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I met Jason five years ago when I worked at the Big Blue Call Center doing customer service and escalations for the store famous for its propriety brands such as Craftsman and Apostrophe, not to mention Ty Pennington home furnishings. I rolled my eyes when a work at home agent informed me she had a customer who had requested a supervisor. I sighed under my breath and listened as she gave me his name and a little background about the situation, then told her to transfer him to me.

During my nearly four years at the Big Blue Call Center, I talked to all different kinds of people. Some were happy when they finished talking to me, some were irate, some were apathetic, and some were downright cruel. But this time, as I expected a reaming, I got a warm Southern accent and a drawn-out saga about a shed.

"Well, see what happened is that I'm moving down to Miami for a catering job and my uncle was supposed to help me build this here shed. He got busy and I ain't got the time to put it together myself, so I'm just telling my friends that if they buy me a case of beer then they can take my stuff. I just gave my buddy here my bedroom set in exchange for a case of beer."

I couldn't help but laugh. I liked him already and I appreciated his honesty.

"So I'm not gonna be able to build this thing, and I just need to take it back and see if I can get a refund. I don't even care if they charge me a restocking fee, because business is business. I don't even care if I gotta haul it back to the Sears store as long as I can take it back."

I pulled up the order in my system and noticed he had just purchased it and picked it up a day or so earlier. I advised him I couldn't guarantee that there wouldn't be a restocking fee, but I'd notate the account to request to have it removed because of the situation. CX MOVING TO FL NEEDS TO RETURN SHED CANNOT PUT TOGETHER WAIVE RESTOCKING FEE I/P THX, I noted.

After I did my best to assure him that I'd do everything within my power to avoid a restocking fee, the subject turned to one of my favorite topics of all time. Food. Food is my truest passion, moreso than words or books, moreso than yarn, dog ownership, faith or feminism.

"Girl," he tells me over the phone, "If you love food the way I do, then you need to get your ass - pardon me - to culinary school. The last thing that I promised my mom before she died was that I would follow my dreams and I did. I'm telling you, your husband will love you for it and you should be following your dreams too."

The conversation continued, the shed forgotten. We talked about EVOO, he mentioned his beloved dog (who barked in the background) as Jason told me that the only thing he was taking with him to Florida was Spec, his best buddy. "He's the one thing that keeps me going sometimes," I hear him say. "Me & him, we go everywhere together. He's my boy. You know I'm talking 'bout you, dontcha, Spec?" he says, as the dog barks again.

"You know what," he says, after two hours have passed. This man, who was a stranger two hours ago now feels like one of my oldest and dearest friends. "If you're into food as much as I am, you should add me on Facebook. I don't post there a lot, but I reckon I'll post some recipes and you can give 'em a shot, what do you say?"

Adding a customer on Facebook was a mortal sin at the Big Blue Call Center. I was fully aware of this. However, I pulled out a piece of scratch paper out from my purse and scribbled the email address he gave me down on it. "I'll do that when I get home," I assured him.

"You do that!" he tells me. "And you'd better think about going to cooking school, because I'll tell ya, your man will just go crazy for your cooking, and it sounds like he does that already."

Reluctantly, I ended the conversation as he told me he had some more packing to do, and wanted to make sure that I didn't get in trouble for being on the phone so long. I told him that it didn't matter as long as the customer was happy, and he assured me that he was.

That night, I did what I promised and sent him a friend request. Dark glasses, chef's whites, a devious half-smile made me think he was up to something.

What began as an interaction between customer and sales rep grew into a friendship. I shared a recipe for pulled pork with a Jack Daniels & Coke bbq sauce, which he said would probably be all right, but he didn't like whiskey in his sauce. The Coke sounded good, though. You're also supposed to use pork butt for BBQ, I learned. It's full of flavor. (I read the same thing in an Emeril cookbook a few months after that. This is the truest of all true facts.)

I followed his career with Cobblestoned Catering in Florida, his work at the VFW, and loved reading about how much he loved his job. I have a link saved to the history on my Kindle describing how "Chef Jason is the stock master", including a recipe for a slow-cooked roasted beef stock with red wine that makes my mouth water every time I revisit it.

