Hello, Summer…

It has been ages since I’ve sat down and really focussed on an intentional post within this space, so I’m just going to pretend we’re in the middle of an exchange, okay?

Sure, summer is technically 20+ days away, but we who live within the confines of an Americanized calendar operate under the summer system of Memorial Day to Labor Day, and truthfully I’m a fan of this practice. The bright blue sky outside hardly screams SPRING, and with my freshly summer pedicured toes red and ready for sandy beaches and flip flops- I am more than happy to stand up and say what we’re all thinking: Helloooo, Summer!

For the 4000 Jurassic years that I have existed within adulthood, (for the Ross Gellar’s out there pointing out the flaws in my wording, I’m pretty sure you caught my drift so, as far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished! XO) I  have had specific practices that summertime has held:

Fresh squeezed lemonaide, BBQs with friends/family, swimming, my grandma’s cobbler, warm jars of sun tea, red toenails, fireflies, long summer evenings the highest SPF of sunscreen allowed (I’m irish, after all), drive in movies and dreaming of real beach time- these made up the bulk of said summer lists…

As summer draws near, in between adulthood stresses of work and life, I have been plotting my summer reading plans. We have gotten our sunroom all ready and have been enjoying early morning cups of coffee, fresh fruit snacks and conversation in its breezes. The smell of fresh cut grass wafts through my window screens and there are cubes of cold watermelon in my fridge. Our summer plans are casual, yet carved out. (these may or may not read like this: grilled tacos, beach, grilled fajitas, beach, margaritas on the patio, hiking, beach, farmers market, beach, drive in movies, tacos, tacos, tacos…)

The really fun thing about our new home, and this being our first summer here, is that it is a SUMMER DESTINATION. Life amps up and, from what we can tell, the party gets started right about now, and wraps up around snowfall. Friends have told us all about all of the “musts”, and we are ready!

The not-so-fun, but still kinda-fun thing about our new home is that while we live at a truly beautiful beach, it isn’t the ocean. I know my heart will still long for a true sea coast, but also, I’m feeling really blessed to have this beach too.

in ALL of my adult summers, I have spent weekends at the Farmer’s Market and kept beautiful, fresh flowers in my home. Whatever we may, or may not have taken on that summer, these two things were SOLID. This is where the truly odd thing about our new home comes in-

NO FARMER’S MARKETS

NO FRESH CUT FLOWERS

Sure, re: the later, grocery stores have some. Honestly though, it’s the worst selection I’ve ever seen and they are 3-4 times the normal price. Re: the first absense- what the actual heck? Truthfully, I cannot wrap my brain around it. We are surrounded by farms. SURROUNDED. Word on the street (iow: the World Wide Web) is that there is a decent market about 90 minutes away. NINETY MINUTES. (While my heart wants to take a moment to whine about my grandma’s cobbler recipe, our summer-staple homemade ice creams, and my end of summer (most delicious ever) jam, the reality is our grocery stores do an amazing job of stocking local, organic produce. While it’s a bit spendier than the average Farmer’s Market, I am still really grateful for this so I simply can’t actually complain about it.) I just really love the experience of the market, with the community, farmers and artisans coming together… (plus then our local taco truck could set up somewhere other than a pub or brewery…)

For all the terribleness of these two things, I’ve still mustered up excitement at summer in our new city. There are a few road trips planned, lots of adventure and exploring, and both my patio & sunroom are prepared to be well lived/loved… Probably (tragically) my house is going to stay fairly flowerless, with my treasured Kate Spade vase feeling alone- but my toes plan on being sandy and my taco-loving-tummy happy, so it feels like a win for me.

What do you love about summer? Where are your favorite places to summer?

Melt…

We recently heard the history of St. Valentine and honestly, I feel like this is the ultimate romantic story. How has this not inspired a major motion picture? How is this NOT a story I had heard, ever, in the history of all Valentine’s days, school parties, etc???

I have never been much of a Valentine’s Day lover. I see it as one of those marks towards the top of the long list that represents all of the things we use to tell us we aren’t good enough, are not truly loved, and design completely unrealistic expectations around. This aspect of reality has grown so much with the rise of social media, the idealization of grand gestures, and the obsession with mimicking the entertainment industry.

