Monday, February 19, 2018

A Busy Winter

Pippa is skeptical of my definition of "going somewhere fun."

It’s coming to the end of my off-season and I am not surprised to report that I accomplished very few personal tasks and instead I emailed brides, did some manual labor, and spent my downtime looking at furniture that I’m too sensible to purchase. Brett and I also started to watch Breaking Bad, which is quite the exciting TV show. I also went to a ballet class with my friend Chelsea, had a few small dinner parties, started a one month booty workout that I completely forgot about after week three (just slipped my mind entirely), went to a few good shows, and started a Goodwill pile that is a sight to see.

So I’ve been busy not bettering myself in an effort to better myself better, later. Really I’ve fallen way off of my writing bandwagon. It could be many things. I have a routine now, which is a real creativity stifler, I feel I’ve written all the good stories I have to tell, I haven’t gotten out and done any strange things that might result in more stories, and lastly, I realized it really was time to do something with my stories so that made Inner-Laura pack up and run off.

Pippa takes her first selfie.

As for those other folks, Ellen and Dad are leaving on Thursday for a quick jaunt to Burma. Dad will be installing electricity into the orphanage he built and Ellen is going to work with the children that live there. We were all quite surprised that Ellen wanted to come along and we imagine this will be a very good experience for Princess Black Cloud. Little slice of humble pie. I’m excited for them but also very nervous. I’m particularly worried about Ellen turning on the idea when she sees the dirt and bugs and lack of wifi. Chris Union doesn’t do bad attitudes.
Big Mama has been tending to various “old folk” and making me laugh with her perpetually outraged disposition. She “can’t believe” lots of things and it’s good fun to watch her experience life.  Last week I went over for coffee one morning and we chatted until 11:00. I asked her what she was going to do today and she said, “It’s 11:00, the day is basically over!” and then we laughed and laughed at ourselves. We always think of the Seinfeld episode where George is upset because he has an appointment at 2:30 in the afternoon. “That’s my whole day!” he shouts. Do you ever feel that way?

In "Crew" news, Erik moved out, Nate moved in, there's a new dog, a new girlfriend, a new trashcan (that is new-dog-proof), and a shortage of time for all of us to get together. 
Busy times for The Crew.

We celebrate Erik's move-in day.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sundays and Stubbornness

I realized early on that it was going to be way easier to get up on Sunday morning and go to brunch with Brett n’ Friends than it would be to go to church and sit with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t really say all that much and still manages to confuse me. I’d been on a church hiatus on account of hating small-talk, crowds, and people that hold your hands while they ask about your weekend. I preferred my own sort of church that I did alone, mostly because I’m shy and lazy.

Because of Brett, I started making myself go to church. I thought, “I’m going to lose this if I’m not careful.” so I had to take the tiny percentage of self-discipline that I have and put it towards a church commitment to counteract Eisenhauer's magnetic pull to the "We're going to grab coffee and head to the beach!" -style Sunday morning that feels so devious and wild. I immediately loved Pastor Steve. He’s my kind of speaker: funny, to the point, and slightly scary, like he means business and you should take things seriously. So Steve helped me stick to my guns and that’s when the devil stepped in. I had just started having panic attacks back at Bloom. I thought it was anxiety about my life and what to do with it because I was so restless and unhappy. I’d have a panic attack everyday at 1:30, which was my lunch break so sometimes I’d never get a chance to eat. I started to only feel safe at home, in my little creative space where life was full of color and potential. But then I’d have to go somewhere and I'd worry about having an attack and so doing any little task would make me panic. I got to where I couldn’t drive on the highway (in case of a spontaneous heart attack) and would go the long way around to North Charleston to pick up flowers. Driving to Mt. Pleasant, over that big suspension bridge, meant a cold sweat and dizziness and near hysteria. I found all of this frustrating because I’m way cooler than this. I like adventures. I've always loved driving and anyways, knowing what a panic attack is should be reason enough for it to go away. I started to have them in church too and would have to leave mid-sermon, convinced I was about to choke or faint or something unrealistic. I stopped wanting to go to church all together but Brett told me to stick with it because it’s important to me. One point for Wise-Eise.

Around this time my boss went on maternity leave and I was left to tend to the floral shop and that’s when I was let loose to “reach my potential” (Adults love that phrase). It was in this time wedge that I was able to actually fill my workday, instead of finishing up at 2:00 and standing around until it was time to close. I could handle way more work than I was being given and after that, well I just couldn’t be a shop flunky anymore, waiting around and panicking all day. That’s when God gave me the bright idea of working for myself. This had to be God’s idea because I’d have never given myself that much credit or signed up for anything that had too much responsibility in the description. Not once had I thought of being a business owner and I certainly would have never wanted to take on the vulnerability of having to perform a task for a client and hoping they come out happy, but God made me think it was a good idea and he made the start up really easy and before I really processed it, I was out of Bloom, sleeping in, and “running a business”.

