Thursday, July 31, 2008

No poker face here

Sara has taken to licking. Licking people, to be specific.

When asked she will tell you that she is allowed to lick ice cream cones and lollipops and candy and food. And when pressed, she will eventually admit that no, she's not allowed to lick people. (Though she will say this with that look on her face and tone in her voice that implies that surely I must be kidding.)

But every night, pretty much like clockwork, when she so tired that all of her very shallow reserves of self-control are spent, she licks me. She tries to be sly about it -- and maybe that's where I fall down -- but every night, pretty much like clockwork, I crack up from the licking. I can't stop myself. It's so random and goofy and slightly gross, and she seems so utterly incapable of keeping her tongue in her mouth... I am slain. And then she is too, and before too long she's laughing and licking and we are one hilarious, albiet soggy, mess.

So fun. Some day I'll gross her out with this story, but for me it will always be an awesome memory of what a fun, silly, fabulous kid she is.

Have I mentioned how much I love that girl? Yes? Just checking.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Among the many things that I shouldn't let myself do...

...looking at this probably falls close to the top of the list.

I want to take them all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Damn spoons

The walls started coming down in the dining room today, which meant that the furniture had to be moved/removed and the few things on the walls needed to to be taken out. One of the things that had been hanging up in there, for what seems like forever, is a collection of a dozen little demitasse spoons that Mom had. I assume that she got them from her mom. Now Sara thinks that they are hers. And to be honest, I don't mind her playing with them. They're just her size.

So, Sara found the spoons in the kitchen tonight, and she stood there happily stacking them and rattling them for a few minutes until I told her to put them away (three or four times, but who's counting) so we could go have dinner.

Two hours later I was in a heap.

I am really missing Mom tonight. I mean, a LOT. It took me a bit by surprise, at least the intensity of it, but once I thought it through it really made perfect sense: As I was rocking Sara tonight I started thinking about those spoons, and how I'd like to do something with them but I'm not quite sure what -- maybe pair them up with this awesome, vintage-look picture that Elaine took of Sara playing with an old tea set. Then I started thinking about pictures that I have and where I'd like to put things when the house is built; how I have a definite favorite of Dad that I'll use, but how I needed to think about one of Mom... and then I remembered one of her and I that Dad took out in the yard. I was probably six or seven, at an age where my mind has sort of frozen my family: Mom & Dad in their forties, CJ & Nanci in their twenties.

But the memory of the picture led to others, good times and laughing and Mom as I will always remember her: trying in vain to teach me to hit a softball; learning how to identify her beloved birds on the feeders outside the kitchen windows; lying on the sofa with my head on her lap while she stroked my hair; sitting at the table and laughing about who-knows-what until we were crying.

I remember her beautiful, crooked smile SO well.

And the more I remembered the more the tears came, and I sat there rocking Sara hoping I wouldn't wake her up. "Mama, are you sad?" I don't think I could have taken it.

I have become pretty adept at postponing whatever this thing is that they call "grief." Sure, I have waves from time to time, just like tonight. Frankly I just don't want to deal with it. I don't want the exhaustion or the anger or the disappointment or the wallowing that I know will come with it. I lived with all of that for over three years; I've had my fill.

But I guess there's no escaping it. If I'm honest with myself, the loss is never far from the surface. It resonates every time I have hard conversations with families at work, so much so that there are times I'm afraid I won't be able to get through it. Rob brought a nightstand down from the attic the other day, and I couldn't even touch it. It had been sitting there, right by the side of their bed -- right next to where I sleep now -- through both of my parents' illnesses, full of pills and dressings and lotions. I couldn't even really tell him to take it away, but he knew.

I don't know what to do with these things. I don't like being so out of control and I don't understand why it can sometimes still feel so raw, and the thought of deliberately opening up this box of pain and wading through it? No thank you. But ignoring it hasn't, thus far, made it go away. And so here I sit, in a heap on a Tuesday night for no particularly good reason.

Damn spoons.

Oh, Mom. I miss you so. You would love Sara -- she's cut from your cloth, full of spunk and funny and beautiful and so loving. She would love you, too. Peas in a pod, the two of you.

I really, really wish you were here and that I didn't have to miss you and that Sara could have known you. Really, so much.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Probably NOT the best reason...

All of a sudden I feel like I MUST have another baby girl so that I can fill her room with this woman's prints.


Don't be surprised if you see some of these cards coming your way some day soon....


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All the world's a carnival in the Wal-Mart parking lot

I hate Wal-Mart, I really do.

Back when I was a kid (a moment of quiet reflection as I realize that I'm now old enough to say that), Mom and I used to go the the Wal-Mart in Franklin, IN. We'd stop by on the way down to the lake. And the crazy thing is I LOVED it -- it was so big, and everything was so cheap, and Mom would always get me something, I'm sure. But then again I was young and it was the only one I'd ever seen... Wal-Mart had not yet taken over the world.

