The Boy with the Brown Eyes.

I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

I have subscribed to all the usual suspects on Twitter, CNN and BBC and every “breaking news” feed that I could find. A wealth of information at my fingertips, one mindless click away. Daily, I scroll through, growing progressively more numb with each sensational headline. We live in a world where genocide and car bombs are commonplace, where little girls are stolen into tangled jungles and the whole world cries bring them back from the comfort of our air conditioned living rooms. Hunger gnaws, hope wanes, poverty crushes and the whole aching world groans under the suffocating weight of sin. I confess that on far too many days, I turn away. I cannot feel it all.

The more information that I have at my leisurely disposal, the less I am prone to read it. But yesterday, I saw this headline and frozen, I couldn’t look away. Not from him.  “’Invisible’ in India: The story of a disabled boy tied to Mumbai bus stop.”

Tied? I breathe heavy, seething eyes already flashing at the monster who bound a little boy with rope and left him like a dog.

And then I read. I read about Lakhan Kale, a nine year old deaf and mute little boy with cerebral palsy and haunting brown eyes. I read about his Grandma, Sakubai, the only family Lakhan has that hasn’t died or abandoned him. My American eyes widen as the story unfolds, both of them living on the street, Grandma selling this and that to anyone that will stop, desperately trying to scrape together the necessary coins to feed her Grandson. Some days, she is successful. The monster fades as I begin to see a withered, 70 year old woman, pleading red eyes brimming with exhausted tears. Her shoulders defeatedly hunch as she quietly whispers, He can’t hear the traffic. If he ran onto the road he’d get killed. What else can I do?”

And so she would leave him tied to a pole while she went to work.

I feel like the air has been sucked out of the room as the breath catches in my throat and I stare unblinking at my screen, her words echoing in my mind. What else can I do? What are your options when you’re a homeless Grandmother with a disabled Grandson that couldn’t tell a stranger where he lived even if he had a home to be returned to?

I am gutted as I begin to understand that in India, there are no options. Stones fly easily from my air conditioned living room, but as the impossible weight of her every day seeps into my heart and leaks out of my eyes, I am enraged at the unfairness of it all. I am strangely proud of this woman that I had denounced as a monster, proud of her for staying with her disabled Grandson. For doing the very best that she could do. I want to grab her hands and look hard into her weary eyes and tell her I know you really tried.

And I am livid. I understand that the boy with the haunting brown eyes and his withered Grandmother are merely two of the 1.3 billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 a day. Just two of the 1.3 billion people living the raw, aching story of poverty. Living hungry bellies and preventable diseases, living in a world where other children go to school while theirs go to work. Living in a world where they go to bed with a sinking understanding that tomorrow will be just like today, that they and their children will die in the same cycle of poverty that has enslaved their family for generations.

In an age where newsfeeds are flooded with the searing stories of a world crumbing from the decay of sin, God forgive us if we ever become numb to 1.3 billion people with no choices. God forgive us if we stand idly by while 1.3 billion people that weren’t fortunate enough to have their story picked up by CNN stand with their noses pressed hard to the glass window of privilege, begging a watching world to intervene.

I believe that we can change the story of poverty. It’s why I work for HOPE International. A friend of mine often says that Good intentions are not good enough if we believe that people are created in the image of God, and I think he’s right. For so long, in a flurry of good intentions we have tried to solve global need by sending things. Our hearts hemorrhage and throb, and stricken by the headlines that we read we box up food and clothing and medical supplies–sending the unintentional but unmistakable message that the image-bearers on the receiving end are not enough. That they are incapable. That they somehow need us.

What if, instead of sending boxes, we looked at those same men and women and gave them the dignity of investing in their dreams, instead? What if we offered them a small loan and Christ-centered business training, affirming the glorious truth that they too, are image bearers? What if we offered them the tools that they needed to work themselves and their families out of poverty?

Lakhan Kale, his Grandmother and the 1.3 billion precious lives standing behind them  bear the imago Dei. They are creative, entrepreneurial, hard working people–and they are capable. They deserve far more than our pity and charity.

The roots of the issues at play in global poverty are manifold and tightly intertwined, and I am not naïve enough to suggest that there exists a tidy solution that will put all to right. But as men and women that are breathing the same air and walking around the same planet as 1.3 billion of our brothers and sisters that don’t know how they are going to feed their children tonight, we do not have the luxury of simply throwing up our hands and blithely continuing to scroll through our cluttered newsfeeds. There is far too much at stake.

