My Dirty Little Secret

Okay … Confession time.

I do not enjoy walking my dogs. There. I said it. I have admitted this rather nasty truth both to myself and, now, out loud. It’s not pretty. It has long been my private shame, and I feel pretty guilty about it.

It’s not so much that there is shame in doing things one does not enjoy. I would guess that about 90% of the things I do on a daily basis are things I dislike. Laundry, for example. Or cleaning bathrooms. Or grocery shopping. Or cooking dinner. Or cleaning and dusting. I’m a stay-at-home mom. It is an occupation for which I am, apparently, not well-suited. So most of my days are a veritable litany of stuff I don’t like to do … or stuff that doesn’t make me feel fulfilled or good about myself. I still do those things. I’m not sure I do them particularly well, but I try. It’s my job. But, for me, being the at-home parent is just that: a job. And one that doesn’t pay particularly well, at that.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining here. This is not meant as a whine or as a bid for pity. I am not trying to shout out about all the things I do on a daily basis and this is how incredible I am and yadda, yadda, yadda. No. I am simply putting this out there as a background fact: I am a person currently in a job for which they are not qualified and which is, mostly, not that much fun. The one bright spot is that I get to spend oodles of time with my daughter. This was, of course, a lot more fun before she hit her teenage years. But … Eh. I still love her, even if she is surly and does the eye-rolling thing — A LOT. I am convinced that, one day, she will wake up and be a mostly kind, mostly sweet human being again. In the meantime, we play Pokemon Go and Dragonvale together. We will always have that. I think.

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The thing is this: I never thought “walking the dogs” would fall into the litany of things I don’t enjoy doing. The realization that I don’t enjoy this came out of the blue and hit me as quite a shock. I love my dogs. Anyone who knows me knows I love my dogs. Sometimes, I love my dogs more than I love my husband and daughter. The dogs are always happy to see me. They seldom complain. They don’t try to second-guess everything I do. They don’t turn every decision into an inquisition. They think I’m awesome as long as I manage to get their food mostly in their dishes somewhere within the general umbrella of mealtime. Most days, I can manage this so well that I am hitting rock star status. It’s a giddy high.

The dogs are with me all day, every day. My English Springer Spaniel, in particular, is a velcro dog. If I am in my office, trying to write (and mostly failing), he is right there, curled up in his bed or laying on my feet. If I am in the kitchen, he is right there, staring up longingly at the counters. If I am at the table, he is right there, under my chair. If I go to the bathroom and forget to close the door all the way … Well, you get the idea. My rescue girl, although not quite as clingy, is also affectionate and cuddly in her own way. She likes to visit me and check in several times a day. And she loves hugs and gentle pets on her tummy. I love this about both of them. I love knowing they are right there, at my heels and sticking their little noses into everything I’m doing. I also love knowing they are always available for a cuddle or a quick game of fetch-up-the-stairs. Basically, they are lovable, fantastic, great dogs.

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Until we head out to walk. And then, they turn into doggy jerks. Can dogs be jerks? I’m not sure. But, if they can, then my dogs are. Because I have two of them and because my rescue girl doesn’t like to walk on her own, I have a leash splitter so that I can walk them together. I used to have a separate leash for each of them, but it was too much trying to juggle two leashes and bags and picking up poop. Because it’s inevitable: Poop Happens.

For a while, I walked them separately. I would walk three or four miles with my Springer and come home to switch dogs so that my rescue girl could have her turn. She has a lot of anxiety issues, though, and she would end up unhappy after only about a block or two. Three blocks, if I was lucky and she was having a really great day. It felt so uneven, with one dog getting a forty to fifty-minute walk and the other one getting barely ten minutes. And so, I thought the leash splitter was the answer to all my problems. In some ways, it is. I am still trying to get back to my previous activity level after the car accident I was in way back in June. I’m still having back and hip problems from it, which annoys me to no end. I’m ready to be done with all of that and back to my previous activity level.

At any rate, I now walk both dogs about thirty or forty minutes. It’s much better for my rescue girl, because she actually gets a decent walk. She has no choice, because my springer boy is one of those dogs who must move forward at all costs. He would walk and walk and walk until he, literally, dropped to the ground from exhaustion. He has a huge personality packed into his little, furry body, and he doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit. Clearly, I am not very good at training my dogs (something my mother continually mentions while she is visiting my house), because he also doesn’t know the meaning of the word NO. Well, that’s not totally true. He understands NO sometimes. But not when he’s walking. And pulling. And walking. And pulling some more. I had to buy a very sturdy harness for him because he kept choking himself. I was afraid he would damage his throat. He also loves to bark at the people we see on our daily walks. Old people … young people … people on bicycles … people wearing hats (he hates hats with pom-poms on top) … people on motor scooters … little kids … It doesn’t matter. He barks at them. With prejudice.

My rescue girl is sweet and timid and dainty. It doesn’t matter how many times we walk the same exact route, she always has this reaction of doom and gloom. She always thinks she is now the farthest she has ever been from home and that she will never, ever, EVER get to go home again. EVER. And when this realization hits home for her … Well, she Can’t Even. Whenever my springer pauses his forward motion to sniff at stuff or look at stuff or pee on stuff, my rescue girl takes the opportunity to spin around and try to head back home. Forcefully. It becomes a ridiculous, delicate dance between forward motion and backward longing. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but I’ve yet to find it. My rescue girl never pulls at the leash as we are walking away from home. She pulls on the way back, which means that I now have about 100 pounds of dog pulling me along at a brisk pace. Negotiating traffic with 100 pounds of unruly dog trying to tug you in two directions at once can really make you question your life decisions.

