Have you entered the storehouses of the snow...Job 38:22

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Smile Sweetie

I live a lot of my life on Facebook.  I suppose that sounds very sad.  And it is.  However, it is how I've kept connections and sanity during the long stint in South Dakota.  People still don't understand how incredibly hard the adjustment (or in my case lack of adjustment) to SD has been.  I've said repeatedly it's not just the weather.  I understand that even some of the locals don't like bad weather.

Last week a Facebook acquaintance from South Dakota made a comment about hating the winter weather.  She's more a friend of a friend, but I've met her a few times.  She's a very overly positive person.  Those people are nice and it works for them.  But sometimes the drippy everything is perfect, make lemonade out of lemons type of people get on my nerves.  I had a friend in Connecticut who was like that too.  We are no longer friends and it is largely because she found my realism too much for her Pollyannistic view of life.  I do miss her though.

After this acquaintance commented on the weather, I made this comment:
When I say that, people get mad at me.

She replied:
I'm only talking about the weather, not the location or the people

Unable to leave it alone, I said:
It doesn't matter what I say - I can just say it's cold or icy and
 people jump down my throat, but oh, I guess that's the people, my bad...

Zing!!! Zingers.... It was obvious she didn't care for me.  It was obvious that she, like a few others in South Dakota feel the need to defend their fair state and its people. 

I wish they could have been with me this week in Tennessee.  While I will confess that the rudeness of Wal-Mart employees can be universal.  I ran into a few of them at Cheatham County's Wal-Mart.  Overall, I was once again amazed at the difference in people.  

Thanksgiving morning, unprepared for the feast, I went to Kroger to correct that situation.  My cart (buggy in the South) was getting full.  No one cut in front of me with their cart.  Those occasional potential corner collisions were met with a smile and an Oh Excuse Me from both us.  When I say oh, excuse me in Brookings, it is usually met with a glare rather than a smile.  

In the parking lot, a young man stood by my car waiting to take my cart, along with his, to it's waiting place in the parking lot.  He didn't work there.  He didn't have to do that.  He said to me, "May I take that Ma'am?"  I said, Oh Thank You - he said have a Happy Thanksgiving Ma'am.  

Then yesterday we made our last ritual stop in Tennessee.  We always stop at the Sudden Service gas station in Pleasant View, TN.  They have a Wendy's, a convenience store and best of all a Dunkin Donuts. One last cup of coffee for the road, and donuts to munch on as we travel.  Heavenly.  My husband paid for our gas purchase.  The young woman behind the counter called him "sweetie" - "Thanks Sweetie."  He is old enough to be her father, and I know it is just habit with her, but it still sounded nice.  

We purchased a few things at Wendy's.  There we heard, have a good day Hun... I guess there is something about cowboy boots and buckles that prevent that kind of endearments?  As I ate my spicy chicken nuggets I heard another woman at the register say to her customer, Ya'all have a blessed day.  You too replied the customer... Ahhh, I hated to leave the south.

Finally, we got our coffee to go.  And of course the sour cream donuts I love so much.  The young woman behind the counter was all smiles.  Her register wasn't working.  She had to go to the back for everything she did... She still smiled.  She went out of her way to be pleasant.  She greeted a regular by name but never missed a beat or a smile in her interactions with me. 

That was a nice way for Tennessee to say good bye to me yesterday.  Soon it will welcome me back home again.  Until then, I'll try to remember not to smile in Brookings and to forget my manners or say excuse me.  I've adjusted.  It is the people.  They are different.  I suppose they aren't bad.  They like each other.  Maybe they even remember to say please and thank you and excuse me among themselves... but they just don't smile.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Faithfulness is more important than happiness

I wonder how many times I have gone through this feeling of dread in the last two and half years.  Has it only been that long?  Two and a half years?   As I count on my fingers, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November…. Yes, it’s actually been two years and eight months since I first saw Brookings SD.  But who’s counting

I’ve written before of my husband’s elation and my sorrow when he first was summoned to work for the people of South Dakota.  I am often chastised because of my comments about the people of South Dakota.  I suppose I view them through my own lens and since I do, I see them differently than someone who finds the Dakotas home.  Some people feel the same way about my beloved Brooklyn.

Today I am heading north again.  I wish this were the last time.  I don’t know when the last time will be, it is just a reality of life now.  I am reminded of the words of my professor, “It’s not for forever but it is for now.”  It just is.  It is how my life is lived at this present moment in time.  I live like a yo-yo on a string being pulled here and there seemingly against my will.

Yet, it is my choice.  I could stay in Tennessee.  I’ve always had that choice to stay here.  I have a home here.  I have children here.  And in retrospect, the correct decision would have been to stay here.  It is my husband who is bound to the people of South Dakota, not me.  Yet, I am bound to him in this love relationship of 32 years.  Over and over, every time I get in that car to head north I am saying “I do…for better or worse.” 

I want to stay here.  I can’t describe to you how I feel when I come home.  I am sure you know the feeling of coming home.  But this is different.  There is a lightness and a contentment that comes over me that is hard to describe.  Today I have the opposite of that feeling.  Today I feel the dread and angst of not just two days of being in a small car, but of returning to a place that is not home.

