Monday, April 30, 2012

i wanna grow something wild and unruly

yesterday, robert and i were walking out by the muscadines and we spotted a pretty little plot of land that would be just right for a vegetable garden. it's near the tree but not under it, so the shade distribution is great. there are gardens up and down our little country road and i just love seeing the little seedlings sprout their pretty faces up toward the carolina sky.

during the summer, when my cousin and i were little, my mama would always take a picture of us in front of the cornfields, measuring how tall we were against how tall the stalks were stretching. she would label the picture "children of the corn," which was kind of funny.

so to all you rooftop planters, you country farmers, you urban sowers, what are your best gardening tips? we're starting from vegetable transplants, as we haven't had too much luck with our baby peppers we started from seeds in little plastic cups. tonight, we're tilling the land. just a little 10x10 square. in hopes that the family of squirrels and renegade deer that prance around out back won't become privy to our little plans.

thank you!

Friday, April 27, 2012

a call for submissions: the blogger mixed tape project

i realized something driving home last night.

every moment that really means something in my life, those big guttural turning points, has a song attached to it. there's the first time i realized i could really love music (iron and wine, passing afternoon). my first kiss (the kings of swing, somewhere over the rainbow). the first time i saw the mountains jut up against the ocean (joni mitchell, california). the moment i stepped down from the alter and walked out the doors of my church a married woman (jackie deshannon, what the world needs now is love). that time in college i walked slowly away from robert on the brickyard, certain i'd lost the love of my life to jealousy and insecurity (daryl worley, i miss my friend).

but i didn't have a song for blogging, something that, in the past year and a half, has brought me so much unbridled, unapologetic joy. a turning point if there ever was such a thing.

i don't have a song yet, because it's not just me blogging.

it's me and you. you fellow bloggers. you readers. you (mom) who read my blog because you are sweet and love me. a community. a band of sisters and brothers and elders and youth.

so i had a grand idea last night, while folding laundry (where i do my very best thinking).

i want to start a little project on this little blog. let's call it the "blogger mixed tape project" shall we? 

here's how this will work:
1. in the comments to this post, leave me the name and artist of your favorite song. not just the song you are blasting in the radio right now (hello "somebody that i used to know"). but the song that for some reason, be it love or hurt or memory or an unspoken beast of emotion, is forever yours. if you want, share the story.

2. i'll leave this open until the end of may, and will refer to it often. please spread the word! tweet, link to this post, and share with your friends and fellow bloggers.

3. i will compile the songs and download them on itunes. if all goes according to plan, it will be more than one CD's worth. a collection, of sorts. like those box sets you can order off television, only better (much better, hopefully...)

4. on june 1, i'll host a giveaway on here. the winner (or winners...possibly) will win a free copy of the collection. i will also list the songs (and try to include a link on itunes) for anyone who wants to listen or download them.

this is my gift to you. my thank you thank you thank you for giving me a voice. listening to me. communicating with me on a daily basis. a collection of music from your fellow bloggers. the heart of your blogging community, all in one pretty package.

because sometimes, when i can't give language to the feeling in my spirit, when i can't assign an adjective to what i'm thinking about, i listen to music. and between the chords and melodies and scratchy voices of my favorite singers, i realize and release the breath.

of course, when i can find the words, i blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

waiting on the dove

and the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred an hundred and fifty days. (gen. 7: 24) 

after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. and the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of ararat. and the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen. (gen. 8: 3 - 5) 

i read this yesterday and stopped in my tracks. as i dove into the story of noah, i realized something i'd never before understood. 

after the rain stopped, the waters still rose.

there were still oceans of fury and seas of torrent. it was 150 days before they stopped and the ark came to a rest. before the jostling and rolling and slamming against rocks came to an end. all this time, i thought it was only forty days. not that that's any better. and even then, even when the sun peeked its meager head forward as if asking, is it okay now? can i come out?, all was not safe. there was another period of waiting. of sending a dove back and forth, back and forth, until one day he didn't come back and that's when they knew. the gate could be opened and they could walk on the dry land.

