Thursday, April 23, 2020

No Pomp. All Circumstance.

I’m sitting in an empty classroom across from my daughter’s teacher.  I’m here for Parent Teacher Conferences, but I’m having a hard time taking it seriously.  I already know my daughter gets good grades.  I already know she is not a troublemaker.  I already know she manages well socially.  So why am I here?  Nevertheless, we begin a methodical dissection of topics the teacher feels responsible to address.  It’s all as expected, and I pay careful attention to the teacher’s comments because I may as well bask in all the compliments while I’m here.  She even wrote some of them on a piece of paper and slid it across to me.  The first word that popped out to me was in all caps.  “EXCELLENT!” it said.   I smiled inwardly to mask my pride.  There were other comments written in the margins and I zeroed in on one in particular.  I slowly processed the words, “Needs some practice with using small dots of glue.” 

I tried not to laugh.

My daughter is 4.  This is preschool.  And before she “graduates” we have to talk about how she holds her scissors, recognizes her own name and tries to color within the lines.  In spite of the glue debacle, Samantha was deemed worthy to move on.  Certificates were signed, grad hats were made from styrofoam bowls, a ceremony was held, and my little toe-headed girl in a blue, flowered dress crossed the preschool finish line with her “diploma” in hand.

Today my daughter is graduating from Brigham Young University.  We didn’t know it at the time, but Samantha’s preschool graduation would end up holding more pomp and circumstance than this quarantined, canceled one.  But there’s something I would like to tell that 4-year-old girl.  First, school is about to get really hard for you.  And you know what?  You work your butt off, fight through it and learn valuable skills that help you all the way through college.  Second, you are about to make some friends that will exploit you and manipulate you to get what they want.  And you know what?  You learn who to trust and how to respect yourself and you end up with a life full of beautiful friendships.  Third, you’re going to have your heart broken, a few dreams crushed, and your faith tested.  And you know what?  You’re going to marry the perfect guy for you, create new dreams, and advocate for God to hundreds of people.  Fourth, you’re going to be the most phenomenal older sister to the best younger brother.  He will be your first best friend.  Fifth, your parents are going to love you the whole time.  And finally, I want the world to know how very proficient you will one day become with a bottle of glue.

Happy College Graduation, baby girl.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Grateful Not To Be Dead

I’m sitting on a gurney.  The nurse in front of me is holding up a robe in a manner that suggests, “take off your shirt and put this on” even though the room is bustling with people.  I hesitate for a second, just long enough to confirm that I am, in fact, in a hospital and haven’t consented to some perverted photo shoot.  The male doctor turned his back for a moment out of respect.  It didn’t stop him from peppering me with questions while the others tugged, pulled and attached things to me as if they were working against a clock to navigate an Escape Room.  

Do I drink?  Do I smoke?  Have I been out of the country in the last 30 days?  Do I have any former pets tattooed in weird places?  Does my family have a history of spelling normal names in super dumb ways?  (Hey Utah, I’m looking at you.)
Do I look like a pet person?
My friend’s name is Jourdenne but it’s not her fault and we are not blood-related.

I had gone to bed with chest pain the night before and even though I didn’t think anything was seriously wrong, I made sure I was thorough.  I turned to Cory and said, “If I die in my sleep just know that you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”  He replied, “Please don’t die.”  I thought about adding, “I’m not going to die.  But if I do please know that I’m not one of those benevolent wives who would be all, ‘Get remarried as soon as possible.  I just want you to be happy.’  I want you to be happy eventually, just be miserable for a little bit first.  When it gets to the point that salads are a trigger of fond memories, by all means find a wife.”  But I refrained.  In the middle of the night I felt him poke me.  I later confirmed he was looking for proof of life which I gave him in spades as I mumbled, “I’m ali….” I was too tired to finish the sentence. 

I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to die.  So, why were all of these doctors freaking out?  I hadn’t even filled out the paperwork before the whole floor was paged on my behalf.  Did you hear me?  I HADN’T FILLED OUT THE PAPERWORK YET.  All I said was, “I’m having some chest pain,” and the doors parted, the crowd descended and a roomful of strangers told me to take my shirt off.  I felt like Brad Pitt minus the EKG.

Just to cover my bases I messaged my kids to tell them I loved them and was proud of them.  A little silly, I suppose; because I wasn’t going to die.  But they were sending me in for a CT scan to check some other things and you just never know.

