On 55 Hours of Freedom, Springily

My 55 hours of freedom began with a dinner party. To add to the slight stress of meeting new people, there was also the panic of the location – an upscale eatery. Confident in my knowledge of which silverware to choose (learned watching Titanic – just work your way in), I selected my favorite sweater dress. It’s navy and red, short and tight enough to be alluring, and high-necked enough to be modest. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a necklace, since you’re covered. That plus tights and boots and a little bit of eyeshadow turned me into a very compelling dinner companion. I remembered to grab my sense of humor on the way out the door, and had a lovely evening. Also, I ate everything. All of the meats. It was spectacular. If all I need to do to go have entertaining conversation and delicious food is put myself together, I will happily do that any day.

When we got home, we decided that we were going to sleep in the igloo we made last week during the epic spring blizzard. (I got sent home due to a power outage at work on Wednesday, and so we spent 6+ hours building this amazing 6’ tall snow fort – the man encapsulated it on Thursday, and thus, we are now in brief possession of an immense front yard igloo.) We hauled out blankets and pillows and snacks and fell asleep in our snow cave. It was not a night of great sleep. I was cold and sore, my hips protesting about the ice below them, my body protesting about the lack of heat and the cold everywhere. At one point, I decided I’d be generous and give the man my hat (bad decision for me), and I think we woke up at least 7 times that night. Lots of pulling and rearranging.

However, on the plus side, I now know that I do not want to pursue snow-camping as a hobby, and I’m glad I didn’t have to drive to the mountains to figure that out. But it was fun. Our friends stopped by very late in the night (after we’d gone to sleep), so it was fun to wake up to a yell of, “They’re in there!” and have a late night igloo meeting.

Saturday brought cat-snuggling. Carlos has been missing me, because I’ve been a terrible cat mother lately, and so I went home Saturday morning to snuggle him. And in theory, to finish cleaning (ha, guess how that turned out?). Then there was a yoga party – we built a two-story tall snowman and had the most delicious sangria before coming home and napping hard. After the nap, we broke for Easter preparations and then made dinner (the leftovers from the steakhouse were amazing).

Easter Sunday – as usual, it was too cold to wear my Easter dress, so I selected a pink lacy shirt and jeans. I’m trying to get into softer, more lady-like colors, but I’m still not convinced. If it’s not black, I don’t know about it. Adulting is proving to be harder than I thought, at least sartorially.

We had first breakfast. I was excited to meet new family, and there were jelly beans involved (which is never a bad thing). Then we had brunch with my dad’s family, and stopped off to see my grandpa at the nursing home before we headed back home to wait for AAA to pick up my brother’s car, which had stopped working. Ha, trying to push an SUV into our busy street was quite the adventure. It got stuck in the hole next to our driveway, and so it had to hang out half in the street and half in the driveway until the tow truck driver could get there.

I brought my 9-year old to my mom’s family’s Easter dinner. She’s my favorite person – a small blonde bundle of energy. She had flowers and a card for my grandma, as well as a chocolate bunny, and she made bunny cake! (Everyone knows how to make bunny cake and I feel like it’s something I’m going to have to learn how to do – I’m into the idea of being able to garnish a cake with all sorts of additional sources of sugar, and when we were at my grandma’s house, I ate all of the Easter-flavored twizzlers off the cake while we were cutting it.) She’s so talkative! (Maybe I was that talkative at that age?) She’s headed off for Spring Break, and she goes to the same elementary school that we all went to, so we had a lot to talk about.

I wanted to show her some acro yoga, because I imagined that she’d enjoy it since she does gymnastics. As it turns out, she loved. Poor boyfriend could not catch a break. She had him going through pose after pose after pose, determined to learn more. At one, she was demanding that we do something really cool. It made me laugh to see how excited she was about it, and how determined. He told her that once she learns how to do a handstand, she can do a lot more. She was super eager, and he was a really good sport about letting her leap all over him. When we dropped her back off at her house, she made him do it all over again to show her parents. It was really sweet.

I was exhausted. 55 hours isn’t quite long enough, is it? I feel like this week is going to bring a lot of necessary errand-completion and tasks to be checked off, so I’m feeling productive and excited to leap into it.

Advertisements

On the Weekend, Always Belatedly

Ah, the weekends. The 9-5 grind is exactly that, a grind, and by the end of the day, I’m generally exhausted. But the weekend provides me with roughly 55 hours of usable free time – 5pm Friday to midnight Sunday – and I try to make it a point to use as much of that time as possible.

Last weekend was no exception.

My mom had asked me if I’d like to bring the guy that I’m seeing to family dinner on Friday night – my favorite meal of the year, corned beef and cabbage – and I’d immediately declined the invitation. But then I thought about it, after telling him that I’d declined his invitation without even asking him. I realized that it probably wouldn’t be too bad if he met my people, so I re-invited him, nervously.

I’m known for bringing guys home to meet the family very early on – maybe it’s the sadist in me that likes to see them sweat, or maybe it’s that I want to see how they can manage themselves. My family is quite lovely, so it’s not like it’s difficult, but I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he interacts with your family in that sort of environment. Is he polite? Does he speak up? Is he patient? I’m impatient, usually polite, and always talking, so I need someone who can be patient, polite, and match my level of enthusiasm for the conversation. I love my family, and I want them to know the people I spend my time with, and for those people to know my family. Also, free food. Plus, my grandmothers are pretty fantastic people.

To my surprise, he said yes in the very best way. A long text message string of rap lyrics. I laughed out loud when I read it, and then immediately sent a few panicky emails to my grandmother, mom, and aunt, so that there’d be another place at the table and to make sure there was enough food. (I promised to eat less, if need be.)

