Friday, July 29, 2011

with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair


robert and i are off this weekend to the high country bus festival. we're loading up our bus with our suitcases, camp gear, my brother and his girlfriend. for two days spent high in the mountains of north carolina. where we will be among more than 250 volkswagen buses, forestland, live music and a long river. i've packed up my tie-dyed tops, long dresses and aviators, leaving the practical items, such as a camp stove, lantern, citronella candle, etc. up to robert.

i'll give you three guesses who doesn't want us to go.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

you could fry an egg, or your mind

this week has just about done me in.

july has almost reached its capacity, and as we nose forward, inching minute by minute toward the heat wave masquerading as august, these last few days have been exhausting.

i've stared into too many screens and too few sunsets. i've spent way too much time in my car and not enough on my front porch swing. i found myself almost crawling through the front door last night, with just enough energy to lie on the hardwoods and let pablo sprawl all over me, his paws in my damp hair. school. work. volunteering. heck, even eating has seemed like a chore. thank goodness for summer and its light, simple meals.

i've given up this week on fixing my hair. curls deflate upon my first step outside. likewise, i've forgone eyeliner. even my usual lipstick has remained tucked in my mama's old floral change purse, deep in the abyss of my pocketbook. if nature is going to rear itself so heavily, in such a desperate show, i'm going to reciprocate by airing my natural self.

but yesterday, while waiting on a friend, i pulled out that tube of lipstick. and gave myself a quick swipe. and sitting in my car, with the a/c on full blast and my hair pulled back, i swear i felt...dare i even say it? as in less hot, not in terms of swagger.

it's a funny thing, this weather. i curse and  bless it all in the same breath. but thankfully, if i can depend on anything, it's that this weather will turn. and give way to snow showers and rainy mornings. hands stuffed in mittens and cheeks chapped with chill. and i'm not quite ready for that just yet.

so i soldier on. with sweaty hair and melted half-makeup and a tired, sleepy mind that just wants to sleep. in a cool room with a fan. for about 50 hours. yes, that would be enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

i also have a label maker

i didn't have a blog last september. the month i spent creating my travel binder for our west coast road trip. the one with the sheet protectors and the tabbed dividers. with the cover illustrations and spine decoration. it was a beauty, and i'll keep it forever. it's got ticket stubs, copies of plane tickets, pictures and reservation numbers in its clutches. what started as a way to organize all the chaos that comes with a long journey turned into a scrapbook without my intention.

and i've started another one. for our october 2011 trip. this time, we want to head up the east coast on route 1. to explore everything our side of the nation has to offer. from philly to atlantic city. from NYC to cape cod. i want to see the leaves turn as we head north and pull on jeans and heavy boots to walk around old city streets at night. i want to stay in little, inexpensive motels and save our money for the food. to stay up late and get up early and pack and shove all we can into about one week.

it's such a process, planning. but when it comes to life, man oh man. when that scanned, black and white picture of the golden gate bridge is replaced with the real, towering structure itself, and when the reservation number for that special cafe only the locals know about transforms into a bowl of steaming chowder on the misty oregon coast, it makes it all worth it.

in college, i once assembled a massive binder of 65 daily news clippings for an extra credit assignment in my sophomore year journalism class. when i pulled it out of my book bag, contents poking out of the edges, thick with effort and time and long nights with glue sticks, my professor looked at me in disbelief. i didn't think anyone was seriously going to do that assignment, he said as he took my project.

don't underestimate the power of a girl who loves organization.

