The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interview with Papa

I am so excited! I was sifting through old documents and found this interview I did with my Papa a number of years ago. I wanted to post it because I think it is so important to just sit down and talk to your family. Find out about where you came from. Learn something about your great uncle you never knew. You may even find some things that surprise you.

AR: What were your parents’ full names, dates of birth and places of birth? If you don’t know the dates, that’s OK.

RH: My dad was born in Montague County which is in northeast Texas. My mom was born in Camanche County in Oklahoma.

AR: What were their names?

RH: Montie Elaine Jones and James Henry Huddleston

AR: What were the occupations of your parents?

RH: My parents did a number of things. They made their living primarily by farming, but also owned a country grocery store.

AR: How many children were in your family? Where were you in the line-up?

RH: There were two children in my family, plus my mom and my dad. I was the oldest child and their only son. My sister, Jerrilyn was the only girl in my family.

AR: How much younger was she?

RH: There was 3 years difference in our age. I was 3 years older than she was.

AR: Generally speaking, what was your childhood like?

RH: Generally speaking, my childhood was one of farming. My dad taught me to drive a tractor when I was about 11 years old and so I spent a lot of time driving a tractor.

AR: What one or two stories do you remember most clearly about your childhood?

RH: Of course, there’s so many it’s hard to point out one exact story. I think probably the way we lived during the end of the Depression was the one thing that affected me most because there was two things happening—World War II was coming to an end and the Depression was coming to an end. We still couldn’t get things and didn’t have money much. We would gather eggs—we had chickens out on the farm and would gather eggs and sell them; then we’d milk the cows and save the cream to make butter. That’s what we lived on.

AR: What kind of relationship did you have with your sister growing up?

RW: My sister and I got along pretty well. She did housework in the house and my mother and the rest of us worked in the fields.

AR: Did you have any childhood pets?

RH: I had a dog all my life that stayed outside the house. The first dog I remember was an English bulldog. He got ran over by a truck out on the country road there. The next dog I remember was a dog we called, “Badger.” He was part pit bull and part somethin’ else—I don’t know what. We had a lot of cats. In fact, cats would get so thick that we would have more than we could feed. My mother would actually ask me to kill some cats to get them out of the barn.

AR: What area of Texas did you grow up in and do you remember any childhood friends that lived around you?

RH: I lived on what was called the South Plains, which was in the panhandle of Texas. It was very level, very dry, very flat country. There was a set of twins that lived ¾ of a mile from us. They were the Nelson twins. We played together a lot. Mainly we built what we called rubber guns. It was a strip of rubber half an inch wide over a Y. We’d put the rubber strips on that, rear back and let loose.

AR: Oh, like a slingshot!

RH: Yeah, a slingshot. We played slingshots a lot and we hunted with our slingshots a lot.
{Phone interruption}

AR: I think we were talking about childhood friends and the games you played.

RH: To the north of us was a boy named Lyndell Kenley and he played with us too. Further north was the Carey boys and they were older than I was. The youngest was named Burl and he taught me how to milk a cow. I haven’t decided if that was the best thing I ever learned or the worst thing. I came home from playing over there and when I got home I told Dad I could milk a cow. He said, “You can milk them every night from now on and I’ll milk them in the morning.” So, it was a job after that.

AR: What do you remember about your mom and dad as a child? Were they rough on you? How did they approach discipline?

RH: Mom and Dad were very easy to get along with. My dad would have me go to the field with him to hoe cotton and I learned to drive a factor. Mom really had to do things like feed the chickens or feed the geese. Every night I had to close the chicken house and lock the door. I would always be so brave marching out there at night to close the chicken house, but the further I got from our house, the more nervous I would get. When it came time to get back to the house, I would run back as fast as I could.

AR: What were some of your favorite toys?

RH: When I was a child during WWII, they didn’t use metal to make toys so we built our own toys out of wood. My favorite thing I did was to take a 2x4 and cut a block about an inch long and put two skids under each side so that when I pulled it through the ground it would make a borough, just like these fields here looked when they’ve been plowed. It made it look like I had plowed with the tractor. That plus the slingshot were the two things I remember playing with.

AR: What was your earliest memory of watching TV or listening to the radio?

