Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stroke Material

I threw my Escapé (French for Escape, remember?) into park next to the mailbox and opened the back hatch. The blue Rubbermaid tub was nearly all I could handle. I grabbed both ends and lugged the deal across the patio and barely got it to the brick before I lost all control of the disorganized mess. 

A film strip floated like a feather to the ground from the impact of the near-fumble. 

It was time to sort through photos for the reception slideshow for our wedding. Can I just say, between the cleaning out of the red barn and the tree trimming leading to the poison ivy marathon and the invitation list organization, sorting through photos was the thing I dreaded the most. 

Not because I have a painful past or had some birthmark at a young age that scarred my self image or even the time it entailed. I dreaded it because every time I break open that dusty Rubbermaid I get this feeling that I have a tennis ball lodged in my throat and my eyes begin to develop a strange mist. It's weird. 

I sat down in a porch rocker, took a deep breath and tugged the tub to my side. Less than two weeks: it was go time. 

The old screen door flew open and Dad's cracked Mason work boots punched down the brick steps. He had a bowl of boiled peanuts and a to-do list in his hands. He stopped at the base of the steps and studied what I was doing, cracking open a peanut with his teeth. 

I didn't want to look up, but I did.

"What's all this, Jeany?" he asked, sucking the water out of the shell and spitting it into Momma's prized flower beds. "Stroke Material?"

His two words struck me: Stroke Material. He need not explain himself. 

"Yep," I responded trying to take it lightly. "That is exactly what this stuff is."

"What are you doing with it now?" Dad inquired. 

"I'm trying to find content for our wedding slideshow. So far I've found 18 photos of Laura, 8 of Luke and 1 of me. But two corners are torn off and I look like a paraplegic," I said, studying the 1987 photo. 

Dad just kind of laughed. He knew I wasn't joking. The third child is lucky to have a birth certificate accounted for, let alone any visual proof that she ever existed prior to 6th-grade graduation. Dad climbed into his Ford and started the diesel engine. Within thirty seconds he had gone to the farm. 

I sat back in my chair and thought about the brief interaction. It made my stomach hurt and my lips smile at the same time. That Dad...

So what is Stroke Material?

As completely sick as it sounds, Dad is convinced he's going to, one day, suffer a stroke. He told us this about 4 years ago. If you know Dad, you recognize that he only operates on two speeds: Fast and Faster. He doesn't slow down. He doesn't take vacations. His golf course is  maintained with a bush hog and and somedays the longest amount of time he sits still is when he's feeding hay at the farthest farm. 

When Dad first revealed this revelation to us, he asked that we bring every old photograph we could find to the hospital or nursing home to keep him company. Every. Single. Photo. we could dig up. We agreed to the Stroke Material.

Last Christmas I heeded this advice and asked (the way incredible) Nate Logston to digitalize every home movie we had on file. I figured if my Daddy was going to have this break down, the last place I wanted to be was at CVS trying to transfer files for the grumpy old man. 

But he got me thinking. When it comes down to it, in his final days, my Dad knows how he wants to spend his time: Reflecting. Remembering. Reliving moments in time through photos. He chooses that.

Think about this. If you prepared yourself for final days, what would your Stroke Material be?

If I were to judge those around me, I'm convinced Cody would love nothing more than having decades of past issues of the Angus Journal to leaf through and Luke would invest his time reviewing historic registration papers and bloodlines. Momma would ambitiously look through cookbooks and plan a meal if she had the ability.

So where does that leave you? What is your Stroke Material? The things that would occupy your days and bring purpose to hours that pass like months. 

Old photographs?
Love letters from someone you tried to forget?
Pure music?
Hemingway who seemed to-far-out, anyhow?
Home videos?
MASH reruns?
Cookbook collections?
Maybe even your favorite quotes and verses that got you through the impossible?

I think mine will be the box of Chrysalis letters still stored at Momma and Dad's. Letters to a naive 16-year-old from folks I never even had the grand opportunity to meet. Letters of promise and hope and love. 

My hope is that you never have to decide on Stroke Material. I hope your days are filled with life and ambition and forward thinking to the life ahead.

But if you had the opportunity to pick your very best Stroke Material what would it be? Let someone know. And enjoy those things now, rather than when it is too late. 

While you take care of that, I'm going to be busy changing all the "1982" on Laura's photos to "1988" to meet this deadline we call "Wedding Day" - - -  I won't tell if you don't. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Since it's just you and I this morning, can I make a confession? 
Don't worry, I've not robbed a bank or lied on my license about my weight (more than 15 lbs.), but it's something I think about every once in a while.

W.I.T.: Wife In Training.
17ish days from today I'll be a wife and I have to tell you, I don't know if I'm cut out for this wife deal. 
I'm serious. 
Do I have it in me?