Like the marines, there are a few good people in South Dakota.  I’ve met some of them.  There is the professor at the seminary who I’ve only met briefly in person who still cheers me on and encourages me.  What a gift!  There are the beautiful friends I’ve made at Grandview Covenant Church.  They are true gems.  I have been so blessed to know them.  I feel the same sadness of leaving that I feel now when I think of the day I will not see them.  Then there is my un-coffee buddy.  She’s help me cope in ways she can’t imagine.  And my wise woman – the wise woman who has known my darkest secrets and my deepest pain and held my hand as I walked through a maze of despair.

In a couple of hours I’ll get in my tiny 2003 red Chevy Cavalier, what a story I could tell you about that car.  Like me, she’s old but she has been so faithful.  I’m being faithful today too.  I am returning with my husband to South Dakota because it is the right thing to do.  Sometimes I get tired of doing the right thing.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t have this strong moral compass telling me to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or telling me to “love unconditionally.”  But I do have this compass, and ultimately I am thankful for it.  I think it is the compass that guided 32 years of marriage. 

Today I’ll renew my vows again.  I will forsake all others and keep myself to my husband.  I will say “I do” not with the giddy joy of a bride, but with the wisdom of an old woman.  A wisdom that tells me that faithfulness is more important than happiness. 

Someday we will say good bye to South Dakota.  Someday I will have one place to live again.  Someday… but that day is not today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That Four Letter Word S--W

I had a good day yesterday.  That's odd for South Dakota.  Although perhaps it's not as odd as I make it out to be on this blog.  The problem never has been really South Dakota, the problem was always me.  South Dakota does make me crazy.  South Dakota does make me sad.  South Dakota has drug me to the pits of depression. However, it's really not because South Dakota is some how inherently evil.  It just is like oil and vinegar, or any other two elements that can never fully integrate, I am not a good in South Dakota.

It's fine to say that South Dakota can't change for me, to say that it is me who has to change to accommodates it's ways, it's weather, it's idiosyncrasies, it's people.  But I can't.  I've tried. I can however, learn to navigate this hostile terrain safely.

There was a bit of rain yesterday that was a harbinger of the snow to come.  I've been checking weather.com, accuweather.com, weatherbug and the national weather service.  All with the anticipation of the dreaded four letter word, snow.

When I was a kid, I think I loved snow.  I remember building snow forts.  While I pine away with romanticized visions of life in Brooklyn, Brooklyn has changed perhaps even more than I have.  There are but scan few Norwegians left in my old neighborhood.  8th Avenue is a China Town.  The 17 of May parade, still held in Brooklyn, now marches in a different direction on a different Avenue. Salem Gospel Tabernacle is no longer Salem, it is Sunset Park Community church.  There are no string bands or Smörgåsbord or Juletree Fests.  But it still snows in Brooklyn.  Snow seems to be a constant in my life.

I had a conversation about snow today with my husband.  It really wasn't about snow.  It was about me and snow.  I've been doing all this weather checking because I have to head south again for class on Saturday.  I was contemplating do I leave tomorrow or Thursday.  Two days of driving in a little 2003 Chevy Cavalier that like me, is feeling her age.  I've driven in extreme snow many times and survived.  But I'd rather not do it again.
Cows, South Dakota and Snow - all synonymous
Oh I signed on for this so I supposed I shouldn't complain.  But here is where this all comes together.  Snow can be predicted but is always unpredictable.  A slight change can dump more snow or less snow.  Today's snow will not be like tomorrow's snow.  The snow in Brooklyn is a different experience than the snow in Missouri.  The trace snow in Tennessee does not compare to the mountains of snow in Connecticut. And of course nothing is like the powdery whiteout blizzards of South Dakota.

I want predictable.  Oh not that I'm not fun loving and like adventure and new experiences, I do... but when they are done, I want predictable.  I want to know that if I plan to go to Tennessee on this day, that's the day I'll go.  I want to know that if I plan to get up in the morning and do this or that, that by the time the day is over I've done this or that.  I want only occasional changes in my life-not constant the every day something changes patterns of my life here.

Thats the problem here in South Dakota -- besides the cows and the rudeness and all the other things I complain about, the real problem is me.  I want some stability.  I want to know where home is.  I want to not have my life reordered and changed.  Like the rapid changing weather patterns here in this Storehouse of Snow, I find the changes paralyzing and depressing.  If the weather has to change, can it not change so fast? Can I have a warning that it's changing?

My husband's job makes extreme demands on him.  He's become a soldier - no I don't mean he's joined the military, I mean he is a soldier.  He's always ready for the changes and demands. He sets aside his emotions and just does it. He never checks the weather reports.  He never considers whether the weather might change.  He just packs up and goes.  I can't do that - that's why he's adjusted to South Dakota and all the places we've lived so much faster than I have.

Snow is coming - change is coming - and it keeps coming - the cold dark depression of winter is setting in to South Dakota.  I'm not ready for it.  I don't think I will ever be ready for it.  But it will come nonetheless.  I will drive tomorrow, or the next day and go south.  I will have Thanksgiving at "home" - if it is home? in Tennessee.  Then I'll return to the snow and leave again in a few days.  Such is life right now -- constant change impinging on a life that wants stability.

Until then, I guess I need to lace up my boots, button my coat, tie my scarf and navigate through another South Dakota winter.