Friday, July 29, 2011

Finding Brilliance in the Ordinary

It's funny. You know, how we are always inspired in the oddest places. For me, things tend to hit me like a bolt of lightning when I least expect it. In the midst of doing some mundane task, it just hits me. Have you ever felt it?

There's nothing like it. It's like being smacked in the face and electrified at the same time---except less painful. It's always exciting, though. I usually think, I can't believe I never noticed that before.

Now that we own two dogs, things have changed. Mostly because we have always owned a dog that stays in the yard. Rudi just sits there and has no desire to go anywhere except to her favorite bathroom spot. Buster, on the other hand, needs supervision. Especially outside. Since we do not own an electric fence, this means I take him outside on a leash several times daily (and nightly) to allow him to do his business. It's annoying.

The other night, I stood very impatiently waiting for him to find the "perfect" spot to poop and as I waited, I looked up. I could see every single star in the sky and it was absolutely amazing. It was so amazing that I didn't notice Buster had been running circles around me and had wrapped his leash around my legs a mummy-like fashion. I was too busy taking it all in. If I didn't have a dog to take outside, I would have missed it.

Last night, it happened again. I took the dogs for their daily walk and when I returned home, we were all completely exhausted. Those of us who own sweat glands were drenched and those of us who do not were panting for hours. It was hot. Instead of hopping in the shower and sitting on the couch, I went down into the basement for quick workout. I can always count on good 'ol Jillian Michaels for a brief but intense workout when I don't have the time or patience for 45 minutes of torture.

As I was groaning my way through Level Four of Ripped in 30, Jillian did her classic get-all-up-in-your-biz-and-scream-at-you-about-not-phoning-it-in routine. Then, she said something that hit me in the face, much like a baseball bat:

"You are strongest in the places where you're broken."

And then I didn't hear anything else because I was so enraptured by those words. I couldn't get them off of my mind, even through the world's most insane high leg kick jumping jacks. After the medieval torture workout was over, I spread out on the floor to stretch and realized she was right---totally, awesomely, right.

I have always believed my broken places were the weak spots. We think the things that break us and bruise us in ways we often cannot describe, make us vulnerable. But the truth is when something breaks us, it renews us too---after the dust settles and we look over our shoulder at what has been we realize that we were made stronger by the experience. It doesn't mean we aren't still damaged. We are. But, we understand that enduring something that breaks us also reminds us of our strength and resilience to carry on. We are stronger because we have carefully worked to repair what was once broken.

I can't believe I never noticed that before.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I Know For Sure

I don't believe I will ever live long enough to be in a place where I can say that I know everything. Sure, there are plenty of people who think they know it all, but each of us still has miles to go before we can rest. With that being said, I am a bit of a know-it-all myself, so I have to be careful when I spew wisdom upon others in daily life. I have to be reminded--often--that I do not know everything.

I will say, with as much humility as possible, that I have learned more in the last few years than in any other part of my life. I sincerely believe there's just something to be said about going through an experience that tests you, threatens to break you or really, turns your world upside down. For me, it's infertility. For you, it could really be anything--the sudden loss of a loved one, a tragic accident, or even the terrible news of cancer or a terminal illness that shakes you to your very core.

Whatever it might be, it inspires us to take stock of our lives. To grow up quickly. It converts us into advocates, for ourselves and the people we love. As difficult and tumultuous the experience may be, in the end it makes us better people. We see things in a different light. We have a softer, gentler approach to the world because we understand just how fragile the balance truly is in life. Life is precious, beautiful and in every case, a miracle.

I have never, ever, ever been a risk-taker. I am a rule follower. I do not want to get in trouble. I truly want nothing more than to not rock the boat. For whatever reason, these things instinctively terrify me.

But what I know for sure is this:

Life is too short to play it safe.

Too short to care what anyone thinks.

Too short to live in the safety of the familiar.

Anyone who isn't willing to take a major risk, throw themselves out there and see what happens--is really missing out on the best and most wonderful part of their lives. We should feel sorry for these people, instead of allowing their unwillingness to put themselves out there make us feel bad about our choices.

So, what's my point?


I took a flying leap yesterday and left my very blonde self in the dust to become a serious brunette. It's extreme. It's not for everyone. It was a risk. And I loved every second of it.

It's a great reminder that there's something amazing about taking a risk. Doing something completely out of character. And not caring one bit about what anyone thinks. You should try it.

