Sunday, December 27, 2009

The times that try (wo) men’s souls

Now, as I begin this most recent of my pontifications I want to preface this with a warning. This is not a judicial overview of the way of the world. This is a truly one sided and prejudiced view based on life experience as a wife and daughter. I do not mean to intimate that I do not feel that the thoughts put forth below are anything but 100% factual and accurate, but I also do not care for hate male (and no, that isn’t a typo).
Ahh, the times that try women’s souls… there are so many. There are eight a.m. meetings after long nights of teething or stomach flu. There are flat tires on lonely highways in cars with missing jacks. There is the sudden and unexpected shrinking of our favorite jeans on the night of our big date. In truth, the list goes on and on, from the trivial to the truly traumatic, the mundane to the melodramatic. But I suggest to you, my fellow wonder-women, that there is simply no time that tries a woman’s soul like the following; a sick man. (Can I get an Amen?)
What is it about a sniffle that causes the manly men in our lives to regress to the level of pond-scum? These normally self sufficient Adoni suddenly become totally incompetent to complete even the most modest of tasks, including but not limited to taking a shower. I should be truly fair here. Mr. Big Prize is not one of the worst case scenarios of this sex-wide phenomenon. However, the other manliest of men in my life is-my father. Strangely, there is only one ailment that really turns him into a quivering gelatinous mass; the common cold. Let one of those little acute viral nasopharyngitis germs sneak past his hard working immune system and he’s down for the count. Again, I should be perfectly clear on the reality of his hardheaded stubbornness when it comes to all other ailments. This is the man that will trek into the hills even though he’s suffering with the stomach bug, because if he doesn’t he might miss that perfect sunrise picture. This is the man who refuses stitches in a thumb after nearly cutting it off while doing honey-do chores because it might slow the progress of the project. This is the man who only took two weeks away from his job after having his left lung removed, because, after all, it was really just a little flesh wound. These things seem not to bother him at all, comparatively speaking. But give him a bit of sinusitis and he’s dead man.
Enter the hero of this situation; my mother. Bed bound dad is moaning and wailing and blowing his nose, and mom trudges out into the freezing cold to buy some sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, so-you-don’t-smother-your –husband –with –a-pillow medicine. Upon her return she peeks into the den of the devil to see if he’d like anything for breakfast/lunch/dinner. The answer sounds something like “esss”, because really, who can pronounce a “y” when your nasal passages are blocked? However, when asked WHAT he’d like to eat all that comes back is “I dodt doe” (I don’t know?), which roughly translated, means “Nothing in this house”. So, back out into the cold she goes, in the hopes of bringing home something the monster might find passable, and save her hide from certain destruction. This usually goes on for days, while Mr. Large and Growly grows worse and worse and worse. The end is always the same; mother slings her stubborn hubby over her shoulder and drags his sorry hide to the doctor, where he gets shot up with all varieties of B vitamins and steroids. Miraculous recovery ensues, mothers sanity spared, marriage saved. (Can I get an Amen?)
Now I ask you, gentle reader, what is it that drives our manly men to run crying to the arms of mommy (figuratively, of course) when the fever strikes? I think it’s perhaps it’s their one chance to simply “be”. I honestly cannot imagine the stresses of being a man. The responsibilities of the world literally ride on their broad shoulders, so how tired must those shoulders be? Maybe a day or two of a nasty cold is the only way they can really rest from that without succumbing to an overwhelming sense of societal guilt. They are well and truly being taken care of for the few days that their bodies force them to submit to healing. And we, their women, willingly and gladly coddle and croon as they recoup from it all. But I say to you, it was a wise man that wrote “in sickness and health” into those wedding vows, and a wiser woman still who knows that “till death do us part” does not mean until we find the bullets…

