Ode to When I Worked in Retail: A Moment of Clarity

If I have to look at another pair of Jordans or any other limited quantity sneaker, I think I will cry. The boys at work drool over the latest new sneaker. They know the names and looks and colors of every pair ever spit out by marketing geniuses of athletic shoes. The boys revere the shoes as some sort of Holy Grail to coolness. Realness. Legit. As if by wearing the shoes on their feet, they morph into Jordan. They stand in his greatness. Swoosh as one with the athletic legend. They fight to be first in line when the next shoe comes out. Some folks have died waiting for the shoes. As in got shot by another excited consumer not wanting to stand in line like everyone else, so BOOM goes the gun. These same folks would not die for their country but they die for shoes.

Some folks snap up the limited shoes and sell them on eBay for a large profit.

Once, Jeff parked his car in front of the store. The back seat of the car was full of sneakers. He opened the trunk and sneakers filled the space like sleeping bees in a hive. Shoes were everywhere. And Jeff was the queen bee, buzzing and buzzing about the greatness and history of each sneaker.

“But you only have two feet,” I say.

“I wear all of these shoes. I have more stored at my parents’ house. I can’t fit them all at my girlfriend’s apartment.”

“How much money have you spent over the years on these shoes?”

“Thousands of dollars. Don’t look at me like that. You spend money on things you like. I buy sneakers.”

“I spend money on a mortgage or a car. You could afford a house with the money you spend on shoes.”

Jeff lived with his parents.

Then Terrell speaks up.

“My room is full of Jordans. It’s like art. My prize possessions.”

“But Terrell, You could buy a car with the money you spend on Jordans. You could get your driver’s license and buy a car. You wouldn’t have to depend on the metro. You could enjoy freedom. Get out of DC when you need fresh air.”

‘Nah, Mama D. You don’t understand. Got to look good on the street. Represent. Ain’t nobody see your shoes when you be drivin’ in a car.”

“Exactly. But they see your car. You could get your pimped up classic and smoke a cigar while driving up and down M street.”

“I’ll get that. It be happenin. But I’ll be drivin with my sneaks.”

“I’m glad I’m not your mother. I would sell all your shoes and open a savings account for you. That, or have a giant bonfire with the shoes.”

“Whatever, Mama D. What would you buy if you had extra money?”

“That’s easy. I would buy paintings.”

“Paintings are expensive. But you like them. We like our shoes. So there.”

“The only paintings I own are the ones I painted. And paintings are not like shoes. Please!”

“Mama D, you should paint shoes! That’s what you should do. Can you imagine having a painting of your favorite Jordans? Word.”

“Word,” I say.

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The Power of Music

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After finishing an easy five miles listening to music on the dreadmill, I ran upstairs to ask my family a question.

Me: “Is music the most powerful art?”
Daughter: “Duh, Mom. Music speaks to everyone. Nothing else has that much power.”
Husband: “Honey, I’ve always said you’ll have to put me in the ground if I ever stop singing. Music takes you back, takes you forward, and everywhere in between. It crosses generational and cultural lines.”
Me: “What about books?’
Husband: “Books are powerful, too. They allow you to fill in the blanks with your own experiences. Movies aren’t that generous, they fill everything in for you.”
Daughter: “Books are way more powerful than movies, but still not as powerful as music.”
Me: “What about paintings? What about food?”
Daughter and Husband: “Nope.”
Me: “Nope?”
Husband: “Food doesn’t count as an art. We need it to survive.”
Daughter: “And not everyone appreciates a beautiful painting. Paintings are not accessible to the masses. iTunes doesn’t exist for paintings or food.”

I tried to think of something strong. Something powerful with the ability to produce tears.

Me: “What about horse racing?”
Daughter: “No.”
Husband: “Horse racing is a sport, not an art.”
Me: “But that song “Run for the Roses” gets me every time they play it before the Kentucky Derby! All those sweet baby horses running through the fields with their mamas.”
Husband: “It’s not the horses, it’s Fogelberg’s song that moves you. Images of baby horses are nice, but without the song, you wouldn’t feel the same.”

