Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shards of Glass

I am in the throes of preparation for Homecoming weekend, happening April 6-9. My life is consumed with lists and checking each item off one by one. I'm pretty sure that for every item I check off, I add an additional 17. It's never-ending. I don't have enough time in my day, enough hands, enough of me.

My desk is a giant pile of papers, scattered and strewn from one side to the other. I barely have time for lunch and I have even forgotten to eat a couple of times.

What??! That hasn't happened since I was 21!

When Roy and I were newly married and I went to school at the University of Northern Colorado, we lived on pocket change. Roy's salary amounted to about $17000, if I remember correctly, and we barely had enough left over for groceries at the end of the month. I can remember one time that Roy wanted to buy an $8 tool, and we sat in the parking lot, discussing whether we should wait another month to purchase it.

But I will say, I think every married couple should start out like that. It didn't hurt us one bit.

But my point was, I never bought a lunch -- I would simply wait until I got home from school to eat. But sometimes when I got home, I simply forgot...

And then later I would think, I don't feel so good...

Oh yeah. I think I forgot to eat.

Roy often made fun of me for this strange phenomenon. I mean really...who forgets to eat? I certainly don't.

One time my sister Lori was visiting and she went to school with me. Now I will say-- the three of us girls were all created from the same mold. Food wasn't an issue for any of us when we were young. (I have solved this issue.) And so she happily obliged my daily routine of going all day without lunch and then eating once I got home. But by the time we got home? We were starving.

Hangry.

We quickly worked together to make Chicken Rotel -- a spicy concoction comprised of cream of mushroom soup, chicken, onions, tortillas, and topped with a can of Rotel tomatoes. It's comfort food at its best. I threw it in a glass dish and popped it in the oven.

And we waited, stomachs growling.

By the time I pulled it out an hour later, we thought we were going to die of starvation...

We both eyed it hungrily as I grasped it with my oven mitts and pulled it out of the oven....

....and promptly dropped it, sending it crashing to the tile floor and shattering.

But no worries...we simply scooped it up and ate it anyway.

Yeah. We did that.

Glass and all.

It was delicious.

For the record, I haven't forgotten to eat in well over twenty years.

I. Love. Food.

I don't anticipate it happening again in the near future...though if it does, I shall rejoice.

Meanwhile, I am headed back to the office today...back to my desk laden with papers, back to my lists that continue to grow exponentially, back to my dreams of comfort food (minus the shards of glass).

Friday, March 17, 2017

Chatt Adventures Part 1

I flew to Chattanooga on Monday afternoon for an alumni event the following Tuesday evening. It was a fast trip as I flew back early Wednesday morning, but it was a beautiful thing to spend some time with Darianna. She had just gotten back that morning in from a whirlwind trip from Europe where she toured Norway, Scotland and England, so we had much to talk about. We spent many hours hanging in the motel or in her apartment perusing photos on her computer.

It was fabulous.

But I have two crazy stories that I want to share. I probably shouldn't. They definitely aren't my best stories...but they are...well, they are just so me.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had lunch with a dear friend and then rushed to Walmart for some chocolate for my event. While there, I decided to pick up a few groceries for Darian as a surprise. And so, I wandered the aisles, found some things that would go together and create a few different meals, and checked out. By the time I left Walmart, it was hazy out and very cold. I popped the trunk and began to empty the bags of groceries into the car when Roy called. And so, with the phone clutched to my ear with my shoulder and the thoughts running through my head that I needed to hurry so that I could catch Darian (who was heading back to the motel from class), I quickly slammed the trunk shut, gave the cart a hefty shove so that it would roll back into the cart cage, and jumped into the car -- talking to Roy the entire time.

Walmart is just across the street from the motel; however, one has to go through two stoplights to get there. And so, I made my way back and pulled into a parking spot just as Darian pulled in beside me with DJ, her boy. I was excited to see DJ as I haven't seen him for several months, and so, with the intention of getting out to hug him, I reached for my purse to slip my phone inside....