(and extra credit in a terribly difficult class.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

a night with NKOTBSB and a morning with you


as you well know, i went to the NKOTBSB concert saturday night. and it did not disappoint. but i want to tell you something. matthew morrison was the opening act. he was wearing his trademark fedora. he flashed his dimpled smile and sashayed across the stage, crooning jazz hits and spinning around. but my heart only skipped one beat, not the two i expected, when he whispered in to the microphone and looked up into the camera, his blue eyes twinkling. similarly, my temperature only rose a few degrees when donnie wahlberg ran across the stage, ripped off his tank top and threw it into the crowd, though others around me fanned themselves in exasperated desperation.

and then, when my favorite backstreet boy, nick, chose a woman from the crowd, placed her on a barstool and sang just to her, leaning over into a backbend across her lap, i only felt the slightest tinge of jealousy, unmatched by the shouts and hollers echoing off the coliseum walls. they sang. they danced. they pelvic thrust their way into the night. and i watched in enjoyment, it is true.

but on sunday, as we sat in church. on the hard-backed chairs. we bowed our heads and you. you reached for my hand and held it between yours as we prayed. and i felt my heart leap to my toes and swell with love.

that, my sweet, is the right stuff.

Monday, July 25, 2011

the art of doing nothing

my parents used to put me to bed around 7:30 each night.

when i would hear the familiar chords of the entertainment tonight theme song, i knew it was time. time to go brush my teeth and head upstairs, the sun not quite set. mama, quite correctly, later told me the early bedtime sentence was enforced because i never took naps, and plum wore them out. but their plan for me to catch an early slumber was always foiled, because late afternoon sunbeams would peer through my thin floral sheets and i ended up reading until night fell.

alone in my tiny twin bed, i devoured the babysitter's club. american girl. goosebumps. and later, when my sister and i shared a room, we would lie in the same dusky sunset and spill our secrets, with only the pale pink couch to witness.

i was never one to nap. never one to relax or calm down or take it easy.

but then, one day, i found myself married. to a man who relishes and adores sleep almost as much as he is enamored with me. a man who, if left alone, can sleep until one in the afternoon. and i found myself all of a sudden aware. of the beauty of doing nothing. the art of it, really.

so when my family went to the beach this year, i only read two pages of the book i brought along. i tried to work on homework. i really did.

but instead, i walked along the shore with mama and carly, kicking up little showers of sand with my toes and lying in the water, giving myself a makeshift sea salt scrub with rocks brought in by the waves.

i ate long dinners and went back for seconds. i watched movies and took walks around the neighborhood at seven in the evening, and peered into the houses of families not unlike my own, making supper from ocean catches and gathering around long wooden tables.

i caught up with family i haven't seen in a while. my sweet grandfather and his beautiful, kind-hearted wife. my great-aunt who knows the best way to fry a flounder is with cornmeal, and my great uncle and second cousin who rise with the sun to go out on the boat. they've all got such beautiful hearts.

it may have taken me 24 years, but i've learned. how to rest, body and mind. how to really capture that sweet feel of sleep. and i owe it all to the man who lies to the left of me every night, whose breaths and sighs are the lullaby of our little cottage.

and the best part is, he lets me stay up as late as i want to. oh, adulthood!

**i'm thrilled to be posting today as part of feed the birdies' "what girls like" series. head on over to check out my thoughts on one of my great loves, thrifting!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

a birthday slideshow

we are home.

we came back to soybean fields a foot taller, houseplants a bit thirstier. we are a bit browner, calmer and more centered. the beach is spectacular. no matter how many times you've seen it or tasted it salty waters. its enchanting.

and instead of unpacking, instead of working on piles of schoolwork or laundry, i spent hours making this little video. because our little pablo turned eight today and we celebrated in grand style. with dog food cupcakes and trivia games and a cookout for our families. because i'm a proud mama, and if we're being honest, pablo's a total ham.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

to be continued

we're soaking up some carolina sunshine this week. the sand is warm and the waves are gentle. regular blogging will commence very soon. in the meantime, i hope everything is beautiful where you are. and i hope you are smiling. and i hope, in your little corner of the world, there is love.

