I’m Vine

So we moved to New Jersey. It happened. We are all still alive and the only casualty was a Target bookshelf, but who is ever really surprised when particle board gives up the ghost?

It’s so strange to hear birds again, and know when it’s raining. I’ve found that when you live on the 9th floor in NYC you kind of aren’t aware of weather. Or maybe it’s just because the sound of the 7 train and sirens were so loud I developed the inability to hear anything.

All that to say, it’s so nice here.

But the vines ya’ll. The vines.

There were seven, SEVEN, trumpet vines on the property. Trunk-like trees growing on other trees, growing onto each other, and growing onto the house.

Jane, on the other hand, was super inspired and began to draw house portraits and all things incorporating beautiful vines. When we began to take them down she said, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT THEY’RE SO PRETTY.”

But meanwhile Fayez and I were frantically trying to pull them off the house and chop down roots the size of my body. These things mean business. We’ve likely lost a tree in the backyard and part of the front porch. And in the footsteps of so many home buyers before us, we were left asking so many questions. But mostly, WHY? Were they trying to recreate the Jungle Book in miniature? Were they cool with termites invading the vine covered front porch? These things we may never know, but we do know that Fayez is super good with a hand saw, and the beer fridge in the basement is an excellent ally during a major house crisis.

In other news I did the terrible, terrible thing of telling Jane to watch out for Blue-jays because sometimes they peck people. She decided to take caution to the extreme and it was awhile before I could get her to un-clinch her little paw from her Frozen umbrella.

But before anyone feels too terrible awful for her, know that the next day she woke me up like this.  In my first moments of roused consciousness I thought perhaps the childhood angel of death was visiting me, but no. Jane was merely doing her best Little Edie impression and stated seriously, “I washed up on the shore with no clothes on, so I made this outfit for myself. I’m from Australia.”

But despite the vines and the blue-jay debacle, it’s so good to live here. I am starting to see why New Jersey is called “The Garden State” because everything grows here. It’s almost like the soil comes with a little bit of magic in it.

If the trumpet vines and their magic-bean-stalk-ing are any indication, it just might.

I spray painted something for the first time since before Jane was born. It felt good.

And then I framed a photo of my favorite place on earth, Grotto Spring in Eureka Springs. My sister and I took a trip there this summer and it was one of my happiest moments.

And then there’s decorating. I sort of put the entire thing in hiatus during our two years in the city. The apartment was full, and all I really cared about was organization and throwing things away.

But now, there’s time and space for decorating again and it’s nice. So many things have shifted for me in the past six years or so. I used to feel I needed to paint every wall and plan big decorating projects. Not so much now. For one hot minute I thought about stenciling an accent wall in the dining room and then I thought, “Nah, this is fine.”

And also, meet our gold chandelier, Dolly. She’s gold, she’s over the top, and just like her namesake, so sparkly. I considered replacing her but it felt like betrayal. So she’s our new family member now.

So that’s the update from the world’s very worst blogger. But I’m still here. I’m still alive and kicking in New Jersey.

I’m vine.

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All the Good Stuff

Ya’ll. Boy am I ever bogged down with the news. And bogged down with Facebook folks discussing politics and wielding the phrase “I’ll pray for you” like a big stick. I could write a whole post on it. I could write a whole post on how much I feel dismayed and discouraged by the Republican party masquerading as the voice of Christianity (and if it’s true Christianity then I gotta pick another name for myself). I could write that post, but I’m not going to.

I’m going to write a post about good stuff. Happy things. And not because I’ve got my head stuck in the ground, but because I can’t live there all the time. I can’t live in panic/horror/news-watching mode. I have to live in other joyful places too, where the good stuff is. Like this path I walked down the other day. I got to be alive, and walk through it, and literally smell the roses. It’s good to be alive. These good things help me remember that.

We took a trip to Vermont. I have no words for that state. It reminds me of the Ozarks, minus hot weather and mosquitoes. It reminds me of Colorado with its residents marching to the beat of the their own drums. Lilac bushes taller than my head, babbling brooks, clear lakes, old farm houses, and the best thing of all… CHEESE. It’s basically the mother-ship.

