Monday, January 31, 2011

working from home

weekends are for savoring. for sleeping in. eating a little bit more naughty, skipping the salads. they are for late night movies, mid-afternoon yoga breaks, and hours of conversation around a kitchen island.

working full-time, i look forward to the weekends, starting on monday. i usually try to plan little trips on those two precious days. little day adventures that have us home by suppertime. a reprieve. an escape. this weekend, however, flew by much like my the rest of my week. behind a computer, working.

and it made me sad to think that another week will go by before i could rest. it really hit me on saturday night, our usual date night. there were no high heels. no curled hair. no lipstick.

instead, i spent the greater portion of the day and evening in sweatpants, hair in a bun, typing. it's a good thing i have a window in my home office. the gorgeous, natural light that streamed in through the blinds was a blessing.

i went to bed discouraged, sad.

and woke up to this:
and all of a sudden, working from home didn't seem so bad.

Friday, January 28, 2011

the pains and gains of womanhood

she seemed glad to see me when i appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her i began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.
-to kill a mockingbird

it happened on wednesday. standing in line for my frappe. white chocolate mocha with a shot of caramel. at a new coffee shop. across the street from the post office where my dad works. a little lunch break reprieve.

i felt a tiny hand on my shoulder, and turned around. a middle-aged woman, with graying hair, modest slacks and an oversized sweater looked through her glasses into my eyes. "i just don't know how you do it," she spoke to me in her southern voice not unlike my own. "those high heels. don't they hurt your feet?" 

i looked down at my shiny brown pumps, a little bit of toe cleavage emerged, then sunk back into the leather, as the tips of the shoes made a sharp point. she was right. they were uncomfortable. too high. too pointy. a bit too small. "i don't know..." i trailed off. "the things you do for fashion, i guess!" i smiled to close the conversation, grabbed my sweating coffee, and hurried out the door, careful to walk precisely, to demonstrate to her that i could, indeed, navigate my way on the cobblestone wearing these awful shoes.

it happened again on thursday.

i came home yesterday evening and even before kissing robert or rubbing pablo's ears, i unzipped my dress. and took a deep breath. for the first time all day. a real, good, from-the-gut inhale. and it felt delicious.

because all day, i had squeezed my upper body into this outfit that hugged me, squeezed me, controlled me.

robert just shook his head. "i don't know why you girls torture yourself like this" he said as he helped me lift the dress over my curls.
but what he doesn't know, what he can never realize, is that i do it because i want to.

because that dress was from h&m. it was silver and purple. flowy and ruffly on the bottom. only seven dollars on sale. one of my favorite new finds. heck, one of my favorite new dresses period. and i was willing to suffer a little for it, i suppose.

because femininity is sacred, and takes many different forms.

for some, it's sinking into a bubble bath, nose deep. it can be cooking. dancing. wearing your husband's button-down shirt. rocking babies.

it can also be playing sports. getting muddy. dirty. sweaty. 

for me, it's all these things. and more.

and on some days, especially days like this week--with all the stress over family health, starting graduate school, and work pressure that came with it--yes, it was high heels and a terribly uncomfortable but ultimately beautiful dress.

and who cares if no one understands or appreciates it besides me? that's what makes it special.

and, i suppose, pretty skillful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

an update and thank you

a huge, ginormous thank you to everyone who prayed, sent well wishes and thought happy thoughts for nanno yesterday. both of his appointments were a success! he's super healthy and doing just fine. as i knelt in my office at 10:00, i could truly feel all of you praying with me. it was awesome.

i printed out my post, along with all of your lovely comments, enlarged the font, and gave it to my mama with a copy to give today to nanno. she cried and wanted me to share her heart. how much she appreciated you rallying together for our family.

the blogosphere has so many layers. it can be an instrument of hurt, of inspiration, of courage, and of joy. but most of all, as evidenced yesterday, it is a community of good ol' loving friends. like a big hug.

thank you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

prayers for nanno

my sweet grandfather, known in my family affectionately as "nanno," is going to the doctor twice tomorrow (wednesday, jan. 26) for some tests--once to the heart doctor and once to the gastroenterologist {digestive health}. the heart visit is just a check-up, but the other is not routine, and recent lower body pain has caused the appointment.