I promise you'll like it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hello, Lover

I held out for as long as I could, really I did, but I finally reached the brink and went over the edge. I broke down and purchased a Furminator. Everyone I know that owns a dog that sheds like crazy has one, calls it a gift from heaven and tries to convince me to purchase one myself. I have always resisted. You know, because I just cannot justify spending $50+ on a brush. Or really, on anything that isn't a fabulous pair of shoes.

But I broke down this week. It didn't take much. My poor little Rudi--all 80 pounds of her--is just miserable in this heat. Especially when we go on walks, and particularly for three hours afterwards. She's shedding more than ever and it's driving us both crazy. She's miserable and I'm vacuuming the house every day. Oh, and three times a day each day, in order to contain the hair problem. It's not fun for anyone.

I bought an older model of the Furminator from Amazon and I love it already. I brushed Rudi for five minutes this morning and she produced this hearty hair baby. And she actually enjoyed being brushed for the first time in oh I don't know, forever.

I'm pretty sure we are both in love with this thing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Scary House

Just down the road is where this house resides. I drive by every day and I always slow down to stare. Every time. It feels like the house is speaking to me.

I have a lot of questions.

Why is it still standing?

Who lived there?

Who stopped loving this place?

It intrigues me because in my heart, I know that this place was once someone's home. Their refuge. Their shelter from every storm that passed through. And for some reason, it's still standing. Obviously, it's hanging on by a thread. But, it's still there. Somehow, through it all, this place has yet to crumble completely.

There are remnants of once was---chipping paint, broken windows, tattered curtains flapping in the breeze. I stare a little closer each time, eternally wondering if I'll catch something I missed the last time I drove by.

I want to know who lived there. I yearn to hear the story of the life this house and its occupants once I had. I am practically begging to know why it has never been destroyed.

My husband and I call it "The Scary House" because it really is eerie. It's a palpable feeling. There is just something frightening about an abandoned structure--especially a home. A place that was once loved and cared for is now empty, pathetic and destroyed. I find myself wondering how it happened. At what point did someone begin forgetting about this place and just decide to let it go?

I really don't know the answers to my burning questions, but I sort of enjoy that it remains a mystery. Logic tells me that it's probably as simple as it was more expensive to knock the house down than it was to let it rot. In my mind, it is much more romantic and mysterious to wonder what once was than to discover the actual truth.

But Scary House still picks at that little place in me that loves its battered exterior and sad, drooping state of affairs--that part of myself that loves the imperfections. It's old and from what I can tell, all but forgotten. I sometimes think about what it might have looked like 100 years ago when it wasn't delapidated.

I secretly hope it was as beautiful and romantic as I envisioned.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's a Fine Line

Adjusting to being a double dog owner is a major learning curve. At our house, there is an incredibly thin line (of a dog hair-like thickness) between peaceful silence and pure chaos.

Most of the time, things are good. Everyone sniffs around, begs politely in the seated position for scraps and wants nothing more than a scratch behind the floppy ears. Other times, I understand why my mother often threatened to leave my brother and I behind somewhere because we couldn't stop fighting.

It's a thin line.

But, it's more good than it is bad--it's just different.

Life with dogs--like anything else--is a give and take.

More than anything, it's made better by take. As in, taking a walk every single day. Even when the heat index is so high that you wouldn't force your worst enemy to spend the day outside. We still walk. We always walk. And, believe it or not, we all do it together.

I'm sure we are quite the sight to drivers and home owners. The large but always exhausted on walks 80-pound black lab, the small but eternally energetic 30-pound beagle and my small but stronger than I look 110-pound self. I'm just glad that the combined dog weight doesn't outweigh (literally) my own body. It might be more than we could all take.

However chaotic things are in our house, especially when some poor unsuspecting child knocks on the door, when we walk we are a well-oiled machine. A choreographed dance, even. Surprisingly, we couldn't make a better team when we walk together.

When we come home however, everyone spreads out on the oak kitchen floor from total exhaustion. And drinks from water bowls while laying on the floor, legs spread in the most embarrassing manner possible.

Because, as you know, standing is completely exhausting.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blind Item

This morning, someone with frizzy blond hair forgot her husband had parked his very large, incredibly red pickup truck in the driveway.

What happened next is an event of women-are-such-bad-drivers-especially-when-they-are-blond folklore.

Thank goodness for trailer hitches.

Also, allegedly, the coffee 'ol Frizzy Blond Hair spilled on her crotch is still in the process of drying. Allegedly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Four Years Later

July 21, 2007 was a great day.

Today, I realize what an amazing day it really was.

When you get engaged and prepare for a wedding, you get a lot of unsolicited advice. I remember hearing the same thing over and over again: "The first year of marriage is always the hardest." People (women) would tell me how annoying their spouses were or explain how long it took them to adjust to living with another person who, in nearly every tale I heard, was a complete slob.

