How to Protest- Lessons from Baby Matthew

The last few days have been a whirlwind.  My brother, his wife and my precious nephew came to visit.  Matthew was thoroughly disenchanted with traveling over 1000 miles in two days to come visit.  In fact, he voiced his protest in the only way a 9 month knows how to…  He pooped in his car seat 30 minutes down the road and proceeded to smear it all over the car, himself, and yes, the child ate some too.  This debacle all happened while my brother was towing a ton, literally, of household supplies to their new house in Tennessee.  My brother screamed, “SHIT!” and his wife Leighia asked “What?”  He repeated, “No really!  Shit!  Shit everywhere!  Get the baby!!!”  So, being a good wife and mother, Leighia did acrobatics to propel herself into the backseat to restrain the irate baby as he tried to further cover her in his excrement.  Apparently, it takes time to pull off the interstate when you’re hauling a trailer with a ton behind you truck, but they eventually found respite on the side of the highway.  Then they realized they were nearly out of baby wipes and the diaper changing station was no where to be found.  So, they began cleaning precious, little Matthew up on the side of the highway where he proceeded to crawl into a pile of fire ants.  After cleaning him up and getting rid of the ants, they looked at their pile of shit and shit covered clothing.  Leighia asked Rob, “How opposed are you to littering?”  My brother replied, “In this case, just get it into the woods.”  Ahhhh, the joys of parenthood.

So, that is the kind of excitement I’ve been living with for the last week.  I’m going to miss his mischievousness.  He loves climbing and is curious about EVERYTHING.  I love him so much.  And, while enjoying watching my brother handling baby debacles is sure to earn me some bad-future-baby-karma points, I think I’m just  going to have to laugh at them anyhow.

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Happy Birthday Daddy

Bitter sweet.  Today is bitter sweet.  June 13th. It’s my daddy’s 60th birthday, and barring a miracle, it will be his last.  I am sitting beside of him as many seconds today as I can.  We’ll have friends over to eat cake with him and sing happy birthday, and it’s mostly a happy day.  But, I’d be lying if I said today was all happy.

I think of the impact 60 years can have, and wonder if I’ll be able to have that much impact in 90.  About a dozen cards a day, 2000+ Facebook friends showering him with love and support, people all over town who attribute their lives being saved thanks to my daddy and their doctor, and hundreds of people that profess they are kinder, more thoughtful or better people just for having known my dad.  A dear friend, Kristin  once told me about what her husband, Wayne said about my father.  Kristin said, “your dad and Wayne’s grandfather were the two best men Wayne had ever known.  Your dad raised the bar for Wayne personally on what a man should be.”  Testaments to my father have poured in from every direction.  We have been absolutely showered with love, when many people feel very abandoned when they go through this process.  We have dozens of people stop by every day to visit with my dad or to help my mother in some way or another.  Laundry, mow the yard, do dishes, cook… you name it.  I am not completely sure of how you go about building so much rapport with so many people.  But I’d like to believe that my dad taught me something about it, and I hope that in 90 years I can begin to scratch the surface on having a similar impact.  But for today, I’m going to try to put aside the illness, and just celebrate my daddy.  He truly is a great man, and I am so bless that I hit the jackpot when it comes to family.  Happy Birthday Daddy!  You are my hero and my biggest fan, and I will love you for always.

Love at Second Glance

New jobs. Have mercy, they are stressful. Just like on my first day of school every year, I dressed up nicely and plastered on a confident smile held in place by cakes of makeup. But, the truth was… I was scared shitless. I had no fall back plan, no husband to pay the bills if I screwed everything up, and I had no idea what I was doing. To make my stomach churn just a little harder, I had just turned down 10,000 dollars more a year from my previous employer to follow a silly dream, and I sat in orientation thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into.”

Across the table sat a beautiful young woman, who I found out was assigned to be the epidemiologist on the same project as I. She was elegant with high cheekbones and great style. Within a few days, I would find out that she was brilliant too. She used words that I didn’t even understand, and asked questions that mattered, while I was still asking “where’s the light switch?” In short, I loathed her. And so the dance began.

Jealousy is so ugly. Deemed ‘the brilliant questions girl’, I whined and complained about her to my mother, my boyfriend, my shrink… I even whined about her to my dog. I was certain she was going to get me fired. I don’t remember the exact moment the tides began to turn, but we learned how to work together. And then, found ourselves talking together. And then, found ourselves laughing together. And then, found ourselves as friends.

We have now been colleagues for about half a year, and likely the best of friends for a lifetime. When most of my friends see me cry, they try to talk about other things or make jokes to try to make me laugh. Jenn has sat down in the mud beside me, wrapped her arm around me, and cried with me. What a beautiful friend. I have learned that beautiful people don’t happen by accident. Beautiful people have heart wrenching stories that have molded them to be both gentle and strong. Jenn and I have started to begin to share our stories together. And I am so looking forward to sharing more of our stories as well as laughs, successes, joys and progress.

