Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blue, Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas

No matter how many times I type it out, it always seems like too many "blue-s." Anyway, happy holidays. It's already snowed here, there is a Christmas tree in my living room and David has convinced me to give him two of his Christmas presents already. But hey, the boy's persistent, and I DID make him watch every Christmas movie we own all in one weekend. He deserved it.

What happened to my steady strength? Gone with the warm weather, I suppose, and I am left feeling frail, easily moved: a push over where strong legs once stood. It doesn't take much for my eyes to fill slowly from the edges, forming huge gray, dripping puddles where my eyeliner and saline meet. Sentimentality that I would usually scoff at, grabs me, shakes me up. Stirred, I am a mixture of emotion and logic and caffeine.

Sleeping isn't settling me down. Six hours or 16, I "wake" feeling restless, annoyed. I look asleep, but my head is swimming in a dream. My mother is there. An old love is there. A wedding is taking place. There is a tug of war, a bath tub of freezing cold water and I am being plunged in, then out, again and again. Six hours or 16, I "wake" and dress for work silently, avoiding the bathroom altogether. My car is stubborn to start, but eventually it does and I ride to work with the news, a story of a whole diner in Pennsylvania where one customer's generosity of paying for a stranger's meal turned into a five-hour game of "pay it forward." I cry alone in the driver's seat.

And all day that vision, the image of that tree in my mother's house sits at the back of my throat. The vision of our Christmas tree choked with white-strands and mismatched lights. A pink where purple should be, a sea-green where blue should be. All of them where our normal, simple white lights should be. Silver Christmas balls crowded by small sparkling birds where our delicate and precisely placed ornaments should be. Bunches of fake flowers puff out from inside the tree, awkwardly protruding into the red living room where dead space should be. A violent screach of noise filling the room where soft Christmas songs should be.

It should be: My mother prodding the tree, saying gently to her helper who extends a handmade ornament, "No, I don't think so, it doesn't quite go with our theme this year." It should be: A radiant display of simplicity and class, "It could be straight out of Southern Living" says a guest. It should be: Bing Crosby singing "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas," my mother humming the tune softly to herself, her eyes squinting as she steps back from the tree, then twinkling in approval.

It is: A tangled mess of glittery ornaments, white wiring and gray tears. It is: A tangled mess of hysteria. "My mother holds all the beauty that my world has ever known. Without her, there is no more beauty left," my mother says, poking another cluster of salmon-colored flowers. Blue lights this year, because she's "in mourning," turned into a rainbow of color and light, tiny bulbs shooting small colored shapes onto the ceiling above.

I step out into a cold Virginia night in mid-December. Through the living room windows I see her there, standing before a twinkly, towering tree, both so much alive. And now I understand, now I see its beauty and I go back inside to her.

She is nodding to herself. "Gawdy," she whispers, and reaches for another string of Christmas lights.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm Sorry. I Can't. Don't Hate Me.

I'm horrible at keeping up with this thing. Despite my desire to write daily, I always feel that I'm coming up short with things to say. I'm always too worried it will seem contrived or pathetic. In summation: If I would just write as much as I think, I'd be golden.

change, verb, to make or become different. (A proposal to change the law.)

So, it's been a while. The days slide by and things change, but thankfully my Grandmother is still with us. Thanksgiving this year was definitely the most memorable of my life, as over fifty of my family members gathered at my Uncle's house for a full day of food, music and catching up. It was so calming to see my Grandmother swaying in a soft two step with one of her brothers, their cheeks red and wet with tears. This year I am overwhelming thankful for family, as dramatic and crazy as it may be. I'm thankful for the comfort of knowing I am never alone, no matter where I am.

Wedding planning is coming along smoothly as well. Save the Dates are in envelopes and ready to be sent out. Deposits have been paid. I couldn't thank my lovely lovely Emily enough for her tireless love and support. Bless her for humoring me in hour-long conversations on wedding photographers and color schemes. I'd be lost without her. But really, what else is a bestest friend for? HAH! And David has endured the same, only more often and in person. Bless him, too. <3

Secretly, I'm missing school just a little these days. As talks of my friends going to grad school come up, I think back to my jam-packed days of papers and deadlines and lectures. I miss being held to a standard--whether it was personal or based on a syllabus. I miss turning in work and getting it back with a grade on it, with feedback. I miss "you can do better, so do it" and "incredible writing, here." I miss As and Bs that reinforced the idea that hard work pays off, that it was all worth it.

I used to move at lightening speeds. My brain worked more sharply, spouting off answers and ideas. My fingers struck the keys more quickly, moving as if imaginary tigers chased after them. My feet were blurred in a constant state of motion, dashing up & down, here & there. Like lightening, I felt electric and just as important. These days, I'm a slow bug. Rather than nimble, I feel wide and lazy--a too-full glass of water. I feel so uninspired, so content to just sit and shake my head rather than jump and shout and pound my fists. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I don't see the sun most days.

My normal annoyances remain: Carrie Prejan, et al., my job, stomach chub, having to defrost frozen meat and never having the money to, well, DO anything.

My normal obsessions remain: David's face, my puppy, babies, weddings, $1 bills, books and guacamole.

Still want to move to a remote island and live of the "fatta tha land." Still want to eliminate hunger and homelessness and divorce and sadness and disappointment. It seems little has changed, yet everything always does. And no matter how hard you try to keep it all at bay: your hair is turning gray, new rumors are being spread about the President, someone doesn't love someone else anymore and you're long overdue for an oil change.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Bad Behavior

It's never a good idea to eat seven or eight boxes of Hot Tamales. Even if they're the small, seemingly insignificant ones. Bad for your teeth, bad for the back of your throat. Just bad. Your entire mouth will be left burning for the remainder of the day. When you eat your turkey sandwich, Hot Tamales will be there. When you munch on your organic carrots, faint traces of HTs will appear in every bite.

