Monday, January 30, 2012

a southern analogy: leroy's tractor

robert did some plumbing work last week for a man named leroy. and maybe it was robert's calm manner, or the fact that he just fixed his pipes, or that last week was unseasonably warm and bright, but leroy confided in robert. he sat and shared and told him about an incident.

leroy was pulling up a heavy root with his tractor one day when he pulled too hard. the entire machine toppled over and pinned him underneath. he was trapped until help came. as wheels spun and the engine roared. he emerged without one broken bone or scratch. he proclaims the greatness of our Father everywhere he goes now, praising Him for keeping him safe during those dreadful minutes. he talks to anyone who will listen, even plumbers.

and as robert was telling me this, i thought about all the weight crushing me, and i wondered how different my struggle really is from leroy's.

the tax information that keeps coming in the mail.
the school project due in april that is actually just one big, massive speech. that falls on my birthday.
the textbook reading.
pablo chewing his paws.
the technology exam guide collecting dust on my desk.
the dayplanner with scribbles on every single day.

we're all trapped under a tractor. we're all thrown occasionally. stuck in a rut as the tires rotate inches from our heads. there was one time i thought it would be funny to walk on a treadmill backward. i slipped and fell and was pinned against the wall with the belt still moving on my back. it was awful. and taught me that one should always move forward, and that things are designed to work in a specific way, for our good.

so we're all here together. pinned with weights on our shoulders. we don't know how big each person's tractor is. some are under tiny weedwackers. but some are under massive john deeres.

the analogy is cheesy. it's overused and a bit flat. but it's true.

this week, i resolve to be more like leroy. to trust that someone greater than me will pull me out of this rubble. this grave i've made for myself. we may not always emerge without scratches. sometimes we will bruise our own hearts. but the thing is, we will emerge. we do. because we're watched and cared for by someone who moves those boulders like they're tinker trucks. because it's not the weight of the burden that matters; it's the power of the lifter.

Friday, January 27, 2012

dear abby

i'm driving to virginia today to spend the weekend with one my closest friends.

the one i met my first night of college, when she poked her head into my dorm room to introduce herself. hours later, i wrapped up in a blanket, walked across the hall and talked with her into the night. the one who sat with me as i laid on my twin bed in misery, two days into a break-up with robert. who put up with my late night study sessions, my part-time job at the newspaper, and my penchant for extra-fizzy cheerwine that would spew across our futon. who sat in the dorm basement with me every monday as we dove into the Bible, and slipped notes of faith and encouragement under my door in our apartment.

who rode overnight with me to the beach in robert's van, with the music too loud, sleeping on the sand, and two years later, made the trek to my hometown to be there when robert proposed.

she stood up with me at our wedding and i'm beyond honored to stand at hers in march.

congratulations, abby. let the bachelorette weekend commence!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

today's blessing + a shameless plug

there are some times it hits me that this world is okay. it's usually when i'm perched on my kitchen counter in the dark clutching hot coffee while the sun rises around the field in front of the window.

sometimes, it's driving on the highway and a kind stranger lets me in his lane. or when a man in a business suit and porsche gets behind me and doesn't curse me with his eyes because i'm driving slow.

when pablo looks at me with a face that says, i don't care what you did today. i don't care who you ignored or didn't call back. who you were rude to or forgot about. that you promised yourself you'd read your bible at lunch and went out with the office instead. that you hurried off the phone with your mom on your way out the door this morning, and cut robert off when he called to check in. all i care about is you're here. you're here and home and you're good. to me, you are good.

today, it is my sister. driving across town to meet me in an hour. to sit in a cafe far from here and drink caramel coffee. looking into a face so like mine, but so different. spending time with her reminds me no matter how crazed life gets, i'm blessed because i know someone who is golden.

it's these little reminders that propel me along. that i collect and store until one day it rains too hard and the fog has a hard time lifting, and i need them. the good thing is, like His mercy, these blessings are new every morning, within reach. the important thing is grabbing them.

