Monday, December 28, 2009

silent night

today when i was driving down some small street out of fort oglethorpe, georgia, i was humbled by a stranger. he was walking towards me on the same side the road and had stopped in his tracks. he had taken off his camouflage ball cap that matched his camouflage shirt and pants and had covered his heart with it. his head was bowed. he didn't know me and he didn't know my family. but despite not knowing us, he was still in some way acknowledging my aunt who was four cars in front of me. i like to think that he was saying a prayer for her and maybe even for the rest of us. we all needed a few because none of us wanted to be driving down that road to bury her.

christmas 2009. it'll be a day none of us will ever forget. after my little family woke up and had a wonderful celebration tearing into all of the treasures santa had left, we went to my mother's house for her annual dinner. my kids and i walked up to the porch and in good christmas fashion, i started singing silent night while we waited for the door to open. ya know, we were mimicking carolers. my step-father opened the door and just stood there without chiming in on the song shaking his head no. he said it's not good. what's not good? vicki. vicki has been in an accident.

vicki is my mother's sister. she's my mom's baby sister. she has always been a beautiful girl with wonderful blond hair and legs a mile long. some of my first memories of my aunt vicki are of being at her home in hattiesburg, mississippi and lounging by the pool while watching days of our lives. even though i wasn't old enough, she let me watch it with her. but that was her. she just treated everyone with respect . . . even bratty little kids she treated as a peer.

what do you mean she's been in an accident? she's okay right? no, she's not okay. he shut the door behind me. well, she's alive though, right? no. no, she's not. at that moment, i had that feeling where your heart seems as if it's literally been punched. it makes it hard to breathe. i took my heavy chest into my mother's room where she was standing with my brother. she looked like a child. they had just found out moments before we arrived. she still had the phone in her hand. she was so confused. she looked at us and said, i don't know what to do. what do i do? it's a hard moment when your mother, the one who is always there to tell you what to do when you are lost and scared, is the one looking to you for answers.

aunt vicki had a best friend joanie. they talked on the phone at least once a day during their lunch breaks or on their way home from work. they talked on the phone because they didn't get to see each other too often since vicki lived here in tennessee and joanie lived in mississippi. but this christmas, vicki was going to go spend some time with her best pal. so she got up christmas morning, told her husband, randy, goodbye and started her long drive to mississippi. she drove about 2 1/2 hours before something went terribly wrong and she was killed in an accident.

somehow at some point in the evening at mom's, the rest of us managed to eat some food. the set dining room wasn't stepped into as we were all sort of just standing around looking at my mother and trying to console her with the plates in our hands. then in the best spirit we could pretend to have, we let the kids open their presents. the only extra gifts that night were from my aunt vicki. she had dropped them off the day before. it was heartbreaking to hear my 10 year old read his card out loud that was signed aunt vicki and uncle randy. the rest of the night, we just spent trying to figure out who to call, what would be done, where we go the next day, etc.

when saturday morning came, jeff came by to pick up the kids and i immediately went to see my baby cousin who had just lost his mother.

eric. eric is a neat young man. he's no longer a baby. he's 27 in fact. but i still see the sweet little 5 year old every time i look at his face. he's an only child. his parents split up when he was younger and he and his mom moved to tennessee. when they first came back, they lived with us for a while. i loved having them there. i was a busy young girl with stuff to do, but it was so great having another kid in the house and another dog around. of course all mama's love their children, but it became obvious to me then that those two were something else. those two were as close as a boy and his mom could be. they had a bond like you can't imagine. it was very clear that god put those two together. they were just meant to walk on this earth beside one another.

he came outside to my car standing tall and stellar. we hugged and he was okay. he was definitely holding it together. i had known for some time that he had grown up to be smart and spiritual, but i had no idea that i'd be greeted by such a strong man. i was so proud of him and so sad for him at the same time. we talked for a while and he only teared up once. his girlfriend was there and so after our visit i left him in her good care to go check on my mom.

mom. my mom's parents are no longer alive. we have a really small family and my aunt vicki was all she had left. they were friends. they finished each other's sentences. and the one true thing about their relationship was that they had each other's backs. boy did they have each other's backs!!! mess with one of them. just try. see how that works out.

she was at my uncle randy's mom's house.

uncle randy. uncle randy came into our lives many many years ago when he married my aunt vicki. he's always been as kind as can be, just like her. they have both always been more than generous to every single soul. he has a tremendous heart that only matches hers and their love was something you could see beaming between each other. when i saw him, he also looked child like. it's just so hard to see grown people hurting in such a confused way. he had just lost the love of his life.