Monday, July 18, 2011

the conga line

once a year, my family vacations on the coast. at my great aunt's house, with the overstuffed couches that you just sink into, the big long wooden dinner table and the hundreds of movies. it's a treat, really. one that we look forward to all year.

robert and i headed down a night early and soaked up a little adventure before we met my parents. we spent a balmy afternoon strolling around historic new bern, n.c. beautiful, brick storefronts. a glistening river. we could see why nicholas sparks lives here. the place is a novel.

on the way back to our car, we walked past a little catholic church. the oldest one in the state, according to the bronze plaque. and we stopped. just across the street, a little crowd was gathered. we stood behind the trees as a beautiful bride waltzed out the old doors. we watched in silence (and attempted anonymity) as she ran into the arms of her new husband, greeted him with a kiss saved for newlyweds (that second kiss where no one is supposed to be looking), and drove off in a horse drawn carriage.

and as the clamor died down, we slipped on. and i was reminded that we're all on little adventures. whether its a detour on the way to the beach, or teetering on the cusp of life changing jumps, we're traveling. all traveling. and when we travel together, when those moments of momentum intersect and serendipitously we become spectators in the sojourns of one another, that's pure magic. and the earth bursts at the seam with happiness as we join dancing under the heavenly ceiling, changing partners with the tempo and moving together in this beautiful conga line called life.

Friday, July 15, 2011

scenes from the cottage: soybean fields, offices and an appearance by pablo


i pulled into the gravel drive around dusk last night, after supper with my family. and as i turned the key into the old lock, the one that's turned to the right for entire generations passed, i looked to my left.

and the sun was setting just to the right of the shed. and i noticed the house for the first time. really noticed it. the clean lines of the brick and the way they align so beautifully. the old apple tree in the back curving under the weight of storms, sun and age. the old shed, with its whitewashed wood and new roof.

and as i crossed the threshold into the office, i put my bags down. pablo sprinted in from the living room, followed by robert close on his heels. and i thought to myself, if i wasn't home before, if the feel of gravel under my tires and the squeal of the key wasn't enough to convince me, i am home now.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the soft things

my grandfather keeps a stack of magazines on his coffee table.

he used to get people, then sports illustrated. sometimes forbes. occasionally, an alumni magazine would weave its way into the pile. but there have always been two staples in this treasure trove: reader's digest and reminisce.

and while i appreciate reader's digest for the clean jokes, the recipes and the pocket-sized motivation, it is reminisce that has captivated me. a magazine devoted to days gone by, with polariods and advertisements for products no one uses anymore.

long before i loved vintage. before i swooned over images of high-waisted bathing suits and pretty pin curls. when i was just a girl in middle school. with too much free time on my hand, a journal and a pen in my purse at all times, and romantic fancies dancing in my not-yet-seasoned heart.

i read a line in reminisce once that has stuck with me. i carried this line into my little cottage, and remember it often. i can't recall the exact phrasing, but an elderly man had written to the magazine about his wife who had passed away.

he said, she valued the soft things in life. like cooking, gardening and crossword puzzles.

every time i stand over a sink full of dishes, or a boiling pot of water. every time i tuck pablo in his doggie bed and say a prayer over him. every time i get up early just to curl my hair and eyelashes, paint a little magenta on my lips and iron that new skirt. i feel it. when i drag robert out at night with a flashlight just to look at the strawberry plant and its white flowers. when i get down on my knees and pull weeds from the bushes and carry them out to the woods.

i feel the soft things. and i think i'd like someone to say that about me one day. and i think its the most moving tribute i've come across. the most romantic notion. at my worst, i can be hard. i can be bossy and mean and rude and disappointing. but i can also be terribly soft. and it's that which i want remembered.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the second line, or how i will never finish a story

it didn't used to be this way. i would sit for hours in my dorm room, rocking back and forth in the wooden chair. the same wooden chair that held scores of students before me, in that same room with the bunk beds and exposed brick wall. i would rock, and while rocking, think about how to start my story. my essay. my report. microsoft word pulled up, with the cursor tauntingly blinking in the upper left corner. it's not that i didn't have anything to say. i had plenty. but starting it took time.

now, i can write a thousand opening lines. words flow from my fingers and spill out onto the screen. it's the meaty part that's hard. the second line. that's where my mind clams up and my heart races and i'm afraid i'll never match the beauty of the words before. there are stories tucked in my journal that are nothing more than one-liners. to flesh out an entire novel seems impossible for this girl who loves simplicity. loves short sentences pregnant with meaning.

hemingway wrote a six-word story once. just to prove he could:

for sale. baby shoes. never worn.