RH: My dad got us a radio, which we listened to at the house after the sun went down and we got all cleaned up in the evening. We would sit down, I would sit down in the floor by the radio and Mom and Dad would sit in chairs and we would listen to programs that were funny. One that I recall was called Fibber McGee and Molly. Fibber McGee always had a big closet and every time he opened his closet, all the pots and pans and junk would fall out of his closet. They had two black actors that were white, but they talked like someone who was black, called Amos and Andy—and they were funny. The program I listened to was the Lone Ranger. We mostly listened to the news and the progress of WWII. We didn’t see TV because there wasn’t a TV when I was a kid and the radio reception wasn’t really good.

AR: What was your least favorite chore as a kid? What did you hate the most?

RH: I guess driving a Ford tractor and cultivating was the least thing that I liked because it was only two rows at a time, whereas the big tractor that we had was four rows at a time.

AR: What church did you grow up going to?

RH: I grew up going to the Gordon Church of Christ, which was a mile and ¾ north of my house.

AR: When you were a teenager, what did you do for entertainment? Did you just work or did you have time for play to?

RH: We played baseball. We had a team made up of boys around Gordon and Grassland, which were two little communities south of our house. My dad was a manager, sort of like Little League now except not as organized. We’d just say, “We’ll play next Sunday.”

AR: What kind of cars did you have growing up?

RH: I didn’t own a car until I was a senior in college so at the end of my junior year in college, Dad bought a Plymouth. It was a 1950 model Plymouth and that was the car I had through my senior year at college. I was married my senior year so it was Maxine and I’s first car.

AR: Did you just work on the farm or did you have another job as a young man?

RH: I would work on the farm for us and then I worked for our neighbors to earn money. I worked for one neighbor who had a farm to the west of us. He paid me $6.00 a day to work from sun up to sun down.

AR: What was your favorite food growing up?

RH: Of course, we ate what we could raise on the farm and we had the grocery store so we had a lot of food there. My favorite was probably fresh peaches, but we didn’t have those very often because we had to get them when they were in season. We didn’t ship food in those days like they do now.

AR: How did your family celebrate Christmas and other holidays?

RH: Well, my mom’s folks lived in Oklahoma. We went up there just about every Christmas. They would have a Christmas tree. Someone would cut down a pine or some other type of tree that they had there. We had gifts. I can’t remember gifts other than clothes and pants. The first thing I remember is that I got a little tractor with a little disc plow behind it.

AR: Did you get spanked much as a kid or get in trouble?

RH: It seems like my mother was spanking me every other day, mostly cuz I was picking on Jerrilyn. She and I were always having fights—it was never a serious thing, but Mom would spank me for doing it. Dad never spanked me—he would just look at me and we all would melt. I never did a get a whipping by him because I knew when he gave me one it would be a sincere, painful event.

AR: Do you recall an embarrassing moment as a younger person?

RH: One time my mother was making something and she needed some eggs so she told me to go down to the neighbors and get some eggs so I went down to the Kinley’s and got 3 dozen eggs and came home and I told Mom, “They didn’t have any eggs either. I went down to get the eggs and they didn’t have any. They said they didn’t have any.” Then, I flat out lied to her. I said, “But I saw them. She had some eggs. She had 3 dozen eggs on the table there.” Later on, we were in town and Mom talked to Bertha and found out that I had lied about the eggs. When we got home, Mom confronted me and asked me why I had lied. Mom made me walk down to Bertha’s and tell her I was sorry for lying.

AR: What did you want to be when you grew up?

RH: I think that I probably wanted to be a farmer at first, but then as I got older and looked around and saw what was going on in this world, I noticed that the people who made the most money were the doctors. Then I started wanting to be a doctor.

AR: Do you remember who your first kiss was and what you thought about it?

RH: I remember it very well. One of my classmate’s mothers got me a date with her sister-in-law’s daughter. I didn’t know anything about dating much but I went and picked her up after she had been in a play and asked to take her home. I took her home and walked her to her house, walked her up to the porch. When I got to the door, I opened the door and she grabbed me and kissed me real big. I started backing up and I backed off the porch—almost fell and broke my neck. It was a surprise—a very pleasant surprise. It was my first kiss.

AR: In school, did you have any favorite teachers? What was your favorite subject and what subject did you not like at all?

RH: My favorite subject was biology and science. I went to school at Southland so they only offered four courses a year and I had to take what they offered. The course I liked the least was English.

AR: When you met Maxine, what drew you in? What made you want to pursue her?

RH: Maxine, when I first met her, was very shy person. She was very gullible. She’d believe anything you told her. She had come from California to Texas to go to school at ACU and she was interesting to talk to and interesting to know. I just liked her for some reason.

