Thursday, January 21, 2010

Growing Up Southern

My book club is full of wonderful women….wonderful, strong women who love to discuss and really “dig-in” to books --- finding the lessons……the struggles….and even the beauty that evolves in a character or through circumstances. I love book club! I live for book club!!

This week, we discussed The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The Help tells the stories of fictional African-American women who worked in southern homes in the 60’s. It’s about relationships between women- the good, the bad, and the ugly. One of the characters, Abileen, made it her job…..even her mission… influence the children she took care of….to influence them to know they are wonderful and beautiful……to love and not hate…..and to see the commonalities not just the differences. Her goal was to change the destiny of one child and by that child eventually change the world.

The Help is now one of my favorite books. It got me thinkin’--thinkin’ about the women who shaped my life……who invested in me……who collectively showed me the path that I am on now. These women have impacted me… children….and eventually even my grandchildren. Because of their investment in my heart, my soul and my outlook on life, they have even impacted YOU… readers…my friends….my circle of influence….and that is a beautiful thing!

Today’s blog is an homage to The Women who shaped me, who inspired me, who cared for me, and who challenged me. These women demonstrated to me the grace and the beauty of being a strong, southern woman.

Growing up in central Arkansas in an era of black and white tv’s, window air conditioners, rotary telephones and cars without seat belts, I learned an appreciation of the simple things:

Water hose fights on a hot summer day
Popsicles with ice cream in the middle
Lying in front of a fan reading a book
Singing into that fan-listening to how it changed my voice
Casual conversation on the porch swing
Spitting watermelon seeds at my cousins
Bologna sandwiches with mustard and cheese
Bare feet feeling the cold floor in the refrigeration section at the Piggly Wiggly
Icees at Kmart
Riding in the back of the pickup truck
Lying on a raft in the stillness of the lake
Bluegrass music

My Momma and Daddy had two distinct and very different family dynamics. Momma’s family had the quiet intellectual types…..the ones who could quote poetry at the drop of a hat….the ones who invented new ways to do old things. Religion and Politics were never discussed (although Grandpa was a preacher) and voices always carried a civilized tone.

Daddy’s family was lively and full of debate, discussion, and practical jokes. Religion and politics were the favorite discussion topics at the kitchen table. One had to strategize to get the best seat at the table and the last bowlful of dumplins….AND watch over that bowl like a hawk because if you turned your back, the bowl would disappear into thin air and you would never find it.  The house was always loud and full of people.  As a matter of fact, that kitchen would get so loud that we kids had to turn the tv all the way up to hear it......that is....until the inevitable pause in the conversation exposed the loud tv and we would hear...."You kids turn that tv down!"

Both families were full of strong, beautiful, intriguing women of all types.  These women taught me:

That the worst thing you could ever do was be ugly--ugly on the inside--and say ugly things. The words, “That was ugly” brought a sense of shame in my heart and made me remember to be considerate of others……always.

Being strong doesn’t mean that you can’t be soft as well. Being strong isn’t about being hard……it’s about being resilient…like Scarlet O’Hara.

My opinions matter……..but giving my opinion should never be at the expense of someone else’s feelings…’s all about the delivery.

Family is very, very, very important. If someone is family, they are a part of your life….period. It doesn’t mean we always like them…….but we always cheer for them to do well. It’s important to spend time with your family and get to know them as people.

You can get away with murder with a smile and a coy look.

That looking nice isn’t about false appearances, it’s about self-respect.

It is important to tell those around you that you love them….and tell them often.

Laughter is a wonderful binding agent.

Respect is given not earned….and where respect is given, respect is gotten. When disrespect is given, disrespect is gotten.

These women, the aunts, cousins, grandmothers, family friends, and, of course, my mother embodied such beauty, such knowledge, such southern wonderfulness…… They made me who I am today…..and I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Days of School

Here I sit on a caramel-colored couch in the student center at IUPUI…..heart still aflutter from my Western Civilization Class……I feel like I have had coffee with someone whom I had a great connection with….giddy….excited. History and I are old friends….I adore history! I realize that Western Civ may not make the average girls heart go pitty-pat…but in many ways, I am quite the book geek…..and my excitement can hardly be contained.

Yesterday was my first day of class. Running late, I searched high and low for parking only park illegally and pray for a bit of grace so my car wouldn’t be towed and ran to my French 1 class. Although I have been to France several times, French class is very intimidating to me. One can’t “fake” a new language - it is either right or it’s not.

Next up is a bit more relaxing to me…..Intro to Fiction - - reading books like Crime and Punishment and discussing themes of sin and redemption in fiction. (again….book geek)….but I love nothing more than getting into the heads of authors….digging in and discovering what they have to say.

This morning, I jumped out of bed when the alarm sounded……ready to greet the day….and once again……end up late. Excited to only be 15 minutes late (as opposed to 25 minutes late the day before with the parking debacle), I walked into the classroom to come face to face with a fire and brimstone History Prof….. I tried to quietly find a seat, but the room was full. The closest available seat required walking right in front of the professor and creating a bit of a rukus. Luckily a few people walked in the door after me (phew). The professor announced that those who are chronically late will fail his class. At once, I knew I liked this man - - I felt as if I were in a class at Oxford University with C.S. Lewis as a professor or even better, Tolkein. History Prof spoke passionately about the beauty and provocative nature of history….of how it is the story of our ancestors and how irresponsible people have turned it into dull and boring drivel. My eyes tear up and excitement wells in my chest. This is going to be a fun semester.

