Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Crackers

Especially at the end of a semester, right before Christmas, impatiently awaiting a pay day, sometimes life gets heavy. And after a few nights of Netflix and Diet Dr. Pepper hibernation/ recovery, I’m remembering the sweetness of this incredible life.

Hemingway said, “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

I read that today while I was eating a cracker. It was a delicious cracker with this homemade, cheesy goodness kind of spread that one of our clients brings to the office every Christmas. There were crumbles of pecans on top. Pecans are my most favorite nut. When our family would spend Thanksgiving in St. George with Grandma and Grandpa Johnson I would go on walks with my dad and we would eat pecans right off the neighbor’s tree. They were soft and fruity and fresh. We would collect enough to make Dixie salad. Fresh whipped cream, pomegranates, apples, grapes, pecans, the old green carpet in Grandma Milne’s house, setting the table with Grandma’s silver, Grandpa in his recliner with the football game on, ball cap pulled low over his eyes.

I thought about my daddy’s face in Grandpa’s room at the care center while Matt played the guitar and Mom and I sang “Country Road”. And then he fell asleep.

I remembered when Mom had surgery just after Christmas, years ago, and Grandma and Grandpa were up visiting. Grandpa brought Mom a tin of cookies, but he had opened it in the car and eaten a few before they reached Mom’s room.

That was a pretty great cracker.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Home is Where Your Mama is

Boogaroo is my niece, Alexandria. We have been BFFs since she entered this world and I suspect for many moons before. It was her birth that inspired my first serious desires about writing and it is in watching her grow that I am constantly reignited with adventurous ideas and expectations for the future of the women of the world.

There’s something magical in the eyes of children when they look at you, it makes you feel like you matter.

It’s true that I like to tell stories, but my intent for the records I am creating with a few laughs and occasional tears has, and ever will be, to say (in as many words and ways as possible) that you, Alexandria, you and every beautiful, lovely, intelligent, kind, sympathetic, poetic heart, drenched in emotion and enrobed in the form of women, you matter. You are brilliant like the sunrise. You have the potential to make the world more beautiful with every breath that you breathe. You were always meant to.

My mommy’s birthday is at the very end of July when the sun is hot and the tomatoes are warm in the garden. Since we’ve grown it has gotten difficult for all of us to be in the same place at the same time, but for her birthday, Grammy insists, so in the summer time we come home.

At Mom’s last night before last I was chillin’ with Boogs because her “froat hurts really bad”. She was about to fall asleep when I made an attempt to sneak upstairs and go home for some sleep myself. I was turning the knob on the front door when I heard Alex behind me.

“Where are you going?” She asked.

“Home, Honey. I need to get some sleep.”

“Aunt Buff, why do you live somewhere else?”

Poignant question Boogaroo. With so many answers flashing across the jumbo-tron of my mind I wasn’t sure were to go.

“It’s just where I live, baby girl. Home is always where Grammy is.”

“Oh.” She said. Then she scrunched jungle blankie into a more portable glob in her arms and headed back down stairs to finish “RED” with Grammy, Papa, and Daddy. Satisfied, because to a four-year-old, and to anyone who has ever met my Mommy, my answer made perfect sense.

My mom and dad have done some pretty amazing things in their lives. They have climbed mountains that would give me a nose bleed just thinking of them. Somehow they have managed to weave music and love through the whole of it. My childhood was a happy one. My young adult life has been memorable and sweet. I think of the songs linked to the memories that are dearest to my heart of my family and the time we have been blessed to spend together and I hear my mama’s voice in my head while my daddy strums his scratched and faded sunburst applause; “country road, take me home to the place I belong. West Virginia, mountain mama. Take me home, country road.”
I think this summer we should teach that song to Alex.

Friday, July 6, 2012

All the Single Ladies

o   There are currently 54 million singles in the United States. 40 million of them have tried online dating at least once.

o   The average annual revenue of the online dating industry is $1.049 billion. Per online user that is a rough average of $239.00 a year.

o   17% of couples married in the United States last year met online. Thats 280,000 marriages.

o   31% of Americans use online dating services of know someone who does.

