No Stressin’, No Freakin’

It’s a mantra they teach in training class at work. Apparently, they don’t want you stressin’ and freakin’, or freakin’ and streakin’ to the door out of class. You might, once you see the GIANT training manual, hence the mantra.

My learned mantra came in mighty handy this weekend when we had some – shall we say – wedding wardrobe malfunctions?

First off, I discover the bride, my sister, didn’t get her dress she ordered a few weeks ago from the shop until FRIDAY. The dress she picked out, and became crazy-in-love with, the one she called me about, and I said, “A dress? Really – you got an actual dress?” She squeals with delight, “Yes, yes, an actual dress. Can you believe it? No pants.”

She always wears pants. A dress…niiice. So, what happens when she goes to try on her wedding dress, on her wedding day, after the shop altered it to fit, and got it back to her with zero days to spare?

Yeah, it didn’t fit. At all. She couldn’t move her arms. No stressin’, no freakin’.

[insert – major bridezilla outburst – then a trip to Dillard’s with her best friend to pick out a shirt to go with pants]

Jason, the girls, and I arrive in Houston from Dallas about 12:30pm. Thank GOODNESS for me. We left about an hour and a half late and I was just a little freaked that we would hit a traffic snag and MISS my sister’s wedding. Okay, a lot freaked (sorry Jason). No stressin’, no freakin’.

But phew! We made it NO PROBLEM. Our part in the wedding is easy; if you’re not terrified of speaking in public (which I am). All we have to do is stand up and read scripture marked and highlighted for us. No special wedding clothes or processions.

The little girls have a bigger part being flower girls, but we weren’t entirely sure they WOULD be flower girls, since they tend to be shy.

My brother at ten minutes until four says, “Hey, it takes half an hour to get there and Deedy wants me to make sure everyone is there on time. Wedding starts at 5:00pm. The wedding party needs arrive at 4:30pm. Are ya’ll ready to go?”

Well, no.

I was not dressed. The girls were not dressed. Jason was not dressed. No problem, ten minutes and we would be golden and out the door. And we pretty much were. I was ready. The girls were ready. And all Jason has to do is put on his white dress shirt and tie. It was 4:05pm. We could make it, no sweat. No stressin’. No freakin’.

Except, for the real sweat. Have you been to Houston in June? Ugh.

I am watching Jason put one arm in, then the other. Calculating in my mind how long it will take him to button, fix the tie, get the girls out the door and in-car seats, when he stops short.

“Oh, NO!”

“What?”

“My shirt!”

“What about your shirt?”

“It doesn’t fit.” He gestures down to the obviously gaping shirt. Sweat. Whaaaatttttt?????

“We have to stop and get one on the way.” He is still tugging at each side trying to get it close to being buttoned. It’s not close.

We don’t have a second to spare. My biggest nightmare – missing my sister’s wedding – is coming true.

“Just squeeze, just stuff, suck it in. OHMAGAWD!” The shirt does not fit.

[insert-me throwing hands in air pitching a fit]

I didn’t. But trust me, I felt that way inside. No stressin’. No freakin’.

By some miracle, we get in the car and on the way at 4:20pm. I no longer hope make it by 4:30pm. That dream decimated when he said the shirt didn’t fit. No, NOW, I only hope to make it TO the wedding. You know. Before it actually starts, because it’s only my sister’s WEDDING. But now he is saying we should stop at the MALL. He can run in and out real quick. Yeah, riiiight.

It takes twenty minutes just to FIND a park, then to FIND the shirt, FIND a checker with no line. Ain’t no freakin’ way. No stressin’, no freakin’.

Like a mirage from heaven, a sign appears – The Burlington Coat Factory. I have no idea if they have white dress shirts or not, but in he goes to try. At this point, his black t-shirt over black pants is just fine to read scripture in. Just please God let us get there by five. I have looked at the time every MINUTE since we left. No stressin’. No freakin’.

