Where It All Began

October 31, 2007

My niece Lydia and nephew Ezra, ages two years and eight months respectively, spent the night at our house last night so my brother and sister-in-law could get some work done. Yesterday evening I decided to create a very special memory with Lydia by bringing out my two Rubbermaid bins of Barbie dolls from storage. I found the bin with all the furniture in it first, but I couldn’t find the bin with the dolls and clothing. I looked, and looked, but I decided that I would have to tear the whole storage room apart before I would find them, so I just brought out the furniture, thinking that Lydia could play with her little baby doll with the furniture — after all, she’s only two and wouldn’t know the difference.

Yeah right.

As soon as she saw the furniture, her first question was, “Barbies?” So, like a good aunt, I went back downstairs, got Mom to find a flashlight, and soon found the Barbie bin behind a stack of other boxes and under a various assortment of drawer pulls, old business tax forms and projector bulbs. There, in my ninth-grade hand-writing, the box read, “Ann’s Barbies.” And let me tell you, the adulation on Lydia’s face at the sight of all those Barbies smashed into a bin was enough to make me go buy back all the My Little Ponies I sold at a garage sale ten years ago.

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My brother A first brought up the idea of bringing out the Barbie dolls, and I half-jokingly said, “But Barbies are Ages 3 and Up.” Mom said, “You got your first Barbie doll right when you turned three.” I remember opening that Barbie doll at Aunt Linda’s kitchen counter in Brea, California. “Yes,” I told Mom last night. “Mrs. Leg-Fall-Off.” Brother A started laughing — it’s amazing how quickly the details of your childhood come back when you open a box full of objects that used to be part of your daily life. We dubbed my first Barbie doll Mrs. Leg-Fall-Off because her leg started falling off all the time, and then she became the Evil Teacher or Home-Wrecker in much of our play.

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As Lydia and I were hunting through the box, I found my Little Mermaid dolls. I had two Ariel dolls and one Eric doll from my favorite childhood movie, The Little Mermaid. One of the Ariel dolls was dressed as a human, and the other was dressed as a mermaid. I held up the mermaid doll and asked, “Lydia, what’s this?”

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When she didn’t say anything and just looked at the doll, I pushed a little further. “Is it a mermaid?”

“Naked,” she said.

It’s amazing how much of my childhood has been flooding back not just through being home, but also through reliving parts of it through a two-year-old’s eyes.

And not to leave the little boy out… he got to chew on Bambi and Thumper’s legs all evening. Our entire set of four Bambi McDonalds Happy Meal toys (from back when Happy Meal toys were actually quality) was in the box of Barbie stuff as well.

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He just gets cuter and cuter each time I see him. Mwah.

The last few weeks have been quite frenzied for me, so it’s nice to have a little break. I did take a few photographs of some of it, and for the sake of memories, I will share them here. Also, I must note that it is lovely to be back in Minnesota for a while. I always forget what a charming place it is until I return… especially in the fall, leading up to Halloween and Thanksgiving. There are Scarecrow Festivals and apple and pumpkin stands along the highway. People start bundling up in their coats and hats and scarves. The culture here is so different from the South and so different from the West Coast. It is good to be back to where my roots are for a time. It reminds me of who I’ve always been.

Here is S trying on her wedding dress when we picked it up on Thursday:

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Both her parents, her friend M, and I wanted to come along, but we only took one car. It was quite the experience getting that lovely dress home without wrinkling it. Here was our solution:

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At one point, S and one of her other bridesmaids and I discussed what it must’ve been like for women prior to the 1920’s, wearing petticoats and corsets and all types of fiddle-faddle that must’ve made life very complicated. One day out of your life is enough for petticoats, says I.

Last night, after sleeping late and recovering a little from the big weekend, I went over to my friend MS’s house to meet up with two great friends: MS and MW. These guys are my friends from high school, and thankfully, they just so happened to be around in Minnesota during the same time I am here. For those of you who don’t know, I tried coming home and living at home for a while the summer after I graduated college, but it didn’t work out too well for lack of people my age. This time, my brother and his family are around, and the extra-great bonus is that I get to reconnect with two of my dearest friends from high school, MW and MS:

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Dese r mah boyz. They’re great. We had a lovely time laughing together last night and just talking about all the stuff that’s gone on for the past few months. MW, the blonde, is working on his master’s degree at a seminary in Kentucky. MS, the thug, is currently working and trying to figure out what the next life step will be. I am making it my goal in the next few months to convince him to move to California. I love these boys because we can talk about a variety of topics in the course of one evening. We don’t need movies or video games or music to distract us. We just like to sit and talk. I wish I would have written down some of the funniest lines from last night. Both of these boys are quite smart and very witty. I told MW that he is probably my funniest friend — that I laugh the most when I’m around him because I just can’t help it. One line I do remember from last night:

MW and I are talking about conflict and whether or not it’s healthy.