a little background on nanno:

  • his name is sam.
  • he turned 90 in october 2010. 
  • he completes an entire newspaper crossword puzzle every single day.
  • he is a banagrams champ.
  • since he lost my grandma in 2003, he still talks to her in the mornings and evenings, at the foot of his bed in prayer, in the darkness of their bedroom. he's kept her sewing basket, hand lotion, and hairbrush beside her chair. they would have been married 65 years this year.
  • he wears the most dapper berets and cardigans i've ever seen. robert wanted a sweater like him so bad, and dropped so many hints last year, that he was gifted with five cardigans in december. we called it a "cardigan christmas."
  • he never asks for anything or complains, so any pain he mentions is serious.
  • he is precious beyond words.

every tuesday, thursday and saturday, my family eats supper with nanno. before we eat, we hold hands around the table and thank the Lord for our blessings. 

so friends, i have an idea. a way to join hands, collectively across the blogosphere and pray, send up happy thoughts and well wishes, and just be united, at the same time. to help nanno get through his trial. if you pray, please do this with me. if not, is simply think of nanno, a stranger though he is to you, and send some positive vibes and happy thoughts his way.

if you'll join me, i'd like to pray specifically for his 10:00 a.m. appointment with the gastroenterologist. the blogging world is diverse and scattered, so for this to work, we have to think about several time zones. i think it would be so beautiful to bathe him in prayer at exactly the same time. complete strangers lifting him up at the exact moment he walks through those doctor doors. 

here's a little timetable. nanno's appointment is wednesday, at 10:00 a.m. EST. i am posting this on the this on tuesday evening because some of the times convert to quite early in the morning. i could not find a simple-to-use 24 time zone converter, but if your time zone is not on this chart, please go here for a world clock.

here are the times that correlate with 10 a.m. EST on wednesday:
prayer time zone chart

whether you're lying on your back in the warmth of your bed, sitting in a conference room, or taking your children to school, when it's your time, if you are willing, i'd so appreciate the prayers.

thank you. from the bottom of my heart, and the hearts of my family, thank you.

making an adventure

california road trip 2010

yesterday was one of those effortless days. even with the onset of grad school, it was a day where the sunrise, high noon, sunset and nightfall just sort of happen. in a smooth, flowing sequence. without any major events, emotions or commotions. i love days like that. days that don't require any heavy thinking, decision making or choices. i rode yesterday like a wave and when i finally crashed in bed, it felt natural and organic. simple as it should be.

but days like yesterday, anchored in routine, make me long for another day that was anything but ordinary. as i stirred the mashed potatoes in the stove top, i let my mind drift. to coasts decorated with boulders. late-night mexican food in a little town that shut down around five. cerulean blue skies and redwoods. california.

for all my meticulous, months-long planning, i messed up. we drove through big sur, with all its acclaimed beauty and ruggedness, at night. we saw nothing of the mountains and jagged coastline i had read tomes about. i was disappointed. then i saw a sign.

for julia pfeiffer burns state park. my former co-worker had listed it, and its glorious waterfall, as a top must-see in big sur. but we were too late. the sun was down, the chill was setting in, and storefronts, restaurants, and offices were slowly, one by one, shutting down. 

but the park entrance was still open. i begged robert to turn in, much to his chagrin. "courtney, this is crazy," he argued. "we won't even be able to see the waterfall-it's almost dark outside." but we pulled in anyway. i hurriedly changed from flats to tennis shoes, grabbed robert's oversized wind breaker, and we set off on the trail.

it should be noted that i am not, by any means, a risk taker or one who seizes opportunities like this. but there was something about california that changed me, if only for that week.

but my adventurous spirit was brought down to size when we came upon a covered walkway, decorated with bats, their wings thudding against the walls. there was no other way on the trail besides straight through their little makeshift den. and i couldn't do it. we turned around in defeat. just when we reached the top of the parking lot, close enough to our car that robert had already unlocked it from a few yards away, we came upon another couple, just setting out. i felt the need to warn them. "it's not worth it," i spoke into the darkness, "there's bats down there."

