Driving and Old Lady Dreams

Our day was busy. Part of it involved driving for two-and-a-half hours on the Pacific Coast Highway. Our last trip on the PCH to Malibu was dreadful. We picked a Sunday afternoon. Our fault. Definitely. Today was a Thursday at 1:30. Still dreadful. But the beach we went to was lovely. Point Dume.

I've decided that it takes about three minutes to drive one mile in Los Angeles. Five to eight minutes if driving into a dense neighborhood. We about 3.5 miles from UCLA. On a good day, we're there in around ten minutes. On an average day, twenty minutes. On bleepity blankin' bleep bleep days, 30 minutes. And you never know what kind of day it's going to be.

Today it took 75 minutes to drive 26 miles to Point Dume. And it took 90 minutes to drive 26 miles from Point Dume back to our house. Tonight was back to school night at Cora's school, and we were not just a little bit late because of the unexpected drive time home.

This is coming from one who loves to drive. It's fun to me. But there have been moments [like this afternoon] where I'm seriously trying to figure out how to sell both cars so I don't have to be in them anymore. I will get the hang of this, though right now I mostly just wonder where all of the urban planners were when LA got to sprawlin'.  Oh Public Transportation, how I love thee.

Tomorrow I'm road tripping to Arizona for the weekend to attend Dan's service. I wasn't sure I was going to make it because I'd planned a trip to Utah to see my cousins Kiersty and Brittany and to attend the Salt Lake City Temple (I've never been). I spent yesterday morning rearranging flights, and was glad everything worked out. I've been looking forward to the Utah trip since before I planned it. ;) This weekend, however, needed to be spent with some other Dear Ones.

Living here has made me long for wide open space, which I think is why I like visiting the beach so much [among many other reasons]. It doesn't get any more wide open than an expansive body of water. Part of me wants wherever we land after Los Angeles to have more than a 7,000 square foot lot waiting  (7,000 sf is the size of the standard lot in Mesta Park - our old neighborhood in OKC - where Dot still resides). Another part of me says, "BrieAnn, you have never lived in a small town. Not even a smallish town. You're inspired by public spaces, old architecture, the people next to you on trains and busses (when you're not scared of them)." And it also says, "I know you're thinking "farm," but farms have snakes and mice and all other sorts of critters that you don't like dealing with."

And then I say, "I know, I know. But part of me wants the growing years of my life to turn me into something like Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver and Ouiser Boudreaux all wrapped up into one. And I want to drive a big black Cadillac convertible."

And then the other part of me pauses and stares blankly at me, blinking every once in a while…

It's a good thing all of me knows my secret desire to be a bee keeping farmer someday. Even if that dream has been modified to urban bee keeping and raised bed gardens depending on where I am. Life is such a funny adventure. Here's to all of me embracing [or at least trying to make the best] of all that comes my way.

And in looking for a picture of Wendell Berry, I came across this gem. Truth.

Dear Dan Hosey [and all the friends I think of just as much]

[every time I try to write this, I cry. perhaps it's not quite time yet.]

I looked up the stages of grief on Saturday, the day after I heard the news. I wondered why I was feeling so sad, a little angry, and a sense of relief. All at the same time.

Sad for a friend who I've missed and loved, and who's now gone.

A brief wave of anger at how it happened (but not angry at you).

Relief seeded in gratitude that I'm still here. That I'm still plodding along on this journey that is my life.

In the middle of July, Jake played for a trombone recital at OCU. When he told me about it, I thought, "Trombone recital? Is there really enough trombone repertoire outside of marching band arrangements to fill a whole recital?" Not far into the first piece, I realized I was in the audience of what would be one of my favorite recitals, and it ended up being full of interesting pieces. I was thinking about Dan, wishing he was there, and thinking about clever things to say in the message I was going to send telling him all about it.

In the midst of packing and preparing to move out of our home and halfway across the country, sending the message was pushed to the back burner, but not sending it and meaning to kept Dan on my mind.

Whenever I move to a new place, it always makes me nostalgic for everywhere I've lived. All the people from those places blend together, so much so that at times I have to do some mental sorting. In doing so, I've realized that the people who seem to be with me everywhere I go are the ones who are most deeply embedded in the fibers that make me who I am. Most of them come from the same time and place in my heart and mind.

