Friday, May 26, 2006


My computer died on Wednesday. My deadline was Thursday. I was surprised at my lack of concern. I was close to being finished. All the pages of the magazine were done, except for one. The ads were late, and I was waiting, as I always do, for that last client to say "go." And so I turned off the computer, unable to finish the book. And I figured it was all with purpose. May be I'm supposed to tell Richard that I get tired of waiting until the last minute for ads, and that if he was on time, the magazine would have made it on time. Or maybe I was supposed to give myself a day off. Or maybe Dave the "PC Heavyweight" needed some work.

Whatever the reason. I didn't stress out, but waited, knowing that it would get fixed somehow.

I'm not one to play the "it's God's will" card, nor do I believe "shit happens," which leaves me with the omnipresent question, "what's the purpose in this?" The only problem is that I seldom know the answer. And I'm reminded that I don't always need to know the answer. If I follow my instincts and intuition, the resolution always presents itself. And if I let the universe do its job, instead of trying so hard to control the situation, all turns out as it should be.

And so my computer runs, Dave made some money, I had most of the day off, got the car washed, and the magazine is late - but finished. I also bought a great new bag for my books, pens and notebooks - the perfect bag to replace the old writing bag, which I trashed before I left Houston. And life remains good - the earth didn't stand still. And it's all with purpose.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Steve broke his watch this week, and feels naked without it. He thinks it's funny that I don't wear one, and rarely care what time it is. I suppose this is one of the benefits of working for myself. I work when work feels right, and play when play feels right. I can go to bed when I'm tired and eat when I'm hungry.

My world isn't totally without schedules, but they are definitely less constricting than those claimed by most people I know. And I'm happy for it. My deadline is this week, which means it is one of those weeks when I feel like the regular people. I have lots to do before Thursday. I'm convinced that wearing a watch would simply stress me out. I work at my own pace, finishing one thing after another, regardless of the time. And somehow it all gets done - watch or no watch. Let me mention here that a watch can make a great fashion statement. I do own a few that I think perfectly compliment my wardrobe. And even when I do slip one on my wrist with a couple of silver bracelets, it's more for the fashion than the time keeping. I look at it only to be sure that I haven't lost it, and that it hasn't slipped under my cuff.

I think it's interesting that we call the machines that keep time "watches" as if it was our job to look at them regularly, being sure that we are keeping up the required pace. It's no wonder that people speed to work and get road rage - it is their job to "watch." And somehow we believe watching will let us control time. I prefer to think that there is no such thing as time. That one moment just follows another. The fact that we measure it so relentlessly has no bearing on its coming and going. It simply is.

I recommend not wearing a watch - for a day, for a week, for a month. If you're like me, your body will find its own special rhythm, knowing when to sleep and when to wake. The afternoon sun will beckon you outside when you need to take a break, and your stomach will tell you when to eat. Someone will ask you what time it is, and your answer will be within 15-30 minutes of whatever the clock says. Surprising, no? No. Keeping time is just one of the things your body does naturally - if you let it.

I guess this talent or time keeping is like any skill that goes unused - it doesn't develop. But if you tap in and rely on it, you'll find it quite useful, and less stressful than "watching."

Friday, May 19, 2006

backyard zen

I regularly refer to my new residence as my shitty little rent house (SLRH), but the truth is, I do like it, despite the threadbare carpet and the ugly wallpaper in the kitchen. I guess that it, like me, needed a little tlc, which I give whenever possible.

The yard here (SLY) was also pretty neglected, with weeds growing everywhere, bare dirt where grass should be, and flower beds that were just waiting for a plant or two to take root. And so that has been the project of the week. Last night we made great strides, working the soil, planting hyacinth and daylily bulbs, and feeding the peonies. Steve planted two red rose bushes in whiskey barrels - one for next to the front door, and one for the backyard. And we're not finished yet. We will plant wildflowers along the back fence, and fill in the bare spaces in the yard, put wind chimes in the trees, and convert an old cigar ashtray into a bird feeder.

Seems like lots of work for a SLY, no? Maybe it is, but my way of thinking is that the space that surrounds you should be a reflection of who you are. I want to be able to open the door, walk outside and find a place that inspires me, attracts the wild things, and leads me to serenity. Steve says it seems a little crazy to put so much time and energy into this place, when we probably won't be here that long...but I say, you should always leave a space, knowing that it is better for your being there. Perhaps after we move away from the SLRH, someone will walk in the backyard and say it's beautiful, and notice how the birds and butterflies love it here. And I will smile and know that this space is better because I walked on the grass and nurtured the growing things.