AR: What was her prettiest physical feature?

RH: Her prettiest physical feature?

AR: Keep it clean. {laughs}

RH: It’s hard to say. She had nice, big breasts.

AR: {erupts into laughter} I am not typing that! I am not! Let’s have a rated PG answer. Did you like her eyes?

RH: Yeah, I liked her eyes.

AR: How did you end up popping the question to her?

RH: There was some mesquite trees out in front of McKenzie dorm and we would sit under those mesquite trees and talk. We were sitting under those trees and I asked her to marry me.

AR: Tell me about your wedding ceremony. What year and where was it?

RH: The year was the fall of 1957. September 3rd.
AR: Was it a big wedding or just a few friends and family?

RH: As usual, it started out to be just a small wedding with friends, but Maxine’s mother and dad were pretty well-known through 3 congregations of the church in Sacramento and Chico and northern part of California so most of those people showed up. It was a very hectic day because we had the wedding outside in the backyard and spent the day gathering flowers and greenery and all kinds of stuff to make the yard look pretty. We spent that first day working for Maxine’s mother getting everything ready. After we got married, we went to Roseville. Then we went up to Lake Tahoe, which is the most beautiful place you can ever imagine seeing if you’re a West Texas boy.

AR: When you first had your kids, what was something you said you’d NEVER do—perhaps something that your parents had.

RH: I said that I wouldn’t embarrass my children in front of other people. That was one of the things that my dad would do. I would want a nickel to get a coke or a candy and he would be sitting around talking to the other farmers and I would sort of ease up there and tap him on the shoulder and ask for a nickel and he would say, “Boy, what do you need a nickel for?” He would always say it loud and he would embarrass me. I always said I wouldn’t do that.

AR: How did you get each of your kids’ names?

RH: Ronda was the girl version of Ron. I just liked the name Kevin and Paul came from some people we knew named Paul—when we were driving to the hospital, I was thinking of the apostle Paul. Chiara was named after a little girl in Tanzania. Every time we went to Tanzania, we would shop in the morning and get done about noon time. We would go to the hotel and eat lunch. The people that ran the hotel had a little girl that they named Kiara and I thought the girl was very pretty and I thought it was a pretty name.

AR: What were the most memorable family vacations and trips that you took with your family?

RH: Of course, the trip that affected my life the most was when we went to Tanzania. The trips we took with regularity was to Kingfisher, Oklahoma to see my grandma’s folks on my mother’s side.

AR: Didn’t ya’ll go the lake quite often?

RH: After the kids got old enough to ski and when I got to where I could afford a boat, we skied and boated a lot and all enjoyed it.

AR: What leisure time activities were you involved in?

RH: Fishing, boating, hunting during different seasons.

AR: What role would you say your beliefs have played in your life and what would you tell your children about your faith?

RH: They played a big role in my life. I was baptized when I was 13 and we went to church at Gordon. Later on, I went to Tanzania. Going to church was a big, big thing in my family. We did it regularly and we wouldn’t miss at all.

AR: What were the most joyous, fulfilling times of your life?

RH: Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was when my first child was born.

AR: Did you have any difficult times in your life that you dealt with and learned from?

RH: I had a real good friend in college. His last name was Harrison. He had a subdural hematoma and he died very suddenly one night. He and I were studying in the library together and we both were married. We talked about meeting the next day and studying some more because we were trying to get in medical school. The next morning someone came up and asked if I had heard about Harrison. I, at first, thought they were telling me a lie for shock value.

AR: If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?

RH: I would do a residency in family medicine and become more of a specialist.

AR: What have you learned over your lifetime that you would like to share with future generations?

RH: Stay off of alcohol and dope.

AR: Did you see in your own life how this affected people?

RH: I saw a lot of people whose lives were destroyed by alcohol in the states and in Tanzania.

AR: What were your family’s favorite jokes or pranks if they had any?

RH: We didn’t have plumbing to the house. We had to carry water from the well to the house. We had a big tub that we used to take baths in and we would heat up the water and put it in the tub. One time, I remember that my dad got in the tub and was sitting there and it was a little bit cool—so he called Mom and told her to bring him some warm water. She instead poured cold water on him. He picked up the hot water off the stove and threw it at her to get her back!

AR: Who was the family comedian within your own family?

RH: I don’t know the answer to that. We weren’t a very comedic family. I guess Kevin would be it.

AR: Besides family, what are you most grateful for?