p.s. my sweet friend janette from janette the jongleur has nominated my little blog for a blogscar. as someone enthralled with everything hollywood, who made the trek to the independence theater across town last weekend to see the artist, i am beyond honored. the blogscars are the blogging oscars, and vintch is up for best blog and best writing. if you have a second, please cast your vote!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

tea-se me, please

here's the thing.

i don't much like hot tea.

i try. oh goodness knows, i try.

i have a cute little grandma who carries her own tea bags in her purse, ordering a cup of hot water at restaurants. i have a sweet, calm friend who wraps her hands around a warm mug of fruit-flavored tea during bible study. and then there's my peppy work friend who loves lemon zinger in the mornings.

i haven't honestly given it a fair shake, i don't think. i've had a little green tea, a little black tea, and this morning, when i felt a little sore throat washing over me (dang north carolina weather! hot/cold/hot/cold), i made a big cup of raspberry pomegranate tea.

i was born and raised in the south, and can drink anyone under the table with sweet tea. i want this ardor to carry over into the hot tea realm.

so please, please. share your tea experiences. your recommendations. they're calling for highs in the sixties today and cold rain showers by this weekend. i don't think this sickness is going away anytime soon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

a lesson from dolores: a meaningful life

"he just looked at me, on the stoop in front of his parents' house, and said, 'well, dolores. it looks like we're in love. you reckon we ought to get married?' and i said 'well lewis, i reckon so.'"

we sat side by side on her couch last night, our thighs touching as we embroidered. i've been coming to see robert's grandma twice week for four months now. and while she has almost completed an entire set of pillowcases, i'm still working on the same dresser scarf. but we gab. we sit. she feeds me yams and chew bread and banana pudding, green beans with corn and apple fritters. and as lewis sits in the recliner cracking walnuts, an hour or two passes. then, she pulls the curtains forward and hugs me close, breathing me in and telling me how much she enjoys our visits. i tell her the same.

i asked her about courting. about her favorite movie stars (clark gable) and where she met lewis (walgreens. he stepped on her foot.)

she sighed. "you know, life sure is meaningful."

and we talked some more. and i completed a few more back stitches. but that sentence stuck with me. for its simplicity. its honestly.

it's meaningful, what we're doing here.

every corporate memo you type.
every time you fix the paper jam in the office.
every time you stretch against the kitchen counter waiting for the coffee to drip.
every early morning and late night meal prepared against music.
every phone call you make to encourage, to check in.
every time you're tired and just want to eat cereal, take a bath and go to bed, but you swipe on the lipstick and go dancing anyway.
every time you eat cereal and take a bath and go to bed.
every handshake you give and nod or tilt of the head.
every time you sit on your bed in the middle of the afternoon and watch the sun dance across your quilt and think about when you were young, and your parents were invincible.
every time on your knees, in a group, in your car or under the covers, you whisper a prayer.
every time you look someone in the eye and say i really, really love you. 

they mean something. they are vital to your story. the story you build, shape, tear down and remold. until one day you find yourself in your eighties, sitting beside a woman you won't know until your children are older. i pray our stories are as colorful, detailed and bright. and sweet enough to stop someone mid-stitch.

Friday, January 20, 2012

phil dunphy, autotuned.

you guys.

i wanted to write something deep on here today. because in all honesty, today feels good. i've managed to keep my coffee warm in sub-freezing office temperatures and there is a sliver of sun dancing across my keyboard.

but all i want to do is watch this. robert and i were up until midnight rewinding the episode of this week's modern family. i found it to be one of the best ever. and i know it was met with controversy, because it included a child cursing (but not really. she was saying fudge in real life. anyway.)

that issue aside, can we all please enjoy the hilarity that is the phil dunphy autotune?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

i feel this way today

that is my problem with life, i rush through it, like i'm being chased. even things whose whole point is slowness, like drinking relaxing tea. when I drink relaxing tea i suck it down as if i'm in a contest for who can drink relaxing tea the quickest.

