Monday, March 13, 2017

Fortune Cookie Confirmation

Coming down I44 today, Jack and I wove dreams of what we would like to do with a little  land some day. Feed out a steer. Have a few goats and chickens.  Greenhouses.  Self sufficiency.  I jokingly pointed out that he was already 51 and I was 41 so that we had better get on the ball and teased that I was having second thoughts about having married an older man.

In actuality, I might find a younger man but not one who loves me more.  This weekend was the perfect example of Jack's love for me and investment in our family. We were on our way home from a quick trip to see my grandparents in Bluejacket.  It's a good five hour drive away, depending on how many times we have to stop so we don't get to go often.  Jack Dear had a few days off this week and gave them up to be my driver and my grandpa's helper.

It was not a romantic trip since the kiddo slept on an air bed in our room. It wasn't even particularly lazy.   We just happened to pick the weekend that was slated for working cattle.  Jack's presence meant enough helping hands that  Grandpa and Grandma could watch and direct while my cousins and Jack did the labor.  It didn't matter that Jack was an in-law and that these were my cousins' cows and not his.  He spent the day cheerfully helping process the cows and calves, holding calves to be cut, worming, dodging crazy cows, untangling horns and fences all while slogging around in mud and manure.

He might have earned a break after the last cow scrambled from the chute, but he kept up being a family a man through the evenings. Years ago, Jack transferred all the old Wilson home movies to DVD, but we had never had a chance to sit down and watch them.  We had the chance now so Jack spent his evenings tape recording my grandparents as they narrated the videos for us.  I am sure three hours of vacations, Christmas dinners, and horse rides got old, but I never would have gotten all the locations, faces, and dates right on my own and it was a joy to watch how big of a kick Grandma and Grandpa got out of those old movies as they relived their early years. I know he was probably worn out from tromping around in manure all day, but he gamely set up the recorder and soaked up some Wilson lore.

I cannot calculate the value of a man who every day shows his love to me and mine through not just words, but with his every action.  He was so patient with everyone this weekend.  The rain was miserable on the drive up.  Tempers flared in the corral.  Grandpa hurt too much to be cheerful company.  Bella was sometimes bored.  I was generally busy in the kitchen.  Through it all, including shoe shopping for Bell on the way home, Jack was ready with a smile, a kiss, a flirty pat, a laugh, a helping hand, whatever I needed, whenever I needed it . . . Even  if helping me meant he was really putting his shoes on to do go do a chore so my grandad didn't have to.  I think too many people never get past the idea of love being a sweet word connected to canoodling.  Jack can still make my heart go pitter patter with a look, but I think we would have a such a desolate life if that is all we had to offer each other.

On the way home, we stopped at a Pei Wei for lunch.  The slip of paper in my fortune cookie said "love is a gift that you can give again every day."  Perhaps some people would rather see "you will win the lottery," but I think I would rather give love and be given love in return.  I watch my grandparents with each other, the tenderness and care they show.  They may be in their late eighties, but, oh my, are they still in love.  That love spills into the way they raised their children, the way they hold their grandchildren, they way share their stories with their great grands.  This morning I over heard Grandma telling Bell "when your momma was little, we used to . . ."  And I stood in the hall, tearing up listening to them.  It's a family thing - it means that cousins help work cows and uncles give their nieces a ride on a horse. Watching Ben and Bell on a yellow horse reminded me a lot of Ben  riding his horse Babe with me when I was little.  I see the love my parents so carefully guard and nourish.  I see that love in the way my husband looks at me and  looks at our child, in his touch, in his word.   I look forward to a life of that kind of giving.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Girls Trip