This isn't my only bad behavior lately. I've been letting the laundry collect into long piles on the floor. Baskets and bags half-full sit in what would be wide-open walkways--now crowded by mess. Pajamas are on the bathroom floor, looking as if they've just been stepped out of despite the fact that they've been there since last week.

I've also been spending far too much time looking at puppy websites. Squealing over adorable combinations of breeds that were never meant to mix. (Probably). I'm wanting to buy another dog (or twelve), quit my job and go back to France.

No, I'm not well at all. Quite sick, actually.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't Quit!

"When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit!
(From Elementary-school memory--but also on a little postcard on my fridge <3)

I'm too tired to move, or pick up the phone or even eat (this is rare). Just drained. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because my little brain has been running on overdrive. So much to take in and process, to spit out answers for. The wedding, my siblings, my stressed-to-the-limit mother, my job, the bills, my sick grandmother, ticking-ticking time bombs, friends, the economy, the dogs, my Love <3, health care legislation, starting a website, freelance writing, MONEY, birthdays, H1N1, oil changes, exercise, chili recipes, laundry and leaves on the carpet (and bills bills bills bills bills). 99.9% percent of all of it, a complete waste of time. Waste of thought, yet I still tossed and turned last night, half praying half freaking out about what today would hold and what hurdle we would be forced to jump over next!

But "It's when things seem worst that you must not quit!" Even though this period in my life isn't "the worst" at all! I am so lucky and blessed! It's just that these days I'm having to play cheerleader a bit more, and I'm trying to stay positive and supportive of everyone and myself, too! Go team! Don't give up! We'll eventually get to right where we're supposed to be!

Rest if you must, but DO NOT QUIT! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Funnel

funnel, noun, a tube or pipe that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, used for guiding liquid or powder into a small opening.

We knew that this phase of the illness would come. When the tears of joy, the strength, the assuring smile would subside and the anger, the doubt would rise to the surface. After all, my grandmother is young, far too young for her life to be drawing to a close. "It's not fair," she says to my mother. "There are still so many things I want to do. I'm not done living my life yet." And despite long leisurely travels on trains across Europe, and lively evenings spent at the Kennedy Center listening to the National Symphony Orchestra, she is overwhelmed by the incompleteness she feels. She longs for the peace brought on by the assurance of a life well-lived.

She feels like she's watching time, opportunity, all of the things she's always wanted to do whip round and round before her eyes like a whirlpool, plummeting downward through the funnel of her life. What little she has left--that she clutches to-- is circling the small hole in the bottom. There is darkness on the other side, but also, there is the most magnificent light.

Since I was young, I've said I think I'm pretty good at learning from other's mistakes, picking up what's left behind from someone else's mess and committing the lesson learned to memory. But how can I apply something of this magnitude to my own life? How can I see through her eyes and glimpse her life--such a magical, colorful, rich life--as inadequate? As a life left unfulfilled. At the very slow rate at which I'm moving, I can't fathom my life, 40 years from now, being anywhere near as wonderful as hers. I'm not open enough, loving enough, faithful enough. Even at 22, my imagination falters in the presence of hers. What can I do except try to read though her disappointment and decipher the lesson before it's too late and all I can do is circle around the inside of the funnel and wait.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When There Are No Words

word, noun, a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.

My sister Whitney and I play this movie-quote game. We've played it for as long as I remember. I'm pretty sure it started out in the way back of our station wagon on long drives from Massachusetts down to Virginia when we were young. It's easy. You say a quote, the other person names the movie.

-"Clarese, your hair...YOU'RE HERE!"
-It Takes Two

Sometimes we even stump ourselves, and I've been stuck on this particular one for ages. All I know is that Melanie Lynskey says the line, "sometimes life's just hard, for no reason at all." I can hear the twang of her southern accent, the way the sounds of each word glide in to one another smoothly. I can almost see her in some creaky rocking chair on a porch, or in some abandoned field. (I'm suddenly wondering, is it Man in the Moon?) But I can't, for the life of me, pinpoint the movie that it's from.

It gets to me, and leaves me wondering because I find myself repeating it when times are tough. When I get completley blindedsided on a boring Tuesday--the collision of something so tragic, so difficult with the simplicity of a quiet afternoon. Finding out your grandmother has cancer when you're painting your toenails. A phone call on your lesiurely lunch hour from your mother who's hysterically crying. Whether I'm comforting myself or someone else, I just chant that to myself. "Sometimes life's hard, for no reason at all."

I can't directly address my mother losing her mother. I don't know how to grasp that with words, even if I try my hardest and read all of the case studies she emails to me. Not even after all the times she's cried to me. I sit next to her in the car and hear her say, "I don't know what I'll do when she's gone," and all I can do is reach out and touch her hand. I can't change David's face--twisted with worry--and convince him that Amelia will be fine with a line. Even with that line. I say it, then watch it fall flat on its face. Splat! Right onto the ground before me. It's my own mental therapy, but I'm still not getting anywhere, despite it's truth.

Sometime's life IS hard for absolutely NO reason. Whatsoever. You make a plan--a nice one, a thoughtful one--to surprise the person you love, and then watch it crumble to bits. You find out you need four new tires on the same day all of your loan payments are due. You make a promise to someone--something that really means a lot--and you can't follow through with it. Perfectly fine people pass away in their sleep. It rains on the one day you need sunshine. Ticks creep from blades of grass onto a human body and bite.