This week she is moving across the country. I am going to miss her dearly. As we hugged goodbye, we both had tears in our eyes held back only by bravery and love for the other. I croaked out all I could think to tell her, “Love you.” It felt like the words just didn’t cover my appreciation for this woman, but I knew if I added “And I’ll miss you” my tears would break their dams. How do you begin to thank someone for being your strength as you lose the one person in your life that matters most? How do you begin to show someone the difference that makes? And the undeservingness of it all. I was jealous of her, a feeling that masked the truth- that I was intimidated by her at first. I’ve only known her a few months. Yet, she stepped up for me anyhow because she is a beautiful woman, one I hope to become more like. So, I guess sometimes, love unfolds, even if it is at second glance.

A Powerful Load of Laundry

I am never on top of my chores, ever.  In the last year, I have hired a cleaning service because I am just too slack.  What would my ‘bootstrapping’ grandparents think if they knew that I, a 27 year old single women, had hired a cleaning service?  Sheesh.

I was not always a slacker.  It’s just been hard to stay on top of things recently.  It’s even harder to keep up when weekends like this happen…

Last night my dad was terribly sick.  His chemo just kicks his butt sometimes, and low and behold, the washing machine decided to gurgle its lasts bubbles.  Are you kidding me?  So, this morning, I sat out to find a repair man.  Each repair man had the same phone-based diagnostic– the washing machine is old.  Given the thoroughness of the washer’s exam, I’m sure this diagnostic was based largely on the fact that today is Saturday.  Of course, they could fix it for a price, but the parts would take awhile to get here.  My dad is sick now.

Plan B became searching for a new washing machine.  I grabbed my car keys and told my mom that I would be back soon.  As I locked up the house, I saw a mini van slam on the breaks, back up about a foot and pull in our driveway.  Out of the mommy mobile popped Beth, a dear friend and long time neighbor of my parents.  She decided to say a prayer for my family as she drove by our house on her way home.  She said that if someone would walk out of the house, she would stop and offer to do our laundry.  Out I walked.  The only person to leave the house all morning.  What Beth didn’t know was that our washer was on the blink, and we were in a heap of trouble.

What makes this story even more beautiful is how the circle really is unbroken.  About a year ago, Beth’s husband was in the ICU a few miles from my own home (not my parent’s home.)  She was exhausted, and I offered for her to come stay with me a few nights.  In some weird way this was really thrilling for me.  Here was a dear friend, and I was finally far enough along in life to offer her a bed, a shower, a hug and some hospitality, instead of some crusty air mattress on the floor.  Believe me, when you’re in your mid twenties, in your first home, with your first mortgage, and someone dear to you needs some comfort that you are now able to provide…  Well, that’s a warming feeling.  That evening she said she was going to have to drive back to her home the next day, 3-4 hours away, because she had run out of clean clothes.  I insisted that I wash her clothes for her, and she was able to stay until her husband was discharged from the hospital.

So here Beth stood today in our laundry room telling me how hard it was to have let me wash her clothes for her that night.  She said that it felt like it was imposing on me; yet I was genuinely happy to be able to wash them.  She stopped today because she thought it might take a little work off my mom if she could just run a few loads of laundry for her now to return the favor, and this too made her genuinely happy.  This small act of kindness was given at moments in each of our lives when we were hanging on by a thread.  And it is moments like this in which I believe that maybe the world and God has not completely turn their backs on us.  Now, that is a powerful load of laundry.

Pickin’ a Guitar

Doc Watson, one of the great legends of American music, passed away yesterday.  Doc was a country man- simple and humble.  Yet in my opinion, he was the best flatpickker to ever fall upon my ears.  You see, what Doc has that so few others possess in their playing is wisdom.  Sure, he knows what notes to put in, but many flashy virtuoso players know that.  What is special about Doc is that he knows what notes to leave out.  He is from a generation of great bluegrass pickers, who I believe got the name ‘pickers’ not only because they used a pick to play, but also because they ‘picked’ the best notes to play.   That is a rare wisdom in music.

I had one of those days today…  You know, when life smacks you in the face and you wonder if you’re making any decisions right.  I rarely give up fighting for things that matter.  All the necessary notes are played in my life.  However, sometimes I fight too long to keep notes in my life’s song that really are superfluous.  I think I live a virtuoso lifestyle.  Playing every note because I can, and since I can, I feel I should.  But, these extra notes are just distractions from the simple, clear melody.  I know that playing all those notes doesn’t sound as pure and Doc’s pickin.

I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to purify the song of my life.   I know I should be kind and thoughtful, work hard and love my family as vastly as the universe, but I don’t yet have the wisdom to know when to let things go.  (To be clear, I am not letting go of fighting for my daddy; he is family, and those are notes I will play.)  Perhaps, I just need 89 years to figure it out.  Until then, I will strive to live as Doc played with all of the right notes and none of the excess flash.  Thank you Doc for the lifetime of music wisdom.  You will be in my heart forever.

