Happy Halloween, Little Red.
May your days be
merry scary and bright.
Two of my college roommates live within a few hours of me. They came last week for a whirlwind visit with their daughters. Getting three little girls to sleep in a two-bedroom apartment was dicey. Scout ended up on a quilt in the bathtub. But amidst the madness, we talked. Oh, how we talked—about life and motherhood and feminism and faith. The next day, a friend from middle school came to town and stayed with us for the weekend. And then last night, I got on a monthly roommate video chat and talked to all my other former roommates who live far away.
This easy access to old friends is taking the edge off being in a new place and having only tepid, fledgling relationships here. It’s making me feel content with my limited social energy. It’s making me feel tempted to not branch out. Why branch out? I’ve got all the friends I need, and so on. But I’m trying to tell myself that no, those old friends are a safe place to go back to when branching out gets tiring, but not a crutch, never a crutch.
Do you have good relationships with old friends? How do you stay close? How do you balance old friends and new?
Scout and I have been helping cook dinners at the Ronald McDonald House with the Darden Partners Association. And by “cooking” what I really mean is bringing groceries and looking cute, cause neither Scout nor I are much use in a kitchen. She just sits in a high chair and makes eyes at everyone while I inefficiently chop things. But there are worse ways to spend your free time, no?
In other news, we finally have something to do for Halloween this year, something more than dressing up and “Skype trick-or-treating” family and friends. I invented Skype-treating and just now coined that term, and I’m very serious about copyright infringement, so … On second thought, Skype-treating sounds kinda dirty. I digress. This year, we have cooler things to do, some of which are thanks to Darden. And considering that I love Halloween so much I have a five-year plan for costumes, be warned that I will spam you with pictures in the next few days, either here or on Instagram.
From now on, every time I’m tempted to do something drastic to my hair, I’ll ask myself, “Is this really about some deep-seeded emotional issue?” and the answer will always be yes. For whatever reason, hair is my go-to scapegoat. But this post isn’t about hair; it’s about hiking. When I reach that awkward moment of self-incriminating enlightenment, I’ll substitute a reckless-abandon dye job with a hike. That’s my plan. Aerobic exercise, beautiful views, fresh air, trees—these are the makings of true emotional clarity. Yes, yes. That’s my plan.
We went to Florida last weekend. It was one of those by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of trips. We didn’t worry much about planning and because Orlando is … well, Orlando, we didn’t worry about finding local restaurants and off-the-beaten-path activities like we usually do. Orlando is kind of “Home of the Commercialized Beaten Path,” so to speak.
We kicked things off at Benihana. Since Trent has been there enough times to have the hibachi chef’s routine memorized, he commentated the whole thing for Scout. He continued to commentate at the BYU football game we went to at University of Central Florida that night. There were very few cougars in the crowd and none within spitting distance of little old us. As we walked in and took our seats in a sea of shifty-eyed UCF fans, I started to panic. I hate sporting event related conflict. Trent thrives on it, which of course made my anxiety worse. I was also a little skeptical about how Scout would handle the noise and the bedtime kickoff. But folks, I stand corrected on on fronts. All the UCF fans around us were the perfect amount of drunk for Trent’s humor to play well. He made friends quickly. Scout’s magnetic cuteness didn’t hurt. And while we’re on the subject—Life lesson for Scarlett Murphey: If a man has to assure you more than 20 times that he isn’t drunk, he’s drunk. She went from goofy smiles to lights out with no fussing in between and spent the fourth quarter sleeping peacefully despite the crazy yelling. I’d say it was a miracle, but really, she’s just her father’s daughter. Can’t tell you whether we won or lost. I was busy Instagramming. And guys, I’m really not kidding.
We spent the rest of the weekend at the beach, or mostly at the beach. We went for a walk at Blue Springs State Park before we caught our flight home, but it was too warm to spot any manatees. As for the beach, it was delightful. Again, Miss Scout shocked us with her cheeriness. The girl’s just plain jolly, folks. She was fascinated by the sand and didn’t mind the waves. She napped in the shade of her daddy’s crotch (we forgot an umbrella) and licked the saltwater off her lips over and over like a cute little cow, a cute little cow in a too tight two-piece, that is.
It was fun to spend time with Trent, too. Except for one argument on the beach over my apparent inability to empty the camera’s memory card, we got along famously. It was a costly fight—I was too proud to ask him to sunscreen my back during the argument, so I got a little fried—but we resolved it in the end. And before we knew it we were back to snuggling in our luxurious Holiday Inn Express room, watching “Erin Brockovich” and drinking Grapefruit Perrier that, if you used all of the imagination you posessed, tasted faintly like grapefruit.
Scout had a meltdown on the flight home. She was a dream for her first 14 flights of life, but made up for it on this one. When we emerged from the jet bridge when it was all over, my overwhelming thought was, “I want my mommy.” So, there’s payback for all of our bragging, I guess.
I never know how to end posts like this and I’m getting much to tired to be clever. So, “over and out” will have to do.
Over and out and goodnight.
When did this happen? When did we get so old? When Trent’s dad was 29, he had five kids. Life is weird—there’s your deep thought for the day.
