Thursday, June 30, 2011

no i've never been convicted of a crime. i could start this job at any time.

i was in civics class that day, ironically.

my teacher dismissed us to second period and i looked back to see him covering his mouth and looking up at the television. i went to keyboarding class and watched from behind an old computer monitor as September 11 unfolded in real time.

a few days passed in stunned silence. in muddling through assignments and busy work and everyone in a state of half shock. then, my civics teacher brought a boom box in one morning, and a mixed cd. i'll never forget as he looked around and said, "please don't talk for the next three minutes. i was driving yesterday, and this song came on the radio. i had to pull over on the side of the road and cry." he then played alan jackson's "where were you (when the world stopped turning)."

that civics teacher is a basketball coach now. for another school a few cities away. ten years passed, and i only saw him once, in a movie theater. but i'll never forget the idea that he gave me. that songs can impact us so much that they shake us. render us unable to drive. hit a nerve so deep you can't even find the volume button to turn it up.

i was driving on monday, and this song came on the radio. and i watched as gas stations, traffic and shopping centers passed by in slow motion around me. i pulled into work and just sat to listen. i played it again at work  yesterday and had to lean down and pretend to get something out of my bottom drawer to wipe away a tear.

because this song is so honest. and true. and heart breaking in that ordinary, soft way. it's not about war. or about killing or fighting or even death. but it reminded me of a man i used to know at work. who hasn't worked for two years. and for that, i wept.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

back in my arms again

i bet you thought this post would be about robert, and the fact that he's home from his weekend in virginia. and he is. he came back with a thunderstorm quick on his heels this sunday. and when he pulled into the gravel driveway, i dropped the mixing  bowl on the kitchen counter and ran out in  my dress and bare feet. i gathered his scruffy face in my hands and breathed him in.

but someone else was gone this weekend, and has also returned.

and as he napped on my chest last night, and curled his little toes onto my stomach, i felt the steady rise of his stomach, followed by a sweet drop and sigh escaping from his wet nose. and i thought about how, years from now, i will sit on that same sofa. and stroke back baby hair. and wrap my bare arms around a warm little person and feel the same rhythmic beat of breath.

but for now, puppies are enough. especially one who knocked me down with joy the second i walked in from the rain.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

with my feet on the dash, the world doesn't matter


i've looked you square in the eyes over candlelight. over plates of too expensive food, with jazz music drifting through open bay windows. i've looked at you on your side when you're sleeping, with your hand high above your head and the blankets at your feet. and i've looked at you from behind, that time you led me to our special spot to propose.

but i like looking at you best from the passenger seat. your jaw squared as you maneuver the old bus down the highway. sometimes with the sunset behind us, sometimes in front. but most of all, i like that moment when we're stuck at a red light, and you turn to look over at me. and even through your sunglasses, i can see your eyes squint with love.

Monday, June 27, 2011

the starring act

i went to the movie theater twice this weekend. twice! the theater on main street where i went on  my very first date. the one that used to have a line out the door every weekend. it's now been reduced to showing older, $1 movies. which makes it even better, though it's attracted quite a following of tweenage loiters, and you shouldn't go to any 9:35 p.m. screenings lest you fear for your life a little bit.

for me, one of the greatest feelings in life has to be those five minutes when leaving the movie theater. stepping into the dark parking lot after being in a room full of strangers for two hours. when you're still in that half-dream state and everything is glowing. where, for a little bit, it seems that anything at all is possible.

that you can run away from the love of your life and turn to find him standing in the rain where you left him. or walk away from the same man and turn back to find him walking away too,  but with his head turned back at you. that you can ride elephants in the circus and fall in love with the stable boy. or break up an ill-fated wedding just in time to rescue the groom from a life of splendid, unwanted riches, and flash forward a few months later, and you're picking up his dry cleaning.

but perhaps the second greatest feeling is snapping out of that haze. driving home on the highway, and it hits you. that you don't have to paint your lips or plan a covert mission to capture the man of your dreams. you don't have to wear chanel or louboutins to stand out. you can be yourself, in a little honda. in sweatpants and no makeup and a bun. and you're still the star. of your sweet, simple, beautifully undramatic, little life.

