Heart Squeeze Missing

I had no idea. 

No idea how much I missed my little sister. 

Until she came walking through the door last night for the birthday party bash. 

It hit me when I saw her.  My heart squeezed and I jumped off the couch and couldn't get her hugged fast enough.  We stood and stayed in the embrace for minutes and laughed and I wanted to simply smush her. 

Because she is happy.  Doing her thing happy.  I love when people I love are happy. 

As I write this, I feel it again.  The heart squeeze.  I miss her being around all the time.  I miss her being ridiculous with me.  At one point towards the end of the party she gave me a mischievous little side glance and said, "Look Amy, it's a glitter heart.  And it's a candle."  Because she knew.  She knew we would light that candle and take pictures and have a moment.  It's just what we do.  My sister and I. 


Flowers, a Wide Brim Hat, and Kindergarten

Monday night, I stopped at the grocery store thinking I'd buy some groceries.  Upon arrival in the produce section, which is always where I start, I wandered aimlessly for a minute and a half.  Give or take.  Then I wheeled around and walked out.

I didn't feel like grocery shopping.

Walking out at the same time as me was a man.  An elderly gentlemen.  The kind whose wrinkles give him away but somehow his hair has remained a hint of brown; not yet all the way silver.  But the wrinkles and the eyes.  They told me.  In his hands, he was carrying one plastic bag filled with some random fruit and a box of crackers.  I bet there was cheese tucked in there somewhere.  I know how the wrinkled age group likes their cheese and crackers.  In his other hand, was tucked tightly a bouquet of flowers.

"Are those for your wife?"

"Yes, she's stuck by this old hound for forty-seven years."

Did I tell you he had those eyes with wrinkles?  The kind which turn up with mischief because they almost can't help it.

"You know what?  I didn't actually buy any groceries because I didn't feel like standing in line.  But I'm pretty sure I came here to see you."

Again the twinkle eyes with a side of wrinkles.

And that was it.  The exchange was over.

On Sunday morning after my long reading session, I went for a run.  It was a quintessential fall morning.  Crisp, sunny, and yellow leaves all working together.  When I was almost back to my neighborhood, I spotted across the street a wide brim hat coming towards me.  I noted to myself, wear wide brim hat when I'm old and kept running, wide brim hat and my paths coming closer and closer with each stride.  Closer until I spotted the gentleman next to the hat.  Holding her hand.

I waved and shouted, "Good morning!  I love your hat and you two are cute!" in between pants of breath.

And that was it.  The exchange was over.

Tuesday morning, I woke up with all kinds of ridiculous anxiety.  A ball of something is what it was.  What sort of something I have yet to determine.  It was serious though; I'm not really ever affected by a bad case of anxieties so it riled me up a bit.  Upon arrival at work, I stood by my desk and told myself, aright now it's time to get it together.  Right at that moment, the intercom came on in my room with, "Amy, can you head to kindergarten to cover for Mrs. So and So.  She's in a meeting and it's running late." 

"Sure can!"

It was time to really get it together.  Kindergartners take no prisoners.  Off with my coffee cup I went to greet the kindergartners as they walked through their classroom door.  One little boy came trotting into the room with his backpack and stopped dead in his tracks when I said, "Good morning!"  He looked right up at me with his huge brown eyes, "Ohhhh, you are so pretty."

"You little pumpkin.  Thank you so very much.  You just made my day."

He hipped and hopped right over to his cubby and put his business away.

And that was it.  The exchange was over.

Three different occasions of people out doing their thing changing someone else's day in their instant interaction.  Day changers.  They are around every freaking corner and they make my heart happy. 

On a side note, we held book club in the loft of Sweet & Flour last Friday evening.  It's a new place in town and it slapped me in the face in a very fabulous way.  A sparkly chandelier way.

It's easy to become wrapped up in the negatives happening here...still a flood disaster zone in the valley, insane oil boom, ridiculous cost of living...but there are gems popping up because of the growth.  Gems with zebra print chairs and lofts suited just right for drinking wine and talking about books.  Sweet & Flour Patisserie.  Hats off to you.  Please go there and support local.  Support non-franchised.  Support these two hardworking people.     


You Knew it Wouldn't End There

Just when you thought you'd seen enough from the brown egg lady...

She's back. 

Turns out, they aren't pretty only when sitting in the stainless steel from Grandma Gladys bowl.

The white paper towel is a look which brings out the best in brown hard boiled eggs as well. 


