Happy Father’s Day

He pushes them to take risks when I'm too afraid.

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He tells them how to use a socket wrench, shake a hand, work a compass,
and paddle a canoe.

He helps me be firm when I want to be too easy, and he helps me stay calm when I didn't know I could.

He tells our girl that she's pretty and valuable, and he puts on a suit and tie to take her to dinner.

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He mysteriously shows up at the perfect moment with a screwdriver, or duct tape, or an ace bandage, and he knows how to let go of a bike seat at just the right moment.

He handles all the dog poop, tile grout, and algebra.

He coaches and prays and quiets and scolds and laughs and pushes and pulls with a courage and will that is the bedrock to the rest of us.

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Happy Father's Day to the far better half of this team–the man who is, in every sense, a miracle.

Romance

It's Valentine's Day. This afternoon Hubs and I climbed the stairs, closed our bedroom door and…

…finished scraping the popcorn off our master bathroom ceiling.

Who needs roses when you can have soggy chunks of plaster in your hair?

We're generally not impulsive remodelers–when we've tackled projects in the past, we've usually thought them through very carefully, with a budget and a plan in place. Early last week we began to wonder how hard it would be to strip our old wallpaper, which led to a wondering about how much bathtub refinishing costs, which led to a wondering about whether we could remove a doorway. Ten days later, my bathroom looks like this:

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So, it would appear we're remodeling the bathroom.

I am learning many things in this little adventure, chief among them that plumbers are expensive, sledgehammers are surprisingly therapeutic, and wallpaper glue is forever. And I am reminded, with much thankfulness, that I'd rather spend an afternoon inhaling sheetrock dust with him than sitting at a candlelit table with anybody else. Come to think of it, maybe we should've written that into our wedding vows.

Happy Valentine's Day, Hubs. Thanks for the drywall and the babies and the sanity and for looking so dang good in a tool belt.

Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plains

I didn't grow up in Oklahoma, so unlike my own children, I didn't have the benefit of years of Oklahoma history in school.  It's a shame, really, because the interesting lore and culture of my adopted state endears it to me more and more all the time. 

I mean, there are 306 million people living in the United States, but only three-and-a-half million of us get to live in a state that actually inspired a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.  Not to mention a Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman movie.  (I loved that movie.  It came out in 1992, before I was a married woman and before Tom was a couch-jumper.  And let me tell you that it was very pleasant sitting a dark theater, watching a close-up shot of Tom whispering "Marry me, Shannon."  "Okay," I whispered back.)

When Hubs first told me we'd be having a romantic anniversary getaway a few miles outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma, I was skeptical.  "What's in Guthrie?" I asked.

A lot, it turns out.  It was the original state capital of Oklahoma, and it was the headquarters of the famous Land Run of 1889.  This picturesque little town is home to a huge historic district, meticulously maintained and restored.  During our trip, Hubs and I spent an afternoon taking in the history.

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I have an unhealthy obsession with historical markers.  My idea of a dream vacation is to stop at every single one of them:

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100_4092 We stopped at an old drugstore that had been turned into a museum.  It was an interesting look at the  pharmaceutical history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Half the remedies in there included "cocaine" and "heroin" as ingredients.  No wonder Aunt Eller was so moody. (I also saw with my very own eyes a particular piece of turn-of-the-century medical equipment that is horribly seared into my brain for all eternity.  I'll spare you the details, but let's just say we should all thank our lucky stars not to have been constipated in 1903.)

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100_4101 Parts of the original brick sidewalks and streets could be seen throughout the district.  Together with the old buildings, it was hard not to let the imagination run wild.

I turned to Hubs.  "Do you realize there might have been a gunfight RIGHT HERE?  Somebody might have been shot to death RIGHT HERE." 

Hey look, another historical marker, and this is a good one:

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Hubs turned to me.  "Do you realize Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman staked their claim RIGHT HERE?"

Cheeky

Romancin’

Last week Hubs and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, and he surprised me with a weekend getaway of such perfection that all future weekend getaways will surely develop inferiority complexes. 

"We're going to a place called Aaron's Gate," he told me, "a few miles outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma."

(I am not a native Oklahoman.  I had never heard of Guthrie.  It's such an interesting and picturesque town that I'll have to wait and give it a post all its own, very soon.)

Hubs and I have stayed in some lovely places during our years together, but this place takes the cake.  Photos, of course, won't do it justice, but I'll do my best.

We headed in the general direction of Guthrie, Oklahoma, turning off the interstate to drive on about ten miles of this:

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(I love roads like that, don't you?)

When we had officially reached The Middle Of Nowhere, we pulled up to the front gates:

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I know–charming, isn't it?  Here's a close-up:

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Once inside the gates, we wound through the woods:

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…and we pulled up to our unassuming little cabin:

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When we got out, we immediately noticed the quiet.  No traffic, no people, no sounds at all–just the birds, the wind, and the crickets.

