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All in the Family

My house has been taken over by my family. And cats.  It’s like a whirlwind/tornado when my family comes to visit. It’s not like in the movies, where you open the doors and there are calm, sweet hugs and kisses. There are hugs and kisses yes, but then there is the unloading. The unloading of the van is like a race, it must be fun fast and furious, before anyone sits down or catches up. While this may not seem like anything substantial, it is quite the event because my parents pack for just in case – of a nuclear war, of a famine, of a mass communication outage or power failure.

There will be many coolers worth of food (they feel bad for making me cook and provide sustenance, so they bring a lot of their own). Meats, breads, cheeses, wine, filtered water, fruits, vegetables and a whole smorgasbord of home made, home cooked yummy goodness. Even fresh canned treasures from their own garden. There is more food than can possibly be imagined, and my mother immediately starts organize the treasure on the cupboard, refrigerator and freezer with such precision, talent and concentration, one can only stand back in awe and watch the master at work.

Next will be all of Dad’s electronics. My father is a professional engineer, and truly believes that having every gadget known to man-kind is a must. And so he travels with the Garmin, his laptop and several things I have no clue as to their purpose, but they have a lot of chords. And parts. And little lights. And sometimes they make noise. I try not to go near where ever his treasure of electronics are, as I am a clumsy disaster waiting to happen, especially after a few glasses of wine.

All the bedding is next. Blankets, sheets and more pillows than anyone should be legally allowed to own. There is no shortage of pillows at my house, however, they like their own and want to make sure they are comfortable sleeping. Don’t you hate it when you sleep at someone else’s house, and it’s not YOUR pillow? And you can’t get comfortable. And it smells different. And then you wake up the next day with a sore neck? Smart people travel with their own pillows.

My wonderful parents also always bring lots of things for me . And the house, or garden, the laundry, the garage, or just because you might find a way to use it, stuff. It’s like Christmas, but better because you didn’t have to spend any money on gifts. Or wondering what to get people who already have everything. (Monogrammed golf shirt? Dad doesn’t play golf. That new fangled, gotta have it, only available for a limited time, can’t find in stores, so call now and get free steak knives too, kitchen gadget? Mom already has it.  A nose hair trimmer? Now, that’s just tacky).

After all of this, two very small, almost dainty, overnight bags are unloaded, containing toiletries on clothes. NO matter how long they are gone, a weekend or a month, somehow everything they will use, wear or need fits in those little bags. I swear they have no bottom, like going to see David Copperfield and he pulls a 10 foot pole out of a two-inch hat? Yes, just like that. It really is amazing to see everything they fit into those bags.

After everything is unloaded, organized and put in the proper place, everyone sits down and starts to catch up. Coffee is poured (unless it’s after 5, then it’s wine). There is laughter and smiles, teasing and oh so much love. we talk, tell of our latest adventures, whether in the garden or across the world and have good family time. Yes, it’s good to have family come visit.

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Easter and Chainsaws

Easter with the family is always wonderful and this year was no different. We drove to the family compound this year. The weather was wonderful and it was a great break from the rainy cold we had been having prior tot he holiday in Atlanta.   It was the perfect weather for yard work, and our parents took full advantage that their young healthy children would be there for the weekend.

Spring in southern Georgia is a very special thing, so having to be outside was not a problem at all. I helped Dad with the yard work. We started off by trimming Mom’s many fruit trees. Dad got the little, what I call mini-chain saw. We worked well together, he chainsawing the limbs as i would hold and catch them as they fell (they were small trees). I would put the limbs in the back of the truck to haul off to the burn pile later. Those who have grown up in the south or in the country are very familiar with this practice.

Soon the limbs from all the trees were taller than the cab of the little work truck. This meant it was time for this 40 year old girl to revert back to childhood. This meant fun! I climbed into the back of the truck and started walking, even jumping on the large pile of limbs. I felt like I could shout “I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal!”  You can take the girl out of the country…

Next it was time to cut down a few small dead fruit trees (something that doesn’t happen very often around my mother because she has more than a green thumb). I begged, begged, begged to finally be allowed to use the chain saw. After all, I am forty. My father agreed and we had a great father daughter moment as he showed me how to use it. He was proud of his little girl. A chain saw wielding red-headed klutz. Oh yes. Be afraid, be very afraid. Especially any ex boyfriends or anyone who eve cut me off in traffic (insert evil laugh here).

But before I could cut the trunks of the trees, all the grass and such needed to be cleared put. Dad offered me some gloves, but they would have just gotten in the way. Having my hands in the dirt makes me feel closer to God, as I feel the dirt on my hands and smell the earth. It’s a lot harder than it looks! But I felt triumphant the stump I was chainsawing became nothing more than a small piece of wood that could be pulled up later.

After the hard work with the chainsaw was done, it was time to sit and relax. By this time the weather had changed, and the clouds were rolling in. There was just enough time to pour a glass of wine and sit out on the back porch. Soon you could hear it; the sound of the rain hitting the lake.  The scent of the rain was heavy on the breeze, and finally when the sight of the rain caught up with the scent and sound, it was quite a site. Lighting lit up the sky, and the rain came down in heavy sheets that flooded the yard and made waves on the water. It was beautiful.

