Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Different Ending (Just One More Thing)

[This is the final "bonus" post of a series of catch-up blog posts covering the past year I've spent not-blogging. Here are all the links for the previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. And if you want to know why this is such a big deal, please read this post.]

She had just one more thing to add...

[Our due date is October 17th.]

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Different Ending (Part 6)

[This is the 6th and final part of a series of catch-up blog posts covering the past year I've spent not-blogging. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here, Part 4 can be found here, and Part 5 can be found here. I fully realize that this is faaaaar more in-depth than most people care about, but I'm having a lot of fun going back over the past year and choosing photos and telling snippets of stories. I'm also realizing that some of these photos I uploaded to the computer and then never even looked at, so this is a good and much-needed chance to catch up and document our 2010. Thanks for bearing with me!]


She decided to choose One Little Word like she's done before. Two years ago she chose Cultivate, and she considered just using that again because there is so much she wants to get done this year, so much she wants to work on and so many projects she wants to do. But it didn't feel quite right.

She thought long and hard about it, and tried many words on for size but none fit very well. She wanted a word that signified the process of {something}, because she is very much in the process of so much in her life. In a season of flux.

She's kind of in love with Brené Brown and her books and TED talks and this post on her blog and the whole philosophy of being enough just as you are, not when you lose ten pounds or earn your degree or find an eye cream that actually works or learn French or get married or move into a bigger house [or get pregnant or have a baby]--you are enough right now. [This. Very. Minute.] She is not quite there yet, but she wants to be, she is trying and striving towards believing that she is enough and whole and complete just as she is. That she is a whole and complete woman, whether or not she is able to bear children. That she and her husband are a whole and complete family, whether or not they have children (not to mention however and whenever and from wherever children arrive). She is in the process of trying to feel like that complete person, just as she is, so there is only one word for her this year.

[It also conveniently encapsulates all of the home and art and life projects she wants to work into completion this year.]

She started running with her husband again (much needed after the gluttony of the holidays). [She feels it necessary to tell you that her husband runs much, much faster than she does, but he slows down to run with her because it is such amazing quality time for them.] She even found, buried in her basket of gloves in the hall closet, the pair of gloves that she used to run in in high school, a zillion years ago. Her high school colors were green and gold yellow so she bought two pairs and cross-matched them (because that was cool in the early 90's--shut up). She has no idea how this pair followed her from high school to college to Las Vegas to Ohio to Oregon to Italy to Virginia throughout 17 years, but there they were right in the place all her other pairs of gloves live. [She wishes the rest of her life and home were organized so well.]

She was still in Hibernation Mode and was trying to take it easy on herself, so whenever she got the urge to forget the To Do list for an hour or a day and play with paper and glue and paints and inks, she did.

She found berry garlands marked 90% off at JoAnn's and decided that red berries were perfectly suited to winter and Valentine's Day and she made wreaths for the front door and the pantry door. [She just accidentally typed "panty door" and couldn't stop laughing for several seconds, imagining just what that would be.]

She accepted a job getting two little girls off to school every weekday morning. One day they had a 2-hour delay due to snow, so she brought over crafts for them to do together. Much later that day she found gold glitter stuck to her favorite black sweater and, to her surprise because she is very careful about things getting on her, it made her ridiculously, inexplicably happy. She felt it was a sign from the universe that she would feel this precise kind of happiness again, and that gave her a distinct feeling of what she can only describe as Peace.

She went on a date with her husband, concluded with a trip to Total Wine where they spent most of the $100 gift card she won for being their 1000th "Like" on Facebook. [Social media FTW!]

They had a new water heater installed and it has a remote control. This is impossibly fancy to her, that she can stand in her upstairs bathroom and request, from the water heater in the basement, an exact temperature of water for her shower or bath and then that's what comes out of her taps. It's like the future has arrived. [And it's in her bathroom.]

[She is thankful that she finds wonder in small things.]

