Tuesday, January 31, 2012

mr colten, mr carrot

How this blog has existed for over a week and I have yet to mention Colten is beyond me.

This year I became an Aunt. Insert all the cliche things about an instantaneous love deeper than any you could imagine.  God, I wasn't prepared for how true all those cliches would turn out to be.  I love being an Aunt, but hate being a long-distance Aunt. I met him for the first time when he was a month old.  Ack! According to his parents, so much had already changed in a month. I hated what I had missed and what I would inevitably miss, so I had to hop a plane again to see him at three months. And now I'm counting the weeks until I see him at seven months.

a first meeting, so little
I won't lie: I never thought I would be the type of Aunt (or person) who buys love, yet quickly I've become that person. I have erred on the side of spoiling him rotten. Maybe it's the distance. The easiest thing to shower him with from a distance is little outfits, favorite books, and stuffed creatures. (Something to remember me by??)

One baby company I have always loved is Under the Nile. I've gotten a lot of new babies in my life a onesie or an organic stuffed vegetable from this company. If you want to know why I like them and support them, read their mission statement. Or, on a more shallow and "awww-inducing" note, just check out any footie onesie on the site. Cute. I decided to keep up the tradition and get Colten an Under the Nile stuffed carrot toy. Quickly he was dubbed "Mr Carrot" and was never far. 

Whether in his chubby hands, pushed into his gummy mouth, or lying by his side at his six-month check-up, Mr Carrot was a constant companion.

Sadly, you may have noticed the use of past tense.  It seems Mr Carrot was also a bit too tempting for the dogs in the home. And over a week ago, he got destroyed by one of them.

My brother called me in a panic that "Mr Carrot was ripped apart! Can you find a new one?!" (Aside: the fact that my older brother makes calls of this nature now that he is a Dad brings me endless amounts of amusement. One day, when he is less exhausted from having a nearly-newborn, I will make fun of him as only a sibling can & should.)

For various reasons, I decided to go out on a limb and try asking Under the Nile directly if they could find it in their hearts to replace Mr Carrot. I wrote them a letter, but I honestly expected nothing. Why would they oblige a stranger who openly admitted a dog was the cause of the demise of Mr Carrot?

Well, I now have proof that my years of supporting this company have not been for naught. They are good to their customers and good to the beloved nephews of the world. To my great joy happiness profound surprise elation, I found this in my mailbox five days after writing the letter:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

an entryway

When I bought this 101-year-old house, I knew a few things to be true:

1) I was the third in a line of single women owners.

2) The house was made progressively more livable by the previous two women.

3) Yet my two most recent predecessors had found the home too overwhelming to manage alone.

So I decided to go at it alone.  At 25 years old, I signed a piece of paper that has radically changed my entire life.  I liked that the house was old but livable; that there was enough still to do for the house; that I could be part of the story of the house.  I liked knowing I could care for this place and make it better. I wanted to make it better. I didn't want a perfect house.

Bit by bit I have added to the home. I've replaced the back door (mostly for safety reasons), painted the guest room, and added new blinds throughout. I've discovered that even the smallest project can have the largest reward. For instance, after two years of dripping, I paid a handyman $50 to replace a part in the faucet of my tub. It no longer drips and my hot/cold handles turn on and off much more smoothly. Within five minutes of the repair I saw how my quality of life had actually gone up.  And I had to laugh at myself for waiting so long to do a fairly simple task. 

This weekend I added to the story again by replacing my front door. A lot of cold air was coming in the warped storm door and through the very old wooden frame.  The old door was a dingy brown and didn't quite match the charm of my farm house.  Come summer I will be slapping on a fresh coat of poppy-orange paint to this beauty. The entry into my home will sing.

close your eyes & imagine it orange

I think the entryway into a home should articulate what you want those entering to feel and experience in your home. What exactly does an orange door, that keeps out the cold and holds in the warmth, say? I hope it properly welcomes those who choose to visit me, and those future visitors to whoever then lives in this old, blue house.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ode to the writer

The last time I visited my childhood home I discovered that again, in my absence, my parents had taken it upon themselves to "organize" the spaces I used to occupy. What this translated to for me is that I had another line of boxes to go through to sort into one of the following categories: goodwill, trash, save.

