Thursday, October 20, 2016

Playing Nice

Yesterday Roy actually got home on time from work. That is a rarity these days as his ability to leave is often dependent on whether or not heavy equipment can do its job. Things break down, or they have to wait on other companies' arrival...blah blah...and so his ability to get home by 5:00 is more often than not affected. It's all good--he "makes bank" when those things happen.

Anyway, I had to take Jace to Burleson and so Roy got home in time to play chauffeur. Now here is the thing with me: I am always happy for Roy to drive and then to tell him how to drive. Not too long ago Roy and I went out to eat with Tami and Chas. We always let the boys sit in the front seat as they talk a mile a minute (truthfully, Roy talks a mile a minute an Chas laughs at pretty much everything he says...) and Tami and I sit in the back and have our own conversation. For whatever reason on this particular trip, Roy decided to play me as Chas' backseat driver:

Don't you see those brake lights? This makes me crazy! Everyone else puts on the brakes and you put on the gas! (...throwing his hands up for effect and turning in his seat so that he can look at Chas in bewilderment...)


Chas! Slow down! You're gonna get a ticket!

Naturally he was overly dramatic and made me look far more obnoxious than I am (absolutely--most definitely)...but it was funny nonetheless.

Anyway, as we were riding to Burleson (because that is what this whole thing is about), Roy got a phone call from a guy named Robby who is one of his supervisors from work.

"Hey, Roy--just checking on you. Making sure everything was good today. You know, you can always call me. I'm here for you, buddy. Even if I'm home--I only live ten minutes from the job site and I'll be there. Just call."

"Wow," I said, once Roy hung up. "Is he always like that?"

"Everyone is like that," Roy said. "That's why I love my job. Those people? They know how to play nice."

We are, of course, in the midst of this crazy election. I. Am. Dumbfounded. Like, just makes me shake my head a little and consider not voting. I've always been a proponent of voting--one most take one's civil duty seriously and participate in what is one's right and one's responsibility as a citizen of this country. So for me to consider not voting? That's huge. I vote. Always.

And the truth is, I will vote this time as well.

But here is the thing:

People are crazy!

I am baffled at Facebook, at people's rants, at people's lack of tolerance. We are not playing nice in this election. It is like the candidates' lack of decency in many respects has given license to the public to just let it all hang out. We are bludgeoning each other with spiteful words.

Yesterday I hosted a luncheon in the cafeteria for women who are willing to volunteer at the university. All of these women are retired and give of their time just because...they're nice like that.

Recently we were coming home from Burleson. It was pitch black outside and as we rounded the corner on Old Betsy, we noticed a huge truck parked in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. Come to find out, a tiny kitten had made its way out into the middle of the highway and hunkered down, frightened. Seeing the kitten, this big guy blocked traffic while two teen boys rescued the kitten and took it home.

Recently I took Jace to the doctor--just a general practitioner. But this guy? He treats the patient as an individual. He got to know Jace, spent time with him, talked to him about who he is...and this doctor is treating Jace as Jace needs to be treated rather than by a book.

Human decency is still alive and well.

Sometimes I think we forget what life is about and we get muddled up in the drama.

Sometimes we just need to remember that life is a whole lot better when we all play nice.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Creamer

Yesterday I went to Sam's Club. I haven't been to Sam's Club since we lived in North Carolina. In Asheville, groceries were so overpriced that we shopped Sam's Club weekly as they have beautiful produce and buying in bulk cut our grocery bill.

Anyway, my purpose for being there was work-related. I am providing lunch today for a girls' bible study that meets weekly and I am also providing supper tomorrow evening for my Alumni Board. And so, I needed to pick up a few things for those events.

As I strolled the aisles, I couldn't help but pick up a few personal items as well that I can't always find at HEB--where I shop for groceries. For instance? Olive Garden salad dressing. When Roy came home and saw those bottles on the counter, his eyes lit up as he is a fan and we've gone months without it.

Secondly? Pumpkin spice creamer.

Let me just say, I love pumpkin spice creamer. It's amazing with chai tea, oatmeal, and coffee. Mm. It lights my world.

I have missed you, pumpkin spice creamer.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Queen of Chit Chat

I love personality tests. I'm not sure why, but they are one of my favorite things. And the thing is? They always end with the same diagnosis: I am what I am.