WHERE. IS. MY. PURSE!!!!

I frantically looked in the backseat...not there.

And then I froze.

I left it in the cart.

I rolled down the window, my head spinning, and shouted, "Get in the car! I left my purse at Walmart!"

And so, DJ and Darian ran like two crazies out of the little red pickup and dashed in the car while I threw it into gear and sped off.

My head was spinning, like it was going to burst at any given moment.

Oh my word.

My wallet. My credit cards. My driver's license. How am I going to get home tomorrow??!! I need my ID to fly!

"Maybe it's still there," Darian said encouragingly.

Walmart. Like seriously. Have you SEEN the people at Walmart?? There is an internet site devoted to posting pictures of the people who shop at Walmart.

And then we arrived in the parking lot. I knew exactly where I'd left the cart and so I drove that direction, my eyes zoomed in on the carts, hoping to see a glimpse of blue and white stripes.

Nothing.

We got closer.

Still nothing.

My heart sank. I was stuck in Chattanooga forever.

Darian and DJ leaped out of the car, Darian throwing out the words, "It's not over yet, Mom. Maybe someone turned it in."

Right.

This is Walmart.

While they went inside, I scoured the parking lot. Maybe I didn't remember correctly where I'd left the cart. The parking lot is quite large...

But...no success. And then I saw them -- Darian and DJ -- walking out of Walmart with my purse held high over their heads, giving the thumbs up sign.

Ah...sweet success.

I get to go home after all.

Turns out one of their employees who is in a wheel chair spied my purse in the cart and rolled out to save the day. "That thing is heavy," he told the kids when he handed it over. "I don't know what she has in there."

You know...just my wallet, a few odds and ends, the kitchen sink...

Thank you, Mr. Walmart Man.

You are my hero.

(Stay tuned for the second story...it's even -- well, more of me...coming right up.)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

All Day Long

I grew up in a neighborhood filled with kids For whatever reason, on summer nights we often gathered at the King's house next door and played games. My favorite was Kick the Can. As fireflies flickered and the sun bid its nightly farewell, we would run, shadows dancing, across the back yard to the shed, or behind the doghouse, and listen intently for the designated "It" to yell, "Ready or not, here I come!" And then we would would crouch down in the intense silence that followed, waiting. Once we knew we'd been spied, off we ran, squealing in the darkness, in search of the "can" -- usually a plastic milk container -- in hopes of kicking it before "It." We played for hours -- long after the sun went down -- laughing and hiding and chasing and running. And when we tired of the game, we split into two teams and played basketball in Mike's driveway, his dad often joining. One time the ball went amiss and hit me on the side of the head -- BOOM. I careened to the side, whiplash to my head, and Bob (Mike's dad) caught me. "You ok?" He asked, his arm holding me up from crashing to the ground.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I said. But I wasn't. Once the game resumed, I slipped off into the dark night and headed for home. But of course...it was a minor blunder.

When my kids and their cousins were in those early elementary years, they loved Piggy Wants a Signal. They played for hours. In winter months, we took the kids to the gymnasium where they ran and squealed and hid. Sometimes, when school wasn't in session, they played in the boys' dorm. All of the hallways and bathrooms on different floors created a haven for hours of play.
Of course, by the time Jace was old enough to really play without giving himself away...(you know, typical 3 year old: I'm here!! Do you see me??), the kids were in high school and the game was wearing thin. They kindly appeased him on occasion and we'd trek down to the gym there in North Carolina for a few rounds of Piggy. But it wasn't nearly as engaging as when the older cousins were 10 and 12 years old.

I sadly resigned myself to the reality that Jace would never fully experience the joys of a rousing game of hide 'n seek.

Jace was devastated to move to Texas. He sulked the entire ride, bemoaning the loss of his childhood friend Zach. Those boys ran the Pisgah campus together, jumping on the trampoline or sliding down the water slide they created in the Bradley's backyard. They had many adventures and though they didn't go to school together, Jace loved his buddy. Asheville was home -- he loved the mountains, the snow of winter, trails outside our house.

