Monday, October 26, 2009

Mortality in a Box

Yikes! I hadn't realized it's been THREE MONTHS since I last posted! My apologies! I'll spare you the excuses. Suffice it to say: I'm in a good place when I'm writing. And I'm not when I'm not. Bear with me!


I was not an ordinary kid. I was always a grown-up in a kid's body. Later I got a grown-up body and reduced the dissonance a bit. I have always been very serious. During my early years I worried about things that should be excluded by the stereotypic ideal of a "carefree childhood".

I had that startling moment of realization of my own mortality at the age of ten! This has always seemed cruelly early to me -- especially in light of some people I know who didn't have that dark, existential experience until they were in their 40's!

I remember the day. Double sets of bunk beds in "the bunk room" at our lake house. Barbequed chicken on the patio for dinner. With corn on the cob. And Dr. Pepper in a can. The hum of motorboats in the distance. A happy, light-hearted setting. Yet somehow, around twilight, I wandered into the bunkroom where one thought led to another and then another and another and then my mind conjured up the thought: "SOMEDAY I'M GOING TO DIE!" The entire atmosphere of the earth seemed to reverberate with the shock of this thought. Me. Anne. This body. This mind. This life. Will one day DIE! And be no more. And then what? Darkness? Oblivion? A heaven that I could not imagine? My delicate ego could not grasp the end of ME. A tsunami of panic swept through my body. My vision shut down to a tunnel for a minute. Darkness closed in on me.

Somehow I got ahold of myself and managed to go on with existence among the living. But I think I've wrestled with my fear of mortality ever since in the form of anxiety, depression, spirituality, related studies, and a fascination with the paranormal that, if I had been informed of it as a kid, would have had my youngster self hiding under the bed for the rest of my childhood!

Maybe I needed the early preparation. My mother died when I was 23. She was just 48. Not fair. Cruel. Very, VERY cruel, in fact!

I've buried many, many loved ones since. Sometimes I feel like Matt and I spent most of our 15 years together burying people. My house is full of relics of those I love who have gone on.

Two weeks ago Mark and I buried his father. I actually enjoyed the time I got to hang out with his body at the funeral home. I added roses to the floral sprays and just relished the last of my time with his physical presence. Not scary anymore. But still profoundly confusing.

When I think back on that summer evening at the lake when I was 10 and realized my own mortality, an image comes to mind. On the dresser in that bedroom was a box that was my beloved grandmother's. The size, a circumference adult hands could encircle. Gold laquer. Half base, half lid. Just a trinket from my grandparents exotic travels, I'm sure. A black Scotch tape scar across the top where the lid was taped down as it was transported from one place to another.

I don't know why I remember that it was in that room. I don't know why the box was in the room in the first place or why my grandmother had put it there when there was little else of her personal effects in this house that had been furnished by the previous owners. I don't know why that box has became associated with the realization of mortality for me. I do know one thing though: there's God in it all. Because, inside that gold laquered box, if you lift the lid, is the painted inky blackness of its interior (another symbolic reference to oblivion somehow?) and, painted on the bottom of the box, hidden away, deep in this symbol of mortality, is a BUTTERFLY! Of all things! A butterfly! That glorious creature that transcends lowly life on earth by sinking into the virtual death of cocooned dormancy only to emerge anew, transformed, and with the gift of flight!

I don't know about you, but, for me, that's God telling a terrified little girl that there are glorious wonders beyond this life that we won't know until we open the box or until we emerge from apparent death into the other side! It just took me until I was 35 to realized the message contained in my grandmother's box. The comfort, the promise, had been there all along!

I keep the butterfly box on a shelf in my library. Next to a black and white photo of my mother. Near all my books on sprituality, reincarnation, near-death experiences, ghosts, and various religions. It clearly belongs in the company of these tomes that help me wrestle with my mortality ponderings. Beside a ceramic box shaped like a miniature vintage telephone (for communicating with the beyond, perhaps?). And next to it is an oval box, made of brass. When my birthgrandmother died many years ago, my birthmother chose that box for me from her mother's belongings. She wanted me to have something of Granny's. It is the only thing I have that was hers (I didn't get to know her very well). Inside of it I keep the only gift she ever gave me -- a string of blue and white china beads that she sent me for my college graduation (I was deeply touched by the gift at the time). And on the lid of the box, affixed to yet another shiny, circular, gold-toned box belonging to one of my dear grandmothers, is a silver BUTTERFLY! It seems that God is in cahoots with my grandmothers (and my mother!) to give me comfort and promises of something wonderful beyond!

Peace and blessings to you all!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Feline Hospitiality

Tessa's cat, Stormy, has an appetite for bugs. He always seems to have in his mouth some buzzing insect that had the poor judgement to happen through our yard. Tessa, ever the diligent kitty-mama, keeps telling him, "Stormy, it's NOT polite to eat your guests!" But he stubbornly maintains his entemological menu. Tessa says this is why he can't have parties!

At right: As I wrote this, Stormy was having a small june bug as a light snack!

Crocheted Toilet Paper Covers

My ex-husband is getting re-married soon. I'm happy for him. I wish him every happiness. Part of why I divorced him was that I wanted a happiness for him that I couldn't give him. He's a good guy. He deserves happiness. We all do.

My oldest daughter, Emily, who is 15 and all full of vim and vinegar, lives with her father. He's got a longer fuse and a stronger hand with her. That and the fact is that she hates me.

What didn't occur to me when I first heard of Matt's marriage plans was that, when Matt moves in with "Betty", Emily would be moving there too! My child will be living in another woman's house.

And then it started to really freak me out: My baby will be living in a house I can't even picture. I don't know where it is. I couldn't get there in an emergency. I won't know where she sleeps, what her room looks like, what her experience is, what her LIFE is like.

And then the spiral deepened: what if SHE ("Betty") has a crocheted toilet paper cover? Gasp! You know the kind, don't you, a lacy, hand-made-by-an-old-lady, multi-sherbet colored, "hat" for the spare roll of toilet paper, the height of silly and tacky to my mind. This imaginary yarn confection became the metaphor for my fears.

Visions of episodes of the TV show "Roseanne" swam through my head. Upholstered furniture on front porches. Cars parked in the front yard. Car parts strewn around. Ashtrays full of "coffin nails". Bar brawl scars and stories. A pantry full of giant, economy-sized cans of "WhoopAss"!...

Ok, wait a minute!

The crocheted toilet paper cover that I envision when I think of them belonged to Matt's aunt Honey (short for Henrietta, in case you were wondering). I loved Honey. She stood in for her departed sister as my daughters' doting grandmother. When the girls were little and went through that stage where they want to talk on the phone all the time but couldn't really quite talk yet and defiinitely couldn't carry on an interesting conversation, Honey would take their calls (long distance) and listen to them for hours -- always with a smile on her face and a sweet word on her lips, like she was in on the greatest thing ever. And Honey's crocheted toilet paper cover was made by another family member whom I also love. And she made it as an act of love and as a gift for our sweet Honey.

And I loved "Roseanne". That show was all about showing the humanity and the best qualities of the people whose economic challenges put them in the midst of the tackiness the comes of necessity. It was a lesson in not judging a book by its cover and not being a snob. My children could learn some valuable lessons in that house.

At the moment there's an armchair on my front porch. It's not a permanent fixture, mind you -- it's there to protect if from the elements for a few days in transition from one staging project to the next -- but it IS there now. So I guess I qualify.

There's not a car parked in my front yard but there is a car parked in my side yard. My 1989 Honda Prelude with the 4-wheel steering and the sun/moon roof was a 40th birthday present from Matt -- replacing my 1988 Prelude that my mother had bought new and that I drove during my graduate school days when I lived in Laguna Beach, California. It was my favorite car off all time. It was SO much fun to drive (and I spent 3 hours a day commuting back then). And then Matt totalled it (it wasn't his fault). So he surprised me with a new one when I turned 40. And I was able to say "I'm 40 and I have the mid-life-crisis sports car to prove it!"