i heard the girl shudder and the boy drew a deep breath, but they set out anyway. we got back to our car and i turned to robert. "let's go back. if they can do it, we can do it." there was obviously no arguing with me, robert could sense it. 

we ran down the dirt path. the wind was ripping at my jeans and my hair was a mess. i was so, so many miles from home and comfort. we reached the couple just as they were approaching the bats.

after quick introductions and a little conversation, we decided to go in together. i slipped my hands around the girl's tiny fingers. robert pulled out a flashlight with one hand and shielded by head with the other. and we ran. with strangers. in the dark. with bats flying mere inches above our heads.

it was exhilarating. scary. a bit dangerous. 

and there, right outside the cave, was the waterfall. illuminated by the stars and ever so gorgeous. a precious reward for trusting. in human decency and goodness. in thrills and california. in facing fears together.

but mainly, most of all, in seeking adventure, even in the most unlikely of places.

Monday, January 24, 2011

i am never shaken

today is my first day of graduate school. of papers, and cramming past midnight. of planners, binders, and textbooks with post-it notes sticking out. so begins my year of multi-tasking, juggling, rearranging to make time and space for family, full-time work, pilates, and daily phone calls to my sister.

and as nervous, overwhelmed, and anxious as i am,

i woke up this morning bathed in a holy peace. a reassurance of an ancient promise. i marvel at how the very covenants made with prophets and disciples are still very alive, real and steadfast in my shifting, vagabond life.

because my stresses are different, yes. they are technology based, fueled by the desires and responsibilities of a life lived in the digital age. but His assurances haven't moved. the same God who part the seas will clear a straight way for me. through all the murkiness, muddles, essays and exams.

so i will trust. though i see the long nights ahead of me and the worries inching toward my heart. and that trust alone will push them back into the darkness from which they came.

yes, school starts today.

but my most valuable lesson came with the sunrise.

Friday, January 21, 2011

a different sort of date night

 post edit: welcome new friends hopping over from For the Love of Blogs! What a sweet honor to be recognized for Fab Friends Friday. Fab is my favorite abbreviated word, and this is truly a testament to the beautiful power of connection that blogs foster and encourage.

there are some days when i just want to sit in a dark theater. feel the stale popcorn fold beneath my moccasins. wrap my hands around a too-expensive paper cup, sweating with dr. pepper. sit in the middle of the center aisle.

hold hands with robert across the hard plastic cup holders. look over at him when he's not looking over at me. surprise him with my glance. and when it's over, leave. into the cold night air. the snap! back into reality. the cinematic discussions and exchange of favorite quotes serving as conversation fodder all the way home.

and on an unrelated {but perhaps, ultimately, completely related} note,

there are also times when i want to forget. about responsibility. sensibility. the fact that i have to go to work in the morning so i should be in bed, lights out, by ten.

so with that mentality, i called robert around lunchtime yesterday and invited him to a date night. a super late movie. at the cheap, $1 theater. i called between two meetings. after slurping down my vegetable soup from a can and before scarfing down my ghiradelli milk chocolate pumpkin caramel square for dessert.

and we made plans. and i was excited. and the thought of a scandalous late night spent on the town propelled me through the rest of the afternoon. {when robert and i were in college, and the fights were long and hard and the makeups were bittersweet and short, mama told me this: "seeing each other should be the best part of your day. when it's not, something's wrong."}

but then, as i sat in our den, the darkness completely overtaking the fading sunset behind my blinds, i heard robert pull into our driveway. i watched him be pulled into the front door by pablo, yards ahead and tugging on his leash.

and he gathered me in his arms and i breathed him in. the good, strong smell of a blue collar. of hard work. {when i was younger, my favorite book was "someday angeline," about a girl who liked to drink saltwater and whose dad worked at the garbage dump. and she loved the way he smelled after work and associated it with love. in a similar way, robert comes home smelling like pipes and plumbing, and i love it.}

and just like that, as quickly as they were made, our plans were cancelled.

