasn't the same as the raw, visceral grief that I felt last year when she went away. This was a softer, more mellow sadness.
Imagine passing down your great-grandmother’s ring to your daughter, a treasured family heirloom that you’ve worn on the third finger of your right hand every single day for over thirty years. You know it’s time to let it go and you’re thrilled to carry on the tradition. It makes you happy to see how pretty it looks on her hand and to know that she loves it as much as you do. You’d never dream of taking it back, but you really, really miss the feel of it on your finger; your hand feels empty without it. Well, I’ve given my treasure to the world. I know it’s time to let her go and I’m excited to carry on the tradition set by countless mothers before me. It’s a life I want her to have and I’d never hold her back, but I really, really miss the familiar feel of her being here with me.
If you ask her what it is I miss so much, she’ll probably say that I miss my errand girl and computer geek. And she’ll most likely tell you that I hate not knowing where she is and what she’s doing every minute of every day so that I can make sure she’s safe and happy. She’ll probably know that I miss talking to her about everything - reading, writing, movies, pets, family, friends, God, love, marriage, fashion food, and sometimes, even sex. Everything. She might know that I miss watching Psych with her; that I won’t watch it without her because it’s just not the same unless she‘s here laughing as hard as I am.
Yes, she could tell you all of that and she would be right. But I don’t think she knows how much I miss the little things. Things like looking out of the kitchen window and seeing her car parked in its spot. Or seeing her toothbrush in the glass on the bathroom counter. She might not know that I miss being a happy third-wheel when she and her daddy are discussing music or baseball or NCIS; or hearing them howl with laughter at some stand-up comic that I just don’t get. I don’t think she knows how much I love her in the mornings, a bit grumpy with wild hair and wilder pajamas. I miss hearing her call "Heeeerrmeeee,” her cat, and I miss the way he loves her. I miss those times when we’re not talking, when we’re just quietly together in the house. I even miss the obnoxious ringtone of her cell phone, because when I hear it ring, I know she’s home.
I miss how, without notice, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Like it does when, in the middle of one of our everyday talks about everyday things, she turns to me and says, “You’re my best friend.” How sometimes she seems to read my mind and say out loud the very thing I’ve been thinking. Or how, in the middle of an ordinary supper out, I look across a candlelit table and am absolutely gob-smacked by what a beautiful young woman she’s become. (How can this be my child?!) But, perhaps the best extraordinary ordinary moment of all comes at the end of the day, when she lightly kisses my cheek and says, “G’night, Mama. I love you.”
I know that it’s time for her to go and develop her grown-up muscles. I know that it’s time for her to learn to handle life’s little speed bumps on her own and that I need to become more of an encourager and less of a do-er. I know that it’s right for parts of her life to be totally separate from mine; that our hips need to be un-joined and that I really don’t need to know “where she is and what she’s doing every minute of every day so I can make sure she’s safe and happy.” In my heart, I know that she will always, always be my sweet baby girl, but it’s time now for my treasured heirloom to sparkle on the hand of the world.
Yep, I know all of this. But I also know that I’m missing Anna.
There have been several weekends home since that first one. And every time she leaves to go back, I still feel that little pinch around my heart.
Posted by Bee at 12:53 PM
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Sometimes I Knits and Thinks, and Sometimes I Just Knits
Sometimes, I get lost in the rhythm of the needles and the feel of the yarn as it glides through my fingers. The pattern becomes my mantra as I focus only on what my hands are doing. “Knit one, purl three, knit two, purl four,” I chant out loud. To myself. The world around me becomes softened and blurred like an out-of-focus photograph and the sharp edges of the day become rounded and smooth. It’s only me, the needles and the yarn working together to make something pretty.
Sometimes, though, the gentle click of the needles as they tap against each other becomes a soft drum-beat, keeping rhythm for my thoughts. No longer a mantra, the pattern becomes more like a song playing on a radio that has the volume turned way down low; just a quiet murmur in the background. Once again, the world melts away. Only now, my fingers move as if they don’t need me telling them what to do; it’s the needles, the yarn and my hands that are creating, and my mind is free to wander down whatever path it chooses. I think about what I’m going to cook for supper, how much cuter the dog looks with her new haircut, why won’t my sister clean up her house?! I write, solve problems and plan our lives while I’m sitting there, looking for all the world like I’m just knitting.