My parents treated the birthday boy to a falconry lesson at the Greenbrier Resort to celebrate. It’s been a lifelong dream of his, a nerdy lifelong dream. Trent’s full-throttle nerdiness one of my favorite things about him. On the drive to West Virginia today he asked me, out of the blue and totally serious, “What’s your favorite deciduous tree?” I rest my case.
Trent had a great time in his lesson, hanging out with owls and hawks and such, watching them eat dead baby chicks. Shockingly, falconry isn’t really my thing. While Trent falconed, Scout and I walked around the hotel grounds, snuggled in a glamorous gazebo, had a very cold, very brief swing sesh, and changed her diaper on a fancy leather chaise lounge chair in the “Powder Room” of the tennis club. They gave me no other choice. “Let’s go find Daddy and the birds,” I said after an hour. “Daddy & The Birds—what an excellent band name.” Naming fictional bands is more in my wheelhouse than falconry.
After the lesson we ate lunch at the restaurant of Trent’s choice, which happened to be a little Mexican place with a higher Yelp rating than Subway and Burger King, but lower than Hardee’s and Pizza Hut, so … win? I’ve read a few books lately (“French Kids Eat Everything” and “Real Food for Mother and Baby“) and our pediatrician endorsed the idea, so we’re kinda drinking the Kool-Aid on feeding the babe the same things we eat. At lunch Scout ate guacamole, refried beans, rice, shredded beef, the works. And Trent had the time of his life letting her try things.
He also had the time of his life tonight figuring out how to edit the GoPro footage from his lesson. We bought a GoPro this summer because, well, we’re livin’ such an adrenaline junkie lifestyle. Yep, that’s us. Edgy stuff here.
Happy Birthday, Murph. You’re a nerdy old man. But you’re our nerdy old man. Thank goodness for that.
Autumn—season of my birth. And Trent’s. Season of leather goods and chunky sweaters. Season of pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread and artificially-flavored pumpkin everything.
(In the autumns of recent years, the overblown commercialized autumns, has the world begun to taste like a big, fat Yankee Candle smells? Or is that just me?)
Season of “Explosions in the Sky” albums I adore and football games I pay no mind. Season of learning and walking and living in awe. Season that makes everyone believe without noticing that death and decay are beautiful things.
And they are. Oh, they are.
I remember being busy in college with my hand in a million things and my nose in a million more and thinking, “I can’t wait until I have time to actually clean my apartment.” I used to fantasize about having enough free time to do my dishes and vacuum my floors, time to exercise regularly and make myself breakfast and have some semblance of a normal, functional daily life.
Tonight I’m sitting in a bed that hasn’t been made in six months. There’s a table littered with dishes in the next room, still dirty from the last time I made dinner (or anything), which was Sunday. There are piles of things in the hallway—”Put Away Later” piles and “Find a Place For This” piles and “Throw Away” piles. I haven’t even gotten around to throwing stuff away. A few days ago, my house was clean. And now this.
I had free time tonight after I put Scout to bed. I finished off “West Wing” and worked on a few on-going games of “Words With Friends” and thumbed through Maya Angelou. I didn’t spend it cleaning. I didn’t spend my time tinkering away at the life I thought I wanted. I tinkered, but not at that.
Sometimes I feel sad when I think about that life, like I’m disappointing myself by not living the future I wanted now that it’s actually attainable. Here I am in a phase of life where I could conceivably live in a spotless apartment with healthy home-cooked meals on my table and abs of lifeless steel. But I don’t care. Or I don’t care enough, rather, not enough to make it happen. Sometimes I think about that fantasy and grieve for all that was supposed to be.
And then I sit up in my unmade bed and look around at my piles and my people and realize I’m mourning the wrong thing. I should be mourning all those busy years I spent longing for a different life. The present is messy and nice.
Listening to: Shovel & Rope, “Bad Luck”
Lots of Darden-related living as of late. Our weekend was chock-full of Darden events, starting with the first athletic competition of the Darden Cup. Trent played, despite his recent ACL surgery and the fact that the only time he has ever played soccer in his life is when he was, and I quote, “a wee little fat kid.” I think he’s suffering from some PTSD there. But it didn’t stop him from showing up as goalie for his section’s B team. Scout and I watched from the sideline. Our presence apparently earned Trent’s section additional fan support points. “Are Instagram support points a thing?” I asked. “Because I’d be all over that.”
Both games ended in shoot-outs, which made for back-to-back cardiac episodes for poor Trent. He let one past him in the first shoot-out, but defended his goal like a champ in the second.
Saturday we took advantage of Smithsonian Museum Day and enjoyed free admission to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and the Stonewall Jackson House. It was a gorgeous drive and a good time and I went home feeling like I know nothing about American History. Par for the course. Our rosy-cheeked baby loved being held through two tours. She also loved shrieking louder (happy shrieks, mind you) every time we shushed her.
We stopped at Foothill Momma’s BBQ on the way home. (Order the onion rings!) We didn’t want to wait for a table, so we braved the bar with a baby. Scout did great, and by that I mean she snagged fistfuls of chopped pork whenever we we stopped paying attention to her.
