Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Root Of The Evil.

Hi, my name is Abby, and I am a coffee addict. No, seriously. FOR REAL. I love coffee in much the same way that someone addicted to hardcore drugs "loves" their drug of choice. Which is to say, it goes beyond just "love" into "Need", with a capital N. For me there has never been a moment in which I have thought, "Gee, a cup of coffee sure would be nice." What I am thinking is, "For the love of all that is good and holy, I need coffee now, NOWNOWNOWNOW, or I will cease to exist. I will stop breathing if I do not have coffee this instant. I will possibly pick up that dining room chair and smash it into the wall if I do not have caffeine NOW." And I am not picky about what I drink, there is no coffee snobbery here. I shop at the local ghetto supermarket, where everything is off-brand, and my coffee canister simply says "COFFEE" on it. It is to coffee what White Rain is to shampoo. Hell, it's actually even lower on the ladder than that because I'm not entirely sure my coffee even has a brand name. It's just "COFFEE". I set up my coffee pot while I am making dinner, carefully filling it up with water as high as I can get away with filling it up. Right to the 12 cup mark, if not a smidge more. I lovingly place the filter in it's proper place and measure out the ground coffee with my special coffee measuring spoon, maybe whispering sweet nothings to it as I do this. In the morning I stumble out of bed and down the hallway to the kitchen, not even pausing to wipe the sleep from my eyes or to pee first. It is as if I only have two settings before the hour of 10am: 1. Find coffee. 2. Drink coffee, quickly. Repeat about seven times.

But recently I have made a startling discovery: My Need for coffee is not an isolated condition. Oh, no, it's not. It is fueled by what I like to call the Freedom Itch. This itch has come to define my evenings, and begins around 7:30pm when I place Charlie in his crib and shut the door. "One down, one to go," I tell myself. "What will I do with my free time tonight? Watch a movie? Finish folding the eight loads of laundry sitting downstairs? Maybe organize the drawers in the kitchen? Hmmm." Phase two starts when I tuck Ella into her bed, turn off the light, and shut her door. I almost always get that tingly feeling that you get when you wake up and realize you have something REALLY fun planned for the day. "WHAT should I DO with all of this free time tonight?!?!" my brain screams. "God, there is just SO MUCH time to do anything I want to do! I'm gonna watch three movies! Fold laundry! Bake muffins for tomorrow's breakfast! Give myself a proper pedicure! Read a whole book! Catch up on that scarf I'm knitting! Wait, I don't knit! But I COULD! I can do anything I want to do, because I have SO MUCH FREE TIME TONIGHT!". All of this is going through my head while excitedly pacing the floor with a little skip in my step, looking for something to do. I am now officially drunk on the endless possibilities that come with kid-free time. Cut to two hours later: I have successfully folded half a load of laundry, watched about ten minutes of a single tv show, and gotten about 1/3 of the way through my fancy pedicure, left with bare toenails that haven't even been clipped. It is, after all, only a couple of hours that I have on my hands in the evenings. But at the onset of the Freedom Itch, it feels like so much more, like I could do 749 things between the hours of 8 and 11. The next phase in this process is called So Help Me God, I WILL Enjoy Every Minute of Peaceful Quiet. This causes one to force their eyelids to stay open well past a reasonable bed time, all in the name of not wasting a moment of this adults-only evening. Eyes half open, I usually stumble to bed around 11 or 11:30, crash hard into my bed, and wake up in a puddle of drool to the alarm blaring in my ear at 5:15am. This is the phase called the Freedom Hangover. I took the freedom too far, stayed up too late while simultaneously not really doing anything except wasting time imagining how I was going to spend said time. Not unlike the occasions when you have one too many drinks the night before and waking up foggy-headed and kicking yourself for not having any self control. This is where my Need comes in. I need my coffee to help me force my eyes open, I need my coffee to help me remember how to even turn on a lamp or know what year it is. Or to remember my name. So I spend the entire hour before the kids wake up coming back to life myself, and there is not really any time to get anything done in that hour because I am not even functioning on a human level at this point. Lather, rinse, repeat. Spend all day caring for my babies, doing housework, and making meals. Refuel my Need around 3pm just to make it to dinner time, at which point I feel that familiar giddiness coming on. Just two more hours until bedtime! I'm gonna organize my cookbook and also catch up on an entire season of that tv show! At the same time! While also finishing that pedicure from last night! Kids in bed, I head downstairs and get exactly one thing done by the time it is 10pm, make myself stay up to suck every drop of peace and freedom out of this night, and crash at midnight.

Now if you'll excuse me, it is 9am and I have only had four cups of coffee. I need to go start working on number five.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Officially Summer.