Here’s where it gets good because I was immediately happy. Not panic-free or comfortable with any of the newness but I had time for my dreamy thoughts and story writing and colorful ideas that before, were being smothered out by the demands of The Man. A happier Lu meant a chattier, bouncier Lu and I harassed Brett with my thoughts on God and life and we had lots of good talks but he also asked me lots of big questions that I didn’t have answers for. That’s when I started to use my lazy mornings for quiet time with God, reading and studying and saying the most convoluted prayers. Sometimes I think God has to stop and take a deep breath when he first hears me say “Well good morning God!” 
My quiet time, which almost immediately felt like coffee with an old friend, changed everything. I had a bride recommend a devotional book for my restlessness and sweet Laurie Hon gave me one full of insightful thoughts. I read both of these in my little white chair over a couple of mornings and everything I “knew” about God suddenly came to life, like a flat drawing abruptly standing up off of the page. What peace and excitement it gave me.

But it ain’t all happy because that “Aha!” moment and the giddiness that followed only lasted about ten days before God politely closed the door to that party and told me I was going to have to work harder if I wanted to hang out there. “You can’t sit with us." It’s a great challenge though because sometimes I can get God to crack the door a little just to let me hear the music, keep me motivated.
I've been thinking about this 2-3 year progression; all the little moves God made to line me up, how long and awful it felt without realizing that it was adding up to something. God gave me someone I’d adore to challenge what I thought, knowing I’m stubborn enough to try to prove him wrong and then he gave me this business to give me time. I wanted the time for me but God gave me the time for him, because I’d have never given a quiet time a chance when I was so resentful and determined to use my few free hours for my own happiness.

So you see, in a roundabout way, Brett got me back into the church. I sure like this thought. Brett still has lots of big questions as he likes lots of research and evidence for the things that he’ll stand behind and God prefers that whole "faith" notion over hard facts. Brett does like Pastor Steve a lot though and he gives the hymns a nice remix that only I get to hear. For Christmas he signed me up for a subscription to a company that sends me a new devotional book (and other goodies) by mail every month. He's interested in these educational type things on the subject so I'm hoping for a few that focus on intellectual notions over emotional ones for future chats on the subject.
But you know, you can't rush God's plan.



Friday, January 26, 2018

Renovations


The purchase of my little dream fixer-upper, while being a productive learning opportunity, has been even more of a fascinating look at the inner-world of Mr. Chris Union. While wandering through it the first few times, I imagined furniture here, blue walls there, shiny new counter tops, and polished floors. Dad walked through with his mental x-ray goggles, ignoring the aesthetic values and instead seeing the structure behind the walls and the lumps in the old pine floors. We came out of the house with two very different mental pictures and while I was elated, Dad only saw weeks of frustrating labor.

This is akin to a showing a few months ago where Dad and I went to look at a little house downtown and he came out of it talking about the roof and electrical wiring, while I pointed out that it was a transvestite's home and he had no clue what I was talking about. "You didn't notice?"
"Notice what?"
The man who let us into his house had a crafts table with glue, lace, and sequins and there were enormously long stiletto heels scattered around the house. Initially I assumed a big-footed girlfriend until we went into the spare bedroom and it looked like RuPaul's dressing haven.
"He was a drag queen, Dad."
"What? How do you know?" Sometimes I wonder what Dad sees when he looks around.


Now I know Chris Union and I've known him almost thirty years. I know he is charming, kind, clever, and all squishy inside where his family is concerned. I also know that he is very different in the workplace. Still charming and fair, but also highly efficient, bossy, and aggressive when needed. Coming into this project together, I worried that I would frustrate him with my tendency to consider many options over a long period of time. I have loved homes and interiors and decorations since I was very young and now, finally, getting a little cottage all my own, I was prepared to annoy even myself with the amount of perfectionist detail I would be considering in each room. From hinges to faucets, I considered the hundreds of decisions that I would want to make that Dad would not consider to be worth considering. "It's a crappin' hinge, Lu!"


One month in to the renovations, both of us have surprised me. Me, in a good way. Dad, in both directions. As it turns out, I have stayed true to my laid-back nature and not fussed over things the way I thought I might. This is possibly because there are simply too many options that I love, so I assume I'll be happy with however things work out best. I have a vague idea of what I want for a room, I share that with Dad, and he plows off to make it structurally sound. Dad takes the big picture I give him and immediately orders things, knocks out walls, and comes up with "clever" fixes. It's a few days later when I come by the house, that I realize he has not studied the images I sent him as closely as I did. For example, Dad sees bead-board. I see bead-board, slightly wider than your standard, usual bead-board. "Hey Dad, can we get bead-board in thicker panels?"
"What do you mean?"
"The picture I showed you, I liked the bead-board because of the wide planks."
"Huh?"
"Pull up the picture. See how wide they are? Not like the narrow bead-board you see."