There are some Prelude rotors and a starter and some something-brackets on the bench under the front arbor over the gate in my white picket fence right now (there's some really warped stereotype and metaphor clashing going on there!). They were on their way from my minivan to the trunk of the Prelude when they got heavy and I was waiting to have Mark help me move them. Ok, so I'm guilty there too.

And "coffin nails"? My mother smoked. And it killed her in an indirect but definitely-related way. I loved her dearly. After 20 years I still miss her desperately. She was trapped in the grips of nicotine addiction. She wasn't strong enough to break out of it.

Don't have any experience with bar brawls or cans of "WhoopAss" but I'm sure if I did I would have some compassionate understanding of a few more things than I do now.

It's easy to judge. It's easy to judge harshly. And it's usually not fair.

"Betty" has been very good to my girls. Emily says she "rocks". Tessa and Sara-Grace like her. She values the good things in Matt. She owns a restaurant and I'm so thrilled for Matt that he's marrying into the restaurant he's always wanted to have. I overheard a voicemail "Betty" left for Emily once -- just checking on her and saying to call if she needed anything. I was touched that she was looking after my child. And if "Betty" is willing to have Emily live in her house and serve in a caregiving way toward her then I owe her a debt of gratitude.

I just hope that she and I can be on good terms with each other. We have my children in common. I wish her happiness. I may give her a crocheted toilet paper cover for Christmas.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Politics of Teeter Totters

In a shady corner yard on the unfamiliar side of town sits a relic from the time of my parents' childhoods. A creation styled in such a way that in my own youth I would have easily and unconsciously recognized it as "old": A red metal slide with circular handles jutting skyward at the top. Right out of 1942! Right off the pages of a Dick and Jane primer. An artifact of generations of children.

I remember slides like that (or similar but more "modern" versions) on every playground and every schoolyard of my childhood. Learning the personality of a slide was regular and intrinsic part of being a kid. Was it fast or slow? Was the slope steep or slight? Was there going to be a burn or a wet bottom involved in the process? Was there a mud puddle at the end? Would I bump off the end and find myself sitting embarrassed on the ground after a sudden dropoff? Or would I gracefully dismount and land on my feet at the end? Would I have to gather my courage at the top? Would I be sorry at the bottom? How would it feel on the way down? Would I want to run back around to the ladder and do it all again as soon as possible?

When I had my own kids I learned a new dimension of slides: terror that one of my precious babies would fall off the top and "break their brain", as we say. None of them ever did but I'm convinced that was entirely due to my neurotic vigilence. There was always that brief stage in their development where my toddlers would try to simply hurl themselves into space at the top of the slide without knowing to sit down first and certainly without any instinct to hold on!

I won't even go into the horror of those awful spinning "merry-go-rounds" that are so beloved to my girls in their memories but that are also, blessedly, no longer a reality in their world! I could kiss the park board members who eliminated that little deathtrap from our neighborhood park! One of them is both my friend and my stock broker. I may call him to say thank-you after I post this piece!

But I digress. As usual.

Just beyond the vintage red slide with the circle handles in the aforementioned corner yard, under the fluttering elm leaves, statuesque in the dappled sunlight of a July afternoon, stand not one but TWO teeter totters. When I spotted them earlier today my mind immediately transported me to my grade school playground and to a different age and lifestage. I could see the peeled patches and the chips in the thick forest green enamel paint and the aged, gray-brown, worn-smooth grain of the heavy wood plank in the spots it was worn bare of paint. All the details of teeter totters came cascading back to me. I had completely forgotten about teeter totters! How long has it been since I've seen one? How long has it been since I was ON one? I hadn't even realized that all the teeter totters of the world seem to have disappeared over the last couple of decades. I understand why but... oh the nostalgia!

And I started wondering... have my kids ever even SEEN teeter t0tters? Have they ever been on one? So I just asked them. Both my girls had to clarify, each with a quizical look and an angled arm, that I was talking about "that thing that goes up and down". Tessa (12) remembers playing on one with Emily (15) at Woodward Park in Tulsa, the primary park of my childhood, which we went to a few times on visits to my father's (ah the repetition of the generations!). Sara-Grace (8), our youngest, claims to have never been on one. Noah (9) has. Kota (16), the oldest, has too, he informed me non-chalantly with a distinct "duh!" in his voice. Ok, so maybe I'm not quite so ancient. I guess teeter totter eradication is a child of the most recent decade.

What will happen to a world without teeter totters? There is so much about life that I learned the teeter totter! How will my little one ever learn all those things that were traditionally learned on teeter totters? How will she know all the delicate politics of putting the lighter two of a threesome on one end? Or the compassion and tact involved in trying not to make the overweight kid feel bad about needing several counterparts to achieve balance? Or the pride of being bigger enough than the younger kids that it took multiples to even out the other side? Or the intricacies of just getting on the thing?

What about the betrayal of someone jumping off the lower end to send the elevated end and it's human cargo crashing to the ground? We all knew not to get on with the mean kid or someone who had a grudge against us. We all learned to gauge other kids in terms of the potential risk of the teeter totter!

What about learning the care of making sure nothing important (mostly body parts) are not underneath the contact point? Remember when someone (probably the grown victim of a bad landing!) finally got smart and put old tires underneath?

What about the judgement necessary to figure out when and how far to sit in front of the handle to balance out unequal weights? Or when one might need to employ and extra strong or extra gentle push-off ?

What about the balance acquired by learning to walk from one end to the other or trying to balance the thing horizontally while standing at the middle? I'm sure I built some important muscles and motor skills doing that! And I still believe that some contemplative thought processes can only be accomplished in this stance!

How will my baby learn all the trust issues of teeter totters? The choreography of getting on and the getting off. That moment of realization that your counterbalance is about to let you down -- literally! And there there is the comeraderie of long chats with a whole group of kids (sometimes forgetting to continue the motion) on at the same time.

The teeter totter was the leisurely respite from the motion of the swings, the speed of the slide, the exertion of the monkey bars, the competition of the basketball hoop, the itchy grit of the sand box, the nausea of the merry-go-round! It was an impomptu desk on which to scribble down the answers to that forgotten math assignment, study for a particularly ominous spelling test, or fold a piece of notebook paper into a fortune teller (which one of those boys would it tell me I'd marry?). The tetter totter could even be a descent place for a brief nap if you put your feet on the wrong side of the handle, stretched out on the plank, and could remember not to roll off the side!

All rythym and partnership and dangling feet, the scales of childhood justice somehow hinge on teeter totters! They are somehow representative of the way the world goes around (or up and down) in so many ways! The teeter totter was always the place to identify a bully or establish a bond with a new pal. Somehow an interval on the teeter totter could be the beginning of relationship building. There was always something sort of intimate about getting on a teeter totter with someone. There was a bond and a partnership implied. There was a budding of something on the teeter totter. It was where sleep-overs were planned, playdates devised, and new friendships concocted.

And the cadence of the inevitable teeter totter chant! "TEEE-ter TOT-ter, TEEE-ter, TOT-ter!" Be it verbal or non-verbal, that chant was always present on some level! I'm not sure I ever took a spin on the teeter totter without that chant in my head or on my lips. And when I look at the moving arm of a oil pump going up and down out in a wheat field or a cow pasture somewhere out here in the oil country of western Oklahoma, I can't help but hear the teeter totter chant in my head in relation to their similar motion.

I think all the relationships in our lives could benefit from a spell on a tetter totter! I think I need to put one in my yard as a marital aid -- a demonstration of how, usually, one spouse is over-functioning to some degree while the other is underfunctioning to a complementary degree. And then the proportions change! Maybe I'll send my kids to the teeter totter to work out their differences or to learn that many things in life are on a continuum.

Does anyone know where I can buy some teeter totter hinges? Maybe just a log and plank would suffice for now...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

419 S. Taylor

We spend so much time in Enid and SO much money on hotels that we've been seriously considering buying a house in Enid to use as our own little "guest house". It would be fun to have a little "playhouse" where I could play with renovations and decorating on the inside and Mark could play with the landscaping on the outside.

