Monday, May 1, 2017

The Cowgirl's Daddy

Looking back now, she can’t remember if she wanted to be a cowgirl because she loved to go for rides out in the desert with her daddy on his bike, a little-girl-friendly Honda Trail 90, or because she and her daddy watched a Clint Eastwood movie together.  All she knows is, when she was a very little girl, that’s what she wanted to be.
Of course, this changed time and time again, and today she is most definitely not at all, even a little bit of a cowgirl - at least not on the outside.  
Her earliest memories, though, include many adventures with her daddy (and her mom, and her dog) out in the desert and the mountains of Arizona.

There was the time they left their house while it was still dark to cook breakfast out in the desert at sunrise, and they saw a gila monster for the first time in the wild.  There was the time they went camping with friends who covered the little girl with horned lizards (possibly at her request, or at least with her approval) and thought it was the funniest and best thing.  There was another time they went camping and she grabbed a hot lantern and burned her hands, and had to sit with them down in a cooler full of ice.  There were wonderful summers in Greer, going on horseback rides through the woods, and hiking Mount Baldy, and watching afternoon thunderstorms.  And there was the time she went fishing with her daddy, and another boy and his dad, and she thought her line had become hung up on a rock, but when her daddy came to check, it turned out to be a fish so big he had to land it for her, and the boy was so mad that a girl had caught the biggest fish that day.
She always thought it was amazing that they would take off on the bike for a ride (she sat behind her daddy with her arms around his waist), head out into the desert until she was sure they were lost and would never be able to find their way back, and would then pop out at the Pinnacle Peak General Store (where he would buy her an Ol’ Bob Miller’s Sasparilla) before heading home.  So many times in the desert, in the woods, up on the rim (the Mogollon Rim, a favorite place of his) she would be absolutely sure they were lost, but her daddy always, always knew exactly how to get home.

When she was just nine, she and her daddy and her uncle hiked the Grand Canyon - down the Kaibab trail, camping at Phantom Ranch, and ascending the Bright Angel.  She felt like such an accomplished outdoorswoman, but, much later, she realized that her daddy must have carried the bulk of her gear, and the food, and the water.  

When she got older, and “Daddy” became “Dad”, and she wanted to have adventures of her own, he encouraged her every time.  His favorite photos of her would be the ones she took in Mexico with a goat, and in Kenya, and even later, with her own children when they traveled the world together.  He told her once that he was proud of the way she and her husband took their children all over, because traveling is “how you really get to know the world, and people, and yourself.”  

Like her daddy, she loved the adventure of books.  She thinks now that it must have amazed and slightly confused her more social mother that she and her dad could sit in quiet companionship, happily reading their own books, for quite a while.  
And, like her daddy, she loved riding through the countryside, looking out the window at all of creation for hours, quietly imagining the events that might have occurred there, or what it would be like to live in that place.  Driving the back roads became a favorite way to relax and have fun.

Before he walked her down the aisle on her wedding day (she would realize later that she had chosen to marry a man who was a lot like her dad, with his love of the outdoors, of fly fishing, of backpacking, of old cars, and of doing things right), the cowgirl’s daddy leaned down and kissed her on the cheek and said, “You chose well, kiddo.”  
When she turned 40, her parents came to her house to help her celebrate, and her dad wanted to get her a special present, so they headed to the Boot Barn to purchase a pair of genuine cowboy boots.  After trying on a few different styles, she found a pair of Ariats that looked they had already been nicely worn in, but also had a pink lining that appealed to the girl in her.  When she showed her dad the ones she had chosen, he said, in his humorous way, “Those will help you to keep kicking ass in life.”  She came to wear those boots when she had to do something scary, like give a talk in front of a crowd for the first time, and needed the extra courage the boots gave her.  Every time she wore them, she was reminded of her dad, and how much he loved her, and how proud he was of her, and it made her a little less afraid.

Five days before the cowgirl’s daddy died, he called her on the phone to ask for her okay to print copies of a little article she had written so he and her mom could show it to their friends.  He told her how much he liked it and what a good job she had done, and then, just before saying goodbye, he said, “Love ya, girl.”  She remembered this later and considered it a huge gift, because although she had never, ever doubted that he loved her, he wasn’t one to say it out loud very often.  And that, it turned out, was the very last thing the cowgirl’s daddy said to her.