sometimes the hurts don't come in thunderstorms. they don't always wash over you and threaten to drown you in their weight. sometimes, they just toss you around a bit. a snap from a co-worker. a plan changed unexpectedly. a phone call that leaves you nervous and worried. yes, the waters often rise even when the rain has stopped. and what's hard is that sometimes its those little waves that hurt the most. those little nags that weave their way into your life without your consent.

my sweet nanno is still not home from the hospital. there are bills to pay and my cherry red desk isn't making them any prettier. i haven't had a deep sleep in days and my nights have been spent twisting and turning between rest and  prayer.

but there's a morning, too. if we just wait for the dove. the mountains have been there all along. we'll see their tops soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

scenes from a country cottage: meet the cast

gray clouds have shrouded our corner of carolina this week. but yesterday afternoon was different. there's a sweet sip of time before dusk when the sun dances across the back field. when my prayer tree stretches to meet the setting sun and the blades of green lean and fall, only to rise back up and sigh into the ground with each whisper of a breeze. meet the cast of characters that inhabit this little place!
1. Miss Geranium has been exceptionally lovely this week. she spent a few days in the laundry room for fear of frost, but the return of warm winds means she can display her blooms for all roadside onlookers.

2. late afternoon sun splayed across the shed.

3. muscadine vines and a dirt path. two of my favorite things.

4. ivy twisting itself around the back of the shed like no one's watching.

5. tools of the trade.

6. poor Mr. Clothesline lost one of his lines after a downpour last autumn. one day we'll replace them. nothing smells better than laundry from the line, and nothing makes me feel sweeter than hanging it up there.

7. one of my favorite little apple trees. all bony and bare.

8. oh hi Mr. Strawberry Plant! too bad your berries are really small and odd looking. you're still fun though.

9. Miss Azalea fights for her last breath of spring.

10. Mr. and Mrs. Myers ham it up before a symphony concert.

it's not a huge cast, but we're a pretty tight bunch. living out our days and evenings on this little plot of land. between the church and my childhood home. building a life where the green grass grows.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

this morning i realized


at bible study last week, when we went around the room and listed each person's gifts, i teared up before i began to speak. all i could muster was, you are a miracle worker. you make all my phone calls. every single one. what i meant to say, now that the time and space and emotions of last week have cleared, was your gift is whatever it's called when a man wakes up at four in the morning because his wife has an early meeting at work and discovered a bug in the mixing bowl and simply can't go through with the remainder of her a.m. activities until it is squashed. 

when you drug your sleepy self into the bright-as-day kitchen, your soft white t-shirt twisted around your torso, it hit me that you are innately gifted in that sense. and that i love you all the more for it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

waiting for one day

i have an old leather journal my friend brought back from italy my senior year of high school.

i wrote john mayer lyrics in it at first, then sonnets from that shakespeare class i took my first year of college. when the dogwoods were enchanting and every walk to that old brick building was pretty. then, somewhere in that span of time after college and before now, i wrote a quote along the lines of "everything will be okay in the end. if it isn't okay, it isn't the end." i thought it was the sweetest thought. such optimism!

but as i was making the bed yesterday morning, i thought about that. waiting for the end. waiting until that day when it's all okay. when i don't stammer or when my grandfather isn't sick anymore. holding out for a change in course, a veer to the right that will straighten out to a direct path of delightfulness. not death, mind you. just a moment when that challenge is over. a sunny weekend morning when nothing is on our plate or hanging over our shoulders.

but what about the in-between? the moments of struggle and perseverance. the late nights and early morning prayers. the search. those are beautiful too and they might slip by if we discount them as time spent reaching toward the "end." the time when we can rest. collapse into an overstuffed arm chair, content. i spent so much time last night wrapping up my homework so i could relax. so i could sit on the couch and watch my strange addiction and veg out for a minute.

i worked so hard it was almost midnight before i looked up. or rather, looked down. pablo had been lying on the hard wood floor with a toy in his mouth the entire time. waiting to play. i reached down to pick up the little stuffed elephant and threw it across the hall, yelling fetch. the tired pup just dragged his sleepy self to bed.

