Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bachelorhood and dying plants

Well, I'm wrapping up a three-day unfortunate re-experience of my days of singledom: Ashley flew back to Athens this weekend for a wedding (hi, the new Mr. & Mrs. Odum), leaving me in Miami to fend for myself. ...which means I spent the weekend eating crap food, watching MST3K and giving the dogs a bath. What can I say? I'm a mad par-tay animal, yo.

Among the few things I accomplished of any sustained value this weekend was trying to breathe life into a dying peace lilly. About four years ago when my grandfather died, I inherited a plant from the funeral -- a huge honking peace lilly, that was too big and cumbersome for my mom to take care of. Plus, I have this unnatural ability to...I don't know...connect with plants. I tend to have the things not die on me, unlike other members of my family which shall remain nameless. Anyway, this thing has been with me since Jay's funeral, and has gone through about nine different pots because it keeps getting bigger and bigger. I guess I must be doing something right, otherwise it'd have been mulched about two years ago.

When Ashley and I moved from Athens to Miami, we took the plant with us in the backseat of my Jetta, because the moving company has some policy about not transporting any live plants (or pets, I guess -- although I can't imagine what damage Maggie & Cricket could have done to an 18-wheeler). Unfortunately, our carrying the plant in my car was going to be a problem, because Maggie loves the peace lilly. "Loves," as in "loves to snack on the thing." I can't begin to explain the number of times I'd come home from work at UGA only to find this green blob of regurgitated plant matter on my carpet. So, since twelve hours of her retching in the backseat of my car did not sound appealing, we decided to cover the plant with a tarp.

...some of you see where this is going already, don't you?

So, we arrive in Miami after 24 hours of travel time, and after unloading our luggage, trash and other personal items from the car, I pull out the plant and unwrap it.

And the sight kills me: the leaves were all brown and withered, and it looked like it was dying on the spot in front of me.

I was heartbroken. Not only was this plant something that I'd spent years nurturing and pruning to make sure it stayed healthy, it was a tie to my family, a physical link to my family of birth that was now a thousand-plus miles away. Couple this with the fact it was from my grandfather's funeral and therefore beyond price to me...I was devastated. Morose. I wanted to just chunk the thing and -- I don't know -- be pissy and moan about it all the time.

But, God stayed my hand. God (using Ashley as the voice of reason) kept me from throwing this thing away. I took it inside and placed it in the tub of the guest bathroom, and I started watering it. I made sure that it stayed in a place where the temperature could be regulated, where it wouldn't get too much sun, where it could just wait. And heal.

And begin to heal it has: this weekend, I took it outside to prune away all the dead leaves. See, I wanted to let it just rest, to let the plant's natural desire to grow -- its survival instinct -- remain intact. To give it a chance to show its strength, where it could come back from the almost-dead. And as I began to prune away the dead leaves and the icky brown parts...I noticed new growth already coming up. Several new leaves were already starting to grow, and as of this afternoon, there are about 5-6 new leaves that are starting to unfurl. Oh, to be sure, it look a wreck, but that's alright: the plant is living, and now that the dead parts of it have been pruned away, the living, breathing parts (refer back to 7th grade science class, kids) can begin to grow strong again, and thrive. Flourish. And by virtue of the fact that in a few HOURS new growth was staring to show already...I got faith in this little thing. I think it'll make it.

Now.

Those of you who know me know that I pretty much live, breathe, eat and drink allegories. Songs bug me unless they tell a story. TV shows that have multi-layered contextual meaning make me want to dance (LOST, anyone?). Books that I have to re-read because they contain so MUCH information in them that I can't take it all in at once have permanent places on my bookshelves.

So, it should come as no great surprise that while I was outside, sweating in the Miami sun, working over this plant that many other people might've just gotten rid of, God was speaking to me. Beyond the Biblical-parable-comparisons evident in the whole lost sheep/pearl of great price comparisons. Beyond the whole survival, new growth, prune away the old, let the plant lie fallow while it heals itself and while nature (which, by the way, God invented, in case you've forgotten) runs it course...