We've lost the last two houses we wanted. Neither owner would rent to us until we can buy. Both sold to other buyers. I can't even drive past them I'm so disappointed.
In the wake of the second loss a few days ago, I went for a drive around my target neighborhood to try to drain out my sorrows and air myself out. AND I FOUND A HOUSE! A little, teeny, tiny, cute, quaint, bungalow cottage of a house! And that was that.
As of today we have a verbal agreement with the owner to rent it until we can buy. We can move in tomorrow.

Both of the houses we didn't get were much larger. But this tiny thing seems much more manageable and, therefore, even more fun. The bills will be small. The cleaning minimal. Mark's very wise father had said to me a few days before, "All you need is just a little two bedroom house." That didn't sound like fun to me at the time -- and, remember, we have FIVE kids! -- but we're all used to staying in one hotel room together and this house has possibilities for up to FIVE bedrooms if I work it right. So it's just perfect.

The house is about 800 square feet and was built probably somewhere in the teens. It has two bedrooms - three, if you use the back sunporch as a bedroom (which we will!) and four and five if we finish out the partial basement and the detached garage. The back sunporch is lined with solid windows on two walls. I've always wanted a room like this so this one will me mine (and Mark's, of course!). The house has a bath and a half (well, technically, a 3/4 bath and a 1/2 bath). The larger bath is the only thing in the house that has been completely redone. I would have preferred original fixtures but it's probably for the best in terms of resale. There's a partial unfinished basement, a sunny, enclosed front porch, and a darling 8' x 18' one car garage that would make a cute guest house for the guest house! The back yard is just quaint, quaint, quaint - all cool and green and shady and old-fashioned with three tiered levels. There's even a little log playhouse in the backyard that's really old and very authentic. I love all the original features: the woodwork has never been painted over, The windows are original (there's nothing worse than cheap new aluminum windows on a vintage house!), the kitchen is original, the closets (which are only 18" deep!) are lined with wall paper from the 20's to 40's era.

We plan to paint it pink - a nod to John Mellencamp's song "Little Pink Houses". Somehow John Mellencamp has sung the theme songs of our relationship since back when he was known as John Cougar and sang "Jack and Diane" which was all about US! We'll have to send him a picture of our little pink house! Oh, and it needs a white picket fence too! I always have to have a white picket fence! Gotta court the metaphor, you know!
A note about the address (419 S. Taylor): 4 is our lucky number, 19 is Mark's birthdate (November 19), South is warmer than North, and Taylor is Mark's ex-wife's maiden name! Haha! Actually, I thought about naming Emily "Taylor" if she's been a boy so I've always liked it. Maybe Traci (Mark's ex-wife) will feel honored! Oh! And it's just a few blocks from where Traci and Mark's boys live which we're thrilled about! And it's also in the neighborhood my mother grew up in and a couple of blocks from the park as well!

Here are a few photos. They ended up posted in reverse order which is annoying but too time-consuming to change. So I only moved the picture of the front. This will hopefully explain why the order seems so weird! Also, I took the interior shots thru the windows so they're not that great. Now, before you look at the photos, keep in mind that there will be MANY changes to this house. The carpet will be removed to expose the wood floors. The walls will ALL be painted. Things like that!

Kinda side view. Can't you just SEE the picket fence and all the flowers? And I'm hoping to find a way to put a ladder up to that little attic space with the windows up there. I think the kids would love to have that as a little play loft or sleeping loft! Hey! A SIXTH bedroom!

A litttle peek at the tiny kitchen. We have a wonderful vintage green Kelvinator refrigerator that's just been waiting to be the star of and inspiration for this kitchen! We paid $29.74 for it (yes, under $30)!

Side yard. I can't wait until Mark works his magic here! You can't really see it but there's an old iron fence and gate at the front.

Rear view of house with sunporch windows. The little single window goes to the half bath.

The cute little garage. I'd love to put french doors on this side and open it up to the yard. Wouldn't it be the cutest little guest house?

The log cabin playhouse. Very old and authentic!

The back yard. Can you see the fireplace in the center left of the photo?

Front view of the garage and side view of the sunporch. Too quaint!

One side of the enclosed front porch. It's about 8' x 22'. Love the purple carpet! Picture black slate floors here instead!

French doors to the front bedroom off the living room.

View of the living room, then the dining room, then the kitchen, and then on into the sunporch. Dark and drab, I know, but wait for the "after" photos!

NOW, HERE'S THE TWIST: I am planning to fix up and decorate this house for FREE, using only found items, free items, or things bought with money from the sale of free and found items. I have wanted to take on this kind of challenge for years and I can't wait to get started! Don't be scared -- the point isn't just to furnish the house for free. The point is to make it look like it should be IN A MAGAZINE -- for free! Stay tuned for a new, additional blog that will document the process!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cross Purposes

This morning I went for a walk and stumbled across a revelation.

I was upset and discouraged and was trying to walk those feelings off -- hoping to find some direction along the way and maybe also running from my problems to some degree. And if all that failed, I could hope that it would at least be good for my heart and my hips!

The street I was on has house numbers painted on the curb in front of each house. It seemed that some industrious minor league entrepreneur had been through the neighborhood at some point, making his ends meet by painting house numbers because, though the colors and numbers were different, the style was the same. Apparently, he also offered to paint the homeowner's choice of insignia as part of the deal because there were OU (University of Oklahoma) houses and OSU (Oklahoma State University) houses and even an upside down Texas longhorn (a symbol from the traditional rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma).

But one house was different. One resident went beyond football fanaticism and rivalry and put their heart on their sleeve -- or, rather, their soul on their curb! One house has crosses next to their house numbers. My foot landed right next to this painted rectangle as I walked by and I walked on with this image of a Roman cross painted in metallic gold with black shadowing on my mind.

Something about that gold outshining the black stayed with me and I began to contemplate. Isn't it interesting that Christianity has taken the cross, an instrument of the brutal murder of Jesus, as it's most holy symbol? Have we FORGOTTEN what that cross was used for? Anyone who watches the History Channel knows full well that crucifixtion is a brutal, horrific way to die. It is murder AND torture. It is NOT pretty.

I really struggle with the whole crucifixtion concept. It just doesn't seems right to my mind that we are all so horribly bad that someone had to DIE for our sins. And that God would sacrifice his only son to a horrible death because we are so awful makes it even more challenging for me to reconcile. This part of Christianity has just never made sense to me and I have really worked at making peace with it but I keep hitting walls.

God has his own little laugh about me, I'm sure. Stuggle as I do with the whole crucifixtion thing, I also have a love for and collection of (you guessed it!) CROSSES! I have groupings of crosses hanging in two different places (one inside, one outside) around my house and a dozen or so pendants. They just fascinate me. It started as a collection of all things that people consider lucky or sacred: a four leaf clover, a rabbit's foot, a rune stone, a Native American medicine bag, a Bhudda figure, a St. Christopher medallion, a rosary, etc. But somehow the collection settled into just crosses. They're everywhere! I find new ones all the time. I guess that's because Christianity is so important to so many people. And this thought is what keeps me coming back to trying to make peace with Christianity in general and the crucifixion in particular. It must be a big deal to the masses because there's really something valid in it.

So as I walked I turned the contradictions of the cross symbol over and over in my head. Crosses were involved in the murder of Jesus. Crosses are a symbol of resurrection. Hmmm... And then something clicked: IT'S ALL ABOUT MAKING SOMETHING GOOD OUT OF SOMETHING BAD! Jesus's death was a horrible, brutal, tragic thing but God used it to show us something wonderful and beautiful: the renewal and transcendance of the Ressurection. Maybe I don't have to go around feeling all insulted that God thinks I'm so bad that only Jesus's death can save my soul. Maybe I can just focus on how God is showing me that there can be great good that comes from great bad. And even the worst bad (at least to me), death, ends up good in the end because we get to be resurrected somehow.