it's okay now. it's gorgeous now. and if it's not, time will reveal that maybe the hard part was the beautiful part of it, after all. chalk it up to my impatience and inability to wait, but this isn't one-day. it's monday and it's waiting on me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

or just a stirring in my soul, who knows?

 first: thank you all for the sweet birthday wishes and prayers for my presentation. i  have never in my entire life felt the Spirit so tangibly. i was a bundle of nerves the entire day...up until the moment they called my name to present. a heavenly calm washed over me and i spoke clearer than ever. so really, thank you for rallying. now, the story:


this was it--the next big milestone. that next leap after 21 and before 30. john mayer called it a "quarter life crisis" and even though i can't say i agree with much that john says these days, i kind of like that sentiment.

but what does a quarter life crisis look like? it's not a mid-life one, with a cherry red convertible and boyfriend half my age. it's not a sweet sixteen meltdown with a tiara slipping down my forehead.

rather, this much resembles a quiet unfolding of self. of coming into my own, finally, for better or for worse. for example, i figured out on monday how i like my coffee. with the tiniest splash of cream and one sugar. i know exactly how may degrees left and right i need to turn the rusty metal knobs of the bathtub faucet to reach my perfect soaking temperature. i've come to understand that i really do need something on my feet at all times or i will catch a cold. that i have my mama's back and my grandma's knees.

i've learned i really just need a hot mug of coffee and maybe some pretty words, and that can be enough for the morning. that i simply don't care for rascal flatts. or the road. that i have a conscience the size of texas and can't even tell a fib on april fool's day. that i cry at the drop of a pin and wear out my emotions like the old bob dylan record on my shelf.

it's not much. no oprah moment. more of a slow exhale, an ah.......ha. so this is me. this is courtney. well, welcome girl.

with every catching of my reflection, i'm reminded there's a universe there. a world of favorites. of dislikes. of preferences.

and really, it's more of a metamorphosis. a jellyfish expanding and contracting in the sea. looking inward, facing outward, looking backward, moving forward.

a step and a leap. a fist and a palm.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


 today is the day i give the biggest speech of my life. today is the day i slay those demons.

oh, and today is my birthday!

lots of big things.

back tomorrow with a more thoughtful post! in the meantime, prayers please.

Monday, April 16, 2012

how to work when it's lovely outside: a three-step process

when the sunshine is hitting the little shed just right and there's a sweet breeze ruffling the azalea around, i don't want to be inside. not even a little bit. so yesterday, when the paper i put off all weekend finally beckoned me to work, i had to think of an alternative. and while i'm a huge advocate for keeping the sabbath holy and not doing any work, i hardly considered this work. i played a little laura marling and sat out there, a few feet from the clothesline. oh, and i wrote a few paragraphs.

my transformation, in a series of three easy steps:

step one: find an old well cover. preferably one near a hydrangea bush and under some pretty oaks.
step two: cover it with a pretty, thick blanket.
step three: run inside and get some sweet tea, your papers and your laptop. find a shady spot with just the right amount of sunshine (*disclaimer: these pictures appear extra sunny. it was actually quite shady and my laptop did not get too hot)

and there you have it. a little way to make work not quite so...workish.

Friday, April 13, 2012

two things. one is happy, the other is hopeful.

today is friday. and there's a little sliver of sunshine dancing on the bushes outside my office window. it's a precious reminder that though there are storm clouds above the oaks, there is hope. i gave a presentation last night, in a big city two hours away. i got up to the podium and for all my practice, special ear device and big deep guttural  breaths, i completely bombed. i felt my face flush and my stomach sink to my ankles as about twenty eyes watched me stammer.

i cried all the way home as robert championed my ability to fight my fears. to stand defenseless in a room full of lions. i didn't do as i wished. as i planned or hoped. but i did it. i stuttered my way through an eighteen minute humiliation. i left to a room full of crickets.

