The Arkansas Way

 

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Several years back I would spend my time off work relaxing in Arkansas. You see, during a three year stint Rudy was living and working there. Not by choice, rather because of necessity. It was the only job he could find when the economy was suffering. A time when choosing where to work wasn’t an option for him.  So, when Arkansas called he left. And, unbeknown to me, I fell in love with a true wonderland. Arkansas is beautiful. The landscape is breathtaking.

Though Rudy did come home for visits, I looked forward to flying out, hanging out, walking around and embracing the true meaning of relaxation. Instead of spending my week or a complete summer cleaning, organizing, painting, repairing, etc., like I always did (and still do) in California, I’d chill.

My daily routine in Arkansas was so simple, so basic, so enjoyable. After giving Rudy a ride to work in the early morning (I wanted the SUV during the day) I’d plop on the couch and begin writing. I’d spend a few hours spilling my thoughts, constantly editing and rereading until I felt a publishable story was complete. And then I’d walk. I’d take long walks through neighborhoods, walking down paved roads, admiring the architecture and the tall trees. Or, I’d walk the length of a complete hilly golf course. Walking along the golf-cart trail. Which never seemed to be an issue as the course was rarely being used by others – possibly due to either very cold or very hot weather. Not ideal for the players, yet perfect for me. And then, back home, after a shower, Brad would awaken, which meant we’d travel around town finding different scenarios to engage in for the remainder of the afternoon. (Did you know the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is in the middle of the forest in Bella Vista? Or how about the Crystal Bridges Museum, a wonderful establishment full of modern art in Bentonville?) We’d explore places like this until it was time to pick up Rudy from work.

Which brings me to today. Day 1 of Spring Break, Orange County, CA. And how I’ve decided to spend the week. I’m taking the time to embrace relaxation. The Arkansas Way. I will not use the days to clean, organize, paint, repair, etc. This week my routine will be as carefree as possible. After enjoying a cup of hot coffee I will begin writing. I know I will spend a few hours honing in on what I feel is a piece of work that is worthy of publishing. And then I will walk. Whether it’s a walk in my neighborhood, the heights behind our house, or a stroll along the shoreline down south. My mood will guide me. Then I will attend to enjoyable extrusions, whether heading to the store to purchase ingredients for my baking experiments, cruising through a bookstore (just because I love the environment), or any other place that tickles my fancy. I will end my days with conversations with Rudy and, if I’m hungry, eat the food he prepares. Followed by a comfortable bed and a good read.

bad bad little girls

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We were 8 years old. In the third grade. Girl scouts. Selling Trefoils©, Do-si-dos©, and Thin Mints© throughout our neighborhood.

We were so sweet. So nice. So unassuming.

Until we snapped. For real.

As we rounded a corner, there stood the local Vans© store. A small establishment full of Authentic Vans© lace-ups. But it was the light blue pair that lit up my eyes.

So young. So determined.

We pulled out the money collected for cookies sold, 15 bucks each. Eyeballs barely reaching above the countertop, we grabbed our newly purchased Vans©.

We, bad bad little girls, wore those shoes with glee. Feeling radiant and lighthearted.

I. Am. Independent

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When I was 16, able to work, I immediately applied at McDonald’s. A local place up the street. A walk-to-work kind of place. I didn’t have a car (and wouldn’t buy one for another 3 years) but, I really wanted to express my independence, mostly to myself. I also needed to take the burden off my parents (even though they never ever made me feel like a burden) because I was growing up.

Still young, sure. But ready to conquer life. Ready to prove to myself that I could manage, regardless.

I love being able to take care of myself yet, the flip side, the (sometimes – a word given lightly) negative aspect of complete independence is never asking for help, not wanting to be a burden –

(and yes, I do note a theme here, not wanting to bother people.)

Interestingly, and it took a few years, the one place I am comfortable with others helping me is in the classroom. Kids are notorious for wanting to take the burden off the teacher, do small chores, help out whenever they can. I’ve learned to embrace such willingness. Their excitement surpasses my need to just do it all.

But to be fair, I don’t have a huge problem with the fact I don’t ask for help, which stems from my desire to be independent, because taking care of ‘whatever’ myself simply means I am in control, and more importantly, I know exactly what is happening. Which then rewards self-sufficiency.

I can live the life I do, the life I choose, on my own.

(Which, I must say, my mom would be proud. She always, as I began my relationship with Rudy, told me to make sure I could take care of myself, with or without him. That I must be a female who can stand on her own, rather than relying on anyone, especially a guy, to prosper.)

No truer words have been spoken, to me.

I. Am. Independent.

11,686 Days

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ELEVEN THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX 

Sounds like a life time, that many days, but it’s not.

It’s 32 years plus six days.

Thirty-two years of marriage, plus the 6 days after the last celebration.

11,686 days of all kinds of emotions and feelings.

Rudy and I have stood toe-to-toe, face-to-face, arms wrapped around each other.

And endured difficult moments, standing heel-to-heel, back-to-back, arms rigid, avoiding contact.

ELEVEN THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX

32 years plus 6 days of a committed relationship, solidified through loyalty, love, and friendship.

walk

 

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nothing like a good ‘ol evening stroll through the neighborhood, breathing in the cool evening air, and chatting with my mate.

yes, my mate.

rudy.

who never ever, ever (well, except that one time…) walks with me.

until now.

i didn’t even ask. just said i was putting on my Nikes. and that i’d be back in a bit. said it as i was jamming my foot into a shoe.

“i’ll go with you,” he said.

‘say what?! yes!’ i secretly cheered.

“oh, sure,” I said aloud. trying to sound like it was no big deal.

but, a big deal it was. it was relationship worthy.

me. rudy. and a conversation. about nothing in particular. the kind of nothing that means everything.

 

if only cats can talk

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I watched my black cat antagonize a fat lizard for a few minutes. Well, really, Cassandra was just playing, pawing the lizard every time it tried to escape. And then I watched Skyler, my other cat, as she ran over to investigate, to find out what the commotion was all about. I let the cats have a moment with the reptile, then I scooped up the colorful creature, and let it go through a hole in the backyard fence.
That had been twenty-four hours previous.
Twenty four hours later, I was feeling sick to my stomach wondering where Skyler was.
After the lizard drama, both cats ran off, in different directions, scouting the neighborhood, as usual. When the sun began to set, I walked out to the sidewalk in front of my house, and gently called their names. Cassandra, Skyler, I called in a singsong voice. The voice the cats trusted. Cassandra came running. Ran right into my arms. Then I called to Skyler, once again, as I walked back towards the front door.
Every twenty, or so, minutes I’d walk out to the sidewalk and call Skyler’s name. But to no avail. I spent the rest of the evening and all through the night calling to my shy, quiet, observant cat. In the wee hours of the morning I had resigned myself to believe that something had happened. Something bad. My sick stomach told me so.
But, I was wrong, because later that afternoon Skyler walked into the house wide-eyed and fearful. As if something had happened to her. Something bad. When she heard the natural stomp of a foot, she ran under the couch, as far back as she could tuck herself in. She jumped at every noise. Noises that she had become immune to. With gentleness, Skyler’s family welcomed her home, into their safety net. Allowing her to readjust, at her own pace.
The next morning, when I had opened the garage door, just enough for the cats to slip under, Skyler sat, and observed her neighborhood. Taking a moment to reflect on something. And then she slowly followed Cassandra out onto the grass, and watched as her sister caught another lizard.
If only cats can talk, I said to myself.