Light Vs. Dark

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I’ve had a lot of dark weeks in teaching, but this one has been midnight all the way around. One of the biggest stressors of this job is that it’s an unspoken rule that we can’t talk about the sadness around us publicly, so for the next couple of months I will continue to abide by that code. Those stories aren’t mine to tell, really. Instead, I want to rehash life’s oldest story: light versus darkness.

My parents live in the middle of nowhere and the darkness in their little cabin is bone-chilling. But that’s not even the darkest it could be. There are still little sprinkles of light here and there: their land is against a parkway, they have neighbors, and they, of course, didn’t give up the luxury of the moon. It could be much, much darker.

I am a believer in God as the creator of this universe. The Ruler of Everything knew straight away: this Earth needs some light. Pronto. I sometimes try to imagine exactly how dark it was in the beginning. No occasional headlights. No beacons from 100 yards away. No moon. Just darkness.

And we’ve been fighting darkness ever since, never realizing how much darkness we’ve actually been spared from.

I’ve been fighting darkness tooth and nail this week. I hate anything self-congratulatory but for the sake of this narrative, I want you to know that I have purposefully and boldly looked for little corners of darkness and thought of ways to bring the light. Reaching out to coworkers when it makes my introvert heart uneasy, bringing gifts in to brighten people’s days, and organizing a prayer time to bring a little hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. All completely uncomfortable to me, but I felt strongly I could fight the dark and maybe just win.

I guess I never considered that when you fight something, it might just fight you back.

***

 

Brandon has had to be out of town a lot lately, and while I know how to hold the fort down, it throws a wrench into the natural flow of our life. I have a lot of trouble sleeping when he’s gone. Part of it is an irrational fear that I will oversleep or not hear Novella if she wakes up. It’s a bit Ludacris because I am the one who wakes up with every cough and cry, and the one who wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and opens this house for business. But last night was especially hard because my heart was heavy enough for the things around me, plus he was hours away with a super early flight and I am never not worried about him oversleeping. He’s an amazing man and husband and much adultier than I, but waking up is his kryptonite.

I set my alarm knowing I would only get a few hours of sleep and all night had fever dreams of wolves and tornadoes and weird, random people from my past entering my classroom. I woke up around 4 and called him to make sure he was awake (he was) and then just sat and stared, hoping to cat nap before showering, but I just couldn’t seem to shake the awakeness, and so I eventually stumbled to the coffee pot, got myself ready, and went outside to put my bajillion bags in the car before waking Novella.

This was at 6:31 and I wish I had the forethought to take a picture of the sky, but in my bones I felt: girl, please just stay at home. I immediately dismissed the feeling and thought: no, I have visitors coming in for first block, I have that prayer to go to. Not today, Satan.

Went back inside and got Novella ready in record time. As I was changing her, I felt incredibly hot and so I took my temperature. Y’all I never get fevers, but my temp was 101 on multiple readings. I felt ok other than being really hot. And see, it was like 60 last night so we didn’t have the heat on…all very strange, but also explained the weird dreams. Either way, I said I feel fine and I am going to school.

She bounced to the front door and opened it and oh my gosh. It was like a blizzard appeared out of nowhere. I’d already set the alarm, so I rushed to turn it off and then ran to get her hat and gloves.

Dropped her off, went to school, so glad we had the prayer together.

Visitors came and went. Kids were crazy for a bit.

Took my temp again and it was fine.

I made the big mistake of saying ok, everything’s fine. I got prepped for the rest of my day and was actually very excited. Ironically, one of my coworkers told me she’d had a great morning and was doing everything she could to keep that vibe, and so I jumped on that train.

My Honors kids have a project due tomorrow, so many of them came to me during what is like our study hall. I was working with them all fighting being overwhelmed with so.many.questions. We have ADT and so I got a notification that someone was at our front door. I normally ignore these alerts, but we had no packages scheduled, B is out of town…so I checked.

I opened it up and I could see a live picture of someone standing at my front door, on the phone, and my front door was wide open.