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Sometimes, I see other people out walking their dogs, too. They always seem to be happy, smiling or texting or talking on their phones. They are having a good time, out in the fresh air with their dogs. They have a sort of smugly content aura about them. Their dogs meander gently along at their sides, sometimes stopping to sniff at a blade of grass or to look at a blowing leaf. But never pulling them along or barking at fellow pedestrians or acting like they will eat the next small child that wanders across their path. (My dogs don’t eat small children, by the way. This is hyperbole. Or a metaphor. Or … something.)

The thing is, I’m so jealous of those other dog-walking people. They all seem to have their proverbial shit together. I mean, maybe their lives are one big mess. But, from the dog walking perspective, they have it going on. I look at them, calmly walking along with their perfectly reasonable dogs, and it makes me realize how completely and utterly ridiculous I must seem: a pudgy, middle-aged woman who is sweating buckets even on the coldest day and is red in the face … my hair flying all over the place … speed-walking behind two dogs who want to go in different directions … all the while cursing under my breath and regretting my life choices. And I think to myself, “Self, clearly, we are doing something wrong.” Clearly.

The Holiday Sneak

Christmas is a sneaky holiday. It had to be said. It’s one of those holidays where, even though you know it’s coming … Even though  you’ve known this for an entire, freaking YEAR … Even though you’ve been hearing about it for months on the radio and news and advertisements … It still manages to land in your lap before you realize what’s happening. It still manages to make you scramble and rush around to try and get things ready in time for “the big day”. It’s one of those holidays for which one can never quite feel prepared or truly ready, and so we end up just tossing out our best effort and going with what we have at the moment Christmas happens. Well, I guess most of us do that. Okay … so I do that. Every darn year. Maybe I’m the only one. I hope I’m not the only one but … yeah. I might be. My Domestic Goddess abilities are definitely lacking, both in terms of skill and level of enthusiasm.

I think part of it is that Christmas comes with so many unreasonable expectations. It’s a time of year that is fraught with emotion and longing. We have to keep moving forward in life. Always forward. We have to keep living every day and remembering how every day is precious and a beautiful gift. Except for Christmas. On that day, it’s hard to continue moving forward. We look backward, toward memories of our youth, and think about the things we have lost along the way over the course of a year. Or five. Or ten. Or twenty.

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Again, maybe this isn’t something everyone does. Maybe it’s just me. But I find myself approaching each Christmas with a bittersweet longing in my heart. The older I get, the more I think back to the Christmasses of my youth, when my whole family would gather together, and we would all be loud: eating and loving each other and playing rowdy games of dominoes and telling funny stories and laughing. Things felt perfect back then. Of course, they weren’t. Nothing is ever perfect in our lives. This is part of being human. But, I remember how full my heart felt back then. I remember the feeling of love and security that came from having my whole family around me. I remember what it felt like to belong. And I do remember thinking, somewhere deep within my little child-sized heart, how things couldn’t quite be more perfect or more glorious. Even then, as a child, there was a part of me that knew it couldn’t stay this way. Things change. We have to grow up. People leave us, even if we don’t want them to go.

For many years, I have gone to extreme lengths to recreate those childhood memories for myself each year. I’m not sure why. I guess part of it was that I wanted to recapture that warm feeling of completeness and safety. And, perhaps, part of it was that these were the things I knew. These were the things you “did” at Christmas, so it didn’t occur to me to do anything different. Each year, I would exhaust myself trying to get everything “just right”. And, of course, I would always fall short. Memories are sweet and beautiful. You can’t recreate them, not really. You can come close, but something will always be missing. Memories live in our hearts. They can’t come out to live in the real world.

This year, Christmas snuck up on me even more than usual. I love Christmas. I love the holiday spirit and the decorations and the carols and the special movies and the excitement and anticipation. I even love the mad rush to get everything done: tree, cards, decorations, baking, gifts.

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Not this year. This year, I couldn’t get past the fact that our family will be celebrating Christmas for the first time without two of our most beloved members. There is nothing like having to unwillingly say good-bye to make you realize nothing can ever, ever be the same. No matter how sweet and perfect your memories might be, they are just that: memories. They will never be real again. Living so far away from the rest of my family, I hardly ever got to see my aunts. I hadn’t been able to see my eldest aunt for at least a couple of years, because she was very ill and frail. I was lucky enough to see my other aunt, very briefly, last summer, during my annual trip home. It’s silly to miss someone you never saw any more. And yet, I do miss them. So much. Just knowing they were out there in the world somehow made my life better and complete. I can’t explain it well, but I feel set adrift by their deaths.

And so, I couldn’t muster any Christmas enthusiasm this year. I was literally at the last minute getting out my cards and my gifts that had to be mailed. I think my husband mailed them on the very last day possible for delivery before Christmas. I didn’t care about our tree. Or any of the decorations. I filled my daughter’s Advent calendar two weeks after December started. I did manage to sit down and paint it. This was my “big” decorating project for this year, and my daughter loves the results. So I suppose that’s something. I waited until the day my parents were to arrive to do any house cleaning, so that I ended up having to do the mad rush around to get the guest room cleared out and ready for them. I was wrapping gifts right up until the night before Christmas Eve. I only baked one pie. It really has been the year of the Grinch in my Christmas heart.

