Friday, September 26, 2008

Meeting Kurt

Last fall, I invited Kurt True to share blogging privileges with me at Willful Grace.
Kurt started commenting here at the blog not too long after I began writing it. From those initial comments, the first really memorable exchange we had was this one:

kurt_t said:

For my 40th me and the better half went to Disneyland. Had birthday breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. Pluto and the Mad Hatter sang "Happy Birthday" to me. Well, Pluto doesn't really sing, he kind of pantomimed it, and after I blew out my candles, what should they start playing but "The Circle of Life" from "The Lion King." Then I went and got my picture taken with Winnie the Pooh and rode Alice in Wonderland about five times. And it worked. I did NOT feel old. Not for one minute.

grace said:

Kurt: do you have kids??? is your wife like a "disney freak"? there must be SOME reason you allowed yourself to be submitted to this sort of...uh...."disney-a-go-go" sort of experience...unless you are that into Disney, not that there's anything wrong with that....;)....what gives, dude??? Whatever it score major points for submitting to it...even though it all sounds like a TON of fun...for real! :) grace

tdub said:

OH! OH! OH! I wanna go to DisneyWorld for my birthday!!! Wouldn't that be a blast? We could go for all our birthdays! :)

kurt_t said:
Wife? No. I'm actually one of your many gay male admirers. Poor Grace, you must feel like you're turning into Cher or something! Anyway, I'm a big Winnie the Pooh fan. I was part of the first wave of Winnie the Pooh kids in the U.S. The Milne stories weren't well-known in the U.S., and when Disney came out with the Winnie the Pooh shorts (which were eventually compiled into "The Magical World of Winnie the Pooh"), that's when Winnie the Pooh became really popular in the U.S. Here's a picture from my birthday. That's me on the right. Oh! Winnie the Pooh has his own ride at Disneyland now! But if I tell you how many times I went on it, I'm going to start to sound weird.

grace said:

Kurt: Oh! Well cool! That's a cute picture. I always loved Winnie-the-Pooh stories as well. The whole idea of the Hundred Acre Wood just sounds like heaven to me....and that scene of Christopher Robin's room before the movies begin...I always wanted that room. I also love those little books of "wisdom" from Winnie-the-Pooh. Can I be Bette Midler instead of Cher? I like her taste in clothes more. ;)

kurt_t said:

If you want to be Bette Midler instead of Cher, that means you're 27 pounds heavier. On the upside, you have better taste in clothing and a wider vocal range, and you were never married to Greg Allman. I guess it would be a net gain, huh?

grace said:

27 pounds, huh?? Dang! Ok, fine, I'll be Cher! ;)

From there, our blog friendship was formed.

Over the next 3 years Kurt never failed to encourage me, and more often than not, make me laugh out loud with his offbeat humor. Another of his comments that stands out to me is one he made on a post I titled "Sucks to be Me".

I'd arrived home on a Friday afternoon and as I opened the back door, even with the dogs there to greet me with leaping, jumping, and wagging tails, I just sort of "lost it". It was one of those "narrow" days that Jean Schulz spoke of last week, and it seemed to be closing in on me. I sat down and wrote a blog post about how I was feeling, and this was Kurt's comment of encouragement:

kurt_t said...

I think those of us who've been through the kind of ordeals that you've been through, or different kinds of ordeals, like domestic violence or warfare or addiction or some terrible accident, on our good days, we look back on the ordeal and we say "That made me a stronger person." Or "That made me a more compassionate person." Or a braver person, or a better teacher, spouse, mom, dad, nurse, artist. On your good days you can see some profit in the ordeal.
On your bad days, your worst bad days, I think you look back on the ordeal, and you say "This has all been some terrible mistake. I wasn't supposed to survive that ordeal. What am I doing here?" And instead of feeling stronger, you feel like you're pinned under a pile of rubble, scorched, bleeding, paralyzed, and you look up at that mushroom cloud rising over your head and say "What kind of cruel joke is this?"
But the good news is even the worst of the worst of the bad days of your life only lasts 24 hours, and that mushroom cloud is going to blow away, and you're going to drag yourself out of the wreckage and, when you do, you're going to find out that you weren't really alone.

And that's Kurt. Over the years, I've often found myself wondering what gem Kurt will leave in the comments as soon as I hit the publish button. And I still do.

Some people marvel (and I marvel that they marvel) at the fact that I am not bitter, angry, or just generally repelled by "the gays" after all that I've been through. The thing is this; I didn't marry "the gays". I married a guy named Todd who had some issues. And, oh yeah, he happens to be gay. I don't despise all rednecks just because my first husband was one of those. (LOL LOL) Well, mostly I don't. ;) Personally, I'm mostly repelled by the unfortunately huge number of folks who will say things like, "oh, I LOVE gay people, I just don't want to have anything whatsoever to do with them." Some people say it and others just behave in a way that says the exact same thing. I'm as astonished by that attitude as some of them seem to be by me and my attitude . *sigh* Oh well.