In this assortment of trash and treasures, I discovered something truly horrifying: a folder of writing from my 10th-grade Creative Writing class. I'm conflicted here because I don't know if I should go back and put "creative" in quotes or "writing." Let's just say what I found in that folder made me blush.

I was very fond of my Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Ryan, and I shuddered to think of him alone in his office struggling to get through my poem about whales which was trying to not obviously be about a love interest but was pretty obviously about a love interest. And that was one of my better, more articulate pieces.

The folder was horrifying enough that I was compelled to write Mr. Ryan an apologetic email. We got a good laugh over the angst of high school "creative" "writing" and I thanked him for his positive feedback on some truly cringe-inducing stories. I was waiting for him to say he'd seen worse, but he just lol'd it off. Ouch.

In some part of myself I have always fancied myself a writer-and I'd like to think (or hope) my writing voice has improved since 10th-grade. However, it would be more honest to say that I have always wanted to fancy myself a writer. I have wanted to claim the title for myself and say to people, "I am a writer." But I found myself abandoning the practice again and again, and so I thought I therefore didn't have the right to call myself one.

I thought of my friends who were self-described painters, artists, runners, teachers and so on. What they all seemed to share in common, and had that I lacked, was an ability to claim their title with no hesitation. "I am an artist," one would say, showing me her newest creation. "I am a runner," another would proudly proclaim, recounting his 15-mile trek through the city.

I, on the other hand, would always insert a disclaimer. "I am...I mean, occasionally, I do write. But not like every day or anything." [really awkward laugh causing both parties discomfort]

As I toasted the new year nearly a month ago, I got to overthinking about a lot of things, including my resistance to name certain parts of myself that are actually really important parts of my identity. Parts of myself that are scarier to talk about because they make me feel more vulnerable to an audience of possible critics. I thought about the inherent insecurity in not just declaring who I am and who I want to be. I think I've been letting the fear of failure or judgment (possibly my own most of all) keep me from exploring the parts of myself that could be very nourishing, life-giving even. I felt this deserved a little attention.

Which brings me back to this goodbye ugly robe project.

A quick tangent: perhaps I am a little too fond of exploring the roots/routes of things, but admittedly I am interested in context. I find that when I start a project it's very important to define things a bit. What got me here? What are my intentions? Though the road in front of me might be a mystery, what are my hopes for it? I do like to get to the heart of the matter before focusing on the surface of things. So bear with me.

I think a big part of 1) making writing more of a practice in my life via this blog and 2) specifically documenting the figurative moments of replacing ugly robes with beautiful robes is about not not doing things out of fear or (ugh) laziness.

I was afraid of not being good enough to call myself a "writer." So I stopped writing as much. And then nearly altogether. So my refusal to claim this part of myself became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ick. Goodbye to that behavior! Or, to be crass: F all that!! (F You Ugly Robe didn't have quite the poetic ring to it, and was a little too angry for my liking...)

So this is me lifting myself out of - I'll admit it - what was starting to feel like a lot of really depressing self-fulfilling prophecies. I imagine the specific adventures I undertake and document in this space will start to reveal what some of those hang-ups were.

For some reason this is the year I decided to get serious with myself, strangely enough, to rediscover both the serious and less serious parts of myself. Which is me saying: this is also about having FUN.

Because I'd never felt like an expert at, frankly, anything, I'd stopped myself from trying many new things. But this year I reminded myself that one way to get closer to yourself is by more honestly seeing the world and the resources around you. I know a lot of talented people. I know a lot of experts. I'm ready to see what they are willing to teach. And what I'm willing to ask to learn. Plus what I'm willing to try all by myself, even if it means making a path where there is none. Because (cheese alert) I'm also waking up to the world of resources we have within ourselves. Denying these types of adventures and just dwelling in the world of same ol' is actually quite exhausting.

