Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Loco Lunch Break

Yesterday I spent my lunch in a dreamy sort of way: at the Social Security office trying to get my named changed. And when I say "dreamy" I completely mean nightmare-ish. It was the longest lunch break of my life. 

Let's just hit the highlights. I have an antibacterial shower to take. 

Like any law abiding American, I walked in, got my number and took a seat. The Social Security office is comparable to church in that no one wants anyone to see the back of their head. There were few people in the front row. A few more in the middle row. One more in the back row. And the side chairs lining the perimeter of the room were packed. Standing room only. 

Like we do on Sundays, I fit myself into the back row. I was able to see every one enter and leave. More importantly, I was easily accessible to the exit at all times. I sat next to an adorable 3 year old and her parents. I figured she was small, gave me elbow room, and didn't reek of booze and/or cigarettes. 

Then, just in time to ruin the first three minutes of my experience, that adorable child pulled 1/2 pound of lint out of her bellybutton and handed it to her mother. Enough to fill a sock, and maybe a teddy bear. I couldn't handle it. Immediately, I checked the sound settings on my phone to see if the camera would make that loud "campichit!" noise if I started taking pictures. This required documentation.

A toddler sat in front of me with his young mother. Also very cute and curious (the toddler). He enjoyed smiling through his three or so teeth. He also enjoyed giving high fives to each of us in the back row. Children and adults alike. And climbing on the chairs. And making the water fountain splash. And exploring the men's bathroom. I learned thirty minutes later that his name was Cage. Which, ironically, is exactly where he belonged. 

I entered this situation knowing I'd have to wait a bit. I pulled number 360 and they called 344 shortly after I got seated. Twenty minutes after my arrival a gal in a wheelchair arrived  and set up shop behind me. She wanted to be there as much as I did. Which wasn't at all. 

In fact, she didn't want to be there so badly, she found no value in getting dressed for the occasion. With her flannel pajama pants still on, she said, " If Ida knowed this was gonna take so long, I woulda gone home an showered." 

I responded with, "There's still time." Of course, that was all in my head - where I'm 1 foot taller, 10 times wittier and about 100 lbs. heavier. I never had the guts to say it aloud. 

47 minutes after I blazed through the doors, I was at the desk confirming my parents were legal citizens and that Cody actually had the guts to rope the wind. 
I was prepared enough to prove both in writing. 

I exploded through the north door of the Social Security office like I hadn't breathed through my nose in an hour. Probably because I hadn't. Another step closer to the name change, another lunch break wasted. I think tomorrow I'll spare myself spend the hour doing something more pleasant. Like stepping on legos. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Peaks and Valleys

"Lindsay, listen. Listen to me," Cody said as he put his hands on my shoulders and tried to make eye contact with me under the bright moon in our backyard. "Life is made of peaks and valleys. We've been on a pretty high mountain for a long while now. This, this tonight, this is a valley. And we'll be ok. Together, we'll get out of it. This is life." He put his arms around me. My tears soaked his shirt. 

When Cody was 24 he packed up life as he knew it and moved 952 miles northeast. He didn't have family there, or good friends, but he had just accepted a job that would lead him from Stillwater, Oklahoma to East Lansing, Michigan. He got an Australian Shepherd puppy named Birdie and within one another they found trust, companionship and sheer joy in working cattle together. Birdie became a popular character at the MSU beef barn; everyone who knew the farm, knew good 'ol Birdie. Cody and Birdie faithfully - and with great fun - navigated eight years of bachelor life at Michigan State University.


Cody and Birdie on our wedding day

When I was 24 I started a journey of my own as I moved back to Indiana from Washington D.C., bought a house in the valley of Greens Fork and found a pup I named Dixie to accompany me in the cozy little home. We would visit BSG daily and I would carry her in the front pocket of my hooded sweatshirt. Dixie grew to be more faithful than she was obedient. She made messes and ran wild, but her friendly spirit and gentle heart were contagious. There was a time when I say with confidence that Dixie loved me more than I loved myself. What an incredibly patient companion to a young, single gal finding her way in the world. 

From the age of 24 on, these two dogs have been an incredibly significant part of Cody and I's lives. When friends, jobs, relationships and time came and went, Birdie and Dixie remained a constant for each of us. 

Since we met, Birdie and Dixie have gone from acting like 14-year-old resentful step-sisters

to daily playmates. Yes, they're both having fun here. 

 And here, they're in timeout for nearly breaking a lamp. 

"If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; 
to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, 
to equally profound sadness." 
Marjorie Garber

Last night within minutes we lost both faithful pups, Birdie and Dixie, right in front of our house. Cody and I were able to stroke their ears, say goodbye and hold them in our arms along the roadside as they passed from one exciting life to the next. He and I have never known such a helpless, heart wrenching feeling.

Remember: Life, as Cody told me last night, is made of peaks and valleys. We get out of one to move on to the other. Always.

Birdie and Dixie spent most of their time together in Greens Fork, a tiny town nestled between two hills along the river. Quite often in this valley they chased the same squirrel, fought for the same piece of brisket and brought peace and familiarity to two newlyweds entering a whole new world together. They were playful and funny and really good dogs.

And at 7:00 this morning, instead of posting a blog as I have done consistently for over three years, Cody, Momma and I laid those pups to rest on top of the greatest peak we could find. Forever, they now rest under the beloved Growing Tree.

And I bet you didn't know, under that live oak, my favorite dog is buried in the yard

So now Cody and I work through this valley and 
with broken hearts we'll move on with our lives. 
We say farewell to our best animal friends, may they enjoy the greatest peak.