I am that plant.

God is the gardener.

What ALL does that mean? I don't know.

But I think I need to just start growing again. And as the journey towards rebirth continues, I think that I'll enjoy finding out what all it entails.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wow. The Hobbits might've been right.

So, I've been feeling incredibly melancholoy and moderately...lost...these last few weeks. Oh, to be sure, the last month or two have been among the happiest, most fulfilling, and incredible of my life. Ashley and I got married, which -- alone -- has given my life meaning. (And yes, those who troll blogs for signs of co-dependency, I understand that this sentence might throw up a few red flags for you; get over it -- I meant the phrase "given my life meaning" in the healthiest way possible.)

I mean, I almost completely and utterly lost it about one minute before the cermony began when Bryan and I walked out on the patio to pray, and I told him tha I never, ever thought that after everything I have seen and done in my life, that I deserved any happiness, and that I was happier and more joyful than I'd ever felt in my life, and that I was just so thankful, I felt like I could break down and cry for an hour. I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it.

So -- in my personal life, my relationship with Ashley is amazing. Yeah, we're experiencing some of the stresses of being around someone 24/7 for the first time, compounded with the fact that we really don't know anyone else in the area to go and hang out with. Not a negative, but still a minor stressor.

No, my feeling of being adrift comes...well, this weekend, Ash & I hit up Coconut Grove and went walking down the streets to see the sights. We went into a little "Life is Good" store, and there I found the T-shirt which galvanized all my feelings and thoughts in a convenient piece of cloth that cost $22.95 (plus tax). On the front of the shirt was a pair of shoes (with your choice of getting the shirt with hiking boots or a pair of sandals on the front), with a quote from one of my favorite authors that I'd...well, not forgotten so much as not though of in some time:

"Not all who wander are lost."

That's from Tolkien, you under-read heathens who might be asking from where this quote originates.

I feel like I'm wandering -- professionally, because I'm in a completely different environment than I've ever been in before, questioning what the heck I'm doing, why I'm here, and what exactly it is I am suppsoed to be doing here; spiritually, because I've been voluntarily uprooted from a place of comfort and growth to follow where I truly and in my heart of hearts God told Ashley and I to move to (He said to go here, but hasn't really said what to do now that we're here -- hello? Any pointers, God?) and because I have been slacking in keeping up my own and my combined spiritual growth with Ashley (I could say "We've been busy," which is both true and a gross understatement, but doesn't really cut it as far as an excuse goes; personally, because I'm wondering daily if I'm doing everything I need to do to keep our marriage strong, healthy and full of joy; and trying to find the meaning behind it all -- namely, what in the name of Fruit Rollups I am supposed to do with my life, how I get there, and why it seems like roadblocks continue to pop up in my ideas on how to get there.

Basically, at age 36, I need to know what I want to do when I grow up.

Or rather, how to get to where I need to be to be able to take the first step.

Or...maybe I'm there (location-wise). Now all I need to do is find the path to walk on.



...yeah. Marriage. Quitting my job. Career change. Packing everything I own. Moving to a new state, region, and life.

After this many life changes in the span of six weeks, I'm amazed I can still walk.

Maybe I should take that as a sign that God has made me stronger than I know. Or that I think myself to be.


So.

Now all I gotta do is find a good coffee shop 'round here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

THE MIAMI CHRONICLES: Week Minus One

Ah, Miami. City of heat, humidity, daily afternoon showers, and -- now me. And Ashley. And Cricket. And Maggie.

Yeah. Changes a-plenty. It's absolutely facinating what the last few...weeks...(holy cow; it HAS only been a few weeks)...have done as far as changes, transformations, and uprootings in my life go.