Upon completion of all available tests, the doctor confirmed a non-life-threatening diagnosis and said, “Take Advil.”  I got naked for these people and all they can say is take Advil?  Am I on “Tinder: The Day After” special?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m relieved that I didn’t have a heart attack.  I’m thrilled not to be riddled with blood clots.  But now that it’s over and I’m not dead I’m contemplating the meaning of this experience.  I’m boiling it down to this.  One, tell your people you love them, even when everything is fine.  Two, for all of you “Mikinlie’s” and “Arick’s” out there, I’m sorry you were born into an abusive family.  There’s no shame in getting help.  Finally, the next time you feel ignored in the ER waiting room and you want to bump yourself up on the list, tell them your broken leg is suddenly causing you chest pain.  You won’t believe what happens next. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Life of Joy and Peace

“I don’t want anyone wearing black,” she said.  Cory’s Aunt Lynda had made that abundantly clear.  She was dying, and everyone knew it.  She had lived a good life and accepted her diagnosis with matter-of-fact clarity, a reaction that surprised no one.  She declined treatment and spent her final weeks surrounded by her children and grandchildren, some of whom constructed the very casket she was buried in.  So here we were, a short while later, celebrating her life.

The thing about living in a small town is that when something big happens, everyone shows up.  This day was no exception.  It was well into the 90’s as the trucks and cars pulled up into the fields surrounding the community center.  There were rolls, meatballs, and frog-eye salad being dropped off in the lower kitchen while other folks (it’s the only appropriate word here) stepped slowly and deliberately up the weedy incline to the front of the church turned community center.  It’s the first thing you see when you exit the one road that leads to town; bright red with white trim, and a steeple that rises up against the surrounding mountains, daring you not to notice.  A white cross rests squarely on top.  I’ve been coming to this town for 26 years and have never once been inside.  I was told they sometimes play Bingo here, but the doors had never been unlocked during any of my previous visits.  It was exactly as I had envisioned, and it was fantastic.

The white, chipped doors opened up to a small hallway lined with memorabilia, small vases filled with assorted silk flowers and extra chairs for guests.  The pews were already overflowing with family and friends who came to show love and respect for a woman who didn’t own a computer but reportedly made the best apple pie in the valley.  Wood paneling served as the backdrop for a small painting of the Last Supper, and creaky, warped windows were propped up by hymn books to offer air flow into the non air-conditioned room.  A slide show played quietly near the pulpit as I gazed beyond the rows of Wranglers and work boots to watch mini reunions happening all around me.  This valley holds generations of memories among cousins, friends, aunts and uncles, siblings, teachers and, well, everybody.  Remember?  When something big happens in a small town, everyone shows up.

Her son shared some beautiful thoughts and memories before opening it up to the crowd.  She loved butterflies and God.  She had pen pals and was a prized cook.  She played Wilma Flintstone for years (a story that Good Morning America planned to interview her about right up until she was overshadowed by a white Bronco speeding away with O.J. Simpson in it.)  There was laughter as well as tears but the most important thing is that Aunt Lynda would have loved it.  A young girl stood up to sing Amazing Grace.  She wore a white, flowing dress and the room was still but for the faint sound of makeshift paper fans cooling the patrons as she sang.  T’was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.  Aunt Lynda was not afraid to die.  “In fact,” her son noted, “she welcomed it.”  Many speculated that she looked forward to a reunion with her husband who had passed years ago.  Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace.

(This is the same girl who sang Amazing Grace - I don't remember her name, and she doesn't know I took this picture. As the crowd gathered for a meal downstairs following the services, she meandered up to the piano and began plunking away. I was doing other things when I looked up and saw this scene and snapped a quick picture.)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

What He Sees

When I was 18 my dad wrote me a letter.
He said he loved me.
I’m “blossoming as a rose”.
He thinks I’m talented? 
He said I had a lovely voice. 
That one’s funny. 
I’m not perfect, but I’m so much closer to it from his view.
Just once, I wish I could see what he sees.

When I was 21 Cory told me he loved me.
He didn’t know it, but we were about to break up.
There was a song with a line that said, “She don’t know she’s beautiful.”
He would sing this extra loud in my general direction.
“Though time and time I told her so.”
He took me back after the breakup.
He knows I’m not perfect, but he treats me as if I were.
I have highs.  I have lows.
I have more lows.
I blame him for stuff he doesn’t do.
He smiles and hugs me.
How does he stand it?
“Because you’re awesome,” he says.
Just once, I wish I could see what he sees.

