Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Fishin' in the Dark" would be my second choice.

In the last post, I mentioned this article, "18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time For Again." I don't know why "18" was picked. I somewhat question the use of "Again" in the title; I'm not sure a few of the list-toppers have ever been commonplace. Several make me feel guilty because I know I should be doing them, but aren't (ex. "making phone calls to relatives" and "answering things in a timely fashion").  Nevertheless, I'm so glad Zach posted this on my Facebook page. I love that even today, some three weeks or so after I read it, I can still name most that are on the list.  I love that the author mentioned "getting dressed up for no reason" and "cooking a nice meal for the sake of doing so." I love that it inspired me to come up with my own list...

25 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time For...in my humble opinion:
1. Watch your favorite movies.
In the past two weeks, I've enjoyed Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, and The Great Debaters.

2. Ask your grandparents questions.
Don't go for open-ended questions like "What's one of your favorite memories from childhood?" No one likes that kind of on-the-spot question. Stay simple: What was one of your favorite toys growing up? What was Dad's favorite food when he was little? What was your first job?

3. Make to-do lists. Keep them handy.
The time it takes to sit down and write out your list will be much less than the time you spend looking befuddled in a parking lot and wondering why you just drove to the Dollar Store.

4. Do pranks on co-workers.
Don't waste a lot of time doing it, but do it nevertheless. Why? Because it's fun.

5. Tell people you like an accessory they're wearing (earrings, socks, scarf, etc).
Sometimes we throw on whatever clothes are handy/clean/required, but we tend to purposely choose accessories that we think "look like us" or make us happy. It's nice when people see us the way we see ourselves or comment on things that we think reflect our most authentic selves.

6. Get a library card!
Because reading something every day makes you better. In every way.

7. Really pet and love on your animals.
Our animals are more devoted to us than nearly every human in our lives.  They don't stay mad at us when we've been jerks. They are always excited to see us pull in the driveway.  Don't take them for granted. Obligatory pats or head scratches are not good enough.

8. Tell people why you respect them.
Of course it's nice to let people know you appreciate them, think they're funny, and/or enjoy their company.  Respect, however, is hard to earn and much harder to keep.  Those who are able to do so, deserve to know.

9. Read something in the news that really doesn't interest you.
Every morning, I pick out at least one article on the Huffington Post that I really can't relate to or have very little interest in. Why? Because it's good to learn something. It's good to be disciplined. It's good to do things that you really don't want to do.

10. Make your own breads, pie crusts, pizza crusts.
It's not hard. It's cheap. You'll know what's actually in it.  You'll be more inspired to then make pies, pizzas, and actual meals.

11. Plan weekly menus.
You'll be less inclined to buy crap you will not use.  You'll save money. You feel more organized when you walk in from work and are hungry.

Anything...cards, poems, gratitude jar entries, diaries, blogs, quotes on chalkboards.

13. Make your house "look like you."
If you don't smile when you look around your house, change some things. Pottery Barn is nice, but it does not speak of a life well-lived.

14. Have coffee/tee/cocoa in the afternoons.
In a favorite mug.

15. Think about one good part of your day before you go to bed.
Go to sleep with a grateful heart.

16. Figure out what song you think would be the perfect flash mob song.  Ponder scenarios in which you could make said flash mob happen.

17. Take a small gift to someone.
Suggestions: a good pen and cute notepad, a bag of their favorite candy, a gift certificate for a Blizzard.

18. Tell people "thank you" even if it's "their job" to do the task in question. More generally speaking, don't be shy with long overdue "thank you"s.

19. Dream. Imagine possibilities. Give yourself a chance.
We are typically too quick to belittle or question ourselves. Don't settle for what is; always have "what could be" in the back of your mind. This doesn't mean, of course, that it's okay to take what you have for granted. It is simply a reminder to stay inspired.

20. Make something prettier than it was.
Paint something, clean something, add flowers, tie a ribbon.

21. Write down a few things that scare you or that you don't understand.
Do a few. Educate yourself.

22. Write down your weaknesses and/or times when you've messed up.
When you get frustrated with someone else, remember this list. 