One of the questions that I encounter on these tests is how I feel in a crowd: do I seek out people I don't know, or do I seek those I do know. I always struggle with that question as, honestly, I am rarely in a crowd of people I don't know. I have envisioned myself as one of those who can talk to anyone; it doesn't matter whether I know them or not.

And then last night happened.

And I remembered.

Last night we had a Scholarship Dessert Reception for students who have been recipients of scholarships. The students and the donors came so that they could become acquainted and the donors could recognize what a difference their generosity makes in the lives of young people. The Advancement Team (of which I am a part of) was supposed to mill around and chat with the donors to make them feel welcome.

Easy peazy.

My first "stop" was with a guy from a motorcycle club. I thought--this will be easy. We can connect over motorcycles and the beautiful terrain of North Carolina and such.

And we did--we talked about Tail of the Dragon, and the Blue Ridge...we laughed for a minute about the wind in our face and the freedom one feels on the back of a bike.

And then things got awkward because...I really didn't know where to go from there! He looked at me expectantly...but I was at a loss. And so, I made up an excuse that escapes me at the moment and headed off for another victim of small talk.

The next guy that I spoke with was even harder for me as he was simply in a 3 piece suit and we had nothing to connect over.

And then I saw him: Chas. He was standing in the corner of the room, laughing with a co-worker. I quickly excused myself from yet another awkward conversation and planted myself beside Chas. "Ah--it's so good to see you! I don't have to make small talk with you!"

"Yeah," he laughed. "That's why I married Tami. She can talk forever and it takes the pressure off of me."

And that's when I remembered. I had a flashback of my childhood and sitting in the living room of my grandparents' home. Tami and Lori talked a mile a minute with them while I sat in a chair quietly and listened. I can remember thinking to myself, how is it they can talk about nothing for so long?? And then after awhile, I would sneak away and head upstairs to my pen and my paper where I created a world I much preferred over the one that actually existed.

The art of chit chat escaped me at a tender age.

When it comes to parties? I seek out those I know. That's my comfort zone. From here on, I will always know the answer to that question.

I am not the queen of chit chat.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

My Civic Duty

So this past week I did my civic duty: Jury duty.

And to be quite honest, after it was all over and done, I felt like I had just walked straight into the middle of the book To Kill a Mockingbird.

This is how it went down:

I arrived at the city hall here in Keene at 5:55 p.m. Monday evening. A large crowd had gathered on the lawn in front of city hall so I knew I was in the right place. Earlier, I had asked people if Keene actually had a court, and especially a court that required jurors from time to time. Nobody had ever heard of such a thing...clearly they were all misinformed.

I hung there on the lawn with several other people from Keene for the next hour. Occasionally a girl ran out to tell us not to be discouraged--we would be called in soon enough. It was 94 degrees, and most of us were standing there in the heat without water. know--no worries.

I noticed that one of the men was elderly and struggling to stay upright and so eventually I knocked on the door to see if I could get him a chair. I could see lots of people in the foyer of the building--just hanging there in the air conditioning, chatting it up and such. They looked at the door, talked quietly amongst themselves and then looked at the door again: should we answer it? should we not??

I knocked again.

Finally they took a chance that I wasn't a cold blooded killer and barely opened the door enough to just see my face through the crack: Can I help you?

"Umm...yeah--there's an elderly gentleman out here who needs a chair??"

And there are 50 of us that need some water maybe?

Anyway, they quickly obliged my request for a chair and as I offered it to the gentleman, he shouted, "Hallelujah" to the rooftops.

No. He really did.

And then we all waited some more.

Finally they called out 12 names...and I was one of them. And so they took us back to this little room in the back where we could see the judge, and an attorney, and an older man who was the defendant. The attorney explained that we had been summoned as jurors for the defendant who was contesting a traffic ticket. It was our job to determine whether he was guilty.

And then we were dismissed to wait again while they decided which 6 of us 12 would serve on the jury.

And so, we all shuffled out through a narrow hall and into a tiny waiting room that held a total of 4 chairs, where we huddled together and waited yet again...

And lucky me. I was one of the six.

So, back to the tiny courtroom I went. The defendant was probably in his late 60's, maybe even early 70's, and he was from the Good Ole Boys Club. You know...he had on his boots, his hat, his button down shirt, and his blue jeans.

The policeman was there as well.

And the video that showed the actual stop.

And so, the policeman told his story. It seemed like a basic traffic stop--nothing interesting nor exciting.

And then the defendant had his turn.

