Shoeboxes…

Several years ago, when we were sorting through our  attic stuff to move to Michigan, we came across the Orange shoebox. Just seeing the shoebox will cause us to give pause. Makaila, our beloved golden retriever and Genny’s childhood best friend, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. As her health deteriorated we, as a family, gave her the best week ever. The week was filled with her favorite things and foods. Our Idaho vet has a cool program where you can have your dog cremated and scattered at a local Christmas tree farm. It was beautiful and fitting. 

This shoebox has become this heavy thing which we carry through life, but cannot part with, nor would we want to. This shoebox seemed like such a solitary life weight, until last August anyway. After five years alone, we had to add another shoebox. My beautiful dog Paisley hid her cancer so well that when we realized she was sick, she had such a short amount of time left. We did not have the time to afford her best week so we settled for a really awesome best day. Both of our girls had loved peanut butter pancakes, soft serve vanilla ice cream and car rides, so we said tear-filled-smiling adventures with those.

The loss of Paisley hit me so hard and I was left with a gaping hole. Seven months later I stumbled upon a listing for a litter of puppies in southern Illinois. I’d wanted a beagle for as long as I could remember. I knew that, as I approached this new chapter of life, the companionship of a dog would really make the difference.

I fell in love with the last of these little puppies. He, my Mr. Knightley, was instantly smitten with me. He loved me almost immediately and though he wasn’t quite Paisley shaped, he was Knightley shaped and come to find out- I needed that hole filled too. It was early on that we learned his beginnings had been less than ideal. He was so young and required a lot of attention and love. The first five-week that he was mine found me with very little sleep. Most nights he snuggled into my neck and chest while I just held him tight and soaked his puppy goodness into my soul. It seemed as though my little snuggle puppy could not get close enough, and I was all too happy to comply.

As time passed it become clear that our Mr. Knightley- my Mr. Knightley– was going to have a bit of a tough time. About 5 weeks ago he had a traumatic experience with growing pains in his back left leg. The ordeal left both Gen and I pretty severely bitten and him very shaken up. We forged through it though, and fell even more in love with him. About two weeks ago it seemed the growing pains were at it again. He received a soft diagnosis of Panosteitis and an appointment to follow-up was scheduled for two this past Tuesday. We were encouraged to keep his movement limited, and just love on him and as comfortable as we could.

Tuesday did not go well. A full blood panel was done and Wednesday  morning found me sobbing on the phone, with the results. His kidneys were not working. His other organs were compromised. The kidney thing wasn’t new, they’d likely always been damaged. We were encouraged to not let any time pass, as he was suffering immensely.

My adorable little blue-tick beagle Knightley, with the black heart on his left side, did not get the luxury of a best-week-ever, or even a best day. He got to lay on my chest, breathing turned shallow over night, content to just be with me. We were at a loss with how to love him in special ways as he wasn’t eating and we’d only had three months with him, and many days within those months had been struggles. We weren’t sure what his best things ever would even be, except one… The boy loved his puppacinos. For eleven minutes of that forever-long car ride, that sweet little puppy was beside himself with joy.

His heart and body gave out as they injected the sedative, prior to euthanization. One moment he whimpered, staring into my love filled eyes, and the next he was running free and playing somewhere far more heavenly. This afternoon I gathered his tiny collar and his favorite chew toys into a shoebox. Another shoebox, another hole. An empty home and painfully empty arms. For three months and seven days I was deeply connected to this sweet little baby boy, and now I am not.

Goodbye sweet boy. 

 

Consider it an invitation…

I love Jesus.

I am pretty ok with that, and I hope that you are too. If you aren’t, just know I am ok with that too. My loving Jesus isn’t about you at all, it is about me. It’s about my heart, my life, my choices, my journey, and a lot of other large and small things which add up to equal my faith.

I cautiously consider myself a Christian. I say cautiously because, honestly, at least in America (and some perceptions of American Christianity) the name has gained a bit of a rough reputation.

My pastor spent Sunday morning talking about Detroit. This looked a little like a history lesson. It involved political bits, heart bits, hard truths and a bunch of other uncomfortable and completely relevant things which together equalled a pretty amazing talk. He challenged us to be honest with ourselves about the walls we build. Initially the topic came up because Detroit was once known to have a dividing wall. I guess pieces of this wall still exist. This wall was raised to literally divide the African-Americans and the Whites. Though the wall isn’t technically much of a thing anymore, Detroit is still ranked as the most segregated city in America. I live in the metro part of this amazing city and I have to say this announcement shocked me. Our church alone, (granted, it’s a pretty huge church) likely has multiple people from most nations, in attendance. Our neighborhood actually has a dozen flag poles sporting flags from 12 different nations because we are such a diverse little community. Then again, this is the metro area, and not Detroit itself.