Friday, June 24, 2011

the bed's too big, the frying pan's too wide

robert left this morning to spend a weekend with his cousin in virginia.

as i left the house, driving away on the gravel road washed me with a memory. back when he was in college and i was still in high school. he used to come home every weekend on the train, and every sunday around three, i would walk outside with him, kiss him goodbye, and prepare to face another week of being eighteen without him. i would envision his fabulous life in college, and in my head, all the girls in college were buxom  blonds in tiny shorts and tinier tops. it was quite an awful (and incredibly inaccurate) picture that i painted.

i felt that again this morning.

and it's not that i'm clingy. i love, trust and adore him enough to let him leave for a few days. i just don't prefer it, that's all. and i don't quite know what to do with the next few days. there's suddenly a whole weekend in front of me to fill, and, without the promise of our friday movie night and sleeping in on saturday and walking under the country stars, it just seems a little daunting to tackle it all by myself.

that last line i just wrote reminded me of celine dion's classic rendition of "all by myself," which is exactly the wrong type of song to have in my head right now. alas. at least there are no buxom blonds where he's headed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

up on the mountain


robert and i took my brother and sister hiking yesterday, up a little mountain about an hour away. we drove up and back in the VW bus, playing classic songs from the 90s, including the little gem "i saw the sign" by ace of base. it was sweet. with the windows open and the highway rumbling beneath the heavy old beast, i looked back at them. with their boyfriends and girlfriends. with the table propped open and legs sprawled across the seats. and i felt protective. responsible. but so, so blessed that the line between family and friends was so blurred.

once we reached the top of the mountain, we ate supper and watched as a little storm came blowing in. it never poured, but the darkening sky and the cool breeze was nectar to my soul. nectar, i tell you! climbing up those rocks, i saw firsthand the direct relationship between food and energy. my lunch at work yesterday was far from filling, and i felt utterly spent on the ascent. however, after supper i ran back down the mountain. with a speed unknown to myself in so many years. food=energy. let me rephrase that. good, healthy, simple food like turkey wraps and apples=energy.

we got home around eleven. driving away from  my  parents' house, i thought about how lucky i was. my siblings still think i'm cool.

the day is fast approaching when my sister will be married. with a little house and new life of her own. and my brother goes to college next year. and this little cocoon of time, when we're all living in the same town at the same time, is precious and fleeting. so as often as i can, i gather them. in my bus. in my arms. and we travel together into the night, against the speed of time close at our heels.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

me on a tuesday

by the time we got to bed last night, the half moon was high in the sky, an early morning storm was blowing the pin oaks around, and pablo could hardly keep his eyes open. it was a long night of grocery shopping, weekend planning, and trips to my grandpa's house in the bus.

and as we often do when we're tired and have a mind full of things to talk about (an overwhelming amount of things to talk about), we were silent. we laid in the bed, he with his hand over his head and me on my side, and just took in midnight.

i asked him if he was okay, and he turned to me.

yeah, babe, i'm fine. this is just me on a tuesday.

and those sweet words hung there in the air between us, right in front of pablo and the glow of the shed light outside our window. what intense comfort. this is us. just us on an ordinary, nothing special day not quite in the middle of the work week.

with bills on our desk and squash in a brown paper bag on the kitchen counter. with twelve rolled white t-shirts on top of the washing machine and more laundry in a basket by the door. with stresses and blessings and the never-ending search for those little moments of glory between the chaos.

i've known robert in jamaica, with cerulean waters lapping his ankles and jerk chicken on his cheeks. i've known him at an alter, barely into his twenties. i've known him in high school, standing at my front door as just a stranger with his dad's old BMW waxed up. and i've known him in a tiny dorm room, with a twin bed and futon, bulky television set and a sofa from goodwill.

