The Saturday Ritual

“I’m going to cut the grass today,” he would declare.  That’s when the first round of unnecessary but always expected sighs could be heard flooding out of our mouths.  We sighed just loud enough that he could hear our loathing (even though most times we thought and hoped we were being discreet) as we waited for what always came next.

“You are going to have to help me, right.” Most times when a person says right at the end of a sentence it is meant to be in the form of a question but when my dad used the word it was clearly a statement.  There was never any question about it – we were going to help him.   “Jenna?  Kellie?”  He would repeat our names as many times necessary, each time his voice becoming a little less patient, until we stopped mumbling and clearly answered “Yes, Dad.”  We never answered on the first time but if you made him say your name three times you were being dangerously daring.  He didn’t scold or yell to instruct us that we were going to help him because it was always expected.  Each week we had this routine conversation that never varied as if we were reading from the same ancient script.  Dad would wait for us to acknowledge him and sift through yesterday’s mail sorting the bills from the junk mail or sit at the computer, serious and collected with a buried dash of lightheartedness.

My dad has an honest face with blue eyes that look closely into your soul.  The wrinkles around his eyes show years of powerful thinking and his long, dark eye lashes soften his stern gaze.  His skin soaks up the sun like warm toast soaks up butter giving him a rich tan that always makes my pale skin envious.  His wardrobe has been the same for as long as I can remember: solid t-shirt and shorts just above the knee in white, black, grey, navy blue, and occasionally a dark green.  His persistent wardrobe has caused him to bear the same distinct tan lines tattooed year after year onto his body.  The four inches below his shoulders look like a meticulously crafted Greek tan and the skin immediately above it reveals pale colored pigments like my own skin.  A blurred line around his neck, where his collar rests, hides where the skin turns pale so all that is seen is his muscled neck and that rich tan.

He didn’t announce when he was going out to cut the grass or how long it would be until he needed our help.  We just had to be ready at any time, eyes on that back door, for him to subpoena us to the backyard.  At first it was a guessing game but weekend after weekend we learned the signs of when we would be getting ready.  He would sit on the bed and put on his tall socks and his older sneakers would be sitting ready at the kitchen door.  His boney, round knuckles could start drumming on the glass of the sliding door at any time and as every moment passed I would search my brain frantically for a way to get out of helping with this dreaded though fairly easy task.  I would paint my nails and accuse the paint of being too wet to do anything, claim I had too much homework to leave my room, or try to leave the house all together just so I didn’t have to help cut the grass.  Unfortunately, these tactics never worked and Kellie would say my name in the same manner as my dad and drag me outside when we were summoned by the thudding of Dad’s sun-toasted knuckles on the back door.

The job in itself was not a hard job.  All my dad wanted us to do was come outside for ten minutes (if that long) and help him move the lawn furniture so he could cut the grass underneath it in a timely manner.  Really this should not have been a subject to whine and complain about since he cut the entire lawn in front of and behind our house by himself in the sizzling summer sun.  Although, if you think about it, it was that same sun that had given him the lovely bronze tan he sported so he was at least getting something pleasant out of it.  Mom would tell us every week to “be nice” and “don’t complain” because “Dad works hard” and “Dad does a lot” which are all very true and reasonable statements.  I’m not entirely sure why it was such a big deal to get up and go help him.  He wasn’t asking for a great deal of effort and it wasn’t like he wanted to be cutting the grass any more than I wanted to be helping him to cut the grass.

After being out in the boiling sun for a solid two hours, Dad’s tan was always a little bit darker and looked glossy from the sweat that was clinging to his skin.  A thin line of sweat dripped down the back of his neck and soaked into his shirt in the same shape it had travelled down his neck.  Sometimes it looked like a zipper and other times it looked like a crooked old finger.  His sunglasses were the one part that was contradictory to his face.  The sunglasses have been there for as long as I can remember and still look as shiny and jet black as the first day he wore them.  Even though it would be weird to see my dad without them, they don’t seem to match him in some way.  They look too cool, like a movie star should be wearing them on a billboard ad instead of my dad walking back and forth across the yard pushing his lawn mower in military straight lines.  I guess some little girls look up at their dads and think they are movie stars but my dad is definitely not a movie star.  He is practical, real, and uninterested in lattes and Twitter which makes his choice in sunglasses a bit puzzling.  My dad outshines movie stars – he doesn’t move on to a new script and set after a few months.  Things might not always be perfect and end with a fun song playing as the credits roll but he is still there rapping his knuckles on the back door, waiting for me to help him cut the grass.

