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?

AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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", http://www.thegrenzian.blogspot.com/). 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


Yours


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?

Yikes!

I think about this blog so much that I believe I post things more often than I do! My goal is to post something daily. So how did it get to be Sunday and I haven't written since Wednesday! Oh, yeah, that whole staging project I took on! Gotta earn a living and exercise my others passions too! Hang on a minute and I'll write up with something! Church on Sunday always brings out the ponderer and writer in me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Garage Sale Finds

Last Saturday Mark and I, with Starbuck's coffee and the newspaper classified section in hand, spent a glorious summer morning tromping to garage sales in Enid.

Before long we found ourselves on a street that Marks knew well. When he was a kid, it was empty land near his house. The kids in the neighborhood called it "the woods" because of the trees that followed a small creekbed (in the Oklahoma prairie, a few trees constitute a forest in the eyes of native children!). Mark was able to tell the homeowner that her house stood right in the middle of the old poison ivy patch! The lady was quite pleased to know that her property was much improved from it's previous, itchy state. Mark was kind of glad to walk away NOT itching!

Next was a sale with lots of old farm equipment. As I perused a table of items, I picked up a long contraption primitively made of old wood and tin and asked Mark, is this a seed planter? Before Mark could answer, a gravelly voice beside me said, "It's a corn planter."

"I thought you might know" I said, when I looked up to see an old farmer in overalls and a plaid shirt beside me. He took the implement from me and, with weathered hands and a stooped back, demonstrated for me with practiced movements the way the corn planter worked. "You seem to know a lot about that," I said. "I SURE DO! I've planted a lot of corn with one of these!" he replied, still demonstrating, clearing reminiscing on his long-ago childhood. He seemed quite annoyed that the metal seed canister on the side of the corn planter was missing it's lid. I left him to wander on among the other items for sale.

We bought an old bottle for Mark's collection and a burlap feedbag, just because, and, as we drove away, I saw in the rearview, a pair of old blue overalls, make their way across the street, in something between a lope and a hobble, to an old truck. In his hands, a couple of old horse bridles... and a corn planter. I was glad to see him take him memories home. I wonder if he'll plant some corn!

Later, while scanning the goods at another sale, I gray-haired woman in jeans and a chambray shirt over a white t-shirt stopped me and asked if I thought this shirt and that vest went together. I told her the horizontal lines in one and the vertical images in the other clashed a bit to my eye. Clearly more interested in talking than in whether the outfit really matched or not, she went on to tell me that her children were all grown, that her oldest son died of colon cancer, that she's 73, weights 114, and wears a size 5 shoe, that she "practically" raised a grandson, and a number of other details about her life. She was cute and spritely, clearly lonely, and maybe a half a sandwich short of a picnic, but she was sweet and generously shared herself and her story with me. Later on in the day, at another location, I saw her again. Again, she stopped me to ask for assistance (what time did the Salvation Army store close?), but I don't think she remembered me. Now I wish I'd asked her name. She will remain anonymous to me. But I'll remember her. Even if she doesn't remember me.

You never know what treasures you'll find at a garage sale!

Sometimes it's more the stories than the "stuff"!

My Zicam Endorsement

Well, it turns out that my sore throat wasn't from the paint fumes -- or wasn't JUST the paint fumes -- because it didn't go away overnight. And yesterday I felt just plain crappy. Today I feel 90% better and we're on our way to Springfield, Missouri to pick up a motorhome.

The catalyst to my semi-miraculous recovery is Zicam. I could be the Zicam poster child or not-a-celebrity endorser or, better yet, PAID endorser!

Zicam is an over-the-counter cold remedy that you can get in about 12 different forms at Walmart or wherever. Personally, I prefer the orange or cherry tablets that you dissolve in your mouth (and then don't drink anything for half an hour) every three hours until your symptoms are gone (it usually only takes 3 or 4 or 5 to whip it). They're basically zinc lozenges and they REALLY WORK!

Here's my testimonial about how I discovered Zicam:

I was in Enid, laying around watching TV in the hotel room, feeling worse and worse by the minute. I was supposed to have driven home that day but I felt too bad to drive. All day long my throat had been getting more and more sore until I had the most vicious sore throat I could ever remember having. This was NOT going to be good!

A commercial for Zicam came on TV. I basically ignored it. I never use cold medicine. Then the commerical came on again. I ignored it again. Soon the commerical came on a third time and I muttered to God or the ceiling or whoever "Ok! I hear you!" because how else would the same commercial come on three times in two hours unless God is in charge of media scheduling! I got up and went to Walmart and bought some Zicam. I took one immediately and another three hours later before falling asleep for the night.

By morning I was 90% recovered! Miraculous! Since then, whenever I've felt cold or flu symptoms coming on and caught them early with the Zicam I've been able to kick it in 24-48 hours (usually more like 12 hours!). I've never gotten anything full-blown since!

I hand out Zicam on street corners! Well, almost. I seriously DO hand it out. Twice I've given a few to my friends who work at the Salvation Army Thrift Store (it shouldn't surprise you that I'm friends with the employees at the thrift stores!). I forced some on Mark's parents. I carry extra in my purse. It is a wonder drug (ok, wonder remedy)! Everyone I've given it to has become a believer too! I always feel a little silly pushing it on someone (because I wouldn't listen if someone pushed it on me!) but I'm so convinced of the benefit that it's worth feeling silly to be able to offer some poor suffering soul a cure!

So, there's my commercial!

Do you think I could get Zicam to advertize on my blog and pay me for it?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chicken!

Sorry for the long silence. I have thought about it all week but I have just plain chickened out on writing the religion series -- for now. I just don't have the energy to re-invent this wheel at the moment. I'm sure the day will come as issues of spirituality are one of the main things I ponder and write about and one of the motivations for this blog. But, apparently, this is not the week for it.

I HAVE concluded one thing: I WILL write it all out eventually for no other reason than this: There is so much about religion that can be rigid and judgemental and negative. "My God" (just me and God and what I have learned and what we have worked out between us) is bigger, less petty, and far more positive than alot of other takes on God that are out there. If I get hit by a bus, I want my daughters to be able to read about my view of God so that maybe they can get a glimpse of the WONDER and GLORY and JOY that ARE God, as I see it.

I am particularly not in the mood to wax poetic on God at the moment (no offense to God) after the evening of butting heads over religion that Mark and I have had tonight.

We've known from the beginning that his very traditional Christian beliefs and my way-out, new age, metaphysical, nebulous, in-the-statosphere beliefs were in sharp contrast to each other. We have worked for a couple of years to find a church that would work for BOTH of us (http://www.vintagefellowship.org/ if you're interested). Mark has heard many warnings and admonishions about being "un-equally yoked" (if find that insulting -- my flavor of different is not interior!). Even the minister who married us sternly warned him that such a pairing could spell trouble. Ok, so he was right but I also firmly believe that our religious differences are part of our task and journey together. I believe that we have much to learn together and from each other. I looked forward to decades of deep conversation about spiritual matters. And I still do.

But sometimes all the doubters have their day to be right. Today was one of those days.