No matter how early in the season we hit ninety degrees here, it is not officially summer until we break out the pool, and the popsicles, and some delicious peaches, which we eat under the big tree in the front yard. With sticky peach-juice covered hands and soaking wet bathing suits and sunscreen covered faces.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Little Things.

Happy Little Things. Lots and lots of good things, big and small, every day. I've been slowing down, noticing tiny moments that so often pass me by, as well as completely random things that make me happy, and in doing so have made a list of my Happy Little Things for the week.

~Fresh-cut peony blooms on my kitchen counter, making me smile while cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

~Laying with my girl in my bed for a nap, listening to her sigh out of her nose, content.


~The smell of my babies after a long day of playing. Their hands and feet smell like grass and popsicles and sunscreen. If someone could bottle up that smell they would make a fortune.


~Impromptu dance parties in the living room, spinning around to "Dancing Queen", and laughing until none of us can breathe.


~Long afternoons outside in the pool, followed by popsicles eaten in the driveway while wrapped up in a fresh, warm towel.


~My neatly folded stacks of brand new, brightly-colored washcloths. I use them instead of paper towels, and there is just something about cleaning the windows with a bright pink cloth that makes it marginally less sucky.

~Our afternoon walks around the neighborhood and the park, stopping to inspect every rock and ladybug we come across and to swing on every swing.


~When the husband gets home and I can hear shouts of "DADDY! Oh, DADDY!" from clear across the house.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Update on the Code Orange Bird Situation.

After much debate between the husband and I (should we open the door to the outside and let them hop out? Will that ultimately kill them because they cannot fly very well yet? Do I really care? How am I going to get all of this bird shit cleaned up off of the concrete floor in there?), the birds have flown the nest, so to speak. But not before leaving me the following: Two almost-heart-attacks, massive amounts of poop all over the floor, an ever-increasing fear that we will all catch the bird flu from going in that room to get something out of the fridge, and one dead baby bird sitting right by my water heater. They would squawk and flap their tiny wings in a panic-filled pseudo flight attempt, but since they were just babies and couldn't fly very well, they would inevitably end up crashing into a cinder block wall, or the floor, or the windows. Even the mother bird, who would perch six inches from the hole out to the free world, would chirp and sing, seemingly saying, "God you guys are stupid. The way out is right here. HERE! Look! See this patch of sunlight coming through this massive hole in the wall? Fly HERE, not into the walls, morons." And apparently they found their way out, because Birdfest 2010 is over. I feel like I should have a t-shirt made that says I Survived The Birds and All I Got Was A Crippling Fear Of Anything With Wings.

Look at them, staring back at me with their scary, shiny eyes. I think I could hear them planning to peck my eyes out as I took this picture with my phone.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Hostile Takeover

So. I have a bird problem. More specifically, birds have now taken over our storage room, and are multiplying as I type this. This situation is not good, y'all. I am totally cool with birds in their natural habitat, aka outside. In nature. But in-freaking-side? NOT cool. In my storage room? Even more not cool. This all started a couple of weeks ago when the husband pointed out that there was a bird's nest on top of the light fixture in there. Oh, that's kinda cute, I thought. I pondered how a bird could have possibly gotten in there to build said nest, since the only door that is ever opened in there is the one into our actual house, and I definitely think I would have noticed a bird coming and going in my living room. Oh, right! Back when we moved here and the air conditioner didn't work and our jackass landlord hired some guy of equal jackassness to put in a new unit? Yeah. Guy left a gaping hole on one side of the air conditioner, which has now apparently become an Avian Super Highway straight into our storage room. So, cute. A bird's nest! I didn't think anything of it. When I went out into that room, I always kinda clapped my hands to warn the mama bird of my arrival, and she would fly out of the hole until I had left. We had an understanding: this is MY house, and I will come into my own damn storage room whenever I feel like it, and YOU, bird, will kindly fly away when I am present. I am bigger than you, Bird, and I win. It was working well...for a week. Then I started hearing little itty bitty chirping noises when I went out there. Awwwww! Baby BIRDS! I couldn't actually see them, as the nest was up too high, but I sure could hear them. Adorable! Our peace treaty was still intact...mama bird would fly away when I entered the room, leaving me to move boxes or get some ice out of the refrigerator in there in peace. All of this peaceful coexisting has stopped today. All bets are off. I innocently turned the handle on the storage room door, needing to go in there to find some cleaning supplies. What I was met with was sheer terror: Birds, everywhere, hundreds of them. Okay, maybe not hundreds. Maybe more like ten. But still, TEN! Ten birds, that are what I can only assume are the babies that were chirping away just days ago, now swarming around like rabid, diseased bats on crack. These baby birds are apparently not intelligent enough to understand the terms of our peace agreement: Human enters, Birds fly away for a minute, Human leaves, Birds can return. Instead they are flying about furiously and incompetently, swooping and diving and running into walls and furniture. This presented a problem for me: I really, really wanted to clean while Charlie was napping, and I really, really needed that scrub brush in that room. But at what cost? I asked myself. Being attacked by these ferocious, seemingly drunk baby birds? Having them go straight for my eyeballs and leaving me blind (which is a really for real fear of mine regarding birds. Really.)? The obsessive need to scrub my shower won, so I did the only logical thing I could think of. I grabbed a broom and, waving it about like someone either having a seizure or fighting off a dragon, swatted and slapped at the tiny baby birds flying around my head. I didn't actually make contact with any of them, but in my mind I at least kept the little monsters at bay for a few moments. I grabbed the scrub brush thing and retreated as fast as I could, still swinging the broom in a blind frenzy of terror. As I approached the door, I had that feeling that you get when you pull your feet up off the floor to get into bed at night: like maybe, just maybe something like a pair of hands was going to swipe at your feet and grab your ankles and drag you somewhere, under the bed, possibly. I haven't thought that particular fear out past the part about some hands grabbing my feet. But still, you know that feeling. Like you just barely escaped certain death by pulling your feet up fast enough. Except in this case I had just barely escaped certain death at the hands (beaks? wings?) of The Birds. I slammed the door shut, out of breath and feeling all tingly with adrenaline, maybe making a sound like "Arghuhhhllmmbbbl" as I reached the safety of the inside hallway. I won! I had beaten an army birds. Really, they are each about the size of a lemon. Maybe. Probably even smaller. I then stood there in the hallway, feeling like a moron, replaying my pas de deux with the ten baby sparrows or whatever the hell they are. I probably overreacted, running through the storage room waving my broom about like a mentally challenged person on fire. So. That has been my day so far. Just thought I would share.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There Is A Reason For Our Name.

