Friday, July 29, 2011

Wicked Sparkle

If you've seen Wicked (and by 'seen'  Wicked I mean the musical, not the horrendous rubbish that is the book) I'm sure you assume this Sparkle blog will be all about Galinda.  Truly, Galinda does Sparkle.  Just look at her in her pink ballgown next to Elphaba's black frock.  She's radiant, but she peaks early.

From the moment Galinda is carried into 'dear old Shiz' on top of a brass-hinged trunk in her starched white traveling suit, surely purchased from Oz's answer to Ann Taylor, she positively beams.

As the girls' story unfolds, however, Galinda loses herself.  She is overrun with feelings of jealous loathing for Elphaba, and her confidence is shaken...shaken to the point that she changes her name in a desperate plight to fit in.

By intermission you see Elphaba's Sparkle shining through her green-hued skin.  What she lacks in 'the proper poise when you talk to boys' she makes up in bravery and a refusal to back down from her beliefs.  As she 'defies gravity', every person in the audience begins to feel an inner-Elphie rising up.

I've been lucky enough to see Wicked twice now, and have chatted about the musical with many friends.  There is a general consensus that we all see ourselves as Elphaba.  Even my most Galinda of friends identify more with Elphie.  So what does this say about us?  Galinda is obviously the Barbie princess of the story.  Boys fall all over themselves to impress her, all the girls take her side, her 'Momsie and Popsicle' dote upon her endlessly, and she travels by bubble for heaven's sake.  Yet, we all want to be the 'froggy, ferny, cabbage'.  Elphaba's strength through adversity and ability to forgive overshadows Galinda's too-obvious Sparkle.  She lets Galinda and Fiyero see inside her tough exterior and is forever 'changed for good' by that choice.  Letting others in is terrifying.  They'll see the crazy you are underneath, but if you're lucky they'll eventually 'melt' a little and show you their own crazy too.  Be brave and Sparkle through new friendships.  'As terrifying as terror is' you won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Sparkly Town I Love

Almost two years ago Josh, Ava and I made Norman our home (click here to relive that moment with us).  Norman is like that friend who grows more attractive the longer you know them.  You know the one I'm talking about.  When you first met you were like, "Yeah, she's cute...but not so cute we can't be friends."  The longer you're friends though, you watch her.  Her hands are capable of tasks you could never manage.  Her eyes catch things you don't see but glance over your imperfections.  Her words soothe your hurts and encourage you when you're not sure you can go on.  One day you look up and realize she's not just cute, she's radiant.  And that, my friends, is Norman.  Instead of gushing out a never-ending paragraph with very little punctuation that you'd never read through, I've decided to make my Sparkly love letter to our town in list form.  Non-Norman folks may want to skip this post.  Fellow Norman residents are encouraged to comment with something you love about this town.  I know I'm going to forget something!
  • Folks here, for the most part, are just ridiculously warm.   I know I can only speak from our experience, but we've been loved on and taken care of in ways I could never have imagined.  For example: we're living in a ridiculous house for absolutely nothing, friends have shared their museum, zoo, theater, pool, waterpark passes so that we hardly ever pay to do anything, with one posting on FB we'll have three separate people volunteer to keep Ava, and people are truly thankful when we cook, help out, or even just show up at an event.
  • We have made friends in really normal places, like church and law school.  However, we've made just as many in unusual places, like the park, Chick-Fil-A bathrooms, and Hobby Lobby fabric-cutting lines.  I love that people still speak to one another here, even if you're a stranger you won't be for long.
  • The Farmer's Market that runs from April through October is fantastic.  With one long stare from Ava's baby blue eyes the farmers will hand over her favorite tiny yellow tomatoes and refuse my money in return.  When the Bave miscounts how many honeysticks she can buy for $1, the booth owner will not let me pay the difference...taking a high 5 from Ava instead.  Not only is the food we purchase at the Farmer's Market better for our bodies, the shopping experience is just good for the soul.
  • I love that the City of Norman's motto is "Building an Inclusive Community".  How refreshing.
  • Even situations that should be terrifyingly traumatic, like tornadoes and blizzards, are exciting.  Everyone just stocks up on delicious food, gets to a safe place, packs in with a ton of friends and rides out the storm together.
  • The public library here is superb, and the children's department gives Disneyworld a run for its money as the happiest place on earth.
  • Our Wonderful Church (OWC), NorthHaven Church, is one of the main reasons I cannot imagine ever leaving this town.  There aren't enough words for me to describe just how authentic, missional and humble the church is.  You'll have to click around the website and see for yourself.
  • Norman has a small-town feel, but is big enough that people aren't constantly in your business.  After being here almost two years, it's odd to run an errand and not see someone I know - but it's always a person I like.  This town is just magical like that.  It's also close enough to Oklahoma City (15 minutes tops) that you still have access to the 'big city'.
  • Norman is the first place that's really felt like home to our little family.  We moved here without knowing anyone, but have cultivated a group of family-like friends who continue to blow us away with their kindness.  Any time we're gone for a while and return, a tension between my shoulders instantly relaxes the moment we cross city limits.  I can breathe here.  We are home here.  We are thankful for our Sparkly hometown.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Sparkly Couple I Admire