He began to tell his story, to attempt to find holes in the policeman's story, to prove all kinds of things that made me cock my head a bit...

He rearranged the room to show where certain cars were, where the policeman was ... (even though we had already seen the video)...

And then he questioned the policeman, and threw in a few accusations...

And finally, the attorney had enough, stood up, and shouted in frustration, "I. Declare. A. Mistrial!!"

He said it a few times, motioned with his hands for us to leave, apologized for wasting our time...and then shooed us out the door.

We dutifully left.


When we got back outside where we originally started from, I looked at one of the other jurors who had the privilege of serving with me, and said, "What was that all about??"

She just laughed and shook her head.

And then the defendant came out, his chest puffed out like he had just won the world championship, and he declared, "See? I was winning! That's why it was declared a mistrial! Because I was winning and they won't let me win!" He laughed uproariously while the girl hanging on his arm smiled up at him proudly.

He looked directly at me and said, "Don't you think I would have won?"

And I just stood there.

And then I didn't. I quickly turned around, headed to my car, and drove home.

I might have looked in my rear view mirror a couple of times to make sure he wasn't following me.

And I might have checked my phone to make sure that I wasn't In a time warp and that it was, in fact, 2016.


Who knew?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Shelling Peas

Yesterday was a long, slow day--one of those days that seems to go on forever, when one looks at the clock, thinking, "It's probably 5:00 by now!"...yet it's only 2. It was one of those kinds of days.

Those rarely happen anymore. It got me to thinking about what life used to be for adults before this new age happened--back when my grandma was alive. I can remember hanging out on the front porch of my Grandma Helen's country home and shelling peas, or sorting apricots that were picked from the tree out back and the afternoons seemed to lazily wind on and on. We sat out there for hours, my grandma sipping iced tea, and chatted about the weather, about the wheat crop, about the horses.

Grandma Helen lived way out in the country and we had to traverse dirt roads for miles to get to her house. Grandpa's health was failing most of my childhood years until his death when I was in high school; I only have one memory of him walking and that was when I was about 3 or 4 years old and I rode with him in the pickup down a country road, while one of his thoroughbreds ran beside us. Grandpa loved the race track and he and Grandma often had a horse they were training. During the summers, they would head off for Denver where they rented a bungalow and spent their days on the track. For our family vacations, we joined them for a week or so and I spent my afternoons walking the aisles of the barns and checking out the various horses behind stall doors.

Those were fun days.

People knew how to be present back then. They knew how to sit with their thoughts and let them brew for a bit rather than stuffing them down via email or texting or games on smart phones.

People knew how to be quiet.

Savana introduced me to a YouTube video recently called From the Amazon to the Garden State. It's about a man who researched the people of the Amazon and so he lived with them for awhile in order to really get a grasp on their culture. These people are far removed from our modern day ways as they live off the land and their lives are ones of simplicity and tradition. Anyway, this man fell in love with a girl from the Amazon and brought her home to New Jersey where together they had 3 children. I won't ruin the story in case anyone wants to watch this YouTube video. It's fascinating and thought provoking...but the one statement I took from the video is when this Amazon girl comes to America and notes how people pass strangers in the street with no acknowledgement, how people run to and fro, constantly busy...and she said, "People weren't made to live this way."

I have often wondered about that actually. It seems our lives are artificial: artificial air as we live in manufactured heat or manufactured cold; artificial light; artificial houses built of brick. And yet, knowledge has expanded greatly with our artificial lives.

I am not complaining. I'm happy with air conditioning and a comfortable home that keeps me safe from the elements. I love driving to see my parents and arriving in a matter of hours though they are hundreds of miles away. Our modern conveniences make life grand in many respects. But sometimes I wonder if we've lost our ability to enjoy life because we spend so much time filling it.

And so yesterday as I hung in my living room and the hours seemed to be passing slowly by, my first thought was, What should I do? I need to fill this time with something...

And that stopped me in my tracks.

I changed course and decided not to fill my time but, rather, to just sit with it for awhile, to be quiet for a minute, to just be.

And it made me wonder, did people's lives of yesteryear seem to last longer? Maybe their years were shorter in number, but longer in quality, in time well-spent.

Maybe their days were filled with moments lived rather than moments squandered.

Maybe I need to -
 ...put down my phone and look up.

Maybe I need to shell more peas on the front porch and talk about the weather.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nail Proof

Twice a year Keene has Trash Pick Up Day. This isn't the normal once a week gig where they empty the trash cans. This is the Bring Whatever Junk You Have to the Curb and We Will Dispose of It day.