RH: My education would be the thing. I enjoyed being a doctor and knowing things—that would be the thing I enjoyed the most, although that was also a lot of work. Now that I have Parkinson’s disease, I wish I had done more boating and fishing and less hard work.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Serving up Social Anxiety

My family went to eat at our weekly Chinese buffet on Sunday, stirring up old feelings of buffet anxiety. I knew I had written about my fear of buffets before for "The Bison," and went on a search for the article itself. I decided to share where I think my true fear began.

I am not a fan of buffets. The funhouse mirrors—set up to make the food supply look endless—along with the constant bumping and nudging from hungry strangers is enough to ruin the whole experience for me. As you head for the sweet and sour chicken, you are forced into this relentless do-si-do dance routine with Bubba John Jenkins, who is trying to simultaneously get in line for the chow mein. And let us not forget the patience that is required as you wait for the sweet little old lady in front of you to wrestle with the tongs and grab each green bean individually as if she is fishing for a plush toy in “The Claw” arcade game.

This phobia is very inconvenient when you are born into a family of buffet lovers. Almost every Sunday, without fail, we head to New China Buffet for lunch. A few moments of silent meditation, an inner pep talk and a deep breath is all I need to get my feet moving toward the crowds of hungry people—who all seem to agree that 25 different types of meat constitutes a light lunch.

A few Sundays ago, I was minding my own buffet business when the dreaded do-si-do began with an older man. We were, for about 15 seconds it seemed, mirror images of each other. I would step right. He would still be in front of me. I would change directions—so would he. A few teeth showed as he creepily grinned at me, as if he was enjoying this game. Finally, in my Arkansas drawl, I politely said, “’Scuse me sir,” as I forced myself around him and headed for the rice. I could feel his eyes follow me as I made my way through the different lines. Suddenly—I felt a hand on my arm and turned to see my dear mullet-wearing friend. My heart stopped for a moment. “Hey, awallago (a while ago), did you say … ‘Squeeze me?’” he taunted. The laugh. The wink. My world went black. Was this really happening to me? The buffet was only $8.00—this was way more than I bargained for.

I try to convince my family that menu restaurants cost more for a reason. Yes, Dad—buffets allow you to combine any selection of food on your plate. A cornucopia of colors, your plate can host cinnamon rolls next to corn-on-the-cob or macaroni and cheese that blends in with your pudding. Menu restaurants, however, offer comfort and security. I like nothing more than sliding into a booth and knowing that no one can touch me, accuse me of wanting to be squeezed or awkwardly dance with me as we try to change lines. A waiter or waitress in a classy black outfit will cheerfully greet me with his or her name as they pour me my water; I breathe a sigh of relief because I am free of the soda fountain disaster that buffets offer. Why do I always get behind the kid mixing all of the sodas together to make a “graveyard” or “tornado” concoction?

My brother, a football player, commented the other day that he likes the buffet atmosphere because it is an understood rule that you can run into people and cut in front of them as long as you apologize. This must be an unspoken, testosterone-driven law of buffet behavior. I, on the other hand, do not like to risk my life for green jello—despite its wiggly goodness.

Knights in shining armor, riding up on white stallions, are so overrated. Girls aren’t in a deep sleep, needing true love’s kiss to wake them up. Their hair isn’t hanging down from the top of a tower. Buffets are the way to go. Let your girl loose at Ryan’s and swoop in and save her from the scary masses. We lack the killer instinct to survive in the buffet world. On second thought, ride up in your ’95 white Honda Accord and take her to Doc’s Grill or Colton’s—even Arby’s will put her at ease.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pearls and Playdough

Most of you probably heard or read somewhere that Barbara Billingsley, who played the legendary June Cleaver in “Leave it to Beaver,” died Saturday at the age of 94. Her gentle, nurturing spirit has made her the legendary picture of the perfect stay-at-home mother and housewife.

Growing up in the 90s and 2000s, I have often heard her name used in a slightly condescending tone, referencing women who have chosen to forego careers as powerful businesswomen for the livelihood of the home. It seems that women today almost cringe if they are even put in the same category. I have even heard such remarks as, “Don’t get all June Cleaver on me.”

I do feel like times have indeed changed and the home situation is a far outcry from the “Leave it to Beaver” set. I feel the need, however, to write a tribute to the modern-day June Cleavers and assert the notion that it is not something to be ashamed of, but rather a badge of honor that should be worn proudly.
As I have gotten older, my respect for my mother has grown because I have been able to see what a talented, brilliant woman she really is. When we were little, however, she traded in her stethoscope for cloth diapers and her European college travels for nights in at home with us.