But it makes no difference how trivial some things may seem to you. "Hard" is in the eye of the beholder. And whether he or she chooses to roll with it or wallow in it, you have to be there with your mental chanting, your hugs and your words--even if you hate the sound they make as they leave your mouth. I'm learning to stop beating myself up for this inadequacy. Sure, there are those with a gift of comforting others, having "the right words" to say, but that doesn't mean they can quell every fear, soothe every ache that stings deep down. There is always a private pain that you take with you into the shower, that you wear even after stripping off all of your clothing that no one can touch. And when someone you love is going through that, you make your own effort. You step outside of your own reach and find the strength to be there. To plug in the empty holes, to provide support where strength is wavering. And when your own resources are drained and you have nothing left, you pray God will give you the substance to hold on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mon Bourgogne

I went to France, once. (I took this picture there.) For a brief moment, I was a world traveler, traipsing through the streets of Paris covered in rain and layers of mismatched fabric. Strolling casually without direction in and out of the alleyways of Dijon. I rode trains on the weekends and slept in hostels on thin foam mattresses. Took luke-warm showers and dried my wet body off with the t-shirt I'd just slept in. Everything was simple. Getting up at 8 a.m. after a late night out was just another part of the fluid motion of my days there--long and lazy, beginning each morning with a cup of scalding Darjeeling tea.

There was an energy there, a magic there that scooped each of us out of our insides and left us cold and huddled together on street corners like rounded balls of glacee in a cone. Neopolitan flavored, full of color and life and too much sugar. We gorged on les baguettes et les pains au chocolat. We never felt guilty for all the things we ate. All the deserts. We shook our hips and moved to the rhythm of drum circles late into the night--refusing to stop when they would flash the lights on and off. Refusing to go home, instead chanting slured renditions of "je suis une artiste!" Refusing to remember when the buses stopped running, having to walk the miles and miles home on many late nights--two hazy silhouettes swaying silently together down a cobblestone street.

We spoke le francais with impeccable accents--some better than others. We wore sunglasses on sunny, hungover mornings to streetside cafes. We opened our eyes wide and saw each other. Sometimes we cried. We met in parks and chased pidgeons and told each other secrets. We sang "The Seed" by The Roots with dance moves to go along, and laid in the dark on our backs wishing that we would all still be there when the lights came back on. We ate strawberries and made plans to return, and then never to leave.

But then. We packed our bags and scrambled to find souvenirs for everyone we would return to in the states. We were quiet and distant from each other--preparing to detach after all of our weeks of intermingling. We became separate, single despite the stories we shared, the jokes we still laughed about--now alone in our varying ticket lines.

I still speak to myself in french a lot. I forget the things I saw, and then they come back to me in flashes so striking, causing my brain to derail on account of its forgetfulness. Now that you remember, don't forget, I tell myself. But I know I will, there's no stopping it. Like a long stream of melted ice cream slipping down your arm to your elbow, when there is nothing you can do but let it drip, dropping to the sidewalk below. Small globs of forgotten sweetness trailing behind you as you make your way alone into another cold night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pasta: It's What's for Dinner (and breakfast, and lunch, too!

compulsive, adjective, resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge.

For years, I've described my personality as compulsive--whether or not that is the appropriate word for it. All I know is that I fixate on things, dwell on things for too long. If I discover a song I like, I listen to it every chance I get. If I'm wondering about wedding photography
, I spend all day on the web researching. If I find that I love the way chicken salad tastes in a pita, I eat it every day for a month. I don't really ever get sick of these things, either. They just eventually fade upon the arrival of a new obsession, a new focus for my compulsion. Instead, I get really in to turkey sandwiches and soup, or I decide to sing along to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" on repeat instead of Feist's cover of "Inside and Out." (Have now returned to the later. I missed it. I'll listen to it 18 times between now and 5 o'clock.) I like "compulsive" because it suggests a lack of method to its little bit of madness.

But I only like it when I get to push "repeat." I don't like it when current life situation forces me to COMPULSIVELY eat pasta for every meal of the day. Or when it forces me to wear the same black sweater and black flats with holes in the toes to work everyday. And to take you on a drastic turn, I hate the feeling of dread I experience that every passing day only means it's one more giant red "X" on my grandmother's mental calendar. I can't stop thinking about how she must be ticking the days off like an old rusty alarm clock. Begging for one of the bent arms to suddenly snap off and stop moving forward. A silenced alarm. No "snooze" button. When I see her, despite her calm, I know she's wishing for toothpicks to prop her eyes open so she'll never have to sleep, never have to miss a moment of what little time she has left. I'd rather push "pause" or "fastforward" over these parts. Instead they play over and over again in slow motion, where all the faces become distorted with pain and meaningless arguments over what no one can (or will ever) remember.

And I'm left feeling tired and drained. Not hungry for pasta, or Jay-Z or even wedding planning. Empty and blank, just wishing that ticking clock would break.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Season

blustery, adjective, It looks like a rather blustery day, today
-(of weather or a period of time) characterized by strong winds

I lulled in bed as usual this morning--suspended in that lazy rocking motion, that back and forth between laying down and getting up. After changing my mind a dozen times, finding reasons to snuggle down below the covers, I finally sprung up and my cheeks were the first to feel it. The cool crispness in the air of our house. Not stuffy, or artificially cool, but naturally chilled. Air freshened by the arrival of Fall and all things Fall. Three plump pumpkins on our front porch. Colorful bunches of crunchy leaves in the backyard. That first slap of cool that air smacks your face and neck in the morning, catching you off guard. Almost knocking you off balance.

I felt it this morning on the sidewalk, my scarf trying to catch the flow of the wind and slip off my neck, and it made me stand up straighter. Ah, I said to myself, hello there, old friend. You've come back. After a summer of sticky and sweaty, sunburned and never quite ready for bathing-suits, Fall has tip toed back on stage, puffed up its cheeks up for a string of blustery days, and now stands behind us, or beside us, red in the face and exasperated, ready to blow.