I look around at the wives I know and quite frankly, I get tired. 

Like, just ate at Cracker Barrel after church, tired. 

Since it's just us and we have a few minutes, can I ask a few questions?

How does a wife like Ann have the confidence and faith to tell her husband, "OK, let's do this" then take a leap of faith and start a business out of their newlywed apartment? Like, some days the greatest leap of faith I take is putting a dry-clean only blouse in with my delicates and then I worry myself to death for 8 hours that I've thrown $30 down the drain. But huge faith in business decisions: How do I get there

And sometimes I forget to feed Dixie. And she never says much so it tends to go unnoticed. Then around 1:47 a.m. I wake up to the eery feeling of someone looking at me and I open my eyes to see the white tip of a tail going 100 mph in the dark. I just don't think I'll get the same response if I forget to feed Cody? How long can a grown man go with out feeding? Please advise. 

How do wives like Marlene adjust to a husband who travels the continental fifty regularly, Facebooking every photo and  every new adventure? How does she not pack a bag, quit her job and hit the wide open trail with him? How does a wife learn to proudly promote and watch? And just what does she pack for healthy road snacks? Teach me. 

I have gone months without thinking about cleaning my shower. Does this change with a husband? How do you mask the gag? How does one get past the dried up toothpaste on the side of the sink? Where does one buy the right type of shaving cream? I'm so scared there are not enough rubber gloves in the world

I really like my alone time. Sometimes I even invite girlfriends to keep me company. Can wives still do this? Will Wannabeez miss Chey, Laramie, Em and I? What if they don't? Do wives still get invited to girls' night? Please say yes. Lie to me. 

How do Teresa and Julie feed two families nightly (NIGHTLY) and any guests that show up? I don't have it in me, the organized gene. Or the meal planning gene. There have been weeks when I've been to Meijer for dinner ingredients more times than I've washed my hair. How do you get that preparation gene? How do you say, "You'll eat it and you'll like it" without actually saying that aloud?

When Katie and I want to take our annual gypsy trip, do we need signed permission slips now? Recognizing the men we both chose, I'd guess no, but I have a really hard time wrapping my head around a signature and an insurance waiver to go see the wild west in a rental car and series of cheap motels

I look around at these wives who have this deal mastered and I kind of want to puke and eat  a half gallon of ice-cream at the same time. I have confidence in myself and my ability to make Cody laugh and allow him to love me (the real, sometimes moody, need-me-time, where is my phone charger? My fat jeans don't even fit!!! me) completely and truly. 

But then I think one thing goes wrong - like I forget to register his favorite stock or I scorch he heck out of his favorite shirt - and I will have failed in everything that my Momma has ever tried to teach me. 

Confession: I don't even know how to make gravy. 

The truth is I admire the ones around me who have blazed the trail far ahead. Thank you for burning biscuits and leaving the gates open and throwing away the most comfortable pair of underwear he has ever owned. 

But please help. Leave your "Wife In Training" advice in the comments below. 

Sincerely concerned, 

T-17 days

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Nick and Erin

In June I was lucky enough to be a very small part of Nick and Erin's rural Indiana wedding. They took a gamble on the weather and came out on top; it was a perfect summer day created just for these two. Of all the groups I've worked with, their (huge!) wedding party was the most unforgettable. 

From the gorgeous bride to the funny, relaxed groom, the day was beautiful in every sense of the word. I'm quite thankful that they included me.

Here are just a few photos from the day on the bride's family farm - 

I told you they were fun. 

Nick and Erin, I wish you a lifetime of happiness!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stairway to Heaven

I'm just going to lay it out there, because he doesn't read my blog:
Dad, I am sorry that I  threw away your bright red leg brace. Momma told me it was OK. 

Now, moving on...

Exactly ONE MONTH from the time you read this, I'll be be wide awake, chatting with my beautiful big sis, pacing the floor of the bedroom in which I first discovered the Growing Tree while texting my brother. 
Ah, our wedding day. 

Please let me look better in 2013 than I did in 2008. 

Last night I went to Momma and Dad's to attempt to store away a few things in the attic so when we do wedding hair, make-up and photos in the homestead we won't fret about the K-Mart box of old jeans and flannel shirts marked "To-Be-Hemmed 2010" in the back corner of the room. 

I'll admit it: we have stuff. 

So Momma and I flipped a coin and she ended up in the attic where she had to put things "in their place" (i.e. the place "stuff" goes to die), and I was responsible for the heavy lifting up the ladder to her tiny arms. 

We actually did pretty well. I sent 21 framed seasonal prints up the "stairway to Heaven" (once things go up, they never come down) along with 2 Rubbermaid tubs and some odds and ends. 

