Saturday, March 26, 2011

Us and Them

The government winks
the economy sinks
and the Gulf Coast stinks
like dead fish
habitat on the brink
while the industry shrinks
but we all do the same
play the game
shift the blame
just keep it off my dish

BP-British Petroleum
It’s only fair to hold them
responsible but it ain’t us and them
its them and us,
them for us,
them because of us.
yeah, us –the users, the cruisers, the losers
the do or die gotta get mine
pushing the need to fill the greed consumers
no time to count the cost
consider the lives lost
for the gas in our cars
and these drawn out wars
or did you really think we were only fighting terrorism?

Operation freedom
the freedom to operate without fear, abuse, oppression
the push for women’s liberation
but if this is really the goal of the nation and its creed
then somebody please tell me
why the hell aren’t we in Darfur?
Or is this what happens when our moral high ground
hits a political no fly zone,
a no economic gain zone
a no resource to reclaim zone?
Only life and death hang in the balance.
No great tragedy of finance.

Oil bubbles in the sea
we wonder how this will trouble me?
Blood bubbles in the street
the slash of a machete across a child’s heartbeat
and we return to a familiar retreat
Better them than us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Fourteen months and one week later, my eyes popped open and I sat straight up in bed with one thought: I’m getting married today. I smiled to myself. Then came another sudden and pressing thought: Oh God, I’m gonna throw up.

I jumped to my feet and slumped over the toilet while the wonderful lasagna from our rehearsal dinner made an unexpected and unpleasant encore appearance. My dad came down the hall and peeked into the room. Being the loving, compassionate father that he is, he took one look and yelled, “Fran, she’s puking!” before breaking into hysterical laughter. “Like mother, like daughter.” I heard as he drifted back down the hall. Yep. Apparently, I inherited my mom’s wedding-day-hurling-gene. What can I say? I was a bundle of nerves.

I don’t remember many details about the ceremony. The music was nice. The bridal party was lovely. Tim sang to me. I do remember telling him that if he noticed me looking over his shoulder as he sang, it wasn’t because I was secretly in love with his best man. It was just because I was fighting the urge to cry and needed a distraction.

Probably the most moving part of the ceremony was when Tim and I sang together. “One Hand, One Heart” was the prayer song in the mock wedding scene from West Side Story; the scene that I couldn’t get through without crying because I could see our wedding day so vividly in my mind’s eye. No other song could have been more perfect.

“Make of our hands, one hand.
Make of our hearts, one heart
Make of our vows, one last vow
Only death will part us now.”

I guess you could say we had come full circle; a struggling stage romance that flew in the face of everyone’s expectations.

So, there you have it. Just a couple of clueless teenagers dazzled by firelight; college kids held fast by divine chords of love; and now –older, much, much older but still growing deeper in like, deeper in love, and deeper in yeah, that other “l” word, everyday.

Greater love stories have been told but…this one is all ours.

Oh, the honeymoon?! You didn’t really expect me to share everything now, did you? Hmmmm. ;-)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


No matter what I tried, the lump only grew larger. My shoulders ached and my eyes burned. How can I possibly get through this day? I was panicking. Tim broke into the silence. “You want to stop at one of the overlooks?”

Yes. Please stop. Please. I need out. I need air. “Sure.” I replied half-heartedly.

We pulled into the gravel parking pad at a more or less unoccupied look-out point. I got out of the truck and sucked in as deep a breath as I could hold. I was overcome. Just a few yards ahead was a step down to a large boulder. “I’m gonna go a little closer for a second.” I told Tim, praying he wouldn’t follow me. Now, I realize that standing on a rock overlooking a drop off when you are already somewhat dizzy with emotion may not be the wisest choice; but I had to have a moment alone. I needed to let just a few tears fall. Not enough to open the flood gates but enough to let the pressure off of the tap, so to speak.

Tim made no move to join me and I was so thankful. When I finally felt that I could look him in the eye without falling apart. I turned and headed back up to where he was leaning on the truck. When I reached him, he grabbed me and held me. Great. More hugging. Again my emotions surged. Swallow it. Swallow it. Then all the sudden I heard something I was not expecting at all. Singing. He was singing to me.

There’s a Steven Curtis Chapman song called “Go There with You.” (click here for lyrics) It was a favorite of ours and basically speaks of love that goes the distance. As he poured out the words with the voice that I had fallen in love with years earlier, I unleashed the swell and let the tears pour. And when he dropped to one knee, popped open the ring case, and asked in a cracking voice that betrayed his own emotions: “Amie Harrington, will you marry me?” I bawled like a baby. In fact, he had to confirm that the tears represented a “yes” response.

