Thursday, July 30, 2009

love at first quack

A couple of weeks ago I found out that my ducks passed away. It has taken me this long to be able to sit down (without getting overly emotional- pathetic i know) to write a memorial to my little foster duckies. These ducks were very special to me. Not just pets. But two little guardian angels who dropped into my life during a time when I really needed to be reminded of the simpler things in life. Finding out they were gone was not on my to-do list, not really what I wanted to hear. But for everything there is a season, a purpose under heaven. The bible assures us of that. And for my furry friends, their season on earth had ended. I was at a Junior Woman's Club meeting when I found out. We were talking about the "duck race" for the annual Duncan Hines Festival. The club members sell ducks forms aka raffle tickets. Then during the festival the ducks (note: they are pretend plastic ducks) race. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners get cash prizes. One of the members joked that we could bring real ducks to the festival. A few people who knew I had the ducks said "ashley should bring her ducks!" I informed everyone that I had taken the ducks to a farm. The lady whose parents had "adopted" my ducks was there and ironically , she was in charge of selling the ducks forms. I could tell by the look on her face that she has some news for me and it wasn't good. Long story short, she informed me that Mick and Jagger had been killed, probably by coyotes. She said her parents, especially her dad "the duck whisperer", were very sad. Don't worry, my boss already pointed out the irony that I was at a meeting about duck races, getting my duck forms from the friend who'd adopt them, and then found out my live ducks had died. It's not funny, my friends. Ironic, yes but not funny.

The story of the ducks is one that I will always look back on and smile because it happened very unexpectedly. I didn't plan to ever own a duck. My journey with MickDuck and JaggerDuck really is serendipity. I woke up one day expecting a quiet day and went to bed thinking the day had been anything but quiet. My friend Laura called me up the Saturday before Easter and said "do you want to go with me to buy ducks?" Most people would have replied with a question, thinking it was strange that their friend wanted to buy ducks. But since I love being spontaneous I enthusiastically said "yes! of course! where and when?" Off we went to Tractor Supply Company. I didn't plan to purchase any ducks for myself. But seeing all of those people getting the ducks without purchasing any supplies made me convince myself that I had to "rescue" at least two. I know it was probably ridiculous of me to think I was honestly rescuing baby ducks, but I really did think I was saving them from people who wouldn't take care of them. So three hours and $56.29 later I had two ducks, one metal "habitat", an extra bag of wood chips, a medium size bag of duck food, a watering contraption, and a heat lamp. I spent an entire Saturday afternoon setting up the duck habitat in my guest bedroom in my house. Why the guest bedroom? Well because they were essentially guests and didn't they deserve a bedroom to themselves? I had been listening to The Rolling Stones all day so naturally I pointed at one duck and said "you shall be called Mick" and then turned to the other and said "you shall be called Jagger." They quacked, which to me was affirmation that they liked their names.

The next day Easter came and I took the itty bitty babies to my family get-together. It was a surprise for my cousins. Everyone agreed that Mick and Jagger really were the hit of the day. It was so wonderful to watch the children go from giddy excitement and fear of the creatures to calming down to a time of pleasant contentment--embracing them, cradling them in their arms. Easter, as in most holidays, came and left all too soon. That Monday I quickly realized that while I bought them to bring joy on Easter, I now had to fulfill my commitment to raising them until they could go to a farm.

It was not an easy road with Mick and Jagger. They took up a lot of my time, and turned this jet setting, always on the go girl into quite a homebody. I loved every minute of it though. One of my friends asked me quite bluntly, "why do you like those things living with you? Aren't they annoying" Quite simply, it was a taste of motherhood, a glimpse into a future that I hope includes a child (make no mistake- like in 10 years though). Feeding them multiple times a day, changing their diapers (ok, just the wood chips but this is where they relieved themselves), and rocking them to sleep in my hammock outside. My favorite part of raising them was the time at night they'd spend with me. The two of them would follow me everywhere, in single file. They would try to run as fast as their little webbed feet could take them, to catch up with me. I don't care for the word precious, because I think it's overused. But let me assure you that if their ever was a time to use the word precious, it is now. It was precious.

