Saturday, June 14, 2008

"For those who love-- time is not"

When I was a young girl I always imagined growing up and marrying the man of my dreams and having the fairy-tale life that most little girls envision—you know, with children and the white picket fence. I can say that I never imagined the life I live exactly, but somehow this life seems even better and more fulfilling than I dreamed to be quite honest.

I met Ben 12 years ago— at a time in my life when I was at a crux in the road…and I think Ben can say the same for himself. I was floundering around, like a fish out of water, not knowing for certain what I wanted to do with my life….maybe teach, maybe learn about alternative medicine, maybe just wait tables until I decided. I was at work one day when this guy I’d become good friends with, Roy, asked me if I wanted to ride with him to Tennessee to pick up his best friend who was on his way home from Texas…I, being the free-spirited and not-committed-to-much kind of girl I was, said “Sure”…and I will never forget the next sentence he uttered—“His name is Ben…but you probably won’t like him very much because he is a real smart-ass”. –“Okay”, I thought, “I’m up for the challenge”.

Never in a million years did I imagine the story would end up the way it has unfolded. I did meet Ben. He was in fact a smart-ass. And still can be at times—even more so with certain people than others. But he has tamed it down a considerable amount over the years. And even taking into account all of his sharp-tongued moments he has brought more joy, security and love to my life than I ever dreamed of. We are total opposites in a lot of ways, in fact most ways. Many people were surprised we were dating—we were so different—but I believe those differences have truly kept us interested in each other.

We married after dating for five years. It was a union we didn’t go into lightly, half-heartedly or without strong conviction –that this was the most permanent decision we would ever make. We spent plenty of time making sure we were right for each other. We worked together successfully for six years in two different jobs, which is a challenge for most couples— especially in the restaurant business where it’s easy to get caught up in the rumor mill. We also extensively traveled around the North and Southeast experiencing life in pretty raw moments as we slept in cars, trucks, tents and on occasion the luxury of a hotel, attending more concerts than Cajes will be able to believe when he is older. I sold hippy skirts and we ate lots of grilled cheese sandwiches as we created some of the most vivid and colorful memories of our past. Our first week together we rode 13 hours, one-way, in the back of Rhonda’s Ford truck to see Phish at the New Orleans Jazzfest and it was during that trip that we confessed we were in it for the long haul after months of solid friendship. Within a month I told my mom I knew Ben would be the guy I married.

After several years of free-spirited haphazardness, we both finally decided it was time to move forward with our passions in life—mine being mental healthcare and art, Ben’s being democracy and justice. We mapped out our plan of how to make our dreams come true, working multiple jobs to make a living while making our life. We finished our undergraduate degrees with the plan of Ben starting Law School in the fall of 2004 when that January we were thrown a curveball. Without planning or trying we were shocked, yet overall pleasantly surprised (after the shock wore off), that we were going to have a baby in September. And that was the beginning of what has so far been the best and most rewarding years of our lives.

Cajes was born September 8th of 2004 during Hurricane Frances, another story altogether. He came in to this world through a blurred haze of morphine and overwhelming love, and our lives have truly never been the same. From that moment in the middle of the storm filled night, when I saw Ben’s face overcome with the most special look of complete devotion and submission, I knew that all the dreams I had conjured up about the life I wanted forever were pale in comparison to what I actually had. I really thought after marriage I knew what real love was. If you had asked me I would have argued that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. But there was no preparation in parenting and childbirth classes that could have primed me for the surreal emotions of when we became a family of three. My affection for Ben grew ten-fold in a matter of moments after Cajes was born, and has only matured as we have turned the pages of the past three years.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and Monday June 16th is our 7 year anniversary and I still can’t believe this is my life sometimes. No, it isn’t always easy—we have our share of arguments and disagreements…but it’s always relatively predictable and always better than I deserve. I consider Ben the best friend I have ever had (not discounting any of my girlfriends, really). In my deepest, darkest hour he has picked me up and reminded me that we have what it takes to have a great life. We have what some people long for and I never take that for granted. When I look back at where we came from to where we are now I am literally moved to tears.

I can say that, yes, I know what love is now for sure…beyond our love, I see it every day when I watch Ben interact with Cajes, teaching him new things and watching Cajes teach Ben what it is to be young again. I see it as he goes into his room each night before we go to sleep to tuck him in one last time. And as he carves out enough time to play outside for a little while each day with Cajes, even with the rigorous schedule he has this summer and the hundred degree heat. I saw it as he moved closer to Cajes at the dentist office today and reached out to hold his little hand during what some might consider a scary moment. Watching the man you love, love the child you created together is somewhat magical.