Found a yard gnome in front of a friends house. She doesn't love him, or have any intention of keeping him and is willing to give him up. He's seem lots of winters, and will need a little cleaning up, but I'm sure he'll love his new space in the SLY, reclining next to the peonies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Talked to my daughter yesterday. We talked about Texas, and how it will always be a part of who I am. The first month that I was here, she sent me a few seed packets filled with bluebonnets and wildflower mix. With the coming of spring I knew I would miss these pieces of Texas. I smiled when they came in the mail, and wondered if they would survive here - and if I would be able to make this new place my home.

I waited until the weather turned to plant them, as spring here is a few months behind Texas. After a few sunny, warm days last week, I decided it was time to drop them in clay pots and wait. And so I planted them and waited. One week later, sprouts appeared, and this morning, I noticed that they are thriving. And I'm taking it as an affirmation - a sign that even I can grow and thrive in this climate, despite the fact that Texas is so much a part of who I am.

I'm sure that much of that has to do with the emotional environment in which I have planted myself, and the nurturing gentle way of the "gardener" who shares my house.

Yesterday afternoon was not good. I received a packet from my lawyer reminding me that I have to deal with stuff back in Texas - my unfinished business. This I have avoided at all costs, preferring instead to be like the wildflower seeds, warm and safe in the packet, away from the elements that might harm them.

But like the wildflowers, I know that I can only thrive and grow when I allow myself to be exposed to the conditions outside. And so I will face the emotional storm that brews outside the safety of my little rent house in South Dakota. When the conditions are really stormy, I will remember the warmth of the sun, and the gardener who offers cover when things get tough. And I will remember that the thunder and lightening cannot hurt me. That I have taken root, and I am safe. I will thrive and grow, like the bluebonnets. And I will remember Texas fondly as I sway, smile, and lift my face to the South Dakota sun.

Friday, May 12, 2006

another friday

I've been trying to think about what I will write for my column this month and have come up empty. The well may have run dry. I can do the standard June Father's Day thing, but don't really feel much like writing that again. And so I'm stuck.

My writing in general seems to be stuck. I'm not sure what that's about, except maybe I'm not following the rules set by Natalie Goldberg who says....

Come to the page
It's okay to write junk
Keep your hand moving
etc., etc., etc.,

It's been so long since I've written something of substance that I don't even remember all "the rules." But since I continue to break the first one, I suppose the rest don't really matter right now.

I really thought my coming here would open up some new creative channels for me. But so far, this hasn't happened. You'd think that since I'm happier than I've been in, well, forever, that it would come much easier. Instead, I'm beginning to believe that one writes better from pain. Natalie wouldn't be pleased. She'd call it an excuse. Maybe she's right. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't get to my gut and let things spill out. It may be because I'm putting so much energy into my real life, and have stopped living on paper.

I do have to say that I am proud of myself when I think about it. I was talking to a friend of my S.O. the other day and she said she could never just up and leave home - move her whole life. And I think that I am brave - that this is true for many people. And I feel fearless - which is a little scary. And I wonder just where I'd be if I'd stayed back in Houston. The truth is, it really wasn't much of a stretch for me. I so believed that it was the right thing to do that I wasn't at all afraid. I was a little overwhelmed at the thought, and the packing and the changing every detail of my life. It was a big job. But then I remember the saying...How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time...and I know that's kind of how it was - and how it continues to be.

Each day I think of something I didn't bring along, or something that I didn't do, and wish I had planned a little better. But other than that, I guess it's just time to start over. I will do things differently. I will remember that the stuff doesn't matter. In fact, it can get a bit cumbersome. There are no "shoulds", only choices to make. And waking up in Sioux Falls isn't much different than waking up anywhere else, except that I need an extra sweater.

Maybe after I take the dog to the vet, I will take my laptop to Black Sheep Coffee and try some writing practice. This would be a start, (Natalie nods.) And then a creative spark might ignite.

The question is, why was it so easy to change my entire life with one trip in the U-Haul, when it's so difficult to "come to the page?"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

new words

All caught up and no place to go. That's today's story. I have lots of time on my hands, and not so much to do with it. I should sit by the computer, waiting for ads to come in, but my feet are dying to dance in the grass. The sun seems to be cooperating, at least for the time being.