   Really it has only been in the last few years that Rachel and I have hung out much together.  The twenty year age gap means that it took some time  before we had enough common interests and free time at the same times to really do fun things together without one of us being the grown up and one of being the kid. We have gone to my grandparents' farm for a sisters' visit a few times and had toyed with a fall trip but other family things intervened.  This past weekend, I had a long weekend and Rachel finagled days off to match mine, so off to Bluejacket we went. Jack can't really leave his parents now and I have a few hundred baby plants to tend, so he graciously opted to stay home to let me have a getaway with Ra.
     I think this was the most carefree and relaxed I have felt since our stolen day of hiking at New Years. Bluejacket is like going home for me.  It hasn't been in years and years, but my roots are there . . . holidays were spent there until fairly recently, summers sweated there . . It just feels like coming home when I round that curve coming out of Timber Hill and descend into town.  The rail road crossing, the sad little football field, the final curve before their farm is nestled in gentle slopes and held in by creeks at the edge of town.    When I pull up before that old brick house and the shabby barns, I can just feel all the weights of the world slide off my shoulders as I exhale.
     My grandparents are in their  eighties so it isn't as if this was a vacation where we were pampered and spoiled, though my Grandmother made some wonderful brisket and chicken stew and dumplings.  Instead, bright and early Saturday, Grandpa hit us up to fix up the fence around the chicken coop.  Several years ago, Jack, Dad and my brothers built this fabulous, huge chicken coop and yard for them, but eventually, they quit keeping chickens and it fell into disrepair . The coop became became a storage shed and cows invaded the yard. A friend recently gifted them with 9 fat red hens, and it was time to give that coop a face lift. We drove posts, put up cow panels (at Grandpa's decree though I felt like the chickens would escape)(and after we cut them out of wild rose bushes and green briars and  Grandpa  drug them through several acres of mud puddles and cow pies), scavenged old wire . . . It is the ugliest chicken yard ever but it is not going to fall down in a wind storm or be pushed over by a cow.  Those hens were so happy to be out of the coop and scratching in the grass and muck.
      Of course, the next day those wily hens did escape.  As fast as my cousin would grab a chicken and put it in the pen, two more would find freedom. We had to string the chicken wire I   suspected from the beginning that we'd need.  And of course, just like the old panels and old wire we  had to beat into shape, the chicken wire was bent and had tree roots frowning into it. I appreciate not having to buy materials, but it takes a lot more work to reuse old things that have been allowed to rust away. Ra and I spent the better part of the weekend wading around in cow and chicken poo while we made repairs, but oddly, that is the most content I have been in weeks.  Other than our hike, it is the most at peace I have been in months.  We chatted and joked whole we worked really well as a team despite the age and personality differences. There was something deeply satisfying about menial labor on the family farm, labor that might make my grandparents'  chores a bit easier, and doing the work with someone I love.
     It wasn't all chicken mess.  We helped my grandmother clear limbs out of the yard - so many had fallen over the winter from those trees that are getting old.  Grandma told us the stories behind them - the one that had been a seedling in her mother's yard, the one that was my grandpa's favorite, the ones that they planted when they first bought that farm. At one point I looked up to see my long legged sis scrambling up a tree.  Grandma says she is the only grandkid to have climbed that one. I was delighted that this girl who can make boys drool can still be a kid when she needs to be.
      We heard about the time my grandpa hitchiked to California and became a forestry service fire fighter and then joined the marines.  We heard a man sing Amazing Grace in Cherokee at church. We  got stuck in the truck when the doors jammed.  We went for a run together. We cooked together.
      We laughed, we ate, we hugged long lost cousins, we teased - we  just soaked up the spring like  weather and love that we always find on that farm.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Blue Sky Satisfaction

 Just look at that sky. No filters. It was the last day of Christmas break and the temps were closer to spring than winter, bumping 70 with only a gently breeze.  It was also really the first day that we weren't doing something with my family or Jack's family, that someone wasn't a little or a lot sick, or that we weren't tied up with actual work and repairs that needed to happen around the place.  I had so hoped to sneak in visits with more friends, maybe a cup of coffee with at least one, maybe multiple adventure days, but it just wasn't meant to be.  Instead, we traded head colds, used an extraordinary number of tissues, and didn't get out much at all besides trips to my parents or for groceries and chauffeur duty for the in-laws.  I did read a lot of fluff, we watched a million episodes of Mythbusters, and Christmas cooking and baking happened and just kept happening.  But those are not as deeply satisfying as adventure and outdoors, so on this last day of freedom we drove the nearly two hours to the Quartz Mountains and found that adventure.

