Monday, October 29, 2012

Running On Fumes

ThreeAndAHalfHoursSleep.  In the words of two-year-old Jules, “ho-wee cow.”
I just want to tell you—as you sit there googling terms that land you on my insignificant blog—this is all your fault.  Because of you, I couldn’t sleep last night.  Well, that and an afternoon nap and that cup of peppermint mocha I drank at seven o’clock p.m.  What part of “decaf” didn’t that barista understand?  And there I stood, on the phone with my sister, trusting Starbucks to check mark all the boxes on my cup so I wouldn’t have to question their memory, when Bam!  I get hit with two shots of complimentary espresso.  Wait . . . where was I?  Oh, yeah, blaming you for my insomnia.
On the other hand, when inspiration hits me, there’s no ignoring it.  I just have to say, “Yes, master,” in that zombie voice, pull up my laptop and wave to my husband as he heads to bed without me.  He knows I have no control over this.  It’s just best to let it run its course.
So I wrote til today arrived. I wrote for posterity. I wrote for the betterment of humanity. I wrote for public approval.  I wrote until my eyes began to slam shut. 
It’ll be fine, I thought to myself, as the words held me hostage, forcing me to put them down on cyber paper.  I had that nap this afternoon, I reminded myself, as yawns refused to come.  It’ll just take a while to wring the last drop of coffee out of my veins, I thought, and in the meantime, I’ll blog. Sleep is overrated, right?  Finally I crawled into bed at 2:30 a.m.  “Hi there, Caffeine Queen,” my husband muttered as I apologized to my despondent pillow.
Now it’s 6 a.m., my eyes are scratchy, my brain is foggy, and in a few minutes I have to get behind the wheel of a half ton pickup so I can play Follow The Leader on the freeway.  I don’t even remember where I’m going.  But that alarm screamed “Get Up!” and now I gotta drive . . . someplace.  All because I have an addiction to writing.  I would have thrown my laptop at the alarm and gone back to sleep, but now I remember why I had to get up so early. Why I just swallowed four vitamin C’s and a couple of One-A-Day’s.  Why I drank some caffeine and splashed cold water in my face. It’s my weekly appointment to walk with a friend.
I might have to give up walking.  I think it’s bad for my health.
 

(Photo courtesy of H is for Home's photostream, Flickr.com)

Oh, Give Me A Home . . .

The Pioneer Woman.  I think I always wanted to be her.  Back to nature.  Living off the land. Mother Earth News pinup.  I wanted to milk my own cow, whip my own butter, grow my own tomatoes, and can all our jams.  For years my husband and I were flat broke, so I was halfway there.  I hung out our laundry on a line in the sun.  Diapered our babies in cloth and plastic pants. I sewed—a few of—their clothes. Nursed them devotedly and made baby food in a blender.  I learned to dissect a chicken and fry it up like the colonel.  And we decorated our garden with a homemade scarecrow one fall.
Yep, we were country.  In the city.
But ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to live on a farm.  Who knows why?  Maybe I sang Old McDonald too many times.  I wanted to have a horse. And play in a barn. And walk three miles to school down a country road. Instead, I spent my childhood in a California trailer park with a view of San Quentin.
So how do you get to be one of the lucky few who grow up surrounded by chickens and rodeos?
My granddad grew up on a family farm in Kansas, a farm that ran for over one hundred years until the last son retired—childless—and sold it to some city slickers.  My granddad had escaped to the city to become an engineer.  He didn’t want to raise his kids on the family farm. He fell hard for the desert and an eighteen-year-old beauty and never looked back at the amber waves of grain behind him.
It’s funny, isn’t it?  City kids want to live in the country and country kids long for the city.
The truth is, even The Pioneer Woman came to the country late.  She grew up in a country club neighborhood, the privileged daughter of a surgeon. On her way to Chicago to become a lawyer, she met her Marlboro Man and promptly changed occupations.  Now she lives on a ranch, runs a blog, homeschools her four kids, and takes pictures of cows. In her back yard.
Maybe I have more in common with her than I realized.  We both started out as city girls. Check.  We both homeschooled. Check check.  We both blog.  Triple check. We’re both redheads.  And I take pictures of my grandkids in my back yard.
So what if I don’t milk a cow? It’s five minutes to the grocery store.  And who cares if my jam isn’t  homemade, especially if the biscuits are.  I make a pretty good pie from scratch, and I drive by ranches full of horses every day on my way home.  Last week I even saw a camel in a corral.
I guess the life you have is the one to appreciate.  I may never be any good at rodeoing or chasing chickens or growing tomatoes.  But I’m also no good at getting up at the crack of dawn so I can feed  animals.  I’m not even any good getting up an hour after it cracks to feed my husband. The HOA won’t let me have chickens, but there are early risers five miles from my house who are happy to sell their fresh eggs to me.  Farmers have markets less than ten miles away, and my home isn’t far from the range.  
I think I know my limitations.  I’m not really cut out for life on a farm.  But just for fun, I’ll keep living vicariously through the blog of that pioneer gal.  From the comfort of my lazy boy.
My cowboy hat’s off to her.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dichotomy At Dusk