A couple of months ago God told me he loved me.
Like, really, really loved me.
Why am I surprised?
It’s God, after all.
I just don’t see it.
I’ve done some stuff for that guy. 
Crazy stuff.
Hard stuff.
Funny stuff.
Faith-challenging stuff.
Faith-promoting stuff.
But what HE has done for ME?
The crazy chick in the cul-de-sac who drinks too much Dr. Pepper and thinks too many critical thoughts and doesn’t know how to do anything the world values as relevant and can’t do a cartwheel and spends too much at Target and has never had a career and once followed Pierce Brosnan down the street and wore overalls in a TV commercial and set off a secret mall alarm and lied to my parents about not playing with a Ouija board and had a childhood friend who went by the nickname “The Golden Unicorn” and kissed Mark Marean behind our garage in the second grade.
He thinks I’m amazing.
I don’t get it.
I’m glad he told me.  That was something. 
But I wish I could see it.
Just once, I’d love to see what he sees.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My Hooker Roots

I have my mother's eyes.  We value comfort over fashion, intellectual conversation over chit-chat and share a mutual disdain for dogs that assume the right to smell and lick you without your permission.

Several years ago my mom was exiting her local grocery store when a car stopped next to her and someone jumped out, grabbed her purse from the basket and took off.  Her knee-jerk reaction was savage, unprecedented and aggressive as she hurled the closest and heaviest object in their direction as if to will them to halt.  Unfortunately, her keys didn't pack much of a punch and landed listlessly a mere few feet away.  As she recounted the story she mused about the funny things people do when they're taken by surprise like that.  She called the police.  They were not optimistic about finding the culprits, nor did they seem too intent on pursuing it.  Bigger fish to fry and all that.

That's why it shocked all of us when a full year later the police called and reported to my mother, "We found your wallet!"  Where had it been all this time?  In the hands of a prostitute, using my mother's name, having cut out my mom's picture and inserted one of her own.  "Mom!" I exclaimed.  "You're a hooker?!"  The thought amused me.  Nothing could be further from one's imagination than to think of Lynn, a staunch Republican known to make her own bread and take in stray humans, walking the sketchy alleys of Esco waving down Ford Escorts to make ends meet.

A while after this incident I was meandering our local mall with a group of friends.  I don't recall what took us there as I rarely shop in the mall.  Frankly, I don't shop well with others.  Furthermore, other than the food court and the Godiva sample counter I don't feel like I belong there.  I barely feel at home in the Magnolia Home section of Target let alone a Nordstrom.  "I'll see your Cadillac Escalade and raise you a 12-year-old minivan with hail damage."  I'm not exactly their target audience.  I still remember taking my daughter to the mall for the first time when she was 5-years-old.  As we walked in, her hand in mine, she raised her eyes to the lights overhead that dotted the domed ceiling, took in the beauty of the thick, bolted wood beams that criss-crossed and slanted beneath the windows which were shining down gobs of natural light.  She glimpsed the sturdy, upholstered chairs, caught view of the shiny, mopped floors and inhaled the scent of Mrs. Fields and gasped, "What IS this place?"  I don't recall what took us there, but I'm certain I got in and out as fast as possible, dashing the hopes of my starry-eyed, exultant child.

In an attempt to try my hand at the classy side of life I lost my mind one year and opened up a Nordstrom credit card.  With each use of the card I accrued points that turned into dollars I could spend at Nordstrom.  Maybe if they weren't "actual" dollars, I reasoned, I could bring myself to use them and buy a few nice things?  Well guys, IT WAS A DISASTER.  I remember wandering the store with $120 to spend and after an hour and a half of looking at white shirts for $90 that I could get at Kohl's for $25 I gave up and walked out empty-handed.  I decided to move on to makeup.  Historically I honored myself by choosing the far superior L'Oreal brand to the cheap Wet 'N Wild assortment.  That's where I drew the line.  I would never be a trashy Wet 'N Wild girl!  I would be a classy L'Oreal girl!  Because I'm worth it.  Now, I headed for the Bobbi Brown counter to get to work.  After buying some staples over the course of a few months I wanted to get a little more adventurous, which brings me to the moment I was wandering the store with my friends.  I had gained some confidence at the Bobbi Brown counter.  I had learned what an eyebrow brush was.  I was taught to apply lipstick appropriately.  At this point I was in search of a contrast eye shadow, so I knowingly made my way to the bottom floor and hung a left past the shoes and found a girl who looked ready to change my life.  "HI."  I straightened my posture to somehow feign credibility and eventually requested, "Could you maybe show me how to do a smoky eye?"  (As visions of Vogue covers danced in my head.)  "Sure!" she replied.  I took my seat, she gathered, applied and advised as she went.  I anxiously awaited my reveal.  I was certain this was a pivotal moment meant to catapult me from Wal-Mart connoisseur to Nordstrom chic.

