Friday, January 28, 2011

Rural Vanity

I will just admit it right up front: I'm vain. Not totally vain, but just enough for you to notice. I've been using anti-aging creams on my face since I was 20. At 27, I legitimately worry about forehead wrinkles. I stare at myself in the rear view mirror of my car when I should be doing other things, like driving. I do my hair every morning. I'm always wearing makeup, even if we're just going to the hardware store (I see people I know at Lowe's, OK?) and I like clothing. And jewelry. And I like things, especially in my home and on my body, to look nice. It's just who I am. I like to think that I'm sorta vain, but mostly--I just care a bit too much.

But, you live in the middle of nowhere, you're probably saying to yourself. Surely, there is no room for vanity or an over abundance of self-involved thoughts in a rural locale! To which I say: there's plenty of room for everyone and their increasingly large head in this town. I mean, my yard alone is 1.148 acres! That's a normal, average-sized yard in these parts. My yard, if you will, is not larger than my neighbor's yard. You know, the ones who have 35 deer that they keep as pets. Or, the other neighbors who own a herd of buffalo. They have the biggest yard of all yards, if this is a competition. Which, of course, it is.

There's a lot of room for a lot of things in my yard, including me and my ego, my dog and all the hair she sheds and my husband, who really doesn't take up much room. But this is where the road diverges a bit. You see, I'm interested in doing things that look nice, while my husband is more interested in things that "make sense" or "have logic."

So, when the snow plow completely destroyed our mailbox recently, we faced a fork in the road. It's annoying when the mailbox dies at the hands of the snow plow because it means we can't get mail. And I love mail. Also, I like having a mailbox. You know, for the mail delivery. It's also annoying because our mailbox is destroyed by the snow plow just about every year, much like a birthday celebration or anniversary of some kind. It's tradition!

This tradition typically evokes some feelings of disdain at our house, mostly because I want the mailbox to look nice and be in its proper place near the road at all times. My husband likes to "think things through" and "come up with solutions" instead of immediate action. I always do everything while flying upon the seat of my pants, which really is the opposite of those very specific traits.

So, I did what any wife would do: instead of waiting for my husband to feel like repairing the mailbox, I offered to fix the mailbox myself. I can't fix anything so this was just the motivation required to instill some of my down home, vanity-inspired traits in my non-vain husband. Because he's not vain, but he does realize I cannot fix anything. Including dinner.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The anniversary



 It was January, 2010 that we began a torrid journey filled with blood tests, doctor's appointments, procedures and ultimately, disappointment. We had already waded through extended disappointment and letdowns, but they were never backed up with actual medical information before that moment. They were just occasions of, perhaps, dumb luck or terrible irony. This, like everything else, would work itself out---that was a logical choice.

But, it did not. The Day soon arrived; the one that changed everything and ultimately, took a piece of my heart. It deserves capitalization, no? I remember it well. I know what I was wearing. I know the date. I recall the time. I know, all too well, the moment a phone call shattered my heart into tiny pieces. It is still familiar to me, despite the distance a year that has thankfully wedged between us. Ultimately, it is a day of sadness--but not in the way you might think.

It is sadness that I feel for the person I was before that day, not just the news we received. I grieve for the person who hoped and I'm sad for the person who dreamed and wished for something that will likely never happen. The naive girl who believed in miracles and everything working itself out perfectly--she was the one who was hurt the most that day. She's the one I grieve for on this anniversary.


But the girl who dreamed of exciting moments and happy surprises had her heart broken. Instead of happy announcements, tears of joy and daydreams, I was handed orders for tests and procedures and surgery instead. It was as though one was completely replaced by the other, and it's hard to put that part of the experience behind me. Truthfully, remnants of "that part" still remain.


 No one tells you that it sometimes doesn't work out. No one tells you what it feels like to be told that you are broken. You are never taught how to deal with the inability to have children, and there's no preparation for the ache your soul feels from constant, shattering, disappointment. It cannot be taught; it just has to be lived.