I believe that evolution is a wonderous example of how God works within his own systems and attends to the tiniest details personally over the mind-boggling time span of billions of years. I married an creationist. To me, the Bible is frustrating and foreign and just doesn't speak to me. I was an English major. I like to analize literature. I see the Bible as metaphroical and allegorical and poetic (not to mention obscure and imprecise). I recently learned that there is a word for the way I approach the Bible : deconstructionism! I am a deconstructionist. I want to know what each original word was when it was written in the original Hebrew or Aramaic or whatever. I want to know the social, political, and cultural nuances of a word. I want to know exacrly what was lost or modified in transition between languages and versions. Whew! Mark is a Biblical literalist. I believe we're here to learn and that God understands that we are merely human (he made us that way, you know!) and that, when I die, I'll go "the Light" and God will say, "Welcome! What did you learn?". Mark believes I'm going to hell. I hate Christmas. Mark lives for Christmas. And on and on and on.

Tonight the debate was evolution vs. creation, the Council(s) of Nicea, and the issue of alcohol as it relates to church leaders. I'm worn out and, other than my little deconstructionist tirade above, I have no energy left for this volatile topic. Catch me on a stronger day! I'm sure it will come!

Or perhaps I'm just tired! Friday, after many days of cleaning (which for me often means redecorating and rearranging and re-inventing the wheel -- again!), I had my new friend and favorite inspiration, Vanessa, and her daughter, Charleigh, over for lunch. Tessa and Sara-Grace were wonderfully helpful with the preparations and the five of us had a lovely lunch in the dining room featuring all my favorite luncheon dishes: cucumber sandwiches (PB&J for the little ones), fruit salad, carrot and ginger soup, and scones with lime icing. This is how I want my life to be ALL the time!

Immediately after our guests left, Mark and I left for Enid. We had the nicest weekend! We did all the usual thrift shopping (Enid has the BEST thrift stores!), went to a bunch of garage sales, did some dumpster diving, ate at all our favorite places, and worked in his parents' yard (which involved roses and petunias!).

I also had the huge treat of getting to redo the extra bedroom which involved 6 hours, much vacuuming, unearthing all sorts of fun family history and memorabilia, a $3 pair of garage sale red velvet curtains (COOL red velvet curtains, not tacky red velvet curtains -- think Pottery Barn!), and some dumpster prizes (a pair of white sheer curtains and two baskets), and a head board for the bed that I ended up making from vintage VW bus parts (long story -- but you wouldn't guess if you saw it!). There are, alas, no pictures because my phone/camera was having a bad day but it doesn't matter because I had THE BEST TIME!
That was yesterday.

Today we started off with raspberry mochas and apple fritters at Starbucks and then spent the rest of the day helping with improvements at church. We cleaned and carried and organized and painted and put down floor tiles -- and talked and ate too! And had a very enjoyable and productive day. I should be exhaused and konked out but I'm still energetic (as long as I'm sitting in bed!). I may be too tired to sleep. And I have a raging sore throat -- I guess I'm sensitive to paint fumes (since the same thing happened when I painted my bathroom). Remind me next time to get low-odor paint. Lesson learned. Maybe. If I remember.

So... I guess I'll try to sleep now because my eyes usually pop open at 6 a.m. and that's getting rather close if we're counting in terms of hours of sleep! Hope you all had at least half as much fun this weekend as I did! Goodnight!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teetering on the Edge

I have been planning lately to start a multi-part series on religion because that's a topic that frequently has my mind whirring. I even have three or four pieces mostly written. But I can't seem to work up the nerve to post them. Maybe it's that old admonishment about avoiding discussion of religion and politics. Maybe it's that I know I don't know anything about anything. Maybe I don't want to be perceived as trying to shove my view down anyone else's throat (it's MUCH better to shove cookies and scones down other people's throats!). Or maybe I'm just delaying the inevitable "heretic" label that I will surely earn. So, please be patient with me. I'll either work up the nerve or I'll write something else!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

By the Thread of Grace

Everyone asks how Mark and I got back together so I thought I would post the story once and for all for all to read at their leisure.

The story of what happened between us in junior high and high school is a book in itself. Chapters of it may appear here from time to time but I won't try to recount it all here. I really would like to write our whole history and love story up as a book someday. Everyone loves a good love story. It's especially amazing to get to live it! And it's particularly difficult to try to capture all the complexity and meaning with mere words. But I'll give it my best try!


The briefest summary of our past is this:

We first laid eyes on each other in the 7th grade. My mother had remarried and we moved from Tulsa to her hometown -- Enid, Oklahoma. (Coincidentally, she married the boy she had her first date with when they were 13. They re-met at their 20th high school reunion. In my life there has always been something about coming full circle.)

The first sighting was probably sometime shortly after November 4, 1978, my first day at Waller Junior High. I passed him in the breezeway near the cafeteria. He still remembers what I was wearing (Sassoon jeans!). He says it was love at first sight. I remember my awareness of him gradually coming into focus over the course of that year and the next.

In the 8th grade, we found ourselves in Mrs. Keahlier's English class together. He sat two seats behind me. He would wad up paper to put in the trash can at the front of the room so he could walk by me. I would go to the pencil sharpener at the back of the room so I could walk past him. We passed most of the eighth grade in highly-aware silence. We may have talked once on the last day of class over yearbooks but I'm not sure.

In the 9th grade we met for real one night at a party (this too is a chapter for another day!). We both agree we fell in love that night. That was January 31, 1981. We dated off an on from then until the beginning of our second semester at different colleges.

It ended badly with misunderstandings on both sides (also another chapter). We saw each other a couple more times in college (more chapters here too!) but could never get past all the hurt.

Eventually, we both went on with our lives and eventually married and had children and jobs and all that stuff that makes up life.

Over the years I heard only a few of the barest facts about his life.

Years and decades went by before fate brought us back together.

I was 39, going through a long divorce and, understandably, trying to find myself again. I lived immersed in extensive soul-searching, reevaluating and pondering the big questions about my life.

The previous year I has started taking quarterly "runaway mommy weekends". I never left my children overnight or for more than 6 or 8 hours at a time during the first 10 1/2 years of my parenting. I had been wife and mother and all the many job titles that go along with that. After all that, I really needed to figure out how to be just myself again. During those years of my marriage and early parenting, I had lost myself somewhere between the laundry and the dishes.

The first runaway mommy weekend was with two girlfriends. We talked for 26 out of 34hours we were away. The next runaway mommy weekend I was to go on alone. The only place I felt comfortable going alone was Enid, Oklahoma. In Enid I knew what was what and who was who and there were people to visit if I wanted company. Enid was home. Or at least it had been long ago, before Mother and Grandmother and Papa were in the cemetery, before I had children, before lots of things changed.

The first time I drove to Enid for a weekend alone, I had the strongest feeling that I was being led somewhere. I didn't know where or why but I knew my life was being taken in a new direction. I felt somehow led by the hand of God or fate or destiny or something larger than myself. I felt deeply that trusting the process was imperative so I decided to move forward in faith and see what would unfold. One thing I did know what that I was being taken home, back to the source. I had a strong desire to reconcile things from my past that made it necessary to return to square one and start from the beginning.

I hadn't seen Mark in 18 years. He hadn't really been in my life in about 20. Over the years I had Googled him periodically but I could never find him. I found people FOR A LIVING (as an adoption search consultant) but I could never find him. I figured he was probably in the Oklahoma City area. But he remained elusive.

Since the summer before, when Mark hadn't come to our 20th high school reunion (or the 10th either!), doors had started to open for me about Mark's location. Gradually, doors began to open for me until it seemed like every time I came to an impasse the lock sprang open and the door openned in front of me. It had been so hard for so long and now it seemed to be getting so easy.