It was this thinkin’ kind of knittin’ that I did a few Saturdays back. There was nothing going on that needed my attention. The animals had been fed and watered and let out and back in. And out and in again. The house was clean and tidy. Anna was out of town and JD3 was on the couch watching something on TV. Well, he looked like he was watching TV, except his eyes were closed and coming from somewhere around his head was a noise that sounded a lot like a lawn mower about to run out of gas. I headed off to my room to knit, thankful for the me time
The sun shining through the window cast a pale, golden light on the bed. The only noise in the room was the sound of my way-cool, retro-style fan; it was turned on low and positioned so that just a whisper of a breeze would blow onto my face. I climbed up on my high, black iron bed, folded my legs under me and leaned back on pillow cases softened by many trips through the spin cycle. For one precious minute, I just sat there and snuggled in the quiet and peacefulness that wrapped around me. Even the ugly pink walls didn’t seem quite so ugly. I leaned over to my bedside table and picked up my latest knitting project, a gift for a dear friend. As I ran my hands over Friday night’s stitches, I thought again about how much I liked this red yarn. I began the next row with “Knit three“ And I started to think.
I thought about how my newest writing adventure is coming together almost by itself; how the characters are so real and warm and funny, and how they seem to want me to tell their story! This is different from my usual writing and bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. Even though I know it’s not going to land me on any best-seller list, I’m pretty darned excited about it.
I’ve been writing for a long time. In high school and college I wrote essays, research papers and short stories. When I was an angst-ridden twenty-something, I had stacks and stacks of journals (actually spiral-bound composition books) that bared my soul to, well, no one, because I wouldn’t let anybody read them! But my soul was bared, none-the-less. As a Nursing Supervisor, I wrote policies and procedures. As a young mother, I had great fun making up super silly stories that were sure to have Anna burbbling with laughter, making the glorious sound that only little girls can make and that makes a mama’s heart melt like butter sittin’ on a warm stove.
All along, hidden away on a dusty shelf in the back of my mind, was the idea that maybe, someday, I could write something that the whole world might like to read. Over the years, encouraged by my one and only fan and critic (aka Anna) I would take that idea down and play with it for a little while. But Fear and Insecurity, old pals of mine, would snatch it out of my hands and put it right back on that shelf. “What if you fail?” they would say. “Nobody in your family even knows you want to do something like this. What if they laugh at you?” Convinced that they knew best, I would leave it where they put it and head off in pursuit of some other creative outlet.
“So why do you think you can do it now?” you ask. “Why do you think you can take that idea down, dust it off and make it into something shiny and pretty? What brought you from the town of No-Way-In-Hell to the quaint little village of I-Think-I-Can?” Well, the short answer is knitting, satellite TV and the internet. But you know me. I’m going to give you the long answer, too!
When I was a little girl, we lived in a neighborhood where all of the mothers stayed home and practiced the philosophy of “it takes a village to raise a child.” Because all of the children played together, the mothers being played together, too. (Except for that bleached-blonde hussy that lived down the street!) When they weren’t cleaning house, fixin’ supper or passin’ out Kool-Aid to yet another thirsty child, who may or may not have been their own, they crafted together. And for a time, their favorite craft was knitting those cute little bedroom slippers; the ones with the fuzzy, bobbly pom-poms on top. They all used the same pattern and most of them used the same yarn; but each lady had her own way with the pom-poms or the length of the toe or the top edge that set hers apart from the others .
We didn’t care how cute or creatively unique they were. We just knew they made great skates for sliding across hardwood floors. And we wanted to make our own! I don’t know why she did it. It might have been a rainy afternoon and she had to either give us something to do or kill us; or it might have been that she just had some extra time that day. Whatever the reason (I tend to favor the rainy day theory,) Mama taught us all how to knit. Even the boys. Now, truth be told, none of us ever made a pair of slippers; in fact, most of the kids never even got past casting on, which is how you get the very first stitches on the needle. But I had learned a new craft. For most of my adult years, it was a sometime pastime. About 5 years ago, the needles and I took our relationship to the next level, as they say, and began a passionate love affair.
During those early days of Kool-Aid drinking and hardwood floor skating, my sisters and I almost never watched TV. Oh, we watched Captain Kangaroo in the mornings and on very special occasions, we were allowed to stay up past our 8:00PM bedtime and watch Family Affair. But it wasn’t a big part of our lives. Then, when I was 10, we moved from Small Town, USA to Teeny Bit Bigger Town, USA and got cablevision! Suddenly, we had a lot of TV that we could watch. AND we could stay up later and were allowed to watch more shows! We could watch The Brady Bunch every time it came on, not just on special occasions! And it got better and better. We got HBO and later, MTV! For twenty-plus years, I had the TV world at my fingertips.