Sometimes, in down moments, I wonder if the point of life is just to see if we can pass the test of getting through all the trials without becoming totally discouraged, hopeless, and cynical. Sometimes bad things happen and I don't know how to make sense of it and I end up all bitter and angry with God. But maybe the answer to all these situations (and I haven't thought of an exception yet!) is that the point is to try to make something good out of something bad!

Let's test this theory for a minute. What's the worst thing that could happen? I could die. And what if I die? Well, that's ok somehow because I believe I'll either go to Heaven, to another incarnation, or into spirit form in the presence of God.

Professor Randy Pausch (author of The Last Lecture) got the death sentence of pancreatic cancer. Instead of plummeting into despair and curling up to die, he spun it to the positive and wrote a best-selling "gift" for his children, inspiring millions.

If you live in this area, you know the name Colleen Nick. A decade ago, her six-year-old daughter, Morgan, was abducted, was never found, and was, presumably, murdered. Colleen Nick rose above the horror and the despair and founded the Morgan Nick Foundation to give support to families with missing children (and she was given a new house by the TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for her good work as well).

Once upon a time, Mark found himself in hard times. The only job he could find was as a minimum wage night stocker at Walmart. Finding oneself in this position could spiral even the best of us into hopelessness and depression. Mark walked in the first night with determination and the throught "I'm going to run this place someday!" He worked his way up to Manager in record time and, in the process, found his true passion: retail marketing and merchandising.

Ok, smaller examples now.

One day I was getting out of my car to go into Barnes and Noble where I like to write. As I juggled my purse, books, and computer getting out of the car my pen rolled under the car -- not just a little way under the car but right at the very mid-point of the car from both side to side and front to back. And this was not just any pen: it was the silver monogrammed pen that Mark had given me that I adore. DARN IT!

So I put down my load and crawled under the car to get it. I was frustrated and exasperated and all sprawled under my car retrieving my pen when a thought came to me: this is happening for a reason. Like one of those thoughts where you wonder if the reason you hit every red light was that God was delaying you enough to keep you out of that major accident, I felt strongly that the pen had jumped out of my grip and positioned itself in a challenging spot for a reason.

Now this was exciting! I knew that SOMETHING was about to happen and I had been given the awareness to get to watch it unfold! I recovered my pen, re-gathered my belongings, and headed for the front door of Barnes and Noble in heightened awareness... just in time to run smack dab into my friend David. David had recently, inexplicably, severed out friendship and cut off communication. I desperately needed some resolution and to make some peace with him. There was no other way I would have been able to see him. We talked briefly, cleared up the issue, and went on our way on good terms again. God had given us the gift of "coincidence" and reconcilliation. All because I dropped my pen!

I feel like I've been given a great answer by God: You see, Anne, when things get tough you're just supposed to try to make something bad into something good. It's THAT simple! And that's what you're supposed to do when you don't know what to do or how to handle a difficult situation.

Thank-you God. Now I understand. Now please just help me to remember that in a pinch!

Oh gosh! That last line sounded almost like a prayer! Prayer is another thing I'm struggling with. Maybe God has a two for one special going on today! If so, I hope you get yours too!

And one last thing! That guy who made some money painting house numbers on curbs. I'll bet you that wasn't his dream job. I'll bet that was an endeavor that came out of financial desperation. The lesson is: if you fall on hard times and have to resort to painting numbers on curbs, maybe you'll make the money you need. And maybe you'll give someone walking by a HUGE revelation from God! He will never know how he touched my life today!... Which reminds me of a story I'd like to tell you about a guy who stood on his head in front of a Coke machine outside a grocery store. Tune in for that one soon!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My Hometown Photo Essay

I talk about Enid, Oklahoma all the time on this blog so I thought I'd give you a little tour of it -- or a stroll down memory lane if you're an Enidite!

The photos got scrambled when I put them onto the blog template and, since it took me forever and many tries to get the pictures loaded, I got tired of fighting them so I just let them find their own order!

Also, my apologies for the formatting lunacies. It's 1 a.m. and I'm going to bed without fixing them because they don't seem to want to be fixed and it could take all night if I tried!

Hope this gives a glimpse of where I run off to and, perhaps, an understanding of why!

My favorite house in my favorite neighborhood in Enid. I would hope that any house I renovated would end up this cute!

The old Enid train station. This building was vacant for as long as I can remember until recently when they found a wonderful use for it: the Farmer's Market. I always wanted to fix up this building -- even in high school!

Enid High School. Class of 1984! We ALL went to Enid High: my parents, Mark's mother, Mark's son, all our siblings. My step-grandfather graduated in the class of 1914 from this very building (built in 1911) which just got air conditioning in the last few years. It was barbaricly hot! But you've got to love a school with vintage features, marble bathrooms, and an observatory on the roof! I wouldn't trade it!

One of the houses we have our eye on. It's abandoned. It's purple. It has amazing woodwork and all those wonderful sunroom windows. We think we could buy it for somewhere in the range of $12,000 - $20,000! It would be a FUN project!

Another of the houses we are interested in renovating. Price tag: $36,000 for 2700 square feet! I LOVE Enid real estate prices!

One of Enid's wheat elevators. When you're in the middle of wheat country you need someplace to put all that wheat!

DeWitt Waller Junior High School. This is where Mark and I met. This is where it all started!

Inside Waller Junior High. Down that hallway is where Mark and I first laid eyes on each other. He remembers it. I don't.

My grandfather's office was in this building for decades. The same little old lady operated the elevator for my entire life! It was always special to get to go to Papa's office!

3101 Whippoorwill Lane. We called this "the house on the hill". This is where I lived from age 12 to age 18. The trees were little then. It was the last house in the neighborhood which kinda made it the last house in town. There was a wheat field and a horse pasture behind it when we lived there (now there are houses which is still weird to me).

Mark's parents' house. Mark cooking hamburgers out front. This is where we hang out when we're in town.

Mark's family has lived here since 1973 when he was 8.

Another of the old Enid train station (Wow! A two-train station town!). Just included it because I think it's fun architecture... and because it says "Enid"!

One of the three tall buildings in Enid's downtown. The second floor ballroom (far left in the photo) is where we had most of our high school dances -- AND our wedding reception!

The Garfield County Courthouse. Our marriage license came from here. Mark says the jail in on the top floor. I'm not sure how he knows that.

Our ugly, dinky library on the main square. Last year the roof caved in. But they fixed it. Darn!

My step-father's store was just across the street.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dumpster Diving

I'll admit it. I am not ashamed. I am a Dumpster Diver. A PROUD Dumpster Diver! I adore the treasure hunt of it. I love finding the redeeming qualities in some "whatever" that someone else rejected or gave up on. I can find the good in anything... and anyone. That's who I want to be. I'm proud of that.

Whenever Mark and I are in Enid, Oklahoma, our hometown, on a Sunday we hit the dumpsters behind the thrift stores. Enid has the BEST thrift stores and, therefore, the best dumpsters!

Because it's Sunday, we often end up in the dumpsters in our chruch clothes. Well, actually, Mark usually does most actually spelunking into the dumpsters because a skirt and heels aren't exactly conducive to it. I love a man who will climb into a dumpster in a coat and tie to fish out a treasure for me!

One Sunday we were in the thick of the hunt, Mark standing waist-deep in the dumpster, me directing from beside, when a battered blue 70's farm truck went rumbling by. "Dumpster divers!" a male voice yelled from inside as the truck sped by and disappeared behind the yellow bricks of the building next door. Mark and I didn't even pause in our digging -- just gave each other a mildly confused look. "So?" was all I could think. A minute later Mark said, "Was that supposed to be an insult?... 'cuz I'm kinda proud of it!" ME TOO!