This will be a very vain attempt to chronicle some of those changes; admittedly, I won't be able to post as much as I'd like due to 'net connectivitiy and my new job (more on both later), but for now...read on, gentle viewer. The tales that follow will amaze and confuse you. And possibly make you giggle. :)

JUNE 18, 2007 -- while many of you 706-ers were enjoying Day One of Summit, Ashley and I were spending the day getting our apartments packed up by the moving company that the University of Miami paid to come and package all our junk up. It took one full day (seven hours total) to pack up both of our apartments. It was nuts. If anyone has even moved houses before (hi, Cahoons), then you know the "fun" that taking everything you've had in place for years and having it uprooted and just...boxed...in front of your eyes -- it can be emotional. I kept remembering back to the day that I moved in to my little apartment at Beechwood Pines, loking at the photos, the letters, and a certain Bible that a wonderful group of not just students but friends gave to me. Best of all was the fact that after everything was packed up..Ashley and I realized we had no place to sleep. So, we slept on sleeping bags on the floor of my living room. Kinda like camping out indoors. We acted like we were seven again, making a tent out of the sheets. We're just cute like that. :)

JUNE 19, 2007 -- the day that everything was loaded on the moving vans. All those memories that were boxed up were suddenly...gone. Our past would meet us in Miami to help forge our future. Poetic, but dorky, I know. This day was also another night we slept on the floor of the apartment. By this point, my back was killing me.

JUNE 20, 2007 -- my last day as an employee of the University of Georgia. 'Nuff said. The last night Ash & I would spend in our apartment in Athens. Ashley spent the entire day in the apartment cleaning the walls, the carpets, the oven...everything that we were supposed to clean to try and get my security deposit back. Yeah. 'Twas a vain effort, it turns out, as we had to pay to replace the carpet. Note to people with pets: just be prepared to lose your security deposits. Just FYI. Love the critters, but man. Just like biological children, they can be costly.

JUNE 21, 2007 -- Ash & I went to her mom's place in Albany, GA to spend the night. This way we could split the drive into two different phases. Fours hours to Albany, and the remaining eight the next day. Plus, it gave her one more time to spend the day with her mom before we left the state.

JUNE 22, 2007 -- at approximately 5:00 pm (EST), Sonny, Ashley and the dogs arrive in Miami, FL, to begin a new life.

TO BE CONTINUED...

************

The biggest challenge so far about living in Miami? Leaving almost everyone and everything we knew and loved behind. For me, not a day goes by that I don't look at photos, read postings that I get from people on MySpace, Facebook, and just in emails sent to me.

I say this with every once of sincerity in my body: I never knew how loved I was. I mean, sure, I knew and still know how much some of you monkeys care about me, but man. Never once did I imagine what an impact I had on the lives of the people I hung out with for three years. To be sure, I knew of the impact YOU all had on my life, and the directions it will take me, but...

It's amazing. Simply amazing.

Before I go on to next week's adventures (the new job, the driving in Miami, and the discovery that we are living in the freaking land of OZ), I wanted to take a moment to say the following:

TO MY 706 KIDS: guys, I love you. You have no idea how much I miss you all, and how thankful I am to have had you in my life in person, and to be able to continue our relationship through cyberspace. :) Stay strong in your faith, in your love and commitment to each other, and for as much as I'd love to see you all aggrivate the snot out of him, continue to respect, LISTEN TO, and trust Bryan. I know that many of you have said how much you miss me, and for as much as I miss all of you, even I miss the things Bryan has to say. Bryan, Chase, Kelly -- these are your mentors, the ones who love you guys, and I expect for you, with them, to continue to build the single most amazing, fun, and REAL group of believers in the world.

TO MY WEDDING OFFICIANT: the sunshine in this state is causing me to squint through the windshield. Your wisdom and counsel is missed, my brother.

TO THE DONKEY AND HIS WIFE: The revolution needs more soldiers. We have a nursing school at Miami. Just saying, is all. :)

TO THE NEW OWNERS OF ASHLEY'S COUCH: the laughter and smiles of your yellow-haired monkeys is felt. Deeply. Feed them lots of Georgia Asphalt Chicken, so when they come to visit, they can swim lots.

TO THE SOON-TO-BE MR. AND MRS. AT THE END OF JULY: Lord, we miss you guys, and you are in our thoughts and prayers at this time. We might not be there physically, but know we ARE there for you if you need us.