-miranda july
i want to live in miranda's world. everything she writes breaks my heart with its honesty.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

to be wild, or how i won 30 cents in atlantic city

i wore gray and black yesterday. a thrifted blouse with pretty pleats that, when the shoulder pads were removed (for the love of all things vintage, what purpose did shoulder pads ever serve?), was actually quite lovely.

and as i pulled my paper from the corporate printer, someone behind me said, oh, is this the week of gray and black? i looked down and yes. i was wearing the same combination. this time, zippered black pants about ten years old and a bejeweled gray top from express. the one i bought in high school. before our mall was bought out and slowly, one by one, the stores started packing up shop. express was one of the first to go.

it's safe, i suppose. the always handy, always pleasing, palette of gray. but then again, maybe i'm the safe one. you see the picture above? it's me in atlantic city. i gambled $2.00. i lost $1.70. i'm not cut out for the risk. the chance. (plus, the slot machines were very confusing, there were no instructions posted anywhere and all i did was press buttons.)

but what my co-worker didn't know is that i, too, can be a bit rebellious. but it might look different than most.

i feel wild when i wear a new bright lipstick. when i catch myself in the rearview at just the right moment in the afternoon and think, yes. that shade is yours.

when i forget that i'm tired, that it's been a long day, and that i have work in the morning, and go sit in a dark theater with robert. the one downtown without stadium seating, so you really can't see anyway. sliding my hand under his arm and just listening.

when i laugh uncontrollably at something that's not even that funny, and when i dance in the kitchen at twilight.
when i walk down our old country lane and look at pablo running headfirst into the breeze.
when the mail comes.
when the morning comes.
when the flannel is still warm from the dryer.

there are many things that bring me alive. that make me feel sunny. even if i choose wardrobe staples that are decidedly stormy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

scenes from a country cottage: kitchen edition

winter is finally easing out of its heavy boots. it's no longer dark now when i leave the office. when i make the drive home on my favorite backroads. past that little country store and hamburger joint. the little vinyl siding house with the white dog out front, the one who's always sniffing the begonias. that farmhouse tucked behind the woods, with the old white shutters and the ford truck for sale in the field.

when i make it back here, back to this place, there's a pocket of time, about 10 minutes, when it's just me. before robert and pablo bound through the door and the evening begins.

i prop myself up on this old kitchen counter. and watch the sun sink back into the ground. watch the sliver of light dance on the ceiling, then the cabinets, across my shins, then finally onto the metal sink, where it disappears down the drain.

this is my favorite room. my cocoon of sunshine. where i can stretch, still asleep, over coffee and look out onto the road as children on four-wheelers ride by at dusk. where my parents snuck in after our trip to new england. watering our plants and leaving love notes on our chalkboard.

there are old, framed hymns in the den. an engagement portrait in our bedroom. my favorite books stacked up against the toilet tank in the bathroom. little pieces of me, scattered between the bones of these walls. but my spirit is mostly poured into this kitchen. this place of meeting and feasting. of praying. holding hands and making messes. of calendars and photo magnets. cookie jars and coffee mugs.

of five-thirty reflections. of breath between afternoon and night. all from a countertop vantage point, the best view in the house.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

a mantra for today

do you have doubts about life? are you unsure if it is really worth the trouble? look at the sky: that is for you. look at each person's face as you pass them on the street: those faces are for you. and the street itself, and the ground under the street, and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you. they are as much for you as they are for other people. remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing. stand up and face the east. now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky. it's okay to be unsure. but praise, praise, praise.
-miranda july. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

a shore and a scarf

there are times when no matter how pretty the sunshine is, or how strong my coffee, i wish i were here. right now, the rays are beating through my window, pushing aside the blinds and splaying themselves across my keyboard, and i just want to be there. with the cold sand and lapping breeze. the promise of a cape cod sunset, captured by the shutter of my love.

but today is friday. the 13th. in north carolina.

and so i'll browse through my pictures and albums. that scrap of a massachusetts receipt in the back pocket of my purse. and remember. thumb through these memories. and pull out my dayplanner to make new ones.