 

I found a recipe on Pinterest for Mediterranean lemon chicken and while the picture looked phenomenal I still raised my eyebrow in a “fool me twice shame on me” thought process because you guys, Pinterest recipes have done me all kinds of wrong in the past. But I give this recipe two thumbs up, especially for summertime dinners.

This is a tree in our neighborhood. It has eyes. Like, it actually feels like she’s winking at me as I walk past. I don’t know about you, but I love a good eye-tree.

This rug. I bought it. It has purple in it. So many stories here. I’ll stick with three.

One, if you haven’t heard of USA Rugs all I can say is GET on it.

Two, I have loved every shade of purple since I was a little girl, and half my closet is purple, and my birth stone is amethyst, and suddenly it does not make any sense that I’ve never decorated with it. I’m not planning to go full-on Purple Rain or anything, but this color is life.

Three, my love of decorating is returning. I spent so many years obsessing about decor and painting things and buying things and then one day I realized I was using my love of decorating to hide from my sadness. Decorating had gone from being a fulfilling hobby to a reason to live, and I realized I wanted to try life without that crutch. Don’t get me wrong, I still work on my house, but not in the same way. I feel the feelings instead of redecorating a room. But slowly and surely my love has returned in non-crutch mode. I love a pretty house, but at the end of the day I also expect my living room to be a place where I can sack out when I have the flu. A pretty room that can host a flu epidemic: stuff of dreams.

Lastly, this. Just everything about it. I was walking along and then there it was, some cheerful chalk art nowhere near a playground. Midway between school drop off and grocery errands there it was, happy little ground art. It’s good stuff like this. Chalk art, and trees with eyes, and a purple rug that makes your inner child stand up and cheer. This is the stuff that can easily be overlooked, and get lost in the churning tide of bad politics and scary times.

But don’t let it. Take a picture of it. Make a journal. Do whatever you have to do to keep your head above water and remember all the good stuff.

Maybe you’re able to do that with a happy spirit.

Maybe you’re only able to do it through persistent defiance.

Either way, do it anyway.

 

Balloon Face Maneuvers

 

I was working on a recent freelance project and it involved digging around under my bed and finding an old photo. As I shuffled through boxes, I found a stack of Polaroids that I took when I was 11 years old. And that’s where I found this jewel. It was also timely and eerie, as I had just unknowingly reenacted almost exactly the same scenario some 26 years later.

That’s my youngest sister, Rachel, sitting in my mom’s lap like a pleasant baby Buddha. My middle sister, Rebecca,  is cropped out of the frame because apparently I was holding a grudge against her that day and she was dead to me. Probably because she wrote her name over and over on the first ten pages of my favorite Romona Quimby book.

Who am I kidding. That grudge still holds.

I remember being distinctly disappointed that my mother would not let me take her picture. I thought she was being a super bad sport and not being very supportive of my photography goals.

But there she is. My mom. She probably hadn’t bathed. Or been out of the house. She’d probably gotten a dozen glasses of water, and cleaned a dozen diapers, and wanted desperately to run screaming down the street. And when I came around with my Polaroid camera, she did what any of us would do. She grabbed the nearest object, held it in front of her non-washed-non-toothbrushed-non-makeup face so that her state of drudge wasn’t captured for immortal posterity.

As I examined this photo, my heart twisted in a feeling of complete comradeship because I, like her, had not brushed my teeth or washed my hair that day. I’d drug out a handful of gigantic dust bunnies when I disturbed the photo bins under the bed, and those things were the size of small kittens as they threw shade on my housekeeping skills. There was nothing to cook for dinner, and I hadn’t gotten out of yoga pants for a full week. Not only that, but Jane’s deflating birthday balloons were floating around the house and tripping me, that is, when Jane wasn’t using them to try and rub static in my hair.

Jane has also developed a penchant for photography, which entails her stealing my phone and taking random selfies of her dolls, herself, herself with her dolls, and me at my absolute worst “underneath the chin” angles.

I remember a movie where Bette Middler screamed “NEVER FROM THE LEFT” at photographers and somehow, now, monitoring the angles with which I am photographed seems much less diva and much more wise.

All that to say, Jane was snapping away, and my only defense was a nearby birthday balloon. So like mother, like daughter, I shielded myself as best I knew how.

