Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Messy Message

Fair warning. This is not my best work. It's late. I've got the winter blues. But I wanted to say it now.

My family's claim to crazy  is no different than anyone else. Believe me when I say that I myself can wave that crazy flag with little to no shame. Yeah, I'm kinda quirky. I'm learning to accept it.  When I was younger, my mom and dad packed me and my brother up and we took off for the distant land of the North. Yankee territory. Behind us, we left our kinfolk. My cousins, and uncles and aunts, all of them. I often cried for them. (I mean often.) I missed them. My heart ached. It ached for Texas.

Speaking to the Texans out there, I know you know. Texas feels different. The sweet grass is sweet. The air always feels different... usually because it's so hot it's suffocating!

I love my family (I've never said extended, because, I don't know why. Do southern folk say extended family?). I might could write a little bit about all of them, but tonight, there are two in particular I need to send a message to.

My Mama has two older brothers. My Mama sits right in the middle, and after her she has two sisters.  These two Uncles...
They lost their own Mama when she was far too young, and so we did not meet her (we as in grandkids), and they lost their Daddy when he was far too young as well. While many of us did know him, time was short, and he was gone.

These two Uncles... I love to hear them talk. These brothers. They have stories. They will lean in toward the middle, elbow on the table. If I close my eyes, I can hear it. I can hear them laughing. And while I didn't get to know my Grandma and didn't know him enough (my Grandpa), they bring them to life. I can see them as they are being chased around by my Grandpa (probably getting in trouble I'm sure).  They are running through the woods, hooping and hollaring. As they tell the stories, the pictures come to life and I'm there with them. As they gathered around outside, while all the grown ups gathered inside. Suddenly, I am there too. I never want to leave when they are talking. I want more and more...

We all just want a little time.

One of my Uncles is sick now. The trouble is, I cannot cannot begin to imagine life without him, without either of them. I know they are far away. I know we aren't together often, but I just need them to know.  I can't begin to know what to do if they were to be gone from me. No matter when it is, it is too soon.

I need to hear the stories. I need to hear your voices and listen to the words and the laughter.

I need you to know that I love you. Even if I haven't said it enough or loud enough or in the right way. I love you.

You are always home to me.
Stephnie ('A' missing on purpose, because when you talk Texan, the 'A' just isn't there. Try it. You'll see.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Raising a Toddler- and How I will never be the same

Probably all of you are shaking your heads right now; especially those of you who have actual toddlers, or have had toddlers in your home, because you know that I have no such toddler in my home. So, that's correct. I have no human toddlers.  The truth of the matter is that I do actually have a real "toddler," but he's just short of nine months old. He has fur, and  he's a cat.

Nelson Rutherford Beene Davis Hunter

Over the last ten, eleven months I've been a single dweller.  Aside from my plant loves, I've really been responsible for keeping one person alive: that'd be me. While that seems to be a relatively easy task for most people, I sometimes get a little off task. (Really, I'm as boring as this current winter/polar vortex/snow/roads of death is long.) However, because I live alone I often find myself in precarious situations, well, because, I can do it myself.  

Nelson has changed everything. 

My friend brought him over, and he was this bitty thing. Cute and purring. He would hide under my couch because he was afraid. I hid in my bed because I was afraid. I prayed, "Oh God, (this is not a joke, I really prayed) please do not let me kill him. Please help me to keep him alive." He was new. Tiny. I had to feed him. Make sure he had his water. We did survive that weekend, and the week, and the weeks after that. For three months we've been partners in life. I'm fairly certain I'm in love.

It's been a learning experience.
Phrases you will hear often at my house:
Nelson, use your words.
Nelson, I'm gonna count to three....
Nelson, no you cannot eat anymore plastic. 

Blanche, my first love (who I hope is merely hibernating in winter, and not dead) was always there when I arrived home. Cheerfully green. But no words. Nelson though, especially at first could be heard outside my house, outside of two doors, mewing for me, unsure if I would come back for him. When I did arrive back home, he was at the door before I was hardly out of my car. 

