Mom Says I Have the Gift of Encouragement

If I had a little more time on my hands and fewer piles that needed to be filed or scrapbooked, I would love to create e-cards and/or greeting cards as a hobby.  I have even gone so far as to imagine this site evolving beyond a blog to include an e-store of sorts with cards and fonts and stock photos.  Why not dream big?  Well, I’m far from pursuing that dream right now and perhaps far from qualified, but I was reminded of this interest this weekend when I stumbled across a funny website that helps people caption photos, particularly funny pet photos.  I started to try out the website, and then I thought, wait!  I know how to do this with my own software!  In fact, this is what I want to do someday with my photos in the form of greeting cards!

I stopped using the website, but took the photo that I was going to use and created my own sample e-card (some of you have seen this photo and idea before).  My website doesn’t have the ability to send actual e-cards right now, but if you find the message below deeply moving and appropriate for a loved one, I suppose the image could be a makeshift e-card if you click on the photo, copy the URL, and send the URL link to whoever needs to feel your electronic love and support.

In a time of economic hardship for our country, hopefully the following “e-card” will uplift many.

Job Loss E-card

Green Day

No, I am not talking about the band.  Though, if I were referring to Green Day the rock band I’m sure my husband would have something to say about how the trio is underrated.  Today is March 17th, so I am talking about none other than St. Patrick’s Day!

Frankly, I know very little about this holiday other than what I quickly read on Wikipedia before writing this post.  I don’t really care to elaborate on its origins; what makes the day special for me is that it was Ro’s favorite holiday.  The man loved Jesus, but Christmas and Easter didn’t unearth nearly as many dollar-store items in our household as St. Patrick’s Day did.  Ro owned no “Kiss me, Jesus is Risen!” buttons, but Lord knows on March 17th the “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” button was pinned to his black and green plaid cardigan at the top o’ the morn’!

To date, Ro is the only person I’ve known who, on St. Paddy’s Day, would receive as many store-bought cards and incoming phone calls as he would for a birthday.  He was not shy about his love for the day; if his words didn’t express it, then the Shamrock sticker on his Bible sure made it clear.  One year he decorated the kitchen with green streamers cascading from the chandelier to the kitchen walls like the spokes of a wheel.  This was a day to be celebrated!

The leprechaun cut-outs Ro hung around the house were cute too, but to have a day where you are practically obligated to drink a stein of beer – I believe this cuts to the core of his Paddy’s Day passion.  Ro grew up in a Nazerene church where things like dancing, playing cards, and drinking alcohol were pooh-poohed, yet out of this strict upbringing grew a man who loved to have a glass of wine or a tall, stout beer with his blazing hot shephard’s pie – just a glass or two at a meal to give his lips a refreshing blast of heaven.  We rarely had any alcohol in the house as I grew up, so any chance for him to have a drink was a treat.

St. Patrick’s Day, 2001, Brian and Ro went for a midday green beer.  I was at my parents’ house when the phone rang – another Happy St. Patrick’s Day call for Ro.  It was his sister, my Aunt Virginia.  Ro had such a sweet, close relationship with his sister.  I also adored and loved her.  I don’t recall ever meeting her in person, but before she became too weak to use a typewriter she and I were Pen Pals.  She would send the most sincere, thoughtful notes to encourage me, pray for me, and tell me stories of her life.  Sadly, she passed away last year, the summer before Ro did.

On this particular day, Aunt Virginia and I exchanged a couple updates with each other.  I knew she wanted to talk to Ro, but I explained to her, “He’s out drinking green beer with Brian.”  She laughed.  I laughed.  But later that day I learned that we were laughing for different reasons.  She laughed because she thought I was making a joke.  I laughed because I was thinking oh, that Ro and his green beer.