This fall I am feeling differently from any other season I've experienced. As I pull thicker layers out of storage, and make note to put the heavier comforter on the bed, I'm wondering what the heart does to ready itself for the harsh months of a winter full of unknowns. A winter whose white blanket of snow cannot guarantee the continuance of bright green life below. A winter who promises to grab on to each inch of bare skin that peeks out from under warm layers and send you on your way shivering. A winter that will eventually give way to summer, who can't guarantee any specific life either. The change of seasons propels the cycle, assuring us that the bulbs we planted will emerge--seemingly defiant, but not--from the ground and a row of furry babies will be spotted in a nearby pasture. But when they change again, will we all be there to touch one another and breathe in deep sighs of relief. Will we open our eyes again and say Ah, you're still here, too. Thank God.

This pair of seasons approaching is a harsh duo. They are not the sunshine seasons, the emergence-of new-life seasons. They are the brace-yourselves seasons. They bring with them the darkness, the chill, the weakening of the body's defenses. What's the equivalent of a warm sweater for this heart? How do I tell it to rest easy and warm on the inside despite what might happen out here in the world? I know God is the answer. This isn't my "duh" moment. Each verse of encouragement I read, or quote of the virtue of a beautiful life well-lived, provides me momentary relief. A moment's distraction. But I am still anxious, still worriedly making lists in hopes I can achieve my way out of this dread I feel. So if I linger too long in bed, or get caught standing absentmindedly on the sidewalk in the morning, understand I'll be back soon. I'm just sneaking back inside myself, deep down, searching for warmth, pasting scraps across the surface of my heart in a pathetic attempt at armor. Give me some time, forgive me. And please know that I understand only His presence here can lift me up, only the warmth of His hands cupped around my heart can protect it from the worst possible outcome: that when the snow melts, slinking lazily down into the street, an empty patch of ground will appear where grass used to grow, breath used to move in and out, and life used to be.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Club

You sit on your couch rubbing your own elbows, or you sit in your chair staring at the computer screen, thinking and feeling out this new pain you have acquired without wanting to. It makes you feel heavy, so heavy that after a day of carrying it around, you long for bed. You long for the kind of silence and darkness that numb you. And in this pain, with this pain, surrounded by all of it, you feel so alone. So separate from a greater whole of bodies stamped in imaginary ink with the word "healthy." You feel so singular, so isolated, maybe even unique.

But you couldn't be more wrong.

I mean this, not distastefully, but truthfully: I feel like I have just been accepted into an exclusive club. From the first dear friend, to the last stranger who found out about my grandmother's illness, the reception I've felt, the comfort I've received is rooted in a painful understanding. A too-close-for-comfort grasp on what it feels like--that slight yet piercing ache--to learn that you or someone you love has cancer. I know I have been so blessed, that God has shielded me and much of my family from illness, but I didn't realize until now just HOW blessed we have been and continue to be.

My friends have lost friends, grandparents, cousins. My friends have been fighting cancer battles, wars against mortality, for years. I just never realized it. I was never able to comprehend it. I never even thought about it.

Loss of all shapes, sizes and magnitudes is happening every minute, every second. As I type these words, breath is slipping out, a body is losing its footing, a fragile hand is going limp. We are constantly losing those who mold us, inspire us, challenge us, even those who give us the hardest time. And none of us is alone in our loss. None of us is alone in our fear. I feel the perfect opposite of what I thought I would feel.

I feel bonded to new friends, old friends, strangers in a way I struggle to describe. We are so many different people, living in so many different places, under varying circumstances, but don't we all love the same? Hurt the same? Ache the same? We cry the same. When we lose someone, the loss we feel is the same. And I find so much comfort in that togetherness. Despite the fact that it was born out of shared tears and heartache, it is so secure. Is it possible that our collective hurt is so tightly weaved that we produce warmth? All I know is that my heart is warmed at the time an old friend takes to share her story, or the thoughtfulness of a quick call just to check up on me. The strength of that kind of love amazes me. It restores my faith on days when I'm feeling like I just need some inspiration. It ignites the passion within me to write. It makes me so thankful to be blessed with my family and friends. And despite the circumstances, to now be a part of a group that is filled with such tremendous love and support that I feel anything but alone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Word Play

P.S. Miss Triple Word Score Lost lost to David at Scrabble on Saturday night. I'll chalk it up to the fact that he's brilliant (a 54-point word!). Regardless, must marry him now. <3

Amazing Grace

phantasmagoria, noun, what happened next was a phantasmagoria of horror and mystery.
-a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream.

It's been nearly a month since my last post. I have no excuse for that, except to say that I go through intense cycles of obsessing over and then hiding from this thing. I'm finding that I'm a lot lazier than I ever imagined.

A lot has changed over the course of a month, and from where I sit today, I honestly wish I had written earlier. I wish--per Emily's request-- that I had a blog entry for every day since I got engaged. I GOT ENGAGED! I have dreamed about marrying David forever, and it's all coming true. Each day that I make small decisions or big ones, or look at wedding photography, I close my eyes and envision our day--envision myself as Lia Dangelico--and it's such a beautiful, powerful feeling. There is no one I would rather grow old and wrinkly with. There is no one who makes me feel more beautiful and intelligent. There is no one who makes me feel more safe. September 4, 2010 we'll be married down on the Carolina coast. :-)

I wish I had written sooner because this sort of thing deserves no damper. No overshadowing. But a thin gray cloud has inched its way across the sky overhead. My sweet Grandmother Grace has been diagnosed with cancer. Last night I sat on the couch talking to her and her voice sounded the same. It was smooth and strong, sing-songy as it always is. In my perpetually 10-year-old mind I was shocked that she sounded the same. Shouldn't she sound weak, sick? I thought.