"we don't have to go anywhere, babe. let's just stay in." i heard him whisper.

and yes. we do this every night. we sit on the couch, sometimes nestled in the crook of each other's arms. sometimes miles apart. sometimes munching on popcorn, and sometimes not.

but i declare, tonight, with its episodes of american idol and every-five-seconds nose nudging from pablo, was spectacular.

and it was still a date.

still a special, singular event.

and still the best part of my day, hands down.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the song that wasn't

I sat down to write you a song
A simple melody you could hold on to
I wanted to tell you I love you
I wanted to tell you I feel you near, but
Two hours later
A blank sheet of paper
And I’m still here

Your words are beautiful
Your words are wonderful
Your word’s the lamp unto my weary, wandering feet
My words are ordinary
My words fall flat and every
Single time I write them I feel so inadequate
Cause you wrote the book

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

i can breathe in a small town

i'm from a little town in the piedmont triad region of north carolina. i was raised on a rural road, with barns on both ends. a crop field sits vacant behind and in front of my childhood home. i can always tell what season is coming, and which is quietly making its gentle exit, by the height of the corn that stretches to the sky.

i left this town for a while. spread my wings in the big city. only to return the day after graduation to that same rural road, just a few miles down from where i was raised. because that's home. and i can't pretend it's somewhere else, even on days when boredom strikes and the nearest city is 25 minutes away. and the thing is, i love big cities. i feel a deep excitement and stir in the most untouched parts of my heart when visiting friends and family in places where shopping is outside your front door and the sweet hum of nightlife lulls you to sleep. i really do revere it, and the folks who call it home. because home isn't an address, after all.

this post, however, is not about my small town, but another little hub about 45 minutes from my little cottage. lexington, north carolina. barbecue is typically associated with this spot, but when i visit, i steer clear of the little smokehouse restaurants, with their lines out the door and porcelain pigs on the stoop. of their homemade sauces and sky-high banana splits.

instead, i head toward lexington's hidden treasures. every small town has them, you know.

the little diner that only locals know about. that fills up with folks looking for an early bird special around four in the afternoon. where a pitcher of sweet tea is left on the table. where teenagers work after school and during the summer. places tourists overlook on their quest for the nation's best barbecue {and i agree, you can't find any better than lexington.}

first, we stopped at the local thrift store. where i stocked up. yes, my goods are in a {clean} trash bag. this is the country, folks! i found some delicate teal nighties, gorgeous pencil skirts and maybe even a christian dior blouse that will be in my shop soon.

from there, we went a few yards south to the lexington pharmacy. a real, live drug store that looks like the 1940s never left its black and white storefront. inside sits one of the treasures of my heart. a soda shop. with well-loved stools and sweet girls who will ask you if you want your limeade "sweet, sour or in between."

one of our last stops was right beside the pharmacy. a little pastry shop that hits you with a delicious, sweet icing heaven overload as soon as you walk in. it's brightly lit, with dozens of warm goodies waiting patiently behind the counter, hoping you'll break those pesky new years resolutions and indulge. and indulge we did. on french cream eclairs. homemade oatmeal creme pies. and my favorite, warm sugar and apple fritters.

as we drove home, with our bellies full of sugar and the sun turning gold behind us, i smiled as i passed the barbecue crowd. not because they were tourists following a billboard, though undoubtedly most of them were.

but because a hometown is more than its attractions, its shopping, its regional treasures. its carving out that little niche for yourself, which may or may not be the same niche as your neighbor.

and that's the beauty of it. no matter how small the town, its always got room for every person's dreams, aspirations and idealizations. its just big enough.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a busy day off

i fell into bed at ten last night. exhausted to the core even though i'd had the day off. it was one of those nights when you feel sleepy even in the tips of your toes. where flannel pajamas and a freshly laundered pillowcase feel like heaven and your mind drifts to dreaming in the middle of praying.

i had yesterday off, and woke with a mission. robert had to go into work, and as i stretched there in bed that morning, the sun just creeping up and the house still dark with sleep, i felt for him, leaving in the freezing dawn, scraping off his car, going out like it was any other monday. meanwhile, i slept in with pablo. waking every 45 minutes or so, only to look at the clock, adjust my heating pad, and  turn over on my other side, tucking my legs beneath me. 

it was one of those slumbers where even though i woke up a few times, i continued the same odd, whimsical dream sequence. 

