Saturday, November 25, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes

This is just a quick post, but had to document what my precious two-year old daughter said today...

So we're walking at Lake Junaluska (a local lake near our home), and I'm just pushing an empty stroller because she wanted to run ahead, of course. So she stops, puts her arms out, looks up at the sky, and says,

"Wanna hug blue sky!"

I don't know if I've EVER heard words that I found to be cuter. Just wanted to share.

Hope you guys all had a wonderful holiday!

p.s. Her blue sky comment definitely erased some not so cute things she says in public sometimes, like,

"mommy's big butt"
"mommy's nose yucky"
"mommy's boobies" (why couldn't 'big' go with boobies and not butt?)
"daddy/mommy go pee-pee/poopie"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Thanksgiving I Can't Recall

I was 16 or just turned 17 - hard to know, because my birthday always falls right around Thanksgiving. I drove myself and my younger brother in our 1985 Dodge Omni to our old elementary school near our neighborhood in Florence, Alabama. This is where I had learned how to ride a bike in the school's huge parking lot. The school also had a huge (I mean huge!) field adjacent to an outdoor basketball court. Wade and I spread ourselves wide apart in this field and began to toss the Aerobie.

Anyone who has ever thrown one of these things knows how far they can go. At the time, the record for tossing an Aerobie was three football fields. No kidding! They are fun, too, because they have a nice rubbery grip to them and a hole in the center for easy catching. It was always a great feeling to run about 300 yards and catch one. It was the kind of reward a simple Frisbee just couldn't provide.

So we're tossing this thing and Wade really lets one go. It's headed over my head but I'm able to track it as I run backwards. I really don't think it's going to be a problem to catch.

Then, blackness.

Remember that basketball court I mentioned, the one adjacent to the huge field? I managed to run backwards full-tilt right into one of the large metal goalposts.

Wade, 12 or 13 at the time, ran my way and helped me sit up. He noticed (God bless him) that one of my contact lenses had popped out of my eye and was now resting on the back of my hand. He saved it for later. I am told that I drove us back home. "I kind of wondered if that was a good idea," he later admitted. Not only was I impaired, but I was driving one eye blind.

For the next hour my behavior was very erratic. I would laugh for a while and then cry, ask over and over again the same question ("Did I have my birthday already?") Everyone knew something was weird. It didn't take long before I was on my way to the local hospital, then placed in an ambulance and shuttled to Muscle Shoals for a CATScan.

The determination was that I'd had a concussion, but no dangerous swelling. It helps to be hard-headed. (At least that's what I keep telling my wife.) That evening I began to come to my senses a little.

So much for Thanksgiving dinner. That got postponed till the next day.

That holiday still remains the Thanksgiving I Can't Recall. I'm just thankful I survived.

Be thankful for memory - while you have it!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Thoughts

When I was growing up, we always had Thanksgiving at one (or both) of my grandmother's houses. For the most part, the menus were basically the same: turkey, country ham, dressing (my family always used the word dressing, not stuffing - probably because we had it in a separate pan), green beans, candied yams, cranberry sauce, homemade cheese biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy, collard greens with vinegar, and of course, pecan pie.

I just re-read that paragraph, and it sounds like I'm 80 years old reminiscing about the good old days. But given the fact that I LOVE food, it seems to fit just right.

Well, this year I'm cooking Thanksgiving for the first time. Our friend that we met in Peace Corps, Nerissa, is coming from Nashville with her new beau and her 3-year old son, Isaac. We've started the tradition of having Thanksgiving with friends, and so far I love it. So here's my menu, if anyone is interested:

homemade chex mix (eric's favorite)

roasted turkey breast
homemade mac and cheese
sweet potato and apple bake
green beans with lemon butter

pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream

We certainly have so much to be thankful for this year - a healthy family, a safe home, the beautiful mountains that we call home, and of course, all of you.

Happy Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Get the Kleenex

Let me preface this by saying that I HATE FORWARDS, but for some reason I read this one. Glad I did.

Being a Mom

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that
she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family."

"We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should
have a baby?"

"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.

"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."

But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.

I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire, will haunt her! That when she sees
pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make
sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child
molester may be lurking in that restroom.

Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to
accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor. And that my daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much
more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste
the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.

"You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.

I love you, Stells.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Household Woes

So we thought we were going to host a "caravan" of realtors tomorrow, which basically means that several real estate agents would be coming by our house. The idea is that all the agents in a particular office should be familiar with everyone's listings, so they can recommend them to their buyers.

Well, it was postponed until after Thanksgiving, which means our mad dash to get the house perfect has been put on hold. It kind of bums me out, not because I desperately wanted to be up until midnight with the shop-vac in our basement...but more that it would all be done. So now we're kind of forced to put off more cleaning/organizing because with a dog AND a two-year old, it's not like anything stays straight around here for long!

If this is the worst of our problems, then we really can't complain.

We're looking forward to Thanksgiving and to Eric's birthday on the 24th. Hopefully, a good friend of ours from Peace Corps may come from Nashville and join us.

Are you asleep yet? Nothing much else to say, so enjoy these photos of our everyday life that we love. Goodnight!
(disclaimer - I'm still not good at lining up the text with the photos. sorry!)