In a herculean effort, Jason appears at the car door with a new white dress shirt in hand. YES!!! We are driving and taking pins out, while unfolding a very creased wrinkle-free shirt. Heh. I think it was his bright idea to put in ON as he is driving, because -HELLO?- we are LATE. No stressin’, no freakin’

I’m trying to help. In goes the one arm, then I stretch the other side as far across his shoulder as I can in a seat belt. He shoots his arm back behind his shoulder to grab the hole with his hand. In his next deft move, he is pulling the shirt onto his arm when we hear, “Riiiiiiiiiiiiiippppp!”

All motion stops, eyes showing whites at each other confirming in blind panic we both heard the undeniable sound of ripping fabric. OH NO! NO STRESSIN’! NO FREAKIN’! That’s when we BURST out laughing, because really? REALLY.

After convulsing in our seats a good five minutes, we assess the damage. The rip was under the arm pit and not noticeable. Phew! No stressin’. No freakin’.

We make it to the wedding with ten minutes to spare – okay five. Luckily, my sister wasn’t ready. She was totally stressin’ and freakin’. I didn’t want to bring up my mantra to her.

The last wardrobe snafu was at the reception when Jason discovered his shoe wasn’t just sticking to the floor, it was actually flapping in the wind. The sole had completely separated from the shoe. It was like a flip-flop dress shoe gone all kinds of wrong. No stressin’. No freakin’. Hey, it wasn’t my shoe.

All I can say is, at our wedding, I’m packing the duct tape.

Just in case.

I’m not getting married

…again,” she said firmly, eyes flashing. “I mean never. I am not doing this again. Going through all this stuff. The end, after twenty-two years. Mark my words. It’s not worth it.”

The discussion dashed out, dancing angrily in the air, walking with us on the park path. She said it with such conviction. Not a shred of doubt in her voice. I had to look at her face to see the hardness in her eyes and the set of her mouth.

I sighed inside. It’s not what I wanted for her. Me, who divorced twice. Me, who knew the journey she was choosing included a darker path than the one we walked toward the woods. Destination agony. The light as far away as it was now, and just as hard to reach. The bitter battle boiling as she marched towards the front lines – divorce.

The trail became somber and dark. The only sound, a whispering of our foot scraps, a slight huff of our breath. I silently pondered what to say – how to say – I’m sorry…….

Or I’m happy for you…..

No words seem right in these situations. Especially when you are talking with someone you love.

I am responsible for this. Wasn’t she following my lead? Didn’t I make this divorced life seem fun and interesting? Hadn’t I given her all my books on self-help? Was it the novel, Eat, Love, and Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert, infecting her need to find herself? Journey off to Italy to banish the demons, meditate with a guru in India, and be whatever it took, to finally find her happiness. But would she? Would she really? Because it would be mighty easy to just be bitter.

To hate men for the rest of her life. She wanted a lover in her future with no strings attached. HER. Mrs. Goody two-shoes of all time. A so-called life of fling with someone who wouldn’t commit, couldn’t commit, nor love her. Is that what she thought she deserved? To be smacked with inconsideration, and heartlessness. This was her freedom?

She was certain this is what she wanted. “I’m not getting married again – ever” her speech stabbed the air sharply and just as quickly lost its punch.

“It’s too painful.”

Like knocking back a shot of suffering, she went on with a little too much cheer. She explained the joys of a single apartment. The endless trips to IKEA. The privacy. She would live right next to the hospital she worked at. The security guards she knew could keep an eye on her, and tell her which apartments had the lowest crime. She couldn’t WAIT. But still….it was so different. She had always been caretaker, and home keeper. She was brilliant at it. Entertaining, nourishing children, tables over flowing with guests, country crafts being made, and calendars full of nonstop events. To go from Susie Homemaker to the spinster aunt? It just didn’t seem right.

