Friday, June 29, 2007

RAIN (and may I have another, please?)

(Posted by Paula)

I can't believe how long we've gone without any significant rainfall in Fayetteville. My yard has taken on the look of burnt brush...a waste land, really. The only exception is the rim of grass around our front flower beds. It benefits from the sprinklers every evening. We try to keep the front beds we've spent WAY too much money trying to landscape them over the past two years...but still, our flowers are fading in the heat and dust.

Each night, we pray...."Lord, won't you please send us just a small rain shower? We won't even get picky and ask for a lot of rain. Even a little will help..." So far, no answer. But we're hoping that he'll see the need to send some much needed storms our way soon.

The farmers must be in a panic. I think many of the crops down in northern Alabama are already lost. The corn looks much too small for this time of year, and even my poor tomatoe plants are struggling to produce anything. They just look scrawny and sad. In fact, all our plants look scrawny and sad.

I remember some of my very best times growing up in Kentucky were spent outside during or immediately following some of those glorious, soaking rain showers. I knew where all the best mud puddles were, and I'd head outside, shoeless, and wade in them. These best were always the ones that came up over my ankles. I was always careful, however, to only walk in the puddles that had concrete bottoms. I absolutely HATED the feel of mud squishing between my toes. Dardy, one of my best friends, liked the ones with the squishiest mud. I just couldn't understand it. She'd stand there with the mud oozing up between her toes and call me over to look. I remember telling her that I only liked the "clean" mud puddles!

While wading, I would look to the sky for signs of a rainbow, and often I would catch a glimpse of one over a mountain ridge. Sometimes I managed to find gutters or drain pipes that would wash the water down quickly off the side of a building or a house. These were heaven! I'd walk underneath allowing myself to get soaked from head to toe.

You know, it's been a long time since I've been walking barefoot after a rain storm. I wonder if I could talk Michael into wading in puddles with me the next time the Lord see's fit to send us some more of that beautiful, drenching rain? If I talk him into it, I'll be sure to get pictures!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nature at its sweetest

(Posted by Paula)

My office at Sewanee in the Thompson Union looks over onto a wooded area at the back of the building. My view is extraordinary...the wildlife, the large trees, the beautiful walking trail that curls through the woods and disappears into the trees and growth a little way from the building. In the winter, the snow clings to the trees in an enchantment of white, and in the summer, wildflowers bloom along the path and the side of the old stone building that houses my department. It's common for me to see chipmunks, squirrels, and deer on a daily basis.

I've noticed a doe hanging outside my window for several days, and today as I was watching her, a baby stepped out from the foliage into the clearing beside her. Still a little wobbly on his legs, he allowed his mama to clean him a bit while he nursed, but mama was very aware of me in the window and kept a close eye on me as she went about her motherly duties. I called my assistant, Diane, on the telephone to come see, and soon enough word got around the office about the baby. My office hosted a parade of onlookers come to see him, and he's attracted quite a fan base. We've decided we need to name him. Diane wants to name him "Freckles." Shelly votes for "Union" while David wants to call him 'Joel." Despite what we end up calling him, we just hope that his mama will keep him around Thompson Union long enough for us to see him grow a little! We already feel like surrogate parents to the little guy!

Monday, June 11, 2007

On Turning Forty. Yes, I said it. Forty.

(Posted by Paula)

Saturday was the big day. A whole new decade of life. I'm no longer thirty-something. I've gone over the line. I've traveled over the hill.

On Saturday evening after the birthday celebration, my husband and I were driving in the car. It's a family car. A four door sedan. Yes. I own a sedan. And what's even's a Buick. Argh. Anyway, we were driving in the sedan, and we stopped at Sonic. For my birthday splurge (I'm on an eternal diet), I picked the meal of...sweet tea from McDonald's, french fries from Krystal's and a coney from Sonic. Sitting in the parking lot of Sonic, listening to eighties music on the "Golden Oldies" show, I was REALLY feeling my age. The music of my generation is now considered "golden oldies." I opened the sunroof and turned the music up louder. Michael looked at me out of the corner of his eye. He knew something was up. He's beginning to know when one of my moods are coming on. As I was listening to the music, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine myself being 17 again. We pulled out onto the road, and the breeze blew through my hair, and I was listening to something by Culture Club on the radio, and I almost could feel it....I was 17, I was skinny, I had big hair, I was young again! Michael braked hard for a traffic light, my eyes flew open, and there I sat. Middle aged woman at a traffic light with three bags of fast food on her over-abundant lap.

