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)

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.



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 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.

We’re terrible authority figures.

Brian and I were sitting in the kitchen the other night, and Tej (our beloved six-month-old-on-Tuesday kitten) was giving us our nightly workout. See, before we had him declawed he would get his workout by scaling my legs to make it to greater heights; now, though, he’s discovered that he doesn’t need front claws to gain traction — all he needs is a good strong pair of hind legs. So he jumps up everywhere he’s not supposed to be, to explore the sink and nap on the table and maybe sneak a drink out of the bamboo plant on the windowsill if he can get to it before we get to him.

He jumped for the fifth or maybe the seven hundredth time (math isn’t my strong suit), and I just really couldn’t be bothered to make Brian go after him again. When Brian gave me the “do I have to fetch him now?” look I said “no, just let him be…he isn’t hurting anything.”

Tej, encouraged by my passive acceptance of the situation, walked across the sink to the other counter where he found…the dish drainer. That was far enough for the evening’s journey apparently, because he plopped down there and hardly moved until we went upstairs for the night.

This, despite having a brand-new kitten bed less than three feet away. Kittens...they're like toddlers.

I mean, I know he’s not supposed to be in the dish drainer, but he’s just so damned cute that I can do little else besides throw up my hands and say “Okay, YOU WIN.”

His plan is working perfectly.

Flashback Friday

I was going to post this directly to Facebook…but then I thought better of it (not least of which because I’m convinced my brother will murder me). However, this is just too cute not to be shared.

Mom and I were going through her plastic tub of pictures from various points in the last 25 years, in search of wedding pictures and other snapshots of my grandparents for some master wedding plan in my head. As expected, we came across a plethora of fun and sometimes embarrassing pictures — some of which I want to share with you today. (No, I’m keeping the terrible hair pictures to myself.)

That darling little bundle of joy you see is moi — nearly 25 years ago! That’s my Grandpap holding me (Mom’s dad), and I can see the resemblance between the two of them. He’s been gone nearly 11 years and not a day goes by when I don’t miss him.



You should recognize me, and there’s my Grammy! Today she’s half the woman she was in this picture (thanks to clean living and a much better haircut), but she’s still one of my favorite people. Also, I’m pretty sure those are the glasses I wore in the fourth grade…


This picture cracks me up! For some reason somebody thought it would be a good idea to put us in laundry baskets (something another friend of mine tends to do on occasion…) — and to dress us alike — but I suppose the effect is rather adorable. I also think that’s the most innocent my brother has ever looked.

And finally…

Here I am at nine years old, in the fourth grade, which makes this Easter of 1996. If you zoom in on the picture…*gasp*! I think those really are my Grammy’s glasses! Fortunately, with the next pair of glasses my mom realized that I should probably start wearing more age-appropriate frames. I miss that hat and that sweater, though, especially since they prove that I did at one point have a sense of fashion. 😉

I like the occasional trip down memory lane, and these pictures, again, were just too cute not to show. Bubby, if you’re reading, please don’t kill me — you really do look adorable!

Read this if you’re old…

…or if somebody you know is old, and could stand to hear it from someone to whom they’ll actually listen.

Old people, you are becoming children all over again. This is merely a reflection, based on my observations of both children and old people. Several similar behaviors are evident, including an unwillingness to listen to reason and an extremely narrow and self-centered worldview. (Let’s not discuss the whole “diaper” component…) Children are wired to behave this way as a means of gradually understanding the world around them, in order to assimilate new information without suffering from sensory overload. They just don’t get that they are a piece of the whole, rather than its core.

Many elderly, however, behave this way (I think) out of a sense of fear — fear of becoming obsolete or of being trapped in a world that is, for many, no longer familiar. Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia no doubt play a large part in this type of response to the world, but by and large it’s a function of the narrowing of the known world. At a certain age the world stops expanding and, as one confronts the inevitability of death, contracts on itself until you, the elderly, are comfortably lodged in a bubble of beliefs and notions that remains impervious to outside influence — even when those notions are potentially more harmful to you than letting the world in could ever be.

The loss of independence is also a primary trigger of the fear response. Even if you have no idea where you are or have forgotten where you are supposed to be going, the thought of losing the fantasy of control is an unacceptable, painful suggestion that the world — your world — no longer needs your cooperation to function.

Lest all this pseudo-psychobabble seem foreign or ridiculous, let me move to the point of this little rant: Last month, I went to my cousin’s graduation party. Also invited was my grandmother from the other side of the family, she of the menorah debacle, because she attends my cousin’s church (and, of course, because she’s my family). I arrived to see my grandmother attempting to parallel park, in a spot that had more than enough room for her to get in and out. She couldn’t do it, though, so my mom jumped out of my car to go help her. There were other examples of her aging not so well throughout the party, but the kicker came when it was time for her to leave…

Small note: when my mom parked Grandma’s car, she put it directly in front of the house and left more than enough room on either end of the car for her to easily just cut the wheel and maneuver it out without constant adjustment. Apparently, Grandma slammed on the gas to reverse, then slammed on the brakes to avoid the car behind her by less than an inch. (Reminds me of driving school, really…) She then somehow managed to get out of the spot and back to her house, which I only know because we went over there to visit her. After she left, my mom’s cousin came over to us and commiserated: “She drives like that all the time at church…please tell [my father] to take her keys.”

So we told him. And he sighed and said that he knew it was coming. And he actually had the conversation with her, which was a little surprising to me…but then, as he told us, he decided not to demand that she give them up because “they’re a symbol of her independence.”

And there, dear old people, is where you really start to piss me off.

I get that you don’t want to feel like you’re sucking the lives out of the people around you with your needs and demands. I understand that it’s a point of pride for you to be able to drive around without a chauffeur, just as it is for the sixteen-year-old who is holding their very first license after years of waiting. However, if you are such a danger to the people around you that it’s safer for me to walk around barefoot in dark clothing in the worst parts of Cleveland at 3 am on a Saturday than it is for you to get behind the wheel of a car, then it’s time to do the wise adult thing and agree to hand over the keys. When your argument for continuing to drive is that your mother didn’t give it up until a judge ordered her to, you’ve already proven my point.

So please, please, take a step outside your bubble and think of the others whose lives you are putting at risk out of sheer stubbornness. It could be someone’s grandchild that you hit, or you could be the one to not make it — and while we all accept that we will lose our grandparents, that’s not the way we’d choose for you to go. Those in the middle generation, all of our parents who are now caring for their parents, take heed of this and be willing to take that stand. You’ll be doing the world a favor.