Those that oppose the June Cleaver stereotype often assert that this is the point at which women are settling; that they are not reaching their intellectual potential. Rather than an alternative path to life as she knows it, I am here to say that it is probably the greatest form of a loving sacrifice; and a humbling decision that will forever leave an imprint on her child’s heart.

My heart also goes out to mothers who work to support their family and still come home and get on all fours to play with their babies. Though you may not be wearing pearls and an apron or have a three-course meal on the table when your husband gets home, your modern-day June Cleaver feats are an impressive display of the deep love you have for your family. My mother would come home from a hard day at the hospital and instantly be responsible for getting us to soccer practice, basketball practice, piano lessons and church events. When we got home late that night, she helped us glue our science projects together.

Motherhood isn’t put together in a cardigan-wearing, pearl-decorated world. It’s messy. It’s Kraft Macaroni on the stove. It’s sacrificing your own fashion at times so your kids can look adorable. It’s consoling your kid after a big loss. It’s parent teacher conferences. It’s play dough on the carpet and watching “The Little Mermaid” a bazillion times. It’s crying when your baby leaves for college. It’s making their favorite dessert when they come home.

Writing this with such passion, you would think I was a mother myself. I am far away from that day, but it is definitely an aspiration that I can’t wait to fulfill. I have realized lately that there is no shame in having two degrees and telling people you can’t wait to be married and be a mother. For a long time, I felt like that was such a slap in the face to 6 straight years of college education. Don’t get me wrong, I want to do great things with my career; I want to accomplish my goals; but I also want to leave this world knowing that I set up another human being to do the same.

So whether you are a stay-at-home mother or a mom who dons work clothes one minute and a Gerber-splattered garment the next, know that you are truly fulfilling one of life’s great endeavors. Don’t ever let someone make you feel like you didn’t live the American dream; or didn’t use every talent God gave you in its right manner. You are the builders of dreams; the nurturers of dreams; the pillow of comfort when those dreams don’t come true.

And that trumps a casserole on the table and high heels in the kitchen any day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Question Game

Normally, I would assert that my blog is much too sophisticated for silly childish games like the question game, but I am trying to kill another hour of student work time and thought I would give you a little more insight into who I am. At the end of the process, I hope to look at the clock and see that it has turned to 12:00 p.m.

What's the best thing about living in this moment of history?
>>I would have to say all the advancements in technology and travel that are allowing people my age to truly make a difference and gain a worldview that the generations before us didn't have.

What makes you feel like a child again?
>> Any time I am singing, dancing or laughing, I feel like I have such a young spirit. Also, when I go back to my grandparents' house and get spoiled, I still feel like the little kid they nurtured and took care of.

What've you learned from past relationships, and what do you do differently now?
>>I used to mold myself to fit the other person's expectations instead of truly being myself. I would also settle for a lot less than I deserved and accept treatment that was not acceptable. Now that I have realized this, I try to only stick with guys that love me and accept me for who I truly am. And I make sure they hold the qualities that are Christ-like.

Would you let someone share your toothbrush?
>>I try not to make a habit of it, but if they were desperate, yes. You can clean them, sterilize them or get a knew one. Repeated offenses? Never.

What are you apathetic about?
>>I am pretty much passionate in some shape or form about all matters, but when it comes to everyday decisions like where to eat, what activity to do, etc., I usually don't care. I'm more about who I'm with than what I'm doing.

What was your last adventure?
>>My last BIG adventure was traveling to Greece my junior year of college. This past summer, however, I made a trip to California for a conference and the next weekend headed to Pennsylvania with a friend.

Tell me ten things you want to do before you die.
>> 1) Ride in a hot air balloon 2) Be in a musical or play 3) Be an amazing mother 4)Write a book 5) Change someone's life 6) Go to Tanzania to see where my grandparents lived 7) Go on a long road trip and stop at major places in the U.S. 8) Become a morning person 9) Learn at least one ballroom dance 10) Push myself to a physical limit of some kind (half-marathon, etc).

Are you vain?
>>I do like to look at myself in the mirror (just ask my roommates) but I wouldn't consider myself vain. I'm more looking for flaws actually. I do worry a little too much about what people think of me, but I feel like vanity is not a huge part of my life and how I interact with others.

