Tuesday, October 18, 2011


This man, John Lyons,  was the guest speaker during the church sermon on Sunday at the church we've been going to since January, Grace Fellowship United Methodist.   Most of the sermon revolved around this "Two Roads" talk that he has done hundreds of times, but was new to us. I couldn't find any videos on that, but really, it was this last part that got us thinking.
As we drove away, we were headed towards his parents house to pick up my oldest son, and whom we spoke of during the drive.  Along our walk that evening, we drew more parallels: parallels between this "Gamble" Lynch speaks of God making with people, and the relationships we have with the people around us, primarily my son.
My son is a great, wonderful, imaginative child.  He is also a challenge to deal with.  Both my sons are, really, and bless the heart of this man who has chosen to be with me, regardless, and help me raise them, despite the fact that they are not of his flesh.  Sometimes, the pressure is a lot for this man to handle.  He wonders what he has to do to get through to him, to them, to get them to understand and finally get the discipline and wisdom he is trying to impart to them.
We've struggled with it a little bit, how best to approach these boys.  We came to the conclusion at some point that we are both trying to "right the wrongs of our youth", but they are both opposite ends of the spectrum.  His parents didn't punish or guide enough, so he wants to push them harder; mine I saw as too demanding and critical, without softness and light encouragement.  So I try to love them with freedom and he tries to rein them in with restrictions.  It is amazing actually that we never argue, especially not in front of them.
This sermon, though, gave us some new insights on how we could use God's love for us as an example of how to deal with these children.  I guess I am more a New Testament parent, and he is more the Old Testament type, and we can throw that back at our parents and see how they were the opposite as we see ourselves, but the real question is: in view of this New Testament Gamble, does it change our approach to parenting?  Should we offer love and grace without significant consequences? 
Things to ponder over the next few months....

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Watch this:

Then read this:

Welcome to my Wednesday morning.  The juxtaposition makes Hollywood seem like an evil place to me.  How much of her reputed $150M self worth does she give to charitable causes?

Monday, August 01, 2011

I've drifted off the map a little bit over here.  Been busy doing a whole lot of nothing, nothing more than rearranging.  I've been out walking, running, working, dreaming, studying, planning, and sometimes just drifting.  Mostly at night.
I never thought I was really one for the pool.  I must have liked pools somewhat growing up, considering we were typically found at one in the suburban summertime.  All the kids on the family it seemed did time on the neighborhood swim team, but my time seemed to last the longest.  Looking back on it, I am not sure why, because it's not like pools appeal to me that much.  Especially as I have gotten older, and bathing suits have become less kind to me, and especially when it seems like it always someone else's idea.  Usually my kids are the ones dragging me out there, and I go because they want to, meanwhile thinking of all the other things I could be doing, like catching up on my reading or housework, etc.
So I expected that when my kids left with their dad this summer for an extended vacation, I wouldn't be in the pool much.  Having a pool in the backyard is a novelty for all of us, but I felt a bit Shania when I saw it for the first time - "that don't impress me much".  I didn't think I would find myself in there without someone dragging me to it.
Lately, though, I am have once again realized I had a false idea of things.   I have found myself in the pool at least five times more a week than I expected, and it feels really nice to be in there by myself.  It feels good to be in there with my love, as well, but sometimes he is a distraction to the best part of pools, I think - the silence that surrounds you underwater.  A lot of nights have found me floating under a tableau of silky clouds and stars, alone and unprompted.
When I am out there, I hear nothing but my own thoughts, maybe the gentle sloshing of water.  I find it so liberating to lay there without any effort at all....to have the weight of the water and the bouyancy of my chest hold me up. I used to think keeping my toes above water was the trick to floating, but now I see it is only the pulse points of my wrist that need to be exposed to the sky to be able to lay effortless without losing the surface of the water along my sides or my face.
I lay spread-eagled, completely surrendering to nature's glory.  The stars seem so far away and mysterious, the clouds so soft and so fast, of delicate design, and the trees bend and dance in the wind.  Birds fly from house to fence to power lines, swift moving masters of the air.  If we humans control this earth, no one has told the birds yet.  I can't help feeling insignificant and small, the way I feel standing before the mountains.  "You can ask the mountain," Antje Duvekot sings in Long Way, "but the mountain doesn't care".
The mountains, the stars, the sky, even the birds...been here longer than us, and might outlast us all, if we don't kill them all first.
These are the kind of thoughts I have out there in my very own water-bed, and these thoughts are all connected to other thoughts, thoughts stringing up like leaves on a vine, connected but yet individual.
I think of the water and the earth and the sky and their ever stretching life spans, and I think about what we have done to them.  Chemical plants leaking into bays and killing life and the lifestyles that life supported.  Oil spills in the Yellowstone River.  Strip mining.  DDT. Agent Orange.  Monsanto. BP.  How can individuals even come close to standing against corporate power and pollution, how insignificant is one man up against money and greed and powerful environmental dangers.  Fuel dependency, carbon emissions, water shortages.    The fate of humanity, the fate of the mountain that doesn't care, the fate of the ocean and even the stars - will they still twinkle if there is no one there to see them?