Photo from Hands On Nashville

Tennessee is called The Volunteer State, and in the week since the floods, it's becoming apparent why. All over the city groups are springing up, thousands strong, to help their neighbors and city recover. At a gas station yesterday there was a huge bus, waiting to fuel up to drive to some of the hardest hit parts of the city. Exhausted, sweaty, filthy volunteers filled the store to stock up on snacks and water for the long day ahead of them. People driving through neighborhoods asking strangers what they need help with the most.

Having grown up here, I can say that this drive to help those in need is something instilled in Tennesseans from childhood. If someone is in need of help, you help. Period. This week has reminded me of all the reasons why I am so, so proud to call Nashville my home. I cannot help in all of the thousand ways I wish I could: I have my kids all day every day, and taking them into the wrecked neighborhoods is just not an option right now. I hope that with my minimal time I will be donating, I can make at least a small difference. And one of the things I wish most is that my kids could accompany me to see their city coming out to help its own recover from this disaster. I was talking with the husband last night, and we both agreed that it would be wonderful if they were older and able to help and see the helping going on. I wondered to myself if Ella understood that yet, as there have not been many instances in her short life that she has been able to witness true giving, giving without being asked to give. And yet, this morning as I watched the local news, I got my answer. A news crew had gone out to a ruined neighborhood to talk to the residents, and a woman stood with her two kids talking to the reporter, crying. The kids stood in front of what was, just last week, their home, sorting through family photos and water-logged toys. "Mom," she said in a serious tone. "We need to help those kids." As I struggled to keep my heart from bursting through my chest, I said, "I know, Ell. We will! People are already out there helping, and we can think of ways that we can help, too." I was a bit dumbfounded, to tell you the truth, because we do not volunteer at soup kitchens, we do not feed the homeless Christmas dinner. But all of the small things over the years have added up, and I realized that she has seen the tiny acts of service that I didn't think she noticed: dropping off bags of clothes and toys to Goodwill, explaining that some people can't afford brand new things, so when we don't need something any more we give it to them. Picking up trash we come across at the park, explaining that it's nice to keep our town clean, even if it isn't our mess. This small girl, and her concern for her neighbors that she doesn't even know, has completely convinced me that it doesn't take grand gestures of service to instill the need to help in a child. There's a reason for the name The Volunteer State: We help others. We just do it, without being asked. It's in our dna.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One in a thousand.

On Friday evening, the weather report for Nashville stated that we were in for a "wet, soggy weekend". As a mom to two small children I mentally prepared myself for two whole days shut in the house, making preparations as best I could. Crayons? Check. Toys organized and easy to find? Check. Bottle of wine? Double check. As a lifelong resident of Nashville, I am used to wet spring weather. "A wet and soggy weekend" typically means that there will be showers intermittently for the whole weekend, nothing worse than forcing families inside for a couple of days. So I wasn't surprised on Saturday morning when the rain started when I woke up at 5am. When the kids got up around 6 it was still raining. "Maybe just another hour or so and there will be a break in the rain so we can run to the grocery store," I thought.

