LOVE THURSDAY

The other morning as I was getting in my morning steps, I turned the corner on the forth floor and then glanced back over my shoulder at one of the office areas. Then I stopped and turned around to really look at that office area. The window was covered in raindrops and the morning sun was streaming through so that it looked like the window was covered in a million twinkly stars. I pulled out my phone to take a picture, but the camera just didn't capture what I was seeing. And I was good with that.

Over the weekend, Michael and I visited the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. They were hosting a Chinese New Year celebration and we were unprepared for how popular this celebration would be. We ended up ducking into the photography exhibit to get a reprieve from the crowd. The current photography exhibit, Through the Lens: Visions of African American Experience, 1950-1970, is all of the good descriptive words. There was one photo in particular that made me stop and stare for a really long time. It was photo taken of Martin Luther King as he was being arrested for loitering as he waited for a friend to be released from jail. He was half leaning over a counter and looking directly at the camera as two police officers held his hand behind him and cuffed him. I stared at that picture for a long time with tears dripping down my face. If I close my eyes now, I can still clearly see that picture and the look in Mr. King's eyes. In this case, the camera wasn't capturing what I was seeing either, but it forced me to look deeper than the tangibility of the photograph. 

You might be able to tell just because of how late in the day I'm getting this posted. Squeaking in just barely still on a Thursday. I have had a hard time writing anything for today's post. I have deleted this entry twice now, both of them describing that photography exhibit and all of them inadequate. It is hard to see a connection between twinkly stars and an image of civil rights injustice. Both of these images caught me off guard and had me stopping in my tracks and I suppose the one connection I can make is one of inspiration. I am inspired to do better and be a better citizen. I am inspired to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. I am inspired to be present in the moment and to be aware of my surroundings. 

These are just two examples of moments that have stopped me in my tracks this week. Some of those moments have caused me to close my eyes and protect my heart. Some of those moments have made me laugh out in a burst of surprised laughter. Some of those moments have just made me be still for small bit of time. Good or bad those moments have been important and significant. I hope you have moments that stop you in your tracks and I most definitely hope they are good ones. 

Happy Love Thursday!

LOVE THURSDAY

I can count the number of times I have been sledding on one hand. Sledding just didn't happen in Oklahoma because snow really didn't happen Oklahoma. At least not in my neck of the woods. The panhandle gets all kinds of snow, but I don't think much sledding happens there either because there aren't any hills. Of course, now I know how wrong my childhood was because I found out recently that you do not need a lot of snow to go sledding. I heard people talking about taking their kids sledding here and there was only a couple of inches of snow on the ground. When I mentioned to Michael that maybe we should take the Cabbage sledding on Saturday, He looked out the window and shook his head. He said that there wasn't enough snow and I kind of pouted. Then it snowed a few more inches for us, so...weeee!

Saturday morning, the Cabbage and I went grocery shopping while Michael was at his eye exam. While the two of us where out, we bought a sled. I convinced the Cabbage that the cheepo Disney Frozen sled was crap and the creepy penguin sled would work better. I had already scoped out a park with some good sledding hills. So, after lunch, with Michael and his dilated eyes and the Cabbage and I, we hit the slopes. And it was spectacular! The Cabbage couldn't remember if she'd ever gone sledding before. Michael and I figured that if she couldn't remember, then this was her first sledding experience. We started her out on a smaller section of the slope. Then it was my turn. I chose a slightly bigger slope and to go head first. When the Cabbage saw me do this, she also wanted to try the bigger slope, but we convinced her that head first was overrated. She totally nailed that bigger slope and so we moved up to an even steeper slope. This is where I nearly ran into a tree and then fell off the sled. The sled is not easy to steer. The Cabbage went down that hill, but started in the middle. She missed the tree, flipped and did a full 360 on the sled. She did not think it was as cool or funny as Michael and I did, even though she was not hurt and it was awesome. 

We sled until our fingers and toes where numb. The Cabbage's gloves had gotten wet. My gloves had gotten wet, not to mention my pants. I got snow down the back of my coat on one run. The Cabbage did one more sledding run and then we packed it in. Back at the car, Michael peeled off the Cabbage's wet gloves and then put his still dry gloves on her hands to help warm them up. She was in the back seat with these giant gloves on her hands and then she said "My hands! My beautiful hands!" I don't know if she'd heard that line before or if she had just come up with it now on her own, but it was hilarious. We laughed all the way home. The best part was capturing the pure joy on Michael and the Cabbage faces as they sled down the hill. 

The next day, the temperatures rose and all of the snow melted. 

Happy Love Thursday!

LOVE THURSDAY

Since the weather has turned too cold to walk outside even while wearing my new coat, I take little walking loops through the building here at work. I have a system. I go up to the third floor, walk one wing over to a different stairwell and then up to the fourth flour. On the fourth floor, I walk two wings and then back down to the third floor to walk to a different stairwell that takes me to the second floor. I know. It all sounds pretty maze like. Stay with me. On the second floor, I walk three wings and over to a completely different stairwell. I take this stairwell down to the first floor and then walk the wing down to my office. It's not as long or as interesting as the inside walking route that Robin and I had mapped out across OMRF and the OUHSC Campus, but it it is a nice get-off-your-ass for ten minutes kind of walk. 