So, when it came time to say goodbye to him on this earth, for this time, the cowgirl pulled up her boots, gave her daddy an eskimo kiss on the nose, and thanked him for making her who she is, grateful every single day that the cowgirl’s daddy was hers.  She will always consider herself the most blessed daughter in the entire world. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Defense of My Millennials

I have heard so many people complaining about "those lazy, self-absorbed millennials" and how they are going to drive this country into the ground, and it makes my mama-bear tendencies come out in droves, because I am the actual, real-life mother of two of them.  "Well," they say, "We aren't talking about your children." Excuse me, but if you aren't talking about my children, you are probably referring to my students, or to their friends. So in their defense, I would like to just point out a few observations:
Yep, I've met a few who are lazy.  And there are a few who are self-absorbed.  I am prone to laziness, and I most definitely am often self-absorbed.   I went to school with a few lazy and/or selfish people.  Some of their parents were lazy and/or selfish.  And grandparents.  You get the picture - it's so easy to generalize and assume, but it does nothing helpful to do either of those things.  There are amazing and not-so-amazing people in every generation.
I also get my hackles up when we (and by 'we' I mean people over about 40 who rant about millennials) make statements like, "they all got participation trophies for just being on the team!" as if they, as little children, demanded such things.  If I remember correctly, we are the ones who gave them those trophies and prizes; and do you know what I see now in my grown-up children?  They have learned that everyone is valuable whether or not they are the most skilled, or the biggest, or the best.  This is a beautiful thing - it has taught my children and their co-millennials to be way more inclusive and compassionate than I ever was at their age.  My students regularly give up their summers to serve orphans overseas, to participate in helping women leave lives of prostitution, to work with doctors in developing countries to provide life-saving and life-altering surgeries on children, to dig wells to provide clean water for people who have no access, and so much more.  Two years ago, through the non-profit Journeymen International  (started by one of my millennials when he was still a student), three of my students designed and then saw the construction of: a community center and storm shelter in the Philippines, a church and youth education center in the Dominican Republic, and an education and community center in Sierra Leone.  Three students. One school.  One year.  Imagine what happens through all of the students like these, all over the world.  My students are generous to all, and know way better than me how to truly love people who aren't like them no matter what.  They share extravagantly - over the long weekend, in fact, at a student conference we attended, 1000 students gave an offering to help refugee children. And $50,000 was collected.  The way my children and my students care for the marginalized and outcast often puts me to shame in the best of ways - I strive to be like them.
"They are always looking at their phones and taking selfies" is another good one.  We say it like it's their fault that all of this technology has happened, and that they should be ashamed of using it.  Do they take selfies?  For sure.  When I was younger, all I could do was call a friend on the land-line phone (for hours!) or write a note or letter.  Now my kids can take a picture of themselves to show their friends exactly what they are doing or how they are feeling.  And we get angry at them for doing so.  Yes, they use their phones to get the news (so do I. Every morning.)  When I was young, the only option was local news broadcast on radio or TV.  Now they get news from all over the world and are way more aware of what is going on globally. This is technology. This is a good thing.  As for "fake news", don't even get me started.  I have observed that my kids are WAY more savvy about rooting out the real from the fake than most of the 'old people' I know.  Remember that Millennials have been advertised to and sold to their entire lives.  In my experience, they are excellent at discerning the real from the fake.
"We gave them everything!" To be sure, we have given them a lot. Many good things; many things we never had.  So let's not forget that besides all of the great stuff we've given them, we've also given them incredible pollution, an unstable health care system, and crippling debt. Last week I gave a student a ride and when I was asking her about her schedule, she explained to me that she holds down two jobs while being a full-time student so that her parents, who are having financial trouble since her mom was laid off from the corporate job she had for 15 years, don't have to take out more loans for her.  This is not the first, second, or even third time I've heard this same story.  It is sadly common. When I was in college, my tuition was $485 a semester.  My daughter paid that much in rent. Per month.  And she was getting a good deal.  Last month a former student of mine posted on Facebook that he had paid off his college loan and was celebrating the freedom he felt from it - he graduated 13 years ago.  That is not uncommon, and it is not the result of bad financial management - that's just how long it took. The debt this generation will inherit is unimaginable to me.
We've shown them that what we say and do are often two different things, and then we are angry at them for being skeptical people.  
We've shown them that big business can't always be trusted, and that money doesn't make everyone happy, and then we are mad at them because they don't want "normal" corporate jobs.  This doesn't make them lazy - this makes them brilliant.  Redefining what the "American Dream" is so that it fulfills more of the soul, for more people.  The more time I spend with those dang millennials, the more I actually understand, relate to, and actually like them.  Go figure.
I might be the only old person who feels this way, but I have so much hope for the future because I actually know real Millennials and I for one cannot wait for them to start ruling the world.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Musings On Turning Fifty