Our porch
Our best friends, Brittain and Pat
Our favorite hiking spot
Our Stella

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Someone's Gotta Win

I feel a weird kind of disinterest after the tidal wave of political turnover on Tuesday. Usually I feel SOMETHING after a seachange such as this. I did vote, after all. Got up early and everything. Felt good about myself. Looked at my fellow voters with the formation of tears in my eyes.

I think the cause of my ennui is what I'll call the "Brittany Principle." It goes something like this:

At any given time, there is a young, perky, somewhat sexy pop singer hitting it big on the charts, selling a gazillion records, taking the country by storm. That is because someone discovered in the early 1980s (perhaps it was with Tiffany, or Debbie Gibson, or maybe even sooner - Blondie?) that pop singing blondes really get a lot of good attention. I'm sure there are a lot of blonde ingenues vying for this position. But that doesn't mean any of them are talented. In any case, here's the principle: just because something floats to the top, doesn't mean it has a lot of value. (eg. Even scum floats.)

Someone's gotta be the "singing blonde" of the day. Someone's gotta be Congressman. Possibly, we'll be laughing at them in People in a few years. Perhaps I'm just cynical. But we just elected a former (very bad) NFL quarterback in our district. He flunked out while with the Washington Redskins. Way back, he was the most heavily recruited high school quarterback before he went to college. But someone has to be the most heavily recruited quarterback....

It's all relative. I hope, as a country, we begin doing a better job picking our leaders. This might be enough just to get me more involved on the local level. If we're going to throw the bums out, it would be nice if we didn't simply replace them with more bums.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A "Spookied Up" Wedding

When Ben and Tracy Phillips invited us to their Halloween party, our first thought was: "No way! That's our anniversary." Then we realized that a Phillips party would have everything we always looked for on our anniversary: good food, candlelight -- and martinis with floating eyeballs! So we threw together some costumes and joined about a dozen guys and ghouls for some good fun.

The Phillips really went all out. There was a ghost hanging from a noose on the front porch, with some dry-ice smoke and scary music. Inside there were plenty of candles and spider webs on everything. Ben had procured several pumpkins for a carving contest, and Tracy had found a way to make chocolate martinis scary. The scariest detail: family photo frames had been replaced with headless relatives, fanged portrait subjects, and so on. Freaky!

What Marian didn't realize is that a plan was hatching in my twisted little brain (which had been stolen from the grave of a criminal!). My bridge partner Scott Osondu had remarked to me that the best wedding he had ever attended was a Halloween wedding with everyone in costume. So I asked our hosts if it would be okay if a wedding took place in the middle of their party. Tracy was a total witch about it. Actually, she only looked like a witch. Her response was: "That's so romantic! Of course!"

I asked Marian to marry me again, to her, uh, horror. But she was on the spot so she said, "Okay." Tracy and a very Victorian Christine served as her bridesmaids while a male nun performed the service. It actually worked out just right, as I was dressed for the party as a Hippie Groom, while Marian went as a Gypsy Bride.

Marian and I tied the knot (not a noose!) six years ago on her uncle's farm in Raleigh. Marrying her was the best decision I ever made. And she is even more beautiful today than the first time I married her.

P.S. "Spookied Up" refers to one more hilarious story our friend Del Lancaster tells about his kindergarten students. One child, Justin, won't use a modifier when he speaks. So, when a classmate gets muddy, Justin says, "Uh-oh, you're all muddied up!" When Justin saw Del's new October calendar on the wall, it was, in his country drawl: "Mr. Del, that picture's all spookied up!"

Friday, November 03, 2006

Home Sweet Home (if we only had a kitchen)

Hi Guys!

Been a while since we wrote, but we have been in Raleigh, NC, all week visiting my aunt and uncle. They live on a beautiful farm there, and it's of course special to us since we married there six years ago. They have tons of space, both inside and outside the house, so Stella had A BLAST! Oh, and the llamas and cows that they have - you can imagine how exciting that stuff is to a two-year old. She basically ran from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and then collapsed into her pack and play dreamland every night!

We saw some old friends while we were there, including author Reynolds Price, whom Eric worked for years ago. He took us to an incredible dinner at Taverna Nikos (Greek food) in Durham's famous Brightleaf Square. We also saw my oldest friend Sarah, who was the maid of honor in our wedding, and we saw Kristen, who took these beautiful photos that I've posted. She is Stella's godmother and loves Stella, at times, even more than we do, I think!

Eric got some work done on a story he's working on for Duke Alumni Magazine too, which was the main reason we decided to take the trip in the first place.

We came back to what we thought would be a new kitchen - new cabinets and countertops, appliances re-arranged, etc. Well, we have the cabinets. That's all. It looks like Sanford and Son on our porch. We have a dishwasher, sink, and range just sitting outside our house. Which means we can't cook. We can't wash dishes. Now, I know we were in the Peace Corps, and we're tough and all - but adding Stella to the mix changes everything. She's underfoot when the workers are around, and there are deadly nails, staples, and wires everywhere. So basically we're eating out a lot and trying to keep her busy out of the house until they are finished. It better look awesome when they're done!

But home is sweet, back to our comfortable bed and quiet wooded neighborhood. And back to 42 degree temps during the day! Brrrr.

Hope you enjoy these photos.