I packed our first box to move home to Asheville a little less than an hour before I began this blog post. I can’t believe we are now weeks away from leaving this city we have called our “home-away-from-our-real-home” to return to where we left a piece of our hearts three years ago… As long as the hours have seemed some days, and as many trips as I have traveled back and forth, I still find it amazing that the moments have went as quickly as they have. Because despite the fact that we are looking back on 36 months of our lives, bundled comfortably in to the past 12 years, we really got here –to this day—moment by moment, mile by mile, laugh by laugh, and tear by tear. It hasn’t always been easy…but it’s always been worth it.

As I close this blog I am reminded of a poem read at our wedding that I have always found comfort in. These words seem to encapsulate the simple emotions I have stirring within me during this transitional time in our life.

Time is:
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.

Below is a note Cajes wrote his daddy for Father's Day---
Underlined are the words I prompted him with and to the side are his own words dictated to me....
Note to Readers:
Candy Bars = Granola Bars (he doesn't know the difference yet).
I am the one who writes with chalk on the sidewalk with Cajes.
Cajes did hit Ben in the head yesterday with a plastic recorder that he called his horn--it wasn't pretty--it's in the trash now.

Monday, June 2, 2008

"Kasey Kahne--Kasey Kahne!!"

As a child born in the south I grew up watching, and listening to NASCAR, on Sundays--it was just the way we lived. (Part of the excitement of the sport was hearing the highly energetic commentators describing the race for those listening over the radio, those not actually watching the race live--hollering about who was neck-in-neck in turn two and who just bump-drafted the racer in front, etc). My best friend in middle/high school was the daughter of a race car driver and my own mom even carried around a black and white photo of Richard Petty (AKA "The King") signing her arm at the Asheville Speedway--and she may very well still have it in her wallet today. I grew older I sort of became annoyed with NASCAR --feeling the sport was rather gluttonous, wasting gas and tires and money, and only contributing to the pollution and consumerism that has bathed our country. I certainly NEVER expected to be watching racing in my very own home as an adult on Sunday afternoon, but as the saying goes I guess, history often repeats itself.

It all started very innocently. When I met Ben I knew he was a sports fanatic, yet he laughed about people being NASCAR fans and teased one of his brothers for supporting the billion dollar industry. So obviously I didn't worry about the noisiness creeping in to my home because we were too progressive for that. Then after about 5 or 6 years in to our relationship Ben would casually watch a race with friends on big deal--guys like to fit in too. I can remember the day Dale Earnhardt Sr. passed away in Daytona-- everyone sat glued to the TV as we watched a legend leave this world and fans worldwide began to mourn, putting "We Remember #3" stickers and decals on their cars...and that's about as sentimental as one can be about racing. Then low and behold, I should have known, along with Fantasy Football came a Fantasy Racing League-- Seriously! And this, my friends, culminated in to vicious points tallying and feverish phone calls between the guys every Sunday--when big (or little) wrecks would occur, when someone would blow an engine, or one driver shot another driver a bird. It was all a big deal--at that moment. So why, WHY(?!) did I find it surprising that last year when Cajes was only two years old he started showing an interest in NASCAR, like ANYTHING else his daddy might love?

At first Cajes liked whoever his daddy liked and it was still seemingly sweet--to watch the camaraderie between the two of them hooting and hollering over who was passing who or who wrecked. But just as seasons change so too do the phases of toddlerhood to childhood. As the NASCAR season came to a close in November Cajes had turned three and had developed his own articulate vocabulary, and he was very opinionated about who he liked and disliked in many sports (wonder where he got that?). Nevertheless, as the 2008 racing season opened in February Cajes was a total Kasey Kahne fan! It really started out with the way the sound of his name rolled off of his tongue. Cajes simply liked saying his name. "Kasey Kahne-- Kasey Kanne" he would chant!! And now it has developed in to a full-blown obsession with Kasey Kahne. My son(!!)--MY son loves racing! It makes me feel like a hypocrite in some ways. As a server years ago, at a Sagebrush Steakhouse I remember having mama's ask me to "fill their baby bottles with sweet tea" and I thought those would be the children watching racing on Sunday. But no. It's my son who throws himself on the floor in tears when Kasey Kahne gets bumped in the race and my son who screams loudly, waving his hands wildly in the air as if he were his only fan.

All this being said --I still have mixed emotions about the sport-( it took me years to even consider it a real sport). But it is inevitable that racing is here to stay. Racing has been around since prohibition days and I don't see it going anywhere but everywhere. I've recently learned that NASCAR has grown to become the second-most popular professional sport in terms of television ratings inside the U.S., ranking only behind the NFL. So I guess I better get used to it. To be quite honest, the older I get the more I enjoy the reminiscence of my childhood years and NASCAR is bundled in to those memories that make me cherish the simplicity of my youth. There's something nostalgic about it. So, if Cajes loves NASCAR then so be it. I just hope he doesn't fall in to the consumer-driven trap that snares many a NASCAR fan-- especially since Kasey Kahne does drive the Budweiser car.


The happiness of NASCAR...(above)
And then the sadness it can bring--all too quickly...(below)