It's Just Unnatural

It's just unnatural, repugnant, repulsive, and I absolutely positively refuse to do it. The very thought of it makes me recoil in horror, and not only do I refuse to do it, I don't want to see anyone else doing it either. What, you ask? Consume anything that is artificially colored blue. I recoil in horror from blue infused sports drinks, slurpies, slushies, icees, and blue sorbets and gelatos are right out. Nothing in nature we are meant to consume is the color of the clear summer sky; oranges are orange, strawberries are red, limes are green, but not even "blue"-berries are truly blue, but rather a deep royal purple. So what, I ask you, possesses purveyors of soft drinks to insist on continually coloring our beverages blue?? My repugnance at this coloration is crazy, I know, but I'm Southern and crazy is almost expected of me.
We love our crazy in the South. We learned a long time ago that things that you try to hide, shut up, and tamp down have a tendency to jump up and bite you at the most inopportune moments. So, in the South we dress our crazy up and bring it right on down into the living room to chat it up and introduce it to the neighbors. We gussy it up and trot it off to church, sit it on the front row to bellow hymns, and shout "AMEN" at the most inappropriate times. We have crazy contests, trying to one up one another to see whose crazy old uncle is truly the craziest (mine is, trust me on this) and which crazy relative has embarrassed the family name to the highest degree. My family's claim to insanity comes down to me from my maternal side. My grandmother was one of her mothers thirteen living children. In her hall hangs a portrait of all of the siblings while they were all in the prime of their lives. Twelve of the siblings stare back from the portrait from twelve pairs of black eyes. The Native American ancestry of the family is perfectly clear in the high cheekbones, black hair and eyes and keen awareness in the faces of twelve. Then, there is number thirteen, Aunt Doris. Or, Crazy Aunt Doris as I have always heard her referred to. Crazy Aunt Doris sticks out like a sore thumb in the portrait. Where twelve of the siblings are long and lean, sharply featured and keen eyed, Aunt Doris is softly rounded on all corners. Her blond hair and cherubic cheeks look absolutely delightful from a distance, but the closer you get to the portrait it becomes clear from the look in her crystal blue eyes that Crazy Aunt Doris was not present on the day that the other twelve siblings lined up to receive their Merit Badges in Sanity. Crazy Aunt Doris is certifiably insane, but luckily for her (or perhaps for us) it is the kind of crazy that can at least be controlled by taking two little white pills each and every day. As long as Aunt Doris takes one little pill in the morning and one in the evening the fog of insanity lifts and the bright light of lucidity dawns. But, as is the case so often with the truly crazy, that dawn is short lived. Once sanity takes hold Aunt Doris is convinced that she simply doesn't need those little white she stops taking them. You, no doubt, can ascertain what happens very shortly thereafter. I have actually heard Crazy Aunt Doris say "There is absolutely nothing wrong with me, it's all the rest of you that are crazy!" Now, with that kind of sparkly crazy tinsel dangling from the boughs of my family tree can anyone be surprised that I might have certain idiosyncrasies?
So, more about my blue aversion. When I was in the fifth grade my parents transferred me out of public school into a private Christan school, and in my opinion, into an unmitigated hell. I was all of the things that made for the perfect target of adolescent cruelty. Overly tall and gangly, I was an awkward combination of elbows and knees, teeth and ears. I was cursed with a need to wear glasses that had the width of a number of pop-bottles. To make matters all the worse I had decided that the cure to all my woes was having blond hair, and chose to achieve that end through the use of a bottle of Sun-In. You can imagine the outcome of that adventure; my normally nearly black hair turned the shade of a rotten orange. Not pretty. All these things combined to make me the anathema of my classmates (and in truth, the faculty as well) and made my life nearly unbearable. My salvation came in the sixth grade, in the form of Shannon Sides. Shannon was all the things I was not; tall, but with a dancers grace, a crystal clear olive complexion and flowing hair. Shannon had been held back to re-take the sixth grade, for some unknown reason-most likely her inability to properly place the phonetic symbols correctly in her spelling test. A true life skill to be certain. So, due to her repeat of the sixth grade Shannon found herself lumped into the slightly unsavory category along with myself. We became fast friends, with Shannon's friendship toward me probably extended more out of necessity than desire. But that friendship blossomed, and by seventh grade we were sharing everything; a locker, secrets, and a crush on the same Senior High Boy. Shannon and I both had the great misfortune of having summer birthdays, but the summer after our seventh grade year Shannon's parents threw her a pool party. It was an event that was simply not to be missed. I awoke that morning feeling slightly off kilter, but there was no way under the sun I was missing the big event. So, just after noon my mother packed me off with all the necessities one needs to enjoy a summer pool party-gift; check, mint green frilly skirted bathing suit; check, towel; check, raging case of the stomach flu; check. By the time we arrived I was feeling truly under the weather, but in true pre-teen form was unwilling to sacrifice time in the chlorine heaven to a silly thing like the stomach flu. So, we started swimming in the scorching noonday sun. Short breaks in swimming were filled with the eating of Popsicles, and not your expensive wooden stick variety. Oh no, there were ice filled old fashioned wash bins filled to the brim with those brightly colored ice sacks. You know the kind of which I speak; you can find them at any family dollar, stacked floor to ceiling in the aisle selling for something like 10,000 boxes for a dollar. Once opened you find brightly colored sleeves filled with sticky syrup in every imaginable and unnatural color known to man, most notably, blue. If one is unlucky enough to actually consume this syrup before it is frozen one will have the lining of their esophagus burned completely away. But for me on that day, those blue frozen sleeves were a little taste of heaven. That is, until my stomach completely rebelled and sent each and every one of those Popsicles right back out from whence they came. I did manage to make it from the pool area to the bathroom, leaving a wet trail of pool water behind me. Shannon was the one who found me, still hanging over the toilet, debating whether or not to report my mishap or go back to swimming. She exclaimed in horror "Your lips are blue! My aunt threw up and her lips turned blue and she had tuberculosis and died!!!" I might interject here that I think this is the moment than formed another of my idiosyncrasies. Whenever I am subjected by life to acute amounts of stress my psyche responds by convincing me I am suffering from some rare and afore-to undiscovered deadly illness. Thank you, Shannon Sides. But I digress; from that moment on I have been repulsed and revolted by the consumption of all things blue. There is simply no need for them, and even less need for those vile sticks of poison parading around as Popsicles. They are just unnatural, and should be banned.
All this brings me to the realization that we are deeply formed by the events of our past. Our human psyches are clearly and deeply punctuated by the kindnesses and cruelties of life, and of others, as we grow and mature. I am, very truly, the sum of all my parts. For better or worse the effects of blue Popsicles, the cruelty of Clay Bullard, the kindness of Shannon Sides and that Senior High boy all left an indelible mark on who I was to become. Those years in that school were brief, but defining. I like to think that they left me with a tender heart, and a real desire to be the person that I so desperately needed in my life during that time. It instilled in me a true appreciation for kindness, and a longing to touch lives in a positive and caring way. And, it obviously left me with an aversion to eating all things blue. It's just unnatural.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Insatiable Lust for Life!