23. Pick up litter.
"Someone else will get it" is dumb. 

24. Park farther away than you have to.
We could all stand to be a little less lazy.

25. Make your own list of things you want to make more time for.
I know "classy" isn't the word most would use to describe my house.  I'm completely aware that I will have to eat my words about Mom's house having stuff everywhere.  I'm fairly certain that if one were to put something down in my house, there's a good chance it could go undiscovered for years.  But...I like that it reminds me of my friends and family. I like that there are books and handmade projects and art all over the place.  I like that, at least to me, it reflects a life well lived.


The pizza crust recipe I like to use...
My flash mob song and another one of my favorite movies...

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's hard to be sad when you're eating cinnamon rolls.

One of the themes of this blog over the past three years has been that we all have a touch of "crazy."  Loss-of-perspective sadness and frustration, seemingly nonsensical or outright stupid choices, and proclivity for pity parties is an affliction of human nature, not specific medical diagnoses.  And in saying this, I am in no way belittling conditions that necessitate prescriptions or treatments; the point is simply that we all do things that we regret, we all second guess and get stuck in our own head sometimes, almost all of us will experience something that seems pretty damn close to depression. 

In my non-scientific, entirely non-researched opinion, we come out of these periods by choice.  We choose to focus on others. We choose to get off our asses.  We choose to stay busy.  We choose to see the good.  We choose to make decisions, rather than wallow in indecisiveness.  We choose to give our minds a rest.  We choose to make time for new things. 

People sometimes ask me why I always want to be in the middle of some project.  The answer lies in the reflection above. I think sadness is oftentimes just a product of being bored. If I allow myself to just sit down and do nothing, I think too much, I feel sorry for myself, and I worry about things that may never happen.  Sure, my approach probably exemplifies a whole different level of emotional immaturity or instability, but I choose it over the alternative. 

As such, I like piddle projects. I get up before dawn and bake or paint or read. I cook for myself and try to create a pretty plate. I write letters to, or make things for, friends. I clean anything I can think to clean. I write blog posts.  I planned themed parties for no particular reason. 

I keep myself sane by keeping myself busy. 
My wonderful brother-in-law posted this on my Facebook page a few days ago (and I think many are spot-on).  I thought I would do my own "18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time For" list in the next blog post. I encourage you to send me the things you think should be included.
Some recent projects....

Jewelry party and brunch at Silver Chest Creations (This was so much fun.  If you'd like more information about SCC, see this earlier blog post.  If you're interested in planning your own party, just let owner, Melissa Anderson, know).

Making homemade cinnamon rolls (I really liked this recipe and definitely recommend...or you could just go visit with the folks at Kountry Kitchen and eat the most delicious breakfast pastry ever.)

Breaking out the mod podge again... 
Got the chair at Main Street 210.
Made copies of some Adrienne-themed pictures.
Mod-podged to the chair, used a sharpie to write a favorite Avett Brothers lyric, and sprayed with a clear sealant.
Making ornaments...
Buy clear glass ornaments, remove lids, squeeze in acrylic paint colors of choice, cover top with a paper towel, shake a bunch, let drain over an egg carton.
Happy piddling.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Dress me in the clothes I wore in the day's round." - Wendell Berry

I was a little hesitant to do a post.  Even though I have written a lot about my dad since I started this blog, and particularly since his death three years ago today, I questioned myself, for numerous reasons, this morning. First of all, when someone dies, we all have a tendency to romanticize them. Faults suddenly become endearing quirks, frustrations, laughable moments.  This is natural and understandable...but something that would've made Dad scoff.  And though I would never want to trivialize a complex man by only describing him through rose-colored glasses, written tributes tend to do this. Secondly, I would never want my stories about Dad to seem gratuitous, all "there's Liza talking about CLT again just to get sympathy or attention." nor would I want to provoke "Okay, Liza, we get it. You think your dad was awesome" statements. He deserves better than that. Finally, I don't want to be one of those people whose life seems to revolve around one tragic incident. A lot of people have lost their parents, in fact, a lot of my friends, and to wallow in this distinction seems to reflect a loss of perspective. 

