Thursday, May 19, 2016

From Little Children Learn

I'm no self-help writer or anything, but while traveling a couple of weeks ago, I nailed down one tricky little way to increase your faith in humanity:

Take a toddler to an airport.

On my various trips wading through airports and flying with a baby, I have been awed by the emotional encouragement strangers have invested in me and my child, ready at any moment to help as I wrestled with the demands common to traveling alone with a kid--

The kind old couple sharing our five hour flight who held six month old Halle, though she screamed with separation anxiety, so I could use the restroom.

The exotic looking woman with flame red hair, rough tan skin, and fading tattoos who stopped to say, "God bless you."

The peppy flight attendants who learn Halle's name and repeat it throughout the flight, making her smile.

The business man who simply gave me a smile as I chased her up the airplane aisle for a fifth time, her little legs taking her anywhere but her seat.

The people who have let her crawl on them and play with their stuff, chew on their bracelets or watch movies on their laptops, who have smiled and waved and played peekaboo when they really wanted to read or sleep.

Most recently, at 9:00 p.m. in a Chicago Midway airport gate waiting to board our final flight home, I found myself laughing to tears along with thirty other tired and disheveled travelers as we watched little Halle stumble around like Jack Sparrow on her new walking legs, going from stranger to stranger to show them her most prized possession: her belly button. In a moment of willing vulnerability, the crowd laughed together as we watched this carefree toddler roam, assured and proud of her belly.

These are people caught in the weariness of travel, the gray layers of an airport, and yet the kindness emerges in ways that give me the most tender of feelings for these people. Taking a toddler to an airport has not discouraged me, but shown me the power of innocence to encourage good.

...And now, on a less formal note, pictures from our visit! A dreamy afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

The girl loves to show off her belly button:

She refused to touch the grass with her hands, and every time she began to fall forward, she would throw those hands back, tighten her abs, and scrunch up her nose in concentration, determined to defy gravity.



Forget her belly button, Halle found out her finger fits perfectly in her nose...



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Stripped: To the soul who found my grocery list

The other day as I was unloading groceries into my car, the wind picked up my grocery list and carried it into the sky in a whir of motion. I watched the white paper against the storm clouds flit at an impressive pace across the parking lot, rising toward the city buildings beyond the street. The paper rode so high I watched it sail for what seemed like a mile at least. I stood by my empty grocery cart, bewitched. (Really. The baby was chillin' in her car seat, the milk getting warm, and I'm just standing there all wind-blown, my mouth hanging open.) Who is going to find that? I thought, and then felt the sudden need to make sure I'd fully dressed.

If you are the innocent who stumbled on that list and read it, you know these things: I didn't get my sweet potatoes, black beans, granola, or eyeliner. You might wonder why some items were highlighted blue, others circled, and others with black dots next to them. The answer is that I often wonder this, too. Why did I circle the cremini mushrooms? Maybe you can tell me.

If you've read my list, you have definitely noticed that sometimes I just don't have time for vowels. You might assume I'm some healthy foodie because I buy nonfat plain yogurt and black strap molasses. But what you won't know is that I accidentally bought 10% milk fat Greek yogurt last time and I will now have to spend the next two months mixing it with the nonfat plain in an attempt to remain in my current pant size. You also won't know that the entire jar of molasses turned itself over while we slept, the stuff slithering over three shelves of food and under my fridge, where it still sits in a sticky pool, mocking me.

If you read my list and thought, "A female wrote this," you'd be right.

Once, back in my undergrad days, my boyfriend and his roommates found a shopping list on the ground inside the local grocery store, and its contents amused them so much they brought it home to display on the fridge. That list--its quirky spellings and obscure ingredients that I can no longer recall (mom brain)--popped up in conversations for months and I know we shed plump tears from laughter. Yet I remember even then feeling a little bit like I had trespassed.

If you discovered my flighty shopping list, know this: I felt naked as I watched it--two weeks worth of collection--slip away.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's a One Year Old!

Though she is nearly fifteen months old now, I still want to share some of the photos I took of my little Halle after she turned one, as well as some nursery details, since both are always changing. (Please forgive the many focus fails. Baby on the move!)