And so that happened. I picked him up, ten minutes late (surprise, surprise), and we made our way the four blocks to my grandmother’s house (convenient). The evening was wonderful. He talked – he may have talked more than I did! (Ehhh, probably not.) He deftly handled the faux-argument we have over the men’s side of the table (they always mess up the passing order to make sure that their buddies get the best food first – and the women always tease them about it), falling in line with the “rules” of the passing and the back-passing. He definitely got in on the good end of the back-passing – he had meat, potatoes, and cabbage before I’d even gotten the bread.

We lingered for four hours. He got to see the reenactment of the guys and my mom dropping me off at college – my uncle’s impression of me sobbing and begging them to take me back to Denver includes, “I’ll go to DU, I swear!” and is fantastically hilarious – as well as my mom’s excellent impression of the “purse carrier,” which is exactly what I’m not allowed to marry. It was a really wonderful dinner, and I felt so happy to be surrounded by such lovely people, and to come from such a loving and kind family.

On Saturday, I went to see an old co-worker, who’s now my mentor/friend. She has the most adorable two-year old son, so I was happy to play with him while we caught up. It’s so easy to lose touch with people once you don’t see them every day, so I’ve been trying to make an effort to stay in contact and not lose people just because they’ve slid out of the periphery. Also, she’s very good about getting in touch with me, so that definitely helps. I always laugh and thank her for being a part of my village (village people, I think that’s what I’m going to call my wonderful network of humans), because I’ve been to her kid’s birthday parties, her family events, and I was the first person to ever babysit for her son.

Babies are the sweetest things. He’s talking up a storm now, and he has the biggest eyes and the happiest smile. I chased him and tickled him, and his peals of laughter brought me so much joy. I love how determined they get, or how frustrated, or how giggly. There is so much pure energy and pure emotion, and as I left, he stood by the door and waved to me, over-ready for his nap. My friend texted me after I left and told me that he was out 60 seconds after she put him down.

For some reason, I was in cleaning mode on Saturday. I have been struggling to get my house under control for a while now (again, no surprise here), and I wanted to go home and do some good work. And so I did. I got my room rearranged, opened up the box that contained my new mattress and got it unfurled, foam puffing up immediately. I got more things folded and hung up and stuffed into drawers (I mean, folded, definitely neatly). I threw away trash and cleaned out the fridge. I scrubbed the sink and unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. It was nice progress, and it felt good. My friend Gina will help me with the rest of it tonight.

Saturday night, we went to my old favorite Thai place. I’ve only ever ordered one thing there (five years is a long time to not stray on a menu, and I intend to keep up the streak) – pineapple curry, medium. Sometimes with shrimp, sometimes just extra pineapple, sometimes veggies. Always delicious. That is the food I crave on Sundays (when they’re closed), when I’m sad, or sick, or happy, or ….any time.

After that, we stopped into the PS Lounge – if you haven’t done that, you need to. Your life will get so much better. We had a few drinks there, and sat talking, oblivious to the bar around us. (Not entirely, but it makes it sound so much more romantic if I put it that way, doesn’t it?) Regardless, the conversations are so fantastic. I really like that I’ve met someone who knows stuff about stuff I don’t know. And who’s willing to tolerate the things that I love. He told me the other night that he loves that I always have something to add – actually add, a different perspective or input – to conversations. I laughed, what else am I going to do? We haven’t really disagreed about anything yet, and I keep trying to find something where we have drastically differing viewpoints…thus far, no luck.

My friend Jacob was playing at a bar down the road, so tipsy adventure me decided that we needed to at least pop in. So we did, briefly. I danced a little less than I would have liked, nervous energy coursing through my body. Bringing someone into your comfort zone is so hard. I like people. But it’s funny, because as much as I am uneasy in new places or doing new things, I’m equally uncomfortable when I’m bringing someone into my spaces, my people, my things.

Sunday morning, we woke up and went for a bike ride. He was so sweet a few weeks ago and put my bike back together for me (to be fair, he’s the one who took it apart in the first place….but I had a tangled chain somehow?), so I’ve been able to ride around with him. I’m terrified of city biking – too many people in Chicago get smashed by buses on bikes – but I’m getting better! We did 20 miles on Sunday, looping through the park on our way downtown, made a pit stop for ice cream, and then to REI (obviously), and then back around to the water treatment plant, and then back. By the end, I’d lost all of my energy, and the last few miles were me playing the mental fortitude game in my head. But I made it! There’s an uphill part right at the end, which is miserable. It’s the last big push before relaxation, and when I made it, I was overjoyed and that feeling of accomplishment (or at least, not failure) washed over me.  And on the way I ran into a couple of friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, which was wonderful!

Ha, to make things way sexier, I wore bike shorts. And since I left my car at the Thai restaurant the night before, I had no shoes to wear other than my cheap little black flats. So between the bright orange bike shirt and short combo and the completely not bike shoes, I made a very official-looking exerciser. You know, I make fun of the bike shorts/shirt people (and will continue to do so…), but, there’s something to it. My sit bones were not even sore as a result of the padding in the shorts.

Then I went to Verizon and got a new phone. I’ve had my mom’s old iPhone for over a year now, and she had it for two years before that, and the thing was just starting to lose everything. No battery life, no storage, the whole deal. It was time. Verizon can definitely thank Lil’ Wayne for pushing me over the edge; I’d been vacillating between the iPhone 6s (or trying to wait until the 7 came out?) and an Android, and Samsung came out with the Galaxy S7, which is water-resistant (seriously, you could put it in a fish tank and it would still work – I’m so curious but not $700 worth of curious, so I’ll leave that to the professionals and try to keep my phone on dry land), and that’s what did it. I’m a bath-taker and also incredibly accident-prone, so this seems like the right choice. Also, I had an S4 once, and I loved it. Apparently, the S6 was a miserable piece of equipment, and they’ve corrected that (righted their wrongs and put things back) in the newest version, so I’m in.

