Monday, June 29, 2009

Things to Love On the Rollercoaster Ride - #4 (a.k.a. return of the blogger)


It turns out those little green bridesmaid dresses make comfy nightgowns.

You don't know, because you weren't there with mama and me, camping out on the front lawn that night, dragging a quilt from the couch, and cozying up to the one other Whitehead woman left-- well, not so much "standing," as collapsed from the weight that collects in one's feet following a month of preparation for the wedding that had just concluded as we blew out the last candle and carried in the last table cloth. The ghosts of elegant white tables still haunted the front lawn, but otherwise we were alone at last.

Every morning of those three and a half weeks we rose early to get the household gears turning, breakfast made, children to their tasks, and we stopped--coffee in hand--for a breather and a desperate prayer on the front step.



""We are going to survive this day.""

And if not, there was always Plan B.

The sun would already be hot, bathing our legs as we wriggled our toes in the damp grass and perched on the cool cement steps, gazing into the distant, surrounding hills--wallpaper for a summer wedding. We had three weeks, two, seven days, a few, a couple...

So Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Mikrut ran down the driveway to escape their bubble-blowing fans.

The crowd of guests reduced to stragglers,
reduced to our generous helping neighbors,
reduced to us on the steps again,
a concentration of one month's concentration.

A tired father-of-the-bride had kissed his own bride goodnight and ushered the relatives off to bed with the kiddos.

And we sat listening to the celebratory sounds settle into silence and starshine. God does answer prayer. We basked in the glow of our miracle. We were wriggling our toes in the floor of Jessie's reception hall, and it had been. . .yes. . .and it was over.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Things to Love On the Rollercoaster Ride - #3


Because a maid of honor. . .

. . .should not be attacking her poison ivy rash. . .

. . .during the wedding.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Things to Love on the Rollercoaster Ride - #2


To get a feel for my summer, you really have to get a feel for my family. Every time I come home I realize how weird we all are. But isn't everyone's family? Yes. The answer is yes, and don't think you are exempt.

Each of my family members has some funny quirks that don't always make sense to me, or that maybe made sense to me as a child but now just seem a little bit odd. Henceforth these unusual little eccentricities shall be given the title "FamilyQuirks," which is to be read as one word and can be broken down into categories such as "DaddyQuirks," "BabyBrotherQuirks" and so on...

MamaQuirks story:

Mom gets up at 5:30am every weekday morning to pack my dad's lunch and wave goodbye from the front porch. Then, at 6:00am, as often as we can manage it, she and I put on our tennis shoes and go walking. We live on a long gravel drive that is exactly 1/2 mile long, so if we go down to the stop sign and back again, we always know we've gone a mile. We usually walk two or three miles and it's a lovely way to start the morning if we have the time. Those three miles seemed longer than usual today, however, as it seems my mother has developed a new habit: rescuing EVERY live worm that she sees "suffering" in the hot sun on the gravel drive. We'll be moving briskly along at that speedwalking pace which you might have noticed I inherited in my genetic makeup, when both tennis shoes and conversations will suddenly be cut short so that my mother can bend her sweats-clad self over, scoop up a dust-covered earthworm, and toss it into the grass with a "there ya go buddy!" and well wishes on its next venture (which will, inevitably, be a journey right back into the hot gravel from whence it was "saved.") Never, mind you, did she do this when I was younger, but as she will be turning the big Five-Zero in two short years, I guess the craziness has to start somewhere! *sigh* My mama is going to be a very quirky little old lady.

Personally, I have my own theory about the little wrigglers. Pin it to my psych-minor thinking tendencies, but it seems to me that they're obviously all manic-depressive and have crawled onto the road of their own volition, desperate for the blazing sun to go ahead and put an end to it all. Hey, if you had to burrow through dirt, all day, every day, only to finally be dug up, stabbed with a giant hook and fed to a fish, you'd probably be suicidal too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things to Love on the Rollercoaster Ride - #1


Mine left for camp on Monday. Mom and I filled his suitcase with letters (folded into the shapes of airplanes, cootie-catchers, etc) the night before to help ward off the homesickness, despite the fact that his fifteen-year-old brother will be along as his camp counselor. What can I say? He's a sensitive little "boy genius"--as one of his t-shirts claims--who looks every bit like he's been kidnapped from a Norman Rockwell painting.