Bella is not always a very enthusiastic hiker - she takes more breaks than she moves and if we ever do get her going, she over does it, takes a tumble, and then is weepy and never wants to go again.  Today was unusually perfect. No fussing, no quarreling, no excessive breaks.  She was up for anything.  We wandered very poorly marked trails without a map - there is one that I took a picture of but there was a distinct lack of markers and it wasn't much to scale. We were well on our way up one trail and hit a "closed for hunting season" sign so had to do some backtracking.  Jack snagged a geocache. We found the most wonderful walking trail around the bottom of Baldy Point.  It was strictly walking through the woods around the base of the mountain, but it was a really beautiful walk with all sorts of things to explore (caves) and to avoid (bee hives) and to look for (was it a squatch or just a rabbit?).   We made it around the base and almost up to the top of Baldy Point when Miss Bell had a mishap and sat on a prickly pear cactus.  Then we had about twenty minutes of Jack removing cactus spines from Bella's back and shirt.  She was a trooper.  We ended up not going to the top but going off trail around the upper third and down the other side hooking into a trail we had looked for that morning and missed.  Next time we will get the rest of it. Part way around and down, Bell saw a cool outcropping and had to mountain goat up nearly to the top of the mountain to it.  She and I explored up while Jack scouted a way off the mountain.  When she got to her outcrop, the sketch journal came out and she needed an art break to record the mountains across from us.

It was a day of poking with burned sticks, squishing moss, determining what animal likely made what poop, being honked at by wild geese overhead, scaring quail, dumping scree out of our shoes, and throwing away a glove that was just to cactus filled to save. We went up rock faces on hands and knees and sometimes had to come down almost sitting.  We laughed and explored, and Lordy, it was a beautiful last day of freedom.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Mercy Beyond Measure

Here I sit, with coffee in bed on this first frosty morning of the fall; I should be cozy and content, yet I find myself snotty and teary.  I don't even know exactly why.  I am a mess of emotion, part worry, part thankfulness.  Part tired and stressed. Just weepy.

Partly,  I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for my dad.  For those of you who don't know, he came home about two weeks ago.  Dad is walking, talking, eating, putting his own clothes on, taking showers - all the normal things one does, just with a neck brace.  He will have more physical therapy later when the neck brace comes off.  We don't know if he will be able to return to life like it was before.  For certain, there will be some limitations but we just don't know what kind or how many yet. There are still problems that have yet to resolve themselves so we don't yet what the future looks like.  I do know this:  I have never been so thankful to hear anyone's chuckle of amusement as I have his.  I have never before been so grateful to hold someone's hand and have them squeeze back as I am with him.  We have been given a second chance in our family.  The terrible thing did not happen.  My mother still has her soulmate, and we children still have our father.

I think back to that first terrible day and night, that first week.  I think of watching my brothers, grown men who seem to handle anything, nearly broken.  I remember watching Ben crying silently and praying at 2:00 AM and thinking that I wish that driver could see him.  I wanted to take that man, lead him to my father, whose face was all that visible, body covered in tubes and machines. Take him to Rachel, still a baby at 21, still needing her parents whole.   Take him to Ben, tears coursing down his face, and say, "Look.  Look at what you have done. This is my family and look what you have done to them." I am not angry. I really am not bitter.  People kept saying that I shouldn't be bitter.  The thing is, when I think of the driver, I am not angry.  I don't wish him ill. I hope he will be wiser in the future, more cautious, but goodness, we have all been guilty of inadvertently harming someone in someway at sometime.   Instead of wishing him ill, I have been concerned - I cannot think what it would be to know I had caused this much harm to someone.  I think of all the things we are not careful in, things we are ALL not careful in, not just him on that day.