What I didn’t know until after the phone call was that Aunt Virginia never knew that Ro consumed alcoholic beverages, let alone that he had an acquired taste for them.  A devout Christian and product of the Nazarene church herself, she adhered to the no-drinking rule and assumed that her brother did as well.  I know heaven doesn’t look back at Earth or celebrate our holidays or resemble life as we know it, but I still find myself creating a story in my head of Ro and Aunt Virginia together.  Ro is chuckling with a Paddy’s Day beer in hand as his sister discovers this little secret of his, and then starts to make sense of that phone call I had with her eight years ago.  Of course my little fantasy is so irrelevant for them now, for as much as Ro loved to celebrate this day, there is no holiday or event on this Earth that can come close to matching the celebration that they know now and will experience for eternity.

Thinking of you today, Ro!

One!

The March masthead came about when I realized that 1) I haven’t taken any pictures in the last month, and 2) a year ago this month we purchased a new car, a 2008 Toyota Prius.  I have never had a brand new, driven-less-than-ten-miles-when-we-drove-it-off-the-lot vehicle, so owning it has felt like living in luxury, even when I’m driving while wearing my $9.99 pajama bottoms and a spaghetti-stained race t-shirt.

When we bought the car every inch of it was so shiny and flawless, a state that I knew we’d never see again, so I drove it to a municipal park near our house for a little photo shoot. Thank goodness there were no baseball or soccer games going on at the time, because I didn’t need dirty, toothless children staring and pointing at me to clue me in to my quirkiness.  I recognized on my own that I looked strange snapping photos with such extreme detail.  But hey, at least I wasn’t shouting, “Work it!  Work it!  Look right at the camera!  Now give me pouty lips!”

Here are just a couple shots of the car as the photo shoot waned in to the sunset and post sunset hours.  Note the sunset sky reflecting on the car in the first photo and the full moon in the second.  Ooooooooo.

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I originally thought that I would use this photo as the masthead for this month…

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…because when is there any other time that your car’s engine is so abnormally clean that you want to lick it or cut fresh fruit on it? There is no other time. Further, how often do you see a lickable car engine as the masthead to a blog? Probably not too often. While I was excited about this rarity, Brian vetoed it in favor of the dashboard view masthead. In the name of love, I let his first choice prevail.

(After I added the dashboard view to the website, I tried to think of something profound that I could say about the photo, but all that came to mind was Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light, and the harder I tried to think the louder the lyrics “DO YOU LOVE ME? WILL YOU LOVE ME FOREVER?…” resonated in my head. Ah well, instead of thought-provoking I got memories of junior high dances.)

So I was enamored with the pristine newness of the car, but as I celebrate the first anniversary as its owner, please realize that the anniversary excitement is less about the car and more about the opportunity to count something.  I can’t help it; I was born in to a family who has a strange affinity for numbers.  My father teaches math, and my grandfather, mother, and brother are accountants.  Am I forgetting anyone?  Well, most of the rest of us without a bean-counting job title still enjoy numbers in our spare time.  We monitor baseball and football stats, count stairs, find patterns in phone numbers, take heed to random dates (e.g. insignificant anniversaries), and oogle over the odometer in the car, to name only a few examples.  Heck, even before one of my nephews started kindergarten he was counting by 11’s and playing games with people’s ages.  Just like The Count on Sesame Street, we cry if we do not get to count things and we will sometimes send letters to ourselves just so we can count the incoming mail.  Okay, maybe we don’t do the latter, but cry if we run out of things to count?  Yes, yes we cry.

Does anyone else think of their odometer as a little dial of magic?  When my brother was in high school trying to decide what topic he should choose for a paper, my grandfather told him that he should seriously consider writing his paper on how my grandfather’s car hit 66,666 miles that week.  Similarly, my mom and I will often call each other to excitedly announce that our odometer struck a number like 80,000 or a fun palindrome like 105,501.  In every car ride, a surprise awaits.

Anyway, as The Count would say about the Prius today, “One!  One anniversary!  A a a a a!”

Paper That You Can Trade In

Two years ago today, I called my nephew to wish him a happy birthday.  He had turned 7.  My sister-in-law answered the phone, and here’s how the conversation went down…

Kris: Evan, Auntie Michelle wants to talk to you.