Their stories matter, and I desperately want to be a part of empowering them to rewrite the endings. HOPE is committed to changing the story of poverty. Will you join us?

 

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Filed under HOPE International, Justice, Microfinance, Poverty

Our Father, Who Has Been in Hell.

My Daddy doesn’t cry.

Growing up, I never saw him cry even once. Oh, his voice faltered for one tenuous moment while speaking at my sweet Grandpa’s funeral in the old church on Hubbard Street, but no tears fell. This is, in no small part, why I find it violently disturbing whenever a man cries in my presence. It feels like the sky is falling.

As a little girl, my Mama used to tell me that one day, I’d see my Dad cry. She’d grin and lean in, as though she were about to share something precious, confiding in a whisper that every time the two of them watched Father of the Bride, Daddy teared up just a little bit until he’d finally ask her to turn it off. Your Father can’t even think about your wedding without tears springing to his eyes. Oh honey, that man is going to just cry on your wedding day, she’d tell me with a sort of prideful glee that I’ll bet only a Mama can understand. It was a promise that I savored, treasuring the idea that that my stoic Dad loved me so much that he’d actually cry when I got married. I used to recount that promise to friends, remarking how I’d need to wear waterproof everything on my wedding day because I was entirely certain that one look at my Father with tears in his eyes would send me careening straight over the edge.

Ian started chemo two impossible days after his diagnosis. Doctors wearing white coats and grim expressions were using words like aggressive, and as Ian’s abdomen continued to swell his shallow breathing was becoming increasingly labored. Every second mattered. Reeling from an incomprehensible diagnosis unceremoniously handed to a healthy twenty-one year old kid, we were sitting in a corner room at UNC Hospital, Dad, Ian, and I. Large windows overlooked Chapel Hill in October, and the Magnolia leaves had sparked into flame. We barely noticed, that day.

My tall, strapping brother looked so small laying in his white hospital bed. The chemo bag was hung, Ian was hooked up, and I remember being surprised that something as ominous as chemotherapy wasn’t more complex. As though there should have been more fanfare, more gravitas before poison was allowed to course through my little brother’s broken body. A smiling nurse quietly exited the room, and I sat on the edge of Ian’s bed as the chemo began to infuse, our Dad standing behind me.

So this was chemo.

Minutes later, Ian began to shake violently. The pale, curly-haired boy that had been cheerfully traipsing around his college campus just three days earlier was moaning and writhing on the bed in front of me, and as I lunged over him and held him I fought the panic in my voice as I screamed for someone to come help. I felt like I was drowning as I watched my little brother convulse on the bed in front of me, powerless to do anything but watch. Ian, I’m here, I’m right here. Daddy and I are right here. You’re going to be just fine. Just keep breathing. We’re right here. Nurses and doctors poured into the room, and I stayed trembling at the foot of Ian’s bed, my hands holding his feet. I’m here, Ian. I’m right here.

Fearfully, I glanced over my shoulder at my Daddy just in time to see one tear trickle down his face. It was the first time that I’d ever seen him cry.

I would later learn that Ian was experiencing Rigors, induced from too much of the toxic chemotherapy flowing into his battered body at once. His chemo drip was slowed, and eventually the horrifying convulsions came to a sputtering, faltering halt. I weakly made an excuse about needing to go get something, anything, and walked into the long hallway outside of his room with hot tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. I didn’t make it past the nurse’s station before gut-wrenching sobs threatened to send me to my knees. Sunlight poured into oversized lobby windows, and everything in my world felt dark and splintered. My twenty-one year old little brother’s body was rebelling, and there was nothing, nothing that I could do. I learned that morning what it’s like to feel helpless. To pray ragged, desperate, keening prayers, deeply guttural moans begging God the only way I could think to do it: please. Please. Please. Please. 

Ian would go into kidney failure later that day, and would be rushed downstairs into a dark ICU. I would sit there by his bed, holding his cold hand, begging God please. Please. Please. It was a scene that would be repeated time and time again over the next five months, by hospital beds and on 2:00 AM drives home from the ICU, always begging God please.