Looks like another weekend out of town for us, providing my SO (significant other) feels a little better - he's a bit under the weather.

I've met so many people over the last few months that I get a little confused about who goes with whom. The family is very big and spread out over lots of rural country. It feels more comfortable than I expected. I suppose because I come from such a large family. But the years I spent in Houston were relatively extended-family-free. There was me, my husband and kids, and my sister, Ann. Other than that, family functions called for a long plane ride. And they occurred only sporadically. And so this is new and old. Birthday parties, family reunions, graduations...they seem to be constant. Gas prices being what they are, this gets "spendy."

"Spendy" is a new word that has been added to my vocabulary. It is frequently used by South Dakotans (is that right?) when referring to things that are priced on the high side. The frequently used word that I find quaint is "supper." I do remember it from a past life in Ohio, but it was virtually erased from my mind until I was invited out to "supper" by my SO. My daughter laughs every time she hears it, and I haven't found myself able to say it yet without putting unnecessary emphasis on the word. Perhaps one day...

In the meantime, I am told that I have an "accent." I am not one to drawl...never have been. But up here, they seem to think I do. I suppose an occasional y'all does slip out. But other than that, I consider myself completely accent-less. I was shocked when I spoke to a woman on the phone about trash collection and she pegged me as a Southeast Texas girl.

Will this, like my old life, fade away? Some mornings I get up and don't much think about my life before I came here. While I'm sure that where I've been has helped me to become who I am, I choose not to think of the sadness of the past. It's hard to pick up the phone and deal with any of the life stuff that remains unresolved. And yet I know it must be done eventually. I wish there was a sort of magic in the world that might fix it all while I sleep, tie up the loose ends and leave a pretty pink bow for me to find when I open my eyes.

I will be forced to tie my own bow, but I'm not going to think about that now. I'm going to tie my shoe laces instead, and tromp about Sioux Falls. Perhaps I'll learn a few more new words.

Monday, May 08, 2006

monday morning

Sunday night we had ice cream for dinner. I know this seems wrong, in light of the recent "healthy living" commitment, but some days, a girl's just got to be flexible. After sleeping in later than normal, we hit the ground running, and finished many chores on the infamous list. When 5 o'clock came, we were dog tired and I was still wet from a confrontation with the pressure washer.

And so I had a hot fudge sundae; his was strawberry. It was his suggestion, and I didn't have the inclination to disagree. Nothing made more sense to me after a busy and sunny day.

My old life was not nearly as flexible. And thinking about it makes me think I was crazy, always being sure that everything was always in perfect order and on schedule. It's one memory I'd rather forget, but won't, since it will help me make my new life better than the old. Spontaneity did not exist for me in my old life. In fact, anything out of order created chaos and eventually some sort of explosion. Not fun and not me.

My new life has no real rules, though I remain committed to speaking my truth and upholding my boundaries. Having ice cream for dinner does not fall outside these boundaries, nor does sleeping in on a weekday, feeding the dogs later than usual, or leaving dirty glasses in the sink. The old me would have felt guilty - the new me has no problem with these.

In fact, here in my new life, I have the opportunity to create a life that is filled with spontaneity. The unexpected pleasures of life make me smile, and remind me that nothing - absolutely nothing - is set in stone. In fact, it's much better to live a life that throws you a curve now and then. I do not miss the hard edges - they left me bruised and tending wounds that are still healing. And if eating a hot fudge sundae for dinner doesn't make you smile, well, it's time to rethink life. Mine will be amorphous and suprising and every once in awhile, I'll do the dishes.

Friday, May 05, 2006


For the last four weekends, we've been out of town. So this weekend I'm looking forward to a little time at home. Unfortunately, I'm sure this also means dealing with "the list."

It started as a short one, things I needed to remember to do. Then Steve suggested that we make a list. I provided mine, since it was already started. It was simple: back up computer files, refill Bailey's prescription, get adapter for the air cleaner, manifest abundance. You know, the standard stuff. But with Steve's help, the list became neverending. We added: organize the tools, plant grass, get the lawn mower fixed, buy cat litter and clean Dad's boat. These are not standard in my world. But they are now written down, which makes them, by default, "things to do."

Priorities change when you move out of a one bedroom apartment and into a rent house - I didn't have a lawn, nor did I need a working lawn mower. Priorities change when you become one half of "a couple."