I think about people.  People I love, people who annoy me, people who have come and gone in my life, people I want to see more of and people I am not sure I want to see again.  People of my past, people of his past, people of my children's past and future and present.  Everywhere in my thoughts, these people appear, and sometimes I push them down because I am not sure I want to think about people, but somehow we can't get away from them.  Everywhere and in every thought, there are people.  To care about the earth is to care about people, even if people don't always care about the earth.
Thinking about other people is really always as much of a puzzle as say, man's purpose and the fate of this planet.  We are more connected that we have ever been before, but we have yet to use this connection to really deepen our understanding of our mutual human condition, at least not in the way I see it.  You can Google anyone, or stalk them on Facebook, but it is an ineffectual means of gaining true understanding.
In this documentary we watched recently, Google Me!, this man googled himself and then met several people across the world that shared his last name.  We watched most of the movie, then stopped for dinner and discussed the various people, but they seemed so unconnected and dissimiliar.  And that is part of what makes life so rich, really - the variety and intensity of individualism. Yet, when we watched the last part after eating, I realized it was the best part - where all these distinct individuals with little in common got together in the same place and had a mutual experience that deepened their understanding of self, others, and maybe the meaning of relationships and family.  In that sense, Google, the internet, technology, may be a means for us to advance in some cohesive fashion that allows us to effect positive change on the world.
The movie reminded me of that sense, the sense of disconnection and scattered thoughts, but all streaming down the same mind vine.  It reminded me of that sense of floating, arms lifted upward, in silent supplication with the universe, and the sensation that I was like a puppet strung from the sky, connected to the greater dimension and yet tied to this human existence that we all have in common, in which the search for the meaning is still our common destination.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"They are just things," he has said to me, "I don't know why you get so upset about them."  I know that, on the surface, but its the deeper meaning of the objects he doesn't seem to get, or wants me not to look at, when he uses that argument with me.
I'm doing better with the things around me, or maybe they have just been disappearing more and being replaced with my things, or our things, so the past is less likely to bother me now.  Maybe lately I have just been thinking of other things.
There is this person I know.  She has been struggling with some inner demon.  It is easy to look in from the outside and say, gee, that is really messed up, but none of us really know what it is like on the inside.  She sees things the rest of us do not see.
Lately, she had a freak out about something that seems so minor, really.  It was nothing more than an object, basically wood and string put together in ways that veil us from the rest of the world..  That, though, combined with some other triggers, set wheels in motion in her mind that led to a confrontation between her and her husband, with one of my best friends, between my friend and I perhaps, everyone jumping at the sound of her gun.
I decided this time I was going to hold my ground, I was not going to be sympathetic about the pink elephants that danced around her mind.  It is easy to be selfish, and want to draw lines between friends and family.  In the end, though, I struck a different tone.  Maybe I wanted to see if she would admit to me what she had done, and for me to set her straight in her mind with gentle persuasion instead of anger.  I still did not understand or agree with her point of view, but I could see the hurt she was covering up inside over this exterior of toughness and I wondered....if you want to remove this thorn in her side, you have to start at the source.
Even though we didn't support her position, we did support the removal of the plank from her eye, and so, the one from her house.  To that end, this morning we stopped by to pick this object up, this simple thing that had triggered this most recent flare up.  Curtain rod and valence now sit in our garage, waiting to be returned to their rightful owner.
About a half hour later, we were on our way to meet up with another couple to pick up some other objects.  These particular objects had held sway over my man's heart for a long time.   These objects, basically wood and string put together, help connect us to the rest of the world.  His uncle, his father, they used bows to bring down game to eat, and then passed down this ability to a young boy who was impressed by this, and he learned it so well that he set several records in competition.  It was a huge part of his youth.  The whole family was involved for some time, and later just himself, and now all the memories of archery are also connected with the memories of family, and of this uncle who passed away just a couple of years ago.
I remember my man talking about his connection to these objects, but I was not expecting his reaction to them, especially to the one his uncle had let him use during his youth.  I had never seen him react to something so strongly, and I realized in that moment something special had happened, some kind of transcendence I had been waiting to happen for him.
Also, it made me think about things.  About the places certain objects belong in our hearts, about how sometimes taking them away, and sometimes bringing them back, helps change our emotional landscape and the way we think about...well...things.
Somewhere behind these thoughts, I am sure, you could play another object of wood and string, a scratchy violin tune that pulls our heartstrings and makes us feel something...undefined...something kind of sad, kind of nostalgic, kind of yearning and missing and hoping for things to change and fade and yet always remain alive in our memory.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

We come into this world naked.  As babes in the garden, new in the world, we walk without clothes with our father by our side.  He's with us in this world, when we are young and before we have any shame.  Then we awaken, sharp with knowledge, and begin hiding ourselves from Him and from each other.  And so it is in the story between man and woman, "the cage that's been handed down the line" as Springsteen says.
Fourteen months in and we have our first fight.  Or quasi-fight, anyways, really it was just kind of sudden sharp annoyance on my part.  A shopping adventure with the children gone awry, I was tense, he said something and I bit his head off.  A few minutes later, I was sweeping up a mess the dog made in our absence, another stress, and he came into the kitchen.  I didn't want to feel the distance between us, so I apologized and gave him a hug.  His body stiffened, and he tried to explain his point of view to me, but I stood firm on mine, and there I was with the sharp words again.  No resolution, and I walked the dustpan out to the garage, dump it, then stand there for a few moments in the driveway, sad, watching the young boys and girls play in the yard across the street.