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But you know what this year has taught me? Christmas is going to happen, whether I choose to participate or not. Things still got done, even if they didn’t happen when I thought they should. The tree is beautiful. The decorations are up and festive. There were presents. There was a Christmas Day “feast”, cooked by my mom and me. We had a lazy, quiet day at home for Christmas: church on Christmas Eve, sleeping in a bit the next morning, presents gathered around the tree, and then my mom and I laughing and talking all afternoon as we cooked together in my kitchen. And my heart was full.

Maybe the memories of my childhood can only live in my heart. Maybe things feel bittersweet and hard sometimes because we have to keep on living, even if we don’t want to do so. Maybe things won’t ever be quite the same as they used to be. But that’s okay. It’s not what I would have chosen, but it’s beautiful in its own way. We will make new memories. We will laugh and love and make new traditions. And those will live in our hearts, too.

A Lifetime to Love

Today is my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. I’m sitting here, repeating this to myself so that the words can sink in. I say it aloud a few times, rolling the words around on my tongue so that I can taste the meaning of them. And yet, it takes a while for the true impact to register. Because my brain almost can’t fathom 60 years. When I say to myself, “Wow. That’s a long time,” it feels ridiculous. Because, of course, I am stating the obvious. It is a long time. It’s a lifetime.

Growing up, I never really thought much about my parents or their marriage. I was a kid, and they were just my parents. When you’re young, you don’t think about things like that. Really, you don’t think about much outside of your own, immediate concerns. I was blessed to come from a stable home, with parents who had a good marriage and who, at the base of it all, loved each other. I never thought about my parents getting divorced or separating. Because it seemed impossible to me. My mom used to say, jokingly, that she and my dad might end up killing each other … but they would never leave each other. Which sounds ridiculous, but, really, it was her way of saying she did not want to live a life without my dad in it. No matter how difficult things might be — and they were difficult at times — my mom and dad both chose to live their lives and build their futures together. As a child, I took this for granted. As an adult, I look back on it and realize just how amazing and incredible this was. It was a gift. A precious, intangible gift.

How much laughter fits into sixty years? How much love? How much sorrow and pain? How many sweet memories? How many times, over the years, have my parents turned to each other, knowing they only had each other to cling to in the face of a  world that is, often, all too terrifying and brutal. There are images of my parents that will be forever written on my heart. My dad, coming up behind my mom as she stands at the sink, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her neck until she finally scolds him and swats him away with a dishtowel. But I remember the smile on her face and the way my dad laughed. The sweetness and playfulness, all wound up together. Or the night my brother nearly died, after a terrible motorcycle accident. Terrified, I watched my mother sitting in the ER waiting room, waiting to hear if her first-born would live or die. She was stoic and brave and refused to cry, until my dad, who had driven all night to reach us from his work, came rushing into the room. And then, she melted into him, letting him hold her and comfort her. These memories … and hundreds more … live inside of me, all built from my parents’ lifetime of love.

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My parents don’t celebrate anniversaries. It’s not that they ignore the day. They remember it and mark it every year, in some small way. But they are not “party people”. They have never been ones to do lavish gifts. There will be no huge celebration to mark this milestone, other than my husband and I taking them out for a nice dinner once they arrive at our house next week. Instead, I believe my parents choose to live every day in the moment. They fill every day with all the love and laughter and memories they can. In a way, every day is an anniversary for them. This morning, my dad got up and gave my mom a kiss, telling her, “Well, looks like we made it, Old Girl.” It doesn’t sound super romantic, but it pleased my mom to no end. And, I guess, really, it says it all.

My husband and I celebrated 18 years of marriage this past October. And, like my parents, I think we both sometimes feel as if we might kill each other … But we will never choose to live without each other. My husband often tells our daughter that we will never separate or divorce. I know you can never say “never” in this life, because nothing is certain. But it warms my heart to know he loves me deeply. He loves me enough to put his faith out there, so that he feels he can say “never” with confidence. And I can do the same for him. I can’t even think of a life without my husband in it. He is my best friend and my sweetest love. Will we make 60 years together? I don’t know. But, if we do, it will be because of the lessons and the gift my parents gave to me. My parents taught me to love in the deepest and best of ways. My parents paved the way.

Hard Lessons

We had a bit of a hard lesson at our house over the weekend. I don’t like the hard lessons in life. Those are the ones I can’t shelter my daughter from — the ones she has to learn and suffer through on her own. The hard lessons make me feel like a failure as a parent, as if I am adrift and floundering aimlessly. I try to be an anchor for my daughter, something solid in the midst of the world’s uncertainty and storms, something she can cling to, if she chooses. Floundering doesn’t feel so great in the face of knowing this is what I want to be for my daughter.

My daughter is in eighth grade this year, and it was her first time trying out for Middle School District Band. She practiced for months. She worked hard for this. But her audition didn’t go well. There were a lot of reasons for this: she was having problems with her flute the night before the audition, so we had to switch instruments; she had to go into the warm-up area alone, and she kind of freaked out at all the people playing around her; she was sick with a virus, and not feeling her best; she got nervous and scared; she was competing against over 50 other flute players, so competition for her instrument is high and difficult. Lots of reasons for a bad audition. Considering everything, she placed well in the flute rankings, but not high enough to make the band.

