Summer Reading Update

20131117_093619
I haven’t gotten to see this view this year, but I’ve been staring at this photo I took several years ago and dreaming.

I’m realizing that I don’t stick to my reading lists. It’s much the same as buying a book that I’m excited to read and getting distracted by another book before I even begin the first. I am notorious for this.

I began reading Jurassic Park a few weeks ago. I’ve been thinking it would go better as an actual book read rather than ebook. I’ll probably check in with the library to see if they have it. I’m not sure exactly why I wanted to read it other than it caught my attention while scrolling through books. I loved the movie as a kid, and I’ve been looking to read outside my box. I’m really enjoying it. I like Sci Fi movies, but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read much of it. Recommendations are appreciated.

This is me rectifying my reading sins.

After Where the Crawdads Sing, I’ve began listening to The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. When I first started it, I was worried because it came across as very chick lit. There’s nothing wrong with chick lit, but I just don’t tend to enjoy it. However, the humor caught me. I think I’m beginning to appreciate chick lit more as I get older as long as it’s funny or smart. The voices the narrator uses has me chuckling. It seems like what I call a good palate cleanser. It’s something fun and refreshing after a heavy read.  I’ll update more when I finish or at least get further along.

Let me just say that all Mississippians have been offended by the heat. We are fed up and over it. Even for Mississippi, this is ridiculous.

I haven’t been doing as much writing in recent weeks. I’ve been focusing on reading more. Most writers agree that a lot of reading makes for a better writer.

I’ve got several books on my radar. Some of which I am looking forward to listening to on Audible. Maybe if I read books set during the fall of the year, I can convince myself that I’ll get to experience it soon.

Advertisements

Talk on Indolence

“Well I’ve been lockin’ myself up in my house for sometime now
Readin’ and writin’ and readin’ and thinkin’
And searching for reasons and missing the seasons.
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow.
The record will stop and the record will go.
Latches latched the windows down,
The dog coming in and the dog going out.
Up with caffeine and down with a shot.
Constantly worried about what I’ve got.
Distracting my work but I can’t make a stop
And my confidence on and my confidence off.
And I sink to the bottom and rise to the top
And I think to myself that I do this a lot.
World outside just goes
It goes it goes it goes it goes it goes”
– The Avett Brothers, Talk on Indolence
20140128_111930
As of late, I’ve recognized so much with the lyrics above. I’ve been a level 368 introvert, and I’ve been loving it. I enjoy seeing family and friends, but lately I’ve been enjoying my own company. I’ve worked hard at convincing myself that it’s perfectly fine for me to do so.
The older I get the more that I find myself getting overstimulated around people. I’ve always been one to shy away from touch. Now, voices, smells, and loud laughter seem to grate on my sensitive nerves. The anxiety really gets to me.
Earlier in the summer, I made a list of books I wanted to read over the slow months of debilitating Mississippi heat. I am half way through the first on my list, and done with one that I found because of a song. I found my favorite band, The Avett Brothers, through a book. I found a book that I was really sucked into because of a song. I’ll get to that shortly.
I’ve barely noticed the last two months slipping by. Suddenly it’s August, and I realize that the second half of the year is upon us. The second half is always my favorite. In Mississippi, we have summer and then extended summer before about a week of fall. I live for that week. I become what my book club girls call “basic” during the last half of the year.
I’ve been really indolent lately. I’ve been doing exactly what the song says, “readin and writin and readin and thinkin”
I finished Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher. I’ve heard of her several times in the same circles as Colleen Hoover. I put her in the Rolodex in the back of my mind to read one day. Although I confess, I thought she wrote romance, and she does, but not like I was thinking. I found Mud Vein while looking up the song Landscape by Florence + the Machine. That’s when I saw comments about people finding this song because of the book. When I checked out the book, I read the summary and thought it might be interesting.
Let me just say that this is not a read for you if you are a sucker for happy endings. Also, not if you enjoy likable characters. If you like unusual stories about broken people struggling to get by and exist in this messed up thing we call life under almost unbearable circumstances, this might be for you. The protagonist is a writer that keeps her own company. I know a little something about that. It’s a dark read.
I’ve been reading a lot of those lately.
All in all, the first half of 2019 has not been kind. Being a recluse is a coping mechanism. Reading and writing and reading and thinking are survival tools. Everyone has their own way of finding their peace, and these are mine.