I could imagine the conversation the 17 year old me would have with the forty-year old me. It hurt to think about it.

"Yew...what happened to YOU!" said the 17 year old me.

"Life happened, you little twit!" Ha. Good comeback.

Well, you sure didn't age well, did you? And WHAT are you wearing?!"

"Hey, they were on sale at Lane Bryant. Give me a break!"

"Lane Bryant!!! No WAY! What SIZE are you wearing, anyway?!?!?! HOW could you let me get this way!!"

It got worse from there so, I stopped imagining. I glanced out the window at the Walmart parking lot. There were a bunch of teens standing by cars at the back of the lot. I thought to myself, I was cute once like them. I was young like that with the size 5 jeans and the cool hair cut and the designer clothes. I wanted to yell at them out the car window, "Hey, I was VERY cool in 1985!!!"

But it struck me as I watched them how unaware they were of anything other than themselves at that moment. I remember being like that. I thought my parents were complete dorks! And I just knew they were clueless about life and what it meant to be young and really awesome, which I was certain I was at that time. I suddenly realized that, when I was 17, my parents were 37 and 39. Younger than me right now. It was deflating to know that I could have a child old enough to be in college.

I remembered how I used to make fun of my my dad hiccuped when he drank diet coke, how my mom wore shoes that were totally uncool. I remember thinking to myself that I hope I never get old like my parents. I knew it would have to be a drag. Besides, my dad was way too concerned with how much money everything cost, and my mother was obsessed with how her dark hair was turning gray. Now, I have a gray streak of hair going up the right side of my forehead that would rival the Bride of Frankenstein's!! Isn't that always what happens??!!!? The very things over which I made fun of my parents are now the things that I live with every day. I get the hiccups when I drink diet coke, and I'm forced to wear shoes with the cushy soles so that my feet don't kill me after the first couple of hours. You have NO IDEA how difficult those things are to admit.

Anyway, back to our trip home on birthday night.

As we drove home that evening of my 40th birthday, I continued to compare my 40 year old self with my 17 year old self. It was quite the competition. And just when I thought my 17 year old self had won, we drove around the curve on Main & Bright streets and our house came into view. Nice house, I thought, as I saw the banners we'd hung out front of the historic home to celebrate Independence Day. Hey, the 17 year old me didn't even OWN a house I told myself, and a little bit of satisfaction in knowing that felt good. SHE had no idea how to work a job, pay bills, do laundry. In fact, she was kind of .... well... dumb when it comes to living in the real world. "Take THAT, you 17 year old brat!" Ha. That SO much felt better.

I took a lot of pleasure in walking into the house telling myself all the things I didn't know at 17 that I know now. How superficial I was at 17 and how I'm TOTALLY not that way now (did you catch the 80's word there?!?!). I'm a better person now, I believe. And I know how to grow my very own tomatoes. That 17 year old would have never even got her hands dirty.

At the end of the evening, after I'd surveyed my life the way it is now, after Michael and I had spent a lovely day together and came back to our home that we love so much, I decided that I'd done pretty well. Forty really isn't so bad. I've got a wonderful husband and a great job and a beautiful B&B. I've done a lot for my 40 years, and I'm actually kind of proud. I went to bed that night with a different feeling than I'd had when I had awakened that morning.

It was contentment in knowing what a lovely life I have and a feeling of satisfaction in knowing the type of person I've become.

And it was knowing that the next time I have a conversation with the 17 year old, it's going to go very differently.

(Photos: Top 3, me at 17 in 1984 & 1985. Bottom, me at 39.)