I encouraged him daily. "It will be ok, Jace. It's okay to be sad but someday you will be happy again. I promise. You'll make friends."

But he didn't believe me. The landscape of Texas is a desert in comparison to Asheville. The heat can be unbearable in the late days of August. And so in those early days of moving, Jace struggled. He sighed a lot; hung his head; slept. I feared depression was beckoning as those early teen years can be difficult under normal circumstances, much less when a major move is thrown in the mix. Furthermore, he had no friends to run with, to game with, to call. He spent hours skyping Gavin, his school buddy from Pisgah, in the evenings, and he often asked me about living in Asheville when he grew up. "Do you think I could afford it?" Or he would tell me about the weather. "It's so hot here, Mom. It's only 80 degrees in Asheville."

I worried about my son.

And then we moved to our home and he met Raymond, the boy across the street. By Christmas, he made another friend that dropped by our house on occasion: Anson. And then they just kept coming.

William and Leo and Austin and Bing and Emmanuel and Quincy...

We have a crew now that visits regularly. And I feed them. My cupboards are stocked with easy to prepare meals that will feed hungry boys and not break the bank. And these boys? They. Are. Precious. They are kind and funny and respectful and wholesome.

They blow me away with their goodness.

And they play. They play basketball and soccer for hours. Outside. In the driveway. In the yard.

But a couple of evenings ago, I was pretty sure my heart was filled to the brim and flowing over when I was cleaning the kitchen and heard laughter and squeals coming from outside. After a bit, I opened the door to peek out and see what was going on. And there they were, running and squealing and hiding and chasing.

Quincy was tucked into the corner of our entranceway, his body a straight line in order to be as small as possible. "What are you boys playing?" I asked furtively.

"Your property is a perfect place for hide 'n seek, Ma'am," Quincy grinned.

Yes it is, Quincy. Yes it is.

You come back tomorrow and we'll have burritos for dinner and you can chase all you want.

All day long.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Even Me

Sometimes I am bitter.

Sometimes when I lay in bed at night, my thoughts run wild and dig up old hurts and old grudges and painful things from my past.

And then, I shake my head as though to shake the thoughts away.

But then sometimes in the early mornings when Roy has left for work and I am once again entertained by the conversations in my head, I return to the bitterness. And once in awhile, I engage in conversations with those who have hurt me, stung me with betrayal, rejected me.

It's painful.

I have managed to work myself into quite a state frustration in these times over hurts that are, sometimes years old, and yet--clearly run deep. These rivers of pain have dug deep channels in the crevices of my brain and in quiet moments I easily slide down the slippery banks and coast on its ripples.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not prone to depression and I am quite sure nobody would dare to think that these dark thoughts plague me at times. I do well at putting on a happy face. But, like everyone, I wear a mask that disguises my truth: I have pain. Deep pain.

We all do.

And so this past week I have focused on it. I have tried to get to the root of it, unbury the pain and really feel it, so that I can put it behind me once and for all. I am tired of the same conversations with the same people that go nowhere. Because really...I will never have them. I will keep smiling in their presence, keep pretending...

And in the midst of my journaling and such that I do when I am trying to get on top of my own feelings I realized that I have forgotten one of my pillars of truth:

Compassion.

Everyone does the best they can with what they have.

Somehow when I say that phrase and put their face behind it, the pain is eased. It doesn't change the rejection or the betrayal...but it does change the way I see it.

Suddenly words take on different meanings and spiteful actions become less about me and more about them.

And I have found that, at least for the moment, I can let go. I can breathe. I can feel joy again.

Life is such a tangled web. My life is beautiful right now. My kids are thriving. Roy loves his job. I work with great people and enjoy what I do from 8-5 each day. My home is on a beautiful piece of property and within the year my sister will be my neighbor. My world is filled with laughter and great books and quiet evenings. The view from my porch beholds sunsets of blazoned skies and frolicking pets.

