Who Are You?

Who are you?

The question rolled off my lips the other morning when my husband pawed through the cabinet above our kitchen sink.  You know the one— too full of drinking glasses and bottles of vitamins and medications that come with being on 50’s doorstep.  His voice rattled with the morning wake-me-ups, “Why do we have a plethora of glasses and bottles falling out on me?”

“Plethora?” I ask.  After knowing him for almost 32 years, this is the first time this particular word has introduced itself from his vocabulary stockroom.  Ranks right up when frustrated with Portland’s rush hour traffic, Cliff popped off a foreign phrase, “This is a menagerie of stupidity!”  Menagerie?  Seriously. And everyone thinks I’m the dramatic one.

Honestly, he’s more of a number and science guy, where I thrive on painting articulate masterpieces with vibrantly flamboyant word delineations.  For instance, I use the p-word a plethora of times every day as I talk about the menagerie that is my life.  In fact, it’s lost its ‘wow’ factor from the cacophony of overuse.

But this doesn’t only happen with words.  After being married several multi-hued years of  me buying him brilliantly flowered Hawaiian shirts and canary yellow coaching shorts, I learned Cliff’s favorite color is tan.  Tan.  No one’s favorite color is tan. Why was this not covered in the premarital counseling?  “Who are you?” I asked as I pulled on my shocking pink sweater over my electric blue stirrup pants.  When we got married, I said ‘I do” to a rough and rowdy cowboy.  After seven years of wedded bliss I discovered he had led a past life as a baseball fanatic.  This completely threw me when he traded in the rope canister for a bat bag, and we hit a plethora of roads sprinkled with diamonds.  Diamonds I wouldn’t trade for a silver buckle the size of a turkey platter if you hog-tied me and stole my bright red Ropers off these size 10 feet.

Constantly, he surprises me with who he is.  What he likes to eat, what he wants to watch, how he reacts to things, and the newest hobby-growing roses.  So maybe I was wrong when he commented on the beauty of the flowers in the Portland Rose Garden, and I accused him of merely being relieved of getting out of the then very sketchy Chinatown with our lives. Instead, he was up to his smeller  wondering  how to graft their cuttings to make a stunning beige bloom.

While we both have been molded and shaped in life’s fiery crucible, I suspect there is a lot Cliffie Poppins can’t  wait to pull from his magic bat bag.  Always astounding me and challenging me, but never allowing me to be bored.

Once again, God has used Cliff to teach me more about his character, his attributes, and his love—in a plethora of ways—each and every day.  Treasures waiting for me to discover that I could never dream of, imagine, or have possibly misunderstood on occasion..

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:2-3

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The Hatfields and McLongs

Did you watch it?  Of course, the history nuts that we are were panicking over whether we’d get the History Channel’s The Hatfields and McCoys  DVR-ed from the first commercial that marched across our screen.  Normally, I’m not one for that graphic of violence, but this story had me at first blast.

First of all, my assumption that these people were from the Dog Patch side of the mountains was dead wrong.  Bedraggled hats, corn cob pipes, moonshine, shot guns, and a lazy old hound dog gracing the sagging cabin porch was what I had in mind.  Ok, so that part was still correct, but these were intelligent people who had each other’s backs in the Civil War and their property separated by only a river running through the backyard.

Next to catch my attention was Mr. Twister/Titantic, Bill Paxton and always the sterling hero, Kevin Coster,  who would  step out of their career comfort zones and turn into embittered scallywags.  But the real intrigue for me was how seeds of resentment grew into something so powerful that it dramatically tore them apart for generations.  Who was at fault to let the impossible happen?   Did innocent simple acts spiral into a blood bath? How dangerous can passion be when fueled or spread to others?  What would it take to finally end it all?

On the final night our son came in from being up to his eyeballs in wheat at the elevator due to a rain shower.   His new cell phone had arrived and he had a date with a Verizon lady named Yolanda to get him back on the air waves.  A couple times I was interrupted  to agree to contract terms I have no clue on, because I had to get back to the story.  Some interesting faith lines had formed as well, mixed with what happens when justice is ignored or not accepted when verdicts come down.  Truly serious incidents had taken place where no one was innocent.  The match that lit the gasoline was a dispute over a pig. Yes, a pig with a notch in his ear. From then on an avalanche of anger fueled passion resulted in 15 freshly dug graves and cement hard hearts.