She met up with her Wine and Cheese Club, perhaps her favorite "club membership" and definitely the "meetings" she most refuses to ever miss (although the three other "members" are amazing and will reschedule until all four of them can attend, so missing is not really an issue).

She wore indigo and violet wool socks, just because they made her happy.

She was kind of addicted to shopping at Marshall's and buying fancy foods there.

She loves olives.

One day, out of nowhere, she decided to try to clean the inside of the oven door. There were long drippy streaks of milk inside the glass from a day long ago when she spilled milk (she didn't cry over it) across the counter and the stove and it dripped down inside the oven door. Not on the inside of the door like when you open the oven, but the inside in between the two panes of glass.

She was completely shocked to find that it's the easiest thing in the world to take apart and clean, and she wondered why she hadn't done it ages and ages ago. She decided that next time something seemed like it would be a huge pain, she'd just go ahead and try it because maybe it was just as simple as two screws on an oven door.

She took an online class and the class was encouraged to think of the negative mantras they tell themselves and to come up with new mantras. She journaled about it (as they were encouraged to do) and when she re-read what she'd written the same three words kept popping up over and over. So she adopted her new mantra, "Be positive, calm, and hopeful," and she said it to herself about seventy-thirteen times per day when sneaky fears would pop into her mind (which happens a lot). It helped, a lot. [It's still helping a lot.]

It snowed and snowed, but luckily not like it did last year. This snowman was the highlight of her day one day, though. Thanks, neighbors!

She and her husband went out for tapas with Danny and Sophie and Erin and John, and then across the street to an Irish bar. [She is past the age where people jostling her about in a bar is okay with her.]

Fisheye lens + flash in a dark bar = vignetting and Danny's eyes closed.

She bought herself flowers, and she discovered that her camera has an entire set of filters that she didn't know about.

She became addicted to Dexter.

She watched her amaryllis (which she bought at Marshall's) bloom, and bloom, and bloom, and bloom.

She took self-portraits in her guest bathroom. [All of her online photos were years old and she felt they represented the Then Her instead of the Now Her. And so very much has happened between Then and Now, she's not quite the same person.]

Smiling into a mirror and taking photos of herself was kind of a big deal for her.

She had brunch with a friend she hadn't seen for seven years, back when they both lived in Ohio.

She used her Silhouette to cut all different shapes and colors of paper hearts, and she strung them across her kitchen because she thought it would be awesome (and it was).

She took joy in the first early signs of Spring.

Her husband indulged her craving for not cooking Mexican food one night.

She and her husband decided this is the year for the completion of some projects--big & small--in the house. He replaced a ceiling fan. She spent time organizing her basement (her fabric cabinet is shown below). He ripped up the nasty carpeting on the stairs and landing to see just how much of a pain it will be to put in hardwoods. [Verdict: DIY-able but a total pain.]

[She is tempted to just fix them up a bit and paint them like this, instead.]

She made a shadowbox full of a rainbow of paper flowers, just because she felt like it.

She has lived in the DC area for three and a half years and she finally went to Five Guys for the first time. [Thanks to @MeganBoley and @Tristina_Wright talking about bacon cheeseburgers all the ding-dang live-long day on Twitter that day.]

She ordered silver chains and charms for a jewelry show she has coming up soon (and for Mother's Day and her Inspired even in May, which will be here before she knows it). It cost almost a thousand dollars a crap-ton of money, and when it arrived it all came packaged inside a sandwich-sized zipper bag. Not even close to full, either. She tried not to have a heart attack and reminded herself that you have to spend money to make money (and she prayed and crossed her fingers).

She went out for a fancy dinner with her husband, and the men at the next table sounded like Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard. She marveled again how she is living on the edge, the very boundary between Washington DC and The North, and people who sound like Boss Hogg and The South (she is aware that not all people from The South sound like Boss Hogg). It is a weird, weird place to live sometimes. Fascinating, to be sure; but weird, too.