When I think about that day, and the many like it that would follow, when I think about holding tightly to Ian’s hand as he falteringly breathed in and out for the very last time, when I think about how God said no, I don’t understand. I believe that when our hearts are shattered, human instinct is to try and make sense of it all, as if a tidy answer will help us put the pieces back together again.

I don’t pretend to understand God. I cannot tell you why He said no to the one thing that I wanted most in the whole world. What I can tell you, is that before Ian’s first day of chemo, I thought about God as Our Father in Heaven. He is that, of course, but as I learn to stumble through life without my little brother I have learned to cling to Him as Our Father who has been in hell. Our Father who has been in hell, who watched the flesh be torn from his Boy’s body as He was chained to a post and violently whipped again and again. Until tattered skin hung loose and blood ran crimson and bone was laid raw and exposed. Our Father who has been in hell, who watched as thorns were pressed deep, as blood poured rivers down his Boy’s beaten face. Our Father who has been in hell, who watched smirking Roman guards stake his Boy to a couple slabs of wood. Our Father who has been in hell, who for hours watched his Boy slowly suffocate to death. Straining, gasping for air that his exhausted lungs could not find.

I’ll bet He cried, just like my Daddy did.

I do not follow a God that I understand. I do follow a God that understands me. Who understands wrenching pain and searing loss, who for the sake of Ian and you and me stood by while his precious Son bled out and suffocated. A God who is intimately familiar with the raw, howling, soul-wrenching bone-weary keen of grief. In the midst of it, I am grateful for the God that has been in hell. Who triumphantly walked through it and shattered the chains off the gates and declared it FINISHED so that death would not be the end of Ian’s story.

It does not have to be the end of your story, either.

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Filed under Family, God's faithfulness, Grief, Hope, Ian

Let’s Give Them Something to Squawk About.

It started with a chicken.

I suppose to be more precise, I ought to confess that it was really the chicken population at large that did it to me. There I stood, standing in front of a glass case at the grocery store, staring wide-eyed at a veritable mountain of egg cartons. Sandwiched in between yogurt and the unsalted butter, they were speckled brown and milky white, extra-large and normal-sized, and there were a thousand different brands to choose from.

I have no explanation for what happened next, except to tell you that on most days, I feel like I am raw, walking around the planet without any skin. I am a raging bleeding heart, and quite without warning I suddenly found myself overcome with the plight of chickens everywhere. Cramped in filthy cages with little room to move, condemned to a sickly life of egg-laying day in and day out until their little chicken-ovaries dry up and they end up in a bucket at KFC. The whole thing sounded positively heinous to me, and while I had successfully navigated twenty-seven years of life without managing to give chickens so much as a second thought, without warning I became rather inexplicably stirred. Moved almost to tears, I felt deeply virtuous as I reached for a pretentious brown carton of “organic eggs”. I grinned, picturing healthy chickens happily waddling and squawking about the grassy knolls cheerfully pictured on the front of the carton. They were $1.83 more than the blood-eggs that I had been previously purchasing, but I consoled myself with the assurance that $1.83 was a small price to pay to afford chickens the opportunity to roam wild and free.

I arrived home feeling like Joan of Arc, and promptly informed Kellan that we were officially “happy chicken” people. He rolled his eyes, and decided that chickens weren’t a hill worth dying on. “Happy eggs” became a weekly purchase, and it wasn’t long before we couldn’t remember anything else.

Those were the good old days.

Several weeks ago, I found myself sitting around a brown kitchen table with friends in Amish country, PA. I was in Lancaster for a work conference, and Meredith, Isaac and Nick sat across the table from me as we chatted about life and microfinance over heaping plates of Mexican food. There was a distinct air about them—these were clearly the sorts of people that buy organic peanut butter and almond milk from health food stores that smell conspicuously of mulch and hamsters. The sorts of people that spend long weekends chained to endangered trees, and have involved conversations about the merits of 18th-century Russian novelists. They were so cool. It was clear from the moment that we sat down that at a table of French rose water macaroons, I was a shrink-wrapped, gas station Tastykake. A pearl-wearing, air-conditioning loving steak enthusiast sitting at a table with three vegetarian hipsters, and I desperately wanted to fit in.

Casually, as though I talked about this sort of thing every day, I breezily mentioned that I bought ORGANIC eggs. Because, you know, I CARED about CHICKENS.

Isaac looked at me with a sort of amused expression, as though I had just announced that I was going to be President when I grew up.