That route changes. Sometimes I turn left instead of right. It wasn't always as long. I used to just do the two wings on the fourth and second floor. I had figured out that this was about 1500 steps. I would do this three or four times a day and along with my treadmill time this would give me my goal steps for the day. I added in the extra steps when it got too cold to do the loop outside. At first I was grumbly about it. People would see me just walking around randomly. I probably look really goofy too with my giant headphones on my head. Then things started to change. There were people I'd say hello or good morning to. There were labs I started to get more familiar with and the best discovery has been the unexpected pockets of light I have discovered. At certain times of the day, sunlight streams in through the various windows forming shadows and patterns that are spectacular and they are constantly changing. One morning I turned the corner to see a giant eye reflected on the wall. An hour later it was gone. 

Every photography book I've ever picked up has preached the importance of light and most specifically, the importance of natural light. Karen Walrond from Chookooloonks is always telling us to "LOOK FOR THE LIGHT!" and I thought that this was something I usually tried to do. When my camera is in front of my face. I've been trained that the minute I put that camera view finder up to my eyeball to look for the light. It's just that now I realize that I have started to look for the light, camera or no camera. I think we all understand the healing effect sunlight has on our souls. So I encourage you today on this Love Thursday to seek out a spot of light and maybe stand in the middle of it for a minute of two. 

Happy Love Thursday! 

LOVE THURSDAY

I think it was the day after Thanksgiving. I walked outside to feed the chickens and pulled one light brown egg from the coop. That was the last egg. The weather turned cold and the days grew short. I would see the girls briefly in the mornings and be home in time in the evenings to see them walk up their plank into the coop. As soon as it's dark, they are on their perch and nestled down for the evening. In some ways, this makes it easier to change out their feeder because they aren't crowding me to hurry up. Did I mention that Matilda's a biter? It doesn't hurt, but it's a little unnerving to have her peck at your fingers. 

We knew this would happen. Not the pecking thing. That was a given. No...we knew that the hens would probably stop laying during the winter. We'd read it in all the books. Chickens that lay eggs year round are kept warm and inside during the winter. This also shortens their life span. Don't get me started on those commercial egg farms. Just imagining the inside of one of those barns makes me teary. Still, even though we knew, going out to the coop and not finding an egg or two has been a little deflating. Those days of egg collecting never grew old. Every time we'd pluck an egg out of the coop, we'd holler with joy. I'd ooh and awe over each egg and speculate based on egg color which chicken was laying what. We've decided that when we finally renovate the kitchen, we'll use the same colors as the eggs the hens lay. Beautiful taupe, light blue-green and an almost white.

It is yet another example of how Winter steals joy. And it's been cold here. We still have snow and ice on the ground from the storm system that moved through last week. Monday, I parked the car in the driveway, got out and walked up onto the front porch to unlock the door. Before I opened the front door, I reached over to fish the mail out of the mailbox. That's when I heard this odd scraping sound. I looked over to see my car sliding down the driveway. It stopped sliding long enough for me to hop back in it, but it took me two parking attempts to get it situated in a spot where it wouldn't slide. Yesterday we woke up to a fresh new layer of slushy wet snow. It looks like the front yard (that never sees the sun) is going to be coated with snow and ice until Spring, which is when I expect to see our next egg.

Except.

There were two eggs in the coop on Sunday and one on Tuesday and another one on Wednesday. I'm taking back the joy Winter steals one egg at a time. 

Happy Love Thursday! 

 

LOVETHURTHANKFRIHAPPYNEW

The tree is up and all the presents are wrapped. The annual viewing of Love Actually happened last night and now I have nothing to do but sit here and twiddle my thumbs until Christmas Eve. And maybe clean our bathroom before we head out to OK. Vacuum. I should vacuum. Maybe I'll make us some sandwiches for our Christmas day drive. You guys, I've never been this far ahead for Christmas. I don't know what to do with myself. I believe that the whole idea behind getting things done early was so I could sit back and relax. That idea was stupid because now I'm just feeling anxious about things that might need to be done even though there's nothing to be done. The car! The car needs to be cleaned out! That's something that needs to be done before Christmas. Anyway. Being prepared for Christmas means nothing for a person with crazy brain. 

So here's what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to worry about this space for a few days. Michael gave me my birthday present early because he couldn't wait and it has a thirteen day return policy. It's a new camera! He wanted me to have time to make sure it was all well and good before the thirteen day return was up. I think I'm going to take some time do just that. I'm going to play around with my new camera and take some photos. I'd also like to put together a slide show of all the things from 2015 to post here, as well as maybe a short vlog post about things I want for 2016. Look for those things sometime next week. 

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday. Be safe. Savor those hugs and smiles. Tear into those presents like it's the first time you've been given a wrapped gift. Then squeeze the person who gave you that gift so hard, you hear something pop. Sing silly carols as you drive to your Holiday destinations. Eat, drink and be merry. Merry Christmas. Happy Solstice. Hope your Hanukkah was a good eight days of lights. I hope all of you enjoy this time you have with your families how ever you plan to celebrate. 

Enjoy.

LOVE THURSDAY

When I was little, Mouse Soup was one of my favorite books. I read it over and over. Each story the mouse tells the weasel is funny and enjoyable, but my favorite line is in the beginning of the book. The weasel captures the mouse and takes him home to make mouse soup. The mouse tells the weasel "Wait! This soup will not taste good. It has no stories in it. Mouse soup must be mixed with stories to make it taste really good." I was thinking about the mouse and the weasel and mouse soup while I was making a pot of stew for dinner on Sunday. When I planned our meals for the week, I knew that Sunday was going to be a rainy miserable day. I couldn't think of anything more comforting than wrapping my hands around a warm bowl of hearty stew with maybe some cornbread on the side. It is something that I have done many times on days such as these my whole life. 