Do we live deliberately or do we float through life, careless in our thoughts and actions?  My dad has lived deliberately for a very long time, his choices in his work, where he lived, how he raised his children all a reflection of his commitment to God.  No, my father is not a perfect man, but he is always becoming a better man.  Both my parents live this way.  I wonder how confidently we could have prayed had my dad been a different man, how much faith would have held my mom up had she been a different woman.  I know that God gave us great mercy and I believe that mercy was given because my family, particularly my parents have been faithful to Him. Can we all expect great mercy?  Are we living deliberately?

I think of that driver - I haven't spoken to him.  I don't know him.  But I wonder if he was floating along or deliberately, actively focused on being careful.  Then these thoughts spill to me.  How often am I deliberately careful with my thoughts and words and actions.  Do I float along?  Do I work at thinking and doing and speaking things that are Christlike? Somehow the idea of not being careful enough driving has become this bigger idea of being careful with my life and the lives that have been put in my care - my husband and child, my parents and siblings, my in laws and extended family, my students and co-workers.  No, I am not deliberately bad, I am not deliberately careless, but I also think I am not always consciously choosing to be careful with what I have and who I am responsible for.

Deliberately. Carelessly.  Thoreau went to the woods to live deliberately. I would like to think I am deliberately living - choosing for my life to be be  meaningful.  I know that mercy beyond measure has been shown to my father, to me and mine, in simply having Dad alive.  Perhaps equally merciful is a reminder to live carefully, to make each day matter in the right ways.  I want to have that peace and confidence in God's mercy and faithfulness toward me.  I want to know that better than only doing no harm, I did something good.  I think I needed reminding about the choices I make, while there was time to be reminded.

I look at this day of Thanksgiving that approaches.  I cannot believe that November is half over - I still feel like I missed half the fall. Blessedly, we have been given so much more and been reminded to savor each moment of it.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I am so tired.  Just so very tired.  I can sleep the sleep of Ambien and be groggy the next day until noon or I can sleep of the fretful and be groggy till noon.  It doesn't seem to matter.  And while I say that I am so tired, I feel so guilty because my mother and brothers and sister and even Jack and Bell are just as tired, mom surely more so.  But I am just so tired.  Twice in the last two days I have lost my patience with Bell and snapped at her for something that was probably not snap worthy.

And I don't even know if I am so tired because because I haven't been able to exercise or eat enough green things or the emotional roller coaster each day has become or if it is just the sleep.  I have been given a lot of help from above in being peaceful and not giving in to doubt and fear, but it creeps in when I least expect it.  I find myself tearing up just driving down the road. 

To say that someone is hit by a semi and then drowned sounds like a preposterous thing that happened to the coyote when one of his sabotages against road runner backfires.  How can a man possibly survive?  He has survived, but his future, and thus ours, remains uncertain.  Every day there is a new hurdle - some cleared, some not.   We made it through the scary surgery Tuesday and I suppose we all just felt so much hope afterwards.  Then yesterday, he had to have an emergency tracheotomy when he wasn't able to breathe after being removed from the ventilator.  Setback. Setback. Through the night, when I woke up, I prayed that his pneumonia be cleared and that when his sedation wears off today he will be calm and at peace.  We don't even know for sure what he knows or thinks, just that he is sedated because he tried to remove some tubes yesterday on his own and was pretty angry acting.  Maybe with the ventilator tube gone, today will be better.  While I walked yesterday afternoon,  I prayed he would be calm, at peace, and not discouraged or afraid, my prayer for us all.

We have had so many friends and co-workers and church family members reach out with prayers and generosity and it has made all the difference.  I believe my father will be healed. That He will finish  this work of healing that He has started, but I am weary.

Yesterday was my happy 14th anniversary with Jack Dear.  Not a lot of celebrating around here, but let me say that I do not think I could have made it through the last 9 days without him.  Fourteen years.  It is unfathomable to me that life could have taken us down different roads.  I am thankful for my family, for my husband, for the mercy my father and family has been shown while we wait. Wait and pray. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Addendum to Summer of Run

Progress is slow, to be sure, but progress nonetheless.  Today, I had to slow to answer a phone, carry a kitten, and slog up a hill against the wind, so my my pace was down.  But my feet still moved.