Among our dumpster finds are: two McCoy pottery pieces (a planter valued at $30-$40 and a vase valued at $75-$85), four matching curtain panels (see them in the photos of my master bathroom remodel in an earlier post called "My Happiness"), vintage "milk glass", a globe, cool vintage suitcases, an old GMC pickup tailgate (which is totally great because I've always wanted to use one for a headboard), a pair of new balance tennis shoes is good condition in Mark's size, scissors (who throws away scissors?), a 3 foot tall plastic Frostie the Snowman that lights up, bags of name brand clothes (I sold the best of them to the consignment store and made $60!), a small wicker trunk, and a vintage twin bed with headboard, footboard, and rails (actually, TWICE!).

Things I most hate to find in dumpsters: kitchen scraps and, worse yet, NOTHING!

NOTE have a wonderful photo of Mark sitting next to the dumpster in front of the mini storage on an old bench seat from a 70's pickup. Alas, I have been through thousands of photos in the last 24 hours and cannot locate this particular photo. So, just imagine it in this space and I'll post it if and when I find it! Darn!

Out of the Mouths of Babes: Cursing for Three-Year-Olds

While scanning the local Salvation Army store yesterday I came across a wonderful, hardback coffee table book on extinct animals full of beautiful botanical-style drawings of obsolete species (for a dollar!). The cover image brought back an old, deep, early memory for me.

When my sister, Katie, and I were very, very small, we would occasionally have some clash that would find one or both of us fuming, red-faced with anger and just plain spitting mad. In our fledgling innocence we would wrack our shiny new brains for the most scathing words we could think of, find almost a pitcher's stance for the presentation of them, and then wind up to deliver our ultimate explitive, the very WORST thing we could think of to call each other: "You, you, you... DODO BIRD!"

Illustration from A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals by Tim Flannery and Peter Schouten

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Well! THAT was NOT fun!

I cannot even BEGIN to explain all the technology headaches I've been through since I last posted! I will spare you the boring details. Suffice it to say I've spent about TWELVE hours either at the AT&T store or trying to download solutions to both my computer air card and my iPhone.

I don't know what went wrong really. These sorts of things just HAPPEN to me! I have always had a weird effect on computers. Computerized cash registers always crash when I'm trying to checkout. My computers always seem to fry. I killed about SIX of the same model of digital camera. One of them even smoked! It was actually kind of cool. NEVER get sand in your camera!

I am well known to the warranty claims department of AT&T because of all the "mishaps" my cell phones have experienced. To the point that I've exhausted my benefits at times. For a period of time my cell phones had a habit of jumping out of my back pocket and into the toilet. In my own defense that only happened twice... or was it three times? I swam in the lake with my phone tucked where my grandma used to keep her hankie. AND I swam in the ocean - with the phone in the same location. I dropped my phone into a glass of milk -- TWICE. And into a bowl of Fruit Loops. That's Mark's favorite story.

Seth, he sweet young guy who always helps us at the AT&T store is forever endeared to us because he doesn't laugh at me -- much. He's on the Christmas card list and may be coming to Thanksgiving dinner. He's becoming family!

In 2005 I spent a month participating in National Novel Writing Month. This is an annual online event in which amateur writers try to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you write all the words, you win -- no matter how BAD the story. It's really a cool challenge. 1765 words per day only takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours to write.

So, during the month of November 2005, I would sit at Barnes and Noble during the 2 1/2 hour interval I had between dropping Sara-Grace off at afternoon pre-school and picking her up. I had my favorite table and my familiarity with the employees and the "regulars" and I wrote my little heart out surrounded by all those books that other people had written. Rather than being intimidating, I found this setting rich and inspiring: if THEY could do it (write a book), the SO CAN I! So I did. I wrote 50,000 words by November 29th. I have a certificate to prove it!

And then I LOST THEM -- off TWO computers! And no amount of expert hard drive searching could find them. Fried mother boards and a "dragon virus". I guess I can always say my book was eaten by a dragon. At least that SOUNDS colorful!

In case you were wondering, my book was about my birthmother. I took everything I know about her and used that as a huge diving board of a jumping-off place and tried to write scenes from her life staring with a photo she sent me of herself as a 5-year-old little girl standing thigh-deep in a river up to the end of the month of my birth (age 24 for her). It was great fun and, I'm sure, VASTLY inaccurate. But it was curative for me and my dislike of being left in the dark. My birthmother has never told me who my birthfather is and most likely never will. This burned me up for about a decade and then I came to the realization that my lessons are about the ABSENCE of him, not the presence of him. There is great peace in that for me.

So, my book's gone and I have grieved heavily but I still try to jump on the bandwagon every Nation Novel Writing Month. I "won" twice and fell short once. I'll try again this year again, I'm sure. Maybe I'll get that external hard drive out of it's package and figure out how to use it this time. Or just print it all out at the end of every day. Both good ideas, huh?

And there's one more thing about my technology-zapping tendencies. Mark says I have a "lightning bolt personality". I'm not sure it's my personality that's so shocking. On about four occasions I have physically shocked him. Not a static electricity shock but a shock he likens to touching an electric fence. Most recently, when I shocked him, he jumped horizontally out of bed with absolutely no concern for how he would land on the hard wood floor beside the bed. I, on the other hand, have no awareness of this electricity. He swears I'm a witch.

I've researched this phenomenon and learned that there are other people who kill computers. And there are people who kill watches. And others who kill street lights. Some can cause each successive street light to go out as they pass it driving down the street. I guess maybe this sort of thing explains some cases of spontaneous combustion. I don't plan to try it. I would, however, love to develop my electricity into a healing touch. Wouldn't that be COOL?!

So, now to post this before I kill it somehow! Glad to be back! A million thanks to my beloved Deirdre, my college roommate and the person who talked me DAILY through the first two years of parenting, for posting the "Technical Difficulties" notice. Love you Drey!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Technical Difficulties

Anne is experiencing some technical difficulties but promises that she has some new posts ready when her laptop becomes operational again. Check back soon. But while you're here - take a look around and make some friendly comments.

Anne's friend Deirdre

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finally! Time to Veg! Ahhhhhhhh!

My Favorite Line of the Week

From out of the darkness of the front yard on a recent firefly hunt,
Tessa says to her cat: "Stormy! Don't eat that bug!... EEEEWWWW!"

Gotta love it!

Not the best photos but still a glimpse of Stormy stalking squirrels!

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Beloved Emily

Today there is a new baby in the Coppock family -- Mark's great niece, Josephine Ruth, born this morning. And I started the day off having coffee with a young mother who's son will be two next week. And all this has put me in touch with thoughts of my firstborn: my beloved Emily.

Emily is 15 now. She lives with her father. Our relationship is VERY troubled and has been for the last three years. She speaks to me almost exclusively in obsenities. I very rarely even get to lay eyes on her. She says she's done with me for good. My heart breaks every single day.

This place I find myself in now is SO far from where we started! Emily was my very planned, very wanted, very doted-on firstborn. She came easily -- we were pregnant on the first try, I had an easy pregnancy and a nice delivery. I had just finished grad school and was starting my parenting with a brand new Master's degree in clinical psychology. I felt I couldn't be more well-prepared. I had all that babysitting and baby brothers and college and grad school and graduate level child development under my belt. I thought I was going to be SUCH a good mom. I wanted every moment of everything to be perfect and wonderful for her. I wanted her to feel only loved and nurtured. I wanted the perfect, charmed, abundant life for her. Mostly, I just wanted her to be happy.

The day she was born was the most glorious of my life (matched only by the births of her sisters later on). I'll never forget that moment in the delivery room when they handed her to me for the first time and my whole world changed in that instant! There is no greater magic!

The first thing I learned about Emily in the first minute after she was born was that she would cry if I didn't hold her tightly. This began a our relationship: a mix of close and far, give and take, good and bad. Just like any relationship, I guess -- only SO much more profound than any I'd ever known before.

Looking back, it seems to me that everything has been a struggle for Emily. Life has not been the easy, happy ride that I had wanted for her.

She had the WORST colic -- for 3-4 hours a day for MONTHS. I walked her for MILES and sang a thousand verses of "My Girl" (now that I think of it, maybe my really BAD singing is responsible for a few things!).