The friends I made in high school are Dear Ones to me. It was a time when my friends were overwhelmingly my family. In missing and mourning Dan, I realize I'm also equally missing and feeling lonesome for all of you - for that tender place where childhood and adulthood met and mingled for a while. And when it was time to go our separate ways, we all knew we were leaving the last pieces of our childhood in the care of one another, and lifting up the kind of idealism that exists so magically in young adults. We all emerged with and because we had each other.

I've spent the last ten [almost eleven] years still dreaming the biggest dreams and wanting the very best for you. I've imagined you continually emerging and coming into your own. In this way, you've stayed very present to me. It's helped me deal with your absence from my every day. Part of my sorrow for Dan is that I won't be able to continue imagining him working towards becoming in the same existence as my own. I need all of you to be here because you all have a role in my story, and taking any of you out of where my story may go feels devastating to the plot. Part of me still needs to pretend like I'll randomly run into you somewhere. I'll grab your hands and listen to your voice and make a new memory of your face. And that will carry my imagination through the next decade.

I've been living in my memory these last few days. I know you have too. Last night, I woke up several times, opened my eyes, and was sure I would see you. I've been reveling in our collective memories of Dan because they're also my memories with you. Who he is to us is who you are to me. I've also been dwelling on the times when it was just Dan and me. I asked him to help me with math my senior year. I was a horrible tutee...

[so, I may or may not have just spent several moments laughing at the word tutee. It seems perfectly appropriate.]

Ahem, I was a horrible pupil, and Dan a wonderful teacher. What I really loved was sitting next to my friend at the table and all of the conversational asides between math problems. I especially loved one night at his mom's house. Both sisters were there, and Kim had just had David. That night, I enjoyed talking with them and holding David. This part's a bit fuzzy, but I think David threw up all over me. I've been praying for his family. My heart especially hurts for his mother.

Between our tutoring sessions and random drives (I always did the driving because he lost driving privileges after he had a horrible one-car accident after swerving to miss a coyote while driving in the triple digits. Horrible for a car and for driving privileges, but he walked away), some tender secrets were shared, and it's strange to think that I may still be the sole keeper.

I can't imagine Dan not making his way into the heart of anyone who knew him. You can't make up a character like him. His everyday life was repeatedly full of impossibles. If you're reading this and didn't know Dan, another friend from this time and place wrote something that captures him perfectly. You can read Nathaniel's piece here: Ode to Dhosey. I've never met anyone else like him, and I can't imagine that I ever will.

In thinking about Dan and all of my Dear Ones, part of James Agee's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 comes to mind. It's appropriately at the beginning of his autobiographical novel A Death in the Family:
On the rough wet grass of the backyard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there. First we were sitting up, then one of us lay down, and then we all lay down, on our stomachs, or on our sides, or on our backs, and they have kept on talking. They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.
After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.
I'm grateful that by some chance I was able to share the equivalent of nights spent on quilts under the stars with all of you.

And because I can't see/hear a trombone and not think of Dan - If Dan would have been a farmer...

Fairy House

Not long before bed, Magnolia decided she wanted to build a fairy house. I was working on cleaning up the kitchen, and she was asking Cora and me, "What else?"

The manger portion of our nativity was randomly packed in a tub of shoes and clothes that Cora outgrows that I think are worth saving for Magnolia. Their blessing dresses, little hospital hats, and a few other cute things were also in the tub. I reorganized and put everything away except for the manger. Seeing it was M's inspiration.

It includes a lovely coin path. I wanted to take a picture of Magnolia with her fairy house. She had the Peace street sign up, and she excitedly declared it said, "Fairy." When I told her it said Peace, she said, "Well, we can pretend like it says Fairy." I pointed out that it had five letters like Fairy, and I thought it would work. She counted the letters, and was very proud of the connection. When it came time to smile….Well, you'll see.

Someday when we have a backyard/any yard, we're going to make the most amazing fairy houses ever. But really, I don't know how any could top this one. Missing from the photos is a tiny bowl with three cashews in it. Sunflower seeds would have made more sense for a fairy, but we didn't have any. As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to go eat three cashews minus a few crumbs. 

Today's positives:
1. Fairy Houses

2. Lazy Saturdays. We worked around the house getting some more things in order. Like the girls' room. It has been the one most in need of help. When we moved here, we thought that the two bedrooms would be more similar in size. One is much smaller. Jake and I were going to take it, but the way it's set up, and the extra built-in closet made more sense for organizing the girls' things. All that's fine and good, but floor space is still a premium. There will be more tweaking soon.

