Monday, May 30, 2011

remembering those who can't forget

there's a man where i work. an IT professional with a suit and tie. thin-rimmed glasses. he gave a talk last tuesday. it was non-mandatory, and the conference room was sparse. he began his story slowly, in front of a white wall, with no visual aids. he talked about flying over vietnam, and how his plane was shot down. the tanned faces of his captors. about being taken from little town to little town, paraded around like a trophy. the stones thrown. the jeers. the spitting.

he talked for two straight hours about the torture. the months in solitary confinement. at one point, he reached into a small black bag and pulled out a pair of simple cotton pajama pants and a long-sleeved shirt. "i asked to keep my prison pajamas," he explained matter-of-factly. he proudly displayed his metal POW bracelet, mailed to him by a little girl. he talked quickly, strongly, with no breaks. it was an informative wartime recount told by someone who had been there. he explaned in incredible detail the interrogations, the statistics of losses, and how it felt to sit in a dark room for hours, waiting on a guard to come in. i marveled at his ability to detach himself from it, to speak in the tone of a history professor, not a victim.

then, when the questions were finished and people were beginning to fidget, he looked at the ground, and talked in a different tone.

"there was one time, i was asleep in my cell. there were no windows and no sunlight. i didn't know day from night, nor did i know what day it was. a guard came knocking," he said.

"i opened the door and the guard said, 'don't you know what day it is?' and i replied 'no.' then the guard looked at me and said, 'you should be sad. today is christmas eve. your family is at home celebrating. and you might never see them again.'" he looked around the room at us and sighed. "that was 40 years ago."

with that, he took off his glasses. and wept. openly in front of interns, executives and CFOs. we sat there with him and did not speak. then, we quietly gathered our things and returned to our bright offices.

death lurks all around the war. and this day is significant in remembering those taken while in battle. but sometimes, it's only a part of a person that dies. both are hard. both are worth remembering.

Friday, May 27, 2011

just until my skin turns brown, then i'm going home

when i was a toddler, i went to the beach with my parents. they took me a little ways into the water, and a current came that almost swept me and mama away. of course i don't remember, but mama said she was terrified. she lost contact with me for a second and in that second lost her world.

the ocean has a way with me. of sweeping me in and under. of swallowing me.

robert and i are off to the coast for a long weekend in the sun. i plan to lose myself in the water's pull. not entirely different from when i was a child and got swept away. because sometimes, being swept away is just what i need.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

a surprise from my sister

after a long day at work and a 20-minute traffic jam during which i moved maybe, maybe, a foot, i came home to this.

not from robert, mind you.

from my sister. my sweet sister home for the summer. she snuck in our house and prepared this spread. a gorgeous bouquet of spring flowers, and the most moist, delicious bread i've ever had. for no reason in the world.

she's gorgeous, smart and kind. and even though she's younger than me, i hope with all my heart i'm just like her one day. i love you, carly!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

summer scenes

these three socks have been hanging there for weeks. their matches just up and walked away, i'm convinced.

the shed is kittenless and the sky is cloudless.

muscadine vine out back, flowering and full.
the little trail behind the blueberry bushes. where i stand with mama and robert and pick the little berries all summer long.

goodness, can i just say how excited i am that summer has arrived in north carolina? in our little cottage? everything is green, lush and alive. and i am likewise.

however, as beautiful as nature can be, i am very aware of its destructive power. its ability to destroy. hurt. shatter. and my prayers go out to everyone affected by the awful storms. may you have rainbows soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

to be an adjective

they wanted, as we say, to ‘call their souls their own.’ but that means to live a lie, for our souls are not, in fact, our own. they wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, ‘this is our business, not yours.’ but there is no such corner. they wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives.
 -c.s. lewis, the problem of pain
as poets like page breaks that feel like deep breaths, so a creative writer loves adjectives. my descriptor of choice is lovely. my best friend in middle school loved the word crisp. there are just some words that, when added to a noun, enhance tremendously. they add depth, meaning and image.

but as any elementary school teacher will sweetly inform you, adjectives that stand alone are meaningless. pretty. small. big. without a subject, they lose their form and become half-shaped. like the victorian house on the edge of our road, standing tall against the heavens, with cracking paint and loose shutters. almost perfect. almost special, but not quite whole.

i am not the sun. but there are summer days when the sunshine reflects off my cheeks. my eyelids. my nose. and i feel it and radiate with it. likewise, i want to stand so close to the Son that i am a mere reflection of His glory. and brightness.

in my Christian walk, it is only an adjective i aspire to be. but so often, so incredibly, unknowingly and sometimes purposefully, often, i become the noun. my little world revolves around the subject of Me. and yes, Christ is a part of it. He is present and there and totally within reach, but only to support my goals and end desires. in effect, an adjective to my noun.

but if we switch. if we just swap places, what a beautiful, whole, complex sentence we would be! and the sentences of my peers, my family, my friends and all the population would swarm together to create a beautiful story. the most beautiful one in history. in His story.