Halle is hilarious right now, and I'm doing my best to soak in this kid as she is in this very moment. I know phases at this stage of childhood enter and exit quickly and all could change the minute she wakes up from her nap, but right now the only thing annoying about her (ha, I can say that about my own kid, right?) is that she screams when she is frustrated (it's an art form she is exploring). Otherwise, she smiles and babbles constantly, gives kisses all day (with her mouth closed! huzzah!), says please in sign language whenever she needs something, waves "na-night" when we lay her down to sleep, plays happily by herself while I cook dinner (this was most definitely not our experience last week--phases!), and is teaching herself to walk, which she prefers to do in private while holding a T.V. remote. She brushes her hair, brushes Mama's hair, brushes Sonny Boy's tail, and I honestly get the butterflies regularly she is just so cute.

Besides comments about her big blue eyes, one of the most common phrases we hear about her is, "You've got yourself a serious baby." And we do, and we love it. She is her own authority, she has opinions, (The other day, before she would let me get her out of her crib after a nap, she pointed me around the room, directing clean up of any stray toys and books that had been missed before her nap. Serious.) and she has an inner stability that makes me proud.

She's a good one.

(Note to future, tired, fed-up self: you really did feel all the happy feels you wrote about above, Kels, you'll feel it again! Ha.)

(Note to those who think this sounds too perfect: she also pooped in the bath three times in two weeks.)



Parenthood has been good to us.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tip Me One Way, Internets

Today while the baby napped I

cleaned up breakfast
unloaded the dishwasher
started laundry
let the dog out
did my hair and make-up
painted my toe nails
super glued a broken mirror that had been waiting for days to be fixed
and entertained the thought, "I'm going to start a small business."

I brainstormed product, marketing, creative angles, colors. From task to task around the quiet house I floated on excitement. Then the baby woke up with pink eye and I thought, "Or not the business."

I do this constantly, swaying back and forth between lighting the torch for my own ventures and blanketing myself completely in the demands of being a mother to a toddler. My dreams ignite usually within the comforts of a clean home and a healthy family (and, let's be honest, a sleeping kid). Then one of us--and soon the rest of us--gets sick or injured or sad, and I fall behind on dinner prep and I didn't walk the dog and I feel so tired and I just want to watch Gilmore Girls and suddenly I could care less about my creative business. And I usually end up thinking, "How the heck does Joanna Gaines do it?"

My husband--awesome dude that he is--gives only encouragement. The only thing he asks is that I commit to my dreams and stop with the swaying. (And, to be transparent, to decide on a dream. I have a few.) You don't want to know how many blog post drafts I have sitting around, just waiting for a loving moment of focus to dot those i's, cross those t's, and get that cherry on top. (A real cherry. Maraschino who?)

This post doesn't get a cherry. (Or an edit. This is raw, y'all.) I don't even have a conclusion. I don't have a wise crack or a lesson learned or a sweet story reminding me how it will all work out. Instead, I'm writing this free form, mid sway. So, internets, what say you?

And, since this is a blog, a photo or few:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Aphorisms By Way of a DIY

If you've heard the TED talk by Liz Gilbert on the creative genius, you'll know what I mean when I say I've been hit by the genius--more than once, if you can believe it--regarding this blog post, every time in the most inconvenient of places, as it seems to go; which means I could not capture the genius. It got away. So instead I'm left with whatever I can force out, and you are left with what follows:

My husband and I received his parents' old oak dining table and chairs upon our move to Indiana--a beautiful set that had been in storage. I appreciated the craftsmanship, but in general I have never liked the oak color and so intended to refinish the table.

I never remember to take before pictures. We know this. This is the only picture I could find.
The big project finally happened, and immediately I have to declare that it is a very, very good thing I did not try to take on this project alone. I would have ended up with a half-sanded dismantled oak table and an ulcer. As it was, my parents came to town to help us move in and I'm left with a nearly perfect refinished oak table. (And a personal declaration that I will never again take on a "DIY" this big.)