And yet...my thoughts betray me and create a world of angst. I know we all suffer from it. All that I have to do is turn on the news and shake my head at the divide in our country right now. Or scroll through Facebook. Or read the headlines. Or have a heart to heart with a dear friend.

We all carry pain.

Choosing happiness is a bandaid that works for awhile...but it doesn't clean the slate.

I have a friend who has a deep wound in her heart. When she thinks of it, tears well and she immediately changes the subject. "You need to go there," I have said more times than I can count. "You need to allow yourself to feel the pain so that you can move beyond it."

But that pain? It's just so painful. And sometimes it takes courage to stare it in the face.

But when we do...when we finally allow ourselves to feel its angry surge, to bask in it for a moment and allow it to wash over us like a cleansing flood, we are able to finally see with new eyes.

And then we can choose a new way, a better way.

A compassionate way.

Because if we choose to believe that everyone does the best they can, even those that hurt us...well, it allows us to breathe.

Because everyone means...even me.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Maybe Forever

We have an old metal storage building out in the back. It's actually the trailer from a semi and when we moved here, it will filled to the brim with trash. In typical Roy-style, it is now clean and organized with gardening tools hanging on its walls. But behind this storage building? It's a wreck.

I don't think I can adequately describe what this area looked like. It has a tree growing wild back there with limbs intertwined and interspersed with bushes that are scattered and woven together in a heap that grows almost as tall as the building itself. And in this web of brush are two large barrels, barbed wire, old fencing, trash. It was overwhelming to look at it.

Where does one begin?

Yesterday Roy got home early and so he went to town on that pile. That boy? He knows how to work. And so by the time I got home, we walked together to see his progress. He pointed out the spot he has designed for our fire pit which he plans to build in the next couple of weeks. He has already been gathering his supplies and intends to buy the bricks this weekend. We passed the heap of tree branches that Roy spent hours and hours pruning off trees while Jace and I dragged them to the back and piled them up into a stack that reaches far over our heads. And then we turned the corner to see this barren space behind the storage building that used to be that overwhelming brush pile.

Except for the sprawling, wild tree and one lone blue barrel, it was all gone. Hauled out.

"What's up with the barrel?" I asked.

Roy explained that it is filled with some form of liquid and he just isn't sure what to do with it quite yet. I am sure he will figure it out in record time.

Roy does not know the art of procrastination. I, however, am an expert. I have tried to educate him, help him out a little in that department, but he is a poor student and set in his ways of getting things done.

It's a problem.

Further behind the shed, we have an entire acre of brush and intertwined trees and vines growing in disarray. As I looked at this spot that Roy cleared out in an afternoon, the thought came to me that he may very well determine to clear out this acre next. Any sort of disorder goes against the grain for Roy and he just can't help but dig in and create order from chaos. It is deeply engrained in his nature.

(I don't have this problem either.)

And so, as we stood there, looking at this empty space, I realized that I am not interested in clearing out that acre behind the house. I rather like this unruly habitat. It grows wild and free and tangled. That means no yard work, no fertilizing, no mowing.

That means more me time. You know...hanging on my porch, lazily throwing the ball for Piper and gazing out at the sinking sun; watching another episode of Game of Thrones; reading the next book on my "Fiction to Read" list...you get the idea.

And so, I cautiously approached the subject: We aren't in any hurry to clear the back acre, right?

"I have other things on my list first," Roy said.

I nodded in appreciation. "I'm thinking that back acre can wait for retirement," I said, heading back to the house. I didn't give him a chance to respond.

And if he did, the wind whisked his response away.

The sun is rising now and the shades are open on my window. As I peak outside, I can see the back acre in the distance. It looks a bit haunting this morning as it is hazy out. But nevertheless, I like the view.

I vote to keep it this way for a few more years.

Maybe forever.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Worth the Sacrifice

Yesterday was the Groundbreaking ceremony at the University for our new nursing/administration building that is slated to be finished by the fall of 2018. I was in charge of the refreshments.