This is sounding more soapbox than I am intending…

Here’s the thing though, my husband doesn’t believe that he is capable of romance. He is confined by the restrictions of finances, opportunity, and all of the other real life things that prove how attainable a movie life is. I look back at his childhood and cannot fathom where this shaping of “romance” originated, but for twenty-five years the majority of what I hear is that he’s sorry he isn’t more romantic, or sorry that he can’t do more. The truth is, I have never been that girl who longed for the big Hollywood style romance. There are certain fresh flowers I love, and I’ll take being surprised by them any day, (or let’s be real, I’ll buy them myself too!) Beyond that though, the traditional sense of “romantic gestures” isn’t one I identify with. Don’t bring me chocolates, or candy of any kind… BUT, an occasional fancy cupcake might be nice.

My poor husband has never been able to grasp the personalization of an authentic romantic gesture. He has done them countless times, but would never “hashtag” them as romantic. Instead he’s waiting for the hand in hand stroll beside the Eiffel tower at sunset to see himself as romantic, while I’m over here kind of like “Meh, Paris…” Ha!

I wanted to share a few things here, that make up some of the most REAL romantic things I’ve ever heard of- and they happen to be things this man has done for me… (It isn’t for bragging purposes as much as to illustrate the very idea of a “romantic gesture” is personal. What gets my heart melting isn’t likely what works for you.)

  • We were young and stupid. We got engaged, and then broke up. Even then, before Youtube and flash mob proposals, he felt far too much pressure about the importance of that moment. He tried too hard, cloaked in too much pessimism about his abilities, that though I said yes- (I helped pick out the ring, so it was pretty much a formality anyway) the proposal itself was not the basis of a great story. As I mentioned though, we broke up… And then we found ourselves sitting in a pew of the church that I had grown up knowing I would one day get married in, and he held my hand. Then, he let go of my hand to draw my ring on the back of a “connection” card, and wrote a simple “check yes or no” beneath it. MELT…
  • Not long after we were married, drowning in medical debt (yep, I was a big contributor to the awesome stuff like debt, hospital stays and a solid string of health issues, pretty much from the get go.) he irrationally enlisted in the Air Force. The recruiter painted it as the best solution, (it was not) and so he jumped. This was pre-9/11, when there were far too many people enlisted and so Chw got sent home along with lots of others. The first night he was back, he sang the lyrics to our song (We were so on trend… Always, by Bon Jovi) as we slow danced in the dark. He’d been gone several really hard weeks, and he had spent an insane amount of (pre-birth-of-google) time writing out the lyrics and memorizing them. MELT…
  • Fast forward awhile. He’s working at a glass factory. During his lunches he had cut a glass heart out, for me. He bevelled the edges and then frosted the words I Love You into its surface. I have never been a kitschy, knick knack lover but that heart seared itself into mine. (which is good because we no longer have it.) When he gave me this beautiful gift with an equal mix of pride over his creation, fear that I would hate it and doom that it wasn’t good enough. Heartbreaking! But honestly, the most precious thing about this glass heard was that there was so much of himself within it. Seriously, I LOVED it. Major MELT…
  • Sometime later, he was helping a group of kids make homemade playdough, at my parents. He then took a bit of it and carved an amazing rose for me. I kept it for years, until it was so dry it crumbled. I loved that eerie blue flower more than anything he’s ever given me- glass heart aside. MELT…
  • One Christmas, money was really tight and gifts in general were pretty much a negative. In our garage, in stolen moments I never knew about, he made me an ornately carved wooden business card holder. I had a photography business at the time, and it was such a gesture of support. I love it still and it sits on my desk… MELT.
  • I’d had surgery. There was a tumor the size of a nerf football in my uterus. The doctor had taken it, along with an ovary. Once I’d woken up, in recovery, I was miserable. The pain was huge, and my heart was broken. I wanted to be a mother so badly, and if I hadn’t been able to do it with two working ovaries and a non-compromised uterus, how would I possibly do it after this? Shattered, (which felt like a life theme at my twenty-two years of age) and feeling so alone, they wheeled me into my hospital room. The second I caught sight of him there, waiting for me, I felt grounded in gravity, so stable and most importantly: SAFE. This was the very first time in the history of my entire life that I remember distinctly feeling safe. He’d brought me a little figurine that said “You are my sunshine”, and though it was cute and STILL sits on my nightstand (twenty years later), never far from where I lay my head, it is valuable to me because it tethers me to the most amazing moment I have ever had, thanks to my husband… MELT…