Pretty Brown Eggs

You'd think I'd remember from time to time.  But I don't.  It's odd and was gently put to me as being similar to not remembering how to make toast.  Except it wasn't very gently; it was more of a high horse situation.  I have a tendency to ride mine often though, so I let it slide.     
Early this evening I texted Momma Debi with a, "How do I hard boil eggs again?  You'd think I'd remember."  She came through because she always does and after several exchanges of cover vs. no cover with thirty minutes this and not prewarm water that, my eggs were boiling.   
When they were done, I put them in cold water in my scratched up stainless steel from Grandma Gladys bowl.  Promptly the bowl was set down on the counter and off to the races I went to find my camera.  Brown eggs in water in my grandma's stainless steel bowl with the starting to set sun streaming in from the window is something.  Something pretty. 

Really pretty.  The speckles.  They are the glitter of an egg.   
Which made me think.  If I could live a life in which I was only in charge of noticing pretty things like brown eggs in a bowl, I'd be set.   

Because next this pattern happened naturally while I was moving the bowl closer to the ice and out came the camera again.   
Back to the task at hand.  Putting ice in the eggs.  Here's what I learned from the process.  Not only do I forget how to hard boil eggs every freaking time, but I also forget warm wet skin is not the best combination with ice.  Pretty I can notice.  Practicality however, has the knack for eluding me. 


Highlighter Happy

Sunday morning I woke early, wrapped a sweater around me to push off the more than chilly air from leaving my window open, walked to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee in an orange mug, made my way to the office to find the book I bought from browsing at B&N a couple weeks ago - the one with balloons on the front, and then curled up in the corner of my couch with a fuzzy woolish brown blanket around me.  

I started to read.  

It wasn't more than two pages in and I jumped up from the corner of my couch and ran to the kitchen to find a highlighter in the junk drawer.  Yes I really ran.  And yes I have a junk drawer.  

Then I decided I should put a refresher in my coffee cup so it was piping hot again and then I decided the sun was really doing its thing on my wall.  

See?  This is what happens to me.  

After the moments of distraction, I curled back in with the chosen fuzzy woolish brown blanket, my now only warm again coffee, and a yellow highlighter to read.  

And two hours later, I was still reading.  Love Does by Bob Goff.  Perfection in black words typed on cream pages. 

Then yesterday in the late afternoon, I pulled it out again.  I can not stop with this one.  It's speaking to me yes, but it's also throwing thoughts at me and I'm catching.  After a few pages in the afternoon sun session, I came across a passage. 

I instagrammed the passage because it's what I do.  Within seconds, one of my original fourth graders had commented, "Highlighter happy."  She was in my very first class of chicken wings and she tried to set me up with her older brother in her Christmas card to me and she was fabulous.  Now she's in high school and remembered when she saw my yellow.  I jumped off the couch again cheering, "She remembers!  She remembers me saying don't get too highlighter happy when she was in fourth grade."  I wrote the original chicken wing back, "Sometimes the overuse of the highlighter is necessary."  

Her response, "I'm pretty sure I was highlighter happy in 4th grade just to drive you crazy."  With an addition of a smiley face.  

I cannot even put into words how ridiculously fulfilled yesterday made me feel; no I can't.  So I won't.  I'll let the highlighter happied up page do it for me.  


I'm Just Saying

The other day in some of my reading, I came across the ever popular saying LIVE LARGE.  

Instantly this popped into my head.  

Yes, oh wise book.  Live large.  But don't be large.  

Don't you feel better about the state of my head now after I shared that bit of randomness.

Moving on.  Because I have a point.  At least as much of a point I can ever whittle. 

I'm not sure living large has to be an unattainable because I don't believe it needs to include fancy careers or expensive jewelry or wild excursions to exotic locations.  For me, living large is in the small; it's in the moments of stripped simplicity.      
After work one day last week, I found myself at the farm to join in on the salsa and pizza sauce making already started by Momma Debi and Sil.  Which really translates to all I did was pour the salsa in the jars, put the lids on, and place them in the hot water.  Sometimes it pays to have a day job.  The slicing and dicing had been done. 

Dad-o made steak supper for us all and the four munchkins were in fine form.  The kind of form which I find entertaining as their aunt.  Punky was inches away from an actual head dive out of the high chair with a quick save from Firecracker.  Easy Rider was fairly certain he had to have ranch and BBQ on his plate and Little Man was more concerned with standing in his chair and making cheese faces than eating.

After they had sufficient bites, I said, "Who wants to come with to the garden?"  I knew they'd come.  We did some cucumber, zucchini, and yellow squash picking with each of them holding a bag; I was zestfully throwing the veggies around causing some laughter.