[Evan grabs the phone.]

Evan: What?

Kris (in background): Um, how about “hello?”

Evan: Hello?

[I immediately sing happy birthday.]

Evan (monotone): Thanks.

[After a couple nice conversational exchanges…]

Evan: Thank you for my birthday car-

Kris (in background): That was from Aunt Kimmy, not Auntie Michelle.

[Evan is silent for a moment, clearly thinking through his next step.]

Evan: Well, Aunt Kimmy got me a birthday card and inside was this paper that you could trade in-

Kris (in background): It’s a check.

Evan: Well, it had a check that you could trade in for money, so I traded that in and my allowance for heelies…

***

I’d like to hear more about this paper you can trade in for money.  And whether or not they make heelies in adult shoe sizes.

Happy 9th birthday, Evan!  I’m still ridiculously crazy about you, kid!

Walker Road

February ended moments ago and if I’m going to keep up with what I’ve been doing then I need to find a new masthead for March, but before I do let me explain the current one, Walker Road.  A two-minute jog from my development, I have spent many, many hours on this road by foot, by bike, and by car.  It’s the by foot and by bike experiences that stir up a sense of nostalgia within me.  We live on the border of highly developed land and rolling country farm land.  Walker Road celebrates this close-to-country feel, so when I am out training here I love to breathe in the peaceful, simple air and enjoy the homes with yards that do not live under the rule of a developer.

I’ve even come to enjoy the company of the horse-like dog that chases me while bellowing a ferocious bark – well, that is, he chases me as far as he can on his side of the fence.  At first I was terrified by the beast, since I’ve been twice bitten by dogs, but now I pretend we’re friends, and in between breaths as I run or ride past I call to him in motherese, “Hi, Pup!  How’s my pup?  Gooood, puppy pup!”  I can tell this confuses him, like how could his prey seem so loving?  One day he will learn to jump the fence and will either eat my face or exfoliate it with a sloppy, friendly lick.  Every time I run by I wonder if today is the day I will find out if we’re friends or foes.  Mental note: start carrying steak in hydration belt.  And bear spray.

Like a no-nonsense friend, Walker Road is honest.  So brutally honest.  Without inhibition it will tell me what kind of shape I’m in, and its words have not always been kind.  There are portions of the road that are subtly hilly, and there are sections that are unmistakably steep.  The hill at the end of the road, for example, is so steep that on more than one bike ride I have pumped my weary legs at a pathetic 3.8 mph while trying to climb it.  This is so slow that my front wheel wobbles back and forth to keep me from falling over during the brief moments that I am actually motionless in between pedals.  Coming down this hill I have gained speeds over 35 mph, which is challenging in its own right.

There is a creepy stand-alone garage along the road in which I always imagine a serial killer resides, so as I run or ride by I scheme my survival, just in case I’m right.  When I hear rustling leaves on another stretch of the road I imagine a wild cat living in the woods and again I plan accordingly.  I usually moo at the couple of cows that seem very out of place in the yard of one home, and make up stories to explain why no one has ever been seen using the outdoor swimming pool at another.  The water in the ponds and little creeks looks refreshing albeit completely undrinkable.  The open fields and trees are rather simple, yet I can’t help but stare as I go past.

There’s a barn that stands against the road.  Not sure why I love it, and until I took a picture of it this past month I couldn’t even remember what color it was.  In my mind its walls are blank slates that change colors, like a mood ring varying by my emotional state.  Whatever color, the sun strikes the building perfectly and it somehow inspires me to endure or to smile or to pray or to set goals or to count my blessings.  I’m not necessarily a barn person, but have found raw, rousing beauty in this one.

Maybe that’s why I set Walker Road as the masthead for February.  February can be a doozy of a month.  It can be cold.  It can be gloomy.  But these pictures remind me that even during a hard run we can find things that inspire us to endure…to smile…to count our blessings.

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