but last night i knew him best of all. on a tuesday. and if every tuesday from here on is just holding hands under the covers without speaking and letting our worries cast themselves up to Heaven without voice, i'm a lucky girl.

for to know him is to love him.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

please be careful with me

i'm sensitive.

i still remember the name and the face and the powdery smell of my third grade teacher who called me down on the playmat. i remember every detail of that moment, chiefly because i'll never forget the way my stomach dropped and my face flushed and i got shaky all over right in the midst of it.

and i still remember the snarky look on the boy's face in high school who mimicked the way i talked over the cafeteria table. and the one who heckled me after my presentation in earth and environmental science in the ninth grade.

and i cry way too often over the smallest things. puppy mills on the news. a song on the radio. kittens on a bridge. a baby i don't know eating a cupcake in a highchair. the list goes on and on, i tell you.

and last night i sorted through a few of my grandpa things. he's still well, and sat a few feet away in his recliner as i looked through old textbooks, college directories, and christmas cards. the idea of my family was that i could use these things in my etsy shop. he didn't say a word as his belongings were gathered into boxes and picked through like an in-home yard sale.

but when i got home with them, i was washed with emotion. that's the best way to say it. just washed.

i can't do it. can't sell the metal detector he made himself, or the old typewriter, or the recipe box of my grandmother's. the sage green planter or the desk lamp. the cassette tape player or the eight-tracks my mama wore out.

sometimes i worry that i feel too deeply. live too much in the moment for my own good. but i suppose i'd rather feel too much than not at all. still, i long to find that off switch. when i can look at that metal detector and only see a thing. just an object. because that's all stuff really is anyway. it's the relationship behind the material that matters.

if ever you see a typewriter in my etsy shop, you'll know i've figured out how to do just that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

a little family addition

after supper on our first date, robert told me he had something he wanted to show me back at his house. i looked out the window into the august night and whispered that i wasn't that kind of girl. he laughed, and pulled into the driveway. "i want you to check out my parent's 1985 volkswagon van!" he exclaimed. he popped open the top, and i watched as this almost stranger told me all about the memories he'd had in the van with his family, his boy scout troop, and his friends. and i think i fell in love with him a little bit on the spot.

eight years passed. and his parents sold the van. and we drove our little hondas around proudly. we took our sedans back and forth on the weekends to college, and made memories driving along the country roads near our home.

but last week, we saw this bad boy. a fully restored 1971 volkswagen camper bus. with a fresh paint job, new tires, new engine, re-sealed windows, and my favorite upgrade, heated seats. plus, there's a sink and an icebox. hello camping.

and we're in love. never before have we been treated with such attention driving around town. people stop and wave, give us thumbs up, and shout "love the bus!" it's so fun.

but the best part about our new ride? it got us thinking more seriously about filling the yellow and white checkered backseats with a little family. of bringing this whole story full circle. and holding robert's hand across the dashboard last night, i realized how perfect that first date turned out to be.

Friday, June 17, 2011

the only reason

my car has no air conditioner. after one particularly heavy spring shower during which the windows to my little honda were completely rolled down, the entire unit was ruined. now, it just shoots out warm air. in june.

on another note, there are four post offices near my work. they are all about five minutes away. the people there are typically friendly, except at the one satellite office staffed entirely by teenagers chatting on their phones.

these two stories are unrelated, no?

yes, except for this little fact. at least once a week, i drive 25 minutes away to a little post office two cities over. i brave the awful combination of a steaming car and the thunderous road noise that comes with rolling down my windows to let whatever semblance of a breeze wants to meander through. and i do it for one reason.

my dad works at that little post office. and i get to stand in his line, and his line only. and let other patrons pass around me and go up to the counter to be waited on by another person in a blue uniform. but i wait.

on the man who gave me life. gave me my brown hair and twitchy neck pop. my stutter and my penchant for peanut butter cookies. whose face lights up from across the room when i open the door and the little bell jingles.