(p.s. the day i bought a dayplanner was the day i knew i'd entered adulthood.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012


driving home from work yesterday, i realized something.

i've mistaken the lyrics to my favorite song. for six years now.

and it's not a huge difference. just a pronoun.

but it filled me with a profound sadness and slight case of mistaken identity. who am i if not the girl who knows every word to passing afternoon? who turns it on when the clouds hang low in the sky and the highway is gloomy with the sad stares of people going home?

suddenly, even the melodic hum of the radio and the spin of the tires beneath my wheels wasn't enough to comfort me, and i rode the rest of the way in silence.

for silence never betrays.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

blind as night that finds us all

is there anything more still than wheels on a black, empty highway? than streetlights and billboards dancing with energy, doing a silent rumba for weary late night travelers? like a shopping mall at closing time, or a grocery store in the wee hours of morning, where everyone, everywhere, has not yet charged to day-mode. i rumbled down I-40 on monday night with a coffee in the drink well and my arm against the robert.

we made our way down to raleigh only moments before the flood gates of rush hour let loose and a million sedans and pickups came barreling our way. we got there early, and ducked into one of our old college haunts, a little seafood shack at the farmer's market. but no one wants seafood on a cold, rainy monday in january. so it was deserted, save a few tired waitresses and an older gentleman waiting for his take-out order.

we drove around campus and looked at the buildings. oh remember when you would meet me there and we'd walk to class together? remember that time you brought me tacos in the middle of the day, and i left class and ate them in the hallway? remember that night we fought under those shade trees? and the morning we met there again to make amends?

it's a four-hour round trip to raleigh from our house. for my night classes. i skype typically, but i wanted to be there in person for our first class of the semester. and he went with me. just like he has before, and will again. because he's good and kind.

it was only when i got to my classroom door that i realized my class wasn't meeting until tuesday.

all that way for nothing.

but on the way home, we stopped for more coffee. and we played music into the heavy fog and made a list on the back of a post office receipt of all the trips we wanted to take this year. and somewhere between myrtle beach and the lake superior circle tour, i stopped and looked at him, hands on the steering wheel, mouth gaped open, laughing.

and i understood the purpose, the divine order, to our ill-planned trip.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

this ain't hollywood, this is a small town


there's something about a little diner. about sweet tea and chalkboard specials. about old men in overalls sitting, waiting for the sun rise. strong coffee. eggs with cheese.

but mostly, there's something about waking with your husband. piling into the car and driving in the cold morning (or is it still night?) air. running against the breeze into the warm shelter. sliding into the booth with rain on your jacket. holding hands across the table, right beside the sugar bowl.

our little hometown recently resurrected its diner. after sitting vacant for years, a sweet woman reopened it. and subsequently breathed life back into these roads. these people with red faces and calloused hands.

there's talk of a highway expansion in the future. about a new road pummeling through our dainty two-lane main street. but as long as there's little places like this, i have hope. in the goodness of people. the saltiness of bacon. the strength of will and vinyl siding. and the pride of a small town.

Monday, January 9, 2012

can't take him anywhere

last time we took pablo to the park, he spotted another dog. it went a little something like this:

oh, hi. would you look at that? another bichon.

oh wait, he's coming closer.

mama, he's coming CLOSER.

needless to say, we left. 

this weekend, it was in the high sixties and sunny in our little corner of north carolina. so we tried again.
we left early and excited, with the promise of a day spent by the water, under the shade trees.
but every other dog owner in the surrounding 99 counties must have had the same idea, and there were dogs, huge dogs, everywhere.
this time, pablo didn't even make it to the ground, content to stay in my arms. 
and not until we found a greenway where there were more walkers and bike riders than canines, did he his little heart still.