Kurt drove from El Cerrito out to San Jose where I was staying last week. He took me to a few of his favorite spots: Mission San Juan Bautista, the quaint little town of San Juan including the local cemetery, and Garlic World in Gilroy w here we ate garlic ice cream.

Our meeting.... did we get that shot or do I need to hug him again?

This is Mission San Juan Bautista, one of the few (according to Kurt) restored Franciscan missions that still holds Mass on a regular schedule. Kurt and I said a prayer and lit a candle for his mom during our visit.

The mission overlooks the original El Camino Real or "The King's Highway" which originally connected the 21 missions of California and ran all the way to Mexico. The monks used to sprinkle mustard seeds along the road so that it would be marked with distinctive yellow flowers.

We walked around the little town of San Juan where they were having an Art & Wine Festival. It had a bit of a "Taos" sort of feel to it. Very nice.

After visiting the cemetery at San Juan, (the day offered the perfect lighting for cemetery pictures and I'll probably post some of those at some point) we made our last stop of the day at Garlic World in Gilroy, CA. Which, to quote Kurt, "is so much more than just garlic."

You are not mistaken, that is the world's longest chain of garlic.

I'm looking forward to Kurt's up-coming post titled "Meeting Pam/Grace"-whatever he's calling me now! ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Much to Blog

I've got a computer full of pictures and several posts stewing around in my head to accompany many of them.....

....but all I can think of right now is how incredibly awesome it is to be HOME with Sparky and Emma curled up next to me, my ceiling fan humming quietly overhead, and my two favorite pillows just waiting for me to continue from where I was so rudely interrupted this morning.

Here's one little "teaser" of a photo that will accompany my next post.
Yes boys and girls, we can finally confirm once and for all that Pam/Grace and "Big Daddy" Kurt are not the same person! What fun we had. More to come....

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The WIDEST Day of All

I don't think I've ever written here about my passion for the life and work of Charles Schulz. Well, it's time I did that because yesterday was the most amazing day, right up there with the birth of my boys, as far as memorable experiences go.

To frame the event you must know that I've read practically every book ever written about Charles Schulz and have admired the humor, insight, and creative genius of the Peanuts comic strip for as long as I can remember. I know everything about Schulz and the characters he created because I love them. I knew that I'd grown to love the person of Charles Schulz when I broke down and cried upon hearing of his death back in 2000. It was the first and only time I remember becoming so emotional over the death of someone famous as if I'd known them personally.

I've wanted to visit Santa Rosa, CA for as long as I can remember because I knew that Schulz lived and worked there. I knew that you could find him in the Redwood Empire Ice Arena where he ate breakfast and lunch every day, and I knew that his studio was within walking distance of the rink. I'd also known that plans were in the works before his death to open a museum in honor of the man and his work. I even wrote and was turned down for a grant from the Fund for Teachers organization last year in an attempt to visit Santa Rosa and the museum and be able to enrich the lives of my students by sharing my passion with them. Simply stated, I've been a serious student of Charles Schulz and his work for years and years.

For now, I'll just say that due to the generosity of a friend, I was able to fulfill my life's dream of visiting Santa Rosa and the Charles Schulz Museu
m yesterday. It was INCREDIBLE. I cried tears of joy off and on during the entire visit. I could hardly believe that I was there. The entire experience was a complete surprise. I told my friend that I literally could not have been more excited if he'd announced yesterday morning that I was going to spend the day in Florence, Italy.

Welcome to the Charles Schulz Museum.

I took this picture for a friend of mine, and I'm going to let him figure out who he is. *wink*

This is the education room where classes are held and where adults and children can create artwork in response to their experiences.

One of the most moving pieces of the permanent exhibit for me was the recreation of "Sparky's Studio" where Schulz created the comic strip every day. Most of the artifacts in this space are the pieces of furniture, pictures, pens, curios, and the actual books contained in his personal library that surrounded him each day as he worked. I was, again, moved to tears as I entered this space. I wrote down many titles from his library that I intend to read.

These pictures were all taken outside the Ice Arena where I ate lunch at the Warm Puppy Cafe'.

The day was absolutely FUN. It was difficult for me to drag myself away and I did so, again, with tears of joy over the fact that I'd been able to experience something I'd been looking forward to doing for so long.

And then, it was as if God looked down and said, "you know, Pam is so completely happy and grateful and so incredibly full of joy, I think what I'll do is just take that up a notch and let her know without a doubt that I'm right here watching and that I like what I see." I can't even write this now without sitting here bawling my eyes out.

