Rachel

This post is a thank you note to Rachel.

I don’t know her, but we shared the aisles of my local grocery store on Valentines day.   I wasn’t there to shop for chocolate or flowers or even a card.  I was there for groceries.  Laundry soap, batteries, butter.  Honestly,  I was feeling a little jaded.  Lately, people have been making me tired.

What has happened to America?

It’s a question I hear ringing out everywhere.

When did we become a country who can’t listen to someone with a differing opinion?  What happened to our ability to just disagree without hating?  I feel like we have been separated into shirts and skins. We are no longer Americans first and then everything else second. You remember don’t you?  We used to be united in spite of our differences.  Now our differences trump everything.  We have our own news stations and agendas and talking points.  We are as separated as the girls and boys at the spring fling.  You go to your side.  I’ll go to mine.  Don’t cross the line in the middle.

This is how I was feeling Valentine’s Day in the grocery store.  The official day of love and I wasn’t feeling it.  It’s an election year and quite frankly I felt like just giving up.  What is the point? Then, I saw Rachel.

She was’t extraordinary in any way. Short, shiny bob.  White tennis shoes with springy laces and a little flouncy skirt with X and O’s decorating it.  She was pure kid.  It was obvious she was excited.  It was Valentine’s Day.  There was probably sugar in her history.  And her future.  She was intent on hitching a ride on her Mom’s cart. You know how to do it.  We all do.  She was normal.  Just a kid.  In a grocery store.  Doing things we’ve all done. Secure in the knowledge that the grownups are handling things.

Oh Rachel. I wish that were true.

I feel like we are dropping the ball for you and I don’t want to .  I want you to get to grow up happy.  I want you to feel safe at school and the movies and in the grocery store.  I want someone to teach you it’s ok to disagree and that being kind is easier than being mean.  I want you to have what we all had.  I want you to grow up American.

I know we aren’t perfect. I know we make mistakes.  But, I believe in us.  I don’t think everyone on the other side of the aisle is evil.  I don’t think people who disagree with me are bad.  I think there are things to be learned from each other.  I want us to start questioning the people who say we can’t come together.  I want us to question articles and ideas and smear campaigns before we forward them.  I want us to remember our humanity.  Our decency.  I want us to do it for you.

So, thank you Rachel.  I wish I was a better wordsmith to convey what you reminded me of in that store.  Otter-pops and days spent in the sprinkler.  Getting a spanking for littering.  Standing up for our pledge.  Hearing the national anthem as tv programming ended every night.  Being astounded that you might catch a glimpse of our president no matter which party he was from.  Understanding that we are all a part of something bigger and that we all have a responsibility to make sure it continues.

I will keep trying Rachel.  I will listen to people I don’t agree with in hopes that I might learn something.  I will never, ever, ever forward something until I have researched it and made sure it’s true.  I will always choose kindness when I can and I will be the best American I know how to be.  I will do it for you and for every other kid hitching a ride on Mom’s grocery cart.

I am a grown-up and I got it.

the death penalty and fried chicken.

I confuse myself.

I am a grown-up. I watch the news. I know that people commit horrible crimes.  Crimes that make my heart shrink away in horror.

“How on earth could anyone do that?”

“Honey, are you hearing this? It’s horrible.  I can’t believe it!”

“Why?”

These are often the questions falling out of my mouth as I watch our polished newscasters lay out the facts of the latest horrific event.

I  get mad. I grieve. I want justice for the victims. I should be a slam dunk vote for the death penalty.

That would make sense.

Except I’m not.

Because I’m not, and because I don’t even understand it myself,  I recently drove five hours to hear a man speak about it.  He was a warden on death row for decades. He presided over many, many deaths.  He got paid for it.  I could not imagine what he would stand up in front of a room and say?  I thought I might hear regret or a well-honed defense.  I thought he might say something that would sway me one way or the other.  I had questions and I wanted answers.

I got none.

Instead, I can tell you that this man raised his children in the shadows of a prison. I can tell you that death row inmates in my state don’t get a last meal anymore.  But, when they did, it evolved from fried chicken and mashed potatoes twenty years ago to cheeseburgers and fries more recently.  I can tell you that of the eighty odd men and women he saw die only three put up any kind of struggle.  I can tell you that this retired warden said he prayed for his charges. I can tell you that sometimes the prisoners cracked jokes in the last moments and that almost always there were witnesses for both sides.  The victim and the perpetrator.

I came home and posted on my Facebook page that I was more confused than ever.  And, I am.  However, I am sure of one thing.  Whatever it is that made us establish a death penalty is the same thing that makes us want to know it is done humanely.

I rage against the crimes I see on the evening news.  Punish evil.

I’m disheartened that inmates no longer get a last meal before we execute them. A juicy cheeseburger.  Really? That’s a bad thing?  What does that say about us on the other side of the needle?

The whole subject is conflicting for me.  In the end, all I can say is I believe in evil and I believe equally in life.

Maybe, I am not unlike the warden.

Maybe, I could give a man a piece of candy before I had to carry out his death sentence because that little act would save both our humanity.

Maybe, if I ever join a picket line, it will be to bring back a last meal to prisoners I believe deserve to die for taking someone else’s life.

I’m a mixed up girl.

 

 

 

 

Strawberry juice on my sunglasses.

I went on a short road trip this week to see my daughter at college.  It was fun.  Two days of restaurant choices and conversations about shoes and girls not as cute.  I felt young.  Included.  Part of that weird morph that doesn’t stress over tomorrow.  I was sad when I had to leave.  I gassed up my car and drove out of town.