Have you ever gone into a situation expecting one thing and come out with something exactly opposite?

Upon finishing my look the Bobbi Brown makeup artist terrorist handed me a mirror as my friends looked on.  I struggled for words.  "Wooooow.  Hey.  That' that's...that's something.  You definitely captured a look I haven't been able to achieve."  In all honesty the first thing that came to my mind was, "There's a street corner with my name on it because holy crap, I look like a hooker."  I was polite and I did purchase one small item she used on me, but I couldn't wait to get out of there and find a wet wipe.  As we exited the doors I glanced at my friends for a true assessment at which point they all burst out laughing.  One in particular was struggling to keep her composure throughout the evening and couldn't look me in the eye without cracking up.

Today is my mother's 85th birthday.  I have her eyes.  Like her, I value comfort over fashion, intellectual conversation over chit-chat and share a mutual disdain for dogs that assume the right to smell and lick me without my permission.  And to top it all off, we share a hooker story.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sombrero Story

A few days ago my friend texted and asked me for a favor.  “Hey, do you happen to have a sombrero that my son could borrow for a history project?”  At 48 with failing vision and more skin spots than a giraffe I was thrilled for an opportunity to be useful on any level.  After surveying my inventory I responded, “Yes!  I have 2 sombreros and a chili hat – he’s welcome to whatever he wants.”  In the process of texting back-and-forth I was under the impression that she needed it the next day, so I had them all sitting on the counter for easy access.  When Cory got home from work I explained why they were out and instructed him in case she happened to come when I wasn’t around. 

That’s when Cory went into Cory-mode (oh, it's a thing) and said, “You know what we should do?  As soon as we hear the doorbell ring I’ll throw on the chili pepper hat and answer the door and do a little cha-cha-cha (he said while swinging his hips side to side).”  He is often prone to ideas like this and I normally respond with super supportive eye-rolls, but I dug deep and decided to try and be fun.  So I got on board and said, “Ok, I’ll throw on a sombrero and do a little rebel yell behind you to add extra flair.”  Our plan was set.  I texted Kristen that we were home all night and she could swing by whenever it was convenient.  About 20 minutes later the doorbell rang.  Cory ran and grabbed his hat off the island and headed for the front door, and I threw on a sombrero and trailed behind him, all set to impress.  As he swung it open I went for it, and from the depths of my soul yelled out, “AY AY AY Ay Ay ay a…” and my voice trailed off as I realized, to my utter horror, that IT WAS NOT OUR FRIENDS!  It was our neighbor, THE ONE WE HARDLY KNOW, and he held a piece of mail in front of him and said, “Uh…this accidentally came in our mailbox and it looks important so I wanted to make sure you guys got it.”  We stood there like the two complete morons that we were and tried to explain what we were doing but the more we talked the more uncomfortable he seemed, so we finally muttered a weak, “Thank you” and shut the door.

I collapsed on the couch in a mixture of total embarrassment and complete hilarity and burst out laughing.  “Cory!  What just happened?”  He just shook his head and walked away.  I went to the kitchen and checked my phone to see the most recent text from my friend:  “It’s ok, it’s not due for several days so I’ll come by sometime next week.”  I immediately called her up, “Hello?” she answered.

“Oh my gosh, you’re not going to believe what just happened.”

What do you think, are we crushing it at empty-nesting or is it time to join a Bingo group?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Moment

I was on a run.  

I like to start sentences this way because it makes me sound so active and athletic at 47.  The list is longer for things that don't make me sound active and athletic so it helps to tip the scale.  For example, when I woke up this morning and heard myself say, "Man, I'm so sore from bowling last night," it was not a great moment.  On another occasion recently I was trying to defend the rigors of pickle ball to a group of naysayers and when I heard myself, I elected to leave my defense hanging in the air and shuffled off to find a group more accepting.