But then I thought to myself, "If you want to do it, do it. Forget how it looks to other people. It's your own damn blog.";)

And thus, here is another post about Curtis Lee Turner (Nov. 13, 1948-Nov. 5, 2010)...from the daughter who knew he occasionally talked too loudly or too harshly, was set in his ways and far from flexible at times, made way too much noise in the middle of the night when unwrapping Little Debbie packages...and even more when he got up at 4:00 am to cook sausage, and had a whole assortment of other quirks that weren't exactly endearing. He was real and he had faults.  But this occasionally gruff man was also the father who took his girls fishing, taught them how to drive straight shifts, and drove the track bus to every meet so he could push us to do more than we otherwise would; the quietly compassionate neighbor who took whatever amount people could pay, rather than the actual cost, for firewood in the winter; the student who often let his dog ride shotgun to WKU's campus and wait for him to get out of class; the son who mowed yards and did house repairs for his mother without prompting; the cowboy who loved starched and ironed Wranglers; the music fan who enjoyed Farm-Aid concerts on KET, was known to watch the BeyoncĂ© Christmas special, asked me to replay Sam Sparro's, Black and Gold, one day as we headed to a chemo treatment, and who appreciated old country and blues in equal measure; the cook who made the best fried potatoes and eggs I have ever had and who often opted for restaurants that served breakfast anytime of day; the reader and news watcher who could insert dry, political quips into pop culture discussions at the drop of a hat (My favorite: J Lo was performing on a New Years Eve special in 2009 in a black, lace onsie, the same year Umar Abdulmatallab tried to detonate some explosives on a plane that he had hidden in his underwear. J Lo comes on stage and Dad just quietly offered, "no room to hide explosives in those pants."); the man who will remain my inspiration for the rest of my life. 

I could tell a million more stories, but I think this slide show captures much of who he was.  Norris & New did this when he died and it played during the visitation at the funeral home.  I watched it for the first time since November 2010 last night. 

One of my favorite pictures in the slideshow...


By: Wendell Berry
Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in air, don't call it death --
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfect compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself: my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from birth,
And toward which all my sorrows were surely bound,
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots. And say I have left my native clay
At last, to be a traveler; that too will be so.
Traveler to where? Say you don't know.

But do not let your ignorance
Of my spirit's whereabouts dismay
You, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say
Anything too final. Whatever
Is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
Than flesh. Beyond reach of thought
Let imagination figure

Your hope. That will be generous
To me and to yourselves. Why settle
For some know-it-all's despair
When the dead may dance to the fiddle

Hereafter, for all anybody knows?
And remember that the Heavenly soil
Need not be too rich to please
One who was happy in Port Royal.

I may be already heading back,
A new and better man, toward
That town. The thought's unreasonable,
But so is life, thank the Lord!

So treat me, even dead,
As a man who has a place
To go, and something to do.
Don't muck up my face
With wax and powder and rouge
As one would prettify
An unalterable fact
To give bitterness the lie.

Admit the native earth
My body is and will be,
Admit its freedom and
Its changeability.

Dress me in the clothes
I wore in the day's round.
Lay me in a wooden box.
Put the box in the ground.

Beneath this stone a Berry is planted
In his home land, as he wanted.
He has come to the gathering of his kin,
Among whom some were worthy men,

Farmers mostly, who lived by hand,
But one was a cobbler from Ireland,

Another played the eternal fool
By riding on a circus mule

To be remembered in grateful laughter
Longer than the rest. After

Doing that they had to do
They are at ease here. Let all of you

Who yet for pain find force and voice
Look on their peace, and rejoice.


In closing, I just want to say to those who have lost someone they loved, that it's okay to feel sad years after it happens.  I'm not sure things have gotten any easier for me. I cry nearly every time I stand by his tombstone. I can hear a song that reminds me of him or think about something funny he said and break down immediately. I miss him literally every day and feel like there's an irreparable hole in my heart.  And although these are horribly sad emotions, I also recognize the significance of their meaning: I was blessed to have a father that I still grieve about three years later in a very real, very vivid way. It is a testament to his devotion to his family, his love of his farm and community, and the respect I had for him.  It is a testament to a man who was good and strong and funny, no matter what color of glasses the audience happens to be wearing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Maybe my car just didn't want to live in a world without my cowboy boots.