So, obviously, it's been a while.  But that's okay, because I've been really super busy doing very important things.  We had a child go to college, a child graduate from college, the same child move down south and go to graduate school, and a long trip overseas for the summer (ok, I did find time to watch the full season of Poldark and all of the episodes of Finding Your Roots on, but no judgment, all right?)
In a week or so, I will be turning 50.  If you just thought to yourself, "How can this be?",  know that I myself am doing the same thing.  This aging thing is really weird.  I won't blather on about time passing so quickly, or that high school seems like it just happened yesterday, blah blah blah, but here are a few observations I've made recently:
First, my hands look like my mom's.  Except her fingernails are way nicer because she was taught to use gloves for things like dish washing and gardening, and I was too 'liberated' as a young woman of the 80's for such things, and now I have fingernails like rubber.  I used to look at my mom's hands in church and wonder how the veins could stick up like that, and now I know that it's just a thing that happens in your forties.
Second, fashion trends really and truly do come around again.  My daughter took my overalls out of the closet two years ago because they are now 'cool', and then this summer she found an Allen Allen periwinkle linen overall dress (jumper, perhaps?) in there that she squealed with glee over and now she's wearing that - she even snapchatted me a picture of herself in it (it looks fantastic - it was one of my favorites for much of the nineties.)  Also, 'yoga pants' - these are actually just leggings with loose calves.  Good thing I saved my gigantic U of A sweatshirt from the 80's to wear with those!
Third, now that my kids are relatively grown up (which is a weird thing itself), I am considered a 'successful parent' because they have actually turned out pretty well, which means they still love us and talk to us and come home sometimes, and they aren't presently in jail or on probation.  When people compliment me by telling me I have done such a good job mommying, I feel like I've gotten away with something, or that I've secretly played a trick on the world.
Fourth, I have noticed that I sometimes think / occasionally say things that a grumpy old person would say.  So far I haven't yelled at anyone to "Stay off my lawn!" (they can't! we have a fence, thank God), but I often think/mutter things when I am driving around town or am in Target.  I suspect it's partly because as one gets older, one doesn't care as much what people think.  It's almost like I feel I've earned the right to be a self-righteous, judgmental snob.  I know I'm not the only one who does this - I have read the Facebook rants of many others.  So far, to my credit, I am safe because I don't post things on Facebook very often, and I mostly drive alone.
There are a few youthful things I will continue to hold on to as I enter my next decade: pop tarts,  Rainbow flip flops, squirting whipped cream directly into my mouth, and video games, to name just a few.  Happy birthday to me!