Asked to create whatever this visual prompt inspires, the following is a little fiction drawn from this beautiful picture.

Mournful.  Obscure.  The vague glow of a hovel’s feeble light was, at first, diminished by its heavenly cousin in celestial display. While muted colors competed in melded beauty, the road less traveled appeared both welcoming and alarming.  Dichotomy at dusk.
I felt drawn by the boldly lit window, compelling me on with surprising allure.  Still, it was impossible to say if the road’s rise promised safety or obscured danger.  While the  rutted path to the beacon summoned, the disappearing boundary stirred caution in my soul.  How could I trust what I could not see?  Even the moon feigned weakness this night, its glow diffused by vaporous fog in a mottled sky.
I cursed the curiosity that led me too far down this path.  What’s wrong with the safety of security, anyway?  Who decided a comfort zone is uncomfortable? And why must I trade the familiarity of my surroundings in exchange for an uncharted road?
It seems I am always surrounded by dare devils and cheerleaders.  “Take a risk!” they cry.”  “Live til you die!” they admonish.  “Shut the hell up,” I want to say, but I am too afraid of offending.  I know in my heart, though, they’d just laugh at the outburst, delighted to stir up reaction from me.
And where are they now? I asked myself bitterly.  Full of advice, but nowhere in sight. I could run back to safety, but surely I’d find them there laughing at my failure.  “We knew you couldn’t do it!” they’d shout to my shame.
Suddenly this road seemed friendlier than the goading crowd behind me.  And though its secrets were sheltered, Hope urged me on in the dim light. Perhaps serenity, masquerading as loneliness, is a better companion than self absorbed chums.
Another step forward, my path somehow clearer, purpose took charge in my soul.
“This is my journey,” I thought confidently. “I’ll travel this way after all.”  I gathered my courage, forgiving curiosity, and as I followed the rise my taunters fell dismally silent.
That’s when I knew.  
All I need to walk alone in the dark is to follow the road that leads to the light.


(Photo by Anton Novoselov on Flickr)
With thanks to Liz Shaw for this story's inspiration through her writing prompt, http://www.thewritingreader.com/blog/2012/10/21/prompt-457-visual-prompt-of-the-week-moon-over-a-country-road/

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hush, Little Child

It was 1979.  A new album played on our new turntable and the lyrics made me cry.  The melody  haunting, the voice pure and strong, and before the year ended, I memorized the song.
It was 1981.  A babe in my arms.  His face sweet and delicate, his voice small but strong, and before the night ended I sang him the song.
Two short years later, another babe in my arms.  Her face soft and lovely, her voice pure and strong, and throughout the long nights, I sang her the song.
I sang it each evening as I turned off their lights, my voice strong and soothing, then I wished them good night.
Now it’s 2012. The children are grown.  In their arms now they each hold sweet babies, their own. They’ve heard that old song and request it each night, and my babies now sing as they hold their babes tight.
Just yesterday morning her two-year-old played beside the piano when I came to stay. Childish and lilting, the stuttered words clear, she sang—and I wept—as the song reached my ear.
Its melody haunting, still that sweet lullaby encircled my heart in the voice of her child.
Hush little child -- wipe that tear from your eye
Don't you be scared of the dark
For someone is watching to guard as you sleep
Protecting each moment you grow

Chorus:He'll take care of you, my darling, He loves you
He'll take care of you, my darling, for me
He'll take care of you and love you forever and ever
He'll take care of you, my darling, for me.