The most romantic things that this man has ever done, (and there are others… these are just the ones that come to mind right now) were when he allowed himself to just authentically be, without the pressure or lofty projections of someone/something else. This is true for all of us, I suspect. When we are our most authentic selves, is when we are our most beautiful… St. Valentine was a man, and this was simply his name. He signed a letter, before his death, “your Valentine.” Over 1500 years later the anniversary of his death is recognized as the most romantic day of the year, by the majority of the world. Remember that when the pressure and expectations presented by film, tv, novels and Instagram tell you what things should look like…

Faithfully…

It is absolutely acceptable for the Journey song to be running through your mind right now.

Seriously, I get it. It’s a catchy tune and totally applicable. (well, minus the rockstar/long distance relationship stuff.)

Hello, 2019! I can’t even believe it, while also, I 100% can. On one hand, what they say is so true- the older we get, time just goes by so quickly. I understand the science of it, and why that is true. On the other hand though, I feel like the start of 2018 was a lifetime ago. Life… It’s a funny thing.

If you’re around on instagram then you probably saw that my Word of the Year is Faith. The response to this was cautiously supportive. I got a  lot of direct messages that questioned if I have lost my way with Jesus, while others hesitantly asked if I was going to become all churchy in everything I shared… The answer to both us a resounding NO. Doing great with Jesus, thanks for asking, and I can’t imagine (honestly) that much would change regarding what I share anywhere online. (except for the continued goal of being more attentive to this website)

Here’s the thing…

Choosing a word is a very personal process. I’ve shared briefly about the very personal (and often excruciating) chapters, in my life journey, and how they pertain to my yearly words. With each and every word, my personal faith and walk with God has always been affected. (The process us all-encompassing, I don’t think there is an area of my life that has not been affected.) The same goes for this year… While my faith will undoubtedly have a large role in this particular chapter, my word is FAITH, not ‘my faith’.

Faith is the opposite of doubt, the opposite of fear. Faith is synonymous with trust.  Faith is so many, many, many things. Faith is the direction that my life is going, and the area which I need to work on. Faith pertains to my relationships, my health, my mental/emotional clarity, my writing, my finances, my goals, my passions/projects, my work and of course Jesus.

I have a novel of personal goals to work on throughout the year, as I do every year. A handful of these are:

  • finish writing my book.
  • submit a book proposal.
  • take in more sunrises.
  • take the intentional time to cook more and get back to paying attention to what goes into my body.
  • celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary.
  • see some really great concerts/shows.
  • reacquaint myself with learning.
  • embrace (more fervently) sacred activities such as practice, fitness, conversation, prayer, reading, tea drinking and skin care.
  • free creativity.
  • read more/watch less.

By now it is possible that the Journey song has faded and new thoughts have crowded your mind, which is perfect timing because a modestly busy day looms. I look forward to traveling this chapter of life along side of you, and hearing where your journey is taking you…

Summertime madness…

On the first day of summer, I woke up and poured my coffee like normal.

I washed my face, responded to a few emails and texts… It was a pretty average day.

Quiet.

My two dogs, Emma and Elenor, continued to remain civil yet distant. There was nothing which stood out as extraordinary.

On the first day of autumn, I woke up and poured my coffee, just like the beginning of the seasons which fell before.

In a new home. (well, new to us anyway)

In a different state.

With only one dog, the other having left this world.

At forty-two years old, I am no stranger to how quickly things can change, and yet this particular reflection has me overwhelmed by the truth growing there.

Hello, from Pennsylvania!