I watched as life began to spiral uncontrollably. He was no longer in Florida, he'd gone back home to Tennessee. Spec had died, and Jason had done what Vivi in "Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood" described as "dropping my bucket". He was falling apart. I was completely helpless, broke, out of a job with not a single prospect in sight.

He deleted his Facebook, undeleted his Facebook, changed his Facebook name to something different, and then something different yet again. As I am a worrier, I thought about him constantly and desperately hoped that maybe I could fix his situation. It had gotten desperate and heartbreaking. My friend, who had inspired me so fully to pursue my dreams, was falling apart and self-destructing.

Cryptic Facebook messages that hinted of suicidal thoughts began to show up. I was terrified. I didn't want to lose him, and there wasn't that much that I could do from thousands of miles away. But after a series of despondent and frightening texts, I made a Facebook post saying that I was worried my friend was suicidal. I called the Nashville police department for a welfare check.

We talked on the phone for over an hour that night. He confessed he had been resorting to dining and dashing in order to eat, had tried unsuccessfully to rebuild his relationship with his father, and had alienated most of his friends and family members. I was his rainbow warrior, he told me. I was the one person who hadn't given up on him. He thought he had a brain tumor. During the conversation, he cried more than he talked and went off into spiraling, disjointed jags. I told him I'd be here if he needed me, day or night. I didn't care if he had to call me in the middle of the night, I would be there. Because we're friends, I told him, and that's what friends do.

My heart felt like it weighed ten thousands pounds and hung heavy in my chest as I disconnected the phone call that night.

A week later, he told me he'd gone to Vanderbilt Hospital and tried to admit himself to the psych ward. Instead, he was treated like a common criminal, handcuffed and abused. "I don't have anything left to keep going for," he confessed to me over text. "Thanks for always being my rainbow warrior. On September 8th, I'm gone. Don't try to find me because you won't be able to. It's time for me to end it. Doc says it's a tumor. Same kind my mom had, she was gone a week later."

On the morning of September 8th, I sent one single text back to him. "Goodbye, friend."

I had come to believe I was living in a world without my dear friend. I looked for signs - a chef named Jason chatting in at my new job, the sun streaking through the clouds radiantly in the shape of a wooden spoon or a toque. I Googled obituaries to see if anyone by his name had been found, or even more morbidly, if there were any unidentified bodies found in the Nashville area. Nothing.

My husband and I were eating out one night when I got a text from a number I thought I would never see again. "I just wanted to let you know that I'm okay," I read. "In the hospital, getting some help. They ain't treating me like a common criminal this time. I just wanted to thank you again and let you know that I'll be okay. Thanks for always being my rainbow warrior. You'll never know how much you helped me these past few months."

I'm not sure if my friendship and continued faith in him is what stopped him from ending his life a few months ago, but knowing that he's still out there, now on the slow path to recovery as he rebuilds his life fills me with joy.

I've been lots of things in my life - wife, daughter, friend, customer service rep, Christian, foodie, feminist. One of the best things I've ever been called is a rainbow warrior. I'm still not completely sure what a rainbow warrior is, but I don't want to be anything but.

lj idol 26 - crabs in a bucket

I once dreamt that the house was flooded.

It was right after Katrina, and I had heard all kinds of stories about people who were not willing to leave New Orleans, because it was the only home they knew.

When I walked across the carpet in my dream, I could hear it squish underfoot from the water. I couldn't see the water, but I knew it was there.

"You need to get out here," friends encouraged me. Yet I was content. Why should I leave?

That morning, I woke with my heart racing and my head spinning.

I called my mother to look at apartments.

It was time to get out of this house.

The apartment was perfect, and once I saw it, I knew it was where I wanted to live. The walls were painted a bluish-gray that I loved, the ceilings were high, the floors were hardwood, and the kitchen was just the right size. I would never have to worry about someone flipping the circuit breaker on me if I decided to use something other than the microwave when I made lunch.

I signed the lease that afternoon.

That night, I went home with my parents, not wanting to return the House of Repression that night or its metaphorically flooded dingy blue floors.