They are right. Without music nothing would feel the same. Music is powerful. Think of the lone bugler quietly belting Taps. Or a drum line marching in a college band. The Star Wars theme song or Silent Night at Christmas. Last week, my parents shared recordings of songs by their church choir. A flood of tears gushed down my face as I listened and felt God.
And then Maverick shared his music yesterday.
Maverick: “Honey, you need to listen to this band. The lyrics are amazing.”
Me: “That’s okay. I’m busy right now. Can you turn that down a little?”
Maverick: “But this band! Listen for a minute.”
Me: “Who are they?”
Maverick: “Fun.”
Me: “Fun? That band is a little over the top, don’t ya think? Maybe you can go to a Fun concert with my brother, John. He’s taking me to see Mumford and Sons next week.”
Maverick: “Sit in this chair and listen. Just for a minute.”
Me: “Fine. Just for a minute.”

Maverick pressed play and I sat in the chair heaving and purging emotions that obviously needed to be purged.
Maverick: “Does this remind you of us? Don’t you love the lyrics?”
Me: Nodding……..could not speak. Needed more tissues.

We have had a busy year of changes with more to come in the following year. Maverick and I have been together for twenty years. Our kids are leaving the nest. Believe me, that part of life is a struggle. For kids and for parents. Maverick and I also have big decisions to make about the next phase, God willing, of our lives together. Stay in the Air Force or retire? Live where? Do what? We’ve narrowed down our options and feel good about them. Whatever we do, we will always reach for God and for one another, and of course, the power of music. (And tissues when I listen to the following song Maverick played for me.)

LYRICS – by Fun, “The Gambler”
Slow down,
we’ve got time left to be lazy
All the kids have bloomed from babies into flowers in our eyes.
We’ve got 50 good years left to spend out in the garden
I don’t care to beg your pardon,
We should live until we die.

We were barely 18 when we’d crossed collective hearts.
It was cold, but it got warm when you’d barely crossed my eye.
and then you turned, put out your hand,
and you asked me to dance.
I knew nothing of romance, but it was love at second sight.

I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose.
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely.
Even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’til it’s our time.
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side.

It was the winter of ’86, and all the fields had frozen over.
So we moved to Arizona to save our only son
and now he’s turning to a man, although he thinks just like his mother,
he believes we’re all just lovers he sees hope in everyone.

And even though she moved away,
we always get calls from our daughter.
She has eyes just like her father’s
they are blue when skies are grey.
And just like him, she never stops,
Never takes the day for granted,
works for everything that’s handed to her,
Never once complains.

You think that I nearly lost you
When the doctors tried to take you away.
But like the night you took my hand beside the fire
30 years ago to this day
You swore you’d be here ’til we decide that it’s our time
Well it’s not time, you’ve never quit in all your life.
So just take my hand, you know that I’ll never leave your side.
You’re the love of my life, you know that I’ll never leave your side.

You come home from work and you kiss me on the eye
You curse the dogs and say that I should never feed them what is ours
So we move out to the garden, look at everything we’ve grown
and the kids are coming home
I’ll set the table
You can make the fire.

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Why I love Tennessee

It’s been a busy year. Full of many changes. Coming home to Tennessee, as Maverick describes it, is ” time for recharging the battery”.  I personally require more than five days to recharge my battery, but I am grateful we could squeeze in a quick trip with the kids. We transform to country living extremely well.

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Maverick lets his hair down and grows a beard.

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Sarah stops wearing makeup.

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Emma stops washing her hair.

I stop exercising. Hence, no photo.

The best parts are spending time with family.  And animals. And trees. And fields. And mountains. With nary a taxi or metro in sight.

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My sister and her youngest, who informed her of the upcoming “Intruder Drill” at school. His teacher said students will not be allowed to go to the bathroom once the drill begins and should a student pee or poop their pants during the drill, the student will not get in trouble.

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My mom with her glowing beautiful skin.