The girl across the street is coming into sexual maturity, and the boys are flocking around.  J swears she is having sex with at least one of them, but I disagree.  I think she is awfully young, and he reminds me of how early innocence is lost.  But I think she is sweet and I want her to stay a babe forever, close to her family, walk next to her father without any guilt in her heart.  Tonight they are playing Duck Duck Goose, a childrens game, but when it is the boys turn to be chased, they taunt back with some slang words that make me wonder if J was right.
I don't really know who was right or wrong tonight, you could make a case for either side, but after that, we walked carefully and quietly around each other.  "Walk softly and carry a big stick" - what President said that?  I was busy, he was busy, we were doing our own things.  I laid in the bed and waited with a book for him to come to me at the end of the day, only to find him slipping into the covers and off to sleep with nary a word.  Not even our customary...goodnight...love you...arm out to the side...a space next to his heart for my head to lay...touching each other...limb to limb.
I watched him fall asleep for a while and then begin snoring.  I had been comfortable, but now I am somewhat frustrated and can't imagine sleeping.  I go out into the dark night, one, two, three dogs walked in circles around the neighborhood, at first hot and fast, telling my side angrily to the dark night in my mind.  Then I stop feeling justified and hard and start softening, feeling sorry, longing to be close again.  By the third walk, I have worked towards forgiveness and lightness of being again, and shower and then lay down next to him.
He is naked upon the sheets, and my gaze takes in all of him, the wonderfulness of his skin and thigh and bone.  I am all adoring of him still, so long into this and the sight of him fills me with such rapture.  Usually his arm would be flung around me; it is wrapped around a pillow instead and I can't get close, I have no arm to hold me, no shoulder to stroke.  I long for his touch, a sign he still loves me, even when I fail, even when I am not perfect or sweet or fun to be around.
All night it seems I watch him.  I hardly sleep, in tune with his movements, waiting for a chance to get close, to amend the seperation between us.  The chance does not come until very early in the morning, when his alarm goes off for us to get started on our busy day.  He wakes, and I tell him how I missed him so, how I was sad and sorry, how I longed to be close to him last night, the things I wished we would have said last night.  He doesn't say much in response, just holds me in his arms for longer than I expect, stroking my side in affection and comfort.
Later in the day, we are driving, and I tell him about my walk last night.   The stars were twinkling in the dark blue sky, Orion the hunter and his arrow pointing the way, a breeze flowing through the spring air, and people restless in the night.  It was late on a Friday night for action in this sleepy working class neighborhood, but there were men outside cleaning off their grills, sitting in chairs with a beer, or standing near their cars with cigarettes or cell phones, each one flickering a glance over my chest before turning their eye, making me wonder if men were really all we thought they were, or if my bra just wasn't doing the trick last night.  Or perhaps it was doing tricks of its own.  The young girls and boys of the night were restless, traveling in packs, girls giggling in the night, disappearing into parks, boys teasing them from across the street.  And so the dance begins, the dance we find ourselves struggling with, the one that makes us stand before each other with trepidation in the dark, neither one of us knowing what to say to make things right.
Later, I talk to him more about how I felt, so alone and missing him, how I felt cast out, and he says it was just my perception.  "I was there the whole time," he said.  "All that was just inside your mind.  You could have reached over to me at any time."
And then it makes me wonder just how God works,if Adam or Eve had come to talk to him about their banishment, if there was ever an offering of amends or an attempt to make it right.  Or maybe that is what we humans have been trying to do ever since, when really, He is always there, just waiting and loving us the same, no matter how pitifully we fail at being perfect.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


I've often contemplated the function of beauty.  In my past musings, I have dreamed beauty away as inconsequential, a passing fancy, a temporary state that exists simply as a basis of initial attraction. I didn't want to believe in the meaning of beauty, because to say that it has purpose, and then to admit that it has gone, is to say that the motivation fades as well.  I want my love to be like Shakespeare envisioned, one whose strength does not diminish, though "rosy lips and cheeks within [Time's] compass come".  If love, and our motivation to both give and receive it, is based mostly on aesthetics, then it can't stand the test of time.
I had this friend who was an artist to some degree.  He talked about the perfect girl as being someone who might not be exactly perfect, but who would be so beautiful that any of her imperfections could be forgiven.  I am not sure if that is too tall of an order to fill.  Our debate on this led to no agreed upon conclusions, and when our friendship took a walk, I wanted to continue to stand on my side of the fence about it.
That was some years ago, and I was still convinced of my stance, up until the other night.  I was running at night in my new neighborhood, something I have been doing regularly now, although not nearly enough to stop the midlife growth of girth.  I looked up from the sidewalk and a sight caught my breath in my throat, and caused a feeling inside me.  A want, a desire, an exultant joy, an imagined bliss.  It was no mere mortal that turned my eye, but the sight of the water falling across the water from the fountain in the middle of a lake across the street, the little bridge that crossed into a neighborhood with landscape lights shining on well designed front yard gardens and smartly painted front doors.
