What’s Right In My World

“Celebrate what’s right in the world.”  This is the mantra of DeWitt Jones, world-renowned photographer.  I heard him say it a couple of weeks ago and it keeps circling in my mind, flashing behind my eyes.  And so today I am celebrating what it right in my world.

-My husband snoring next to me in bed.

-Dragonflies twittering at the purple blooms of my butterfly bush.

-The river, always the river.

-Cutting through the surface of the lake on days like this:

-The smell of newly sharpened pencils, waiting to etch out stories pent up in the brains of five and six-year olds.

-The spin of my legs on my pedals as my heart keeps time.

-The smell of Terry’s neck.

-The book of James.

-The mercy of God.

-Reading on the last Saturday of summer vacation.

-Empty desks waiting to be filled with eager little bodies.

Dear Nike Chalkbot,

Dear Nike Chalkbot,

Thank you for making the Tour de France route the best thing I’ve read all summer.  And that’s saying something because I read some fantastic books.  But you, Mr. Chalkbot, have inspired me.

You gave me a voice during a time of grief.

You told me that I was not alone in my loss.

You helped me rediscover my belief in miracles.

You reminded me that hope is stronger than illness and death.And reminded me that love is strength.

I’ve never known a robot as wise or as filled with compassion.  I hope you find many roads to write on in the future because I love reading what you have to say.  Keep rolling strong, Chalkbot.

Love,

Alicia

Letter #7: Your Voice

Dear Gramma,

Today I woke up in the small morning hours and wandered out to the living room.  The house was cool and dark and I tapped away on my computer, writing in the stillness.  All the windows were open and the croaking frogs were the perfect metronome to my words.  When I was done, I crept back into bed as Terry was getting ready for work.  I drifted off to sleep for one last precious hour.

In that snippet of morning sleep, I dreamed that our family was having a party.  It was a backyard party with crisp white tablecloths snapping in the breeze.  Aunt Nancy poured some sort of exotic soup into bright white ramekins.  She filled one too full, and soup dribbled over the edge, seeping into the tablecloth like a tea stain.

My mom and I set the tables and I stopped for just a moment to watch Terry.  He sat near the grass and looked so handsome.  He didn’t see me sneak a peek.  You always told me he just gets better and better looking with age and I couldn’t agree more.

You arrived at the party and came up from behind me, putting your arm around my waist.  I put my arm around your shoulder and kissed your cheek.  It was so soft, like the cheek of a baby.  You said “Hi, honey.”  Your voice was so clear.  In my waking hours I have trouble recalling the particular lilt of your voice, the rhythm of Texas buried under years of California.  But in my dream your voice was so familiar, so filled with love.

In my dream you had cancer, but it appeared you were undergoing treatment.  I asked you “How are you feeling?”  You squeezed my waist and said “Much better.  How are you feeling?”  I laughed and said “I’m feeling fine, Gramma, just fine.”  You said “That’s good.” and patted my bottom twice, like you always did.  I have no idea why you always patted my bottom like that.  Was it because I’m so tall and you were so small?  Is that all you could reach?

There was music in the background and Uncle Jon and Aunt Jill danced close together on the patio.  Hayley was mortified until Katie pulled her on the dance floor.  Katie wore a gorgeous, dark pink dress that made her rosy cheeks even more striking.  Katie and Hayley danced and laughed.  Everyone laughed with them.  You and I stood there, your arm still around my waist, my arm draped around your shoulder.  You leaned into me, just the slightest little bit until your hair was touching my chest.  We watched them dance and we were so happy.

You turned to me and asked “Is everyone here?”  Before I could answer, I woke with a start back in my own bed.  I gasped for air like I was breaking through the water’s surface after swimming down deep.

My dream hung around me like gauzy sheets and as I sat up in bed, I realized my alarm hadn’t gone off.  I swung my legs over the edge and for a second my mind convinced me that my dream was real, that your cancer was responding to treatments.  That you were indeed feeling better.  That you were still here.  My feet touched the carpet and I realized it was not real, that it was just a dream.  A cruel dream that left tear drops on my shirt as I got dressed.  The dream looped in my mind, always stopping when you asked “Is everyone here?”.

In the unforgiving light of day, I answered your question.  Everyone is not here.  And today that thought has seeped into me, leaving me stained with sadness.

I love you, Gramma.  Come talk to me in my dreams again soon.

Love,

Alicia

Bird Therapy

Okay, it’s been long enough that I can write about this with a mix of humor and terror, instead of just sheer terror.

To begin with, I know nothing about babies.  It’s important that I state that for the record right up front.  I will probably always know nothing about babies because this area right here is a Baby-Free Zone.

Anyway, I have friends with babies and they read books about babies and stuff.  There is a book out that says if you swaddle, (gently) shake, and shush your baby when it cries, the baby will be happy.  In fact, the baby will be the happiest baby on the block, although I’m not entirely sure how that is determined.  Do they line up all the babies on the block and compare them to see which one smiles the widest?  That seems weird to me, but again, I know nothing about babies.

