Friday, August 26, 2016

No Stone Left Unturned

When we began the process of figuring out where we were moving, I sent up a silent plea: Please let there be a neighbor Jace's age that can hang at our house, that Jace can hang at his house, that will offer friendship and laughter...

And then we moved to Keene. When we were at the rental, I scanned the neighborhood for boys in the 14 year old range with no success. And then when we moved to our new home, I assumed the same: no neighborhood boys close by. The neighbors next to us have small grandchildren that must visit fairly regularly as a plastic car that a child sits in and pushes with their feet hangs on the porch. The people across the street live in a home that sits back  a ways from the road and we have never seen them so I assumed they don't have kids either. But? Keene is a small community. If one has a bike, one can ride across town in a matter of minutes. Jace just needed to make some Keene friends and all would be well.

Last night Roy burned trash...again...as he does every night now that we've begun the "moving in" process. And so, I pulled up the bench that hangs out in front of his shop and sat with him while he kept the fire burning. The sky is everywhere out there in the back by the shop and one can't help but just look up. And so I did. It was a quiet evening and the smoke from the fire lazily curled up to the sky as Roy and I talked about everything and yet nothing at all.

The truth of it is, I should have been inside unpacking boxes. I should have been straightening up the mantel over the fireplace and finding a more appropriate home for that really cool owl I purchased from Pier One and the old fashioned phone and the bowl with stripes that I painted at Claying Around and the unopened box that sits up there that I still don't know what's inside. In the past, I have shifted into beast-mode when it comes to unpacking my house. "Two weeks" from start to pictures hung on the wall has always been the flashing goal in my mind that I determinedly hit. But this time? Well, this time an 8-5 job beckons every morning and by evening, I'm toast. And so, last night I unpacked only one box and then headed outside.

I had something on my mind that I wanted to contemplate, something that made me stop in awe. And here is why...

When I got home from work yesterday, Jace ran outside to meet me. "Mom," he said as I got out of the car.

I heard his voice but wasn't sure where his voice was coming from and so I peeked through the fence into the backyard. Roy was mowing out back so I assumed he was there too.

"Mom," he said again. And this time I turned, saw him standing on the sidewalk towards the front of the house.

I couldn't help but laugh at myself. Sometimes, I make me wonder...

"Guess what," Jace said.

"What."

"That house across the street?" Jace pointed to the house that sits back a bit from the road--the one that houses a family we've really never seen. "I made a friend today at school and he lives right there. And Mom, guess what. We're a lot alike."

I just stood there, speechless.

Because honestly, I have no words. Everything...everything...that I prayed for has fallen into place.

No stone has been left unturned.

In October 2016? I made a silent plea.

And now I am living the answer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Where the Heart Is

We are officially moved into our new home. This past Friday, Roy spent several hours with the help of four muscled-boys and a 40 foot U-Haul bringing loads from the rental to our new home. They are only about 3 miles apart; however, one has to traverse several stop signs and 20 mph speed limits each jaunt, making the distance feel much further than it actually is.

Meanwhile, while the guys loaded up the house one truck-full at a time, I worked on the "lived in" part of the house: the bathrooms, the closets, the kitchen. We had only unpacked essentials and so Roy and I decided that would be the game plan rather than officially "re-boxing" everything for the boys to load. I had about 5 smaller boxes that I loaded up, hauled out to the trunk of the car, drove to our new home, popped the truck, carried in those boxes, and unloaded them in the appropriate place.

Repeat. A few hundred times.

We started at 9:30 in the morning (as that is when we got back with the U-Haul) and finished well past sundown. Three of the boys stopped around 7:00 that evening, but one of them--Sean-- stayed until the bitter end. Sean was "our kid" for four years at Sunnydale and that is one loyal boy. Roy is "Coach" to him, and Sean would go to the ends of the earth to help him. He's that sort of guy and we are so grateful.

It was a long, hard day. And when we finally laid out heads down on our mattress that night, Roy sighed and said, "It sure feels good to be horizontal."

(That's his infamous line after a hard day's work.)

And so, we have spent the weekend unpacking and organizing and rearranging and shifting and considering. We have gotten up early and gone to bed late. Roy's "to-do" list is monstrous. My educated guess is that it will take him approximately 22.5 years to accomplish it all; however, he says it will all be done by Christmas.