This bridge leads to a place I call "Seventh Heaven", a name based on one of the main streets there.  I have been getting to know that area in nighttime explorations, and I know that inside those streets, there is a little misty hill that has a strange path leading up to a sundial with uniquely carved stones in it; that halfway through, there is an ivory colored curvy line of a water structure in which glacier cold water flows in a tunnel parallel to the street.  That one of the walking paths leads into a wood in which a hand crafted cart bridge crosses a little creek before the path randomly ends in a field bordered with white fences.  I love to go to this place, but I only allow myself the pleasure as a reward for working really hard on my tedious little two mile route around the house.  Mostly because when I go out there, I lose track of time, and spend longer than I have on a weeknight wandering past the huge houses in the dark, houses with art delicately balanced on high vaulted walls that can be seen from tall windows from the street.
And I know now, I know when I see this view of the lake and the bridge from this vantage point on my weekday route, I know the true function of beauty.  And I see and hear examples to fit my new theory all over the place.
It is to inspire.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Come to the edge, he said. They said:
We are afraid. Come to the edge, he
said. They came. He pushed them,
And they flew..."
- Guillaume Apollinaire 


I've always been an adoring fan of the two principles of self preservation in relationships: independence and individualism.  In the past in this blog, I have talked about my struggle to preserve my Self, to be true to who I was.  I have talked about how I did not understand women who lost themselves to relationships with family and their spouse.  I've invested my emotional energy in developing a safety net of good girlfriends, because of perhaps some residual anger and mistrust of men from either my youth or my upbringing.
At the same time, over the past years, I've been developing a deeper understanding of God and what He wants from us. To that end, I found myself this past Sunday sitting in a pew of a church I have been regularly attending.  There was a different minister leading this week's sermon, and at first it was really hard to settle in.  I really enjoy Jim Leggett's preaching, and this new guy was a lot more high strung and animated.  I am not even sure I agree with all the things he said, but it has made me think a lot since then on the meaning of this week's message.
The basic point of the sermon was centered around Galatians 3, where Paul is arguing with the people of that area about some perceptions.  The essence of the scripture, and the sermon regarding it, is that salvation is available through grace alone, and not through good works.  Paul challenges the people to ask themselves if their righteousness originates from obedience to the Law, or to belief in the Spirit.  The concepts both Paul and this minister expanded upon are enough to chew on for a bit.  However, it was certain key phrases the minister used that caused my mind to compare what he was saying about our relationship with God to our relationships with other people.
Specifically, it was the mention of the fear of losing one's individuality as they enter deeper into a relationship with God, that this fear was a common human feeling, that crossed mental hairs with a similar thought I had been rolling around in my noggin.  This one has to do with my relationship with the one I love, and how it impacts my relationships with those fore-mentioned girlfriends that previously I depended on for my emotional security.
My friends and I talk a lot less than we used to.  Mostly this is because they are busy - they were always busy.  I was used to being the one doing most of the calling, but lately I haven't been calling as much.  I've come to depend on my man for being my best friend, the one I turn to with the daily ups and downs and examinations from every angle of each thought that comes to me.
A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with one of these girlfriends, catching up, and she, although supportive, questioned some aspects of my compatibility with my mate.  Mostly this was in regards to sort of a freedom from constraints kind of vein..  Basically, she questioned if my wild spirit could be satisfied with the subdued lifestyle of the morally upright.  I felt a bit like she was pointing out our differences as a reason it might not work, or also suggesting that in order for it to, I would have to give up some of my identity.
And yet, I see myself doing that very thing, or feel it, feel us moving from being two separate individuals into a unified One.  It is that feeling of a loss of distinction between bodies and souls, and the beginning of true intimacy, when the other starts to feel like an extension of one's physical self, and when words become less important because you already know what the other one is thinking.  It is the time in a relationship when you go from sharing in each other's individual pursuits to forming your own together.
Take, for instance, the birds.  I have always been scared of birds, particularly of being close to them, touching them, holding them.  Either they are small and fragile enough that I can hurt them, even by accident, or they are big and fierce enough to hurt me.  I had no use for birds.  This man, though, he spoke of the birds with awe, and points them out all the time, and because of him, I started to look for them.  I started to watch the sky.  And then over time, I got more curious, and more trusting, and more ambitious about it.  We got the binoculars, and the camera out, and we watch for them and try to identify them.  Then I started to find places we could go check them out at, and different ways we could interact with them, and it became like our thing that we do.  In the past month, I have held on my hand one of the heaviest birds, the Great Horned Owl, and one of the smallest, the hummingbird.  Because of his encouragement, I volunteered to hold the small birds in my hand after a bird banding, before they realized they were free and took off in flight.  This was an act of courage on my part, but I have faith that this man would not lead me into danger, and therefore when he says, go ahead, hold the bird, it will be okay, I was willing to trust that.  And I think about the vanilla sky, about jumping off the edge because I have that much trust that this love will hold me up.
And I see myself changing in this, developing, losing some of me to some of us and it's scary, so I relate to what the minister is saying about how it feels to give yourself completely to God.  He talks about how it is possible through faith to close our eyes to this fear and wholly succumb our talents to the glory of God in pursuit of this relationship, how faith the size of a mustard seed can bloom into this complete trust that God has got us covered.  It is having faith in the sanctification of sin through Christ's sacrifice and not trying to create our safety nets of good works that gets us the golden ticket in the end.  It's letting go of those wilder parts of ourselves, not because we have to be good and perfect to be with God, but because when we do, the better parts of ourselves have room to grow.