During the summer of the 20th reunion I found an address for Mark in Cherokee, Oklahoma. I went there but they had moved on. A "For Sale" sign in the yard gave me his wife's phone number which turned out to be at a house in Enid a block from the house my mother grew up in. So I thought I knew where he and his family lived but I could never work up the nerve to call him. What if his wife answered? I didn't want to disrupt anything. I just wanted to know what had happened to him and to discern some final truths about our relationship.

Mark was always "The One" to me -- since that night at the party in 8th grade. He was my first love and my prom date and jusst simply "The One". He was the one I always compared men and love and relationships to. I looked for him in every guy I dated. I never found anyone like him. And I never felt that way again.

So, as I was getting divorced and re-evaluating my ability to trust myself and to judge love, it all kept going back to Mark. Had he really loved me at all? Had he loved me in the same deep, spiritual way that I had loved him? Or had it all just been teenage hormones and puppy love and my own self-delusion. I needed to know. I needed to know if I could trust my gut and my instincts or if I was silly and gullible and self-deceiving.

Mark had two other relationships in the five years we dated on and off. I always took him back. I always dumped whoever I was dating to be with Mark again. But I had come to be ashamed of myself for having been so pitiful and pathetic. And I had gradually come to believe that he had just used me back them. I loved him and always took him back and gave him some pretty good adoration. What teenage boy wouldn't take advantage of a situation like that.

Slowly, year by year, I grew angrier and angrier. I wanted to put my hands around his neck and say to him, "Ok, so tell me how much of the time did you really like me and how much of the time did you use me and go ahead and tell me the truth because it couldn't be as bad as what I think". I just needed to know what the truth was. One way or the other. What was true?

I found myself in Enid on another runaway mommy weekend. I drove by the address I had for his wife several times a day -- just for curiosity. And then there he was in front of her house on a Thursday afternoon.

I parked down the street in front of my mother's childhood home and watched. His car was in the driveway and he was in the yard with his two boys and his wife. My heart fell when I saw that she was about 7 months pregnant -- now I really couldn't call him because his wife was pregnant and I couldn't be disruptive in his world.

I watched Mark go to his car and look in the car and in the trunk several times. In between, she would go into the house and come back out and seemed to be chewing him out. The boys went in and out of the house several times. I'm not sure they ever found what they were looking for.

Then Mark and the boys got into the car and backed out of the driveway. I followed as they drove to his parents house, got out, and went into the house. A couple of years earlier I had Googled up an anniversary announcement for his parents and a wedding announcement for his neice. From this I learned that, not only were his parents still living, but they still lived in the same house they'd lived in when we were in jr. high and high school. And I still had the phone number. Hmmm...

Later in the day, his car was at neither house. Over the course of the weekend, I continued my surveillance of both houses and didn't see his car again. I started to think about what I had seen and suddenly it dawned on me: over the course of 15 or 20 minutes, Mark and Traci and the boys had all had been looking for some missing item and everyone had gone into the house EXCEPT Mark. During all that time, he never went into the house. And then the suspicion hit me: That was a visitation transfer. He didn't live there. They were divorced.

On Sunday morning, for some reason unknown to me, I woke up feeling strong. This surprised me. I planned to leave town at 2 that afternoon.

Late on Sunday morning Mark's car was back at his parents' house. I somehow worked up the nerve to call him. It was time. I drove to the pay phone outside the old Safeway and dialed that old familier number. The voice that answered was that of his younger brother, Pat. Pat had always answered the phone back then when I used to call Mark regularly! And he still did.

I started my rehearsed speech: "Hi! I was looking for Mark..." before I could say "...and I was hoping you could tell me how to reach him..." Pat said, "just a minute!" I hadn't expected to actually TALK to Mark on this call -- just get his phone number and call him later after I had had time to plan what to say.

A mere 15 seconds later Mark was on the phone, saying hello with curiosity in his voice. Luckily, something had come to me to say: "Hi Mark! This is a voice from your past..." He sputtered for a second with fragments of "who" and "what" before I let him off the hook and said, "This is Anne Sturdivant." My old name sounded strange and unfamiliar to me after 15 years of marriage and another name but it was also still some old core version of me.

"How ARE you?", he asked with pleased enthusiasm. "Well," I answered, "it's been 18 years and I haven't heard more than a few words about you in 18 years and I just couldn't stand the curiosity anymore. How are YOU?"

Very quickly the conversation turned into "I'll be there in ten minutes." I hadn't expected him to even want to talk to me, let alone want to see me, let alone want to see me IN TEN MINUTES!

I waited inside Hastings bookstore, out of the cold, where he'd told me to go until he could meet me. I found myself hoping that he wouldn't be fat or bald or gray (forgetting that I'd just seen him from a distance three days before and he was none of those things).

I stood back from the door, about halfway down the aisle where I had a clear view of the door. I tried to look at books while making sure to watch every person who approached the door. It must have been more like 20 minutes because the butterflies and breathlessness had started to subside and I had calmed down just enough to actually be able to read words. I was halfway through the three paragraphs on the back of the first book I had actually focused on since I'd been standing there when I looked up to see him 10 feet inside the door and bounding toward me! He had snuck in during the first lapse in my vigilance! He looked just like he'd always looked: tall and well-built and gorgeous! I breathed a sign of relief that he wasn't all the things I'd been afraid he might be.

He saw me and our eyes met. I fumbled to put the book I was holding back on the shelf and walked toward him.

"Look at you! All grown up!" I said. He said, "Come here you!" We closed the last of the ground between us. I walked into outstretched arms and before I knew it I was in an embrace that felt wonderfully familiar.

"The years have been very kind to you," he told me, "Let's go get some coffee!" Before I knew it, we were out the door and into his car and on our way to DaVinci's, the local gourmet coffee house.

There we began the long process of catching up on each other's lives. There were 20 years missing -- it was a big job.
Not long after we settled into two armchairs in the front window of DaVinci's, before I could put my hands around his neck and roll out my little speech, he said, "I have two regrets: I regret that I didn't treat you better and I regret that I didn't marry you!" I was stunned! He had said the word "marry" about ME! The whole world changed in that instant. I wouldn't realized the full implication of it all until it unfurled over the next few months but it was clear, on some level, very soon afterward that we were going to give it another try. Neither of us wanted to let the other out of our life ever again.

We talked for four hours before I reluctantly left town to drive home to my kids and my world that would never be the same again. We talked on the phone for the last two of the four hours of my drive. He ended our conversation by saying, "I'll call you in a couple of days."

I wasn't sure I believed him. Two days came and went. Then three. Then four. I gave up after a week. On the ninth morning I found a just-missed call on my phone. It was Mark. He really HAD called. It all felt just like high school again -- all those old butterflies, all the same hopes and dreams. I tried to bat them down but they were undeniable.

It was almost a year and a half before my long-contemplated divorce finally went through. Mark supported me through that time, sharing with me the benefit of his experience with his divorce (and, by the way, his ex-wife's baby wasn't his). Gradually, we got closer and closer. When the divorce was final we decided to give it another try. No one was more surprised that I was that looking him up ended up with us being back in a relationship together. I still can't grasp that I'm with that guy from the prom!

And the rest is wedding photos! Ok, so that's a VAST understatement! But the next chapter is a story for another day!

One

Gosh, can I explain magic and miracles and God with mere words? Let's see!