Ann: My family never fights. We only have logical discussions. I think it might be good for us to fight once in a while.

MW: Oh, yes. We’ve had this discussion before….about how much we all want to fight with your family.

Good, good times with good, good people. Both L and D commented last night when I spoke with each of them on the phone about how happy I sounded.

I am happy.

The Cat’s Meow

October 29, 2007

Today when I was in St. Paul spending some post-wedding time with family, I was in the back seat of my aunt and uncle’s rental car, next to my grandma, when D sent me the following text message:

“I desperately need to hear you do your impression of Francis the Kitten.”

Now, this information arose as a little bit shocking to me. D and Francis the Kitten haven’t always had a smooth relationship. As much as I wanted D to like Francis when she was still Francis Clipperton and not Francis Clipperton-Anderson, as she is now that she has been adopted into her new home, they didn’t have much of a chance to know one another like I know each of them. In the time that I had Francis, D was able to come to Arkansas only twice. And when I went to California in May, Francis did not accompany me. However, I did catch D sitting on my bed one evening sparring with Francis. Then I assume he felt the need to say something macho, so he said something ridiculous about how every professional boxer should own a cat because they are good to practice with. You know, for reflexes. After that, D seemed to be particularly adverse to Francis, as if to prove a point. He made jokes about rotissiere-ing kittens and juggling kittens and all sorts of mean and things that made me want to write him nasty notes and paper mache his car.

Our conversations consisted of me saying in my best lonely little matchbook girl voice, “But D, I want you to like Francis.”

So, I started meowing at him as if I was Francis begging for his affection. “Meow? Meow?” I would ask. “Mewmeowmeowooo,” I said. I meowed because it was so very irritating, and sometimes it is the most fun thing ever to irritate the people to whom you are closest.

And D did not like it. No, sir. He did not.

So when I got the above text message this afternoon, I was reasonably perplexed. I know that I have been extremely busy for the past three weeks with moving and preparing for S’s wedding, but I didn’t think he missed me that much.

Right there, while I was in the car with my grandma, aunt, and uncle, I called D back to find out what in the wonderland was going on. And our conversation went a little something like this:

Ann: I got your text message. Why do you want me to do my impression? I thought you hated that.

D: John and I were talking last night, and he asked me what you would be if you were an animal. He mentioned a lemur.

Ann: A lemur? Why would he mention a lemur? Am I like a lemur?

D: No. I think it was just an example. But I did tell him that we saw a lemur last summer. It was my first time to see a lemur.

Ann: Did you think I would be a cat?

D: I told him that the only animal I could imagine you as is a cat because you had a cat named Francis that you talked about a lot. I told him that you used to do this impression of Francis that was really, really irritating, and you did it all the time just to annoy me, but then you stopped, and I kind of started to like it, and now I miss it.

Ann: So you want me to do it?

D: Yes.

Ann: I can’t right now.

D: What? But I need it. Why?

Ann: Because I’m in a car with my aunt, uncle, and grandma.

D: So? You can’t do it in front of them?

Ann: I can’t. You used to find it irritating, and I refuse to put them through that. I’ll call you later.

This evening, after D got his Francis-fix, he said that he has missed the Francis impression. That it has grown on him to the point where he finds it adorable. But, paradoxically, he still finds it absolutely irritating.

And that, my friends, proves that D is right. If I were an animal, I would be a cat.

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Loves Fashion, Loves to Sew

October 24, 2007

Here is the object that has been occupying the majority of my time for the past few days:

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This is my 1960’s New Home sewing machine, which I bought at the Arkansas Coalition for the Blind Thrift Store last spring. It was on sale for $15 and after a little tune-up, works like a dream. I am using it to create this:

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This is the dress I am wearing this weekend for my cousin S’s wedding. I am not sure how it compares to the rest of the bridesmaids’ dresses because other people are making all of those, but I followed the pattern as closely as possible. Either way, I think it’s lovely, and I will definitely wear this dress after S’s wedding.