It's true; I have one. In the past few years life seems to have sent me an overwhelming message, and that is that it is to be lived. We've talked about this before, have we not? What is the meaning of life? To LIVE, to experience, to adventure, to love, to laugh, to enjoy. I cannot bear the idea of a life of mere existence. We all fall into a rut from time to time, but the truth is that it is within all our power to burst free from it. What good is a life that is merely spent? What joy is there in routine? Now, I am certainly not promoting a life of sloth, or indulgence, or vanity. But to occasionally break free from the mundane is what makes life truly joyous.
I did that just this weekend. I gussied myself up and trotted myself off to a completely different city to participate in something crazy; for a chance to be part of a show I didn't want to be on and a career I have no interest in. Mr. Big Prize came with me, and we ate scrumptious food, slept in a great hotel, met amazing people, and left before the event for which we'd come was even at an end. On the way home Mr. Big Prize said to me "You are a schemer. You always have a plan; something to do, somewhere to go, something coming up, some plan in the works. I love that about you. I'm a do-er. I love doing what you plan. Makes us a good team." It put us both in mind of an adventure we had in the same city, more than a decade ago. We made a mad dash over for me to audition for a Francis Ford Coppola movie. We had no idea that said director extraordinaire would be there live and in person. I walked into the audition room to find him sitting there in all his bulky, gray glory. It was magnificent! For obvious reasons he decided to go with Claire Danes for the role (something for which I will never forgive him, ha!), but yet again, something I can say I have done. Another magnificent life experience, and something else worth remembering when I am old and gray myself. It's crazy, wonderful adventures like that which set the days apart, and make "life" a verb! No wants to sound redundant, but some things are just worth repeating.
Now, again, I'm not condoning dropping off all your responsibilities to trod off on mad escapades. That may be the way that Mr. Big Prize and I live our lives, but for you, little changes in your day may make all the difference in the world. Make an effort each day to break free from the waking/work/home/bed cycle. Take a walk, smell the proverbial flowers, take an after work art class, attend an exhibit. Be the person you've always dreamt of being. Find your lust for life, and live it to it's fullest!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Tree in the River

I think we could all agree that it is a well established fact that I am a nature lover. In all honesty, I am just a few grains of granola away from being a full fledged tree hugger, but I find I am far too attached to my smoothly shaved underarms and deodorant. But I assure you I am far more attached to mother nature than any sane person ought to be, and take slights to her person extremely seriously. Hell hath no fury than Laine when the electric company advances on her 150 year old oak trees. I have single-handedly made burly adult men with chain saws back away from my property, while trembling and shaking like saplings in the wind. I can go Julia Sugarbaker in a millisecond when a local resident decides that their 200 year old maple must be sacrificed to the gods of Bermuda grass. And of course my feelings extend to all creatures great and small (with the exclusion of the afore-mentioned shovel headed worms). I am such a fanatic in fact that I refused to allow a dead tree to be removed from my side yard for fear that a momma squirrel might be raising a brood in it's trunk. And this was no newly dead tree; this tree was so incredibly dead that it's limbs had long ago fallen from it's trunk, it's bark peeled away to reveal a shining grey skin, and a precarious lean developed that drove my cranky neighbor to distraction. I simply would not allow it to be chopped down and hauled away, so mother nature took care of it for me. Cranky neighbor got a new fence, and our insurance paid for the removal, so really, in the end everyone came out a winner...
Evey spring we have what I like to call thunder-blusters. These are enormous storms, which always seem to hit in the dead of night, and threaten to take down everything in their paths. The morning after these natural disasters we awake to see whose gorgeous 150 year old oak has been sacrificed to the gods of the wind, and whether or not said gods have also required the sacrifice of a roof or fence along with the tree. Some of these storms go on for absolute weeks in the spring, which of course results in flooded river banks all over the state.
To get from my home to our office we have to cross a huge bridge over the Arkansas river. One spring, after such a multi week deluge, the river over-ran her banks and drug to her murky depths all form of flotsam. At one point I noticed a rather nice sized oak tree had been trundled into the river, and appeared to be lodged, roots skyward, in a sandbar in the dead center of the river. I mourned momentarily for the death of such a gorgeous specimen, and wondered briefly how long it would be until it washed away from it's temporary anchor. But day after day, bridge crossing after bridge crossing, the tree remained rooted firmly in it's sand bar.
Now, even with all my ardor for nature, I do not claim to be a arborist. However, there are a few things I know about oak trees, and they are as follows:
A)They do not grow in the middle of rivers
B)They do not grow with their roots in the air
I first spotted my oak tree in the river three springs ago. Every spring since that day it has sprouted new leaves, greened through the summer, and gone dormant in the winter. For three years my River Oak has remained firmly rooted to it's sandbar, and continued it's life cycle in what has to be the most miraculous example of that trite little adage "bloom where you're planted" I've ever seen.
Life has a desire to thrive. Inside each plant, animal and human is the instinct to preserve its own life at all costs. How beautiful would our world be if we could somehow expand that instinct to a protection of all life, and not just our own? Would we be dealing with global warming, animal extinctions, and even war? I think not.
I may not be able to work on a global level, but I can assure you I'll be keeping watch over my own little piece of mother earth...and those men with their chainsaws better back away from my River Oak.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I live in a small Southern town

I live in a small Southern town. Now, granted, the town in which I live is neither that far South nor is it really all that small, but you won't convince the residents of this small Southern town of those facts; myself included. The town in which I live, and have called home for 21 years, is quintessentially Southern in all the ways that count. All of the women in my small Southern town have the same first name: Miss. There are Miss Suzanne's and Miss Katherine's, Miss Martha's and Miss Marianne's. It's fabulous, and it's very very Southern. A young lady knows that she has finally passed that mystical bridge into womanhood when someone her junior refers to her as "Miss". I am now commonly called "Miss Laine" by a myriad of high school girls, but I commonly refer to anyone older than myself as "Miss Whomever". It is a wonderful mark of respect, and an acknowledgement that the "Miss" to whom you are speaking is in fact older, wiser, and deserving of your admiration.
In this small Southern town we still adhere to all the "old" rules. No matter what Vogue may tell me is acceptable I absolutely cannot wear white after labor day. The rule against said behavior is so ingrained in my soul that I have come to believe that were I to step a toe into the sunlight in white after the first Monday in September I'd burst into flame, like some fashion vampire. We send thank you notes for everything, and do so in our own handwriting and in a timely fashion. We pull over for funeral processions, and take food in to the ailing. Girls still don't regularly call boys, and if they do they secretly feel guilty. Cotillion is alive and well, balls and soiree's are still attended, beauty pageants wins are still admired, and Sunday is still a day of reverence and respect. And we may fight bitterly with our neighbor, but we'll be the first ones there in their time of need.
It gets so hot here in the summer that the shingles drip off the roofs of houses, but lemonade still quenches the thirst and picnics still tame the savages beasts. It's a place where prayer is a verb, not a noun. The pace is slower here, and we like it that way. Yes, there is industry and technology and wi-fi and and all the rest. But there is also respect, and concern, and love and faith.
To many, this small Southern town in which I live might seem out of time. It might confuse you, or amuse you, but the reality is, it's a lingering gem in a world of speed and rush and discontent. Change is good, but there is great good in sameness as well. So I grow, and age, and change. I evolve and plan and create. But I am certainly glad that I get to do it in the loving arms of the wonderful family I have here in this small Southern town.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Step right up, get your tickets here