And so, Missy (one of the girls who works in our office) and I headed over to the rain-soaked meadow to set up. We hauled bottled water and huge tins of cookies shaped like shovels lying in a pile of dirt (crushed oreos) with a few sprigs of grass sprinkled throughout (fennel). And then we set up tables and wrestled tablecloths against the unruly wind.

It was a quick ceremony and before the hour was up, we were packing it all back into my car and heading back to the office. As we walked inside those doors, Dean said, "That was a great event. It takes a team."

Sure enough. It takes a team.

I am so grateful for my Advancement team. They are good peeps. We work hard and fast and we have pulled off a crazy number of events for our short time together.

I also visited the doctor yesterday. His name is Dr. McDavid Mahaffey and he is sincerely the best doctor I have ever had. He genuinely cares for his patients and works to get to know them, to provide options, to treat the patient. He asked about Jace, and he cracked some goofy jokes. Normally I hate going to the doctor. It's one of those -- let's get out of there as quickly as possible -- duties. But I don't ever mind going to Dr. Mahaffey' office because his entire staff makes the experience pleasant. They're friendly, kind people. I love their team.

This week I have touched base with several friends across the country -- friends who are so dear to my heart. Precious people. I skyped with Tammy for a minute. We rarely talk, honestly. But when we do, it's golden. Sweet Kayla sent me an email out of the blue so we caught up and that was all kinds of fabulous. Raylene and I talked on the phone for quite some time and she is a great encourager when it comes to living a healthy life. Raylene and I go way back and she always makes my heart happy. And last night before I went to bed, Jacque sent a text to see how I am doing. That girl? She saves my world.

Everyone should have my team of friends. They light up my life.

Recently I was talking to one of my dearest friends -- we shall call her Sara -- who is in a quandary in her life. She no longer feels at home in her community and life has become a struggle. However, she has a major complication that holds her back from moving to the place near her family that is beckoning. Furthermore, the thought of moving is daunting.

I feel her pain. Deeply. It wasn't too long ago I was in her shoes and looking at the future created so much angst.

But now my life is filled with so much goodness, so much happiness. And so I encouraged her -- just take one step at a time. Just do the next thing. Start with step one...and don't think about step 87. Just step one.

Because really...when we are surrounded by our team? Life is a beautiful thing.

And it is worth every sacrifice to get there.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Raising Roy

 Jace has decided that he wants a Golden Retriever.

Here is the thing with Jace. He is just a tad obsessive. So when he wants something? He wants something. He dreams it, breathes it, talks it, researches it, lives it, thinks it, talks it...

You get the idea.

It is a hair-bit exhausting.

And so, he has comprised all kinds of promises in order to "earn" this Golden Retriever: he will take 100% care of the pets for one year; he will get all A's and B's; I will never receive another negative remark about his behavior in school; he will take Piper on a 30 minute daily walk...

And the list continues.

Now let me say, I am just as much a sap about puppies as the next person. Who doesn't love a puppy? And really...who doesn't love a Golden Retriever puppy?

But I happen to have owned a few dogs in my lifetime and, frankly, they are a lot of work. And I also happen to know that even if Jace were to hold true on all of these lofty promises, he is outta here in less than five years. So who gets stuck with the Golden at that time?

You're lookin' at it.

And so, I just continually sigh heavily when Jace broaches the subject. He is undaunted. He shows me pictures and researches breeders and available puppies in the area, giving me a constant update.

He even friended my friend Tammy on Facebook because she is a proud owner of a Golden. He is hoping to see some pictures roll around on her "wall."

Jace doesn't have school today, so I am sure he will fill the hours with scheming and researching. Meanwhile, I will be preparing for our Groundbreaking ceremony for our new nursing building as I am in charge of the refreshments: bottled water and cookies shaped like shovels.

While I am working, he will plaster me with texts that divulge his new ideas, new promises, new discoveries.

And I will patiently respond minus the heavy sighs because he won't be able to hear them.

I was an easy child to raise. Roy? Not so much.

I don't understand why I have to pay for his raising. Somehow it just doesn't seem fair.