We shall see. It’s been a funny adjustment, because I had forgotten everything. But alas, it’s like riding a bike. Your fingers and brain relearn the moves, and it’s been not even 48 hours and I’m back in the groove.

Then I had dinner with my mom. First dinner, to be more accurate. We ate salad and caught up for an hour or so. It was so nice. I really love my mom. Then I had second dinner with my friend Emily. Man, I really love sushi and sake. I also love having friends that you’ve known forever. It’s so wonderful to love someone who really knows you. Emily has known me since high school, and I am really happy that we haven’t let our friendship slip. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and all of the things I love. We had a nice time, except for the fact that my dark circles threatened to swallow me whole. I had that blank, empty stare of exhaustion by the time we were done.

Finally, finally, came the sleep. My exhausted body was so pleased to find bed and pillows and blankets, and I was gone, weekend concluded. Not too bad for 55 hours, right? Errands, accomplishments, exercise, family, friends, dancing, date night, alcohol, ice cream, adventure, new technology, and babies! All of the best things. Nailed it.

On the Puppy, Delightedly

I’m going to need more than one post to discuss the Thanksgiving trip to Mississippi, but I’m going to start with the most important part: the puppy.

Boyfriend loves dogs and has been wanting one for a while. He wanted a chocolate lab. (So does my brother.) I always object. I have nothing against chocolate labs, but why have a chocolate one when you could have a black one? Or a yellow one?

We spent the last week or so at his grandparent’s hunting getaway in Mississippi, which is a few miles outside of a tiny town. One of the neighbors came by one night to ask if we’d lost a black lab puppy, which we hadn’t. I was curious though, and kept saying that we should check on the puppy to see if he’d been claimed. (I was mostly joking, but hey, wishful thinking isn’t the worst thing.)

A couple of days later, we were prepping for a bonfire when a different man came by with the same puppy and said that he’d found him running along the road and wanted to know if we’d like to have him. (He must have had some sense that we were in the market for a puppy. I’ll just assume that he was pulled in by our radiating need for puppy love, like a magnet or a force field.) Boyfriend was the one who talked to him, and then he yelled my name as he carried an armful of black something into the house.

I opened the door and there was the black something, tail wagging and sniffing around. My heart stopped for a second – a puppy! We leapt into action and lured him into the bathtub with a piece of deer steak and then boyfriend held him while I began the soaping process – yuck. So much dirt! Poor puppy just rested his head on the edge of the tub and gave us sad eyes while the water went from clear to muddy brown. Boyfriend joked that he was doing the “Carlos submission” because when the cat gets a shower he just sits there and waits it out with the most pathetic look possible.

The puppy stayed the night in our room on a blanket folded by the side of the bed. He’s house-trained and very well-behaved, minus his chewing problem. He left the room in the middle of the night and returned with my hiking boot. When I took that away from him, he returned with a slipper, so boyfriend put all shoes outside the door and closed it. Throughout the next few days, he’d run into the grandparents room to steal slippers and bring them back to his place in our room to munch on them.

I couldn’t stop smiling. He’s the sweetest thing. Boyfriend wasn’t about to let himself get so excited so soon; he wanted to wait until we figured out if we were going to keep him. (I knew we were. Boyfriend’s eyes did that shiny-gleaming-love-at-first-sight look when he watched the puppy and I knew there was no way we’d be leaving him.)

After the first night, we knew we were going to keep him. We had some work to do with the land his grandpa owns for hunting, so we took the puppy with us. He followed us around constantly, running back and forth between us, sleeping on a pile of coats in the car when we were traveling. We bought him some puppy chow and a toy, plus a leash and collar so he’ll look like a proper dog with a family.

We decided to name him Acorn (pronounced “A-kern”). We took him to the vet as soon as we got back to Denver for his puppy shots and a general wellness check. He’s about four months old and he weighs almost 37 pounds. He’s got the biggest puppy feet I’ve ever seen. The vet looked at him and said, “My, you’ve got a long way to grow!”

I’m in love.

The cat hates him, but is possibly realizing that since he’s not going to attack him, the puppy might be all right after all. Fingers crossed. We’ve been closing my bedroom door at night to separate them, but there haven’t been any daytime attacks yet, so I’m feeling optimistic. I don’t think Acorn’s ever seen a cat before, so that helps.

I’m also absolutely exhausted from the drive back and am running on very little sleep – this puppy mothering business is rough. If it’s not chewing on shoes, it’s toilet paper, or mail, or clothes, or…..

So now it’s off to work for me. I’ll post more Mississippi stories soon!

On Thanksgiving, Excitedly

This year will be the first year in a long time I’m not in Denver for Thanksgiving. (Not counting 2010, when Mike and I were in Africa.) Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not as stressful as other holidays; there aren’t any gifts; it’s more about food than it is anything else. Since I’m not one who eagerly anticipates the shopping season, I have nothing to do that day and the next except lounge around and eat leftovers.

Thanksgiving leftovers are the best leftovers. (Cranberries! Stuffing! Gravy!)

This year is a big year. I’m going to Mississippi with boyfriend. I’m going to meet part of his family and go hunting. Oh god. Me hunting deer? I’m most excited about a road trip. I drive. He sleeps. Clears the mind.

I think I’m most nervous about deer hunting. What if I’m bored? Sitting still isn’t my strong suit. Sitting still and being quiet definitely aren’t things at which I excel. What if I actually kill one? Not likely. I told him I’d most likely either cry or be super into it.

