Christmas Present

Decorating the tree brings a all kinds of memories of Christmas Past. Then until the presents are out in the open, there’s the anticipation of Christmas Future. In the middle of that, Christmas Present is the right now that maybe we lose sight of too often.

This morning, one child is sound asleep while the other is sleeping on a terrible painful ear infection. Our Christmas Present included a late night urgent care run and pharmacy conversation. Mama bear has been taking care of baby boy. Shopping is just about done, just a few more stops and some wrapping today. One family event down, a couple more tomorrow to go. Right now, there’s some hustle and bustle in our world but, honestly, it’s just life moving on.

I’m not a fan of sentimentality. Remembering and learning from the past is good, and looking forward expectantly is good. But there’s something about being in the moment, trying to be aware of what’s going on right now – that’s where I think we can listen and see the real magic of the season…

… and I think that magic is in the midst of relationships; in the waves of pain from earaches; in the smiles of kids watching Rudolph on TV and Linus reciting the scriptures; in the tastes and smells of sugar cookies and egg nog lattes; in the warmth of South Carolina “winter”…

There’s so much to look at, to talk with, to see together this year. I’m glad we’re not missing Christmas Present right now because right now is the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas.

Happy Birthday, Sweet

Today is Vicki’s birthday – and honestly, I cannot think of her any differently today than when we were both younger, both falling in love, both looking forward to a life together.

With so much to look back on, I still look forward to her youthfulness, to continued falling in love, and to much more life to be lived together.

Happy birthday, Sweet.

Wrapping Up Vacation

This is the final morning of my vacation before heading back to the office tomorrow. I might be wrong, but I think the ten day respite has been the longest in at least a year and a half. The story of the past eighteen months is a story in itself, but today I’m thinking more about what’s been happening and what’s just ahead back at my desk.

U.S.S. Constellation, Inner Harbor Baltimore, MD

We left for a student conference/competition in Baltimore, MD last Friday, driving that night to the NC/VA line. That left six hours to Fairfax, VA for Saturday’s drive through the foothills. Sunday was left relatively open for time in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Mall. The rest of the week was spent in Baltimore with 4300+ of our closest friends from around the country (and from Germany, which Vicki found to be exceedingly cool). The kids competed in various technology and creativity events, and in the off hours we walked all over our end of Inner Harbor. We found some great food, the most awesome Barnes & Noble ever, and lots of great photo opportunities.

And the Gamecocks won the NCAA Baseball Championship. Can’t leave that one out – had to watch and participate from afar, making me that much more grateful for friends on Twitter and Facebook sharing the excitement via social media channels.

We drove back all day Friday and the ginormous payoff was being able to sleep in our own beds, with my big plus being my own pillow. Having the full three-day weekend to recuperate is working out well: celebrating Independence Day with the family, small pre-birthday lunch (Best Buy gift cards – the gifts that keep on giving), and movies this morning.

So here’s Monday. I’ve grown to embrace the first day of the week, even more so with a holiday. I’m ready to head back, and the whole point of writing here is that I’ve been ready to get back for most of the week. I don’t mean workaholic-like – instead, I’ve kept up with work happenings and have read some good creative thought-inducing posts on social media that I want to put into play. We’ve enjoyed family time together, travel time away, and new adventures and memories that have been fun and exciting. And now, it’s time to get back into Life with that renewed vigor and excitement to keep doing what we’re passionate about in the marketplace.

I don’t want or need a vacation to recuperate from the vacation. This time away has been better than that. I’ll be ready for tomorrow morning’s alarm after enjoying the rest of today, and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the week has in store.

NOTE: as always, I reserve the right to change my mind when the alarm actually goes off tomorrow morning at 6am.

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Rest area in Virginia, resting

Weekend Whatever

This week, Vicki went though the hullabaloo of getting me a new upgraded iPhone 4. My former 3G phone is now hers, and I think it’s growing on her. But this new phone, for me, is such a huge improvement. Super fast, longer-lasting battery, new features, HD video, FaceTime – for all the naysayers, I say ppfftt! to you. Anyone can find things wrong with __fill in the blank__, but if it works it just works – at least til the next best thing ever comes along. I’ve never had problems with AT&T, only have a couple of dropped call spots around town. Otherwise, I’m a confident customer, consumer and user.

And did I mention that I love love love the new iPhone 4?

