Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jenna's birthday

Our Jen-Jen is four today. Here's something I wrote about her on her birthday last year:

"Blue eyes, my baby's got blue eyes. Like a deep blue sea on a blue, blue day." -- from "Blue Eyes" by Elton John

Jenna was born three years ago tomorrow. Eight-and-a-half pounds. A golden sheen to her head that promised blond hair. Blue eyes.

At least I tell people they're blue. There really isn't a word to describe the color of her eyes.

But I'll try.

I learned to scuba dive in 1993. And I learned something about it right off: scuba diving is a big hassle. So much heavy, awkward equipment is required for breathing underwater. The tank by itself weighs 80 pounds. Then there's the weight belt, which must be adjusted just right so you won't float to the surface or be stuck on the ocean floor. Then you have the BCD, the fins, snorkel, mask and wetsuit -- if the water you're diving in is going to be cold.

But once below the surface, the oppressive gear becomes your key to the underwater world. You swim around weightless, holding out fingers as curious fish swim up to them. Your teeth clench around the regulator that, on land moments before, was uncomfortable in your mouth. Now it's the only way to get air into your lungs. The sound of your constant inhaling and exhaling is a reminder that you're doing something humans weren't made to do. You are living, thriving, underwater. The hassle, for the moment, is forgotten.

It took us a long time to get Jenna into this world. I got pregnant, then miscarried. Pregnant again, then blood one morning. Pregnant a third time, but then more blood. We started thinking adoption. Then I got pregnant again, and this one held. I got very sick, was placed on home healthcare, and then developed gestational diabetes. Then, one Thursday morning, the previous year-and-a-half faded as I finally looked into her eyes.

And I remembered the circle of light.

Thirty feet under the ocean's surface, it's easy to become disoriented -- to the point that you can lose track of which way you're supposed to go to reach air. As a scuba diver, you learn to look for light. Light means surface. When you find the sunlight piercing the blue mass in which you are submerged, you slowly swim toward it, exhaling all the way. Surrounded by varying shades of watery blue, the circle of light expands and seems to pull you toward itself. You keep swimming up, up, up -- until you think your lungs can't expel any more air. But the bubbles keep coming from your mouth, and you keep moving toward the light.

Then you reach it and you burst through it into air, light, life.

That's what color Jenna's eyes are.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

And now for something completely different.

Thank you for all you comments and prayers about Kathleen and her family. This has been a rough week, but I’m determined to take a break from blogging about sad things. Besides, Kathleen always told me I was funny, and I think a nice way to honor her memory would be to not stop being funny. Or at least blogging about things I think are funny.

So. Last night we were flipping channels and came across an old episode of “The Incredible Hulk.” Back in my day, and Chad’s too, there was no cooler place to be on a Friday night than in front of your TV watching “The Incredible Hulk.” I wanted to watch it for a while to show Julia how wicked cool that show was. Of course now it looks all lame and outdated, but still.

In this particular episode, David Banner is knocked out and thrown on top of a car that is just about to go into a car wash. I know, it happens all the time. So he turns into the Hulk in the middle of hoses spraying everywhere. The car comes out the end of the car wash with the Hulk having ripped the engine out, which he is holding high over his head. Such a great Hulk moment. (Julia, however, was inexplicably BORED.)

The Hulk wreaks havoc at the car wash for a while before taking off running across the parking lot. Two characters of African descent, complete with huge ’70s fros, watch him run away. One of them says, “Now that’s what I call a colored man.”

They just don’t make TV shows as politically incorrect as they used to.

Some Hulk trivia: Did you know Bill Bixby went on to direct the TV sitcom “Blossom” before he died in 1993? It’s true.

News from Jenna’s world: Her name for Lowe’s is “The Blue Home Depot.” That’s basically what it is, right?

Every once in a while, for a story I’m working on, I get to do something really cool. Last Thursday was one of those days. I’m writing for a new magazine called Arkansas Life. It’s so new that the very first issue is coming out any day now. For the October issue, I wrote a feature about the historic Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs. It was open for 124 years before it closed in 2006. I didn’t want to write the story without getting a look at the inside of the building, so the hotel’s current owners arranged for me, along with an officer from the Garland County Historical Society, to have our own tour. So, with a security guard who also used to work at the hotel and knows tons about the building, we got to walk all around this gorgeous old hotel. The oldest part of the building was built in 1902 (the original building, built in the 1870s, was razed to make room for this one) and the wooden staircases, the hand-carved ceilings and chandeliers that have survived from that time are unbelievable. It was like going back in time. (The 1902 part of the building is on the far right in the photo. The rest of the building was added later.)

The upstairs hallways were a bit creepy, though. The guy from the historical society mentioned something about “The Shining” once we got up there, and I wished he hadn’t. My imagination is active enough without anyone’s help. And the security guard, a really cool guy named Jackie, chose to tell us the building’s ghost stories while we were up there – including one encounter he experienced himself. The other guy and I were just a tad spooked out, to say the least.