A few weeks ago Josh and I had the opportunity to go to Washington DC. He was attending an international law something or other and I was along for the ride. The trip itself was pure Sparkle. It was our first time to really go away just the two of us since before Ava James. We both enjoyed being in a REAL city. After growing up in tiny towns and cow pastures, the energetic buzz of population and politics was positively seductive.

We were thrilled to spend some time at several Smithsonian Museums. The exhibits we were most looking forward to were at the American History Museum. Josh saw his childhood mentor Kermit the frog, and I saw Dorothy's ruby slippers. They were just as dreamy as we imagined.

Then we came to Julia Child's kitchen exhibit.

I never expected to be so moved. When we entered the warmly lit space Julia's throaty voice was wafting through the speakers, and images of her sloppily stuffing bird carcasses flickered across the screens.

If you've seen Julie & Julia, or know anything about Julia's life, you know that she was a mess. Her food wasn't perfect and she was clumsy and awkward. Not only did she realize this, but she could laugh at herself. She showed SNL's parody of her to friends at parties.

After serving as a researcher in World War 2, where she was awarded for having "drive and inherent cheerfulness", she pursued her passion for cooking.

I feel a connection to Julia in many ways. How cooking is "an opening up of the soul and spirit". I love that she was 32 before she learned to cook. She didn't hatch from a Martha-shaped egg, automatically good at everything.

More than any of these things, my strongest connection to Julia is Paul.

Julia said of Paul:

He introduced her to fine French cooking, encouraged her to learn to cook, provided her a space to follow her passions, and absolutely loved her like crazy.

Paul said of Julia:

I think the reason the Julia exhibit resulted in me sobbing uncontrollably is because I truly identify with her. I'm awkward and clumsy, tall and gawky, my food is never perfect. I'm still waiting to start my real grown up job, the one that's my passion and makes my heart sing. I'm a mess and a handful, but Josh loves and supports me through it all. I see so much of our relationship in Paul and Julia's, and it's humbling and encouraging at the same time. Somehow they were able to achieve amazing Sparkly feats doing exactly what they loved, and all the while falling even more in love with each other. May it be so with the two of us.

"Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
~Julia Child

Click here to take a virtual tour of Julia's kitchen.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bops that Sparkle

I never thought I would love my breasts. I dreaded their arrival when, at the beginning of fifth grade, the mysterious training bra outline appeared underneath my girlfriends’ shirts. Did they know that everyone could see? Even the boys? I would cringe each time an oblivious girl would wear a white t-shirt, almost begging a mischievous male to pop the elastic band. When my mom gently suggested that I should start wearing one, just to get used to how they feel, I reluctantly agreed. I was careful to select only thick, dark colored tops that would never reveal my secret. Layering was key. The only thing worse than the fear of someone spotting my training bra was the incessant pinching and squeezing. The best part of each day was awkwardly pulling the beastly bra off, always through my left sleeve – a habit I still have today.