1) Things are things. Love is love.
I am sentimental. There are things that I hold dear, and usually it is because they were a gift from someone. One reason why Blanche, and Solaris are so important to me is because they were bought and given to me by two of my great friends. There are other treasures that I have that I've had to put away, lock up safely because my little buddy could break them. How do we measure something's value? Is it based on its beauty? Or, what it cost? 
Truly, I can replace a couch.  (And hairbands (he eats them... ewwww.) And toilet paper. And paper towels.)
But what do you love? If you could live with only those* that you love, what would it be?
Nelson, despite his toddler-ish ways, is one of a kind. And, he's definitely a keeper (although, he's being really quiet in the other room right now, I'm sure it's bad news...) 

2) We all just need a little time.
I've always been people-y. Ironic that I now work from home and often go days and days (polar vortex anyone- I'm not edgy) without leaving the house and seeing anyone else. I adjust, as a result. I have learned how to be content (ish) on my own. I still need my people though. I recharge and renew when I'm with friends. There is something wonderful about being with people who are encouraging and uplifting. When you can walk away knowing you are a better person because of your friend- you can rest assured that person is a keeper. 
Nelson is not too proud to need a little time. He will often sit on my lap and sleep while I'm working all day, typing on my computer.  There's a difference though between that, and really spending a little time.  He doesn't want just one hand rubbing his head. He wants my attention. 
Where do you spend your time? 
Are the questions you asking, the questions that really matter?
Are you drifting off into games to get away when you should be elsewhere or are you investing a little time into what really matters?

3) Anger Management isn't just for the court ordered.
I've always considered myself patient. Screaming baby? Challenge accepted. Nerves calm? Absolutely. But Nelson has had this way of brining out a little something inside me. It was nearer to the beginning. He scared me, because I believe I scared him. As a result, I got scratched. I was so angry. Then I was angry at myself- for being angry. That's not who I want to be. I want to be slow to anger. 
If you know me, you know I love words, and words and words. Are all the words always necessary? 
Are there ones that should not be said? 
Are there ones that should not be thought? 
What is in you that needs to be rooted out?
Was there any reason for me to be angry that night? Nope. Did I need to learn something new? Yes. Sometimes "we" may feel like we are right, because... well, we're right. But is it worth it? Is the cause behind the anger really just? Or, are we just angry because it's our "right" to be? I don't want that to be the way it is in my case. 
I've come a long way with Nelson. I have learned to avoid situations that could get him into trouble. Paper towels all over the kitchen floor, literally ripped in pieces? No big deal. I've found a new hiding spot. While I talk with him all the time, we really cannot communicate with words (although sometimes I imagine he is talking to me). Instead of words, he measures my voice with how it sounds. 
I prayed that night too, that night so long ago when I was angry. I asked Nelson for forgiveness (he is purr-ty (heh) forgiving. I asked God to help me lose the attitude and to lose the anger. The thing is, if I can be angry with a little kitten, how will I respond to people? To my own kids? To my friends, family? Angry? That's just not who I want to be.

4) And Sometimes we just need a little fun.
Ain't that just the truth?

Later folks, 
Seriously, he's being way too quiet in there!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Itsy Bitsy.....

The song is cute, right? There are even hand motions. It's so sweet watching little ones sing about a spider... actually- why is this cute?

I was in Guatemala. It was 1998, and I was with my youth group in a town called La Libertad. It was gorgeous. Literally gorgeous.

Our days were packed. The evenings were also packed. But, when we weren't out busy doing what we were doing we were staying in a beautiful home. All of the rooms opened out onto a large patio which overlooked the mountain and hillside areas. (Did I mention gorgeous?)

There was a rooster situation, which resulted in a song. Which I still know.  (Another story.) Anyways. We were sleeping on these mattresses upstairs. Totally bundled up, sweatshirt/pants, blankets (pretty sure they were moldy- can blankets mold? or mildew-whatever- but they were warm!)

One morning, early I was startled to hear the word, "Tarantula! Tarantula!" being yelled over and over. Being a committed sleeper, I did what one would expect. I turned over and went back to sleep.
A bit later, everyone was talking about a tarantula had gone rogue and was running around on the porch. "Stephanie! You were sleeping on the ground! The tarantula could have gotten you! Didn't you hear us yelling?"