Monday, May 23, 2011

a sunday kind of love

the weekend was warm, the first balmy saturday in weeks. the community pool opened. the one where mama spent all her teenage summers. the one i lifeguarded for five glorious, frozen lemonade-filled years.

with sun so high and humidity wetting the wispy hairs around my forehead, there was little to do but just be. be still. be silent. be outdoors. and soak up all God had painted.

when it gets like this out in the country, the last place i want to be is over the stove. over the oven. over any source of heat at all. so sunday supper was easy. a simple salad under the shade trees. i tossed together a little baby spinach, bleu cheese crumbles, apples, blueberries, dried cherries, and sliced almonds. drizzle a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and you've got a meal.

being outside is magical, and when the sun sets, and the beating heat cools to a warm teasing breeze, i'm reminded of why i stayed in this one-stoplight town. and why i'm so glad my high school sweetheart stayed too.

Friday, May 20, 2011


one of the upsides to being miserably sick with the most awful head cold to end all head colds?

i have rediscovered my love-nix that- my absolute obsession with, banana popsicles.

by themselves, bananas are a bit odd and not one of my favorite foods. but things that taste like bananas? perfection. the banana-shaped runts candy? i dare say it is the best runt of all. i also adore banana bread, not to mention banana bread cereal from post selects.

then, just yesterday, i saw an advertisement for this. a machine that turns bananas into ice cream with the push of a button? the concept alone sells me!

here's to wishing your weekend is filled with warm sunshine, grass between toes, and your favorite fruit variation, even if it's just a strawberry slurpee from 7-11. as long as you're getting your fruit in, i say.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

letting go

we did it. we found homes for all the kittens. the first two left last weekend. unexpectedly, as i was handing them off to the sweet older woman down the road, tears welled up and i couldn't even look at her. i turned away and placed the little bodies into her arms. the last two leave this weekend.

and i can't tell you why i cried. it's just that, for two weeks, these babies were mine. entrusted to me. and i couldn't keep them. but i never thought it would be so hard to watch them leave.

no more midnight runs to the shed, with the light glowing in the darkness, and rubbing furry bellies. no more tails between my toes and little finger licks.

my goodness. am i ever going to be a basket case when dropping my firstborn off at college. i'll probably handle it like my mama, and hold it together in the dorm room. in front of the potluck roommate stranger. in front of dusted laptops and pencil holders. new comforters and laughter down the long hall.

but as soon as i get in the car with robert, i will undoubtedly lose it. and that's okay. it means i felt it. that tangible sense of loss. and to not feel it would be so much worse.

'tis the cycle of life i suppose. 'tis the beautiful, hectic, heartbreaking, gorgeous cycle of life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

blue collar, warm heart

there are some chores i hate. chiefly, scrubbing bathrooms. but there are some that for whatever reason, be it the repetitive motion or the solitude and reflection they provide, are not too bad. i feel this way about dishes and laundry. when warm water is running between my fingers and the hundredth plastic cup fills the drying rack, there are no stresses. for ten minutes, there are no worries, and no tasks that need to be accomplished sans these dishes. and i love it.

last night was laundry night. with robert and pablo watching television in the dark living room, i snuck out to the mud room. the unheated one with brick interior walls. with the three big windows and screen door leading out to the  blueberry bush. and i filled the machine with robert's plumbing clothes. cornflower blue work shirt and navy work pants. with a logo sewn on by his grandmother. they are dirty, yes. but they are my husband's.

one day, he might work in an office. and he'll re-wear the same variation of a suit and tie every day, and the laundry basket will be exponentially lighter. he'll dab on the gray flannel and tuck the handkerchief.

but for now, i'll buy the extra strength detergent and check his pockets every evening. and i'll breathe in deep the smell of pipes. the scent cemented in my memory along with mama's clove cookies and pablo's soft, downy fur. and i'll complain about the loads of wash sitting in the basin, but really cherish that time. in the little cottage by the woods, where work is shed at the threshold, and real life, real love begins after five.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


if the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice. 
-Meister Eckhart

changes were thrown at me yesterday. a little academic mixup turned threw my world on its axis and spun me around 180 degrees. and i was lost. i spent hours on the computer trying to salvage something. trying to piece together the broken fragments that spilled out from the screen and burned my eyes. i went to bed defeated and broken.

but then something remarkable happened.

the sun rose again. the morning came. His mercies were renewed. 

and i sat on the white glider in the wee hours, homemade afghan wrapped around my nightgown, hands wrapped around a coffee mug. and i breathed in the air. the kind of freshness that only 6 a.m. can bring. 

and i was thankful. for these challenges, stepping stones, and boulders. because i can handle them. not alone of course, but through the help of the One who led me down this course in the first place. before a heartache can reach me, before stresses and blunders can poke their way through, they have to go through His hands. and there are none other i'd rather be in. especially when my own are shaking.