Out behind our house is a large tin building that could be used for storage. We recently figured out that this tin building is actually the trailer to a semi minus the wheels and minus a back door. Then someone built a front to it, added some electricity, and there you go--a storage shed. Roy hates the front addition and intends to tear it down someday because it looks a bit tacky. But there was a problem with the trailer part of the shed, and that problem is this:

It was stockpiled with JUNK. And I do mean junk. It was just left there by one of the two previous owners--no idea who, and it really doesn't matter--but it was more than Roy could stand. All of that junk weighed on him. And so, when he heard about this Bring Whatever Junk You, he determined that he would use it to his gain and get rid of it all.

Which sounds great.

However, Roy has been working from morning 'til night with his job--literally. He leaves by 5:20 every morning and has not been getting home before 8:00. Once he is trained, life will slow down a bit but in the meantime, he is a busy boy. And so, by the time Roy pulled in Monday night (and the trash pick up was Tuesday), it was pitch black outside.

As we live outside of town, we have no street lights to guide the way; it's pure country out here. But of course, Roy was not deterred and so the three of us (Jace included) with flashlight in hand gingerly walked out to that tin building and scoped out the massive amounts of junk inside. And then we got to work.

While Roy worked the trailer, Jace and I stood outside with large black trash bags and stuffed what Roy threw out into the bags. It was hard work and it was disgusting. We all kept one eye open for a slithering rattlesnake or a scurrying mouse but, sigh of relief, it never happened. I'm not sure why as the inside of that trailer was a haven for such critters.

Anyway, Roy worked at lightning speeds and Jace and I struggled to keep up with him; and then it happened. Roy let out a yell and suddenly stopped, pulling up his foot.

"A nail just went through my foot," he said.

"You're kidding me," I replied, panicking a bit.

"I'm not kidding. I need your help."

And so, with Jace on one side and me on the other, we managed to help Roy hobble to his workshop where he sat down on a bucket and held up his work boot for me to inspect.

Sure enough.

I could see the head of a nail securely fastened to the bottom of his boot.

It was evident that Roy was managing the pain as he breathed purposefully in through his nose, out through his mouth, in a determined, repetitive fashion.

He instructed me where to find the pliers and then, after I brought them to him, he inched out the nail just a wee bit--enough to be able to grab it with the pliers.

"On my count, pull it out," he said. "Pull it straight out."

For the record? I am an English major. I like books, writing, candles, and sunsets.

I do not like blood, wounds, or nails in feet. Medical stuff makes me nauseous. One time, Roy had a procedure done on his back and, being the supportive wife that I am, I hung in the room while the doctor cut on Roy's back.

And I went down.

I sat down in time so that my head didn't flop on the floor...but sent me over the edge.

If you are having a medical emergency, I am not your girl.

And so, this nail in Roy's foot? It took everything in my being to stay in that shop, pliers in my hand, reaching for the nail, grabbing it, and then pulling. Straight out.

I would have preferred running straight out.

But I didn't.

I am the hero in this story.

I got the nail out, leaving a hole in Roy's foot. And we have no idea the last time he had a tetanus shot.


But no matter.

Because Roy is Roy? We went back out to that tin building and Roy went back to work. I yelled, and I complained, and I grumbled about the stupidity of it all as I was convinced Roy would get another nail in his foot...but he was determined. 35 very large black trash bags later, the tin building was empty and we threw as many of those bags into the little red pickup--and several on top of it--as was physically possible and drove them to the front of the house where we dumped them by the curb...

And then repeat.

Yesterday Roy went to work and mid-afternoon he sent me a text telling me how yet another nail plunged through his other boot while he was at work. This one, however, missed his foot.

Clearly Roy needs new boots.

I sent a text to Dr. Bob, our Doctor friend from North Carolina, asking for his thoughts on the matter, and he said, "Woman, get your husband a tetanus shot! Lockjaw might be good for you but not for him!"

Yeah. He's nice like that.

And so, after a bit of research, I learned that CVS provides immunizations, including tetanus shots, and so on the way home from work, Roy stopped by.


Roy's fellow inspectors told him about some boots that are nail-proof. I think we'll check those out.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Worth It

My cat is happy I am home. He is sitting on my lap and kneading my belly because it is squishy and he likes that.