I’m off the World Cup soccer bandwagon. Team USA represented well, but now I’m going back to not caring about soccer. It’s a great game – easy to watch and pick up from afar. But it’s just not the same as football, basketball or even baseball. I don’t know why soccer has not taken hold here like it has so prominently everywhere else in the world. Whatever it is, it’s the same thing that makes figure skating only worthwhile once every four years.

Right now, SC Gamecocks are up 2-1 on Clemson for the second spot in the NCAA Baseball Championship series. Well, now it’s tied 2-2 with Clemson still batting top of the 7th. Story of the season, always making it hard but worth it.

We drove a few hours last night, about twice as far today, and now we are twenty minutes west of Washington, DC. Tomorrow: Smithsonian. I’m looking forward to walking through the museums and sharing my first time through with our kids on their first time through. So much of life is about relationships and shared experiences, or as we’ll come to call it, “Sunday”.

It’s SC 4 – CU 2 heading to the Top of the 8th. Back to watching the game in chillax mode.

UPDATE: SC 4, CU 3 – Gamecocks heading into the best-of-two with UCLA. Hoping THIS is the year- Go ‘Cocks!

waking up

My tendency is to want to sleep in on weekend mornings. During the week I am usually swiping the snooze button as many times as I think I can get away with. But there’s no alarm on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and the morning fogginess in my head can just lay there another hour or so, five or six “a few more minutes” at a time.

On the flipside of all that, I also appreciate a quiet house and the peace and stillness available only before everyone else awakes. Silence and a hot aromatic cup of coffee are my friends. Quietly reading the news online, popping down through my overly full google reader listings, seeing what I might’ve missed on Twitter overnight (nothing, trust me), having time to think and ponder and read – these are things worth getting up for.

I had a nice dream last night, one that I’ve had a time or two before. Maybe not, but it felt like I’d had it before, like it wasn’t entirely unfamiliar but instead was a revisit with old friends. In this dream, the people living behind us on some hillside in someplace I’ve never been have a bomber plane. Think Memphis Belle bomber, not the big cargo planes of today. They fly it out of their backyard, across the fields and hills, to the town square where folks gather at the fountains, at the pond, in the square with the shops. It’s a flying dream with a huge plane. It’s a communal dream with lots of folks I don’t know, but maybe I do. It’s an exciting dream with no soundtrack other than the woosh of the wind and the landings that are undramatically short on streets that should be too small, in areas that aren’t big enough.

In the beginning, I had gone back to visit these neighbors, been introduced to aunts and uncles, perhaps over the holidays. And then we took the plane out, just to fly downtown. When we arrived in the village we disembarked to see my aunts and uncles, so perhaps it was the holidays. And then I woke up – to no alarm, so no need for a snooze button. And to no coffee, so there was a need to…

Wake up. I’ve been up about ninety minutes now. And in writing this I think the reason I got out of bed wasn’t the promise of peace and quiet or the magnetic pull of the morning’s first cup of coffee. Instead, I think I realized that if I didn’t get a start on some part of this new day, then the highlight of it would be that dreamt flight through the countryside in a plane that didn’t exist. Not a bad thing, but going back to sleep wouldn’t recapture that – while waking up just might.

sausage biscuits and sweet tea

The early morning fog matched her mood, clinging thick to the trees on Highway 21. The radio showed 6:33, the blinking colon in the middle counting time to a rhythm different from the beat of the pop song playing over the flat screechy rear speakers. Four more hours to go. The overnight energy drinks were wearing off, and she knew she’d need to stop soon. A sausage biscuit and a quick catnap would be good. But she knew sleep wouldn’t come. Not right now. A bathroom break would help. But honestly, just getting home would be it’s own reward right now, for what it’s worth…

Driving home, quite honestly, was something she thought she would never do. Never have to do. Never want to do. She had been gone too long, made too much of herself, to consider the possibility. When she’d left, she’d meant it for good. But now on this souped in stretch of highway, she gave herself permission to consider the implications of going back home, of pulling into the driveway, of knocking on the door after crossing the wide wooden porch filled with lazy summertime memories and rainy damp sadness.

She pulled into a Hardee’s parking lot. Out of the car, quick restroom break to clear her body of the dregs of her sugared and caffeinated buzz, washing the crust off from the drive so far. She splashed in the sink, water going up her nose a little, making her reflex a messy sneeze. She wiped her face and the mirror. The person staring back wasn’t the same one who’d made the drive away from home before. This was a different person, someone who’d been through it and still needed to wipe the yuck off. She noticed it mostly in the eyes, always self-considered her best feature, now with a little less lustre, a little more depth, a little murkiness mixed into the deep blue around her dialated pupils.