I met his grandfather last week. We went to a hockey game and then had dinner the next night. I’m a huge fan – I love families and his grandpa had some great stories. I’m less nervous about the family liking me now that I’ve met him.

Still, I’ve never been to the South. I’ve already made the silent promise to myself not to say anything until after we’ve left. I want to take it all in and experience as much as possible. It’s going to be a very new adventure, but it’s also going to be a very necessary week off of work for me, which I’m looking very forward to.

In other news: I’m now the assistant manager at my store (officially, since I’ve been the assistant manager in all but name for quite some time now). I’ll be assisting with the revamping of the store as well as the training of the three new kids we hired. But more exciting than that is the prospect of some marketing and office work. The owner and I have yet to sit down and actually hash out all of the specific duties, but I’m thrilled about the opportunity to do more of what the marketing and administrative stuff while still being able to keep up my cake decorating and customer service.

Things are looking up, which is good. Finally a nice break for me and the chance for more positive opportunities and career growth, which are things that I’m looking forward to taking advantage of.

On Wedding Weekend, Spiritedly

I forgot how much I love to travel.

Love. The other morning, I had the urge to just throw things into the back of my car (including the cat – who doesn’t hate the car as much as you’d think), and run far away. I wanted to drive until there was no more road, until I’d come upon the glorious nirvana that is endless waterfalls and starry nights that never get too cold.

I love grabbing my “mountain backpack” (that’s what I call it, I bet it has a proper mountain term) from the closet and filling it to the brim with whatever I’m going to need for the next three to five days. I love the travel-sized toiletries. I love the bits of brightly colored fabric straps that have been tied to the zipper pulls for the past four years. I love the way I feel when I wear it.

I love shouldering the always too-full pack (always. I’m going to be the worst backpacker ever) and heading into the airport. In those moments, before the back aches set in and my feet start to hurt, I am filled with the possibility of adventure, with excitement, with a tingling in my fingertips as I hand over my boarding pass to the TSA agent.

I always try to make the exact awkward face I’m making in my driver’s license or even worse (better?), the face from my passport. I don’t know if they find that as hilarious as I do, but it’s worth it.

Chicago, gold coast, streelights,

The view from my friend’s apartment downtown. Oh Chicago, your cold spring winds caught me off-guard and were terrible. But the magic of the city is palpable. Its energy flows around you. It’s sublime.

This is where Katie and Eric got married. Between those two trees. I started tearing up when I saw her start walking down the aisle. I teared up again when her dad gave a speech, but it was her mom’s that put me over the edge. It was beautiful.

White wine. Photo booth. I kept calling it a “king hat.” It’s very obviously a crown. I’ve always been good with synonyms. Dancing. It was so wonderful to see my friends. I have missed them.

On Sunday, my friend Anne drove out to the burbs to pick me up and then we went back to her place and watched new episodes of Arrested Development and got frozen yogurt. I went with her to a birthday party before heading back to Denver.

I’ve been telling Evan that I want to go camping with him (athleticism and adventurous spirits are so sexy, but I’m nervous that I don’t have enough of that – maybe enthusiasm can make up for it?). My goal is to go to Conundrum Hot Springs, which is a very lovely 8.5 mile hike each way. While I was in Chicago, with my “mountain backpack,” I took the stairs as much as possible at the train stations to practice hiking. (Obviously this is a very flawed approach, but you have to work with what you’ve got.)

Sunday was great – I woke up early and went to REI with Evan. I’m really not having great luck with not losing Nalgene water bottles (I left yet another one in Spokane), so I thought I’d try yet again.  (80th time’s the charm, right?) We’re two days in and I’ve not lost them yet.

[Hah, I just have to insert a thought here that has nothing to do with anything, except losing stuff. My freshman year of college, while being young and dumb, I lost my camera at a bar. Shortly after, my mom sent me a care package with a package of cards with a note attached that said, “Maybe these will entertain you on those Friday nights when you don’t want to go out and lose something.” I love my mom.]

After REI, we went to brunch and then, faced with the prospect of an entire day off, I went to see Jacob. There was coffee, cleaning (I owed him – he’s helped me clean so many times), and then we met up with my brother and his friends for some grilling in the park.

Delicious.

Evan was at work, so I brought him dinner – tucked into an empty 6-pack was a cornucopia (ha, mostly) of delicious picnic foods: a brat with grilled onions and German mustard, chips, grapes, and cookies.  He loved it. (Relief. I was a bit nervous that it was going to be the worst thing.)

Summer is coming and I’m in full adventure mode. I want nothing more than to take road trips and to see things I’ve never seen before. Also, I’d love to actually get around to planting my garden (too late, but whatever), and doing yard work, and relaxing in my hammock. I’m filled with the same excited anticipation that I get waiting to get on the plane. It’s endless possibility and experience and it’s all in front of me. This is going to be the best thing.

On Easter Weekend, Catholic Guiltily

Those of you who know me know that I’m not big on holidays. I enjoy them, certainly, but they bring such a source of stress for me that I usually pretend they’re not happening until I’m obligated to attend some holiday-related event.

Easter is not terribly stressful. You might go to church, you might go on a Easter egg hunt, you’ll most likely eat ham. (Last night, as she was helping me cook dinner, my friend Emily declared, “I’m pretty sure no one actually likes ham. You just eat it out of habit.” I think she’s onto something.) For the lapsed Catholics like myself, Easter is a good holiday to hang out with family and a great reminder that it’s time to start welcoming spring.

Easter throwback – 2007. Chicago, Illinois. Too bad I didn’t have this outfit this weekend; it would have been perfect!

We hosted another party this past weekend. After all of the fallout from the last party, we decided to call it “Ashes to Ashes: The Resurrection.” So naturally, it was Easter-themed. I panicked, because last time, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear.