I woke up on January 1st with an overwhelming feeling that I had a lot of unanswered questions and near-expired promises to myself.  What else was on the brink of extinction because I had denied it's importance for so long? I felt with certainly there were many adventures and interests brewing inside of me that were begging to be explored.  From things as mundane as: I should know how to jump my car, I should paint my bedroom and rearrange my art; to things that impact my daily life like: I want to cook more thoughtfully for myself, I want to be more active to have the option of doing races in the summer, I want to rely less on my car and more on my feet; to long-ignored goals such as: I should reteach myself Spanish, I should ask more questions about my family history, I should read more poetry and take more pictures of my world; to much more secret desires and dreams such as....

....well, there's no hurry to put all my cards on the table right away. There's plenty of time to dig into those spaces and explore what's after that dot dot dot. In other words: there are plenty more ugly robes to destroy to see what comes out of the ashes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Clarifying My Feelings Towards Robes

Least you all think I am some sort of robe-obsessed-oddball, I thought I would take my second blog post to clarify my first.

To be quite honest, it's rather strange that my inspiration for this project came from clothing inspired by towels (ie: how I have always, until recently, thought of robes). The ugly robe was actually a gift from my mother. Though, one could argue that anything that ugly is no gift at all. I have to say, even though my mom's style choices for me often fall flat, usually what's at the heart of her giving is incredibly intuitive. In this case, my mom knew before I did that I would actually enjoy the robe experience. She just happened to introduce me to this fact via a very ugly, very embarrassing specimen.

A little over two years ago I purchased a rather small, quite old house. And I really began to embrace certain aspects of being a homeowner and a homebody. But I started to feel that maybe my neighbors weren't (or shouldn't be) too keen on my tendency to clean in the nude or near-nude. Maybe it was the result of living alone then or the way the sunlight streamed in through the windows at the time of day I typically shower, but more times than I care to admit, post-shower I would catch a glimpse of the dust bunnies gathering in the staircase, or the dirt on the windowsill, or the overall disarray that can come in a small, old house. And so I would grab the vacuum or mop or duster and go at it...naked. Why on earth I couldn't pause a mere second to throw on some clothing has never occurred to me until this very moment. Perhaps I was afraid the feeling would leave me, and ultimately that was a bigger crime than nude cleaning. I won't psychoanalyze (this).

Anyway, I have a lot of windows in my house, and one day while putting some real effort into a particularly resilient stain, I thought: "I'm naked and surrounded by windows and someone could see me right now. And that would be very, very embarrassing for us both. Because I have a mop, which is not a good naked accessory." And then I finished getting out that stain and went upstairs to put some pants on. Followed by a shirt.

I think I recounted this story with a nervous laugh to my mother: "I keep finding myself cleaning in the nude! Isn't that funny?!"

About a week later a package arrived with the baby blue, floor-length, hooded robe. Mom's always been a bit of a prude and moral purist. She was sending a clear message: cover up, lady!

And so, with a bit of a heavy heart, I put that robe on. At first I resisted the confining feeling of that terry-cloth beast, but slowly I warmed to its comforting embrace and I started to see the pros of life in a robe. You really could just waste an afternoon puttering around the house in your robe. This is coming from a person who is spread very thin and lives a busy existence. Me-time via robe was overdue.

Not that this is about laziness or me moping around the house in my robe with a romance novel in one hand and a box of tissues in the other. Quite the opposite in fact.

This project isn't about robes really. My decision to get a robe that I feel good in and good about- rather than one that I felt would only be slightly better being caught in than being caught naked - is about this larger concept I briefly touched on about really stepping into the life I want. And more so, being an active creator in my life story rather than a passive observer. It's really about not being lazy. Which makes the fact that this comes from the laziest "clothing" known to man rather hilarious.

So despite this all coming from my - shocking - discovery that I liked relaxing in a robe, on occasion, and deserved to be in one that made me feel kind of cute and kind of stylish, this is about the opposite of lazy. Imagine me taking the collar of my own shirt, picking myself up and saying, "Get to it!"

Today for instance. My car broke down this weekend and though I rely on public transportation for most of my travels, I have some car needs this week in particular. And it also is probably a good thing to fix my car before a blizzard strikes. So I decided to learn, with my housemates help, how to jump a car. I should know how to do that. And I want to know how to do those things for myself, with the help of a friend, instead of always turning to an expert. Through trying things out for ourselves, asking questions and making the effort to learn things that don't come naturally, I'm hoping we (I) can became proficient, if not eventually experts in certain (probably surprising) areas of life.