Alas, the day came sooner than I expected to put Mick & Jagger up for "adoption." They grew, and grew, and grew. What I had been informed would take 10 weeks actually took 3. My little overachievers were flying the coop, trying to leave home sooner than I'd expected. I'd get home from work and much to my surprise (and admittedly, delight), my furry little roommates would meet me at the door. It was time for the ducks to move from their foster home to their forever farm. I lucked out when my friend Tammy suggested that Mick and Jagger move to her parents place. It was paradise. I knew they'd be happy with a big pond, horse friends, and wide open spaces to roam. I hoped deep down they'd miss me and wouldn't forget me, but I knew I couldn't be selfish (or silly) and try to keep them in my city casa. I still know it was the right decision. I know they lived a good life, although shorter than I hoped, still a good life.

I may not have the desire to go to a turkey farm this Thanksgiving to purchase a mascot for the holiday (something tells me that turkeys will be a wee bit more high maintenance than the ducks were). Let me assure you though that when Easter rolls around again next year, you may find me leaning over a box in the middle of Tractor Supply Company, straining to hear which ducks seem to have a rock and roll inspired quack.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

the ones that have mattered, so far.

I am borderline obsessed with love. Ok, that's a lie. I crossed the border years ago. I am in love with love. I love talking about it, feeling it, and reading about it. But deepdown, who isn't?

Recently I was talking to a 16 year old and it dawned on me that she was a decade younger than me! A decade! Suddenly I knew why I felt so removed from her high school mentality , it was because I hadn't been there in 10 years! Ten. Wow. As she talked about her infatuation with a boy, I sat back and listened. It was like taking a walk down memory lane, listening to her describe the highs and lows of her summer of love. It hit me how many times I've been in her shoes. Truly caring about someone, without weighing the consequences or cost of putting my heart on the line.

Three names came to mind as I listened. Three names of boys that reminded me that I too had once fallen head over heels when I was young (i know, i know, i'm still young. But i'm talking YOUNG, as in a kid). I say boys because when I knew them, none of them were men yet. It was so intriguing to revisit the years, the decade she was just entering, between the ages of 15 and 25, and look at my younger self. Because in the past year, I have really grown. I still live to the hilt, but I don't serve my heart on a silver platter to someone that hasn't shown that he will attempt not to crush it. I also try not to crush hearts either. Because it's not fun being broken hearted and it's not fun hurting another. So here I go. The ones during the decade of learning for the sake of learning...

First...the one that I wanted to surf with, even though I can't surf--this was my naïve love. the person that could have dyed his hair green, gained 6359 pounds, and could have asked me to move to Tokyo and I would in turn dyed my hair a color that complimented his hair color, eaten all those meals with him if he wanted to stay fat, and fled the country for the land of Tokyo. Looking back I know now why he once said "we don't have much in common", but at the time I just kept thinking "but we both have the same kind of car that are so old they must have come over on noahs ark, together, and isn't that ENOUGH?!" No it wasn't enough. In fact, opposites attract, and then they aggravate. And boy, do they ever aggravate. But now, years later, when I think back and look at that young girl, a girl who was so innocent and thought she could change the world, taming one wild boy at a time, I can't help but smile and shake my head. I want to go back to that girl and say to her "you'll be ok. I know this feels like the end of the world. But I promise you, you'll be ok."

