Friday, July 29, 2011

Crazy. Stupid. Love.

Southerners love to personalize their crap.

Everywhere I turn I see someone’s initials. Monograms swirl before my eyes.

Lunchboxes, keychains, duffels – all customized so you won’t forget that the pillow on your bed is your pillow. (I’m not sure who else’s pillow it might be, though.)

But, you know, I get it. It’s style. Perhaps not always my style, but scads of people seem to like it.

What I don’t get, however, is the personalization of your car’s rear window.
Every other car in Atlanta has a decal – one showing the exact number of people (and sometimes animals) in the family. How many boys, how many girls, approximate sizes, and sometimes – yes – names.
Get yours at
Now, this scares the bejeezus out of me.

In New York, I wouldn’t even put a pink balloon on the stoop to announce Olivia’s birth. No, no, no. I’d been warned.
Apparently, there are some really crazy folk out there who see pastel balloons and think it’s an invitation to kidnap.

“Oooooooh, pink balloon. Must be a new baby girl in there. Always wanted one of them.”

I could almost hear the maniacal chuckle.

So, no, Worst Kate Scenario did not hang balloons or bows outside the house. I loved my babies way too much to risk them falling into the hands of creepy people in our neighborhood.

(Like this guy, Levi Aron, who lived about six blocks away. Granted, they were long avenue blocks and not short street blocks. For you non-New Yorkers, that makes a huge difference.)
via New York Daily News
Last week, as Olivia picked out which backpack she wanted for kindergarten, she asked about getting her name stitched on the back.

“No, Liv. That tells strangers your name. They might try to trick you – make you think they know you. That’s dangerous.”

And yes, you might think that’s just going to heap anxiety on my child. And you are, quite possibly, right. But I’d rather have her be anxious than in a stranger’s car with a candy bar.

Atlanta parents, though, just drive around town with their kids' names plastered on their minivans. It as though they lack a healthy fear of crazy-ass people.
Shirley MacLaine as eccentric, crazy Ouiser Boudreaux.
"Steel Magnolias", courtesy of TriStar Pictures.
Maybe it’s because there’s a long social history of charming, eccentric crazy in the South, whereas I’m used to homicidal crazy.

Or maybe it's because they're naive.

Or maybe I worry too much.

Well, I definitely worry too much, but sometimes, it’s necessary.

Which is more than I can say about the “K” on my lunchbox.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Up, Up and Away

Like many people in my “like, you know” generation, I, perhaps, overuse the word “awesome.”

Tortilla chips are “awesome.” Sleeping late is “awesome”. Potty-trained toddlers are really (expletive) “awesome.”

But little fills me with actual awe. 

Rarely do I find something with such marvelous heft that it pushes words and doubts and stress out of my head and populates those newly vacant thought bubbles with a soundless wonder. 
No longer needing Pull-Ups was awesome... but not awe-inspiring.
That’s not to say that I don’t have reverence. I see things that I believe God has touched – things that seem to me to be His work – and I am moved. Things like babies, canyons, and dark chocolate.

But awe, especially over the man-made? It’s a rare thing. 
Clay and I feeling very reverent.
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, HI. November 2005.
My kids, however, are full of awe. They bring fresh eyes to the world, and when I put their naturally curious spectacles on and squint, I can just about see what they see.
Your mouth is watering right now, isn't it?
via fanpop
The beauty of brightly colored gumballs, all just waiting to be chewed! The excitement of water that shoots from a fountain! The thrill of a cell phone that beeps and trills when you punch buttons!

And it all reminds me of blimps.
Two of my great loves: the Goodyear Blimp and New York City.
via The Goodyear Blimp
See, I had a strong childhood affinity for blimps. Well, to limit it to childhood is just disingenuous: I still love blimps.

As a preschooler, I lived about 45 minutes outside of New York City, and every so often a blimp would pass over on its way to (my adult guess) the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ.

At the time, I had no idea where it was going or what it was doing, but this seemingly cloud-sized zeppelin astounded me.

People rode in there! Did they float, like in the space shuttle? What could they see? Could they see China? The Great Wall? Did they see me waving? Craziness.
Okay, yes, it looks like a flying suppository. But it's the coolest flying suppository ever.
via Ad Week
Three and a half decades after I first fell for blimps, they still hold me in their thrall. Blimps are amazing. They are slow and steady, large and somehow graceful.

In our year in the Deep South, we have yet to see any dirigibles, but it seems my kids now have their very own awe-inspiring airborne love: hot air balloons.
From our front yard. May 2011.
Yes, we saw the first two on Fletcher’s birthday. As the sun began to set and the day cooled, a pair of balloons drifted over the horizon. They flew right over the house, close enough for us to hear the gas and the flames whooshing upwards, pulling the basket high once again.

It felt like a gift for our boy.
Happy birthday, Fletch!
Mommy and Daddy paid absolutely nothing for your fave present.
What we thought was going to be a one-time bit of good luck has become a once-every-few-days thing. And the magic has yet to wear off.

The kids’ eyes still pop wide open. They quickly inhale their excitement, exhaling long and slow to hold the moment just a bit longer.
The 7 a.m. flyby.
July 2011.
And I’ve got to admit – watching the balloons float through the hazy light of dawn – it is truly awesome.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Full Bloom

People – tourists mostly – complain a lot about how dirty New York is, but I saw the city’s beauty everywhere.