I remember winter evenings with bowls of hot stew and plates of cornbread. The fire would be going in the fireplace and I'd have my Strawberry Shortcake blanket spread out in front of the hearth. That's where I'd be, picnic style, watching something on TV and pretending to drink my glass of milk which I would set next to me so that Bitsy (our little terrier) could drink it for me. I will always link the meals my mother made us with the seasons like Taco Salad is summer and camping. Stew is winter, warmth and home. I don't know the origins of Mom's stew recipe. I assumed it was something she picked up from her mother. It's not a fancy soup. Meat, potatoes, carrots, bag of frozen veggies, bag of frozen okra because they never include that with mixed veggies, large can of diced tomatoes, Italian spices and some water. Mom would put all of this in a crockpot and cook it all day. I would walk through the door at the end of a yucky school day and smell the wonderful smell of soup as I pulled off layers of coat/scarf/hat. I was usually the first one home. I was probably what you'd call a latchkey kid but without the key because we never locked the door then. If it was locked, the garage door was always unlocked. Any way. It was a comfort coming home to a warm house that smelled of home cooked stew even if it was an empty house. Because the house wouldn't be empty for long. Dad would be home not too long after and then Mom and the three of us would fill our bowls and settle in the den. Sometimes Janel was there, mostly she'd be off doing teenage girl stuff though. 

These are the things I was thinking as I lugged my enamel cast iron stew pot out of the cabinet. I thought about the stories that would go in this pot to make it taste good. Something more than onions and garlic and potatoes and carrots. What's my stew pot story? I do not have a fireplace. The Strawberry Shortcake blanket is long gone. I do not need to pretend to drink milk and in fact rarely remember to buy any for Michael and the Cabbage. There is still the comfort of holding a warm bowl of stew in the palms of my hand, maybe even more so now that those bowls were made by Mom. I will admit to sneaking crumbs of cornbread to Josephine. The stew still fills the house with that oh so familiar smell of home cooked goodness. My stew pot story is not very complex. There is simplicity in the ingredients and in the eating and sharing of the meal itself. It is this simplicity in a complex life that makes this soup taste so good. 

Maybe I'll throw in some crickets next time for good measure (or not). Happy Love Thursday. 

 

LOVE THURSDAY

Last year year, Michael drove me through a neighborhood that he swore put up a huge Christmas light display. He said that every house on the street would be covered with lights. There were no lights. He drove up and down the streets through the Brookside area thinking maybe they were just a street over. They were not. Finally he had to admit defeat. That neighborhood he remembered didn't exist anymore. Something similar happened that same Fall when he tried to take me to park that was supposed to have had the most amazing over look. We walked all over that park. There was no overlook. 

Friday night, we went to Michael's Christmas party. I find parties where I have to be social and make conversation to be exhausting particularly at the end of a long work day. But I went. I plastered a smile on my face and I made conversation and I made sure the Cabbage didn't stick her fingers into all the slices of cake on the dessert tray. I was relieved when were all finally in the car, heading home even if a headache had started to pulse on the right side of my temple. We passed the Plaza Lights and both the Cabbage and I oohed at all the lights. A few blocks later, Michael turned right when he should have turned left. I gave him a sly look and asked "Are you trying to be romantic right now and drive us through Christmas lights?" He replied "I will always drive you through Christmas light displays even if they are in a different neighborhood than I originally thought as well as parks with Fall leaves that don't exist any more." 

Michael never really paid much attention to the Fall leaves or the Christmas lights before. Now he goes out of his way to find these things for me. He knows that the colorful leaves make me point and shout. He knows that the Christmas lights make me clasp my hands together and grin from ear to ear. He has no interest in holiday activities, but he will drag all the Christmas boxes up from the basement for me and he will take them all back down. He will do this all again when it's time to take Christmas down. Michael even made a note that we need to make room on the ribbon board for all the Christmas cards that he expects we'll get this year. His willingness to please me and make me happy still confounds me.  I mean basically he's saying he'll drive to the ends of the earth for me. It's not that I don't think I'm deserving. It's just that I'm surprised that every time I start a sentence with "Do you think we could....?", he always answers with "Of course we can." 

It just still surprises me. That's all. Happy Love Thursday!

 

LOVE THURSDAY

Last Tuesday, I rolled out my mat and was twenty minutes into my practice when my brain yelled "ENOUGH! I'VE HAD ENOUGH!" So, I rolled up my mat and called it a day. Five minutes later my period started and everything made sense. The why of that making sense is a completely other story. The next day, knowing that I'd have a hard time being disciplined enough to be on my mat alone, I went to a class. It was a good class. The end. No really, the end because I left my mat in my office at work over the holiday. I did not see my mat for four days after that class. Four days later, I roll out my mat and once again my brain starts telling me it's time to stop. This time I've barely even finished a round of sun salutations. Then I remember that it's December and the months ahead are just going to gradually become more and more difficult until April or the end of March if I'm lucky. 

This is the time of year my daily practice becomes a once a week if I'm kicking myself in the pants kind of practice. When this happens I start reorganizing time and space. I think about moving my yoga practice to the mornings. I could move breakfast back an hour. I don't have to be at work at 7:30 in the mornings. I could carve out a small space for myself in the bedroom or I could go to the gym. Yoga at home is darn near impossible between Josephine and Michael's four different alarm clocks. My best bet would be to just head to the gym and eat breakfast at work afterward. Still I can't make the puzzle fit all together as well as I'd like to because Josephine needs my attention in the mornings and sometimes Michael needs to be nudged out of bed despite his four different alarms (though I'm really tempted to leave him be because FOUR ALARMS, come on). 

