Inspired

A few months ago, I had a friend ask me what inspired me. She was referring specifically to my writing, and I had no answer for her. Her question really got me thinking, and since that day I’ve started to realize a few things. When I’m in certain places, I get a sudden urge to write a mile a minute. Stories and dialog start forming in my head, and my heart feels like it grows about 4x. My poor husband has to endure all of this and listen to me ooh and ahh and flutter my hands at every. little. thing.
Poor, poor man.
I feed him well though. At least, I try to. Let’s not talk about the homemade hamburger buns I made tonight that turned out to be brick biscuits. Let’s not talk about those.

Let’s talk about what we were talking about before.
The certain places that make me turn into an inspired spazz. Those places? Antique stores. Used book stores. Old hotels. Old buildings. Abandoned buildings. Museums. Old movies.
In short: the past.

As I climbed onto the old train to ride The Polar Express last night, I gawked at the old metals, the old railings, the old green upholstery. I told my husband in all seriousness that I wanted to be left alone with the train. He giggled like a school girl. I told him I didn’t mean it like THAT.
He didn’t care.

Really, if there hadn’t been a Singing Nazi “Chef” and an intercom and a HUGE crowd… if there had only been me and an old train and my handy dandy laptop, I would have gathered enough inspiration to father a short story. Do you think antique shop owners will judge me if I hunker down in their shops with my personal computer?
“Can we help you, miss?”
“Oh, yes… since you ask,” I’d say, “Do you know what the economy was like in the 40’s? I mean… roughly?”
They’d throw me out on my yoga pants.

I’m enamored with the past. I’m obsessed with keeping it, preserving it, enjoying it, teaching it, learning from it, making it, making it up, writing about it… Really, my heart flutters at the thought of it.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the past doesn’t just inspire my writing, it inspires nearly every creative facet of my life. My house isn’t decorated much at all. I know I should be working harder on this, but I have a hang up.
Lack of money aside, I have a hang up.
I want my home decor to remind me of the past. In my kitchen, I have a small spattering of vintage potholders. One was lovingly crocheted by Aunt Minnie who has since passed away. I attempted to imitate it and plastered everything I came up with on the wall, and I love it! Something deep inside tells me I decorate like a 97 year old woman, but something deeper inside me tells me to GO with it. Right under the pot holders on top of my cupboards I have a wooden milk crate. My grandpa (Organ Grandpa) used to run a local dairy. It was THE REAL ITEM… they delivered milk in bottles to doorsteps and everything! I keep a milk crate and a few of the bottles on display in my kitchen. Every time I look at them, it puts a bounce in my step.
My great-grandmother’s unused copper kettle hangs in my kitchen.

I’m slowly accumulating these things, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m a pushover for the past.
And as of last night -thanks be to Dad for the tickets -I finally pinpointed what inspires me. Bring on the antique malls! The history books! The journals! The faded pictures! Flood my floor and let me roll about in them like a dog!

Okay, I don’t mean that.
I mean, even if I DID I wouldn’t come out and SAY it. Not out LOUD like that…

I Believe

Do you ever have the feeling you’re not alone, even when you are?

I had that feeling a lot when I was a teenager. When I took Developmental Psych in college, I found out that was a normal part of being a teenager: feeling like someone is always watching you. Thankfully, I grew out of that.

I guess what I’m talking about is something more. When my first child was a newborn, we were left alone most nights because of my husband’s work schedule. She wasn’t the easiest newborn, and I had a difficult time managing a new lifestyle AND a colicky baby. She didn’t want to sleep in her bed, and I couldn’t sleep in my bed with out my husband, so I would air up our air mattress and camp out in the living room with my baby in my arms. One night, I was too tired to air up the mattress, and we feel asleep in front of the TV on the floor.

I’m a great floor sleeper, and the older my daughter gets the more I realize she’s pretty awesome at it too.

Anyway, as I drifted in and out of sleep I found myself near-tears. I was SO tired. I was SO tired and I didn’t want to sleep because I wasn’t putting my baby to bed the RIGHT way (according to all of the experts). I tried forcing myself to stay awake to check on her, but I’d spent the day holding a screaming baby. I hadn’t gotten any good food or any good rest and I couldn’t think straight. My NEWBORN baby girl was lying, tightly swaddled, on a blanket on the floor next to me. What kind of a mother leaves a NEWBORN on the floor? Well, I did. I wasn’t more than a foot away, but mothering guilt is enough to do anyone in.

Then -right then -I had one of those “I can’t do this anymore” moments. The guilt, the screaming, the lack of food, the lack of sleep… it was all mounting and sending me into an infinite fit of irrationality.
What I mean is: OF COURSE I could handle it. OF COURSE I could do it. Looking back, I can see that now. But right in that moment, it felt like my little world was just caving in on me. And that’s when I felt it.
Right then, I felt the presence of something. I felt instant relief over not being totally alone, and I drifted off to sleep somehow feeling that everything would be all right.

And it was.
And it is.

That little newborn is three now, and she STILL sleeps on the floor. In fact, if I move her to her bed she will usually find her way to the floor. More often than not, I’ve fallen asleep there anyway. It’s hard for moms not to crash at the end of the day.