Once I got a job and was gone on the weekends I was never asked to help cut the grass; it was all Kellie’s responsibility.  Between the two of us, she’s definitely the mini version of my dad so I’d like to think she doesn’t really mind doing it (in fact, I think she might enjoy the ritual).  Now that I am out of the house, I am not even there to hear the roar that signals the start of the lawn mower or wait for the echoing rap of Dad’s knuckles on the back window.  I don’t see the small icicle shaped sweat mark on his shirt below the nape of his neck or his slippers sitting at the back door waiting for him to come back inside.  I don’t see my Dad’s dark tan covered in sweat that reflects on the sun like diamonds or his black sunglasses looking too cool for him, but are actually fitting him perfectly because they are composed, serious, and attentive.  When I hear my neighbor start his lawn mower I think about the way my dad’s red lawn mower sounded when it would start.  It was not a disruptive growl but rather one of the breathtaking sounds of summer followed by the sweet smell of fresh cut grass.  Those ten minutes were a guaranteed ten minutes that my dad got to spend with me when I couldn’t run away or skip out on which I’m sure meant a lot – especially since we never spent a great deal of time together.  He didn’t have to plan anything or have a topic for conversation in mind because all he had to do was point at the chairs or table that he wanted moved and I would reluctantly follow his directions.  We didn’t speak because yelling over the sound of the lawn mower and forcing my voice through his yellow ear plugs was not what these moments were about.  It was being together; not talking, just being.  I think about my Dad waiting all week just to spend those few extra minutes with me and I wish I had stopped complaining and enjoyed those moments.  Those ten minutes meant more than just Dad getting help with the lawn especially now that his little helper is all grown up.

The Writer Inside of Me Is Pushing Her Way to the Surface

Since I can remember, my mind has always been swirling with different stories and new characters I imagined one after another.  I have always looked at strangers on the street and given them a life story.  Each night as I fell asleep, I created a new story in my head. Playing with dolls as a child was not just a simple activity to pass the time or keep me occupied.  Each time I picked up a doll, I became a girl juggling many roles.  I was an interior designer: creating a home for my dolls from making a bed and adding pillows down to the last mug on the kitchen table.  I was a fashion designer: filling their closets and drawers with the most stylist shirts and shoes and filling hooks with bags and stylish hats.  I was a hair stylist: constantly changing their do from up to down, from straight to wavy, and occasionally permanently changing the length of their hair (hey, my hair grew back but no one told me their hair wouldn’t grow back…).  But most importantly I gave them life.  I created their actions, their relationships, their voice.  They went to high school graduation (it was important that they graduated high school but I’d rather not make them actually go to high school).  They made friends, fell in love, found their passion, and constantly had new adventures.  I gave each of them a career they worked hard to get to and worked even harder at to keep.  They had family and friends they wanted to come home to and spend time with.  Of course somewhere in there I threw in a bad friend, a mean boss…some sort of conflict.  I gave them bad ex boyfriends (everyone has at least one, right?) and eventually, a ring, a wedding, and a husband.  They had children and created treasured memories.  I created these moments and between my dolls, my sister, and I we will always have those memories.  I loved every second spent creating these adventures for my dolls, but every little girl grows up eventually and I had to find a new outlet for my imagination.

As I out grew my dolls, my mind continued to swirl with all these ideas and I had nowhere to put them.  So, one day, I began to write it all down.  I immediately had all these stories started and each time I added to them they became more complex.  My writing has come and gone in random spurts over the years.  I don’t always have time to sit down and put my ideas in writing though and ultimately I forget my grand idea before I write it down somewhere.  I hate to think of all the amazing stories I have lost because I didn’t take two minutes to write down what I was thinking.  Lately, as my passion has grown for my writing, I have been making time to write on a regular basis.  Whether I am in school or at home working my part-time job, somewhere in between the constant craziness I try to find at least ten minutes each day to write something.  Writing is like exercising.  You can’t expect to go to the gym for the very first time, work out for an hour, and leave with perfectly sculpted muscles like someone who has been going to the gym every morning for the last five years.  I’m exercising my brain, testing my creativity, and growing my imagination.  I once saw a quote that said, “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”  If that is the case then I should be an author because no matter what I am procrastinating I will sit down and write.