He illustrated his point by having several people from different countries approach the front of the church. They looked at each other, chatted some, laughed a little and then affirmed “there are no more walls between us.” I’ll admit it- it was emotional and I totally teared up. After this, he had fans of rivaling college teams do the same thing. It was funny and laughs were had, but when he sobered and asked us what walls we put up, I was challenged. I am pretty accepting. I don’t shy away from anyone really. I love meeting people and things that are different don’t scare me. Since that service, I’ve thought a lot about this. There are off-putting things, about me, which likely cause others to put up a wall between us. Despite losing 130 lbs, I am still overweight. I have a lazy eye. I was separated from my husband for 6 months (an issue that many fellow Christians we know can’t seem to get past.) in fact, here is a list of things which have caused people I’ve known to distance themselves from me…

I voted for Hillary.

I have a diverse taste of music.

I don’t support people who discriminate against ANYONE and using their religion as an excuse.

I worked as a film critic for years.

I drink.

As a photographer I have done many boudoir sessions.

I am an adoptive parent.

I struggled with infertility.

I am pro-choice and hate abortion.

I was sexually abused.

I hate porn and believe it decomposes a person’s ability to have healthy self image/relationships/etc.

I am a feminist.

I believe in marriage.

I support equality.

I do not believe men and women are equal. I am different from my husband and my brother. I am not better, but different. I don’t want to be like them.

I do believe men and women should have equal rights, DO HAVE equal worth and value.

I love Jesus.

I will never “shove Jesus down your throat” or preach at you.

I am a person and so each of these things make up a piece of my story… Each of these things has a story and reason for it’s position in my life.

I will not bother/hurt/offend me if your stories are different and your beliefs do not match mine.

 

If you know me, you know that I am a party planner. Best of all are dinner parties. LOVE THEM. Upon moving back to Michigan in 2013, my party opportunities are limited, and this makes me a little sad. After that sermon though, I got to imagining a dinner party. What if we had a lovely homosexual couple over for dinner. What if, in addition to them, we had an African-American couple, a middle eastern couple and a few other diverse additions? Other than the likely fact that we would have some really interesting and unpredictable conversation, what would we have?

A dinner party.

That is literally it. It would not be an experiment. It would not be a meeting. It would not be anything other than a group of people getting together to share a meal and converse. Obviously we would all have SOMETHING in common, or the dinner party wouldn’t exist in the first place. (hence the interesting and unpredictable conversation)

I really wish this dinner party were happening. Do you know why? Because I am seriously lonely and want to host a lovely little dinner party. (That’s the only reason actually. Maybe you should come for dinner…)

When it comes to a different race, or a different class, or a different religion, I am unruffled. None of these things will hinder me from approaching someone, or befriending them, or responding to them if they approach me. The one thing that may honestly hinder me is the fact that I am a total introvert and often have much better intentions than follow through, and I get a little insecure. While I want to approach someone, those things I first mentioned (overweight, lazy eye, etc.) become the wall I throw up to save my ass from someone else’s rejection.

Recently I had the opportunity to get to know a small group of women. One of the women I shallowly pegged immediately as a little stuck up and clearly she had it all together. She was thin and honestly, gorgeous. As time progressed though, it became surprisingly obvious that this beautiful woman and I had far more in common that anyone else in the group. Ironically the fat girl with the lazy eye and the drop dead gorgeous and in shape woman became friends. Is that how she saw me? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I threw up a wall with my initial assessment, and what I assumed would be hers… Thankfully that wall became a gate and now it is gone completely. My point is, when pastor Bob challenged us to find our walls and why we build them, this friend instantly popped in my head. I could have missed out on so much because I jumped to conclusions. I don’t do that as a habit, but I don’t want to do it ever. I want to be better, with others and with myself.

I want to have dinner party after dinner party where my table is filled with people who contribute to great conversation, people who enjoy food and maybe an occasional game or glass of wine. Beyond that, while I don’t want to be blind to their differences, I do want to understand and appreciate them for the unique people they are. (whoever they will be)

 

 

This is the view of my imagination, this Monday morning, which isn’t a terrible thing.

Yesterday was my beautiful little sisters birthday, and this made me homesick. I had a lovely talk with her on the phone, and concluded that quiet Sunday afternoons are made better by long distance phone calls and iced tea. (Regarding this iced tea, I guess this is mostly applicable when it is pretty summer-hot, which is has been.) I packed a teeny-tiny amount after our phone call. Knightley is still not feeling himself and so I opted our of an afternoon out with Chw & Gen. Instead I comforted my sweet heartbreaker of a puppy, (iow: Prayed, pet, used essential oils, cried, etc.) and finished up season 5 of Orange.