I said that I would drive it until the wheels fell off. 

I said I would keep it, passing down to my mortified kids who, regaled with tales of its storied existence from childbirth to age 16, would then be given the opportunity (i.e. be forced) to drive it to CCHS, kids replete with the same excitement their mother felt when pulling the ceiling-drooping, multi-shades-of-brown Pontiac 6000 into that same parking lot in 1996.

Well, sometimes we eat our words.
I said goodbye to the Elantra last week, the car that looked like me; the car with more dog hair, paw prints, and glass nose smudges than most grooming shops; the car that has traveled the Midwest and East Coast with inviting curiosity and surprising reliability; the only car I've ever outright owned; the only car improved by a backseat, gingham snowman sheet; the only car Lucy and Willie have ever known; the only car that continually inspired me to say, "I wish this inanimate object could talk. Oh, the stories it would tell."; the only car that has sat impatiently in Lexington traffic and gotten stuck in the owner's own Marrowbone yard; the bumper-stickered advertisement for sources of inspiration, the mobile reflection of the person I have become.

I am a practical person, however. Although the wheels may have technically still been on it, the sounds it was making would have suggested otherwise. Over the past 2-3 months, I said numerous times, "I really think my car might blow up." That wasn't hyperbole.  I had multiple mechanics check it out; it would be "fixed" for a while, only then to return to its no-heat-at-random-times, increasing-cacophony-of-weird-sounds tricks. It had 194,000 miles...and it was a 2006 model (the legitimate disclaimer offered by every person who tried to work on it). A chunk of vinyl was missing from the steering wheel (my best guess: a dog bit or scratched it and then I picked at it while driving and bored), the driver's side visor stayed in a permanent "down" position, most of the dashboard lights did not work, and a new scratch on the outside, a scratch that inevitably joined a family of paint scrapes and small door dings, only provoked a "huh," if noticed at all. 

As I've told many people over the past seven years, however, this stuff just gave the Elantra "character," becoming the arched doorways, inexplicable light switch, or slightly-bowed hardwood floors of my second home.  The cosmetic stuff didn't bother me; to quite the contrary, I considered it quirks of a good life.  It was the whole "this might blow up at any moment" bit that unnerved me.  I simply came to the conclusion that if I didn't feel comfortable carting my dogs or another person around, if I couldn't jump in the car and confidently travel to Glasgow, much less, Chicago, it was time to let it go. 

And thus, goodbye old friend. 

Obama, marathon, Avett Brothers, and Centre stickers
Some of the necessities I pulled out of the console alone. Who doesn't need to carry around lettuce seeds, Euros, Mardi Gras beads, four tire gauges, and random keys? And boy, how many times have you wished you had a stopwatch?
You should've seen the stuff in the trunk.
Ipods just don't tell stories the way CDs do.
I have not sat on bleachers at a Cumberland County sporting event in years.  I'm fairly certain that even then I never offered, "Man, I wish I had a panther-head-embossed cushion."
On the other hand, that tape from 1988 sure has come in handy. 
See Willie in the background?  This was one of my requirements for a new car...Willie needed to be able to ride in the back window....because it makes him happy. 
So, what kind of car did I settle on?...
A Hyundai Elantra hatchback.:)
We'll continue this saga after another 194,000 miles.
I realize my car was no classic fit for restoration, nor a family heirloom in which I taught children to drive. It was important to me though. That's enough.
Plus, this song reminds me of Dad. I miss him everyday, but anniversaries are particularly hard (tomorrow marks three years that he has been gone). Songs like this make me smile through the tears.

Tell me stories about a car you've loved:)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"But his hat seemed to me like an old halo."

You're right; his barn looks like him.
And not just in a "those holiday socks and thin-lipped coffee mugs look like Liza" sort of way. 
No, it is more than reification of personal taste, something more significant than color preferences and quirk appeal actualized.
His barn feels like him...