my step-dad and i forced them to eat before they went to make arrangements for today's service.

and then today came too soon. today wasn't suppose to happen. not yet. it just wasn't the right time to be driving down that road while my aunt rode in a box four cars ahead of me. she had always been just such a strong roll model for me. the women in that family are tough. her, my mom, their mom . . .all tough cookies. they each had been dealt some pretty interesting cards in their lives and they each made a winning hand out of them all. so i looked up to to her. and just like her and my mother did for each other, my aunt vicki had my back. she also had my best interest in mind. in college, she wrote my some very poignant letters that helped me out of some pretty dark times. she had been there and she loved me and she helped pull me out of there with her simple, graceful words of hope and strength.

so after we made that drive out of fort oglethorpe and passed the sweet soul that payed my aunt some respect, we reached a hill where her body will lie. my step-dad hauntingly played amazing grace on harmonica while the brisk wind blew through us each and my heart fell apart watching my mom, eric, joanie, and uncle randy say good bye to their best friend. she was a best friend to them all. i imagine she would say that she was also a pretty lucky lady to have been blessed with those best friends. some of us go a whole lifetime with only one such treasure if even one. but she had a few. and they had her.

tonight .. . .this silent night . . . .as my heart is breaking for my family, i'm grateful for the kind man on the side of the road. and i'm grateful for his reminder that it is only a simple gesture that we often need to feel love. make a kind gesture in honor of my aunt vicki's friendly heart. make a kind gesture to a stranger and friends and family. and if there is someone that you keep thinking you'll call next week, do it today. love them today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

settin it free

it's been so hard to think about blogging lately. well, thinking about it hasn't been hard, but bringing myself to do it has seemed like a daunting task. the reason the crystal code has seemed like such a difficult place where i haven't felt like visiting lately is because i have been through so many changes over the last few months and i really hate admitting to the world how flawed i am. most of you that know me, don't really know me. it has taken my friends sometimes years to even begin to get an insight as to what kind of person i really am. i just grew up in an incredibly private family and we always kept our cards close to our chest. we all still do for the most part. my parents will have been moved into a new home for several weeks before i even know that they've left their old one. my brother had brought his baby girl home before we even knew that an adoption had gone through. i think we kids were never taught to be that way, but it was just understood that it was easier to not tell everyone your business. that way, if something doesn't work out, no one has to know. and plus, there are so many snakes out in the world, you never know who might use your information against you. so, i've been hiding under the proverbial rock afraid to admit to the world something really simple. i am going through a divorce. there, i said it. and the crazy part is that half of or most of you already know. and when i told all of you, a great weight was lifted off of my shoulders. there is something so freeing about being honest and showing your true colors. i don't know why i've been afraid to just write it here on the public blog, but i guess it's just out of fear of disappointing the people i know. and it's true that when you start telling people who you really are, when you show them your authentic self, half of the people won't like it. and that happened to me almost immediately. i lost so many connections with people. at first, it almost angered me because i was still me, i just wasn't a part of that couple any more. and part of it, i understand. i mean, the couples' dinners might make everyone feel a little awkward with just one single chic at the table. so that was fine . . .i'm not in a couple, so i don't get to go to couples' events . . . .even the ones at church. but then there were friends that just couldn't really relate to me anyone because they were still trucking along in their normal life and then here comes this weirdo, that used to appear normal, with all sorts of shit suddenly out of balance and upside down. so my phone stopped ringing and the invitations were cut. that was a really sad moment when i realized that people didn't like me for me, but for my place in the world . a wife. and as usual i will defend those people by saying that everyone was in shock when we told them that jeff was moving out. just like everything else, no one knew what was happening in our marriage. so in their defense, i'm going to assume that maybe some of those people just didn't know how to deal with our news because they didn't understand it.
but the beauty of losing some, is that you get to find out who the real gems are in your life because the ones that don't leave, the ones that stick around despite your bearing of true colors are the only ones that matter anyway. so that realization quickly made me feel stronger and happier! i mean how many of you are lucky enough to find out who your true friends are? that's a real blessing. and when you start saying outloud your truth . . . i'm going through a divorce. my marriage didn't last forever. . . . your steps become lighter and life becomes sunnier. there's nothing better than setting your truth free.

so blog readers, i'm back. i'll be giving you all sorts of dirty laundry! i hope that you like it. and i hope that you'll still like me! because this is me . . .i'm a woman that is flawed . . .but i am true and authentic . . .i have a heart of gold and will open it up honestly for you to see.