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Dad with his basset hound eyes. (As described by his grandkids)

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My sister’s oldest boy who said he wished he lived during the “olden” days. Why? Because they did not have to go to school back then.

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Maverick hates painting but loves me. I volunteered to paint the sunroom.  One ceiling, ten windows and two doors later, I invited Maverick to paint, too.

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He still found time to recharge his battery.

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Dad enjoyed his new lawn mower.

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Mom showed us her new dance.

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We all went apple picking. And then with my new camera, I took pictures of the horses, dogs, and trees. And mountains.

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Major is such a pretty horse.

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So is Dark Cloud.

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They love each other. (Yet, still no heir.)

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This friendly guy was left on the side of the road.

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With his beautiful sibling.  Now they enjoy running freely amongst the beautiful trees.

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I enjoy running freely amongst the beautiful trees, too.

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As does Sparky. Although, not with the two stray dogs. Sparky is territorial. And George, the basset hound  only comes out from beneath the house at night to sing to my mother.

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I snapped this picture as the sun was setting behind the trees. Do I really have to go back to DC?? Can’t I stay here and play with the animals and continue to recharge my battery?

Maverick said I was needed in DC. We left a special someone behind. He might be in shock and filled with a sense of abandonment. We have never left our baby.

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Watson. Poor doggie. He vomits the minute he gets into a car. That’s why he stayed behind.

I’ll be happy to see him and tell him why I love Tennessee. Perhaps, he will join us on future trips.

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Do clothes make the man? Does a man make the clothes?

Do clothes make the man? Does a man make the clothes?

Day one of the new year and I’m throwing out Maverick’s old shirts and maybe an apron or two.

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I started at the top of Maverick’s uniform closet by thinning out neatly folded piles of t-shirts that would make a great bed for a cat. If we had a cat.

Then I found some shirts that had to go.

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Dads Against Daughters Dating.  Our daughters understand this and no longer wish to be reminded.

guns

A man approaching 40 has no business wearing this shirt.

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Maverick, soon, honey. Soon.  Battle captain needs come first.

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Oh, wait. Can’t throw out this sweatshirt. Maverick said I would hurt Jesus’s feelings which is a bad thing to do right after Christmas. Plus, the BCS game is next week. All things Notre Dame must be displayed.

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But this jewel is out. Maverick brought this home from the Indian Ocean. He promised  there are no sister wives.

apron

The blue apron is out.

elf

The elf apron is in.

camo

These are getting tossed. New rank soon. Poor guy wants to wear his flight suit anyway.

green sweater

Maverick can keep the olive thinking-drinking wool cardigan. For now.

river

His favorite plaid shirt can stay. And the Notre Dame hat I used to scoop up a dead mouse. Only because he carries our chairs to the river so we can cheer for our girls.

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He can keep the blue suit because blue suits him.

leon

This shirt can stay, too. But next concert, I’m going.

hawaii

Hawaiian shirt out. There will be more.

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These shirts on my stationary bike are now hanging in Maverick’s closet. They are staying. Even the pink plaid one.

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I did not throw out any of Maverick’s polos or sunglasses. But I did take down the Christmas tree, stockings, wreaths, snow globes, angels, and all things red and green. To answer the question…do clothes make the man or does the man make the clothes…..I think  with the help of a good woman, a man can do both.

May the new year bring blessings to all.

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Emma’s college entrance essay

My darling oldest daughter completed her college applications today.

Wasn’t it yesterday that she played Drowsie Maggie and Toss the Feathers on her fiddle in front of mesmerized crowds and beaming parents?

Wasn’t it yesterday that she lay on the kitchen floor reading Junie B. Jones books aloud while I baked banana bread? Wasn’t it yesterday that she plowed through each Harry Potter book like an eager chipmunk always announcing her predictions for the next book?

“Mom, Professor Snape is working for Voldemort but I have a feeling he really loves Harry. I think he will help Harry in the end.”

She was right. Snape helped Harry.

But, no. It wasn’t yesterday when she made her predictions.

My girl is turning 18 soon.

Shiver. Shudder. Pitter patter goes my heart.