No matter how much you study cancer, or wear the pink ribbon or run for "the cause," you can never be prepared enough to hear that word attached to someone you love. Cancer belongs to your co-worker's mother. Cancer belongs to the girl who sat in front of you in poetry class with all that pain. Cancer is ugly, tacky and my Grandmother is the picture of beauty and elegance. My Grandmother can separate one classical composer from the next. My Grandmother can tell you which flowers bloom along the George Washington Parkway and when. My Grandmother can carry out a conversation in French with the most remarkable accent. My Grandmother says words like "phantasmagorical." Her house is filled with stunning glass birds in every color that catch the sunlight when it pours in the windows and send rainbows dancing around her living room. When we were young, she would gather my sisters and I together on the couch or in bed and tell us enchanting stories of Herkimer, the boisterous mouse who lived under her steps. In her tales, Herkimer only emerged at night to go rummaging through her kitchen cupboards scavenging for snacks. But he was everywhere. Anytime there was a spill or one of her precious birds turned up missing a beak or a wing, she would smile kindly and whisper down to us. "Herkimer, that rascal! He must have taken a bit of Ruby's wing to give to his wife for their anniversary!" And she would dry our premature tears and rub our backs until we had forgotten the moment of fear.

I am trying to breathe deeply and patiently wait to hear what the doctor says on Thursday about treatment and a plan of action. But I am anxious at the thought of losing her. Anxious at the thought of eyeing an empty seat next to my Grandaddy Bill on my wedding day. Scared to imagine my own mother without a mother anymore. I know this is moving too quickly, but even she has said, "if this is my time to go and be with the Lord, I couldn't be happier." I guess, as always, my only fear with death is for who is left behind. Grandmother Grace and Grandaddy Bill are a package deal. She flutters from place to place, singing her praises on each person she talks to, her eyes twinkling, her voice just above a whisper, while Grandaddy Bill plops into a chair in the corner, one eye squinting to look into the viewfinder of his camera, his nose and mouth hidden as he bellows out "One, two, three" and snaps one of a million pictures. There is no one without the other in my mind. And yes, despite their fussing and his grumpiness, the idea of him standing alone just makes my heart ache. Would one still exisit without the other? Will Grandaddy Bill still take pictures? Will Granddadyy Bill still crack stupid jokes just to make us giggle? I know God brings the joy in his heart, but I also know that my Grandmother has brought him more wonder and happiness than one man deserves.

I'm getting ahead of myself, but I know no other way. I'm afraid of an attacker so strong, one that has taken so many lives. I'm trying to find rest in God, find my center, my peace in him. I know he has the power to move any mountain. One far bigger than this one. In the meantime, I'm planning to be by her side often, smooth the soft creases on her hands with my fingertips, listen to her fingers dance up and down the piano. And when I think of her there in her livingroom, in their home of so many warm memories of first borns and holiday meals, playing her piano, I imagine her face tilted up toward the window, completely aglow with early-morning sunlight. Her whole body is singing, from her eyes to her fingers. And as she gazes out into the day unfolding, up, up into the sky, I know her ears are piqued to hear that Voice--whether calling her name, reaching out for her, or fading a bit and gently easing her onward. I know no matter what, the music will remain, playing over and over again, and we will always feel her there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Disconnect

divine, adjective, heroes with divine powers-of, from, or like God or a god
As I get older, wiser, I'm realizing I'm bad at lettings things go. But, not the usual things you would think. I'm good at letting toxic friends go. I'm good at (eventually) letting lazy boyfriends go. I'm good at letting bad habits go, or at least saying I'm going to. (No more fast food, no more fast food.) I'm pretty okay at letting stupid arguments go. What I'm not good at is letting moments go. Six minutes I spent reading (and crying throughout) this article. 3 minutes watching (and laughing hysterically at) this video. Moments when I am flooded with so much emotion I can't breathe. Moments that, within the confines of my mind, never end.

Whether I'm sitting in traffic, or staring at my computer screen, I am still stuck in these moments. I blame my bad driving record, my lack of productivity on them. I blame the fact that I often don't feel "quite right" on them. The pain of a splitting headache is really the image of the author's husband, standing in the kitchen doorway that morning. Flashes of the way he looked: clean-shaven and wide-eyed. Haphazardly consumed with love for this woman he shared almost 40 years of his life with. And the dizzying spell of nausea is really King Curtis' triumphant return, and declaration of war to preserve "Havin' Fun," and chicken nuggets. His high-pitched voice layered with such conviction, such supposed wisdom, promising that he will not bow to Joy's rules.

I should be able to let the video end, dry my tears and fold the rest of the laundry. I should be able to click out of the article page, press my cursor onto the small red "X" in the top corner of my screen and get back to work. Go back to my life. Therein lies my trouble though, my struggle.

I don't want to detach from these things. From the warmth of the purest forms of love, from the most hysterical laughter. I like to swim around inside them--reeling and reveling--so far from so much of the sad reality that surrounds me. One of lessons learned and loneliness, where as we get older, our growth isn't measured only in pencil marks on a door frame, or in numbers and letters, but in our capacity to hurt one another. As children, with soft, plush palms, we hit to get our way and yell out strings of meaningless language to hurt, but we fall short. We are picked up, brushed off, bandaged up and sent on our way--blissfully unaware of the pain we were so quick to release, to forget. As adults, with thicker skin and manipulation, we can see so clearly--so quickly-- how to get our way. And that's what we want. Some still use their fists despite the fact that most of us frown upon it; though we are all hard-hitters in our own, secretive ways. In our lying and in our selfishness, we deliver far more fatal blows than our fists could.