Monday, May 16, 2011

slam dunk

sometimes date nights aren't magical. sometimes there are no car doors opened and no roses. sometimes, it's not even worth putting on red lipstick for.

sometimes it's just a late run to wal-mart. the new one a few towns away. with the dog in the backseat and the windows rolled down, iron and wine on the radio. holding hands at red lights.

and sometimes you stumble upon a dunkin donuts. right before closing. and the tired teenager behind the counter asks, nay begs, you to please take one of each donut. because it's nearing eleven and they're just going to throw them out anyway. she stuffs them all in your brown paper bag and only charges you for your two small coffees.

and all of a sudden, this date night turns around. and from the fluorescent lights bouncing off the mopped tile floors to the empty shop ringing with silence and closing time, something begins to come alive. and the date becomes, yes, a little more magical.

Friday, May 13, 2011

some beauty for your friday

together they had overcome the daily incomprehension, the instantaneous hatred, the reciprocal nastiness, and fabulous flashes of glory in the conjugal conspiracy. it was time when they both loved each other best, without hurry or excess, when both were most conscious of and grateful for their incredible victories over adversity. life would still present them with other moral trials, of course, but that no longer mattered: 
they were on the other shore.
- gabriel garcia marquez, love in the time of cholera

Thursday, May 12, 2011

the day there were no seals at san simeon

 look behind us. no seals.

last october, robert and i drove down the west coast. let it be known that we are both from the tiny town of wallburg, and are not experienced travelers. myrtle beach was a big time to us. so to be out west? absolutely exhilarating. i spent months making a travel binder. that is a blog post in and of itself, my friends. i even used sheet protectors. sheet protectors!

one of the highlights of the trip was supposed to be the seals lying along the banks of san simeon, just up from hearst castle. we drove into the little town around 11:00 at night. the only restaurant open was the empty one in the motel. we slunk into a little table on the side, right by the window, black with midnight. we ate oyster stew that cost $8 a cup. we went to bed excited with the promise of seals in the morning.

but morning came. and with it, our trek along the muddy waterside. our peering over the guardrails and driving along the shore. and there were no seals. i think we went at the wrong time of the year. either way, my heart sunk as we drove away.

but later that day, we came upon santa barbara. with its gorgeous old mission and taquerias. and i forgot all about the seals, or lack thereof.

i was taught a lesson that day. that looking forward to things is fabulous. my office calendar is littered with yellow and purple highlights, markings of things to come. but sometimes, expectations fail. and it's fine. sometimes there are no seals, no matter how hard you look. but sometimes, yes sometimes, you come upon a santa barbara, something even better than you were looking for. ten times better, even.

has anyone seen the seals at san simeon? are they real? a myth? please do tell.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


mere moments before happening upon the kittens, robert and i were having a discussion. about upcoming weekend trips. an impromptu getaway to his parents' mountain house. the one tucked in the corner of the road, with the split rail fence and rose bushes. where we sat on the smooth flat rock and held hands in high school. we were excited about the possibility. of just packing up and heading up into the hills on friday.

but then we saw the cloud of fur, and the kittens. others have said they saw them scavenging under the bridge on the rocks and sand the day before. it's no wonder they scarfed the cat food and nestled into my sweatshirt.

so we're grounded, for the time being. here until they all find homes. because they'd be okay on their own. the shed is nice and cool and filled with lots of old relics they can jump on, hide behind and weave between. there's a new fluffy bed inside and bowls of water.

but last night, i went to go check on them one last time before bed, and they were all curled up together, all four of them, in the little bed, paws overlapping on faces and legs sprawled off the edge. and i whispered to them, alone in the old shed, "i will never forget this. as long as i live, i won't forget these few weeks."

so i can't leave. instead, i will stay in wallburg these next two weekends. the town that most people, including a majority of my high school class, have left. and i will fall in love with it. with its one stoplight, old brick schools and little concrete pool, already filled for its memorial day opening. and i'll thank God for the little bodies entrusted to me, for as long as that might be. for as they are home, so am i.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

and then i found four kittens.