But then I read her college essay and I am reminded of the present and how proud I am of my girl.

Enjoy!

College Entrance Essay by Emma Durband

I was born into a band of gypsies. My earliest memory was the wind; an unseen, ever changing wind. It carried me to different corners of the country, each with their own adventures and secrets that clawed at my curiosity.
The wind conjured up the storms. There were the earthquakes in California, monsoons in Hawaii, tornadoes in Oklahoma, hurricanes in South Carolina, and blizzards in Virginia. Each storm was unique to the area where it formed. They were powerful and destructive, yet caused small scale renaissances in the aftermath.

My life is run by the storms, caused by the wind. My wind is the United States Air Force. It has blown the core of my gypsy family across the face of the country. The wind comes in the form of new “assignments” and job titles for Lt. Col. Durband, the head of my house. This wind causes the storms to brew and uproot every last nail in the houses I have built up from the ground with weathered, calloused hands. Each storm is different. Sometimes they come as tornadoes that violently shred all of my hard work into scattered debris.  Sometimes they come as monsoons that pelt my skin with acid rain. Yet the worst are the earthquakes, which silently strike when my back is turned, crumbling my marble pillars of comfort and concrete beams of peace like crumbs of a cookie after being dropped on the kitchen floor.

But the storms are a part of my gypsy life. I am a traveler. I know the rocky shores of California, the sunken marshes of South Carolina, and the endless plains of Oklahoma like the creases in my palms. Each new place the wind happens to send my family is a new chapter in my life, a new adventure to be had. I was born with the gypsy restlessness set in my bones and flowing in my blood. Like a disease passed down through the ages in my family, I am haunted by my thirst for adventure; whether in the form of joining a band of traveling fiddle players in the old churches of Charleston or racing with a motley crew of hardened rowers through the green waters of the Occoquan.

Though this lifestyle is not simple or carefree, I can see with clear, unsheltered eyes how life works. Every human body is driven by a wind. They come in all temperatures, shapes, sizes, colors, strengths, and directions. They can rip a 500 pound oak tree from the earth with a gust of brute power, or delicately sweep a snowflake gracefully across a winter sky. The strength at which it moves us is different for everyone at all stages in life. However, one cannot harness the wind. Gypsies learn the crucial lesson early in our travels that anyone who tries to control the wind will end up lost and scattered. You must accept the wind in its indiscriminate, unconstrained forces.  If you do not, it will knock you down with the force of Helios’ Chariot and you will be swallowed up by the dark, foreboding clouds of the storm.

Yet the sun always warms my weathered skin after waiting out the storm. The prospects of adventure soon become reality when I begin to build a new house, brick by brick in my newly assigned corner of the country. The darker moments of the moving process are washed away as I become accustomed to my new environment by seeking out smoky jazz venues to sing at or enrolling in a new boathouse to row at. Slower, more peaceful pockets of wind also move my body towards new friendships and relationships that will be forged in each new place. Although the stronger winds of change have caused me to bid farewell to childhood friends that I ventured out with to build elaborate sand castles on the beaches of South Carolina and the friends who I camped out with underneath the starry Oklahoma night sky, I know in the deepest niche of my mind that each new place the wind carries me, I will blossom into a new world of opportunity and take the change in stride.

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Hiwassee River and University of Tennessee

We funyaked the Hiwassee river last week. Maverick, my sister, my oldest girl, and me. Working in D.C. causes my innards to yearn for nature. Not the nature that is boxed between congested roads and tall buildings but nature as God intended. The Hiwassee River in east TN is just that. Cold rippling water cascading between thick ripe forest. The scent of damp moss mixed with rhododendrons. Rocks. Big, small, flat, fat rocks. Invisible rocks that hold funyaks hostage. It truly was a perfect day.

My sister joined us in the journey. Usually, she speaks german and builds Volkswagens, but she chose funyaking in nature. It was a pleasure sharing a funyak with my sister. We laughed and gossiped and paddled and got stuck on phantom rocks.

My parents came out to watch us launch the funyaks. It’s nice to have a fan club.