These are the moments where I brace myself for eye-rolling, snorting, and a reminder of the budget we set but these have been the times where he surprises me and he sees that thick bead-board for the first time and thinks it's really great. "Oh! That does look nice! Well ok, I'll look for some!"
Did you see that coming? Dad has unexpectedly enjoyed many of the ideas I have for the house and will often take them and run with them, creating something I was too bashful to even ask about. Dare I say, his artsy side is coming out.


The other area where Dad has surprised me is in his "efficiency." I knew he worked fast. I knew he worked smart. But I didn't realize just how fast and just how compulsively his mind focuses on a task. The man can't sleep. He is consumed by this project. He wakes up at night with ideas for dormers and shelving and since he's up, he'll barrel over to the house and work on something that he hired someone to do because he can't wait for the guys to get there. The rate at which improvements are made on this house is truly astounding. One day, I was mulling over knocking out a half-wall. I told Dad. He thought it was a good thought. I said "I think so too" and then I left, still considering it. When I came back an hour later, the wall was gone. So that decision is done. And I reckon I'm fine with it.

Really, we're a good team, the ole' man and me.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Be Kind


In reading my last few ranty posts I thought I’d avoid writing anything with my opinions sprinkled into them and instead ramble about something delightful but yesterday was MLK day and as a self-involved white person, it’s easy for me to carry on with my normal routine without really thinking about what that means. I’ll tell ya though, I’m a fan of Ole Marty Lu. His work is really something to admire.

I have a peeve towards the phrase, “My parents taught me not to see color.”
I find that actual scenario to be unlikely. “Hey little Jimmy. See that black man?”
“Uh huh.”
“Well pretend he’s not a black man.”
What should little Jimmy pretend then? Pretend he is a white man, because you think he wishes he was one? Or pretend he is a white man so you can be oblivious to his reality? The very act of teaching someone not to “see color” would involve having them identify someone different from them and then… act casually? I find, in my tiny world, that the opposite should be true. You should see colors. You should see the cultures and backgrounds and ideas of people who are different from you so that you can be aware and respectful, and maybe even learn something from them. You should see a black person or an Asian person or a Jewish person or a gay person and consider what life is like for them and then treat them accordingly. Assume you’re speaking to a kind person and then imagine what it’s like to be targeted because of what other people like them have done or what is believed about people like them. This is true across the board, even for white people. You should not assume a white businessman thinks he is superior and powerful or that a white college girl hashtags her thoughts and speaks in acronyms.


I think it's ignorant to act like there aren’t ethnic or religious or even political divides. I think you should be kind to everyone and if you are also going to be considerate towards them, you should have some idea of where they come from. You'd be more tasteful than to complain to a fat person about your struggle to gain weight (unless they were your fat friend) or to harp about your Christmas bonus to the hourly repair-guy fixing the printers. The same consideration should be in place for speaking to anyone with a different belief system or background or anything really. You should try to know who you are speaking to. Don’t lump them in with other people and don’t act oblivious to their trials. If you don’t know who you’re speaking to, you should ask or just be nice to them because life is hard for everyone in some way or another and being mean has never been especially productive.

If you’re going to be mean to someone, well I can support that too. But make sure it’s targeted to that person’s crumby actions and character rather than their skin color or who they pray to. There are too many wonderful, colorful lives on this planet for anything to be unanimous so we should delight in the fun of the differences and be respectful about the difficult ones. To think there is any one correct way to live life is a very stupid thing to think.


My parents never had to tell me to treat everyone the same. Little kids aren’t racist. They learn that crap from crappy adults and media instigators. Life is so short and our little lives are so unimportant. If you don't like gay people or Italian people, consider that you're making grand assumptions. If you don't like close-talkers or people who eat all of the granola out of the cereal box, then just don’t hang out with those people. It really is that simple. 
To quote one of the most quotable men in history,

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Obscure Moments


Do you ever have a moment that’s so great that you’re certain it would be one of your flashing happy memories if you ever found yourself in a Prisoner of War type situation? I think about this a lot – because I have so many happy memories. You know how in the movies, the good guys are beat down to a pulp or they’re cornered like sitting ducks on a battlefield? And when night falls and the hailstorm of pain and terror subsides for awhile, they tell a story about their mom standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes and the light hit her just right and made her look like an angel? Or maybe they recall a day that their little brother skinned his knee and had to be carried home and the big brother would always remember feeling like a hero and then that’s what makes all the soldiers/p.o.w.’s muster up the strength to make it through? You know?