Oh my heavens, what a moment! It was like climbing off of an insane roller coaster –I was slightly weak-kneed but otherwise exhilarated.

Turns out, Tim had fully intended to propose while at the chapel but I wasn’t the only one churning butter in the pit of my stomach that day. The boy was scared to death. While lying in the grass by that pond he had been fighting the urge to throw up. It’s crazy to think that we had each spent the whole day wallowing in private misery.

We grabbed a couple of sodas from the cooler and started the trip back home. I was elated. Giddy. Relieved. Then suddenly very cold –I have no idea how it happened (though I’m willing to bet it had something to do with trying to open a can of pop while maneuvering my newly adorned ring finger to give off the greatest sparkle) but I dumped an entire can of Sprite in my lap. I was soaked through. Tim pulled off to the side of the road and I grabbed an extra pair of shorts and the blanket we had used for our picnic from the truck box. While driving down the interstate and under the cover of the blanket, I proceeded to change from drenched jeans to dry clothes.

Tim, at least feigning focusing on the road ahead said, “If I’d known putting a ring on your finger would finally get you out of your pants, I’d have done it a long time ago.” We laughed and speculated as to whether anyone else would believe my explanation for leaving in one set of clothes and returning in another. But of course, you believe me…right?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happy Birthday or is it?

April 18th, 1993 was a glorious day! The sun was out. The sky was blue. The birds were singing and my stomach was in a thousand knots. We’d made plans for the day to head to Callaway Gardens in GA. Callaway is a nature preserve of sorts with beautiful Azalea trails, butterfly houses, exotic gardens and yadda, yadda, yadda. You don’t need to know any of that. You do need to know that Callaway Gardens has this delightfully picturesque, little, stone chapel. It sits just above a peaceful lake and has a beautiful stained glass window which serves as the back wall. The perfect place for a wonderfully romantic guy to get down on one knee and pledge his love to a girl who’d spent hours practicing her surprised face.

We wondered down nature paths and watched turtles soaking up the morning sun along the edge of a pond. We held hands as we strolled around the butterfly house. We enjoyed a picnic lunch in a clearing. We were surrounded by beautiful serenity. My insides, however, were churning like class 5 river rapids. By early afternoon, we had made the rounds and seen all there was to see except the chapel. I thought my heart would explode out of my chest as we made our way up the hill to its entrance.

We stepped inside. It truly is a stunning place. The woodwork, stone, and stained glass together create this very intimate space that automatically evokes a certain amount of reverence. Patience. Patience. We walked around with others admiring its structure, and sat in the coolness of the wooden pews, and then…and then…

Then we went back outside. Huh? I was stunned. No. I was destroyed. I could feel my hands starting to shake and my chest tighten. I thought I would pass out right there in front of everyone. Tim made his way to the side of the pond and lay back in the grass, propped on his elbows. I settled on a nearby rock. We sat there. Not one word was said. He stared out at the water. I stared at the ground; forcing air in and out of my lungs and willing the tears back from my eyes.

After some time passed, Tim looked over and said, “I guess we should be heading home.” I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to speak. We stood up and he hugged me. I groaned inwardly. Why was he hugging me? I didn’t want a hug. I wanted a question. The question. I wanted a promise. I wanted a future. It was like being the runner up on some game show where they give you a really crappy consolation prize. “Amie Harrington you did not win the “Til Death Do Us Part” vacation package (aaaawwww) but we do have this lovely parting gift for you…a hug (applause).” NOOOOOOOOOOO! I wanted to scream.

By the time we made it back to the truck I was completely numb except for the painful pit that was now lodged in my throat. We drove the narrow streets through the exit and along the tree-canopied road leading away from the park. I knew I didn’t have the strength to keep the disappointment that had seized my being from showing all over my face. I stared out of the passenger window trying to breathe; trying to swallow; trying to understand. How could I be so stupid?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Playing Possum

Tim finished up his first year of college and I managed to graduate from high school despite having cried through most of my senior year. We still had our occasional spats –like when I went to Panama City with a group of girls for my senior trip. Tim was not very happy. Historically, teenagers on unsupervised beach trips tend to forget the rules of exclusive relationships. Heck, they tend to forget the rules, period. Maybe it’s something in the formula for Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil or…I suppose it could be the unlawful and ungodly amounts of alcohol being consumed. Either way, Tim was convinced that something dreadful lay ahead and it involved me being tangled up on the beach with some oven-baked lifeguard.