"You should call Colleen and tell her you're moving out," my mother says gently. We are sitting on the couch together, and I am working on my crocheting. She works on her needlepoint; a Christmas stocking for my brother's fiance.

I cannot think of anything I want less to do. My mother in law is not a good person. She enables, she cannot take accountability for her own bad parenting, she has blamed everyone but herself for her own bad decisions and most frustrating of all, maxed out my Sears card to buy a chest freezer even though there's a perfectly good - and larger - freezer in the basement. She has accused me of being "selfish" if I want to take a Sunday off from visiting her son at prison, and worse if I miss a call.

"I'm moving out," I tell her, apropos of nothing, when she picks up the phone. I hear the sounds of "CSI" in the background. She has a crush on Grissom.

"How am I going to pay my bills?" she asks.

That's it. How am I going to pay my bills?

"You could have M. start paying rent," I snap, unable to control the vitriol in my voice.

"He does pay rent," she says to me. I know that's a load of crap. He has not held a steady job in months, wasted his settlement from McDonalds on a crappy drum set and a Corvette that he restored and cannot sell. He is unable to see his daughter because he essentially kidnapped her, then refuses to work because his ex wife wants too much in child support. He is the worst kind of deadbeat dad. "Not that you would ever notice anything good he does, anyway."

I am distraught, disgusted and furious. I am determined not to let my emotions get the better of me, because if they do, she wins. I am not going to let her win.

I let her win when she told me not to call the police when her son slammed my foot in the door.

I let her win every Sunday she drags me to Coyote Ridge and dominates the conversation in the cramped visiting room.

I let her win when she told me that "nobody needs to know the truth about what Michael did."

I let her win when she charged that damn chest freezer on my credit card, then said she would hold onto it "for safekeeping" unless she feels the need to send something to her son. Then it's okay to be used, but only then and only when she approves of the purchase.

I let her win for all those months I have handed over my SSI check to her, and didn't think twice about all the expenditures that kept coming up that I suddenly owed her money for.

I will not let her win.

I thrust the phone at my mother, fighting to maintain my composure at least until I'm out of the living room, and then, after filling the tub and sinking into the hottest water I can stand, I am able to let go.

My mother tells me that she called Colleen out on idly sitting by when her son beat me up. "She antagonizes him," she defends her son.

The same way that a cat defends itself against a dog who has it backed into a corner. The cat lashes out and strikes a paw across the dog's snout. The dog is unhurt, but the cat is terrified.

It does not matter to her that I have been afraid of him since April 19th, 2003. That I am terrified that if I tripped on the stairs and lost my balance carrying a basket of laundry, he would kick me in the head as I lay there at the bottom of the stairs with my brain split open like a melon.

My mother tells her that how she pays her bills is not my responsibility. It is not my duty to keep a roof over her head.

Shortly after that, I pack my things and take only what I need. I leave behind most of my Harry Chapin records, jewelry, my old dresser, the thrifted hurricane lamp I love, my vintage coat with the fur collar that makes me feel like a movie star from the 1940's. I throw my ex-husband's yearbook and high school diploma in the Goodwill box, intentionally. It is malicious but it feels good.

I spend that night on a hide-a-bed in my new apartment. I sleep better than I have in the past several years, even on the lumpy old mattress covered with a thin wool blanket. I wake up and look around at the blue-gray walls, the hardwood floors polished to a beautiful rich brown and I know I am home.

The sun rising over Corbin Park fills me with a sense of peace I am unfamiliar with, and then as I lay there, on the lumpy hide-a-bed mattress, covered with the thin wool blanket, I realize what it is.

It's freedom.

At long last, I am free.


lj idol 25 - overwatch

Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly, says the visor clip my mother in law gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I'm so used to it at this point that I don't even think about it anymore. Somehow, the sun visor on my car got caught in the window and part of it bent. Later, annoyed at the bent part, I broke it off.

