Sunday, August 23, 2009

Love Muffins

This weekend brought another visit with The Poet and his precious Emma. Saturday was an extra-special day for the little one as her great aunt would be treating her to a back-to-school shopping trip (is it back-to-school if you're going to kindergarten?) Said aunt (and uncle) live in the Kansas City area, so I left the Three Little Diggs with Martin for a few hours while The Poet, Emma and I drove across the city. A surprise was awaiting Miss Emma. Her grandma, The Poet's mom, had traveled more than a few miles to share the joy of the day. This also meant (drumroll please...) I was going to meet Mom.

The Poet has a beautiful relationship with his mom...heck...his whole family. Rarely do we make it through a conversation without a new story about mischief with one or more cousins, the powerful "coven" women who lead the families or how Crazy Uncle Dick once caught a flaming marshmallow with his bare hand while on a five-plus month hike through the Appalachians. And I was about to walk into this powerful vortex of love armed with little more than a smile and some zucchini bread.

We arrived at Aunt Lisi and (Crazy) Uncle Dick's house and before we had exited the car, were greeted by a houseful of folks. Hugs were immediately dispensed (thank goodness...I'm a hugger too). A casual breakfast was planned before the big shopping trip so we headed indoors--well, I did. The Poet stayed outside to chew the fat with a cousin for a bit, forcing me to fend for myself after only a few minutes.

And I felt perfectly welcome. I was ushered into the kitchen to a lovely spread of baked goods. And before I could take a breath, it was pointed out to me that those muffins, the beautiful blueberry ones, were gluten-free. Homemade gluten-free blueberry muffins. They had searched out a recipe and the many flours it takes to reasonably substitute for wheat, then baked said beautiful muffins. I was (and kinda still am) blown away. Far beyond a mere thoughtful gesture, this family has so much love to give, they passed it onto someone that they'd not yet met.

Did you know I hadn't had a muffin in four months? Oooohhhhh my. What a treat!

The rest of the visit was easy and fun and filled with love and stories and laughter. When the goodbyes and hugs were said and done, The Poet and I drove away with full bellies and fuller hearts. It's good to see the tree from which the apple dropped...even if it rolled around a bit before finding a nice resting spot. This tree is a real beauty.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Exercise Doesn't Hold a Candle to Love

It might be time that I explain this silly grin I've been wearing as of late and the doe-eyes as well. Seems I have found myself smack dab in the middle of a severe case of love.

Not what I thought I was looking for. At all.

As a matter of fact, my Match profile so many months ago, when I was merely seeking a distraction for a few evenings until I started school, began like this:
Far be it for me to tell you that I'm your dream girl. Sure, I'm witty, intelligent, charming, sassy and, um, humble... Chances are, I'm not her. She's probably working at the desk around the corner from yours, cutting your neighbor's hair, married to some other guy or, if you're really lucky, the author of the very next profile you click. This isn't an effort to drive you away. I'm not specifically looking to be someones next wife -- though not saying it's impossible, just that it's not probable. But, hey, you won't know any of this until you finish reading my verbose profile and order a background check and bloodwork.
Though I attracted a few entertaining smartasses, for the most part I found myself disgusted by winks and inane come-ons referencing nothing more than my looks or assumed bra size.

Then one Saturday morning after a delicious run, I found a lovely note waiting in my inbox. A kind young man wanted to tell me that he enjoyed my writing, noting that "nobody uses the word verbose in their profile" but that he was, in fact, looking for something more special than what I seemed to be seeking. Never one to be challenged, I responded somewhere in the realm of if it was really the right thing, I wouldn't turn away from it.

And from there a friendship was born. We quickly hopped from Match to facebook and enjoyed some truly beautiful exchanges. Meeting in person was going to be a greater challenge...he lived a million miles away, after all. Okay, sixty, but with my crazy kid schedule, it seemed unrealistic to try to get anything real started. He managed to find an excuse to come to my city for a couple of hours so we could take in a museum and walk the Plaza. It was sweet and fun, but my inner cynic was especially loud those days and I couldn't muster the effort to build something that would take so much perceived work.