 

But as Jane kept snapping and laughing and yelling “but your face isn’t too bad today” I realized that I don’t really care that much. And my own mom really didn’t care that much. It’s no secret that the reality of most of our faces bears no similarities to the make-up-filtered ones we put on Instagram.  But some days all we can do is silent protest with a balloon and then wait until we’re alone so we can shove some chocolate in our faces without being asked by someone who’s voice sounds like just a chipmunk on helium, “CAN I HAVE SOME TOO?”

 

I wanted to call and apologize to my mom all over again. Everyone jokes about their crazy mothers. I think that’s fairly universal, but truthfully, there is no way to become a parent and retain full sanity. It leaks out of your ears like dribbles of rational thought fleeing a demilitarized zone. And you’re just this person who used to go out for drinks and wear nice clothes but now you just wipe noses, or butts, or hands, and find yourself embroiled in an argument about whether broccoli is really just tiny fairy trees that bad men chop down.

I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything on the face of this earth. But there’s no way I’m getting out of this with full sanity.

Then, as I continued my search, I found this jewel. We were in Eureka Springs, perched on a park bench and trying to eat a snack. My dad and mom were wearing matching shirts (theoretically so we could find them in a crowd), and their faces say two different things.

Mom: “I’m only here in body form, but I’ll smile anyway.”

Dad: “Can I please just eat one last meal without that Polaroid in my face while sweat rolls down my back and can I just die now thanks.”

Oh parents. I am so sorry. I am so sorry that we aged you and exhausted you and stressed you, and still, somehow, you managed not to kill us. Despite the baby-pack-sweaty-vacations and the balloon-face afternoons, we’re all still here and functioning and alive.

It gives me hope, as I type this and have a very sweaty strange bun on top of my head (growing out short hair is the pits), and I’m not sure whether I’ve shaved my legs in at least a week But I feel like I’ll make it. As I type this and wish for a magical house elf to prepare dinner, and ponder garnering the energy to finish out the 11th chapter on a writing project that never seems to end, and then sit down at the coffee table to muster the proper enthusiasm for homework and maybe, if I’m still conscious, a fairy-art project, I know that everyone in this apartment is going to get out of this week alive. And that’s called success.

Even if it requires less-than flattering photos and balloon-face maneuvers.

I’m Here! I’m Here!


The spring has gotten away from me. Today I was literally kicking my way through thickly pink carpeted sidewalks (pink petals on the ground make me go a little bit Maria-Sound-of-Music in the brain), and realized I haven’t posted on here in forever.

I’ve been busy writing articles over at First Security Bank’s website, Only In Arkansas.
I’m excited every time I finish one, but this one ya’ll. This one is the closest one to my heart. So if you have time head over and check it out. And for now I’m going to be skipping through the spring-overflowing sidewalks of Queens.

Life, Here, Now.

It’s been a whirlwind of cold weather, rain, antibiotics, and coughing. At one point I was traversing Penn Station (because that place is nuts on the best of days, and traversing is the kindest word I can think of). I rounded a corner and came face to face with a homeless man who felt deeply that he needed to belch directly into my face, and I responded by coughing loudly, and he jumped back and yelled, “Cheeseburgers!” That exchange pretty much sums up last week.

But this morning I took a walk. My medication is working, and I can breathe, and the weather is finally hinting at spring. The birds were chirping and the car honking was minimal and I found a magic tree with roots covered in shells.

That’s the thing about living in this city. The good days feel extra good, unlike good days anywhere else. You could be strolling with a bag full of groceries, say hi to someone you know, grab a coffee, and see the Chrysler Building on the skyline and think, “Wow, I actually live here.” But then there are the other days, the feverish sick days with dirty subways, freezing rainy weather, and belching-in-the-face-run-ins and you think, “I’m not gonna make it.”

Life in this city is a life of extremes.

So on these days, the days of beautiful weather and magical trees, I soak it up. I store it up in my brain for the days that aren’t so magic. The days where a bus flies by and sprays me with a tsunami of dirty street water (truth, happened, but the guy in front of me got it worse). I soak up all the park adventures with Jane so I can survive the days when a tiny old man spits a giant snot-ball on my new boots (truth, happened, I cried). Because that’s the thing I never realized until I moved here. This city is all the things. It’s beautiful and inspiring, it’s dirty and intimidating, it’s magic and exhausting.