happy father's day, dad. i know i'm going to have to remind you tonight when i see you to please log online and see this post. but that's just because the computer is last on your list of things to do. you're too busy living, and you're still teaching me how to.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

no hand hugs

i took so many pictures last autumn on our west coast road trip. i saw sunsets so gorgeous i couldn't drive, and had to pull over and just sit. i saw mountains screaming to be climbed, with hidden trails that wove through forests and ended at sweeping bridges. i saw bats in a cave as i shrouded down, clasped robert's hand and ran through, just to see a hidden waterfall fade into blackness as evening turned to night.

i was looking through my pictures this morning, and i noticed this picture from pike's place market in seattle. and for the first time, i saw the "no hand hugs" signs. at first i was perplexed, and thanks to google, i now know that hand hugging a fruit is another word for fondling it.

and this totally made my day. that, and pluots, a little plum/apricot cross-breed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

scenes from the cottage--hydrangeas and sunshine


sometimes i wish i could look in on our little cottage in the middle of the workday. when the sunshine spills into the living room around three in the evening and cuts a line across the kitchen counter. but instead, this little haven is only mine from the early evening until early morning. and as soon as my feet slip out of my heels and onto the hardwood floors, i just want to lay on our couch, pull open the blinds and let it have all its blessed influence on me. instead, i take pictures of the prettiness like a good blogger.

our hydrangea bush exploded while we were on vacation last week. we've got mason jars full of blooms in almost every room. because the bush is on the back side of the house, where no one goes. and it made my heart sad to think about the flowers reaching their little faces to the heavens and no one there to witness it. so even though purple and blue are very much not the color scheme of our house, a little cool tone influence is scattered all around, and i kind of love it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

entertaining angels

if we treat people as they are, we make them worse. if we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.-  goethe

i had a bump-up about a month ago. just a little fender bender in front of my favorite local gas station. as i was pulling in front of the building, a woman backed up in to me, though i honked very loudly the entire time the black SUV was moving. it was my first accident ever. and i know i'm lucky it was so minor.

but the woman was anything but simple. she was difficult to work with, elusive and quick to flee the scene.

she told me she would e-mail me her insurance number. she didn't.

she told me she had insurance. she didn't.

and her little lies and deceptions cost me almost two months of headache and stress, the eventual outcome being that i was covered under my non-insured motorist insurance and all was well.

but i was angry. angry that her mistake cost me. angry that i had to spend hours on the phone, a stutterer's worst nightmare. angry that for two months, i had to drive around with my front bumper halfway hanging off while an insurance agent tried to reach her via snail mail.

but she's not the last. there will be others, i am sure of it. ones who will tear down the wall of sunshine i've built. ones whose clouds will helplessly wander into my beams. but it's how i treat those people that spins the situation. yes, i could be dealing with an instrument of satan. but i could also be entertaining angels. and on this side of heaven, i might not always know the difference.

so i overestimate the good. and trust. in promises that might turn up empty and strangers who only seem sincere. i do it in hopes that maybe one day, on an afternoon when i'm not my best, when i'm grouchy, angry and downright mean, someone will do the same for me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

to the girl i saw sitting alone on the picnic bench

if there were ever a terrible line written, it has to be this:
the children have left
so says the concerte at the community pool
on a cool day in october when the cover is pulled
and the concession stand is empty save spiders and webs
and the chairs are all stacked in the place they were left
to rust in the sun until may
so says the mother in the house at high noon
in a place where too much sunshine spills through empty rooms
once covered in fingerprints and little girl bows
and growth charts in door frames and toy cars in rows
then college applications and scholarship hopes
graduation gown in the closet, love letters and notes
now freshly vaccuumed as she'd imagined all along
only now clean just feels like being alone
and so says the school bus, alone in the lot
to sit with the others that someone forgot
to wait in the blessed heat till summer is done
and the children will return with the first august sun
the white lines will follow as the bus travels south
holding the children while time will allow