*Just a few statistics as a preamble to clarify the facts, I am not a woman in desperation, Im an American, so heres my story, please reserve judgment.  (but not laughter, for heaven sakes, I cant ask for the impossible!)*

A couple of months ago I accepted in a pouty surrender the advice of a colleague and friend in regards to what he termed my ultimate happiness and wellbeing as a material member of society and the girl who daily interacts with the clients that allow him to maintain employment.His motives were not absolutely pure, but hes an accountant, nothing is absolute unless it is preceded by a double line indicating the total, and even then auditors can make exceptions. By the standards of the auditing staff of Wood Richards & Associates, P.C. my dating expectations and results were unacceptable. I appeared to be in need of redirection.

My parents always emphasized in little league and Monopoly that sportsmanship was key. Nobody wants to play with a poor sport, so I take bad news pretty well, generally.

When I was in Jr. High a few of my girlfriends and I made up a dance to Brittney Spears song Oops, I Did it Again. As the only girl in the group above an A cup I was sort of nominated to dress like a Brittney look-a-like. I artfully acquired a pair of gold pleather pants and some glittery eye shadow. On the day of the talent show performance, dressing in the girls room, I poured my curvy-for-a-twelve-year-old body into the skin tight metallic marvel and stepped out into the most hostile environment known to man, the common room in a Jr. High School full of pre-adolescent latent aggression and overpowering hormones.

We performed our dance and felt like rock stars. Letting the feeling of fame linger I remained in costume for the rest of the day. When my dad came home from work that night and saw me setting the table for dinner he leapt for couth and failed, on the way down he grasped for something else to utter and this is what he came up with; “Nobody saw you wearing those, right?”

Point being, Ive had practice, I can take criticism. I dont like it, but Im a big girl, I can take it. So I gritted my teeth and sat down in Ryans office.

What do you think I should do? I squinted my eyes closed and let my chin fall to my chest.

Try online dating. Thats how I met Kendra. (Ryans amazing wife, now expecting their first little girl.)

Gross! NO! That is so weird! Im not old!

But to paraphrase Charlotte Bronte, Reader, I took his advice.

My first attempt at semipublic humiliation, willful disregard for self-respect, and naive hope in my ability to seek out perfect strangers in a simulated environment of security and find lasting and sincere bonds came in the form of Their commercial airs often during reruns of The Big Bang Theory on TBS, and yes, I do recognize exactly what kind of target audience I have become. But I have spent a few too many Friday night date nights as the Rajesh Koothrappali of my social circle. Low point. So I decided to expand my lone ranger status to the cyber world.

Imagine that the hot guy from your high school football team got into some sweet construction job the summer after graduation and never left. Now hes 54, wears wide cut man tank tops on his boat where he drinks beer, pumps out country music, and hits on fifteen year olds in Taylor Swift tankinis all summer at the lake. Those were the guys hitting me up on Match. When you log on and see that 42 men have viewed your profile its flattering, right? When they all turn out to look like your friends embarrassing bio Dad who yells profanities at the television during sports games with chili dripping off of his chin your hope bubble bursts. This isnt Alabama. Employed is not a game winner in the race for my heart. What is this world coming to!?!

Anyway, Match didnt work out for me.

I returned to live action dating, no, I dont mean it like that, and things went ok for a while. By ok I mean disaster *with a hulking Arnold accent to get the devastating point across*.

A month ago I repented of my prideful ways and returned to my computer. I signed up on You know what? There are far fewer married men on this dating site than I had been told, but there have still been some real keepers.

My first flirt came from a man dating under the sudo-name Crazy Wheels”. His reason for choosing this name? He was bound to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. Youll be angry with me for not giving him a chance, youll blame it on my vanity. But it was not vanity that curbed my willingness to encourage his perusal. It was much simpler than that, natural even. See, Im 25. That means 25 years of vigorously protected and preserved virtue. Twenty-five-years! A girl doesnt get all dressed up for the ball to stay home and watchA Cinderella Story”. Girl goes to the Ball! As it was impossible to determine whether my ball was inevitably crashed if I had jumped in his pumpkin coach without being grossly inappropriate, I passed.

