Things That Are Floating My October Boat

 

She’s here. The very best month of the year. The heat starts to break, the leaves start to fall, and I get to drag all my Halloween decorations out of the box. I used to make a day of it. I used to bake and leisurely decide where to place all the things, but now there’s a new element in that equation. The element’s name is Jane. And she does not give one hoot about my day of baking and organized decorating.

She prefers to throw open the boxes with great zeal, and toss everything around the house willy nilly. A spider on the door handle? Sure. A paper ghost made in pre-k propped up in the fireplace right next to a real candle? Let’s live dangerously. A witch on the counter-top next to the Gatorade box? Even better.

I wouldn’t trade it. Not for all the slow-paced decorating days in the world. That little whirlwind of a girl makes this house a home. Not the decorations. Not the baking. Her enthusiasm and happy spirit is what gives these four walls their joy. Gone are the days of magazine-ready rooms, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

So far we’re packing a lot into this month. The three of us made a day trip to Frenchtown, New Jersey, and all I can say is, “Here, hold my drool cup while a take some more pictures.” I first heard of it because that’s where Elizabeth Gilbert hails from. But when I looked at photos online, and figured out it was only an hour away, we loaded into the car for a quick day trip. So worth it. It’s a quaint village located on the Delaware River, right beside Pennsylvania. We walked through the shops and the streets, and paused by a house with purple shutters while someone inside played the “Mario Brothers” theme song loudly on their piano. It’s a funky little community and so much eye candy for house-stalkers like myself.

 

Speaking of house stalking, this big guy is for sale. We liked it okay. I kid. I kid. We loved it so much we posed in front of it, and then I used the zoom on my iphone camera to try and see inside the windows. This thing has Hallmark October Movie Set written all over it.

We ate at a local Mexican restaurant, which was a DELIGHT to this southern girl because fellas, the north is not impressing me much with this particular branch of food. BUT, this little town has a good place located in the basement of a shop that did their burritos up right.

Something else that’s giving me so much October joy is this sweet piece of art my sister made for me. She made one for my other sister that’s equally amazing. She does all kinds of custom art and you can find her here. 

And lastly, but certainly not least, Jane fractured her wrist. So I’ll go on record that that was NOT floating my boat this month. Hearing her thump-thump-thump fall from the top of the basement stairs shaved at least five years off my life. But this picture? This picture floats my boat. This was my girl pre-cast, straight out of the ER, dancing her heart out to “I Put a Spell On You.” This picture sums up my baby. A heart full of joy, even in the face of rough times. I tip my hat to her. I want to BE more like her.

So that’s what floats my boat. Halloween decorations. Quaint little New Jersey river towns. Fun art. And Jane.

Happy October indeed.

 

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Remember

I wrote a little something on Facebook, which was initially supposed to be just a small blurb about this awesome house I saw/stalked (people are so touchy when you stand outside for prolonged periods of time with your camera). But funny things happen when you’re writing, sometimes it’s like tapping an underground spring, and before you know it things just come bubbling up and out. I’m sharing it again, here.

So here’s a cheers to the untapped springs. Here’s a cheers to each of us climbing over the boulders and the hills. Here’s a cheers to learning to love yourself for what was already deep inside, but just forgotten. Here’s a cheers to remembering…

House

In my life I’ve spent a good deal of time feeling unclear about a lot of things. People, decisions, relationships, work. I’ve also felt unclear and murky about who I am. I’ve felt insecure. I’ve felt that others feelings were somehow more valid than my own. I’ve felt that if others were unhappy, or mad, or disapproving, then my emotional state had to reflect that. I’ve felt confused and depressed, but lately I’m coming out of a fog I wasn’t even aware was there until recently. I see so clearly, all of a sudden. I feel like God herself came down to give me this epiphany. I am not in charge of anyone else. I cannot make anyone else love me. I cannot look to anyone else to make me feel secure or good. We’re all driving our own trains, passing through this life under our own steam. I came in alone, and I’m heading out alone. It’s just me. And God. And I have to do what I do to be who I am, and take all that encompasses being Liz out of the box I shoved her into. That’s no one else’s fault. I owe myself that apology. And it’s my job to unpack my soul, to stretch my legs and remember myself. What a blessed relief.

It was getting awfully dark and tight in the box.

Anyway, this weekend I saw this house in Frenchtown, NJ. And lately as I’ve allowed myself to ponder questions like, “Wait do I really like this?” Or, “Wait, does that really sound fun? Or, “Wait, that doesn’t seem right to me.” I stood in front of this house and had a moment of total clarity. From my earliest memory I have always loved a spooky looking Victorian house. Always. Not with a regular love. With an all-encompassing passion. Like a “if I snuck inside to live there how long before the owners notice” kind of devotion. And when I was little I always believed that one day I would live in one and fix it up.

As I was standing in front of this house, a cold breeze on my face and a few raindrops coming down, admiring the star light fixture on the front porch, my daughter yelled, “Wow!!! Look at that one, Mom! I bet the Grand High Witch lives there!”

And I grinned so hard and so wide I was afraid I might break my jaw. Because while I lost myself for a while, and finding myself has felt like an epic battle, I’m back. All that I packed away years ago didn’t rust or disintegrate. I still love this season, and I still plan to live in a house like this one day, and I wake up in the mornings looking forward to the sun and what could happen. I want to hug the old me. I want to say, “I’m so sorry I didn’t take very good care of you, but look! Look at that house. Remember all the things you love? We’re going to go find them again.”

Remember who you are. Remember what you love. Remember to pray to whatever you believe in because there is power out there.

And it feels great to step out of the box and stretch free again. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

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.

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.

 

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