Well I have lots of moments stored up for the day that I’m kidnapped and kept in a shipping container for a few months. But I do wonder if the flashing happy memoires would help or hurt more when one really thought about all sorts of lovely things that they don’t have anymore. Before I left for my Eastern European romp last summer, Brett and I were sitting on the ground next to Ari’s pool watching the dogs swim and play and it was a perfect temperature outside and the golden hour was creeping in and it was just so great. I don’t so much remember that moment for being lovely but instead I remember the moment because I took in the scene and my thought was, “This is a P.O.W. moment.”

Most of these moments are places, special spots where the good things happened- where I realized something big or felt really loved or really peaceful or it's a place where I had a big laugh. I'm lucky to have so many of these moments scattered all over the place. Each in a different landscape and brainscape, if you will - whoever I was at that time. 

A side-thought. Ever had a great moment because you were the stranger in the room? Or the only American? Or brunette? Or the person in the room that knew the answer? Oh the great little nuggets of time.





Friday, January 5, 2018

Snow-Country News


Perhaps you've heard that it snowed down here in Bumpkinville. It's all just been so exciting. There are lots of good notes but the best is that the city is on pause and people aren't going to work so there's a mild "ghost town" feel about the place and it's very peaceful and friendly feeling. The delight that the snow has brought has been a wonderful unifier and everyone you run into is giddy and friendly and wonderstruck.

What I like about the snow is how it covers up property lines and roads and medians and so makes the land feel larger and wild. Our yard extended right across the street into the neighbors yard, across that glaring divider, making me realize how close we all live to each other and how we have our houses oriented around made up things, like streets and subdivisions.



You might think that a dainty whiner like myself would run and cower from such a cold thing as "snow" but I've been surprisingly enlivened by it and even told Brett I'd consider a snowy vacation someday. On the day of the big snow, The Crew came to Mom and Dad's for games and soup and movies. Ellen brought a couple of people and even Ari and Nate dropped by so we had eleven people and four dogs in the living room at one point and it was actually far from cozy - I had nowhere to sit and I was cold because it turns out that I don't have any waterproof shoes.

But we bundled up and played in the snow and I did not expect it to be so fun. Even sweet Nancy threw a snowball or two. The next day really tickled me because I woke up and had the morning of a true Northerner. I chiseled ice from my windshield, brushed snowed from my car, I drove on an icy road and slid into the wrong spoke of a roundabout. Also I kicked, with gusto, an electrical box that I thought was just a pile of snow. I watched icicles drip and snow blobs melt and I drank hot drinks and mused about how unmotivated I was to do anything.



Then I woke up this morning and the crappin' snow is still here. I didn't know I felt any kind of "crappin'" feelings about it until I woke up and saw it and was already exhausted by the ordeal. I didn't want to spend another day bundled in uncomfortable layers. I did not want to do the "on off on off" thing you have to do with your snow-laden boots every time you come or go from a place. I did not want to run errands on slippery roads or walk through such cold to get groceries or the mail or to let Pippa go to the bathroom. I do not wish to live like this anymore. I have cabin fever (and plenty to do) but I just can't because of snow. That's all there is to it.

Mom and Ellen and I have marveled that people live like this in places. Crappin' weeks of it. No wonder we're overrun with Yankees. I get it now and I can sympathize - not to be mistaken with welcoming them.
I really really miss summer.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

To The New Year

Without meaning to sound cynical or mean, I'm tickled by people's New Year's sentiments and the "defeated but not discouraged" little notes they write. They talk to the year. "2017, you were a real challenge but we made it through to the next chapter of our journey."
 I chuckle a hateful laugh. "This year brought joy and pain..." 
That's a side effect of being alive. Do people expect to have a year without hiccups and blunders? 
"This year will be my year!" Well I sure hope so for you but you didn't have to wait until January 1st to go after your dreams. It's not a magical day. The Earth doesn't even know what day it is. It's just looking out from the merry-go-round at it's star buddies that it hasn't seen in a year. 

Perhaps I just don't get it. I know Ellen takes the New Year quite seriously. She countdowns from weeks out. She likes the fresh start. Except that I don't see it that way. Last year's problems will still be there. If all the years were a fresh start, we'd never learn anything or remember what we spent the last year doing. Ellen had a tough year... but she hasn't really solved her problems yet. (don't worry Ellie - none of us have) So what about January first clears her head? I want in on this. 

For now I'll keep on keepin' on - sleeping, snacking, and telling myself I'll finish my paintings someday, you know, when the time is right.


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