In Honor of Turning Twenty-Six (Part 1)

This life of mine, so far, has been everything but uneventful. From my early childhood to now, so many experiences have shaped me and made me the person that I am. I believe that life should be a constant thirst for knowledge and enlightenment. I also believe that the day you think you know everything, is the day you stop really living. So, in honor of my 26th birthday, here’s a list of 26 things I love that I’ve learned in my life so far.

#26- I love that I know how to use power tools and regular ol’ tools. Growing up, I was attached to my grandpa at the hip. He was a mechanic and I was elbow deep in grease at his shop with him at the early age of 4. And aside from his job, he was the only handy man our house ever met. In my young life, there was no such thing as hiring someone to do anything for you. He was willing to teach me things, and I was willing to learn.

#25- I love that I know how to mow the lawn. It was a favorite of mine when I was young. We had, at that time, 2 1/2 acres of grass that needed to be mowed weekly. We had two John Deere riding lawn mowers. I would get on the smaller one, and my grandma or grandpa would get on the bigger one. On a warm summer’s night we’d fire em up and they would take the first lap in a clockwise circle around the property. And then I’d jump in behind, aligning my right tires with their left and off we’d go. It got it done in half the time. Even though I wouldn’t have minded it taking longer. It gave me time to sing Patsy Cline, Reba, and Blind Melon at the top of my lungs without anyone hearing. Priceless memory. We started doing this when I was about 5. And as I got older I would take the liberty of mowing the lawn as needed. I loved that so much.

#24- I love that I learned archery. When I was about 8, my grandpa passed down one of his old bows to me. It was a very standard bow. Before they were made with all the bells and whistles like they are now. It was red and had black electric tape on the grip to keep the original one in tact. He loosened the pulleys on it so that the resistance was easy on me. We made our own arrows from a kit that he bought at the local hunting store, sharpened them on a belt and everything. We went and got a number of targets from the store and I remember thinking to myself that I was going to get so good at this that I would hit the bulls-eye every time. And I would make him proud. Now- I wasn’t that good. But I was alright! He, on the other hand, never missed a beat. He eventually bought me a bigger bow that was black and really sleek. I used it a few times and eventually my desire to shoot arrows into the fake deer fizzled. I still hold those memories close, though.

#23- I love that my grandparents are avid antique collectors. There were a lot of weekends they would take me to estate sales. Now, back in Oklahoma there’s a lot of old money. And mostly, the people who lived in these homes, spent most if not all of their lives there. Going into these people’s homes really taught me that you can tell a lot about a person by what they collect and hold on to. Searching out valuable items really taught me that something beautiful, rare, and that has a lot of worth isn’t always right in your face. Some times we really had to dig through these folks’ things. Learning all about them in the process. There was one purchase in particular that really sticks out. There was an estate sale right next to my grandpa’s shop. He had been there for 25+ years already, and he knew that the woman that had lived in that house had been there for MANY years before that. He worked on her car for her a few times. He didn’t tell us until we got there that he had just went ahead and bought the whole estate. The WHOLE estate. And the reason he brought us all there…. well… we’d find out when we walked it. It was the summer time, and in Oklahoma the summer sun doesn’t mess around. When my grandma opened that door I damn near fell over because of the horrid smell that spilled out of that house. I knew it without having to ask, and I also knew that she must have been left in that house for quite sometime for it to smell like that. Anyway- the house was a MESS! Trash and food and newspapers everywhere. Cat food and mouse traps were so thick, you couldn’t even walk through. And guess what?! We had to clean that whole mother fucking house out, in the heat, with the smell, with no air. Good thing the house was fairly small. It had an upstairs, but it was just a staircase that led to a very small room. Once we got through all the trash (which by the way, also had to be looked at piece by piece because I almost threw away an old railroad bond that was just laying in a pile of cat shit) it was time to go through the rest. We spent every weekend for a month cleaning that sucker out. But after it was done, some of the things we pulled out of that house were incredible. One thing I still have is this old floor lamp. I restored it myself, and I’ve had it with me since I was about 12. Well, I also have what that old, nasty, stinky house taught me. And there are no words for that. The grandparents now have so many antiques from over the years of collecting that they’ve had to build 3 dedicated buildings on their property to hold all of their findings.

#22- I love that I know how to clean a tanning bed. Actually, run a whole tanning salon for that matter. When I was 7, my grandmother and aunt (my mom’s little sister) opened a tanning salon called “Bay Tan”. I helped them paint it to get it started, and I worked there when I got out of school and every weekend. They paid me $3.00/hour, and sometimes I’d have a friend come with me and I’d split it with them. They thought it was fun and it was helpful when it got busy. My job was to clean the beds after people got out. Sometimes there was so much sweat, I’d have to clean it multiple times. Yuck! I also did all the laundry, sanitized the goggles, vacuumed, and emptied trash cans. Now. Let me tell you something. Sometimes these lazy people would PISS in the TRASH can of the tanning room. Here I am a middle school kid cleaning people’s piss and sweat. The bad part about it was that I had to look them in the eye the next time they’d come in. Most of our customers were very loyal, and I remember everything! I learned a lot of humility from that. And I also ran the front desk when my aunt or grandma had to step out. And from that, I learned to love people of all different walks of life. As I said, most of the customers were very loyal. And they loved to talk to the kiddo working the whole salon on her own. Also- this is where I met my first love when I was 8. His mom was one of my favorite, if not THE favorite customer. She always told me how much he would love me and she’d bring him in to meet me. And she was right. We had a very special bond for many years. Still do. Even though we aren’t as close, per se. I’d still do anything for that guy. And he feels the same. That salon was a big part of my life.

#21- I feel lucky that I learned not to discriminate at a young age. When I was 6, my mom told me that she was a homosexual. She used those exact words. I remember because for some reason she felt compelled to tell me when I came home from school one day and found her in her bathroom peeing. I thought,

“Why on earth couldn’t you have told me like… after you flush or something?”

She was an interesting person who did a lot of wrong in life. But if she taught me anything, it’s that we are all equal. And it’s not right or fair to judge or discriminate. And I was able to take that with me my whole life. All through school and even now. People, then, didn’t understand why I was so accepting and I caught a lot of shit for that. But I didn’t care. Because you know what? That was my mom. And someone else’s mom or dad might be, and you just never know what a person is going through. And I will never forget her telling me and teaching me and not hiding who she was from me. That’s the only thing I can thank her for besides giving birth to me. Thanks Mom.

#20- I love that I’ve had the same baby quilt (not blanket. Big dif) since before I was born. The second my great grandparents found out my mom was pregnant, they hand stitched me a quilt and it was done before I was fully baked. Growing up, all I knew is that I loved my blanket (almost as much as I loved the amazing people who made it for me). And like most toddlers, it went with me everywhere. I can’t remember what age it hit me how much effort and love went into it. But it was around the time I started sewing a lot, which was in junior high. It’s taught me that when people love you and make an effort to make you a life long gift, you should cherish it forever and never let it go. A little while back I posted on Twitter a picture of my daughter kicked back in her stroller. If you look close enough, in the bottom of her stroller is that quilt. And one day, I can teach her the extent of their love and tell her all about them and how wonderful they are. And that’s something you don’t just learn. You feel it forever. I’m lucky to be able to share such a legacy with her. She would absolutely love them.

That’s all I can do tonight. Beneath the tears, my eyes are literally crossing. I have a feeling this will be a 3-parter! So hang in there with me, guys!

Until next time!