If someone asked me what I do I would say “I’m a writer”.  If they asked me what I wanted to be I would say “I want to be an author.” (Oh and also I wouldn’t mind owning my own bakery cafe but we can get into that at another time…)  Someday, I will be an author (hopefully).  But even if I never have my work published, I will always be a writer.  No one can ever take away my imagination or need to tell a story.  So until my last day, I will continue to write.  As I keep perfecting my writing and creating a masterpiece, thank you for being patient.  In a few years, look up my name and if I’ve published a book feel free to read it.  I can promise that it will be a wonderful story with years of thought and imagination put into it.  I also encourage you to sit down and start writing.  Don’t tell me you aren’t creative or you don’t have anything to write about.  If you have walked outside once in your life you already have a place to start.  Writing is about observing, thinking, and reporting.  If you see something that makes you laugh, write about it.  If something makes you angry, write about it.  Writing about different emotions and events is exactly how stories come together.  Go get started on that masterpiece!  Stay sparkly!!

Garth Brooks, anyone?

This past weekend, I had the extreme pleasure of seeing GARTH BROOKS perform in Buffalo, NY! This was not my first country concert (seeing as 95% of the concerts I attend are country concerts) but it was my first time seeing Mr. Garth Brooks.  My mom, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, and I all attended the concert on Friday alongside 20,000 other Garth fans.  Garth Brooks is more than an amazing country artist.  He is an entertainer, a comedian, and a great person.  His two-hour show included his amazing hits and was accompanied by his wild energy and comedic commentary.  Not every artist can play the first few chords of a song and send the crowd into an eruption of excitement.  I screamed and sang along with the rest of the crowd to Garth’s hits like Ain’t Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up), Unanswered Prayers, The Thunder Rolls, and Friends in Low Places. He also played songs off of his new album, Man Against Machine, including Man Against Machine and People Loving People.  It is amazing that after over 25 years Garth Brooks still has his original fan base and it continues to grow rapidly.

This was such an amazing concert for me because not only did I finally get to see the man who sparked my love of country music perform, but my mom got to see her favorite artist once again after waiting twenty years.  My mom always said she loved Garth Brooks and I grew up simply referring to Garth as if he was someone we spoke with frequently.  Perhaps Garth Brooks is amazing because of his vocal and musical talents.  Maybe it’s his country based personality.  Maybe it’s his down to earth love for people, music, and life.  And maybe it is all of those reasons.  I love Garth Brooks because (1) my mom loves him, and (2) he is the beginning of my love for country music.  I listened to him alongside Tim McGraw, Randy Travis, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, and Shania Twain.  I was among the few fourth graders in my town who knew who these people were and listened to them willingly.  That’s not to say I didn’t grow up listening to The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. I just chose more often than not to listen to country music because it’s what I loved.  I don’t exactly look what you might stereotype a country girl as but I’m country in my heart.  I love boots, jeans, sunshine, and mark my words, one day, I will own a pick-up truck.

Today more than ever, country music is seen as a culture statement.  Now people listen to country music because it is “cool”.  I listened to it when people put country music down and said it was trash.  When people discovered that country music is about more than beer and girls, the country music industry blew up.  Yes, a majority of artists write about revenge on ex girlfriends and boyfriends and losing their weekend in a river of beer and whiskey.  But the truly amazing country artists can write about love, life, and their personal experiences which let them connect with fans on a larger level.

So to all the original country fans out there and especially to all of the original Garth Brooks fans out there, keep singing loud and proud because you are the true fans.  Stay sparkly, my friends!

Hello world!

Today is the day I decided to stop talking about what I want to do and actually do it!  This is the begining of a journey and I am grateful for anyone who is taking that journey with me.  We are here together, living and learning.  We all have voices and we should be sharing our thoughts, ideas, and experiences with each other.  We live in a world where technology is taking over our abilities to communicate with each other and explore our own creativity.  This blog is about saying what I want and then going out and getting it.  From the little goals like pinning a DIY on Pinterest and actually doing it to accomplishing my dream of opening a cafe bakery and bookshop in the south.  We have all been given a life so I challenge you to go out and get what makes your life the best! On the way to your dreams remember to give the person on the corner a smile, hug your friends everyday, and throw a little glitter in the air.  Stay sparkly!