When we brought her out of the hospital the day after she was born to take her home and put her in her car seat for the first time, she cried so violently she turned purple. My first parenting failure: we drove home with her on my lap. How could I let my newborn be deprived of oxygen from crying so hard?
She continued to hate her car seat always. This was particularly difficult since we lived 25 minutes from town! I spent MANY hours on the side of the road trying to get her to sleep and/or into her car seat so we could drive the rest of the way home. She still rebels about wearing a seat belt to this day -- even after being in a pretty bad wreck not too long ago. I pray she wears her seatbelt in my absence and only refuses it in my presence just to stick it to me in one more place that she can.
Emily hated all things baby: car seat, stroller, walker, bottle, pacifier, bib, cradle, crib (except that bouncer!). She even hated clothes! From the time she was physically able to pull off her clothes, at 8 months old, she would. She did her best to be naked until she was 5. For years she would only wear one type of shorts in the summer and one type of pants in the winter and only the most comfortable shirts. She wouldn't wear socks, jeans, underwear, turtlenecks, tights -- anything uncomfortable, anything with tags. Even CLOTHES, that we all wear every day, were hard for her!

Emily was a mama's girl from day one. When she was two weeks old my birthmother came to meet her for a few days. At one point during that visit I asked the new grandmother to hold Emily for 15 minutes while I took a much-needed shower. Emily screamed the entire time. When I came out of the shower and took her back she immediately quieted -- seemingly relieved that her long period of suffering was over.
That was the nature of our relationship for the next 12 years. She was the clingiest child I have ever met. We were completely enmeshed for the first dozen years of her life. She didn't even want to be left with her daddy. I didn't have much opportunity to leave her with anyone even for short periods because of our geographical isolation (we lived in the house my mother had left me on Lake Tenkiller in rural Oklahoma).
Starting preschool was traumatic. Starting Kindergarten was traumatic. She didn't want to be in a different room from me or (God fobid) on a different floor of the house. There was a year I couldn't leave the house without her or she'd plaster herself on the hood of my car. I didn't leave her overnight until she was 10 1/2. Maybe it was pathological, but at least then she LIKED me!

School was always a challenge. Emily didn't do well with groups or schedules which is what school IS. She wasn't a morning person. She didn't want to be away from me. She was so competative that she wouldn't do anything that involved competition because she was afraid she might not win. I sat in the hall outside her classroom for two weeks in first grade. I home schooled her for several years. I sat outside her classroom all day every day for SIX MONTHS in 5th grade because that was the only way I could keep her in school. Some mornings we had to chase her around the neighborhood and drag her kicking and screaming and crying to school. Every day she would just fall apart the minute she walked out of school at the end of the day and then start dreading the next day before we even got to the car to go home.

My poor, poor baby. This was the baby that was supposed to have the charmed life. And everything was so hard for her. I could never seem to make it better for her.

Maybe that's where I made some of my biggest mistakes: I didn't let her skin her knees enough. I think I probably saved her from all the things she was supposed to learn the hard way -- which were the things she probably most needed to learn!

And I yelled at her a lot. Emily says I yelled at her every day of her childhood. I did. But yelling was never my first reaction -- it was what happened on the eighth stab at whatever we were struggling with. Emily was strong-willed. She was stronger than I was. She could out-last me on everything. I finally learned that it was only by about 2 seconds that she could out-last me but she could still out-last me because I didn't have that last 2 seconds worth of strength. So she won a lot of battles that she probably shouldn't have. And I lost my mind WAY too many times in the struggle and the frustration and the panic of it all.

I know the flaws in my parenting. I was too soft-hearted. I should have corrected her on the first whatever-it-was rather than asking nicely and trying to reason with her and then losing my mind the eighth time whatever-it-was happened. I just always thought that we could work out a solution. My mistake was that I expected her to be reasonable. She was just a little person, she had no idea how to just be reasonable.

The best example of this was the day she decided it was funny to run across the street. She was probably 2 or 3. She decided to joyfully run across the street in front of our house just for sheer thrill of it -- or maybe the fun of rebelling against me or watching me turn white as a sheet in terror. Luckily, our street is only lightly travelled so she wasn't in as much danger as she would have been in heavy traffic but STILL! Small children need to learn not to run into the street, right? I told her NO and explained to her why it was massively dangerous to run into the street. She laughted in my face and kept doing it -- laughing all the while as I grew more and more panicked and terrified.
Finally, on the eighth run, I resorted to something I didn't believe in and had been taught against in grad school: spanking. I picked her up out of the street and spanked her. Her immediate reaction was to slap me across the face, saying "DON'T HIT ME!". I burst into tears. I had just taught my child to hit and made her feel abused in the process and she still hadn't learned about the street. That's why spanking isn't good, in my mind. But that wasn't the only time I spanked her -- later desperation led to trying anything I could think of. But I was usually short on ideas.
I think Emily also blames me for the divorce which disrupted her whole world. I don't blame her for being angry. It did rip up her world. And I know she probably thinks I left her dad for Mark. That's NOT what happened. For the record, I hadn't seen Mark in nearly 20 years when I decided to divorce Matt. The divorce was about me and Matt and no one else. And I wish she could know how much the divorce was about me wanting the best for everyone -- especially Matt. I wanted happiness for him and I knew that I couldn't give him the happiness I thought he deserved. SO much soul-searching went into that decision. I'm still sure that, in the grand scheme of things, I did the right thing. I only hope someday she can understand.

I love Emily more that words can say. She is an AMAZING person. She is a wonderful, creative soul with great passion for animals and great talent in art. She has a wisdom about her that that speaks of an old soul. Not too long ago she completely blossomed from a beautiful chubby kid who hated herself into a gorgeous young woman whom I hope can see, appreciate, and enjoy all the incredible things about herself. She has those wonderful exotic eyes, that beautiful cinnamon-vanilla skin, Mark says she has my arms, I see my legs and hips on her. She is wonderfully loving but firm with children (probably a lot more like what I should have been with her than I was). She has the most incredible sense of humor. She can be the best big sister when she wants to be. She lovingly looks after her dad. She's real, accepting, supportive, and good to her friends. She's incredibly, incredibly strong and very brave. She's so many things that I am SO, SO proud of. And, despite all the school-related challenges her soul has been through, today she goes to school, wearing JEANS even!, and she makes terrific grades and her teachers think she's wonderful and wish they had a whole classroom full of Emilys! And I breathe a huge sigh of relief that things are finally starting to be easier for her.

When she was little I lived every moment in awareness of her. I breathed every breath with her. I empathized every emotion with her. Now I miss her so very extremely desperately.

I LOVE just to get to LOOK at her which is rare because she will not permit photos to be taken of her, I've had to hide all of the old photos of her off of the premesis because she'll take or destroy them (she doesn't like the way she used to look), and I don't get to see her often because of the way she feels about me right now.

It's become my realization that she's better off without me right now because I bring up her demons. She won't take my calls. She blocks my texts. She won't read the letters I've given her. I would love to call her daily or sent her a text or a note every day but I suspect she would just yell at me. To "respect" her wishes and just leave her alone feels like I'm ignoring and abandoning her. I feel like I've lost a child. And I grieve her every day.

I pray she outgrows all this. If she never does, at least I know she's alive and healthy and walks the earth. And I hope she knows (as I've told her more than once) that I'm here with open arms any time she's ready to start working on making all this better.

My secret wish is that it will all be better in time for me to be there to send her off to the prom. That's reasonable, isn't it? And, when she's 22 and realizes that I'm maybe not so bad after all and that maybe I was right about a few things, I don't have the heart to want her to regret everything she's put me through or all the hurt she's given me. I just want my baby back. I just want to have her in my life -- happy and healthy and MINE!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Grand Central Station

The air conditioner in the upstairs of my house has been broken for the last two years. It wasn't as bad as it sounds during the heat of the summers because I could coax a little bit of cooling out of it at night if I turned it off during the day. And the ceiling fan helped. But this year it's been totally out which has given me tremendous appreciation for what our pre-A/C ancestors went through. The repairman came today and gave us a temporary fix that should hold until the permanent fix can be ordered and installed (at horrifying expense if I may lament!). Yipee!

