Saturday, June 25, 2011

a birthday tribute

My Grams turned fifty the year I was born.  It was a handy piece of information when I put that together as I never have to stop and wonder how old she was.  As long as I can remember my own age, I can get to hers.  Today she turns eighty-two (which means, incidentally, that I'm thirty-two in case that math was too much for you).
(The birthday cake I made her in 2006)

Friends of blog will recall that I posted pictures from Grams's birthday last year but did not do the full five-favorite birthday treatment, a fact I intend to remedy today.  I have found that it is sometimes tough to write the five-favorite posts about the youngsters in my life because I've known them such a relatively short amount of time and don't have years of shared experiences and memories from which to draw.  The difficulty I find with writing these posts about the adult-types in my life is that there are too many stories and characteristics, too much specialness to narrow it down to five.  So my favorites may be deliberately broad here so I can cram in as much Gramsy goodness as can be managed.
(With the first 8 great-grands in 2007)

5.  Most every childhood memory of my Grams is wrapped up in food.  Faithful readers may recall that I have occasionally mentioned my moma's cooking as the standard for all great things in the world, and she came by that skill quite honestly.  My Grams is the mastermind behind the way I think Thanksgiving dinners ought to be.  Her way of cooking a roast is the best way.  And though my moma cooks many things just like her, there will always be dishes that are Grams's signature dishes, things that no one can do as well as her, like baked apples (which I foolishly didn't even eat as a kid) and banana pudding and chocolate pie and fudge and Sunday night popcorn.  And cornbread--I could cheerfully eat her cornbread for every meal for the remainder of my life.  The summer I was learning to cook like a grown-up, I tried to get Grams to give me her recipe for deviled eggs.  The only exact measurement in the whole thing was the number of eggs to use--and even that was dependent upon how many people I wanted to feed.  It was years before I worked up the nerve to try and make them on my own with a little of this and just enough of that.  Of course, they were nothing like as good as hers, but I'm going to keep trying. I'm sure this idea came down the generations long before my Grams entered the picture, but she's the place where I learned it:  feeding someone, taking the time to prepare meals and making sure that everyone gets their favorite is one of the purest expressions of love.  Food fuels the body, but my Grams's food and the memories of meals at her table (even the card table in the utility room) will feed my heart for the rest of my life.
(With my moma last summer)

4.  My Grams is careful and meticulous.  In this day and age, folks would look at her organized cabinets and storage solutions and mention OCD, but that's not really it.  She has just always been a person who likes order and never had enough money to be wasteful.  So she re-purposed things that others would discard and made lists on the insides of cabinet doors so you could find what you needed at a glance.  In case you were wondering, while this is a trait that she passed down, I didn't get a drop of it.  Michelle took all that organization and attention to detail and love of order and left me with the haphazard sloppiness of some other ancestor, but I can still admire the clever ways that Grams has of keeping things orderly.  The one time she helped me move, I put her in charge of lining the kitchen cabinets and drawers.  She measured and cut perfectly straight lines and lined everything with such precision that I was shamed into keeping everything orderly just to honor the lining. I can remember when she helped Michelle pack up to move one time, she had to clean the glass on every picture frame before wrapping it flawlessly in newspaper.  The woman was born for detail work, and though I often lament that more of this trait didn't rub off on me, if I ever have a moment of ingenuity or an organizational breakthrough, it makes me feel like her girl.
 (Christmas 2010)
3.  My Grams is a woman of faith, and that is truly something she leaves as her legacy.  My childhood memories of Grams and church are completely intertwined from her forceful, strong singing voice to her mispronunciation of Matthew to her unabashed arguments in Bible class.  Her devotion to the study of Scripture has always been an example to me--and not one that I come close to living up to.  If she'd been doing Project 4:4 last year, she wouldn't have quit in April.  I always remember my Gramps as the spiritual leader of our family, but the truth is without Grams, he wouldn't have been.  And while I sometimes think Grams and I don't see eye to eye on all things theological, she's such a huge part of why I believe at all, and her steady faith is a constant comfort to me.
(Fall 2010)

