Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good Stuff Displayed Bad

It doesn't really get any better than this. I mean, look at this guy. I just had to use this photo- Jesus, sign and all- because it inspired my title for this entry. What a great marketing scheme. First of all, Jesus is watching. Second of all, don't underestimate this shopping experience. Jesus would never underestimate a scraggly old man selling the contents out of his wife's junk drawer. Not pictured: the contraption with costume rings tied down by threading bolts on the other side of a crate to discourage five-finger discounts. Genius.

Mom and I spent the weekend at the Nashville Flea Market, a location slowly becoming one of my favorite places in the world (added to a list that includes Rosemary Beach, Clay County AL, and my own kitchen with a good recipe)... I know you're not supposed to end a paragraph with parentheses, but I have to move on.

Saturday morning we drove to the Loveless Cafe for breakfast. This restaurant has been covered by Southern Living, Martha Stewart, and just about every other expert on good home-cooking. The food was great. The art was better. I was in the mood to decorate. After a brief stopover at a TJ Maxx to replace the tent dress I was wearing that kept flying up in the Tennessee wind, we were off to find our treasures. And that we did.

Upon arrival, Mom and I discovered a closeout tent of oil paintings. We were probably a little out of control, but I had good intentions for all of it. I bought seven landcapes that remind me of places I've been, a cowboy for our bedroom (because everyone needs a cowboy in the bedroom... what?) and numerous gifts (for Pop and GG) and a woman who I think (rather delusionally, I'm sure) looks like me. Mom got a few landscapes that look like Clay County, an abstract of musicians (because she is one) and one of a woman in a kitchen with a bowl of apples, who we decided we would claim was a depiction of our beautiful Italian aunt, Sophia (a lie, in case you don't know that we are just a bunch of Alabamians with no clue of our ancestors' place of origin)... There I go again. More parentheses. I knew I was a commaholic, but I didn't know about my parentheses problem. Anyway...

We go there for the stuff. But mostly we go there for the characters. Let me explain. I am a storyteller... Don't like the story I'm telling? That's okay. All I'm saying is that it's important for me to have a story. Seldom do I not recall an old memory or something that relates me to what you are saying. Everything is relevant. And when it comes to finding trinkets and tchotchkes, I don't want it if there's not one. If you come to my house for the first time, I'll ask you if you want the house tour or the story tour. I love collecting art, and every single picture/painting on my walls has a story to tell. Some things are worth nothing, but everything to me. Some things look as if they are worth nothing, but will knock your socks off if I told you the value. Take, for example my Mose T watermelon I bought directly from the artist in college with money I got back from selling a watch. See, there's a story. I paid $92. Sadly, he died last year. It is now worth over a thousand.

Let me tell you the story about Steele. Mom and I discovered him on a cold November day last year, selling everything from Oriental rugs to retro green lunch trays. He is cool. And he knows what's cool. If you admire, say, a wheeled cart at ankle level he'll tell you the same one is selling in Pottery Barn for $700. Only, Pottery Barn's doesn't have a history (my insertion, not his). We were enamored by his personality and his ability to carry on with us as a salesman should. Unassuming, friendly, and just plain original. If the stuff he's selling wasn't cool before, he makes it that way. I'm not talking about paint and refinishing. I'm talking about character. He has it. He radiates it.

He sets up once a month in the same spot and leans his goods up to a trailer. On it, he hangs handmade crosses constructed of iron, wheels, barbed wire, etc. Back in November, Mom and I learned of his refusal to ever sell one of the crosses. When we asked him why, he said that he could never ask someone to pay him for one, after everything that cross had done for him. Later that day, we witnessed an unforgettable exchange.

Two hispanic women with small children had stopped to admire the collection of hanging crosses. In broken English one of them asked how much one would cost. Steele asked her if she liked it, and if she wanted it, but she just kept asking "How much?" He took the cross down from its post and handed it to her. "Here," he said. "But if you take this, I want you to know what it means. You should know what that cross has done for me." The woman and her friend were flabbergasted. Through the language barrier I think they still thought they owed him something, possibly an amount to which they had not yet agreed. But he kept insisting that she take it without any payment. The women still tried to refuse, but Steele explained that what he could now give them for free would one day be priceless.

Now that's what I call a character with character. And his good stuff is displayed good.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Fried Food and Friendship

On Monday I made a paper chain. It is constructed of troop-supporting yellow construction paper and it is woven through my kitchen banisters like garland. If you don't know what a paper chain is, think back to Kindergarten when you were counting down to a specific event, like Christmas or the last day of school. You might have stapled or even glued the skinny strips together to form links around one another. Every week I am tearing one off. One down, 43 to go!

Last week was filled with endless support from friends and family. Justin's mother stayed in town with me until Wednesday. On Monday night we made it over to Wallace Station Fried Chicken Night, a must for bluegrass area dwellers- but diners be warned, it's only open for dinner on Mondays. It is seriously the best fried chicken you will ever eat, and made of local, organic ingredients to boot!

On Thursday I received an invitation to have dinner with some new friends. While enjoying dinner together on the patio at Harry's, we were met with a cast of interesting characters, all who decided to park themselves right behind my barstool. First, a heavily intoxicated wild-haired and middle-aged divorcee (I'm guessing). Her lips couldn't find the straw she was using to drink her double-fisted bloody marys, and after being forced to pay her bar tab and vacate the premises, she began to shout uncontrollably about the fact that she had, just three months ago, gone home with a well-known coach in the area. As if that wasn't enough to keep us in stitches for the night, an older man sat down in her place. He proceeded to feed his shitzu from his own fork, and even shared dessert with the little mongrel! If this is what my summer is going to be like, I will be thoroughly entertained!