So I close my eyes and latch on to these moments so desperately. So fully that a part of me may slip away in exchange, but I let those morsels of myself drift off--as I do so many other things--without worry or discomfort. And I let out a deep sigh or inhale a strong shake of laughter in hopes that I've learned to let the bad things go. In confidence that I'm embracing only what's good--and holding on.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Empty Nester

nest, noun, a structure or place made or chosen by a bird for laying eggs and sheltering its young.

I'm an empty nester again. Sort of. I got home early from work today and wandered from room to room, tapping small items into their proper place and pinching small bits of paper off of the carpet. I flipped the blinds open and began lighting candles to scare off the emptiness with light, and to keep me busy. When that wasn't enough, I did the dishes, scrubbed the sink, brought in the recycling bins, vacuumed (even the stairs) and gave Marlee a bath.

I'd be lying if I said that the idea of coming home to an empty house isn't tempting. No one else's bad day to talk about. No one else's messes to clean up. I like to come to the clean slate, but I think that's because I know someone will eventually be there. Someone will eventually be sharing this space with me. There will be conversation and laughter and noise from the T.V. There will be life in this house. But tonight it's just me, Amelia and a soggy Marlee who isn't too happy with me. And, I know, never happy: but it's too quiet.

We're 22-year-old empty nesters. Callie has moved on to sleep on someone's couch while they look for a place in D.C. And with that, all catering and shifting and considering and adapating and being nice to a third person in the house ceases. We don't have to be quiet, or leave a key under the pot. We can have loud arguments without guilt and go on dates on week nights without that leaving-someone-out feeling. We can pick-up-and-go, even if we probably won't. The funny thing is that she was gone most of the time and when she was here, she was barely seen and never heard.

But it's still an adjustment. It's still realizing you can sprawl out on the couch a little bit more. It's still learning that you can leave all of your bottles and brushes out on the sink after you're finished when them in the morning. It's still missing having someone to vent to about your long day full of pointless meetings or annoying coworker--having someone who knows exactly how that frustration feels. (All of this sentiment, literally 12 hours after she left.) Oie.

Empty nesters fill up their nests with bits of scraps to provide protection or at least give the illusion of security. While it may be nothing more than a bundle of sticks wound together with string and bits of dirt and clay, the nest is very important. It's where the magic and the motivation happen. It's where I indulge and accomplish and scratch things off of my to-do list. I'm working to make this nest more homey, more safe. More inspirational. More of place where I can write on a regular basis, and remember to brush my dog's hair once a week, try new daring recipes and invite over new friends.

It's time I start living in this little nest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keeping Promises (I Hope)

exorbitant, adjective, the exorbitant price of tickets.(of a price or amount charged) unreasonably high.
In efforts to try and keep myself in check, I am in the process of redecorating my bedroom. On second thought, the word "redecorate" implies that the decorated room/item was once decorated, which is not true in the slightest. (Unless you find crooked stacks of books and random items of dirty clothing strewn about the room modern art, or something.)
I have absolutely no idea what theme I am going for. (Bad start.) I only know that I have a black wrought-iron bed that has to be over 50 years old (maybe 100, really), a brown dresser that we salvaged from a neighbor, a rickety old wooden bedside table that I find oddly romantic and a sage green bedskirt that I bought from The Goodwill today for 4 dollars. It's very rare for me to go into The Goodwill with a precise item in mind and to then actually find said item for a cheap price. (You'd be really surprised at how expensive their items can get. $5 ties, $99 dollar patio table and chairs! Go Goodwill!) Anyway. I don't have much to work with, but I'm trying to be creative. I'm trying to utilize the large heaps of time I have after work to complete projects, check things off. All to quench the same horribly self-satisfying thirst that I have, that I will not shut up about (sorry).
Nonetheless, progress is progress. With a very small budget, I plan to acquire items piece-by-piece and hopefully end up with a calming sanctuary to come home to. As seen in the pictures, storage and space is a big issue that we (me and the boyfriend) have right now. He has a ton of random things, such as a huge hiking backpack, a guitar (?), suitcases, etc. Main storage issues would be solved very easily by another dresser. So the tentative list of furniture needs includes: another dresser, another (and maybe two matching) bedside tables, a small bookshelf and maybe a small desk. Just listing all of that makes me woosy, but patience is also something I need to work on, so perhaps this will be a life makeover as well.
So, here goes nothing. The room, from left to right, from empty to entirely too full is below. I clean everyday--sometimes there's just nowhere else to cram something!

Feeling very discouraged (already) I am going to try and pump myself up a little bit!! Here are some of the other room projects I have going on. The first is the kitchen, as you can see, it's a tough canvas to begin with, but I like the natural light that comes in from sliding doors that lead to the backyard. The stained laminate floor and dingy-looking counters and cupboards need some cheering up, so I tried to bring in some bright, lively colors like yellow and green. From left to right: Before main view, After breakfast nook, After main viewThankfully, the living room was a blank canvas, neither good nor bad. The challenge here was fitting all of our furniture into such a long room. It's still a work in progress. I tweak little things constantly, but I think this room is so cozy. There is plenty room to spread out or snuggle up for a movie or a good book! From left to right, Before View 1, Before View 2, After View 1, After View 2Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tag! I'm It!

rule, noun, the rules of the game were understood.
one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere :

Respond. Tag 4 other people.

1. What is your current obsession? Blogging?

2. What is your weirdest obsession? I'm kind of a fanatic about The Cheesecake Factory's Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake right now. Fatty.

3. Recall a fond childhood memory? Every time we went to go pick out a Christmas tree as a family. It's still one of my favorite things to do. With indecision and shivers, we would huddle among the aisles of plump, prickly trees. We would warm our hands and faces by the open bonfire and beg for styrofoam cups of thick hot chocolate to share.