I can’t begin to explain the fear, confusion…I called my boss and I don’t remember what I said, but something to the effect of I think my house is being robbed right now. I told my kids I had an emergency and their concern was Novella so I showed them the video I was watching, all live, of what I now know was my neighbor standing at my open front door.

I called the police and asked them to meet me at home. I made the commute back home not knowing what I would walk into, and could only think this was somehow my fault. There are a lot of details and mysteries to this story (like why did the alarm never go off and why did the cameras not pick up motion until this point…like not even the trash pickup), but we walked through the house and nothing was touched. If I had to guess, I would say in all of the fluster and buster of leaving in the snow, I didn’t latch nor lock the door…I may have even left it open.

The neighbor came by and told me a red truck pulled into her driveway, backed out, and then sped away. We really don’t know what happened. But that alerted her to realize my door was open.

***

I thought I might take a little nap before picking Novella up around the corner from our house. My soul was finally started to settle because y’all: I was shook.

I wasn’t greedy with my nap. I turned on Frasier and set my alarm for maybe 40 minutes later. The alarm was just about to do its thing when POP! There was a pop so loud, I actually checked to make sure I hadn’t just been shot (keep in mind, I was ‘sleep!) Turns out, something blew in our tv and that good ole bulky girl finally met her maker.

I promptly left to pick up Novella where she ran to me and said with a grin: “I hit my teachers today!” And her teacher told me: “She hasn’t just been a little rebellious today; she hasn’t been herself at all.” Novella has had some bad days, but never once has anyone said this. I explained to her what a bizarre day it has been for me in about 30 seconds.

***

As we were leaving, I noticed they put up a new board and it said: “This week, we are learning about darkness and light.”

And so, tomorrow a bunch of littles will learn about this again while the bigs do just the same.

Leaving to Stay

I love writing and I love teaching writing. But one thing that always crushes my soul is trying to tell my students how to start off what they want to write ahem…the introduction. It’s easy enough if they’re typing- I say go ahead and just start writing and then add your intro later. Unfortunately, we haven’t figured a decent solution to taking state-mandated tests on the internets, so they are forced to write on paper for now…and that makes it difficult to go back and add the intro later. All of this to say…I have no idea where to even start with this week or last few weeks or months, even.

I guess I’ll start in September, when one of my dearest friends came to visit. ‘Twas a beautiful weekend, not only in the time well-spent, but the sun enveloped us in a way that only a sunny September Saturday could. And I had 3 panic attacks that weekend. Worst of all, in doing all things that l love- hiking with mountain views. Watching Saturday football with a good drink. Eating cheesecake. I was restless and uneasy, and all of it was because of variables associated with my job.

So, on panic attack #3, she asked me the simplest question, but one that would change my life: “Without thinking, what do you think it would take to make you…stop panicking all the damn time?”

“I want to be at home,” I said. And the whole world lifted, and I mean lifted, from my shoulders.

The thing is, choosing to stay at home, or admitting you want to stay at home, or really anything associated with choosing one way or another are so controversial no matter what the stance. For the record, I have also chosen to work (outside the home, if I’m being politically correct) for the last three years. You wonder what your choices say about you as a person. And people wonder what your choices say about them. And if you talk about your choices, then, well, people wonder if you’re making some sort of commentary on their choices.

And because it’s so controversial, I’m not even comfortable talking in depth about why I had to make this choice right now, but I want you to know…this is the definitive plan for our family right now, sprinkled with signs from above in every step.

Minutes, and I mean minutes, after I said those words out loud, one of my lifelong friends texted me and told me she is also staying at home for a little while (I am also only planning on this for a couple of years).

I went home that afternoon like the cat who ate the canary, dying to tell B what I wanted to do, but also completely terrified. When I finally let it out, he said: “I think this is the best plan for our family.” I told him what my fears were, and he said he would take care of those specifics. Without any further prompting, he did. And I am so grateful for him in a brand new way.

This doesn’t mean that it’s all hikes by the lake, Saturday vibes, and cheesecake. I am heartbroken and unearthed in leaving teaching right now. Being a teacher has defined me in a way I could have never imagined, all the while disarming me. It’s hard for me to imagine that things will go on without me. But they most certainly will.