So, yes.  When I can truthfully state that I was on a run I fit it in wherever possible.  In this case it was two days before my daughter's wedding in San Diego and I had a lot of nervous energy to expel.  So I threw on my gear and headed out to jog the streets of my youth.  I passed a new elementary school beginning its first day of the school year.  Parents held the hands of their children on one side and clutched their caramel lattes in the other and escorted their kids through the labyrinth of childhood angst.  As I passed them I silently celebrated the end of that phase of life for me and cruised to the corner where I turned to ascend a steep hill.  My mind was all over the place.  Hair appointments, photo sessions, don't forget to give the bubbles to Suzi, remember the enlargements for the easels, are we driving mom and dad crazy taking over their house?  Will they be okay enduring such a long day?  Remember to get the cream for the soda bar.  I can't believe how awesome my friends are.  Am I ready to let Samantha go?  It's a good thing I trust her.  It's a blessing that I trust her future husband.  I wonder how many times I will screw up being a mother-in-law in the first five minutes.  I've got to get Drew's amp to the DJ.  Three other family members are celebrating their anniversaries the same day of the wedding.  Don't forget to mention them in your toast!  (I forgot to mention them.)  My sister is working SO HARD on those flowers.  I can't believe how beautiful they are.  My nephew and his wife are doing so much to help.  His wife is pregnant.  Is she ok?  Is she getting enough sleep?  We need to get the favors assembled.  I need to return this basket to Target.  My toenail polish is too bright. Do the bridesmaids have their necklaces?  I'm so excited for Drew's toast.  He has been working on it for months and Samantha has no idea.  Will the guests be too hot? 

With every grunt I tried to purge it all on that hill and finally began my descent when I thought, "I'm ready for this wedding to be over.  I'm ready for this run to be over.  When all of this is over I can finally relax."  Then came the immediate response in my mind, "THIS IS IT.  THIS is the moment.  Right here.  Right now.  It's not the wedding, it's not when it's over, you are living right now.  Stop.  Breathe it.  Appreciate it.  This is the gift of life right here."  So I did.  I stopped.  I scrambled my iPhone out of its case and took a picture of the very spot where I paused so I could remember it.  I vowed to myself right then and there to stop waiting to enjoy myself until it was all over, and to take in everything as it comes and be grateful.

That was the first of many moments I enjoyed that weekend.  I ate an ice cream cone alone by the marina in Seaport Village and inhaled the ocean air.  There was a moment the day of the wedding when Cory told me I was more beautiful that day than the day we got married.  There was a moment when I looked over and saw my Dad laughing with Samantha and David at the kitchen table, and David was wearing his infamous sheepish grin.  There was the moment I walked in on my Dad playing his banjo alongside Drew who was strumming his guitar as my Dad sang along.  There was the moment I watched David glimpse Samantha for the first time in her wedding dress.  There were various moments I watched him usher Samantha from place to place with his hand on her back, often holding her bouquet to help her navigate uneven terrain in high heels.  Samantha glowed for hours.  She was so happy.  I watched as friends and family filed into the temple, one after another in a glorious stream of love and support. 

It has been four months since that glorious weekend and I am still simmering in the joy of it all.  But the real moment was that spot on the hill; stopped under the arc of a swaying willow tree and noting the outline of the low, California hills ahead of me.  The road ahead stretched just beyond as an invitation to look ahead without forgetting where I was.  

That was the moment that shaped everything.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Ride Home

I have some sage advice.  (Not to be confused with advice about sage.  Though if you’re asking, I think it’s fine in a meatloaf but I don’t recommend hiking on mountains of it.  I could always tell when my brothers had gone exploring on the hill near my home because it was covered in sagebrush; they would come home smelling of stale salad and raw boy.)  It is this: try to make friends with people who own cabins in the mountains and remain on their good side.  A few years ago I made a new friend who went out on a limb and invited me for a weekend retreat at her sprawling home along a river in the Rocky Mountains.  Apparently I was good enough company to invite back and I have basked in her hospitality a few more times since.  I have relished it.  We kayak, hike, eat fruit and cheese along the wrap around deck and talk nonstop.  But there’s a different cadence to the kind of talking with this group.  It’s not frivolous, indulgent or skittish banter among women who behave differently when they are away from responsibility.  The conversation is almost always significant.  There’s a lesson to be learned , information to be gathered or thoughts to be shared.  It’s a unique setting and each time I go I come back feeling healed by nature, calmed by a king-sized bed with fresh, crisp sheets and invigorated with ideas that cause me to think on weightier matters.  Since we haven’t been friends forever, there’s a lot to explore.