4. What’s for dinner? Something simple for one, like a sandwich, since David has to work.

5. What would you eat for your last meal? Pad Thai with Chicken from Indochine

6. What’s the last thing you bought? Literally? Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks since David gave me some cash last night. :-)

7. What are you listening to right now? "Baby, I'm gonna keep on lovin' you. Cause it's the only thing I wanna do." Some Classic Rock station on the radio.

8. What do you think of the person who tagged you? Mean.

9. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished, anywhere in the world, where would it be? The island of Mykonos, Greece.

10. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go? Paris.

11. Which language do you want to learn? Italian.

12. What’s your favourite quote (for now)? "For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again." -The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

13.What is your favourite colour? Pink or yellow.

14. What is your favourite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe? I guess my skinny jeans. I hate everything. I need to go shopping.

15. What is your dream job? Editor-In-Chief, Better Homes and Gardens or Vogue

16.What’s your favourite magazine? Vogue

17. If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on? Clothing and a wallet for David.

18. Describe your personal style? Comfortable, probably too comfortable. And black.

19. What are you going to do after this? Get back to work!

20. What are your favourite films? To Kill A Mockingbird, All The Real Girls, Revolutionary Road

21. What’s your favorite fruit? Strawberries

22.What inspires you? Watching a person treat another with love without knowing or caring that they're being watched.

23. Your favorite books? Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggars and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

24. Do you collect anything? Postcards.

25. Any advice from bitter experience? Everything that glitters is not always golden.

26. What makes you follow a blog? I love reading what other people have to say!

Tag, Lin. You're it. Sorry that it's kind of boring.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sweetness and Goodness

resolution, noun, she made a resolution not to see Anne again
1 a firm decision to do or not to do something

In addition to the aforementioned resolutions, I would like to spice up my life with adopted dogs, like this one. He is a 10-pound Bichon/Poodle mix. He is a one-year-old baby boy with no name. (No name!) He has an angelic baby-doll face and a big nose. He has been mistreated and neglected. I find him so awkwardly lovable. I, despite my poorness, am considering adopting him because he is also soon-to-be homeless.

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when I became a dog person. We had dogs (many) growing up and my dad was always griping about having to take care of them, and how me and my sisters were lazy and irresponsible. And while we probably were, we still loved them. All of them. Gibson the Jack Russel who baby Cullan called "Sippin." Maggie, the Rotweiler with staying power, who posed for pictures in a floppy hat next to a miniature tea set and my sister Whitney. We chased them, rode them, kissed them. They were part of our family. And every time one had wandered off to die, or became a casualty to the dangers of farm-life, we would mourn in a slow, steady way. Avoiding each others' eyes, pushing our dinner around our plates without appetites, going for walks alone out into the pasture.

But, without fail, in a matter of weeks, my mom would return from a extra-long errand with a small puppy in her lap. I can still call to mind--at a moment's notice--the image of her eyes sparkling as she introduced us to the new little creature. Her eyes dancing, she'd put him down on the grass slowly as we formed a semi-circle full of squeals and cooing. "THIS is Romeo," she would say with delight and emphasis on each word. She would clasp her hands together and smile down at us. Mimicking the sounds she made moments before, I would look up at her and say, "OH, Mom. He is SO CUTE. I love him already." And we would pick the puppy up and pet his small head. Laugh as he pranced between us, giggle as he licked our round faces.

In the photograph of my memory I can now zoom out or pan left and find my dad grimmacing in the corner, his thick tanned arms folded across his chest. After we were put to bed, we could always hear the faint traces of an arguement drifting out from beneath their bedroom door. But she didn't care. She never did. She was probably driving down some windy country road, her left foot propped up on the dash, tapping her fingers to Bonnie Rait, and suddenly, she just became consumed by the vastness, the emptiness she felt. No matter how fast I drive, she thought, when I go around this sharp curve, I will be on the same path. And so she would drive further and further. In to the city, next to the copy place, to the SPCA and pick out the next plump puppy she would use to plug the leaks that drained her, left her empty.

Twenty two years old, busy and contented, I feel full. But I still often sense an anxiousness within me. A quiet stirring that is pushing me toward spontaneity, no matter the manifestation of it. A stillness that provokes a sort-of sinking feeling--making me want to swim and swim until I don't recognize my surroundings anymore. Today, as an adult, when I look back at the way my mother was then, it seems simple to me. She just had so much love to give. So much energy and not enough valves to plug in to. She was restless, and often careless, but I can never bring myself to blame her for any of that.

I'd like to think I'm the former and not the latter, but there's a good chance I am both. Perhaps that's why I am considering this homeless pup who just needs some love and attention. Two things that I know I can give him. Two valves that I long to plug in to, with all that is in me. Maybe that's my calling. Just to be a lover and giver of attention and care. That's good enough for me. And I AM careful. I know I'm not careless. I'm responsible, mostly. I know I often do what's safe and clearly calculated and logical. But I just don't want him to be sad anymore. Or anyone else for that matter. I want all of us to be back in that semi-circle with laughter, all of us back together, safe and smiling and happy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blog It Out

rigadoon, noun, they fell in love while dancing the rigadoon. a lively dance for couples, in duple or quadruple time, of Proven├žal origin.
Everyone else my age is jet-setting on weekend trips across the country, drifting down to tropical islands on over-sized boats, or staying up late for early-morning rages that become hung-over afternoons spent by the pool. Well, not everyone. But my everyone. And then there's me. Sitting in my cubicle, twisting a push pin between my fingers, paying bills, drinking a Coke and feeling guilty about it.

Daily, my boss says things to me like, "You just need to be irresponsible, for once. Go on a shopping spree with your credit card and don't think about it until the bill comes." Why won't my brain take this and run with it? (Straight to Macy's with my shiny red piece of plastic.) "Don't worry about everyone else," she says, resigning herself to my practicality,"you'll get rewarded one day." And then she does this odd like ca-ching! move with her left arm that always makes me laugh.