"Well, yeah. But I wasn't worried." The truth is, I was not. Maybe it was because I was sleeping, but I really think it was more than that. I knew that the people that were there had the situation handled. And they did. I was not needed. Nor was my worry. And there's the rub.

The worry. (Goodness, anyone sense a theme?)

It's like a disease that debilitates. It cripples. Worry transforms into many things, usually uglier, bigger and nastier than a tarantula. It's hideous.
Is anyone else tired of worry? Because I am.

So tonight, I'm going to close up my laptop. Have a little chat with the One who knows me best. Again. About this worry thing. And then tomorrow (actually today!) I'm going to throw off my (not moldy or mildew-y, and in fact a lovely yellow) blankets and not worry about the day. I'm not going to worry about my job. I'm not going to worry about the snow, or heaters or cars not working. I'm gonna worry about nothing. The tarantula, I mean the worry that I have been putting in my bag every morning as I head out the door to work (you know) I'm gonna leave it behind.

God's got this.

Stay warm! Shine bright!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

My New Old Friend

When I was younger, I had five, yes FIVE, imaginary friends. They weren't necessarily the best playmates (because they weren't real, duh!) but I would write about the great adventures we would have together. As a group of friends goes, we got along amazingly well. We belonged together. , Who would ever want to write the story where they are the outsider? Even Nancy Drew has her trusty besties at her side. In life, however, there is no script. Life is not fair, and things don't always make sense.

Every group it seems has its key players. There's the "glue," that person that makes everyone stick together. There's the funny one. The responsible one. The smart one. Of course somewhere squeezed in there is the rebel. All of them together make sense.  Like an orchestra where each instrument works in harmony with one another. Separately they have their own jobs, they make their own music, but together they are powerful and overwhelmingly in accord and absolutely beautiful.

Then, there is oftentimes the outsider. The one who doesn't quite belong; think octagon trying to squeeze into the hexagon shape.  In an orchestra it's like the unusual instruments that do not normally appear, like a contrabassoon.

When I write, I write what I know. Right now, I know moving. I know starting over. From the depths of my soul, I know being new. I know not belonging.  It's hard- this being new. It requires stamina, and the ability to try and try again. It requires a lot of breathing. And stretching.

These moments, these moments of not belonging, are the moments when my friend, Uncertainty, arrives and settles in for a visit. She is comfortable with me, no matter where I have lived or gone she often comes with. She'll show up late. Leave early.  We know each other well. There is not necessarily a rhyme or reason as to why she visits when she does. Sometimes I usher her out in a most terrible-hostess sort of a way. I shoo-shoo her ideas and notions. This has become more common- the dismissal of her attempt at intruding. I have become less willing to accept her visits the more I learn about myself. But there are times, like today, I pass her some hot chocolate and the TV changer and curl up beside on the couch and determine that maybe a little break is in order. Uncertainty knows me so well.

One day my friendship with Uncertainty will be dissolved in total.  One day, and I look forward to this day, the contrabassoon will have its place in an orchestra of distinguished peers. One day, the octagon won't need to be a hexagon. One day I will belong in total to myself, with my own spot in my own mind and my own heart, knowing fully that wherever I am, I belong. One day.

One day.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Reflection and a bit of Pandiculation

The Proform Stretch Pro. "Stretch dozens of different muscles to maximize your workout performance and reduce risk of injury." Of course, this little beauty is just one stretching machine on the market. Pilates, Yoga, even football teams sing the benefits of stretching.  Even my Nelson cat stretches frequently. (I'm watching him stretch right now as he sleeps in a chair across the room.) 

Last year was full. Full of the stuff of life. Full of heartbreak and sadness, and yet full of life and joy and laughing. I would conquer the world, only to meet reality. Like ice to the face. Even moving to a new office location (i.e., my house. Pearl. Where I work alone every day!) brings its own set of challenges.  I have found over the last months (really my entire life)  that I have been stretched. Sometimes reluctantly.  But what is life if not an opportunity to learn and grow... and change. 