2.  When my Gramps was alive, I think he overshadowed Grams a little.  He was such a charmer, with such a big personality that it was easy to be drawn to him, and in my memories she was always stricter, more serious, the straight man to his comic.  But they worked together as a team gloriously.  Maybe it's just because I didn't know them until they'd been married for over thirty years, but the two of them fit together in a way that made perfect sense, which is not to say that they always agreed or got along perfectly.  But when I think of them, I can remember how when she was exasperated, he just smiled and those blue eyes twinkled, and when he was frustrated, she soothed.  Maybe that's selective memory, but that's how I want to remember them.  They took care of each other in a million little ways, and so much of my idea of what marriage is supposed to look like comes from them.  When I was in the fifth grade, I started riding the bus to their house in the afternoons to hang out with them until my moma got off work.  When I think about them together, that's where I picture them--in the living room watching Club Dance or sitting at the kitchen table with their afternoon coffee (and if Gramps and I were lucky Twinkies), with their everyday, ordinary conversations and teasing and occasional bickering.  In the fourteen years that I've gotten to know Grams without Gramps, I've come to appreciate her humor and personality a little more, but I also always think she's just a little incomplete, a little less than she was with him.  That idea drives my vision of heaven as a place of reunion.  I need to believe it will be for the two of them.
(A four generation pic with MacMac, CST1BF, and tiny Elijah)
1.  One of my favorite things to do over the past dozen years or so is to watch Grams with our babies, the great-grands.  She's got ten at the moment with number eleven due to arrive in November, and she adores those babies.  Seeing her dote and laugh and fuss and fill up with pride over these kiddos gives me flashes of my own childhood, and I know that she doted and laughed and fussed and burst with pride over me (and the other seven grands) just as she does for them.  It's the same kind of love she has for her three girls, and it's the basis for all the love that we all give back to her.  It's continuity, linking us to the past and stretching us into the future, a love that will outlive her and someday me.  It's a love that is making this last long good-bye the easiest thing to do and the hardest, both triumphant and heart-breaking.
Happy Birthday, Grams!

Friday, June 24, 2011

five things

Five things that make me happy:
(About a month ago some fb friend talked of making a list of 50 things to be happy about.  I thought I might try it, got as far as what I ate for lunch, and couldn't finish.  I'm going to do better this time--but 50 is still too ambitious for me.)

5.  Well, to honor the original list:  grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.  It was a really great lunch.

4.  Rainy days.  Everyone I know seems to suffer from season affective disorder, but I am the opposite.  I love clouds and rain and cold.  I especially like when it rains at work because we're surrounded by windows, and I love the watching the sky drama. And since it's ridiculously hot here now, sweltering, miserable, August-style hot, I'm remembering our storm-riddled, mild-temperatured spring with all sorts of fondness. (Well, not the devastating tornado part of it, obviously.)

3. Singing.  Various factors have kept me from my church lots for the past couple of months, but last Wednesday I managed to be there for an entire service for the first time in forever.  There was this spectacularly transcendent moment when we were singing "How Great Is Our God" that managed to restore my spirit in ways that I didn't even realize were needed.  I'm going to remember not to forget to sing.

FitFlop Women's Walkstar Toning Sandal,Bronze,7 M US2.  FitFlops.  My moma bought me these.  I mentioned to her sometime in passing that I thought I would buy some this summer.  The truth is I'm getting too old to wear cheap shoes all the time, and I have long admired Michelle's FitFlops.  So she bought them for me out of the blue because she's so precious.  They're delightfully comfortable, and I don't even mind that they make me even taller.  Typically I don't like shoes that make me taller, but these are great.  Thanks, Moma!

1.  Family.  I couldn't decide if it was even fair to include the soul-filling, constant-comfort kind of happy that is my family in a list where I talk about sandwiches and footwear, but it would be an insult to omit them and the laughter, the belonging, the delight that people I've known my whole life can still surprise me with their strengths and kindnesses. They are mine, and my cup is full and overflowing just from being theirs.

Five things that make me nervous:

5.  Grad school.  It's happening this fall, I guess, though I haven't been officially accepted yet.

4.  Summer Reading Club. It's the most intense seven weeks of my entire working year--plus the even more than most intense six or eight weeks getting ready for it.  Somehow it always sorts itself out, but in the meantime it slowly sucks my will to live, or at least my will to blog. (Only five and a half more weeks to go!)