I Do

Snapchat-2004024208

I had a conversation about marriage with a young lady the other day. She’s engaged to a great guy. I’ve never met him, but he must be something special if talking about him makes her eyes light up the way they do.

She confided in me that although she’s so in love with this man, she’s also afraid. We live in a divorce culture, she said, and I don’t want that to happen to us. She asked about my marriage. I told her we’ve been married fifteen years. With big eyes, she asked me, “How do you keep it all together?”

As far as divorce culture goes, I couldn’t offer much, but in the way my own marriage works and why it works, I have a lot to say. I told her that different things work for different people, but I explained some of what works for us.

I told her that you can’t go into a marriage with society’s expectations. People love the idea of a traditional marriage where the husband works, the wife has and tends to babies, and there’s a white picket fence. The first thing I told her was that sometimes life won’t allow that to happen. Circumstances change, stuff happens, and things hardly ever go as planned. I had her attention at this point

Secondly, listen to your vows and mean them. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, richer or poorer, til death do you part. That means when things get hard, you work through it together. In my case, if your husband gets hurt and can’t work, you step up. You have to be willing to live in a shack if you must and take care of each other. It means that whenever life throws something huge at you, you deal with it as a unit. It means that when you are angry and fighting that it’s you and your husband against the problem and not against each other. It means you still love that person even when you don’t like them. It means that you love them more than you love yourself. She listened and nodded and told me that all that sounded pretty miserable.

I laughed and told her that just because there is bad, doesn’t mean there won’t be good. That’s different for everyone too, but for us, it’s making up wacky song lyrics. It’s dancing in the kitchen while we cook together. It’s being cuddled up on the couch watching a movie. It’s one of us doing something so silly that we both can’t stop laughing. It’s listening to the one you love sing along with the radio in the car and feeling like there’s no way you could ever love them more. It’s waking up after a nightmare and feeling safe and taking comfort in their warmth beside you. It’s being glad they’re with you while you watch a sunset or fireflies or the ocean kissing the rocks. It’s being in the hospital and finding strength in them. It’s holding their hand while your baby is being born. It’s finding out that you’ll probably never have children and finding comfort in one another. It’s little notes to each other. It’s being so thankful when they wash the dishes/do the laundry/scrub the toilet. It’s wanting to do similar things for them that you know you’re going to hate but doing it anyway because you love them and want to see them smile. It’s talking for hours about life and the universe and experiences and things you enjoy. It’s arguing and debating politics/religion/whatever you disagree about and still loving each other afterward. It’s dreaming together about what you both want out of life as individuals as well as together.

I told her it’s realizing that whatever you’re going through is only temporary. The bad is only temporary. It’s understanding that you are married to an imperfect human. A human that is going to make mistakes, make you angry, and make you sad. Because you love them, you forgive them and still cherish them.

I’ve been married to Tony for fifteen years. It’s hard to believe and easy to believe at the same time. We know the ins and the outs of each other. He’s seen me at my worst and my best. He’s seen me fall apart. He’s never threatened to leave or walk away when most would. Because when he said “I do” he meant it.

The most important thing is to mean it.

I told her that there was no way to predict what time would tell. Life changes and evolves. So do people. There’s no guarantee that comes with a marriage license that it’s a sure fire happily ever after. I didn’t want to sugar coat anything for her. I am the type of person that if I know something is doable, that’s all the assurance I need. She seemed like the same. A long happy marriage is doable if both give 100%. I know from the experiences of my friends that isn’t always the case. I hope I gave her a little hope. That’s all anyone can ask for.

