To do…

Winter came out of nowhere and slammed Michigan over the weekend. I am sitting in an apartment that I will finally admit we pay way too much for, when our water is disgusting and we freeze with the weather outside. We will not be renewing our lease here for a variance of reasons, but I can understand why people do… Apartment hunting is no fun anywhere but this area is a joke. The income is not high enough here to charge the rates they do. We found a lovely option, over the weekend. If only it were about $300 less a month and with a deposit half that size.

Geez, adulting is tough.

Ideally I am mentally putting a plea out there for someone, in the right location, to have a lovely little condo they will rent for a reasonable rate. Thus far my mental plea is going unanswered.

In other news, I started out the year with a long list of fun things that I wanted to learn how to do, or get better at. Here we are, mid march and I have only managed to learn that my body will not tolerate most medications, and that we pay too much for our apartment. These weren’t exactly the things I had in mind.

I have wanted to be a cupcake baker extraordinaire for years. To date I have attempted this process three legitimate times. It was fun. It was delicious. The problem? I’m not sure. Gen and I have been watching the Great British Bakeoff on Netflix and my baking bug has hit, hardcore. The issue is that I have a horribly unworkable kitchen in my incredibly overpriced apartment. At least eleven times Gen and I have said “oh, I want to bake ________, we should totally do it!” Only to then venture in to our “kitchen”  and assess our less than 1″ of workable space. Yep, it is  sad day when contestants on a baking competition have a better kitchen in their tiny strip of space, than we have. In all fairness (and hindsight) our apartment is made for foreigners here on business, with infinite bank accounts, so you can kind of understand, I guess.

So yeah… in thirteen days I celebrate my birthday. One month ago I romantically answered Maybe i will make a dinner of homemade gnocchi* and cute little Alice in Wonderland cupcakes**! When asked what I wanted to do on my birthday. (*I have never made gnocchi from scratch so this seems like a really stupid idea, as the 28th approaches. Especially considering the kitchen I have.) (**no. I later ammended that I really love Whole Foods coconut lemon cake. Like REALLY love it.)

In case you missed it, Gnocchi is also on my list of things to learn/master. I aim small.

While watching the Great British Bake Off I have lengthened my list a bit, (which ironically was a 2017 goal list, so my time table has shortened.) I would love to make a beautiful braided loaf of bread, master pies (sweet pies, no meat pies here) and wrap some poached pears in swirly dough… Of course, the afore mentioned kitchen may be an issue. Also, re: the pears- the bakers did say it was the worst, so I may scratch that from the list. (which also means rewriting the entire list because the flawed “scratch off” list would be below my highly ambitious standards.) (Perhaps in the new list I should head it “Things to learn and master before I am 50”, which would, obviously, make my 49th year of life incredibly busy…)

I guess the moral of this diatribe is that I need to be a little more honest with myself and my limits. Keep sight of my goals, but honestly accept that I can’t do everything. Some days I can’t do anything. Currently I can’t become an amazing baker and gnocchi maker, and that’s ok.

If I can just manage to find a decent rental I’ll consider it good. :)

A family journey…

emmxokmbsik-emma-dauI have been thinking a lot about family lately. My birth family, who i lived with until I was 12, I was the youngest, my grandmother was the woman who loved others through baking, cooking and making for them. My mother was crippled with mental illness and depression and so the most stable parent in my home was only there part time and pretty abusive, but that’s an entirely different story.

The dynamics were skewed but it’s what I knew. “family time” with my mom looked like my mother in front of the TV, smoking and moody. I could watch the westerns or old movies she watched, or I could go play in my room alone. When my step dad was around, “family time” included movie nights, (often inappropriate, but still it was something) and games. My mom really went on and on about how she hated games, but I loved those game nights the most. They were rare. Dinner when he was around was always large meals like Tbones, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and the perfect iced tea. When he wasn’t around I had frozen dinners, half-cooked, nearly thrown and me and verbal abuse about how I would eat it, not gag and not complain. There was also the months long period of time when I only ever was allowed to eat bologna sandwiches.