Ah, the good old days.

Now, I hate it. It's always crowded and understaffed and dirty and filled with low-quality crap that I'm pretty sure some four-year-old in Taiwan had to make in a closet without access to electricity or running water. Even the smell, that Wal-Mart smell... how do they do that?

But from time to time, when push comes to shove, there are those moments when sadly -- oh, so so sadly -- Wal-Mart is the only alternative. Tonight was one of those occasions. The pisser is that they always have what I need. And cheap.

Man that annoys me.

But despite what you may be thinking, this is not diatribe against the menace that is Wal-Mart. No, in fact it's quite the opposite. This is an ode to the wonder of the Wal-Mart parking lot, that magical intersection of races, creeds, genders and abilities, socio-economic classes and criminal histories. Not quite the Promised Land that I think Dr. King envisioned, but a fair cross-section if you take the time to really look at it.

Yes tonight, as Rob and I trucked out to the car loaded down with bottled water, composition notebooks, and lots of chocolate (don't ask), and out into that asphalt expanse surrounded by neon signs and glittering headlights, we were overcome by the unmistakable smell of reefer. And a LOT of it. The three happy black guys chilling in the SUV had be be really mellow -- I'm guessing their fourth was inside picking up a boatload of snacks.

Having picked up a contact high on the way past the doobie cloud I spotted a single woman pushing her cart sort of erratically to her car. I assumed she just wasn't quite sure she remembered where she parked, but as I watched I realized that she was somehow distracted by the planes flying overhead. She actually stepped away from her car to watch them fly by, and I would swear she was talking to one of them.

I wonder if she talks to the helicopters, too.

Shortly after this I got in the car and waited for Rob to load up the goods (he's such a gentleman that way). Thinking the show was over, I sat back to contemplate whether or not I really did get a buzz from the fumes rolling out of that SUV. And then I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, what appeared to be a child riding some kind of bicycle across the parking lot... except it was moving a little wonky and too slow for a kid that big. I decided to take a closer look and realized that it wasn't a bicycle, but a TRIcycle. A big one -- I mean, really big -- and candy-apple red. And the operator wasn't a kid at all, but an older gentleman with rather long, flowing grey hair who most definitely suffered from at least one physical handicap, as the very large basket on the back of his "bike" (??) was holding his walker.

I kid you not. The dude was weaving around the Wal-Mart parking lot on a giant red tricycle, toting his walker on the rear and hell-bent for something on the inside -- maybe some snacks courtesy of the second-hand hemp haze, or maybe just shelter from the incoming air traffic.

I was done. I fully expected the carnies to start streaming out of the store and had an overwhelming urge to eat an elephant ear. It was quite charming, really... sort of like the state fair come early.

Good times. Good, good times.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's more than just oatmeal, people

I confess: In the past, "Quaker" never meant much more to me than oatmeal. The big hat, the grandfatherly gaze, Wilford Brimley... It's all so very comforting in a hot-filling-breakfast on a chilly-fall-morning sort of way.

And then Google came into my life, and I would never, ever be the same.

A few months ago I stumbled across a mention of a "Clearness Committee" on another guy's blog. There wasn't really an explanation of it so off to Google I went. At first I was a little uncomfortable with what I was reading: an "inner teacher" and "focus person" and "mirroring" and all that silence... I wondered when the crystals were going to come out and what kind of special brownies were going to be served up in the name of all this "clarity." But as I am learning to do, I opted not to discard it out of hand just because it was outside my box. I kept reading. And much to my surprise? I was a bit smitten.

Now, I'm not going to go into all that I learned about Clearness Committees. I'm sure my knowledge is barely rudimentary, so if you want to learn more you can read up on it here or here. Or Google your brains out -- you'll be at it for days, I'm sure.

What has happened, of course, is that my curiosity about Quakerism (also knows as The Religious Society of Friends) is piqued. This time I turned to my new best friend Wikipedia, where I learned about the Friends' beginnings in England, their strong presence in Africa (where I left my long-standing image of the Quaker Oats man at the curb), and some comtemporary movements maneuvering to take Christ out of the equation altogether. It's fascinating to me, really.

I don't know... the crux of the whole thing seems to be simplicity and yet - silly, silly me - I find that notion to be so complex. Like there certainly MUST be a catch, right? Right?

But then I read about these concepts -- to "hold in the light," to "proceed as the way opens", "leading," "that of God in everyone," and yes, "clearness" -- and they are so lovely to me, so cozy and familiar. It's as though I'm hearing some of my own beliefs, thoughts that I'd never really had words for, in a lexicon that's existed for hundreds of years. How very strange and wonderful.

My friend Amy commented in my last post that she thinks our little church community is more Quaker than we realize, and I think she's right. Certainly not in practice (because us, sitting for more than even 2 minutes in silence - really?), but I think perhaps in spirit. And I suspect that very few of us ever would have thought about it because, you know -- Quakers are all about the oatmeal. Right?