What I do know is that when I am upset, shaking (no matter how gently) does not make me feel better.  Also, shushing me when I’m crying is a mistake that is not going to end well for anyone involved.  As for swaddling, I haven’t tried that because Redding is just too hot to swaddle or be swaddled.  For the record Terry also does not like being shaken or shushed when he is upset.  Not that I tried it or anything.

At any rate the swaddle, shake and shush theory was fresh in my mind when we went to Mexico last month.  We went to the most lovely resort with so many swimming pools that I needed extra fingers to count them on.  It also had a private beach and it was on said beach that I found out parrots also do not care for being shushed.

Throughout our stay at the resort we saw photographers wandering around taking pictures of people with various animals.  One day there were incredible iguanas.  Another day there were cute little spider monkeys.  And then there were the parrots.  Hang on a sec, I just need to take a deep breath and go to my happy place.

Okay.

It is no secret that I am terrified of birds.  We have a history.  Birds like to poop on me, pull my hair and wreak havoc on me in general.  I won’t even talk about the birds who nest by my front door each spring and buzz the tower whenever I try to enter/exit my own house.  Or the turkey vultures that nearly made me pee my bike shorts.  Horrifying, absolutely horrifying.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes, the beautiful private beach.  So there we were relaxing on the beach when I spotted the photographer and his assistant walking towards us with two giant parrots.  The blood drained from my face and sweat trickled out of my armpits.

“Let’s have our picture taken with the birds!” said Terry, who knows I am terrified of birds.

“No. Way. In. Hell.”  I shook my head as the photographer walked closer.

“Please, honey, do it for me.”  Terry begged.

“Senorita, would you like your picture with the parrots?” asked the photographer.  He might as well have asked if I’d like a pap smear.

“No.  Tengo miedo.” I replied.

Roughly translated, that means “No.  All birds are in a conspiracy against me and they’ve found me here to peck me to death starting with my eyes.”

Okay, maybe it just means “No.  I’m afraid.”

“Tienes miedo de los pajaros?” The photographer and his assistant started laughing so hard that I think they actually cried.  Terry may or may not have been laughing with them.  I’m not entirely sure because I was keeping my eye on the birds.

“C’mon, honey, do it for my birthday.” said Terry, who never asks for anything.  Terry had his picture taken with the birds perched on his shoulders.

“Senorita, c’mon.  Take your picture with the birds.” coaxed the photographer’s assistant.

“Come on, honey.  These are nice birds.” said Terry, holding one of the parrots in his arms like a baby.

I edged over next to Terry.  And then the assistant put one of the parrots on my shoulder.  My bare shoulder that only had a bathing suit strap around it.  The bird claws were touching my skin!  My actual skin!

My shoulders shot to my ears and my head shot backwards, giving me no less than 19 chins.  Very attractive, I’m sure.

“Relax your shoulders, senorita.” the photographer said trying to get a decent shot.

I could not relax my shoulders.  A giant parrot was on me.

“Saca la foto.”  I screeched from between the gritted teeth of my nervous smile.

The bird inched closer to my head and began to caw in my ear.  My happy place was nowhere to be found.

“Relax, senorita.”

The bird began to caw louder, more insistently.  Trying to remain calm and not think of how this bird was obviously seconds away from pecking through my skull down to my brain, I thought about that baby book.

“Shhhh, shhhhh, shhhhhhh.” I shushed the parrot while trying to smile at the camera.  The bird moved closer and put its beak into my hair.

“Saca la foto!!!  SACA LA FOTO!!!”  I shrieked as fear ran all prickly through my veins.  The bird cawed louder.

“Shh, shhh, shhhh,” I said trying to calm the bird and myself.

There may have been some shouting next.  Okay, there was definitely shouting.

“SACA LA FOTO!!!  SACA LA FOTO!!!!”  I implored the photographer, who was barely able to take the picture because he was shaking so hard from laughter.

Finally the photographer had the shots he wanted.  Okay, not the shots he wanted, but shots nonetheless.  The assistant removed the bird from my shoulder.

I walked over to where we’d previously been blissfully reading on the beach.  The assistant followed me with the parrot on his arm.

“Senorita, pet the bird.”  I shook my head.

“It will be like bird therapy.” He placed my hand on the bird and ran it up and down the parrot’s back a few times.  After the assistant was sufficiently convinced that I was no longer afraid, they took the parrots down the beach where other people were overjoyed to have their pictures taken with such majestic creatures.

I remain terrified of birds, possibly even more terrified than before.  But I have learned two important lessons:

1. Parrots do not like to be shushed.

2. The photographer’s assistant was right.  I need therapy.

Dear Shark Week,

Dear Shark Week,

Thank you for being at the beginning of August so I can lay around all day and watch sharks without feeling guilty.  You rank in my top three favorite weeks of the year right next to Easter and Fourth of July.  Now don’t be all mad that you don’t have the #1 spot.  Resurrect the Son of God or shoot some fireworks and then we’ll talk.  At any rate, I love you, Shark Week.

Love,

The girl in the shark socks

P.S.-To buy a ‘Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week’ t-shirt, click here.  And then call me so we can wear them on the same day and be twinsies.