There was no talking, not really. No parental guidance, or heart to hearts. There were lots of rants, lots of two-faced confessions and a lot of verbal abuse. There was not a “how was school?” or “what are you interested in these days?” Birthday plans, from my mom, typically consisted of plans she made to mess with me the most. The one that sticks out the most is the year she went on and on about how she was going to do something so special and amazing for my birthday, IF I DESERVED it. When the week of my birthday came, I asked her if I’d been good enough and she told me she’d never said she was doing anything for my birthday and I didn’t deserve to even be told Happy Birthday. I was turning 10. The morning of my birthday my mother was especially mean. I walked to my grandmother’s for lunch and tried talking to her about it but she just kept saying “well, you know how your mother is. Just try to enjoy your day.” When she took me home I walked in to a surprise party and my mom crying happily because she had “pulled it off”. I just remember feeling so confused. To this day, 30 years later I still remember that lost and worthless feeling echoing What is going on???, throughout my head.

My larger family consisted of an aunt, uncle, cousins, grandparents, etc. Pretty normal. We did family holiday dinners, when my mom allowed me to participate. It was always fun and there was good food, lots of laughter, games played and I loved them. There still wasn’t talking really. It was, at least when I was around, pretty light-hearted and fun. Well, that’s not entirely true. There were often yelling matches when my mother was in a mood, which soured everything.

At 12 I went to live in a foster family filled to the brim with two biological children and 8 fosters. Family time looked like everyone piled around watching movies and drinking soda and eating homemade popcorn. On Sunday’s, after church, we sat at the table lingering after lunch and telling jokes. We baked and cooked together. Things like parental talks and advice, honest criticism, encouragement, etc were something I balked at because, lets face it, they were a foreign language to me.

I changed foster families once, about a year and a half later. There were similarities but a lot more tension and “joking around” which could have been borderline bullying…

Fast forward to a dinner when Gen was about 9. My son sat at the table and said something very sexually crude, to which my older daughter laughed and said something to follow-up. Chw and I looked at each other and realized that we were standing on a parental precipice. We decided then and there that our home would be the home were things could be talked about, and over the years they have been. If questions were asked, we answered them honestly, without candy coating anything. There were moments when he or I would question if we were doing the right thing, allowing such candidness, but with our youngest heading to college in a few months, we know we did it right.

Family time, in our family, does not happen enough. (That’s the way with older kids I guess.) When it does though, it looks like movie nights with homemade popcorn, or game nights, or family dates to dinner, etc. It looks like walks and bike rides or light hiking. Sometimes there is teenage attitude which puts a damper on it, but most of the time there is laughter, conversations ranging from politics to religion, sex to relationships, etc. There are always movie quotes and references to other times together, littered throughout.

I am not a perfect mother, thankfully I have never strived for perfection. I haven’t ever really worried about if my kids like me or not, but more on loving my kids where they are. Parenthood for anyone is speckled with disappointments and triumphs, adoptive parenting is no different. The journey is hard and our family has a lot of evidence of my shortcomings, but that is ok. This weekend everyone (but my son) was together. As open and honest conversation (about pretty much every possible thing, including an in-depth discussion on poop), laughter (sometimes at someone else’s expense, in a loving way) and at one point we just looked around and thought, this… Of all the dynamics I have known, ours is the one I love the most. It may not be your style, or her style, or that guys over there, but it IS ours. This is us, and I love us…

On Marching forth…

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Awhile ago I wrote about battling my own demons regarding what was happening last year, around this time, versus now. I think that maybe I had it all figured out, in my head, that by this point in my life, I would know more. (and let’s be honest, be more…) When I think of a 40 year old wife and mother, there are a series of things that I personally feel shouldn’t be in my plan. (in yours, or anyone else’s, its fine.) How after a 22 year long relationship, I we should not have separated. Sure, life would happen, and there for about a year it would happen BIG, but by that point shouldn’t we have it figured out? Or, how after losing 138 lbs, I shouldn’t gain 20. That doesn’t even make sense. What about how, after so many years, we shouldn’t be living in a tiny apartment crippled by debt.

While it would be true to say that I had other plans, the more accurate reality is that I had other expectations, for me.

Between you and I, I am trying so hard to work through those things and deal with life differently. I don’t want to live with the weight of the feelings that accompany the disappointment in my life and where it’s at. Have I made mistakes? Yes, of course I have. Have things happened which weren’t my fault? Again, of course. At the end of the day, however, it simply doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter.

I feel like my head is a little clearer, and my heart is a little less muddled and stuck in the hauntings of the past year. This is due some to praying about it, some to talking with friends and Chw about it, and due to just realizing truths about myself. This life, until the day I no longer take breath, will be a journey. There will be peaks and there will be valleys. We expect and accept this within the boundaries of the shared stories from the lives and journeys of others, but when it comes to the way we perceive our own life adventures- our expectations are tremendously different.

