Childhood Neighborhood

Lancaster Drive. Ahh, such memories. I remember moving in to our new house, sitting on carpet remnants as mom and dad finished supervising renovations so that we could move out of our rental on Devonshire. (Fingers!)

There was an elementary school just down the road where we went to play on the playground, gliding down the hot silver slide in the summertime, watching the cracks in the mud as we crossed the dried puddles back to the shortcut through the woods. We went to the flagpole at the school once a week to pick up the girls in our Scout Troop so we could go back to the house for our Tuesday meeting.

Tadpoles grew in the gutter puddles after heavy rains and I’m pretty sure I collected a few to see how they would grow. I don’t remember them growing.

An ice cream truck blared it’s music down our road and the idiot driving stopped to ask if I wanted any treats, while I covered my ears hoping he would go away and pass me as fast as possible.

I ran away down to the creek once, because I was so angry as only a nine year old can get, but made sure I packed peanut butter cheese crackers and my favorite doll since I was going to be away forever.

Shortly after we moved in, a family bought the house five houses down and diagonally across from us, and we found our friends in the Fishers. There was a girl for my sister to play with, and a boy just my age for me to run around with. Owen was my first crush, and I never quite got over my love of gangly tall boys. (My husband became one after we were married for a year… extra treats.) They had a pool, so we got to swim during the summer. Owen defended us against the boy next door, Randy, who stole our dolls and wouldn’t give them back.

Dad and Granddaddy built a deck up on the ridge behind our house and strung it with happy lights so we could play outside and see across our whole subdivision. They got it done just in time to celebrate Norris and Janet’s sixtieth birthday, when we had all their friends over to wish them well.

I got my first own room in that house, looking out my window at the tree in our front yard, its trunk divided into three main parts as it stood and guarded the hill. I also got my first camera, where I took artistic photos of the macadam driveway and that tree.

I don’t much remember many other folks who lived around us, either in good ways or bad, though our left door neighbor was friendly even though she had two angry German Shepherds. I was deathly afraid of dogs, and so we didn’t go up to her house very often. We even stayed away from her fence. She also was the host of our first experience with a house fire; she tried to run pillows in her dryer, and they caught flame. Her house was ok afterwards, but we could see the flame from the far end of our hallway.  I remember my sister telling me she wanted to stay as far from the flame as possible, so we huddled there until mom came to find us and take us outside, just in case.

It is the house I learned independence in. I hit the beginning stages of puberty there. It is the only house I’ve lived in that my family owned. It is the only house I miss.

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Memories and Favorites

I absolutely love to have lime in my drinks. Four of my favorite drinks feature lime either as the main flavor or as the sole flavor. Am I at a Mexican restaurant? Agua con limon verde, por favor. Am I out at a cocktail bar? A sweet gin gimlet is for me. Out on vacation? Mojitos. Am I looking for something refreshing at home in the middle of the day? Splash some lime juice in a La Croix water and call it a win.

Honestly, I love putting lime in everything from chicken noodle soup to chili, over an asian salad or drizzled over fresh steamed broccoli. It really is a favorite.

I’m not exactly sure when I started loving lime in everything. I remember the first time I had lime in chicken soup was in the Bahamas on our mission trip to Eluthra, when our host served us the soup she had cooked that afternoon and showed us that we could add lime juice to give it a pep. While I was at divinity school, and every Sunday a group of us went to Torrerro’s after church for lunch, I quickly learned that you had ask for lime En Español in order to not just get a lemon with your water. I think I’d tried mojitos before, but one holiday I took with my parents down at Universal Studios, we ordered a pitcher of mojitos to share… and mom and I loved that we could take the boat back to our hotel. My sister first introduced me to gin gimlets while she was working at a swanky Atlanta restaurant, and my friend Tom offered excellent advice on what kind of gin to buy so that I could make them for my husband and myself at our most recent New Year’s celebration.