The ends of of my sun visor are full of frayed fabric, and I have used the clip to secure the loose cloth.
I hate this class. Since I am pursuing a social work degree, I have to take a ludicrous amount of math classes. I have at least three more left after this one, and I am sure at this point that there is no way I'll be able to pass it. But on the brighter side, today was pay day and tomorrow, I'm celebrating my thirty-fifth birthday with a white trash theme party. Plus, both my husband and I are respectively a groomsman and bridesmaid in the wedding of two of our best friends, less than two weeks away at this point.

It's Friday. I have pizza ordered in advanced to arrive right after class. Soon enough, class will be over and I'll be able to enjoy the remainder of my weekend.

My car is almost twenty years old, a blue Buick Skylark with fewer miles than my husband's 2007 PT Cruiser. It belonged to a little old lady who only drove it back and forth to go to to the grocery store. Since buying it a few years earlier, I have made it my own. Stickers support local bands like the Sugar Stains and Gaza Strip, a faded Coexist with frayed corners adorns my bumper. My trunk declares that "Music lovers duet better" with the call letters of a local public radio station. A bright yellow and orange sticker lets the person tailgating me know that they can "get hatched" at Poco and Mom's, a local Mexican restaurant that specializes in New Mexican cuisine.

I continue my drive to class. It's a nice day, and I'm singing along with the car radio. Billy Joel is singing "Moving Out", which is my favorite. I crank the radio up a little bit and sing along.

Working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack...

With the radio on, I don't hear the warning beep.

I continue to drive, singing. Tonight will be great. Tomorrow will be even better. I am feeling incredibly blessed.

And then I feel my car begin to tremble as I turn off of Kolb and onto Irvington. The trembling seems to be getting worse, I can almost feel my head moving in tune with the shaking.
What the hell is going on with my car?

Out my window, which is rolled down, I notice that it looks like there is something caught in the door, just flapping like crazy. I am wondering if it might be the old lady shawl I picked up at a rummage sale several years ago. I pull over, but not as far onto the shoulder as I should.

Mercifully, the shaking has stopped. As I get out of my car, a late model SUV pulls up behind me, an older lady in a late-model sedan behind him.

"Oh my goodness," the older lady says sympathetically to me, "Your back tire is just shredded."

I look at the tire and see what she is talking about. Shreds of rubber are attached to what used to be my tire. This is terrible. I know nothing about cars. I check my oil when the sticker on my windshield tells me to. A few months earlier I was able to glue my rearview mirror back on, but this is a whole different animal.

The guy in the SUV asks me if I have a spare. I do, I think,I tell him, rattled. I think it's in the trunk.
The trunk in my spare is flat, but he says it's full enough to get to the Circle K on 22d and Harrison and call for a tow. I still haven't called my husband, but I posted on Facebook. Since he's in the same math class as me, I expect him to come around the corner at any moment and take the matter in his capable hands.

I drive on the flat spare and the bent rim all the way to 22d and Harrison, my flashers on the whole time. I call my husband. He is almost to class, but agrees to meet me there. I see his car and pull into a parking spot in the front of the Circle K at the precise moment that my flat spare literally rolls off of the bent rim into the parking lot.

I look back at my windshield.

Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.

Briefly, I cast my eyes heavenward. The sun is setting, the sky is the color of circus peanuts and raspberry sorbet.

My guardian angel is working overtime tonight.


LCI #1 Crossing All The T’s

We have been petless since moving to our new place last June. It is excruciatingly lonely to come home to an empty house. Before we moved, there was the sound of barking, the enthusiastic sound of a tail beating against a wall or door, the face of a chocolate lab watching hopefully from the picture window in the front room. Up until last week, it was silent. I came home to an empty house, everything still and quiet.

Growing up, I was a cat person. Maybe it’s because the cats were outcasts like me, furry loners who weren’t really considered pets but still had names – Tiger, Marmalade, Milo, Heidi, Ebony – and thrived to have their furry heads scratched and because they were embarrassingly inbred (as were most barn cats), loved to lick with their scratchy sandpaper tongues. Even when I was a child, I tended to prefer the company of animals to people. My parents dismissed everything I did or said with an offhand “That’s cute”, and other grown ups thought I was funny when I was trying to be serious, or vice-versa.