This is the time of year where I am reminded of the balance of how important being on my mat is even if it's twenty minutes and cutting myself a little slack. This is where I remember that yoga is not just about doing all of the poses or even the hardest poses. I am a creature that should be hibernating through these months and my yoga practice should reflect that. More seated poses and less asanas and less guilt over skipping some asanas. Today, I spent forty minutes on my mat. I ended my practice with five minutes of meditation instead of a savasana. Tomorrow, I will roll out my mat and I will not set the stop watch on my phone to track my time. I will just be present and still and kind to myself.  I will remember that I do this for me and no one else.

This is the time of year that remind myself how much I love my practice and how much it loves me.

LOVE THURSDAY

That Saturday after my week of being sick, I was finally getting back into my groove. I got up and did my usual morning routine. Heirloom, breakfast biscuit, coffee, and my Fortune Cookie journal. I had just had a week of nothing, where I hadn't written a single word of creativity. Everything written and posted that week was complaining about being sick or a laundry list of pointless. I admit. I'm good at those kind of posts. They're easy, but no one wants to read that crap. The creative posts, the ones where I have to look things up and spend actual time contemplating the words I'm going to type out, those are the hard ones. Those are the ones where I have to work, but I've noticed that even if only five people read it after I've done the work to write it, those kind of posts make me feel pretty dang good. It's like that after workout feeling some people talk about getting after a good spin class. My fortune prompt for this day was "The most beautiful views have the hardest climbs."

She felt it all the way up her right side. She'd fallen hard, slipping on a rock. The moss on the rock making it slick and treacherous. She hugged her knee into her chest, rocking while trying to breathe away the pain. The voices in her head started their chattering. "What on earth made you think you could do this?" "You are physically incapable of climbing a dumb mountain." "You're not even wearing the right shoes." "I think the number is 10. 10 years ago you might could do this. 10 lbs lighter you might could do this." "You are weak." She heard those voices loud and clear. She could give up. Easy. Limp her way back down the trail. She turned her head to look up and saw the sun sparkling through the trees. And she knew. She couldn't give up. She stood, gingerly testing out her leg. Then she continued to pull herself up the mountain. 

I finished writing that journal entry and my whole body felt lighter. I have a theory. All of us have the ability to be creative in some way or another. Some of us have to work harder than others at creativity. For some people, it's just easy, but even if it's a struggle to write or paint or whatever, we have to make the effort to do so. If we don't, that pent up creativity forms knots of tension inside our bodies. You don't even realize they're weighing you down until you've done something creative to release them.

I've been thinking a lot about labels lately. We label things to make sense of them, to understand, to be able to have conversations about those things. Sometimes, though, those labels are too confining to describe the reality of what that thing is or who that person is. I've always been so resistant to being called a writer because it's hard for me to see myself as such. I am more than any one label. We are all more than any one label. I think this is why I've fallen in love with my Fortune Cookie journal. It makes me feel like maybe I am a writer. It reminds me I am more than any one label. 

I've written other stories since the one posted in today's entry. There's a story about arguments and ice cream and how Chris used to bribe me with ice cream to get me to go to a computer store. My latest one is about trading lemons for cookies. It involves a woman with an over abundance of lemons from her backyard lemon tree and a man with an over abundance of cookies from his backyard cookie tree. It's a silly short story that makes me smile at the idea of cookies growing on trees. It doesn't have to be good or polished. I just have to take a moment to let myself be inspired. Every time I do this, I am filled with joy. I went home that Saturday after finishing the hardest climb story and once again thanked Michael for giving me that journal. This time it was more than a simple "thank you". This time it was more of a heartfelt "no, really. THANK YOU!" I told him that he had no idea how much this journal makes me happy or how important it has become to my Saturday mornings. 

Because all of that is true. 

Happy Love Thursday. May your day be filled with love and joy on this Thanksgiving Day. 

LOVE THURSDAY

A while back, I was watching the news. There was a story following the refugee crisis. This was a day or two after images of a lifeless toddler on a beach circulated the internet. The boy had been on a boat full of refugees that had capsized. That little body on the beach made people sit up and pay more attention to the crisis and chaos of Syria. This news story that I was watching had the reporter walking along with refugees as they tried to get across boarders. There was a man with two children and one plastic bag of belongings. He's a doctor. He has a medical degree. There was a woman who was a teacher. All of them fleeing their homes because their home has become a war zone. 

I think it's easy to see the hoards of refugees as just poor homeless people. We see them dirty, living in tent cities, and they become something other than normal in our my brains. We forget that these people are not much different from us. They are doctors, teachers, educated, hard workers. They are husbands, wives, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons. Before the bombings. Before the violence. They had normal lives. Just like you. I've been thinking about this and trying to write something for days now. I have deleted everything because I just don't know how to organize my thoughts in a way that doesn't sound like I am preaching to a choir. But I know that I am preaching to a choir. 

I don't know why or how my ancestors came to this country. I am Scotch-Irish, so I can only assume famine and persecution was a pretty good reason for risking a voyage across an ocean to a land you knew nothing about but just knew it had to better somehow. It's hard to imagine that people still believe this, but they do. Immigrants and refugees even today, when asked why come to America, they all say it's the land of opportunity and place for a better life for their families. How humbling that is to know you're part of a country like that. Yet there are so many of my fellow Americans who do not see it that way. They say no to letting refugees take sanctuary in the United States. It's not safe. I think about the things we have done because of fear. In 1942, we imprisoned 127,000 American citizens because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a part of American history that is deeply regretted. 