Undeterred, and quite caught up in a state of astonished appreciation for my own magnanimity, I proudly soldiered on. I really want the chickens to have space to play, you know? So I only buy cage free.

It was clear that the hipsters could take no more. They were silently exchanging incredulous, sideways glances, a delicate dance of who’s-going-to-tell-her floating through the sweet summer air.

Meredith, whom I have known and adored since our college days at UNC, looked at me gravely, as though I were the next of kin. Ashley, you know that “cage free” only means that chickens have ACCESS to the outdoors, right? Those “cage free” eggs that you’re buying from the grocery store all come from miserable, disease-ridden chickens packed tightly inside a warehouse. There’s a tiny opening in one of the walls so that technically, the chickens have access to the outside. But they’re not really cage free. What’s more, the chickens are so sick that the yolks are gray. They have to inject them with yellow dye so that people like you will eat them.

You could have heard a pin drop. I was so blusteringly indignant that I couldn’t string together a coherent sentence. After all, I had been SPENDING OUT THE YIN-YANG so that the blasted chickens could frolic in the sunshine!

Out to finish the job, Meredith grinned and asked if I wanted to know something else.

NO. NO I DO NOT. THE FREAKING GRAY-YOLKED CHICKENS AREN’T HAPPY AND NEITHER AM I.

Meredith leaned in, looking gleeful, as though she were about to share a delicious secret. She looked me dead in the eyeballs, and sinisterly whispered, The milk you’re buying at the grocery store? The cow’s udders are so infected that you’re essentially drinking pus that’s been cut with water.

I couldn’t breathe. Udder. Pus. Udder. PUS. UDDER! PUS! I had been drinking UDDER PUS my whole life and NOBODY HAD EVER BOTHERED TO TELL ME. The frantic thoughts running across my scattered mind were so terribly violent that I cannot bear to share them here, because they would make Mother Teresa drink whisky straight out of the dog bowl.

Meanwhile, the hipsters chortled unsympathetically in the background.

I called Kellan that night, and my voice sounded shrill even to my own ears. He could barely understand a frantic word that I said—did someone kidnap you? Are you in a trunk? I finally managed to eek something out about udder pus and miserable chickens and I have to find a local farm, and Kellan calmly mentioned that maybe we should do some research.

Um. I already did some research MY FRIENDS TOLD ME SO.

And so June finds us in search of a local farm, and drinking VERY expensive milk in the meantime because I CANNOT POSSIBLY HANDLE UDDER PUS.

Did you know about this? Bueller?! What else am I missing? Clearly, this is dire.

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Filed under First World Problems, My favorite people, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00

Keeping up with the Kims.

Once upon a time, a pair of starry-eyed newlyweds bought a yellow house with blue shutters.

Unhappily, just about every “once upon a time” that I’ve ever had the misfortune of stumbling across comes with it’s very own dramatic “dun dun duuuunnnnn”, which is precisely where our story finds us today.

You see, when Kellan and I moved into the heart of suburbia, USA, we hadn’t the foggiest idea what we were doing. And when I say “we”, I clearly mean “me”. I grew up in major European cities, where little league and white picket fences were merely the stuff of Hallmark movies. When my family moved  to North Carolina my senior year of high school, I was QUITE convinced that my very first day of public school would find me stuffed inside a locker dripping wet from a swirly, just like those kids on MTV. [Yes, Kellan spends startling amounts of his spare time worrying about how on earth we’re going to raise children in America when their Mama has NO earthly idea what’s going on. Thank you for asking.]

All of that to say, I’ve never had a white picket fence. There were no cul-de-sacs in my neighborhood, no local swimming pools, no cartoon-spackled ice cream trucks with tinkling songs merrily heralding their arrival. My family didn’t even own a CAR until I was in 8th grade, for heaven’s sake! Taxi cabs and bustling metro stations served as the soundtrack to a charmed childhood that took place against the breathtaking backdrop of historic European cathedrals and cobblestone streets. While my American compatriots were running barefoot across hot asphalt driveways to stop the ice cream man for drippy, popsicle-sticked ninja-turtle ice cream, my brothers and I were stopping at a local Ukrainian bakery on the way home from school for flakey cream puffs fresh out of the oven. [And at 28 cents a puff, our parents were in wholehearted support.]