I took it with a grain of salt back then. Could marriage really be that hard? Was the first year really so awful? I now realize, after four years of marriage, I was given the wrong advice.

What I believe is this: instead of telling a bride that her first year of marriage will be the hardest, you should tell her something else. You should explain to her that there will be a "hardest year" and there might even be some "hardest years," but no matter when they occur, she needs to understand something important. Every marriage, no matter how perfect, will be tested. You will be thrown into the fire, and you will have to figure out how to keep from getting burned. And you have to do it together. The moment will come in your married life where something comes along that will either make or break you as a couple. It's just that simple.

For us, the hardest year took us completely by surprise. It wasn't the first year. It wasn't the second year. It was the third year. And, it wasn't because I just couldn't take the fact that my husband doesn't clean his facial hair residue from the bathroom sink. It was the hardest because we were trying desperately to have a baby that would never arrive.

The arguments we once had late at night over how many children we wanted (I said two, he said four) or what they might look like (lanky, uncoordinated and acne-prone, we decided) seemed trivial in the wake of hour-long drives to semen analyses, surgeries and internal ultrasound appointments. It was the earth-shattering, life-altering, this-is-the-hardest-year-ing I had heard about years earlier. It just arrived a few years later than predicted. Though it really wasn't that long ago, today it feels like it was ten years ago. I think that's just how our brains process something traumatic; it's easier to think of it as a distant, fleeting memory than one that is still fresh and raw in our hearts.

So what does this have to do with our anniversary? Turns out, a lot. That hardest year, the one that arrived without warning, tested every shred of our relationship. It threw us into quicksand and we have spent years figuring how how to get out--together. It could have broken us, but it didn't. Instead, it only strengthened who we have come to be as a couple--and as individuals.

So today, four years later, we are standing together on the other side of our hardest year together. Unbroken. Stronger than ever.

We learned how to survive together, and that's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I might be a hoarder: hair products edition

I know I have told this tale time and time again, but: I have crazy hair. It's been crazy ever since childhood, and adulthood hasn't changed anything However, being an adult gives you options, experience and it seems in my personal case--the ability to become a hoarder.

I gots a lots of hair. This means that the portion of my brain  that isn't completely pre-occupied with growing more hair is thinking about buying more products to tame the lion's mane. In what can only be described as a compulsion, I have to buy any product that anyone who understands (or has) crazy hair recommends to me.

Pretty soon, all these purchases and recommendations add up to what you see below: a lot of hair products. See, here's the thing: my hair is very thick. Also, very naturally curly. This means it takes forever to dry (as in, longer than just overnight) and it tends to be a bit frizzy. Until this point, I have spent the majority of my life trying to have straight hair---and I was losing the battle. Ergo, I have elected to embrace the curl instead.

While I don't use all of these products every day, here is my typical routine:

-Wash my hair with shampoo every other day
-Condition always, deep condition twice a week--I like Organix Renewing Treatment
-After my shower, I put my hair up in a towel for a minute or two so it's partially dry
-Then, I apply mousse and scrunch with an old t-shirt (not my hands): I like Herbal Essences Curl Boosing Mousse or Organix Weightless Mousse with Coconut Milk
-I try to touch my hair as little as possible--which is why I use the t-shirt. Your hands make your hair frizzy; the t-shirt keeps the curls together without the frizz.
-Then, I spray my hair with John Freida Perfect Ends Sheer Mist & Frizz Ease 100% Shine Glossing Mist
-Depending on the look I'm going for I either follow up with Pure Shine Spray-It Curly for a stronger (but sometimes crunchy!) hold or if I want a softer and more "beachy" look I change this step.
-For a "beachy" look to your hair, I recommend layering a little Bumble & Bumble Grooming Creme with Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray
-The surf spray contains salt (it's basically a salt water spray) so you have to be careful not to use it too often, as it will dry out your hair. However, I love the look and feel of my hair with these products.
-I then "scrunch" my hair with the t-shirt again and either let it air dry or use my diffuser attachment on the hair dryer.
-Another tip: when using the diffuser, turn your head upside down to create volume on top of your head. However, never EVER "flip" your hair when you put your head back up--it creates frizz!
-I usually finish off with some hair spray and a few bobby pins (in blonde color) to tame the crazies, which is usually my bangs.
-If you have some curls/sections that are straight or flat (it happens to me all the time) use your curling iron to "re-curl" these pieces.