This time, I found myself lacking not only direction, but conviction as well. Apparently, Catholic guilt is a seriously real thing: I didn’t want to go too far down the road to hell with my heresy, but I also wanted to have fun.

I found myself at Goodwill with two of my friends the afternoon of the party. At that point, I was still considering some sort of Eve-inspired outfit, or something Easter-egg-esque. Then we came to the undergarment rack. It’s actually great – I got a white slip for $2! Ben suggested that I buy a blue nightgown and I found a white robe to go over it. I also purchased some pink pajama pants and a pink silk shirt, thinking that I could wear those with my Easter bunny ears and be some sort of Easter bunny. (In the end, the pink was horrible. As we were checking out, I asked Jacob if you could return things to Goodwill. “You always re-donate them,” he said. That is exactly what I will be doing.)

The best thing about having a house is having a washer and dryer for when you buy undergarments at Goodwill and need to wash them before you wear them out in public but you only have two hours to get ready.

As I was getting ready, tossing nearly every article of clothing I own around my room, I imagined myself much like Lucille Bluth home alone. In the end, I donned the blue nightgown and the white robe and was quite content with my “Virgin Realness” ensemble. It was soft, which is my number one requirement for clothing, it fit, and it was sort of pretty. (Katie would later tell me that I looked like something out of The Great Gatsby, which I took as a high compliment.)

Jacob and I:

These photos were taken by the very talented Paul – I am eternally grateful that he cut the shoes I was wearing out of each shot. You have no idea how hard it is to find shoes that match undergarment outfits. I considered some shoes that I bought when I was 17 and still haven’t worn in public – they’re lovely, over-the-top sparkling heels with camel colored bows on the toes, but my feet slip out of them. I did a test run around the kitchen, realized they wasn’t going to fly, and ended up selecting some very gorgeous but not-quite-right heels. By the end of the night, I was back in flats.

Jacob and I had to run across the street to buy some batteries for a light-up headdress, and the cashier asked us if we were in a play. We mumbled something incomprehensible and slipped out, trying to contain our laughter.

It was so good to see everyone. I loved the energy of the crowd, the positive vibes and genuine happiness radiating out of everyone led to a very successful evening. It was over all too soon, and I was dragging myself home for sleep before the family packed Easter Sunday.

We went to see my dad’s family and had brunch with them. I’d worked from 8:30 in the morning until 11:30 on Friday night and then turned around and opened Dairy Queen on Saturday, so I was exhausted. By the time we’d finished our afternoon Easter dinner at my mom’s house, I was ready for a nap. I crawled up to her bed and slept for an hour.

My little neighbor was so cute – she had gotten a little stuffed bunny for Easter and so I held her and she rested the bunny on my shoulder. Pretty soon, she’ll be too big for me to carry, unless I magically develop more muscles, so I want to make sure I take full advantage of the time I have left.

My little cousins got hair chalk – apparently that’s a thing. We covered our clothes in towels and got down to the hair chalking business. It’s fun! I ended up covered in pink and green, but I had Medusa-like green chalk curls briefly. The little one, who’s six, ended up with bright pink hair. She was so excited about it.

On Sunday night, I tried to introduce my brother to Game of Thrones. We’ve still got free HBO for another month, so I intend to take full advantage of it. He sat with me while we watched the third season premiere. It’s really hard to explain everything. I finally got to the point where I’d just say, “good guy,” “bad guy” to help him differentiate between the characters. Hopefully he’ll start it from the beginning and fall in love with it like I have. (I’ve been terrible and haven’t read the books yet….it’s on my list, I swear!)

I hope your Easter was lovely!

On Rape and Rising, Hopefully

[There are potential triggers in this post re: rape. Please do not proceed if this may make you uncomfortable.]

“Rape” is a four-letter word.

I’ve written before about my journey to the realization about the devastation of rape (I knew, but I didn’t know, you know?). Now that I’m fully aware of not only the physical effects but the emotional and psychological devastation caused by rape, I’m burning with rage about it.

My friends and I have spent a lot of time discussing the gray areas surrounding the concept of sexual assault and rape. It’s a harrowing topic, because the more it’s discussed, the more it doesn’t make sense anymore. There’s the “maybe” and the “I don’t know” and the “intent,” but at the end of the day, regardless of where any act stands on the spectrum, it’s a harmful, traumatic experience, period.

It was one of my friends, during a recent discussion about rape amazed me with his passion, who reminded me why it’s not a fruitless endeavor to fight for change. His anger, his emphasis, the sincerity in his voice – it brought me out of the removed apathy that so many of us don when we’re hesitant. It brought me into the present; it ignited a part of my soul.

They say that rape is about power, and I guess that to a certain extent it is. But it’s more than that, too. It’s about having your power taken from you. Rape, gray area rape or legitimate rape or date rape or sexual assault or whatever else you can think to call it, takes away your power. It makes you feel weak inside. It makes you skittish and scared; it makes you hurt all over; it makes you burn with shame, even though you know that it’s not your fault.

It’s under-reported. I can empathize with those women (or men) who for any number of reasons, cannot report it, and suffer in silence. I think of the Kobe Bryant trial. I don’t care whether or not it was rape – look at what happened to the victim. She was shamed, called horrible names, doubted, had her life spread before the eyes of the world and then slowly dismantled to be examined. So often, it comes down to “he said, she said” and nothing can be proven.

(I should note here that one of my biggest pet peeves is when people assume that women are “crying rape” for attention. I don’t think anyone should ever misreport anything, and it’s disgraceful to do it – but at the same time, every time someone reports something, people are so quick to make critical judgments and I think that says a ridiculous amount of negative things about humanity.)

