Now I’m writing just to let you know I’m still alive

Hey dad, I’m writing to you
Not to tell you that I still hate you
Just to ask you how you feel
And how we fell apart
How this fell apart…

When you lay your head down
How do you sleep at night?
Do you even wonder if we’re alright?
But we’re alright

My brother turned me on to Good Charlotte back when The Young and the Hopeless first came out. It’s still in my top 25-ish favorite records of all time, because my music taste defies genre (and, by the standards of many, decent taste). I used to skip over “Emotionless” because it was such a sad-sounding song, but when everything did fall apart in 2004 I turned it on and turned it up – on constant repeat.

Tonight, I’m doing it again.

My dad called me while I was packing Friday night. I let it roll to voicemail, since we have (now less than) two weeks to get everything ready to go. What did he want? To know if I would do his taxes. Only after he told me what I could do for him did he add, a mere afterthought, that he hopes Arthur and I, and “that guy [I’m] married to, what’s his name” (a pathetic joke), are doing alright.

We’re alright…

It’s been a long hard road without you by my side
Why weren’t you there all the nights that we cried
You broke my mother’s heart, you broke your children for life
It’s not okay, but we’re alright
I remember the days you were a hero in my eyes
But those are just a long lost memory of mine
Now I’m writing just to let you know I’m still alive
I’m still alive

I wish I could go back to the time in my life when I didn’t know – or could ignore – the conditions he places on his love. I have to go back a long way…further than even my memory will take me. It seems that his fondest declarations of love came out of a bottle or a jail cell. The rest of the time, I think we were just the little people in his life who just needed more from him than he was willing to give.

When people would ask me who my dad is, I would tell them the story of how he took up a collection at work after he read a letter to the editor in the newspaper about a little girl whose birthday money was stolen from a public restroom, where she left it on the counter. But that man…that man doesn’t jive with the picture of my father I have in my head. A gunshot hole in the wall by the stairs. A pointed finger jabbing into my sternum. Hate in his eyes. Staring down a gun. And now, it’s only ever about what I can do for him.

There’s things I’ll take to my grave, but I’m okay…

I don’t know the man who wears my daddy’s face and speaks with his voice. I ache to have my daddy back, to believe that he really wants to know how I’m doing, that he really cares. More now than ever before, as Brian and I take our first fumbling steps into parenthood, I think that I could really use my daddy. But I don’t think he was ever really there.

And now I mourn at an empty grave, in a quiet spot that exists only in the corners of my mind – like the man I thought my dad was.

And sometimes I forgive
Yeah and this time, I’ll admit
That I miss you, said I miss you…

All I want is to say goodbye.

(Italicized lyrics from “Emotionless”, written by Benji & Joel Madden and performed by Good Charlotte, (c) 2002)

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Making our house a home: the kitchen & dining room

We’re 17 days away from moving, and inching ever closer to making our house gorgeous!

Brian deserves a medal. I don’t know who would give it to him, but somebody needs to get on that. He has gone full steam with plastering, sanding, painting, and correcting the imperfections of age to make our house the best it can be. I know that it’s frustrating for him at times – seemingly easy projects take on a life of their own, and every time he turns around he thinks of another item to add to the list – but every hour he spends getting dirty over there is another hour closer to grinning over the finished product.

I’m also so grateful for my in-laws. I helped out with cleaning, stripping wallpaper, and of course picking paint colors (and yes, painting Arthur’s nursery – oh yeah, guys we’re having a boy!), but the tasks at hand now cross the line into “could be unsafe for the pregnant chick” and I’ve been relegated to heading up the packing effort in our apartment. My in-laws have filled the gap, making several day-long visits with food and encouragement, painting and cleaning and running out for extra supplies when what we have just didn’t go far enough. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their help.

My mom, meanwhile, has pitched in on the packing side. It’s nice to have someone there with me who really understands how I work and who isn’t afraid to jump in and start pitching things (not without asking, of course!)

Our progress so far…

The Kitchen

Our kitchen…well, let’s just say an old woman lived there. An old woman who liked old-woman wallpaper patterns. (And wallpaper in general? Yeesh…) Two different patterns competed for “grandma’s house” old-timey charm with only a chair rail to separate them and, well, they were ugly.

Not, however, as ugly as the walls they covered.

Once the outer layer of paper disappeared, we had to contend with old glue and paper remnants; multiple coats of now-peeling paint, and cracks in the wall from settling over the years. Still a work in progress, our kitchen looks many times better than it did the first day…

Mid-paper peel. If you look closely you can see the ugly upper paper on the floor...

Mid-paper peel. If you look closely you can see the ugly upper paper on the floor… 

My hard-working MIL cleaning glue off of the lower level of the wall.

My hard-working MIL cleaning glue off of the lower level of the wall.

Making progress...paper and glue are off of everything except the ceiling!