The one nice thing about a broken air conditioner is sleeping with the windows open. When the A/C works there's always some reason not to: bugs or allergies or security or Ninja Turtles or SOMETHING! But when the A/C is out, no one argues. So we've had the windows open. And the animals LOVE it!

For the record, we have 3 dogs and 6 cats and 2 ferrets and that's the lowest animal count we've had in YEARS! At one point (just for a week or so), we had 7 dogs, 13 cats, and who knows what else! All this is the result of a pathological interaction between Emily's love of animals and my soft heart. This means I'm a cool mom, right? Not everyone would agree with that but that's the theory I'm going with! Anyway, we've worked it down to almost manageable so no one has to feel obligated to have me committed or anything!

Torpedo is our "mama dog". She's beagle and Jack Russell terrier and is named for her rocket, whirling dervish, TORPEDO-like maneuvers when excited or escaping capture. She moves so fast she's just a blur and jumps for joy three plus feet in the air like she's on springs! Torpee looks after all the other animals like a mama and has appointed herself Director of Human Interface. This means she communicates with us on behalf of the other animals. If Maggie and Lily (the other dogs) need to go out (or come in), Torpedo tells us. Often Maggie and Lily have no idea that they need to go out and Torpedo has decided this all on her own. Or maybe she just kicks them out when they get on her nerves! You'd have to ask HER! She also supervises the ferrets when they're out of their cage and tattles on the other animals if they're someplace they're not supposed to be. This fascinates me.

Torpedo takes security VERY seriously. If anyone sets foot on our property she goes off like an alarm system. She also thinks the street in front of our house is ours as well so we hear about it if anyone walks by. If they have a dog with them she practically loses her mind! This morning the UPS truck drove by the house at full speed. It never even slowed down. Torpedo went nuts. I don't worry about security much around here!

Torpedo loves it when the bedroom window is open. She can sit on "her" bed and monitor the yard and the street from a great second-storey vantage point. And, if the window is open wide enough, she can let herself out onto the roof of the front porch and bark at people from outside without being able to actually accost them. AND she's smart enough not to jump off (or FALL off like others of our dogs have done who shall remain nameless to protect their dignity!). So, the A/C challenges have worked well for Torpee!

Torpedo standing guard on the roof.

Last night I was laying half asleep in the middle of the night and one of the cats went wooshing through the window at full speed without even slowing down. I'm not sure what the impetus for this hasty exit was but it struck me funny enough at the moment that it inspired me to write this whole piece! Too bad I can't seem to capture the humor of it adequately at the moment!

Tessa's pride and joy is her rascal teenage boy cat Stormy. Stormy puts the windows to his own uses whether they are open or not. Tessa tells me that Stormy meows at her window around 2 a.m. every night and makes her let him in. Sometimes the window is open but the blinds are down in front of it. And these aren't mini-blinds -- they're the plantation shade of window blinds with 2 inch slats that the girls often need adult help to raise. Stormy just sticks his head through between the slats and looks at you expectantly. Sometimes he manages to get his whole body through this space as well! Stormy cracks me up!

Wishbone (Wishy) and Stormy at the window.

Last night a dragonfly few in the bedroom window. It was the biggest dragonfly I have ever seen -- probably some extinct prehistoric African variety! I kid you not, it was five inches long! Torpedo immediately went after it and the top of Mark's night stand was quickly cleared of coin bowl and cell phone in the process. The chase was on! Sara-Grace and I finally caught it in the lemonade pitcher after much running and jumping and climbing on furniture and a fair amount of laughing and girlish squealing in what turned out to be a fun mother-daughter adventure!

The dragonfly. See? It really IS huge!

I can tell you, after all the open-window adventures, that I really wouldn't be surprised if an elephant came through the window in the middle of the night! I may sleep better tonight with the A/C on and the windows closed, but I'm sure I'll be missing out on some adventure!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Ice Cream Truck

I live a block from the park. From the first warm day to the last warm day every year the ice cream truck trolls the park for children. I can hear the repetitive music from the ice cream truck from my house -- from the front porch, from the back yard, from inside if the windows are open.

The tune gets stuck in my head. And the words get stuck in my head: "With their hands in their pockets and their pockets in their pants, all the little fishies do the hoochie koochie dance..." Ad infinitum! ALL summer! EVERY year!

If I were the ice cream truck driver, I'd be SLITTING MY WRISTS about now! And it's only MAY!

You'd think they could have Tuesday music. And Wednesday music. And maybe some Rolling Stones or something!

Can you mail-order a bazooka?


The Heretic's Lament -- The Fall

Get comfortable -- this is going to be a long one!

Today, something really clicked for me. And one of those Biblical stumbling blocks that has tripped me up always rolled away.

You never know where you're going to find yourself! I thought I was just reading up on Robb's blog yesterday (that's Robb Ryerse, Vintage Fellowship "director and narrational leader", On the topic of "edgy" sermons there was a bit of a discussion of the line "Sometimes you have to lower the bar so someone can accept the invitation to a higher bar." One person said they didn't like this line. I DID like it and commented, "Life is messy. Lessons are messy. Higher things come out of it." Somehow this came to be the theme of my weekend!

Sometimes, the only way life makes sense to me to view every challenge as a lesson. When things get really bad, I can be angry or resentful or distraught or depressed or a host of other pathetic human emotions which probably do no good. Or I can ask, "Ok God, what am I supposed to learn?" There is incredible peace in viewing hardships as lessons rather than just random cruelty. So I really meant the "life is messy" statement. And sometimes I really cling to that concept because it all just gets so complicated and frustrating and seemingly-hopeless sometimes. And gosh, if we're not here to learn something then why ARE we here?

I see life as the lab portion of the class my soul is taking. I must say here that I avoided all classes in college that involved lab time because who has time for all that hands-on learning anyway when you should just be able to read the textbook (Robb -- there's something cosmically significant about your day job being in the textbook business!). But life is not college. Life is a lab. I wholeheartedly believe the new-age concept that we are "spirits having a human experience" rather than just humans having a spiritual experience.

Of course, the most colossal example of the spiritual having a human experience is Jesus. Now that I have worked myself past seeing him as a mortal prophet, I CAN conceive of Jesus as God incarnate coming down to earth in human form to walk the full-on human experience just like he expects us to do. I can finally see Jesus as God coming down here to get his hands dirty, diving into the thick of the complicated, exhausting, challenging, fatal, MESSY experience of being human. All the biblical foot-washing imagery makes sense to me from this perspective: if you walk through the dusty, dirty roads of life, you're gonna get dirty. (I'll save the concept of cleansing for later!)

And speaking of dirt: seeds never cease to fascinate me. You take a tiny little thing that can look like nothing and throw it in the dirt and it somehow knows what to do and becomes a plant! And it doesn't even have a brain. Or lessons. Or a textbook! So, to me, God has got to be in each and every seed. Somehow. Otherwise, how could seeds contain life and know what to do and complete mind-boggling tasks like it's something that just happens a jillion times every day?

So life's messy and dirty. And seeds have to get thrown on the ground and mixed up with the dirt in order to grow thereby rising above the dirt. And I, as a human, do exactly the same thing with both literal and metaphorical dirt. I get thrown down. I get all dirty. I get mixed in with the mess of it all. And because of this "misfortune", hopefully I grow. I may not like the dirt but it makes me grow. And ultimately, I somehow come to rise above, to something higher. That makes all the hard times make sense.

One of the songs at church this morning was "I'm Wholly Yours" by the Dave Crowder Band. Of course, it's infinitely better to listen to the real song and I hope you will (even if you're familiar with it) but here are the lyrics for the sake of the coming discussion. Meet me down below for the relevance of this.