Risk. The scary thing about taking a risk is the uncertainty, the not knowing what will happen but hoping the risk is worth it. The consequences of not taking in some of these refugees is far greater than running the risk of allowing a terrorist to enter this country. It's funny to me that so many seem more afraid of the terrorists that exist outside this country than they are of the ones that are already here. The ones who threaten students and hurl hate. Timothy McVeigh. But that's another rant. The consequence of not providing sanctuary is that you've turned a whole country of people against us. The consequence is that we just create more terrorists with our lack of compassion. The consequence is that we lose our own humanity. 

There are bible school lessons that have always stuck with me. Love thy neighbor. Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Love one another. These are simple lessons taught across a broad spectrum of religions from Christianity to Muslim to Buddhism. Scary things are going to happen. Bad things. Loss. All of it just the other side of a coin. It is how we react and deal with these fears that defines our character. What kind of human being are you? What kind of human being do you want to be? We can let our fears decide that for us. I prefer to tell my fears to fuck off and chose for myself. 

LOVE THURSDAY

It is tradition. The carving of the great pumpkin. I have attacked this task with gusto every year except for one that I can remember. Shopping for a pumpkin is like shopping for clothes. I am choosey and meticulously study each pumpkin in the bin until I find the one that is just right. Even then, I may press my ear to one side to see if that pumpkin "speaks" to me. Then I'll spend days turning it this way and that while studying the curves and lines and bumps before deciding on the face I will carve into that pumpkin. It has been this way for as long as I can remember, even back before I was allowed to do the carving. All of this makes it sound like I am a pumpkin carving artist who creates miraculous works of art on a pumpkin. I am not. I don't go for the printed templates that you can get these days to help you turn your pumpkin into a whatever character that is popular. I am a traditionalist. The pumpkin gets eyes and a big grinning mouth. One year I even went back so old school as to do the generic triangle eyes and nose face. Each pumpkin has a face, a face that is inspired by the pumpkin itself. 

This year, there was a Martha Stewart Pinterest thing going around social media where she had turned small pumpkins into vampire pumpkins. I am not crafty. I mean, I have my moments. I can be crafty if I have to. I am the princess of a crafting queen and I know how to use a gun. The glue kind of course. I tend to avoid attempting things I see on Pinterest because I am not confident in my glue gun skills any more. I did a bazillion craft projects in my youth. I'm over it, but I saw those dang vampire pumpkins and I fell over laughing. I wanted them. I wanted a front stoop full of little vampire pumpkins. When I said this to Michael, he said "OK. Let's make it happen." We bought four small pumpkins, a package of glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth and a box of pins. Then the two of us spent an evening making our vampire pumpkins. And they were not a Pinterest fail. I arranged them carefully on our front stoop and giggled at their silly vampire faces. 

I carved a traditional pumpkin as well. I did that Friday night while Michael watched the World Series and did his best not watch me dangerously jabbing a knife into a pumpkin. He's always amazed that I haven't chopped off a digit by now. Saturday, we all went out to run some errands and get lunch. We pulled into our driveway just as our mail carrier was starting her rounds. As I reached out to get our mail from her, she said "Hey. I have to say, you guys have the best pumpkins in the neighborhood. And I should know! The first time I saw those, they made me laugh so much. Really. They're the best ever." I was so moved and replied with a very genuine "thank you." As Michael finished unlocking the door and we all shuffled inside, he leaned in and said "Did you hear that? We have the BEST pumpkins." It's been a thing for days with us. The Royals won the World Series and we have the best pumpkins in the neighborhood. 

Happy Love Thursday.

LOVE THURSDAY

I thought I'd have something written for this post by now, but I'm finding it hard to come up with anything. It kind feels like someone has poured bleach or hydrofluoric acid inside the empty spaces of my skull. I may also still be running a fever or having hot flashes followed with chills. I don't know. I do know that all of it is making it really hard to focus on a topic. Usually when I'm stumped for a Love Thursday post, I go into my Instagram feed and just look around. I noticed that it's that time of year where I sure do take a lot of pictures of trees and leaves.

I grew up thinking that the Fall you see on TV and in the movies was just some made up technicolor dream world that probably only happened in half the technicolor on the east cost somewhere. I had no idea that all I had to do to experience the real life thing was to move three hundred and something miles north. Now I live where every day of the Fall season looks like a set from a Lifetime Network Thanksgiving Day movie. So much so, that even Michael commented on it. Saturday, there was a Lexus in front of us and as the zoomed ahead of us up the neighborhood road, the car stirred up all the leaves that had fallen in the street. Michael asked if we were in some Lexus car commercial we weren't supposed to be in, like maybe they were making a commercial for their Thanksgiving sales event. That was the same morning that took me twice as long to drive to the grocery store because I kept stopping to take pictures of trees. And lion statues decorated to celebrate the Royals' heading to the World Series. Several neighborhood streets along Ward Parkway have different statutes marking the end of the street. Last Saturday morning, just about every one of them were dressed out in something Royals. 

There was a time when I was the only one in the car pointing out trees. I've noticed this year that Michael does it too. He'll point out the trees that look like they are on fire faster than I do. I know that I had something to do with that. I know that before I came around, he didn't really pay much attention or didn't really care all that much about the changing leaves. But after two Fall seasons of listening to me go on and on about the leaves, he sees it. He gets it. 