I missed Emily’s link up, but I’m sharing anyway because the reflection is good for the soul. (You can ask anyone I talk to regularly, I am so out-of-sorts and behind!)

So, in that sunny season, what did my life have me learning?

1.) I am capable, but just because I can doesn’t mean I should… 

This move was hard. The hardest we’ve had. I had to challenge my physical capabilities on an almost constant basis, which created all forms of other complications. My health and chronic garbage aside, I found I was far more able than I realized. I also concluded I can’t ever do anything like that again. It isn’t that I’m not capable, as much as I can’t do that to myself.

Also, moving is terrible and I don’t want to do it again. Even. I will die in this house.

2.) I still expect summer to be filled with long, lazy days and sun-kissed bliss. It never is… 

This isn’t just because of moving, it is simply this (societally induced???) notion of what I have always imagined summers to be, but for one reason or another they never are.

It isn’t a bad thing, and thankfully as our crazy summer unfolded, I really had to use lenses of Grace to differentiate between truth and fiction.

3.) Airline Miles are not nearly as awesome as they used to be…

Do you remember back when miles used to accumulate and when ready we could simply redeem them? Not too long ago, a roundtrip to Australia, for the husband, would have resulted in a free domestic ticket. This time around, FOUR round trips to Australia, plus three years of far-too-frequent domestic flights resulted in us still have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for “miles” so we could buy a ticket to go see our son.

A part of me wants to say, in a gratefully optimistic tone, well, at least they build up even if it’s slowly… But they expire, so I’m telling that sweet side of me to zip it. It’s irritating. (on top of baggage rates increasing… Do I sound like a cranky old lady yet? I feel like one, so I’ll take it!)

4.) I really like Pennsylvania and it was the right decision… 

I’ll be honest, this state is the LAST place I thought we’d end up. My husband was looking all over and even considered a couple of overseas positions. The one state we BELIEVED we were destined for- Utah- was the very wrong choice, we came to realize. Had someone asked me, on that first day of summer, if we were presented with both PA and Utah positions, which would we choose- HANDS DOWN both Chw and I would have said “UTAH!!!!” If you had asked our kids, they would have told you, without a moment’s hesitation, that we’d choose Utah. Ask friends? Family? Utah. And then, one evening brought us to the brink of choosing and we both knew overwhelmingly that Utah was not the path.

I am grateful for how things turned out. We love our house. We are getting to know our area. We have fallen head-over-heels with certain bits of it. We never found a home in Michigan. We never liked it, never got plugged in or connected. There is a mentality there which we just don’t mesh well with, but the first thirty minutes here showed us it’s a much better fit and twenty-six days later (for me) we are still seeing that.

And no one is more shocked than me. :)

5.) I love dogs, but… 

I’ve loved dogs my entire life. LOVED dogs!

I have had to sit in that vet office and say goodbye to three in two years, and I can’t do that anymore. My house, my yard, my dog-loving-heart have hit me hard with puppy fever. Elenor would LOVE a puppy friend. My heart still aches for a blue-tick-beagle boy, as my other one lived way too short a life and I loved him so… BUT, I can’t do that anymore. I cannot sit there and say goodbye.

I love dogs. I never thought the period would morph into a comma and be followed by a “but”, yet here we are.

6.) People…

Last but not least, we come to the heart of what summer has taught me: I have a hard time with people. Not all people… But, lets say, random strangers who want to buy/sell something over the internet. Specifically I’m referencing Facebook Marketplace and Ebay. I just… I keep waiting for my people-patience to rejuvenate, but it isn’t. I feel like the experience of downsizing and relocating while ALSO dealing with people in the afore-mentioned settings may have broken me irreparably.

When you add to that juvenile, cliquish behavior by grown women, people who can’t follow through with something and well, it’s actually probably a pretty long list. (see: old, cranky lady!)

But not YOU! Obviously, I love you.

I know I’m super late, but I’d love to hear if summer taught you anything…

Mr. Rogers would not approve…

In the not-too-distant past my husband and I made the brave decision to downsize and move into an apartment. I say brave because, well, getting rid of stuff can be a little scary, and also because we are of the belief that once we grow to certain ages/stages of life we are just too old for apartments.