This month I am journeying forth a little differently. March is always BIG for me, big with the sentiment and big with the pressure. March is my birth month and my birthdays and I have always been without peace. I wanted to share with you how I plan to take control of this journey (in a healthy way) and move forward, navigating through it, to something better…

Me:

  • Do a photo of the day challenge on Instagram.
  • Do a 31 day Scripture writing challenge.
  • Read a fiction book, a memoir and a nonfiction book.
  • Be a better breakfaster
  • REALLY celebrate my birthday, how I want to celebrate it.
  • Choose books or gentle creativity on those days when life (and fibromyalgia) make major functioning too difficult, instead of turning on the tv.
  • continue striving to be intentional in the relationships I hold most dear.
  • Journal. It doesn’t matter how, just that I do.

Home:

  • keep fresh flowers home, when I am home.
  • experiment more with essential oils.
  • keep wholesome and delicious things made so that my family always has something good and desirable to eat.
  • continue the journey of minimizing and striving for less.

Family:

  • celebrate my grandson’s 6th birthday.
  • spend quality time visiting my daughter.
  • celebrate my son’s birthday, though he is far-far away.
  • celebrate my youngest daughter’s crossing into adulthood.
  • make moments momentous, without the aid of stuff.

Create:

  • experiment more with photography.
  • make significant progress on a writing project I am doing.
  • Play around with baking, here and there.
  • Do more with my hands.

Health:

  • I reiterate: be a better breakfaster.
  • try, try, try to do the ACV thing.
  • experiment with DIY tooth polish.
  • Be more active.
  • Lose 10 lbs.
  • Be more intentional and deliberate with Yoga.

Spring is such an encouraging time of year. Already I am feeling motivated by it. What about you? What are you working on or looking forward to, this spring?

Perfecting imperfection…

3ll_nlvpl08-matthew-henryI sit here, laptop flat on the deep grey quilt. To my left there is that one thread, unraveling big. To many, this would mean it is time to shop for a new one, while to me it simply makes my heart soar a little. This quilt makes up a small piece of the larger picture of home. It has wear spots and snags, like all good home things do.

Me too…

To my write sits an unfinished library book balancing a long, cold cup of coffee. My day, before it unfolds, holds hope of laundry, quiet time, a face mask, bottles of water, chapters read and a heavy word count written. So many things scribbled out on my to do list. Drink water. Record food. Take a walk. Wash the towels. Hang up the closet clothes. Wash face, and moisturize. Put dinner in the slow cooker. Address the envelopes. Make some calls. Work on that project. Write a blog post… The list of things tick out, both equal measures of daunt and comfort.

I love lists. They keep me grounded and in line, until they don’t. The don’t, these days, begins to strike about Wednesday. The rest of the week has taken up the bad habit of rebelling against everything good, healthy and necessary. I am watching and listening, careful to try and find the place the days snag.

Do I not have enough grace for myself? Am I driven by lists until I simply cannot drive any longer? It does not seem so, or feel that way, but why else?

What is it I want? Really? At the end of the lists, when the day’s sun is disappearing behind the skyline of that moment, what is my goal? To have a clean home? To feed my family clean, healthy and yet delicious food? To find joy in every experience and make joy when I don’t find it? To be a slave to nothing other than the moment and making the best of it? To be a writer/artist who creates? To further grow and nurture relationships? To read a book every week or two? To lose 50 lbs? Why can’t I do all of these things? They don’t seem too big, they do seem like every other wife and mother gets them done without much effort.

My apartment is thick with the smell of barbacoa in the slow cooker. Today’s organic grocery delivery is put away, nestled into a freshly clean refrigerator. The laundry basket is stacked high with clean and folded clothes, the dryer humming with another load shortly on it’s way to the same. Music softly plays in the back ground and I feel a slight twinge of frustration that I didn’t even manage to open my laptop until 3:30 in the afternoon, which means that not only will I not accomplish much writing today, but that I MUST prioritize and manage my time better. I must… I must. But I don’t know how. How do I do it all? I do I get it done? At what point do I decide the things which are accomplished, (and accomplished well, at that) are insignificant to the contrast of what remains incomplete or left for abandon? How fair is that to myself? I have a clean fridge, food prepped and put away (or cooking), laundry in progress… Once things are done, do they lose their importance?