Actually, last night I crashed on the couch. We sat down as a family to watch “Two Mules for Sister Sarah” (a movie I recommend to the masses, so long as they don’t mind some swearing). My husband fell asleep. I started to fall asleep. My daughter fell asleep. My son fell asleep. I pulled myself off the couch and put the kids in PJs and into their beds. I turned off lights and ate a few things I shouldn’t have. I thought about crawling into bed next to my husband, but our bed creaks loudly when someone crawls into it. He was tired (only a few days into the week, and he had already worked 40 hours), and I really didn’t want to wake him up.
So I pushed my crocheting I had been working on off the couch and I crumbled into the thick blankets we had been snuggling in.

Just before I closed my eyes, I could tell I wasn’t alone.

I only mention all of this because I’d like to think I’m not the only one -and I’d also like to think I’m not the only one who isn’t royally creeped out over it. I guess it’s because there’s something comforting about the presences I feel. I don’t feel like “someone’s WATCHING ME” so much as I feel like “someone’s watching OVER me.” And I’m really okay with that, because I need help! I know there’s got to be a swarm of folks helping our family out. All of the falls that should have been… the head-bonks that should have been… that one time my husband should have hit the deer that ran in front of him on the road… someone had to have stepped in and helped out.

I’ve always believed that we’re not alone.
I just wish I knew who to personally thank when I get up there.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Simplicity and Small Towns

Do you ever have days where you’re overcome with gratitude? I do. I had one yesterday, and although Thanksgiving is less than a week away, that had nothing to do with it. Sometimes I just get all fired-up with how grateful and blessed I really am.

It started with dinner. I had a long day and didn’t want to cook -as we sat at the local pizza store and waited for our order, I was SO GRATEFUL that my dinner was being made for me. I looked around the pizza shop and watched people from town file in and out. I looked at the mural paintings on the wall, painted by a former local that has since passed away. I watched a member of the recently-crowned-state-champs football team take and make orders. He was helped by an athletic high school girl and a soon-to-be sister missionary. But it wasn’t enough. Apparently, nobody in town wanted to cook last night, and our poor little pizza shop was flooded with orders. The owners called in help from down the street: a mother of a large family. They paid her in gourmet ice cream. I watched as her children and husband sat in the dining area, eating ice cream and watching movies.
The owners of the store were smart enough to build a party room onto the store. It seats a pretty good crowd, and there’s always ALWAYS a kid friendly movie projected onto the far wall.

We were able to visit with everyone who came in, and then we took our order home.
Earlier that evening, we’d gone to the local gas station/movie rental/hamburger joint. I’d wanted to rent a movie, and while I was there the High School woodshop teacher/junior high wrestling coach walked in. I heard him ask the woman working the front desk if they had the movie “Frequency.” She said they didn’t. I said, “I have it!” And so, after we had our pizza and rented movie in hand, I scooped up my copy of “Frequency” and took it to his family.

He answered the door, and his daughter, who’s about three, popped in front of him.
“I have a little brother,” she said. (He was recently born.)
“You do?” I asked, pretending to be surprised.
“Yeah,” she nodded. She was wearing Tinkerbell pajamas that were disguised as a fairy dress.
“Are you Tinkerbell or Hailey?” I asked.
“Tinkerbell,” she sighed. “Do YOU have Tinkerbell ‘jamas?”
I had to admit that I didn’t. I tried to make up for it by telling her that my daughter does.
That satisfied her.

As I drove away, I was even more grateful for small towns. I’m grateful that I know Hailey’s name. I’m grateful that our small town pizza store can call the family a few houses over and have the mom come into work for a few minutes. I’m grateful for small businesses and small towns and the strong sense of community both of them have.

I’m grateful that we’re going into the city today and making a day of it. I love getting caught up in the hustle of the streets and stores, but only for a day.

After that, I’d liked to be plunked back down in my simple stop-light-less town that requires me to return the movie I rented yesterday or they’ll personally call and remind me about their late-fee policy.

As I was going through the motions of getting my website switched over, the man on the tech-help line asked me where I was from. When I told him, he said he’d lived in our state his entire life and had never heard of the town. I was more than happy to tell him where it was, how big it was, how many kids were enrolled in school, and how great it was to live cut-off from busy living. He then asked me how many sites I needed.
“Five?” I asked, “Or maybe six. Hold on…” I started listing them out loud, “There’s the cooking one, and the crafts one, and the home preschool one…”
He stopped me, “You do all that yourself?”
And I laughed, “Yeah, I guess that’s all you can do when you live so far out here.”

I thought about pointing out to him that my sites aren’t polished or fancy or amazing. I’m not a great cook or an amazing crafter. My sites won’t gain a large following. And I’m completely fine with that -I blog for my kids. Someday I’m going to be able to make a book from these blogs, and it will be filled with all of my favorite recipes. The kids will have that book for as long as they live and after I’m worm food.

I really thought about telling him that. But he seemed to think I really DID do it all and do it all well, and I sort of liked the idea being THAT woman.

Yes, Robert -my tech-help buddy -I clean and craft and cook and teach preschool everyday all day AND my house is spotless AND I have makeup on all the time. My clothes match. My visiting teaching is done. My family history is complete, and my children never step out of line… not because they’re naturally good, either. It’s because I’ve TAUGHT them so very well, thanks to my daily rigorous scripture reading that I engage in directly after my intense morning work out. My body, by the way? Looks amazing. No stretch marks. No mom gut. No acne. Hair-free legs. You should stop by sometime. My house and hair are the very mark of perfection.

Ha.
Now I need to excuse myself to take a shower, shave for the first time in 4 days (I heart cold weather), and look in the mirror for the first time today.
Today is going to be prodigious. I can already tell.