We opened the door to the cabin, and this is what we found:

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(Behind this armoire was the giant television and DVD library.  We watched a lot of movies, including the very excellent HBO series on John Adams.  Because, you know, nothing says "romance" like a bunch of men in wigs and tights declaring their independence from the King of England):

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A hot tub in the screened-in porch.  My fingers are permanently pruned from all the soaking: 

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They left us our dinner and the next day's breakfast in the fridge.  By this point, I was so smitten with the place that I half expected little mythical woodland creatures to show up and prepare the food for us: 

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("WHY ARE YOU TAKING PICTURES OF A CHICKEN LAMP?" Hubs asked at this point.  Fair question.)

The weekend was perfect, and I have found my new favorite little spot.  We agreed that if someone couldn't relax in this quaint spot, then they just couldn't relax. 

Last picture, I promise, on our way back out of the gates as we left:

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See?  Perfect.

But My Lips Are Silky Soft

Last week Hubs was cleaning out my desk drawer.  Partly because he is good to me, and partly because it is his preference that when one pulls on a desk drawer, one might expect that the desk drawer be unencumbered enough to open.  Picky, picky.

"Hey," he called.  "You might want to come look at this."

Here's what he had found in my one desk drawer:

Carmex

"I think you have a problem," he said. 

I pointed out that if I had a "problem", they would all be Carmex.  As there is a trend-breaking Burt's Bees throwing in the stash, I assured him, I do not have a "problem", I merely have a "preference". (And, it would appear, a tendency for losing lids.)

It Would Make Me Very Happy If You’d Read This Post. Thank You.

Let me tell you a little story.

Danny (not his real name, and you’ll understand why in a minute) is a husband and father who wanted to do something special for his wife this Christmas.  They were both fed up with the materialistic emptiness the holidays often brought: "typical American Christmas—gizmos, gadgets, whatnots, and an oversized helping of turkey," as he calls it.

This was spurred, in part, by a trip to Africa in 2008.  When he saw the great need there, he knew he had to do something better with his money this Christmas. 

He and his wife agreed that they would spend no money on each other this year, instead sending as much as they could to the humanitarian efforts underway in the village Danny visited.  In place of material gifts to each other, they would make gifts for each other, gifts that didn’t cost money–only effort and creativity.

He hatched a brilliant idea. 

His wife is the mother of small children, a season of life often fraught with discouragement and exhaustion.  He began asking some mothers he knew in real life to submit letters of encouragement to her, sharing their best bits of motherhood wisdom.  He planned to collect the letters to give to her Christmas morning.

Danny’s idea was well-received by friends, but he began to realize his "mother network" was fairly small.  He wanted to broaden the scope of his idea and find a way for more women to encourage his wife.

The Mother Letter Project was born.

This is a simple blog that tells his family’s story, and it invites women–strangers, friends, from all walks of life–to write a letter to his wife, encouraging her in her mothering journey.

He wrote to me to say that his wife is a faithful reader of my blog, and would I consider writing a letter for the project?

Um, well, seeing as how this is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard in my whole life, YES, I will write a letter.  And not only will I write a letter, I’m going to tell every single one of you to write a letter, because did I mention that this is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard in my whole life?  I can’t decide which part of the story is more touching:  a husband going to such lengths to encourage his wife?  A family committed to changing the life of an African village?  A treasure trove of wisdom for mothers, all in one place?  The whole thing just makes me smile. 

Here is the blog Danny has set up to manage the project.  He has revealed as much information as he can without giving away his identity.  His wife is a participant in the blogospherre, and he doesn’t want to ruin the surprise for her.  It’s highly likely she is reading this very post, with no idea of the lovely gift waiting for her!

Oh, delicious irony, how I love you.

(Pssst.  If you think this might be your husband who is doing this, don’t let on that you know.  Because I have corresponded with Danny, and let me tell you, your man LOVES you and is trying to crazy-hard to knock your socks off this Christmas.  Don’t spoil it for him, okay?)

(And?  If it’s not your husband doing this project, but you’re dying to read the collection of letters, then you’re in luck, because he’ll e-mail you a copy of the finished document after Christmas. 

(I think everyone is going be looking all mushy at their husbands tonight.)

Though this whole thing started as a simple idea, a modest and thoughtful gift from one husband to one wife, it is quickly growing beyond that scope.  This project has the potential to encourage many mothers.  I want to be a part of it.  I hope you will too. 

If you’d like to participate in the Mother Letter Project, you can read the full instructions here.  Write a letter, even a quick one.  Encourage another mom.  Save a copy for your daughter or niece or neighbor down the street.  Heck, save a copy for you and read it back to yourself tomorrow, when you’re about to pull your hair out.  If you have a blog, consider posting about this project.  Wouldn’t it be fun to help Danny blow the top off this project?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a letter to write

*update*  To answer a question that has trickled in a couple of times, yes, Danny knew ahead of time I was posting about this, and I consulted closely with him about how much information to include.  Some of you were concerned this would spoil the surprise for his wife–but don’t worry, every bit of this was done with his permission and blessing.  He’s actually overwhelmed by your generous response so far.  Please keep those letters rolling in!

