Monday, March 30, 2009

Cleanslate City, Texas

I am no longer a resident of Limbo. Please forward all my mail to Cleanslate City, and you can start sending those mail order catalogs again. And the real estate ads--especially the real estate ads.

The view is nice here and the air is clean, but I'm sure Cleanslate City will soon be polluted with neurotic angst, doubts and uncertainty. Until then, pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine and enjoy all the possibilities.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Is Happiness a State or a State of Mind?

I don't live in Texas, not really. Yeah, sure my mailing address is Austin, Texas. And I haven't actually left the state of Texas in almost 18 months. Yes, my children go to school here and my husband works here. But really I live in Limbo (and quite happily, I might add).

For the last eighteen months it's been all about questions: When is the house in Connecticut going to sell? What were we thinking moving to Texas? How could we know that we put our house on the market at the beginning of #@$% recession? Should we rent out the house? Should we move back? What's more valuable: a mortgage in Connecticut or a job in Texas?

In the meantime, I've been thriving here in Limbo Land--grew my hair out, love wearing flip-flops year round, on much more stable land brain chemically speaking. Despite the financial burdens, life is simple and relatively stress free. I know, I'm weird.

Except this week has been a whole new limbo, what I like to call Yucky Limbo Land. We have accepted an offer on our house--which I realize should be super good news (remember how weird I am). And it is GOOD NEWS, except that we have to jump through 50 hoops of decreasing size before we get to the finish line. This is the kind of limbo I am very, very bad at. This is the kind of limbo where someone else gets to make all the decision. In my my Limbo, there were no decisions, only possibilities.

Do you see what I am getting at? Have I only been happy here because really it required very little of me? I don't really live here, I just MIGHT live here. And I know that the questions would have eventually worn me out (there have certainly been days like that in the past 18 months), but never having to make a decision was fun. I hate making decisions. I am lousy at making decisions (just ask my husband).

Right now the status in Yucky Limbo Land is that our CT house is undergoing the various inspections and then they will proceed. They will probably ask for us to pay for some repairs. My husband will probably get surly and refuse. The whole deal could fall through. Then I would be back in Limbo. But it wouldn't be the same.

Monday, March 23, 2009

80 Years

My dad celebrated his 80th Birthday this past weekend. That's him sitting in front of the cake as "Happy Birthday" is being sung. That's my oldest sister and me standing in the background, ready to swoop in and cut pieces of cake to pass out to the fifty or so members of the family that showed up for this tw0-day bash.

It was exactly the way my dad wanted it to be. On Friday night he sat around with his children and siblings making jokes and telling old stories. The weather was perfect, the barbecue was delicious and abundant, the jokes were as lame as ever and the stories had been told many times. A better evening could not have been scripted. Even my mother was on her very best behavior.

The party took place in my parents' front yard and most of the action was here under the carport. That's my dad holding court with his brother (standing) and his sisters and one of his brothers-in-law. People drove from California, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and all parts of Texas. Others flew in from Colorado, Washington and San Francisco. As Dad said, "I'm tickled and humbled to have so many people come from so far to celebrate with me."

On Saturday all my mom's sisters and their families joined the party. It was something to see my girls running around the yard and playing games with their second cousins, just like me and my cousins did at my grandparents farm in Oklahoma. And it was the farm stories that I liked to hear best. The continuity and stability of that life is most striking. It's been almost sixty years since my dad left the farm and headed to the northwest to become a logger. Despite somehow ending up in college and then seminary and becoming a minister in Idaho, Washington, Oklahoma, Colorado, Hawaii and eventually Texas, it is the years on the farm that still loom large in his memory.

Dad gave us quite a health scare last spring, but as you can see in the pictures he is doing very well now. In the last year both my parents have started to show the years and suffer the inevitable consequences of aging. There was a poignancy to this gathering, an unspoken need to celebrate before...before the next gathering is for a far different reason. Happy Birthday, Dad, and please know that I am far from being done with listening to the lame jokes and the old stories.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mile 17

Forty days after my wedding I ran a marathon, my first and my new husband's sixth. It was the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vermont on an unseasonably warm Memorial Day Weekend in 1999. I have been a runner for a long time, but this was by far the longest race I had ever done. We had trained for it together, our race preparation nearly as important as the wedding plans.

The day was beautiful and sunny and Burlington is a fun, funky little town. My husband's entire family came to watch and celebrate after, as they did the year before when my husband and his sister ran it.

The race started well and I breezed through the first eleven miles, literally I felt light and lighthearted. I was quite impressed with myself, waving like a movie star at my new family members who popped up along the course to cheer us on.

The next five miles didn't feel so great. It felt like someone had poured concrete into my shoes as the late morning sun bared down on us. I trudged along, finally stopping to walk around Mile 16. I don't remember specifically any conversation we had, at least not on my part. My husband may have said something along the lines of "You just ran sixteen miles, you should be really proud of yourself." But that may just be an exhaustion-induced hallucination I was having or maybe he was cutting me some slack because we were newlyweds. We had established pretty early on in our relationship, he's more coach than cheerleader.

I do remember him walking over to a group of his family and saying "Find everybody, we are leaving the course." Maybe that's what did it or maybe it was the goo and Gatorade I had. As I continued to walk into Mile 17, I decided I was not going to walk off the course.

There was no flash of lightening or angels-singing-in-the-background epiphany. The moment of decision was rather fleeting in the face of the two hours of grit and determination that followed. Somewhere along Mile 17 I started running again. I ran, walked, limped and fought the urge to throw up until I finished the race in five hours and eight minutes.

I hold that fleeting moment of determination like a smooth stone in my pocket. It is there to quietly remind me that I can finish what I start. I've been reaching in to worry that stone quite a bit lately. It's not so much that I want to walk off the course, as I'm not sure what course I am following. I have been easily sidetracked by the grocery list and the bank statement and have forgotten that this race of being a mother and a writer is the only one that counts. I started this blog as the journey of a writer and I'm not going to walk off the course.

Stepping away from the blog for awhile reminded me of a time I left a boogie board along the edge of the beach in Hawaii. When I sat up from my suntanning spot to survey the shoreline later, the board had drifted out into the water. I went jumping through the little waves trying to retrieve it, but the farther I went out, the farther away it got until it was a pink dot on the horizon. Things can too easily drift away.

So, I'm back.