She [re-]learned that she should stay true to what she wants to do, and doing things just because people ask her to and she wants to be accommodating does not always work out. It's okay to say, "Let me think about it (or try it out) and get back to you with my answer." She will try to remember this lesson.

She caught up on her blog and looked at photos from the past year and is amazed at just how fast time has passed. She felt vulnerable and unsure but practiced authenticity and just putting herself out there, and hoped that kind souls would find her and accept her as she is. They (you!) did and do and are.

She is so, so very glad to be back.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Different Ending (Part 5)

[This is Part 5 of a series of 6 (I think). Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here, and Part 4 can be found here. I fully realize that this is faaaaar more in-depth than most people care about, but I'm having a lot of fun going back over the past year and choosing photos and telling snippets of stories. I'm also realizing that some of these photos I uploaded to the computer and then never even looked at, so this is a good and much-needed chance to catch up and document our 2010. Thanks for bearing with me!]


When she flew home from Orlando it felt exactly like someone had flipped a switch from summer to fall. She loves fall. Fall colors, and turtlenecks and sweaters and knee-high boots and corduroy and tweed. But especially fall colors.

Driving in the rain one day, she saw her favorite license plate ever. She is somewhat of a license plate connoisseur and her previous favorite had held the record for many years, so this was kind of a big deal. She pulled out her handheld camera and snapped without looking, hoping for a decent shot.

She says this several times a trip when she has to drive any distance here in Northern Virginia. "OhmuhGahd goooooooooooo!"

She and her husband decided to give their German friends, Danny and Sophie, an American experience by taking them to a corn maze.

As it turns out, Danny and Sophie had already been to that exact corn maze a few weeks before, but they all had fun anyway.

Afterward they went wine drinking wine tasting at a local winery and had even more fun.

She celebrated Thanksgiving with her husband at Danny and Sophie's house, and they all ate way too much food and drank a little too much wine and beer.

They played Wii, she fell in love with a Snuggie, they played Loaded Questions, and they laughed A LOT.

A few weeks later they went to a Christmas Market hosted by the German Military (for whom Danny works). It was great and made them miss European Christmas Markets so very much.

She continued making jewelry-jewelry-jewelry just as fast as she could.

She came out with some new designs.

She fulfilled custom orders and made ready-made pieces for her show stock.

Stamped & oxidized, before polishing & finishing.

She purchased a table at a brand-new Christmas Bazaar hosted by a local private school. She was still fairly nervous since this was really her first season doing shows, but she did really, really well, and was so happy and proud of herself for all her hard work. She loved connecting with everyone who loved her work, and it made her heart glad.

She showed for the first time, too, at a very cool show called Chick's Picks, where Hillary turns her home into a very very cool store for three days at a time. Artists bring their work and Hillary sets it all up in her house like an amazing boutique and women come in droves to shop. Because this artist features custom work, she was asked to come and take custom orders for one of the three days. Her table was in a corner in the basement. She had a lot of fun talking to customers

and shopping. And even though she was in a corner in the basement, she did very well.

Between the custom orders from her shows and from Etsy, she was working between 14 and 17 hours per day, 7 days per week, for the first two weeks of December.

She was glad and grateful for the business, but she was tired.

With the last of her orders dropped at the post office on the way to the airport, she and her husband were once again traveling to--where else?--Oregon.

They flew Delta because they are idiots haven't learned their lesson are masochists had some miles they could put towards the tickets. It took them a long time, but eventually they made it to Oregon, where everything seemed better because her mom had made butter cookies.

But it wasn't time to relax, no, not for her, not by a long shot! She was hosting two days of Open House jewelry shows at her parents'! She got to see a lot of old friends and somehow, magically, people trickled in and trickled out so it was never crazy and never dead and she got to chat and fulfill custom orders while people waited. It was kind of perfect!