I thought, maybe, I could hang on to the feeling for a little while, but my phone started ringing as soon as I blew a kiss to the city limit sign.  Someone wanted to schedule an appointment to update my alarm system.  My husband needed me to proofread a document.  Family members called to see how the trip went.

I felt myself segmenting and a part of me I enjoy start to disappear.  I say that because I have an uneasy feeling I am not fun in my everyday life.  I will be in the middle of a discussion with my daughter and I’ll hear myself.  Bossy.  Self-certain.  Too controlled.

” Whoa.  I don’t like that person.” I’ll think.

I will correct and then promptly forget.  Five minutes later I’ll do the same thing with my husband.  My friends.  The nice lady trying to squirt me with perfume at the mall.

I made a conscious effort to try and take some of my daughter’s lightheartedness home with me and stopped to get a drink.  Something I saw advertised.

A strawberry, vanilla Sprite.

I’m just going to tell you.  It’s delicious. It tastes like summer vacation and I am addicted.  The best part of it is the little bits of strawberry.  Sometimes, they are so big they clog up the straw and you have to blow big bubbles to get them unstuck.  It’s almost impossible to feel serious while doing this.

So, there I was enjoying this little moment of fun when I realized it was over.  The drink was gone.  My phone was ringing.  Me dissipating.

I took the lid off hoping to delay the end and found the entire bottom of my cup covered in gorgeous red strawberry pieces.  I was determined to get every last one.

75 miles an hour and no spoon.

I did it though.  It involved tipping the cup and giving it enthusiastic taps on the bottom.  It was tedious and probably unsafe, but it worked.  I got them all.

And then– I was ok.  I returned the phone calls.  I acted responsibly for everyone who needed it from me and I tried not to be the un-fun version that seems to show up way too often.  It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had strawberry juice on my sunglasses.

Maybe, that’s the secret to everything.

Window caulking.

We had cracks in our ceiling.

They started as little toothpick sized black marks in various places and over the past few months raced across our living room in a mad dash to connect.  I don’t know what would have happened if we had let them.  All I know is two weeks ago when I got a phone call saying my Mom was back in the hospital I had had enough.  I couldn’t fix any of that, but those cracks were done having the run of our ceiling.

In the time it took Richard to run an errand I had everything off our walls and all of our furniture moved into another room.  When Richard came home he deposited everything on the table and came to the middle of the room and wrapped his arms around me.

“I can’t do these cracks anymore honey.  I really, really can’t.”

So, on top of everything else going on we began a major remodeling project.  There has been scraping and putty knives and texture. There have been numerous trips to home improvement stores and a lengthy conversation with Walt who had just taken a second job selling light fixtures. It has been the exact thing I needed.  When I’m scraping and sweeping and fetching I don’t feel so helpless.  So, yesterday, when Richard asked me if I would dig the caulk out of our window frames I agreed readily.

Then, my phone rang.

It was my Mom.  She was home from the hospital, but so miserable.  Bloated and hurting and done.  She is done with having cancer.  She is done with people poking and prodding her.

She is done.  And, I don’t want her to be.

I want her to fight through this.  I want a million more phone calls that end with “I love you crazy mama.”  I want her opinion on politics and my daughter’s new boyfriend and whether or not I should buy a new car.

I’m not done.  I’m not done at all.

It was these emotions I was working through as I savaged the caulk around our windows. Richard found me crying, again, and trying to change the course of mom’s illness with a razor knife and a screw driver.

He left me alone to finish the job, but not before issuing a gentle reminder that whatever survived had to be able to withstand the next hurricane.

Good Lord.

The next hurricane?

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin is Life.

I’m not sure I understand life yet.

I love it.

I love fireworks, and baby giggles and the way my dad looked out for my mom.   I love Christmas movies and trips to the zoo and putting my head on my husband’s shoulder.  I love life.  But, I am also aware of how dangerous it is.

There are weapons and bacterias and mosquitos that cause deformity in a baby. A baby. There are real, disgusting, heartless boogie men and people who know this and just don’t care.  There is meanness and knives and cars that wreck.

All of these contrasting things are true about life.  I adore it, but I don’t trust it. I never let my guard down. I really can’t.

In fact, I’ve been thinking lately that life reminds me of a dog we rescued once.  He was cute and little and we even named him Pumpkin.  We gave him every chance to be adorable and sometimes he was.  Sometimes, he rolled over on his back and let you scratch his tummy.  He would just lay there with his ears flopped over smiling at you.  Sometimes, he would even take a treat right out of your hand.  It would be laying there– a chicken flavored, bone shaped, slightly disgusting thing– and then with a quick puff of his soft lips it would be gone and you would be left with nothing but slobber. If you met Pumpkin on one of those days you would scratch him behind the ears.  You would congratulate us for rescuing him.  You would opine about how people should always rescue dogs instead of buying them.  You would be sucked in and you would relax.  Then, when you least expected it,  Pumpkin would bite the living hell out of you.  He would.  And we wouldn’t be able to warn you because we never really knew when it was coming.  One minute love and the next minute teeth.

It’s the same when life is going good.  You feel like you are stable and secure.  You have your people.  You have your routine.  You are taking things for granted. Life is sweet. The next moment the phone rings, or someone knocks on your door, or a doctor enters a room and life bites the hell out of you. It’s just the way it is.  Life has teeth.

It is my relationship with life that is driving me to start this blog.  Life is a cranky rescue dog that I love with all my heart.  It confuses me.

Welcome.