As we loaded up the Suburban to begin our return trip we snaked through the switchbacks along the mountain and talked some more.  Families, faith, experiences, wise cracks by yours truly, and then a question; “Kristy, what are your parents like?”  (Read:  I wonder what kind of humans could produce a species such as yourself?)  At that moment I felt my insides burst with pride, gratitude and love and I couldn’t (didn’t want to) shut up.  I talked about a mom who is strong, smart, savvy, and did my taxes right up until the moment I married an accountant.  “She’s not fluffy – she would rather sit in a corner with a copy of the Drudge Report and talk politics than make a quilt any day.  She makes cookies with raisins and wheat that keep you regular but  taste good and she taught me how to Venmo at age 82.”  I even mentioned the propensity my parents have to take in “strays” – people who need respite from a difficult situation or who simply need a soft place to fall for a while – and the very next day I got an email from my mom explaining that the grandson of a family friend would be living with them for a couple of months while he completed an internship.  Then there’s my Dad.  My Dad!  If you strike up a conversation with my Dad at a wedding reception he will probably write you a letter the next day to address any concerns you shared about your life because did I mention you will share concerns about your life?  You won’t even know you’re doing it until it’s too late but good for you because he will tell you how to fix it, and he will probably pray for you at the foot of his bed that night while holding hands with my mother.  You may not realize it at the time, but when you engage in a conversation with my father you’re not just passing the time with idle chit chat you’re gaining an ally. 

When I look back on my childhood I miss the gentle hum of its rhythm.  It wasn’t perfect - it never is - but my memories are garnished with a soft focus lens and a reverent regard.  It’s not just a gift but a responsibility, and I share it not to brag but to be grateful.  I don’t want to forget the feeling I had as our car hugged the curves of that two lane highway coming home.  I was still pondering my kayak trip on the tranquil, glassy lake littered with osprey that morning when the question registered, “Kristy, what are your parents like?”  Luckily it was a long drive home.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Shut Up Song

There’s a difference between smooth talkers and people who are good with words.  I’ve been drawn to both.  The smooth talker is the guy trying to sell you cars and time shares.  He’s the star basketball player who says all the pretty words that make you think he is interested in you.  He plucks a verbal flower and saunters toward you, simultaneously holding your gaze as you think, “I can’t wait to hear what comes next.”  Then he walks right past you and hands the spoken gardenia to the prettier girl behind you.  She giggles, and you roll your eyes and pretend you were never really that interested in the first place.

People who are good with words, on the other hand, have the ability to walk up to a regular tree, pluck the most ordinary piece of fruit and describe it so eloquently that you want to devour the whole thing.  You want to be the branch that helped grow such a delicious wonder just so you can claim you were a part of it.  The words flow so effortlessly that you just want to stand there and study how it’s done, hoping one day to exhibit a similar stroke of brilliance.  I grew up surrounded by people who were good at this, so perhaps that’s why it appeals to me.

At this point in my life, I’ve come to loathe the smooth talkers.  I’m no longer the permeable sponge who soaks up shallow lines.  Not only do I see through the smooth talkers but I want them to know I am on to them.  They can say the words alright, but the delivery will never arrive within the window they gave you.  They are like the plumber who promised to be there by 5:00 but ignores your calls and shows up 2 days later with a reason why it was all your fault.  People who are good with words, however, are still my virtual cocaine.  I can’t get enough.  I want more.  I want to float in their carefully chosen sentences and invite them over for hot chocolate so they will stay a little longer. 

And then there’s Cory.  When I met my husband I was attracted to his quiet confidence, his subdued drive, and his integrity.  He wasn’t boastful but he believed in himself.  He wasn’t a workaholic but he worked hard and I could tell he was going places.  When his parents offered to help him out with college tuition he essentially said, “thanks but no thanks” and got a job and a small student loan.  And now that we got that over with I should add that he was also easy on the eyes.  However, the boy is an accountant.  He is a numbers guy.  He works with graphs and spreadsheets and data that has clear input and output; logical results.  Although he has gifted me with several versions of his vulnerable written word it is safe to say, words are not his thing.  Cory uses words to describe cause and effect, what happened and why, facts and logical consequences, but not poetry.  Not feelings.  He is literal, not literary.  A good punishment after a fight would be pulling out a copy of “The 5 Love Languages” and requesting that we start on page 1 to analyze all the things.   