 

Unedited

Just be. Be present in the moment. Enjoy your joy without reservations.

Smile for the camera. Display your unedited self. Love it.

Your wild hair is gorgeous. Your freckles are galaxies on your body. Your crooked smile is adorable. Everyone has rolls at one point. Cellulite is normal. Stretch marks are badges. Your curves are appreciated by someone. Bad hair days are common. You are not measured by the size of your waist.

Post that no makeup, unfiltered, untouched, unedited selfie. Rock it. Own it. Love it. Who cares what anyone else says?

I’ll go first.

Wandering eye. Crooked smile. Breakout. Bad hair day. Imperfect skin. In need of new glasses. Unusual nose. Eyebrows not plucked or waxed.

Also.

Big toothy smile. Happy face. Moisturized. Natural. Feeling loved. Bright crescent moon eyes. Good mood. Feeling good in my skin. Real.

Not everyone will appreciate it. That’s ok. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but my husband says I’m his Tennessee whiskey. Not everyone will appreciate my looks, my body, or my personality. That’s fine.

This is me. Unedited.

I spent too many years of my life trying to please people. So have you. Let it go. Shine without reservations. Your own mind can be a toxic place where self love doesn’t grow.

Don’t over think it. Do what makes you happy. Take care of yourself. Enjoy your life. Live that moment. Be gloriously and riotously you. Be happy. Unedited.

Of Love and Loss

Since Tony and I have been together, we’ve lost a lot of people. Family, friends, and people we care about lost to accident, disease, mental health, and even violence.

It’s hard to comprehend the void left behind. One day they’re within talking or touching distance, and then, they’re no longer there. Just a barren space where they used to be. It’s like your brain struggles to come to terms with the fact all of their things are here, but they’re not.

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

The loss of a child is even harder to bear. It’s hard not to question God when one so innocent is stripped away.

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

–John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Loss is also more than losing a person. Loss can be the vanishing of a dream. It can be the loss of an ability. We mourn it just the same. I’ve watched people in my infertility groups go through it. When a doctor gives hope, but insurance denies coverage and the funds are just not there, the loss can be devastating.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

–Queen Elizabeth II

And then, there’s love. Healing, wonderful love. If not for love after loss, my feet may never have made another mile. I would have withered. Tony and I are especially good about leaning on each other when needed. With every loss I’ve suffered, he’s been there with an “I’ve got you.” That one phrase has so many meanings. It means that he’s my shoulder to lean on, my feet when I can’t move, and my voice when I have none.

When we lost the twins, I thought the world would actually come to an end. I felt that the sun was going to fall out of the sky. I couldn’t see around my own grief to realize that the sun was still there shining as it always did, water still flowed, the world still moved. I suffered both types of loss: the loss of my beloveds and the loss of my dream of having children. I bitterly grieved both.

Love is essential to dealing with loss. Love is essential to thrive. I’ve fought, screamed, cursed the world, and thought for sure that I’d die from heartbreak. Then comes love. Even through his own grief, his own pain, his own loss, Tony reached for me, drew me in, loved me with a patience I can only aspire to.

I pulled myself away from friends, family, and people who have known me all my life. My husband fought to keep me. He’s loved me and kept me stable when I craved the opposite.

I hope I was able to love him through his losses as he did me.

Being well loved brought me back to life, allowed me to live again in the sun, and coaxed me back to everything I’d loved before. Things that helped me heal.

Books, plants, nature, the night sky, my beloved alone time, and the love of my husband keep me from the vacuum of my losses.

Love never fails. Even in the face of loss.

I’m Sorry, Writing

I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I’m sorry I’ve pushed my notebooks into the corner. I’m sorry I’ve let my laptop sit unused. I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’m sorry I left the words swirling around in my head until my emotions get the best of me.