Have you ever had to talk yourself into doing something?
>>Um, like every day of my life. I am not a huge fan of spontaneity, but I am getting better because of my friends. I like to have things go according to plan and when they vary from that I often have to convince myself to go along. I end up having a blast but it takes some coercing.

What day would you love to live again?
>>Any day of the family cruise we went on my senior year would be amazing; or my mission trip to Costa Rica (I loved every minute!)

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
>>I would love to have a killer intuition about people and what they were thinking.

Who's been the most influential person to you?
>>My whole family fits into this category, but I would have to say my mother has been the most shining example and influence in my life. She truly has a great spirit and love for others.

What movie do you watch again and again?
>>"While you Were Sleeping" with Sandra Bullock is a beloved favorite of mine, as well as "Return to Me" with Minnie Driver.

What's your most valuable possession?
>>All of my diaries, journals and blog books probably, as well as my pictures. Anything that is sentimental and documents my memories.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
>>Papa Huddleston is notorious for saying, "Better to remain single than to marry a bum." That's a good one.

What's your happiest childhood memory?
>>Any time all the cousins were together was such a blessing. I remember times on the lake with my mom's side of the family and then Branson trips and other visits with dad's side. Any time I was playing dress up was a happy time.

What's the hardest life lesson you've had to learn?
>>That sometimes you have to enact Plan B. That things aren't going to always go as smoothly as you would like and that you have to trust God in the meantime. For a long time, I always got what I wanted when I wanted it.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
>>I wanted to be a police officer or a dolphin trainer at Sea World or a WNBA basketball player.

What experience has changed your outlook on life?
>>I think the death of a friend in high school made me realize that I wasn't invincible and that I should live for each day and not waste my youth. My trip to Greece gave me a broader outlook on the outstretches of the world.

What do you love most about your family? Why?
>>I love how everyone comes to each other's aid in times of need and the way we can all reminisce and laugh when we are together. The love of the Lord has tied us together and they are all beautiful examples to me. We are all so different, but all those quirks work together.

Where's your ultimate vacation destination?
>>I want to go to a tropical island somewhere, like Tahiti or the Bahamas or something!

Would you want to be famous? For what?
>>I would love to write a New York Times Best Seller!

What's the best compliment you've ever received?
>>One of the families I wrote a story about said that I changed their outlook on their son's disease and inspired them to change how they look at it from now on.

What talent do you wish you'd been born with?
>>I wish I had the voice of an angel. And I wish I could cook.

What's the most spontaneous thing you've ever done?
>>I went through the carwash in the back of a truck once. Luckily, it was the one without the wax feature.

What's a subject you wish you knew more about?
>>I wish I was more sound in the Bible and history. I wish there was a way to be completely knowledgeable on politics, too without getting involved in the mess.

What did people tease you about growing up?
>>I had nerdy sports glasses. Kelsey called me "zit face" when I hit puberty. Some girls in the lunchroom made fun of my large derriere.

Who in your family are you most like?
>>I have my dad's humor and goofy faces, but I am very sensitive like my mom. I have been told I have the best qualities of both :)

What's the most fun you've had in the last year?
>>Any fun times spent with my crazy roommates :)

Do you have a recurring dream? What happens in it?
>>Though it comes in different forms, I have dreams where I return to something like a locker or office that I see every day and EVERYTHING has changed. I just don't know what to do with myself.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blown Out of Proportion

One thing I have found especially interesting about my neighborhood is the holidays its residents choose to celebrate. Last Christmas, I hardly recall much decoration from my nearby neighbors; maybe a wreath here or a Christmas tree there. When it hit September 30 of this year, however, I drove by one night and surrounding me from all sides was an inflatable Halloween park. A blow-up black cat arched its back at me with glowing eyes and across the street, air-filled ghosts wound up a large tree.

I honestly don't know what possesses people to use inflatable yard ornaments of any kind, much less make their house look like a demon-possessed Disneyland. If you put tombstones in your yard, I won't be coming over for dinner. That's just that. You may be a kindergarten teacher, but I automatically picture you casting weird spells and brewing strange potions in your kitchen. And if the principal mysteriously disappears, I'm calling the gravestone nearest to your oak tree.

Maybe I am just bitter because my mother used to dress my brothers and I up in themed costumes of three. After entering a Halloween contest as Wilma, Fred and Barney, I was considerably crushed when Kelsey won as Barney. The kid was wearing a burlap sack with an "X" drawn in black Sharpie at the neck. A bone was wrapped carefully in my tight bun, and I wore a large stone pearl necklace with my outfit. Did the judges appreciate that? No...they gave it to the cute little boy who looked like he walked straight out of a Gap Kids catalog.