Moonlight casts shadows on warm summer nights
And the winter wind whispers through the whistling brush
There's no need to worry, He'll stay by your side
And nothing can touch you but love


Words & Music by David Meece 
Copyright 1979  Meece Music (admin by) WORD Music

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Arkansas Blues

I’m not that good at swearing.
I’m kind of a late bloomer, and I probably shouldn’t even admit in public that foul language has ever crossed my lips.  I blame it on the culture I’m surrounded by—and my husband.  If he hadn’t driven through Arkansas, then my lips would still be pure as the driven snow.
Oklahoma is my friend.  Oklahoma has a speed limit of 70 mph.  You can cross their windmill scattered prairies at a pretty good clip and not get pulled over by bored state troopers.  Not so in Arkansas.  In Arkansas they believe that I-40 is their personal property and will punish out-of-state drivers for using it.
We were on a not-so-fun trip to Atlanta where my husband would soon undergo heart surgery.  Rob has feet that are not made of lead, and the only time he drives over the speed limit is, well, never actually.  He is the world’s safest driver. 
But at the border of Arkansas, on Interstate 40 as you leave Oklahoma, the posted speed is 60. That info is followed immediately by a giant billboard declaring “No Tolerance”, complete with a state trooper parked directly beneath it, radar gun aimed across the dashboard at innocent drivers in Oklahoma.  Now, come on.  Not even the turtle crossing the finish line in front of the hare could have slowed down ten miles an hour before he passed that billboard!
And that, my friends, is the definition of “No Tolerance”.  Don’t take a chance on Arkansas.  Trust me—they are not tolerant.
The cop flipped on his lights, spun around in the dirt like he’d just caught sight of O.J., and pulled us over in front of God and everybody.  Way to go, Barney Fife, I thought wryly. You just stopped Andy.
He swaggered up to our aging blue Ford Expedition, leaned in on one arm through the open driver’s window, and announced to my husband, “You, uh, were doing five over the limit there.  You wanna come with me?”  And he turned back to his squad car where, in a matter of a few seconds, he seated my potentially felonious husband next to him in the front seat while checking out our license plate. 
He seemed a little disappointed, I later discerned, to discover that our suburban race car was delivering us to a waiting surgeon and not a gang of bank robbers.  In short order, as his instincts were unarmed by my husband’s good citizenship and southern manners, the cop wearied of intimidating him and let him go with a warning.
I should have been pleased.  I should have kept my mouth shut.  I did neither. I was furious.
I dare not say here in public all the blasphemous and shocking terms that emerged from my mouth once my husband re-buckled his seat belt in his own truck.  I have no excuse.  And, in some religious circles, I also lost my salvation.  But I did get satisfaction, even with the doors closed and the windows rolled up.
“What if he heard you?”  Rob said to me in shock.  “This is the reason I talk to officers, and you don’t!”
Which kind of didn’t make any sense, since that sounded like I don’t get pulled over by cops and he does.  But it didn’t stop me.  It didn’t even slow me down.  I called that guy in the flashing car every name I could think of. Of course, it took a while.  I’m kind of inexperienced.  Rob just rolled his eyes as my potty mouth spit out bad words in staccato.The next morning I remembered one I’d forgotten and then I called him that one, too.  Finally I texted my best friend and told her I’d just cussed out a state trooper in Arkansas.
“To his face?!?!?”  she texted incredulously.
“No, to Rob’s face.” I wrote back.  Geez, what does she take me for, a dope?
The next morning we left Arkansas in a driving rain and crossed briefly into Tennessee’s friendly 70 mph arms.  I rolled down my passenger window, leaned out into the downpour and yelled at the top of my lungs,
“Good-BYE, Arkansas!” and then pulled my dripping head back inside and rolled up the window. 
Bet they don’t pull us over anymore.  Especially since Arkansas is now on our ‘no drive’ list. Rob’s still afraid that guy might have heard me.