It’s funny to me how some foods always remind me of particular times that I had that food. I tie my memories to food and drink the way some people use photographs to remember moments. I have a deep visceral reaction to some very seemingly mundane dishes. It’s one of the reasons that Thanksgiving is so important to me, and why I made a Chocolate Chip Pie for my embassy hosts the year I was in Peace Corps. I needed something deeply familiar in a space that was decidedly unfamiliar. (A special gift I received that year was my host letting me use their phone to call home… and knowing my grandparents’ number by heart so I could call and talk to the whole family around the table as they gathered eight thousand miles away.)

I keep trying new foods and drinks, because I never know what new memories I will tie to the new things I’ve tried. And I never know what my new favorite will be.

Experienced Moving

I’ve moved a lot. I change houses like some people change favorite jeans. I know how to set up a kitchen in less than a week, and make a new house feel like a home I’ve lived in for years. 

Moving is not all about houses. It is also about leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown. It’s about changing out communities, finding new friends, and learning new places. It’s about losing and gaining things at the same time. 

My favorite moving day story is from when I was sixteen. We were leaving a place we had been for four years that we didn’t really ever feel we could call home. There are various reasons for that, most of them are not my story to tell, but for my own part I was not leaving any friends my age behind. I was glad to be leaving. 

Our driveway was black sand that ingrained itself in the carpet and any other surface it came into contact with. Each time I got into the family van, I would snap my feet together to shake the sand off my feet so that the sand transfer would be as minimal as possible. When I got in the car that final morning, I intentionally did not shake the sand off my feet, because I had run across the passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus sends out his disciples to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 14, Jesus tells his disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they do not find welcome or listening ears. I didn’t shake the sand off my feet because I refused to say that the blessing of God’s peace was not present in that place, even if I hadn’t encountered peace while I was there. 

On the last day when we were packed up and the house was clean and empty, we went to have breakfast with a couple that were friends with our family. They pulled out all the stops. Biscuits, eggs, sausage, and this amazing concoction of blueberries with sour cream and brown sugar. Don’t knock it until you try it. June is prime blueberry season in south Georgia. That breakfast was the final good memory to have in a place that didn’t have many other good memories. 

Some moves are like that, a time to leave bad memories behind and move forward into new experiences. Some moves are heartbreaking, leaving behind longtime friends and loved spaces for the unknown. Some moves happen because of graduation or getting a new job or moving closer to family. 

I imagine that my perspective on moving is different than most folks, because I grew up expecting to move, and I chose to work in a profession that expects me to move. I never expected to be in the same place for a very long time. I always wonder where the next place we will live will be, even if that new place and new move is a long ways off. It means that my roots don’t get very deep. But it also means that I am always looking to learn something new about the people I meet. I become more curious each time I find somewhere new. I always know that the blessings of God are present even if I don’t yet know where to look. 

Worth a Thank You

My daughter frequently asks to listen to the Moana song, “You’re Welcome” in which the demigod sings a self enthused celebration about how much he’s given to the people of the islands around him. It’s a fun song, as long as you remember that the song is making fun of people who think too highly of themselves. My two year old has learned words and motions for much of the song, and enjoys it when my husband and I sing along.

Doesn’t it feel like there are all too many people telling us we should be grateful for things that we didn’t need in the first place? Or perhaps I simply feel that there are people who expect thanks for things I didn’t want to have happen. I am reticent to acknowledge folks who require thanks for what they have done.

A thank you is far more genuine when it is unexpected; I want to thank someone when they’ve done something surprising or sacrificial, when I’ve not expected to find or receive the gift that is presented.

It’s funny, we were traveling in DC this past weekend on the metro and I think I was given a seat to sit in far more regularly than when I was further along with my previous pregnancy during our trip in NYC. Not that this is a comment on the metro riders of either city: it was still chilly in NYC when we were there while it was hot the whole time we were in DC, and the clothes I wear when I am pregnant can sometimes greatly reveal my changing shape and sometimes deeply conceal how I am bearing another human being. Also, traveling with a toddler might have affected the responses of strangers.