I’m sorry I’ve kept all my words to myself. I’m sorry I’ve let shame, pain, anger, and confusion keep me prisoner. I’m sorry I’ve been letting myself get overwhelmed without coming to you and using you to cope. I always have and haven’t been lately. The last few months of my life have been proof.

I’m sorry my pens have been sitting in cups without so much as being used for a signature. I’m sorry I’ve let myself get to a sorry state of not being as consistent. I’m sorry I’ve let life dictate what my writing hours are used for and letting it steal them away.

I’m sorry I’ve let unimportant things take your time.

I’m sorry I’ve been unavailable.

I’m sorry, writing.

Healing

20190503_182947

Tony and I have faced a lot lately. Death and illness and life have been kicking us while we’re down. Saying things have been difficult is an understatement.

For the last year, I’ve been going through things with my body. A lot of it good, some of it bad. I’m focused on turning things around. I’ve lost some weight, working on losing more. I’ve derailed and got back on track more times than I care to count. Surely one of these “back on tracks” will stick.

I’ve been eating low carb. It’s been working wonders for me, for my PCOS, for my skin, for my life. I never knew how much sugar and grain were damaging my body until I cut them. I know what I can eat, what triggers my issues, and what to do to fix it. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, and people don’t usually understand.

I’m learning more about myself. I’m learning that in order to function, I have to shut the world off sometimes. I have to be alone with my books, my flowers, my music, and my husband to find my peace. I realize that I have to purge or detox myself from the bad, the scary, the pain, and the News. Self care and preservation is sometimes just protecting your heart.

My views on my body are changing. I can touch my soft belly and not be repulsed. I recently heard Megan Crabbe describe her cellulite as being constellations in the sky of her body. I found that to be beautiful. My body is still changing and healing, but I’m getting more and more comfortable with it. The more I care for it, the more I love it.

I’ve been going through some healing with my body, mind, and with my soul. It’s taking time. Body wise, I’ve been feeling much better. I’ve had more energy being on track. I’ve been feeling like the old me, and I’ve missed her. Emotionally, I think Tony and I as a unit are on the downward side of the hill. Hopefully, the worst is behind us and with a little love and care, we can move forward to a better place.

 

 

Embracing My Hazel

Me, left. Aunt Hazel, right.

I was raised by a bunch of strong women, independent women who taught me their ways. Especially my grandmother and her sister, my aunt Hazel.

Anyone in our family can tell you many a funny story about Aunt Hazel. She was independent, sassy, funny, and didn’t have much of a filter. She was eccentric  She was an animal lover. She used to have cows that she cared for. She bottle fed the babies and got attached to them. Everyone said her cows followed her like dogs.  Her dogs were family members. When she lived alone, I would spend nights at her house. In the morning, she got up and made us all breakfast. All of us got eggs, grits, and toast. Including her dogs.

After breakfast, we would go “tend to the flowers.” We dug, watered, planted, trimmed, picked, and admired her many plants and flowers. She had the most beautiful purple heart. She’d chase me with the water hose all over the yard and for a while, you’d think she was my age.

After we’d got in a few hours work, she’d ask me if I was hungry. If I was, we’d got to McDonald’s and get a happy meal.

She loved bright colors, big earrings, anything shiny, and made most of her own clothes. Orange was her favorite color. She used to wear orange lipstick and bright blue eye shadow. My cousin, Jamie, told me that she needs to see me with those particular shades one day. I’m still getting up my nerve. You’d think with her stylish nature, Aunt Hazel would have wanted a flashy car. No. Not Aunt Hazel. She had a 60’s model Ford pickup that was black and gray. I loved that old truck.

Since I was a child, I’ve been told how much I look like my Aunt Hazel. The more time goes by, I find myself acting like her more and more. I can look at her pictures and see my future self. I already have plants and flowers all over my porch. I have dogs that think they are human. I guess I need to invest in a few cows.