Perhaps I should admit that Sunday held a bit of a heartbreaking element to it. Between my story’s emotional scenes and my poor Mr. Knightley, I was a mess of tears and sadness. (My grandma always called All My Children her story. It was so comically cute but I love it and now that I am forty-one, and a grandmother, I am thinking of adopting the saying.)

Monday morning has approached me in a much better place than last Monday found me. Hallelujah! Our apartment is well on its way to being packed, I’ve had good doses of Vitamin D this weekend and today is my double star day at Starbucks! All in all, things are feeling a bit chipper. My to-do list for last week was mostly accomplished, (I.E: I rocked it and am a total badass) and this week’s list is already moving closer to being a succession of crossed out and checked off items. Do I wish I was sitting on that beach imaged above? Sure I do. If I play my cards right I can at least spend a few hours, this week, writing from my favorite coffee shop. Not today though. Today is for errands, a double dose of packing and a wee bit of a craft project with Gen. Oh yeah, and waxing… Today we are waxing our beautiful faces.

hoping that, as the day progresses, some normal bits of my sweet Knightley begin to emerge. It’s only been a week since he’s been down with this strange little illness, but I’m really missing the fella.

Also, I totally have a novel I need to finish reading, so my summer reading won’t be a complete bust.

That beach would be absolutely perfect for that too…

The deep mundane…

Last week I received a lovely direct message on Instagram from a fellow writer. We had crossed paths over the social media platform and she had been led to come follow my blog. Her message was heartfelt and encouraged me to write, within this space, more. Honestly, when I read her words I nodded and thought I couldn’t agree more. And yet…

And yet, another week went by of parenthood and exhaustive defiance. Another week of ridiculous traffic, appointments, stocking the fridge, preparing meals, folding laundry, friendship, etc. What would I write about? How I disliked folding laundry that sat overnight in the dryer? How it is flip-flop season and I am in desperate need of a pedicure. How graduation and an open house are approaching at rocket speed and not fast enough, all rolled into one. How I am packing to move out of this temporary apartment and I am beyond tired of transition and moving. How my puppy is the most stubborn potty trainer and how, with Fibro, I am as consistent as I can be but that every moment of every day feels like I simply am not doing good enough at anything. None of these things are blog worthy, dwell worthy, or really worth any thing at all. They are what they are. Some days are better than others. Some days full on blow, while others are exceptional. This is life for each of us, with our own details.

Writing, (something I haven’t been doing much of, beyond the occasional freelance piece) requires deeper than that. If my eyes are trained to see the mundane, the details, the nows and the this minutes, I am unable to plunge. And so, for a blog post you’ll get surface level stuff, unless I resort to the fake. Truthfully, I can’t take either of those options and so, best intentions cast aside for another day, this space remained silent.

Part of my problem, I’ll admit, is that I haven’t had a designated writing space. As I type this very collection of words, I am writing from my bed- my least favorite place to write. I do not have a dining table, as of right now, my bar to bar stool ratio is too much for my little t-rex arms to comfortable type and my living room is cluttered with boxes and mess. Every week I declare that I will take one to two days and go to the local coffee-house to spend a few hours writing from there. In theory, this is great. In reality I have an adult child who makes this idea hard, coupled with a stubborn and needy puppy- and so… So I tell myself a routine can be established later. (Later: tomorrow, next week, next month, next year) and I cope the best I can through the seconds turned to minutes, which link together, arms tight and unforgiving.

This morning I woke up, having survived the various elements of the three-day weekend, motivated. My to-do list was ready. I threw my collection of frozen and fresh fruit into the blender, along with some spinach and various additives to make my breakfast smoothie healthy and filling. By the time I got the blend point, however, parenting frustrations had already occurred (actually about half had carried over from the days of the last few months, hurtful and unyielding) and so when the first sip of my smoothie tasted like a cross between toilet cleaner and a thin mint cookie, I had to take pause. What was going on here? Why wasn’t I writing? Why didn’t I just sit down and do it? Why wasn’t I looking beyond the surface, beneath the BS and in between the lines? Why wasn’t I transparently sharing whatever came to mind? Why was I continuing to sip a smoothie which sort of burned my taste buds and reminded me of my short stint as a professional cleaner in a small hospital?