That night she went on a double-date with her husband and his cousin Brad and his wife Ingrid. They went out for Peruvian food for dinner, and then they went to see an awesome taping of Live Wire, a Portland live-audience radio show. It was a tremendous amount of fun and made her want to live in Portland because it is such a cool city.

Even though it was less than a week before Christmas, she was still fulfilling last-minute custom orders because she's a sucker she's super nice and loves her customers. She took over her parents' dining table [and kept waiting for her dad to throw a fit but he never did].

Somehow, she managed to write their Christmas letter [it was not as good as in previous years and she wanted to rewrite it as soon as she finished it, but instead she just hit print and stopped thinking about it, mostly, except it kind of still bugs her] and got it copied and folded and stuffed and stamped and dropped them all in the mail.

The next day she headed into Portland to meet up with her husband (who'd spent the previous few days with his family) and go to their favorite Portland places. They had lunch at Kells

and they shopped at the Portland Saturday Market's "Festival of the Last Minute," where she bought some gorgeous handmade glass beads. Then they headed up to the very best bookstore in the world, and then over to Deschutes Brewery. [She would very much like to hear you all attempt to pronounce Deschutes.]

Pretty soon it was time to go to the home of Jenny (her husband's cousin-ish), where there was a big family reunion of their generation of cousin-ishes (maybe second cousins? Third? Second-once-removed? She cannot recall, can never remember, will not ask again).

[It was very fun and everyone is very nice, but she is an introvert and at a certain point would have very much liked to go play Legos with the kids in the other room. She may or may not have spent ten minutes hiding out in the bathroom, tweeting with friends on her phone.]

The next day she went wine tasting to many wineries with some of her husband's family.

The following day was a mostly quiet day at her in-laws' home, and she spent it catching up online and recharging and making earrings from some of the handmade beads she just bought at Saturday Market.

She decided she liked them so much that she called the artist (they had exchanged information) and set up a time to come buy more beads the next day, on Christmas Eve morning! She bought a lot more beads and hopes the glass artist sets up her online wholesale site like she's intending.

Then they went over to her parents' house for their annual Christmas Eve party. Somehow she managed to not take a single photo of the gathering! But she enjoyed her parents' homemade clam chowder, and the barbecued salmon that her dad caught and cleaned and cooked, and all of the other yummy treats her family enjoys every year on Christmas Eve. [It never feels like Christmas Eve to her without homemade clam chowder.] And she visited with cousins, and met her cousin's fiancé, and hung out with her favorite aunt (who used to live in Northern Virginia and now lives in Oregon), and missed her sister's family (who can almost never come home at Christmas because she's a nurse and her husband's a pastor).

Later that evening after everyone else left, her family exchanged presents. Her husband gave her a very cool fisheye lens, so of course she had to test it out right away.

Those are her purple-pajama'd knees at the bottom of the photo.

Then, like most photography buffs who get a new lens, she over-used it on everything, including breakfast the next morning. This breakfast is called Froobles, and it is a family thing and tradition and kind of weird but also awesome. She had it every Christmas and every Easter (and some other times, too) when she was growing up, and having it on Christmas morning at her parents' house makes her happy in a place deep inside, in a tucked-away spot in her heart reserved for reliving family traditions.

After breakfast they got ready and headed over to her husband's aunt and uncle's house for their big family gathering. She was put in charge of the salad.

She kind of loves this photo.

Everyone ate and then she took a photo of the table because they wanted to see how wide-angle the lens was.

After lunch everyone plays games until dinner, and after dinner everyone plays more games. Mexican Train is very popular. [She feels it necessary to say that they did not make up the name.]

As is Pinochle. She tries to make sure she's not standing around when they are trying to put together a game. [She's not very good and they are serious about their games; she doesn't like to let her partner down.]

While the grownups are playing games, all of the kiddos hang out and run around and play in the middle of the floor.