Friday, June 10, 2011

about last night

my dear,

when you told me i was beautiful last night, and i laughed into my glass, it wasn't to offend you. it was because with the lights down low and the television buzzing and midnight settling into my bones, i believed you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

i'm looking for something in red

i used to have a little change purse. a vintage one with blue and white swirls and a pretty tortoise shell zipper pull. in it, i kept all my lip goods. my high-shine glosses and creamy balms. my mama's tube of the now-discontinued revlon exotica. the lip stain i wore on my wedding day.

a few days ago, i left the purse on the back of robert's car while doing a photo shoot for my etsy shop. robert reminded me about it as we walked inside and i shrugged it off. i would get it later, i figured.

but then i didn't. and then we drove away.

and somewhere, my little change purse sits on the side of the road. we did many drive-arounds but never found it. and with it, i lost something else.

my femininity. because nothing in this world makes me feel softer, sweeter and more put together than a good swipe of lip color. as i walked around with just burt's bees on my lips, i felt not only naked but un-prepared. i read somewhere that victoria beckham said she can't think when she wears flats. that's how i felt about my missing lipstick.

so i went to the drugstore, and bought the cheapest, brightest lip color i could find. a deep magenta perfect for summer. a shade that looks like i just drank about fifty strawberry slushies. and so what if it doesn't really last longer than about ten minutes? it was $2.50 and i can always get another.

so i drove to work today. my windows down and my sunglasses on, and as i rubbed my lips together, i smiled. because whatever it takes to make you feel like you is entirely worth it. worth more than $2.50 actually. worth driving around after supper for hours looking for a little change purse. you know it when you lose it, and recapturing it feels like such a victory.

p.s. you think lipstick will help that awful cowlick/horn that i've got going on with my hair? goodness gracious.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

real simple

during the summer, i appreciate the simple things so much more. primarily because there are two great loves of my life during these sacred months. one is a cool living room, with a glass of sweet tea, a good magazine and something sweet to nibble. the other is the little dirt path near our house, right when twilight hits. with its tree lined glory, old tobacco barns and long stretch of flat, good country.

last night was one of those great, easy ones. where i was in bed by ten with time to read the Bible and play with pablo before lights out. one highlight was this bowl of homemade strawberry pie that robert's grandmother sent home with him. full of crust and perfectly juicy. the other was the sunset we caught on our way to the little trail. an explosion of magenta against the outline of the darkening trees.

summertime means easy living, even if the living ain't always easy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

the baddest watchdog that ever was

one of the most trying nights in our marriage occurred about a week before moving into our little cottage. we were tired. we were cold. it was halloween night and our new neighbors were having a party. but we were inside assembling our bright yellow ikea kitchen chairs and television stand.

then we tried to fit our sectional into the tiny living room. the unique angles and corners of the space were one of the first things i had fallen in love with on our tour. but that night? we couldn't for the life of us figure out how to work with the room and fit the couch.

so we jutted it about a foot from the old wooden windowsill. the one that catches ladybugs and late afternoon sunbeams. and finally, we realized, pablo had a lookout spot.

he's pretty fierce looking, if you can't tell. his intimidating fluffy white hair and glorious, cascading tail are enough to scare away even the most determined intruder, whom pablo would immediately shower with kisses. at night, he sits under the reading lamp and keeps watch.

but protecting an entire cottage is tough work, and pabs sometimes gets a bit sleepy.

i'll forever love our little watchdog, and i'm forever grateful that he's got a little lookout space to call his own. and looking back on it, it makes me laugh that we got that upset about the couch that night. he in his red basketball shorts and me in my robe. sitting in the middle of an empty new house with white washed walls and linoleum floors. and every night that pablo climbs up onto his perch, i'm reminded that it was worth it. everything was worth it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

wishing, and hoping, and thinking and praying

images found on the fabulous preservation north carolina web site.

robert and i talked for an hour as we walked along the country roads near our house. we waited until the sun was setting so the heat had a chance to cool and the wind picked up a bit. we talked about work, and about dreams. about the palatable, often indelible difference between the two. about working to make a living and simply living. and, as we tend to do when the stars start appearing and honeysuckle wafts in the air, we started dreaming. about owning a farm, and living off the land. about opening up a little diner, and, one of my favorites, bringing back the dying breed of drive-in movie theaters.