Old architecture, wrought iron fire escapes, brownstones with wide stoops, runway models… you know, the usual.
Beauty in Washington Square.
Notice how I cropped out the drug dealers.
And though the city can be very tone-on-tone, there’s a pop of color on every corner. Because any deli worth its Boar’s Head has buckets of fresh flowers out front.

Flowers bloom practically everywhere in the cement jungle.

Here in the Atlanta suburbs, life is more green than New York gray. It’s lush and lovely, but sometimes I miss the vivid splatter of tulips, roses, peonies, and all those unnaturally colored carnations.

But as I drove home tonight, I passed a field of ridiculously bright sunflowers. It was as if the yellow radiated through my windows and traveled straight into my work-weary heart.
As I flew past at close to 60 miles per hour, I saw a hand-painted sign: Sunflowers for Sale. 

Ten minutes later, with Clay and the kids loaded in the car, we swung back around the corner, less than a mile, to the field.
Eight dollars for a dozen, four for six – all on the honor system. Just like the corner delis, they have buckets of fresh flowers, but they also leave shears for you to cut your own bouquet.
Bees crawled over most flowers, and the kids were a little nervous to start poking around. But before long they were tromping through the field without fear, anxious to pick their own blooms.

As I stood in the field, face turned toward the sun, I suddenly felt very lucky. I felt open, warm, and happy.
And I felt beautiful. Everything felt beautiful.

Friday, July 8, 2011

525,600 Minutes

On July 8, 2010, our cab careened across the potholed lanes of the BQE, and I felt a thrill at the unknown road ahead.

In that moment – and for many moments of the past 12 months – the possibilities held such promise: I could do anything, go anywhere. The question marks were exclamation points.

But that optimism would, at times, blow away like smoke after fireworks. A hint, a memory, fading as I wondered if that was the last one. Was that the grand finale? I didn’t realize. I thought it would be bigger. Grander. If I’d known, I would’ve paid more attention.

And then the fireworks would start again.

So, yeah, I've been a bit bipolar, really. 

The rapid cycling of my moods prompted lots of what if we had stayed? Right now, though – right in this very moment – I can't even imagine that life... except for the curry smell burrowing itself further into my upholstery.

It's hard, however, to reconcile that it's been a year: 525,600 minutes out of New York.

That’s why I’ve decided to answer the question Jonathan Larson first posed to me 15 years ago (via Rent soundtrack):

One gray, almost dead tooth.
Mr. Gray Tooth. May 2011.
One awesome Auburn football season.

One month of winter.
Making snowballs. January 2011.

Two dance recitals.

Two trips to North Carolina.

Three pies.

Three job interviews (one job!).

Four ear infections, all at one time.

Five flying squirrels, caught.

Six trips to the lake.
Chilling at the lake house. March 2011.

Seven months of summer.

Eight monster trucks.
Olivia's Favorite, the TMNT truck. January 2011.
Eight round trips to Atlanta before permanently moving here.

Nine beach reads. (Zero actual trips to beach.)

10 swim lessons for a 4-year old terrified of water in her face.
Blowing Bubbles. October 2010.
10-tons of laundry.

99 blog entries.

Innumerable glasses of wine

And, of course, love – whole seasons of love. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Baby, You're a Firework

Six barges packed with fireworks – that’s pretty tough to beat.

I mean, yes, Louisville beats New York on the barge count every time the Derby rolls around, but that’s April, and this is the Fourth of July.
The Manhattan Bridge.
via Barry Yanowitz's flickr.
This is the Manhattan skyline. This is the Statue of Liberty. This is BeyoncĂ© dancing on Grant’s Tomb.

This is spectacle in every way, shape, and form.

It’s also ridiculous numbers of people, smashed together, sweating, waiting, sweating, cursing, sweating, and then, just when you think you can’t take one more minute, fireworks.

My first 4th in New York, I ventured down to the East River to watch the aforementioned spectacle. I was blown away.

Basically, Macy’s takes your average, super-awesome, hometown fireworks display and then multiplies it by six.

Now, unless you’re especially lucky – and, say, have a high-rise apartment with a sweeping view of the city – you don’t actually see all six from the same vantage point.

I saw three and a half. It felt like the pinnacle of patriotism…

And claustrophobia.

I spent the next ten years watching fireworks on T.V.

But kids shouldn’t suffer (too much) for their crazy mother’s fears. So this year I put on my big girl underwear, piled the kids into the car, and ventured down to the Cumming Fairgrounds for the town’s annual fireworks celebration.

Intense, professional-level tailgaters stopped us from parking anywhere close to the fairgrounds, so we ended up at Veterans Memorial Park instead. 
No one danced on this memorial.
I consider this a blessing in disguise as it afforded me the chance to steer clear of oppressive crowds and gave the kids the freedom to run, as far and as fast as they wanted.
You can't do this A) sitting in bleachers along the Hudson River or B) standing behind a police barricade. 
This, in turn, kept whining – theirs and mine – to a minimum while at the same time exhausting Olivia and Fletcher. (The perfect parental equation.)

By the time the first ‘works fired, there was just one sweaty, sticky body pressed against me. And it was Fletcher and not some groping stranger.
God bless America, indeed.