And that is the way it is in life – Sometimes a little rain must fall, even after a lot of hard work. But when the storm is over, everything is clean and clear, ripe and green. And if we look, we can see God’s hand in the changes that the storm creates. For change is often not easy, and the waves are far reaching. But every storm runs out of rain. So until then grab a seat and a glass of wine. And know, in your heart of hearts, that it will be ok.

This year Easter was a wonderful blessing. There was a lot of hard work, lot’s of love, laughter and family. Yes, life could not get much better (well, I could win the lottery, or George Clooney could fall madly in love with me…but I digress). Life is good and I am happy.

The Belly Dance of Life

Tonight my sister and I went to belly dance classes. It’s a great, fun and sexy way to exercise and it is a very hard workout. Sweat pours off of you while you are barely moving because it is such extreme muscle isolation. You must drink a lot of water before, during and after the lesson. Now, put two women over the age of 40, who are not very coordinated to begin with…and you have quite an adventure. And as we bent down in our belly dance stance position, looking straight ahead in the mirrors to see what our bodies were doing, I noticed a trend. A trend not only with my body, but with others in the class as well.

I noticed the subtleties of what the instructor was doing with her hips, her arms, her legs, her chest as we danced. And I  noticed what we were all doing. And the two did not look the same at all. While the instructor’s movements were very contained, controlled and subtle, most students, including myself, had jerky overdone movements. Our movements were so very exaggerated from what they should have been, what the instructor’s were. But we are all learning in this class, getting the hang of the positions and movements. We have tired arms and burning legs. We need to rest sometimes, catch our breathe before the next movement.

And isn’t it the same in life? Sometimes, when we are first learning a new skill, our movements are unsure and uncoordinated, jerky. And while learning, we sometimes over do things to make sure we actually have the movement down. And then, in time and practice, we slowly become more sure of ourselves, our movements more fluid and our thoughts take over other areas, as it becomes natural. But in the meantime, we may overcompensate and miss the subtleties of certain situation which we are trying to master.

Indeed that is the case in my life. I try to handle things with Grace, and while my movements have become a bit more fluid, I still do have a bit more coordination to work on. It is easy to have grace when all is going well in life. It is harder when things do not go as planned, or when you are exceptionally angry at someone. And then I overcompensate, and go to the other direction of not having a spine in an attempt to have Grace. Having Grace still means having a spine. And somewhere, there is that balance.

When we over compensate and miss the subtleties in dance class, we miss the small beautiful movements that truly make it an art. We get off balance, our arms and legs flail around (or maybe that’s just me?), we loose our rhythm, we loose count, and we have to stop, take a breath and start back at square one. The we try again, and again, and again.

The same is true in life.

Sometimes, I over do things. Sometimes, out of insecurity, I go overboard. I am afraid that I will not be understood, so I say the same things over and over, to stress what is important. The result is driving people away, instead of drawing them closer. Or because I am so very hurt by someone, I lash out at them, hurting them worse, when all I wanted was for them to just understand.

And somewhere, there is my balance where I don’t fall when trying to do a hip shimmie.

Why do we over compensate in life? Why do we go overboard in our reactions or intentions sometimes? Why is that balance so hard to find, between where we are and were we want to be? Sometimes it seems as if we are wars apart from our goals. Maybe the secret is to just relax and stop trying so hard. Keep at it, as practice makes perfect, and know that with enough repetition and perseverance, we will indeed find our rhythm and Grace.

I guess I should pray for physical grace as well. And maybe, one day, with enough practice, I’ll get them both right.

Last Winter’s Night

It is that time of year where it is on the cusp of the seasons – winter to Spring. And indeed Spring is in the air, along with the ever so slight start of pollen. The days are getting longer and warmer, the nights cool but not cold. Look close and you will see the beginning of new life on the trees and in the bushes. Listen and you will hear the sound of a few birds, see the squirrels playing. In the last few weeks, winter has loosed up his grip so that Spring may enter the room.

The last few weeks have also been a whirlwind of activity, both personal and professional. I have been immersed in family as my parents visit for Dad’s chemo treatment and my sister moves in to start her new life. The last few weeks has seen the definate end of an old relationship, and the very new start of another. Work is sprouting in different directions, and friends have been everywhere too. Yes, I have felt like a vine growing in all different directions, stretching thin looking for the warmth of the sun. 

But tonight, it seems, is the last winter’s night. The weekend will be warm and full of spring air, pregnant with the promise of possibilities. The season of heavy coats will be past of this weekend. And so I put on my favorite coat and walking shoes, and walk around the neighborhood. And asa I walked around, looking at the stars, breathing the cool night air, seeing the few neighbors who came outside to retrieve things from their yard or car, I pondered the last few weeks.