I am full of earth

You are heaven's worth

I am stained with dirt, prone to depravity

You are everything that is bright and clean

The antonym of me

You are divinity

But a certain sign of grace is this

From the broken earth flowers come up

Pushing through the dirt

You are holy, holy, holy

All heaven cries "Holy, holy God"

You are holy, holy, holy

I want to be holy like You are

You are everything that is bright and clean

And You're covering me with Your majesty

And the truest sign of grace was this

From wounded hands redemption fell down

Liberating man

But the harder I try the more clearly can I feel

The depth of our fall and the weight of it all

And so this might could be the most impossible thing

Your grandness in me making me clean

Glory, hallelujah

Glory, glory, hallelujah

So here I am, all of me

Finally everything

Wholly, wholly, wholly

I am wholly, wholly

I am wholly, wholly, wholly


I am full of earth and dirt and You

I LOVE the visual message of this song. I wonder how many people have only heard it and not gotten the "sight gag" of the spelling: "You are holy... I am wholly (yours)". And, of course, all the wonderful dirt references!

By the time this song came on this morning, I had gotten past my previously-referenced tears because of the music and because I actually SAW the moment that the music got to Mark and melted away the issue of the morning. So I was freed up to be open to the moment. About that time one line reached out and grabbed me:

The harder I try the more clearly I can feel

The depth of our fall and the weight of it all

And something clicked!

I struggle with the whole concept of "the fall" of man. It just has never made sense to me. Eve got all blamed for everything. Adam didn't. Why was God so picky about his fruit trees. And what's this about talking snakes? And why was God so mean? And wasn't it all a set-up? And I have an issue with rules anyway. And who thought this story explained ANYTHING? I've been stuck on this one for forty-three years!

Then it hit me, from out of the place of struggle and exhaustion that I had just been in, how very far below perfect we are as humans -- and "the weight of it all". And that we aren't SUPPOSED to be perfect because we aren't God. Because we're here to learn and what can you learn if you stay all clean on the sidelines or in heaven or in spirit form and don't get your hands dirty?

So "the fall" to me isn't falling out of favor with God so much as "falling" from perfect spirit form down into the laboratory of earthly life so I can get my hands into the soil and learn something. One of my favorite garden quotes (from a plaque in my step-grandmother's garden) is "We come from the Earth. We return to the Earth. And, in between, we garden." This gets into other issues but I love the hands-in-the-soil sentiment of it.

I'm not sure where the Garden of Eden is exactly. The History Channel says they've located it in the Middle East. But it sure makes sense to me that the Garden of Eden is someplace closer to heaven than the Earth is and that we "fell" out of it into this human experience so that we can really wrestle with the issues both large and small.

The tree of "the knowledge of good and evil" never made sense to me. Why would it be called that? What did good and evil and knowledge have to do with it? Why didn't they just call it an apple or an quince or whatever if the point was just that Adam and Eve weren't supposed to eat from it just because God said so? Was there really something chemical or magical about this particular fruit? Or was it just an arbitrary rule? Or was it a dare. Or, like I said before, was it a set-up because God knew that Adam and Eve were human and would act in all their human-ness and that one darn tree was just too much temptation to resist. To me, we're not bad, we're just human. Replace the word "sin" with the word "human-ness" or "human failings" or whatever form of the concept fits the sentence and it all goes down a whole lot easier for me. More on this later!

Adam and Eve already had knowledge of good. They knew God, personally!, and God is ALL goodness. Ever noticed that the word "God" is one letter off of the word "good". Simple semantics (not that there's anything simple about the WORD "semantics" -- it took me most of college to get what that word meant!). In order to have knowledge of more than just goodness, to have knowledge of bad, of evil, Adam and Eve were going to have to rock their world a bit. I think the "and evil" part of "knowledge of good and evil" is why we're here. To have knowledge of evil man must gnash around in the dirt. You can sit on your cloud with your harp and your wings and have knowledge of good. But to have knowledge of good AND evil, one must have the human experience of wrestling with BOTH, down here, in the dirt, in the laboratory, where life's MESSY!

So, Adam and Eve, and I, must learn about good and evil through the daily hands-on contrasting struggle with both. I have to really FEEL the mud between my fingers to understand how good it really feels to have clean hands, experience, some good lessons, and a sense of accomplishment. Because, if my hands are always clean, I haven't experienced anything and there are no flowers or vegetables or fruits in my garden and I just don't really understand or appreciate the priviledge of having gotten to learn the lesson.

I think some mud pies sound good about now! Followed by a nice manicure!

The Heretic's Lament -- Today

Leave it to church on Sunday to stir up stuff to write about! It always does! Here goes my long-contemplated, leap of faith, headlong dive into discussing religion! Buckle your seatbelt!

Geez! This morning was hard!

Mark and I have struggled so hard to find common ground between our very different religious perspectives. He is a very traditional Christian with considerable Baptist exposure. I am a pretty way-out, liberal, new-age, universalist with a great fondness for reincarnation theory. We have searched high and low for a church that can work for both of us. NOT an easy task!

This morning Mark was struggling with feeling like I'm dragging him to MY church. And I was thinking, "Hey! Wait a minute! I thought we had agreed that we were both comfortable here?" And then he wasn't going and I think the only reason he went was because I was very pathetically sobbing.

So we went. And I don't believe that prayer does much good because I'm pretty sure God already knows what he's doing but I prayed that whatever happened at church would be what Mark needed. And, of course, it was.

But that's his story. Which I won't go into because it's HIS story. But I do think I'll tell you MY story. Because today a lot of things clicked for me.

So church starts off with 5 or 6 Christian contemporary songs. I have had a closet Christian contemporary side since my best friend Michelle sang a duet of "Friends" at the junior high talent show and then introduced me to Amy Grant and I was so proud of myself that I knew all the words to "El Shaddai" in Hebrew (isn't it?). Something about this music always finds me where I am. Today the music started. And then the tears started. "Tears of truth" I call them. Have you ever noticed that when something's really true the tears come with it? Mark and I always say "it must be true if the tears come when you try to say it." This morning my tears were of grief and exhaustion and fear that maybe we hadn't found the right church after all. And that we might have to start looking again. And that I might have to leave another church.

A couple of years ago I got involved with the Unitarian Universalist congregation. It was a wonderful community of very genuine, caring, sensitive people -- lots of lesbians and older university professors and people with social conscioussness. I found a great sense of community in that little congregation where about 65 people showed up weekly. I joined the writing group and made the food for the after-service social hour once and went to other activities on other days of the week and really got involved. Things I'd never done at a church before.

It was a good place for me at the time. And that was a good time for me even though I was wrestling with big challenges. I was going thru my divorce, transforming my life, doing lots of soul-searching and writing and really finding myself. For the first time I had a personal relationship with the ministers, an older, married couple from back East who came to the ministry late in life. My favorite moment come when I walked into church one Sunday morning and Rev. Dave said to me, "We missed you last week!". I hadn't even remembered that I hadn't been there the previous week -- but HE did. And that felt REALLY good!

But the UU didn't work for Mark (and I give him great credit for trying) and I realized there was not enough God for me there. There was more of a social and environmental consciousness than God there. I found I felt uncomfortable saying the word "God" there because no one else really did. And the ministers seemed to believe more in God as the connections between people than in God as an external force. That's nice, but I needed more God.

So we searched around for a while and tried several different churches -- all of which had pros and cons (but doesn't everything?) and agreed on Vintage Fellowship and I'm just really starting to get to know people and to feel at home there. And I really like the minister. And his wife. And the authenticity they practice. And the transparency with which they live their passion. And I don't want to start over.

But God has his compassionate ways and before the music was over Mark had made his peace with his issues. And maybe we're learning something together. Perhaps today the lesson is that there is no perfect church for both of us but that any church is hopefully going to push us to learn and grow. And if that means tossing us into our issues sometimes, bring it on!

I realize I haven't really gotten into all the things that "clicked' for me today that I mentioned earlier. I'm going to post this portion now for the sake of some attempt at brevity. Stay tuned for "The Fall" which I will probably post later today. If I write a million words on Sunday does that mean you'll forgive me for slacking a few other days of the week?