She ordered a sausage biscuit and a sweet tea, less than five dollars, not a huge bite out of the twenty-seven and change she’d been able to scrounge from the sofa cushions, the floorboards and Eddie’s wallet before leaving. She was thankful at least to be in a land where “sweet tea” still meant something. Leaving the South to make her own way, she’d just never developed the taste for unsweetened tea. The thought had never occurred to her: that drastically uprooting life might take away sweet tea. You just don’t factor the little things into the equation. As she sipped the sweet Ambrosia of the Gods, she felt a prayer of thanksgiving rise up in her blessed little heart…

“Bless her little heart” – she knew how most conversations in her absence would have been going. She sat in a corner booth with her sweet glorious nectar and her sausage biscuit, thinking of the times she had called home to just let someone know she was okay. Those “conversations” rarely went as planned. When it was her Dad answering the phone, that was a conversation. Anyone else, like her brother, or his wife, or… anyone else and “checking in” quickly detiorated into Let’s Interrogate Alex, the game she had left town to escape in the first place. “Bless her little heart” was the euphemism of choice, standing in for the less polite “she’s such a damned fool” in the deep sweet tea loving South.

She missed her Dad. It was the only reason she was coming back, even if, in too many ways, it was the only reason she’d left in the first place. Momma had passed away when Alex was in seventh grade, a difficult enough time in a girl’s life. But Daddy had done the best he could, and she deeply loved and respected her father for that. It hurt to say goodbye, knowing she was driving a stake in his heart through her own tears, his tears, their last hug before getting in her car, driving off, not looking back. He would never get into the “bless her little heart” talk that backstabbed the one being “blessed”. He would only wish her well, remind her if she needed a bed, they’d have one handy and ready, and that he loved her very much, always will.

She knew it had been love. She knew it had been devotion, affection, fatherly warmth and protection. At the time, though, she felt caged, enclosed, and she needed space, her space, adventurous space to stretch and run and grow the way she felt was right. She still needed space, but now… she sighed and hoped some of the other was still there, too.

She took the last bite of her biscuit, realizing she needed to go to the restroom to wipe her face again, telling herself not to forget a refill on the sweet tea before hitting the road again. Before driving home again. Before seeing Daddy again and trying to set things right.

SEVEN YEARS AGO
He was pretty sure there was nothing he could do to stop what was transpiring before him. His baby girl had packed her Honda CRV with all her earthly possessions, ready to head out on her own adventure.

The black car matched her dark wardrobe, matched her lightless eyes. She was rebelling, and he was going to let her. Everything in his heart screamed to wake up, to ditch the nightmare playing out in the driveway. It seemed like the breeze was alive, whisking her away. The birds were quiet, transfixed with the scene. Or they were conspiring, beady bird eyes watching every move to make sure all went according to…

The timing was bad. This should not be happening. Not now, not like this. But there she is, looking older and more mature than he realized, beautiful and headstrong like her mother. At least that part of this felt right. Her Mom would’ve done the same thing. Heck, for all he knew, she HAD done the same thing in leaving home and marrying him. But not like this.

#iamgratefulfor

  • My wife, Vicki, better every year.
  • Our kids, growing up and maturing in spite of us.
  • Family dinners, today and every Sunday.
  • Jesus, loving and giving and bringing Life abundantly.
  • Stretchy pants.
  • New friends, making connections all over geography and the internet.
  • Old friends, reconnecting all over geography and the internet.
  • New fun exciting scary growth-inducing employment.
  • Getting to travel these past few years to FL, to PA, to WA, to CA, to PR, to VA.
  • Not having to travel nearly as much this past year.
  • Twitter, for the semi-coherent “conversations” with followers and followings.
  • Connecting with folks here in @ColumbiaSC where everyone’s #famouslyhot.
  • Hashtags.
  • Facebook, where everyone’s growing old and loving it instead of hiding it so much.
  • Technology – no, really – that changes the dynamic of “relationship”, in a good way.
  • Not having to sit at my laptop every night after work to keep working.
  • Having time to read, to write, to read over what I write and edit a bit.
  • That peanut butter pie.
  • Both of you reading.

Thanks – and happy thanksgiving to all.