Kellan and I moved into our yellow house on a snowy February night, and didn’t see so much as a glimpse of our alleged yard until some time in April. At the first, tentative sign of brown grass wearily peeking out from beneath the ice, my darling husband began to daydream out loud about his “plans for our yard.”

Which was vaguely concerning to me, given that I hadn’t the foggiest idea that one could have PLANS for a yard.

He began to make excessive use of words like mulch and aerate. I pretended to listen whilst dreaming about white chocolate baguettes, and before you judge me I’ll have you know that the man went on for HOURS. [Also, white chocolate baguettes are my WHOLE LIFE right now. More on that later.] Our yard became Kellan’s favorite topic of conversation, excited rants punctuated by a furrowed brow and serious reminders that HONEY, a man’s yard says a LOT about who he is!

Baguettebaguettebaguette.

About a month ago, things took a startling turn for the worse when Kellan burst through the front door with Nancy-Grace level rage and heatedly announced, WE ARE THE WHITE TRASH HOUSE IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD.

A brief walk outside confirmed his grave assessment: our brown, patchy yard [who knew you have to TURN ON your sprinkler system?!] was one port-a-potty short of a full-on Griswold family vacation. The unfortunate scene was only exacerbated by the fact that we live across the street from a sweet Asian couple named Mr. and Mrs. Kim. We are 98% positive that the Kims are running hard drugs so that they can devote their waking hours to planting tulips and lovingly fertilizing each individual blade of grass with the tender care normally afforded to endangered Alaskan wildlife. Meanwhile, the train wreck directly across the street masquerading as our yard looked like something one might see on a heart-wrenching commercial with Sarah McLaughlin singing “In the arms of an angel” dolefully in the background.

While the Kim’s immaculate yard is rather amusing to me, Kellan considers it a personal act of aggression.

I charmingly suggested that we simply embrace our new-found white trash identity, forgo our dental care and invest in some overalls, a couple of rocking chairs and a shot gun so we could spend our evenings shooting pigeons off the front porch. Infuriatingly, my ideas are enormously under appreciated in our household, and as Kellan determinedly marched back to our house he declared WAR on the yard across the street.

…I think we can all agree that I shouldn’t throw stones at the dramatic, but COME ON.

The man that I married quickly became one of those people that you’re deeply concerned about, but slightly afraid to speak to lest they become emotionally unhinged. He began to throw money around like we were the federal government, stock-piling mulch, grass seed and THREE DIFFERENT KINDS OF DIRT in our garage. [Don’t get me started. WE PAID CASH-MONEY FOR DIRT. WHICH IS FREE. ON THE GROUND. EVERYWHERE ON THE PLANET.] I muttered hateful things under my breath in the checkout aisle and briefly contemplated taking a hoe to the Kim’s rosebushes in the middle of the night and various other forms of suburban guerrilla warfare just to level the playing field. To add insult to injury, several days after arriving home with the dirt, Kellan had the audacity to march in our front door holding something called a GRASS TRIMMER, and I was all OHMYLANTA EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT OUR LAWN MOWER IS FOR.

If you’re waiting for a happy resolution to this story, I wouldn’t hold your breath because there isn’t one. Our sad little yard is looking slightly more hopeful, but the Kims are one good rainfall away from being prominently featured in Better Homes and Gardens. We will probably have to move. As we speak, Kellan is on his third Home Depot run of the week, and I am scouring the want ads in search of a second job so that I can pay for his newfound grass habit.

If you need me, I’ll be remortgaging the yellow house.

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Filed under First World Problems, Marriage, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00

Death by Brownie Pan.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLittle sisters run the world, and apparently my schedule as mine proved when she asked me to change my flight and come back home a day early to help her get ready for prom. Which, as we all remember, I happily did. Change fees be darned, she was WORTH IT. Thus, I exuberantly handed my hard-earned dollar bills to the good people at Southwest, and hopped a Raleigh-bound flight.

Imagine my surprise when I showed up in North Carolina on a muggy Friday night only to have Emily Scott Peterson sheepishly confess that she’d mis-remembered her prom date, and it was in fact on SATURDAY night instead.

I laughed a little too hysterically and briefly considered beating her senseless with a brownie pan, and other various violent displays of testosterone. Quite frankly, there are a startling number of things in life that I abstain from only because of my highly illogical but very real fear of ending up on the Jerry Springer show, and this has been Emily’s saving grace more than once.