Then I got married and moved to the country. Where we had no cable! Where we had no antenna! Where we had almost no programming for our viewing pleasure! With the help of our VCR, we persevered about 3 long years before we decided enough is enough, and got a satellite dish. Oh, it was wonderful! Suddenly, we had choices again! It was like going to country buffet after being on a low-cal, low-fat, no-taste diet and being told you could eat all of the biscuits and gravy you could hold.
It was then that I discovered craft and decorating shows. My new anthem became, “I Can Do That!” and Carol Duval became my hero. She even had shows that featured, (gasping with delight,) knitting! When I wasn’t going to be home, I’d set the VCR and, later, the DVR (when cable finally came to the backwoods) to record m’shows so I wouldn’t miss a single idea-spawning episode. Life was good! We had each other, we had our health, we had a roof over our heads and food to eat, and we had HGTV! What more did we need?!
As it turned out, we needed a computer. Somehow, in spite of my best efforts to keep it from happening, Anna had grown up and started to school. They were teaching computer skills in class and sometimes assigned homework that required the use of one. After a day at work, I was usually tired and irritable and did not enjoy schlepping back to town in search of an available CPU and it’s buddies so that she could do that homework. We did, however, want our little soon-to-be computer geek to do well. So, when our income tax refund came, we paid a visit to the Gateway store.
From the minute it came in the back door, I hated it. It was ugly and took up way, way too much space in my kitchen. I hated the amount of time JD3 spent parked in front of it. I hated that I couldn’t figure the darn thing out after sitting there for 5 whole minutes. I. Just. Hated it. And it knew I hated it. So it hated me back. It would snarl at me. Really, it would; it never made those noises at JD3. Or it would just sit there and not do a blessed thing while I frantically pushed keys trying to get it to respond. We had declared war on each other! I finally decided that if I couldn’t get this hateful piece of technology to work for me, I’d just stick with my trusty TV!
The thing was, repeatedly during my favorite shows, I would hear the host say, “For more information, check out our website.” Over and over again, I heard it. And sometimes, I needed that “more information.” I needed to know where I could get the double-sided tape that would stick Jello to the wall. I needed a step-by-step pattern for knitting a car. I NEEDED THAT INFORMATION! I had to have access.
So I negotiated a truce with the computer. With the help of husband and daughter, I learned how to connect to the internet. I learned to Yahoo and google. And I learned how to find all the information I needed by “checking their websites.” One day while I was checking the HGTV site, I discovered they had forums! And a whole special little forum dedicated to knitting and crocheting. I could go there and talk with other knitters. I could ask questions and get answers right away. Or I could answer someone else’s questions. It became part of my routine to “check the board” every day.
One day, when I found that nothing new was happening on the knitting board , I decided to check out the decorating board. I was instantly hooked. It was all about feathering your nest; they discussed which paint was best and what color was hot and how to make curtains that wouldn’t cost you a kidney. They even had pictures! Pictures of the most beautiful homes, from big mansions to tiny cottages. It was a very active board with oodles of new posts and pictures every day. I added this forum to my Favorites list and when I checked the knitting board every day, I checked here too.
One day, I clicked on a link that took me to a place that would change my life. Now, I know that it sounds a bit melodramatic and more than just a bit weird to say that an internet decorating forum 'changed my life.' But it did.
It was so much more than decorating. As I said here, I met some amazing people and made some really good friends with whom I have laughed and cried and worried and rejoiced; friends that I love and that I hope will always be a part of my life.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you say. “You found this wonderful place with these amazing women and you’ve grown to really love some of them and you hope they love you back and yadda, yadda, yadda. What does that have to do with what you’re talking about now?!” Well, I’ll tell you. It was here, in this wonderful place, that I discovered blogs, those wonderful little mini- web sites where ordinary people like me could write about almost anything and publish it for the whole world, (or at least a teeny tiny little part of it,) to read. How had I missed this?!
I also discovered that two of those amazing women - you know, the ones that I’ve really grown to love and who I hope love me back - were bloggers.
They were writing about their daily lives and the things that were important to them and, by doing so, were sharing themselves with me. It was wonderful. And I wanted to do it, too. I was taking that idea off of the shelf and I was going to write.