All bets are on; I'll probably lose.

We've turned into country folk. We have two burn barrels with metal grates over them out in the back by the shop that Roy has burning most of the day as otherwise we have too much trash for our big blue trash cans that the city picks up every Tuesday. And when I sit on the back porch in my rocking chair? I look out at property that is mine and I watch the sky ablaze with shades of gold and pink and hues of blue that make me gaze in wonder. Though our house is on the edge of town, once you pull into the driveway, you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere.

It's quiet. It's cozy.

It's home.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Rat Race

We were supposed to close on our house this coming Monday.

...and then it became Wednesday...

...and now? Well, who knows.

Here is the fact of the matter in Texas: the housing market is hot. As a result? Appraisals are backed up a forever and so people aren't able to close when they are scheduled to close.

We are caught up in that rat race.

I am not a lover of the rat race. It makes me think of city living and 5:00 traffic and buildings that reach to the sky. The term "rat race" reminds me of apartments and concrete and 3 piece suits. I am more of an open sky sort of girl. I like things simple. I like country roads and small town post offices and one stop light that blinks in the middle of town.

When Roy and I were chasing dreams, I envisioned moving to Alaska. That sounded like a piece of heaven to me simply because it was remote and visions of crisply fallen snow twinkled in my mind. But then we moved to California instead. And that's where we experienced the rat race firsthand as we lived in the heart of Loma Linda where borders blend with San Bernardino on one side and Redlands on the other. We drove the I-10 freeway daily and practically hugged our neighbors on all sides when we exited the car. But of course my sister Lori and her family lived there as well as Jacque and so life was filled with good things such as family and deep friendships and lots of laughter in the midst of tears as that was where Ciara was born. But our California adventure was fleeting as we pulled up stakes after a mere three years and headed for the red skies of New Mexico.

But that's another story.

Sometimes I feel frantic when I think about the fact that we should be moving into our home on Monday and yet we're not. Rage threatens to bubble deep in my chest at the annoyance of it all.

Moving is not for the feint of heart. To be honest, I am ready to be settled. I have had enough of this moving adventure. It is a rat race and I am over it. That's the truth. I am ready ...
   ,,,for an unpacked house
   ...for a kitchen where I can find my glass bowls so that I can provide grapes for the alumni board on our monthly Thursday meeting
   ...for flickering candles on Friday nights
   ...for a bed that has decorative pillows on it rather than just a haphazardly thrown sheet as Texas nights are warm
   ,,,for the view out my kitchen window at the house we are buying
   ...for hanging on my back porch in the rocking chairs we purchased at Target several years ago that are still going strong
   ...for my television hanging in the living room that I rarely watch but nonetheless it's there for the taking
   ...for pictures on my wall that cause me to pause and smile.

I have dreams of normal living.

Just yesterday Jace and I had a conversation about his school day. It's a bit longer here in Texas than it was in North Carolina. He gets out at 3:40 rather than 3:15 and he was bemoaning that fact to me. "Jace," I said, exasperated after going 'round and 'round with him over this issue, "you can't control it, so just accept it!"

"I don't even know what that means," he huffed.

"Just let it go," I said. "You know, look at it differently because there's nothing you can do about it. Choose happiness over misery."

Sometimes I give great advice to my kids. But when I need to apply it to myself? I just want to tell me to shut up. (My kids might agree...)

Because here's the thing: I can't control the closing of our house. I have zero ability to knock on the appraiser's door and demand the report that is holding us up.

Right now my cats are chasing a hair band. They are having the time of their lives throwing it up in the air, batting at it, and then nabbing it as though their lives depend on it...utterly carefree. They are totally unaware that their lives are about ready to change once again because they are living in the moment. Folks? My cats know how to live in joy.

And so, I am taking a deep breath this morning. I am focusing on the fact that it is Friday and an entire weekend with Darian stretches before me before she heads off to Southern. We are going to head to the duck pond this evening and feed the ducks stale bread while they quack at us and follow us around like we are heroes. And most likely Chas, Tami and their kids will join us while we walk the pond's perimeter, talking and laughing the entire way. We will stop and gaze up at the sky as it unfolds around us in a dazzling display of grandeur.

I can't control the future. But I can control how I handle the present. And so, today I am committing to...