Back then I was angry, hurt and numb. I didn't know how to feel or what to say or deal with the ever-present pain that left me feeling like I couldn't breathe. I was scared--petrified even--of someone asking me about having children. It terrified me to think that someone would ask me a question that would pour salt into a gaping wound and I would do or say something awful in return. Mostly, it infuriated me that having children was something that everyone was "supposed" to do and no one seemed to realize that assumption was hurtful. So, I walked a tightrope; I struggled to keep my balance while waiting for someone to knock me over with a question.



So, I started talking instead of idly waiting. I began telling people our story because it was the only way I could begin to wash away the misery and take a shred of control back from my life, which was careening out of control. I told people who couldn't keep secrets. I told people who loved to gossip and soon enough, the questions stopped. Then, the questions started to change; they came from a loving place, rather than one that drove a knife through my already-bleeding heart. Vocalizing my pain, putting a sad melody to words, was like opening the curtains to let the sunshine in again.

Granted, there are still "those" questions and plenty of un-warranted advice thrown my way, but I rarely lose my balance anymore. I don't smile and nod at people who make ridiculous suggestions--get a massage, take a vacation, let my friend who has this friend who knows this guy touch your shoulder--I tell them how ignorant they are and stand my ground. I can't control much, but this is within my power. I never let an opportunity to show people how I would like to be treated pass me by, because I'm the only one who knows the words to that song. And I sing it every opportunity I get.

But, it's only been a year since The Day. People love to say trite things in an attempt to make you feel better, but the truth is this wound isn't one that will ever be healed by the hands of time. Some wounds, the ones that cut you to the core, don't ever heal completely. Time offers us distance and blurs the edges a bit, but it doesn't have the strength to make your pain any less real than it was the day it was born into your life. Time doesn't answer the rhetorical questions or make sense of your devastation; it just gives you an opportunity to put the remaining pieces back together. Besides, time alone cannot heal anything; it's what you do during that time that allows a thin scar to cover your wounds.

I have begun to let go because it's the only way to survive, the only way to really begin to live in faith and hope again. An important part of dealing with grief is acknowledging that something has been lost--something that was important to you. That day was, and still is, a day of loss. The moment I realized that, things began to make sense again. It's not about pushing that part away or hiding it in some place to deal with later, because it will just bob back to the surface again. That part of my life, the one where I can't have children, will never go away. I have to simply learn to live with it instead. Some days, it's a whisper. Other days, it's a dull roar. Whatever it may be, we have to learn to exist together.

There is little in this life that we can control. We will be dealt painful blows. Our existence will be turned upside down, spilling the contents everywhere. The bad will sometimes outnumber the good. Those are, unfortunately, guarantees. But in the end, after the dust settles and the time slowly creeps by, the light will shine again. The aspects of our life that were thrown into a chaotic orbit will find a new, perhaps better, place to exist. You will find new ways to define your life and your inspiration and happiness will arrive in unfamiliar packages--those too are guarantees.

In the grand picture of my life, a year isn't much of anything. But in this case, time will continue to march on whether I'd like it to or not, and with it will bring the opportunity to heal. The chance to become whole again. And that's an anniversary worth celebrating.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm all a-Twitter

My husband says that when he's excited about something. Why? I have no idea. It's (usually) funny.

But today, it's not so much funny as it is relevant. Why? Because I'm all ON-Twitter now. Cool, huh? About time I stepped into the modern world, no? Yes.

So, if you want to hear me talk about interesting things in less than 140 characters, follow me on Twitter. I promise to be entertaining and slightly judgemental of others. Oh, and ruin my clothing and tell you all about it. See you in the Internets.

Click on that adorable bird below to follow me. So far, I've sent two Tweets. Modern world, here I come!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All wine racks, all the time: a CSN Stores Review


{My new Art Deco wine rack}

The lovely people at CSN Stores recently contacted me to do a review of a product from one of their 200+ websites. I said yes, without hesitation. They sent me an e-gift card and asked me to purchase a product of my choice for a review.

When you have that many websites, it can be an overwhelming task to choose just one item. However, in the process of locating an item to review, I fell in love. That's right, I fell in love--with a website. It's probably my favorite of all the CSN sites, Just Wine Racks. I love wine and I love beautiful containers with which to store and display my wine, so it was a relationship that clearly was meant to be. Made in heaven itself, even.