i sank into the bathtub at one in the morning and hugged my knees to my chest. i read somewhere that when lady gaga gets lonely or sad, she rubs her feet together. one day, she said she rubbed all day. holding my knees to my chest in an old ceramic tub full of hot water is my similar defense mechanism. that and a good sob. i got  both.

but as robert reminded me on the ride home, i have a sweet life. i have a family and a little plot of land and a warm home. a pup whose heart bursts when i walk into the door.

and i have sweet, beautiful friends who lift me up to unimaginable heights. one such friend is diana. in talking to diana over the blogosphere, her heart for christ and for others is immediately transparent. not only do we share a favorite movie (the last kiss), her blog is so well written and she challenges me and her readers to love like Jesus. to be thoughtful and considerate and celebratory of the little moments.

diana has sweetly featured me on her blog today. go on over and check it out.

and do have a beautiful weekend, xoxoxo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

in defense of lipstick

 for two weeks in march, i didn't wear lipstick.

this may seem trivial to some, but for a girl who relishes in that morning swipe of color, it was...different.

i did it because i read an article in an old allure magazine while sitting in the doctor's office for my second unsuccessful visit to curb my unflinching cold. it was the "guys tell all" article, riddled with countless statistics on what men find attractive, ugly, hot and just plain ridiculous.

a vast majority of them disliked bright lipstick. they found it distracting. messy. bold.

i let the insults linger there, then considered the deep shade of ruby on my lips. did my doctor find it distracting? what did my husband really think? was it too bold for the office? i questioned every bright color i'd ever purchased (always with great excitement). my little red change purse, my arsenal of lip products, stayed in the deep abyss of  my oversized pocketbook. i went to the bathroom and dabbed lightly at the crevices of my mouth.

but i realized something. a little nugget of truth that made me reach for my favorite shade of fuchsia this morning, when the world was asleep and i was puttering around in my robe.

it doesn't matter what they think. it's easy to say, but to digest it took a bit of time. i don't wear it for anyone but myself. because it makes me feel pretty. like my mama. it reminds me of a time when women wore tights and high-waisted skirts and put up their hair in pin curls. it's the working girl's best friend. a way to wake up a face filled with stress, deadlines and no sleep.

and my husband has yet to complain, which makes me think he must be in the 40% of men who like it, or simply don't give a rats tail what's on a woman's lips as long as they are on him, or pursed into a compliment.

so fill those lines with a pretty plum. wear that big red hair bow, those platform heels, that blouse with a million ruffles. do it for you. and if someone happens to like it along the way, well then that's all well and good. but if they don't? then just consider the source and saunter away. and wear it that much brighter next time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

again, and then again.

lying there last night, with the pin oak making a shadow against the blinds, i spoke to you of our first month together. the first date. first kiss. then of the other months. the hard times in college. that time we stayed up arguing across the city limits and highway lines until two in the morning. we laughed and said we're glad that was over.

you rolled over and fell asleep and i turned toward the window to pray.

before i did, a thought came to me. clear as the night sky watching over the blueberry bush behind the shed.

i would do it again. all of it. me and you. i'd play it back in slow motion, feasting on the moments, catching something new each time. a smile i missed. something you whispered. a touch of your arm on my back when i was turned away.

i'd live it again. if it meant falling asleep on a monday at midnight, with a pup between us and the comforter hot against our knees, i would. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

regrets of the dying: a nurse's perspective

over the weekend, i read this interesting blog post.

the essay is written by bronnie ware, a former palliative care nurse. during her time in this position, bronnie had a chance to speak with many patients who were facing the end of this beautiful life. they often voiced their regrets. things they wished they had a few days, months or lifetimes to correct.

the post details the reasons behind the regrets, but here is a summary: 
1. i wish i had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. i wish i didn't work so hard.
3. i wish i'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. i wish i'd stayed in touch with my friends
5. i wish that i had let myself be happier

man. my gut fell to my knees. because i am young. and in many aspects, just starting. i'm still a rent-paying, stay-up-late because i can, take-a-roadtrip-down-the-pacific-coast-highway-whenever-i-get-the-fancy newlywed trapped in the chasm between student and worker, teenager and adult. it's hard to think about my plans for this weekend, much less my long-term plans for life.