Inspired by my friends, I went to the hosting site, set up my blog and wrote my first entry. Because I admired these women so much, they were the first ones (except JD3 and Anna) that I invited to read it. More than a wee bit nervous, I waited on their responses. When they came, warm and encouraging, it was like Santa had finally brought me that pony that I’d always wanted. Thinking that if they liked it, others would, too, I made it public.
And here I am, ready to take that big step and write about something other than myself. Because of the encouragement I’ve gotten from one of those dear friends and my own sweet daughter, I actually think I can do it. Fear and Insecurity are going to have to find somebody else to bother.
Did I get to this place in my life as a result of a random series of every day events? Or were those everyday events part of a plan to get me to this exact point in my life? I don‘t have an answer for that one. I guess what really matters is that, after all of these years, I’m here. It’s like Douglas Adams said, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Life is often described as a road, a highway. Usually, when I hear this analogy, I get a real Ansel Adams-esque picture in my head; one of a long, straight highway slicing through the desert, disappearing into a beautiful sunset. And I just know the sunset is wonderfully, wildly colorful, even with the whole Ansel Adams, black-and-white thing going on. I also know that, even though I can't see them yet, nice little towns full of friendly people are right over the horizon. And me? I’m cruising along in my convertible, honey at my side, the warm wind blowing my hair. And I know that I'll be met in those nice little towns by warm smiles and big bear hugs and “Gosh, it‘s good to see y‘all.”
Imagine my surprise when, instead of a nice, straight, smoothly paved interstate with a clear view of what‘s ahead, my trip through 2007 and early 2008, turned out to be more like a ride down the part of Highway 64 that stretches between Hendersonville and Murphy, NC. For those of you who don’t know, this little bit of highway, (and I use the term highway very loosely,) also runs right through Highlands, NC, whose official elevation is 4118 ft. above sea level. So when you travel this road, you’re riding way up there in the clouds on a road which, on a map, looks a lot like the loopy handwriting of a teenage girl - all swirls and swoops and curlicues.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a folk school in the beautiful North Carolina mountains and Highway 64 was going to take me there. I was confident I could make the drive there and back with very little difficulty. I was oh, so wrong. In fact, it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. The scenery, when I could look, was spectacularly, awesomely beautiful. I don’t know how I know this because the only time I was actually able to take my eyes off the road was when I pulled over (at every available opportunity) to let the locals whiz by me at dangerously high rates of speed. Ok, the state of NC felt that 20 miles per hour was not dangerously fast, and had posted this as the speed limit. I, however, felt like 7mph was plenty fast enough for a narrow mountain road with more twists and turns than the plot of a bad soap opera. As I drove, I gripped the steering wheel so hard, I lost feeling in my hands and my forearms.
After days of driving (or so it seemed) I finally reached the school. I climbed out of the car and stood on shaky legs. It was all I could do to not drop down on my knees and kiss that blessedly flat, smooth parking lot. I was scared to speak to anyone for fear I would throw myself into their arms and sob with relief that I hadn‘t plunged off the mountain to my death, leaving my sweet baby girl without a mama.
After a bit of deep breathing, I was able to pull myself together, check in, and make my way to the first lesson in making toothbrush rugs. I was still anxious, but determined to make the best of it. And it was a wonderful weekend! I made new friends (who helped me find another way home!) learned a new craft and fell in love with the John C, Campbell Folk School. However, as I stood quivering by my car on that first cold, gray afternoon, I had no hope in hell that it would turn out that way. I was tired, scared and completely overwhelmed by the thought of facing that drive back home.
And that is how the year 2007 left me feeling - tired, scared and overwhelmed. It started out like most of the years before it. After a merry Christmas spent with those near and dear to us, we celebrated our anniversary and quietly rang in the New Year, as we usually do. I knew that, with daughter dear graduating from high school, there would be some happy-sad, emotion-charged times ahead; but I also knew that, with love and support from my family and friends, I would get through them without crying and screaming and gnashing of teeth (or at least, very little of that.) What I didn’t know was that those emotional times would conspire with family crises, as well as health and job issues to make it a very difficult year.
Early in the year, both of JD3’s (my dear husband) parents became ill and had to be hospitalized. His mother was quickly diagnosed, treated and sent home in the care of her family. PaPa, however, was just too weak and frail to fight for his life. His death should have brought the family closer together to comfort each other and mourn his loss. Instead, it completely unraveled it. Years of anger and resentment between two sisters erupted into all out war and the rest of us got caught in the cross-fire. The one who was really hurt was my mother-in-law; she was all but forced to choose between her two daughters. The sad thing is, if you were for one, you were against the other. In their minds, there was no middle ground. Although it‘s quiet on the front now, I suspect the war is far from over.