how all the strays in wallburg find me, i do not know. they must know my heart aches for them.

last night, during our evening walk, robert and i saw a whirlwind coming toward us. a cloud of gray, black and white. as it got closer, i realized it was kittens. they stopped once they reached our heels, and wove their tiny bodies around our feet and purred.

someone let them out on the road, and they found me. or i found them.

either way, right now there are four tiny furballs in my shed, laying on bicycle seats and exploring the rafters. they have bellies full of milk and cat food and a warm pallet to rest on.

and i'm finding them homes.

but until they leave, i'm loving on them, stroking their teeny ears and rubbing their backs.

i was never a cat person. i do believe that might have changed last night.

Monday, May 9, 2011

a room with a view

we would talk until we fell asleep.

into the blackness between us, our words would hang heavy on the humid summer air. sometimes, as sisters, you don't even have to talk for the words to hang.

i remember the crickets outside the window. the mauve pink floral dust ruffles. the overstuffed down comforters. hers was as mine, our beds identical. i remember the little window at the foot of my bed, the trees dignified outside.

on the night of my wedding rehearsal, i snuck up to our room. i went inside our closet, the one we wrote on with a magic pen that only shows up with a black light. the one that housed all of our clothes. mine on the top rack, hers on the bottom. where all our hangbags, church dresses and belts were hanging as they had been forever.

and i just cried.

i walked over to my little twin bed, pushed up against the wall, with my bible on the shelf above and my cheerleading portraits. fully clothed, i climbed inside and smelled the sheets. the worn pillowcase and the cotton.

save for a few short months my last semester of college, i've never had my own room. and i've never wanted it. i went from sharing with my sister to sharing with robert and pablo.

this morning, i woke early. i sat up in our bed, the moon high in the sky shining through the blinds. and i looked around me. at the man with his arm propped under his head and his covers snug under his chin. at the dog curled into the tiniest ball on top of the blankets.

and i sighed a deep sigh of contentment. i will forever miss my childhood home, with my boombox and destiny's child cds. my cardboard cutout of tom cruise and my dollhouse.

but at 6.a.m. this morning, i remembered. that any space shared is home. yes, any space shared.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

for mama.

a good mother is the most convincing argument for God i've ever seen, for mothers don't just happen; mothers are Heaven-sent. mothers are God's goodness wearing an apron, God's truth setting the table, God's beauty tenderly saying, "goodnight, dear. i'll see you in the morning." -harold kohn

i could write volumes on my mama. but they wouldn't even begin to scratch the depth of her beauty, kindness, strength and grace.

but i do know one thing. i love her to pieces.

as i get older, and closer to being a mama myself, i find myself acting more and more like her. find myself standing over the stove with a wooden spoon like her, phrasing my sentences like her, and slowly, looking at the world a bit more like she does.

and i couldn't be happier.

Friday, May 6, 2011

please and thank you

one more test.

one more test until i am officially done with my first semester at johns hopkins.

to make a laboriously long story short, i have to make a 90 on this test, or i'm out thousands of dollars and a year's worth of weekly eight-hour drives.

so prayers are requested. or happy thoughts. well wishes. just good vibes, please.

and thank you all for your sweet words on yesterday's post. i laid my insecurities on the table, bared them for you to see, and the kindness i received back was more than humbling. you are such beautiful souls.

have a spectacular weekend. go frolic in the sunshine, lay on the  bare grass, and thank the good Lord above that spring has arrived. and with it, new beginnings. and also, chapters closed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

the one without a picture

i thought long and hard about a picture for this post. but what would a picture of stuttering look like? colin firth?

so there is no picture today. but on we shall march.

i had a little presentation to give on tuesday.

it lasted only two minutes, but the amount of stress, anguish and embarrassment it created was enough to wreck me for a day. even sitting outside during lunch at the picnic tables, chicken wrap in hand and a warm breeze at my ankles, i couldn't shake it.

because i did so utterly, completely horrible. enough for my boss to ask what happened. enough for the silence of a million crickets to fill the room. enough for tears to well up and my face to flush. immediately after, i wanted to run to the ladies room, sit in the first stall and just cry. because as much as i love myself, as confident as i am in my ability to write, communicate and interact, my fault is being human.  being crackable and breakable. fragile, i suppose.

but i did something tuesday that i am immeasurably proud of. i didn't run. i didn't even look down, against all my instinct and intuition. i held the tears locked in position, and willed them, with a force not entirely my own, but more of God, to not fall down  my cheeks. and they didn't. they stayed in little half-pools until they faded back to where they came from.