She had no children, and the closer I get to 40, it’s becoming more likely that I won’t either. She was everyone’s favorite aunt. That’s how I’d like to be known as well. I’m gearing up to become a sassy senior lady who says unpredictable things and mows her grass while wearing bright lipstick. I’m invested in becoming the lady the neighbors whisper about because she’s talking or singing to her plants. I want to be the favorite aunt who loves other’s children like they’re her own and lives on her own terms. I want to be the one with the kind heart and silly smile that can put everyone at ease. I hope to mellow like she did.

I’m embracing my Hazel with each passing day. Maybe I can pass on to others what she gave to me.

The Avett Brothers

Toward the end of 2012, someone recommended that I read a book by this new author, Colleen Hoover. She was becoming very popular on her debut novel. It was a romance, and at first, I winced. It was called Slammed. I imagined an E. L. James scenario. It was a YA romance. Before I could tell her that it wasn’t for me, she simply said, “I know you like poetry. It’s about a couple with slam (or spoken word) poetry woven into their relationship. Trust me.” I gave it some thought and put it off. She asked repeatedly if I’d started it and what did I think. I think it’s a bad idea is what I didn’t say.

I finally gave in one day when I was sick and at home.

The first thing I read in this book was a quote from The Avett Brothers. It read,

 

“…I’m as nowhere as I can be,

Could you add some somewhere to me?”

-The Avett Brothers, Salina

I have to admit, by this point, I was intrigued. Early on the main character describes her love for the band. She bonded with her father through their music. Her description of them sounded terrific.

My father and I would stay up at night and sing some of the songs together as he attempted to work the chords out on his guitar. He described them to me once. He said, “Lake, you know a band has true talent when their imperfections define perfection.”

I eventually understood what he meant when I started really listening to them. Broken banjo strings, momentary passionate lapses of harmony, voices that go from smooth to gravelling to all out screaming in a single verse. All these things add substance, character and believability to their music.
-Slammed, Colleen Hoover

As I read, I found more and more of their quotes at the beginning of the chapters. Another character is a poetry teacher and describes them as poets. I found this to be true with every quote I read. I finished the book in no time and loved it. A quick Google lead me to an amazing discovery. They were a real band. I read through lyric after lyric. I pulled up one of their songs on YouTube and only listened for a moment. It didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in.

I asked my good friend, who also happened to be my boss at the time, if she had heard of The Avett Brothers. I hadn’t heard their name out loud, and mispronounced it. She said, “If you mean The Avett Brothers, then yes. They’re great!”

We sat down at her computer, she pulled up a song and played it for me. It was The Ballad of Love and Hate. It was sad. It was sweet. It was a story. It made me love The Avett Brothers. We listened to a few more songs. I was hooked.

That night I listened to everything I could find. Some songs, I didn’t know if I could get into. The first listen just wouldn’t catch me. Then, I would listen again and find what it was I needed from it. I read about them, their beginnings, their lives.

I listened over and over to all their songs. The forums I read said that their live shows were something to behold. They danced, jumped, celebrated, got emotional, and everything between. A friend of mine’s husband got to see them live and said it was the best live show he’s ever been to.

A few months ago, I found out that they were doing a show in Brandon, MS. So close.

I talked about going for a solid month. Tony being Tony, just said, “Well, let’s do it.” I had to do my normal process for what I consider a big decision. I had to overthink, analyze all angles, and doubt every detail. I finally gave in and got tickets with the help of a friend. I was ecstatic.

The tickets were purchased on March 2. I couldn’t wait.

“Well I’ve been locking myself up in my house for some time now

Reading and writing and reading and thinking
and searching for reasons and missing the seasons
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow
The record will stop and the record will go
Latches latched the windows down,
the dog coming in and the dog going out
Up with caffeine and down with the shot
Constantly worried about what I’ve got
Distracted by work but I can’t make it stop
and my confidence on and my confidence off
And I sink to the bottom I rise to the top
and I think to myself that I do this a lot”
-The Avett Brothers, Talk on Indolence

Saturday night, I got to see my favorite band perform some of my favorite songs live. I found that my husband also likes them. I was surprised when he wanted to go to the concert with me and my friend. I didn’t think they were his type of music but found him singing along to most of the songs.

