Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I paid ten dollars for a pumpkin.

     It was Halloween, and we at the stand were all out of pumpkins.

     Not that tragic, I suppose, except for the fact that I had to force myself to direct customers looking for pumpkins to the competition for the last few days of being open (and nobody wants to do that). I tried not to be sad about it, which meant not thinking about last year, when we had so many pumpkins left over that we lined our entire street with them at 12:30 AM on Halloween night. Every year has to be bad for something; this is farmer logic. This year was crappy for pumpkins.

     I made peace with the reality, this being the adult thing to do, until Halloween came and I realized I didn't have one single pumpkin to carve. Then I started to think about crying.

    My sister was going to go trick-or-treating with my cousins, so I drove her over to their house. She had saved a pumpkin to carve. In fact, after carving a face in it, she put it on her head. It is a mildly disconcerting experience to have a pumpkin-headed person in your passenger seat. On the way to my cousins' house, we passed an Amish place where several pumpkins were sitting out in the yard for sale.

     "You should buy one," my sister said to me.

     And I'm like, "Buy a pumpkin from someone else? Are you crazy?"

     But pride, as you will learn if you read your Bible, is a counterproductive entity. I dropped her off, headed back down the road, and swung in the driveway at the Amish house. Because if I'm going to buy a pumpkin that I didn't grow from anybody else, it'll be from the Amish.

    I went to the door, and the two cutest little boys in the history of the world over appeared on the other side of the screen. I explained to them I wanted to buy some (or all) of their pumpkins. The older one did the talking, told me the prices, and gave me change when I paid with a twenty. I thanked him profusely and went to load the pumpkins into my truck.

    The small white one I managed with no trouble. Zeroing in on an enormous pinky-orange one, I had every confidence in my ability to pick it up and sling it into the truckbed. Farmgirl power and all that. My confidence went from a ten to a five as I slid my hands underneath the bottom, then down to a one when I tried to lift it, and finally plummeted to a zero when I couldn't get the thing to budge at all. Okay, I thought, time to call someone.

    The door slapped shut, and out came the older boy. I'm guessing he didn't need my feeble explanation to know that I wasn't getting it, but I explained the situation to him anyway, because I like embarrassing myself. We both put our muscles to it, and still couldn't move the pumpkin. "It's heavy!" my Amish friend said, laughing, because I guess it was funny. Me, I felt rather sabotaged. First I had no pumpkin. Now I'd found one, and I couldn't even get it into my truck? What was this?

     Then the Amish boy had an idea.

     I watched him run to a shed near the cow pasture, kick through a pile of assorted cast-off lumber, pick out an old door, and bring it back to the scene. When I caught on to his plan I opened the passenger side door, he laid the door against the seat, and together, the little Amish boy and I rolled that son of a gun up the ramp and landed it inside the truck. I think it weighed somewhere between 90 and 900 pounds.

     "That's clever!" I said. He just shrugged and gave me the most adorable smile I will ever see in my life. "Thank you!" he said, and went off towards the house. I wanted to get a selfie with him but the sensible part of me had a rare moment of victory and I got in my truck and drove back home, pleased as punch that I had overcome such incredible odds and procured for myself, not only a pumpkin, but the biggest one I'd ever had. And I paid ten dollars for that thing too, which is not too shabby.

     When I got home, I realized I was never going to get that sucker into the house onto my dining room table. Plus it would take me a good three hours to carve it. So I dumped it (literally) next to the front door, and instead carved the smaller white one, while listening to Warren Zevon sing 'Werewolves of London' and compulsively eating Heath pieces. No trick-or-treaters came to our house that night, and we weren't up to any of our old tricks like some years before.

    Nevertheless my pumpkins sat proudly by the door; never let it be said that Emma can't find what she's looking for.

     What did you do for Halloween? Did you carve a pumpkin?


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fire and bowling and Friday the 13th

     One thing I love about fall is it smells so good.

     By 'it' I mean everything. The air, the soil, the pavement, the trees. Kinda woodsy and smoky...or maybe that's just because I had a fire tonight. I drove the gator down to the barn, in the path of one headlight, loaded the back full of cardboard boxes and miscellaneous pieces of the bunny hutch I tore apart when I was feeling extra angsty, and burned all of it out in the yard underneath the stars, filling the whole neighborhood with smoke right down to the stop sign at the end of the road. (It's good for the environment.)

    I always feel really good when it's all burned down, nothing left but a tiny orange crackle in a pile of coals and ashes. Burning for me has always been a form of therapy, a time to think through life's conundrums, ponder my own failings and abilities, and a chance to smear ashes on my face and feel like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.

    Ever just have an off-day? Or an off-couple-of-days?

