Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Widow of Football


My husband was recently (is February 'recent?') named the head football coach of our local high school's football team. Like most other things in life that relate to an increase in responsibility, this prompts an influx of questions from people. Things like:

"How is football going?"

"How does the team look?"

"Are things getting crazy now that football has started?"

And my favorite question: "Do you enjoy being a football widow?"

Most people don't realize I know nothing about football, so I frequently listen in on my husband's telephone conversations for intelligent-sounding tidbits. I take lots of mental notes. Why, just the other day he said our team's strong offense will have this Friday's opponent running scared defensively. However, our defense is not strong enough to hold off their offense. When I tell people this, they nod knowingly. They think I know what I'm talking about, even.

But more than anything, I think people mostly understand what it means to be married to a man who is also married to football. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of time. It's a huge commitment. It's a major responsibility. But more than anything, it's a lot of things that people don't see---leading up to a few hours each Friday night under those stadium lights that they do. Football season is hectic and it means I spend a lot of time by myself. Well, alone with two dogs. Which technically is not alone. Per say.

Sometimes, it's difficult to hold back my feelings of irritation and frustration. Other times, I just don't get it. While I know I will probably never fully understand the football and the time and the moments where I wish someone would just make me a real dinner that is not comprised mostly of candy corn, I get it.

I get that life is about noticing that when the person you love loves something that much, you can't ignore it. It's about humbling yourself to realize you should support someone's dream no matter where it takes you. And even if you don't get why someone would love that thing so much, (ahem, football) you can understand what it means to have an unwaivering, undying passion for something. It matters that they love it, not what they love.

I'm sure this plays out differently in each of our lives and relationships, but the core of what I mean is all the same. Maybe your spouse has a demanding job that means they travel frequently. Or, they have a hobby that has them fleeing from home early in the morning and coming home late at night. Regardless, it's not about understanding why they love something, it's about respecting the passion they feel. I know I will never understand why he loves football that much, but I know love when I see it. That's what love is all about.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Living & Dying.

When someone dies, it feels like the world gets a little quieter. A lot of times we hear people say that when someone who is older or suffering in some way dies, it is a blessing. Sometimes, death is a shocking event that takes us completely by surprise. Regardless of how it happens or when it occurs, it creates a void in our lives. It creates an empty space in that place in our hearts that was once carved away for someone we loved dearly.



My husband's grandfather, Louie, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. He had fifteen children and was a farmer by trade. When I married my husband, I became the 100th member of the family--it was (and still is) an honor to be part of such an amazing legacy. That's me, on my wedding day, dancing with one of his crutches. Four years later, the family is 122+ strong. It's amazing, really. He began it all by marrying the love of his life all those years ago.

I thought a lot yesterday, and still today, about death--and living. I remind myself that I don't often think of these things until someone dies, and for that I feel ashamed. Why is it that we wait for someone to leave this Earth before we step back and think about how we choose to spend our time here? Why wait until it hits us that our time isn't promised to us that we feel inspired to really start living? The ticking of our own clock gets a little louder, and more profound, in those moments where it occurs to us that we won't be young forever. Or, the chance to really understand the importance of making the best of every precious moment. Death has a way of bringing that all back to us in waves, doesn't it?

I'm not often reminded of my own mortality, but losing someone dear always manages to dredge up those things in my own life. I should take more chances. I should stop dwelling on the negative. I should spend every last moment doing things that make me deliriously happy. I should learn to let things go--the things that really don't matter--to make room for the things that do. I should turn off the radio and just drive in silence instead. I should take shorter showers and go for longer walks.


Though he wasn't my grandfather, it still reminds me of all the things our grandparents represent in our lives. I was fortunate enough to grow up with three of my grandparents and today, I sincerely miss their presence in my life. I think a lot about what it means to live that long---over ninety years--and the strength and wisdom it takes to live such a full life. My mother has always told me that grandparents are an amazing judge of character. If we brought someone to a family function that my grandmother didn't like, she would always say so--and she was always right. The opposite was also true; when she told me my husband was a good man, I knew she was right.

I think a lot too, about what it might have been like to live through the Great Depression. To know what it was like to fight a war. Or, to raise children in an era where people were trustworthy and doors did not need to be locked. I wish I had asked my grandparents more questions. I wish I had listened a little closer when they told me stories or gave me advice. I didn't realize the inheritance I was receiving until it had been all but lost due to dementia or illness.