My reading list is long and I am immediately glad I stayed at 12 hours and not the 15 hours I was considering. As I searched for my books at the bookstore, I selected a used edition of poetry from Wordsworth. Noticing the familiar yellow markings and pen notations, I immediately chose another and then another and then another used edition. I couldn’t bear to have the pages pre-read…..pre-marked. Reading a pre-marked book to me is like going on a date with someone after you talk to his ex-girlfriend…….in a pre-marked book, someone has already noted the flaws, the meanings, the discoveries. I checked the prices-- the difference was only a few dollars. I grabbed an armful of new books and joined the endless line of students purchasing books.

Standing in line, feeling like a pack mule, my mind wandered to my first college experience at 18. Looking at the young jeans clad students, I wondered if they were experiencing the same joy as me….if they were excited to learn or simply getting through college so they can get a job. Suddenly, I felt sad for them.

Theodore Roethke described it well in his poem entitled Dolor

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.

Life is like that - - we can simply get through each day just to get by….get to the next day, next holiday, next vacation, next….whatever - OR - LIGHTBULB - we can discover the beauty in the day……search out the meaning…seek the joy. We can fully experience our days or just live through rote mechanizations.
As for me…… I don’t mind being a history geek…..a bookish kind of gal…..the dreamer who loves her world in Technicolor. There was a time where I squelched that part of me….that girl was lost…..or more appropriately, hidden away….locked in a prison colored in shades of gray. I was afraid of that “fabulous” part of me……afraid that if I was really seen, I would be judged…..and come up lacking.

I celebrate the day when I welcomed her back - - tentative at first……but then running to her in fields of flowers…….jumping into her arms…..and kissing the tears off her cheeks…..locking arm in arm…and putting our bejeweled sandaled feet on the road of our new journey.

Here we are…..sitting in class…..learning…. exploring….. discovering. For me, it’s not about the degree, it’s about being the best “me” that I can possibly be.


Monday, January 11, 2010

If It Makes You Happy

Happiness……I want it for myself…..I generally wish it for others. The sticky part comes when there is an X involved…..and then “happy” becomes a relative term…. A state of mind dependent upon someone else…

Do I want the X to be happy…..of course…..absolutely…..positively….just….well…. I don’t want him to be happy-ier than I am…. As long as I am in a good relationship, financially secure…..hangin with my friends…. he can reach for the stars…succeed.. find love… enjoy life. If somehow, I am less happy, I seem more inclined to be judgmental….to stir the pot a bit…to remember what a jerk he was.

I don’t think this is just Diva-madness….I do think these feelings “happen” to other women I know (do men do this?? Not sure)…. Case in point:

A girlfriend of mine was recently in a funk….. Her X (who has been an X for a very, very, very, long time) has started seeing someone. Now my girlfriend….(let’s call her Charlie after the fabulous cheap 70’s perfume….which doesn’t say anything about her… I just love the commercials…boy, I am in so much trouble…) has long been over her X. Charlie has been happily married for a number of years and really bears no ill will towards said X. However, Charlie just discovered that the X is dating--benign information--that is, until she found out the girlfriend is younger and is actually quite stunning. Emergency girl time was scheduled…Martini’s flowed….. bags of chocolate were opened…..

Charlie is a smart cookie --- she does want her X to be happy….and even have a wonderful and attractive girlfriend - - just not as wonderful and not as attractive as she is. After much conversation, we concluded that we can take the high road….and be happy for our X’s…that is… long as the new girlfriends are dumb as a box of rocks, at least a jean size bigger, and have a few cosmetic flaws here and there. Of course, there ARE areas that the new girlfriend is “allowed” to be better than we are - - better at finding our X’s flaws, better at getting on his nerves, more skilled in the areas of nagging, complaining, whining, being late, talking with their mouths full… you get the picture. Somehow, as “evolved” as we may be as X-Wives, we still want the X’s to wistfully think of us as the one that got away -- the best thing that ever happened to them - - and remember how much they screwed it all up (that’s the important part!). It’s not that we want them to come back - - (Lord help us - NO) - - but the payoff for us is that they see their life as a little less brighter because we are not there (okay - a LOT less brighter).

Reality check - - the X will be happy….very, very happy. He will probably date a model who is a good cook, who never raises her voice and cleans the house in a regular basis. Our children will love her…..adore her even….. and she will look up at him in adoration with her big baby blue eyes…and we will want to puke.

I guess the key is to prepare myself for the inevitability… happy in my own life and resist the urge to compare. After all, the biggest lesson I learned in my divorce was that I am responsible for my own happiness. It is not contingent on him any longer.