so to make it up to robert, i vowed to do something for him, just for him, on my day off.

and in my family, one of the chief ways we show love is through food.

so i did it. i went to two different grocery stores to get all the items i needed. i scanned the internet for recipes and coupons. i started cooking at four and we ate at six.

here's what our night looked like:

thai chicken wraps with spicy peanut sauce, recipe here . 
**note: for the salad, i skipped the sprouts, scallions, basil, mint, etc. because it was getting to be a bit expensive, plus i couldn't find sprouts or mint. so, i opted for one bag of broccoli slaw. it was perfect. 

asian green beans with water chestnuts and mushrooms, recipe here.

thai sticky rice with mango and coconut milk  for dessert, recipe here

we devoured it, then collapsed on the couch to watch the bachelor. {emily has stolen my heart.}

i cooked, cleaned and did laundry on my day off.

but as i turned off the lights, dragging my sleepy body under a heavy blanket, i snuggled next to the man who made it all

totally, completely.

worth it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

and the songbirds keep singing like they know the score

this summer, i did not need an early alarm.

every day, at 6:30 in the morning, like clockwork. i was sweetly, softly, pulled awake.

by a singsong. a melody unlike any other. a little falsetto followed by a short lived baritone. a songbird.

our bed is right beside a window. a big, old window that faces a meadow and a clothesline. blueberry bushes and apple trees.

and when the weather was just warm enough, little birds. i kept the blinds closed to keep out the blinding sun, so i never saw firsthand this delightful alternative to my timex, but it knew exactly, precisely, how much time i would need to wake up, prepare myself for the day, and head out in my honda in time for work.

i named him roger. i presumed him to be male, but in reality, it might have been a lovely lady bird.

yesterday morning, with  hours left to sleep before church, my heating pad on a delicious full blast, and pablo curled at my toes, i heard a familiar, albeit all but forgotten chorus.

roger was back. the brief reprieve of warmth that came with the weekend was enough to draw him out of winter hiding and back to my windowsill.

they're calling for more snow in north carolina this weekend, and inevitably, roger will return to where he came from. storing up those sweet vibratos for springtime.

but at 6:30 on a sunday morning, i was reminded.

that every day brings new surprises. new beginnings. new blessings.

and yes, 

new chances to puff up our chests, look toward the heavens, and sing a song of joy toward a Creator who listens, and who always knew we'd come back. no matter how long we've been away.

Friday, January 14, 2011

when you're not strong

one summer in college, i interned as a fact-checker for the in-flight magazines of several major airlines. it was my first real position, and by this i mean the first time i went shopping for "work clothes." for slacks that didn't have zippers up the pant leg. for cardigans. modest necklines. stud earrings. i felt so grown up, and though the job was only temporary, i felt part of a group for once. 

i sauntered into the building, with it's cold tile floors and gray cloth cubicles. with its veteran workers who called each other by their first names and ate out for lunch every friday at their favorite spot. i was, in a word, prepared.

however, my confidence reached a crumbling point with every phone call i had to make. as a stutterer, the phone is the bane of my existence. the bane, i tell you! and i spent all day on it. calling random sources, verifying information. i scoured the Web for all the answers i could find, but more often than not, there was no way around picking up that instrument of doom and speaking into the mouthpiece, waiting for confused silence to come wafting through the earpiece.

one afternoon was particulary hard. i home on the verge of tears. what is it about seeing your mama's face that just sucks the tears right out of whatever strong, pulled together place you were holding them? hoarding them until you were alone? at the very sight of her, i crumbled into a shaking, sobbing mess. then i turned to my sister.