Like a giant bag of holiday teddybears that the grandkids may, or may not, someday enjoy and a box full of flashlights and leather gloves Dad had ordered for customers one year that never got distributed: stamped 1993. 

"We'll use 'em" - Even if the batteries have corroded every single usable piece. 

After an hour Momma reported from the third floor that she was tired and hot in the ancient attic and wanted to do just one more round:

The Purge. 

No sweeter words have been spoken to this gal (except "Lindsay, Will you marry me?") in a long, long time. 

"Great idea!" I shouted up. "Send down 8 things for the trash barrel!"

I heard scuffling. 
I was darn near slapped in the face by a rubber gorilla mask that had melted into itself. She really didn't tell me it was coming. 
I heard more "Awwwwwwwwwwwws" than the law should allow. 
I had to call up once to make sure Momma hadn't passed out. 

Ten seconds later: "FIRE WAY, JEAN!"

Next thing I know my so-not-athletic mother was winging things at me that I hadn't seen or thought of in twenty years. One near-miss later and I raised my voice. "MOM! Slow down! I don't need a broken nose, I need 8 things handed down to me!"

The scuffles stopped and I felt just a little bit awful about speaking to Momma like that.

Until she threw down her 8 things. 

3 pairs of unmendable  gloves due to squirrel habitation. 
4 napkins that had never been used (unless you're a mouse?):

"Awww, I forgot about these! Do you want to see one with out the squirrel marks?"

1 plastic Easter egg with a 20-year-old Hershey kiss seeping from the bottom. 

1 mobile leg brace Dad had to wear during his knee surgery - have you the read the blog about my father being caged within the hospital walls?

1 craft project that I entered into the mini  4-H show:

(You're welcome for not competing against your kids.)

A skeleton ring from a late-80's kindergarten class Halloween party. This was stored in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crayon box. She just didn't have it in her to toss the whole box.

And finally....

"Jean! I found this  bag and was going to toss it, but then I looked inside..."
I asked Momma, "Oh it still breathing?"

Suddenly, she got tender. I knew it was a treasure to her, so I had to treat as a treasure, too. I climbed up the ladder to see the fragile IGA bag. Little pieces of the bag flaked away as I grabbed it. 


The Barbie Bride. Her hair is ratted (but big, which I do appreciate) and her gown reeks of melted Dollar General soap and Pepto-bismol. Sounds about right. 

I didn't argue with Momma about keeping the 1990 bride; it is because of this bride that we found her again, after all. 

Now, if she isn't in August 13th trash run, we may need to have a another come to Jesus meeting about the "stairway to Heaven" - and who knows?? We may get crazy and toss the melted crayons in the crayon box, too. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why I Don't Do Drugs

Monday morning at 6:10 Cody and I loaded into my Escapé (that's French for Escape) and headed to the hospital where I was having a procedure done.
Nothing to worry about. 
I'm healthy as an ox but have a throat like a chicken. It's genetic. 

By 6:50 AM they had me on a gurney and were giving me oxygen. Then, they told me they were giving me something that may make me sleepy. 

Understatement of the year. 

The following is just a brief glimpse of the hours that followed, as told by Cody Sankey, my patient, kind fiancé. I've cut his stories down to about half, for the sake of my reputation. Of all that is to follow, there is only one moment that I remember: the elves. 

When they wheeled me back to my room the first thing I announced to the floor was that I wanted an elephant ear. No, I needed an elephant ear. Fried, sugary, fair food goodness: not too far off from reality. Cody lied to me and told me we would get one when we left. I believed him. Thirty seconds later I forgot my own request. 

"You know what I gotta do when I get home?" I asked Cody, serious Lindsay snapping right to it. 
"What Linds?"
"I gotta cut Dixie's tail off. Right off!" I announced, finger scissors cutting across the air. 
"Linds, I don't think you need to cut Dixie's tail off. She's too old for that now."
"Well, Cody," I talked to him as though I was a real veterinarian, putting my hands in front of me to convince. "That's an awfully big decision for such a little dog to make, so I'm making it for her." 

Dixie, I'm sorry. But, I really do get annoyed when your tail knocks over my wine on the coffee table. 

Then, according to Cody, the tears came. And note, there are few things I dislike more than dramatic girls.
Big, loud, sobbing tears - out of no where. 
"Elves! There are elves in my watch!" I screamed. And I sincerely remember this part; I remember looking down at my wrist where my 10th birthday present once rested - a Mickey Mouse watch with a red leather band. But in the face, where Mickey once was, were 1,000 tiny little elves and they were screaming to get out! 
They scared me...and I scared everyone one around.
Cody jumped up to console me and the nurses rushed to my side; I begged them to get the elves out of my watch. They grabbed both wrists and proved to me that I didn't even have on a watch. But I could see it - and the elves! - plain as day. 

