40, again

She had the friendliest smile in school and the personality to back it up. To see her was to want to get to know her, and not just because she had an adorable older brother. I was a sophomore in high school and she was a junior. When we became friends I wished we had met much sooner.

 

 

In many ways we seemed like polar opposites. I was short and blond, she was tall and dark. I was into drama; she was a star athlete. I blathered on about any and everything (hey, some things never change), and she was more selective about what she chose to say, proving continually that actions speak louder than words anyway. She would literally move mountains to help someone else if it was in her power, and her generosity was ample evidence of her tender heart.

 

The summer after we became friends, we spent much of it together, and it remains in my memory as the Second Best Summer Ever, full of promise and sunshine. Okay, so it was Norway and sunshine was pretty scarce even in the summer, but still…that’s how it looks in my memory. When she flew away to Connecticut because her dad had a new job, it was the only time I ever cried at the airport saying good bye to anyone.

 

From college she wrote me long newsy letters about my brother (at the same college), her brother (still adorable), and the friends she had made. I devoured them with much relish and cried more than once over the fun I was missing. I was a senior then, and the year stretched out interminably before me. It did end, however, and I made the best decision of my life, although warned many times that it was the worst. I chose my college based on where my friends were.

 

That summer is, coincidentally, branded in my mind as The Best Summer Ever. I have so many memories of 1986, but all the sweetest have her in them, and Huey Lewis singing in the background.

 

When I got married (to the adorable brother) she played her cello beautifully in the ceremony and was my maid of honor. When she got married a year and a half later I returned the favor by singing horrendously in the ceremony and by being her matron of honor (hey, at least I looked good in the dress).

 

Today is her birthday, and all that she ever was is still who she is, only better, if that is even possible. She is, and I suspect will always be, one of the most beautiful people I have ever known (and I don’t just mean in the “beautiful inside” way. I mean in the “still-causes-men’s-heads-to-swivel-further-than-humanly-possible-when-she-walks-into-a-room” way).

 

Happy Birthday, Beth. Your friendship blesses my head off. Thanks for never accusing me of being your friend just to get your brother. And may the next 40 years be the best 40!

 

And for Grandma ‘Cile

who celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday!

 

 

A Heart Like Hers

If I should live a century
I pray the years will show
a heart that dared to freely give,
to nurture, and to grow.

 

A heart that faltered never much
in happiness or sorrow
that clung to joy and steeped the pain
in hope for each tomorrow.

 

I pray my life would testify
to God’s abounding grace
His faithfulness imprinted on
my heart in every place.

 

In people’s thoughts I’d like to hold
a place of joy and care
their memories of me amidst
the happiest found there.

 

I pray my heart would lend its strength
to those who gather near
a bright, warm flame of tenderness
on days when life is drear.

 

A hundred years sounds like a lot
but with a heart so sweet
a gift I’d be from God Himself
to everyone I’d meet.

 

If I should live a century
I pray my years reveal
the beauty of this precious gift–
A heart like Grandma Cile.
 
 
 

 

For Jim

just for the heck of it

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*ahem*

 

Like lightening from a cloudless sky,
a bolt out of the blue,
I’m laid to waste,
hung high and dry,
spellbound by loving you.

 

I did not plan to lose my heart,
I only came for fun,
but then the tide
turned back, and I’m
completely overrun.

 

And while you stand at artless ease
and play the ingenue
I’m up a creek,
I’m out to sea,
abandoned by my crew.

 

Your love has made my life a wreck,
derailed my train of thought,
played my last trump,
burned every bridge,
my farm has just been bought.

 

I did not know the stage was set
the swan has done its dance
the curtain fell
at our first kiss
I never had a chance.

 

My love for you has tipped the scales,
my zinger’s just been zapped,
the breadcrumb trail
is eaten up,
there is no going back.

 

I cannot stop the tidal wave
emotion’s running high
the die is cast
it’s set in stone
I’ll love you till I die.

 

Your love for me has cleaned my clock
my sense just bit the dust
let others look
instead of leap
for me it’s you or bust.

 

So go ahead and throw the book
and toss the key out too
my bed was made
the very day
I first laid eyes on you.

 

 

Today looks a lot different than yesterday

Yesterday I had a migraine. It hurt. A lot. I didn’t fully appreciate just how painful it was, however, until I got up this morning and didn’t feel like randomly exterminating thousands of innocent people.

 

 

Instead, I felt like making scones. And so I did *insert sounds of Snow White singing and the twittering of birds*
 
I made cherry-almond scones, because whilst in Oregon I had the distinct pleasure of consuming quite a few of them at a place called The Grateful Bread *insert wild guffawing at the cleverness of the moniker*
 

They turned out damn good.