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The fabric is silk. I’ve never worked with such lovely fabric or with such an intricate pattern. Usually I stick to straight lines, but this one was kind of fun, though frustrating at times. I tend to get ahead of myself when I’m working with patterns. Then I make mistakes. If I were sewing anything else, I probably would have just incorporated the mistakes into the dress and made them work, but since this one has to be uniform, I had a lot of seam ripping going on. Now that I am almost finished, I am getting really excited about how it turned out. It’s cocktail length too — props to S for doing something different, inexpensive, and absolutely LOVELY for her bridesmaids. This is going to be the favorite of any bridesmaid dress I’ve ever worn. That might also be because I’ve put so much work into it. But there definitely is a sense of accomplishment in making your own clothes, and I’m getting excited about having some time to sew after the wedding and before I start work. Hoorah for vacations!

The New Kid On the Block

October 22, 2007

It seems as though the most boring posts I write come when I should have something to say. I just finished one of the most topsy-turvy weeks of my life, after which one would assume that I would have many things to share. But no. I’d rather write about playing online Scrabble with strangers or how each little pocket of juice within an orange is a perfect, small jewel of a droplet encased in a sack not unlike a cocoon. Or how Mom and Dad have a refrigerator full of Good Things like cookie dough and a whole gallon of unexpired milk or how odd it is that Mom has begun putting all the cooking spices in the freezer. When I was a child, I’m pretty sure the cooking spices on the spice rack had been around since my parents got married in 1972 and had never been frozen.

But since many have asked, I guess I will speak of the drive out of Arkansas, across Missouri, up through Iowa, and to my destination in South-Central Minnesota, land of the free clothing and food tax and home of the brave. But first I must play my next move in Scrabble. Hang on.

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The drive went well even though I had barely enough room for me in the car and even though, as stated in my previous post, I had to bungee the trunk down. It wouldn’t stay closed because of the Great Rear-Ending Fiasco of 2007, and I am in no way referring to a moon. Thankfully it didn’t rain, but given the circumstances of the past several days, I was convinced that throughout the entire 600-mile drive that something was going to go wrong. After I got past Kansas City, I comforted myself with the truth that I was finally close enough to home that Dad could come careening down Interstate 35 with the truck should anything happen. I stopped at Super Target in Des Moines to get out of the car and stretch. While inside, I kept thinking, I have to hurry. Someone is totally going to steal my car, and all my stuff is in it. I’m going to walk out into that parking lot, and it will be gone. My computer, my clothing, my lovely shoes and one-of-a-kind purses… they will all be GONE. And then when I was finished in Target and walked to my car, I got the profile view of it. Because of the Great Rear-Ending Fiasco of 2007, Cordelia’s back end is now tipped downward like a hook-nose… probably not a prime candidate for theft.

I arrived home late Friday night, went to bed shortly after, then awoke and headed up to Minneapolis for my cousin S’s bachelorette party. I was able to stop at my brother and sister-in-law’s home on the way to visit my niece and nephew. Oh, and did I mention that I drove my new car? Even before the Great Rear-Ending Fiasco of 2007, I had been planning on purchasing a new car, and my dad (the mechanic) just happened to have a great little car in my price range. It’s a 2000 Mercury Sable in the shade of a burgundy/maroon, and it’s cute and practical and perfect for me. PLUS it has great features. My favorite is that you can push a button and the windows go up. I may have some problems with my new wheels though because I will no longer be able to forcibly enter my car using a wire coat hanger.

And by the way, just to spite me, Cordelia again deposited a rainstorm of foam in my lap when I moved the visor on the drive. Who can blame her? No woman likes to be replaced by a newer model. Incidentally, my new car has more miles on her than Cordelia does. Though Cordelia is older, this new model has been around the block a few more times. Kids these days lose their innocence so much earlier than how it was back in the ’80s.

Back-Bender

October 18, 2007

When this week began, I was without car. Cordelia, my 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme had an angry starter problem that made all my neighbors in the 50-and-older apartment complex where I live emerge from their respective homes to tell me that my car “sounded bad.” The starter problem began on a Saturday evening. I got my car back on a Tuesday afternoon. I am moving to Minnesota tomorrow.

The car fiasco presented a large dent in my plans. I got behind on packing and running errands because I had no automobile to take me places. Thankfully I live close enough to work to walk, and I had some wonderful co-workers who helped me out on rainy days. I kept calling the auto repair place because I was nervous. What if my car had gone completely car-put? How would I get home? My last day of work was today, and I have to be out of my apartment by tomorrow at 5 p.m. At that point I still didn’t know where Francis was going to live. And as the minutes ticked by that my car was in the shop, all I could see were dollar signs. I grew up in an auto repair shop. I know that problems under that hood can cost muchos francs.