That morning on the way to church, this man of mine had dropped me and the children off at the youth building, then gone to park the car.  We agreed on our plan to meet up on our way into the church.  As I left the youth building, I was scouting around in the parking lot for him.  I did not see him, but I saw a bench in the shade under the tree in my path to the church that would be a perfect place to meet.  The only problem was, there was a man on it, a stranger.  I worried about texting my man and telling him to meet me there, I worried over sitting next to this strange man in the meanwhile, I worried that I had already passed him or that somehow we would be lost to each other.  As I neared the bench, though, I was startled and amused to realize that the man on the bench was no stranger, but this love of mine.  He was already there waiting.
And I think maybe this is what the minister was saying, what Paul was telling the Galatians.  We don't need to worry ourselves with the details on how to be exactly like God wants us, to follow the exact formula for how to be in His graces.  When we get closer, we will realize He is there already, just waiting for us to catch up.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

So, it's been awhile since I have written about geocaching.  Not that I haven't been doing it - in fact, I've found 641 caches since the last time I wrote an actual entry about geocaching.  Apparently I needed my outlet to explore my feelings about my failing marriage, subsequent divorce and beginning of a new relationship instead.  So...back to our regularly scheduled program....
We've been anticipating this year's Texas Challenge for a long time now.  Last year was my brother's first time to participate in this type of format for geocaching, and it fed right into his competitive nature.  His local region did not have a team of their own last year, so he played for our team, SouthEast Texas.  Since then, the cachers in the Corpus Christi area united under the banner of the South Texas team and made it their mission to come back this year and be a serious contendor in the field against North and Central Texas, as well as our team and possibly West Texas, if they decided to show up this year.
Our team was still wound up over our victory in San Angelo last year, and we also wanted to win, although we had sort of gotten used to losing.  Plus, we were the hosts this year, which meant a lot of planning from those who normally would be involved in the hunting process.  You can't do both.  This time, it was on our home turf so to speak, and hosted in the town of my brother's alma mater, so he was excited about the logistics.  Several text messages and emails were exchanged making plans, which curiously did no good because we weren't organized until up to the last month, even with a year to prepare.
During the midst of all this planning, my father's probably-terminal illness had been getting progressively worse.  The medication does not have the same effects that it used to. With my mother's prodding I am sure, he had begun to take the steps to having an operation on his brain that has a good chance of slowing down the progression of symptoms.  Somewhere along the way in discussions, he was invited to camp with us for the evening, and attend the Challenge with us.  The original plan was for him to join my brother in the competition on their bikes.  In the last minute strategy meetings before the event, though, on both the South and SE region sides, the terrain was discussed, and how it would play out in biking.  My brother and I both thought at this point the biking portion sounded too tough for my father, whose primary symptom is a loss of muscle coordination, so in a series of texts to follow, it was determined that my dad would hike with me, and this would free my brother up to bike more rugged terrain.
So it was that Friday night, the company around our campsite included my brother, my dad, my children, my handsome darling boyfriend, another couple we have been spending some time geocaching with lately (Chris and Shelley), their teenage daughter, and this friend of my brother's that helped us last year and then helped him form their own team, David.  We brought some wood - the origin of the firewood is a story for another day, really- and made a fire this evening, and we all roasted some marshmellows, made smores, and stayed up too late talking, some with beers to keep them company as well.
My brother and J had actually gotten up here the night before, as well as David.  We had made the camping reservation, and yet when J left to go pick up the kids and I from another fellow geocacher's house who  graciously allowed us to park our extra car at her house close to the park, my brother and David had hung up their South Texas banner across our picnic shelter, claiming our camp as belonging to their team.  Things got a little more interesting when our hunt team leader asked if we could use our camping shelter as home base to prepare our team and act as headquarters during the competition.  Turns out South Texas had the same idea.  So, we decided to share.  And that is how in the morning of the competition, we had about one hundred and fifty cachers, give or take, wandering in, most wearing pink bandanas to signify they were with the SouthEast team, and a smaller number wearing yellow banners advertising their allegiance to the South region.
If the Texas Challenge is foreign to you, this is how it works.  Numerous temporary geocaches have been hidden all over the designated park, and the different teams have four hours to find as many as they can.  Each one holds a certain point value, based on the difficulty of the find and the terrain it is located in.  Each cache has a corresponding number on a paper scorecard which is punched with a hole punch that you find in the cache itself, each one bearing a different design for verification purposes.  The cards HAVE to be turned in before the event officially ends, at which point the scores are tallied, and then averaged among the number of cachers competing to determine the winning region.  There are three ammo boxes given to the top three teams, each being painted either gold, silver, or bronze.  The team that wins the coveted golden ammo can gets bragging rights for the next year.  This contest is in its ninth year of existence, and this is my fourth time to attend.
Because my dad was potentially going to slow down the hiking, and because J wanted to get out there and try to score as much as possible, we had decided to split up and for him to go by bike.  Also, we had my dad's canoe with us, which was a competitive advantage, but only two adults could ride in the canoe at once.