Some of my favorite moments in life are those times when things come full circle and bring a new layer of meaning to something revisited. Those are the times I really know that God is looking out for me. If He weren't he wouldn't orchestrate such wonderful threads of grace over the course of years or decades, transcending time and space and mere mortalness with amazing divinity. (By the way, it is no coincidence that my youngest daughter's name is Sara-GRACE. The concept of grace is beyond words for me in it's divinity and as an expression of God's love.)

We're big American Idol fans around here. This season we have been awed by the amazing talent and magnetic personality of Adam Lambert (ok, so Kris Allen is also amazing and was clearly worthy of a road trip to his hometown visit! He's been Tessa's favorite from the beginning!). Last week, Simon Cowell, in all his infinite wisdom and music-world expertise, chose the U2 song "One" for Adam to sing, even going so far as to get special permission from Bono to do so. Unfamiliar with the song, I thought Adam sang it masterfully like he does every song -- he even improved on "Tracks of My Tears" in my opinion! Mark said Adam butchered the song and was disappointed.

Today after church we each had something we wanted to get our hands on at Barnes and Noble. Mine was the book everyone at church keeps talking about, The Shack, which I'm sure I will have much to say about later. I also picked up a new copy (having unsuccessfully "loaned" my copy to a friend awhile back) of Only Love is Real by Brian Weiss, M.D. There's a story in that one too which I'll save for later! Mark's was a U2 CD.

So I finally got to hear the original version of "One". Mark says it was always about me for him. EVERY love song is about me to him AND about him to me. We're just like that. But some songs stand out above the others. Some songs transport us our own private elsewhere. "One" is one of those songs -- for him, and now for me.

We listened to it on the way home -- twice. When we got home, we cranked it up and openned the car window and slow danced in the driveway while the neighbors pretended not to watch. We spontaneously slow dance in LOTS of places -- our little "prom moments" (and yes, we DID go to the prom together, for any of you who weren't sure).

The line that gets me is simple: "one love, we get to share". FINALLY, we get to be together! It's been a very long road. And we each carried our own private love for the other in our hearts all along. And now we get to share it. He's "the ONE". He was always "the ONE". I knew it when I was 14. I know it now.

After our slow dance in the driveway Mark told me about a time I HAD heard "One" before. At the end of our first semester of college, when everything between us was falling apart and the end was very near, Mark took me to his fraternity's Christmas dance at OCU (Oklahoma City University). College (I went to Trinity University in San Antonio) was, without a doubt, the worst four years of my life -- often hellish, in fact. That first semester was the worst -- fraught with traumas and trajedies and turmoil (that will remain unspoken in this public forum though I am usually public about it and would readily tell you in a private conversation -- you are welcome to ask me if you want to know). Because of all this, it was a very broken version of me that attended that dance with Mark. I have maybe one vague memory of it. In the broken state I was in, I apparently failed to encode the rest into my brain. But Mark remembers. We danced to "One" that night. And he cried. I guess I was numb. We were teetering precariously on that precipice between Mark finally knowing that he really wanted to be with me and simultaneously knowing that too much damage had been done and that he had probably already lost me. A month later can the final breakdown of "us". And then we spent 20 years apart.

Today, coming with tears of truth (you know it's true when the tears come with the speaking of it!) I shared with Mark a vague memory fragment: In all this world, God put me freshman year with me with a randomly-selected roommate who was a huge U2 fan. I'm sure she tried to get me to listen to the song "One" a quarter of a century ago. I was offered this song way back then. I couldn't hear it. And Mark and I danced to it at the Christmas dance -- through his tears -- and I couldn't hear it. But today, I am finally able to hear it and connect with it and to have that which was offered to me so long ago when I wasn't able to receive it and I am brought full circle, again, by the grace and benevolence of God who somehow had it all planned out.

I know that in God's grand scheme of things Mark and I are supposed to be together now and those 20 years apart served a purpose that's beyond what we can fathom. But often it's difficult to bear the pain of the loss. We lost so much time together. We lost our twenties. And our thirties. We lost having our first wedding together. We lost having our first child together. We lost getting to break all that ground together. I grieve this. But I also believe that God knew we wouldn't work out until now and that He brought us back together at the first opportunity that it WOULD work out between us. And we just have to trust in the divine wisdom of that.

Mark and I have many tasks between us -- many things we feel we are supposed to do or learn together. One of them is captured in a few of line in "One". It says "Have you come here for forgiveness? Have you come to raise the dead? Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?". These are graphic images but they capture a theme for us -- that of coming back together, of reviving something, and of healing the hurts of the past. Jesus healed the lepers. And the rotten flesh of painful memories and bitterness can also be healed. And that is one of our tasks together. Mark has many scars from his past than he needs to heal. I have bitterness toward him that I still grapple with. We both need to heal.

And the song has lines that tell us how: "Love is a temple, love a higher law" -- we must honor this. And "We get to carry each other" -- we are SO lucky to GET to be together, to GET to live together and wake up together every day, to GET to learn and to grow together, and to GET to carry each other. Even in the hard times, it is a miracle that we are where we are, that we are together. God was looking out for us all along after all!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fluff and Pretty Pictures!

Ok, so I know I haven't really been WRITING lately. I do plan to get back to it when my muse returns from wherever she went! In case you were wondering...

I Take Back Everything I've Ever Said About the Poor Quality of Life of Opossums!

Finally! A Grave for the Rubic's Cube!




Mark removed a fencepost and inadvertently solved our Rubic's cube problem!






So the girls held a funeral!

Paper Tigers

This menacing-looking storm rolled into Enid last night and looked like the prelude to the end of the world! But it was just rain. Still, these are some amazing clouds!









Tuesday, May 12, 2009

100 Collections

I was wondering what to write about today when my delightful birthmother called. After reading my blog she wanted to know exactly WHAT my 100+ collections are! So now I know what I'm writing about. I just toured my house with pen and paper and came up with a list. I think it is important to specify that I like cheap junk and I almost never pay a premium price for anything. I don't by on Ebay. I just come across things and if they're cheap enough I'll buy them. I'm not hung up on condition -- all that damage puts otherwise expensive items into my price range!

Note: There are photos at the end if you wear out during the list or want to just skip it altogether!


I must explain that there are different types of collections in my world:

There are things I actively collect (like 40's pottery and Fiestaware).

There are things I would buy more of but they're usually out of my price range (like vintage doll dressers and vintage toy kitchens).

There are things I ended up with three of (and three makes a collection!) but it doesn't have to go any farther but probably will if I find a good piece for cheap (like egg cups and heart sachets).

There are things that I will always buy when I find them for cheap because I always use them (like small glass bowls and picture frames).

There are also things I gather because I use them for projects (like vintage chenille bedspreads which I make into baby quilts and vintage printed table cloths which I embellish denim jackets with).


I won't try to break the list down into these categories because it would require too much thought but I will star the favorites and qualify the little, accidental collections with (3) because that's how many of them I have.