Now with my sister here, I am learning how nice it is to not be alone, to have someone I know and trust around, to have interdependance, to be OK to cry in front of someone, to hear someone else around the house, and not need to grab a gun because someone broke in. It’s nice to come home and have someone happily cooking food, have the hosue smell great, and not have me doing all the cooking. It’s nice to have help folding the laudry and that I do not have to face Dad’s health by myself. It’s just so nice.

And there was a sense of peace that came over me, because now that have this, now that I know what it is and what it feels like, I know that I want to have this in my life – with my friends, continued with my family, and with my lovers. And this heart of mine warms up, from the inside out, and I know that this is the start of a new phase of my life. And it is indeed that last winter’s night.

Life is good and I am happy.

A Great Day for a Hike

When the weather is warm, for the first time since last summer, we all just want to get outside. We have spring fever from being cooped up so long and having cabin fever. it’s warm, it’s sunner, it’s time to get outside and start moving around agian. Breathing in the fresh air, hearing the birds start to chirp again, seeing the squirrels play around on the trees. Yes, spring is here, finally!

My sister and I, anxious to enjoy the warmer weather, headed up to the northern part of Georgia to a place called Amicalola Falls, Located just a little nmore than an hours drive, we knew it would be the perfect place to dive back into spring, into life. And indeed it was.

Now when traveling with my sister, one must be prepared, for her being prepared. This is no ordinary, or let’s just bring this for just in case, girl. No. I had to convince her to leave her 25lb purse home. But we still brought with us, because she beleives in having for whatever what-if’s come along, a large knife, a compass, a flashlight, two sets on binnoculars, our phones, her cameras, a poncho and several other things…and I felt as if we could take on the world. We were not just two city girls getrting away to the comforts of the country. We were nature people prepared for anything.

And on our way up, as we drove and passed strange sounding roads and lanes, as we followed the voice of the GPS telling us where to turn next, as we laughed and had a great drive, I came to a realization. I finally have intimacy in my life, at the young age of 40. Most people think of intimacy only in a romantic sense, but that is not the case. There are many types. I have lived alone and been on my own now for over 20 years. And living with my sister has been a wonderful expereince, as for the first time since I was a child, do I have someone around who I trust and am comfortable with no matter what.

I mean, who else will stand in the bathrrom with me and make sure my chin is free of those annoying hairs?  And who would I trust to pluck those little hairs out with no judgement? It is companionship. It is trust. It is familiarity and comfort. It is family. All this time I have been seeking it in a romantic relationship, when it was right their in my family relationships. And so, as I go forward, looking for a romantic relationship, I know the kind of comfort and intimacy that I want, because of the trust and comfort I have with my family.

This expereince has made my life more fullfilled and complete, so that when I look for a partner, I am a complete and happy person. And that, among many other things, it what I can bring to the table.

I was first overwhelmed at the idea of mysister an nephew living here, because I thought I can never do all of this alone. But my sister has made it so easy, because she has made sure that I am not alone. She, as my big sister, has made sure that WE have this. It is the first time in my adult life, that I have not shouldered everything myself. Life is truly easier when you share the load.

So we drove up and had great conversation, listened to music, and just had fun. When we arrived, it was time to hit the welcome center store for a few things, then head up the trail for a great hike.  We went up the most popular way. It was only a mile, but it has 604 steps before you reach the top, after hiking uphill for quite a while. not for the faint of heart. And as we huffed and puffed out way to the top, she pointed out things about the rocks, the terain, the plants, the water flow, the minerals arouond the area, and I was taught quite a bit.

My sister is brilliant, and has studied biology, chemistry and geology quite extensively. She taught me how to see the different years in the rocks, as she told me their age, she showed me the different minerals in the rocks, as she pointed out the different colors and hardness of each. I learned how to tell the age of the tress by just looking at them and how to tell where the water used to run, how big the waterfalls used to be, before they were dammed up and controlled. I was amazed, not only at the amount of rich geological history that I never noticed before, but that my sister knew of these things like they were every day things. She reminded me a bit of Temperance Brennan on the TV show bones, rattling off all of her superior knowledge to wide eyed people around.

We went up the 604 steps, stopping along the way to look at the trees, plant life, the way the water was dripping form the rocks and notice the different size and shapeds of the rocks. We did not, however, stop because we were tired or winded. no. Absolutley not.

We even did a bit of rock climbing, as any self respecting 40 something women would do. It is true our bomes creekd a bit more than they did when we were younger, but we still managed to get up the rocks, take our pictures, and awkwardly get back down. We still got up up there, we can still do it, we are women, hear us roar! 

And on our way down, we mused at life. We talked about how sad it was the my latest ex, who I last made this hikle with, never tried to steal a kiss or hold my hand while hiking (one of the many reasons why he is an ex maybe?). We talked of the different types of trees, of our childhood, of the views of the waterfalls and the mountains, and we got a lot of exercise. These two middle aged women are going to be very sore tomorrow morning.  And we will wonder what we were thinking, going up all those stairs, walking all those steps and climbing all those rocks? And then we will smile and say, we were living life. And then we will stumble to the medicine cabinet to get the Advil.

And so it is, this hike on a perfect day, with the perfect weather, with a great big sister, and a wonderful life.