...taking a deep breath
...basking in the wonders of my life
...finding joy in the midst of the rat race.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Falling Like Rain

It is early Monday morning and I have a crazy week in front of me:

This afternoon? We are hosting an alumni photo shoot from 4-6; at 6:30, we are taking the Alumni board members to dinner at Olive Garden.

Tomorrow is my anniversary. 29 years. Though I will work all day, I will spend the evening celebrating with my best friend who has my heart forever.

Wednesday I am flying out with my boss and good friend Tami Condon to ASI in Phoenix where we will man a booth together until Sunday when we will fly home. Over the course of that event, we are hosting an Alumni get-together at Old Spaghetti Factory. Here's hoping that it's attended by more than just me.

My life has catapulted into busy.

Sometimes I have to stop and pinch myself. Is this for real? I stand amazed that, first of all, I'm even here, and secondly, how I got here. I feel like I've watched miracles fall like rain around me.

One time, a few months ago, Jacque said to me, "If our eyes were open, we'd see miracles every day."

I was skeptical.

Not anymore.

One of these days I will write it all down, outline the miracles that have happened to get us where we are today. Sometimes, especially in the evenings, I grow frustrated with the fact that we are still living in the midst of boxes. No--really. Our house is very unpacked with the exception of the kitchen which is functional (at best). But then I have to stop myself, and remember that this is only temporary; that the life I envisioned a year ago is just around the bend. And that is enough for me to snap out of it, to find that sense of calm deep inside of myself...

The journey is almost over.

One piece of our miracle story started 44 years ago when a man dropped two little girls, ages 3 and 5, on the doorstep of Roy's parents' home. He was a friend of a friend and he claimed that he and his wife were having marital struggles and they needed someone to just watch their little girls for a couple of days. Would they be willing?

And of course Madeline and Floyd said they would be happy to keep those baby girls and so they swooped them up in their arms and carried them inside, wide eyed and fearful. And then they loved them. They cleaned them up, brushed their hair, took them to town and bought them toys and clothes, and 2 days turned to 2 weeks turned to 2 months and just kept on turning. This was, of course, in the days before computers and Madeline and Floyd had no idea where these little girls came from. All they knew is that they had been deserted and they loved them as their own.

But one day, 18 months later, a police officer knocked on their door and explained how the father of these little girls had kidnapped them from their mom and then fled to Mexico, leaving them abandoned at a home where there was no way for the mom to find them. And so, Gina and Lisa were taken away from Floyd and Madeline and the security and love that these little girls had blossomed in and gave them back to their mom who lived in Dallas. But Floyd and Madeline weren't willing to let them go so easily as these girls had wound their way into their hearts. So from then on, Gina and Lisa were flown down to Port Isabel every summer, every Christmas, every vacation. They were an integral part of the family.

When I first met Roy back in 1987, he introduced me to his sisters, Gina and Lisa--all grown up by this time, of course. Gina and I are about the same age and she has a heart of gold.

When Madeline found out she had cancer, Roy and I immediately flew down to see her. At the same time, Gina and her husband Eric drove down so that Gina could spend time with her during her last days. A few days later, Roy and I flew home. But Gina? She was there until the very end.

When Roy and I found out we were moving to Keene, I called Gina as she lives about half an hour away from Keene to let her know we were moving back. Just as we were hanging up, Gina said, "Does Roy have a job?"

And I explained that he would be subcontracting for Home Depot and Lowe's. She said, "Well, if he's interested in being a highway inspector, let me know. Eric's company is hiring and Eric could at least get him an interview."

And so I sent a resume and a few days after we arrived in Keene, Roy had an interview with Lamb Star.

And now, though Roy doesn't have an official starting date, Roy will be a highway inspector, making more money and and having more benefits than he did after 30 years of teaching. They will even give him a truck and everything that goes with that, as well as other perks.

We have a brand new life.

About a year ago or so, I sat in my living room in North Carolina and I prayed that God would bring us home. It wasn't that life was bad in North Carolina...it was just that I missed my family; I missed home. After 29 years of a boarding school campus, I was ready for normalcy. I craved my own home; I was ready for a change. I had no idea how that would  or even could happen...but it was the prayer of my heart and it housed my deepest desire.

And now? Well now I stand amazed.

Now I am watching miracles fall like rain around me.