When the contest begins, the team leader is given the thumb drive with the file on it that has the locations of the caches and the first aid stations.  Then there is the tedious process of loading those waypoints on to everyone's GPS units.  J always gets roped into being actively involved in this process, being that he is like the technology expert.  This day, my dad and I left on our canoe when the contest started, right after getting our waypoints, but J was held up for almost the whole first hour of the competition dealing with a particularly tricky GPS unit that no one had software for.
Close the 4/5 cache hide site
My dad and I's strategy of taking the canoe originally panned out for us very well, because we were able to get a cache find on the water, which was a high terrain and therefore high scored cache.  However, once we beached the canoe and got out on land, my plans for us to excel this day began to unravel.  We wasted about 45 minutes of the first hour looking for three caches we could not find (granted one of them is what they call an "evil hide" and the other was a 4/5 on Difficulty/Terrain, which may as well be called an evil hide).  We also had to cross the spillway that I show in this first picture.  After that, we began hiking down the Chinquapin trail, we started actually making some finds, getting about a dozen in about two hours or so of hiking around.  The last hour, regettably, we wasted a lot of time just trying to get back to the lodge from where we were, and walking along the road, find just a couple of caches in that time.  I think we could have gotten more if I had thought to call home base and have someone come get us and take us to another trailhead to get to another cluster, but I was not thinking too well at this point about where we could go next to maximize our finds.  We were really tired and wore out by that point.
After the scorecards are turned in, there is typically a bbq lunch and then later on a casual party.  We had decided to skip the bbq and bring our own lunch, and our afternoon was spent kind of traipsing back and forth from our campsite to the lodge to make appearances at the events, let the kids play on the playground, and visit with our friends. We were there at the lodge for the official announcement of the winners.  South Tx claimed the golden ammo can in a triumph of victory, having a small but dedicated team desirous of winning this year.  North got the silver, Cen-Tex the bronze, and our team got nothing this year but pats on the back for hosting.  Next year we'll have to make a comeback.
The highlights of my weekend were some of the casual moments spent in this day, before and after the competition:  laughing over breakfast with J over some conversation we have been having since the origin of our relationship over a year ago, some musings I had while the kids were playing on the playground as I looked out over Lake Raven and watched the wind make the tops of the trees dance, and of course the revealing of Texas DreamWeaver's ingenious stunt during the evening event, which involved a Bingo game where everyone was a winner.  Later there was another campfire, more smores and marshmellows, roasting weenies, and then snuggling into our double sleeping bag that I got J for Christmas (so we could sleep together in the same bag when we go camping, something we have done four times already this year and hopefully many more to come).
The morning after the Challenge typically begins with a pancake breakfast and ends with a CITO event.  If you aren't familiar, a CITO event is where we gather to pick up trash and make sure we leave a place better than how we found it.  I had decided to do our CITO much like we did the Challenge, but substitute the company of my boys for that of my dad.  This idea was born from K's requests for a canoe ride, and because I highly suspected my father had chunked a plastic bottle into the woods during the Challenge the day before.  So we rowed the canoe across the water, beached it, hiked the Chinquapin trail, then rowed back.  We could not find the bottle of my dad's that had mysteriously disappeared from his hands, but we did find several other plastic bottles and about half a bag of trash or less by the time we were done, including the stuff we found along the way in the parking lot.
Now, we made it all the way across the water and back,  a one mile round trip, without capsizing the canoe, so I was pretty happy about that.  However, as we pulled up to the boat launch, I realized my camera was missing.  It was a cheap disposable camera that I had, but I wanted the pictures I had been taking off of it all weekend.  I had just had it in my hands before we prepared to beach the canoe, and so it had fallen out of my pocket not too far out.  I looked around, and then saw it not six feet out in the water, resting on some swampy lilypad area.  I gave my cellphone to my son and took off my shoes, preparing to wade to it, but the water was too deep for wading.  So I took the canoe out by myself, and as soon as I reached for the camera, I realized it was off balance and, poof!, I was in the water.
So, I got my camera back, but I was soaking wet now. The boys were on the shore laughing hysterically as I swam back, pulling the canoe with me.  This explains why my pictures look psychedelic - they did turn out, luckily, but the film had gotten wet and warped.
Then I had to change clothes.  I had one clean shirt but I had to wear two day old dirty jeans, and no underwear, for the rest of our journey.  We cached our way out of the park, then did a little bit of caching around the Sam Houston statue, running into fellow geocachers at every stop.  After a misguided lunch in Huntsville, we set out for home, with stops for dogs along the way back.  We were pretty tired and it took us a while to get back in gear after this, but luckily I had taken the next day off work to help with that.
Next year my oldest boy says he wants to do the Challenge with us, and not stay back at the Camp Lil Cacher program they put on every year to watch the children while their parents participate in the event.   Last year was J and I's first challenge together, but we were just starting out together and were somewhat distracted by infatuation.  I am hoping next year the two of us will get a chance to work together and score up some high points, so AJ might be in for a tougher ride than he thinks, but we will just have to see!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

an act or instance of placing close together or side by side,esp. for comparison or contrast.
the state of being close together or side by side.