The few days before leaving, he all but ignored me completely. I was amazed. Here he had spent a year in college and almost “fallen out of love with me” while I lingered faithfully and yet now, he couldn’t manage to trust me for one week. He knew better than anyone else that I was “a good girl.” He also knew that the girl I was traveling and staying with (one of his ex-girlfriends, in fact --not one previously mentioned in the story but still somewhat ironic) was the captain of an anti-drug and alcohol performance team at our school. But neither this nor anything I said would allay his fears. So, I did what a loving and loyal girlfriend should do.

I went anyway. One week of worry wasn’t going to kill the boy. And I had a great time. No alcohol, no life guards, not even a notable sunburn. (My girlfriend and I laughed as we had complete freedom from our parents but still spent an hour every day slathering on and reapplying sunscreen. Our moms would’ve been so proud.) I returned to my sweetheart just as I had left, only heavily freckled.

The months passed and we continued to fall deeper in love; deeper in like; deeper in…what’s that other “l” word? Oh yeah, lust. That’s the one. Suffice it to say we were steadily heading toward the moment of truth. Time to sink or swim. Fish or cut bait. Hitch up the wagon or put the horse out to pasture. Um, I believe Paul said it this way, “It is better to marry than to burn…” And it was getting harder and harder to put out those fires.

One Sunday afternoon, we were napping in Tim’s room and I roused to hear him on the phone with his best friend from high school. I picked up the conversation just as Tim was speaking in a hushed tone, “Of course, you have to be here. I need a best man, don’t I?” I froze. “Well, she has a birthday coming up, so…” Breathe slowly. I willed myself to keep my eyes closed. I didn’t hear another word of his conversation. My brain was spinning. I was so relieved when Tim, thinking I was still asleep, quietly left the room. I lay there for some time trying to gather my composure and not let on what I now knew: Tim was going to propose on my 19th birthday which was just around the corner. Now, all I had to do was wait.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


“I don’t know if I love you anymore.”

Gulp. My stomach couldn’t have tightened anymore if he’d reached through the phone and physically punched me in the gut. I sat in stunned silence. Thanksgiving had just passed and while I was counting down the days until he’d be home for Christmas break, apparently he’d been counting the costs of having a “ball and chain” back home.

While the declaration itself was a direct hit out of nowhere, it wasn’t as though it had been all sunshine and roses. As I said before, it was tough. Trying to share each others lives through telephone lines was hard enough coupled with battling jealousies over the people and places that defined our greatly separate spheres of relationship. Throw in occasional weekend visits that were strained with the demands on Tim’s time coming from friends, family, and myself.

“So, what does this mean?” I was finally able to ask.

We had already purchased tickets to the Nutcracker Ballet in Atlanta. Tim suggested that we keep that date but not see or phone each other in the meantime. It would give him time to think about his “feelings” and then by the end of that date, he would tell me whether or not our relationship would continue.

Allow me to interject. Having two daughters of my own, I see this situation in an entirely different light. If one of my two girls were dating a young man who offered such a ridiculous proposition, I would encourage her to dump him, dump him, dump him! But being young and stupid, plus that whole sovereignty of God thing, I agreed to this arrangement and hung in limbo for two weeks.

I held up my end of the bargain and fought off repeated urges to dial his number, 478-2942, which as a matter of trivia sounds like The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Go ahead. Try it. Just hang up after you dial since I have no idea who owns that number now.

I picked out a dress and tested out some new hair styles. I wasn’t sure what about that night would help him make up his mind but I figured looking great couldn’t hurt my chances. Two days before the big date, I’m in my room (which was in the basement of my grandparents house) straightening up and such when down the stairs walks none other than Mr. Let’s-Not-See-Each-Other.

“Hi.” I offered a bit puzzled. “I think you’re breaking the rules.”

He looked sheepish and then moved to hug me. “I missed you.”

I hugged back while grasping to balance my emotions. The one part of me wanted to wrestle him to the ground and pin him there until he confessed that I was the one and the only one for him; the other part working to maintain a safe distance in case the end was near.

“I like your hair.”

It was one of my test looks. Note to self: hairstyle –check.

We discussed a few details, what time he’d pick me up, dinner before or after, etc. The entire visit lasted no more than ten minutes. The time I spent on my bed racked with sobs after he was gone was at least twice that. I hated what he was doing to me; hated feeling so powerless. I was just waiting for some epiphany to drop from the sky and hoping I wouldn’t do or say the wrong thing, if there even was a right or wrong thing. Excruciating.