Thursday, September 10, 2009


Saving Grace.

We hear that so often. It's a movie. It's a tv show. It's a song. It's the title of many books. It's the name of countless organizations. Google "saving grace" and you'll find all sorts of websites with variations of the term. In our society, we mostly use the expression to talk about one's redeeming qualities. For example: Her saving grace when she passes out from drinking has always been her ability to keep her panties on. And if I am remembering what I learned in Catholic schools correctly, Grace in the Church is what God grants us in order to be free from all of our sins. It is also a state of God, if I'm not mistaken. We all sin. We all have darkness. But we also all have grace. We all have God in us. So, no matter what your demons are, grace is always there . . .. God is always there . . . in each of us . . free us . . . so that no matter what, we are still good. We are full of Grace. It's saving us.

I love this idea of it always being around to save us. Perhaps it's because I'm so terribly flawed. I did, in fact, grow up thinking that the Rolling Stones were referring to me when they sang, "graceless lady." And maybe it's my own flaws that have allowed me to easily find other people's saving graces. Give me the most horrible person that you can find, and I'll point out a good quality. I might point out several. The difference between the "good" qualities that I find and the goodness that the universe/God/yourself/Love might find, is that the ones I discover might not be profound enough to redeem one. However, the qualities God sees are enough to allow you to be forgiven. Does this make sense? For example, give me a murderer. You paint the picture as it doesn't really matter since all murderers are bad. I can find value in his artwork or in the gardens that he grows or in his ability to nurture his three cats. This person isn't completely horrible. So, you might agree that the killer has some value, but that value isn't enough to redeem him of his unimaginable behavior. God's Love (or the universe's Love or the Love that is just residing in you or whatever you chose to call it) . . .his Grace . . .is enough to matter. So even this terrible person can receive Grace and be forgiven. He can still bathe in the God/Love/Grace that is each of ours. It can save him.

It saddens me that we don't make lists of our saving graces. Instead, we are constantly reminding ourselves of our faults . . .which is maybe the opposite of Grace? Maybe the opposite of grace isn't the actual bad behavior, but the act of dwelling on it or pointing it out. It seems that if this were the case, that dwelling would be the most upsetting thing we could do to our creator . . .since he is only offering us a state of Grace (forgiveness/love/him). So, I'm thinking today that we need to change the dialogue. Maybe just today we can focus on our own and each other's good parts. Let the bashing slide on past you. Only invite Grace in today. Only give out Grace. Bathe in the Saving Grace.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Digging Graves at Midnight

My girl died last night.  Sweet Madde.  She was my pretty princess.  