 

 

see? I told you. Wipe that drool off your chin, that’s disgusting.

 

I feel so good today that I feel almost as good as I did bad yesterday. Oh, and here’s a picture of my brother. It’s a picture of a picture, actually, so it sucks, but at least you can put a face to the superhuman god-like smarty-pants that I described below.

 

 

He’s not really god-like, in fact sometimes he’s a real butthead, but it was a tribute, so you know. You do what you gotta do. That’s me next to him, by the way. We look good, no? We were in Oregon to celebrate the wedding of my other brother, the one that arrived when I was toddling, but he’s not in the picture because he’s ugly. Just kidding, he’s really, really, ridiculously good looking *insert Zoolander ‘Steel’ look*. He actually looks a lot like Ashton Kutcher, only in less of a girly-man sort of way. Okay, okay, here’s a picture of him too.

 

 

Haha!! I love this picture because he looks like an overbearing jackass know it all, which he is. Just kidding, he isn’t. Well, not much. Not too much, that is. Usually.

 

He did, however, manage to create, with a little help from his wife, a divine creature known as my neice, River. With no previous experience in actual baby-fabrication whatsoever from either of them! I know, life is funny sometimes.

 

 

But here’s a picture of ME with River, because together we are so beautiful that we break all the laws of beauty heretofore and previously established. You might want to avert your eyes and kind of look at your screen sideways at first to acclimate yourself to the brilliance of this picture. If your retinas tingle a bit, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

So what shall I do today, on this most spectacularly pain-free of Fridays? Methinks I will clean the bathrooms! *insert slightly maniacal giggle* and then maybe I will…go to Wal Mart! *insert burst of stifled laughter* and after that I just might…fold some laundry!!!!! *insert hysterical cackling* Hooo boy, folks! It just doesn’t get any better.

 

And actually, it doesn’t.

 

I wish all of you a pain-free Friday. Grow, dear readers. Grow, like this foxglove stretching up to the pristine blue sky, ever reaching new heights. Be the foxglove. Only not poisonous.

Oh, I also have aNOTHER younger brother, AND an older sister, but they never, EVER read my blog, so why would I bother writing about them? *insert casual whistle with eyes rolled upwards as I walk away*
 
 
 

 

Machu Picchu

I came along when he was only 13 months old. When he first laid eyes on me he hurled his cup across the room and screamed, as the story goes. I don’t remember what my first impression of him was, but I would imagine I found him loud and indelicate.

 

 

The first decade of our existence together was so frightfully uneventful that I remember very little of it. He was part of the crowd; fellow toy-wrangler and vyer-for-mom’s-attention with a bit of comaradarie thrown in. I admired him and was enamored. He endured me and was tolerant.
 
When I was ten years old he taught me to ride a bike. I like to think it was brotherly love but I suspect embarassment that he had the only sister on the block with training wheels had something to do with?it as well. No matter; I appreciated it regardless of the motive. It was in these years that he begins to factor largely into my memories.

 

My father was building a house on some acreage he bought, and he employed his children regularly in what would most kindly be called “gruntwork” (I won’t say what it would unkindly be called). When my brothers and I (brother #2 came along when I was a toddler) weren’t needed to hold, sand, paint, weed, dig, sand, file, scrub, paint, sand, hand, weed, carry, tote, retrieve, fetch, sand, weed….repeat….we were castaways in the middle of a 160-acre island of prairie with not so much as an outhouse to carry us through the day. In these dire circumstances we were forced to use our imaginations or perish. In desperation we found a volleyball, plastered it with a bloody handprint, and named it “Wilson”.

 

No, wait. That wasn’t us.

 

We didn’t need the volleyball, we had each other. Together we were sorcerers concocting brews of weeds, mud, grass, and wildflowers in the giant discarded paint buckets that the construction work provided us. We were Israelites in the blazing sun, trying to create the perfect recipe for bricks that didn’t crumble once dried (we came close…this is Oklahoma, after all). We were rebel soldiers hammering together the ultimate weapon out of wood scraps and empty caulk tubes. We tore around the property on our 3-wheeler, frequently executing moves that by all rights should have ended our existence on this plane (hey…he ran right over me once).