Happy Love Thursday

LOVE THURSDAY

It's usually September when I head to the Farmers' Market to buy ugly tomatoes. I buy a box of them. I pick the ugly tomatoes because they're cheaper and looks are not as important as what's on the inside. I buy a big box of the ugliest heirloom tomatoes and then, with a full bag of fresh produce already balanced on one shoulder, I finagle my way back to my car while mumbling to myself that I can make it with out dropping this box. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Once I'm home, I repeat the process because why make more than one trip from car to house? Then I spend all day Sunday roasting tomatoes. I wash and cut the tomatoes in half, slather them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, throw in some smashed garlic and rosemary and basil and then roast them at 350 for two hours. Then I package them up in quart sized freezer bags and freeze for tomato soup and spaghetti sauce. 

It is October now and I realized that I never made it to the Farmers' Market to buy tomatoes. I thought I would just skip it this year. We didn't end up using all the tomatoes I roasted last year. Michael is not as keen on tomato soup as I am. When I mention it, he makes a face, but when I make it he eats it right up and asks for more. So I didn't really feel like making up batches of roasted tomatoes this year. Then sometime last week, Michael came in from the garden with a bounty of green tomatoes. I placed them in the window to ripen and Tuesday night Michael noticed that all of them had turned red. He said something about it and I told him that I was going to roast them. It was then decided that the tomatoes wouldn't last until the weekend to be roasted. So I washed them. I sliced off the tops and cut them half. I slathered them with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. I tossed in some smashed garlic, rosemary and basil and I roasted two trays of tomatoes. 

And I realized that the real reason for roasting the tomatoes is not for the soup that they will become. It is the ritual of the roasting. The action of putting the tomatoes together to be roasted is like walking a meditation labyrinth. The oils from the herbs, cling to my hands and I smell of rosemary and basil. It doesn't take long for these scents to fill the house. In fact, it doesn't take long for the whole house to smell like it belongs to an Italian grandmother preparing Sunday dinner for her family. The oven heats up the house, making it feel warm and cozy inside. Homey. Roasting tomatoes makes everything feel homey. I had not planned on roasting those tomatoes until the weekend. It seemed like too much work for a week night. I think all of us can relate. Weeknights are for quickly slapping together a meal to be eaten while watching TV and just sitting after a long day. Weeknights make it easy to forget that the true heart of a home is the kitchen.

I found my heart. Happy Love Thursday!

LOVE THURSDAY

I know the time change is coming. I know that in a few weeks we (or most of us all) will set our clocks back one hour and breath a sigh of relief at that make believe extra hour of sleep. My body has fallen for that trick of daylight savings. Five fifty AM sure would be a lot easier to face if it was really an hour later. Usually this five fifty AM is not so difficult, but as we creep deeper into Fall, that time in the morning gets really hard. My body feels it every year. It's very similar to the magnetic forces inside my brain that tells me where North and South are or more like where I feel North and South. I feel directions. And time changes. 

Even though my body feels like lead when the alarm goes off these days, I still crawl out bed. I still get in the shower. I still feed the animals and make my breakfast. I still get up and do the things I am supposed to do. My reward for getting up and doing those things this week has been the sunrise. Every morning, as I have pedaled my way along the bike route to work, I have been a witness to the sun rising up in the Eastern horizon in the most spectacular display. It streaks the sky with pinks and all of the shades of orange and red. It shifts and changes so that every time I glance at it it is different. More red than orange. Less pink. More orange than red. Each glance at the sky has been breathtaking. 

You're probably sitting there blinking because I do not have pictures. How is it I never took a photo? Don't think I didn't think about it. I did pull my bike over a few times to pause and frame out a shot, but I never took the picture. Those times I stopped, there was always something not right about the framing. Power lines criss crossed the sky. I wasn't high up enough. That building was taller than I remember. The framing was never right because those sunrises where not meant to be photographed. There is not a picture of that sky that I could have taken that would have truly expressed the amazing beauty of those sunrises. Instead, I settled for just being an eye witness. I was not the only person out and about at this time of day, but I am curious how many of those people who were out and about, were paying attention. How many of them noticed all the shades of orange?

Today for Love Thursday, I encourage you to notice all the shades of orange.

LOVE THURSDAY

At one thirty this morning, you could find me standing next to my bed, pressing my right foot firmly into the floor and whimpering. A cramp in my right calf, just below my knee, had me flying out of bed so fast that I didn't even realize I was standing until I was, well, standing. The cramp finally released, but it left a sore tight spot in it's place causing me to limp as I paced the floor. I still had that limp as I peeled myself out of bed and poured myself into the shower. I had been trying to decide what vehicle to take since the day before. Scooter, bicycle or car. Which one was it going to be? As I stood under the hot water in the shower, feeling my achy body, I decided it would be a car day. When I got out of the shower, I checked my weather app and then decided it would be a scooter day.

I finished getting dress and started making my breakfast. I noticed the stove clock and saw that I was actually doing well with my time that morning. Lately I have been stumbling into the kitchen around 6:45. By the time I sit down to eat breakfast, I am rushed. It's already inside my brain that I have to hurry even though I do not. I am only "late" by my standards. This morning, though, I looked at the clock and then decided that it would be a bicycle day. I know that getting on my bicycle was the absolute last thing my body wanted to do today. I missed a couple of weeks of bike riding for various reasons: weather, errands, late work evenings. It just hadn't been convenient to ride a bicycle. This week was my week to get back into the habit of riding. Michael and I even mapped out a new bike route to work. As we drove it the day before I was to take it, Michael kept talking up various parts of it. "Oooh...look how fun this curve and hill are going to be." He just wanted me off Troost, which he calls "danger street". So this new bike route (which is an actual bike route) is how I've been getting to work this week. 