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Grateful

This weekend was my first alumni event:

Oklahoma Campmeeting at Wewoka Woods.

I grew up on the campgrounds of Wewoka Woods. Some of my best memories took place on that land. I played the role of girls' counselor and worked bathrooms at camp meetings for more summers than I can count...

 ...riding horses,
 ...zipping over trails on the 4-wheeler,
 ...lazily riding in a canoe on the lake,
 ...lying on my back on the dam, gazing up at a million flickering stars overhead at night.

As we turned into the entrance of camp on Friday evening, it was like a kaleidoscope of emotion and memories rose up to greet me and that reminiscent feeling of anticipation blossomed in my chest.

 ...oh yeah...I remember you...

Camp hasn't changed much. The lodge got a makeover but the inside is still the same. I didn't see anyone I knew that is my age. All of my friends that are still in Oklahoma have moved on in their lives and Oklahoma Campmeeting is no longer a priority. I missed them.

I missed Jeff and Mark with all of their obnoxious comments and infectious laughter.

I missed Julie and her stories of her latest escapades.

I missed Tricia and her mom, Beverly, and reminiscing about the ridiculous things I did and said when I was in high school.

But I did see some of the teachers from Parkview, where I attended high school. And I saw Alfreda, a precious little lady whom I worked with my senior year at the ABC. Occasionally, she would say, "Vonda, why don't you go to Braum's and get both of us a malt? My treat." And off I would go, delighted.

And I saw Lavelle, the cutest little lady, and her husband Keith. These two played a key role in my life when I was a teen--I adored them and they took good care of me.

Both of my sisters and my mom were at Campmeeting. In fact, we stayed in a motel together on Friday night.

And we laughed. A lot.

On Saturday afternoon, Tami Condon and I rolled up our sleeves and served watermelon to a crowd of about 300. We had others who were helping, of course, but by the time we were finished, we were sticky and sweaty and laughing and grateful.

   Grateful to be alive.

   Grateful for a job that is all about service.

   Grateful for being surrounded by such happy faces, by joy.

Afterwards, we headed off into the sunset for Keene. The ride home wasn't quite as boisterous as the ride to Campmeeting. I drove and Tami C. sat in the passenger seat, a captive audience to my many questions. Tami heralds from Andrews University where she changed the game of Alumni Director, building a program that had little alumni involvement to one that is thriving and alive. To be working with such an incredible girl? Ah. My heart is full.

And so, my first event was a raging success. Not because I did anything spectacular--as I really just showed up. But...

...seeing people I love
...meeting new people whom I will see again next summer
...working side by side with a girl who is my friend
...living in the midst of this moment of joy

Pretty much? That's what life is about.

I'm not sure how I got so lucky to be where I am in life right now. But one thing I am sure of and that is this:

I am grateful.

“i thank You God for most this amazing” by e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings
1894-1962

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Straight Lines and Clear Spaces

When I was packing up to move, I realized that I have a whole lot of lotions. Hand lotion, body creme, lighter lotions that smooth on quickly, heavier lotions that take longer to seep into your skin...if it's a lotion? Pretty much I had it.

Candles? Same story. I had a shelf crammed full of candles with every scent in the book. Some of them I had never lit--or barely lit as they were practically new.

My closet was crammed full of clothes that I might wear someday. You know, the green sweater that is out of date but really comfortable...that sort of thing.

Clearly I have bought into the mantra, more is better.

I chose to get rid of a lot of stuff this go-round. In fact, I was rather impressed with how little I moved in regards to stuff. I chose my favorite lotion and got rid of the rest. I pared down my closet to only the clothes that I have worn in the past year. I chose my favorite two candles and let the rest go.

I simplified.

I love straight lines and clear spaces. I am not a girl of clutter. I find it distracting, annoying. I can't focus when papers with uneven edges or an array of junk mail is on the counter.

This morning, Roy took off for his first day of work. I got up early--5:15--and made him breakfast before he headed out the door with his sonic cup filled to the brim with ice cold water. He got in the pickup and did his usual routine of straightening everything, making sure his ducks are in a row. I stood outside on the front step and watched him...and then I looked up at the sky. It was gray out--just before the sun peeked over the horizon, and gray clouds swirled up ahead.

"I wonder if it's going to rain..." I said out loud, but he probably didn't hear me as he busily prepared for his drive.