In spite of my earlier bemoaning of fall, in Arkansas, there are a few redeeming qualities to the season. I find caramel apples, vibrantly hued leaves and 70 degree days to be relatively fair trade offs for the horror to come. However, by far the most appealing event to occur each fall is the County Fair. Yes, I love the County Fair. Does this shock you? It still shocks me... This year I think I finally realized the reason I love the fair. I am, at the very core of my being, a very competitive person. I truly believe this was a genetic trait instilled in me from eons past. I am competitive at everything I do; when in school it wasn't enough to just get an "A", I had to get the highest "A", when I began my career it wasn't enough to be the first woman in my company to be promoted to a certain position, I had to also be the youngest woman to do so. You no doubt get the drift. I discovered this year that the County Fair combines my two greatest loves; critters and competition. While I may not understand the difference between a fine bovine and a poor one, I appreciate the dedication and work it took by said animals handlers to raise their specimen to meet those specifications. So, I find I can wander through the various barns and admire for hours on end the multitude of examples of equine, bovine and porcine perfection. I can even look covetously at their dangling purple ribbons,and know full well that had I chosen to enter my prize pig (if I'd had one) it no doubt would be carrying one of those home. I love furry footed chickens and velvet coated rabbits, woolly lambs and bleating goats. Those all give me warm fuzzy feelings that are just perfectly topped off by a funnel cake and a lemonade. But then, to really get my competitive blood boiling, the fair also has the midway, does it not? For a highly competitive person this little thoroughfare is the epitome of pleasure. There is just something about all those little men with their "step right ups" that just get my competitive juices flowing. And here is where it gets really nasty-it isn't good enough just to pop the slightly flaccid balloons with the more than dull darts to win the tiny, and no doubt highly flammable, stuffed toy. I, and my competitive mania, have to pop ALL the balloons to win the BIGGEST toy. It isn't just that I want any old prize; I want the biggest and the best. Strangely, this puts me very much mind of how I wooed and won my biggest prize; my husband.
I met Mr. Big Prize at just this time of year. The air was just turning crisp, and I was just turning back to dating after a particularly foul time in my life. I met him in the most unlikely of places, and it was wonder and amazement at first sight. My husband is a stunningly beautiful creature. He was once described by another woman as "the most beautiful man she'd ever seen in real life", and I have to say that I ascribe to her feeling, 110%. Owning no doubt at least in part to that fact, and to the fact that when I met him he was 28 and never married, Mr. Big Prize had dated nearly everyone in the state of Arkansas over the legal driving age and under that of the average nursing home resident. I just fell quite head over heels almost right away. We'd been dating for a few weeks when one of his well meaning friends pulled me to the side to give me a bit of what I'm sure he considered well meaning advice. "Laine", he said "you're a really nice girl,and we all like you a lot. But there is something you need to know. Mr.Big Prize never dates anybody for long. He's way WAY too picky, and is looking for perfection. He'll no doubt find something wrong with you too pretty soon." Then, he proceeded to list for me a myriad of reasons why Mr.Big Prize had dumped my poor predecesssors, and you can read in parenthesis my thoughts in return. "For instance", he said "he once dumped a girl because her toes were too long (well, of course, feet are disgusting anyway and should be lopped off) and once he dumped a girl because she ate all her dinner and some of his too (naturally! What kind of grocery bill would this glutton eventually run up) and worst of all, he once dumped a girl for not liking dogs (what kind of monster doesn't like dogs????)" You can imagine what kind of response this elicited in me. It was like 10,000 of those little Carnies all waving at me and screaming "step right up". There's nothing like going after the Big Prize, the one that is perfect for you, and the one you want most of all, when the odds are just dead stacked against you. Well, long story short, 10 short months later I had Mr. Big Prize standing at the alter saying his till death do us part's, as I giddily waltzed down an isle littered with the broken hearts of most the women in our fair state. And no, I do not exaggerate.
That was 14 glorious years ago. Turns out I was his version of perfect and he mine. He is more perfect for me now than he was then. Our lives thus far have been filled with a myriad of joys and hurts, challenges and triumphs. We pledged from the beginning that we were going into marriage as a team, and that it would be as a team that we would face every challenged lobbed at us throughout life. She's thrown some doozies, I can assure you, but she's rewarded us along the way as well. I cannot imagine what my life would have been without him, and I cannot adequately express the wondrous joy it has been with him. I pray that God grants us both long life, so we can have even more of this incredible adventure together. What an adventure it is...and it doesn't hurt that I'm having it with the most beautiful man I've ever seen in real life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Midlife meanderings...or, random thougths on the meaning of life