The cost of restoring Cordelia’s health wasn’t as good as it could have been or as bad as it might have been. My exact words to the mechanic were, “Can you fix it so that I can drive this car just six hundred more miles?” I just need to get to Minnesota. Then I’m going to buy another car from my dad, the mechanic.

I got my car back on Tuesday afternoon and immediately started rejoicing. Then shortly after that my friend AA called to tell me that her parents wanted to adopt Francis. Francis is currently on her way to Omaha, Nebraska in the back of AA’s car. It was a hard good-bye… one of the hardest ever… but that feeling is overcome by my gratefulness that when I told my mom a few weeks ago that God was going to bring the right person to adopt Francis, he brought a few someones who were better than even I had hoped. Francis is going to a house where she will get to spend hours getting lost under beds and furniture and hiding in cupboards and closets. She will stay beautiful while she’s young, and she will grow fat when she’s old — fat on love and ham. She will have a good life. I am honored that could be her first mommy. And I will also probably get to go see her over Thanksgiving.

I also said good-bye to my co-workers today, which was bitter-sweet. I am going to miss the people considerably. And I guess I will miss the job too, but I’m ready to move on to something a little more challenging. It is nice to know that I will not have to go to work for a while. And that I get to use my vacation time next week. And that I get to spend time in the next few months baby-sitting my niece and nephew and spending time with my dog and my parents and just re-discovering the things I enjoy. In mid-November, I’m going to start working at a seasonal fruit packing company that a friend of my parents’ owns. It is an excellent job, and since it’s only seasonal, there isn’t any problem with me leaving in just a few months. Plus the pay is great, and I get to keep all the damaged fruit my grubby little hands can carry.

Another tremendous blessing is that someone, just out of the blue, decided to give me a check to cover the expense of fixing my car this past week. It left me crying and speechless. Just that day, she had told me that God would provide, all the time knowing just how He would do it.

Oh yeah, and another little something happened today. Directly after my good-byes to my co-workers, I left to take Francis to AA’s house so AA’s could take Francis to Omaha.  And a lady rear-ended me as I was turning into AA’s apartment complex. I was slowing down to make a right turn into the complex, when I heard tires screeching. I thought, Why are my tires screeching? I’m not going that fast. and then I heard a big crash and felt my body be jolted forward. In my confusion, I thought, Oh no, I hit someone! and then I realized that there was no one in front of me to hit. So I looked back, and sure enough, the car behind me had hit me.

Did I mention that I’m driving 600 miles to Minnesota tomorrow in a car that I just spent nearly a week’s pay fixing? Just checking.

The lady in the other car was sobbing. My neck and shoulders had undergone some trauma, but I was fine. My car is like a tank. I got out of the car and went over to her. I was afraid she was hurt from the way she was crying, but when I got over there and asked if she was all right, she said, “Well, this is just the icing on the cake.” I was thinking, Tell me about it.  She was afraid of her husband’s anger, and it made me so sad. How can a person live in a relationship like that? How could someone stand that type of fear from the person they’re supposed to love the most?

Her car barely had a mark on it, but she had hit the chrome part of the back of my car, directly under the trunk. It was badly bent, but no vital organs had been damaged. I was just worried that I had whiplash and that I wouldn’t be able to finish cleaning and packing. And I have to drive tomorrow. For ten hours.

I called Dad and then the police and then I sat in an ambulance for a while and then I talked to a policeman for a while and then I  called my insurance agent and then I called L to see if her dad (a Nurse Practitioner) could get me some drugs and then I called D. By that time I had most of the tears cried out of me (mostly due to thinking about Francis), and after D had asked if I was okay, he asked how the car was, and I started laughing. “The trunk won’t close,” I said. “It just keeps popping up like a jack-in-the-box. I’m going to have to drive home with it bungeed down.”

It just seems right that I should end this stage of my life driving to Minnesota in a car that is as old as I am, with all my worldly possessions packed tightly in a trunk that will not latch — the worldly possessions covered with a shower curtain liner in case of rain, under a trunk that is being held down only by a hooked piece of blue elastic  tubing.

Delicious.

October 15, 2007

The Ultimate Comfort Meal:
Ham and Cheese Sandwich
Cheetos
Chocolate Milk

The Ultimate Friend to Come Home To:
A kitten who circles your ankles and meeeewwwws, then flops over on the carpet, just waiting for affection

The Ultimate Comfort Words:
A hug text messaged from Dad in the form of “O”
The Ultimate Embarrassment:
Crying in front of your replacement at work after you talk to the mechanic who’s working on your vehicle.