My mother-in-law has been fussing.  "You should just do a little light weights everyday" and   "Walk while you watch TV" and "You just need to watch what you eat and you won't need to do all that"  are her comments about how she thinks I shouldn't run.  For some reason, she thinks I am not acting age appropriate and should just give all this up.  Other days the point is that I should join a gym and exercise with people and run on a treadmill.  I totally get that she hates me to run on the road.  She is convinced that some one will run over me or steal me. However, I have zero desire to exercise with other people - I am around literally hundreds of people every day at school.  Running is bit zen like - just me and my trail of cats and dogs who follow me - pied piper style is the way to run apparently. I certainly don't want to have say hi or even wave or head nod.  I just want the solitude with my sweat.  We have conceded to look for a treadmill to use when it gets cold - Rubilee thinks it will be too cold in just a month. I still plan to run on the road and brave that hill (it's like a glorified stair master) anyday  it is decent.  In Oklahoma, we have a lot of decent winter days.   For now, it was a gloriously cool morning for August.

Graceful Living

I am purely exhausted this morning.  I need sleep in the worst way - elusive is far too gentle a word to describe my connection to sleep the past several days.  I should be out running on this gloriously cool morning but I sit here with coffee.  Now I will have a bit for coffee and running don't have a good relationship for me.

I am neither in the mood nor do I have liberty to address the stress that I think is driving away my sleep and inviting ludicrous anxiety ridden dreams.  Instead, I would rather think of strength and grace in the face of adversity.  Some people, by bent of temperament, just seem to have more natural calm and poise than others, joy that daily defines their interactions with the world, quiet strength that marks their struggles.  Perhaps some is termperment.  Perhaps some is something they cultivate, choosing mindfully each day.  Perhaps some is given by God, a blessing for their faith.

This year, I have more students with learning disabilities than any year since I taught classes dedicated to remedial English. Students with these hurdles are like all other students - they deserve an education and they should be held accountable for learning in a manner aappropriate for their particular needs and abilities.  At the same, just like any other student, they can be likeable and a joy or students I have to work to simply tolerate. Eager, class clowns, surly, conscientious, lazy, creative, disorganized. What ever label can be found for a "regular" student can be found for a special needs student. One child in particular makes me think of Flowers for Algernon.  I wonder is this student knows the difficulties and limitations that are reality.  Every morning, I am greeted with enthusiasm and a smile.  If we bump into each other during they day, this child seems genuinely happy to see me and every one else, for that matter.  What ever we talk about during class - grammar, lit, whatever - that hand is up volunteering answers and asking questions with more eagerness than I see the entire rest of the day.  Where does this well of positivity spring from?  Does she know that she likely won't have the same opportunities as others for education and careers?  Does she know how much she faces?  I am in awe.  I want to yell a bit at everyone else and say, "look how much she does with so little."

I have an adult friend who generates a similar response in me.  To be sure, she has many blessings, but she also deals with some very serious health issues that limit her ability to go and do.  I know life and future are always uncertainties for all of us, but short of miracles in medical advances or divine healing, it seems certain that her health issues are not going away and will likely worsen.  Some people are stoic and closed off in the face of such things, but this friend just keeps working, momming, friending, walking in all her roles of life full of grace and kindness.  There are no complaints.  She admits concerns and difficulties, but seems to let living her life rather than living in fear and worry dictate her actions and attitude.  I inwardly yell at me, saying "look at what she does despite so much burden."

I am tired.  I have not slept enough in three days to equal one good night. I am concerned about so many things, fretting about things I can only pray about rather than actively take on myself.  I need to dig deeper, rely more on God to resolve  issues and to know that he will give me the grace and strength I need to deal with them.  I need to tap into that joy and power I see these two examples modeling everyday.