the one who took a lot of pictures, no really A LOT of pictures -- this one ignited a part of me that still remains. He sparked my intense love affair with photography and even though he's not a part of my life, the photography remains. I took one look at a picture this boy took and knew I had to meet him. Conveniently enough, we had a class together. We would sit in the hallway outside the photography lab and talk for hours. I almost considered changing my major to photography for this boy. I almost considered spending an entire summer in a far off place to impress him. But I didn't change my major and I didn't go to that camp. Why? Because that would have been crazy. No really, its because I knew I wasn't the girl who lived in the shadow of someone else's dream. I wasn't one to follow, on the heels, and coming in 2nd to his first love- the camera and the subjects. I'll never forget the moment this one told me he was engaged. I started crying but never let my voice change, only gushed about how happy I was. I knew he'd found the girl who loved the camera like he did. Who didn't ever want to put it down. And I now breathe a sigh of relief because even though I love my camera too, sometimes I want to put it down and live in the moment completely. But every now and then, his name will pop into my mind, and I'll google (yes google) his name. And every time, more results come up than before. Of the events he's documented, places he's been, and awards he's won. And instead of regret or sadness, I feel so proud of him. And hope one day he'll remember me and come back to the little town where he spent a few years, to document something for me.

The one who wrote letters, real letters--it was the words. Seeing the words on the screen and on paper. Nevermind the fact that his words were usually empty promises. I never lost hope that one day all the pieces would fit and it would work. Until about a year ago, I stopped ignoring all the signs from the Lord that this was not in His grand plan for my life. I loved this boy more than any other and this was hard to accept. This one is the kind that I've decided its all but impossible to make into a friend. The magic is just gone. And at the end of the day, all I can say is he's the what could have been guy. What could have been and thankfully didn't. But still, we had dreams and nothing creates silence between two people quite like broken dreams. He didn't follow through, but neither did I. I still see him a lot and what do you know, he's engaged too. I hope one day we'll have an interesting, fascinating, awe-inspiring conversation again, but that is a long-shot hope. Its the definition of awkward when we come face to face. Perhaps because he knows so much about me, which makes me nervous, and I know his secrets, which makes him uneasy. Maybe in a perfect world I could look at him and he could look at me and we'd say in unison "your secrets will always be safe with me." But its not a perfect world. And it is doubtful this scene will play out. It is what it is. I accept that wholeheartedly, heavy hearted, but wholeheartedly nonetheless. My only wish regarding him is that he'll grow up one day to be a fully realized man. I used to want that for my own benefit but now I want it just for him. Expecting nothing in return. I want him to find happiness, preferably in Jesus Christ.

I'm reflecting on this because it seems that now, I don't have the patience, desire, or tolerance for "projects". I want an already assembled man. That may sound funny, but it's the truth. I don't want to go into something expecting change and I don't want them to want to change me. I realized recently that in the past year I have had friends that I was on the brink of seeing as more. Somehow now, I can stop myself and say "are you compatible? Does this person love the Lord? Wouldn't you rather love them as a friend forever than eventually despise them at the end of a failed relationship doomed to fail from the start? Do you really want them to have the bitterness toward you or you toward them?" I think this is wisdom and being able to see inevitable future hurt. Still, I kind of miss that girl hell bent on proving everyone wrong. Not enough to become the girl again, let me assure you, but I'm so glad I was once this person. You see, a lot of people don't take the risk. And a lot of people settle. But me, I've done neither. I'm taken the risk and given people a chance. But I've also tried to exit as gracefully as possible when it's time to go. And I'm truly thankful that I've taken the leap but then known when it was time to call out to the Lord for self control. May seem like I'm looking for closure. Nah. You never get closure fully. You never say goodbye to what you once really loved. You just learn to live side by side with the pain and you keep dancing through life. Its simply enjoyable to discover I'm not there yet, at the peak of maturity and knowledge, but I'm getting there. And that's feels so wonderful. Knowing that I'm closer than I was before. And I hope a certain friend of mine knows I'm writing this to her. That she finds solace and comfort in knowing that she's closer than she was before.

*and note, i left out names, because well, it would have been stupid for me to include them. I'm not sure that my past people see the past like I did. It's all about perspective and I'm sure their perspective/memory of the past is different from mine. And just a word of caution, if you ever create a blog and reflect on your past, leave out the names. Because if one happens to call you up and say "is this about me?" you can laugh and say "no! of course not! that was totally somebody else."...even if it was really about them:)