but we kept coming back to one idea.

a used book store with room to study. with long, old wooden tables and deep green library lamps. with low-sitting vintage sofas and a little coffee shop in the back. because it was our dream and therefore totally malleable, we envisioned a wing off the back where we could finally let pablo run off leash.

we pictured going to work together, and raising children among the shelves. bringing them with us and letting them sort and organize the titles. of little girls raised on laura ingalls wilder and boys on mark twain.

then, we reached mama and dad's house and just as quickly and arbitrarily as the dream began, it was over. replaced with pablo tugging on the leash and pulling us toward the front door. with chocolate ice cream cones and conversations on bar stools.

but it's still there. tucked away into some recess of my spirit that i may or may not tap into one day. in a shop not unlike the one above, an abandoned grocery store a few cities away from my own.

i may never reach the point where my work, home and dream life intersect perfectly and in succinct harmony. but i'm okay with that. because it's the reaching, the day-in/day-out good, clean living and prayers whispered at midnight that keep me hopeful. and if we never own that book store? life is still pretty dreamy, achingly so. right now, the dream looks like a sleepy dog wrapped up at my heels and the soothing hum of the shower. who knows what the dream looks like 10, 15, 20 years from now? only the good Lord, and that's enough to make this daydream believer happy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

a case of me

the other day, mama handed me a tupperware container and said, "i want you to have this." she had taken it from the attic and, with the help of my dad, brought it down the flight of stairs, where it sat on the hardwood floor. inside were mementos of another life. my childhood. from report cards to pictures of my first days of school, it was all there. all preserved. as if only a few days, maybe months had gone by since my sticky fingers put too much glue on the diaramma.

and i went through it with robert. read aloud the funny, often hilarious, things that were jumbled in my mind at seven years old. the letter i wrote to a non-existent modeling agency detailing every part of my face down to the length of my eyelashes and how beautiful i thought i was. my favorites. my hobbies. my likes and dislikes.

and it got me thinking, when's the last time i filled out a questionnaire that revealed nearly as much about me as the standard elementary school "student of the month" one? i swear, one can tell a lot about girl by her favorite food, favorite holiday and favorite day of the week.

many of those answers would be the same. i still love pasta. still cherish my fridays. still idolize my parents.

but my likes? oh boy, have they changed.

i like hot baths at seven in the evening. i like blueberries coated with fine sugar and tart blackberry jam. i like the way pablo smells in the morning and the way robert's white t-shirts feel when i reach across the bed at night. i like the way joni mitchell sings "oh canada" in the beginning of a case of you. i like the way sunshine weaves through open blinds and spills into rooms around four in the afternoon.

and as sweet as it was to look back, i'm even more excited about looking forward. as long as the future holds lots of pasta on fridays, i'm certain i'll be just fine.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

a little vacation recap

there was mango italian ice. lots of it. at night under the brightly lit and boldly painted picnic tables. there were children in brand new swimsuits, carrying buckets and wearing floppy hats. bike rides to the gazebo and back. bike rides at night looking into houses. the tiny ones by the shore with worn shutters and chipped paint. the mansions on the back avenue that could easily hold four of our little cottages.

and i tell you, if God cannot be found along the sea at twilight, walking on smooth shells with water lapping at bare toes, with the moon high in the graying sky and only a few lone sailboats along the horizon, something is amiss. i never fail to feel so beautifully inadequate standing on the shoreline. i didn't bring my camera on the beach, so i failed to capture its glory, but i probably couldn't have anyway.

but now, we are home. and one hot shower, game of fetch, and soul-filling catch-up session with a dear friend later, i sat on the couch around midnight. the kitchen still a bit smoky and smelling like bacon after robert got a feather in his cap to make breakfast for supper at 10:00 p.m. and i gathered them in my arms. these boys of mine. and thanked the sweet Lord above for making home the place i want to visit most of all.