My heart broke for her decision. Not because I didn’t want her to not marry again, but because even though I was fresh from divorce, I didn’t feel hate towards marriage. I knew it could be a glorious thing with people who jointly wanted to work at it. That sought God above all else – without selfishness, without blame, or worthlessness. That chose to sacrifice for a love that fills every hole. But she was tender. A fresh shoot, so fragile and she needed me to listen and to understand her angst.

I felt it was my fault. She admired my strength and felt weak in that towering shadow. But no, it wasn’t me. It was her life. Her choice. All I could do was support her through what she was going through. Be there with her, through every stinging barb, and every cry. Eventually the darkness would fade away. Eventually the pathway would brighten. Eventually the wounds would heal and there, on the other side, we would meet. In the bright light of sweet peace with arms wide open to welcome her new life.

My dear sister….you glow today and I haven’t even seen you yet. I am standing in that ring of light – so happy for you. I knew you would find your way to your true heart path. I knew, you’d be here as hard as it was. Today, you marry your best friend and soul mate. Today, a man opens his heart to you after being scared and widowed for long, long time. Today, you become step mom to young Leighann and beautiful Chelsea; a critically ill special needs child that only someone like you would accept and love as your own. Today, we celebrate the light in you both, that found its way from the gloom of despair and devastation – from loss and divorce – to the wonders of amazing love. Today, we celebrate………………………again!

“Success in marriage is much more than finding the right person; it is a matter of being the right person”

-Anonymous

Congratulations Roger and Deedy. June 12th, 2010. Stay tuned for photographs through the tears. You might even recognize the flower girls.

Timeless Affection

Once upon a time there was a little girl with blond curls, who went to Grandma’s house. Sometimes the trip was a long ride in the car, sometimes a shorter ride in a plane. Either way, along with her brothers and sister, she ended up at Grandma’s. A place filled with love, games, and snow. See, Grandma’s house was in Pueblo, Colorado. Grandma’s house had mountain views.

It was a magical place, smelling of peppermints, and home cooked meals. Decorated with crotchet, lace, and soft cushions. The little girl had her own bedroom that was simple, stylish and right out of her favorite TV show The Brady Bunch. The twin skirted bed featured a foam mattress sheeted, and covered with psychedelic swirls of bright green and yellow. Grandma always turned down the covers for her little body to snuggle beneath, tucked away from the cold Colorado nights.

Grandma’s house had stairs. Oh, the wonderful stairs behind the kitchen, to bounce, and pounce upon. Up and down, again, and again, and again. She never tired of it. They led to a basement of wonder. A delightful place for a curious child, filled with many treasures.

A sewing room featuring pictures of all the family and artwork. Another living room with a sofa sleeper couch for the boys, a TV, and an overflowing bookcase. A bedroom for her sister, and even a bathroom. It had a stand up shower, not a bathtub, which she found very different, but a great place to hide. All the windows peeked out at ground level. How exciting to see feet, and wonder whose they belonged to.

The last room in the basement was the laundry room. The likes of which she had never seen. A concrete floor sloped to a drain. Two wide basin sinks lined the wall, alongside counters. An old fashion contraption sat in the middle of the room with a tub, washboard, and a crank. She loved to crank the clothes through it, even though it was hard, and she needed Grandma’s help.

They would come out stiff, and flat. Then be taken outside to hang on the clothesline to dry. How different from her Mom’s house, where they had square machines that made funny whooshing noises.

At the top of the stairs, she loved to go up, was the backdoor that led to a carpeted covered porch the size of a large room. It was home to a ping-pong table. That’s right. Grandma loved games. Playing ping-pong was a favorite of hers, and everyone else in the neighborhood, but most especially her brothers.

Down the sidewalk to the back of the yard, just past the clothesline, but before the vegetable garden was a little red house with a door. A real playhouse with windows like she had always dreamed of. Chock full of dolls, stuffed animals, and a tiny – just the right size – table for tea, with dishes to match. Oh, the fun she had imagining for hours on end.

My sister at the playhouse in Grandma’s backyard.