The statistic that 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped within her lifetime is terrifying. One billion women. One billion. (I’m imaging Mike Meyers as Dr. Evil saying “one million dollars” right now….)

Think about that number. Really think about that. What does that say? What does that say about men? What does that say about our tolerance for violence? What does that say about our inclination to make women bear the brunt of the responsibility for actions committed against them?

The world is not a safe place. It never has been. But that’s not an excuse for us to stop working toward something better. I hate the idea that women are weak. I hate it. But I understand it.

During college, I took a Transgender English class – liberal arts, I know – and we read a story about a college professor who transitioned from male to female. I hated the book at the time – she wrote about embracing femininity in a way I found to be so shallow, materialistic, and stereotypical. She wrote about the vulnerability that she felt when she felt the wind between her thighs when she was wearing a skirt.

I disregarded the notion entirely. But I have gained new insight. I do understand the vulnerability. I am glad that I never realized my own vulnerability while I was living in Chicago or staying in Cape Town. I’m glad that I was bull-headed and street-smart enough to be safe.

No amount of “right decisions” can protect you. No amount of preparedness can keep you from harm. There is no such thing as safety. It’s all merely an illusion. That’s what we’ve come to as a society. Our gated communities and fancy security guards are nothing. Trust is irrelevant, an outdated idea shirked in favor of deceit and false self-truths.

Enough is enough. Listen to Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues!) say some powerful stuff about the movement called “One Billion Rising.” People are breaking their silence. They’re letting go of the discomfort that they feel when discussing something as taboo as rape and sexually motivated violence. They’re realizing that something needs to change. People need to be held accountable for their actions. People need to fundamentally respect other people.

Rape is a preventable crime. It’s not preventable in the ways that have been suggested in the past, such as “dress more conservatively.” I forget who originally made the counter-point to this, but it’s so incredibly valid: what does that say about men? That they’re little more than wild beasts who will be unable to control themselves at the sight of flesh? That argument in itself is disgraceful to men and to women.

What I wear or do not wear cannot be construed as an invitation for rape or violence. What I do or say or act like cannot be construed as an invitation for rape of violence. There is no valid excuse. None at all.

We need to teach our young men that “no means no.” We need to teach them that power can be gained through other avenues that are more rewarding than acts of violence aimed at belittling and degrading other people. We need to emphasize respect – actions have consequences. Even if you can’t see the harm that’s been done, it’s there. We need to dispel the myth that sex is something to be taken, something to be claimed.

We need to remind all women that their voices and experiences matter. We as a global society need to value our women, rather than marginalizing them and quieting their voices. We need to remind women to be strong – we need to assure them that we’ll support them, heal them, and lift them up.

No one can be an island. We’re not in this fight alone. Globalization necessitates cooperation and conviction. We must work together to stop this perpetuation of violence, of hatred, of fear. Sexual violence against women (and men, too) has long been used as the ultimate bargaining tool, a source of shame and ultimate destruction. We must stop it. We must make it so that our people are free from the terror of vulnerability.

The world is willing to work for change – it’s time for us to realize that the capacity for human compassion and love is ever-present. This is a beautiful thing. Love is the essence of humanity – it keeps us strong and humble. Love is something we need to work on teaching our children. With a strong foundation, they will be less likely to take from others what they cannot find in themselves.

On Home Ownership, Sulkily

[We hosted our first sleepover for our little cousins on Friday night. They were so excited to be over at our house, and we were excited to have them. We made cookies (oh god, so much cookie dough) and watched Home Alone 3, which is always a hit. (I laughed.) Also, it’s very hard to explain to an eleven-year old why Macaully Culkin looks the way he does now without mentioning his probable intravenous drug use.

The sleepover was so much fun and I hope we can have them back soon.]

The cards we got when we moved in were adorned with flowers and kind sentiments, probably to build us up before the inevitable letdown that comes with “maintenance” and “ownership” and “responsibility.” I am still beyond thrilled to own land, but as time passes (mind you, the time that has passed thus far is shortly over a month), I am becoming aware of the reasons for that endless list of things to do in and around the house.

The first problem is hilarious. It really is. Our front door won’t open. It’s always been difficult, but a little bit of body-slamming (for me, gentle push in for Mike), plus a swift pull used to make it open. Now, that process no longer works. The door remains shut. We had a party on Saturday night, and people who came to the front door were quickly alerted by the guests in the living room that they had to go to the side door. (Thank goodness for the side door, right?) A friend of mine who came to the house ended up going in the side door and then straight down the stairs into the basement – where I most certainly was not – because he didn’t see the kitchen entryway.

Anyway, we will dismantle the lock and replace it and then we will have a working front door. And on the plus side, no one will be able to burgle us through the front door unless they’ve got serious B&E skills (I mean, if your chosen profession is burglar, hopefully you have better sense than to rob us – you’ll end up with some lawn chairs, IKEA tupperware, and romance novels – not exactly the haul of a legend).

The second problem is less than hilarious. The garbage disposal has ceased to function. (It was already sort of limping through the food mangling process, so this wasn’t unexpected.) Mike took it apart, and then neglected to inform me that the dishwasher drains through the garbage disposal (you learn something new every day), so I ran it and then there was a slight flood. I put the drain pipe into a bucket, so the dishwasher could continue and our floors would be saved. I made him put the garbage disposal back on at least until we can get a new one so that flood situations can be avoided.

Last night, Mike put in a new garbage disposal. It was quite the involved process, but I’m glad to have a brother who’s patient enough to read the directions and determined enough to get it done. Thus, we began the project list.

(Note: I’m not actually complaining about being a homeowner. I mean, I am, but I still like it. But I like complaining just as much, if not more.)