In seventh grade some of my friends actually needed a bra, making the switch from soft training bra to a more form-fitting undergarment. Watching the girls I’d grown up with begin to take shape was surreal. Soon I could tell who was wearing a bra not only by the crisscross on their back, but by slight shapes in the front. I impatiently joined the ranks of girls waiting for signs of development, wondering what our figures would look like by the time of the homecoming dance. It seemed that over the span of a weekend a chest could sprout. The rest of us – the un-blossomed - would quiz the most recent boob recipient. What did you eat? Did you sleep on your stomach or back? What soap do you use? Are you doing a special exercise? The wealth of development advice, though well intentioned, did not produce dependable results. It seemed no combination of pectoral flexing, scrubbing with a pink Dove soap bar, stomach sleeping and jet-puffed marshmallows would produce breasts every time. The method of helping each other grow up that we’d always enjoyed had failed us. When the first person in Kindergarten had lost their tooth, we’d all taken his “eat an apple” advice to heart. Before the week was through most of us had a visit from the Tooth Fairy. When one girl’s big sister taught her to write her name in cursive in first grade, she’d helped us all connect our curvy letters at recess that day. Something had changed now. Our bodies were not under our control, and no amount of friendly advice could make them so.

By high school we had stopped discussing how to get breasts, and began whispering about who should consider an underwire. The boys also noticed. After years of keeping bra talk ‘girls only’, at slumber parties and changing for PE, it had spread to the other locker room. The hierarchy of desirable girls to date was directionally proportional to cup size, or so it seemed to those of us with A’s. Words like miracle, push-ups, rubber chicken cutlets, and stuffing began circulating. The over-the-weekend blossoming in middle school was nothing compared to the phenomenon that occurred in high school. A girl could start the day a band nerd with mosquito bites and by lunch attain a perfect C and a date with a senior. Those of us with high moral standards refused to stuff, or at least did it gradually so no one would notice.

In the beginning of my college days I loathed my small chest, but was either too lazy or too busy to do much about it. Given the choice of a few extra minutes of sleep or correctly positioning superfluous bra padding, I would choose sleep every time. Boys didn’t seem to matter as much, and the girls were more focused on studying than gossiping about bra size. I didn’t particularly love my figure, but for the first time since age eleven breast worries were not at the forefront of my mind.

One hot Texas summer I worked at a camp, and spent the entire week in the most unflattering sports bra. Temperatures soared over 100 degrees and most of our activities were outside. As I worked with the group of gawky sixth graders, I watched them struggle through many of the same body issues I had. There was, of course, the one twelve-year-old who looked like Malibu Barbie. I secretly pledged my allegiance to the awkward, frizzy-haired girl who only wore a tank top underneath her shirt. One of my co-counselors was a blue-eyed, southern-drawled, oh so handsome boy. By Wednesday we’d confessed our undying love, despite my so flat chest. If he could love me sweaty and unsupported, I knew he was the one.

That fall I watched my grandmother fight to keep her breasts. Refusing to lose her life, or even miss too many days of work, she endured agonizing procedures and nauseating chemotherapy. In the end she did lose one of her breasts, but stood strong through it all. This woman, whose figure was once so like mine, won the battle with cancer. Through her pain I learned to accept my own shape.

A few years later that summer-love-turned-husband and I were expecting a sweet baby girl. We watched in wonder as my A’s turned into C’s during the rounding of pregnancy. When our daughter was born I chose to breastfeed. I heard horror stories about banana-shaped breasts, stretch marks and sagging that can occur after breastfeeding. One woman assured me that my breasts would most definitely shrink even smaller than before if I nursed longer than six months. Watching my Ava fill her tiny tummy with milk gave everlasting meaning and purpose to this once-vexing body part. The superficial chest requirements that had plagued me for so long quickly faded away, though I am pleased to report that after eighteen months of nursing the only bananas are in our fruit bowl. The journey from the dread of development to the realization of function took many turns. How thankful I am that through my daughter’s dependence on me, I finally learned to love my breasts.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Like Desmond and Molly Jones

Six years ago today, on January 1, 2005, Josh and I were married.
If you didn't see last year's post on our anniversary click here.

Below are a few of my favorite pictures from our wedding.

The chapel

Sweet bridesmaids

Handsome groomsmen and ushers

About to head down the aisle

Seeing each other for the first time

First glimpse on the wedding day

A few peaceful moments before the fun begins

Josh seeing the dress for the first time

Raines and Lockett families

Wedding party prayer before the ceremony

Happy at the reception

Mr. and Mrs. Lockett

Windy love


After placing Josh in a secure headlock and threatening severely We each made a list of things we've learned over the past six years of marriage.