Then all of a sudden, someone spotted the orange of a ripened mini pumpkin and all things ridiculous broke loose.  The three of them tore across the garden, bags whipping on their arms with dirt literally flying up from the soles of their boots all the while screaming at the top of their little lungs, "PUMPKINS!"

It was contagious.

I started yelling and high kicking right along with them.

Their squeals of joy were it.     

We picked quite a few pumpkins with some clarification needed about only the orange and kept laughing and carrying on.  Little Man was especially priceless because he's learning to use his words more and more.  He was stringing together, "I pick pumpkin!" with his enormous grin only growing broader with each pick.  I wanted to smush his face.  I might have actually smushed once or twice.

When we walked back to the house, our arms were loaded with the orange loot.  I looked up to see Momma Debi, Sil, and Punky on the deck laughing right along with us, complete with baby arm circles.  You know the kind.  When you think the baby might actually take off in flight because her arms are going 'round and 'round that fast.

And my mom?  Well, my mom was video taping the scene.

Living large.  It doesn't have to be so large.  It can come in the form of a rather small orange pumpkin on a weeknight evening in a patch of dirt.  


From the iPhone Case to the Floor

Sometimes what I do is drop my brand new "Notes to Self" iPhone case on my tile bathroom floor.  I do that so I remember that things are just that.  Things.  

Not really.  

I do that because turns out the Kate Spade cases are slippery little suckers.  So much so that when I went to pick up my phone in the right after the last floof and poof in the mirror, it done slid right out of my hands and onto the floor with a rather loud whack.

It really wasn't a let's remember what's important in life moment.  It was more of an insert sailor word kind of affair.      

But I will say this.  When I picked it up, I saw the corner had a smidge of character added.  In simple terms, scratched...it was scratched.  And I actually felt relief because now the first smack has been done.  Not perfect anymore.  

Then because it's what I do, I compared that silly phone case to real hum dinger life and had the notion of a reinforcement in my belief that it's too hard to be perfect all the time.  The first scratch is necessary.  Makes me real.  Makes me more likely to jump and go for the second and the third and the fourth because the pressure is off.

All that from a thing.  A real cute looks like a mini black composition notebook thing which I can't deny does indeed make my heart a tish happy. 


The Same but Different

The Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Sister Pister and I went for a late afternoon ride.  It was the same as so many rides we have shared in the past.  My little sister thinking I'm mildly ridiculous for stopping us when something shiny or otherwise needing of attention catches my eye with my tendency to bounce around too much in the saddle while she yells at me, "Put your butt down!" 

It was also the same with her underestimating my horse-ness.  Which honestly is totally spot on because when it comes to all things neigh, my sister has me out done by miles.  "So Amy, do you think you can side pass him over here?" 

Yes I can.  Watch this.

And now smile dang it.

Riding with my little sister on a perfect sunny warm but with that twinge of chill in the air of a soon to be approaching fall afternoon was so very much the same as always.  We visited and laughed and meandered our way through the fields around the farm while the horses hooves swished through the amber stubble.  

But it was also very different.  Different because it was Sister Pister's first weekend home from college.  We had to plan our riding.  It wasn't like I could simply drive to the farm and know she'd be there; I had to schedule in a time.  Excuse me little sister, just so you know, you better always make time for me.  Thank you. 

Our relationship is morphing yet again.  As all real relationships do.  I get so excited to hear her talk about college; the dorms, the parties, the new friends, the rock climbing class, the homework, all of it really.  Because it reminds me how precious all of the different stages in our lives are.  Reminds me it's all fleeting.  The feelings of never thinking you'll feel quite at home in a new city, the feelings of not having your people nearby, the feelings of what do I do with my life?  They, just like any emotion brought about by a stage change, are gone almost as fast as they came rushing in.   

And then comes the next phase of well now whats?  The next phase of finding our way in the new. 

What I'm learning about myself is I grow the most during the beginning pushing of life stage changing.

I don't want to go so far as to say I crave that kind of uncertainty and unabsoluteness, but there is a strong sense of empowerment which always follows the getting through and that makes me want.  

Makes me want to be always checking in with myself and never becoming complacent with my day to day.  Makes me want to learn new things and meet new people and discover new places and stretch my legs, arms, and wings.  

Right now, I can tell I'm on the verge of my next phase change.  It's there.  Tugging at me.  How it will exactly all play out is not for me to say.  But I do know this for sure.  I'll roll along with it and try my hardest to not use fear as an excuse.  And the things that make me...well me, will stay as carry on luggage for whatever the journey is.     