More than anything, I am completely captivated by true love. Our grandparents lived in an era where divorce wasn't common--but long marriages were. I think a lot about what marriage meant back then, and what it might be like to lose the love of my life. That's what marriage really is all about. Sticking together, through every obstacle life has to offer, for decades. And though death may separate someone from loved ones, it also reunites true love again. And that's a beautiful thing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What is Perfection?




Are you perfect? Yeah, me too neither.

I think about what being perfect means far too often than I should. I think about it when I'm cleaning my house. I think about it when I'm getting dressed. I think about it when I'm putting on my makeup. What is perfect? Who is perfect? It sometimes feels like this idea is haunting me.

You probably know someone who you perceive to be perfect. As women, we do this to ourselves all the time. We meet someone who seems to have it all: an amazing body, perfect skin, good looks, lots of money, a huge house and a handsome husband. Sometimes, she even has several good looking children. (Which, you know, makes the flawless body thing even more annoying.) How does she do it? We envy her. We even maybe wish we could be more like her. It's like somehow every stroke of good luck on planet earth fell upon this woman and the rest of us feel fat, ugly and inadequate in comparison.

Here's something you need to know: she's not perfect. You aren't either. So, what is she then? Well, she's probably really, really good at hiding her imperfections. Or, she is practically killing herself to hide the cracks in her foundation. Maybe she wouldn't ever admit it, or maybe she's too proud to say so, but she's not perfect. Something in her life is wrong. She, in some way, was dealt a poor hand. No one, truly, can have it all.

But it's easy to forget that, out there in the real world with real pressures and a drive to keep up with those people we think are perfect. Maybe you're the girl who kills herself to hide the cracks. Maybe you're humble enough to admit that despite what others might see, you have split ends and your laundry room has enough clean clothing heaps to secure yourself a spot on Hoarders. (Guilty as charged!) Really and truly, it doesn't matter what it is--it just matters that it is. It matters that you learn to embrace your imperfections, and are willing to understand that everyone else has them too. Even when they aren't obvious to the outside world.

I have wasted a lot of time trying to be perfect. For years, I have struggled with body image. It's my Achilles heel, if I ever had one. I used to think my body was the only thing that stood between me and perfection. When you focus so intently upon something, like your body, it will never be good enough. You really won't be able to actually see it as its viewed through other's eyes. It will always be inadequate.

I understand that I am thin--some might say too thin. I wear a size 0. I dig through clothing racks for an XS. But, some days all I see are my stretch marks (yes, I have them) and love handles (I have those, too). I focus on my own faults because I can't see what everyone else sees---I cannot see the forest for the trees.

I'm not saying this because I want you to feel sorry for me with my poor skinny body and my terrible size 0 clothing. My point is that everyone struggles with their body, even those who don't have a weight problem--and those who should be deliriously happy with their dress size. Happiness and perfection are not found in a clothing size, no matter what anyone tells you.

"Perfectionism is slow death." -Hugh Prather

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Denied.



Have you ever received a rejection letter? It's pretty much the worst piece of mail ever.

Today, however, I received someone else's rejection letter in the mail and it was a good thing. It was from the County courthouse, informing me that the degenerate who broke into our house two years ago was very recently denied release from the State Penitentiary. He asked, they said no. While I do not like to find happiness in other's misery, it made me smile.

You see, I have very mixed feelings about this particular situation. The man who broke into our house did so, we suspect, after watching us me for weeks on end. Figuring out my schedule. Noticing what I do and when. Then, on a cool Thursday in March, he made his move. He kicked in the back door, threw the remnants of the door's wood frame under my husband's workbench, and entered our house. From there, all I know for sure is this: he entered our bedroom and stole every valuable piece of jewelry I owned. He left the rest so I wouldn't suspect anything.

I didn't realize any of this until after I had been home for about 45 minutes. It shook me to my core. Was he still in there? Did he take anything else? How long has he been watching, waiting for the chance to come into our home and steal from us?

Eventually, he was caught. He and I are roughly the same age; he was a repeat offender on probation who was sentenced to four years in the State Pen. He broke into twelve homes over the course of six months. We would often see him walking up and down the road, collecting cans. Turns out, he was actually casing homes to burglarize. Part of me feels sorry for him; the Sheriff's office said he was a drug addict looking for quick money. The rest of me, however, is angry that he chose us.