Fourteen years ago this past June, my boyfriend Bob and I went to the Humane Society to pick out a new puppy for me.  She was in the first kennel that I came to.  She was the first puppy that I held that day.  Gosh, she was so awkward looking.  She was tiny.  She could fit in my hand and her ears were bigger than the rest of her body and stood straight up.  There were about 5 or so other puppies in that room with her, but she was the last of her litter and the runt according to the volunteers there.  She looked like the runt of the whole pound, not just her litter,  and she stood in the far back right corner like she knew her place in the world.  She probably didn't have any hope.  At least she looked that way.  Puppy eyes.  Big, brown hopeless puppy eyes.  But with those eyes she saw me.  If you've ever picked out an animal from a shelter, you know what I mean by this.  Sometimes animals see you and you see them.  You just know that you were meant to be together.  I knew it with her.  It was love at first site.  Love.  I gave her hope.  I know I gave her hope because I put her down and continued through the whole puppy section holding every little baby there.  Then I worked my way back down the aisle holding them all a second time until I reached the beginning and came to her again.  This time though, she barked incessantly.  She was screaming at me.  "Hello!  It's me!  Don't screw up the ways of the world!  I was put here for you!  It's me!  I'm yours!"  So I picked her up and took her home.  From then on, she rode shotgun with me.  
I can't possibly begin to go through the ins and outs of our relationship or to document the adventures we shared.  We've had so many special moments.  But I'll just sum it up by saying that together, we've been to every corner of this country, floated down raging rivers,  held summer jobs, pissed off roommates, seen countless loves come and go, brought in many other animals, started the process of raising little boys, and dealt with sickness like no others could.  She has always been a trooper and lived a great life.  And she was always, always been free to roam.  The freedom wasn't probably the safest, but she was the kind of girl that needed wide open spaces and knowing that she had that comforts me today.
For the last couple of years, she has been slow going.  She didn't run anymore.  She never roamed off anymore.  And she went completely blind two years ago.  She never really seemed to mind though.  She stayed happy.  She had bad arthritis so in the past year especially, she spent a lot of time napping.  She spent so much time napping that for the  past 12 months, I've at some point in each day checked to see if she was still breathing.  The last two months have been especially trying for her.  It's also been tough on me.  She lost control of eliminating herself and that made for a ton of frustration.  I have had to clean up poop and pee messes at least 4 times a day  . . . and it was the terrible, terrible kind.  It got so bad, that I've had to put her in the garage every time I left even if it's just for 10 minutes.  And even that was an ordeal because she couldn't see to go around outside to the garage and her arthritis was too bad to walk down the stairs to get there, so I  had to carry her down the stairs every time.  And she wasn't a small dog by any means.  Talking to the vet, it seemed as if she was suffering from dementia too so we took her in a month ago to see if it "was time."  I had gone through forever thinking I could never make that sort of decision, but she seemed to be living such a half-ass life that I thought we should at least get a professional opinion.  Getting to the point of just going to see was an extremely hard day.  Jeff took her.  We had decided that if they thought it was a good idea, that we'd bring the boys in and we'd all say goodbye.  My 9 year old sat in my arms the whole time they were gone and we cried and cried.  Then Jeff showed back up with Madde and told us that the vet thought that she had two good years left in her. . . .he couldn't believe how happy and vibrant she still was.  But that was my girl.  Even throughout all of her suffering, she could always crack a smile.  She was so sweet.  Of course then I felt horrible!  I had never been able to do that and when I had finally come to "maybe" terms, I was told that it wasn't time!  So we both kept on.  We have both struggled for a while.  I've had countless friends tell me that I must really love her .. .. that's how difficult it has been.  But I couldn't imagine not having done it for her.  She had always been such a treasure for me.
And I have to think that I was her treasure too.  I had been gone for four days and she waited until I got home to say hello . . .or maybe goodbye . . . before she wandered off for one last romp on her own.  She didn't make it far.  I found her about three houses down resting in the neighbor's driveway.  It was terrible.  I was a pathetic mess.  I got so angry.  It just made me so mad.  The image of her sweet little body in the ground will be one that I will never be able to get out of my head.  I went to bed and dreamed that she wasn't really dead, but instead just resting like all of those other times that I thought she wasn't breathing, and she dug her way out of her grave.  But she was still under the dirt this morning.  And I'm still in bed this evening.  My heart aches.  I keep waiting for her to show up at the back door.  I know she's gone, but I just don't think I am ready to accept it.  I want her back.    

Madde, you were a gift.  You brought me more joy than you will ever know.  You were my first.  You were my other half.  I feel lost without you today.  But I know that you were tired.  And I want you to rest.  I will miss you pretty girl.  I love you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Easy

I've decided that I'm not going to go through all of the particular things women want.  There are just too many little things that I could go on and on about and it would be never ending.  And also I had a well-meaning male friend tell me that guys don't really care what women want.  But let me sum it up quickly, just in case you (the one male reader that I might have) are hanging on the edge of your seat:  We are simple creatures.  Whatever man decided to spread the rumor that we are complicated just did that to get himself and all of the others off of the hook for their stupid behavior. . . .How was I to know when you're so complicated?  The only thing really required of you is to appreciate how wonderful we are.  To be validated.  Just like you men, that's all we need.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our Simple Rules for Loving Women

I'm sitting here enjoying McDonald's coffee with my Jen Thal.  I hate McDonald's and all of their fillers, but they make the greatest cup of black coffee and it goes especially well with our problem solving that we love to do in the morning.  
Today's topic is:  What Women Want
(Jen thinks I should let you know that we're not talking about the Mel Gibson movie.)

We stumbled upon this subject because our mutual friend recently received two tickets to a beach in Mexico from her man, but she was a little ungrateful because it had taken 10 years of begging and pleading and one good night of crying in order to prompt her man to run down to the travel agency and purchase said tickets and he hadn't just done the romantic deed on his own.  I told her that men don't know.  They really need specific instructions.  So we are helping you .  Your lady doesn't want to tell you to plan a trip, she wants you to do it on your own.  So rule number one (these are in no specific order because we will post more important rules in the following segments) is:  Women want two tickets to paradise given to them as a surprise because you are so romantic that you just know how to do that kind of stuff.  We will love you for it and pack quickly.