Maverick and Emma with their war faces. They thought they would beat us down the river! Pulleeze.

So much for war faces, huh, Emma?

Here we are calling a truce while drifting the calmer waters. But it did not last long. My sister and I smoked them. Until we decided to take our time and allow Maverick and Emma to pass us. We chose serenity over war.

The next day we took the girls with my parents to tour the University of Tennessee. Not via funyak. Although, we very well could have funyaked on the Tennessee river because it backs up to the University. My youngest girl planned and made reservations for the tour. She has a knack for planning ahead. She has been looking at colleges since she was in middle school. During the past year she only looked at colleges in California. I said I would be happy to home school both her and her sister for college. We have six computers and four iPhones in the house. Hello the internet. Who really needs college?

My mother let it slip that she would help the girls with food and laundry if they attend UT. She mentioned spending money too. I told her to stop bribing the girls. They will be perfectly fine being home schooled.

I know I could do it. I can teach. I can lecture. I can grade papers. Prepare a syllabus. Help research. Share pencils and papers. Swap books. Highlight favorite parts in yellow. Order pizza at three in the morning. Isn’t that all there is to college anyway? Academics. Right?

The answer in this picture from Maverick, “Um, yeah. College is all about academics, honey.”  From Sarah, directly behind Maverick, “But, Mom, don’t you remember telling us about that fraternity? Which one was it?” From Emma, beside her sister, “You’re crazy, Mom. College is about rowing.”

College smollege. All that money. And time. Years spent away from real adults who love them and could home school them. Rowing? We can paddle the Hiwassee in nature any day. Fraternity? For boys, only, dear sweet GIRL.

What happened to the first grade school supply list at Target? Both girls used to jump with glee after purchasing school supplies.  We could do that if we homeschooled. We could have our very own school supply list. At Target. Just like the good old days.

But if they insist on college, I suppose the University of Tennessee is a fine choice. I’m going with you. Just know that.

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Rook

Rook has been a part of our family for generations. My grandfather used to whistle when the bird landed in his fingertips. My grandmother would scold him for cheating. “Port, I’m not gonna play another hand if you keep this up! I’ll call a 180 misdeal if you whistle one more time!”  He whistled again and again. But somehow my grandmother managed to beat him.

Although my grandparents are no longer with us, Rook is alive and well in my family. Not much has changed. Four people gather at the table. We eat a lot of snacks. Popcorn. Cookies. Apple Pies. Smoothies. Chips. One person might have a glass of red wine. Ahem. Maybe even two glasses if the bird doesn’t visit often. Ahem.

This is how it went down last week.

No that is not Dick Cheney. It’s my Dad shuffling the cards. He was happy. He and Sarah were beating Mom and me.

Mom was our diligent score keeper. Then she did something to make Dad angry.

This is not Dick Cheney pouting. It is my Dad. He was irked. Because Mom gave me a small hint that she had the rook. She flapped her arms like a bird or rather, a pterodactyl.

Sarah saw her but did not care because she would have flapped her arms, too. From excitement because she never gets the rook. Ever.

I saw her and did my best to suppress laughter. Mom flapping her arms with false discretion is funny. Plus, I was glad to know my partner would support my amazing hand.  Dad saw her, too. He may have increased the volume of his voice a tiny bit causing blood to rush to his face. But then, Mom just looked at him with innocence.

“I don’t even have the rook! I was stretching my arms! Can’t a woman stretch when she needs to?”

They went back and forth in disagreement until Mom finally admitted her error.

“So I gave a little hint. It’s no big deal. It is my only counting card. So what? Let’s play!”

But Dad was finished. He decided he would not play with arm flappers.

Perhaps, my grandmother was watching from Heaven and managed to get inside Dad’s head. “Don’t take it, son! I put up with your father’s whistling for years! You don’t have to put up with an arm flapper!” But if my grandmother is in Heaven, she would not encourage ill feelings. She has likely forgiven my grandfather for whistling and she would say to all of us, “Enjoy the game!”.

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