A lady approached me in the parking lot and said, "I just want to let you know that it's meant a great deal to me to see you having fun here today. I was having a business lunch with my stepson at the Warm Puppy and we couldn't help but notice how much you've enjoyed yourself. I'm Jean Schulz."


I gasped. And the tears came again. Tears of indescribable joy. And she extended her arms to me and hugged me. And then, the wife of the man who's philosophy, art, attitude, and, theology have impacted not only me but an entire WORLD, stood in that parking lot and talked with me about her husband, his life, some of his motivations, and about the characters he created. She talked about a particular strip where Charlie Brown and Sally are having a conversation about days. Sally asks Charlie if the days are getting longer or shorter. Charlie's reply was to say that days are not long or short but narrow and wide. Jean went on to say that she loved that concept because there are days that do feel narrow, as if they are closing in on you. And then, there are other days that are wide and are giving you room to expand.

THANK YOU, Jean Schulz, for giving me the WIDEST day of all.

Today's experience was an example of God's infinite grace bestowed so abundantly on me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blog on a Stick

Drew and I had the most delightful day we've had in I-can't-remember-when on Sunday. We met a friend in OKC and went to the Oklahoma State Fair.

The day was vibrant and alive. In Starbucks terms, yesterday was a triple shot macchiato with extra cream and two pumps of flavored syrup. Intensely beautiful.

One of the greatest guilty pleasures at any fair is the food. In fact, in our brief pre-fair email exchanges, my friend and I both commented that eating "bad for you" food was a primary motivation for attending.

We hadn't been there long when we started scoping out the midway and taking mental notes in an effort to fall off our respective "healthy eating habits wagon" in the most satisfactory way to our palette that would be the least offensive to our digestive system. If anyone still has doubts that I'm actually in my 40's, this sort of information truly gives me away. Long gone are the days when there was no such thing as a digestive hangover.

Not long into our food excursion, we began to notice a theme.

I guess it all started long ago, before someone came up with the word corndog.

These were surely only a short leap for the folks who create tempting new foods for fairs.

I'm pretty sure that this on is just a fancy way of saying ALLIGATOR ON A STICK.

The one that really grabbed our attention was this one.
And finally, the one I just do not understand and was not able to document with a picture....

A quick Google search revealed that the Oklahoma State Fair is pretty lame when it comes to items on a stick. Apparently, this is a BIG deal up in Minnesota where you can eat 63 different items from a stick. They are all documented in this silly YouTube video. And yes Chad, apparently there IS such a thing as spaghetti-on-a-stick.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Home Sweet Dog

The weather has turned rainy and cool here this week. It's the perfect weather for enjoying my big front porch.

And Sparky rules the porch.
I love this dog.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Processing Post 87

I've lost count of how many posts I've titled "Processing". I guess I should have started numbering them long ago.

I'm finding that it's easier to tell the bad stuff the further out I get. It doesn't hurt either, that Tdub and I remain friends and we've recognized that seeing the other person live and overcome can actually be helpful in our own journey as we pick up our pieces and move forward. It's unusual, yes, but unusual is very different from bad or wrong.

Back in the anonymous days, I never wrote much of the heartache and pain of being married to an SSA struggler. I mostly did that because it would have been hurtful to Tdub, but I think part of me was also afraid to talk about it too much because talking about it would have revealed just how much rationalization I was having to go through to stay married to him in the first place. So back then, I wrote mostly about the positive aspects of our marriage, our joys and struggles with the boys, and a bunch of my personal ideas about being a Christian, etc...

Being back in the "dating game" (which may sound fun but trust me, it's overrated) has given me a new outlook on the whole "males attracted to females" aspect of life in general. Or I guess I should say that my marriage to Todd afforded me a different outlook than I had before. In my online dating exploits I often find myself replying to my suitors (blame my recent foray into Homer's Odyssey for my use of the word "suitors") with a weird mix of rejection and appreciation.

Some of my replies go something like this: "Thank you for the compliments. I do value and appreciate your interest in me but I don't sense a similar attraction on my part and I generally don't believe we'd be a good match for one another. But I sincerely appreciate your interest because it does feel nice to be wanted." That or something similar. That probably sounds really corny or something, but believe it or not, most guys are very appreciative of the honesty and seem to be a bit confounded by the appreciation.

I told someone the other day that I had a great appreciation for male attraction even if I wasn't willing to respond to the males in question. I've learned what it's like to be with a man who doesn't have a basic "need" to be with you or an inner stirring that causes him to lose all sense of reason just from watching you flip pancakes or throw clothes from the washer to the dryer.