It was disappointing. I know my daughter was disappointed and sad. I felt disappointed and sad. It was a difficult day, all around.

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But here’s where the “hard lesson” happens. Sometimes, life doesn’t go the way we want. I can point to so many times in my life when things didn’t go the way I wanted or hoped. Thousands and thousands of times. A whole pile of instances in which I felt like a failure … in which I felt like the biggest loser in the history of ever. Even in this instance, I felt like a failure because I couldn’t make all of this right for my daughter. I couldn’t take away her hurt. I tried. I hugged her close and told her how much I loved her. I told her how proud of her I was.

I hope, when she looks back on that day, she will remember those things, instead of the feeling that she failed at something she so wanted to do. Not succeeding isn’t the same thing as failing. Not succeeding means you went in there; you faced down your demons and your fears; you were brave; you tried your best; and, for whatever reason, things didn’t work out this time. If you don’t try at all … To me, that is failure. As long as you try, you have already succeeded.

I know this was cold comfort to my daughter in that moment. But I hope she will take these thoughts away with her, that she will file them away somewhere in her memory so she can turn them over in her mind and think on them later. I hope she will keep on trying and trying and trying, for all the things in her life that she wants. I hope she won’t let the fear of “failing” stop her. Because my daughter is amazing. And brave. And fierce. I hope she will continue being all of those things.

Because she isn’t a failure, even when she doesn’t succeed. And neither am I. I guess we both need to keep learning those hard lessons.

The Saga of the Hair

Quite some time ago, I decided to dye my hair black. “Don’t dye your hair black,” people said to me. Or, “Black? What? Are you SURE you want to do that?” Sometimes, they would stare at me in horror — you know, with that expression folks reserve for extremely nutty people they think might be teetering on the very edge of sanity. But, I paid them no mind. I was sure. I’m a natural blonde — platinum in my little kid years, and then getting increasingly darker until I entered my second twenties as a sort of dark, ashy blonde liberally mixed with gray. I always wanted black hair. Always. I never would have admitted this to my mom when I was a child. I never would have dared to speak my secret desire out loud as a teenager. It’s a long story, but such things just weren’t done. Besides, no one would have taken me seriously. They would have told me I was wrong, and that I didn’t really want to do that. I’m not sure why, but people are always telling me stuff like this. So I have learned over the years to guard my dreams closely. Even the small ones.

Anyhow, when I hit my second twenties and felt increasingly unhappy with my drab hair color (not to mention those grays!), I decided I would just take the plunge. I would go black with my hair. I was nervous, so I started going with darker and darker browns. I did this over the course of a year or so. It was never good enough, so I finally worked up my courage and told my stylist that I wanted to dye my hair black. Like, black with blue undertones … the blackest black. Luckily, my stylist was totally on board with this. She said, “Sure. You still have great skin. You can totally pull it off.” I love her. She never fails to make me feel better about myself.

And so, I ended up with super-duper-blackest-of-the-black hair. And I LOVED it. I had no regrets whatsoever. I still have no regrets over it. I loved having black hair. I have incredibly pale skin — like, so pale that I’m almost invisible. I loved the contrast of my dark hair against my pale skin. It made me feel so good about myself, and it truly was a dream come true.

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Like most dreams, it faded a little once it became reality. I can’t say I will never go back to black hair, because I really did adore it. After almost a year, I decided I wanted to try another of my “hair dreams”: blue hair. I started out small, with some bright blue streaks underneath my hair, so that it only showed when I pulled my hair back. I loved it and found myself constantly pulling my hair back so the world could see my blues. Emboldened, I moved forward to doing streaks of blue highlights in my black. I loved this as well, and, eventually, I told my stylist I was ready to go full-on blue with my hair.

It was a long process. Black dye doesn’t really fade or wash out, so we had to bleach my hair down as light as we could without damaging it. I didn’t much care what color of blue, although I wanted to stay a bit dark. My stylist picked out a gorgeous, bright, bold, electric blue. It. Was. Glorious. I’ve worn this color for a while. I am pretty good about taking care of my hair color, so it doesn’t fade out very quickly. My stylist redid this electric blue a couple of times. The last time, I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled with the result. For some reason, my beautiful electric blue came out so dark that it looked purple. It eventually faded out to a more blue color, but it was darker than I liked. And it had lost that “electric” brightness, which was my favorite thing about this color.

This got me to thinking. I started looking around at different shades of blue. I looked at images online. I looked at the beauty supply store each time I went to browse nail polish. Not that I would ever try dying my hair at home. I am sure that would be a disaster. So many women are able to do a beautiful job dying their hair at home, but I am not one of them. I would probably end up making all my hair fall out or something.  But I wanted to see the different colors and tones of blues. I knew I wasn’t in love with my super dark blue any longer, but I wasn’t ready to give up on my blue-haired dream.

Eventually, I decided I wanted to go with a  lighter blue — something between a gray-blue and a light, almost baby blue. There was a cyan blue that I loved, but my stylist told me it would look super neon. So that color was out. I don’t want neon hair. I’m not sure of many things, but I am certain of this. I have to admit I’m a little bit nervous about going lighter. My hair is fine, which means it never looks thick. I worry that the lighter color will make it look like I’m going bald or something. Going bald, like, for real, is a fear of mine — thanks so much for that, PCOS. In reality, my hair is in good shape. I have decent growth, and it looks decently full on my head. Still, the fear is there. My stylist feels like the lighter color will be a great idea, though. And I trust her.