Don't start with me on my age, and whether or not I can actually be considered "mid-life". This conclusion has been reached by scientific analysis and careful consideration of my familial track record where life and living are concerned. It appears, if one considers a mother who had triple bypass at 47 and a father who was struck with cancer at 58, that I am indeed in my middle years...if I'm lucky. It may very well be that I could, in fact, be considered quite geriatric. My husbands people, on the other hand, tend to just keep on living until they decide they are quite done with it. His maternal grandfather passed away at 99, and only then after he'd announced to all and sundry that he was quite finished living, thank you very much. His paternal grandmother, now 92, is living independently and only last year quit mowing her sloped yard on her riding mower. She did slip and fall off of her ladder while painting her bathroom ceiling, so that has curbed her activity somewhat. When one extrapolates the data it doesn't take long to discern that I am, in fact, going to leave my gorgeous hubby at the mercy of the nursing home hotties.
In all seriousness, when one considers one's own mortality, it is easy to slip into a maudlin sense of the macabre. One shouldn't. We are all going to die; what matters is what we do with the time we are given, no matter how much time that might actually turn out to be. These thoughts so frequently lead to that eternal question which has plagued man from the time of creation; what is the meaning of life? How many great minds of the ages have pondered and pontificated on just that point? To me, at my advanced age, it seems that the answer to that question is really quite simple. I feel that there are really two meanings of life a) to give love and joy and b) to find love and joy.
When one takes the time to really break down the things that matter, and that will last, that are of eternal significance, I suggest to you that one will find that they are all fundamentally linked to love and joy. Love-loving your fellow man, and expressing that through showing compassion, patience and giving; loving your family, and recognizing their intrinsic importance in your life; loving the minutia, and finding pleasure in a beautiful sky, or a great meal, or a hearty laugh. Joy-bringing joy to those around you; taking joy from the mundane and the magnificent; bringing joy to the everyday. I know to some this will sound simplistic, but if you find the time to really investigate what makes a life worth remembering, I will suggest to you that it will always be through the love shown, or the joy brought to the world by that individual.
So, on my tombstone, I can think of no better epitaph than "She brought love and joy to the world"...and considering the family track record, I may need that tombstone sooner rather than later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


There is no beast so foul in heaven or hell as Bipalium Kewense; no creature so loathsome, no animal so vile. Not in all my days as an animal lover have I found such a creature as could make me gag, start, stare or moan, until Bipalium Kewense, otherwise known as the Shovel head worm. May I remind you, my readers, that just last week I regaled you with tales of my ardor of nature. I have been an avid gardener in my home state of Arkansas for the better part of 22 years, and in such time I've encountered spiders, snakes, skinks, lizards and variety of insects to boggle the mind. None of these have so much as caused me to flinch...until I encountered the shovel headed worm. Not familiar with this vermin? Let me introduce you. Bipalium Kewense is a flat worm, which is the consistency of a soggy slug. It is flat as a pancake, and has a head that is in fact shaped like a shovel. They can be up to 12 inches long, and exhibit a color that can best be described as snot-like, with three black stripes which run down their backs. To make matters worse, they are members of the planairan family, which in layman's terms means that if you try to off one of the buggers by cutting it in half you then are merely stuck with two of the wriggling demons. You can continue this process until you have any number of writhing nasties from one single worm. They creep about in the garden, feasting on my earth worms. But what makes Bipalium kewense even more vomitous is their propensity to produce copious amounts of mucus when they are 'attacked'. They wrap their noxious little bodies around their 'attackers' and stick like glue. So, as luck would have it, they are particularly nasty when mixed with dog hair....Pomeranian dog hair most especially. One night about four weeks ago 'The Dude' brought one in on his hind leg. Daddy held him, while I used scissors 'et al' to remove it. Now, you cannot imagine the horrific things I have removed from Pomeranian dog hair in the 13 years I've had them as members of my family. But this, by far, was the worst. It was the first time in history that I had to take a moment to gag and breathe before finishing the task. At first the hubby and I were horrified that these aliens were something spawned from the bowels of our beloved 'bitties', but praises be, that was not the case. A second made it's way in on 'The Smidge', and a third had the audacity to crawl under the threshold to my HOME and die on the floor. But, horror of horrors, tonight the unthinkable occurred.
Kev and I dined out, spent time with Little Miss, and came the the damp (two things Bipalium kewense loves). We walked in, and as I was putting away a few groceries I slipped on something on the floor. Looking down I spotted one half of one of these little devils squirming about on the floor...but where was the other half??? Then, I saw it; wrapped around my LEGGGG. Oh dear GOD save me from a fate such as this. I turned into a weeping, screeching whirling dervish. All I could do was extend my leg in the general direction of hubby, and start shaking it wildly while screeching 'get it get it GEEEEEEET ITTTTTT OOOFFFF'. Praises be that he is the very definition of a 'manly man'. He subdued me (while I turned my head and alternately whine-moan-gagged), and removed the demon from my leg. HALLELUJAH I AM SAVED!!!!
So, I have to ask myself, what purpose can these abominations serve? They eat my much needed earth worms, and they cause all forms of unnatural reactions in my psyche. Here you go; they eat slugs. The nastiest of garden gremlins, slugs eat all variety of carefully cultivated flora, and shovel head worms eat slugs. So, while they are the bane of my existence, many people online who actually discuss this horror do so with an attitude of gratitude. Once again it is proven to me that there is a purpose for everything in creation, and that one mans horror is another mans blessing. I may not understand the why of so many things under heaven, but I trust there is a purpose. I hope to always be a woman of purpose...even if I do it while loathing Bipalium Kewense.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How many fruit flies can dance on the head of a pin?