Of course, it sounds simple but this typically takes 15-20 minutes in all. Crazy hair takes time, ya know.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Dog Night

Over the weekend, we got a new addition to our little family: we got a second dog. His name is Buster and he's crazy a Beagle mix. He has a few emerging hobbies: sleeping under the dining room table, snuggling with me on the couch and barking at cows.

Oh, and giving our other dog Rudi a multitude of kisses.

She is semi-annoyed by his presence, but she will allow a few kisses to occur before becoming completely annoyed. Which makes me think that somewhere in there, she likes it. We are still adjusting to having another dog in the house, especially one with an endless supply of energy, but I sincerely love all the things that dogs bring into our lives. I could do with a little less barking, dog hair and poop duty, but the snuggles and feeling of security a dog provides are second to none. I really can't imagine my life without a dog. Or, two.

Last night was a bit rough, what with a 4:00 a.m. barking wake-up call and a 30-pound beagle mix hogging my side of our queen-sized bed. But like anything else, it's just a matter of getting used to a minor change in our lives.

For the record, I attempted to take more pictures of Buster, but he only likes to sit still for 10 second intervals. Which means most of the pictures I took look a lot like this:

I think he thinks he heard a cow. Eventhough they are at least 5 acres away and not moo-ing. It's possible.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Giant Forty-Seven Pound Rooster

I consider myself a fairly serious wine drinker. However, I have reached the point in my wine drinking career where I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. You see, I love wine. I love red wine. I love the boldest of bold Cabernet Sauvignon with a fruity bouqet and woody undertones. So where's this conundrum I speak of? It's a little thing I like to call The Wine Aisle at the Grocery Store.

Seriously, you guys. Have you ever been to The Wine Aisle at the Grocery Store? Even if you are good at making decisions, you are bound to stand there, hand on chin, finger twirling hair ringlets, trying to figure out what wine to buy. Truthfully, I also find myself in an identical conundrum in the hair color aisle. I suppose this only reiterates the point that I am a really terrible decision-maker. Or, maybe I'm not. I can't decide.

But, anyway.

Here's where the problem, for me, comes in: I only see two determining factors when making my wine-related life decisions:

Option 1: Price

Option 2: Hilarious Name

Obviously, the variety of wine you plan to imbibe helps in the decision making process. But, as you will find, it doesn't help all that much--it just means you have 75 bottles to choose from instead of 7,500. So, what's a gal to do?

Buy wine named after a gigantic dog-sized rooster that was a popular sideshow attraction at the turn of the 20th Century, of course. You can read more about Rex here.

Rest assured, however, that I also bought this bottle because it won Double Gold at a wine festival.

A girl needs standards, ya know. Plus, the wine is actually really good. The husband & I enjoyed a hearty glass on the front porch and watched the sun set last night.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Vegetable Garden

Growing up, my parents always had a vegetable garden. It was always tomatoes and green peppers, but it helped to instill a fascination with growing food in our own backyard. I still love knowing that I'm eating something from my own backyard that was never touched by pesticide. Our vegetable garden has grown each year, but it really took off this year.

I'll admit that I was a bit nervous when my husband rented a sod cutter and pointed to the corner of our yard and explained it was the new location of our vegetable garden. It was a large corner, to say the least. It's hard to argue with a grown man transporting a sod cutter, however. So, our new garden was born. We spent hours planting that day, and things have really begun to take off.

Probably the best part about having your own garden is that giddy sense of excitment you feel when things begin to bloom and sprout. I find myself sneaking out to the garden every day, just to admire the little green tomatoes or ooo and ahh over the little stalks of broccoli. It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Surviving

Oh hey. In case you haven't noticed, things changed a bit around here today. Hopefully you still recognize me after my recent face lift. I felt the itch recently to change the outward appearance of this blog to match what I'm feeling inside. I feel the need to explain, because that's just how things work around here.

I have always loved that each of our lives are stories. You know, we all have a story to tell--and I just love a good, solid story. I started this blog in 2007 because I felt like I had a lot of stories to tell. At the time, I had just moved, taken a new job and gotten married. Basically, everything in my life was changing simultaneously. I felt I needed therapy, because the contents of my brain were scattered on the floor. I actually went to therapy and a therapist told me there really wasn't anything wrong with me; I just needed an outlet to talk about my feelings. So, I stopped going to therapy and started a blog instead. Lucky for me, my blog has decided to waive the $30 co-pay.

