Saturday, February 14, 2009

Southern Comfort

Sometimes it still startles me that I live in the South--and by that I mean the true, cliche-heavy South. That's quite silly, of course, since I have lived here my entire life. (Living three and a half years in Kansas City as a tot doesn't exempt me from being a lifelong Southerner, no matter what they tell you.)

I long ago realized that certain aspects of my environment I'd always taken for granted are not universal--for example, the slower pace of life, the simple country fashions, the propensity to deep-fry anything, the potluck culture, the always entertaining array of things on front porches. I could go on and on. Heck, there's probably a whole slew of things I never even think of being different, I'm so used to them. 

Sometimes, though, I'm still taken aback. 

The other day, driving home in my Scion XB from picking up Marlowe at doggie daycare, a pickup--one of the little ones, old and low to the ground--moseyed along the road in front of the intersection where I was stopped, made a slow right turn, and rolled onto the gravel and weeds that made up the front yard directly in front of me. This gave me plenty of time to silently gape at the traveling cliche I was witnessing. 

First, the tiny cab held two skinny passengers--men who looked like they might know their way around a meth lab--and one droopy eared hound dog. This in itself is not unusual, of course. What made me pause was the bed of the truck, which contained not only a crushed velvet, duct-tape-patched gold recliner, but reclining all his mass in said recliner was a huge, tall, heavy man in denim overalls and a flannel shirt, picking at his teeth with a length of straw. Yes, actual straw. He had long, gray scraggly hair, mud on his overalls, and not a care in the world. That man was as content atop his Chevy chariot as any man I have ever seen.

Having reached their destination, he hauled himself out of the recliner, kind of reluctantly, lunged out of the truck over the side with a  big humph. I drove--slowly--past and he gave me a kindly nod of his head as he made his way after the other fellas to have a set on the hardscrabble front porch. I didn't dally to see if they pulled out a fiddle and the 'baccy or just started chewing on some corn on the cob and talking about the ol' fishing hole, but they all looked to be in splendid spirits. 

It really looked comfortable, and at the speeds they were going, about as safe as a parade float. I gotta say, I was a little envious.

For all the times I gripe about what we don't have here, scenes like that make me appreciate all we do. I have to believe that there is a higher-than-average percentage of our population that is almost completely un-self-conscious. They are who they are, and Jesus loves them for it, so why wouldn't everyone else? I love living somewhere so colorful and rich with its own slow-ripened culture. It challenges me and sustains me in ways I don't often notice. For all its problems, this is a good, beautiful place.

Yep, I'm happily a Southerner, through and through. Even without owning overalls. 

Friday, February 13, 2009


I haven't written anything in a bit because I have been a complete and utter slug. Look at the state of my housekeeping the past couple of weeks, and it really doesn't seem that outrageous to think I could be leaving a trail of slime in my wake. 

Ben commented the other night that I'm the only person he knows who really does use her laptop on top of her lap most of the time. I disputed this, reminding him of my sister and probably the countless other people we know who use laptops as God intended them, but I didn't miss his larger point. Lately, it's not just that most of the time that I use my laptop it's in my lap, but that I have the laptop in my lap most of the time. 

I've developed what is probably a very bad habit. Every day, I build a sort of nest for myself on the couch. In the morning before Ben leaves for work, I scuttle over to the couch and put my feet up under me in some way (I have a very hard time sitting straightforward on a couch, or anywhere). I have my three or four throw pillows that I position around myself in various configurations. Then there are the two comfy afghans I use--part of the time for warmth as I am perpetually cold, and the other part to build up a sort of ledge on which to balance the computer, or my lunch, or my notes I'm transcribing--generally sort of a giant U of afghan curled around me. 

Then there's the ever-handy wooden TV tray table that I've pulled up next to the couch. It at the moment has scraps of junk mail and bills to be paid, two half-empty soda cans, three used paper plates with remembrances of lunches past on them, two bowls, a disposable Gladware container with the rinds of two clementines, two spoons, my favorite brush, a bag of cat treats and a box of Kleenex. I make sure in the morning that I have my cell phone and cordless phone and pen and paper within reach, and thus--except to get food or go to the bathroom--I don't really have to get dressed or leave my perch all day. 

From here, I can check e-mail, edit photos, make calls, interview physicians, write articles, pay bills, apply for jobs, check in with the blogs I frequent, comment on Facebook, work on my own writing, surf the Web, learn new things, read interesting articles, check the news and analysis sites, pretty much anything a gal could want. 

If I want a change of pace, move the afghans and pillows and --voila--there's the other side of the couch! Today, I'm working on the left side; this is new and exciting and adds variety to my day. 

Then, around 4 or 5 o'clock, I take the dog for a 20- to 30-minute walk, pick up groceries maybe, and make dinner. Once dinner is done, back to my MacNest I go. Whether I'm reading, watching TV or a movie, or just chatting with Ben, my trusty laptop is almost always less than a laptop away. Again, I am here most of the evening. I think Ben's growing jealous of my time.

What I've not been doing lately is moving much. There's the walk with the dog, but it's not much of a workout. I have become even more of a giant sedentary blob than I thought possible. I remember back when I was taking taekwondo, I would revel at the fact that I had once gone whole days without really moving my body much. Now, I revel that I ever did so many workouts. The taekwondo workouts are gone, and those inert days are back. 

The other thing I've not done much of lately is interact with live, breathing, fully flesh-and-blood people sharing the same air as me. I don't feel socially deprived at all because I keep up with so many friends online, but I think I'm probably missing something important. 

I'm a little bit crippled because of a chronically sore heel I have to get fixed, but still. I want to find more opportunities to get out of my nest, enjoy the world. Maybe even unplug for a while. 

Yet, I just love my computer world so much. Maybe I can take it with me on walks, introduce it to new people? 

Somehow, I think I'm going to have to think bigger than that. It's going to take more than the other side of the couch to find that balance.