After perusing the great spread of wine racks, I found the perfect one: the Creative Creations ArtDeco Eight Bottle Wine Holder. I got free shipping and my lovely rack arrived quickly via UPS. It's great quality, very strong and heavy and incredibly secure. Considering its weight, however, I had my husband hang it on the wall so we could ensure it was attached to a stud in the wall. The rack did not come with any mounting hardware, but luckily my husband had the proper screws to attach it to the wall properly and it looks great. To be honest, I was a bit worried that it might fall from the wall, considering its weight, along with the added weight of full wine bottles, but it's very secure.



I love the unique look of this piece---it's substantial, but not overwhelming. I love that the bottles are displayed in such a beautiful way; I can't say that I've seen anything like it. I had my husband install the rack in our dining room, near my china cabinet and to the left of the back doors of our house. Nearly every fixture in our house is oil rubbed bronze, so it fits in perfectly. I made a point to have it installed in a "lower traffic" area of our home, however, because it sticks out quite a bit from the wall. The corner of our dining room was perfect: it's visible, but will likely never be accidentally bumped by someone walking by.



{A closer look}


{Side view--it sticks out quite a bit from the wall.}

Overall, I had a great experience with CSN Stores and am very happy with my new wine rack. I anticipate it will be a great conversation piece and will, of course, inspire me to buy more wine. Or, whine. Either way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What you do when you don't know what else to do


Every once in a while, a panic washes over me. I realize, for just a moment, that I truly have no control over most parts of my life. It makes me feel like I'm going to vomit. Or die. Or something awful, I'm not sure exactly. But, it bothers me. It rouses me in the middle of the night, like someone shaking me awake for some dire emergency that isn't real. Because there's no emergency; everyone is asleep and the night is quiet. Yet, the noise in my head sounds like a high school marching band is practicing upstairs at 2:00 a.m.

So, I stare at the ceiling for a while. Thinking about all the things that it's pointless to think about because thinking doesn't accomplish much of anything. How can I change what I can't control? How can I worry something into reality? Also, why did I see the movie Black Swan on Saturday night and expect to NOT have twisted dreams for the next 30 days?

The fact is, I understand most of the things I cannot control are most of the things that send me into an anxiety-ridden state. It's like I'm waiting to be pushed off a cliff. But what, I wonder, would be so awful about that? I don't know what's down there--maybe it's a really cushy mattress that will break my fall. I won't know until I get there.

So, I try. I put myself out there. I take risks. I control what I can and let what's meant to be carry the remainder of the load. Because I know that where I am now is where I'm meant to be--even if it's miserable. I'm here because there are still lessons to be learned, precious moments to be had. When the time comes, I will be swept to my next destination. It will be scary and it won't be easy, but it will happen at just the right time. From what I hear, destiny is always punctual.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Story about ELO


{I always like ELO. Image}
 It has been said that in a relationship, you typically argue about the same thing over and over again. One of you is all, "Why is it that you NEVER pick up your socks EVER?" and the other is like, "Oh, so you're saying I NEVER, EVER in my entire life on Planet Earth have picked up a sock? You're crazy."

You are crazy, but that's just the way it goes. One of you will always be annoyed by aspects of the other that do not fit within a specific set of necessary criteria. This happens a lot at our house, which is why I created the We Are Not Allowed To Use The Term Never or Always In An Argument Clause. No one is permitted to say, "You ALWAYS _________ and/or you NEVER ______" mostly because it is an annoying thing to say, but primarily because it is unrealistic. I'm sure there was one occasion at some point in his twenty-eight years of life that my husband did, in fact, get every last shred of hair off the bathroom counter after shaving--even the hair pieces that somehow found their way under the soap dispenser. Sure, I wasn't around then, but I'm sure it happened. Anything is possible, right?

Right. So, instead we use our words wisely. Instead of, "Why is it that you NEVER clean your disgusting hair chunks off the bathroom counter?" I'm all, "I really would appreciate it if you would make a conscious effort to clean your hair molecules off the bathroom counter in a manner that coincides with my efforts to keep the bathroom clean." And then I smile, wink and adjust my pearls and apron. Because that's what charming wives do.