i think that's my fear. that i will sit down one day in front of a computer in a room unfamiliar to me now, but by then, wholly my home. and i will write. and maybe the words will flow furiously or maybe it will take years. and i'll never match the meaning of those six words. that my opening line will be a story in and of itself and the rest will be filler. fluff.

there are words in this heart. and stories and tales. but like the writer, they are simple. and i'm scared of suffocating them. with dialogue. with descriptions and details.

so i keep them tucked away. until i have enough breath in me to share with them. and its this symbiotic relationship that will redeem me until i can form, shape, mold and create them enough that they live entirely on their own.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

meet clint

this is my brother, clint.

when i found myself without a car yesterday, he without hesitation offered to let me use his. his with the dreamcatcher hanging from the rearview mirror. with bon iver, she & him and the avett brothers cds in the console. with a bumper sticker of a whale that reads, "save the humans."

he goes to the nature science center by himself and reads poetry by the trails. he loves used bookstores, thrift store cardigans and his girlfriend. he's loyal and sensitive and finds new artists on youtube every day.

my brother is infinitely cooler than me. i hope he doesn't realize that any time soon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

hemingway was right

 the blueberry bush produced this week!
i like to ease into my mornings.

there is a sweet envelope of time between waking and starting the day. when i'm still in that hazy half-dream state and the dew on the grass outside is magical. when the sunshine falls in slivers between the pin oaks and the earth is still cool with damp darkness.

it is this nugget--this sacred, special gap between sleep and energy that i love most of any waking hour. i think primarily because of the promise it holds. i like to hop up on my kitchen counter in my pajamas and eat my fruit, looking out onto the long, empty country road. in less than an hour, i will be in an office chair. i will divide my glance between two computer monitors. i will meet deadlines, edit copy, and call salesmen.

but at 6:30 in the morning, i am just me. a 24-year-old awake. with a husband and pup sleeping in the next room. with my hands wrapped around a hot mug of coffee and a little bowl of blueberries resting in my lap. and it is good. i declare, it is completely good.

and the day might not live up to its promise. days just don't sometimes. but that moment of magical believing is worth getting up early for. the sun might set today without anything spectacular happening. it might just be a ho-hum repetition of spreadsheets and reports broken up by coffee breaks. i might go to bed without any true accomplishment. yes, the sun will set on this day.

but the sun also rises.

Friday, July 8, 2011

grandma's dish

this dish is nothing elaborate. it's just root vegetables sauteed in olive oil. in a big ol' skillet (or two) for about an hour. i threw together squash, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers and onion for ours. but this dish is special. it reminds me of my grandma. of sitting outside smack dab in the middle of a sunbeam. and this year, it reminded me of my neighbors. who gladly gave us the bounty from their gardens. there's something special about eating from the land.

i thought this dish wouldn't take long. i was wrong. i thought, oh it's just sauteing vegetables. no big deal. but i sat in the kitchen last night with pablo while robert napped on the couch. and the time crawled. but that's okay. it gave me time to water the plants on the windowsill. to go outside and check on our little strawberry plant. slowing down is good sometimes. and it felt right, being in that kitchen. on those yellow and green paisley linoleum floors. feeling the sweet juxtaposition of being young and in my twenties. in an old house where another couple lived out an entire life.

and later that night, eating grandma's dish. the one she taught my mama to make. and recharging the cycle of life that spins so furiously on.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

go on over

i'm super honored to be guest posting over at a perfect dose of life. kristina is one of the sweetest people i've met in this crazy beautiful blogosphere. together with her husband ryan and their little dog wyatt, they've carved out quite the sweet life.

i'm writing about my little hometown in north carolina. and why i stayed, when i can count on one hand the number of my friends who are still here. so go give kristina some love!

in the meantime, please check out pablo's face in this picture.