On Christmas, Merrily but Quickly

When I was younger, I thought people who got practical gifts for Christmas were silly. Why would you wish for pots and pans when you could have books or toys?! (For the record, I’ll still take books any day.)

Now that I’m a bit older, I recognize the value in practical presents. In fact, I welcome them. (I do miss the joy of tearing off wrapping paper expectantly, although I’ve come to realize that there is so much more to life and family than presents.)

This year, we got shovels from my mom – who has always really enjoyed the idea of matching presents…and we’ll be using them tomorrow morning since it’s going to be a white Christmas! (Yay, Colorado!)

(This is our modern American Gothic look. Dig it?)

American Gothic Christmas

On Everything, mostly

I’ve been avoiding blogging lately. Not because I don’t want to, but because there is so much swirling inside my head and I fear that it will all lump together incoherently and ruin the messages I intend to convey. But I am finding that the longer I put it off, the more everything builds up.

So faced with the incoherent, potentially ruinous lumping or the lack of content, I’ll take the lumping. City Park Statue with Frogs

On Friday night, Jacob and I made dinner and walked around the park as darkness fell. It was cold and rainy, but the air felt good and the conversation warmed my soul. I am grateful for my friendships. My friends are all individualistic, beautiful people. They possess the qualities that I value most in this world, and I respect them immensely.

It doesn’t hurt that Jacob and Carlos adore each other, either. Carlos doesn’t snuggle for just anyone, but he will always snuggle for Jacob. It’s cute.

Jacob and Carlos

(Side note: I got home on Sunday night, and Mike told me that he thought Carlos had died earlier. I was concerned, and upon hearing the story, I just shook my head and looked at the furry creature rubbing himself against my ankles. Mike said that the other black cat that lives in the building had somehow managed to get herself outside my window, and Carlos was howling and trying to attack her through the window. The cat had gotten himself through the blinds and was frantically trying to get at her. I’m just glad the glass held – I accidentally put my hand through one of the panes last  year – and Mike grabbed the cat and took him away from the window. I’m still not sure how I managed to adopt a cat that’s half pit bull. I’m also not sure how he can go from ferocious and wild to loving and needy, demanding that I snuggle with him. I do love him, though, so he should consider himself very lucky.)

in the Mirror

Swisher comes on Wednesday. I can hardly believe that it’s just two days now. I am so excited to not have to take mirror pictures all the time so that I can send them to him. (The great news about unlimited data plans? All the picture messaging you want! It’s allowed us to share experiences, events, mundane pictures, bad hair days, etc.) My phone is filled with pictures just like the one above, and I’m pretty sure that if someone went through my phone, they’d assume that I’m just a terrible narcissist.

I can’t wait. I guess I can, but only because I have to. We’re going to be faced with the immense task of turning our past into a relationship that isn’t long distance. I imagine that it will be an adjustment, but I also imagine that it will be quite wonderful, since both of us are committed to making this work.

I love that he loves me exactly as I am. He loves my curly hair. In fact, he prefers it. He loves my mind, my weird sense of humor, my opinionated nature. I am thrilled by the fact that he wants to cook for me, and has offered to help clean! And best of all, he’s not a purse-carrier (something my family is always quick to ask about). I love that he makes me laugh, and I love how much he teases me.

At Mother’s Day brunch, my Uncle Mike and Aunt Jan were excited to tell me that they had gotten into a debate about something. (Earlier this year, I was attempting to explain that I’d like a mate whose desire for discussion matches mine, and they thought that it was hilarious. “Should we make a list of things to debate about?” my Uncle asked, before adding, “Besides who’s going to make the sandwiches for lunch tomorrow?” I love that thirty-plus years of marriage hasn’t dampened their good-natured teasing. It’s something that I’m looking forward to if I should be so lucky to find a dude who will put up with me for thirty-plus years.)

birth mom!

Speaking of family, I was lucky enough to get to spend my first Mother’s Day breakfast with my birth mom, Lise, who was passing through town with her boyfriend. I haven’t seen her since I was 18 and had just graduated from high school.

(This is us then:)

I was excited to show her the paw print in my eye, since her spirit animal is a wolf and we’ve had a few fascinating (partly creepy, but mostly fascinating) experiences – when I was three, I was on the phone with her and told her that the wolves came to me at night and gathered around my bed, but that I got scared, and when my dad came into the room, they ran away and jumped over the fence. (It was a very intense dream. I had forgotten about the entire incident, but when she mentioned the fence detail, an image rushed through my brain of the blur of wolves and the back fence.) She tells me that the way I told her that story was so unlike a three year old and that she was very comforted by it. When I was 19, I was looking in the mirror in the car and I realized that in the blue of my eye, there is very clear dark paw print that’s set off from the rest of the blue. It’s like I carry her mark with me, and I enjoy that.

My boss, who adopted his four children, says that adopted kids always want to know two things: 1. who are my parents? (or in my case, what do they look like) and 2. why did they give me up? I think he’s right. I know the answer to the second question, and half of the first.

I will never know more about my birth father, but I am so grateful to have an open adoption. I am so glad that I get to see her. I agree with my boss when he says that he doesn’t see much resemblance. As I age, I am more and more sure that I carry a lot of my birth father’s appearance with me. I so badly wish that I could see a picture of him, but there are none. Ah, well. I will settle for the relationship that I have with my birth mother, because I am so lucky to have her in my life (and I’m not actually settling at all).

Both of us are double-jointed, so we showed her boyfriend that at breakfast. He cringed, and both of us laughed. My mom says that there were times when I was little that I would say something, and she’d turn around, half expecting to see Lise there because what I had just said sounded exactly like her. Both of us are unique, beautiful women, and knowing her has helped me to understand a lot about myself. I also love being able to compare our characteristics. As much as I am a product of my environment and therefore carry the qualities of my mother, I am also so much a product of my birth mother and therefore have much of her personality and emotions. i

It’s a beautiful thing. I should also mention that my brother Mike’s birth mother, Jill, is just as wonderful. She always comments on my photos and writes on my mom’s wall on his birthday to tell her that she’s thinking about her. It’s just good. It’s all good.