But then again, that’s life in a nutshell. It’s magic trees and “cheeseburgers” and springtime and antibiotics. It’s the thrill of racing with the bulls and the simultaneous terror of a leg cramp.

I’m thankful to be part of all of it. This city. This life.

Minus the snot-balls.

 

Social Media Moss

You know that saying ” a rolling stone gathers no moss?” Well, where it concerns this blog, and my social media hustle, my social media landscape is covered with green stuff. I’ve got so much moss that Martha Stewart could gather it for 1000 terrariums containing adorable snails and red toadstools.

I’ve slowed down. Way down. I went through a lot of personal stuff and went to ground. I had no book coming out, so I quit the hustle. I’ve been blogging and into social media for over 10 years and while I was once full of life, sprinty, running inside the pack, waving a flag, springing lightly in my athletic shoes… I got old. I got slow. I got tired. I got rude comments and weird twitter followers and the rose-gold finish on social media wore down to an icky gray color.

But now I’ve had a nice long break. I’m still not sprint-with-the-pack ready. I don’t care for algorithms and I have no idea how many people even read this blog anymore. But there’s a difference between being laid back and letting the whole operation fall into total disrepair. So, with that said, I’m trying to straighten things out to at least an old lady presentable state. I don’t mind not sprinting with the pack, but I would like a pair of serviceable shoes and a water bottle for a stroll by the lake.

I started an author page on Facebook. I wiped the cobwebs off Twitter. I started a public Instagram account. All of these can be found on my side bar as well.

On a fantastic side note, my best friend sent me a pair of Golden Girl leggings for my birthday. I can confidently say I will survive until spring now. It was always my dream to be part of the Golden Girls, and now I get to wear them. It’s the next best thing. Because let’s face it, I’ve been Old Lady Liz for a long time.

And now Old Lady Liz is dipping her toe back into the social media waters.

And since I just referred to myself in the third person, I’m taking that as a clear sign I need to break and go get some lunch.

Yes to bacon, hold the moss.

Spicy 5th Avenue Chandelier Day

Jane woke up the other morning out of sorts. She was teary eyed and asking to stay home. I realize that a lot of mothers would say “suck it up” and send the kid anyway because in all likelihood, they’re getting played. But Jane has always been the eternal dose of morning sunshine in our house. She usually springs out of bed, dresses herself (which is a creative endeavor that I don’t usually interfere with unless it involves more than three patterns), and gives out hugs.

Clearly, she needed a mental health day.

We took our time with breakfast, and watched cartoons, and then we took the train to 5th Avenue. I needed to return some ill-thought-out Anthropologie sale purchases. We saw Jenna Bush, and while I’ve been in New York long enough to be calm about famous people, I still couldn’t help myself and snapped a picture. I like Jenna.

 

Afterward we wandered into Free People, and when Jane spotted the chandeliers she paused, and stated loudly, “WOW. Look at those spicy chandeliers. I bet they cost a lot of cheese.”

Then she proceeded to pull a dress off the rack and exclaim, “NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL FASHION.”

Again, a phrase never before passed from my lips.

From there we moved on to the windows at Saks. While examining an Alexander McQueen dress I asked her, “Isn’t that beautiful?” And she shook her head and said, “I think they overdid it.”

Clearly, Jane is barreling toward the age of 15 far more quickly than I ever imagined.

On our way back to the subway we passed an all-men choir practicing outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“Why are there no girls?” she asked, arms crossed.

“Sometimes choirs have all girls, and sometimes they’re all boys, and sometimes they’re both,” I explained.

“They need girls,” she responded.

I decided to change the subject to something less gender-inflamed, and pointed to St. Patrick’s and said, “Someday you’ll read books by a man named Fitzgerald. He got married here.”

She gazed up at the church, frowned, and said, “Well, I’m not getting married here. I’m going to have a dog.”

Then we visited American Girl, bought a doll outfit that cost more than my returned Anthropologie shirts, went home and Jane created her own choir where everyone was welcome, complete with dogs and stage lights.

It seems like she has some solid life plans.

Spicy chandeliers.

Lots of cheese.

Singing.

Dogs.

 

P.S. I’m dipping my toe back into social media maintenance and have a public Facebook page now. It’s a good place to contact me for now, or keep up with the other places I’m writing these days. Come say hi here. 

 

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