My daughter - my sweet baby girl, the source of immeasurable joy and recipient of more love than I ever thought I could feel for another human being- has added her part to the chaos that surrounded us this year. Some of it was good; some of it - not so much! She celebrated her 18th birthday and graduated from high school. As she walked to the podium to give her valedictory speech, I was so full of pride that it bubbled up in my chest and ran in streams down my face. More than a few of those tears, though, were from sadness. Gone forever was the little girl who, with a pacifier in her mouth and one in each hand, long wild curls swirling around her head, could stand in front of the TV for hours watching The Little Mermaid. In her place was a poised, articulate young woman. One who would soon be leaving me to make her own way in the world.
In late summer, in possession of everything we thought a hip and happenin’ freshman should have, she went away to college. And, after one very long, excruciatingly painful week, she came home from college. She was homesick, most definitely NOT into having a roommate and disillusioned with the course of study she had chosen. Thinking that our local university would better suit her needs, she came home, got a job and prepared to start classes in the spring semester.
Registration day arrived, cold and wrapped in a thick, fleecy fog. Like most mothers, I was a little anxious about the weather, but I kissed her goodbye, told her to be careful and sent her on her way. About thirty minutes later , she called and told me that she had been in a wreck, but she thought she was ok. I threw on some clothes and rushed out of the door. She had sounded a little shaky on the phone, so I expected to find her quivering and scared and needing a hug from her mama. I was NOT prepared for the sight that smacked me in the face when I drove up - an ambulance parked on the side of the road and her car, crumpled and bent, with the driver’s side door smashed into the seat where she had been sitting. There was a small group of people standing by the car, a group which did not include my child! My blood stopped flowing. “Oh, Dear God!” I thought. Those kind strangers must have seen the terror on my face because, before I could even get out of my car, they were at my side telling me she was in the ambulance and that she seemed ok.
And she was ok. She had a few little cuts and some mighty strange bruises, as well as a broken clavicle and a tiny little fracture in her pelvis. But she was alive. I know that God’s hand was on her that day. I know it, she knows it, and a lot of other people know it, too. Everyone, from the paramedics to the owner of the tow truck, said that it was a miracle she had even lived through an impact like that. They told us that, on first seeing her car, they had been sure the driver had died. One of the paramedics, as he was leaving the ER, started to say “Have a nice day.” Instead, he stopped mid-sentence, looked her straight in the eye and said, “You don’t know it, but you just had a good day.”
I try not to think about it, but sometimes the thought of how she must have felt right before that truck slammed into her sneaks into my head and takes my breath away. Then I hear her voice on the phone saying, “Mama, I think I’ve been in a wreck,” and fear of what could have been makes me want to run to her, grab her and hold her tight, just to feel her being alive. Part of me would like to keep her home forever so she would always be safe. The rest of me, though, wants her to live life to it‘s fullest. So I let her go, and I worry.
While everything else was happening, my dear mother was happily pursuing her hobby of having surgery and visiting doctors‘ offices. I say “happily" because she revels in it. She even has a dresser drawer in which she keeps her “good, in-case-I-have-to-go-to-the-hospital" nightgowns! The idle rich plan their lives around social engagements. Mama plans hers around doctors’ appointments. In the past year, she has had both knees replaced and her left foot “worked on.” Again. This makes the 4th time. Even now, with the bandages still on that foot, she is looking at a toe on her right foot thinking it needs to be surgically straightened! She’s had her “esophagus stretched,” a colonoscopy, an echocardiogram, and quarts of blood drawn. What the doctors have found out, much to her surprise, is that she’s a very healthy woman.
Now, you may wonder why does this bother me so much? I mean, if she’s healthy and it’s not hurting her, what’s it to me? Why does it make me want to spank her and ground her for life? Because she wants it to consume MY life, too. Her husband, who on a good day ain’t knittin’ with both needles, has mistakenly placed her on the wrong pedestal, complete with a plaque below that reads “Fragile Southern Belle.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. But that‘s how he sees her and, cheered on by dear old step-dad, she has come to expect her three daughters to keep her there. She expects us, who knew her way before she assumed the role of she-who-must-be-pampered, to play the roles of those-who-will-cater-to-my-every-need. Because she is Mama and we do love her, we try to keep the ruse going. But sometimes, I just don’t have it in me. Sometimes I’m sick, or tired, or worried. Sometimes, it needs to be all about me. Or my sister. Or my daughter. Or somebody else.