But the rains, they did not stop.

They not only did not stop, but they were absolutely incredible. So heavy for most of the day that we could not see out of our windows, and they did not let up for one minute. Even at that point, though, I was mostly just glad that we did not have any tornado sightings yet (which is what we are mostly worried about here weather wise). It was not until I saw this on an interstate:


that I truly became concerned. Scared. The whole storm took on a new meaning. No tornadoes, but terrifyingly deep and fast floods creeping over parts of the city. The term "Thousand Year Flood" began being tossed around. Also "Five Hundred Year Flood", although I don't think it really matters which it is...this is still more destruction and disaster than anyone in this state will probably see in their lifetime. There was no way for anyone to predict that this would happen: a freak line of severe storms that, under normal circumstances, would have quickly passed and drifted off to the east, leaving no more than puddles and gray clouds in its wake. But on this day, this weekend, they did not move. They sat squarely on top of Middle Tennessee and poured inch after inch of rain on top of us with no signs of stopping. We watched the continuous news coverage, hopeful that THIS line of storms was the last, the end of it. Nope. It kept coming. It rained and rained and continued to flood until Sunday evening.

Sunday afternoon was when reality hit me: a friend on tv, being boated out of her home with her husband and child, carrying nothing more than the clothes on their backs with them. The soccer fields where Ella played her first soccer game: gone, underneath water that was too deep to measure. Homes floating down roads on a river of white water. Elderly people trapped in their homes unable to wade through the rushing water. Interstates under foot after foot of water, impassable. Roads that I use every day looked like this


and homes everywhere looked like this


There has been much talk of "There is not enough media coverage on this, people need to KNOW!". I can see their point...a two-minute blurb on the Today show, stating that flood waters are rising in Tennessee, the death toll has reach 19, the Cumberland river hasn't crested yet. While all of those statements are true, they fail to actually capture the wreckage that this storm has caused and the dire situation many many people are now finding themselves in, homeless and faced with rebuilding their homes themselves due to a lack of flood insurance in this area. Kind of the same way saying "Nashville got a lot of rain" would technically be accurate, but misses the mark completely. At the same time, there is a reason for this lack of news coverage, I believe. There is no looting and murdering, there are no riots or fires being set. This, to me, speaks volumes about the city I call home. There are simply neighbors helping neighbors by bringing boats, food, giving shelter and driving around until they find someone who needs help carrying debris out of their ruined home. Volunteer groups sprang up as soon as the rain stopped. No one is sitting on the curb crying "Help me!", they are getting up and helping themselves and others, and they are doing it quietly and without complaint. As one old man on the news said when asked what he was going to do next, "Shut up and get to work."

A couple of days ago an article from our newspaper, The Tennessean, started going around through email and Facebook links. It was short and sweet, but said everything that could be said about the flooding and the city of Nashville.

written by Patten Fuqua

It seems bizarre that no one seems to be aware that we just experienced what is quite possibly the costliest non-hurricane disaster in American history. The funds to rebuild will have to come from somewhere, which is why people need to know. It’s hard to believe that we will receive much relief if there isn’t a perception that we need it.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin for a moment. A large part of the reason that we are being ignored is because of who we are. Think about that for just a second. Did you hear about looting? Did you hear about crime sprees? No…you didn’t. You heard about people pulling their neighbors off of rooftops. You saw a group of people trying to move two horses to higher ground. No…we didn’t loot. Our biggest warning was, “Don’t play in the floodwater.” When you think about it…that speaks a lot for our city. A large portion of why we were being ignored was that we weren’t doing anything to draw attention to ourselves. We were handling it on our own.

Some will be quick to find fault in the way rescue operations were handled, but the fact of the matter is that the catastrophe could not have been prevented and it is simply ignorant beyond all reason to suggest otherwise. It is a flood. It was caused by rain. You can try to find a face to stick this tragedy to, but you’ll be wrong.

Parts of Nashville that could never even conceivably be underwater were underwater. Some of them still are. Opry Mills and the Opryland Hotel are, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. People died sitting in standstill traffic on the Interstate. We saw boats going down West End. And, of course, we all saw the surreal image of the portable building from Lighthouse Christian floating into traffic and being destroyed when cars were knocked into it. I’m still having trouble comprehending all of it.

And yet…life will go on. We’ll go back to work, to school, to our lives…and we’ll carry on. In a little over a month, I’ll be on this website talking about the draft. In October, we’ll be discussing the new Predators’ season with nary a thought of these past few days. But in a way, they changed everyone in this town. We now know that that it can happen to us…but also know that we can handle it.

Because we are Nashville.