Following the ending credits, a time of discussion sprung to life in our living room on how easily things can get out of hand with disastrous results.  A shocking lesson we should all learn from, although none of us could ever be suckered into letting anything go so far.

Until 15 short minutes later.  A very uncharacteristic brouhaha broke out dealing with an unlimited data plan.  Tempers flared since everyone was ‘right’.  Voices were raised, and maybe even a door or two slammed-over something intangible that you can’t even fry in pan with eggs.  So much for the lesson learned.

A couple of nights later we trekked south to visit family from Oklahoma and Arkansas.  A discussion ensued with sprinkles of the same points we had shared at home.  Truly, this was extreme and a rare incident we should all take heed of.

Until the next evening.  I bebopped out of a back bedroom to Cliff asking me “Kelly, what’s the name of the river that runs through Kansas, coming through Wichita, and then goes into Oklahoma?”   “The Arkansas”, I say to a chorus of groans and huffs from rest of the family.  You see, in Kansas, it is pronounced Ark-kansas until it crosses into Oklahoma.  For some reason, baffling loyal Kansans, the pronunciation changes to Arkansaw-like the state.

“Oh, it isn’t either!”

This fired up my husband’s hackles and he charged in, a little more bruised than I had realized.  “That’s how we were taught in school.  Right, Kelly?  (I nod because its true and I think it’s stated in the wedding vows somewhere that I’m required to agree with him-even if he says the sun comes up in the west.) “Watch any news out of Kansas and that’s how newscasters pronounce it.”

Eyes roll from the scoffers.  Cliff makes contact with a native Kansan for support and realizes his own flesh and blood has  to Teamjumped the creek to the Arkansaw’s side.  Betrayal right up there with Benedict Arnold  (or possibly Benedict Arkansaw depending on where you are from).  A newly married-into-the-family member starts to sink farther into the couch cushions, trying to avoid any shrapnel.

“That’s what they call it in Colorado, too,” I say as I hand my husband more ammunition.  I actually don’t know this for sure, but am setting at 80-20 on the Confidence Meter that I’m correct.  But not even the truth matters at this point.  It’s about winning. “Because that’s where the river starts and since Kansas used to go all the way to the mountains…”  This really fires up the border war, and they sound like I’ve launched a grenade of ridiculous in their foxhole.  “Really.  Denver would have been in Kansas had the state lines not changed.” More huffs and screeches at at that.  I Google it, because who can argue with googling.   A map lays out the old Kansas territory, thus getting us off the pronunciation issue that started this battle.

From another room enters the Sweet and Shy Shelby, our high school Okie, who loves history and politics.  “Yes, the Kansas-Nebraska Act came into effect……” which began a jaw-dropping account of Kansas history including sovereignty and John Brown that would make any Jayhawker break out singing Home on the Range at the top of their lungs.  The Okies and Arky’s can’t help but be impressed and are secretly signing her up for Jeopardy’s Student Days.

Finally, the steam goes out of the great debate with no one winning anything.  No even a ham. Family has turned against family with a river cutting the dividing lines.  How silly.  No one was innocent, except for maybe the Couch Crawler.

And we fell into it so easily and shot volleys with skill of Pa Yokem knocking a squirrel out of an oak tree.

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.  Turn away from godless chatter, and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed in so doing have wandered from the faith.  Grace be to you.  (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

I used to think the last line was Paul signing off, but after this, I wonder if that is the entire point.  Grace. Because when it comes down to it, that old river doesn’t care what it’s called.  Its job is to keep flowing, much like ours is to flow with grace for others.

Bugaboo Hope

“I’ve finally made it!” I exclaimed to my writer’s group.  After eight months of missing our monthly meetings due to the craziest of crazy incidents popping up, the evil spell had been broken.  Don’t get me wrong.  Being with my grandmother as she passed was an absolutely excused absence one month.  A tree falling on our garage another.  A mad dash to Falcon Lake, TX to pick up my in-laws travel trailer another–no, we didn’t run into pirates, but could have easily– and the unbelievable list went on.  My eyes had to have been like Roman candle fireballs of excitement as I regrouped with this amazing cheerleading writers from U-Can-Do-It University.  My day had been made–or so I thought.

After the meeting I tumbled into the pickup, a fountain of bubbling ideas, new things learned, and friendships rekindled.  Cliff smiled and didn’t even try to attempt plugging the hole in the verbal dam that burst into the air.  As we buzzed through the streets of downtown Wichita, a mini-van with a zoned out dad driving, pulled up next to us at the stoplight.  In the back two bench seats were three car seats filled with screaming kids.  Six month old twins and one around two-ish.   Of course, a Mustang pompously zipped past and flicked its spoiler in the air of the Mini-van Dad’s path.