But, I recently realized something important: not all repetitive arguments occur in the house. Some of them occur in other places, like my car. Here's the thing about my car: I like it to be clean. I really, really want my car to be clean and orderly at all times. It's my little slice of heaven. In order to achieve this important goal, I have but one rule and one rule only: no eating in my car. Especially fast food. Have you smelled your car after fast food? It's not pleasant. The thing about my husband? Well, the thing about him is that he thinks eating in his vehicle and then using it as a trash receptacle is a fantastic idea. This, of course is where we differ.

However, I would say that 75% of all arguments that occur in my car start with ELO. That's Electric Light Orchestra, in case you were wondering. We argue about ELO a lot. Why, you ask, do we argue about a British rock group made popular in the 70's and 80's? Because I love ELO, and their delightful tunes are played frequently on the electronic love of my life, XM Satellite radio. But my husband? My husband. He hates ELO. He breaks The Never and Always Rule and says he, "Never wants to listen to ELO" and "Always hates the synthesizer."  He doth protest when ELO tunes come on XM channels 46 and 49, which ironically are dedicated to Classic Rock and frequently plays delightful ELO tunes. But this is where my other rule comes in: the It's My Car And Regardless Of Whether I'm Driving Or Not, We Always Listen To ELO. Rules are never made to be broken.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I hope you jump in rain puddles



  Not long ago, there was a tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. President Obama likely gave the best speech of his Presidential career last night during the memorial service for the victims of the shooting. It was touching and poignant in so many ways, but the one thing that stood out to me was what was said about the youngest victim that day: nine year-old Christine Taylor Green. It is difficult to make sense of any part of this tragedy, the loss of any of those lives; but that of a child seems to sting the most.

Perhaps the word 'irony' doesn't encompass this, but she was born on September 11, 2001 amidst a tragedy and it would seem she left this earth in the same way. This is what President Obama said about her in the closing of last night's speech:

"As has already been mentioned, Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called 'Faces of Hope.' On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life: 'I hope you help those in need,' read one. 'I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope -- I hope you jump in rain puddles.'



If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.

And here on this Earth, here on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.


May God bless and keep those we've lost in restful and eternal peace. May he love and watch over the survivors. And may he bless the United States of America."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Resolve



  I always hesitate to make resolutions when a new year rolls around. There's just something about vowing to completely change myself or rid myself of bad habits that makes me feel like I'm already setting myself up for failure. I don't think the New Year should be about complete life-altering change, but it is an opportunity to start fresh.

For me, I find myself longing for something that always seems to evade me: being present in the moment. I'm always thinking about what's next, worrying about what might happen and impatiently tapping my foot while I wait. What has never occured to me is that while I'm worrying and waiting and worrying, I'm missing out on the moment at hand. You know, the one where everything is just fine and nothing has gone wrong (yet)? But it goes even deeper than that. Being present is about using time effectively---taking quicker showers, watching less television, organizing closets and living with intention and purpose, rather than doubt. Every time I feel like parts of my life are tossed high in the air above me, I just sit and worry and wait for them to fall. I waste precious moments, filled with worry and the unknown, rather than just going with it.



In this moment, there are a lot of things that are unknown to me. Many things to worry about; things that may change the course of my life completely. But I cannot control any of them. I can only live with intention and faith, knowing that those parts of my life that are in the air now will land in time and in their destined place. It's hard to wait. It's almost impossible to be patient. And it's hard to stop worrying. But I can't keep living in that place--the one where I'm worrying about basically nothing and feeling helpless. It's not a fun place to live.

Remember when I told you about the things that reside in my office at work? One of them, an homage to the extended waiting period association with the adoption process, is now gone. Instead of serving as a reminder of what was to come, it was just disheartening. I smiled as I sent it through the office shredder last week. As it turns out, it feels better to shred the reminders of the past and the instability of the future than to stare at it every moment of every day.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Transitions



{The Rock.}
 Traveling has a way of throwing your routine into a new orbit. Somewhere between the 10-hour flight and 5-hour time change between Ohio and Hawaii, my routine was lost. I think it landed somewhere in South Dakota. So, we tried our hardest to adjust to a new routine by jumping in with both feet.