Grandma’s arms were always open. Her laughter exceptionally sweet, her cheeks always rosy, and her twinkling blue eyes shined merrily. She loved her grandchildren. She loved that they visited her all the way from Oklahoma every year, nary a snowstorm could stop them. The games they would play together – Yahtzee, Monopoly, and cards. She would take them to Church. She would take them on trips. She would tirelessly take them all on – all four of them.

The many memories of Grandma’s include the thrill of summertime camping, in the mountains at a place called, Gopher Creek. Taking the ride puttering up the mountain in Grandma’s RV. Sleeping in the top bunk, snuggled next to other little bodies, crammed in the cove above the cabin, to keep warm from the chilly windows. Traipsing up the tree filled hills chasing squirrels, touching the icy mountain creek water, and roasting marshmallows by a blazing fire. The wonders never ceased to amaze with every outing.

Soon every Christmas was held on Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.

Four year old Angie, opening gifts with Grandma’s help.

As the little girl grew older, a trip to Grandma’s house included great mountain adventures in the snow. Skiing. The child endured a queasy stomach ride up the mountain to Monarch for the day. A ski resort at the highest elevation. The mountain always had snow this time of year. It was a wonderful Christmas present Grandma, so graciously, gifted. Not just for the fun of skiing, but for the memories created, and retold.

She bundled herself up with gloves, long johns, thick woolly socks, and a big (new) winter coat. She took the gusty ride on the ski lift, dangling her legs wearing big chunky ski boots, and long skis locked on. Gleefully flying down the mountain in the pure white, taking bitter cold tumbles, then breaks in the lodge to warm up.

After a long day on the mountain, they made the trek back. Spent, sore, with a red chapped face, the drive took hours to navigate the curvy mountain roads. As they arrived in Grandma’s driveway, she glimpsed through the car window at the warm glow of the kitchen window. Grandma had a hot meal, a hot chocolate, and a heartwarming welcome waiting for them. It was heaven.

When the young girl turned sixteen, she began ticking on her fingers whose Dad was whose. Her mother was twice divorced, and remarried to her Step Dad. Her Mother’s Mother was Grandma Dorothy who died before she was born. Mom’s first husband fathered her older sister, and brother. Mom’s second husband, her Dad, fathered her, and her brother Lonnie. Her Dad’s mother was Granny in Oklahoma. Her oldest brother Jay, and her older sister Deedy’s Dad was Davey, and he lived in Colorado. His Mother was Grandma Owens – who lived here. Her Grandma.

But wait a second…..after all those years, she realized – the bloodline did not cross. Her Grandma was not her Grandma by blood. She was not even related to her. How could this be?

She asked her mother when she got home, and her mother told her this story.

“When I was married to your Dad, and your brother was little, he did not understand. He heard his brother and sister calling her Grandma. He wanted to know who she was to him. He went to her with his big brown eyes and looked up at her. He said, ‘You my Ganmaw too? You my Ganmaw too?’ Grandma looked down at that little boy all of eighteen months old and her heart melted. She picked him up in her arms and said, ‘Yes, I your Ganmaw too.’ That is how she came to be your Grandmother, not by birth, but by love.”

Dear Grandma Owens,
You were the Grandma I was raised to love, and know. You cherished me like your own. You never withheld your affections, or your gift of them. The door to your heart opened wide for me and my brother. You welcomed us into your family, into it’s safety, and warmth. What a blessing you were to our young lives. You knew how much we loved our brother and sister, and you wanted to keep us all together on summer trips, and holidays. So you did. You took a sledgehammer to the ex-in-law boundaries, and what love is “supposed” to be. You bulldozed those walls. You loved us. And Grandma, we loved you too. Thank you for the gift of your affection. It is timeless to me. Timeless to us all. Our definition of family is different because of you. I promise, I will pass this gift on to every child I meet.
Love,
Your granddaughter

Grandma went to heaven, December 1st, 2008. Three days before her 91st birthday. She would have been 92 today. Happy Birthday, my sweet Grandma.

You are dearly missed, and dearly remembered.