“Bud, it will get better,” Cliff chuckled.  “Poor guy.”

Cliff had been in those shoes.  One fateful night he stood ankle-deep in a ditch, torrential rain pelting him as he begged our four-year old daughter to please unlock the borrowed car’s door.  After changing the second flat tire of the trip, he wasn’t in the best frame of mind as he made this 2 1/2 hour trek one way to pick up his brother from the hospital solo.  Since car seats were optional at that time, both of the natives were free to roam the car, therefore hitting the electic locks.  Our two-year old succeeded in gluing her eye shut with gum and wetting her new Cabbage Patch panties.  By the time he got to the hospital, it’s a miracle they didn’t take him straight to the psyche ward.  But he survived….plus many other times, including buying tampons for an entire college volleyball team-solo.  Now, that’s a dad!

We wave encouragement and head to the little place we had agreed to meet both now adult daughters and a son-in-law for supper.  Later other friends would be meeting us for a rare get-together.

It’s kind of dark and Cliff and I shared our readers to order appetizers.  We give Casey her birthday gifts and the talk jumps to Karsten and Robin wanting some home improvement advice, ‘because when you’re going to have a baby…..”

My nacho stopped in mid-flight.  Did they just say baby?  Like the one they have been praying and waiting for years?  I shoot a look at Cliff across the table.  Both sets of our eyes immediately fill with tears–as well as Casey who walked in the place the birthday girl, but is leaving with a title.  Aunt.

And the tears kept coming as we grabbed napkins to stop the flood.  “Now, you can’t tell anyone.”  What?  You have given us news that should be sky-written, tweeted, shouted from mountain-tops and the headline of all news media being transmitted to other galaxies.  Let alone, Galen and Richelle who will be coming in the door any minute.  We aren’t that great of actors, let alone with these friends.

But, I can’t quit the tears as we pelt Robin with  pregnant mom questions: “Due, when?”, “Have you been sick?” “Are you going to find out what it is?”  But, Karsten interests me more.  His eyes are a mix of indescribable pride/ joy and sheer terror.   Suddenly the guy at the end of the table morphs into Cliff 29 years prior . Yes, I remembered.  So many questions to be answered.  Like  how to provide for his family, is he going to be a good dad, and what about diaper smells?  Although Karsten couldn’t see them, they circled his head crazily like drunk fire-flies, while he grinned a smile that rivaled the one when he watched my daughter walk down the aisle.

And I kept crying for 3 days straight.  “Our little Robin is building her nest,” I mused to a chorus of groans.  For the first time in 30 years the urge to knit has infiltrated my fingers, the sewing machine revs and I keep adorable finding things I have pick up.  When all the cute Easter clothes hit the stores, I thanked God above Bugaboo is going to be a surprize or we’d be broke.

As if we couldn’t fall in love more, the soft swish, swish, thud, thud strongly pounded through a little speaker.  In Morse Code Bugaboo tapped out “I love you, Grandmam.”  (Like you wouldn’t have gone to mush, too.)

So as mid-September nears we take every advantage to see this family as it grows and kicks.  It reminds us of how God’s blessed way past we could have ever imagined.  Even if Robin is six-months of miserable, covered in poison ivy while sweating as recreation leader for Vacation Bible School this week, and we can’t do a thing to help her.  (I’ve suggested the name “Ivy” to go with their last name “Burns’, but don’t think it’s being considered.)  And Bugaboo is commencing to kick the itch out of her.

Last night Casey and I went to the Rosary of a friend, whose unexpected death, was like a staunch kick in the stomach.  A new grandpa to new little ones.  The unimaginable has hit this family.

But when the service ended  and the family came up the aisle, a young mama was leading the group with a pudgy blue-eyed sweetheart in a pink sundress.  As the family made one of the hardest walks they would probably ever walk in their life, all eyes followed that wee one.  One foot in front of the other.  One step at a time.  The other baby brought up the rear.  The blessing of hope wrapped this family in its arms.  Later, it was shared that the two Bugabooes and an avalanche of prayer is what was getting them through.

I’m learning that is why grandparents turn into the biggest nutcases around.  They remember.  From experience they can’t afford to let  a precious chance of hope flutter off.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me. O’ God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18