It's awful to feel like you are not safe in your own home. To know that someone took what they deemed valuable from you, never really understanding how valuable it really was. Most of all, as I told the Prosecutor, he took things from me I cannot ever replace.

Monetarily speaking, those items were not worth much money; I imagine the jeweler didn't give him much for those pieces. But I wonder if he looked at the old, worn gold locket with the initials "MLS" engraved on the back and wondered who the sweet girl in the black & white photo inside was before it was melted down for scrap. Or, if he knew how many times I had spun the delicate gold ring with the big green stone around my finger on my wedding day. I will never get those things back--that's what hurts the most.

More than anything, I miss my ability to trust. I wish I could get my security back. It's more painful than you can imagine to never, ever feel safe in your own home. I still don't. I always wonder if someone is watching me. In the back of my mind, every time I return home, I hope my posessions are still there.




Seeing that denial letter today brought it all back to me again. It's funny that one piece of paper has that sort of effect on me, but it does. I remembered it all again, standing there in the kitchen, reading and re-reading that magic word: denied.

God bless the justice system.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nature's Bounty



Remember when I waxed poetic about our super lovely vegetable garden?

As they say, the chickens have come home to roost, dear friends. And if our garden's plants were chickens, we would be eating all eggs, all the time. You know, because we would have more eggs than two people and two dogs could possibly eat on their own. A gal can only eat so many omelettes before she feels like she might vom.

Except, I'm not talking about eggs. I'm talking about tomatoes. And they are ballin' out of control.



Which means my husband has been bringing up my least favorite rural topic: canning. It's a lot of work, y'all. However, the lure of fresh delicious salsa whenever I please is quite strong. And pasta sauce. Also: pizza sauce.



Life is so simple for a girl who never really cooks anything, ever. Unless she's married to a man who cooks everything, all the time. Then, things get complicated. And delicious. It's quite the juxtaposition. So, as he slaved away last night in an attempt to transform our abundance of cucumbers into pickles, I took pictures. Also, I freaked out about the gigantic mess he was making in the kitchen, a place I prefer to be securely fastened in the "clean" category. Also, I don't like pickles, but I can appreciate how wonderful it might be to eat delicious pickles and know I grew them myself. Isn't nature delicious?

Speaking of nature, I'd like to point out another obvious nature-related tidbit. Check out this guy:


He spends his days doing a few things: obsessing over food and obsessing over cows. However, when he's not doing that, he is staring out the back window with a laser-like focus. At nothing. Nothing at all. Even photography was unable to break his focus.


It's actually kind of cute. That is, until he sees the wind blow and starts growling. Then, all bets are off.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Twenty-Eight.

Today is my birthday.

Da-na-na-na-na-na.

That's right, I just typed that out. And, it took like ten minutes (and singing out loud) to make sure it was correct.

In my family, birthdays have always been a big deal. On your special day, you get to pick out your favorite meal for dinner, your cake flavors and you are showered with gifts. It's sorta family tradition.

However, now that I live approximately 1.5 hours away from my family, we had this celebration last week. I chose breakfast-brunch and Kahlua cake. {I can't find my mother's actual recipe online, but believe me when I say it's the best thing ever. But then again, cake soaked in alcohol is bound to be delicious.}

I think the best thing about having a birthday (other than the attention and presents, of course) is the opportunity to reflect on your life. Or, at least the last year of your life.

I can't say that much has changed for me in the last year, but I do feel proud of this journey--our journey--to wherever life takes us. When you are little, birthdays are such a big deal, complete with parties and friends and all those major milestones that affect you in such profound ways. After 21, you and your milestones seem to slow down significantly and a birthday is just another year added to the tally.

If my life's experience over the last few years has taught me anything, it's that time--and life--is incredibly precious. I know I have said it before, but when something major turns your life upside down, it has a way of changing you for the better.

Here's what else I know for sure on this day of my birth:

Every moment matters.
Everything is preparing you for something.
You were a fool to ever play the "I'll be here by this age" game with yourself.
Not everyone can hear listens to the ticking of their biological clock.
When you feel like crying, you should cry.
If you don't cry when you feel like crying, you will cry harder at something insignificant.
The truth can hurt just as often as it can heal.
Invictus is one of the most beautiful poems ever written.