In my poorness and practicality, I'm going to be efficient, rather than wallow in this shallow pool I've drawn for myself. I'm going to distract myself with small do-able projects. (I know I'm repeating from a previous post. Oh well.) I'm going to write some short fiction for blogs. I'm going to decorate my bedroom. I'm going to suck it up and shop in the produce section and make good dinners. I'm going to run after work. I'm going to avoid stupid distractions that keep me from reading.

My current fling is Meat: A Love Story a non-fiction book written by Canadian investigative journalist Susan Bourette. It began as an expose on the meatpacking industry and evolved into Bourette's quest to find "the perfect meat," one that she could eat regularly without guilt. I love vegetables and am not a big meat-eater, but by no means am I a wanna-be vegetarian. I guess I'm just curious and I want to be a conscientious carnivore--as she calls it. Oh, suddenly I feel SO old. This whole post reeks of oldness, and two of my middle-aged coworkers just started calling me a 50-year-old and asking if my desk phone could be replaced with a rotary phone, technology I would be more comfortable with. I can't go on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

For Wilmington (For Me)

want, verb, I want an apple have a desire to possess or do (something)
I miss:

  1. It being July and me being tan.
  2. Jam seshes with Lin. To Biggie, Third Eye Blind, The Chicks.
  3. Terrazzo. Everyone. Plus, Penne Messia with Shrimp & Penne Florentine.
  4. WBMag jokes & tootsie rolls I stole from the secretary.
  5. Tanning with Em. Even though she was always darker.
  6. The original gang at Charlotte Russe.
  7. Atlantis Release Parties.
  8. King-Sized Now & Later suprises.
  9. Cape Fear Wine & Beer with Em.
  10. Learning Community classes.
  11. Having reading to do for homework.
  12. Killwins Ice Cream.
  13. Nikkis. Ginger salad & sushi.
  14. CDs from Lee Tatum.
  15. Bluepost.
  16. Concerts at Cat's Cradle.
  17. The old worn out chairs upstairs in Randall.
  18. Being sunburned and finding steals at Hallelu.
  19. The dog park.
  20. Being annoying in person with Lin.
  21. France pictures on the walls.
  22. Late-night LOST & The Sopranos in bed.
  23. Ken's. Everything bagel. Light on the cream cheese.
  24. Long talks with David as he drove me home when we were only friends.
  25. The flighty weather.
  26. Port City Community Church!!
  27. Riding over the bridge to the beach midday when everyone's out on the water. Or at sunset.
  28. Chicken salad sandwiches from Robert's Grocery on a day at the beach.
  29. Running into the ocean on an average Tuesday afternoon in July.
  30. The Terrazzo kitchen staff.
  31. Parties at Em's.
  32. Henry's. Calamari.
  33. Mellow Mushroom. Kosmic Karma & Magic Hat #9
  34. My walk-in closet at our apartment at The Reserves.
  35. Pedicure dates & coffee with Em.
  36. Pita Delite. Chicken Salad Pita & a Greek salad.
  37. Fresh.year: never caring what I looked like. Before I had to put on eye make up every morning.
  38. Late-night runs to Taco Bell.
  39. When we had to sneak beer in book bags.
  40. Cross-hallway air kicks.
  41. Hibachi. Hibachi Chicken with fried rice & a side of zucchini and onions.
  42. Intermediate Non-Fiction w/ Lin & The Celebs.
  43. My old Volvo(s).
  44. T.A.L.K.K
  45. "My campus crush" & "my class crush"
  46. Parties at Leo's. All memories with Leo <3.
  47. The Connection. Smoothies!
  48. Daily yogurt & granola at Wag.
  49. $10 haircuts from Paige.
  50. Office Max nights with Dan & Nick.
  51. Grey's Anatomy nights with Lizzy.
  52. Lizzy!
  53. Being healthy with Lizzy.
  54. Totally Abs with Ms. Allison Ray.
  55. Wandering around downtown.
  56. Friends coming into town.
  57. House-hunting downtown with Michelle.
  58. Getting yelled at by Michael for being too loud/singing with Renee.
  59. Endless Sunday Night Dinners with Callie.
  60. Work-shop days.
  61. Classes with Diana Ashe.
  62. Family dinners.
  63. Having a big group of friends.
  64. Gatherings at Lin & Courtney's. (when Lin had a star for a head.)
  65. Running into people from the France trip around campus.
  66. Pierre LaPierre. Having French class every day.
  67. Classes with John Jay Sullivan.
  68. Email exchanges with Tim. Anything with Tim. (hah.)
  69. The one time I was on a boat.
  70. Lin & Courtney's old apartment. The inflatable mattress.
  71. Watching David coach the swimteam.
  72. Flaming Amy's. Fried Chicken Burrito.
  73. Starbucks Grande Iced Caramel Macchiato before a dinner shift.
  74. Before-a-movie rituals of Barnes & Noble and/or The Fox & Hound.
  75. Em's backyard even though we never spent enough time back there.
  76. Will Coleman being "around."
  77. Shopping with Em.
  78. The Simple Life/The Hills marathons on rainy days with Lin.
  79. Walking barefoot out onto the South End in the off-season.
  80. Airlie Road.
  81. Feeling like a well-respected writer.
  82. Elizabeth's. 'Bolis. Pizza.
  83. Ordering in bad Chinese food.
  84. Cheating at online gym.
  85. Proofreading the horrible and sometimes fantastic work of other students.
  86. Writer's Week.
  87. Bottomless fries at Red Robin.
  88. Homework/catching up at Java City.
  89. When Morton Hall was the Creative Writing building, too.
  90. Getting to use "I'm a student" as an excuse.
  91. Being forced to write.