The other night, my mom and I were picking in the garden in the crisp air.  My phone made it's ding and I looked down to see a text from my sister, "I was nominated to the homecoming planning committee!"  I yelled to Momma Debi to tell her and then proceeded to have a quick conversation with my sister exclaiming my happiness for her and telling her to "get out there and do her thing and thank you for telling me!"  Her reply was, "You're the only person who would get as excited as me."  Because she knows.  She knows no matter what phase or stage or level of adult I'm in...

Homecoming will always get me.  

As will being in the garden with my mom.

As will walking into the kitchen to see my dad taking the time to cut up enough squash to make a plain batch for me, sans butter and brown sugar.

As will observing my nieces and nephews' shenanigans while Sil tries to get them in the car to leave; I laugh at that kind of thing.  To the point of tears rolling laugh.   

As will my sister-in-law looking at me through the glass and then rolling it down to say, "Just you wait!  Someday it will be me laughing!"   

As will afternoon rides with my little sister ending with a slobbery hand of horse goo.   


Just Kinda Hippy Fabulous

As we were deciding on our order, the waitress popped in, "We try to have local ingredients whenever possible and we are all about natural and whole foods here." 
I looked up at her and said, "I like this place.  It's definitely fits my hippy ways.  Now, if we could just get this one to eat some weird cheese!" 
"We don't go to Walmart for produce that's for sure," she replied with a laugh. 
"Ugh, I hate Walmart.  It makes me feel crazy inside," added in Danae.  The same one who didn't want to try cheese with blue or rind. 
To which the waitress replied, "I hate capitalism." 
And then I added in, "Oh so you're like a real hippy.  You see I still like Target and I believe in hair products and I buy cheap jewelry which was made in other countries. 
"Yeah, she's more like hippy fabulous while you are the real deal," quipped my friend with her quick wit. 
Ummm...yes, I believe in capitalism I guess.  Because I shop at Target and I fully embrace using mascara and use my fair share of hairspray in this wild hair.  But I do like to grow food in the dirt and I do pay attention to where the food we can't grow comes from.  So, I'll go with being kinda in the mode of hippy fabulous.  Hippy with a side of glitter maybe. 
There's how the lunch began and it kept rolling in that exact same manner.  The this is real life manner.  The clinking of the ice cubes in our tea and the feel of the smooth leather chairs in the dim contrasted the bright outside bustling of downtown while my friend and I sat across from each other hashing out some business.  The business of having your friend tell you the stuff you need to hear which might not always be the easiest to digest.  The stuff which can lead to a tear or two falling down. 
Sometimes you need your friends to make that tear fall.  To push you into a direction you know in your heart you should take but don't have the courage to take yet.  The sharing of my story.  I forget I've done some major life changing in the past couple of years.  Okay, wait.  Let me be honest.  Like you were my friend sitting across from me while we sipped unsweetened ice tea.  It's not that I forget where I was; it's more of a not wanting to believe or admit I was ever there.  I'm working on embracing that I am more than half less of what I used to be.  I'm working on sharing more about how I did it on my own.   

I'm working on accepting it might be inspiring to others.  Because really, I'd rather probably just pretend it never happened.  Like I never was only able to run one/tenth of a mile.  Like I never was unhealthy in not just my physical self, but also my head's well being.  Pretend like I was always the way I am now.   

But then I think about how hard I worked for this.  How it took strength and will power and pain because love a freaking duck it wasn't easy.  Not one bit.  But the whole time I knew I was in it.  I knew it was never give up time.  So I kept at it.  Learning about eating real food and forcing myself to take one more running step after one more running step.  And I think about how during that time, it was something I internalized and put my nose to the grindstone and just did.  No programs.  No gimmicks.  No quick fixes.       

Hard work.  It was hard work.  And really, it's not over.  It never will be.  Being healthy is an every single day choice we all make.  Moving our bodies is another every single day choice.  But I'm now almost to the point I would say it's my natural way of living. 
Which is why my friend Danae sat across from me and pushed.  Pushed me to share about how I lost an entire person's worth of weight while gaining my life back.  Pushed me to not pretend to forget or to feel shame about where I was, but rather embrace the inspiration of being here.  In the now. 
And what I'll say is this.  Losing weight didn't simply change my body.  It changed my way of thinking and my way of looking at the world.  It made me more apt to notice the small and the goodness in the very tiniest of moments.  It changed my entire life.  So maybe I'll talk more about it.  Maybe.  I'm about two finger types away from erasing this entire thing.  The "forgetting" part of me wants to.  Because I know we all have stories to share and we all work hard and we all have had some wins along the way, so I'm not all about shouting from the rooftop, "I did this!"   
What I am about though?  Is noticing that when I walked intersected the spot where an alley met street after that lunch, my skirt flew up and around in the best of ways.  The ways of feeling alive and happy and embracing the two minutes of standing there on the not so clean sidewalk with the fresh air blowing to capture the feeling.  The feeling of living.   
Danae turned around and saw me standing in the middle of an alley, with my camera pointed down, and laughter coming from my mouth while saying, "Look!  The wind catches this just right!"  She replied with, "See?!  This is why you need to just do it.  Write the dang book already."    