3. Trader Joe's. I've been an emotional eater. And you can walk into a Trader Joe's, and all of your impulse buys will come in under $20. At Whole Foods, leaving for less than $40 is a miracle. Perhaps a positive attached to me and the frozen, easily prepare-able delights at Trader Joe's is the fact that I got rid of our scale when we moved here. I also ordered a new pair of running shorts today. I'm also starting to crave raw food again. Phew.

And lastly….  
My mind has been flooded with memories of my friend, Dan. He passed away on Thursday. I can't stop thinking about him. I still don't have any words for all of it. For any of it. Between fairy houses, and finding places for things, and eating food because it's something to do, tears are starting to flow. The truth is I haven't seen him in ten years. But he's connected to a different place in my heart and mind. It's a place where time stands still.

Old Friends

I'll start out with my three positives from yesterday -

1. Sarah Keller
2. Laura Keller
3. Marlene Keller

All three of them, right here in Los Angeles. Sarah Keller and I spent the afternoon together. And then the afternoon faded into the evening, and I ended up getting home just before midnight after dropping her off at her hotel. She was one of my very best friends in high school. One of those friends who I made lifetime memories with. I was so happy to have her and her mom and sister as my first official visitors in this new city of mine. We ate too much food, spent a good part of our afternoon helping Cora with a school project that was due today, and got to the beach approximately four minutes after the sun set. After the beach, we stopped at a Starbucks for a treat, and I walked her through her first trip to Whole Foods. That was an honor. ;) We came back to my house and got her stuff, and then I drove her to her hotel, and we talked in my car in the parking lot for a long time. Before I left, I went up to her room and enjoyed a little visit with Laura and Marlene. Treasures. That's what they are.

I can't remember at what point in our evening, Sarah looked at her phone and saw that another one of our friends from high school had called. She repeatedly said, "He never calls, I wonder what's going on."

She sent me a text this morning asking me to call her. I didn't see it until after lunch. She let me know the news we'd missed the night before, and that was that another of our high school friends passed away yesterday.

In the hours have gone by since hearing the news, there are moments, sometimes seconds where reality finds its way through the shock. In those moments, I'm finding it difficult to breathe. This is unexpected and tragic, and I can't imagine the heartbreak that is happening as people continue to find out. My brain has never so actively tried to convince itself that something wasn't true.

On that note, my three positives for today.

1. Scoops. Tonight we discovered a little ice cream shop that makes amazing vegan ice cream. The flavors = whoa! Jake had Maple Oreo, Cora had Cinnamon Coconut Burnt Sugar, Magnolia had Blueberry Jasmine, I had Salted Vanilla Bourbon. We'll be back. And on a cute side note: After eating about half of her ice cream, this exchange happened:
M: This doesn't really taste like blueberry.
B: Oh really, what does it taste like?
M: Pocahontas.
M: I mean Jasmine.

2. Farmer's Markets. Today I went to my first farmer's market in L.A. It was in Venice. Goo and I went on a little date there. I let her pick mostly whatever she wanted. She loved sampling everything. When we got home, and were preparing a little snack with some of the fruit she selected, she asked if we could get toothpicks so she could eat her snack the way she ate the samples. We're going to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market tomorrow and the Culver City FM on Tuesday.

3. Cora. She was chosen as a star student this week (think spotlight), so we made a poster she could share with her class so they could get to know her a little better. (Thanks for the help, Sarah!) I love that she is just so perfectly who she is. This girl is quirky.

This is the day we hung stuff on the walls.

After my 11 days post, my friend Lisa told me she didn't hang things up on the walls of her apartment for 9 months after she moved to Chicago because it didn't feel like home. I sent her a picture of all of our pictures either sitting on the ground or still in boxes. 

Today was my day. The gold frame may or may not have been lowered three times. There were a few times where I was sitting in the middle of the floor, surrounded by pieces of art that we're collected over the years, my fingers pressed to my temples, and my mind seeking visions for where everything should go. There are seven other pieces not shown in this photo that have a place on our walls, and as I type this, I'm quite certain three of those pieces will trade places.  

I've only clustered art once before, but I love how all of these big over-sized pieces work together on our "piano wall."

I'm tackling my room tomorrow. And my bathroom with the lone box of bathroom stuff that really wants me to unpack it. Did I mention we have two bathrooms? Yep. First time ever.