Some time passed and a drive home from town took place as well as a McDonald's run. Those are details for neither here or there...
Wedding is still on even after another meltdown because McDonald's didn't have pineapple mango smoothies. Thank goodness that Cody has the patience of his father. 

Thirty minutes later and Cody was cleaning the McSmoothie off of my chin and escorting me out of the Escapé and into my house. Two eager, happy pups met us at the door. Rather than greeting them as cheerfully as they greeted me, like a hawk I reached down and try to yank poor Dixie's  tail right out of her body. 
I don't know why; I'm just glad she's even my friend today.
That's the beauty of a pup like Dixie; no matter the day, she is always going to love me more than I love myself. 

And if it's the hours when her owner is all hopped up on "Truth Serum" - as the doctor labeled it, due to it's ability to make all patients speak only the truth - those are some miserable hours for a little black mutt. 

Cody got me back to my bedroom and took off my shoes. For another forty-five minutes he consoled me and answered questions he didn't know the answers to. He watched me to make sure I didn't choke on my tongue or a coat hanger. 

Birdie and Dixie came back to visit. 

"We gotta get Birdie's tail off, too!" I announced. 
"No, Linds, Bird's tail came off when she was just a baby. All she as left is a nub."
Apparently I got more serious than anyone should ever get when discussing this. I cut Cody a look, "Well you get me a pair of channel locks and I bet I can get that nub off! Just get me the channel locks!" I demanded.

+ 1 for creative use of tools 
- 100 for even thinking in a drugged state that poor old Bird's tail needed removed, too. 

In the best interest of all parties involved, Cody escorted both pups to the front of the house and turned on ESPN so they could chase baseballs across the screen. Not always the best fun, but far better than a home tail removal demonstration. 

Cody came back to my room to find me on my phone.  I had called brother Luke (or he called me? Details quite fuzzy) and invited him down for Dixie's tail cutting, as though I was inviting him to a pitch-in or something. Immediately my phone was confiscated and not released again until around 8:00 PM Monday night. 

Over the span of time I removed classic livestock prints off of my walls because I "hated the Grand Canyon" (never been there, would love to go) and even let Cody know I'd meet him in Alaska for our honeymoon because I was going to ride a donkey up there. 

Even the Truth Serum can't cover up the fact that I love the scenic route to anywhere. 

"Donkey rides aren't so bad," I told Cody. "Mary and Joseph rode a donkey places."
"Yeah Linds, they did," Cody responded, exhausted after dealing with a 3-year-old since 7:00 AM. 
"But now people haul donkeys in trailers. Wait. Maybe they hauled baby Jesus in a stock trailer, Cody?"
"I don't know, Linds, I think you should probably call it quits for a while, all this thinking," he tried to convince/beg me. 
I paid no mind. 
"It would be like showing up to a stock show with baby Jesus in your trailer!!" I screamed, elated at the thought! I sat right up in bed. 
"Do you know Jesus?" I asked Cody, dead serious.
"Yeah, I know Jesus," he replied.
"He's a pretty goooooooooood guy," a drew it out as I laid back down in bed. 

Cody took my glasses off of me and pulled the sheet up. He realized little Dixie had snuck back into the room and had crawled under my bed; the thumping of her tail gave her away. So Cody got down on his hands and knees and begged Dixie to come out; he did not trust her sleeping alone with me in the same room - even in broad daylight. 

Dixie reveled herself then pranced down the hallway. The noise awoke the sleeping, high-as-a-kite bear. 

"What are you doing in here?!" I yelled at Cody. 
"Just making sure you're OK, Linds" he calmly replied. 
"Well," I said, full of ungratefulness and very as-a-matter-of-factly, "I think you're creepy watching me like this!"
Cody was so, so patient. "I just want to make sure you're OK, Linds, just go to sleep."
Since the age of two, telling me to sleep rarely works; I popped up out of bed:
"Whatdya think I'm gonna do, blow this place up?!!?" I threw my arms to the heavens. 


Cody recalls that my head hit the pillow like a ton of bricks. Eyes shut. Mouth open. Snoring within seconds. 

He checked on me every thirty minutes but said I didn't move for three hours. 
Almost an entire day of my life completely unaccounted for in my memory due to a few CCs of Truth Serum. 

It made me realize why in 28 years I've never touched a drug, or was never invited to the parties where that kind of stuff took place. Maybe everyone knew I'd be the idiot talking about elves in my watch and hauling baby Jesus around in a stock trailer. 

Long story longer, it's like a really good thing for me that Cody is locked into this "forever" deal. At least he knows what he's getting into? It was like a small marriage counseling session wrapped up......into 12 hours.

Lesson for the day: 

Let this be a reminder.