It's a cold, drizzly weekday night.  The two of us are at Academy, looking at mens clothes.  It sounded so fun, the idea of trolling around Academy looking for items on clearance.  Once we got to our intended section, though, it seemed a little awkward to me.  I slipped off to the women's room, my mind still rolling over some of the conversation topics from dinner, things that make me think, things that make us laugh, things we will end up bringing up later in other conversations.  Seems like some of these things we have been talking about since the beginning of talking, things like the differences between men and women, the problems with both, the value in both.  
Here I am wondering if some of what we talked about should have me being concerned, and somehow it makes me feel self conscious.  I'm thinking about other women again, other women from the past of every man from my past.  I'm kind of in this weird place in my head when I make it back to where he is browsing for shirts.  He is having trouble deciding, and asks me, "which of these would you rather see me in?"  It is such an odd question to me, this idea of a woman picking out his clothes, that it makes me wonder about those who came before me.  Which one of them trained that in him?
"I'm not that kind of girl," I smile at him, but then send him off to try on a few agreed on choices nonetheless.  While he is gone, I let my eyes wander around the shirts, playing this game, pretending, if I WAS that kind of girl, which of these clothes would I see him in?
My eyes keep falling on some sweaters that I am innately drawn to.  I wander over to look at them more closely, and realize they were not his type.  They would have looked great on my exhusband, though.  This would have been something I would have bought for him.  And I smile ironically at my head-self, admonishing myself for thinking I was so different than her, or them, when on the inside we are all the same.
Done with our errand, we leave to meet up with my ex to retrieve the kids from their visitation with him.  J pulls into the parking lot nose to tail with my ex's Jeep, so close that the doors can't both open at the same time.  My ex has to stand there in the drizzle while I load the little one into his car seat.  He is questioning me, acting as if he is concerned that J might be a threat to the safety and well being of those he cares about. which is just so funny and frustrating all at the same time, being that now for the first time we are all protected and cared for by someone who has our well being as a top priority, the way he never did.  He was a bit the snarly dragon that this hero rescued us all from, in fact, but seems to be doing a little projecting of his own bad reflection.
Earlier, we had been on the way to drop the kids off with him when he had texted me, told me what he was making them for dinner.  I was a little surprised, being that he was making one of my favorite things in the whole world, and when I showed up, he invited me in to see.  It turned out to be just a sleigh of hand, a trick if you will, but we kind of laughed about it like old friends.  In the back of my mind, though, I am still simmering angrily over a dream I woke from this morning, a dream blending the places and faces of our shared past with some recent unsettling elements he has brought unbiddingly into my life.
Later, I am standing in the hallway listening to the children settling in for the night.  My eyes take in little silver shapes in the dark hallway.  I run my fingers over them, these left-behind nails, places where pictures used to hang, pictures from the previous life that was being lived out inside these walls.
Now the kids are asleep in bed and we are getting there ourselves, J and I.  We are snuggled up impractically tight, talking over the events of the night, laughing under our breaths at all the foolishness in and around us.  Side to side, hip to hip, knee on knee, sole of foot running across tops of other, the remarkable oneness of intimate beings.  The murmurs of our voices rise and fall here in the dark, where the shadows of the past fail to find us, because right now we are someplace they can't get in.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Some years ago, I was kicking it in Austin with my best friend from childhood. We had been girl talking until late in the evening, and then she had told me she was tired and was going to bed. I laid down on the inflatable air mattress futon with my little son, but had a hard time sleeping over the next hour or two, because of the cacophony of laughter and muffled conversation coming from the master bedroom, where she laid with her husband.
I remember being annoyed by this. I had driven all that way to visit her and longed for late night analyzing of people and relationships, the way we were when we were in high school and college. What she was doing with her husband, that kind of inside amusing conversation, is part of what I had driven all that way for. I felt like she had lied to me by telling me she was tired as an excuse to go hang out with her husband instead. But he's always here, I thought, and I hardly ever am, why can't she spare the time for me now instead?
For a certain amount of our adult life, I felt like this friend tried to make me jealous by deliberately showing me or telling me about things that she knew I didn't or would never have. For instance, I remember her once talking about how much closer she and her husband were after traveling to foreign countries where they both knew very little of the language there. I was telling my sister about some of her comments like that, and she said, "well, you should say, well, having a baby together, you should see how close THAT makes you," to one-up her at her own game.
The problem with that is, it wasn't all that true. At some point, I realized that perhaps some of my perception of this issue with her stemmed from my unhappiness with my own life, and that just being happy for her when she showed me these things was in fact the only right response.
It was the only response that wasn't self centered. After all, she wasn't the one responsible for my life being different than hers. Just because she didn't know what "the Other Side of the Bed World" was like doesn't mean I should punish her for it by not genuinely being happy for her when she had things, even if they were things I didn't.
I didn't understand for the longest time why my girlfriends didn't have the same need to talk that I did. For years, it felt like I was the one who called them, who maintained the relationship, who wasn't too busy to pick up the phone or to have a long conversation perched on a chair in my backyard, or the front porch. I didn't understand why, if they had the same number of kids I did and the same amount of work inside and outside the house, why did they not have the time for me?