In other news: My friend Stacia challenged me to post three positives for three days. I'm going to do it. Right here on my blog. Here goes:

1. We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight. Which means I've made the best meal of our Los Angeles lives tonight. I felt like me. Happily plugging away in the kitchen making food that's good for our bodies. We ate the sun tonight. And I enjoyed the Elders' company. It's fun to hang out with 19/20-year-olds who come from small Utah towns and spend time in South-Central L.A.. 
2. Honey Pacifica Creamy Wildflower Honey is a life changer. I bought a small jar at Whole Foods a few days after we got here because it was the only one I could find on the shelf that was sourced locally. Yesterday we finished it off. Today I bought the BIG jar. I'm pretty sure I'm going to start buying bulk. Dear Everybody and their Sister/Brother: If ever you feel like gifting me something and aren't quite sure what to get, I will always happily receive this. For real.
3. During dinner, my girls made olive fingers. They've done this many times before, but something about seeing them do it tonight was so perfect and wonderful. They're comfortable and happy in this change. They're with me, and I'm with them, and that makes my heart feel like bursting with love for those sweet Lovey Doves. 

In other other news: I was challenged to the ice bucket challenge. I publicly accepted, but I'm running late. I haven't a bucket, am not going to go buy one, and my big pot has been taken up with soup. I will likely be dumping ice and water on my head tomorrow, but let it be known that I donated to two charities this morning and will get to a third I've been meaning to support (initially I wanted to support them by donating my time), but I got busy with moving and can no longer physically show up because of the distance between me and this organization in Oklahoma doing good work.

PS: Friends who use wide angle lenses. I'm in the market. What's your favorite?   

Make Me a Mystic

Several weeks ago, while lying in bed, Jake showed me a post on On Being's site about a new publication of Flannery O'Connor's personal writings. It's called A Prayer Journal, and it contains many intimately familiar thoughts/desires/hopes/prayers. I especially loved the following:

Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth's shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, Dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. 
I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.

I've been dwelling on this old idea experienced through new [old] words.

11 Days

We've lived in Los Angeles for 11 days.

Our stuff has been here for 9 days.

I left my Dot Spot home 20 days ago.

My Girls said goodbye to their Gram 15 days ago.

I left a dearest friend and Oklahoma 14 days ago.

Yes, two weeks ago, we started out on this journey of grad school [again]. I can't help but compare it to our first adventure with grad school that took us to the University of Chicago and Hyde Park. I remember after we'd been there for a week, my little family [which then consisted of Jake and eighteen-month-old Cora] was taking an evening stroll through our neighborhood. We were passing our church building, and I told Jake I felt like I was cheating on Oklahoma for how much I loved Chicago already. It instantly felt like home, and my only complaint was the family who lived right above us and how they let their children run around way into the wee hours of the morning (it was really frustrating, especially for a light sleeper who was with child).

I wish the second time around brought with it such instant comfort. In reality, I've been stuck in a rut. I hate admitting that. I'm usually so good at just rolling with it, but I'm quite certain I've slipped into a bit of a depression. One I've kept hoping would turn out to be crazy hormones. Perhaps it's a little of both. Hyde Park and Chicago were so much easier to explore. We walked everywhere we wanted in our neighborhood and took public transit almost everywhere else.

It's obviously not that easy in Los Angeles. We're in a good part of the city, not too far from many things. And I'm grateful for the rent we're paying for UCLA graduate housing. It gets us in a good spot and easily saves us at least $1,000 per month compared to the market value of comparable apartments. We can walk to quite a few things, but most of the things we can walk to aren't really places I want to go too often. I mean, I guess I could make it super cool to hang out at the grocery store. After the exploring that we've done - that usually takes us to the beach - I've decided that if I could handpick a spot for me on the west side of L.A., it would be Santa Monica. What I couldn't walk to would be easily accessible by bike. I'm trying to get over this hurdle.

I felt like I'd explored everything I could in Oklahoma City, but it was easy to live there. It was easy to go take part in all my faves, and then go back to my cozy home in my lovely neighborhood. Maybe part of my rut is a lack of hardwood floors. ;) Seriously, though, I haven't lived in a dwelling this new….maybe ever? I think it's newer than our first apartment at Cokesbury on the campus of OCU. It's nice for grad school housing. But it's not at all charming. And this city isn't very charming. There's a lot to see and do, but it doesn't have the lovely architecture of Hyde Park, and the lovely old homes in Mesta Park. Besides the ocean, there isn't much eye candy for me. And I'm all about aesthetics. It's mostly a lot of getting from point A to point B. There is a life-sized cow sculpture in the front yard of a home on the way to Cora's school. It's quirky. I love it. I'm glad it's there.