Over the weekend, I traveled to Atlanta to see my old friend Jessica. We grew up in Marietta, Georgia together. I will never forget the first time I met her. I had won a trip to McDonald's and was being escorted by my most favorite teacher in the world, Mrs. Sibyl Gore. But when I went to get into the back seat of her little white Acura, there sat a smiley-faced brunette who looked about my age. Who was this intruder? She was interfering with my field trip! I was teacher's pet for the moment, and now I had to share my time? In the end, it didn't take long for us to warm up to one another. By the time we pulled out of my neighborhood, we were already scheming for Mrs. Gore to take us to Showbiz Pizza. And here we are... 22 years later. Wow.

Jessica had a baby less than two weeks ago (doesn't she look great?). When we planned the trip, we thought he would be about a month old. But he was two weeks late! Lucas Merritt wasn't ready to make his appearance. He made a surprise debut into her life the same way she made it into mine. Like mother like son.

While in Atlanta, we visited the restaurant owned by my TV crush and Top Chef contestant, Richard Blais. I really can't think of a better concept than that of a gourmet burger joint that serves Krispy Kreme Milkshakes. You heard me. He puts the donut into the milkshake. It might be what Heaven tastes like if you get to taste it. I ordered the "Southern," which consists of a deep-fried beef patty, pimiento cheese, and green tomato ketchup. Again, Heaven.

I am coping with any sadness by relishing in good food and even better friendships. I am learning how to enjoy things again independently. Because Justin doesn't leave the States until this coming Wednesday, I have been able to talk to him at least twice a day. It has been an unexpected surprise that has helped us cope with the first week of this journey. Our relationship is thriving and we are amazed at how quickly the first week went by. While there is still a long road ahead of us, we have both enjoyed our time. There is no other choice than to confront these moments and learn how to make the very best of them. God is so good. I never believed I could be this happy one week after sending him off to war. The only explanation I have? God has a paper chain of His own. I don't have to know what the links entail, but I have faith that there's one on the end that means a Homecoming.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Safe Travels and Godspeed

For six months I have anticipated what yesterday would bring. I tried to imagine how I might handle the moment when my husband would walk out on to that tarmac and board the plane that would take him away from me for 44 weeks (yes, I have already counted). I could never have predicted the emotions, the number of tears, or the sheer sense of pride and excitement. I could never have imagined what those hours would feel like leading up to that moment. I could never have imagined the moments that would follow.

All day I received messages from friends, new and old. The common thread between them all? Everyone seemed to say, "I cannot imagine what you must be going through right now." I can relate. I couldn't imagine it before it happened to me either.

I do believe in the voice of military families. I believe in the ability we have to help others understand and empathize. I will do my best to explain what we go through. I will give you an opportunity to imagine...

My heart is heavy with grief, but heavier with pride. My heart is heavy with fear, but heavier with dedication. Since 2:30 yesterday, I have been strong, weak, lost and found. I have had ups, downs and in-betweens. I have prayed, screamed, sobbed, grasped, and then grown silent. I have searched my head for every silver lining I can possibly find. I have walked it off, prayed it away and talked it out. I have survived.

The worst is behind me. No, he's not over there yet. He hasn't piloted his first flight in a war-torn country. But behind me is an entire day. An entire day to say, "I did this. And I'll do it again... over and over again." Behind me is goodbye. All that is in front of me is, "I miss you... I love you... I can't live without you, but I am trying as hard as I can... You are my hero and my best friend... I want to go to Europe on your R&R... I want to be a better woman when you come home, a better wife, a mother, and I want you to look up to me as much as I look up to you...." What does tomorrow bring? I can hardly imagine... but it doesn't involve "Goodbye." That moment is history and only God predicts futures.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Eighty-six the Sadness, Substitute with Pride

No, I never worked in a diner, nor have I ever been a waitress. I have never used the phrase "Eighty-six the mayo," or "Order up." But here's a little-known fact: At one point, my hometown in Georgia did make room for a restaurant called Vittles. I rejoiced in the day that it would open. At night I laid awake in bed, picturing myself parading around on roller skates, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to a host of hungry customers. Why I picked Vittles, I have no idea. When it finally did open, the food was terrible and the waitresses didn't wear roller skates. My dreams were crushed. Am I living vicariously through that far-fetched idea? Maybe a little. I know one thing for certain: I tend to live vicariously through most of the ideas I've ever had. This is my blog. This is officially my first entry.

Words cannot describe the way I am feeling. Next week marks a monumental time in my life. My husband is leaving for Iraq. He will be gone for one year. Time has flown to get us to this point. I am praying that time will fly to get us through it.

I never picked this lifestyle. I never laid awake in bed dreaming of roller skating alone (please, I haven't roller skated in fourteen years) or of being a military wife. But this lifestyle picked me. I am honored. I am proud. I am screaming from the top of my lungs that my husband is serving overseas to give YOU the freedom to read this blog, love it or leave it, and to have any feeling imaginable about this country, this president, this government, this opinion of mine.

You have everything, you know that, don't you? You have America to fall back on, have you nothing else. You have this because of people like my husband. I just wanted to remind you of that. Because if you don't like this first entry, you probably won't want to read the rest of them. The great thing about this whole thing? It's America. You can do whatever you want. Thanks, Justin.

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