About the nearly perfect: at the project finish line, I made a major mistake that resulted in my re-learning a few vital life principles. I have thought about these principles daily since the debut of le tableau des horreurs:

Pay attention to your instincts
Break rhythm
Ask questions
Slow down
It'll all work out

#1--The first is pretty obvious. Go with your gut, listen to Jiminy Cricket, and all other cliches about conscience. It's a real thing, y'all.

#2--However, in order to succeed at #1, you must succeed at #2, and this lesson was perhaps the most acute of all: break rhythm.

I am a dancer. I always will be, even if my body can no longer do what my soul wants it to. I am a pianist. Rhythm matters to me. My rhythm is a powerful force, causing my husband to get home from work and say, "You got how much done today?!" But it can also hurt me. Recently, my husband brought to my attention the need to get out of rhythm, to step back and consider. He said this as I was about to dig in to a giant bowl of ice cream that I knew before first bite I would regret. He told me that just because the ice cream was scooped, the spoon in hand, my mouth open, I did not have to eat the ice cream. I could simply put it back in the freezer for later. This is probably obvious to all of you, but I had a major paradigm shift. I am a committed person and a finisher. I plan to eat a bowl of ice cream, I follow through to the bowl being licked clean (okay, not quite, but you know) even as the little voices in my head (you guys have those too, right?) are frantically waving (apparently they also have arms) at me to stop, stop! you will regret this! while I squash them out with the sound of my train engine plowing (like this sentence) through my commitment. Are you exhausted yet? I didn't realize I was until I began to see in my daily routine where that drive and rhythm was not actually helping me.

Rhythm is important. Sometimes it needs breaking.

#3--Slow down. In order to break rhythm, you have to slow your thought processes down enough to acknowledge those little voices and decide if they need heeding. Deliberate and realize that just because you have committed to a thought in your head does not mean it cannot be reversed before it reaches your hands (or your mouth, as in the Case of the Ice Cream).

#4--As a help-meet to slowing down, ask questions. Doubt, wonder, contradict, reconfigure, ask some more. Be a gatherer of information.

#5--It'll all work out. God often sends you little hints to help make your life easier, but these do not determine absolute outcomes. (The heavenly messages that do are a different topic.)

By now you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with a giant solid wood dining table.

I'll spare you the details of the actual table transformation since this is not a how-to post, so let's fast forward--

past the sanding

(gotta keep that hair protected...)

 and staining

to the varnishing.

The evening before my parents' departure, we stood around the table admiring it. We had three coats of varnish applied to the table and it looked beautiful. It was complete. We had been working for six days on this thing. Yet in a moment of over-protective haste, we decided to add a fourth coat that night. Both my dad and I had the gut feeling to stop! put away the ice cream! you'll regret this! But we were in rhythm, our supplies handy. We were eager--my parents flew home the next morning. My dad is quite a handy man, and I didn't question.

So that night I added fourth coat of varnish by the light of the garage and a cell phone flashlight (are you cringing? you should be), unknowingly setting myself up for hours of extra reconstructive work.

The next morning we went out to check our work before my parents left town and discovered a bubbled, streaked, tacky mess.

All of our work over the last few days had been undone in one evening. Standing there filled with regret and disappointment, I recalled each feeling of warning from the night before. We would have to sand down to the earliest layer of varnish and try again.

But wait, wasn't my dad leaving? Yep. He gave me some instructions, a vote of confidence, and flew away with my mom to the other side of the country.

I spent the next two days sanding that baby back down to the second coat of varnish, wearing away all of my fingernails in the process. The perfectly smooth surface was irretrievable and I had to touch up some areas with more stain, but eventually it was prepped once again for the real final coat of varnish.

I think I held my breath with every stroke across that table.

Finally finished, with the flaws hidden enough to the ignorant eye, I was reminded that things work out. Sometimes you just have to change your expectations. It is strange that a table refinish can be so instrumental in my character development, but I'm glad for it. 

God is forgiving.

So is oak.

Thank goodness for sand paper, mineral spirits, and dads.

PS--If I ever break my word and refinish a table this big again, I need to remember:

Use two brushes when varnishing--one for each side. The brush gets too heavy with varnish.
Tape the hardware
Wear that mask when sanding. Gross!