OH NO HE DID NOT…

…OH BUT YES HE DID.

One evening last week, Hubs and I were sitting at a kids’ school event.  He leaned over and asked me about my day; I rattled on and on about a new deadline and oh-I-got-a-phone-call-from-so-and-so and did-you-remember-to-mail-that check, et cetera, et cetera.

He listened politely.  When I finished, he asked, "Would you like to know what I did today?"

I nodded, distracted, watching the kids.

He continued.  "I bought two Barry Manilow concert tickets in Las Vegas, tenth row center."

I’m sorry, what did you just say?

"I said, I bought two Barry Manilow concert tickets in Las Vegas, tenth row center.  And two plane tickets, and a hotel room on the strip, and childcare is all arranged.  We leave in a few weeks."

And I giggled squealed screamed and planted a big, sloppy kiss on him RIGHT THERE in the school cafeteria.  Then I turned to Melanie, who was on my other side, and nearly scared her to death by grabbing her shoulders and shaking her and babbling incoherently.  I am happy to report that I did not plant a big, sloppy kiss on her.  But I could’ve.  I’m that excited.

Seriously, after 15 years with my man, I thought he couldn’t surprise me anymore.  I thought I could read him so well that I would know he was up to something.  The fact is that he’s had this brewing and planned for a very long time, and I had no idea.  How amazing is it that he would not only surprise me, but he would surprise me with something that I’ve wanted to do forever.  And that he will not only send me to the concert, but he will sit through it with me.  My husband, whose idea of good music is…well, whatever the opposite of Barry Manilow is.  That is love, right there.

(And I know, it’s nobody’s business, but the sensible girl in me feels the need to explain that we have not gone out of our normally frugal minds by taking a trip like this while the economy is tanking.  Thanks to frequent flyer miles, a great Priceline deal, and some money Hubs’ had been setting aside for some time without my knowledge–the turkey!  how did he do that?–the whole thing is actually pretty unfrivolous.  So don’t worry, I’m still sensible and frugal, I’m just going to be sensible and frugal IN LAS VEGAS.)

(Although the thought does suddenly occur to me that perhaps no one will be travelling so that they can stay home and watch the stock ticker, which means, I suppose, that we might have Las Vegas all to ourselves.  If the audience is empty at the concert, do you think Barry might pull me up on stage for a duet?  I did make up a dance routine to Copa Cabana when I was about 10, and I’m pretty sure I remember most of it.) 

Anyway, I now have a couple of weeks to get ready for this trip.  Tell me, if you’ve been to Vegas, what do I need to know?  Because I have to say I’m feeling the urge to get a bee-hive hairdo and some sequiny pants.  What else should I do?  What should we absolutely NOT miss, considering our time is pretty limited?

While you think about it, you can watch this.  It’s not as snazzy as the one I made up 26 years ago, but it will have to do:

Stormy

A couple of nights ago, I was awakened at 2:30 a.m. to the shrill whine of tornado sirens outside my window.  Ah, springtime in Oklahoma.

Giant chunks of hail hit my window, and my daughter came careening down my hall in a fit of fear before I could even sit upright in my bed.  (My boys, incidentally, did not wake up.  I suspect that if the roof lifted off our house and some tree branches reached in and picked the boys up and shook them upside down, they might wake up.  Might.)

As I held my daughter and tried to awaken, I noticed the room was illuminated by the soft glow of our tiny television, and my husband was silhouetted, sitting at the foot of our bed.  His eyes were honed in to a scary-looking radar screen. 

"Shhhh," he whispered.  "Go back to sleep.  I’ll keep an eye on things, and I’ll wake you up if we need to go to the shelter."

For about 2.4 seconds I considered arguing with him.  Then I looked at my daughter, who had already fallen back asleep in my cushy bed, and I just nodded.  I was horizontal and sound asleep before I could think another thought.

The night dragged on, storms ravaging our city.  I awakened several more times to thunderous, howling noise, but my sleepy eyes always saw, first of all, my husband at the television.  And every time, I relaxed instantly, dropping back to sleep.

The visual image is staying with me powerfully:  my strong husband, quietly yet sharply keeping watch over his family, while the rest of us were sleeping too soundly to know to be thankful.  We just slept, because it’s what you do at nighttime, and we left all the safety issues to him. 

And I wonder, as I navigate other kinds of "storms"–will the day ever come when I rest quite as easily in God’s watchful care?  His silhouette may not be as visible–to my eyes, anyway–as that of my husband’s, but He is surely perched just as soundly at the foot of my bed, on the hood of my car, on the shoulder of my children, on a dusty road in Uganda.  May I trust, and rest.