Also, we just want to have fun.  This fun can translate into many things, but for our purposes, we'll be a little specific.  If we're at a party and need to shake it and you don't want to shake it with us, we're still gonna shake it.  You can watch if you want.  Don't poop on our party.  What would be even cooler is if you could take us out dancing despite the fact that you might not really want to join us!  This will work in your favor.  And again, in reference to the first rule, if you want to really wow us, make that dancing date a surprise.  So rule number two is:  Girls just want to have fun and we would love it if you'd join us.

More rules to come in the following days.
Ladies, what do you think?  We have a running list, but would love to hear your desires . . .your desires through song.

Monday, June 22, 2009


so after that, we dated and things moved quickly in our relationship.  in fact, he moved in with me within 6 months.  i had moved out of the hawkins street house and into my very own teeny tiny one-bedroom apartment.  there was barely any room to turn around in it, but i loved it.  it was mine.  i had always had roommates and was eager to have things go specifically how i intended.  for instance, if i emptied the trash can, it would still be empty when i came home from class.  or when bought a carton of orange juice, but didn't want to drink it for a week, it would still be unopened when i finally decided to take the vitamin c plunge.  i loved living on my own.  it was simple.  just me and my madde.   

then, he proposed to me.  it was an especially unromantic moment on our way back to murfreesboro after a visit with the family in chattanooga.  he pulled right over in a dentist's office parking lot as the sun was going down and presented me with the most beautiful ring i had ever seen.  despite the proposal, the ring was romantic.  his mom had given him her first set of wedding bands to give to me.   (she had moved up in the world of diamonds . . . on to bigger and better things.)  i never saw what those rings looked like, but apparently they were not my style.  so, he took the rings to a jeweler where he saw a beautiful antique engagement ring in the window and asked the guy if he could melt his mom's rings and place the diamonds in a setting that perfectly mimicked the antique.  the story goes that it took the jeweler several times before it finally came out correctly.  but when he finally achieved the goal, the result was stunning.  i had never owned a real diamond and suddenly i had this nice big one amongst several tiny ones sitting right there on my finger.  i said yes and didn't take my eyes off of my hand for at least a week straight.

after that, we figured it was okay to live in sin because we were engaged and in our hearts, we were already married.  we just lacked the piece of paper.  plus we were spending so much time together, that it made sense economically to just narrow our lives down to one place.  we told our mothers and they hated this idea, but my mom didn't go too crazy as i agreed to at least graduate from college before i took my vows.  so, this was sort of a compromise.  it was really full speed ahead at that point.  

in our full speed couple life, we sat down to have a slow moment and watch the history channel one night and some band-of-brothers type show came on about vietnam or world war two and the continuous theme was camaraderie between the men.  i admit, it was really cool to hear those guys talk about each other like they were family.  they had experienced something together that no one else could ever understand.  anyway, jeff turned to me and said, i think i'll join the military.  SCREEEEEEECH!  someone must've pulled the needle off of the record, because i swear i just heard my fiance tell me that he wants to join the military!  say what?  let me preface this whole thing by saying that i had already picked up my peace corps application and was giving serious thought to applying after i received my degree . . .in sociology and anthropology and women's studies because i was a peace-corps joining kind of lady  . . . .the kind that studied anthropology because it was going to be super cool to travel the world and hang out with various natives of various lands while digging trenches so that they could have a clean water supply!   and now you, my disheveled hippyesque fiance, you want to grab a gun and go to war? this caused quite an uproar!  and his mother . . .oh god bless her!  if you think having your 20 year old baby move into a cramped apartment with a lady 3 years older than him upset her, you can imagine what the thought of this did for her nerves.  she cried and cried and was so worried that he'd get hurt or die or ruin his life.  but he didn't care what we wanted.  he went the very next day to the army recruitment office and somehow the air force got a hold of him and within less than two months, i finished school and we were packing up the smallest uhaul we could find and moving to texas where he would do his tech-school training.  i had come around and gotten on board with the whole idea because the recruiter kept telling me over and over that we could travel the world.

so, we got to texas.  wichita falls, tx . . .one of the craziest places i've ever been.  he was set to leave for 7ish weeks of basic training, but after that, he'd live in wichita falls for a few months for his school.  the idea was that it would be nice for me to be in one set place for 6 months instead of 2 months at home with the folks and then 3 or 4 with him before our first assignment.  we had two weeks of togetherness in texas before he took the train to san antonio.  in that two weeks, we rented an apartment, i found a job, jeff turned 21, and in our full-on fashion . . .in less than a year after we had met, we ran over to the courthouse and got married.