With Tdub, I never felt really needed. In fact, I knew all along what he needed as well as what I needed. We were each longing for the love of a man. According to reparative therapy, if Tdub could have just gotten a good, healthy dose of manhood by having healthy relationships with male friends, he'd have eventually developed the sort of stirrings that men have for women. Basic attraction, basically.

I learned that this basic attraction is a vital piece of a healthy marriage. I often felt purposeless in my marriage to Tdub because I didn't feel really needed. Being married to a man who does all the laundry (and does it WELL), keeps up with all the kids activities, and not only helps but enjoys staying up half the night with you setting up Christmas decorations may sound like a dream for many women. And honestly, it was. Those things that we shared were incredibly fulfilling in their own way. But the whole thing would fall completley on its face the minute the lights were out and we went to bed. I went to bed with a brother, not a husband. I had nothing to offer Tdub in the way of physical fulfillment. In fact, intimacy became, for him, just another thing to check from the list of things he needed to accomplish for the....uh....month, maybe? It was pretty bad.

So now, I do appreciate and value male attraction. I find it refreshing, not something that gets in the way of really getting to know someone. In fact, after what I've been through, it's important to me to KNOW that a man is attracted to me physically. That's an important item on my personal checklist. The downside is that physical attraction could easily become a problem for me if I weren't self-disciplined and actually committed to checking off a great deal more things from that list of mine before I venture into that realm. But, in the words of Martha Stewart, that's a good thing.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Fruits of My Labor Day Weekend

The kids were thrilled today when I showed up with headbands for every character (more pictures of those to come later), the chariot, and the Greek style ship for Odysseus. Liability prevents me from showing much more than I am as far as students go. Which is why you get nothing but me and my poor imitation of Vanna White next to the chariot and boat. Oh well. Needless to say, I'm pretty proud of these things and I have a very sore and healing thumb to show for it. Stealing a line from blog buddy Kurt, "The box knife is a harsh mistress."
Odysseus! Princess Nausicaa Homer

And personal favorite (who also my happens to be my cousin!)


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Monday, September 01, 2008

Stuff That Makes Me Feel Old

I have lots of young friends. Which is cool. Part of it comes from my profession and part from having teenage sons, but my most massive quadrant of youthful aquaintance stems from the fact that Tdub and I spent all those years volunteering almost all of our free time to youth group activities at church.

And there really are some things about growing up that will never change. People are just people the world over and we can , if we try hard enough, find ways to connect with each other through some common human life experiences.

But some things have changed a LOT. I keep noticing, because of Facebook and Myspace, how very DOCUMENTED the lives of kids are these days. I mean, seriously, I've seen a girl post a picture after breaking her fingernail. Some of the stuff the boys put up is just downright gross. And I do mean in a really gross way...not a nasty, dirty way, although that can be found as well. Oh, and sick now means awesome. Did the rest of you catch that little twist of words as it came zipping into the lexicon? I think bad may have gone back to actually being bad. Not sure.

Back in the day, those of us who had our first baby during our mid-twenties, used to build these massive photo albums documenting things like our child's first bath (in the sink), their first foray into the clothes dryer (those are always cute ones), and the obligatory photo of them sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor surrounded by Tupperware (remember that stuff??), pots, and pans. My point is, the child had actually DONE something that seemed at least somewhat worthy of snapping pictures. I mean, after all, we had to actually take FILM to a separate location and wait at least one whole hour (seems like eons now) to get these things back so that we could label them and add them a work the size of the Gutenberg Bible by the time we were done with it. I've actually had shelves begin to buckle under the weight of Daniel's photo albums, and those are just the ones from his first year.

Now these kids go off to college and within the first week, on Facebook, I can determine within 100 calories how much they've consumed from the 4 basic food groups. And by the way, kids these days don't eat nearly enough vegetables. Granted, it's mostly girls who have Facebook albums with names like, "dorm room fun", just outside the dorm room fun", "in the hall of the dorm room fun", and oh yes, "in the mirror of my dorm room fun". As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that I've not seen one dorm room picture yet from any of the young men, some of whom I did teach as 2nd or 5th graders, on my Facebook list. The boys tend to document more of the food they eat, sans vegetables, and their many late night sessions of Guitar Hero, which always appears to be happening in a place bigger than a dorm room. Maybe the common area? Or some upperclassman's trailer house? Not sure. Either way, these kids are documented.

When I was in college we only had the pictures the party pic guy was able to snap before he got to drunk to remember to keep doing his job. And if we wanted those, we had go to some location to look at them and to buy them.

So yeah, today's youth make me feel old sometimes. But I don't mind really. I'm mostly just glad they've added me to their Facebook accounts. Somebody's got to remind them to eat their vegetables.

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