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Here’s the problem: My dark blue hasn’t faded. At all. I have plenty of growth at my roots, so that color is light enough to take the lighter blue. But the bulk of my hair is still a deep, dark, electric blue that looks purple in some lights and black in others. This is the curse of taking really good care of my dye job. Yes, it lasts for a long time. But, if you get tired of it and want something new … Well, it lasts for a long time.

I don’t feel good about bleaching out my already dyed hair. Luckily, my stylist said the same thing, even before I could voice my concerns. I love that about her. She never hesitates to tell me she won’t do something that will damage my hair. So … She sent me home from my appointment yesterday with instructions to try and fade my super dark blue.

I went to Safeway and purchased Suave shampoo. Basically, any shampoo loaded with sulfates is a no-no on colored hair. And I washed my hair with Suave and hot water. Over and over and over and over and over. And then, I washed it some more. I’m not kidding when I say I washed my hair all afternoon yesterday. I probably washed it 35 or 40 times. I washed it until I was completely sick of washing it, and the water coming off of it was running, more or less, clear. I figured that was enough for one day, particularly since my scalp felt all itchy and dry. Plus, I had to go to my daughter’s band concert.

Today, I got up and took a good look at my hair in the daylight. It’s faded out quite a bit, but it still is darker than I would like. So I mixed up some Head & Shoulders, Dawn dish soap, and lemon juice (for the vitamin C). I put this on my hair and let it sit for 45 minutes. I rinsed it out in hot water, watching yet more blue dye spin down the shower drain. And I mean SCADS of blue dye. I can’t believe there was this much dye in my hair. It was a river of blue. I had enough of my concoction left over to do one more application. And, again, I ended up with a river of blue dye down the drain.

My new appointment is tomorrow. I’m still not sure if my hair is light enough for the new dye. But … I’m done. I just don’t want to wash my hair any more. I slathered it and my scalp in coconut oil — both for the conditioning my poor scalp needs and because coconut oil apparently also fades hair color. And I’m letting it sit for a while. Oh … how I have suffered for beauty. And now, when someone says to me that they have to stay in and wash their hair, I know exactly what they mean!

The Monday After

The Monday after Thanksgiving is one of my least favorite days of the year. After a wonderfully long, cozy weekend of nesting at home with my family, this is the day on which we emerge, blinking in the bright light of day, and attempt to carry on with our normal lives. I love the Thanksgiving holiday. It is one of my favorite holidays because it’s all about spending time with family and friends. It’s all about laughing and doing things for others and just taking the time to LIVE and LOVE. I feel like Thanksgiving actually is what Christmas should be. The problem is that Christmas often gets too caught up in the materialistic parts of life and stress-inducing “to do” lists and things like that. It shouldn’t be this way, but it often feels harder to keep Christmas pure. To keep it about family and friends and love and all the beautiful things in our lives.

I love having my daughter home from school. I love the way our normal schedules stop for a few days: no sports practices, no music lessons, no homework, no after-school activities, no appointments. There is time for lingering over tea and a snack at a favorite restaurant. There is time for seeing a movie … or two … or three. There is time to sleep in a little bit and take a road trip. Time is something we don’t have nearly enough of during our regular weeks. I feel like we are always busy running from one thing to another, and I’m always trying to get stuff done (like laundry or making dinner or walking the dogs) in between errands. It’s a stressful and frazzling way to live.

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I love that my husband doesn’t go to work. The Thanksgiving holiday means I have a lovely chunk of time with him, too. We get to go for coffee or breakfast. We can laugh at each other’s stupid jokes. We can cuddle in bed while watching a movie. We can talk about our hopes and our dreams. We can go for long walks. We have time to reconnect. I think this is one of my very favorite things about Thanksgiving. My husband and I don’t see a lot of each other during the week. He works long hours, and I am usually running our daughter from place to place. We can sometimes grab ten or twenty minutes together, if we are lucky. But we are usually both too tired to talk or connect. I don’t think this means we have a bad marriage. On the contrary, I think we have a strong and solid marriage. I think we just have too much going on in our lives. Or, maybe, we live in a place that is too “go go go” all the time.

There is something so precious and perfect about having my whole family — husband, daughter, and two dogs — all camping out under one roof for several days. The four days of Thanksgiving feel like the most precious gift. My heart feels full, and my soul feels content. Everything I need is right here, right where I want it to be. I love the sounds of my house when everyone is here. I even love it when we all get in each other’s way. I wish I could describe it better, but I can’t seem to find the perfect words for it. It’s that feeling you get when you think your heart might just flutter away with you because you are so happy. It’s that feeling  you have when you just NEED to hug someone — anyone! Or, maybe, you would wrap the whole world in a big bear hug, if your arms were big enough. It is warmth and coziness and happiness and all the things.

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Inevitably, it has to come to an end. I know this, and I dread it somewhere deep inside. I dread it even as I am humming along, feeling happy and content with the beginning of the long weekend. Because Monday is lurking out there, just around the corner. Today, we all went our separate ways. My husband went to work. My daughter went to school. I walked the dogs and had to make a last-minute run to the grocery store so I could put dinner into the crockpot in time for it to cook. There was a late appointment and my daughter’s class at church. Tomorrow will be a doctor’s appointment in the morning, after school activities, allergy shots for me,  and a flute lesson in the evening. Wednesday and Thursday will bring late-night basketball practice. Our busy week is starting off with a bang, steam-rolling right over us as usual. And yet, there are the memories of that beautiful, four-day Thanksgiving weekend to keep me going. I think it might be just enough.