After that was an interesting string of what appeared to be the same 33 year old guy with two kids posting under several different names and profiles. I wasnt inspired.

While I was on vacation to the land of corn and pigs (Iowa) I was chilling on the couch with Becky and perusing the options on my Iphone when I received an invitation to chat with Soccerfreak. Knowing as you do my deep and connected love of soccer and all sporting events involving running until you die you can imagine my excitement. But the idea is to keep an open mind, so I accepted. Becky snuggled over to have a peak and as she did I received a second invitation.

MrLarsen was a technical writer from San Diego with hopes of becoming a patent attorney. 62, dark hair, employed, RM, college graduate. Defiantly lying, right?

But I totally took the bait. We started talking on the phone and texting and messaging every night for a week. We were making plans to meet. My faith in the gravitational pull of romance and magnetism that maintains the structure of the universe was restored! Well, thats a little dramatic, but he was pretty cool. Then, without warning or cause, he vanished from existence. Gone. Poof!

It was so weird! And a bit of a hit to my pride if Im being totally honest. But mostly so weird!

In all of these adventures I must intimate to you, dear reader, that I do not feel that I am exhausting my options or even approaching expiration. I feel like an explorer. I feel elastic. I feel kinda like a female Indiana Jones. Stuffs getting real. I am seriously considering carrying a sack of sand in my leather shoulder bag, just in case I need to collect a golden idol from a pressurized trigger of death. (I already carry crayons and paper, so Im good if I need to make a rubbing of an ancient tablet in a flaming underground sewer.)

Sometimes when people read my blog they ask me, Was that true?

Come on guys, you cant make this stuff up.

Ps, only 10% of sex offenders use dating sites to meet their intended victims.

Monday, May 7, 2012

1,000 Kisses

I thought it would be like Pete Townshend said when I learned to love again. That someone would come along and whisper, or sing to me at an embarrassing family gathering “Dan in Real Life” Style, “Let my love open the door to your heart.” But that’s not how it happened at all. And I’m not saying that I’m in love, or that I was even close, but the door’s open, and the fresh air can come through. It’s kind of a funny story really. . .

I know this guy; he’s pretty cool by normal standards. In an awkward kind of way he seems to shine in peculiar moments. We’re buddies, but now and then he pulls out the stops and makes me feel just like Goldie Locks, minus the three angry bears. Not too hot, not too cold, not too soft, not too hard, not too big, not too small, just right. It’s that “just right” feeling that eased me out of a seven year shell.

I know what you’re thinking. A shell? You?

Yes, me. See, I had been dreading a spring cleaning experience involving long stories and all sorts of dirty laundry, and so I avoided facing the ugly truth about my heart, it was closed for business, out of service, in disrepair. Not because of some endless heartbreak, but because of neglect. Almost like those terrible abused animal commercials with Sara Mclachlan music in the background. I would step out of the shower and look in the mirror and hear that stupid Angel song playing in my head.


But pathetic is simply not my style, so I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do next, I read a book about it.

I dug in deep and did some real research. Sources like “He’s Just Not That in to You” and the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning presented such opposite views on the subject as to leave me absolutely unresolved. I listened to some “Dashboard Confessional” and google searched several famous “lovers”. I looked for general authority talks and quotations about being a bitter, frigid, spinster. (not that I think of myself that way, but more because I wanted to avoid that end at all costs!) I wrote about a million pages in my journal about sorting out my fears and knowing what I want. It all amounted to just about nil. Nothing. Nada.  Strange how introspection can often only clarify your desperate need for a pedicure and little else.

I moved out of my parent’s house, 25 years of Elizabeth packed into Daddy’s truck and about five trips in my jeep latter I took inventory. 146 books, 37 pairs of shoes, 8 strands of twinkle lights, 6 ruffled pillows, 1 painting of an apple, 1 hand-me-down guitar, 16 flavors of lip gloss, 1 mission, ¾ of an English degree, 2 nieces, 1 nephew, roughly 1,000 kisses, just as many photographs, 1 girl, out on her own in the great big old world with $286.00 in a jar that will take me to England someday. 

I felt like I was getting somewhere, and at the time, anywhere was a step in the right direction. On a long drive one night my buddy gave me some excellent advice, I think it might have been an accident. He said, “Why not?”