so maybe i have a sissy dog.
maybe he was in an abusive home for five years where he was picked on as the runt, until one evening in november we rescued him.
maybe he's more comfortable lounging on a microfiber sofa eating treats and receiving excellent belly rubs than running in the dog park. 
maybe (absolutely) he needs to be properly trained by cesar millan.
maybe i shouldn't have gently pushed him down the slide at that elementary school playground we passed.

but an extra half hour with my baby in my arms? if it's all right by him, it's all right by me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

love, actually

i blame the airport scene. the rush into arms. the rose bouquets.
i blame the hallmark store at my local mall, and every song john mayer wrote from 2003-2006.
i blame disney and laura ingalls wilder. and that scene in the field when zack and kelly finally married in the finale of saved by the bell.

i come from a romantic family. from a mom and dad who have date night every friday and still kiss across the kitchen table and behind the refrigerator. from a grandfather who kneels every night on her side of the bed, whispering and praying into the too-cold sheets, neatly made up to his left since that morning in april.

so i believe in the grandeur of it all. of valentines day. of kneeling before fountains and screaming her name into a crowd of pigeons in venice. in spelling out sentiments in rose petals and saving every prom corsage. in staying up late on the phone just to hear the breath of someone too far away.

but i also believe, i think we must believe, in the realism of love. in the day-in, day-out routine of it all. the ho-hum normalcy that starts in a little house and grows, plants itself in the walls, the kitchen countertops, the bed frames and the laundry basket. until one morning the sun hits the coffee pot just right and you realize you've made a home.

in going to bed at nine with just enough energy to meet in the middle for a quick kiss.

in grocery store spats and long car rides home in the dark.

in being okay with the fact that every meal is not going to be a candlelit course of free range chicken and organic field greens. most nights, it's probably going to be cereal on the porch.

in saturdays with no makeup, holding hands across the pew on sunday.

in bringing him the sports column in bed, and letting that be the most romantic thing you do.

in being okay with the idea that every day is not our wedding day. there will be days when i'm mad at you, and you at me. when i'm tired and your back hurts. when i can't see and you can't walk. when all there is to do is sit on the porch rocker and look onto the yard and we wonder where our youth ran off to.

no, we can't always be over the moon. our stars will fall back down to earth. and we'll breathe in the coppery dirt and plant ourselves in this ground. and we'll spend a lifetime and beyond building a beanstalk back up to heaven, reaching and sprouting in spurts along the way. but that's the glorious part of it, the growing and stretching.

i have a little challenge for you:

what's one word you'd use to describe real love? mine is: compromise.

leave it here in the comments or e-mail it {descriptions/pictures are welcome too:}

on valentines day, i'm going to do a little something special with the responses.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the front seat of the plumbing truck

 is this the more adult, less scandalous version of the backseat of the car?

either way, it's one of my favorite places to be. 
smashed to the edge of the seat among old  boxes of pipe fittings, wrenches and nails. the smell of rust. of robert's blue collar made real. 
and it's not steamy, or hot. and chick-fil-a at noon, with moms and children and men on their lunch break swarming around us, is not quite makeout mountain.

but the sunshine was beating down on the dashboard and robert's arm was around me and i had a gut full of combo #1. and i declare, it was quite romantic in its own little way.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

new {happy} year

last year this time, i sat in the bathtub and wrote a list of goals. they included: read one book a month. write a "thankful for" list at the end of each day. keep a day planner. take more walks.

but this year, all i want is one thing:

to wake up each morning and catch the sunrise.

to not let its beauty spray across the sky while i'm in the shower, or drying my hair. to not pull the yellow quilt over my eyes when the rays start peeking through the blinds in the bedroom. to bring my coffee outside with me and sit on the porch swing in the dark. just sit in the morning blackness. until the golden and pink and coral start crawling up from behind the trees.

i just want to catch it. and i think with that, i'll catch all those other wishes and resolutions. all those other desires of my heart just beyond my reach. i'll pull them in with the sunshine. and at night, send them back up into Heaven, to the great painter Himself, who will take them, mix them, and create with them another glorious morning.

to see my dreams in the dawn. and to chase them until nightfall. that is my wish for 2012.