but i can relate to almost all of these five regrets. already.

this summer will be the summer of staying outside longer. feeling dirt under my nails and playing in the grass. closing the laptop. doing more of the things i did before i discovered facebook, and the wonders of computers in general. when all i knew about the bulky machine on our office desktop was how to access microsoft encarta to look up information for school papers.

when i called my friends daily, and played with them often. when i cried deeply and laughed without sound.

i'm headed back there again, if that place still exists. even if it doesn't, i'm determined to recreate it. to live again in my world of exploration. so when i reach the end of it, i can tell God, in the same way erma bombeck did: i used everything you gave me. every single day was used. every day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

does he still feel the nails

if you were to walk up those carpeted steps, sliding your hands up the old oak banister, you would turn left and enter my old bedroom. if this were any year  before 2005, you would find my little twin bed pushed up against the wall, a few feet from my sister's. under the rectangular window that faced into the woods and overlooked the swing set.

you'd see a life-sized cardboard cutout of tom cruise from jerry maguire. an old mauve vase with twigs from that big pin oak on the shelf above my bed. five of my favorite books. short, poignant reads like the old man and the sea and of mice and men. the bible. a framed picture from the first family gathering i attended with robert.

if you sat on my bed, flattening the old white comforter lined with pink flowers, you could see our old desk. the one mama and dad lugged up the steps and assembled before i can remember. where i sat and played oregon trail with my very first grade school boyfriend. where my sister still stays up and completes her college assignments.

it's one of those good, solid office depot desks from the mid-nineties. with a million little compartments and drawers that tend to come off their hinges if you pull too hard. inside one of those crevices, i placed a little statue i received in high school.

it's no taller than a coffee mug. just two pieces of hardware intersecting themselves on a wooden platform.

with a caption: "does he still feel the nails, every time i fail?"

taken from an old ray boltz song, the statue reminded me, and still reminds me, of the importance of good friday. of what happened, and how indebted i am.

i love easter weekend, probably more than any other.

because yes, there were nails. but more than the piercing and the beating, there was also love. and i know He still feels that too. above all else.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

life lately, according to my outdated flip phone

i always love those gorgeous instagram collages that bloggers post of their daily lives. the ones where the light's hitting the coffee cup swirl just right and the flowers are a vibrant shade of purple. but alas, i am still carrying around my old flip phone circa 2005. the one i've dropped in water too many times to count (i have a special cup of rice labeled "cell phone" just for this purpose.)

so these will have to do. i'm noticing a trend, are you? i'm like one of those mamas who carries around pictures of her babies on a long, dingy plastic wallet foldout.

don't laugh. i have one of those too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

a winning essay: a mother who knows

i wrote this essay in the bathtub one night in january. when it was dark and cold, with the clipboard against my knees. i submitted it the next morning to the piedmont wildlife center writing contest, held two cities away, with a little scanned picture of me in the local diner. last saturday, march marched itself right out the door, april quick on its heels with the good news that i won. this essay is currently featured on the center's web site and will be in their e-newsletter as well.

the prompt was to write about a facet of nature in your area of the piedmont. immediately, i knew what i'd say.

I come from a family highly adept in the art of the hand-me-down. The reuse. The refurbish. From a mama who took a single yard of deep plum-colored fabric and somehow, through that magic combination of inherent creativity and late-night frustration, used it to create Halloween costumes for my two siblings every year—a gypsy head wrap one October, a witch’s cape the next. So I understood, that cool morning in September, when I saw her head to the alcove behind our house, our old, splintered picnic table in one hand, daddy’s gloved palm in the other. I watched from the kitchen as they pulled apart and destroyed the pigeon gray wood, then carefully nailed its pieces together. Slowly, a box took shape—an oblong rectangle no deeper than a sink, held up on makeshift posts driven deep into the Carolina clay. They told me it was a deer feeder, and ran out the door to buy feed, supplementing it with the renegade corncobs that littered our back field. 