Several years ago I became a fan of the movie Notting Hill and decided to buy the soundtrack.  One afternoon as Cory and I drove along to the CD there was a line that rang through the car singing, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”  I turned to him and said with a smile, “Babe, I dedicate this to you.”  As he continued to listen and pay closer attention to the lyrics he concluded, “So…what you’re saying is I should just shut up?”  We laughed, and from then on it became affectionately known as, “The Shut Up Song.”

It has taken me a while to fully appreciate it, but I have decided that one of Cory’s more beautiful gifts is what he says when he doesn’t say anything.  I have stood in closets, sat on couches and paced the hallways of our home ranting about my frustrations of the moment.  He sits quietly, lets me get it out, and typically follows it up with a supportive embrace.  The silence says, “I don’t have the answers, and you’re a little bit crazy, but man I love you.”  I have picked fights born of insignificant matters and left the door open for him to respond in kind.  He never does.  If tensions rise and I’m pushing him to the edge he stops and says, “I don’t want to say something I will regret later so I need to walk away.”  What he says by walking away is, “Our long-term relationship is more important to me than this argument right here.”  In addition, the man has seen me as a size 6 and he has seen me as…not a size 6.  My weight fluctuates like the tempers on Bravo TV and in 24 years of marriage, NOT. A. WORD.  But I hear him speaking anyway.  You’re beautiful, you’re good enough, you’re my wife, not a number on a scale.”  

Recently we have entered new territory.  His burden is increasingly heavy.  He can’t say anything, but his moistened eyes tell a number of stories.  The fact that his eyes are ever teary at all is practically worthy of a front page spread but the fact is, something is happening.  Without ever opening his mouth I have been hearing him say:
“This is hard.”
“I love you.”
“I am in over my head.”
“I care about people.”
“Seriously though, you are the best.”
“I’m worried about everyone I know.”
“Jesus is real.”

Not a smooth talker.  Not a master of words.  But what he says when he says nothing, that’s what impresses me.

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Last First Day

This morning while the rest of my neighbors flooded Facebook and Instagram with pictures of their kids on the first day of school, I got up 15 minutes before my son had to leave and didn’t even make him breakfast.  I always get butterflies in my stomach before the start of something new so I asked him, “Do you have butterflies?”  “No,” he said.  “I have depression.”  I chuckled, knowing he was only half kidding.  He fished around on the desk, grabbed two pencils, slapped them down by his backpack and declared, “School supplies.”  Before he could ask I grabbed two notebooks of paper that I spent 21 cents on earlier in the week and dangled them before him.  “Purple or red?” I asked.  He replied, “Both.”  Not because he is planning on taking that many notes but because he is probably planning on losing one of them before noon and needs a backup. 

I told him I loved him as he walked out the door.   He returned my sentiment as he shuffled out wearing just his socks, and explained that his shoes were probably in his car.  I stood in the doorway and watched him slump into the front seat, throw his backpack onto the passenger side and locate his shoes.  Seconds later the engine was fired up and he inched out of the street as I said a silent prayer for the millionth time.  “Please.  Please let this be a better year.  Watch over this one.”  Then I shut the door, grabbed a breakfast smoothie and headed to the deck to watch an episode of The West Wing on Netflix where I would postpone reality for 43 more minutes. 

Today is my last first day of school with my children.  If I sound sad about it then perhaps I should give you our school guidance counselor’s phone number; there’s a litany of concerns he desires not to help you with.  If he’s not available there’s a Vice Principal in the wings waiting to make your smallest request feel like federal legislation.  Not satisfied?  Don’t worry, our school security has your back.  They only require your driver’s license, fingernail clippings and a blood sample to walk 20 yards to drop off your money to the Athletic office which, incidentally, might make the school safer from parents waltzing in unannounced in their mom jeans but not actually safer from bad guys.  Mind you, this doesn’t actually pay for your sport.  This is more of a down payment on the fundraiser where you will be required to solicit all of your family and friends to donate a kidney if you really want to be on the team.  They try to pass this off as “school spirit”.

So no, I’m not sad or melancholy about this last, first day.  Video of me dancing naked to MKTO’s “Classic” in my family room is on its way.  (You wish.) 