We transitioned to a new time zone, new climate and new temporary reality. We drove over 900 miles in our rental car, exploring the 60x40 mile island of Oahu with ease. Everything was breathtaking, green and tropical. We went to the beach. We ate Hawaiian ice. We hiked and climbed. We laughed. It was a good transition, and as it turns out one that was much-needed.

Inevitably, things will always change. Hawaii changed us, making us realize that life isn't about worrying. Or thinking you need to change the things you can't control. It's about driving 100 miles a day. Going where the road takes you. Laying on the beach. Taking a deep breath. Climbing 1,048 steps to the top of a mountain. Feeling the sand between your toes. Just being present in the moment. We didn't talk about life, we just lived it instead.

Returning home and coming back to our old routine was a change, too. But walking in that door felt like getting a big hug; it's always good to be back. Our old routine, the one we were so happy to leave behind, had changed while we were gone. Life was different and it didn't hit the pause button while we were away. New challenges and transitions crept onto our front porch while we sat on the beach, pretending they didn't exist. But, as it turns out, life isn't about refusing to give in to the change. It's about realizing it's all part of life. And a good life at that.

{The Steps on Koko Head. Conquered. All 1,048 of them.}


{I'm smiling because I haven't climbed to the top yet.}


{The beaches are insanely beautiful.}

{Pearl Harbor was equally amazing.}

{Being fanned with a wet palm frond isn't as relaxing as I anticipated.}
{Oahu: the best food is served in a shack or run-down truck. True story.}


{Next Hawaiian vacation: 2025.}

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Life & Death



{Pearl Harbor, as the sun rose.}
 
Our recent trip to Hawaii was amazing. Relaxing, beautiful and inspiring. I believe a vacation isn't just about getting away from home...it's about getting away from everything. It's about unplugging from the world for just a moment (or 10 days in this particular case) and allowing life to be breathed back into your lungs. That's exactly what we did and exactly what happened.

Taking a time out from life has a way of bringing things into perspective. All the time we waste, the moments we take for granted and the small things we worry about, are truly nothing in the grand scheme of things. Being away from your regular life for a week has a way of making you realize that most of the things you obsess about really don't mean much of anything. The things that are actually important; your family, your goals and dreams and your love for those things are the driving force behind all that you do. Somehow, I managed to survive without the Internet or a lick of celebrity gossip for an extended period of time. I'm not sure how, but I did it. Today, as I return to my normal routine, it feels like someone charged my batteries for me while I was gone.

While we were away, a beloved member of the family passed away. My grandmother, Jane, died on December 21 after 93 very full years of life. She was one of those women that you couldn't help but admire--she was truly one of a kind. We were never allowed to call her "grandma" (she always said it wasn't a very classy term) she was Jane and she was our grandmother. She was feisty, independent and beautiful. She married my grandfather at 9:00 a.m. on a Thursday, just because she wanted to be different. She was an amazing artist. She loved to shop. She wrapped her library books in Seran Wrap, because they were dirty. She always had a stockpile of cookies in her freezer (which was how the nickname "Cookie" developed, coined by her great-grandchildren) and made the best chicken noodle soup I've ever tasted. She loved classical music, often tapping her toe on the gas pedal of her car to the music while her other hand directed the symphony in time. Jane always gave her opinion and she was usually right--especially about people. It was as though she just knew whether someone was good for you or not. She always said she was a tough old bird, and she was.

Above all else, Jane was as generous and kind as she was poised and beautiful. When you were in her presence, you could feel her love for you radiating across the room. Some of my most precious, beautiful memories are of her; as a child, she was a big part of my life. She and my aunt took me on numerous trips throughout the country; New York, Michigan, Florida, Arizona--they always took me along for the ride. We were traveling buddies and as I grew older, my admiration for Jane only grew stronger. I admired her individuality, her strong opinions and her incredible sense of humor. She was always the woman I aspired to be.

As the years went on, dementia took hold of Jane and it was devastating to watch her bright personality slowly fade away. When you love someone, it breaks your heart to see pieces of them disappear before your eyes. But as her ability to remember waned, our ability to remember her only intensified. Jane has left us, but her memory still remains, somewhere between Seran-wrapped library books and frozen cookies.

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