It turns out we really are too old for apartment living, but not in any of the ways we thought. That truth aside, we do  love our little rental and will being staying right here until the good Lord moves us out of the mitten state.

Apartment living has its perks. Maintenance, for instance, after a nightmare home-owning experience (think Money Pit, but throw in a rebellious and defiant teenage daughter for extra dramatic effect) can be a really beautiful thing. Our toilet sprung a leak on Sunday evening and after a seven-minute visit from the maintenance guys, it was repaired. SEVEN MINUTES. There were no repeat trips to Home Depot, no profanity strewn moments of frustration, it was simply this easy phone call and then pure, stress free magic.

Also, we spend a fair amount of time outside. Lush grass is nice (and almost non-existent, as of late) but not having to be the one to maintain it, trim it, etc is really, REALLY nice!

The sad truth is that all of the things I can find to love about living in an apartment would theoretically involve no people. While it takes a person to fix the toilet or cut the grass, it isn’t them I find joy in. We live in a modern, midwest American neighborhood where people take great strides to avoid their neighbors. Sometimes it absolutely baffles me, and then I spend a small fragment of time out in said neighborhood and I find myself coming home from my walk with a leashed dog (or two) and so much annoyance at other people.

I have developed a few beliefs that I’d like to share with you. Some wisdom, if you will. The end though, the end is the most important part, so simple and yet so profound.

You’ll see…

  • If you own a dog, pick up your dog’s poop. Not only does every store, in the nation, sell some form of poop bags, but our little community also provides high quality ones, free of charge. They are bright green, and even if you struggle to differentiate between shades of green grass,  green trees and the neon poop bags mounted on the wooden post 12 inches from where you let your dog do his/her business- there is good news! Everything is currently a pale state of yellow so they are easy to spot. Extra good news: your dog’s poop isn’t green so this task should, in theory, take you less than a second to take care of. The pay off is you get to be a considerate neighbor and sleep better at night. {Belief: if you refuse to pick up after your dog outside of your home, you probably don’t take care of him in the home either and he needs a new home.}
  • (Probably) Sweet, young, naive teenage girls… PLEASE put some clothes on. I know it’s hot. That’s the sun, and the humidity and the heat index. These are three of the five very reasons you SHOULD put some clothes on and stop laying out. (on other people’s driveways) The fourth is skin cancer, caused by those first three. The fifth is that all of the men who slow their ride to look at you, all of the servicemen who snack and stare- these are NOT good things. These are BAD, BAD things. It does not make you beautiful, it will not ever make you feel value, it is tragic. {Belief: More like questions really. So many sad things here… HOW do we infuse self-respect into girls? How do we teach them that a form of modesty is not old-fashioned, it is called self-respect?}
  • If you are the guy(s) slowing your roll to stare, or munching your chex mix and daydreaming- STOP. DO NOT BE THAT GUY. I have no grace for you, which, I get it- that’s my issue to deal with. Just stop. {Belief: While it wouldn’t be right, it could be fun to devise a consequence using the by-product of neighbor number one’s issue… Then again, sadly, neighbor number one might also be THAT GUY.}
  • If you’re a woman, it is never (ever) appropriate for your “private” parts to be on display outside of your home. Ever. It is disrespectful to every single person in our community. Put some clothes on. {Belief: Nothing good.}
  • If you pass someone’s door step and you see a package, do not feel consumed with jealousy/greed/___________ and decide to take the package, or open it up to see what’s in it. Just be happy for them (or better yet, ignore it) and move along. {Belief: While its super annoying to contact customer service and have to have things replaced on a regular basis, I am really sad at what the lives and hearts of these people are like, to feel the need to do this anyway. I hope they are loving my Happy Givers T-shirt about LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR!}
  • If someone unknowingly parks in your driveway, do not aggressively park behind them, key their car, leave a nasty note or any other form of ridiculousness. Simply knock on the ONLY OTHER DOOR the guest could be at, and ask if they could move their car. It takes less time, expels less energy and like with neighbor number one- you’ll sleep better at night.
  • ALSO, do not make statements to your UPSTAIRS neighbors about how their dogs sound like a thunder-storm whenever they move, question if they are hiding ten more 90lb dogs upstairs and should management get involved, make passive aggressive statements about how you used to be able to sleep before the herd of wild dogs moved in, etc… (First of all- it’s a pack, not a herd. Second, you made the decision to live in a lower unit of a complex where 95% of the residents have medium to large dogs, not me. I have a chronic illness and would have LOVED to not climb stairs 900 times a day, but I knew I didn’t want dogs dancing around on my ceiling, so I chose the stairs.) Also- perhaps consider what it sounds like when your teenager plays techno music at all hours of the night, so loud that art work rattles on my wall. Also question why she feels the need to put her BLARING bluetooth speaker on her window ledge so the 3 A.M Dance party can trickle into the entire county…
  • If your neighbor knocks on your door, suspect it might be important. Don’t look at them through the window and then ignore them until they go away.
  • If your neighbor offers to include you in the nice air conditioner maintenance they are doing so that the entire building doesn’t slow roast like a pork slab over the holiday weekend, don’t be dumb. If you like to slow roast then just say, that’s kind, but no thanks. {Belief: As the last four posts are about the same person, I might just really believe I have the worst neighbor ever. We did see a snake come out from under her door ledge once and I wanted to knock and warn them, and then I didn’t. The den of snakes that lives under our building lives under their floorboards, not mine. It’s not nice, I know.}
  • Don’t be a stereotype simply because you are a minority. Just don’t. Your skin color does not give you justification to act certain ways or treat people badly. Rise up, embrace humanity and admit that you are better than this. {Belief: if more people had human vision instead of ethnicity/sexuality/victim vision, so many of our current worldly issues would vanish.}