My husband has a penchant for muscadine grapes. Perhaps I should be fair in that statement; we both have a penchant for muscadine grapes. From what either one of us can tell their sticky sweet tartness is about the only redeeming aspect of fall. We take regular trips to the farmers market in hopes we'll see those gorgeous globes of fabulousness, and if found, will finish off whatever we buy in one 'sitting'. So far this autumn we'd been unable to find even a single grape, much less the quarts we were craving. Then, as I was leaving my sisters home two weeks ago, I passed a street vendor with quart after delicious quart of muscadines glowing from his offering table. So naturally, I swung my car around in traffic, parked in the mud, and tromped through the rain to get to said bounty. He had 6 quarts left, and I took every single one. I honestly can't tell you how much they cost. Like some kind of grape junkie I grappled in my purse and spilled whatever dollar amount the man quoted on his table, and took off with my six precious quarts. Like any good junkie I broke into my cache immediately, and in my haste, I may have dropped a grape...or my car. What harm could a grape...or two...really do? Then today, I got the answer to my question.
Now, it really has been two weeks. Those six quarts are LONG gone. Today I got in my sporty little car, and hovering to my left, I saw a swarm. At first panic set in, because anyone who knows me knows that I am an absolute magnet for mosquitoes. Luckily, it wasn't mosquitoes. It was fruit flies. Dozens of cute little hovering fruit flies, and they were doing their hovering directly over my passenger seat. Were they hitching a ride somewhere? Had they mistaken me for a little fruity taxi? Surely not. So I did what anyone would do-immediately set out for a search for what on earth could be the source of fruit flies. My car is clean, the floors are vacant of refuse, and there were no apparent signs of fruit anywhere. Don't fruit flies come from fruit????
Then it hit me, the grapes! The one...or two...little grapes had brought with them dozens of fruit fly larva. I suppose they come from larva-do they not? They had to still be under my passenger seat, fermenting away, and bearing fruit of their own. Life is amazing, is it not? It will thrive almost anywhere, even under my car seat, all the time. Isn't it seemingly miraculous that we live on a planet which is 93 million miles from a ball of fire, which is neither too close to cook us alive, nor too far so that we freeze. Life is delicious, and perilous, and precious. It should be protected, and valued, and cherished. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, as is all the world around us. We have been commissioned with the protection of life; the lives of those around us, the life of the planet, and the one life we have each been granted. Cherish each moment, and cherish each life, no matter how seemingly insignificant-the fruit flies will thank you.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Random thoughts on Happiness

Am I the only one who finds it odd that our Declaration of Independence guarantees, as one of our inalienable rights, the pursuit of happiness? What an odd concept to include in the founding and defining document of a new nation. It makes apparent that the pursuit of the ideal is timeless, and constant. This opens up the eternal question; what is happiness? We hear so much about it. It seems that society as a whole is in constant search of it; singing songs, writing poems and dedicating odes to the search thereof. And yet it seems that there are an almost infinite number of people who never achieve that enviable and ephemeral state of 'happiness'. I think I have this 'happiness' thing figured out. Do not take that statement as one of arrogance, or as evidence of some kind of over enlightened state. I'm just an average Jane who is living a fairly average life, but is doing it quite happily. Don't mistake me for one of the charmed ones-we all know at least one. The 'charmed ones', as I call them, have never faced any difficulty, or controversy. They've never lost a loved one, or been rejected by a friend. Everything seems to fall from the sky directly into their laps. They live in a perpetual state of ease, and seem to be floating along in a perpetual state of ecstasy, and who wouldn't living that kind of life? I wish them no ill, and genuinely hope their lives continue on in just that vein, but no, that certainly isn't me. I've lived through intense degrees of heartache, heartbreak, disappointment and rejection. I've fallen as many times as I've risen, and honestly, if I were to actually calculate my odds I'd say the falls would well outnumber the ascensions. And yet, I'm happy. I'm very very happy. It's all because I think I've figured out the truth; happiness is a choice. It isn't some esoteric idea that only the elite few can attain. It isn't a by-product of wealth, or health, or even wisdom. It's a simple choice, that I simply make every day. Every morning, when the sun rises (or when I decide to get up) I can make the decision whether today will be a day filled with happiness, or discontent. Will I relish the very fact that I am alive, and able to breathe and walk and hold my husbands hand to be enough? Or will I choose to fill my day with unrequited longing for the things I don't have, the money I haven't made, the career I didn't choose? What good does that do? I have found that if I choose happiness each day I am far more likely to be mentally prepared and able to pursue those things which as yet are out of my grasp.
For years I have watched friends and relatives wallow in the pains of 'yesterday'. Yesterday is truly and completely gone, and all it offers me is the chance to learn and grow from what it taught. In the very best of circumstances 'yesterday' is a tool to use to improve today, and in the worst of circumstance, it is something to be left where it is. Yesterday cannot hurt you; only you can use yesterday as a tool for self inflicted pain. Instead, I begin each day with a sense of new beginning, and hope. Now again, please do not misunderstand, I do have bad days. There are days when I just get up on the absolute wrong side of the bed, my hormones are out of control, or my precious hubby has just left one too many pairs of socks on the floor. There are days when my loved ones are ill, my heart is broken, or my feelings wounded. I may have bad days, but as long as I am able to make the choice I won't chose to be unhappy.
Don't take my random thoughts on happiness to be some preachy-holier-than-thou tripe. I'm merely sharing with you my secret to happiness, in the hopes that it might help find your own. I'm happy, and as a result, I find that I am now more content and fulfilled than I've ever been before. So, in the end, 'happiness' itself may not be an inalienable right, but the right to choose it is; and that is a truth I hold to be self evident!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I once was an only child