"i can't do it, carly. i can't call this man."  i was supposed to contact someone in reference to a story on michael symon, the celebrity chef. and for some reason, on this particular day in july, i had reached my breaking point.

i asked my sister to call him for me. in the background, i heard mama pipe up. "courtney, don't make your sister do that...."

but she did. she didn't say anything to me, just took the paper with the number, went upstairs to the closet we shared, and called him. she ran back downstairs, told me she left him a message, and hugged me.

i had to call him back the next day. but i'll never, ever, in my entire life, not even if i live until i'm 102, forget that afternoon. the slack she picked up. the sacrifice she made so i could be comfortable, saved from my own inflictions of low confidence.

my favorite character in the Bible is moses, because not only does his stutter endear him to my heart, but because when God asked him to go speak to His people in egypt, moses' reaction, in all its honesty and truth, mimics what my own would be. he begs the Lord to send someone else to do it instead. and who does He send? his brother aaron. he spoke to the people for and through moses, in a manner not unlike carly speaking through me.

this evening, before eating supper with nanno and before wheel of fortune, i was watching the news. about the flood in queensland, australia. 13-year-old jordan rice, on the hood of his car, waters gathering all around him, told a man grabbing for his hand to "save my brother first." his brother and mama were saved, but he was swept away. sacrifice to the highest degree. but i bet if we could ask him, he'd simply chalk it up to brotherly love.
and it's not just siblings. best friends. cousins. mamas and daddys. 

sacrifice doesn't always come in the form of a burning bush or a flood.

sometimes, as in my case, it's a simple act of taking upon one's shoulders a load that is simply for someone else.

because in sharing, we lighten. and in lightening, we open up room for loving. and in loving, we start the cycle all over again.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

a universal truth

"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

there's nothing i can say today, no words i can think up, quotes from favorite books or songs that i can recite, or musings i can drone on about that will match the heart, beauty and truth of last night's presidential speech in tucson. i'll be honest. i don't always watch televised speeches, and when i do, my attention is divided, scattered at best. 

but republican or democrat, regardless of how you feel about his policies, practices or the way he runs our country, last night wasn't about that. it was a tribute. plain and simple. to the lives lost and the people--real, flesh and blood people with histories, presents and futures--that were affected. and that universal truth transcends political boundaries.

i hung to every word. and i'm certain it was one for the history books. it was even worth missing half of modern family for, and i don't say that lightly.

find the full transcript and video here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

maybe i'm crazy

there's a man who lives down the road from my grandpa and me. in a clapboard white shack. a few yards back from the rural lane. right in the crook of the turn.

for as long as i can remember, he's rented that little house. long enough to have paid off a real mortgage years ago. but month after month, he shells out the cash. to maintain his little refuge, alone in the country with a few good dogs.

old pickups, at least four of them, decorate the front lawn. there is a metal contraption in the yard upon which at least a dozen randomly shaped birdhouses hang lackadaisically. clothes are hung on the line even when it's raining. the back porch is visible from the road, decorated top to bottom with old license plates, rusty with age and weather. a lifetime bachelor, it's not uncommon to see him sitting shirtless on his deck, surrounded by his few best friends, being a little too loud.

and all around the place, random bits of furniture are scattered. a few worn down barns sit just off to the left, old tobacco sheds rotting away season by season. on halloween, he passes out stale circus peanuts.

from an outside eye, he is a bit eccentric, to say the least. but he's a good man--a harmless outlaw holding on to what he loves.

yesterday we drove by his place, going slow in the snow.

and i saw smoke rising from his deteriorating chimney. heard lynyrd skynyrd blaring from somewhere inside his heap of a home. and imagined him. in his favorite recliner, hands wrapped around his meager cup of weak coffee. not hurting anyone, just being. being himself. alone. comfortable.

and i thought about the line between offbeat and crazy. and i think he has managed to squeeze his ripped up wranglers right in between. sometimes i envy his ability to live so openly, so completely him. without any care of societal norms or what anyone might think. 

because what is normal? maybe, for some people, normal takes on a different appearance. that doesn't mean it's not completely suitable for them.

i don't think my neighbor is crazy. misunderstood, yes. but content, secure and sweet? you betcha. 

look past the chaos littered on the lawn, and inside sits a man who's got a lot of life, at least the part i struggle with, neatly ironed out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

homeward, with heaven above me

whether they are a part of their home or home is a part of them is not a question children are prepared to answer. having taken away the dog, take away the kitchen--the smell of something good in the oven for dinner. also, the smell of washday, of wool drying on the wooden rack. of ashes. of soup simmering on the stove. take away the patient old horse waiting by the pasture fence. take away the chores that kept him busy from the time he got home from school until they sat down for supper. take away the early morning mist, the sound of crows quarreling in the treetops. take away all this and what have you done to him? in the face of deprivation so great, what is the use of asking him to go on being the boy he was. he might as well start life over again as some other boy instead.