3.  Awkward situations in movies.  Have you noticed this thing in every comedy made in the past few years wherein all the humor relies on social awkwardness or characters who create ridiculously embarrassing situations for themselves?  It seriously makes me squirm.  I can't take it.  I'm a mess.  I know I shouldn't get so invested in stories and fake people, but it's a thing I do, and it's nerve-wracking.

2.  Tweeting.  Maybe I haven't told you that I'm on the twitters (@sellensam if you want to follow me), but I've been tweeting with some regularity for a few months, and I still find it intimidating.  I think I need to stop following funny people and that will ease the tension.

1. The state of my DVR.  I started falling behind on tv in April and though I've taken some time here and there to try and catch up, there are still two or three shows that have been over for weeks that I can't seem to finish, and the So You Think You Can Dance episodes are piling up.  That's really not the kind of show one should put off, and yet I can't seem to sit down and watch.  In the meantime, the free space percentage on the DVR shrinks daily.

Five things that aren't going my way: 

5.  FHDM has never been a more appropriate name for him, but sadly he's never going to be my future husband.  Donald Miller is engaged to someone who's not me.  I'm sure she's a lovely person as he recently tweeted that she's going to Africa to help children, so I can't even hate her.  So I'm once again taking applications for my future husband.  Fairly minimum job requirements:  must be funny, literate, a multi-millionaire, and willing to let me have my way always.

4.  My Grams is not doing well.  I've not known whether/how to communicate this to pretty much everyone, but how to deal with it on the blog has been especially confusing.  Ultimately, it's a family matter, and while I'm not hesitant to broadcast family stuff normally, I've just gone back and forth on how much I want to talk about this.  But here's the deal.  She's in liver failure, and she's at home and in hospice care.  And she has good days and bad days, and it's not any fun.  On the other hand, I'm going to see her two or three times a week, and that's been mostly nice.  I'm seeing a lot of my family which I also enjoy.  I have a lot of feelings about it, and for once in my spill-my-guts life, I am doing a terrible job of knowing how to talk about it.  So apparently I'm going to do so awkwardly.  Thanks for not judging me too harshly for the awkward. And thanks for the prayers that have been sent up and will continue to be sent up on behalf of her and my family.

3. My house refuses to be trained to become self-cleaning.  I know it could do this--if only it would apply itself.  But alas, I come home nightly, and the same messes I left that morning are there, taunting me.

2.  I fell off the healthy-eating wagon in April, and I can't seem to find the discipline, energy, or interest to get back on. 

1.  I know this five things was my idea, but now I can't think of a fifth go here, and I've ruined the lists.  I guess that could count as something that's not going my way.

Five things I've learned lately:

5.   You can't force funny.  A couple of weeks ago, cousin, scholar, theologian, #1 blog fan suggested a humorous treatment for a topic I was considering writing.  If I could have pulled it off, it would have been perfection (so perfect that I'm keeping it in reserve for another time), but as I tried to write it, it just wasn't funny, and nothing I did was helpful.  So I stopped throwing good humor after bad.

4.  Don't get a haircut without a plan.  I've been growing my hair out for two and half years.  And then suddenly it was a mess.  I never wanted to fix it, it was so long it didn't even make a cute ponytail anymore, and it was smothering me in the oppressive Arkansas heat.  So I decided to get a haircut last week, but I didn't pick a style or find a picture or make a plan, and as a result, I have a mess on my head.  The official length is pretty much what I wanted, but my usual long layers that I need to thin out the ends and make them lay nicely turned into short layers that pretty much guarantee my hair's going to flip and be insane and never lay nicely.

3.  My tastebuds routinely make a fool of me.  Though I've always claimed to not be a picky eater, there have always been certain foods that I didn't like and would never eat.  Lately, I've had opportunities to re-try some of those foods or go hungry, and what I've found is that I like pretty much everything.  Fish is still iffy, and oatmeal is questionable, but lima beans are my new best friend.  Go figure.

2. Sleep is important.  Okay, I knew this one, but lately I've been forcefully reminded.  My sleep pattern is off, and it makes me constantly late and occasionally irrational.  Boo.

1. I don't know everything.  Yeah, I knew this one too, but you can rarely tell by the way I act.  So recently I've been becoming more okay with not knowing everything, and though it's an adjustment, I think it's a welcome change.  I dare say it might eventually make me a better person.  Keep your eyes peeled for that.