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.

Walk 38

Walking is what we do best. Me. And my three.

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Roberto, Liz, and Brad

Well, me and Liz, for sure. Roberto occasionally. And Brad, not really. But on this day, this past Sunday, we walked. Together. Up some hills. And on the shore of Pacific Palisades. A beach town in California.

You see, I found this great book, 10,000 STEPS A DAY IN L.A. by Paul Haddad, so we decided to take ‘A Stroll for the Soul’.

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I parked up a hill, about half way, then we walked down the hill, turned left, and walked in the opposite direction of the beach. We headed to the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. Oh, boy, what a beautiful, serene setting. You’d never know we were surrounded  by people people everywhere. All the greenery, the tall trees, blocked the outside activity, and provided the perfect spot to, seriously, self-reflect.

After balancing our minds, we walked back toward the beach, across Pacific Coast Highway, admiring the magnificent view. The ocean blue.

Nothing is better than walking while spending time with my kids. Kids who are not kids, but adults. Adults who enjoy the outside world. Like I do.

 

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 Knew Then

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Note: This memory is a gift for Rudy, as today is his HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Long ago, when we were first dating, during the summer of ’84, I watched Rudy as he paced back and forth, back and forth.

“I don’t know how to ask,” he said to me.

I continued watching him, curious and very interested, wondering about his nervousness..

“Just say it,” I encouraged him.

Honestly, I had no idea what was on his mind. I mean, seriously, it was way too early in our relationship for him to propose, and what else he so desperately needed to say, well, I didn’t know. I couldn’t even begin to guess.

“It’s hard for me to ask you this. I barely know you, and well, it’s not something I should even ask.”

I wasn’t feeling irritated at all, more amused in fact, but still, I really just wished he’d say what he needed to say. And I didn’t know what to do to let him know he could trust me.

So, I just said,

“You can trust me.”

He stopped pacing and looked at me, but then began his back and forth movements across the back patio. Suddenly, without looking at me, his head down, as if he couldn’t handle my reaction (in case it was negative, I suppose) he let loose. The words sprang quickly.

“Can I borrow twenty dollars?”

It took me a second or two to respond because I wanted to laugh out loud. I thought it was cute that he was so nervous about asking me such a simple question. But I maintained my composure, held in the giggles. I did not want to make the situation worse for him. I was pretty sure he’d misinterpret my laughing.

“Sure,” I responded.

You see, for me, I considered the question as part of the development of honesty and loyalty, beginning right then and there, cementing itself into our newly forming relationship. The value of knowing Rudy could trust me enough to ask for money was huge at that moment.

“Really?” he seemed surprised.

And then he went on and on about how he shouldn’t even be asking, but he needed money for food and so he could take the bus to work, and he was feeling desperate, and he didn’t know what else to do. And so on.

“Really,” I answered.

I knew then that Rudy was the kind of person I wanted around. The kind of guy I wanted to spend more time with.

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.