In '07, I fell in love with the idea of survival. I was just a girl from the city, trying to survive life in the country, which often felt like a foreign country. In my mind, I had a lot of funny experiences and hilarious stories to tell. So, I told them here. As time went on, my life changed--I changed--and in turn, this space has also changed. I wasn't just surviving a new zip code anymore, I was desperately trying to survive my own life. When my husband and I were told in early 2010 that biological children were a slim possibility for us, survival took on a new meaning. I could feel my brain (and heart) was scattered on the floor all over again. This time, instead of going back to therapy, I started pouring out my heart here. Truthfully, it's the best therapy I could have asked for--having a place to be honest with myself is the best choice I've ever made. This blog is what got me through the hardest, most difficult days of my life.

Likewise, it is in this space that I have worked tirelessly to put that heartbreak behind me. I know it won't ever be behind me entirely, but sharing my story has helped to heal those broken places in this little heart of mine. No matter how many times I've been shown otherwise over the last two and a half years, I still believe that miracles are possible. This is, I believe, how my husband and I were able to open our hearts to domestic adoption. As difficult as it is to wait endlessly for our day to come, I know adoption is where we are meant to be. It's been 11 months of twiddling our thumbs, but some miracles are worth the wait.

So, when I think about what it means to have this blog, I still think about where I started years ago: survival. At the very core of who we are as human beings, we are all survivors. You and I both. It doesn't matter what we have survived--it just matters that we're still standing. Being a survivor or learning to survive manifests itself differently in each of our lives, but what matters is that we have lived to tell the tale of our journey. Sure, we have a few scars. Mine is 6 inches long and stretches across my belly. Maybe people can't see yours, but you know it's there. I hope you are as proud of yours as I am of mine, because I look in the mirror and am thankful to have something imperfect to remind me at the end of each day that I have survived.

I don't know where this old dirt road is going to lead me next, but that's OK. From where I stand in my black sequin dress in the middle of a field, I know I'm strong enough to take whatever is thrown my way next. I have survived.

“And I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means I survived.” - From the novel "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave

Friday, July 8, 2011


{I do not, however, regret going to Hawaii.}

For some reason, people like to ask if we have any regrets. Often, it comes in the form of, "What is your life's greatest regret?" I'm always puzzled by the idea of regret, or namely, having a 'greatest' regret. Often, we believe our mistakes or shortcomings are entirely our fault which ultimately leads to those feelings of deep regret. But, what about the things we cannot control? Or, those heavy crosses we each bear in our lives through no fault of our own?

I draw a blank every time I'm in a situation where someone asks me if I have any regrets. It's not something I've ever dwelled upon or spent an extended period of time mulling over. Maybe that's why it always leaves me tongue-tied. In order to regret something, it's a basic requirement to make a huge mistake or have a serious lapse in judgement that forever changes the course of your life. Like, I regret not looking twice before crossing the street. Or, I regret not wearing my seat belt. Those are things entirely under our control--but what happens next often is not. Our fates are often tied up in a complicated mess of cause and effect; and often, dumb luck. It's not as simple as we think.

I often forget I'm not the only one with a serious problem that has complicated my life. It's easy to forget, because we're so consumed with the thing that makes our lives feel heavy that we forget everyone has problems. You probably have things that keep you awake at night, or moments where you ask, "Why me?" Everyone has problems, they just appear in different forms in each of our lives.

I sometimes think having children (or even a child, there's no need to be overly demanding here) would solve every problem that exists in my life. Or, in this case, what I see as the only problem--because everything else is pretty darn fantastic. But as you probably know, expecting one thing to fix everything is a recipe for major disappointment. It doesn't work that way. We can't marry someone hoping that they will change. We can't have a child and hope it heals a hole that exists in our lives. It's just not possible.

So, where does the regret come in? I realize I cannot regret what I never had control over in the first place. In a way, my body really isn't my own; I have no control over that part of my story. In the grand scheme of things, it could be said that I do regret spending so much time wallowing in my own misery. Back then, when nothing made sense and it felt like life was crumbling apart, I thought unhappiness was my only option. Turns out, it wasn't my only option--it was just the option that made the most sense at the time.

I regret wasting my time being miserable, angry and ultimately, devastated by something that still doesn't seem "fair" in every sense of the word. However, I'm often reminded of a quote from one of my very favorite movies, The Princess Bride. There is a scene where Princess Buttercup (real name) is told, "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Life is pain, but that doesn't mean we cannot move on and learn to live in the light again.

So tell me: do you have any regrets?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Can I interest you.... a toothpick?

I'm sure Dusty would be happy to oblige if you ask nicely.

Also, the windowsill in my office now holds five Cincinnati Reds bobbleheads. I have a feeling that I'm approaching weird office character territory here. You know, like "Crazy Bobblehead Lady" or something.

At least I now have a place for my other collection: toothpicks.


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