I’m also, in the back of my mind, packing and preparing for the few days I am going to spend with my older daughter for her spring break. That little voice, in the back of my soul, is saying why? Why try so hard to figure out how when you are just going to be gone and ruin it all anyway?

I do not want my life to be a slave to the daunting list to check off, missing the heart in the moments written there. I do not want to live my life by check marks, missing all that might happen when I am not looking. I ache, simply, to live my life. To live it well, with intention, and still manage to get the necessary responsibilities done.

If nothing else, today, there are successes. I have managed conversations with each of my beautiful daughters, reminding me gently that I am so blessed to be their mother. I have sang along with songs that stir my inner self with so much love and goodness. I have began dinner, lived Monday with open windows and fresh air. I have washed, masked and moisturized my skin to the point of glowing-smooth (and healthy) goodness, (my absolute favorite part of Mondays.) I have prep-work done for a tasty snack for our tv-catching-up evening. My laundry isn’t done, but it is getting there. Mason’s birthday gift isn’t wrapped, but it will be before Friday so I can relax on that one.

So I don’t write today. There’s always tomorrow. If I set my alarm, I can do it. If I clear out and set myself up somewhere inspiring, a place which does not remind me of the undone list and unfinished snags of home that sit all around to call my name and distract me. I can do better, or at least, different. It can have both to-do lists and grace. It can be imperfect.

I can be imperfect…

Dreams…

I am a bookish sort of girl. My daughters both love literature and reading, which is something that warms my heart immensely. As I have grown older, I find that I have less and less time to read, which makes me a little sad. I hope that this does not happen to either of them…

Being a lover of books, I have always had a deep appreciation for the classics. I also enjoy poetry. Ralph Waldo Emerson is the person I most quote and the one whose words deeply stir my soul. These random announcements paint the picture for you to better understand why visiting Concord Massachusetts has been on the top of my wish list since I was in late middle school. Several years ago I had the privilege of facilitating a Mother/Daughter book club, for a year, inspired by the Mother Daughter Book club series written by Heather Vogel Frederick.  It was while reading about these fiction girls that my youngest’s dream to one day visit Concord was born. Every year as the leaves have turned, we would dream up our someday, and then yesterday the day was finally here…

We have, in our family, this thing we call The Niagara Falls complex. We used to live in Niagara Falls, NY and every time someone visited, the FIRST thing they wanted to do was visit Niagara. Every single time that guest state Oh, I thought it would be much different. That’s really it? Both Chw and I totally understood because the very first time we saw it, we felt exactly the same way.

Concord was definitely just like that. In fact, there is serious consideration being taken in renaming it the Concord Complex all together. And the reality is, it wasn’t some romanticized disillusionment. No, it is truly just Concord. Granted, we had imagine quaint little tea and coffee shops, small book stores and boutiques, perhaps even a few literary themed restaurants. Have you ever looked up Concord on Yelp? I can tell you it is one hundred percent accurate. The 2-3 actual restaurants that it has, (for the record, I do not consider a food counter a restaurant) had insane waits because, well, they were the only restaurants… They also had less than wonderful reviews, which I guess is irrelevant when hoards of people wait to go in. And the people. So. Many. People. And here’s the interesting part, the volume of people were ALL centered around the shops and restaurants. The streets around the shops were jam-packed and every single bench, rock and many curbs were filled with people eating out of paper bags and styrofoam containers. We had saved lunch for Concord, thinking it would be a nice treat. Instead we stood in LINE at three counters, (because an actual restaurant was out of the question) only to admit we were losing precious time and wound up at a pizza counter with the only decent yelp rating we’d seen, on the other side of town. The parts of Concord we were interested in were pretty empty. The unfortunate reality about the parts of Concord we were anxious to see were the “attraction” ticket prices. Orchard House, Emerson’s home and Wayside were $10 EACH, per person. That is just under $100 to walk through three houses… Yeah. It’s a bit exploitive and super sad. We did end our Concord visit at Sleep Hollow Cemetery, which was really lovely…

I guess that’s the thing about building up anticipation, dreams or what have you… You run the risk of disappointment when the real world does not quite meet up to those standards. In the Concord of my imagination it is peaceful and kind, poetic and spending an afternoon there is best when connecting with others, and leisurely. One thing I can admit, New England in the fall is absolutely not part of the Niagara Falls/Concord Complex. It is breathtaking and inspiring and I could happily stay here forever.