His menagerie of tools, part and parcel of gifts made and chores done;
his organized chaos, a reflection of jack-of-all-trades inclinations and wildly varied interests.
I see his handwriting on random truck maintenance receipts and horse racing paraphernalia.
I read the labels of medicines used on animals he loved.
I stack hay in the stalls once home to bottle-fed calves, stud horses, and tobacco striping boxes.
I walk a few steps outside and talk to the man buried by the barn he built.

But, it is the tools that remind me most of my father.
Holding them, I see Dad in the thick of some project, a walking advertisement for perfectly-dirty and broken in, feed-mill baseball caps and button-down, denim shirts,
(the lightweight, short-sleeve kind if July, tucked-in and under a puffy red vest if November).
I hear the sound of hammer on nail head...and a funny, strewn-together combination of cuss words.
I watch old wire and fence posts turn into an outdoor play area for Lucy and Willie in a matter of hours.
I smirk in the same way he would when "encouraged" by Mom to sit on the back porch and take off his manure-caked cowboy boots.

So, these tools, tools held by a man I loved deeply and whose death I cannot accept;
tools housed in a barn that looked like him when I was a little tomboy girl "helping" her dad and forevermore will;
tools that have a legacy that should breathe beyond the four walls of that 12X8' feed room-turned-workshop,
today I give to a man who also understands devotion to animals, land, work, and family.
I wrote the above in response to a poem penned by the best writer I personally know. 
A few weeks ago, I decided that the tool room in Dad's barn needed to be cleaned and organized. If any of you have seen the inside of my car and also knew CLT, you know that I get it honestly.  Dad wasn't really a stickler for organization. And the fact that the rest of us have pulled and grabbed random tools and supplies as we've needed them over the past three years has only contributed to the mess. It thus goes without saying that the tool room made my car look like Pottery Barn. Anyway, when I did finish cleaning, I sent Lee some of the "after" pictures. 
Here is what he sent to me the next day:
"A mans barn is his barn after the wheat and chaff lie side by side,
himself to become something growing.
It is his office and workshop, his life and his meaning,
a place that looks like him.
He liked orange power tools,
this I know.
A desk he made into an antique unknowingly,
and he would scoff at such a line.
A daughter who would smile, knowingly,
that all good things come in time.
A daughter that would know him, be him,
conversations in a glance.
A joke the others don’t quite get,
a father and daughter dance…
To say we are alike, the similarities are far and few,
but one thing that old farmer and I know is that
August is proud of you."
I will probably never be able to write something for someone else that means as much to them as these words did/do to me.  I hate that I lost my Dad for purely selfish reasons; he was my friend and my hero; I always felt like he understood me in a way no one else in my life did; I wanted to work harder and be better so I would do him proud.
At the same time, however, I hate that I lost Dad for everyone else who won't have a chance to know him, whether it be new friends that come into my life or children I hope to have one day.  They are missing out.  So, to read Lee's words, words that suggest that maybe others see or understand him because they know me, was a wonderful gift. 

I'm certain this is how his grand kids and great-grand kids would have seen their "Pa." I know I did.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Always remember there was nothing worth sharing...

I love that Adrienne and I both have Avett Brothers tattoos, want Jess and Rory to be together in real life, and could wear a different pair of whimsical socks every day for two weeks and still have a few pairs left over.  I love that Adrienne knows what she deserves, expects it, and will call others out if they're slacking.  I love that Adrienne and I have the same sense of humor and that we are both hilarious.  I love that Adrienne is one of my favorite people to go to concerts, travel, and drink with. I love that if I had said, "with whom to go to concerts..." Adrienne would've rolled her eyes even though she knew it was grammatically correct. I love that Adrienne can make the most god awful faces a beautiful person could possibly make.  I love that Adrienne realizes she is everyone's favorite and doesn't fake humility or offer ridiculous disclaimers like "we're all special in different ways." I love that Adrienne can be blunt, selfish, and halfway mean at times...but in the back of my mind, I'm always thinking "dammit, I can't help but like her though." I love that Adrienne is the type of teacher to whom both kids and parents write letters of adoration. I love that Adrienne doesn't do selfies with any seriousness.  I love that Adrienne married my former advisee and student.  I love that Adrienne is happy.

Happy birthday, little sis.  I think you're awesome.