Because I can't quite handpick the spot in this city I want to be in (and I've quickly come to understand that being in the right spot in this city is pretty important for its enjoyment - just like any city: I didn't love where we first lived in OKC when we moved back from Chicago because of the whole car dependence thing), I'm trying to find things that aren't superficial to keep busy with. I don't want to wish away the next 4-5 years that we'll be here for school. They're part of my life, my life will be happening in all of those years. But there is something difficult about going from being somewhat established/comfortable, minus Jake's crazy hours at work and basically non-existence at home, to being anonymous. From an old bungalow to sterile grad housing. From a school we LOVED to a school that's good so far, but to which I'm still warming up. I don't want to think, "We've been here for almost two weeks, only 206-258 weeks left."

I think it will help when Jake is in school. We had to move here pretty early for Cora to start school, but Jake doesn't start until the end of September. I'm used to being the queen of my castle with occasional visits from the king who's usually gone on business. I haven't been letting my freak flag fly the way it usually does. The way it needs to.

Okay, now that everyone knows I'm having a bit of a hard time, I want to share some things I've found enjoyable here:

1. There is a magnolia tree outside my bedroom window.
2. We're a family of four living in less than a thousand square feet, and it's working. Still some things to figure out, but we were a family of three in Chicago bursting at the seams in 1,300 square feet. I like the direction we're heading towards minimalism.
3. The smell (in most places). I don't know what plants/trees are emitting it, but when I walk outside of our complex, there is a deliciously sweet smell in the air.
4. The weather. Wow. Perfection.
5. The ocean. I can't even tell you how happy I am to be close. Here's my first post from Chicago. I tried to pretend like Lake Michigan was the ocean. I have the real deal here.
6. Jake's PhD program. This was his top pick. He's here, we're here. I'm excited for him.
7. I got some dreamy new dishes. This was a really big deal. I left all my Fiesta in Oklahoma. All of the bright vibrant, glossy stoneware. I wanted white. All white. And that's what I got. I initially wanted Wedgwood White, but then I found out that this charming English china maker outsourced the making of this line to Indonesia. I could have spent quite a bit of time trying to collect older pieces of the collection with the "Made in England" stamp on the back, but I found the Apilco Tuileries collection, and it had the same low lovely profile of Wedgwood White, but instead of a British company that now produces its ware in Indonesia, it's a French company that still produces its goods in France. I don't know why that was so important to me. It was a huge decision for indecisive me. Now I just need to find the perfect reclaimed wood shelf to display it on. I didn't think the shelf part would be so hard.

I think it's been strange trying to let myself catch up. I went from "We applied to 8 schools for PhD programs" to "We're moving to L.A.!" Then we went into get Dot ready to sell mode. Then we sold her in less than 24 hours. Packing, closing, preparing to leave friends who are all kinds of wrapped up in my heart. Driving halfway across the country, signing a lease on an apartment we'd never seen, working through the randomly complicated details of getting our stuff here, enrolling Cora in school, settling in. So many things. Big things. And there's a check by all of them. It's a relief, but it's weird to not be on the edge of my seat waiting for the next big task that I need to tackle. Is this where I breathe? Is this where I finally take the time to figure out if I want to go back to school too? Years. That's how long it's been on my mind.

I had it narrowed down to midwifery or architecture/historic preservation. Could it be more opposite? Maybe. I'm passionate about both things. Empowering women and birthing mothers in the birthing process. Studying/creating/designing/repurposing spaces - adding beauty and usefulness to our built environment - which I've always been so incredibly fascinated by. I've been leaning towards architecture/historic preservation. It floats my boat. My favorite textbook in college was my art history text, and my favorite chapter was the one dealing with architecture, specifically the section on green architecture, and by green architecture, the author was talking about repurposing old structures to have new uses and remain viable rather than be demolished. (My second favorite textbooks where ethics/human rights. And the class I got the highest grade in was psychology. I never missed a question on a test, and on one test, the scantron machine misread the last 15 question of my exam, and marked them wrong. When I showed my professor, she'd already set the curve to the person who'd missed the next highest amount of questions, which gave me like 115% on that exam. Social work, public policy, urban planning, and PA school have all been on my list as well.) I'm still holding out to see how all of our schedules will work out to see if it finally feels right to get down the business of working towards a career I want to spend the rest of my life doing.


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