The most prevalent of my collections are vintage pottery which fall into several categories:

*1. matte white Haeger vases (I have about 100 pieces. Some of these are in the bathroom remodel photos I posted previously.)
*2. McCoy vases and planters in any color
*3. blue and green vases
4. pink vases
5. yellow vases
6. black vases
7. olive green vases
*8. blue and white china
*9. Mexican Talavera pottery

Beyond the pottery obsession:

*10. vintage thermoses (I bought two at a garage sale one day for 50 cents and then one at the next garage sale for a quarter and I've been hooked ever since!)
*11. small silver pieces (bowls, creamer, suger bowls)
12. silver pitchers
13. silver frames
*14. wall-hanging crosses
*15. pendant crosses
16. wreaths (I like to have one for every season and holiday)
17. letters (I have every letter my birthmother has ever sent me in the 24 years she's been in my life except for a few that were destroyed somehow. Some great-grandchild is going to find a treasure trove in the attic someday!)
18. vintage decorative aluminum tableware (it's still cheap but gaining in popularity!)
19. Incoming correspondence
20. Outgoing correspondence (I keep copies of everything I send out. The great-grandchild will be delighted again!)
21. doll dressers
22. anything with lots of little drawers - spice drawers, apothecary drawers, lingerie chests
23. the aluminum grilles off old screen doors that have an initial on them (probably my weirdest collection!)
24. heart sachets (3)
*25. HEARTS (but not heart jewelry)
26. red metal things (I have shelves, a basket, a napkin holder, etc)
27. vintage hats (mostly my grandmother's)
28. dress purses (mine, my mother's, my grandmother's, my former mother-in-law's, and my daughters. Because of this collection I took the same little white beaded purse to the prom AND to my wedding!)
29. vintage ceramic birds
30. vintage ceramic fish
31. international dolls (my grandparents started this collection for me when I was little and always brought me dolls from their travels)
32. James Michener books (my favorite author)
33. Shakespeare in paperback (I was an English major)
34. Mysteries of the Unknown Time-Life book series (I have 3 of the 26 volumes)
35. pitchers
36. miniature chairs
37. little children's chairs
*38. vintage globes
39. vintage photographs of the ancestors
40. a photograph of every place I've lived
41. flower frogs (they hold flowers in vases)
42. vintage Mexican Easter baskets (I hated them until I saw a collection in a magazine -- now I want a collection too!)
*43. sign letters and numbers
*44. the number "4"
45. photographs of the number "4"
*46. oil seascape paintings
*47. sand from beaches around the world (both from my travels and from friends)
*48. dirt from important places (like from my childhood home and from the hospital where I was born)
49. vintage clocks
50. antique bottles
51. antique ink wells
52. quilts
*53. vintage floral bark cloth
54. vintage cameras (3)
55. vintage photographic slide boxes (3)
*56. vintage framed floral prints
57. vintage dog paintings (4)
58. picture frames
59. annual Christmas ornaments for the girls (every year I buy them an ornament related to something they like or are interested in that year and then I write the date and the explanation on them)
60. vintage silver Christmas balls (when I find them in dumpsters -- which is often!)
61. doll kitchens (3)
62. vintage post cards
63. vintage suitcases in a particular style (3)
64. washboards (I only have 2. One belonged to my grandmother. One I'm keeping for the girls because it belonged to Matt's grandmother.)
*65. vintage picnic baskets (great for storage above the kitchen counters!)
66. matchbox cars (when I find them in dumpsters which is often)
67. marbles
68. pez dispensers (the girls get them in their Christmas stockings every year to remember Matt's Aunt Honey who always gave them to the girls)
69. Mardi Gras beads (not really a collections but I corral them into a big glass pickle jar when I find them around the house which, for some weird reason, is often!)
*70. rose bushes
*71. iris bulbs
72. old cabinet knobs
73. vintage lace
74. vintage-inspired lace tops (4)
75. memorable bathing suits from over the years (yes, I know this one is weird and I hate to admit it)
76. favorite old t-shirt logos (to make into a quilt someday)
77. my clothes museum (the outfit I wore on the first day of my first "real" job, the dress my mother got married in, the top I delivered Tessa in, things like that)
78. decorative balls (I use them all the time for staging)
79. play balls (I have a big salad bowl where I throw al the balls I find around the house)
80. kilim bags
*81. mercury glass
*82. utensils with wooden handles painted red
*83. utensils with wooden handles painted green
84. vintage suitcases
85. costumes (I have a cabinet full of dress-up clothes that the girls always loved playing in)
86. shells (who doesn't!)
87. rocks
*88. heart-shaped rocks (copying my birthmother's collection)
*89. enamel refrigerator drawers (esp. PINK!) and containers
*. wire freezer baskets (they make GREAT storage baskets)
91. jellow molds
92. vintage metal souvenir state trays
93. Noah's Arks stuff (even before I had a step-son named Noah!) (3)
*94. colorful ceramic bowls (and white ones too)
95. blue-green Mason/Ball jars (4)
96. egg cups (3)
97. white embossed fruit-pattened dishes (We use them daily. I buy individual pieces when I come across them and then it doesn't matter when they get broken)
98. apothecary bottles (5)
99. cigar boxes
100. vintage jewlery boxes (3)
101. wire-work (pen cups, letter holders, baskets)
102. vintage metal trays
*103. buttons (this collection was started by my grandmother)
*104. fruit crate labels (vintage and reproduction)
105. vintage tole-painted trash cans (4)
106. glass juicers
107. glass insulators
108. zippers
109. rick rack
110. pink depression glass (5)
111. vintage door knobs
112. bottle caps
113. old printer's type
114. match holders (one from each grandmother and one that's mine) (3)
115. vintage chenille bedspreads
116. decorating magazines
117. decorating books
*118. painted wooden stools
119. vintage handkerchiefs (I used them to embellish jean jackets)
120. vintage costume jewelry (I make magnets out of old earrings and broaches)
121. dominoes (they just look cool in a jar)
122. dice (they look cool in a jar too!)
123. vintage cans with labels (oil cans, coffee cans -- I found a dozen or so in the well house at the cabin that had been there since the 50's and put them all up on a shelf in the "boy bedroom")
124. stuffed Muppets (must have a collection to commemorate my childhood!)
125. pill boxes (most of them were my mother's)


There are also other collections in the house that I contribute to:
1. stars (Tessa)
2. nutcrackers (Tessa)
3. ceramic birthday figurines (Tessa)
4. MONKEYS! (Tessa)
5. rabbits (Tessa's birthday falls on Easter sometime)
6. stuffed animals (all the girls)
7. ties (Mark)
8. weights and measures (Mark)
9. Coca Cola stuff (Mark)
10. orange things (Mark)
11. milk bottles (Mark)
12. antique bottles (Mark) (we bought a box of 25 for $11)
13. glassware (Mark) (single glasses he likes)
14. rubber animals (When Emily was about 2 she got one for $1 every time we went to the grocery store. They have been the favorite bathtub toys ever since!)

I'll add more when I think of them below:
Yikes! 126. Fiestaware! We received 12 place settings and some serving pieces as wedding gifts. I had a few vintage plates and saucers and salt shakers. I continue to seek out more pieces (new or vintage).




Lest ye envision my house as being completely overrun by collections, here are a few photos to show that everything has it's place!

1. A few of my globes. The rest are out on a staging project.

2. The sand and dirt collections.

3. A screen door grille.

4. The melding of his collection and mine: his ties and my blue and green vases!













Sunday, May 10, 2009

I Need A Favor

Hello?

Who's out there?

I see the number on the counter increasing but I'm not sure who I'm talking to (other than myself, of course!).

I don't want to blow anyone's anonymity but, if you don't mind, leave me a comment and say hello so I know who's been here.

Here's to hoping that doesn't fall into the "pathetic" category! I'm just infinitely curious!

Thanks!

A

My Happiness

Here are photos of my recent $34 bathroom redo! It's just plain silly how happy it makes me!