I ordered this awesome shirt from Happy Givers, because my sweet friend sent me a gift card. The package was stolen. I walk my dogs, avoiding the piles of neglected laziness, many times a day. Our dogs walk around the apartment. Very rarely does the puppy get into a running spell. They never bark. We pick up after them, we take care of our garbage. We are considerate of everyone around us. We help our elderly neighbors, whom we adore. I am kind to the people I encounter, even the ones on this list.

But I am a hypocrit.

While they may suck as neighbors, the second I allow my vision of these people to be clouded with frustrations and negativity, I suck too. Even though vengeance is not something I plan to carry out, it isn’t a good thing to have people so physically close in your community thinking any kind of negativity about you. It cannot be a community of unity (which is the point: COMMON-UNITY) when I avoid people, get frustrated with the poop, etc. Today I would have proudly worn that shirt, and then I would have made frustrated sounds walking my dogs, I would have smiled at Mr. Stereotype while thinking all of the negative thoughts. If I crossed paths with my downstairs neighbor, I would have been kind outwardly while every single irritating item on my list of reasons she’s the worst neighbor ever paraded through my thoughts… It will never work, if I don’t.

Maybe I’ll bake something for her, and she’ll throw it in my face.

Maybe I’ll gently ask THOSE GUYS to stop their mental violations of the young girls. And Maybe, in response they will insult my weight, or ___________.

Maybe I’ll try to genuinely get to know the Sterotypes, realizing we are all people living lives which have been shattered a time or two- and we’re all doing our best the best ways we know how… And maybe we’ll all be the best of friends. Then again, maybe we won’t.

Maybe I’ll buy a $20 pooper-scooper and pick up the ten thousand piles of nastiness out there, only to wake up and find ten thousand more. Is that so terrible? I mean, then we’d only have ten thousand instead of twenty, and that’s a good thing right?

Maybe I can make the effort to intentionally be a better neighbor, and it will make someone’s life a little less terrible, and that will be worth it. And maybe it won’t, and they will all be ten times as terrible, but you know who will be less annoyed? Less frustrated? Much happier? ME… I will. Then, no matter what they do, it will be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

And also, maybe I should get a PO Box…

Apartment living isn’t really anyone’s first choice, and the residents here are no exception. This isn’t a community of 20-somethings, just starting out. This is a community of people with lives lived behind them, and though I wave, smile and say hello, I’m wondering if I’m not the worst neighbor of them all…