Autumn's list
  • Boys shirts are great to sleep in
  • His eyes on a tiny baby are pure magic
  • Two people make 5X as many dirty dishes as one, and three people make 10X as many
  • Crappy, or awkward, or sad, or hurtful situations are 'doable' with my Josh
  • Since he likes the same kind of books I do, my book budget doubled
  • Never, ever, EVER smell test socks. Assume they are dirty. Just wash them.
  • It's okay to be a total dork, since I married someone just as dorky
  • Watching him love on Ms. Ava soaks in even quicker than him loving on me
  • He's so brave to slay the dragons in our life, like checking the bank account and opening scary bill mail
  • How to love and be loved in the highs and lows (of course, I'm still learning this one)
Josh's list:
  • I married someone with the best qualities of Mary Poppins, Julia Childs, Maria Montessori and Martha Stewart all rolled into one person.
  • IKEA wasn't lying, three people can life in less than 700 square feet
  • It's more fun to dream and plan for life with another person
  • Contrary to popular opinion, law school is easier married than single
  • Autumn can make mundane, everyday life extremely entertaining and exciting (like a trip to the storage facility-a.k.a. The Magical Land of Doors)
  • Autumn loves me so much, she made another smaller, cuter version of me
  • I'm not always right (I'm getting a second opinion on this though)
  • I am lucky to have married such an amazing woman

Here we are six years ago, on our way to the honeymoon.

"In a couple of years they have built a home sweet home,

with a 'couple' of kids running in the yard of Desmond and Molly Jones...

lala how the life goes on."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How my Aloe Vera plant is a little like Kanye West

You've heard of cutters, people who habitually slice themselves for various reasons. I'm a burner. Not a Bunsen Burner, but someone whose skin is inexplicably drawn to crazy hot things - curling irons, tops of ovens, handles of sizzling skillets. I've always been a clutz, always. Picture me, age 16, trying to explain to my boyfriend why my I'm the only grandkid still using a sippy cup at Thanksgiving. Even my brother, seven years my junior, graduated to a 'big kid' cup before I did. But I digress.

My Sparkly friend, Stacy, saw a pattern of burning Facebook statuses last spring, and brought me this darling Aloe Vera plant. I have a black thumb, so I did not have much hope for the little plant. But Stacy assured me that a tiny bit of water would sustain it. She was right. It stayed green for months, frequently sacrificing its healing gel to my searing wounds in return for infrequent watering. We were the best of friends. Flash forward to about a month ago. After a particularly brutal burn, and subsequent leaf-butchering, I thought it would be a good idea to give the Aloe Vera some sunshine.

Well, after a few chilly nights spent forgotten outside, my plant was rusty brown and droopy. I glumly returned it to its rightful, warm place on the bathtub, poured a cup of water in the dirt, and hoped for the best.

Within two days the Aloe Vera had not only fully recovered, but its leaves were thicker and healthier than ever.

Not only that, it had little Aloe Vera baby sprouts growing all around!

And that's when I told Josh that my Aloe Vera plant was a little like Kanye West. My poor, patient husband is so accustomed to my non sequiturs. He didn't even blink, just paused and waited for me to explain.

"No, it doesn't accuse presidents of being racist, or counsel its friends to 'tap your brakes and drive slow homie'.

The Kanye West-ish thing about my Aloe Vera plant is -

N-n-now that that don't kill me
Can only make me stronger

Don't act like I never told ya'."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spooky Sparkle

His icy fingers patiently, discreetly trace the links on the swing's chain. Glancing at the trees in anticipation of the mounting breeze. Barely more than a draft, and he knows that he needs at least a gust. A gust is all it takes to transform the swing path from gentle sway into a playful cadence. A natural, but jaunty rhythm that they won't notice. The family won't know.

The family can't know. He lingers unobserved, but always present. He shies from their company as they push their smiling girl back and forth, her legs can't reach the ground. Her weight obliges more than wind for motion. The girl's pink skin soaks in the sunshine that seers and stings his transparency. But the moonlight nourishes and soothes him. So he waits, thankful for the hours of nighttime vacancy. The slide is useless to him, no mass to begin the descent. The height of the playhouse gives him no pleasure, he who can soar to the stars. But the swing is his solace.

Suddenly a gale, a tempest before the morn. Midnight's breath rocks him to sleep, a peace more tranquil than any mother's arms.

a note about the story's origin-
I've glanced out our back window so many times to see the swings pitching in the Oklahoma wind. I often imagine that I see this little one enjoying the swings when he thinks no one else is looking...