Kids at school were just as bad. I was the Weird Kid. An outcast with a capital O, I picked at the dead skin of my lips, bit my nails, and constantly picked at scabs until there was nothing left. My teeth were too big for my mouth and I consistently had a dopey, confused, spacey look on my face. I didn’t belong anywhere. I wasn’t athletic, I didn’t like sports, unlike the rest of my family, who whooped and howled like wild animals when their football team scored a touchdown. I was the one person trying to ignore them, my nose buried in a book, desperately seeking some peace and quiet.

A few months ago, I decided that for my 36th birthday, it would be time to get a dog. I was tired of coming home to an empty, lonely house. There was an overwhelming need to have some kind of four-legged creature here to share our lives. Which is why on the day after my birthday, we went to Pima County Animal Shelter to see about getting a dog. I was as excited as a five year old at Christmas. For the past several days, I had been perusing the shelter’s web page, looking for dogs who needed good homes, preferably not a pit bull (too big) or a Chihuahua (too nervous). As we walked in, I was taken by the sight of a pretty little dog, honey colored with white markings, and beautiful (but sad) eyes. I knelt down in front of her cage and softly murmured her name.
“Hey, Lana,” I said quietly. “Hey, pretty girl.”

Softly the dog rose from her cot and approached me. With one quick motion, she licked my fingers. As I looked at her, I felt an immediate kinship. A year old Lab-Boxer mix, she was surrendered when her owner had to move to a place that didn’t allow dogs. Originally her name was Princess, then at the shelter, she was renamed Lana. “This is the dog, honey,” I murmur excitedly to my husband, who is giving our prospective pet scritches through the bars.

We find a staff member, who leashes her and leads her outside. We toss a ball for her, she jumps on it. She is good at the part of fetch that involves getting the ball, but not quite as good about the part that involves returning the ball to the person who threw it. Regardless, I am in love. I look again into her amber eyes and I know that without a doubt in my mind that she is destined to be a part of our family.

The paperwork seems to be endless. I just want to take her home. Yes, we’ll take her to the vet within a few days. She’s fixed? Great! If we have any questions, we’ll give you a call. I initial everything, and it’s official. She is ours. It’s a lot of work to adopt a dog, a lot of places to initial. A lot of t’s to cross and I’s to dot, but it’s worth it for sweet Lana.

My heart leaps.

We leash her and walk her out into the parking lot.

She is our dog.

Now her name is Layla. We renamed her on the drive back from the shelter, as I rubbed her soft ears and said consoling things to her from the front seat.

An outcast just like me, she has found her home.


Sep. 30th, 2014

Because I am a glutton for punishment, insane, or both, this is my official announcement for participation in Last Chance Idol.
Dear Anthony,

You are never going to change. Ever. I have spent the last five years of my life just hoping and thinking that maybe, someday, somehow, I’ll come to a realization that I didn’t make a mistake when I married you. You have done nothing but disappoint me since the day that we got married. We lived in your grandfather’s attic because you didn’t want to look for a place. We lived in the apartments that your brother managed because it was easier than looking for an apartment of our own. And then, we moved in with your mother for the same reason.

You are the most selfish son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my entire life. The world rotates around you. It always has, and it always will. You’re the spoiled baby of the family, who has never done anything wrong, and whose own family can’t even admit that he’s a miserable loser who will never amount to anything ever. Every time we had sex, I faked an orgasm. Because no other women would even look at you twice, you were too stupid to tell. Did you really believe that five minutes later I’d be in the throes of ecstasy? Of course you did. You know nothing about women, only the shit that you’ve seen in your older brothers’ dirty movies.

Speaking of ecstasy, I met someone who is much better at everything – and I do mean everything – that you could never do. He doesn’t demand that I rub his back or run my fingers through his hair at bedtime. He doesn’t ask me to wash his hair when we shower together. Because you know what, for the first time in my whole life, a shower with someone has actually been fun. And sexy. And hot. So hot. The steam fogging up the bathroom mirror wasn’t just from the hot water, Anthony. He knows what to do and how to do it. That’s something that you could never figure out.