And dammit, I sure hope they realize there is more than one ham bone in heaven.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Right On Time

I went to a retirement party last night for a man who had been in sales for more than 44 years. Fellow co-workers and life-long friends stood to tell stories of the man and his commitment to doing things right for the company he loved. A certain theme repeated in each toast (roast); he was always on time. In fact, some went so far to say he taught them the importance of being punctual. 

They said relationships were better because everyone knew they could count on him to arrive right on time. Customers and coworkers planned their day around his.
Sales were better because of the level of trust customers had in him; when he said he'd be there, he was - right on time.

It was a real testimony to the power of timing and punctuality. 

I've always worked hard to be on time. That doesn't mean I never fail, but I make a conscious effort to ensure others aren't waiting on me. We don't have a whole lot of time to spare between meetings and appointments and the tiny, yet important, moments that make up life; the last thing I want to do is waste someone else's. A college professor told our lecture hall once: If you're going to show up late to class, don't bother coming. You arriving late says nothing more than your time is more important than mine, and I have no use for people who think they are more important than others. 

I will never forget that. You shouldn't either. 

A dear friend of mine is notorious for being late. In fact, we plan girls' night with a clear understanding that Laramie will show up at least one hour after the dinner has started. We've come to understand this and usually have her order and beverage waiting for her when she arrives - if we remember. She is always hustling and bustling to get to her next destination, forever battling the clock and the forces of those two tiny hands that seemingly twirl against her. 

That same dear friend was in a serious car accident two weeks ago. Like, a real doozie. In fact, when I finally had a chance to communicate with Laramie, I reminded her that every time we have girls' night, the next day she always says she feels like she got hit by a semi; I asked  her if the actual event felt anything like that? Not sure if she laughed; it was over text. 

I learned shortly there after that if Laramie had been running just a split second later, her outcome would have been much worse. Scarily, sadly worse. So, I had to ask Laramie: The day of your accident, were you  running late? 

Her response: "I, for once, was ahead of schedule."

Looking back on how that morning could have unfolded, I believe she, for once, was right on time. And I thank God every day that August 26 was the day Laramie finally aligned her clock with the rest of the world. She lives to entertain us for a another day. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go jump in the shower and get some other things done. Dixie gets so moody if I drop her off at the farm one minute past 7:34. Lots to do, this little pup. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making Room

I'm writing this to confirm I survived the task. Barely

Cody came to me two weeks ago and asked me a question that stopped me dead in my boots. Plain as day, just before we both left for work, he said these words: 

"Do you think one day here soon I could get a closet?"

World. Stopped. Turning. 

With a spinning head I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: "Why??"

Patiently (if Cody had middle name, this would be it) he explained that he had a lot of stuff, too...and we're married now....and something about compromise and sharing. I don't remember, I blacked out for a bit. Stumbling around my words and trying to make sense of everything, I told him I didn't see any issue with traveling with his shirts hanging across the back window of his truck. That way, he could change if he got salsa down the front of him before a meeting. I grabbed my computer bag, kissed him goodbye and told him I'd try to work on cleaning out a closet...I did not give a deadline. 

Listen, I've lived alone in this house for five years. Every closet is packed with pieces of my life. Or bags of mismatched socks. Or outdated purses with cough drops stuck to the lining. Or stacks of computer paper from a printer I tossed three years ago. 

Cody went on the road for a few days last week and I committed (to myself) to get organized for his behalf and to find space for his things. Ugh. 

I worked for fifteen minutes before I got hungry and bored. Not sure which happened first. So I took a snack break and gave myself a pep talk about the importance of compromise and putting others first. I read my devotions; those always put things in perspective.

Back at it. 

The first thing I did was sort through the jam-packed row of hanging clothes. There were tank tops. Glitter. Fringe. Leopard print. White. Black. Blazers. Floral. Scarves. Former employer jackets. Flannel. Prom dresses. All these things I didn't need or want. I got a big trash bag and began ripping things off hangers and folded them into the trash bag. Three. Three trash bags is what I filled before the day was over. 

I found three pairs of shoes I'd worn only once, as a bridesmaid. And four fancy dresses in the same category. Thank goodness I married last month. That would have been enough to put me over the edge some time ago in my life. 

I'm second from left.

I sorted through hundreds of pictures, picture CDs and even negatives. I filed most of them, and tossed a few. In the pictures I saw myself wearing a few of the outfits I had just thrown in the garage sale bags. All of the sudden, it became perfectly clear why I didn't find my husband in college. You either, Cartmell. 

What were we going to do after this - bale hay?

I found drink coasters and leaves for a dining room table that I never owned. Poster board, a set of hair picks, glue sticks, empty shoe boxes and "LJB" stationary that shall go into the archives that document my life BC (Before Cody). 

Finally, I could see the floor. I took the clothes and shoes I planned on keeping to my closet and threw away approximately 47 wire hangers. Couldn't find a Pinterest project for those. After my second snack break I stepped back and admired the fruits of my labor. Finally, Cody had a place of his own. 

And if you believe this is it, you're crazy. 

By the time Cody got home from his travels I had prided myself so much on my de-cluttered 3x4 space that I could hardly wait to show him. He was happy about his new closet and appreciated the new found space.

Within twenty minutes Cody asked me if I thought the medicine cabinet could be the next "get organized and make space" area I could tackle; he felt like his toothbrush needed a home. I reminded him that greed is a bad thing and that there was nothing wrong with the fancy traveling shaving kit he's been using; not everyone can say that every piece of their morning routine is TSA approved. Besides, next I thought maybe I'd make space for his diet Pepsi in the fridge. Maybe.