While Emily is not much with dates, she can rock a red hand me down dress like it’s her job. In a sea of high school girls channeling their inner Michelle Kwan and applying their makeup with a trowel, my little sister looked like she’d walked straight off the set of the Great Gatsby. She was positively elegant—everything from her sassy, beaded headband down to her painted toes. I spent a startling amount of time that night researching ways to transplant her long, ballerina legs onto my body, a surgery apparently performed only in the dark recesses of North Korea.

My other sister [who, might I add, is MUCH better with dates] graduated from Duke, and I was so proud that itProcessed with VSCOcam with m3 preset took every ounce of self-control in my body not to leap on top of my chair and holler like a deranged lunatic when she walked across the stage. This was something that my discerning husband wisely informed me minutes before the ceremony that Dickens do not do. Baffled and wide-eyed, I’d sputtered well, HOW will Keri know that I love her if I don’t YELL?!“to which he’d gently replied, she’ll know if you’re very, very quiet.

Stricken, I indignantly spat, FINE. BUT I’M HOLLERING AT OUR DAUGHTER’S BALLET RECITALS.

It’s truly astounding how often our hypothetical children become ammunition in our arguments.

Being home was a thousand different kinds of wonderful. Touching down in Raleigh, my heart raced like I was Mary Bailey being offered the moon by George, and I wanted to bottle up the feeling and store it forever. It felt like North Carolina was playing my song, and I savored every single note.

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Filed under Family, Home, Then I found $5.00

What Sisters are For.

JCP_2516My little sister called me a couple of weeks ago, proudly informing me that she was going to prom.

This was a profoundly disturbing announcement, given that in my mind she is still a tubby two year old with sprightly chestnut pig tales, and a fond penchant for purple feather boas and all things Hello Kitty.

The only problem with the snapshot frozen in my head is that she’s fifteen. Fifteen, with a hot-off-the-press driver’s permit and ballerina legs a mile long and be still my heart, she is going to PROM. Just with a friend, mind you, because a date would send us all careening right over the edge, and we’re teetering dangerously close as it is.

Ash, can you fly home and help me get ready?

I’d already made plans to go home, because my sister in law is graduating from Duke and I choose to celebrate even the most mediocre educations. Emily informed me that maddeningly, her prom was a day before my flight was scheduled to arrive.

Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where big sisters can’t fly home to swipe mascara and take a thousand posed pictures. For heaven’s sake, it’s what big sisters are for. We exist to make sure that ears are pierced early and curfews are pushed late. We pass down jeans and nubs of old red lipstick and unsolicited advice about how to wax your eyebrows and transition from boxed wine. We solemnly promise that boys really do get a little bit better, when you’re thirty-five or so. And we fly home to help our little sisters get ready for prom.

So Friday night will find me back in Raleigh. There was hardly a choice to be made, given that our Mama would have tried to coerce her into wearing a matching bracelet/necklace/earrings set, and I taught Emily long ago never to take fashion advice from anyone that wore CLOGS for the better part of the nineties. My Mother may be the boss of us, but she adamantly refused to buy anything that had to be dry cleaned until approximately 2007, and I think we can all agree that that represents a startling lapse of judgment.

There’s just something about going home. About country roads that wind and bend for endless miles of green, and car windows rolled all the way down. About friends that share a hundred thousand “remember whens” and beloved coffee shops that I don’t need a GPS to find. About breakfast dates with my Daddy and piano keys that my brother used to play for hours on end and breathing in the sweetly familiar with bare feet and a deliriously happy heart. This morning, my body might still be in New York, but y’all had better believe that I’ve already gone to Carolina in my mind.

If you’d like to see Emily dolled up in one of my old prom dresses, feel free to find me on Instagram! This proud big sister will be blowing it up tomorrow night.

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Filed under Family, Home, My favorite people

A Tale of Two Easter Baskets.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThe first married holiday that Kellan and I celebrated together was Easter. We’d been married for all of ten minutes, and I had no sooner hung up his and her bathroom towels when quite suddenly, Easter was upon us.

In my family, every holiday is a rather grand affair. Growing up, Easter around the Peterson table often included our immediate family, and no less than thirty of our closest friends. [Really. Thirty. My Mother is the only woman that I know that has forty place settings of her dishes, and makes good use of them on the regular.]  My Mama would cook impossibly elaborate dinners while my brothers and I dusted the furniture and lit every Yankee candle in the house as strains of classical music lilted from our grand piano as my Daddy played.