All I paid for was "Chocolate Truffle" paint ($14) and curtain rings ($20). The rest is just stuff I already had. And I must brag on the dresser: I saw one in the Pottery Barn catalog that looked very much like it for $799 PLUS $150 shipping. I paid $29.50 at the Salvation Army for mine a couple of years ago and added new drawer pulls. Oh, and the curtains (all four panels) came out of a dumpster! That's my favorite part!






Keeping the Sabbath

It's funny the places wisdom comes from or the ways God finds to speak to us. Sometime, somewhere this week (I don't remember where) I was in a ladies room and, on the inside of the door of the stall, was taped a piece of paper with the Ten Commandments on it. I read them over for a review (odds are I'll end up being quizzed on this in the near future and here's my chance to study!). I guess I should already know them but it turns out I don't. I had forgotten about the one that says "Thou shalt remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy", forgotten that it was one of the Ten Commandments.

Mark is always telling me to take Sunday off. He pointed out once that I don't set an end to my workday and I don't do anything to differentiate the weekend from the rest of the week. In fact, I rarely sit down. There is always more to do than I can possibly get to. I calculated not long ago that, if I quit sleeping at night and worked around the clock, I might be able to catch up in a year or so. Or I'll just come up with more projects!

To me, Sunday is a day to get more done. But I've noticed that I often sort of collapse on Sunday and lay around in bed watching Monster Quest on the History Channel and writing on the computer. (That's exactly what I'm doing right now!) I guess God has his way of imposing the Sabbath on my even when I don't honor it myself! Clearly there is great wisdom in the concept!

Earlier I was lying here wondering what to write about for today's blog post and the phrase "keep the Sabbath" kept coming to me. So I'm listening.

From where I lounge I can see a glorious bouquet of three dozen roses in a silver pitcher. Mark made sure I had a dozen roses from each child. They are white (my favorite!) and two different shades of pink (ok, so those are my favorites too!) and they are just bursting into full bloom. They are breathtaking -- almost too gorgeous to believe. And there was a delicious and decadent lunch at the Olive Garden after church and now one of my favorite things: a day with nothing scheduled!



Yesterday I indulged in my annual Mother's Day weekend tradition: The Annual Washington Elementary School Fundraiser Home Tour. This is all I want for Mother's Day every year. It's that simple and I love the simplicity of it. I got to tromp through seven houses and peer into other people's worlds. It is truly a blessing to get to view the houses of people you don't even know. It is mind-expanding and inspiring.

My favorite house is one I saw in it's unrenovated state several years ago. I've always grieved that I lacked the fund to renovate it myself. It was with trepidation that I crossed the threshold, but inside was a treasure trove of the unique, interesting, and amazing. In addition to beautiful finishes and furnishings and had a sense of humor and a taste for the bizarre. The living room walls were covered with a varied collection of vintage oil paintings of dogs. On the laundry room wall was a large pair of shark's jaws with a vintage bikini hanging from the teeth. In the wall in front of the treadmill was a gold frame with a Snickers bar in it. One the back porch was a vintage mint green dentist's chair.


But the best part of all was an array of vintage, back-of-the-zoology lab, taxidermified creatures worthy of their own museum exhibit. There was a framed bat, a ferret/mink/weasel-type of thing, and, I kid you not, a two-headed calf! But the best part was the flying monkey (I don't get to write sentences like that very often!). On a table by the window in the living room was a a real, once-alive monkey (poor thing!) mounted, poised for take-off, and embellished with a pair of real hawk wings! I know it sounds gross and I wouldn't want is residing on my night stand but it was truly a marvel and I wish I'd thought of it (though I probably wouldn't have the heart to buy a preserved monkey)!

Anyway, the home tour has me taking a new view of my house. It is my secret desire (not so secret now!) to have my house on the home tour (and, of course, to have it be everyone's favorite!). But I have a long way to go. Every year I think maybe by next year... but somehow it never happens. Luckily, hope springs eternal!

I feel like I should write a tribute to Mother's Day but I have decided that I have no editorial comments on Mother's Day. I wouldn't be able to contain the wild swarm of thoughts and emotions enough to put them into words that made any sense. And I'd probably offend someone anyway. Mother's Day is loaded. My own mother died almost 20 years ago. She hated mother's day. And then there's my birthmother. And my stepmother. And all the people who have mothered me. I am grateful for and to them all but I still have no perpective on Mother's Day other than a jumble of complicated and conflicting thoughts and feelings. So, my second Mother's Day gift to myself is that I get to ignore it and NOT write about it!

Happy Mother's Day! I sincerely hope that it's a simpler, more benign thing for you than it is for me!

More from the House of Oddities:



Saturday, May 9, 2009

Priceless

Three bottles of water $6.00

Two custom t-shirts $20.00

Driving your 12-year-old 183 miles (each way) to get 15 ft. from her favorite American Idol Contestant: PRICELESS!






Conway's own!




Kris Allen!



Tessa and Kris Allen in the same photo!



Tessa and Sara-Grace and Kris Allen in the same photo!



There was no way we were ever going to get a view of him onstage (the stage is that green triangle in the upper left corner)!



So we went around behind the stage and got something of a view.



Above-reference custom T-shirt.



The aftermath of the parade.



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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Baby Love

Today I'm taking my first dose of Clomid (that's a fertility drug in case the name is unfamiliar to you). And I keep marvelling at finding myself where I am. I used to take pills to KEEP from getting pregnant. Now I take pills TO get pregnant. How did I get HERE?

I never expected to find myself here. Fertility was always my best thing. We got Emily on the first try. Tessa took two trys. That first unsuccessful try felt like such a huge failure but was quickly remedied the next month. Sara-Grace was also a marvel of fertility. We had planned to get pregnant in September for a couple of years preceding. When it came down to September, we decided to hold off a year. We got pregnant that September ANYWAY -- right on schedule (I guess she didn't get the schedule change memo)!

On top of the instant conceptions, I'm pretty good at deliveries too. Tessa was born SIX MINUTES after we got to the hospital! Seriously! Like some scene out of a sit-com. My entire labor with Sara-Grace was one hour and forty-seven minutes. I never even took a Tylenol after any of my deliveries.

Often when I think I know it all is when God gives me a lesson. I'm finding myself in that territory again. I guess I bragged about my effortless fertility too much. I guess I got over-confident. A friend at church always says, "A lesson's what you get when you don't get what you want". A lesson's what I've got.

Mark and I planned to get pregnant on the honeymoon. After all, I was 42 and the biological clock was not only tickling LOUDLY -- the snooze button had been hit a couple of times! I'd be 43 then the baby was born. I'm sure most people just assume we're "done" and that babies aren't even a consideration. Mark and I wanted to have a baby together in high school. NOT having our DNA merged into a child of our own is NOT even a consideration. Life would not be complete...

Well, the honeymoon was 10 cycles ago.

I think I'm supposed to have the full range of fertility experiences in this lifetime. I was young and pregnant once. Now I'm old and battling infertility. And wondering how I got here.

I was the birth control educator at the women's clinic I worked at in Southern California in grad school. I gave the pregnancy test results. Deirdre and I spoke at prospective adoptive parent seminars and to high school health classes in college. I spent five years as an adoption search consultant, immersed in the adoption reform movement, doing searches, fascilitating reunions, and working for legislative change. During all that time, I was the Fertile Myrtle. All that infertility stuff applied to those other people. Not me.