Yes, that is the truth. For nearly the first decade of my life I was not only the only child, but the only grandchild as well. For a time in my early consciousness I had eight living grandmothers, in varying degrees of great-ness. It was an almost deliriously blissful beginning, and was constantly reassured by my mother that it was a fairly firm circumstance. Then, around the time I was moving from childhood I found myself dragged into sibling-hood. I had early high hopes for the condition, but soon learned the crying red blob of humanity my parents brought home from the hospital was no use at all as a playmate. My "sister", as they called it, lay drooling, staring and crying on a pallet, surrounded by the toys I had hoped to interest her in. The early days lacked luster, as you can no doubt tell.
Then, as said sibling settled in to our home, and into my heart, I started finding real joy in my miniature motherhood. I loved changing diapers, helping with baths, and rocking to sleep. As she grew slightly older, and morphed once again from chubby crawler into cherub cheeked toddler, my job changed to official baby chaser. "Laine, catch your sister" was a refrain heard for years on end. I crawled under locked dressing room doors, ran up the down escalator, and searched through stuffed circular clothing racks more times than I can actually count. She moved from her crib into my bed, where she firmly planted herself until I revolted at about fifteen years of age. That is when the true changes began-teenagers have little time for children, and small children that live in their home and get into their things are even worse. By the time I moved out to attend college my sister was little more than a blip on my radar screen, I'm sad to say. But then, after college, I moved home again.
Early adulthood is a difficult time for everyone, and I found extreme comfort in once again being home, and once again sharing a bed with my "baby" sister. By that time she was an early teen, and instead of fighting over stuffed animals at night we stayed up giggling over boys and secrets. My baby sister started morphing from sibling to friend. The difference in our ages seemed to be waning. By the time I married at 23 my sister had firmly established herself as my most trusted confidant. She was my maid of honor in 1996, and I was hers in 2001. By that point she had become my "person"-you know, the ONE person in the world that I could literally say anything at all to, and not worry about censure or judgement. The one person who I knew would be there for me in absolutely any circumstance, and would be beside me until the end of my life. The person to whom I go when life just gets crazy/overwhelming/crushing. She's the one who picks up the banner and rides into battle if I'm threatened. And of course, the reverse is true. You do not want to see me when someone hurts my baby sister. There is fire in my eyes, and smoke coming from my nose. Yes, I have a husband that I adore more than any other person in the entire world, but there is just really something enormous about the sister/sister bond. My sister and I fully intend to live into ripe old age, with both our hubbies in the attic, surrounded by a collection of toy size dogs.
Two years ago my sister gave birth to my niece, Audrey Laine. Having never been able to have children myself I watched her pregnancy like a mother hen. Our first trip to Italy was cancelled when 'Little Miss' decided that she might just go ahead and get herself born about three months early. Then, due to sisters hubbies queasy constitution I got to be the official 'birth coach'. I was the one helping her breathe/push/breathe, and at the same time keeping her from decapitating my mother who got a wee bit hysterical in the delivery room (sister had heard that women who commit murder while in delivery are always acquitted). So now, my 'baby' has had a baby of her own. She's given me the joy of being a grandmother without ever having to be a mother myself. Once again, she's the source of some of the greatest joy of my life.
So yes, I started life as an only child. It was a blissful state, while it lasted. However, I cannot count the reasons I'm glad I won't end life that way.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I'm allergic to fall

I'm allergic to fall. Now, don't misunderstand. I do not have fall allergies; I'm actually allergic to fall. This is a circumstance brought on by the fact that fall precedes winter, and I loathe winter. Note I did not say that I hate winter, rather, I LOATHE it. There are no redeeming qualities in winter. It's dark, it's cold, and it's miserable, roasting chestnuts and all. I am fairly sure that my loathing of winter may actually be a genetic trait, as my father feels the same way, but no matter from whence it came, my loathing is strong and eternal. I do not enjoy layers of clothes-coats and hats are the bane of my existence. I do not find snow beautiful, because I know that in just a few hours time it will be reduced to little more than discolored mush that mucks up my yard. And don't start with me on Christmas; I ADORE Christmas, and see no reason what-so-ever that it couldn't be celebrated in the lovely month of May (probably historically far closer to the birth of our Savior than dismal winter anyway). Therefore, I am allergic to fall. This condition creates in me a drowsy dread that lingers even on bright and temperate days like today. When the sun starts setting before eight o'clock I roll into my 'fall funk', from which I do not emerge until approximately February, when the days finally begin to lengthen and there is hope on the horizon.
For years we've said we are moving to Florida, the land of sand sun and eternal sunshine. It's a lovely dream, but one we've yet to make a reality. Every year at this very time we wake up and realize another year has passed, and we still live in the land of winter. Why is this? Why do we talk and talk about leaving fall and winter behind, yet never quite manage to make it happen? Maybe because it's good to have things in life that aren't perfection. It's beneficial to have as yet unmet goals. It's good to have falls and winters. Without them, would we really appreciate spring?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I have one friend

I have one friend...OK, so that isn't entirely the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have tons of friends. My hubby is my best and closest, my sister is my "person", my mom is my dearest, Robin is my best, and I have dozens upon dozens of people whom I love and who love me in return. I often think about how many people would be effected if at some juncture I was to fall over dead. There are those who would have to be locked in a padded room, those who would weep, those who would mourn for a day, and those who would say "oh, how sad". That seems a good barometer for friendship; how deeply would this person grieve were I to die? Morbid? Perhaps, but effective.
But back on topic; I have one friend. This person has been my "best friend" for 21 years. Now, mind you, we are absolutely nothing alike. Truly, we are about as dissimilar as two people can be, but for 21 years of my life I have depended on her to be an intimate part of my life almost as much as food or air or some other such thing, and I believe she feels quite the same about me. We passed notes in English class, comforted each other through breakups, stood up for each other at our respective weddings. I was there at the birth of her two children, and she comforted me when I lost my hope of ever baring any. And we know each other. We know each other in that soul deep way that only people who trust each other implicitly really can. We know all of each others secrets, be they good or bad, and know that those secrets are as safe with the other as they are in our own hearts.
My friend loves me, and I love her. A few weeks ago, my friend gave me the compliment of a lifetime. She told me she was proud of me. My friend is proud of me. This person who knows me better than almost any other is proud of me. That means there is a person in the world, one who isn't related to me or married to me, but one who really knows me, who is proud of me. I'd say that makes me a remarkably successful person.
I'm really really proud of her too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My husband calls me Ellie Mae