The experience defied my expectations. From the moment they stepped onto the stage, the air was electric. The whole crowd went through ups and downs. The emotion that the entire band emitted was incredible.

We laughed with them, loved with them, hurt with them, mourned with them, and were joyful with them. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but one I mostly definitely want to repeat. My friend and I danced and sang at the top of our lungs. I screamed until my throat ached and clapped until my hands were sore. I can’t imagine a better performance. My only regret is that I didn’t find them sooner, but like all things in my life, a book lead me to something great. I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll repeat myself again. Words are my most favorite thing, and The Avett Brothers have a way with words.

My favorite quote from my favorite Avett Brothers song reads, “Decide what to be and go be it.”

Short, simple, and to the point.

They give good advice. They tell great stories. They teach me about life. They see a different perspective. They feel everything they sing. They weave magic into their words. They tell the truth. The Avett Brothers are wordsmiths of the first degree. That’s why they’re my favorite band.

November Blue by The Avett Brothers Brandon, MS

Spring

20190317_151600

Because of all the recent rain, my backyard is a bit overgrown. It’s in need of a mow, has wildflowers springing up. It looks a bit wild at the moment.

I sat on my back steps Sunday and admired it. The overgrowth and out of control shrubs made for beautiful green chaos. My dog rolled in the clover and romped through it chasing her ball. I enjoyed taking the time to just be.

I love plants and growing things. My Paw always had a garden. We would shell peas and beans until our fingers were raw. We’d put up squash, can tomatoes, and at the end of the day, gather ‘round a watermelon on the picnic table. If you’re a watermelon lover, and Lord knows I am, there is something about that first sweet bite. The juice on your tongue, and it running down your chin. There are few things that compare. We kids would be covered in sticky by the time we were done. My grandmother wouldn’t let us near the house until we were hosed down. Seed spitting competitions would ensue.

I miss those springs and summers of my childhood. My skin got darker as my hair got lighter. We rode bicycles til our legs would go no further.

We lived in a tiny community called Weathersby. The pasture that surrounded our house on three sides was green and lush because of the creek that ran through it. I spent those summers up to my knees in water in the small creek and every article of clothing I owned had grass stains. I loved to take off running through the pasture and eat the wild muscadines that grew along the water. I ran wild through the green and my heart was free.

I miss those summers of my youth when the world seemed smaller, and the crazy stuff you hear happening in your own backyard was in far off places like New York and Chicago.

I can already feel the itch, the want to get my hands in some soil. I bought some potting soil and started some seeds Sunday. It’s later than I normally like to start, but death and illness have been with us constantly these last months.

It felt refreshing to get the soil in my hands on Sunday. The cool earth speaks to me on another level. My mother says I get it from my Aunt Hazel. Last year, I found some pitiful looking petunias at the Wal-Mart garden center. They were marked down in their sad state. I came home with all three flats of them. As I unloaded them, I just knew Tony was going to kill me. He walked out onto the porch, looked them over, and said I’d have them good as new in no time. He’s a gem, that one. I potted them up and ended up giving some away after they were looking better.

My snowball trees are showing out. The balls are still green but are bountiful. My banana shrubs are blooming and fragrant. I can’t wait for my little herb seeds to poke through the soil and reach for the sun. I’m waiting for the morning glories to weave themselves among the shrubs and begin their trek around my yard. I get giddy when I think of getting petunias for my porch. If this year is like last, I’ll have jars with clipplings lined on my porch sprouting roots. I want to try my hand at a few new things.

Plants are food, breath, and life. They are like us in many ways. They need lots of water and sunshine and love and care. I’ve been neglecting my blog. I’ve been neglecting life. Spring is a welcome change.