Parts of it are easy - like buying a lawn mower. Parts of it are harder - like planning dinner for two that suits both his appetite for beef and fast food, and my appetite for anything else. Throw his ulcer into the mix and it makes for difficult meal planning. And while I hate that this recent flare up has caused him pain, it is the perfect answer to the fast food dilemma. It is now basically off limits. It has, though, made meal planning and preparation even more difficult. And this morning, I am trying to make yet another list - what to buy at the grocery store. It looks different than previous grocery lists and includes more green vegetables and fruit. Spicy foods and chips are out; lean meats are in. And when I check out, I hope that I have managed to find compromises that will suit both of us.

And so this weekend, between cleaning up the boat, planting grass, and running errands, I will be cooking healthy meals. And while it may be more difficult than stopping at Arby's or Taco Bell, it will satisfy at least this half of this couple. As for the other half, perhaps he can learn to like broiled fish.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

tuesday morning

Welcome sunshine. Yesterday was very cloudy and had me feeling much the same. It wasn't until late afternoon that I noticed the first glimmers of brightness breaking through. The temperature began to rise as did my spirits. And so this morning, I was happy to see that the trend continues, which is imperative to my good mood.

Yesterday, when I tried to get cheerier, I went to run some errands, only to find that as hard as I tried to be friendly and nice, no one else was trying. Some days, it feels like everyone in this town is grumpy. Chris says that perhaps its the I'm-so-tired-of-this-weather thing. It brings to mind the way people begin to act in Houston in late September. Lethargic, short-tempered and well, nasty. That would be the southern version of the I'm-so-tired-of-this-weather thing. (Unfortunately, many of them are sitting in hot cars and carry concealed handguns.) Heat or cold, it's all the same.

So I welcome the warmth of the day and am quite prepared to put on my bib overalls, run to the garden center and load up my little orange bug with plants, grass seed and yard art.

And though I usually thumb up my nose at yard art, this year I will have lots of chimes, a bird bath and yes, the notorious yard gnome.

I have always loved those little elfs with wheelbarrows or lounging by a ceramic daisy, but thought them a little too kitschy to put in the yard. Stepford, you know. But now that I am semi-anonymous and don't really care what people think, (see previous posts), I may have a whole slew of them. Kitschy or not, I have an unexplained affinity for them, and have chosen a few choice spots in the yard in which they will proudly stand, sit or recline amid the wild things.

As wild things go...I am somewhat unfamiliar with the flora here. Not sure what is a weed and what has been purposely planted. This poses somewhat of a problem. One thing I do know is that the little purple flowers that have popped up all over the yard and that Steve says grow wild should not ever be mowed down...but I can see no way around it. And the dandelions are running rampant. A dilemma for me, since I know they are a weed, but I love the way they brighten up the world each spring.

Dandelions were the source of one of my favorite meditations. Whenever I felt like the weight of the world was bearing down on me, I would close my eyes and imagine a dandelion turned to seed. Then I would watch myself blow the seeds into the air and as they were carried away to parts unknown, the pressure of my challenges would float away, too. My old friend, Randy used to remind me of this little meditation when I was having a really bad day at work. He would pop in my office, see my stress and say..."dandelions." I miss you, old friend. Hope things are good for you on the other side.

Today will be good. I choose it. And I will find the perfect gnome companions for my soon to be kitschy yard. What will the neighbors say? I don't care. And perhaps it will coax a smile on their tired-of-winter faces.

Monday, May 01, 2006

the end of anonymity

I remember it feels not to be anonymous. A weekend out of town and the only little "cafe" in Wetonka, South Dakota reminded me. I guess it's the fact that the bartender remembers what I drink (and that I drank a lot last time I was there), coupled with the fact that he calls me "Texas", that brought back the realization that perhaps it's time to think before I act, dance, buy shots of tequila and drink too much. I do, afterall, have a significant other and his family to think about.

On the other hand, they don't seem to mind, in fact, have been known to encourage a girl to "keep up with the big dogs." And while I tried...I'm still a pup when it comes to adult beverages. This is a good thing.

And so I am left wondering if I should care at all what people think - anonymous are not. The important question to ask is, "am I being real?" If I can say yes, then what the heck. I have earned the right to be myself, and when I'm in a bar, in Wetonka, South Dakota or any other place in the country, I like to play music loud, dance with the boys, drink a shot of tequila and, well, let my hair down. Very not "melissa-like" according to all the people with whom I have "kept up appearances." Truth's very "melissa-like." The real one that is. And that's okay.