Having both of them gone for a week reminds me of just how awesome little brothers really are, particularly at age ten. Several (among countless other) reasons are as follows:

1. Ten-year-old brothers run on a secret superfuel that only expires at chore time.

2. You can never count on what comes out of the mouth of a ten-year-old brother. For example, upon his offer to make me a necklace out of a shell he "found somewhere" and "some string," I hesitated to accept ONLY because "it might not coordinate with many of my outfits." To this he replied "Oh Shells match EVERYTHING! ...And also purple." (By which he meant NOT that shells also match purple, but that purple also matches everything. He bases this fashion certainty on the objective fact that purple is his favorite color.) Lesson learned.

3. Ten-year-old brothers construct very high-tech cardboard box forts, complete with "refrigerators" (consisting of a vertically turned mini cooler) which was handy when he invited me to have lunch with him inside of his fort yesterday. Of course I accepted, and he was the perfect host, serving cold leftover mac'n'cheese, apple slices with peanut butter, peanut butter crackers (he got a little extravagant with the peanut butter), and iced tea from a thermos. He did forget the forks, but climbed over my lap and out of the fort just to run downstairs and get them, so all was well. After lunch we brainstormed for an official fort title, came up with a secret password (which of course can never be revealed), and he gave me the grand tour of all the peep-holes and secret compartments, one of which held a rubber dagger sheathed in a shoelace-wrapped dish towel. This, he informed me, was kept handy "in case we need to defend ourselves from enemies or foes" like our fifteen-year-old brother, who is far too mature and cool to appreciate the intricate beauty of a cardboard box fort.

Ten-year-old brothers = awesome.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My rollercoaster has the biggest ups and downs. Long as it keeps going 'round it's unbelievable!" -KimyaDawson

At the end of the school semester I made a decision that instead of moving home for the next few months, I would stay in Missouri, be responsible, and get a job. Ok, I must admit that a small motivating factor was that I will be graduating in December, so I was also hoping to take it easy and enjoy my last ever summer outside of the "real world." I mean, let's be honest, summer breaks don't happen in reality, only in the fairy-tale world of childhood and seasonal academia.

So I reapplied and was rehired at my old place of employment, signed up for some volunteer work, and planned for lots of free time to practice guitar, go to the lake, and catch up on that pleasure reading that somehow evades all English majors. I drove home for a week-long visit with my fam in NashVegas and then headed back to the Ozarks to carry out my plans for the best last summer break ever.

"Map out your future, but do it in pencil lines" -JonBonJovi

Unfortunately, it seems my baby sister was not as in-tune with my summer plans as the world clearly ought to be. In fact, she was obliviously caught up this apparently big ordeal of FallingInLoveAndGettingProposedTo. (I know, right?!) Not only that, but she somehow thought it would be a good idea to schedule her wedding for the end of June. This June. Y'know, that month that started a few days after I got back to Missouri? And as we are all well aware, your truly is the designated Maid of Honor.

It would be impossible to explain the chaos that inevitably followed, but, suffice to say, after a few hundred telephone conversations and grovelling for a dozen or so favors, I went in for my first day at work and apologetically informed my manager that I might be quitting. (She was gracious, and basically gave me the month off. After all, I don't know if I mentioned this, but the wedding is at the end of June! So I'll be back soon.) Then I re-packed my recently un-packed belongings, loaded my life back into the trunk (and back seat, and passenger seat) of my little Camry and headed back to the hills of Tennessee. And here I am.

"When God throws a curveball, don't duck. You just might miss something." -Anonymous

I'll be honest: I'm not too good with spontaneity! I had to take a lot of deep breaths. But when it comes down to it, I can think of worse things than a month of hanging with my favorite people in the world, helping my baby sister (who doubles as my best friend) to plan the wedding that she and I have dreamed about our entire lives.

So I'm cutting my losses, counting my blessings, and spending a splendid month on the Whitehead family farm. In the meantime, I'll be keeping a running tab of the things that make life's little moments of chaos totally worthwhile, and I'll probably be a better person for it.

God knows, if we can pull off a wedding by the end of June, we can do anything!

"Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around . . . I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it." -GrandmaBuckman

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Without a Helmet

My best friend in college had a motorcycle. The summer before I left for good, he fastened my helmet and told me to hold tight and he'd teach me how to fly. The next day, when I did leave, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car behind that very bike. The light changed, and he sped far ahead, clearing me from his rearview mirror. That bike could fly, and I silently swallowed glances at the tires spinning ahead, daring each curve of mountain road to defend itself and vanishing around the next before the last had a chance to reply.