And what’s really funny is how the other night I was staying at my parents’ house, and it used to be every time the swing lamp in the spare bedroom flickered, you said it was you telling me that you were thinking about me? Out loud I said, “Fuck off, Anthony”, and the bulb immediately blew out. I hope you felt it from where you are now, you miserable piece of shit. That was me telling you that I don’t love you. And that I never did love you. I never will, either. I have a lot of things that I want to accomplish in my life and I don’t need you or what you did holding me back. And that’s all you’ve ever done is hold me back.

In your little cutesy letter you said that I was a flower that you cared for and loved and nurtured and the flower loved you back. That’s so cute. Now here’s the thing. Flowers aren’t real. Flowers don’t love people. If you keep a flower in a vase, it either dies or it becomes pot bound. You were killing me. You will continue to kill me if I stay married to you. I’ve been dying a little bit for the past five years, and now I’m done. You are not worthy of me. I am the best person that you will ever have in your whole miserable life, and I hope you remember that until your dying day.

At first I thought I would wait sending this until after the holidays, but you know what, I figured I might as well. You’re already in prison. You’ll be there for the next five years, and God knows that I have a life I need to live without you in it. I’m twenty-five years old, Anthony. I have a future ahead of me, and a future that I could never have with a sorry-ass excuse of a man like you. Want to know why I never sent in the conjugal visit paperwork? Because the thought of having to have your disgusting body on top of me again makes me want to fucking vomit, that’s why.

Don’t ever contact me again, you miserable piece of garbage. Divorce papers are on the way. And by the way, merry Christmas, you sack of shit. I hope they find you hanging in your cell on Christmas morning. One less mouth for the state to feed. You’d be doing them a favor. Not to mention the favor you’d be doing me.
Rot in hell, you pathetic piece of human garbage.


AnthonyCollapse )

lj idol 20 - the music made me do it

When I met my husband (through LJ, no less) eight years ago, we had several things in common. We shared a mutual love for Tarantino films, for the Muppets, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, labradors, and music.

Oh, yes, definitely music.

The first night that we spoke on the phone, I lay on my awkward wood framed couch, a relic from my grandparents' basement. In addition to the wood frame, it also an ancient - yet still functional - hide-a-bed. The couch was gloriously uncomfortable in every way, shape and form. If gloriously uncomfortable is a thing, the couch fit the description beautifully.

I lay on the gloriously uncomfortable couch, bundled up in a blue striped polar fleece blanket as we talked and talked incessantly. I loved the sweet tenor voice that poured through the phone lines immediately. Did I know we would end up together on that warm August night? I can't say for sure.

That Labor Day weekend, I went to the lake with my parents and got miserably sick. I ended up spending the majority of the weekend on the couch, another relic from my grandparents, but slightly newer and less uncomfortable than my own inherited wood-framed monstrosity. I have two conscious memories from that weekend. The first was my father whining that my mother had skunked him (repeatedly) at cribbage, a game that my mother is notoriously good at, and a text on the way home when my phone was back in range that simply said, "u ok?" I replied with one word. "Sick."

I dragged my exhausted self and my bag up the flight of stairs in my apartment, and received a phone call only a few short moments later.

"I know you said you weren't feeling good," he says, "So I decided to sing this for you. I know it won't completely make you feel better, but I hope it makes you happy."

Over the phone line, I hear the unmistakable opening strains to Harry Chapin's ballad of love lost, "Taxi", one of my favorite songs of all time. Through my feverish haze, I am overwhelmed with love and joy. I am near tears when "Taxi" ends and he begins to sing "Sequel".

I am sick. I am feverish and miserable. I am exhausted, nearly bone-tired, both mentally and physically. But someone whom I haven't even met in real life has serenaded me over the phone with two of my favorite songs (which he did not know up until a few days earlier) to try and make me feel better.

This is what love is.

The singing continues throughout our courtship. I sound like a caterwauling feline in heat when I sing, but he tells me he loves it. I sing "Would You Lay With Me In A Field Of Stone" and "At Last", the latter a gift for him after he said he always wanted a woman to sing it to him. I make the wish come true.

