Monday, January 23, 2017

Grateful on a January Evening

     The snow melted and today it was almost 60 degrees and I'm a little confused because it legit feels like spring.

     Something about January makes my creativity levels skyrocket. I can be empty of words for weeks and then crazy January weather hits and suddenly I'm plotting out novels and thinking about submitting magazine articles and writing poems, of all things! I remember last year one day late last winter when the snow was melted and I went outside and sat in the bed of my dad's truck and read a book for hours, inhaling the smell of manure from the field by the house and the tingling feeling of winter crossing over with early spring. :-)

     Sometimes I get anxious. It's weird because so many things I'm so chill about, and then I'll agree to do something and find myself in a whole new setting where I feel totally inept and inadequate, and I start to doubt myself. Will I be able to do it, what if someone doesn't like it, what if I mess up?


     My faith should not be in myself anyway. I'm just a little girl in a huge world I have no control over. I say stupid stuff and get nervous My faith should be in the Lord, who never doubts and never leaves and never fails. He's got this whole thing in the bag and a lot of times I just need to calm down.

     Besides, there are so many things to be grateful for. Gratitude is so much bigger than fear.

- church: that place where you can go and you know you'll be greeted with smiles and hearty handshakes you'll sit down in a pew with the people you love most in the world and the Word of God will be spoken and life will make sense again. I love my church so much. A year ago I wouldn't have thought I'd look forward to Sunday mornings so much. I get to stand up on the platform with a bunch of older folks and sing old hymns I don't even know and I love it.

- far away friends: they might be scattered all across the globe but I wouldn't love them more if they all lived in my neighborhood. (Though that would be really nice.) You all rock and if I didn't have you I'd be generally nastier. And I wouldn't get so much mail and that'd sorta suck.

- homeschool homies: every Tuesday night my sister and I hop in my truck and drive a sort of ridiculously long way to a tiny little house where nobody lives anymore and it's only lit up once a week when a bunch of homeschooler kids get together and dance reels and jigs. I've been surrounded by these people all my life but I had to get older to realize how much they mean to me.

- western miniseries: laugh if you want. But my television series make me happier than a lot of things. Have you ever stayed up late at night by yourself and watched episode after episode of a show just because you could? I'm listening to the soundtrack of Into the West and remembering those summer nights when my family went to bed and my sister was away at camp so I filled the void with frontier exploring, Indian traditions, gold prospecting, and building the transcontinental railroad.

- the squad: even if it's down to just the three of us, we're still going strong. There's no one I'd rather go bowling with on a Friday night.

- the surprises: and the beautiful fact that I'm always learning new things. Which is sometimes terrifying. But it's a beautiful thing when you really think about it.

     So I'll give thanks, because that's the least I can do.


P.S. I'm eighteen in a week and two days! Whaaaat!

Friday, January 20, 2017

On the eve of your birthday.

     Tomorrow's your birthday. And I'm gonna write something tonight because I have to go to work in the morning and I might not get it done.

     How did we get here?

     I'm sentimental and ornery and you're creative and bouncy. You knew me when I was quiet -- when I used to mostly talk on the internet, before I started listening to country which had to be a hundred years ago -- and you were eager to learn and way too excited. You liked my name and I liked how you signed with x's. Something clicked inside and suddenly we were friends. How did it happen?

     We wrote tons and tons of emails and you saw the other sides of me and I finally memorized all your siblings' names. We wrote and wrote and dreamed and planned. One spring day I drove with my mom to the airport and there you were coming out of the terminal, and I swear my heart leaped and got caught somewhere around my throat. I don't think they like it when you scream in airports. But hugging you for the first time was one of the biggest things that's ever happened to me, and you know how we are -- we have to scream.

     Remember the ferris wheel and the hotel steps and the strawberries and the kittens and the kayaking and the bookstores? And singing Stars in the van with all of us kids? Grandpa made us popcorn and Mrs. H said you had lovely teeth. (You do.) Everyone thought your accent was the coolest ever and I don't know how many times I said, "This is my friend, Naomi, she's visiting from Belgium." And I was so proud to say it, and to introduce you as my best friend.

     I never had a best friend before you. I'll never have one after you either, cuz you're my best best friend.

     And now I've known you for four years and you're eighteen. (Or, you will be in a few hours.) Eighteen, and beautiful with frizzy brown hair and laughing eyes. Eighteen with a heart ready to serve and hands ready to work. Eighteen with a deep love for your family and for your God.

     You inspire me every day, and that's not a joke. You make me want to be a nicer person and a better writer and a more faithful Follower, and you make me want to take lots of pictures and eat lots of ice cream and talk to little boys and make people smile, because you make me smile. You're like no one else I know -- you're totally unique and totally weird and totally genuine.

    I'm cowgirl boots and you're tennis shoes; I'm horses and dogs and you're sparkles and washi tape. We're so different. You don't get my gory westerns and I was freaked out by Call the Midwife. But we're okay, you and me, and I am blessed beyond reason and anything I deserve to have you. Have fun watching P&P with your girls and eating garlic bread; I'm wishing dreadfully that I was there, but you'll have fun without me and someday soon we'll see each other again.

     Happy birthday Naomi! <3


Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Funniest Thing Ever

     Once I was fourteen and I was in the college choir. I shouldn't really have been there, but my mom worked it out somehow -- sometimes moms do things like that.

     The second semester a new kid started showing up. I noticed him because he wore camouflage and a Smith & Wesson ball cap and had a key chain so long it nearly dragged on the floor, but besides that it was kinda hard not to notice him. He was kinda loud. Also in a community college choir, everyone new who shows up is a novelty. Some of those people have been there since the 80's. (For example Mr. janitor-in-the-back-row.) Basically all-around everybody is a novelty.