So many questions, (the “smoothie” is almost gone, by the way, in case you were curious. I’m thinking the Tumeric is where I went wrong- though that it has the power to transform EVERYTHING to such wickedness is a terrifying thought.) with no real answers. So I sit here, feet slightly numb at this elevated position. Stubborn puppy is crated for a two-hour stint of further attempts with project potty train. My stomach is currently unsure of how to digest the new market cleanser I seem to have whipped up, (All natural!) and my laundry sits folded beside me, begging to be put away. Today I will walk the dogs, take some photos of swans, pack a few boxes, list things on Ebay, drive Gen to work and return an insane amount of books to the library. This week I will wrap gifts and put a few last-minute details together for my mom’s 70th birthday, further progress on my daughter A’s birthday and Gen’s graduation open house. This week I will also, hopefully, know exactly where we are moving to. Let’s put it this way, I care a little- Mostly though, I am just excited to get out of this transition. It has been a year of transition. (and over paying for a dump, but that’s a whole other issue.)

The takeaway that I have from our three-day weekend is this: long weekends have a lot more room for the unexpected. While sleeping in and leisurely brunches are lovely, life still happens and stuff has to get done. I think, when I imagine the looming extra long weekend, I forget that part. Furthermore- date nights are so cathartic, and fun, but also sort of pricy. The new Pirates movie is seriously better than I expected, and late night John Cusack marathons might be a little too wild for this girl, as I slept through most of it. (#41isold #canistillcallmyselfagirlifimold) All in all, life is about balance. Sometimes, for various reasons, a fun adventure really can be a run to Sonic happy hour, an hour away. Sometimes a hard day really can be a result of an overcast sky and you feel sad. We are where we are. Period. I suspect I keep waiting for something else, looking for something a bit more to push me to that point where I can be a real writer. There is no point. This is it. The quest of the writer truly is to find the beauty and story within the mundane pile of laundry and accidentally abrasive smoothie. Message noted, and so I will try my best to do better, sweet Instagram friend.

In the moments…

I had a conversation, earlier this week, about routines.

I used to be the queen of routine. My mornings went just so. My evenings and bed times went as they should have. I fell asleep to the same thing, every night. I had a prep day, every monday, where I diced and chopped, whipped and baked. My family ate well and all of the delectable and home-made things were at their disposal. I dabbled in sewing creatively. I wrote just under 30 hours a week. I took photos, thousands of them. I preserved engagement and family photos for clients and seldom felt overwhelmed or stressed.

I am not going to lie, there was a sense of security within those predictables. I knew what was coming and when, often how. Was I happy? Sure. How could an anal, organization freak not find happiness within the confines of such a life? That life, and those impressive time management skills feel about a dozen lifetimes ago.

When we moved back to Michigan, in 2013, my routines went out the window. I tried to reestablish them, but this was a lost cause. As a wife and mother, my world was known to gravitate around the lives of my husband and kids. With my son and older daughter so far away, with my approaching high school youngest being unpredictable and struggling, and a husband whose schedule (and geographical location) changed from day-to-day, I flailed…

Prep days, for example,  quickly became moldy bread (thanks, midwest humidity) and stale cookies, (thanks, crazy schedule.),diced vegetables became uneaten bags of smelly mush. Loneliness moved in. I missed my friends, I missed my sister. I missed my nieces and nephews, but more than that, I missed my life. My marriage, my family and the way we all functioned so well within the confines of those routines. My husband often refers to the big change (which became a big change in all of us, in negative ways) with regret for taking me away from my life. What he fails to see, no matter what explain, is that it wasn’t the place that made the life, but us and our intentions.

Four years later, I am in an entirely different frame of mind and approaching an all new stage of life. (Empty nest!) There has been a lot of storms and turmoil to navigate over these four years. It has been hard. No, that’s not true, hard doesn’t crack the surface.

I am different.

I am more free than that queen of routine. Chained and shackled, then, within the perimeters of a false sense of structure and security. Anyone familiar with routine is forced to come face to face, at some point, with how easy it is to hide (and often times, disappear completely) within them.

I lack routine now, and though I love my freedom, this is a struggle I am really avoiding confronting, and it is time to change this. Now I throw together the occasional minimal prep day, simply for my ease of mind as our rental kitchen is about the size of a shoebox. We no longer eat bread or cookies, so that saves the future science project scene. I do have a fairly consistent skin care routine, so at least all hope is not lost. The personal, quiet time, though… And the writing… and the adventures in life through the lens of a camera… and the reading, even the picking up of a book… These are the areas I struggle. The solace in a cup of tea is something I’ve gravitated towards, recently. Piece by piece I am emerging from a four-year cocoon into the sunlight of a life that has possibility.

Now I simply need to learn to design the routine around where I am, who I am and what I need- and not anyone else. I ache for a life of beautiful, hand crafted moments. Today’s new routine attempt is to remember that I am the one in charge of creating those.