It is the adult costumes, however, that intrigue me more than the kids' outfits. There is some underlying Halloween clause that says, "When you can't be creative, find an everyday career and make it absolutely inappropriate."

Have you seen a firefighter lately?

Unless you are watching a different news channel than me, I'm pretty certain they don't wear plastic black shorts, a tied-up shirt and a makeshift helmet. And seductively swinging a red fire hatchet does nothing for ya either.

Or what about the men and women who sacrifice their lives on a daily basis to keep us safe? Let's wear pretty much nothing but a badge and carry handcuffs. Too bad NYPD can't even fit across the length of that garment.

Somehow when you dress up as a real teacher (cardigan, khaki skirt and Earth shoes), people are instantly puzzled as to what you may be. Come in with a white button-up not even buttoned, a short skirt and black glasses and people go, "Oh my goodness! You're so a teacher! That is so adorable!"

Most of my Halloweens included costumes that were easily--yet not so easily--recognizable due to their practicality. My dad, the band director, once put me in a band uniform, with a whistle and a huge Q-tip hat. After a knock on the door, people would look down and question what I was. "I'm a band student," I would say matter-of-factly as I reached my hand into their giant candy bowl. Or what about the time I wore my friend's mother's scrubs and splattered fake blood down the front.

"What are you, darling?" they would ask sweetly, their eyes disconcertingly perusing my get-up.

"I'm a dead nurse."

I was brilliant.

I remember the end of my best friend's world was when her mother made her wear a turtleneck under her Jasmine, belly-revealing costume. "But Jasmine doesn't WEAR a turtleneck!" If only parents today would "turtleneck" their little Hannah Montanas, Miley Cyruses and Lady Gagas.

Whatever your opinion on Halloween is, you have to admit that it is a very bizarre holiday because of everyone's different take on it. For people like me that aren't really into it, it becomes prime people-watching time. And that, my friends, is the real treat.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Real Issue

I preface this entry by saying that I have indeed loved my time at Harding, and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to study here. I do, however, feel the need to shed some light (as I see it) on recent PR nightmares that have negatively affected the culture that the university strives to create.

If a quote or verse could be painted above the doorway of the offices of those who make decisions here, I would look to Proverbs 17:27, which says, "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered."

I believe Harding falls under the context of James 3:1, which warns: "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." Though this verse correlates with our accountability to God, I also believe it implies that others will hold extra magnifying glasses of scrutiny in our direction. It seems that one misstep or mistaken word lands us in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and on most Little Rock television stations. (Shall we remember the Robert Randolph concert or the lottery decision or the recent Susan G. Komen vs. bookstore fiasco?)

I think my disappointment lies not in the fact that Harding makes these calls; it's that they do it in haste and end up reversing their previous decision. I feel like it's only after a considerable amount of flack that they later realize, "Hey, maybe we were too quick in making that decision. Perhaps we should have researched it and thought it out a little more."

My only fear is that the university will begin to make decisions based on a perhaps very logical fear that financial supporters or benefactors will pull the plug at a moment's notice if they disagree with what was done. I understand why, as a private institution, this would cause severe anxiousness. I feel like, however, that judgment calls should be based on the current situation, taking all factors into consideration-- not on whether or not someone is going to conveniently forget to sign their check this month.

Pulling Susan G. Komen items off the shelf during the prime "Race for the Cure" season without proper investigation was not a good move. People are donning their pink shirts, changing their Facebook statuses and remembering their loved ones who have died of breast cancer. Beginning with support and then yanking it away because of a rumored connection, then putting them back sends a crazy mixed message to the student body and the community as a whole.

It's the same mixed message that is sent when Jason Mraz can perform on the Benson stage high as a kite, but Casting Crowns can't sing about praising God in the storms of life. It's the same mixed message that is sent when those who admit the truth get expelled, while those who deny are allowed to stay. It's the same mixed message that is sent when 20-year-old kids are thought to be mature enough for married life, but are not yet responsible enough to go camping with friends of the opposite sex.

I am not trying to bash the school that I love or the people I respect greatly; I am only saying that I sometimes feel like in an effort to be held in high esteem, we end up doing ourselves in. Many of these instances remind me of Jesus and the adulteress woman that is recounted in John.

An individual or group of individuals will approach someone with a complaint that is the modern-day version of, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?"