My Apologies to the Meatheads of the Gym

I try to be a fairly open minded, understanding person. I’ve taken numerous sensitivity classes, and spend lots of time personally reflecting on what it must be like to live in someone else’s shoes. I’m a social worker for heaven’s sake. But, I have my faults and my biases. When I see an attractive women walk by wearing less clothes than the washcloth I use in the shower, I admittedly want to shake her, and yell in her face that she would still have value if she dressed like a lady and not the tramp.

I also loathe those meatheads in the gym. You know that guy. The guy walking around after every rep, constantly looking in the mirror, and grunting in the corner. I usually mind my own business, roll my eyes and wonder if that ‘thing’ has a brain cell anywhere in his head.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been taking a class on weightlifting with a friend of mine. I mostly did it because I needed a hobby, and am burnt out on my old standbys– swing dance and martial arts. I love it. It’s empowering to look at something that weighs more than a child and sling it over your head. A few days ago, I squatted down in front of the barbell, set my position, and tried to force the barbell over my head. Out slipped a guttural, “Aaaaaaah!” What was that? Did I- miss prim and proper- just grunt? I struggled to lift it over my head, checking my position in the mirror, and promptly dropped the barbell to the ground. I walked away from it having just failed the rep, and strutted around the gym try to catch my breath. Grunt? Strut? Even staring at myself in a mirror? What has happened to me?

Lifting weight is hard. The goal is to thrust various amounts of steel over you head before a hemorrhoid pops out of your behind. You strut around after every rep because you desperately need to catch you breath. You look in the mirror because if your posture is bad, you WILL get injured. You grunt because, well, did I mention steel and hemorrhoids.

So, I need to extend my deepest apologies to the meatheads of the gyms. I am sure some of you are just going through the motions, but most of you are probably doing your best to get a good workout in. Who knows, maybe next month, I’ll be more understanding when a women saunters by in her washcloth.

Lessons in Blurting

Verbal vomit. They say honesty is the best policy. They are idiots.

I used to be rather reserved, private girl. A girl well versed in the do’s and don’ts of gentile southern ways. But lately, I’m a babbling buffoon of honesty.

I don’t mean to be. I wish I could revert to my private life. My former life was far less interesting, but the mysterious factor earned me some bonus points on occasion. Still, here I am. The social nincompoop who actually gives an answer to questions such as, “How are you?”

The ‘Gentile Southern Ways Rulebook’ definitively explains in chapter one that the answer to the question, “How are you?” is always the same… “Oh I’m doing just fine Ms. Emma. How are you today?” (Make sure to draw out the word ‘fine’ as you read the sentence. Inflections for the word ‘fine’ are quite important to gentile southern etiquette; although, this is an advanced chapter to be sure.)

I have an amazing job, but I do spend most of my workday alone with my computer, carpal tunnel preventives, computer-strained eyes, and of course, my super creepy office mate who hogs the window. Because of this I make frequent trips to the bathroom and kitchen hoping to run into someone, anyone. (I’m sure the man whose office is across from the women’s bathroom thinks I have a perpetual bladder infection.) So today, I stood in the communal work kitchen, starved for human interaction. Set up for failure, complete.

Enter stage left. Sudie. She immediately drops the bomb. “How are you?”

“You got this Bonnie,” I tell myself. I plaster a charming southern smile, and reply, “Oh, I’m doing just fine Ms. Sudie. How are you today?” “Rulebook chapter one. Check. I haven’t lost it yet,” I think to myself.

Sudie responds that she too is (not surprisingly) fine. Hmmmm, she must have read The Rulebook too. And then she makes a misstep. She continues and asks, “How is your dad?”

I feel it coming. Verbal vomit. More powerful than the worst case of food poisoning you’ve ever had. And for whatever silly reason I poor out, “Not good… He’s not good at all. In fact…” Blah. Blah. Blah. I rattle on. I babble on for probably 90 seconds, which I’m sure felt like 90 minutes to her. Remedial southern etiquette training, here I come.

I don’t know what prompted me to give an honest answer to a question that clearly was not asked with any interest in an actual answer. I guess I was tired after a long night spatting with my mother over the best course of care for my dad.

I know that I personally love when someone blurts an honest answer to a Rulebook question. I believe these moments are opportunities to connect with people who have value and rich experiences. I love blurting moments that happen in the grocery store when the unknown clerk pours out their entire life’s story. I love it. But, I’m not so foolish to believe that everyone else feels the same. Raw honesty in the form of blurting can be hard to swallow. It can be awkward, heart wrenching, frustrating… and few people are comfortable with these emotions, especially in the company of strangers or worse yet, acquaintances.

I also don’t know why I hold myself to such an impossible double standard– my loving to hear the blurtee, but hating to be the blurter. I guess that’s the reason I started this blog, to create some sacred blurting space. It’s also a space where you can choose to experience the blurt, or just pass by with a fleeting, “Oh I’m doing just fine Ms. Bonnie. How are you?”

So, how are you today?