    Judging by the way he was dressed and his general swagger, I figured this kid for a country boy. They're hard to miss.

    So I may have kept my eye on him. When Mr. B picked out soloists, I was one of them. He gave Mr. Smith & Wesson the solo in 'Seasons of Love' from Rent. Again, I think this was just because he was loud and drew attention, because the kid wasn't that extraordinary of a singer. I thought he had potential, but he sang without any energy, kinda flat. Like he could be really good if he tried, but he wasn't trying because, being as he was a college boy, he didn't care. Apparently he couldn't read music because he didn't sing the solo right either. It bothered me every time but Mr. B never corrected him, and I certainly wasn't going to go back to the bass section and point it out. I was fourteen.

     The night of the spring concert came. Backstage just before we went on I heard Mr. Smith & Wesson and some of his friends talking.

     "Do you know you're not singing it right?" one of the friends said. She demonstrated how it was supposed to be sung.

     His response indicated he could care less.

     The head of the music department finished his fluffy little speech, and the choir walked onstage. I climbed to the top riser. When my solo came I stepped down to the microphone and tried to look out over the audience without actually meeting the eyes of anyone I knew. When I was done I went back. Mr. Smith & Wesson's part came and he went forward to the microphone just like the others had. I watched closely.

     He sang -- and it was nothing like he'd practiced it. For the first time ever he sang the part like it was written, only he fancied the whole thing up, and exaggerated the runs, and held the microphone like he was Elvis Presley, and everyone in the choir just kind of stared bug-eyed and wondered what the heck he was doing.

     He finished, and turned around to walk back and there was a smug grin spread over his face.

     It was pretty much the funniest thing ever.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

hay customer

     There's an old man who lives on the hill.
     His house is tucked away from the road in some trees and it looks just like Spur's cabin in The Man From Snowy River, all brown boards and a tin roof with smoke curling up from the chimney pipe. The windows are full of cardboard boxes and smudged with age. Who knows what he does in there. Looking in the window I can see his beard. Daddy and I pull into the drive with the red truck, loaded with fifteen bales of hay; every first of the month. Only I don't usually come. But I wanted to see him.
     His whole place is a fascinating mess, with boards and boxes and rusty equipment lying all over the place. Daddy and I unload the hay in the lean-to and I almost trip and fall on all the plastic containers and bottles rolling on the cement floor. Presently the door of the house opens and the four-wheeler starts up. Here he comes. He rides a four-wheeler everywhere he goes because he can't walk so good.

    Daddy says hello, remember Emma? They josh around a little while. He looks down at my boots. "Cowgirl boots?" he says, amused.
     I smile.
     He shows me his miniature horses -- "Her name is Mystic Warpaint something-or-other," he says, "but I call her Sarah." Then his chickens -- "Close the door, don't let them get out." He and Daddy talk about things, where he gets his feed, hunting season this year, pistol permits, all that kind of important life stuff. This guy knows his business. He talks about everything intelligently, and I just listen, because it's fascinating.

    His main business is guns. He repairs them and makes custom handles. That's how he identifies himself when he calls on the phone -- "this is the gun man." I don't know anybody else who fixes guns. I don't know anybody else who lives all by themself in a little house on a hill when they're pushing seventy-five and can't hardly walk anymore. He should have a book written about him just cuz of the kind of guy he is. There aren't too many like him anymore.

     Daddy slams the tailgate shut and we say goodbye. Take care, see you next month. The sun's setting over the hill in a pink colorwash. We pull out of the narrow driveway, and he gets on his four-wheeler, goes back to his house and slips inside.

     Like a ghost, like he was never there. But I've never met anybody so real.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reflections and stuff.

     I've been thinking -- because it's new year's, you know, and that's what you're supposed to do -- and tonight I'm sitting on the basement floor up against the freezer paging through all my journals from 2016. This year I filled four. Four notebooks full to busting of silly girl emotions and angry explosions and questions about life, some with answers and some still waiting on it. Going back and reading through, it's like seeing everything laid out in a clean perspective. Sadness after losing people and the ends of long-term crushes and emphatic proclamations of love for Orry Main and Joel Fleischmann. Looking back, I wrote about freaking everything. You'd be surprised at a lot of the things I wrote about. I thought about sharing some here but it's not going to happen. That's too embarrassing.

    2016 was super weird and kind of awful and all in all the most exciting year ever. Even in my little world things changed and happened. I wrote three books and spent three weeks with my best friend and started driving all over the place and saw Hunter Hayes in concert and traveled far and wide, and lost some friends but found so many good ones. Then I bought a truck and wrote another book, and flew on a plane for the first time and rode on a roller coaster, and learned that "it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it's what you leave behind you when you go." {Randy Travis}

    In the big world beyond my farm I know there was a lot of tragedy. I don't know how many blog posts I've read and people I've heard say this was the worst year they remember. It's those people out there who've been hit hard and still look upwards that give me hope -- the ones who got flooded and banded together to help each other out and the ones who lost the people they loved most in the world and used it to bring truth and beauty to the world. The truth is I'm ridiculously blessed, and I think you are too. Because look. We made it through another year, we had good times in spite of it all, and here we're given another one.

The best parts were the sunny days, the long truck rides, the laughing over stupid things and being surprised by kindness and suddenly finding best friends and getting lost on dirt roads and screaming on the bleachers and dancing in the crowds.

     I don't know about this whole 2017 thing but I have the feeling it's going to prove itself a worthy challenge. What do you think? I'm looking forward to being employed and done with school and 18 so I can check out dvd's with my own library card. And maybe buying a new pair of boots. But we'll see how that employment works out.

     What was your favorite thing about last year?
     What did you do that you'd never done before?
     What are you looking forward to this year?