Instead of playing Jesus and carefully revealing "the real issue" at hand, we tend to get overly concerned with the scribes and the Pharisees that are surrounding us with a question.

I have no authority. I have no power or influence, even in the city of Searcy or at the university. But I am here to assert that we need to take our finger and begin drawing in the dirt. We need to not cave to the pressure of others and see people-- and specific instances-- as Jesus himself would.

It is only then that the stones will begin to fall to the ground and the controversy will leave our midst.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The In-Between

When I write about the in-between, I am not referring to the creepy after-death, before eternity state of being depicted in science fiction movies. I am talking about the stage of life that many of us post-grads find ourselves in at this very moment. No one ever tells you about this time of your life. When you're a little child, people ask you what you want to be when you grow up. You usually take another lick of your icecream, smile really big with your two front teeth missing and exclaim, "I'm going to be a doctor/nurse/baseball player/dolphin trainer/fireman." Fill in the blank with your particular preference.

And for most of your young life you naively believe that this is how life works. You survive high school, go to college, become a {insert your preference here}, get married, have a family, etc. There is no question that these events happen smoothly in sequential order.

Then, in your mid-twenties, you find yourself stuck in what I like to call "the in-between."

This is when people stop asking you what you want to be when you grow up and begin to question when you are in fact going to get there. At least when you were in high school, you could tell fellow church members that you were well on your way to becoming a nuclear physicist. Most people don't know what one is (little do they know, neither do you) so they won't further question your ambitions. They will simply smile, nod their head and say, "That's great, honey. I wish you the best."

After your degree is obtained and hunting for a job becomes a losing battle, you begin to wonder how to answer people's questions. I somehow find myself defending my life goals, almost in one breath as to avoid interruption. "So, what are you doing now?" someone might ask after a considerable absence from my life. This is the same person that I told years ago that I was a budding journalist, aiming my sights high.

This is when professional in-betweeners like myself begin to shine. Rather than release the fact that you are in fact a glorified errand runner who gets coffee and checks the mail, you begin to talk about how you assist your boss in current projective goals. Your night job suddenly becomes a business experience rather than an exchange: answering phone calls and scanning for a month of electric and the luxury of taking a shower. I have started wearing business attire to work with power heels so that I can walk around Kroger during my lunch break like I own a bank or something. As the lady runs my milk, eggs and cereal across the checkout scanner, I whip out my debit card with the air of someone who has several zeros after the 1 in her bank account. Little does employee Rose know, I in fact wrote one freelance article so that I could buy the gallon jug instead of the half-gallon this week.

A friend and I were comparing notes on this topic and came to the conclusion that we never pictured this phase of our life; no one ever asks you, "What are you going to do in the meantime of your life?" It's like we skip over it automatically. It's like we thought you could go up to the counter and say, "Oh, I would like to be a doctor, please" without actually considering entrance exams and the notion that not everyone is going to love you as much as your mama, grandma and Aunt Sue. That's the frustrating thing about job applications and interviews. There's no way that a one-page summary is going to present you in your fullest form.

You've gone your whole life being told to follow your dreams, that you're talented and bright and the future has no boundaries. You read each rejection e-mail with tears forming on the brim of your eyelids and you think to yourself, "If they knew me. If they really, truly knew me." I want to tell them that I was Homecoming Queen in 6th grade. That I've managed to never break a bone and I eat gummy worms when I need to stay alert. I am a loving friend, family member and can recount an embarrassing story like you've never seen. But instead of a real peering into my soul, they see in boring Times New Roman font that I was in 5 honor societies and had a good GPA.

My new motto for the "meantime" comes from the movie, "Post Grad," which is the theatrical form of my life and what I am talking about in this entry. One of the characters tells the main girl, "What you do with your life is just one-half of the equation; more importantly it's who you're with when you're doing it." The Lord has blessed me beyond measure during this time in my life with wonderful new people, experiences and life lessons.

Though there is always a part of me that is slightly ashamed and discouraged when watching others around me make their dreams come true, I know that dreams come in many forms. I may not be a powerful business woman or journalist yet, but I have gotten to tell the touching stories of Searcy citizens; I may not have a fancy apartment, but I have had the chance to live with some amazing friends and make great memories. I may not be totally suited for several part-time, temporary jobs, but I have gotten to befriend some great people I never would have known otherwise.

Sometimes, friends, the beauty is in the meantime. the meantime, enjoy it.