Mike has actively chosen not to know his birth father. We know who he is, and I wonder if at some point later, Mike will desire to build a relationship with him. But I love and value the fact that he has that choice, and that everyone involved respects his decisions.

Adoption is a beautiful thing. Even though the nuclear family that we were both adopted into would eventually shatter completely, we were placed exactly where we were meant to be. We have been so well loved. Anyone who discounts the forces of the universe and fate would be well advised to look deeply at my life, and at my beautiful family. We are exactly where we were meant to be.

Mom babysitting

Speaking of moms, this is my mother and two of our neighbors. She was so excited to babysit for the little one across the street this weekend, and I don’t blame her. He’s so happy. He was all smiles and he handled the attention he was receiving from the four of us beautifully. I held him and fell in love with him.

And then I ran off to do my regularly scheduled babysitting, which included negotiating story time with a very grumpy four-year old and then trying to talk a seven-year old back into sleeping after the rain woke her.

I had a bit of revelation last night. Unbeknownst to me, dinner plans with my other grandma (on my dad’s side) had been cancelled, and so upon my arrival, I found no one. I went in anyway, and ended up staying for dinner at my grandma’s.

We sat outside while it was still warmish and sunny, and talked. I was guarded, as I always am when I’m there. “Is he Catholic?” she inquired about Swisher, after asking me when he was moving here. I responded that yes, he’d gone to Catholic schools. We ended up diverting, and discussing religion. “What is it with the young people these days?” she wanted to know. I responded that choosing Benedict as our pontiff was a bad choice because he’s obviously not a fan of the social justice that I found to be such a positive part of the church while I was at Loyola.

She asked if I go to mass. I don’t. I went with them on Easter, but I usually just go as part of a family-mandated holiday schedule. The disappointment in her voice was clear. I explained to her that for people my age, the Church (church in general, to non-Catholics) represents a very challenging and hypocritical worldview. I explained that Mike finds god through nature while he’s camping and fishing, and in the introspection that he does while he’s there. I explained that I find god in people. I told her that I find god through kindness and love and acceptance and understanding. I emphasized my belief that god, whatever that means, will not bar me from “heaven” based on my lack of organized religion. I emphasized that love and kindness guide me.

I actually borrowed an explanation from Kelle Hampton, a blogger, who’s book Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected is on shelves now (20% off at Barnes & Noble, I found on Friday): after her parents divorce when she was a child, she found that the church, which she had previously found to be a beautiful, loving place, became scary in its condemnation of her father’s homosexuality. She writes in the book that church so often gets in the way of god, and I think that she makes that point beautifully. It’s everything I’ve wanted to say about organized religion as an obstacle to god, because people get so wrapped up in interpreting the Bible (or whichever religious text their religion refers to) literally that they forget to live the spirit. People forget to live lives full of love and caring. I told my grandmother that Jesus hung out with lepers and prostitutes, and welcomed all. Why can’t we attempt to do the same?

As dinner progressed, I was happy, but I was also wary. Her focus is not on my career, my baby steps to success, my tiny triumphs, my personal happiness, but is instead is on my eventual marriage and whether or not the guy that I’m dating is wealthy or not. Honestly, I find that people who were raised swaddled in money are often lacking basic life skills, including independence. They can’t do anything for themselves. That was a gross generalization, but honestly, I detest the fact that financial worth somehow equates to the worth of a person. I have watched ruin come to people who must maintain some sort of lifestyle. And I refuse to be a part of that. I wish to be happy.

For a few years now, a rift has been growing between the “other side of things” and me. I’m still not sure what exactly I did to set it off, and to progressively widen it, but I have remained steadfast in my unwillingness to engage in behavior that mirrors the actions of the people whose name I bear, the family that I wanted so badly to belong to. It was last night that I realized that I have no desire to be a part of a family that does not love me unconditionally, but at the base level, it’s about respect. I have no desire to be a part of a family that does not respect me.

I respect my grandfather immensely. He is a wonderful man who is given far too little credit for his progressive thinking and his intelligence. I have always found him to be a wonderful opponent for debating issues, as he is far more patient and wise than most people I’ve ever met. He has a keen political mind and is still incredibly sharp.

I refuse to accept the lack of transparency. One of the things that I respect most about my relationship with my mother is that she is open, honest, and willing to admit when she is wrong. It’s refreshing, and it’s shaped our relationship into something I am incredibly proud of.

I find that the inability to be upfront and honest is what has most affected (and soured) my relationships with most members of my dad’s side of the family. I reached out, and was rebuffed on two separate occasions, and then informed via third party (Grandma) that I was expected to apologize.

It breaks my heart, although I will not compromise my integrity nor will I pretend that I’m not hurt. At the end of the day, I still have no idea what it is about me that’s not okay. Is it that I don’t go to church? Is it that I was offended by my aunt’s suggestion that I start to be more financially responsible for my grandparents? Is it that I have gay friends?

Since December 24, 2010, I have been confused and hurt. I refuse to remain that way and thus have decided that it’s no longer a priority of mine to worry about the things that I cannot control. It feels good to let go. It feels good to accept responsibility for things I can accept responsibility for and make amends, but unfortunately, without knowing what I’ve done, I cannot accept responsibility for the severing of these relationships. I remain the free-spirited, open-minded person that I have been. I remain honest and true to myself. It is out of my hands, and I’m alright with that.