What it boils down to, for me, right now, in this lot, is: where can I make the biggest impact? For now, that means quite literally my own backyard. In some ways I feel like a failure that I can only focus there right now. So many women in my profession are amazing in handling the demands of teaching and parenting flawlessly. I am not one of those women lately.

I don’t want the grass to grow beneath my feet. My vision for the next few years of our family life doesn’t mean a lot of Netflix-watching. I have dreams of opening a little preschool/ homeschool. Maybe I’ll write more. Maybe I’ll google recipes on how to fix crow because I am definitely eating a lot of it now. Maybe we will perfect dance of routine, maybe we’ll skate through each day.

I’ve worked for as long as I could, so the thought of anything else is a foreign land. But this much I know: I’ve always been scared to go places I’ve never been, but never once disappointed that I did.

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

No need for random blogger comment. I am who I am; I write when the fancy strikes. I can’t insert the cry-laughing emoji here which makes me realize I overuse that little effer way too much; I don’t even know how to function in digital conversation without him.

One of my go-to favorite bloggers is Modern Mrs. Darcy and she does this much-needed list every winter about what’s saving her life in the winter months. I can’t think of a single person that’s like: “By golly, I love that lull in winter after Christmas and before spring- matter of fact, it’s my favorite season!” We all seem to detest it. But you know what’s weird? If this season just suddenly disappeared, I would be off-kilter and frankly a bit angry.

Every bit of this life is part of a perfect plan.

We need this time of hopelessness to find the joy in hope.

And so, these are the things saving my life right now:

Whatever’s On Your Mind This song. I am approaching major changes in my life; I swear, I will talk about it when I can. But my mind in this climate is almost a recipe for implosion. “Please hold onto your heart of gold while you struggle against the cold. You keep dragging that heavy load- just let go! Whatever’s on your mind, just let go.” This is my winter anthem and has been so true for so many times of trial. Which were all, coincidentally, in the winter time. Gah.

Warm Blankets  I think we all have things we can’t resist buying. My middle sister buys candles. My youngest sister buys antiques. I buy blankets. It’s such a simple joy, but on the days I long to be in my little house, (other than my people) it’s the blankets that I miss the most. While perusing Target today, I saw for the first time the coziest outdoor blanket, and it took everything in me to say: just wait. They will have their outdoor sale day soon. It’s coming. Don’t you ever buy anything at the Target full price. Wait!

Twinkle Lights Yes, Mrs. Darcy said this too, but oh my lort! We have had so many nights with nothing lighting our cozy little living room but two strands of twinkle lights. Truthfully, I’ve been living that Hygge life for a few years, but twinkle lights are the latest attraction in this blissful nest.

Scrubs Other than The Office, this is my most quotable show. We recently discovered that it’s on Hulu on it has been, in one hyphenated word, game-changing. So crazy to think that it was ten years ago that I discovered, post-surgery- also- doped-up, this gem. I realized that week that I could never take a single pain pill again while completely sympathizing with those who innocently find themselves addicted to pain pills. Because of this, I made it one complete post-op without a single pharmaceutical relief, and the worst childbirth and recovery imaginable with maybe three of those delightful little suckers. All this to say: Scrubs is crazy funny, but it took being doped up to truly appreciate it. And then I realized, I don’t have to ever be doped up as long as that and The Office are readily available. Scrubs is my accidental pain-reliever, always and forever.

Scandinavian Decor Something about all the white, all the little houses, all the white little candles…it makes things feel a bit cleaner when everything feels so sludgy.

Text Messages (OK, Granny. I’m about to talk about you and maybe kind of be you for a minute.) It hardly seems possible that it’s been almost seven years since my Granny died and we cleaned out her house and the fiftyish years of possessions. For a variety of reasons, I was the only grandchild that was able to be there to clean out their house. We cleaned out an entire life in one day, and my God, that’s another story for another day. It was oddly such a cathartic day, but there was so much debate on what to save and what should go, especially with varying degrees of sentimentality.