 

We even built a swimming pool on one particularly fiendishly hot day. It was an impressive hole, dug with determination through the red Oklahoma clay to a depth of 2 ft, and a width/length of 4. It was all we could manage before the sweat dripping into our faces burnt our eyeballs clean out of their sockets. Then we lined it with a tarp and filled that sucker up. I think we managed to “swim” for about 15 minutes before the bugs falling in from the prairie-grass-lined sides took over. Good times.

 

He hit puberty and started to grow muscles (a phenomenon I was impressed with) and also served in that most useful of older-brother capacities: providing a steady stream of male visitors into the house for my friends and I to giggle over behind closed doors. Having a popular older brother never hurts a girl when making her own friendships, not that I would have dreamt of accusing my posse of such ulterior motives (don’t ask/don’t tell” works in a lot of situations). In high school we were in the same creative writing class together and when he used the word “enui” in a poem, I began to have the sneaking suspicion that he was the superior writer.

 

If he wanted to do something, he just…did it. In Norway he learned to ski (I chose the hearth and hot chocolate). He didn’t waste time on the green or blue slopes; where’s the adventure in that? I mean, how hard could it be? Get to top of mountain, point skis downward, go. And so he went. With style. Oh sure, there was that eensy weensy incident in France on a Spring Break vacation with some Canadian friends. They said hey I think I’ll take that jump over there. And my brother said oh sure me too why not? He snapped his leg like a green tree branch and had to have a plate put in it while enduring ten days in a French hospital, unable to speak a word of the language. But hey…nothing ventured, nothing gained. His celebrity status upon arriving back at school more than made up for the inconvenience of setting off every security check point at the airport from then on, I’m sure.

 

When I found myself in need of someone to walk me down the aisle for a certain momentous occasion in my life to which my parents, being 7000 miles away, were unable to attend, my brother took my arm, guided me along, and handed me over to My Beloved (I believe his own words were that we vibrated down the aisle due to my violent nervousness, but one way or the other he got me there, and I am deeply appreciative of that fact).

 

My brother is a funny guy. He can make me laugh harder than anyone on this earth I have yet to meet. What’s more, he can make My Beloved laugh harder than I have ever witnessed him laugh at anyone or anything. This in itself is enough to earn him my undying love and affection, and yet there is more. He loves my children and thinks they are amazing. He’s the quintessential bachelor uncle who generates giddy derangement amongst his neices and nephews whenever he comes around, which isn’t often enough (ahem!).

 

He tells me that he reads my blog, and he gives me encouragement that is neither constant nor casual, but means all the more because of that. He is kind to my dreams. I hope he reads this today and knows how much I love him. Happy Birthday, Matt.

 

And come visit, dammit.
 
 

 

That never happens to me, either

Have you ever stayed up far too late trying to cram knowledge into your already-crammed brain, only to find that a bunch of other knowledge (like how to shave your legs, and how to spell knowledge, for instance) has fallen out the back of your head as a result?

 

 

Have you ever been faced with the certainty that your life thus far has shown a remarkable lack of direction and purpose, and all the mind-blowing achievements that you were confident you would achieve at 20 have yet to be achieved and the achievements that you have achieved look like tiny little ants, viewed (or not) from a great height?

 

Have you ever had a seriously inane song from a children’s show, which you thought was really clever and funny at first, by the way, stuck in your head to the extent that you wanted to take a spatula and jam it into your ear, or nostril, in an attempt to scrape away the area of your brain in which inane children’s songs get stuck?

 

Have you ever felt like a bowl of cold oatmeal upon awakening from far too little sleep; congealed and vaguely repulsive, with little or no value to the world in general and certainly no ability or desire to finish anything you st

 

Pining

This blog just knocks me out. It’s like spun sugar and brown bread and a big bear hug from your favorite relative. I want to skiddoo into it like they do on Blue’s Clues. I want to be a fly on the wall of the house and see if all is really as it appears (read: perfect). Actually, I don’t give a flaming crap if it is perfect, because if it’s even half that sweet it’s good enough for me.

 

 

When I first started out on this mothering-homemaking-homeschooling-homebirthing-QF gig, I thought my life would grow into something resembling that blog. No really, I did! Stop laughing. I like teacups. I enjoy baking. I like to think I’m a creative sort. My heart swoons over a garden of swaying flowers. I used to read Victoria magazine!

 

But something somewhere went seriously awry. I think it all started when I couldn’t grow roses. They always shrivelled, got black spot, lost all their leaves, and died. I also hate ironing and I can’t sew. I tried, I really really did. I tried so hard. But everything I sewed wound up looking like A Really Bad Idea. I think these were the main obstacles in my quest for a life of unspeakable beauty and grace. That and I say things like “flaming crap”. Oops.