My body will always be this awkward & lanky:




My hair will always have a mind of its own:

And my knees will always be this knobby:


Oh, and clowns will always be creepy. Always.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 14, 2010



I remember everything there is to remember about this day. I remember how it felt. The day was hot. Heavy. Scary. Exciting. Life-changing. I know what I was wearing. I remember exactly what was said. I know just how I felt, in every part of my being. One year later, it's still all too familiar.

On this day, our application was "officially" accepted by the adoption agency.

I wrote a check, hand visibly shaking, for one hundred dollars. It was an application fee, a moment that meant we were just one step closer to being parents. At the time, it seemed strange that we were paying money to wait. Was I supposed to put "Baby" in the memo line of my check?

But after one year of asking, "When?" and then another year of asking, "Why?" we were ready to move on. We needed to move on. Adoption was moving on.

It would take a while, they told us. About eighteen months of waiting, doing absolutely nothing except waiting, until we could start doing something. The excitement wore off quickly and today, nearly 365 days later, we are still waiting. Some days, waiting is peaceful and familiar. Other days, it breaks my heart.

I walk a thin line between feeling broken and being at peace with our current situation. It can best be described as a glass of water filled with dirt: most days, the gritty dirt particles sit at the bottom of the glass, existing. Resting, even. Other days, someone drops a spoon in the glass without warning and stirs things up again. Disgusting things come floating to the surface that were once resting at the bottom and the water becomes incredibly murky. My brain gets foggy, forgetting all the things I told myself in that moment where the water was clear. My heart rips open in the broken places, bursting through the band-aids and feeble attempts at repairs I've made over the years.

It's hard to know what it means, really. But I do know this: God is preparing me for the last leg of my life's most difficult, trying, painful and rewarding journey. It's foolish to think that it's all rosy from here. It wouldn't be wise to think that adoption is easy or that it won't remind me of all the things that have already caused my heart to break over the last two and one-half years. I think a lot about what adoption really means, other than waiting endlessly, filling out paperwork and plunking down thousands of dollars. Really, it's not about any of that---that's just the background noise. It's about being willing to open our hearts and homes to something bigger than ourselves.

I used to think that God didn't give us what we wanted because we were being punished. For what, I really do not know. That was the frustrating part. But we are good people, I used to beg instead of pray at night. Why do you give children to such awful people? Are they really more deserving than us? This thinking turned me into someone I didn't recognize anymore---because you look at anyone who is a parent and wonder what it is they have that you don't. Or, you listen to them complain and begin to hate them for being honest. It's a slippery slope.

To be honest, I still have a green eyed monster living in my brain. I am constantly walking a tightrope between peace and anger. It's the truth. I understand that it is likely a permanent resident, regardless of where to road to adoption leads us. Some things are just forever. I need to learn to exist with my demons, rather than trying to remove them entirely.

But here's the other truth: I have more faith today than I did two years ago. Growing up, I thought I just needed to pray for something and I would get it--it was that simple. It always worked; I fell ass-backwards into a lot of really wonderful things in my life and I took it all for granted. I don't believe we exist in this world as two people who are unable to have biological children because we're being punished or because we aren't good enough or praying hard enough---it's because we're being taught an important lesson. Life isn't always fair. We don't always get everything we want. And sometimes, we don't realize that we have been praying for the wrong thing all along.

I prayed and prayed and prayed for a child. Just one. That's it. I didn't think I was asking for too much; I just wanted what I wanted--and I did not want to wait for it. I have been waiting for much longer than I ever dreamed, but I now understand that's just part of our story. I may never truly understand, but I do know this: despite month after month of crushing failure and disappointment, I still hope. Adoption is the hope we've been waiting for all this time.

I have no idea what to expect in the coming years. I do not have the slightest clue what the process will be like. I don't know how soon a baby will arrive in our lives. But, I find my peace in knowing our day will come. In the meantime, I'll be here.

Waiting.

Wishing.

Dreaming.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blocked.

I have always despised the term "Writer's Block," because I feel it creates this false sense of lacking creativity. I am a writer. With every shred of my being, I love to write. It has always come easily to me, most of the time. But like anything else creative, the inspriration in writing comes and goes, much like the ebb and flow of anything else in our lives. I cannot write on demand. I can't create things that do not exist--they have to come to me.

Typically, they come to me at the strangest times. Like, in the midst of a Jillian Michaels torture session. Or, in the car. Also, on a run. These times, where I never have a piece of paper to write down my thoughts, is where I do my very best work. I think in order to be inspired, to tell the world your side of the story, you have to actually get out there. Whether it's taking a walk or sitting on the front porch, taking it all in never fails to leave me feeling inspired. Or, annoyed. Whatever gives me material, really.