However, I also need to know there are times when I will feel as if I was kicked in the gut…that he found someone better than me…..and it will feel like everything he said during the divorce was right…..that he can do much, much better. Those are the times best left to the experts - - those experts of encouragement and sympathy - - my girlfriends and their endless supplies of chocolate, wine, tears, joy…..and the ability to point out that, yes, her hips ARE bigger!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Argument Hangover

I wake up slowly…….my head hurts…I ask my self, “what did I just do??” and groan while throwing the covers up over my head. “What did I say??” “What must he think of me??” Regret sets in…….lots and lots of regret. I check my text messages on my phone and review my words……those angry hurtful words…. What now?? I need caffeine….. and maybe even a trip to Tahiti.

My phone lights up……a text message from The Man with lots of x’s and o’s. He is so good to me….. but then again….he said hurtful things too….. how do I respond?? Do I wait……make him sweat it out….that way I can be a little less sorry…..because he will be more sorry.... I send a couple of x’s and o’s his way (but a few less than his)…. and try to find a way to get back to square one.

We talk our argument through…..make up…hug…and remind each other how much we care. Why is it then, while sitting on the couch next to him that I still feel ucky…..and empty? Things feel unresolved….weird…..awkward… Is it a red flag? Does it mean we aren’t meant for each other?? I get all introspective and examine the feelings in the depth of my heart. No - - it’s just the Argument Hangover.

Hangover?? From an argument?? Really?? Of course. Over the last few weeks, I have given much thought to those days following our heated arguments (yes, I know - it’s a shocker that The Man and I fight…..but you get two passionate and opinionated people in the same room….and sometimes….there are fireworks). There seems to consistently be a period of time after such debates that is just downright uncomfortable. I have labeled these times the Argument Hangover.

Sometimes I feel a fight coming on - - it’s somehow, “in the air.” We are both a little edgy….a baby bit defensive…..the wind changes a bit and I know that “it’s on!” Adrenaline flows through my veins quicker than a shot of moonshine… inhibitions are lowered… I suddenly feel the need to slam a door……to bang around pots and pans….to sigh and huff around. Words flow too freely….stories get exaggerated….I start forgetting what I just said and begin to incessantly repeat myself. Am I drunk?? No…… at least not on alcohol…..but drunk on my emotions….my feelings….my need to be “right.” And then……afterwards…..regret sets in. Thoughts of, “I know better…” and “I’m too old for this…” permeate my brain…… my head hurts from all the tears I cried and I’m ready to jump on Orbitz and book my one way ticket to Mexico.

I put my head on The Man’s shoulder and he asks me if there is anything I still want to talk about. I shake my head and sigh…..”no, not really.” He asks, “is it just the argument hangover?” I nod my head…..he puts his arms around me…kisses my cheek and we snuggle on the couch and let the ickiness pass…..and I know that eventually, everything will be okay.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Resolved...the Sequel

January 4th … it really already January 4th?? 2010 is here already?? But wait….I wasn’t ready!!! I am not ready to evaluate 2009….not ready to regain my focus…I just want to stay underneath my covers for another week…to hibernate….and extend my all too short vacation.

 Alas, time moves on whether I want it to or not and according to my tradition, I must evaluate the past year and determine my direction in the year to come *sigh*

Actually, 2009 was a conundrum. conundrum n. A riddle in which a fanciful question is answered by a pun. A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma…. 2009 was simultaneously the best year and the worst year. It brought me gigantic problems and unexpected solutions (or more accurately the “non-solution” solution - which is infinitely more difficult as I am a master “star-aligner”)… 2009 offered tears and joy…. Discovery and “same old same old.” My new years resolutions were mostly unmet but my mission was accomplished…. When I reviewed the first blog of 2009, there are many unchecked items….. but below was my mission statement for 09.. I think I came pretty doggone close….

2009 is the year for:
-taking a risk
-being brave

This is my mission statement for the year: Becky Pruitt strives to be a relational yet organized professional who is connected in her community and seeks to be content and happy in her life. By taking risks and being creative she will broaden her life experiences. Becky is committed to deepening her relationships with her girlfriends through shared experiences and lots of wine and chocolate.

2009 brought:

An unexpected relationship with a man who sees my heart and loves me for who I am…

Painful and difficult family circumstances that tested my resolve….

Deepening relationships with my friends…knowing that I can be real and honest…

New friends…..who have become near and dear to my heart….

Streamlining… activities…my networking….my life

Cooking meals at home again…..YAY!!!!

My first “big girl” party in my home - 30+ people for dinner

Marrying off my daughter in a beautiful ceremony

An empty house

Lessons of communication within a relationship
A renewed dedication to finish my college degree

So….after consuming copious amounts of Blackeyed Peas and Red Beans and Rice for prosperity sake.....evaluating the previous year.....I am ready to announce....drum roll please ……My resolutions ffor 2010 are:

RESOLVED……..I will take more bubble baths-at least 2 per month
 RESOLVED……..I will not use my credit cards
 RESOLVED......I will blog every single week
 RESOLVED……..I will promote my blog better
 RESOLVED……..I will exercise at least 3 times each week
 RESOLVED……..I will streamline my home-including filing and purging unwanted items
RESOLVED......I will travel to Spain in 2010
 RESOLVED……By the end of the year, I will write a book

 Happy New Year!!!