The new route is actually pretty lovely. There are three hills that have me praying to the gods that my thighs will not burst into flames and my knees won't explode, but other than that it is all mostly downhill. The road is a two lane road with a wide right lane with ample space for a car and a bike. Traffic is light to nonexistent and I can peddle as slow as I want because I don't feel like I'm going to get run over. No one has honked once at me while traveling this route. I thought a lot about those three hills this morning while deciding if I should ride the bike. I also reminded myself that I had set a goal to ride the bike at least three times this week. So I thought again about those three hills and how I just had to make it to the top of each one. That's all I had to do. 

The weather was perfect. I didn't need a jacket. The sky in the East was an explosion of orange and pink as the sun rose up through gray clouds. Yellow sycamore leaves drifted slowly down from the trees lining the road. A few roses still dotted the rose bushes around the fountain near Gregory. The air smelled of wet grass and wood smoke. I don't know if I would have noticed all of these things if I'd been in the car or on the scooter. Maybe the smells, if I'm on the scooter, but usually the sights are a blur as I fly down the road. I know my body wasn't too keen on riding a bicycle today, but I think my soul was. I made it to the top of each one of those hills at my own pace, but more importantly, I made it to the top of each hill.

Also, I'm not longer limping from that cramp. Happy Love Thursday!

 

 

LOVE THURSDAY

A few weeks ago, when Mom was in town for a visit, Michael hung out at the book store while Mom and I store hopped on the Plaza. When we all finally met up for lunch Michael had a bag full different things he's found interesting. This included a Wonder Woman journal and a Fortune Cookie journal that he bought with me in mind. I have yet to unwrap the Wonder Woman journal because journals tend to fall into the same category as new boxes of colored pencils. I like to keep them pristine as long as possible, at least until I am ready to use it. Sometimes the clean lines of a new notebook are more appealing to me than putting any markings on the pages and I will savor the emptiness of those pages for a bit. 

The Fortune Cookie journal reminded me of one of Chris's writing schemes. He had the idea once to open a fortune cookie once a week and then let the fortune inspire his writing. He'd write a short story based off of what ever the fortune said. As a result, we had bags of fortune cookies in the pantry. I'd like to say I have a notebook somewhere of Fortune Cookie short stories written by Chris, but I do not. This idea would end up like so many of Chris's ideas. Like the Diner Saurs food blog that would feature dinosaurs like a T-Rex with a top hat and monocle. He would go so far as to buy the cookies and dinosaurs, but lose the desire to continue before moving onto a new idea or topic. I tossed the fortune cookies ages ago, but I'm sure the dinosaurs are still in the basement somewhere. I can't help but wonder if Chris's Fortune Cookie stories would have gone farther if the fortunes were already in a book with empty space under each one. Then I remember the box of journals in the basement, each one with one or two pages of lists written down in them. He was the greatest list maker this world had ever seen. 

The journal Michael gave me is small. The space under the fortune is just big enough to get an idea of a story, which is what I wrote down under the first  fortune yesterday. Michael thinks I should just randomly open to a fortune page and write. He says that takes away the idea that it's something I need to finish. I'm not sure if my analytical science brain will let me do that.  But I like the idea of filling this journal up with ideas.

An exciting journey awaits you with your first step in a new direction.

She took a left. She always goes right. Every day, she steps out the door and turns right. She walks past the newspaper stand where Frank stacks the latest copies of Women's Day and Handyman next to the Daily and the New York Times. Then she walks by the fruit stand, saying a quick hello to Mrs. Ruby who is always busy arranging the fruit so that the customers never saw the brown spots. Her next stop is the coffee shack where Max is always just setting her Americano down at the window right as she walks up. She places her dollar fifty on the counter with one hand while grasping the warm cup in the other hand as she nods her grateful hello to Max. Max returns her nod with a wink and watches as she turns on her heel to walk around the corner, past the statue of General Beauregard. She salutes the General as she hops up the stairs to her job at the library. This had been her path and her routine everyday, except on Sundays, for the past ten years. But today. Today she turned left.

Here's to an exciting new adventures and a happy Love Thursday.    

 

LOVE THURSDAY

Monday morning I woke up to a text from Chad telling me that Facebook was saying that we'd been friends for six years. "Happy Anniversary" he wrote. I laughed of course because Facebook is silly, but then I was a little shocked by the six years. I told him that couldn't be right, it had to have been longer than that. Chad looked it up. He had pictures from that day where we all met for dinner. He sent me one he'd taken of me and Chris. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes. How could these two people look so happy? That look on Chris's face as he's looking at me has been captured in pictures so many times, it's all I know. I know that Chris looked at me with love. The date of the picture was proof that I had known Chad for six years now.

I told Chad that it still seemed longer. I said that I would have thought we grew up together. In a way, we did. Chad was taking an epic road trip across the country. We all met for dinner as he made his way through Oklahoma. Me, Chris, Amy, Brian and Chad. He said that we ate like Mediterraneans that night. We did. It was a Mediterranean restaurant and we lingered over dinner for hours. Chris played the part of Rosco, a hitchhiker Chad had picked up along the way. It was a running joke that had started as soon as Chad had left Atlanta headed for his adventures west. The beauty of Chris posing with a toothpick in his mouth and his hair all mushed down on his forehead was that no one in Atlanta knew Chris. They all easily believed he was really the crazy hitchhiker Chad had picked up. We were kids then. Joking around, laughing, dreaming. We still lived like we were in college with hand-me-down furniture from friends and family. 