Petersons know how to celebrate. Our holidays overflow with food and dear friends and the happiest, happiest noise. We ardently believe that it’s not a party without a crowd, to the point where one Thanksgiving after my family had recently moved, I forlornly looked at my Mother and in all seriousness, asked if we could drive around town looking for unsuspecting homeless people to invite to Thanksgiving dinner. [An idea that was heartily applauded by my siblings.] I was quite convinced that to celebrate with only our immediate family would have been absolute MISERY from which we might never recover.

I digress. Last year, Easter rolled in slowly, like a quiet morning fog, and took me by surprise. Though we had no friends to be invited, [save the deli-man, with whom I had been carefully cultivating my one and only New York friendship over quarter pounds of oven roasted honey glazed turkey,] I was determined to do the very bare minimum, and make an Easter dinner. I felt like the Whos on The Grinch who Stole Christmas, gathering hand in hand in the heart of Whoville to bravely sing da-who-dores even though their trimmings and trappings had been stolen by that wily old Grinch.

The day before Easter, I bravely plugged the fanciest grocery store in town into my trusty GPS, and ventured onto the highways and byways of upstate New York. After much angst and great inner turmoil at the meat counter, I threw caution and $18.94 to the wind and splurged on a perfect rack of lamb. Grocery list ready in my hot little hand, I had channeled my inner 1950’s housewife and Pinterested my heart out—luscious scalloped potatoes, buttery yeast rolls, a Greek salad and a decadent chocolate pie…we were friendless, but by George, I  was going to SAVE EASTER! As I stood in the check out line, a veritable mountain of Made in China Easter candy infused in franken-colors not to be found in nature caught my wandering eye.

For a heartbeat, I considered putting together an Easter basket for my newly-minted husband, but quickly thought better of it. After all, what man on earth would think to make an Easter basket for his wife? I didn’t want Kellan to feel badly, and so I opted to forgo the whole thing. His Mama had already given us baskets, I consoled myself. You are wife of the year—anticipating his every move! YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK ON HUSBANDS.

That very evening, after groceries had been safely tucked away and our little apartment had been dusted [old habits die hard, friends!], the handsome man that I’d called mine for mere weeks grinned at me from across our living room, and with twinkling eyes casually mentioned how excited he was to give me my Easter basket the next morning.

I immediately googled “signs of an aneurysm”, confident that I’d just had one. Come again? YOU made ME an Easter basket?

I was shattered, ready to write off my entire month of wifehood as a dismal failure. Twas the night before Easter and all through the house, there wasn’t so much as a tiny chocolate egg, because his wife was a louse. My fragile new-wife ego was hanging on by a gossamer thread, and gravely, I stared at Kellan as though he were the next of kin.

Honey, …I didn’t get you an Easter basket.

He looked almost startled. Quietly disappointed, he slowly assured me that it was okay.

Hi. Have we met?

IT. IS. NOT. OKAY.

I had crazy eyes. It was 11:00 PM, or as I like to call it, the stabbing hour. Frantic, I looked at Kellan and firmly announced that I NEEDED to go get him an Easter basket. No amount of cajoling and pleading and I-don’t-even-want-one-ing would dissuade me, and ten minutes later we were in the car. [Oh yes. To add insult to injury, the man had to drive me to Target so that I could get him an Easter basket.] I flew through the aisles, hastily tossing candy, trail mix and plastic green grass into my little red cart while my husband [who had, of course, been exiled from the store to maintain a sense of mystery about the whole miserable endeavor] waited for me outside.

The next morning, I handed Kellan a white Target bag filled with the previous night’s plunder [and, I’m sure, the receipt] because in my haste to give him an Easter basket, I’d forgotten the actual basket. He laughingly made a crack about his white trash Easter bag and I was all PARDON ME IF NOT ALL OF US CHOOSE TO JOIN YOU IN YOUR LIFE OF EXCESS.

You can bet every marshmallow Peep in town that I didn’t make the same mistake this year. PLEASE. This year, I tried not to look too eager for praise as Kellan awoke to a perfect wicker Easter basket full of enough candy to make his butt feel like a bean bag chair for the next decade. The whole thing was very Normal Rockwell.

Da-who-dores, indeed.

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Filed under Family, First World Problems, Holidays other than Christmas, Marriage