I took him at his word.

A friend came over far a bit to work of some school stuff and when he asked if he could kiss me I thought, why not?

A couple days later I breached all limits of sanity and when asked the same question by a very old and absolutely “friend” friend I thought, why not?

I returned to my buddy for a refund, clearly, CLEARLY, “why not?” was not working for me.

In the jumble and hullabaloo that was our recovery conversation we walked in tandem down a road and I found that it required very little patience to listen to his long drawn out thoughts. They were architecturally sound, able to withstand the elements and the pressures of time. They were well orchestrated like the music that always seems to be running through his head. I wouldn’t realize it for a few more days, weeks maybe, but I was starting to think in the back of my mind, why not?

So the other night, after my buddy took me out for some sympathy ice cream and told me that his feelings didn’t match mine, that he didn’t want to be romantically involved, I expected the caves that hope had been tunneling through my stone cold heart to crumble, trapping several unsuspecting Chileans. They didn’t.

So here’s to the next 1,000 kisses. Cause really, why not?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Stuff I've Made & Stuff I've Scrounged

     I have meant for a while to write this post, but first I had to take a few pictures! I've been busy crafting and scouring the countryside for bargains and ideas. (Kinda like a pirate) It's been tons of fun! Every time I make something cool my Mama is  proud and every time I get a screamin' deal my Daddy beams. Plus, I am totally stocked up for future endeavors in living outside my mama's house. (I know, it's about time, but I'm not planning on packing up my things too soon. I kinda like it here :))An interesting side effect of my habitual accumulation has been the consequent accumulation of bedroom space. I currently habitate two bedrooms, thusly accommodating myself, my books, and my hobbies. Yikes! Maybe I should get a place of my own!  
   Starting with my scrounging adventures, here's the low- down on the build- up!
This pretty little find came from an add on the internet. Mom has a tiny kitchen and needed some more storage space. The old guy with the storage shed wanted $60, he got $40. Bazinga!  
 These are the finds that Julie hates the most, the ones I grab from people's front lawns. The sign says "FREE" what would you do?? This was a small TV stand, I painted it and gave it a little re-enforcement, now it holds movies and a few books. The drawers are especially nice, I have a small room, they eliminated the need for a full sized dresser.

Mom says that in an earth quake these shelves will kill me. My books needed a home, all available wall space was dedicated to the cause.
I am so proud of this FanTaStiC MAP Desk! Yard Sale hopping on a Saturday morning with mom and dad, I scored like crazy. For $20 I picked up 2 DVD's, a welcome Pineapple, a retro fabulous segmented serving dish, and, for a mere $5, this super rad desk. I love, love, love it! 

I've squashed it next to ANOTHER book shelf, it's shelves are VAST. I'm excited just thinking about the                     day we hauled it home! Boy did Daddy laugh.
                                                                              I also MOdg Podged the letters on the book shelf spelling "Home" there are several interchangeable holiday "o's" I am excited to collect them all.                                                                          
 This cluttered mess was a lift off of a sweet friend Ruthie. She no longer harbored fond feelings for the beast, but I was (as ever) willing to make some room. (P.S. subtle homage to Marilyn & the , no joke, graphic novel of Pride&Prejudice featuring Miss Elizabeth, they's my homegirls.)

 This big fella is another excellent scrounge.
  Fo FREE. That's right, it was on another friendly neighbor's front lawn. This book shelf is massive! Took me a while to find a way to wedge it into one of my rooms. The solution came to me when the cold weather came and we had to bring Mom's rain forest inside for the winter. It's a great place for all of her house plants to get some sunshine safely behind the window. Sadly, this monster made me a tiny bit late for work. It was too big to fit in my Jeep! Lucky for me, Daddy was home and zoomed to my rescue in his Truck. It went something like this:
Me: Hey Daddy, whatchadoin?
Dad: Out in the garden, why?
Me: Well, I'm down the street and this enormous FREE bookshelf won't fit in my Jeep! Well, if I could lift it by myself I am sure I would find that it would not fit. Can you come help me?
Dad: What? I guess.
Me: Like right now? Cause I was on my way to work, but I gotta have this shelf!!!
Best Dad EVER.
This shelf is stuffed in the tiny space above my closet, I can't reach it, bit I can see it! 