Sunday night we were back at Darden, this time for the famed International Food Festival. It was my favorite Darden event yet. We got stuffed on cuisine made by students from around the world. The Turkish baklava was particularly fantastic, as was the white BBQ sauce from the “Nation of Alabama.” There were lots of international music and dance performances and lots of people to fawn over Scout, which she takes to kindly.
Also over the weekend we finally finished the saga of hooking up our washer and dryer and we came to a compromise about Dallas. I’ll move there happily if it comes to that, just as long as we get a dog when we do. There’s a box-a-shar puppy on the table, and I gotta say, the future looks bright.
We laid her down in a cardboard box in our tent and let her drift off to sleep, breathing in the fresh air of Western Montana—slow then slower—and there was something so right about the whole picture, like she belonged there, like babies were meant to spend summer nights in grassy mountain meadows. We watched the sun go down and the bugs come out and I left Trent talking with his cousins by the fire and went back to the tent. I unzipped it, inch by inch, trying to be silent and then stepped on the air mattress that squeaked against the tarp. But she didn’t stir. I watched her sleep, her arms spread-eagle over her head. “My daughter is comfortable filling the space around her,” I thought. And I felt in awe and wished to be more like her. She is already curious and brave, filling up rooms with personality. Rooms and tents. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
I woke sometime later. Trent was asleep next to me, the the mattress gradually deflating, forming a cozy sinkhole around my body. The air was cold on my face. I reached over and felt Scout’s little hands, still sprawling above her head. They were cold too. I picked her up and tucked her inside my sleeping bag. She rubbed her eyes and nestled her head in the crook of my arm. I felt the smooth skin of her forehead against my chin, her steady breath against my neck. I stared through the roof of the tent and into the stars and felt infinite and safe. I stayed like that for hours, present and still in a quiet night that was hers and mine alone. I nursed her when she woke, both of us snuggling in the warmth, side by side. It felt sacred. A new kind of vulnerability was born into my life with that girl, but with her in my sleeping bag, I believed what I know to be a sweet and bitter lie—that I can protect her from anything.
I sang to her as the sun came up, in a whispery voice, muted by the walls of our little cocoon—”I came here with a load. And it feels so much lighter now I met you.” And that felt sacred too. My little love, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, my load is light and new.
Listening to: Coldplay, “Green Eyes”
Sometimes I go on late night writing binges because I’m struck with inspiration. Sometimes I go on late night writing binges because I’m laden with anxiety. Tonight, I’m on an anxiety binge.
It all started with Trent interrupting a particularly amazing episode of “The Good Wife” to ask me to rank a group of cities according to where I’d most like to live. My top five?
Bam! That was easy. Oh, you want international cities too?
Done-zo. Again, easy-peasy.
Dallas, as it turns out, didn’t make the cut. And Dallas, as it turns out, is Trent’s little residential and professional dream city. And although we’ve barely unfinished packing and have still yet to hook up our washer and dryer, we’re talking about our dream cities and next moves because an MBA is really just a quick little stepping stone. An MBA is just a blip—yes, a blip—and it starts with planning your end goal.
So here we are talking about cities and here I am hating on Trent’s little dream. Friends, I don’t want to hate on Dallas. I don’t want to be a dream crusher. I loathe dream crushers. My knee-jerk aversion to Dallas is based prejudices I’m not proud of. I picture a shallow concrete jungle, perfect and cold and filled with gun-slinging, big-haired shopaholics. Say it isn’t so! When I personify Dallas, I see an insensitive, arrogant, loud-mouthed, larger-than-life sweet bro.
“I’m an insensitive, arrogant, loud-mouthed, larger-than-life sweet bro,” Trent said.
“I know! And it’s insufferable!” I screeched.
Of course we were both kidding. (Or were we?)
My point is this: I’m an uppity prejudiced jerk and probably deserve to move to a place I’ll hate. But the thing is, I want to be proven wrong. So I’m crowdsourcing here. Tell me about Dallas, people. Have you been there? What’s it like? Are there trees? Are there seasons? Is there history? Culture? Food? Diversity? Are there fun little quirky weirdos? I love my quirky weirdos. Don’t talk to me about the incredible cost of living. Inspire me. Is there a charm about this city that even a jerk like me could fall in love with?
There is so much I love about this speech.
I love the way she describes her journey to feminism. It’s so very much like mine. Becoming a feminist happened slowly for Emma as she grew up and experienced life. “I decided that I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me,” she says. It wasn’t until later that she realized how much controversy surrounds the word.
I love that she laments that feminism has a history of man-hating. It’s counterproductive. And it’s one of the reasons so many people reject the label. “If you still hate the word,” she says, “it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it.” What matters is whether or not you embrace the idea of human equality.
I love that she points out the many ways gender inequality hurts men. “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s,” she says. “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of men, or less of a man. … I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are.”
I love that she understands that because we are all connected, the solutions are all connected as well. “When (men) are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence,” she says. “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”
And I love how humble she is as she speaks. The vulnerability in her voice allows you to feel how much this means to her. It means that much to me too.
Listening to: Shovel and Rope, “Lay Low”