Monday, June 29, 2015

We are Drought-Tolerant

Although everyone is blogging and posting about current events, I have decided not to, because a) I'm much too smart to lay my opinions out on the internet for everyone to misinterpret and dissect; I have found it's way more effective to have an actual conversation about such matters, b) I'm chicken or c) both a and b.
Nor am I going to blog about the puppy (he is on my very bad side right now because he recently ate a new pair of Rainbows, these really cool leather flip flops that people wear every single day out here), Jason's graduation (although it was wonderful and we are so proud of him!) or Grace being amazing (which she is - she would be my nominee for family member of the year if there was such a thing).
Instead, I've decided to answer the question that several (and by several, I mean 2) people back east have asked, and that is: How is your family being affected by the drought?
Well, the creek is totally dry in our neighborhood, as is our town lake, and our yard looks below-average, because we have to water 25% less (also, Jamey is still recovering from shoulder surgery, so we have a substitute lawn-keeper who does not quite share Jamey's "pride of ownership").  I'm not posting a photo though because our grass is still pretty green (our sprinklers go on at 2 a.m., hoping that no one notices) and we don't want to be 'drought-shamed' by anyone.  I really want to keep the grass, because come fall we will have groups of up to 100 students coming over to picnic/play cornhole/camp out/watch meteor showers/eat dinner/play wiffle ball.
There is no garden this year, which is okay, because we are out of town quite a bit anyway.  But the orchard is still there, and the plums are abundant although small, and the peaches are the size of marbles.  And when I say marbles, I am not exaggerating - I took this photo of a marble next to a peach to show just how small they are.  No peach cobblers this year (I actually don't ever make peach cobblers; they involve baking and I try to avoid that in the summer heat).  I will still be making plum and apricot jam in the fall, however, even if it takes way more effort to get 4 cups of plum puree.  Take that, drought!
Also, there are a lot more critters around, because they are coming into the neighborhood to find water.  And apparently there's been a major increase in rattlesnake sightings, so now when I run with the dog in the mornings, I keep my eyes up ahead looking for snakes in the path.  We haven't seen any yet.
We did, however, see this coyote one day.  It followed me unnoticed (I was intently listening to a favorite podcast; "Stuff You Missed in History") until the dog happened to turn around and see it.  Then, of course, the puppy thought he had found a new friend to play with and the coyote shunned him and went under the barbed-wire ranch fence.  My neighbor, a forest ranger, suspects it was a mama coyote making sure we didn't find her cubs.
So, I water the herbs outside the back door with old cooking or dish water, and try to take shorter showers - you know, the usual.  And we look forward to this fall and winter when we have been assured by the fine weather people that there is 100% chance of it being an El Nino year, and everyone can look forward to wimpy Californians lamenting the rain and clouds and lack of sun, and we can all get "Storm-Watch:2015" updates constantly.
Until then, I will just continue to enjoy these summer nights by listening to baseball games on the porch!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Adventures with Puppy

So, as our adored and busy puppy Reddick approaches his first birthday, I thought it would be fun (?) to take a look back over the 8 months he has lived with us and highlight a few of the things he has chewed / eaten.  Good thing he is so stinking cute!

Here's part of our sprinkler system - the drip lines.  He chewed several sections of these, as well as some of the wires from the controller....twice.  Naughty dog.  Boo.

Wood (below) is one of his favorite things to chew.  Fortunately, we do have a wood pile, and lots of sticks that fall off the trees, so that's actually been helpful.  It's convenient when he can head for the wood pile, choose a nice piece of almond or oak, and then spend a few hours shredding it in the yard.  Keeps him nice and busy.

What isn't so great is that our porch (and house, come to think of it....) is made of wood.  So I have found little sections like this one on the porch, the back steps, the deck, and the picnic table.  Fortunately, he hasn't seemed to think any of them tasty enough to go back for more.

The leash was a favorite item - he started chewing in the back seat of my car on the way to the beach and I didn't realize what was happening until he had almost gone the whole way through, rendering it quite useless.  Now we have two leashes.

This is one of my favorite photos - you will notice that it is (was) a spray bottle that was purchased in one of those travel kits, empty.  I made my very own "puppy no-chew spray" using cider vinegar and cayenne pepper.  Guaranteed to work - I mean really, who would want to even get near such a mixture?  My eyes sting just remembering it.
Results seemed positive - we actually sprayed it on the porch steps.  But then, silly me, I left the bottle itself sitting on the railing, and this is what waited in the yard for me the next morning.  He sure showed me!

I don't know what kind of foolish person brings a nerf ball to the dog park, but you've got to know that this is what will happen to it within a day or two.  I especially like how proud Reddick looks.  "Look what I did to that stupid ball!"

Not pictured:  Rainbow sandals (I have now sewn mine in three places), headphones (I dropped them on my way to the car and didn't realize it until it was, alas, too late), the puppy brush (also left on porch railing), the cat's bed, a newspaper, bike tire tubes, and a large variety of caps, plastic bottles, and old paper towels and their tubes.