My husband calls me Ellie Mae. I don't think he means this in a derisive way at all, nor do I think it's necessarily a compliment. I love all things fuzzy and furry; all things creepy and crawly. I'm fascinated by the natural world, it's processes and order. I'm not startled by snakes in the grass (unless they are of the human form) nor am I particularly disturbed by spiders (though those that make it into my home are another story). I simply love animals. At current count we have four dogs, but that number is open to change at any time. We've had to set a new rule at our home; no picking up of strays unless they are wearing a collar of some sort. Please realize this rule has been made due to our propensity to pick anything up and haul it home, and our inability to realistically house another animal...but like I said, numbers are open to change, as are rules. During our nearly 14 year marriage we have parented 7 dogs, two cordon blue finches, one green cheeked parrot, two flying squirrels, and a myriad of "sleep-overs" by strays. But now, I have a butterfly. Now, mind you, I don't actually have a little butterfly flitting around my home with a sparkly collar. Rather, my yearly attempt to lure a Monarch female to lay her eggs in my garden have finally come to fruition. For years I've planted milkweed in hopes that even one egg would make the journey from caterpillar to pupae to butterfly. Several years have passed with Momma Monarchs laying their eggs, and caterpillars emerging and munching on my milkweed plants, but not once have I had the privilege of seeing caterpillar suspend itself by it's back legs from said plant, shed it's skin, and transform into a magnificent Monarch. Sunday night I FINALLY got my wish. There he was, hanging suspended high in my milkweed plant, and by Monday morning there was a shining green chrysalis. I was ecstatic....sad, I know. Then, last night, we had a true nor-easter blow through. It was a HUGE storm, with the 150 year old trees that surround our historic home crashing down around us. Was I concerned about our roof?? No. Our cars? uh-uh. I was scared to death that something was going to happen to my butterfly. I even briefly considered going out and holding an umbrella over it. Again, it was a brief thought had at about 2 a.m.-not a time known for rational thought. And sure enough, when I went outside this morning, there was my milkweed plant smushed firmly under a HUGE limb from one of our old oaks. It was an enormous limb-one that would make a decent sized tree on it's own. And to make matters worse, wrapped around the limb was a high line wire. So, after hours on the phone trying to find out if there was anyone to come clean up the mess (there wasn't), and if the high line wire was dangerous (it wasn't) I went out to clean up the mess. I worked slowly and cautiously, but not optimistically. But then, after the tree was removed, I found the milkweed plant wasn't broken, just bent, and my butterfly wasn't gone, just hidden. It was hanging there tough and resilient, dangling by it's little back feet.This afternoon I can actually see the wings starting to develop through the chrysalis skin.
That, of course, got me thinking; I'm a lot like that butterfly. I've been crushed, hidden, and wrapped up in danger. And through it all, I have managed to hang on even if it was only by my little feet, metaphorically speaking. What has protected me is the same thing that protected my butterfly; my cocoon. I've surrounded myself by wonderful people, a strong faith, and lots of love. So, even when the world throws it's toughest and worst at me, I've been resilient. Thank goodness I have long toes ;-)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Random thoughts on beauty

So, yesterday, while at my favorite Mexican dining establishment, our waiter told me I look like Megan Fox. I laughed at him. NO, that is an understatement; I guffawed at him. I didn't chuckle, didn't chortle, I actually guffawed! I choked out something that sounded like 'thank you', while at the same time advising him to get his vision closely checked. He skulked off, and my mother looked at me horrified. 'Laine' she said, 'that was rude. You shouldn't have laughed at him'. I said 'But mom, he told me I look like Megan Fox...MEGAN FOX. You know, the most beautiful woman in the world, EVER.' Mom says, 'Well, to him you do look like Megan Fox. You should respect that.' Ouch. Morality lessons from my mom at the ripe old age of 36. Mind you, I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, my hair was in a ponytail, and my makeup was at a minimum of eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss. But mom was right. Beauty is perceived differently by all of us. My truly gorgeous friend, Shannon Devine (and trust me, this one is TRULY GORGEOUS), and I were discussing this just a few days ago-that beauty is completely subjective, but that it is our job to respect every one's ideas and opinions of beauty. Due to early adolescent mind molding by my peers I've struggled with seeing myself as attractive at all, much less as anyone's idea of "beautiful". But there is one kind of beauty we can all agree on; inner beauty. That is what I really aspire to, because once my eyesight has failed and my jowls have dropped, that is what will remain. And there are times when I feel really beautiful; when my gorgeous hubby of 13 years looks at me first thing in the morning (while I'm sans makeup and messy haired) and says 'you are so beautiful', or when my mom says to me 'Laine, you are good people. I'm so proud of you'. Those are the things that count, and the things I'll remember when all the ephemeral compliments and all the hurts have passed. Knowing that the people who really know me, who know me in a bone deep, soul baring kind of way, think I'm beautiful is what really matters. Knowing that my husband thinks I have a beautiful soul, that my best friend of 20 years is still proud to know me, to know that my father is proud of who I've grown to be-those things make me feel beautiful.
I know many many physically beautiful people, but the ones I hope to know forever are the ones with really beautiful souls.

Here we go

I've decided, after some deliberation, that I'm going to start a personal blog. I want it to be a place for friends to come and share thoughts and ideas on the world at large, and for me to share with you a more personal side of who I am and what my life entails. So here begins a whole new journey; it's one i hope we both enjoy!