And despite a nice, young man pulling a rather unsafe u-turn to see if we "need help with that?" and despite it not working on try one, two, or three and despite the tow truck operator I eventually called being the one who finally got it to start via a jump, overall I get the concept now. And I think I could do that again in the future. Which is the point - I took something I didn't know or understand, said I wanted to know and understand, and so now I do. I feel rather good about myself.

This is just one of many little hopes for myself that has been growing and stirring in me for some time. Yes, as silly and small as it sounds, learning how to jump my car was on my list of things I wanted to know and do. I look forward to exploring - and documenting - more of these little dreams. I have a few at the top of my head, and next time I visit this space, I'll share what's next.

Or maybe, by that point, what's already happened.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

goodbye ugly robe

This is my ugly robe. Or rather, this was my ugly robe.

Take a good look:

-It's made to be a look-at-me-I'm-practically-a-towel style of robe. Can you even call that fabric?

-It's a rather unpleasant shade of baby blue.

-It has two gigantic pockets, two gigantic chicken-wing sleeves, and is floor length.

-It has a hood.

-Oh, and the zipper only worked for about a week and then broke, after which is just hung on slightly above my belly button keeping the robe "closed" but only in the most lenient definition of the word "closed."

It was a damn ugly robe.

But as ugly as it was, it was also the inspiration for this online project. You see, the ugly robe came up in conversation with the woman I like to think of as my personal lighthouse in the dark--my beacon when all hope is lost. My life coach of sorts. Ok, my therapist who I pay to listen to me talk and occassionally give me really sage life advice. (If I can't be honest now, at the beginning, how will I ever?)

I told S about my ugly robe. I told her about it in this manner:

[resigned voice] "Well, it's ugly robe season again, so I guess there's that to look forward to."

I think she choked on her herbal tea. While rolling her eyes.

And then she told me something that really hit me at my core, in that part of myself that hears the truth when it most needs to, that internal compass that has no tolerance for bullshit.

She told me--I don't even need to paraphrase here because she was rather succinct--"Well, if you hate it so much, then get rid of it. "

This woman is worth every penny.

Here's the thing, you should probably know before you go on any further, that this project is coming from a place of rather determined intention. It's going to be cheesy at times, and cliche, and probably induce some eye-rolling and uncomfortable laughter (from you and me). Because, honestly, an ugly robe is at the heart of this project, so you know I'm reading into things a little too much. And that I will embrace and continue that trend throughout this process, as I have a rather strong dedication towards "honoring from whence we came."

But S hit on something really true that day. She reminded me that I can't just sit around and wait for my life to happen to me; I need to take an active role in creating the life I want to live. The robe was just a small piece of a larger struggle I was having internally--and that was ripping into my external world--to make ch-ch-changes that I'd deemed necessary long ago, but not found the strength or motivation to make. Simple as that. S hit the nail on the head: quit wallowing and playing the part of victim, throw out your damn ugly robe and beyond that throw out all the other damn ugly robes you are holding onto as well, be they literal or figurative.

The lady really got me thinking. So on not-quite-the-eve (anymore) of the New Year, but close enough to be able to easily visualize myself taking a first step into something unknown but important, I decided to make good on the promises I've made to myself over the years. One of them was writing more, hence putting these thoughts down here. There are plenty more though, and what this goodbye ugly robe project is really about is remembering the life I want to build for just myself--that of course includes other people-- but doesn't start from the assumption that someone else is going to take control of my happiness or dreams or successes or failures. That it is up to me to take the first step forward, even if I stumble a little bit, and see what my life can grow into.

See: cheese has been served already.

Oh, and by the way, there is going to be a new robe. I'm not going to pretend it's sexy-even though the photo would like to imply it is - but it's cozy looking, has a little bit of a ruffled edge around the collar, is a cute flannel pattern, and overall is so much more me. Which is the point. And as S and I discussed, by replacing the zipper with a tie closure, I am asserting the fact that 1) I am not a middle-aged woman with saggy breasts (thank you very much) and 2) I am not resigned to a life in an ugly robe. Read into that if you want to, you probably should.