 

I haven’t completely given up, however. My Beloved and I still scan the newspaper every Sunday in a vain hope that our Dream Property will crop up and it will not cost eleventy-million dollars and be at the bottom of a lake. I still peruse my Beekeeping For Dummies book and tend my pathetic little patch of non-roses out front. I would hang my wash on the clothesline in our backyard, but unfortunately it stands directly adjacent to our neighbor’s dog run, and I don’t think that’s quite the scent that people rhaphsodize about when it comes to their line-dried laundry. And so I pine, stuck in suburbia, pathetic and goatless.

 

In the interest of wistfulness, however, I decided to throw a teaparty today. These used to be weekly events at my house for an entire school year once upon a time, under the guise of cultivating things like table manners and chivalry (I wonder if Jewels from the abovementioned blog ever has to tell her son to check his battle axe at the door before supping with the family?), but they have become much less frequent now. Anne Kroeker, over at her blog by the same name, put the notion in my head today with this post.

 

And so we lay the cloth (covered in smiling daisies and ladybugs, a leftover from a past birthday). And I thank God from the deepest crannies in my heart for my crazy, conflicted, bipolar, perfectly imperfect life

 

(pictures, you say? oh well, okay, if you insist)

 

mini zucchini muffins fit nicely into egg cups


 

a bouquet that I made from roses (purchased, ahem!), bleeding heart, hosta, and hydrangea (my garden)



look at them, taunting me with their smug resplendance. why must they torment me so?

 

anyway…back to the tea…here are some dignified sorts…

 


(sorry about the blur…the lighting in my dining room is abyssmal and my camera is dorking up)

Connie is holding her pinky high and proud


 

Jordan and her, uh…cheese man.


 

Gabriel’s tea leaves fortell doom, apparently…


 

highly satisfactory, I must say…


 

 

tea bags are undignified, honestly! how tacky.


 

And so the end. If you had been a fly on my wall, you would have heard many exhortations to please handle the china carefully, requests to pass the sugar, endless questions about whether said china was priceless or pricefull?and is that really real gold on the edges and will anyone be breaking into our house this very night to pilfer it? assorted bodily noises, another request to pass the sugar, exceedingly loud laughter, grimaces over the bitterness of a particular orange tea, one last request to PLEASE PASS THE SUGAR BEFORE I CRUMBLE INTO DUSTY ASHES IN MY CHAIR FROM WAITING SO LONG BECAUSE NO ONE CAN HEAR ME OVER THE DIN.

 

Sweet.

 

100

When we made our trip to Oregon a few weeks ago, we had the great priviledge of visiting not just the ocean and my siblings, but My Beloved’s Grandmother, Lucile, AKA “Grandma ‘Cile”. She is living in just about the prettiest retirement home I have ever seen, being doted upon by one and all. She is also turning 100 years old later this month.

 

What can I say about this woman? The thought of her moves me to tears more often than not, an emotional response I’m still trying to analyze. Maybe it’s the grace that simply radiates from her like the glow of a cozy fire in the hearth at the end of a long cold winter day. Maybe it’s the courage she’s exhibited through a life that has been none too easy, including raising a family during The Great Depression, moving to California when the family homestead in S. Dakota failed, the tragic death of a son, and outliving two husbands.

 

My Mother-in-Law says Grandma has “a happy heart” and that pretty much sums it up. You won’t find her wallowing in self-pity, because making the best of what she’s got is her mantra. Optimism wreathes her features and her presence lights up the room just as much as it did when she was toddling around on chubby legs.

 

I sat across from her at lunchtime in the restaurant, gazing at her in wonder. She does not look as one supposes 100 years should look. Her eyes sparkle, her hair glows, and…drum roll please…she has every. single. one. of her teeth. Her smile is simply sublime, and she bestows it like a benediction upon all who stop to say hello. She has aches. She has pains. Her recent hearing loss makes her crazy, but you would be hard pressed to get her to complain. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt and with no small sense of inferiority that I would not do so well were I in her shoes.

 

She is not certain she will make it to her birthday. It is two weeks away, but she is so tired. She has run the good race. She has fought the good fight. I want to cry into her shoulder and beg to go with her, like a small child who wants to attend her mother to the fancy dinner party instead of staying with the crusty old babysitter. Grandma ‘Cile is having a birthday party, but she is ready for a far bigger celebration than what has been planned by her family. I want to tell her to give my babies a squeeze from me when she sees them, and the thought of her meeting them makes me so very…envious.

 

But I am surpassingly comforted by the notion that she will dandle them upon her knee until I get there.