I'll start with this one small step of sharing.  See if it sits right.  

And I'll thank my friend for taking the leap to enjoy really good cheese with me while at the same time pushing me into a leap of my own.  Pushing me to the edge enough to know it's time. 

Time to embrace where I was and where it has taken me the same way I embrace the wind from an alley making my skirt flitter around.  Which means it might not make a lick of sense to anyone else.  Which means I must finish this before I let my now one type away from erasing fingers do just that. 


Yes, You'll be Blessed

Last Saturday morning, I awoke in not my house in not my town.  After a quick whoa it's still early assessment and a rub of my eyes, I made the decision to actually stand up.   Because what greeted my ears was the sounds of my friend visiting with her aunt while her babies were ruffling around doing the morning business of playing with race cars and fighting over race cars with little sisters and needing a fresh diaper and non stop chitter chatter.  A cup of coffee soon found my hand and a blanket curled up around my feet on the couch to partake in the early beginnings of the day.

So the three littles wouldn't go completely awry in their not usual setting, we scooped them up and headed outside to run and walk and get out some of those fighting over race cars issues.    

After our legs were sufficiently stretched, we came back for breakfast. 

And I had a moment. A moment of appreciating their peanut butter smeared faces and little fingers reaching for their food and their twinkly smiles from already having time in the fresh air. 

Sure it's a messy affair, this breakfast with three kids thing, but my goodness it is the stuff of greatness at the same time.  The stuff which deserves appreciation for the beauty of childhood.  Even when it's covered in peanut butter and sticky jelly.    

On the way home road on a week ago from today, I heard an Elton John song on the radio.  It spurred me to quickly purchase his greatest hits on my phone so I could listen to his genius for a few hundred miles.  Towards the end of the album there is a song called Blessed.  The first time the lyric "but I swear you'll be blessed" came out of his mouth, somewhere near the small town of Larimore, I actually had an almost tear.  

Not a tear out of sadness either, but one of happiness and brightness for what will come in the future.  The lyrics, along with the way Elton (sure I can be on a first name basis with him) delivers them, gets me.  Because it's exactly how I feel right now in my life.  I don't know when I'll have peanut butter smeared faces of my own in the every single morning, but I know that when they are with me someday, they'll be blessed and loved so deeply because I'll be in the spot to appreciate the messiness after having all of this time of me, myself, and clean.  I've come to the place where I don't wonder if, I wonder when.  And that is a beautiful thing of acceptance for loving living in the now. 

Elton, you are a true genius.  This song with the name Blessed is blessed perfection.  Now all of you out there, do yourself a favor and don't simply read these words but also take the time to listen to the pretty way in which he sings it on this Sunday morning.  If I was real crafty, I'd figure out a way to play it from here for you, but Google can be your friend instead of me getting too with it.        

Hey you, you're a child in my head  
You haven't walked yet  
Your first words have yet to be said  
But I swear you'll be blessed
I know you're still just a dream  
Your eyes might be green  
Or the bluest that I've ever seen  
Anyway you'll be blessed
And you, you'll be blessed 
You'll have the best, I promise you that 
I'll pick a star from the sky, pull your name from my hat I promise you that, promise you that  
Promise you that, you'll be blessed
I need you before I'm too old  
To have and to hold  
To walk with you and watch you grow  
And know that you're blessed
And you, you'll be blessed 

You'll have the best, I promise you that 
I'll pick a star from the sky, pull your name from my hat I promise you that, promise you that
You, you'll be blessed You'll have the best, I promise you that 
I'll pick a star from the sky, pull your name from my hat I promise you that, promise you that  

Promise you that, you'll be blessed

When I snapped that picture of my coffee cup with the sounds of forks clanging and kids laughing, it was because of the sunlight streaming in.  I'm not sure I even read the words and now it turned out to be so much more.  I love when that happens.