In order to keep my nursing license active and to bring in a little extra money (gotta make those ends meet,) I’ve had to keep working, at least a few days a month. This past year, however, dissatisfaction with my career, has reached an all-time high. Simply put, I hate it. (No use in beating that dead horse by delving too deeply into the reasons.) I've spent many sleepless nights wracking my brain to come up with an alternate career; one that I would actually like and would still bring in that little extra cash. It must have been sleep deprivation that made me think I would like to clean houses. Convinced that this was the job for me, I started cleaning for a living. Soon thereafter, I stopped cleaning for a living. Again, simply put, I hated it.
What I found out though, was that I like cleaning my house. I like dusting and mopping and vacuuming and even scrubbing the toilet. I like getting up before dawn and making coffee and packing a lunch for my husband. I like washing his clothes and folding them. (I still hate ironing!) I like making sure daughter dear is up and out of the house on time. I like being here in the afternoons when they come home. I like fixing him a cool drink after a long hot day at work. I even like cooking supper. (Those of you who know me can stop laughing at any time. I really do!) As archaic and hopelessly un-liberated as it sounds, I like being a housewife. At last, I’ve found my perfect career.
Most of the time, I think JD3 is whistling the same tune as I am; that he likes me being home and doing all those June Cleaver-type things. But there are some days, days when I’m feeling a little blue, that I feel like maybe he just took the path of least resistance; that having less money is easier than listening to me bitch and moan all the time. So, on those days when I’m feeling insecure, I ask him. Just to make sure. And he says all the right words and does all the right things to convince me that, of course, this is how he wants our lives to be; has always wanted it to be. Still, there are times when I feel like he’s not saying everything; like he’s holding back on me and not telling me what he’s really thinking. This, in part, is why I ping-pong back and forth between feeling like a wonderful, loving wife and mother, to feeling like a lazy, good-for-nothing slacker.
Also responsible for the ping-pong effect, is the fact that my body has turned on me. Those little gremlins that live in a woman’s body and make her, well, a woman, have launched full-scale menopause. My periods are so irregular that when I’m finally convinced that I won't have any more (the only true blessing of menopause,) I spring a leak and bleed for a month. I have night sweats and hot flashes - hot flashes that make you feel like your blood has turned to lava and your face is on fire. I’ve spent a lot of time this winter sitting in front of an open back door - I grew to love 20* weather!
But the worst part of it is having your body possessed by the spirit of a mad woman. One minute you’re irritable and mean, blaming every thing bad on the person closest to you; everything from global warming to the fact that your pants don’t fit anymore. Then, without warning, you feel like crying because the family of little juice glasses that you love so much had to be separated and put on opposite sides of the dishwasher. The tiny little part of your brain that is still rational knows that glasses don’t have feelings, but it just can’t convince the rest of your brain. So you unload and re-load the dishwasher until you can get them all on the same side. You walk into a room and forget what you're doing there. You can't complete sentences. At least this is how it's been for me.
In September of 1989, Hurricane Hugo made landfall near Charleston. When he was through destroying lives and property there, he marched relentlessly inland, reaching my little corner of the world in the wee hours of the morning. While our little baby lay sleeping, JD3 and I spent the night listening to the wind howl and the trees snap. Our little house shook with the force of it. We lost power quickly and were plunged into blackness. In spite of the darkness, we paced back and forth between the safety of the hallway and the window in the back door, hoping to see what was happening outside. I had never been more scared in my entire thirty-one years of life. After what seemed like days instead of hours, the winds died down and the sun came up. We had lived through it! Our yard, however, was a mess! There were limbs and small trees everywhere; one big pine tree lay across our driveway. Roof shingles littered the grass. But we were alive and unhurt and still had a roof over our head.
Just as we did after the hurricane, we’ve had to clear away the debris left by the events of 2007. Anna’s broken bones have healed and she’s in school, making plans for the future. JD3’s mother, completely blind now from Macular Degeneration, has shown a strength we never knew she had and is doing well. I, with the love and support of family and friends (and a trip to the doctor!) am making my way back to me; the me that writes and knits and decorates and loves her family and friends. The me that I like. The mad woman has been banished, hopefully for life.
Like South Carolina after Hurricane Hugo, the landscape of our lives will forever bear evidence of the storm that passed through in 2007. There will be new growth and new experiences, but we’ll view them from a heart that remembers how things used to be. And we’ll know that we weathered the storm, and have become stronger for having done so.
Posted by Bee at 8:14 AM