He picked me up that Saturday afternoon and my mom insisted on taking pictures of us all dressed up. Smiling is not so easy when your stomach is in your throat. I wondered if those pictures would forever document our last date. Grim, but realistic. I don’t remember what we had for dinner or if we said two words to each other, but on the way to the ballet he pulled a tape out of the glove compartment and said that he wanted us to listen to it together.

A mix tape. Yes! It was a mix tape. Go on. Roll your eyes and shake your head. I know how silly it is but it was the early ninety’s for heaven’s sake and a mix tape was a vital component for every thriving couple, so there. You know you had one.

Every song earmarked a moment in our relationship from the theme song off of Andy Griffith –Tim’s parents had taken to calling me “Opie” thanks to my summer time freckling—to “More Than Words” the aforementioned ballad of put out or get out. We got a little more than halfway through the tape when we arrived at the Civic Center.

The ballet was beautiful and while things were still uncertain, it did seem like some of the tension was lifted. Every now and then Tim would lean over and say things to make me laugh. “I don’t even have to read the cast notes. Those white tights tell me more about that guy than I ever wanted to know.” Then a few minutes later… “When are they going to start singing?” I would stifle my laughter so not to disturb the ballet patrons who, as it turns out, are a very serious lot. Fortunately, we made it through the production without being escorted out.

Back in Tim’s red Ford Ranger, we played the rest of the tape and listened quietly. When the first side ended, he switched it over and played the last song. It was the clincher. “Somewhere” from West Side Story. Our West Side Story. The place where it all began.

As soon as we pulled into the driveway we fell into each other’s arms and Tim kissed me like crazy. Long, deep kisses full of assurance; soft pecks with whispered apologies; and strong, firm kisses that promised, “Never again.”

Long Distance Love

Where did we leave off? Ah…

Tim’s graduation came and went and we grew closer with every summer day. But a dark cloud loomed over us. Come fall, he would leave for college in Indiana. It had taken so long to get our relationship off the ground and now we would be separated by hundreds of miles. It just didn’t seem fair.

My senior year started on a Monday and Tim was scheduled to leave on Tuesday. I skipped half of that first day, with permission, and we spent it together. All too soon the moment we’d been dreading for months was upon us. We stood in the driveway clinging to each other. I would’ve given anything in that moment if the world would just stop spinning, if the night never ended, if my mom would stop blinking that cursed porch light! (The universal signal for “date’s over, get in the house.”)

We stretched the time as far as we could with kisses, tears, and embraces. I knew that it was going to be physically painful to unwrap my arms from his shoulders and let him drive away. I stood on the porch and watched his break lights, tapped three times for “I love you,” until they faded out of view. I had no idea how we would make through an entire year apart. How would he be affected by college life, being away from home and the freedom that came with it? What would a long-distance love really be like on a daily basis?

Hard. Frustrating. Depressing. That’s how it really was. Every day presented a new challenge. We would talk on the phone two or three times a week (depending on how horrible the long distance bill had been the month prior). And while it was always good to hear his voice, it was the other voices I began hearing that caused problems. He’d tuck away into a closet to drown out the noise of music and laughter in the dorm room.

“What’s all the noise?” I asked.

“Just a bunch a people hanging out.”

“Ok. Who all’s there?” pressing…pressing…

“I don’t know…Jay (Tim’s roommate) Brett, Molly, Talitha, Trudy, maybe a few more.” He replied nonchalantly. “I’m not getting very much studying done.”

“Oh.” Cringe.

No, these are not the girl’s actual names. Close renderings (protecting the innocent and all.) But for our story’s sake, those were the names that were receiving regular mentions in our conversations. Names that haunted me in my sleep. These were college girls. I was just a lowly high-schooler. Yes, I know it was only the difference of one year but let’s be real…in the mind of a newly independent 18 year old guy, I might as well have been in diapers and still sucking a pacifier. I wasn’t sure how I could compete but I was determined to try.

I wrote to him pretty much every day -still have the box stuffed with letters to prove it. And he faithfully wrote back. But even in his writing I could sense that he was unsettled and restless. He seemed to be wandering into that first year college abyss of “finding myself” which made no sense to me because I knew exactly who he was: Tim Sexton -boyfriend and future husband of Amie Harrington. Simple. No searching required and certainly no sowing of wild oats. But my pragmatism wasn’t going to be enough for him. And long about November things took a nasty turn.