Making progress…paper and glue are off of everything except the ceiling!

Almost there! The kitchen nook after 1-2 coats of plaster and hours of work.

Almost there! The kitchen nook after 1-2 coats of plaster and hours of work.

Next steps: cover the room with a coat of primer/sealer paint and plaster to even out the places where old paint has peeled, and then new coats of yellow!

The Dining Room

Our dining room is gorgeous. We stripped the carpet out the very first night we had keys, and once we removed the tack strips it was all a matter of paint! (And new blinds – what is it with old people and ugly things?)

We started by painting the ceiling and upper molding a crisp white. Over the last few days, my in-laws have transformed the walls from a boring too-white-to-be-eggshell to…

Geranium, coat 1

Geranium, coat 1

Geranium - the finished product!

Geranium – the finished product!

Next up will be a coat of white on the trim, door to the upstairs, and built-in china cabinet…and a shopping trip for some new blinds. Note: I love the chandelier – vintage and crafted in Italy, its distressed bronze is a chic touch to the room and will be a focal point of the rest of the decor.

I can’t help but be totally excited about all of this – and I can’t wait until the next update (and of course to live there full-time)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making our house a home: the nursery

Since we picked up the keys to our house on December 18, I’ve been focused on one thing: painting the nursery!

There’s a whole lot to be done aesthetically throughout – the house is 72 years old and the previous owner was an elderly woman who understandably wasn’t able to keep up with everything. Cracks have formed in walls due to settling; the upstairs hasn’t been painted in who knows how long; and the kitchen…well, let’s just say that (ugly) wallpaper covers a multitude of sins.

Still, creating a space for our little one is at the top of my “want-to-do” list, and since I’m on limited renovation duty it is the one room in which I can really put my mark rather than just see the results of my choices unfold without me. And last night, we got to do it! (Well. The first coat, anyway.)

I don’t have any “before” pictures – the room was painted “butter”, a yellow so pale that it looked like a dirty institutional white. Brian had to go in and plaster over a crack that ran down an entire corner, and another that went up the wall and around a curve to the ceiling. (You’ll see what I mean in the “after” pictures.) Then, as we’re suiting up to paint on Saturday, he finds another crack that he missed the first time, and still another just a couple of feet away. He’s awesome though, and patched them up in time to go over after work yesterday and get started on our masterpiece.

Here’s where we are now:

Photo Jan 15, 15 30 53

Paint: Behr Premium Ultra + Primer, Eggshell Finish
Color: Green Energy
Coats: 1
Feeling: Like Kermit the Frog!
Total time (including taping): ~2 hours for 2 people (it’s a cute little room)

You can see how the wall slopes into the ceiling; because of that, the previous owners had marked off a line mid-curve separating “wall” from “ceiling”. We decided to forgo that option and make the whole room green – I had a moment of panic mid-paint when I thought it would close off the room too much, but I felt a lot better looking at the finished product.

Today we’ll add a second coat to even out the finish, and tomorrow my father-in-law is going to freshen up the white trim. From there, it’s shopping and decoration time!

More updates to follow as we move from room to room. I’m so excited!

Update on the nursery:

Well, we were about a quart shy of completing the second coat last night – basically, everything is finished except for the ceiling, which my mother-in-law is going to cover this morning.

But look at how gorgeous it is!!

Photo Jan 16, 11 41 37

 

This room is going to be amazing.

Mrs.

 

I don’t feel married.

I mean…there are moments. Like the first time I referred to him as “my husband” in casual conversation. And the entire day I spent running around to change my name, even though that feels pretty normal now as well. And yes, the cramp in my hand from writing another batch of thank-you cards.

But otherwise…life goes on.

To me it says something lovely that one beautiful day served as a celebration of the life we are building rather than its definition. Our marriage began well before we met at the altar, in the lessons and experiences we’ve brought into this crazy wonderful life. Our families have already blended into a fantastic dysfunctional unit. We aren’t in-laws or outlaws, we just…are.

I don’t feel married…but I feel complete.

 

I’m (really) going to marry him!

I’ve decided, once and for all in my mind. When there’s something so precious and wonderful in your life, you don’t cast it aside. You don’t wait for the bottom to fall out. You fight like hell to keep it. Brian is what’s precious and wonderful about my life. I’m going to marry him, going to be with him until the stars fade out of the night sky. I’m going to share my life and myself with him, create a new life and a new family and watch them grow and thrive with him. It doesn’t matter if the day is tomorrow or twelve hundred tomorrows away; when he asks me for forever, I’ll give it to him with open arms.

I wrote that on February 20, 2005, and in 44 days it will come true. So what if it’ll actually be 2687 days? (Not like I counted, silly – I put it in Excel!)