This is a scrounge/Build. I found an ugly piece of wood in the wood pile out back, collected a few baby food jars (courtesy Grammy and Claire) and approached Dad with my idea. The result? I crooked and wonderfully useful ribbon rack and a great place to keep buttons and beads. Matty saved those love birds for me when they moved into Grandma Martin's house. He knows how I love birdies!

New adventures in paper crafting, I am still contemplating these, but I like the idea. I hope they turn out.

 Saw it on Pinterest! Old Oatmeal can. Outside holds headbands, other hair things go inside. So much better than digging through a drawer full of ribbons and flowers! I plan to make one with Alexandria next time we visit. I think she'll loving making it. Hopefully it will help her keep her hair things together and be more willing to put them away.
Cutest Banner Ever! Well, that's what I'm tellin myself. I had fun making it. The colors are really great.

This is a cover for my sewing machine. Flip it upside down and it becomes a carrying case with a wide comfy strap.

Well, those are my latest adventures! I have a closet full of these kinds of things. Matt thinks it's a terrific waste of space. Often lovingly referred to as my "hopeless chest", but I find a particular joy in making old things new, in putting orphaned pieces together to make a family. Ha ha, it's good to be your own kind of beautiful.

Friday, November 25, 2011


A Letter to Jane, the Sister of My Soul.

In the seventh grade I was a bit of a tender flower. That terrorist called puberty had rocked my world with a scandal. Still, at twenty-four, I am trying to figure out how to navigate through life with these hips. When grace abandons a young girl just before it’s time to start wearing high heels and batting her eye lashes, the adjustment is, well, awkward. I wasn’t sure what would become of me.  
Mom used to haul me along on her trips to “The Book-a-teria”, a used book store here in town, where she would trade in her paper-back cowgirl/mystery/romance novels for “new” ones. I discovered one day, while wondering through the cinderblock and wood plank shelving, a classics section. The first novel I selected was creamy brown with swirly, rough font. “Wuthering Heights”. Her thin yellowed pages were soft as feathers. I held the book by its binding in my left hand and with my right I bent the book like a rainbow. I slid my thumb across her page edges, fanning them open. The sweet, dusty smell of old moist paper and ink puffed out into the air, along with tiny floating particles of paper dust that blurred in the sunshine from the store windows. We understood each other. Used books are the reality of “beautiful on the inside”. I took her home with me.
Oh, Heathcliff! What you did to my heart!

I needed more. Inside the front cover was a cheesy list of “similar titles you might also enjoy”. That’s where I first found her.

Pride & Prejudice”, by Jane Austin.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school I had read my Barnes&Nobel copy at least a dozen times. On the cover was a dark haired Miss Elizabeth, in a pink floral patterned dress, sitting at a tea table in the garden. Next to her stood a rigid and fearsomely handsome, Mr. Darcy, in a top hat and a dark suit. I was forced to purchased a new copy eventually, the text had begun to rub off of my first love’s pages.
I read everything I could find of Jane’s. I read everything that seemed similar. I read everything that sat next to something of hers on the shelf. Something about her voice, her understanding of the love between sisters, her endless hope, her shameless delivery of the inevitable happy ending, built a bridge between us. I have been wondering back over that bridge to visit her ever since.
Jane knew something that I am always trying to forget. She knew, absolutely, that beauty is so much more than superfluous. She knew that good conversation was the secret of life, that walking heals your heart, that dancing is the best way to fall in love. Pride & Prejudice is not about practicality. It is about the heart of honesty, the bitter that enlivens the sweet, the dream that you don’t even realizing you are living until, suddenly, you wake up!
Jane might seem silly, or romantic, but she was real, and she believed. If I could channel a little bit of that energy, open my heart and not feel like it’s a chink in my armor, but a badge of courage, perhaps it would improve my senses. I feel an increase in my olfactory reception just thinking about it. What must the stars look like to eyes that are in love!
Gosh, I don’t mean, “let’s have a tea party and embroider cushions!” I just mean, have a little faith. You never know, it could happen. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

See You at the Whore House

Talking with my brother the other day about music, cause that’s one of the three things I think about, I mentioned some rad new tunage I had been experiencing on Spotify. Magically I was producing all kinds of delicious ear nourishment without paying. Flabbergasted, he insisted that I explain. So I told him, “Dude, it’s Spotify.”