i drove home in the snow yesterday. it wasn't much. not enough to make the roads dangerous. just a little powdery cascade, dusting my front porch rocker and daintily dancing upon my sidewalk.

and as i drove, i thought (because that's when i do my best thinking, you know). 

about driving home. calling home. walking in my home.

there are things i know because i am taught. because i spend time to learn them and engrave them into my mind. the alphabet, multiplication tables, how to sew a button. my favorite song lyrics.

and then, there are things i know, because i can feel them. in my bones. somewhere that memory doesn't reach. somewhere inside the infant part of me. the part i can't recall.

i can't remember when i first memorized the shape of my home. the rooms and their placement. the corners and unexpected turns. the locations of all the light switches, tabletops and little step-downs. it just happened. and unlike academics, work, or anything else i learned through a teacher, i will never forget it. 

because i still have to bring my calculator to the grocery store. i look at directions when i sew. i write down lyrics so i can repeat them later. i forget grammar, history, and science sometimes.

but i still remember the path to my childhood bedroom. the room with white walls at the top of the stairs. and i still remember the shape of calling robert's old cell phone number, mama's car phone from the 90s, and my best friend's home number, which i haven't called in ages.

because things like that can't be unlearned. because home is me. i am home. what am i if not the accumulation of little moments associated with that structure of brick and vinyl siding, sheet rock and stucco?

the shape of home has changed, yes. now i have two homes. my childhood one and my new one with robert. but both are the same. i still run to them every afternoon. mama used to be at the stove, making homemade vegetable soup in the winter. now, i come home to robert, on the couch with pablo, watching the evening news. 

it's a different scene, but one that is wholly familiar to me.

i remember. i understand. i feel.

not because i was taught. because i already knew.

Monday, January 10, 2011

today i finally overcame trying to fit the world inside a picture frame

this picture was taken three years ago.

there are many things you can gather from this picture alone. my long sleeves and the auburn leaves hint at fall. we're driving somewhere, but my seat is pushed back, so we're stopped. for the moment. there is obviously, quite plainly, an element of surprise. i am being led. on a scavenger hunt, perhaps?

but what this picture can't tell you--what you can't possibly know or see--is that i was indeed on a little scavenger hunt. one that led me through our sleepy little town and all the special little places and holes in the wall that were crucial in my relationship with robert. under the guise of a fun afternoon spent reminiscing, he picked me up around three. 

we went to local gas station where we always got slushies. the golf course community where we fished together for the first time and broke both our poles. sonic, where we loved to get limeades. the field near my house where we drove his granddad's pickup truck, headlights off, into the woods and ate chinese takeout by candlelight.

and our last stop. the local library. a huge white mansion flanked by towering magnolias and long stretches of gorgeous lawn. the place we fell in love as we danced under the moon to an outdoor big band concert. a little spell of silence came. robert pulled out a boombox and in a style that put "say anything" to shame, started playing our song, a whimsical, string-heavy version of somewhere over the rainbow.

a ring. a proposal. 

and then, my family and friends inside the library. around 40 people. a private meal and party.

photography is an art. a beautiful, special talent that allows me to relive my special memories forever . i cherish my pictures. in their wooden, silver, and gold frames. in their collages and scrapbooks. tucked inside my Bible

and the mark of a great photographer is taking those emotions, those feelings that come from the gut and personify themselves in our eyes, and capturing them. freezing them in time. the beautiful mix of joy and nerves in a pregnant woman's smile. the amorous bliss of a newlywed. i know photographers like that, and envy their skills. 

yet, sometimes life just happens. and because it's not a big event, it's not captured on film. we didn't break out the tripod when i made pasta last sunday night, so years from now, we might not remember that we collapsed on couch in laughter a few moments after eating. at least once an hour, pablo looks at me with an expression so innocent and priceless, but my camera is in the other room, and by the time i tiptoe to get it, his head is turned.

so they pass. those special seconds and memorable evenings. those sweet half smiles and big bear hugs. we might not remember every single one, but we lived it. without pause or hesitation. without posing.

yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but some things just leave me speechless.