I most want to thank people who did something outside themselves. The act can be as simple as giving up a seat on a metro train, or as involved as preparing a meal for me while the other was fasting. Or it can be something that the person may not have realized was a huge thing to me, like my friend who consistently makes sure that when we come over to her house for dinner, she prepares food that makes us feel good and fits inside our dietary restrictions, and is something that is delicious.

I cannot always thank people for what they have done, but knowing how I feel about people who act outside themselves makes me want to act outside myself more often. Each time I see an example, I want to follow and live that way, too. I want to live outside myself, give of myself, offer what I have and what I can do and who I can be for others to have a life that is more full. It is my way of saying thank you.

Growing in Change

We change. We grow. We collect scars. We mature. We make mistakes. We learn. We carry wounds. We heal. We build relationships. We burn bridges. We hurt. We ignore. We decay. We develop.

We change.

I believe everyone changes. I don’t believe that the change is necessarily healthy or good, but all of us change. We can change into people who become more and more caustic and hateful, or we can choose to be people that grow towards health and wisdom.

I believe people can change because I can see the change in myself and the people around me.

I have grown wiser, more cautious, more outgoing, and occasionally more judgmental. I have become a better parent, wife, and pastor. I’ve developed my patience. I’ve learned to center myself in something besides myself.

I’ve seen my relationship with my husband, John, change over the past eight years we’ve been together. We’re still learning how to communicate with each other. I’d have thought I would have gotten more of it down by now. Apparently we keep changing and learning about ourselves, and keep bringing more to the relationship than we are aware of. This has been helpful to learn and challenging to navigate.

I’ve especially seen my daughter change. It’s easier to see: she adds a new word to her vocabulary each day. Her change is in greater increments. But when she reaches kindergarten, puberty, high school, college, or adulthood, she won’t stop changing. I’ll keep having to get to know her as we each keep changing.

I’ve even been able to tell that the daughter I am carrying is changing. Her kicks are getting stronger. She moves within me and listens to me sing. She grows.

I had a terrible migraine this past week thanks to Hurricane Irma that lasted four days. I cannot remember the last time I had a four day migraine. It was before I started trying to conceive our first child. The bonus is that I cannot take the usual medication I take to handle my migraines. I had tylenol and the ability to relax my body. After three days I got a rescue dose that knocked me to sleep and kept me out of the emergency room. When I am in the midst of a migraine that long, I have a hard time believing that I will never not have a migraine. I know, logically, that this is not the truth, but I feel like I will hurt and be exhausted forever.

What amazes me is that I lived through a season of migraines like this for a year and a half. I survived them hitting me in waves every single week.

What astonishes me is that it has been over three years since that season. I’ve gotten twice as far past that time than the time I spent in the midst of it. I’m far healthier now. I know my body better. I am more resilient. I enter centering prayer more easily. I am more able to relax my body through the pain, so that it doesn’t hurt as much.

As I spent hours upon hours mindfully relaxing my shoulders, jaw, hips, and neck, I realized I was receiving a small gift in the midst of the pain. Relaxing through an unmedicated migraine is not unlike relaxing through natural childbirth. The technique I use for coping with the pain of migraines is the same that I used for my first birth.

However, the pain itself is different. The experience and purpose of it are radically diametric. Migraines hurt because they hurt. Birth works the body in order to deliver a child.

Birth ushers in a radical change. The labor of childbearing, though intense, is productive.

Change in our lives will hurt. It either hurts because it is producing something new, or because we are caught in a cycle of trying to stay the same while change happens around us. I often get a migraine when a major weather system blows past. My body struggles to catch up to the change in the pressure around it. The weather eventually changes, and I eventually stabilize. But I am changed.

Every day, I change.