But ghosts or not, it’s a beautiful old building and I felt so honored to get to have my own private tour. My article is about the hotel’s history and what’s going to happen to it now that it’s been sold. (I left out the ghost stories. I don’t want the current owners – or their lawyers – getting mad at me.) Anyway, this issue of Arkansas Life will be on newsstands (well, in Arkansas anyway) in October!

I also want to let you guys know about my friend Kama, who started blogging recently. Go check out her blog!

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mrs. Kafween

My church family has lost a precious soul. Kathleen (or, as Jenna called her, "Mrs. Kafween") died yesterday.

I'm not up to saying much about this yet, but I do want to share one of my favorite memories of Kathleen. One day after church, Jenna was running around with her magic wand and pretending to turn people into different things. Most of them were saying, "Oh, that's cute, Jenna," and going on with their conversations. But when Jenna ran up to Kathleen, waved her wand and informed Kathleen she had just turned her into a frog, Kathleen stopped what she was doing, squatted down and hopped away while saying "Ribbet, ribbet..." Jenna thought it was the greatest thing ever - she thought her wand actually worked. That's the kind of person Kathleen was...the kind who would act like a goofball just to make a 3-year-old's day. No wonder Jenna loved Kathleen and ran up to hug her every time she saw her.

Jenna doesn't know Kathleen is gone. I don't know how to explain suicide to a 3-year-old. Our church, and especially Kathleen's husband and two children, need all the prayers we can get.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008


I haven't been able to post much because I've been drowning in deadlines. Hopefully this stretch will be over early next week.

We've also been busy being sad. Our cat Spanky is no longer with us.

Our history with Spanky started almost 14 years ago. We had been married a year, and I was surprised at how much I wanted to have a baby. We needed to wait several years for Chad to finish grad school and become gainfully employed. But friends all around us were getting pregnant and I was getting depressed. I needed something I could take out my maternal instincts on. We were living in Abilene and one day as I drove from our house to ACU, I saw a sign advertising free kittens. I stopped. They had one left. A white-and-orange, half-grown male. The family there had been calling him "Goober." He didn't like being put into my car, but I managed to get him home. We named him Spanky (after being inspired by a commercial for "The Little Rascals" movie) and he became our first baby.

We moved Spanky all over the place. From Abilene to College Station, then Bryan, then back to Abilene, then Baytown for six years before making the long ride in the moving truck with Chad to Arkansas two years ago. During those years, he cuddled with us, annoyed us, jumped in our laps, and waited patiently for us to finish eating our cereal so he could lap the milk out of the bottom of the bowl. He went through a phase in College Station and Bryan where he brought us stuff. All the time. Old socks and T-shirts. Huge, filthy towels that he struggled all the way up the street to carry in his mouth. He brought a Coca-Cola T-shirt that I washed and ended up wearing for several years. He even brought us a matching set of dish towels.

I finally did get pregnant in 1998, and I spent much of the pregnancy sick and either in bed or on the couch. Spanky would curl up next to my tummy and curiously paw at it when Julia would move around. He was sweet and patient with both kids -- especially Jenna, when she would yell in his face for no reason.

I always thought that when Spanky died, we would bury him in the backyard and have a little memorial that would help the girls have some closure. But it didn't happen that way. Last Wednesday night, I had a dream that we had another cat--a gray tabby--that disappeared. The next morning, Chad saw Spanky for the last time as he headed out to work. Spanky spends a lot of time outside when it's warm, so we didn't think much about him missing for a day or so. But as the week stretched into the weekend and the temperatures soared above 104, we started to worry. I put out signs, and called the Humane Society and animal control. No sign of him. In all of his 14 years, he never ran away. We think he went away somewhere to die alone.

Worst of all, we had to tell Julia when she came home from camp on Friday. She knew he had been missing and had been hoping and praying all week that he had come home. But we had to tell her he hadn't and that he probably never would. She cried on the way home and then she seemed calmed down enough to go to bed. Then she said her bedtime prayer.

When Julia was old enough to talk, she began saying this prayer every night: "Thank you for Mom, Dad, Spanky and everything I have." When Jenna was born, Julia added her to the list. She's been saying this prayer every night for most of her life. So Friday night, she launched into "Thank you for Mom, Dad, Jenna, Spa..." And that did it again. She cried and said how much she missed him - this cat who tried playing with her through my tummy before she was even born. This cat who gingerly sniffed her head the day we brought her home from the hospital. This cat who left his white hair all over her bedroom that I tearfully transferred to a Zip-Loc when we figured he wasn't coming home. His litter box is still in the garage. His food is still in the laundry room. The flower bed still has a bare spot where he used to stretch out beneath Julia's window.

So anyway, that's why I haven't posted lately.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Veggie Love

Conversation with Jenna while putting her to bed tonight (Keep in mind that Jenna's grammar hasn't completely come in yet):

Me: I love you. God loves you. Jesus loves you. Everybody loves you.

Jenna: What about Jonah?

Me: Who?

Jenna: Jonah from Veggie Tales. Do that big broccoli love me?

Me: (cracking up)

Jenna: What? Why are you laughing at me?

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