So I took my first Clomid at 8:44 this morning. 8:44 to enlist the superstitious assistance of the power of "our" number "4" and also "8" which is four doubled (that's how we came up with our wedding date: 08-08-08). Now I'm wondering what I'll feel (if anything). Maybe I'll grow a second head or snakes for hair (possibly on BOTH heads). I'm not sure how I could be more irritable than I was yesterday without hormone supplements. It's a really scary thought that I might end up being yesterday's irritable on steroids!

I saw the follicles in my ovaries on ultrasound on Tuesday. So now that know they're there and I've been formally introduced to them I have a message for them, "Get to work guys!". It's looking like I could be 44 when the baby comes. IF the baby comes. I have three friends who had babies at 44. NO ONE has babies at 45 (or older). Anyone who does is not using their own eggs. And I spent enough time in the adoption world to have some strong feelings about not using someone else's eggs.

I was all insulted when I was 34 and pregnant with Sara-Grace and, because I would be 35 when she would be born, they stamped "AMA" on my chart. I knew what that meant! I worked in the OB-GYN and Perinatology departments at UC Irvine Medical Center when I was a twenty-something. AMA means Advanced Maternal Age and is considered a pregnancy complication that puts one at high risk! They were calling me "OLD"! I wonder was age-discriminating insult they would put on my chart now? Probably just a roll of the eyes! I wonder (if I get pregnant) if I'll be my midwife's oldest mom-to-be. And, by the way, if I'm so old, shouldn't I know more by now?

When my midwife was ultrasounding my reporductive machinery on Tuesday I asked her if anything looked excessively elderly. She laughted. But she's also the one who said, "you won't be able to get pregnant" when I told her my plan a year ago. It's very bizarre to feel young and, essentially, BE relatively young, and have some part of me be so old it's about to give out!

I've had a lesson recently in how different things age at different rates. Our Labradors, Zeus and Seraphina, who were puppies when Emily was a baby (they were 7 weeks younger than Emily) both died in the last couple of months. They were 15 -- the oldest Labradors I've ever heard of. And they were lumpy and bumpy and bald and blind and deaf and frail and arthritic. Both died mercifully in their sleep after a short period of rapid decline. Blessedly, my Emily, who is also 15, is still young and youthful and at the very beginning of her life. And they were all the same age. See what we have to look forward to?

Last fall we were at Church in Enid and ran into a friend from high school. She was the one who was pregnant with her first baby at our 20th reunion. A couple of our classmates were grandmothers. Kay was just getting started -- the latest bloomer in our class. At church last fall Kay was carrying her second baby and told us she was expecting a baby girl in December. I told her were were hoping to have one too and she immediately shot back, "I know a great fertility specialist!" As soon as the words came out of her mouth, and even as I sputtered in my fertility pride telling her I had never had a problem before, somewhere in the back of my heart I knew I would need it. I knew someday I'd be seeking Kay out for fertility advice. And I since have.

Speaking of old classmates, my best friend from junior high told me recently to get a puppy and enjoy the time with Mark. I've just whittled my way down from SEVEN dogs to three so I think if dogs were going to fill the void they would have done so by now. Cats don't work either. Nor do ferrets. After the animal parade Emily's brought through my house and life over the past 15 years I know for a fact that animals don't fill the baby void.

I'm lucky and grateful to have my three healthy girls. And Mark has his boys. But I've planned all my life to have FOUR children. When I divorced Matt I literally grieved that fourth baby (already named and everything) that I thought I might never have now. Mark, too, has grieved the children he didn't get to have. Noah was 3 1/2when Mark and Traci divorced and he no longer got to live in the same house with his son. He's told me many times he feels like he got gyped in the parenting department. He as such a love of children. He tells me, if we have one together, that he MIGHT let me hold it every once in awhile!

I guess there is one comforting thought about wanting babies at our "advanced" age: because we're so OLD, grandbabies aren't that far away! I would raise a grandbaby in a minute and have ALWAYS said I would. One of Emily's very troubled friends was pregnant recently and I really wondered if I was suppossed to raise that baby. But she miscarried and got another chance at childhood which was the most benevolent thing God could have done for her.

When I started writing this post I thought I would write a paragraph or MAYBE two. I guess I didn't know how much on the subject I had swirling around inside me! If you have any baby dust laying around, sprinkle some our way!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Little Nudity!

Having a blog is really scary! It's like being naked or going to the pool in a bikini (which, to me, feel like the same thing)! Did I write something stupid? Did I reveal too much? Where did all those typos come from?

I always say I'm the kind of person who likes to have all the cards on the table. Now I wonder if I should hold back a couple of aces! Nope! I'll just dive in! Leap of Faith and all that!

I realized something yesterday after I included my dad on the email invitation list: the person I most hope will read my writing and the person I most fear will read my writing are the same! My dad. I'm probably wrong but I think he has no idea who I really am. I'd love for him to both know me AND like me! I already know he loves me!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Birds of a Feather!

I went to visit my birthmother over spring break. We haven't seen each other in eight or nine years so it was overdue! She's like me, she has her romances with objects that catch her fancy. This time I noticed that a flock of birds seemed to have descended on her house, framed and hanging on the walls and interspersed among her books and other intersting things. The story gradually came out that her sister, Courtney, says Mom lives in a birdhouse because the vintage fourplex they have very successfully made into a single family home has lots of little rooms (8 bedroom and four of everything else to be exact!). From this, birds have grown on her and found their way to her and been given to her by observant friends. We even re-hung a couple of bird paintings so they could be nearer the rest of the flock!

One of the results of this visit was that I left her with my rather nasty cold. (Sorry Mom!) But I wasn't aware until this week that I had been exposed to something contagious too -- those birds! I think I got the better end of the deal!

When I started writing the explanation of this blog it all came out in bird metaphors! I didn't go looking for them, they just came to ME -- or should I say flocked to me! Now I see that she got my cold and I got her bird affinity!

I'm currently scouring all my regular junk-acquisition haunts for the perfect bird to go with the nest I had tucked away on a shelf in an old bowl (which is not to overlook the box of vintage ceramic birds that I just put away on moratorium). And I'm also at what I hope is the end of a two-year search for a wreath festooned with blown eggs (hopefully in a variety of pale shades of brown and blue and green -- very Martha Stewart!) and maybe a shadowbox with speckled eggs or robin's eggs in it -- or BOTH! All of this will somehow converge into some sort of artistic photograph for the header of this blog someday (hopefully soon!). I can see it in my mind's eye already!

Yikes! Yet another collection! I counted once -- have over 100 different collections (not different ITEMS in a collection but 100 COLLECTIONS!). It's TOO much fun but sometimes it threatens to take over my house!

The bird theme got something of a divine seal of approval in my sentimental, superstitious eyes last Saturday when we watched the Kentucky Derby.

Matt was always a big Derby fan. He started the Kentucky Derby tradition. It's particularly fun when you research it a couple of weeks in advance and watch the broadcast of the drawing of post positions so that, by the time the race starts, you have a good knowledge of the facts and stories and are well oriented to the whole thing. Matt has called the winner each of the last four years (don't ask me how he does it!).

This year we forgot to research so it was all fresh on Derby Day. I'd batted this wild, stray thought down a few times but finally, just before the race started, I said (aloud, thank goodness!), "One of the horses with 'bird' in the name will win." Some silly something in the back of my mind had whispered to me, "if a horse with 'bird' in the name wins it means your bird-brained blog idea will fly!" Yeah, right!