All those teachers who told me to never second-guess my first instinct must be pretty satisfied with themselves right about now…

Tej’s Forever Home

Tej was ten months old last Thursday – I can’t believe how big he’s getting! With that in mind, and since the APL just sent an email about adopting “the perfect pet” and soliciting adoption stories, I think it’s time to showcase my little fur baby.

After a fair amount of discussion (and more than a little wheedling on my part), Brian and I decided in July that we would adopt a kitten. I started out wanting a dog, but with our work schedules we figured that a cat would be more practical. Plus, even non-cat people can’t deny that kittens are adorable.

The Cleveland APL ran a day-long cat adoption special on Saturday, July 23, 2011 to alleviate an overcrowding issue. We drove down and waited in line for half an hour before getting into the cat room; the whole time I wondered, “what if I don’t find ‘the one’?” I had checked out the Web site and found a few possibilities, including 2-month-old, all-black kitten Seth, but I just wasn’t sure. And then, what if they were all gone before I got in there?

I walked in the room, turned to my right and there he was – little Seth, climbing the door of his cage as if saying, “Finally. You’re here, let’s go.” I opened the door and he climbed right up into my arms, starting the purr that today still melts my heart. I couldn’t bear to put him down, even to put him in the crate to take him home with me. But we made it. We named him Tej Parker Trenton (after Ludacris’ character in 2 Fast 2 Furious and Fast Five), and nearly eight months later we are just as much in love with him as we were that first afternoon.

Tej's first day home - already settling in!

"You cannot resist the power of the Force..."

Um, you're supposed to go *in* the bag...

It's hard work being a kitten.

All I need is my mommy -- well, just her blanket.

Look, I'll help you pack. I'm in, all packed!

It's just my size...

Everything the light touches...is MINE.

 

Living Love & Respect

Cover of "Love & Respect: The Love She Mo...

Cover via Amazon

As part of our ceremony preparation, Brian and I have been attending informal monthly meetings with our awesome youth pastor turned officiate, Kathy. At our last meeting in December, Kathy suggested that Brian and I take a five-week course offered by the church on Love & Respect to strengthen our relationship – “it can’t help but help!” she said.

The course is based on the book of the same title by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, who uses a combination of science and scripture to demystify what he calls the “Crazy Cycle” of male/female miscommunication and to encourage the development of healthier relationships built on understanding the fundamental differences between the sexes. Emerson’s thesis is summed up by Ephesians 5:33 (NIV): “However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

There’s a whole defense of this verse and its intent that I hope you’ll be patient enough to wait for, because this isn’t an objective review of the book but instead a confession – and today more than usual, my blog is the mirror that I’m pointing at myself.

We were encouraged last week to think about how applying what we have learned so far has made a difference in our relationships, and to reflect on that in our session tonight, and that’s what I want to do now. I guess admitting it to a faceless blogosphere that nonetheless is populated with people I know and respect will make it easier to face those whom we’ve known (at least in this respect) for only a few short weeks.

The thing is, as soon as I read the description of the Crazy Cycle I immediately recognized it. It’s the cycle that Brian and I have ridden, with varying intensity, for most of our time together.

When she feels unloved, she responds in disrespectful ways.
When he feels disrespected, he responds in unloving ways.

Every argument was the same: I would yell and cry and plead for him to say something. Defend himself. Give me a solution, show me that I wasn’t doing “this” all on my own. And he would withdraw because he didn’t have anything to say — not because he doesn’t care, but because he didn’t want to say the wrong thing or because he actually agreed with whatever it was I was saying in the first place. But when he would sit there in silence and gawp at me like I had grown a second head (or that’s how it felt, anyway), and I would hiss and spit like a cornered cat.

When he would finally – finally – say something, it wouldn’t be what I wanted to hear. It wouldn’t be what I needed to hear. No…by then he would be so upset that he would just yell back at me. And then I would yell, but a little less loudly, and before too long we would return to a state of relative calm – until the next time.

As Emerson explains, we act out in gender-specific ways in an effort to communicate our deeper need for love or respect from our partner. One of the worst things, then — one of the most hurtful — is to say to your partner “I don’t love you” or “I don’t respect you.” That was a powerful reminder…and a rebuke. When I heard that, I was so hurt at the memory of hearing “I don’t love you”…and ashamed at the memory of saying “I don’t respect you.” But the damage, he says, is not irreparable between two good-willed people.

And you know what? He’s right.

It isn’t such a big deal if Brian forgets to call or do something that I asked him, because I remember that it is a mistake. He didn’t deliberately not call me, or ignore a request to say “I don’t love you;” he just…forgot. And Brian doesn’t close himself off when I slip up and snap at him; he knows that I am not saying “I don’t respect you,” but that I’m human and not always on my best behavior. And while it hurts to recall that we once treated each other so poorly, by continually reaffirming our true feelings and being mindful of one another we have made a complete 180 in our relationship together.

And that’s what we’ll share at our session tonight. We’re not wrong, just different, and we’re learning how to work together.