Almost two years later, after we have been living together in sinful bliss (or blissful sin, depending on how you choose to look at it), we marry at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. My best friend comes from Pullman to be my maid of honor. My husband's cousin is the best man.

As the minister pronounces us husband and wife, the strains of "True Companion" by Marc Cohn begin to play.

We sit around in the hotel lobby and talk afterwards and relax with fruity drinks from the Tropicana bar and try to figure out exactly why the bar does not have mojitos, which are featured so vividly on everyone's room key.

Sometimes, even after six years married and eight years together - the best of my entire life, I might add - he still asks me why I married him and what made me fall in love with him. Sometimes I tell him it's because he makes me laugh (he does), or because he makes me smile (that too).

The next time he asks me, I know what my answer will be.

The music made me do it.

And I'm thankful for that music every day of my life. Not just the music he sings, at karaoke bars or at home, or in a band, or in the shower or in the car. But the music of our lives together is truly the best song of all.

lj idol 19 - shibusa

When my grandparents were forced to leave the old farmhouse my mother and her siblings had called home for their whole lives, my grandparents chose to build a sprawling ranch home less than a mile from the old house. The center of the house, moreso than the grandfather clock in the foyer or the big picture windows that looked out over the land my grandfather had farmed his whole life, was the farm table.

It"s just a table.Collapse )

This week I am paired up with adoptedwriter, whose post about "units of measurement" is here. I wonder if some of the family dinners she wrote about took place at an antique farm table, maybe? Please vote for team AdoptedStarshine on Tuesday! :)

LJ Idol 18 - kindling

The two brothers grew up two years apart in the same small town.

One was restless, and couldn't wait to escape. He stared out the kitchen window at the endless fields of wheat and swore up and down he would leave as soon as he could.

The other brother loved the farm. He loved the land, he loved the wheat blowing in the wind, the endless blue sky on a perfect Washington day. He knew that in the overall scheme of things, land was the only thing that really mattered in the end.

"Land is precious," their great-uncle had told them. "Treasure it with all you have. There is nothing in this world worth more than land. Build on it, boys. Raise your children here. Bring your wives home. Carry them over the threshold when you marry her and say this is home."

The first brother went out into the world, off to Oregon for college. He was determined to sow his wild oats while he could.

The other loved the land more than anything else in this world. Even more than the sweet, round-faced girl who soon became his wife and bore him his first son. He loved the homestead and the land that would be his.

Their mother grew sick quickly. She had cancer, a kind never spoken aloud, so it was likely related to her female parts. She developed lesions and hives, and was in constant pain every moment. She cried out to her sweet Jesus to take the suffering from her in between verses of "The Old Rugged Cross" and "The Sweet By and By."

The land came from her family. Their father came from nothing, German immigrants from Pennsylvania. She was a local girl with strong roots in the commununity, and she was well-loved amongst everyone for her sweet nature and kind heart. When she at last succumbed, it was devastating.

The older son returned from his school in Oregon. Their sisters came home to say their goodbyes.

Their father passed a load of photos to his firstborn son after the service was over. "These are yours," he told him. "I never want to see them again."

Photos of the land, of the homestead, of their mother, of them when they were children. Blueprints of the house.

He took them. When he thought everyone was asleep, he went out to the barn and dug a hole. Into the hole he threw the photos, the blueprints, and poured half a flask of whiskey over their family's history. He tossed in a match and stood, watching it burn.

The next morning, the ashes were still smoking when the other brother walked to the barn. He had seen yesterday's exchange and he knew what happened. He never understood why. Until his dying day almost sixty years later, he still didn't know why.

"Why don't you speak to Uncle Dave, Grandpa?" the grandchildren would ask, as we gathered around him to hear his funny stories and watch his smile light up his face.

He would never talk about it.

One day, when I was supposed to be in the basement with the other cousins, I heard him talking to my mother. It was the first time she had heard the whole story, and I could tell by the intake of breath she made that it stunned her as well.

"He burned our history, that son of a bitch brother of mine," my grandfather said. I listened to his voice through the vents coming into the bathroom. "He burned it all. It all went up in flames, just like kindling."