and it may seem small. i suppose, after all, it is small. but it is a victory, nonetheless.

i may never be free of my stutter. for all the therapy, special hearing aids, and reading practice, there will inevitably always be that room full of intimidating people who, with one look, can undo me.

but if i can pull myself together, as i did on tuesday, i know i'll be just fine. because yes, no one can make me feel inferior without my consent. but in that conference room, surrounded by a sea of corporate chaos, i realized something.

no one includes me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

my very first guest post

good morning beautifuls. today, i'm over at hearted girl guest posting for lynn as she conquers the beautiful quirks, kinks and turns of a new job. i'm part of a guest series, writing all about what would be on my shelf of life. this is my very first guest post, and i'm so incredibly honored that lynn thought me up for the challenge. she was sweet enough to guest post for me when my little blog was just starting out, and i'll never forget it.

check it all out here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

she loves the sunrise, no longer sees it with her sleeping eyes

i used to think i needed someone in front of me while i exercised. a lithe instructor. an enterprising college student making beer money teaching free cardio classes at the university gym. a woman in a sports bra and spandex, consoling me through my television, just a few more reps.

but this morning,  i woke early. i slipped on my flannel pants and fleece jacket. i read scripture on an old round, wooden table. the one passed down to me, with the drink rings, scratches and that one place i left the iron sit on for too long. i ate cheerios as i read, and drank pulp-less orange juice from a plastic cup splayed with my alma mater. i missed the pulp.

then i took my pilates mat outside. to our side porch. where the trees surround and our little white glider sits. there are still hooks in the ceiling where hanging baskets used to sway. and i laid my body down on the hot pink foam, and waited for the sun to come. and as i waited, i stretched. i moved. twisted. downward dogged. and i realized something:

the body knows. 

it just knows. how to move and free itself, work out those kinks and pops and aches. and yes, classes are wonderful, and there's certainly something to be said about the motivation of a group atmosphere. but there's also something about the way the sun bounces off an elm tree. the way the fading night swirls into the clouds. the way my thick blue socks felt against the pavement.

and the way i was reminded. of the beautiful, complex work of art that our bodies are. i vowed to get up early tomorrow morning, and do it all over again. yes. prayer, cheerios, and sunrise salutations. i think a girl could get used to this.

Monday, May 2, 2011

the most random weekend of my life

robert and i are festival folk. there's nothing i love more than a hot pavement, street vendors selling funnel cakes, and men on stilts. i also hold the belief that there are very few things in this world that can't be fixed with an orange fanta and a hot dog all the way. this weekend was the 25th annual mount olive pickle festival, about three hours from our town. robert and i made a weekend out of it, staying at roadside hotels and doing the most spontaneous things possible.

here's a little list of the weekend we like to dub our "weekend of random things."

1. the weekend began with our royal wedding feast. see post below. this was a spur-of-the-moment decision that turned out to be a beautiful memory.

2. we were originally slated to leave for the festival early saturday morning. on friday evening, on a blanket under the shade tree, robert turned to me and said, "why don't we leave tonight?" we ran inside, packed our bags, went by and told my family goodbye, stopped at the gas station for a frozen mocha, and reached mount olive at 12:30 a.m.

3. driving to see my dad's old high school, near the city. walking the same grass his cleats did. looking at the worn, unchanged football field and thinking about the boy he was before he was dad.

4. stuffing my face with nine dill pickles at the festival. the strawberry coconut hawaiian ice. the deep fried corn. the hot dog. every beautifully indulgent nugget of deliciousness. the hot sun beating down on our backs, the first introduction to summer's heat of the year.

5. driving to supper, then seeing a sign in front of a random church that read, "boy scout italian dinner! come inside and support the troop!" we swerved in, got out, and spent an hour eating homemade spaghetti and meat sauce in a fellowship hall, deep in conversation with two old ladies out supporting their grandsons.

6. walking around our old college campus, late at night. with all the students home for the weekend, it felt like we had the place to ourselves. we went inside all our old dorms, peered into the lounges and study halls that were once such a huge part of our lives, now serving the same purpose for other students, other faces and memories. we kissed in front of the library and thought about how life has changed. for the best, yes. but we still miss those late nights in the bookstacks, going down to the coffee shop every half hour for a pick-me-up.

there were a million other sweet, random things that happened. i am so thankful to have a fun-loving husband who doesn't think too hard about things, but goes on adventures with me. with him, we turned a two-hour festival into a weekend i will never forget, even if the first sunburn of the year made its way onto my unsuspecting shoulders.