However, it's a delicate balance. My job, at its core, is to write. My passion is also writing. However, I have to separate the two---my job is one thing and my personal passion for writing about whatever I choose is quite another. Sometimes, I do not posess enough creativity to go around. This has been the case lately. I find myself stopping and starting blog posts, or debating whether or not to even hit the "publish post" button.

Monday's post was one of those moments. I spent days (really, I did) thinking about deleting what I wrote. I sometimes feel like I write the same thing over and over again, just wrapped in a different package. I sometimes wonder if people get tired of hearing me complain about my inability to have children or grow tired of hearing me wish I could change something entirely out of my control. Even I get tired of it somedays. But's it's life---my life--and this is just part of my journey.

I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but I haven't felt as inspired as usual lately. Maybe it's the craziness of my personal life (and the start of football season) but when things get hectic, my creativity wanes. Luckily, it isn't gone forever; it's just taking a break.

After all, don't we all deserve a break?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Seeing the forest for the trees

Today marks three months since my surgery. It feels like a distant memory, however. I have healed completely and my scar has slowly begun to fade away with the help of an amazing scar cream. I can do just about anything without restriction and I feel basically back to normal. This is unfortunately the case for everything--including the pain.

I never believed surgery would heal me completely.

It just seemed too lofty a goal, which is exactly what I told the overly-chipper nurses who tried to convince me otherwise as they poked the back of my hand for an IV.

I never thought surgery would allow me to get pregnant.

All I wanted, truly, was to be rid of the pain. (Well, that and the large cyst on my ovary.) Today, months later--I'm still in the same pain. The stabbing pain of a large cyst is gone--it was removed along with four of its friends--but the monthly pain I have felt for well over a decade has actually gotten worse.

The body is a funny thing, you know. I sometimes wonder how it is possible for anyone to get pregnant based upon the overwhelming complexities of our body's inner workings. They call it "The Miracle of Life" for a reason, no?

I remember, quite clearly, that my doctor said surgery could help. Or, it could do nothing. There was just no way to know how cutting large chunks out of my lady parts was going to change anything--or nothing. With all the medical advances that exist in our world today, there are still a lot of mysteries and shrugged shoulders sent my way, unfortunately.

Looking back, I realize I had the right approach. I opted for the full-blown surgery, as truly horrified I was to make that choice. It wasn't as bad as I thought. (Is anything?) Likewise, I also chose to be realistic about what surgery meant, including understanding that it might not change anything. That's the thing about recurring disappointment: it prepares you for further disappointment. Gives you a realistic approach to anything that isn't a sure thing. I don't say this to be somber or negative--I say it because time has proven it to be my truth. A risk is just that--a risk.

You see, when you have been gravely disappointed, you protect your hope--and your heart--quite desperately. You quickly learn what things need to be hoped for, and what things will only ruin your spirit of hope permanently. You let certain hopes go, allowing them to leave you, in the interest of finding something else to hope for instead. Whatever it may be.

As for me, I don't mope. I do not dwell on all the things I don't have in my life. I do not believe the world is a terrible place. Really, I don't. I do not hate people who are very capable of giving birth to as many children as they choose. I do not despise pregnant women. But the truth is my feelings are tied up in a complicated knot that I have absolutely no idea how to untangle. Life is very complicated--and so is my heart.

I have come to understand that I will likely always battle those demons--the ones that make me angry, envious and bitter. That little jab in the stomach I feel when someone talks about babies and pregnancy. I'll spend years pushing them away, wishing I had the ability to turn off my ugly emotions with the flip of a switch. It's always going to be complicated.

I think that's why I have always found peace in the idea that we cannot see the forest for the trees. Sometimes, we are so caught up in the details that we forget there is a much bigger plan---one more beautiful and captivating than we ever imagined--waiting for us around the corner.

You can read more about the surgery experience here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where the Buffalo Actually Roam


No, not out West.

Or, in the Great Plains.

Across the street from our house.



Also, they roam with "beefalo." Whatever that means.

And this guy with the giant horns.



It's actually really cool if you ask me.

Oh, and crazy-insane-bark-worthy if you ask Buster.

Just make sure you ask him when he's not wearing his Bark Collar.

Otherwise, he would probably tell you it's totally not worth barking. Not one bit.

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