Friday, January 7, 2011

accolades and the girl God made

i won an award in the fifth grade, but i passed it up. i had to read a paper over the intercom, and my anxieties over my stutter forced me to give up the title (and a trip to the local theme park). you can read about it here.

but today it's different. i wish i could go back. to that little school in the middle of the country. with its trailers outside and cafeteria that smelled like cookies and chicken pie. to reclaim that prize and speak, even if slow and strained, over the loud speaker.

thankfully, my sweet blogger friends have given me the opportunity to receive another kind of award, and i'll accept it with humility, grace and appreciation! the best part? i can type my answers! 

the sweet, beautiful grace from loving life, the awesome in my tennis shoes, super talented bethani of when a girl met a boy, and the adventerous, fun ana from the world through my eyes sweetly gave me the stylish blogger award.

for a girl who still wears flared jeans and sometimes scrunchies (i dare you to find a better hold with a regular hair tie), this award truly touches my heart, so thank you. please go check out grace's blog. she is kind, funny, and honest about juggling school, work and being a girl in general. 

in my tennis shoes is a daily stop for me! the way she writes about her family and faith is so inspiring and refreshing.

bethani is my new favorite pen pal:) just got your letter, sweet friend! made my day, i tell you.

and ana is the epitome of cool and fun. did you know she made an impromptu trip to the big apple to watch the ball drop on new year's eve? head over to her blog and read about her fun adventure and her sweet grandpa!

i hereby tag:

1. angie, from living aloha
2. dawn, from puzzle pieces
3.    thisisme, from southhamsdarling
4.    amy, from a daring little life
5.    haley k, from LIFE is sweet...
6. jessica, from heart on homestead
7. diana smith, from the smith circle

all fabulous, beautiful bloggers that i want to learn more about. simply answer seven questions about yourselves, ladies, then pass the award on to more bloggers. i chose to honor seven.

so, seven things about me:

1. i am a child of God. i remember visiting my friend's church in middle school, and everyone went around in a circle and prayed a little prayer out loud. mine was something simple, like "thank you for this day and for always being there for me." but one girl said something i'll never forget. she said, "Lord, help me walk in a way worthy of being called your child." before my feet hit the wood floor every morning, i try to breathe up this prayer toward the ceiling, toward a God who hears me, understands me, and listens.

2. i love the circus. with an unmatched, unexplainable passion and fervor. the first thing i did with my christmas money? buy two front row seats for me and robert to the ringling brothers and barnum & bailey circus coming in february. front row, friends! there's just something nostalgic and beautiful about the circus. has anyone seen the movie big fish? you know the scene when ewan mcgregor first enters the circus ring and sees karl the giant? the whole scene just embodies the 1920s. it's magical, a little mystical, and just astonishing.

3. speaking of big fish, i had a sit-down interview with daniel wallace, the author who wrote the book on which the movie was based, for my college journalism final project. in his classroom at unc chapel hill. he told me about the saddest moment in his life, things he wished he could have changed, and why he wrote the book. it was the best interview i ever did. i aced the project.

4. robert and i are high school sweethearts. we got married exactly five years from our first date. total, we've been together seven years. that's not to say that our romance was perfect, or is to this day. but its those imperfections, those little arguments and big make ups that make it life...make it real.

5. i keep my hand lotion in the fridge. try it.

6. until my sister moved away to college, we had a life-sized cardboard cutout of tom cruise in our bedroom. for about 10 years. it was of him talking on the phone, in a scene from jerry mcguire. it scared all my high school friends.

7. one of my favorite movies is wild hearts can't be broken. i was a bit sad to hear that sonora carver, the woman the movie is based on, didn't care for the way her story was portrayed. i just finished her book, "a girl and five brave horses," to hear her side. both are fantastic. she dove horses off the atlantic city pier in the 1920s-1930s. there's so much more to it than that, but go read the book!

so now you know a little more about me. thank you for not making me say these things out loud. this is better than a trip to the theme park, hands down.