At some point, all of the middle generation of cousins and significant others might actually be in the same place at the same time, and everyone is rounded up for the annual group photo. Getting everyone to look at the same camera at the same time is like herding cats; she supposes that they are all actually in the photo is miracle enough.

The gaming continues and continues. This year they played a card game one of the cousins invented, and it was totally fun. Then she took advantage of the family sauna, and then showered and changed into pajamas and slippers (since her luggage was in the car). Properly buzzed and relaxed, her introvert self fell asleep in a back bedroom. She was woken up around midnight to drive home to her in-laws' house, where she exchanged gifts with her husband's parents and sister in a semi-zombie-like state.

The next morning when she woke up and got ready to head over to another aunt's house for their annual Ladies' Tea, she realized that she left all of her jewelry and her only shoes in the changing room outside the sauna. Whoooooops. Luckily that aunt hadn't left her house yet and brought everything with her to the Tea. In the meantime, she wore her slippers.

The Ladies' Tea was lovely, as it always is. They ate delicious fancy cheese and pear sandwiches, and cranberry scones with lemon curd, and curried chicken and pasta salad, and drank fancy teas, and sampled fancy desserts.

They all exchanged small gifts, and chatted & chatted & chatted. It's always a highlight of Christmastime.

The next day she re-packed suitcases, and packed boxes full of whatever didn't fit (which was a lot) and mailed them to herself, because it was time to leave home (where she's from) and fly home (where she lives).

They had quite an adventure getting home because, after all, they did fly Delta which might possibly be run by the devil's minions. She will not recount it here, but suffice it to say that 1) by the time they arrived home they had a collection of twenty-six different boarding passes (not all used, of course) to get them back and forth across the country, and 2) the priority mail box she shipped herself almost beat them home. [And then they signed up for a different credit card rewards program because they are just done-done-done with Delta.]

When she arrived home she did what she usually does after a Christmas in Oregon. She slipped into hibernation/recharge mode, and once she had quiet and time to think, she lamented and beat herself up for her fierce introversion, which becomes a problem sooner or later every Christmas. She laments that she is physically-mentally-emotionally-psychologically unable to keep up with the scheduling demands and socializing and huge groups of people, but she is a people pleaser and her very extroverted husband loves it, so she tries and sooner or later her brain is totally overwhelmed and can't take one more thing, and she snaps.

She does not like to snap, but it happens, and then she is embarrassed and frustrated and she doesn't know how to stop the cycle. She imagines what people think of her when they see her snap, and she wants to fold in on herself. Sometimes she get angry, because she tries to plan ahead, she makes requests for her needs (and they are needs, not wants) to be accommodated, to leave at a certain time... but in the thrill of the party it's "one more game" or "one more drink" or "ten more minutes" (which turns into hours). So she feels neglected and dismissed and misunderstood and angry.

She wonders if it will ever be different, or if it will always be this way. She feels frustrated and sad, and she wants Christmas to be wonderful and relaxing and not stressful. She wonders if this is delusional, if anyone experiences a not-stressful Christmas. She feels ridiculous and ashamed that she is loved by so many people that it is too many (or just too many all at once) for her and she feels selfish for needing and wanting to be loved in a different way. She vows to do things differently next year, to take care of herself better, although she's not sure how; she knows something's gotta give but she doesn't know what.

She tries to cut herself some slack and accept herself the way she is. She sinks happily, lovingly, deeper into her annual much-needed, post-Christmas hibernation.

At some point in early January she turns on the CD player in her bathroom as she steps into the shower, and Christmas music--leftover from before her trip--starts to play. She realizes, suddenly in a tidal wave that hits her smack in the face and rains down hard over her, that in her busy-ness, her preparing so many gifts of jewelry for other people to give, her checking Christmas things off her never-ending To Do lists, her working whenever she was awake and never taking a minute to stop and breathe, she never once felt the Christmas Spirit, not for a moment. She cries in the shower, and she makes a vow.

Somehow, somehow, somehow, next Christmas, things will be different.