Not long after that though, we'd all have to start dealing with very grown-up things.  Chad would lose his mother to cancer. We'd buy houses and lawnmowers. Amy and Brian would divorce. Some of us would move to knew towns and start new jobs. Chris would get sick and die. We just managed to fit forty something years of life into six years, that's all. I don't know how we did it or how the connection was made, but Chad has really turned out to be like a brother or a first cousin. Or a twin separated at birth. Maybe it's a past life connection. I have no idea. I just know that when Chad and I are in the same room we can laugh at the most absurd and ridiculous thing. I noticed a few times during our visit over the summer that whenever this would happen, Jess and Michael would look at each other and shrug with an unspoken "I have no idea what they are laughing at." Honestly I think half the time Chad and I don't either. 

It is just another example of the relativity of time. These are the kinds of connections that  you hold dear.  So, here's to those six years on this Love Thursday. 

LOVE THURSDAY

In two years, Michael will finish his Masters. To celebrate, we've been planning a big trip to Italy.  It is pretty much all Michael talks about. It started out as a one week trip that has now grown into this grand adventure across Europe. We talk about flying into where ever is cheaper and spending a week backpacking like young college students, slowly making our way into Italy. There's a villa that sits somewhere between Florence and Rome that provides Vespas and maps for all the guests. We talk about spending a week riding scooters all over the Tuscan country side. The last week will be spent eating pizza along the Amalfie Coast. Of course, this is the current plan. Most of that right now is just dream planning.

Dream planning is part of the fun though. The other night Michael was trying to find the cheapest place to fly into right now and he came up with places like the Netherlands and Sweden. I immediately envisioned us dressed in sturdy wool coats with red stocking caps on our heads and large army like backpacks on our backs. We would prop our heavy hiking boot laden feet up on the empty train seats across from us and lean against one another with my head resting on his shoulder. I know this is all wrong. We will be travelling in the summer time and I will not need a heavy wool coat, probably just a sweater, but there we were riding the Euro Rail down through Sweden into Germany where we'd stop for a beer and a pretzel. Next stop would be France and maybe even a day or two in Paris so that I could stand at the top of the Montmartre Steps like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face with my arms spread wide, singing "Bonjour Pari!" and then we would be off to Rome and the rest of Italy. I see us zipping along on our scooters past fields of grapes and little farms surrounded by long-eared goats. I'm going to eat so much bread and cheese.

There is a very real fear that Michael will lose me to the Amalfie Coast. There is a very real fear that I will lose myself to the Amalfie Coast, deciding that this is the place I need to be for the rest of my life. Michael mentioned putting his name on the deed to my house so he will at least have a place to live when he comes back to the states without me. I told him we should just plan on buying a retirement home there and be done with it.  He'll get a little fishing boat and I'll get a couple of goats. We'll eat fish and goat cheese and grow pots of basil and rosemary. I'll wear a giant sun hat all the time. In the meantime we are learning Italian. Michael is ahead of me, already  moving onto phrases while I'm still working on plurals and food. Last night Michael handed me a fork, to which I responded with "grazie." He responded with "prego!" Then he handed me a plate of food and again I said "grazie." and again he responded with "prego." So we had a whole conversation in Italian. 

Dream planning sounds like I think that we may not ever really take this trip. That's far from true. I know that someday we will go to Italy. I don't know if it will be the three week grand adventure just like the one we've been talking about, but I do know that it will be a grand adventure of some sorts. Dream planning a vacation is very much like planning your dream house. It may be a little bit crazy and over the top but who cares? It's YOUR dream. We could go on this trip in two years and not end up doing half of the stuff we talked about, but at least some of that dream is going to come true. So why not dream big?

Dream big for today's Love Thursday.

LOVE THURSDAY

I am not a cat person. I've always slightly clashed with their indifferent attitudes and the way they love you one minute and then want to claw your face off the next. Then Michael fed a little white kitten a can of sardines and the next thing you know, we're owners of a white cat who is for the most part indifferent to our existence. He's very loving when his food bowl is low. Other than that, we rarely see him. He prefers to hang out in the basement or on a shelf in the garage that is just out of Josephine's reach. In the evenings he will come into the dinning room and sit or lay behind a piece of furniture with only a paw or tail visible for taunting Josephine (do you see a theme?). We originally had named him Albadine because it rhymed with sardines and Josephine, but when we realized she was a he, we adjusted the name to Albus. He may or may not recognize this as his name because most of the time I just call him "cat" as if I were Holly Golightly. 

Albus has access to outside, but I've never seen him venture out further than the back step and garden area until recently. He's been hanging out in the front yard lately. I think Michael and I are just waiting for the day Albus decides we aren't his people after all and steps out into the world never to be seen again. He sticks around because we feed him. This weekend we put two bowls full of food out and plenty of water and left Albus all on his own. The benefit of having a cat. They seem to take care of themselves. I figured he wouldn't really miss us and might even enjoy a break from the dog. So I was not prepared for the onslaught of love that greeted us when we came home Monday evening. Albus rubbed his head on my shins. He has rubbed his whole body up the full length of Josephine and I am sure Michael has received the same treatment. Albus actually jumped up on the couch to touch his nose to my face before walking over to do the same to Michael. That's the first time he has ever climbed up into my lap. 

I figured once I filled his almost empty food bowl up, he'd chill out, but nope. He runs figure eights around my legs as I move through the house in the mornings. Josephine has a habit of grabbing one of her toys and hanging out behind me on the bathroom mat as I get ready and  now both of them are in there. Albus prefers the toilet seat lid or the lip of the bathtub or even flattening himself out on the middle shelf of our bathroom trash can/organizer. I guess you can say that our absence has made his heart grow fonder. Which is sweet. It's made my heart soften a bit towards that darn cat. We might just be unofficial cat people after all. 

Happy Love Thursday!