Just so everyone knows:  we do indeed feed and exercise this dog.  And, there are enough bones scattered around our yard to actually assemble a cow's skeleton.  Also, fyi, as a trick, you can refill the hollow ones with cheese whiz or peanut butter and re-use them.  It works for a while!  Like I said, good thing he's cute.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Problem With Soccer

I have meant to write so many things about this, Jason's senior soccer season.  But obviously it's easier thought and said than done.  We have come to love soccer - it's a really great game to watch.
The problem for moms of senior boys is, that when we see this:

What we really see is this:

I spent the whole season pretty much just being incredibly grateful that I have gotten to enjoy seeing my boy play a game he loves (and is darn good at!) for all these years.  He has somehow avoided major injury - never had a pulled muscle, a bum knee, or a concussion that has kept him out, which is unusual (for all the 'flopping' that takes place, soccer can be quite a brutal sport at times!).  This year, for the third year in a row, Jason played every minute of every league game. He was voted team captain, and made the all-league team, which is a great way to end a career.  Even though the team did not have a winning record (in fact, Atascadero boys' soccer has not yet had a winning season!), we could all see the team and players improving, and the parents were absolutely wonderful, and the coaches are great men, and the boys played their hearts out in so many games that were so close (three overtime games in one week!), and it was a joy to watch this team this year.
So, I savored those games, and felt old occasionally, but also felt really excited for whatever comes next, because I have been reminded again and again that my kids are truly amazing, and time does fly.  And now, instead of the stress of being the parent of a player, Jamey and I get to enjoy being co-spectators with them.  MLS games, here we come!

Monday, October 13, 2014

At Emily's House

We went to Boston for a week.  It was amazing!  We used up our airline miles and hotel points to take a vacation for 7 days to celebrate our 25th anniversary (which is very strange, since we are clearly way too young to have been married that long!).  We went straight from the airport to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox play the Yankees, and Derek Jeter's next-to-last game, which brought joy to my baseball-loving heart.  We walked the Freedom Trail, toured Salem and Cape Cod, eating cannolis, lobster rolls, chow-dah and pub food along the way.  We toured not one but two breweries, and the Mayflower (did you know that the Pilgrims also brewed beer?), and a few really old cemeteries where pilgrims, founding fathers and revolutionaries are buried.
My favorite day, however, was the day we spent in what I like to call "English Lit Nerd Heaven".  We drove to Amherst and toured the house of Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet.  Because Jamey is not only smart but also a really good sport, he agreed to pay actual money for a 90-minute tour of the two homes on the Dickinson property (one was where Emily's family lived and the other is where her brother lived with his family).  
My favorite Emily Dickinson poem used to be "Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and knows the tune without the words, and never stops at all". Just think about that for a few minutes - it's really good.  In recent times, however, this poem has become really trendy and is all over Pinterest and Etsy, leaving me no choice but to choose another favorite, alas.  Fortunately for me, Emily wrote over 1500 poems and I love many of them.  She has a way of describing simple, homey things in a way that makes them very deep and profound.  I've always liked her, and I learned a few things about her that made me like her and relate to her even more.
So I knew that she was pretty much a recluse - that is well-known (despite all of my traveling this year, I am pretty sure I would make a good recluse as long as I could go into my backyard, and for runs, and order takeout).  She was also a great baker who would lower gingerbread down from her bedroom in a basket to her nephew as he played 'pirate'.  She was a gardener who could look at each flower, bee, and leaf in wonder.  And, she was an avid reader with a huge library who enjoyed talking to family and friends about books.  I have always felt a kinship to people who are content to just enjoy time at home with family and books.  
And so, that tour was a highlight for me - I may have even gotten teary a time or two.  And to make the day even better, if possible, on the way back to Boston we visited Walden Pond (complete with a replica of Thoreau's little hut), and drove past the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne - be still my heart! It was almost too much to behold at one time. 
And here we are, at home again, where it is absolutely wonderful (even if it was 90 degrees today and we are still desperately in need of rain).
I will end with a new favorite poem by Miss Emily Dickinson:
"I never saw a Moor.
I never saw the Sea -
Yet I know how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be -

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven -
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the checks were given -"