Summer Bird was at 42-1 odds and Mine That Bird was a 50-1 longshot. I lose every year so it didn't hurt to endorse an impossible favorite -- or two. Friesan Fire was supposed to win but Mine That Bird (and exactly WHAT does that name MEAN?) came from dead last to pass all the other horses like they were standing still and won it with many lengths to spare! Hooray for the underdog!

Cosmic blog confirmation? I don't know but I'll take the vote of confidence -- wherever it came from! Even if that's nowhere.

Why I Write

The words in my head have a life of their own. They flow through me. Something pulls the cord on their motor and they just start coming: words, phrases, sentences. They swarm around me like a pack of affectionate cats. They seem to come from another place, from someplace divine. They float around in my head, begging to be captured.

I am an archivist at heart. I want to capture every day in some little way so it won't get away unnoticed. I want to be the one that thought to tape the original receipt into the dresser drawer to be marvelled at in 100 years. I want to be the one that has my Grandmother's handwritten recipe for her Aunt Mavis' cloverleaf rolls (I do). I'm the one who still has all the social notes I received in junior high and high school. I can look back and verify the details of things from back then. When memory fails, I want to be able to look up the facts!

I've been the familiy geneaologist since I was a kid. Genealogy has taught me one startling fact: within a few generations, all but the most illustrious individuals are reduced to a name, a date of birth, and a date of death. If we are lucky, we can see where they lived (or maybe only where they were buried), who they married, who their children were, and maybe an occupation. But that's usually about it. No one remembers what they were really like. What was their personality like? What were their passions? What were their endearing quirks? What were they known for? What was on their heart and in their soul?

In 200 years I want to be more than a name and a couple of dates on a genealogy chart. I want to leave messages for my descendants. When now becomes "back then", I want them to be able to know who I was and what my life was like if they're interested. Maybe that's ego. Maybe it just derives from wishing that one of those ancestors on my genealogy charts had left a diary or letters or something to know them by. I am always trying to surmise who they really were.

But, on the most basic level, when I write, I simply enjoy the process. And, as I contemplate that process, I see that my creative process is my connection to the divine. Writing puts me on another plane. And on that plane are all things mystical and magical. On that plane exist God and love and truth and meaning. On that plane are memory and epiphany, poetry and poetic justice, possibilities and potentials -- all those things that transcend the day-to-day.

Life rolls forward, seemingly senseless at times. Things happen. Confusion abounds. We struggle daily with something or another. Writing is the place where everything comes to make sense and where the intricate, carefully-planned thread of God's hand at work is revealed. For me, God's fingerprints are on everything and, if I write, I can see them clearly and it all makes sense. Writing is where I unearth the underlying meaning of everything. Writing is where I find God. And maybe, in doing so and writing it all down, I can leave a little bit of a path to God for those who will come after.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Opossum's Role in Anne's Weird Reincarnation Theory!

Ok, so the previous post was enough sentimental drivel for one day! Be warned - I'm prone to sentimental drivel! But I am also prone to lapsing into weird, way-out fringe spirituality, much of which has to do with reincarnation. Brace yourself for lots of that too!

So, it all started with my favorite joke: Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer: To show the opossum and the armadillo that it COULD be done!

That still cracks me up!

But it goes farther than that for me! Do you know why opossums are always splattered all over the highway? Because there's no fun in being an opossum! It's even spelled weird! Opossums are oversized, under-brained rats. Though hanging from a tree by one's tail might be fun now and then, it doesn't have many redeeming features as a way of life!

So, my theory is this: one day Bob the opossum, who had dreams of being a mighty lion this time around, realizes that he is an opossum and immediately runs (or rather waddles wobbily!) to the nearest pavement to throw himself under the first passing car (or, better yet, TRUCK!) to end his miserable opossum existence in favor of WHATEVER he will come back as next -- kind of like a Cosmic "reset" button only messier!

My kids probably have nightmares about droves of suicidal opossums and they will go through life with this weird, warped view of roadkill but at least there's an element of eternal hope mixed in there somewhere!

First, Let Me Explain "Leap of Faith"!

I wasn't exactly convenient. I understand that, cosmically, I'm supposed to be here. But my timing wasn't so good. When I was born my birthmother was young and unmarried. I was an unexpected surprise. She had just met the man she would marry and spend her life with. I showed up in the middle of everthing and threw everyone a curve! Giving me up for adoption was HER leap of faith!

I was born on Valentine's Day 1966. Because I landed here on that particular day, I have always know I am supposed to feel loved. I feel my birthdate isn't just coincidence. I think God must have known I'd need a little reassurance!

I spent the first ten days of my life "between parents" (like some people are "between jobs") in the maternity hospital run by the adoption agency. Babies stay there until their birthmother signs relinquishment papers and departs the premises and until the adoptive parents are contacted and can arrive to pick up their little bundle of joy. (All that goes down onto paper so easily but don't make the mistake of overlooking the HUGE emotions that accompany the whole process!)

In the interim, the babies are given "crib names" in the nursery by the nurses -- just something to call them while they're there. My crib name was "Faith". Again, as far as I'm concerned, NOT a coincidence. I think God knew that I might need to lean on the name and the concept from time to time! In times of doubt, when I struggle with cynicism and fear, I remind myself, "have Faith"! I AM Faith. Surely "Faith" should have faith! It's my safety net. It catches me and keeps me from falling too far into despair.

As my life has moved forward, Faith/faith has become less and less of a passive concept in my life. It has taken root and grown into an active, living force. And I have learned something very important -- especially for a safety-minded, mortality-aware, homebody with no taste for adrenaline or adventure for adventure's sake: The best things in my life have come from taking the biggest leaps of faith!

This principle has come to guide me in times of uncertainty. Rather than leave you in the dark, I'll share a few examples of my giant leaps of faith:

Deciding to search for my birthmother (in 1985, when I was 19) brought me a wonderful, loving, inspriational role-model and fairy godmother!

Deciding to follow my college boyfriend to California after graduation let me both to California (which I still pine for) and to graduate school. That leap eventually led to landing in Laguna Beach! There are few better destinations!

The leap of going to graduate school (in clinical psychology) led me to book knowledge, life knowledge, and confidence beyond the token of earning a Master's degree.

Deciding to get pregnant and have my firstborn, Emily, was a huge flying leap into the abyss of parenting. Nothing can change a life more than that moment in the delivery room when they hand you your firstborn and your whole world changes in an instant! Emily is the first of the three best things I have ever done! The others would be her sisters Tesakiah and Sara-Grace, of course!

Deciding to marry Matt (my first husband) brought many happy years and much learning.

Deciding to start our own business (Harjo Properties) give us freedom from bosses and time clocks and allowed us BOTH to be home with our girls full time.

The leap of seeking out Mark, my junior high and high school sweetheart and my present husband, was intended to help me make sense of myself and of my/our past. What it brought me was the love of my life (again)!

Following my heart to garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores led me to the jumping-off place for my staging business, Upstage. Staging and decorating is an absolute passion for me. There is no greater fun in my life!

I have many dear friendships because I chose to take that leap of faith and reach out to someone I didn't know.

So now, this blog is my newest leap of faith. May it bring what all the others have brought: change, progress, process, creativity, moving forward, new horizons, and soft landings.

Special thanks to Vanessa Ryerse for multiple layers of inspiration, to John Glaze for giving me my first view of blogging, and to Deirdre Pattillo for finally nudging me into taking this leap! If I end up regretting it, I'm coming after all of you!