The Ultimate Mode of Transportation:
Foot. You can do so much thinking and re-realizing that everything is going to be fine.

The Ultimate Knowledge:
That $300 you will spend on a new starter tomorrow will not prevent you from achieving your hopes. It just means they may come a little more unexpectedly.

Cheers and bottoms up to all the hurdles life presents.

Today marked the day of a lovely garage sale, for which my dear friend A and I have been preparing for months. Garage sales are opposite of many other events that require much planning — rather than having all sorts of small details add up to one stressful day of carrying out those details, the actual day of a garage sale is rather relaxing. We spoke to many wonderful people and made some pleasing profits and had some time to talk together amid all the frenzy of me moving. At this time next week, I will be at my cousin S’s bachelorette party, in Minneapolis — phase one of my fantastic journey. Phase two will be California, but that won’t come until January. It was a good day, and I was feeling pretty good about it.

Unfortunately, all the cash I made today on that sweet little garage sale is now going to replace the starter in my car, which failed about a half hour ago. Of course, it failed on a Saturday, when I cannot take it somewhere to get it fixed, and of course it happened to fail the evening before I have to go to work. My car is currently full of boxes to take leftover items to the local second-hand store, with a trunk load of card tables in the rear that go back to the church.

Many obstacles have fallen in my path thus far as I’ve been working to go to California. I’m putting so much effort into this, and those who care about me keep telling me that it’s just another bump in the road. Somewhere inside me, I believe that, but I did have to give myself that one little moment of panic right after I walked back into my apartment after the starter failed. There I sat, just on the inside of my door and buried my face in my knees to cry and take deep breaths for a few moments. A starter failing may not seem like a big deal, but having your car out of commission even for a little while the week you’re moving is. I cannot tell you how much I have to do. And this is just one more thing to pay for.

During my junior year in college, I put words to a truth I always knew and believed but had never acknowledged: Anything in life that is worth having is going to be difficult to obtain. Along the way a few moments of grace may arise, which are welcome surprises, but for the most part, those things we love, those things about which we are passionate, and those things that we just really, really want are never going to come easily. The bumps and hurdles and unexpecteds will always be there, distracting us from hope and threatening to remove us from the lives we long to have. The failure of the car starter is definitely not the first hurdle I’ve encountered in this journey that will end in California. It will. But it is probably the scariest. I am tired. I am saying good-bye to many people this week that I don’t want to leave. I am dealing with about a thousand different what-ifs. This whole venture of moving to California has been a long and stressful process, one that is developing and becoming clearer daily. But there are still so many unknowns. And there will be many more wrenches tossed in the gears.

My grace this week has revealed itself in the people in my life. It came earlier this week when I had to say good-bye to my boss for the last time and he had to pretend to blow his nose so no one would see the tears. It came with the bag of chocolate my co-workers gave me, along with a silly little stuffed monkey to keep me company in the car on the big journeys that lie ahead. It came today when my dear friend A brought me a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from McDonalds at 6 a.m. on her way over for our garage sale. It also came when she had to tell me to stop working so I could eat that bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. It came tonight when I called D right after I discovered the starter problem, and he said all kinds of things that made me laugh and cry at the same time. This week it has probably come most significantly as the people in my current workplace have come up to me just to let me know that they’re rooting for me.

In one week, it will come the moment I walk through the front door of my house — not my apartment here in Arkansas, but my home, in Minnesota — and remember me to one who lives there: that Girl From the North Country who dwells inside me. She once was a true love of mine.

In honor of my enthusiasm at becoming a future Los Angelesianition, I am posting a photo montage that many have already seen. It is from May 2007 when I traveled to Los Angeles, and D and I drove up the coast to San Simeon. Before visiting the Hearst Castle near San Simeon, we stopped at a little ocean-side, hole-in-the-wall restaurant (the California equivalent to a greasy spoon) for vittles. The following then transpired:

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Selling the Garage?

October 12, 2007

Tomorrow marks the day of a monumental garage sale of epic proportions. Friends, I am selling my life away. Tomorrow morning I will arise before the sun to ready myself in the cool morning air and to stack the majority of my personal belongings on card tables outside and wait for strangers to drop by and purchase them.

My friend A observed all the shoes that I am getting rid of, and she said, “What are you going to wear for shoes?”

“Oh,” I said, “I’ve got shoes.” Many, many shoes. And I love them as if they were my own intestines. Sometime I will have to put up a shoe blog, chronicling the stories of my shoes and their specific personalities. But for right now, it’s time to sleep.