Monday, October 15, 2012

My Major Award

November 17, 2012.   I’m drawing a circle around that date.  It means two years have gone by.  Two years since I stepped out on the web and let people see what’s on my mind.
What was I thinking???
It’s the second anniversary of my View From The Winepress.  And guess what?  I got a Major Award this year!  It’s the Liebster Blog Award.  I was nominated for it by my friend and mentor, Liz, of The Writing Reader  (http://www.thewritingreader.com) because I run a blog which currently has fewer than 200 followers.  Getting this award means the nominator thinks more people should read my stuff. 
So, thanks, Liz!  I’ve never received a Major Award before!  Well, except for that free hot dog lunch I won in first grade for a PTA poster I drew.  It was a pretty good poster.  And a pretty good hot dog.
But there’s a tiny little catch—I gotta share the love.  I have to nominate five other up and coming blogs for their own Liebster.   
This is turning out to be harder than it sounds. I found four, but I’m having trouble finding one more.  Most of the blogs I enjoy have already made the big time.  Others haven’t been updated in two years.  Some are photo albums with no writing. Many use their freedom of speech a little too freely for me to recommend.
I was going to nominate one lady until I saw she’s already received the Liebster, and is stuck trying to find a fifth writer herself. She actually posted a want ad for any blogger who wants to get a free award.  I’d apply, but I don’t need to.
I’m starting to feel some pressure to get this thing wrapped up. Liz told me she’s about to take back my Liebster if I don’t pass it on soon. I don’t think she can really do that, though.  I’ve already tattooed it on my website.  Besides, if she un-nominates me, she’ll be back to a list of four recommendations of her own and then her nominator will have to take back Liz’s award and so on and so on and so . . . .
I could just . . . start another blog under a pseudo-pseudo name and recommend that one.  But it’s a pretty risky idea.  If my new one goes viral while this one stays small, I think it’ll hurt my feelings. 
In the meantime, I am delighted to pass on the Liebster to the following four blogs which you should definitely check out:
  1. Confessions of an Incompetent Blogger by Emi Bauer  (http://emibauer.wordpress.com)
  2. Teeter Tottering by Lynne Hartke   (http://www.lynnehartke.com )
  3. Finejulery by Jules    (http://www.finejules.blogspot.com)
  4. Millionayres.com by Michelle Ayres  (http://www.Millionayres.com)
And when you’re finished with those, check out this one I found while I was busy writing this piece.  Hey, I’m ambidextrous.
5.      Helping Women Live With Purpose
Congratulations to all five of these amazing women and their awesome blogs.  There’s a little bit of something for everyone in this list, and I recommend every one of them highly, including The Writing Reader, even though Liz threatened to take away my Liebster.
Hey, you can take my dog, but don’t even think about touching my Major Award.  Some things are sacred.

(Photo courtesy of r_gnuce at Flickr.com)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fracturing Fairy Tales

Once upon a time two flawed people fell in love.
Not the way most fairy tales begin, is it?  I guess that’s why they call them fairy tales—if you marry a fantasy character in real life, you don’t get the stuff of which legends are made.
Heroes who become legendary are flawed people.  Face it—even Superman had a krypton allergy.  Florence Nightingale—the ‘ministering angel’ who nursed soldiers back from death during the Crimean War?  She retired to her bedroom her last forty years, nursing her own hypochondria and waiting to die.
Heroes do remarkable things under difficult circumstances.  Fantasies are illusions, filled with vaporous characters and condensed plots.  What was Peter Pan doing all those years until he got nailed down to his sensible shadow?  And Sleeping Beauty.  Do you realize when she woke up to that kiss and married the stranger who did it, she was a hundred years his senior?  That’s just wrong on so many levels.  What did they even have to talk about?  You know music had to have changed.
Still, these are the lives we long for.  ‘Happily Ever After’ and ‘The End’ are really just the beginning of the story, but we never get to hear the rest—the part that takes fifty or sixty years to live. 
Sometimes people look at my marriage and think we must have been born under a lucky star.  Okay, well, that part’s true.  But what my husband and I don’t talk about much are the times we engage in parallel conversations, misunderstanding that we’re both saying the same thing, and walk away with hurt.  Or how about when I throw him under the bus telling that same old story that embarrasses him but always gets a laugh from others?  Um hmm—true love, that is.  And believe it or not, sometimes we both are so proud and self protective, we let each other down while we hold ourselves up.
Doesn’t sound like heroics to me, does it to you?
But I bet you can relate.  And beat yourself up with the best of us.  Maybe we don’t have to go that far.  Maybe we just choose the wrong heroes. It happens all the time in sports, you know.  One minute a kid wants to grow up to be just like that rich, illiterate football star, and the next week his hero is in jail, autographing his own mug shot.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what are you trying to say, you ask me.  Sigh.  See?  Even my writing is imperfect.  I’m saying perfection is not the goal.  Transparency is the goal. The real heroes in life are those who openly admit they are flawed.  A single ‘I’m sorry’ is worth a hundred ‘I was right’s.
I’m a flawed person who fell in love with a flawed person.  We let each other down all the time because we hold up unrealistic expectations of what love should look like.  But this is what love looks like.  Love gives sacrificially and without being deserved.  And when a man loves me like that, I want to love him back the same way.  For better or worse, that makes him my hero.
Now that’s legendary.

(Photo courtesy of kh1234567890's photostream on flickr.com)