Monday, October 17, 2016

I Don't Know About You, But I'm Feeling 82

I went to take care of some business at my local bank.  The friendly bank teller asked me, "How was your weekend?"  I stared back at her and said, "I wish I could remember that far back!"

I was invited to hike a 14-er (for you non-Coloradans that's code for a 14,000 ft mountain peak) and I replied, "I don't think my knee can take it."

There are hormone pills, iron deficiency meds and vitamin D supplements in my cabinet, I have an assortment of creams trying to address my childhood in the sun, and I even went off dairy/sugar/flour/all things bright and beautiful for a whole month trying to reduce my cholesterol.  It worked.  I celebrated with dairy/sugar/flour/all things bright and beautiful for the NEXT 30 days.  So maybe the point wasn't to improve my cholesterol so much as make me empathize with alcoholics who come out of rehab and immediately toast their sobriety with a beer. 

The point is, I'm feeling really old, you guys.  I knew it would happen, I just didn't expect it to be so soon.  At 45 my mom had a toddler and two kids in elementary school, but I'm shuffling around my house trying to make sure I don't mistake cool whip for eye cream.  How much longer before I accidentally frost those cupcakes with Preparation-H?  NOBODY KNOWS.  I've already been known to hit up Texas Roadhouse for their early bird special so anything is possible.

In other news, I would like to update since the last post.  It's been 10 months, it's the least I can do.  I didn't think anyone would notice because reducing writing to once a year doesn't tend to draw an audience.  However, I have had a few emails requesting an update so this is for you.  Long story short:  all is well.  Short story long:  On the weekend that my daughter was leaving for her mission my son was two weeks into a very puzzling set of symptoms.  We had been in/out of various doctor's offices but the day before Samantha's farewell we were called into urgent care (that's right, THEY called US) because he had alarming results to the blood test taken the day before.  At 10am they told me they were worried that his symptoms were pointing to leukemia.  They drew more blood, put a rush on the test results and told us we should hear back by the end of the day.  When we got in the car Drew tried to remain calm and asked, "Mom, if I have cancer can I finally get a dog?"  It was funny/not funny.  When my phone rang at 5:30pm the buzz of nervous energy surrounding our visiting family went radio silent as they watched and listened for my response as I talked to the doctor.  Results were back to normal.  I repeated it out loud as I nodded to my family in the other room, everyone exhaled, and we went back to focusing on sending Samantha off in style.  Cactus coolers all around!

Samantha has been serving as a full-time missionary for Jesus Christ for 8 months already.  We receive weekly emails, and we got to Skype with her for about an hour on Mother's Day.  We look forward to being able to do that again on Christmas, but otherwise we only hear from her via email once a week.  Sometimes I have dreams that I am hugging her.  Only 10 more months.  I'm already planning her homecoming party.  I'm thinking...cupcakes?  I know I have some frosting in a drawer somewhere....

Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's OK. It's Not OK. It's OK.

The halls of my home are stilled, and quiet fills the air.  

There’s a gentle hum in the basement that comes and goes with familiarity.

The oven has been on all night; a routine move reserved for tried and true methods for the best Sunday roast.  

But these halls, the basement, the oven; they do not speak for me.

There is nothing quiet about the thoughts that wake my mind at 5:00am on a Sunday and refuse to retreat and let me sleep.  There’s nothing gentle or familiar about spending the last seven days in facilities all over town trying to figure out why my  15-year-old, 6’ 2” son can’t walk up the stairs without gripping the rails or eat more than a piece of toast.  Routine doesn’t even begin to make the short list of words to describe how I feel about putting my daughter on a plane with a few skirts and a toothbrush and telling her goodbye for eighteen months.  

People say change is good.  I support that notion when change is defined as, “Hey, let’s eat shave ice in Hawaii for Christmas instead of scraping ice off our cars in Colorado!”  But the kind of change that says, “Hey!  We don’t know what’s wrong with your kid and your family that you have devoted your entire life to is never going to be the same!  And while we're at it we're taking Downton Abbey off the air and Costco is replacing the Ghiradelli chips with the Kirkland brand,” is the kind of change that can shove it.  

I do have to be fair, though.

My phone has buzzed incessantly this week with messages and calls from loving family and friends.

There have been gentle nudges from divine intervention to remind me that this little family of mine is no accident and is never going away permanently.  

I am routinely thankful for the good people who surround me and make the stresses of life easier to shoulder.

Mercifully, that is all too familiar.