Lately, I have been figuring it out. For twelve years of my life, I had a roommate who had little connection to me, though we were bound by legal and responsibility matters. We knew each other, but we weren't each other's best friends, and certainly not the ones we turned to with our deepest and closest secrets. Now I don't have time to call my girls anymore. So much of my attention is focused on this man I live with now, and what I don't give him, I am giving to my kids. I don't have all that much to say to those outside anymore, because the language between us is different, and things that are so exciting and hilarious to us would seem probably pedestrian and mundane to the outside world.
The other night, an hour or so after I had tucked the kids in, this man and I were still awake between the sheets, talking and joking around. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe, ribs hurting, whole body shaking with the effort of trying to be quiet about the hilarity, while in the other room, my son yelled at us, "GO.TO.BED!", the same words and same tone I might have been using a year or two ago at him and his brother, who by now was long fast asleep. The next day, I was kind of laughing to myself about that, and finally, I think I understood my friend a little better.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The first time he drove me to the house we live in now, it made me sad. I think he was misinterpreting the reasons why; it wasn't quite as selfish as he made it out to be. It was his pain and confusion that made me cry, not mine. It was the whole idea of building a life around someone and having that person just disappear, a figment of the past. It was sadness, over his divorce and over mine, over this mutual experience that both brings us together and sometimes stands in our way.
It was seeing her touch all over this house that made me sad, the little things that were obviously the selection of a woman, a selection a man would concede to only out of love or compromise. It was the fact that so many of her things were still all over this house, the litter of a woman who betrayed him and then walked out, treating marriage like the sham it might have been instead of a condition that implies a solemn vow to work out problems when they arise, not run away from them. I had thought of him living in that house for the few months afterwards, sleeping on a bed that belonged to her, on bedding she picked out, watching curtains she chose stirring in the fan of the night. I thought about him changing who he was to appease this woman who would just shit all over him and then walk out, leaving all this behind her for him to deal with.
It makes me sad, and it makes me angry sometimes. I think she did not realize what she had, because to me, he is like the most precious of all elements. He would do anything for the people he loves, even put up with her annoying habits and inability to give back in the same ways. He is so special to me that I cannot understand how anyone could have hurt him, or, even less, not valued him the same way that I do.
When we had started out, I wasn't thinking about her. I didn't think about her on our first date, during our first kiss, during the first time we made love. Now I can't stop thinking about her. Thoughts of her ride beside us in most everything we do, and he doesn't understand this. "She's not even worth wasting brain cycles on," he tells me, and I know this, rationally. I know that what he has to deal with is so much more that I don't have even the right to be bothered by his past with her. After all, he is willing to accept my two children fathered by my ex, helped me move from the house I had shared with this other guy, sift through all the mutual belongings and memories of 12 long years, even deal with this man face to face, while I will probably never have to see her again.
Yet I think about her over Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner with his family. I wonder if they consider me a better or worse replacement for her. I wonder if they liked her gifts or presence better, if she told better stories or was easier to talk to. I think of her as I use the things she left behind. He tell me, "they are just things", yet sometimes it bothers me that she had them, or that she left them there. It was her fanny pack I wore this morning to carry our water, camera, and other geocaching equipment during our caching bike ride, doing the things she was not willing to do with him. It is her coffee maker I used to brew the coffee I am drinking right now. It bothers me to have such an intimate relationship with her things.
Yet, these things are functional, like he says, and better to have someone use them who will appreciate them then throw them away. I wonder how she could have thrown him away, how she could have seen him as disposable, and how much better or worse off he is for the recycling. I don't like it that someone that was not even worthy of him could have been given the opportunity to do more damage to him than the women of his past had done.
Sometimes I look at her picture on the internet. I stare at her face, trying to figure out how someone as wonderful as him could have chosen someone like her. I compare myself to her, and wonder if he finds me more or less attractive, or if I cook better than her, or if she would have been a better mother to his children than I am to mine, or maybe to his one day.
There are things I know that make me feel better when those feelings become too painful or sharp to deal with. I know I can give him so much more. I know that the reasons he was unhappy with her will never be the reasons he would be unhappy with me - that I am a willing companion to share all his adventures with, that we love the same things, that it is a given that when he suggests going for a walk, or a hike, or a bike ride, that when he wants to go geocaching, I am smiling and happy to be doing that exact thing. There are so many little complaints he has about her that he will never have about me. Plus, I adore him so much that any dissatisfaction on his part would prompt me to adjust to his preference.
And maybe it is just simple jealousy or insecurity on my part. Some of that certainly is wrapped up in these emotions, as well as some competiveness. I know that drive makes me wonder if these feelings aren't positive in some way, because they re-commit me daily to taking better care of him than she did. If it wasn't for that, or for my past, it might be easier to take him for granted, but I never will, I know that. I will appreciate what this man has done for me for the rest of my life, as the way he has lifted me I can never pay back except for complete devotion.
He wonders when I will get over this, the carrying around of her in my mind. He has moved on, and doesn't understand why I can't. Someday I will, I know. Give me a few years. Let me have the same amount of time she did, some of the same things, some things that are different, some things that are so full of awesome that she could never compare - and I will get over her presence eventually.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Hey...psst....over here...

Although...it's thematic....
so all posts not related to the theme will still be posted here.
To be continued....