A Road Trip

This morning, my husband woke up, looked at me, and said, “Do you want to go to Charlottesville?” Charlottesville is about two and a half or three hours away from where we live. So, what he was really suggesting was quite clear: ROAD TRIP!!

I’m a big fan of road trips. I love going to a new place, or to a place that’s not really “new” to me, but that remains unexplored. I love traveling there via car. I love taking the more scenic and roundabout ways to get there. In Texas, which is where both my husband and I are from, road trips are a big part of life. Most things are pretty spread out, and you wouldn’t even think twice about traveling three or four hours to get from one location to another. We used to road trip all the time. Back then, we were young and a lot more spontaneous. We didn’t have a child, so we didn’t have as many responsibilities or schedules as we do now. We did have a dog — my much-loved and very-missed Springer, Tex — but he loved going in the car. We would load him up and hit the road at a moment’s notice.

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I think we have become a bit lazy and spoiled during our Virginia years. Now, if we have to travel even twenty or thirty minutes from our home, we complain about how “It’s soooooo far away and takes sooooooo long to get there.” I know. We have become a bit pathetic in our old age. In our defense, Northern Virginia has horrible traffic. Traveling to a place that is supposed to be thirty minutes from home can sometimes take forty-five minutes. Sometimes, it can take an hour. Also, there are a lot of really crummy and aggressive drivers in this area of the country. Everyone seems to be in a big hurry all the time, and they don’t mind running right over you to be the first person to get to that next red light down the road.

Traveling by car isn’t nearly as fun or carefree when you feel like you’re traveling right into the danger zone. It becomes a stressful and sometimes frightening experience. You can control your own car and  your own actions. But you can’t control the crazy person who is road-raging away in the car next to yours. When you multiply that person by a gazillion, you realize you are surrounded by crazy, and you just feel like giving up. And staying home. With the doors and windows locked.

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Today, we made the decision to put our cares on hold, to forget our responsibilities for the day, and to hit the highways and byways of Virginia. We took the roads less traveled, winding through beautiful mountains showing their autumn color and little towns that were already starting to decorate for the Christmas holiday. Since it’s the middle of a holiday weekend, traffic was fairly light. In Texas, we might have gone hours without seeing another car, depending on exactly where we were. That didn’t happen today, but we went several minutes at a time without encountering our fellow motorists. There were tiny little stretches where we could pretend we were the only intrepid explorers in our corner of the universe.

We stopped off at cute little country stores to do some  Christmas shopping. We detoured for soft serve ice cream. We paused along the way to hunt for Pokemon. We admired the beautiful state in which we live. The day was cloudy and a bit gray, but with sunshine peeking through every now and again. The fall colors around us seemed so vibrant and bright, and the clouds made the most amazing designs in the sky. There were piles and piles of moody, gray-blue clouds. They were fantastic with the sunlight dancing through them. We saw barns that were tumbling down and covered with vines. We saw neatly kept farms with perfect, white fences and cows grazing in the fields. We told jokes and funny stories. We listened to favorite songs. Sometimes, we even sang along.

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It was a meandering kind of day. Sure, we set out this morning with a plan and a schedule in mind. And yet, no one seemed particularly upset when our schedule somehow fell by the wayside mere hours into our trip. As the sun began to set and we turned our car toward home, where we knew two hungry pups were waiting for their overdue dinner, my husband jokingly commented that we spent too much time “dicking around”. Next time, he said, we needed to be more focussed on getting to our final destination so that we have more time to look around.

It’s a good thought. But the next time we head out on a road trip, we will do the same thing we did today. We will detour and slow down and wander around a bit aimlessly.  We will stop for snacks and ice cream and interesting little stores on the side of the road. We will spend time staring at the scenery and taking pictures. In short, we will “dick” around. Every single time. He knows this, as do I. And, no matter what he says, I know he doesn’t mind in the least. With a road trip, the point really isn’t your final destination. It’s the journey. Today, we did more than zip from Point A to Point B. Today, we took our time. And that’s the most precious gift of all.

 

The Day Before

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Today was one of those days that feels like it is full of festive promise and excitement. School let out early. We are all looking forward to a nice, long, four-day weekend. My husband and I spent most of the morning running last-minute errands, which should have been annoying but wasn’t. We laughed together and enjoyed the time we had. My daughter’s evening activities were cancelled. She and I took advantage of the early school release time to eat lunch together and catch a movie. This was my little surprise to her; I purchased the tickets earlier today while we were out running the rest of our errands. I think it was a nice surprise, and it was a lovely way to spend a casual, easy afternoon.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about my childhood today. I don’t feel like I usually wax nostalgic about holidays. But there have been a lot of changes in my family this year. Perhaps that’s why I feel a bit more sentimental than I have in years past. I have been remembering the feeling of freedom that came with knowing there was time off from school. And there was always giddy excitement over waiting for our family gathering. My family was big on gathering for all of the holidays. Our get-togethers were full of funny stories and loud laughter, wild domino matches, and an endless array of mouth-watering desserts.