So here I am living with this whole new framework for "Quaker*" and it's the craziest thing: It's just as comforting as it was before, only I've traded in the whole grain goodness for Christ-centered promise.


*An interesting, if not exactly ironic aside? Type "Quaker" into Google and the first thing that comes up is... you guessed it: Quaker Oats.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another day, another blog...

I stumble across them in the strangest of ways: This time it was in a Google search of Quaker Clearness Committees. Yes, yes -- Clearness Committees. How did I ever hear about those? Another blog, of course! (PS, now I think I'm really a closet Quaker.)

Anyway, I've only looked at a couple of her posts but I think I like. (Here's her story.)

I wish I had the discipline to think about life actively -- most days I feel like I'm barely hanging on as time flies by, and at the end of each day I'm asking myself how I ever managed to _________________ (wind up in this job, marry this man, have this child, gain all this weight, let the cell phone bill get past due, let the pile of laundry get THIS big, etc etc etc). It's starting to bug me, if you want to know the truth.

Perhaps I will get her book. I like the cover, so it must be good -- right?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Happy Birthday, you big blue hunk of metal

We have what I can honestly say is a rather odd relationship with our car.

First of all, we named it. This in and of itself is not completely unusual for me, as I can mark entire eras of my youth by which car I was driving:

I took the Cherry Bomb, my great-uncle's Mercury Monarch, to Butler and drove it until it caught on fire one night as several of my friends & I were headed out to Houlihans for Blue Whales after work. Oh yes, those were good times.

Next was the Cherry Bombette (original, yes?), a bright red Renault that also happened to be my first stick shift. Several friends still remind me of my poor upkeep on that car. Just because the breaks were metal on metal, guys -- come on. What's the big deal?

That car, I might add, also went up in flames. But that's a story for another post.

The Blue Bomber (detecting a theme, are you?) was a favorite, but I sure couldn't tell you why: No power steering, no air conditioner, and a really awful smell that came about after I spilled a LOT of hot chocolate in the back seat. (Had to keep my box office crew warm in that cold Butler Bowl ticket office!) I guess it was because it was a Jetta and I felt tres chic for having a European car.

Next came the Golden Chariot. Ah, the Golden Chariot... the first car I ever bought for myself, and I got it new. A 1995 Mazda 626 with manual transmission and a sun roof. Now this was living. And know what? 194,000 miles later we've still got it. I won't drive it any more, but we've got it and it hasn't failed us yet. (YET.)

Which brings us to Blu, the other woman in my marriage and a source of great solace for us all. At some point or another Rob started referring to Blu as "she" and there it was -- his second great love. She's a good car, Blu. She always runs, she smells good, and she can play Dora for 12 hours straight and never complain. She's lots better for road tripping than any of my previous vehicles as you can actually lay down in the back without having your knees in your face for hours at a stretch. She can tell you how to get where you need to go and, if you're snackish, will help you find the nearest spot to stop for a nosh.

Blu will never, ever, leave you without a place to put your drink.

She'll open the doors at the push of a button and let the back seat listen to Elmo while we in the front listen to XM radio. She gently reminds you when she needs an oil change but is like a dog with a bone until you get it done. (OK, that is a little annoying -- but a girl's gotta look out for herself and I can't fault her for that.)

Blu even has two glove compartments. Who knew that could be convenient? (Blu knew, that's who.)

So Happy 1st Birthday, Blu. Here's to many, many more. Because let's face it -- we'd be a mess without you. Seriously. A mess.


lately i am struck more and more often about how sara is turning into, i don't know -- herself, i guess. she's funny and she's clever, and her likes (vegetables, chocolate milk, and salty snacks) & dislikes (doughnuts - what?!) are becoming evident.

she's a climber more than a runner and prefers a cozy pool to a big one, thank you very much. she's loving but not cuddly. she is very precise about what she wants to say and has no qualms about saying what she thinks. ever. the other day i said "sara b, you're just so beautiful." "i'm gorgeous" was her reply.

seriously? oh, my.

she's rough and tumble but sometimes just must wear a pretty dress. and don't worry, she'll tell you exactly which one she wants. the girl loves her shoes but spends as much time kicking them off as she does picking them out.

want to wind her up? get her out of bed in the morning. want to calm her down? water, water, and more water.

she loves music and is known, on infrequent but wonderous occasions, to be overcome by it and bust a move. there is no sweeter sight, let me tell you.

she loves animals, especially dogs, and cats, and most of all pete. (the feeling is mutual.)

she is a big kid with a big heart and big ideas and she's frustrated beyond words to be trapped in her little body.

simply put, i love this child. more and more desperately every day, if you want to know the whole truth. and it's so fun getting to know her.

sara b, you're just the greatest. yes, yes -- and gorgeous, too.