A clandestine crowd of deer steadily trickled to us. Tucked behind the pines that bordered our property like the beginning of a jigsaw puzzle, the alcove was hidden. It was safe. My brother, sister and I would watch, mouths gaped open and breath tightly bated, careful to be the most quiet versions of ourselves. We were a couple of spies in the living room, peering in on one of the most sacred, intimate acts of nature—that of feeding, the exchange of nourishment, the primal instinct of sustaining. Then, as lightly as they came, we would watch as the deer, sometimes up to seven or eight at a time, would trot back into the maze of the woods.
As it has a habit of doing, time marched. Before long, my car was in the driveway, blocking the view of the feeder from the house. A few years later, my sister’s car, then my brother’s, was parked. Soon, it took going outside, around the vehicles, the basketball goal, and the lamppost, before the feeder came into view.

One rainy night when I was away in college, a downpour came and washed the feeder, weak with decay and time and the imprints of grubby hands, onto the mud, where it crumbled to pieces, putting up no more of a fight than a warm cookie caving in a glass of milk. The wind took the wood in different directions, onto our field and front yard. A few landed in the trees. There were some pieces never recovered, that just caught the tail of the rain and rinsed into the ground. 

Because some things are singular and special and meant to be savored only for a season, Mama didn’t replace the feeder. The alcove sits empty now, save for a few rogue weeds that unfailingly tilt their heads toward the sun every summer. I go home now to visit and the irony hangs pregnant in the air. Now my car is gone, and my sister’s. In August, my brother’s will take him away to college and the driveway will sit empty, the view to the woods once again restored.

The deer still come, now. They weave playfully between the trees and prance properly across the field when they think no one’s looking. Sometimes, one will stand out in the open, looking not exactly at anything, but not away from it either. And they are still fed. In its old age, the field has become more generous, and every season we find more and more corncobs scattered between the tall, green ears. Its Earth’s sort of compensation, I suppose, an amends for its furious rainfall that destroyed our old picnic table. Because that’s the beautiful thing about nature. It is cyclical. Each element building upon and accommodating for the other. Building up and tearing own. Bearing and burying. Riding in the ebb and the flow, always ready for the tide. 

Because it too has a mother skilled in renewal.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

the power of a good walk, and a good dog

yesterday, we took off from our little cottage and walked toward my parents' house. we met mama and my sweet sister halfway and walked the rest of the way with them. we took my favorite route. the one past the pastures and little brick cottages that line our joining roads. it was peaceful and reminded me that there is more to this life than work. more than bills and tests and papers and stress. there is earth and grass and a sunset. that's what's important.

then, alas, pablo woke up with an ear infection this morning. my sweet boy. one vet visit and ridiculously overpriced bottle of ointment later, he's on his way to recovery. i've never seen a more adorable sick pup. (he looks immensely sick in this picture, but it's just the sun in his eyes. all is well on the pablo front:)

*update on nanno: thank you from my entire family for your prayers. the doctors now think he's just got a nasty case of pneumonia, not congestive heart failure as they originally thought. still not the best prognosis, but a little more sunshine than we've had.


Monday, April 2, 2012

scenes from a country cottage: wedding flowers and a prayer request

one benefit of being in weddings for two sweet friends on back-to-back weekends is the beautiful flower arrangements i get to take home. they are little reminders of love scattered throughout the rooms of our little cottage, bringing vibrant color to this early spring washed in green.

see that little yellow rose in the last picture? tonight i'll be taking that up to the hospital to sit beside nanno's bed. you guys have prayed for nanno in the past, lifting him up and sending him words of love and encouragement. he's back in the hospital now with what appears to be congestive heart failure.

i dropped my mixing bowl of banana bread and rushed to follow the ambulance yesterday as it sped past our yard. my heart sank when i realized it stopped in front of his house. he's a good and kind and honest man, and we're not quite ready to share him with heaven yet.

this blogging community is beautiful for its shared space of hope. so thank you for hoping along with us.