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I grew up in a teeny-tiny house. We lived out in the country, and our house had four room. Not four bedrooms — four rooms, total, including the single bathroom. It was a cozy way to grow up; to this day, I prefer small spaces and tiny houses. My husband doesn’t share this preference, so I’ve had to get used to the feeling of a larger space around me. But that warm coziness stays with me, planted firmly in my childhood memories.

My favorite part of a holiday was going to bed the night before, full of the anticipation of what was to come, and then waking up the next morning. There would be a few moments, just after waking, when the world still felt fuzzy and new and my brain struggled to wake up and figure out just what was different about this day. I would lie in my bed and listen to the sounds of the house around me. I would hear my mom in the kitchen, the squeak of the floor marking her passage as she moved from sink to stove to table and back again. Sometimes, I would hear her talking with my dad. I would feel the mumble of their voices wash over me, the words indistinct, but the sound of it giving me a warm feeling deep in my heart. Sometimes, I would hear my mother singing as she cooked. Usually hymns. She only sings if she thinks no one can hear her, and the sound of her voice, perfectly imperfect, was beautiful to my ears. The memory of it is still sweet. As I came more awake, I would become more aware of the smells. My mom is the most amazing cook. She would be making a feast in our little kitchen: turkey, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, buttermilk pie, pumpkin icebox pie, chocolate pie … and, I’m sure, several things I don’t remember at the moment. And the smells of those things cooking was like magic. It’s what love smells like: the scent and feeling of all the love my mother put into every moment of every dish. There is no better way to wake up than hearing your mama moving around in the kitchen and smelling the deliciousness of the meal that would come later in the day.

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In those moments, cuddled under my blankets against the chill in the house, listening to my mama work her magic in the kitchen, I felt happy. And safe. I knew who I was, and I knew, without a doubt, that I belonged somewhere. I BELONGED somewhere. As a kid,  you don’t realize what an amazing and wonderful thing this is: to know who you are and where you belong. This is the memory that stays with me the strongest. It is the memory that has come to me, again and again, today as I ran errands and sat down to figure out what I was going to take to our gathering tomorrow.

Tomorrow, my daughter will wake up in the morning. She will be huddled under her blankets. And she will hear me moving around in our kitchen, just down the stairs from her room. She will hear me walking the floor from stove to sink to table and back again. She will hear me talking to her father or to the dogs, because the dogs are always quick to help with kitchen tasks. Sometimes, I wish I was still a child. I wish that I could go back to those days when I was so sure of everything in my life, and when I felt safe, secure, and like I belonged somewhere. But I’m not a child. I’m the mama now. And tomorrow, I hope my own child hears the familiar sounds of home and holiday around her, and I hope they make her feel warm and safe. I hope she will know, in those moments, how very loved she is. I hope she will know that she belongs somewhere.

Hide the Turkeys

I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving. As I woke up this morning, this was the first thought in my head: “Thanksgiving is this Thursday. What. The. Heck?!?” I feel like we were in Texas visiting my family for the Summer just a couple of days ago. And school started, like, yesterday. So, yeah. I don’t understand where the time has gone. Or how it has passed by so quickly. It’s one of those weird things … Like, if you try to sit and figure it out, it will continually slip away from you, until you are left feeling confused and foggy about everything. Does that even make sense? I don’t know. It makes sense in my head, because that’s how I feel. I often feel as if I wander through life in a bit of a fog, eternally confused as to how I got to where I am and just where the heck I thought I was going. And, lately, I feel confused as to how life can change so drastically in such a short time. Maybe that’s just me.

I’m not sure I have felt extra thankful in recent months. I know I haven’t felt thankful in recent weeks. My aunt’s sudden death has taken a toll on my life, both externally and internally. I have felt sad, angry, confused, devastated … Just, all the feelings that I don’t want to feel. I don’t understand how my aunt — both of my aunts, actually — can not be here any longer. I don’t understand how the world can keep on turning when my heart is broken. And yet, it does keep on turning. Life just keeps on rolling right over us, no matter what. Sometimes, this is okay. Sometimes, it’s even a good thing. But sometimes, it leaves me feeling as if I’ve been ground down into dust by a giant steamroller. Lately, there have been a lot more steamroller moments than anything else. I know I need to get out of this funk. I know I need to get over it all and move on. Day to day, I’m generally all right. I go through the day and get things done. Things like laundry and cooking dinner and picking up my child and taking my child to after-school activities and feeding the dogs and walking. You know … “life”. I laugh. I feel love. I enjoy things. I feel happy when the sun hits my face and the sky is super blue. Underneath, I’m still sad. I can forget about it for a while, but it sneaks up on me. The sadness can come up and grab me when I least expect it. Or when something makes me think of my aunts. Or when I talk to my mom and hear the sadness in her voice, even though she tries to hide it. Or when I think about my beautiful cousins, who will have to get married and build families and live the rest of their lives without their mom. It’s so unfair.

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And yet, there are things for which I am thankful. I am alive. I have love. I am capable of giving love. I have a happy family and a good life. I have dogs. It’s impossible to have dogs and not realize how fantastic life is or what an adventure it is simply to live each and every day. I have a beautiful daughter. I still have both of my parents. They might be cranky and extra opinionated, but I love them. In so many ways, I am lucky and blessed. It’s easy to forget this in amongst all the every day irritations and annoyances of life. I often feel like it’s easier to focus on those niggling little annoyances. I think this is because they have a tendency to shove themselves into the forefront of every moment of the day, to the point where it’s impossible to ignore them. But the good things … the sweet things in life … Those can be harder to grab onto. You have to reach for them. You have to want to see them.