We continued to exchange emails for a month or so, with my side of the communication dropping off fairly dramatically as school started. A month into classes, I planned a trip to his town to check out the university and shot him a note to see if we could meet for a drink and some quality conversation. He sweetly agreed (despite my recent disappearance), so after my meeting with the dean of the dietetics department and his workday, we found each other in quaint downtown Warrensburg. We picked up in a better-than-we-left-off place...no first date jitters...just casual fun. We caught up on Match escapades, children, jobs, school, life... Though I truly was enjoying our visit, I knew heading home would be a long drive and that I had a full school day on the other side of the sunset, so we walked toward our cars. He proudly pointed out local landmarks while we held hands like only two people who cherish each other could. A goodbye hug turned into a kiss--you know...the kind of kiss that makes your eyeballs shake...yeah, that kind--and then we parted ways.

My brain on the drive home was a tangled mess. I had only a small window in which to decide whether I was going to change my baccalaureate plans from K-State to UCM. And I had to sort out the pile of emotions that said kiss left all over the Johnson County, Missouri courthouse lawn.

I would like to say I played it cool for the next couple of days, but in reality, I was a bumbling fool, telling myself and him that starting something would be dangerous. (What on earth did I mean by that?) But I couldn't shake him from my thoughts. We managed another rendezvous and it all gelled from there. The friendship had evolved in the loveliest of ways.

Those million miles that I'd previously argued against became nothing more than a walk to a neighbor's house. In the weeks since that fateful kiss, we have shared countless hours of telephone conversation (perhaps a reason for my lack of attention to my Mountain of Laundry) and have crossed those
miles more than a few times, even recently introducing our children -- something I agreed with myself that I'd not do until I had found a relationship with true promise. This one meets that criteria.

So I introduce you to The Poet. A spirit like no other who adores me as much as I do him. Though the notion of falling so deeply and so quickly likely seems preposterous, I assure you that when you meet him, you will understand.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whatever Floats Your Boat...

Sure, school was a great time. A wonderful stepping out of my comfort zone, a giant leap toward my future aspirations, a challenge beyond my expectations, and a big fat A in each of my classes to jump start my return to college life. But I wasn't going to settle for just that. I had to snag new friends too. One in particular, Laurie, with a zest for life like no one I know, invited the kids and I to her family's place at the Lake of the Ozarks to give our otherwise school-full summer a nice exclamation point.

As we were wrapping up the semester, she reaffirmed her welcome and we made plans to head lakeside the following week. I packed a few things, grabbed the kids from Martin and we headed out on a two-day fun-fest.

None too shy of three dozen, are-we-there-yets, we arrived at the lake and stepped into a new world. Laurie explained that there were only two rules: that kids must always have a life jacket once on the dock, and that we must have fun. My little ones started playing in the water immediately while Laurie readied the boat for a quick spin. Audrey was not a fan of the boat ride initially, and was nothing shy of terrified when Laurie (aka Joy Agent 007) encouraged Isaac and then Emily to take to the driver's seat. She returned to the helm, slowed then stopped, pointed at a cliff and said to me, "Do you want to jump?" I have no idea who was controlling me at the time, but I answered "yes," hopped into the lake, swam to the the shore and began my ascent to the thirty foot high plateau. Then I realized how crazy I must have been. It took more than a minute and several deep breaths before I reluctantly stepped off the ledge, ignoring Laurie's careful instructions for a safe landing. And just so you know, water can leave a nasty bruise when improperly handled.

After that, we headed to bar in our swimsuits and barefeet (the kids were beside themselves in shock) for a deep-fried dinner then back to the house, where we built a campfire, made s'mores, lit fireworks and shared general joy.

The next morning...another boat ride, tubing, (got my first black eye from that!) more swimming, jet-ski rides, and general getting-away-from-it-all bliss. My Three Little Diggs had a rip-roaring time. Their summer under my watch had consisted mostly of quizzing me on anatomy terms and (im)patiently awaiting their turn at the computer, so this was a treat far beyond their expectations. They wrapped evening number two with board games, snacks and soda. (It's vacation...even I can loosen up and allow high fructose corn syrup now and then.)

The next morning we had to be on our merry way, but not before Joy Agent 007's cousin set up poles with lures and took the kids to the dock. (Favorite quote of the trip...Austin: "Isaac, do you like to fish?" Isaac: "I like to catch fish.")

The drive home included fewer are-we-there-yets and more that-was-awesomes. Before Joy Agent 007 had closed the car door to return to her home, the kids were asking about the next time they'd see her. She's an amazing mother, optimist and fabulous role model for me.

I've said it a hundred times. I have the best friends in the world. And lucky me, I have room for more. Life is good. (Complete photo album here)