One of the hardest things for me is not being totally in control. This last year there have been multiple times with my dad or my brother that I was definitely not in control. Mainly because, well, I'm not a doctor, and I'm certainly not God. I was scared. Scared because I didn't know what was wrong, and because  want them to feel better. I was given two choices in those moments (and I still have only two choices). I can learn to accept the peace that God and God alone can grant. Or, I can contort myself into a raging, sleepless, lunatic. One who bites her nails, eats Cheetos and laughs maniacally at inappropriate times. I choose the peace route, but it still requires WORK. I want to master this in one day. But, I just cannot. I am too much of a human, and instead I must daily surrender and give up those feelings of helplessness and instead accept peace... The quiet calm feeling that swallows doubt and fears and all things negative and ugly whole. 

As I have gone through life I have learned and applied. One thing I do know for sure, life is not mastered overnight, in one moment. It requires over and over and over.  

What do I want people to see and know when they look at me? 

I want people to see someone who is highly imperfect (but has finally managed to keep her hair brushed, and not lit on fire).
Someone who loves Jesus, and does her best to spread the love around.
Someone who has a little gleam in her eye. 
Someone who has learned to not make so many faces when people say weird things.
I want people to know that I will love them with no exceptions. 
I want people to know that I lean heavy on the quirky side, and that I am comfortable with it. 
I don't want to be mean. 
I will not laugh at someone because they are different. I will hug someone even if they smell funny, and I will give you a glass of sweet tea if you come to my porch. 
I will accept a challenge. I won't back down. While I may struggle through the sludge of change and trials of becoming new, I will make it through to the other side. 
I will be flexible. 

This I want people to see. 

And I want it to all be true.

2014, (My self proclaimed year of love; seriously,  who wouldn't love to have dinner with me? I'm fun.) I want to sit back on December 31, and be able to say, "I'm not the same as I once was," and know that it is true. 

That being said, stretching doesn't seem to be all that bad, does it?

"It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer."
Gerald Brenan

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Random Facts

2014 I decided to call out for some Blog-assistance. Specifically asking for additional ideas or topics that my two readers might want to read about. The challenge in that is to also make sure that it stays me.

In High School I took a creative writing course. While there were a few assignments that allowed for free writing- writing whatever you choose- the majority of the assignments included specific requirements that had to be met. I have always loved writing for myself. But I have found that I enjoy when other people enjoy what I have written. So by chance if you do read this, and you want to hear something from me, let me know! Seriously. Let me know.

That being said, here we are January 2, 2014.
And here is my first post for the year. (And only 51 to go!)

Things you may not know (and will wish you never did know) about me:
1. Pre college graduation I always hated people looking at my feet. I rarely wore sandals. Friends thought that they would help me to get over my phobia by holding me down, taking off my shoes and socks and starring at my feet. That only traumatized me. After I went to work at a camp in California, I got over it.   There are far weirder feet out there than mine!
2. My favorite color is red. The red like a bubble gum ball machine red. It makes me happy. If you look at those quizzes online, "What does your favorite color say about you?" it says many things about folks who love red. Apparently I'm always in a hurry, wanting to do everything right now. Patience not being a strong point.... Unfortunately, that's totally accurate.
3. While shopping in a store a few weeks ago, I accidentally touched velvet. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard.
4. I love fall, the smell of burning leaves, hot chocolate, s'mores and roasting hot dogs.
5. I like the music from the ballet, "The Nutcracker," but I've never seen it. Every year at Christmas time I would listen to my record on my trustee record player. Nothing sounds better than vinyl and I so wish I still had a record player.
6. I used to think that I would grow to be five feet, five inches tall. I didn't even make it to five feet three. In high school the kid who's locker was by mine was over six feet tall. He would constantly (though accidentally) hit me in the head with the locker cubby.
7. I still remember my locker combination.
8. I bought a house in June 2013. I named her Pearl. She was built in 1900. We pretty much get along most of the time. Especially now that I have a new furnace and am warm again.
9. I love sharp cheddar cheese.
10. Today I realized that 2014 is actually almost like 2/14, which is Valentine's Day. That means that this year is the year of love. That means someone out there would love to buy me dinner. Takers?

Happy New Year folks!