as the rain fell in sheets onto our little cottage, pablo laid against me and looked out the window. at the grass getting soggier and soggier. and with every minute that passed, it's like he knew his odds of getting to play outside we diminishing. the sadness is apparent in his eyes. i kind of love those type of nights, though. when my boys are huddled on the couch with me, and it's furious outside and we're cocooned in these brick walls.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

curious george has dyed

i had a lingerie shower before my wedding, and for a 21-year-old from a tiny town in north carolina, it was an overwhelming abundance of lace, straps and snaps. and i loved it. and i packed it all into my tiny samsonite when we left for our honeymoon in jamaica.

but then, somebody else snuck into my bag as well. george.

i've had these shorts since the seventh grade. middle school, i tell you! i got them on my family's first and only trip to disney world. the summer it was so blazing hot that even a water spritzer with a fan on it couldn't cool me down. the trip where i rode the rockin' roller coaster with mama and the initial jolt threw my hips forward so bad i couldn't walk straight the rest of the time. the happiest place on earth, i say.

and i saw these bad boys hanging in the gift shop. they were overpriced. they were cartoonish. heck, with the two buttons in the front they were most certainly for boys. but i had to have them. and i've worn them every single night since. george traveled with me through high school, and was there in bed when i cried myself to sleep over boys that didn't last, tests that didn't end well, and that one two-week fight with robert in july 2007.

they went with me to college. and my first apartment. then, on my honeymoon. after that, i stored them in my very first chest of drawers in my very first home with my new husband and our new dog.

but last week, i did something awful.

i washed george with a new pair of red jeans. some fabulous red jeans i found in a thrift store, but that's beside the fact.

and george turned pink. how can george save the world from outer space invaders when he's traveling through a sphere of pastel rose? it just doesn't fit. i've washed and washed them, and the stain is starting to fade, and from the looks of these pictures, it's not too bad. 

but they still bring me comfort. like reading my Bible in bed at night or waking up and stretching outside with the sunrise. and the best part of all? robert thinks they're cute.

and whatever it is that makes you feel like you--whether its your boyfriend's oversized sweater, your favorite pair of skinny jeans, your favorite sweatpants, or even a lacy get-up, it's worth holding on to. worth washing and re-washing and stretching out the elastic and literally getting all you can out of the threads.

and worth writing an entire post about, apparently.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

my fourth: festivals, fireworks and family



robert and i drove downtown yesterday to visit the local independence day festival. it was a smorgasbord of funnel cakes, sno-cones and local banjo pickers. all under the blistering noon sun. i saw mamas holding onto their children through the crowds,  little flags stuck into holes on the sidewalk, and an elderly man selling shower heads. who broke my heart because no one (absolutely no one) visited his stand. the one with the faux shower set up and the pamphlets neatly spread out on a little wooden table.

we left the fun and went to a little diner for lunch. the best part of the day happened in the middle of my meal when, with my hands full of barbecue chicken and honey rolls, robert grabbed them and said, "i can't wait to have kids with you one day." it was altogether random and beautiful and filling. 

yesterday afternoon held a thrifting spree with my sweet sister, then we all gathered at my parent's house for our annual cookout. which would not be complete without my dad and brother shooting off some classic wal-mart fireworks. with names like "glistening rain" and "lotus flower," you know you're in for a real treat.

it did rain yesterday. but after it cleared came a rainbow. a double one, actually.

reminding me that yes there is conflict in this world. there's war and violence and innocent people die and we never really know why. but there's also a beauty to this earth. and the joy that comes in the morning is enough to stamp out evil. enough to rise and reassure. and remind us that never will humanity be washed away again. even on the hottest and wettest of carolina summers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

the beautiful.

soak up this weekend. soak up the blessed heat. the sunshine. the friends. the hot dogs and the sweet tea. the sleeping in, if you're lucky,

this week hasn't held nearly enough snuggles. or late night movie marathons. or long conversations into the morning under the covers. instead, school started back up. and work was harried and tremendous. and my prayers were short and tired and life slipped by.

but no more, i say. starting with tonight. see that handsome man in the picture? we've got a hot date with the DVR and later, the front porch swing. with tomato sandwiches and cheerwine slushies. and i don't have to be me until tuesday.

it's a beautiful, sweet, country we live in. and i'm thankful beyond belief for the people who make sure it stays that way.