I felt kind of like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she looks outside at the impending storm...it kind of had that feeling in the air.

And then Roy drove away and, the wind whipping my hair, I came back inside to an empty house. And here I am--just me, my iPad, and 2 cats lazily lying on boxes and looking at me with disinterested eyes.

There are no straight lines and empty spaces in this rental. In fact, in front of me are rows of unopened boxes and furniture wrapped in plastic. We've lived this way now for about two weeks. It's like camping, only not nearly as fun.

This adventure has been like none other. It has been filled with unknowns and with anxiety and anticipation. And now that we are here, it has been worth every minute.

But last night? Last night I felt the impending storm swirling inside me, anxiety welling up. My brain was spinning with the all-consuming process of buying a house and all of the what-ifs that come with that. My work day was in overload mode as Rachel is leaving and I need to be a sponge, soaking in all of her knowledge before her last day on Friday. But my brain? Pretty much mush right now.

I am tired of the boxes. And yet...those boxes? They are a symbol that so much is just around the corner.

One month from today we will be (hopefully) in our new home and the boxes will be discarded.

One month from today I will better understand Razor's Edge (the database we use in the Advancement Office).

One month from today I will be one month closer to the life I choose.

And so, I am taking deep breaths. Each day is a stepping stone to the life I am envisioning.

Last April when my life was filled with chaos and I genuinely had no idea where we would land, I would think, "One year from today, I will have the answer." And that would calm my spirit, give me peace. Because, I may not know now...but I would know then...and that meant there is hope.

There's always hope.

And so, the clutter and scattered lines of my life are beginning to settle.

The gray clouds are breaking up.

Straight lines and clear spaces are just around the corner.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Wide Open Sky

I've always been a lover of Mexican food.

When I used to visit Dad during the high school years, we would always go out to eat at the same Mexican restaurant pretty much every week. At least, in my memory. I loved it.

Chips and salsa? All day long.

When Roy and I started dating, he took me to Jose's on a regular basis. A little restaurant in Cleburne, it far surpassed Thursday Mexican at the university.

When we moved to Colorado? Jose Muldoon's.

And so it continues. When we were in North Carolina, we visited Papa's and Beer pretty much every week during my lunch hour and I looked forward to the next visit starting the minute I left it the day we ate out each week.

And now we're back in Texas, land of the Mexican food. On every corner? A different Mexican food restaurant. Roy tells everyone it's my mission to try each Mexican food restaurant within a 50 mile radius so that I can determine which one is my favorite.

That may prove difficult as they're all pretty darned good.

Tami and I have started walking during the evenings. That's a good thing because at the rate I'm going, I may be rolling my way around.

No. Really.

A couple of evenings ago, Tami and I took off for our jaunt and Chas decided to join. And so, the three of us sped our way down country roads, talking a mile a minute. The sun was just starting to go down in the west and the evening hours were a tad bit cooler than high afternoon. You know--95 degrees instead of the 98 degrees of high noon. Anyway, as we rounded a corner, I looked up and there it was:



When we first interviewed at North Carolina six years ago, I was stunned by its beauty. Talking to Ed Pelto who picked us up from the airport, I said, I can't believe you live in the midst of so much beauty. I don't think I would ever leave if we lived here...

Ed said, "Actually, I find it a little suffocating. I never see the sun rise or the sun set because the mountains hide the sun once it is beyond them."

And he was right.

Now don't get me wrong. The beauty of Asheville is second to none. There is good reason it's on the "Top Ten Places to Live in the USA" every single year. But I am an Oklahoma girl and sunrises and sunsets? They're in my blood.

Moving to Texas has been an adventure. Each day I wake up anticipating what's next. I know life will settle soon and we will figure out the new normal, but right now we are in the midst of creating. You know--where we buy groceries (HEB is a little piece of paradise--I've never seen such cheap, beautiful produce in my life!), who will cut my hair, is there a vet in town?, where am I going to get flea meds for my pets, which local theater is my fave, who has the best ice cream (you know--important stuff like that)...


And so, life today is wide open. Whether it be my favorite Mexican restaurant or the color I am going to paint my walls or when to schedule exercise into my day (because I'm thinking positively), or the kinds of flowers I will plant around those trees in the front yard, or ...all I see?

Wide open sky.