“Where’d you here about that?” He said.
“My friend Jeff.”
“Where’d you meet Jeff?”
“The Whore House.”
“Oh, Okay. Move over, I’ll show you some good stuff.”
Guess you wanna know how he responded so coolly to such an interesting reply. Not a ton of big brothers are down with their little sister meeting fellows at a whore house.

This isn’t just any old house of ill repute, no no, around here, those are words of love. They refer to a few rooms surrounded by a few more walls that hold all kinds of sweet memories for me and my besties. We went in girls and boys, we came out Men and Women. Weird, but beautiful. It started a few years back, somewhere just before my first niece, Alexandria, was born.

Near the end of the summer my life took a sudden turn, a crazy one. I had been working at the car dealership, the cookie factory, processing and boxing bags of saline solution for shipment, selling long distance over the phone, tickets at the Dee Event Center, blah, blah, blah, and then; unemployed. I filled out an application at “The Living Scriptures” and when they called to offer me an interview I answered my phone, “Ticket Offi. . Thank you for. . Ken Garff. . . Hello?” 

They let me come anyway and later that week I was sitting in a conference room of noobie telemarketers looking for an irresponsibly quick pay day. 

Two weeks of training at $12 an hour followed wherein I met the former Miss Brittany Faye Garrett, now Mrs. Bee King, halved some delicious “Villa Bella” BLT’s, scrounged enough change to wrestle a Nutroll out of the vending machine on breaks, and ultimately, got fired for being a useless telephone salesperson who had never seen a living scriptures video and questioned the historical accuracy of the facial hair on the animated interpretations of biblical characters.

I ended up waitressing for Mrs. Lee at the Wing Wah, several stories for another day, and spending every egg-drop-soup free moment at the Whore House.

We were both stretched pretty thin in the cash department, and by thin I mean broke-da-broke. Starving for some salty sweet goodness and someone to talk to about our crazy trainer; I purchased a Nutroll and sat down next to Brittany. I don’t remember our first conversation but I’m sure it involved lots of laughing at least two enormously overstated “RIGHT?’s” and a sharp increase in volume and speed. In the background Karen Carpenter started singing, “We’ve only just begun. . .”
Bee invited me back to her place after work one night, while she smothered a slice of toast with a liberal smathering of peanut butter I was introduced to the roomies. Chau, Wendy, Lindsay, and Amanda. Beautiful and virtuous women though they were, they always seemed to have “company”. Technically, I was still living at home so when Mom asked me who I was hanging out with it took me a minute to report. “Where are you meeting all of these people?”
“At Brittany’s.”
“This sounds like an interesting house. . .” Matt mumbled in passing.
“You aren’t going there.” Mom said.
Matt didn’t, but I did, all the time.

 We joked one day in the kitchen about what the crazy old neighbors must be thinking, what with the swinging front door. The joke continued after I left for my shift at the “Wing Wah” and by the time I got back that night it was official. “The whore House” was our home.

Ironic really, considering the way we all left that great house. Chau and Lindsay were married in the summer to their handsome princes, Tyler, Austin, and I left on our missions, Amanda got married sometime in between. The house adopted Lyndee and Ruth, not sure when, Bee was a lousy pen pal, Wendy left on her mission, then bam, bam, bam, Lyndee, Ruthie, and Bee scooped up some princes for themselves. Tyler followed me home and stuck around, King officially crowned, Austen reclaimed his princess (not the one in fake eyelashes).

 T-Roy and I grew up, but just a little, and discovered some dreams to chase. One by one we left the house, but it never left us.
One of these days we’ll fold and one of us will buy that house. We’ll walk out the back door one afternoon to a mysterious BBQ (dejavu) and a text message will whip across the screens of my favorite non-relations in all the world.  

“Foods Hot,
See you at the
 Whore House.”