I have noticed that some experiences are so uncommon to the human reality that they can only be described by saying, "it was like I was dreaming." how strange that our dreams and our realities so closely overlap. can something be so real that we are incapable of experiencing it while maintaining consciousness? Dreams, on the other hand, are sometimes far too real to remain in our subconscious. We wake, insisting "it must have been real," and whether it was or was not really doesn't matter anymore. Death and pain are like that. Once you have actually watched someone die, it's all the same.

He flew. I looked up just in time. A sudden tension turned my body rigid, the paralysis of watching one's dearest friend race from a cliff's edge and halt, hanging from an invisible line in midair. My eyes clutched at him, motionless, in the sky, willing him to remain so. The same invisible line held me fast in my seat. My ability to breathe, to remember breathing, failed. Ice-hard lungs turned to empty, broken glass with the effort of suspending time. But gravity would not be restrained, nor the impending pain defied.

He fell. An acid scream rose, shackling my feet, shattering my knees, chasing a boiling-cold sweat to the surface of my arms, and gripping my throat where the suffocating flavor of vomit drowned an unemittable detonation of sound.

Relief did not come upon waking to find myself alone in a dark room, as soaked in sweat and tears as I had been in the pool of his blood. The pain was thicker. No matter that I had leapt from our wrecked car and broken my wrist in an effort to reach his crumpled body. My best friend was dead. I collapsed on the pavement beside his shattered skull and wept until I was not awake or asleep.


Funny how it's the most important things that never get said. Maybe we need our dreams to say them for us. It's been another year now, since the night I watched you fall and both our hearts burst on the pavement. Since then I've learned some things that I wish I could tell you.

Funny, how many tears fell because I thought that dream was true, and how many fall now because it wasn't. Maybe I really wept because, the truth is, you're alive, even without me there to catch you.

Funny how, instead, you didn't fall at all; you flew. And maybe if you had, then I would have said goodbye by now. Maybe then I would be moving on.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." -Leo Tolstoy

Do What's in Front of You

Last night I attended the Keeter Center for Character Education's "poverty summit," which concluded a first annual event addressing the issue of poverty relief on a local, national, and global level. This sort of extra-curricular learning opportunity is one of the many things I will mourn upon leaving College of the Ozarks.

Ambassador Tony Hall spoke about his experiences as a Christian serving in the US Congress and his work on Poverty and Hunger during his tenure. It was inspiring to see our conservative (mostly Republican) school joining forces with "a Democrat" to address this important issue.

The man is amazing. Having spent a substantial amount of time investing himself in hunger relief, he first gained real recognition when congress cut funding the hunger relief committee of which he was head. Instead of quitting congress as his conscience nearly compelled him to do, he announced to the press that, he would begin to fast, consuming nothing but water, "until something good happened."

That "something" happened on day 20 of what ended up being a 22-day fast. Taking notice of Ambassador Hall's dedication, the World Bank offered to hold a conference on world hunger awareness, provided that he would speak for them. Little did he know that his agreement would result in a 100 Million Dollar microfinancing grant on behalf of the impoverished.

My first reaction, as yours might be, was that "of course Ambassador Tony Hall has the platform to help the poor. But let's be honest, it wouldn't exactly make the Branson Daily if I fasted for 40 days." Do I not claim to serve a God for whom the rocks would cry out in praise if I did not, and who multiplied a mouthful of bread into a meal for thousands?

I could go on and on about this and other men's life stories, but it's time to make my point.

In another story Tony Hall described walking the streets of Calcutta with Mother Theresa, and seeing poverty surrounding him in the streets. He asked her how it was even possible to make an impact in a world so full of the impoverished. "Do what is in front of you," she told him. "Not everyone can come to Calcutta."

Today, in partnership with Toms Shoes supporters all over the U.S., I am going barefoot to raise awareness on behalf of the millions of impoverished people who must go barefoot every day. That's what's in front of me right now. I can't do much, but I can do that.

In another conversation with Mother Theresa, someone asked her if she ever felt like all these things she did for people ever felt like "just a drop in the bucket."

She said no, "it feels like a drop in the ocean. But if I don't do these things, it is one less drop."

Carpe Diem, my friends.
Do what's in front of you. Do something.

One Day Without Shoes April 16 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tree Song

O Sing to me about the trees
you've climbed, and trunks you hid behind,
and of the leaves that draw you near
to gaze at them, and let me hear
of leafless branches reaching through
the cage of rain to rescue you.
O sing to me of trees you've climbed;
someday I'll search the woods for mine.