    It's not necessarily that anything is going wrong; you're just off. Off your game, not killing it like you'd like to be. You drop stuff and forget what you walked into a room for. It started Wednesday, when I forgot Sally's cider and took the wrong exit off the highway. I went to bed thinking, oh well, crap happens but good thing tomorrow won't be a day like this one...then Thursday's not half over when, what do you know, I'm this-close to turning right onto a one-way in town and putting myself, my sister, and my truck in traction. (I forget what else I did that day, but it wasn't good) - then it's Friday, and I neglect to ask about the Honeycrisp apples when I go to pick up a load of produce, which is an elementary mistake that nobody of my caliber should make - or am I really that awesome? Do I have any skills at all? Should anyone trust me? Am I good for anything?!? (And did I really just turn right on red without stopping?)

     ...and on and on.

     Hence the angst, and the tearing apart of the bunny hutch. Sometimes life is just a lot of faded boards and bent nails.

     Needless to say I wasn't feeling too hot about myself. I moaned to my sister a lot, because she knows that's what she's there for. I couldn't figure out why I felt so lousy, except I tend to get like that every once in a while for no obvious reason and it usually goes away. I remembered last year, almost this exact time actually, when I bought my truck and had such an awful hard time learning how to drive it and thought for sure I was the most pathetic person who ever lived. I got over that, so I'd be okay, but I didn't know how many more Jonah days I could take before I did something with actual lasting negative effects. So Sadie and I went to Tractor Supply and that helped, smelling the cedar chips and hearing the country music and making the cute cashier laugh with our sisterly antics.

     I was feeling much better on the drive home, and didn't even think about hitting a deer, and things were looking brighter. Then the real blessing came when we arrived home: while we were gone our mother had taken a phone call, and we had been invited to go bowling. They'd meet us there in a little while. I cried, and Sadie and I, suddenly not hungry for any kind of supper, got in the truck and drove off again into the night.

    See, I really love bowling. It's a long story that started last January in an old-school bowling alley in a little town without a stoplight. I'm freaking terrible at it and I never seem to get any better, but I love bowling. I love my friends more though. And so, bowling with my best people Friday night, there was so much love going on that I stopped being miserable and let go of all the funkiness of the past three days. Even though it was Friday the 13th, for freaking fudge sakes - or maybe because of that - nothing was getting at me.

     I won't tell you my score that night because it was terrible. That's not the point. The point is, if you're having a bad day that turns into two that turns into three, there's a fix. You don't even have to work for it, because the people who love you will see it gets done.

     If you're in the middle of one of those funks right now, you took the wrong exit, or you tried to pay for your groceries with your library card, chin up. It's a beautiful time to be alive. The sky will clear and the sun will come out and shine down on all those gorgeous red and orange trees, and you'll catch a whiff of that smoky-autumn smell and it'll get right down into your soul and you won't be able to help yourself from embracing the hope that's gonna creep in there with it. My advice? Tear out some nails, if you can find them. Go buy yourself something from Tractor Supply, call up your favorite people and see if they want to go bowling. You can deal with whatever junk you've got tomorrow, it'll still be there. Have a bonfire; put on some Eric Church. Thank God for all the things going right, and you'll see just how much room there is between your problems for goodness to fill itself in.

     "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."   // Philippians 4:6-7

     "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."     //Hebrews 10:39



Thursday, October 5, 2017

same old stomping ground

My mom asked me the question not long ago. "Why don't you blog anymore?"

She was reading it. Some of my other relatives too, while I was gone to Colorado, were reading it, hoping I'd post from there. I honestly don't know who else read the stuff; but Mama, she wanted to know why I wasn't writing anymore.

"I don't have time," was the evasive answer I gave her. The easy way out.

In reality, that's only the tip of the iceberg. A legitimate reason, it's certainly a factor. What is time these days, anyway? Every morning I get up, I put on the same makeup, I get in my truck and go to work or I go to school and then I come home every night dead exhausted, too tired to do anything but laugh at the things my sister says. I haven't written in months, not like I used to. For awhile I thought it was because I got lazy, but no. It was because life got so big all of a sudden it overpowered the words.

     The truth is, I went away to Colorado for five weeks, I came home, and I have more to say than ever before, but I don't quite know the words to use yet.

     Colorado changed me, for sure, but I think what changed me more was coming back home and seeing everything differently. I found out who I am by playing the part of someone I'm not. I found my swag, and it's not flashy or expensive. More like a ballcap and a helping hand. The two best things I ever heard said about me came from two of the people who know me best - my sister, who periodically tells me I'm hilarious, and my crazy cousin, who says I am bold. If I could be known for two things, that's not a bad deal. I want to be bold, and I live to make people laugh.

     Brantley Gilbert says it the way I wish I could, but only he can because he's the boss:

     The ones that need me got me
     The ones that doubt me can't stop me
     Even the ones that said, forget him
     You can bet they ain't forgot me
     Either wanna hit me or hold me
     The ones that hate me don't know me
     And the ones that don't trust anybody trust me
     Yeah, the ones that like me love me.

    Now I'm as settled as I ever was in this valley, my stomping grounds, where the ones that need me got me. And now I ache like crazy to write again. I thank my Lord for one heck of a summer, and for bringing me right back where He wants me.

    It feels so good to be writing from this space again. There will be more stories coming, I promise you! Thanks for sticking around.