I am home from an incredible weekend in Oklahoma--the home that forever holds my heart. When Roy and I first got married, I was so excited to begin our adventure in Colorado with the grandeur of the Rockies; in our later years, I adored Wisconsin; North Carolina was awe-inspiring. But? There is no place like home. On our way back yesterday, Tami said, "I would enjoy living in the mountains of North Carolina with its perfect weather."

I just smiled. Because I know...she wouldn't last long. She would be just like me--pining for the plains, longing for wide open sky and pickup trucks with trailers behind.

Our trip home was a fast one. We left at 1:00 Friday afternoon, stopping along the way to meet my precious Auntie Buggsy (Hi Muggs) whom I haven't seen in a few years, but now she only lives about an hour away. And then we zipped on to little Tommy-Town (Thomas), home to the Bulldogs and country roads with potholes to dodge and two big dips in the center of town with a "DIP" side beside them. Back in the day, Tami used to say to me, "Look, Vonda--they have a welcome sign for you!"

And back in the day, it made me angry and I would cross my arms, sullen.

Because I was 8.

My mom made scrumptious potato soup because she asked me what I wanted for supper and that is one of the dishes that is just so Mom. She used to tell me stories about how when she was growing up, the kids would pile in after milking the cows and Grandma would have a large pot of potato soup simmering on the stove. Clearly potato soup spelled home for Mom as well.

After we ate, we all (Mom, my sisters, and me) headed for the track up at the school and walked circles while gazing at the sky. The sun had gone down by the time we got there, leaving streaks of gold and hues of pink, and a large cloud loomed above us, creating a conversation piece as lightning sparked inside: What is the deal with that cloud?

It was a perfect evening.

I spent Saturday with Dad and Jo. They were part of their church "garage sale" and so I hung quite a lot with Dad on an ugly gold couch that probably haled from the '70's, as he joked and teased with passersby. He has a good buddy named Eddie Royalty that has been his friend since time began and Eddie and his wife Dorothy were there most of the time as well. They left occasionally to pop some popcorn that was passed out free of charge to those who came to the "garage sale." As we sat there on that ugly couch, Eddie reminded me of how when I was a little kid in elementary school, we would play dodge ball and I would hang in the very back corner for the entire game rather than getting up there in the front and participating.

No surprise there.

I was probably thinking, I would rather be reading a book...

Yeah. I was one of those.

After the garage sale, we headed to Clinton which is about 20 miles away or so for lunch and then the County Fair so that Jo could pick up all of her first place (and a few Champion) submissions. Jo is a master at crafting--her work is second to none. She and Laurie Worth would have a grand time chatting it up and comparing their pristine artwork that leaves me baffled. Because no matter how I try, my crafting looks like a kindergartner put it together.

Every single time.

While we were at the County Fair, a few ladies from Seiling, the little town where I grew up, walked in and we chatted with them for a bit. I haven't seen them since I was literally ten years old so that was fun and crazy and left me shaking my head at where does the time go.

Jo and I made cinnamon rolls that afternoon--24 large, gooey, pecan-filled rolls that burst in the oven. We smathered them with icing and then we all divulged ourselves, savoring every bite. And then felt miserable afterwards because that is just what we do.

We had a bit of excitement later in the afternoon when Dad, rifle in hand, went out on the four wheeler to shoot a road runner that was after the baby bunnies. Jo loves her bunnies that hop in her yard--that is more like park than a yard--and she guards them like a hawk. But Dad didn't have any success as the road runner hid behind the edge of the house and watched Dad ride slowly by; then the road runner took off the opposite direction when it was safe.

I watched it all from the window.

But that road runner better be careful. I'm betting his days are numbered.

Around 7, Tami and Lori came over and the house was filled with chatter and laughter and the smell of cinnamon...

It was perfect.

And when we hugged Jo and Dad goodbye, Dad said, "So. Was it worth it?"

Over that 24 hour period, I watched a king cab pickup truck hauling a beat up cattle trailer down the road.

I saw children playing in the street, their feet filthy, without a care in the world.

Cows lazily picked up their heads from grazing and watched as we drove on in the car.

I stood on the land that has been home to my family since 1927.

I ate at the table with my amazing mom on her best dishes.

I sat on Dad and Jo's couch, watching tv, and chatted with my precious Dad and Jo about nothing and everything.

I gazed at fields newly plowed from sewing seeds for next year's wheat crop.

Yes, Dad.

It was worth it.