On Thursday, we will gather at the home of some dear friends. They are people who, over the years, have become more like family than just “friends”. I will look around at my family, at my friends-who-are-family, and at any new friends who will also be there, and I know it will be beautiful. It will feel like one of those moments that are made of the finest, thinnest glass, so that you have to handle it oh-so-gently to make sure it won’t shatter. It will feel like one of those moments I want to tuck away, so that I can keep it forever. So that I can pull it out the next time I’m feeling down and savor it all over again. And I will know: I am blessed. I am happy. I am thankful.

Weekly Nail Wrap-Up

Today will be my last weekly nail wrap-up on this blog. I remain unapologetically addicted to these bright and shiny lacquer colors, and there are quite a few fun nail posts I would love to do. I keep having ideas and jotting them down on bits of scrap paper, which then litter my desk and hide underneath my computer.

Since it seems my desire for nail posts continues to grow, I decided to split things up a bit. This blog will remain dedicated to my life musings and the occasional fictional or poetic rambling. I set up a new blog for all of my nail polish madness. I used the new (new to me … I don’t spend enough time exploring the nooks and crannies of WordPress’s site admin capabilities) thing where you can set up a new site still dedicated to your current user name. Honestly, I’m not sure if I did it correctly or not. And there is still quite a bit of work to be done on the other site as far as layout and such. But, from today forward, I will locate all of my nail polish adventures at the new blog, Pish Polish.

Here is the link: https://pishpolish.wordpress.com

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I started out my week with Zoya, “Apple”. I liked this polish, although it wasn’t what I expected. It’s a lovely shade of green, and it built up easily on my nails. But I expected the color to be darker and richer, overall. I also expected it to be a two-coater, whereas I needed three coats to get it opaque. So … I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I love the color, and I like the finish. But my pleasure was marred by those couple of unpleasant surprises I experienced when applying it. I’ll definitely keep it. It’s rare that I ever get rid of a Zoya. I liked the color enough that I think I will genuinely enjoy it the next time I wear it. I think this color works nicely for Fall, but it will also be fun to wear in the Spring and Summer.

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This is Orly Breathable, “Give Me a Break”. I believe these nail polishes are new from Orly. I saw a whole display for them at my local Walgreens, and I was intrigued. This is supposed to have base coat + color +top coat, all in one polish! I’m a firm believer in using base and top coat, so I admit I was more than a little skeptical about this. Still, I love Orly, overall, and I decided to give a couple of these a try. I picked this purple and a dustier lavender out of the display.

Overall, I have to say this polish was pretty good. It went on easily and smoothly in two thin coats. The color was beautiful, and it has a shiny finish. It looked great and “finished” on my nails, even without a top coat. Wear isn’t much of an issue for me because I tend to change my polish out fairly frequently. I wore this for a day and a half or two days, and it wore pretty well. I had a little bit of tip wear at the end of that time, but I did not take it easy on this manicure, either. I even did dishes without gloves, just to see how the polish would hold up. The polish also came off easily, with no staining.

I don’t know that I would wear this brand or polish regularly. But, if you’re in a hurry to get your manicure done, something like this would be a lifesaver.

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Next, I wore Sinful Colors, “Copper Pot”. This is the most delicious Fall color. I’m not sure I can say much more about it. It really is the color of a copper pot on my nails. The orangey-coppery color has flecks of gold mixed into it, which gives this polish a beautiful glow in pretty much all types of lighting. I feel like it shows some brush strokes in my photo, but those were not apparent at all in real life. Overall, just a pretty pretty color with a great formula. I liked this one a lot.

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This is OPI, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (the solid color) + OPI, “Sunrise … Bedtime!” (the glitter). I was so excited to get my hands on Breakfast at Tiffany’s this week. Finally!! I have been looking for this polish ever since the collection first came out. It was sold out online. I waited for it to come to my local stores. Even though I checked back frequently, this color sold out right away. This week, I checked at Ulta yet again, and they had two bottles of it left. Score!! On a whim, I also picked up the Sunrise … Bedtime! glitter topper. I hadn’t planned on getting either of the glitters from this collection, but this one really looked so pretty in the bottle. I love that it has a lot of pink tones in it, which is weird because I’m not usually a pink gal at all.

I love both of these polishes. And I LOVED this manicure. It felt very light, airy, and refreshing on my nails. I felt feminine and dainty wearing this. I’m so happy I was able to get Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I know that polish has gotten mixed reviews, but I really love it. It took three coats to be opaque, but I didn’t have any trouble with the coats streaking or pulling. Each coat dried very quickly. It dries down matte, but it looks amazing once you put a top coat on it. I like this polish so much that I may purchase a back-up of it — if I can find one, that is.

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This is Colores de Carol, “Sapphire Princess” (the darkest blue) + “Prototype” (the mid-tone blue, pictured in the bottle) + “Old Orchard” (the lightest blue). I decided I wanted to try another gradient, so I went with all blue tones this time. You can see I kind of messed up on my pinky. The colors got too muddied up, so the lightest blue doesn’t show at all. Overall, I’m happy with how this turned out. I had a slight problem with my cuticles flooding, which was probably due to overzealous sponging. I think this gradient blended out smoothly, and I love these three colors together. I like this one so much that I still have it on my nails two days later! That is saying a lot!