I somehow ended up with all of the cards and letters. Truthfully, I wanted all of the vintage pictures on the cards, but I ended up discovering this huge treasure months later when I sat down with those cards: letters between my Granny and her best friend extending over ten plus years.

Imagine how much work that took. Imagine sitting down with your feelings at the end of the week and deciding what was important enough to immortalize and what could simply be tossed aside. Thankfully, I don’t have to do that. Because text messaging.

OK, texting has been a thing for me for over a decade, but I’ve recently come to appreciate its simple beauty. I can text my best friends and say whatever the hell I need to say. Sometimes it’s the little funnies in life, while sometimes it’s the big sads. I can text my parents random thoughts and anecdotes about my daughter. I can have full, meaningless meaningful conversations with my sisters. Sometimes a simple text changes everything. Sure, it comes with its own challenges…but even those challenges can be resolved within a few hours.

I cannot imagine a world in which I’d have to wait a week for a response…and that was with a good friend.

The Greatest Showman Soundtrack I am so in love and borderline obsessed with this movie. About to go see it for the third time. But since I cannot live my life in a movie theater (if only! The popcorn!), we listen to this soundtrack on repeat all day every day. I hope to God the day never comes when one of my loves proclaims they’re tired of this album. It’s our glorious winter song. We bust out the drums and dance like (dear God, please) no one is watching. We all have our favorite songs, and our usual lullabies have been replaced with “Amelia Dreams” (God love her little heart, Novella thinks this song is about me!) and “Never Enough.” It’s nothing short of magic.

These are just a few things saving my life in a dreaded winter. I found out this afternoon that my district is getting few sick days, and I am still processing that

Waiting With Love

One of my guilty pleasures includes salivating over other people’s homes. I follow every designer (and people like me who just genuinely love decorating and creating a home) imaginable. I could never quite peg down my own personal style, but I just know that if I see it and I love it, that’s my style. If I’m unsure about something I see in a store, my rule is to give it 24 hours, imagine it in our (rather small) space, find a place for it, and then go back. On occasion, the item is gone, and I have to accept it was never mine.

There are a lot of philosophies in design and decor, but the one I struggle with the most is the idea that you have to commit to one scheme (in color and general style). To me, homes tell a story. I have a lot of pieces that are just that: a story. Like, over the summer my girlfriend and I were at a small design boutique in Birmingham, and I found this navy elephant, trunk proudly pointed upward as if it were about to sing out. I had to get it. Because at that point in Novella’s life, she constantly did these elephant impressions and this figurine symbolized a time in our life that I knew I wanted to freeze forever. (I also made up a little song about her elephant impressions, but it’s too silly and sacred to share outside of our humble home.)

And so, every year I scroll through Instagram and I see all these trees and flirt with the idea of a perfect matching tree. I’m completely in love with the buffalo check trend and Scandavian and gold and silver and (the Holy Grail of all designer tree right now:) the perfect flocked tree.

Yet, every year I go back to just-my-regular-ole tree. I hardly ever buy ornaments (other decor is a different story). Because, the thing is, our Christmas tree represents the tiny bit of our own history we’ve been able to preserve. Every single thing I pull out of those boxes has its own little story. We have childhood relics mixed with 16 years (is that for real?!) of marriage. And just like life goes, some of these are perpetually happy memories, while some sting a little.

Tree 2017
Our new living room is so cozy, this is the furthest away I could get away from the tree to get a full picture. Also, I let the two year old decorate it and haven’t changed it because why.

We are one month from Christmas, and a more ambitious version of myself aspires to write a story about a month’s worth of ornaments in an attempt to preserve our history even further. But, I also don’t want to be another blogger that makes empty promises (you know the type! Also, I am that type.)

Maybe I’ll make that goal, maybe I won’t. But I feel a definite tug to talk about this ornament. I can’t say for sure why. Maybe someone needs to hear this story. Maybe it was the latest episode of This Is Us that made me so weak remembering this story. Maybe it’s because things are coming even more full circle as Novella asks probing questions that we don’t always know how to answer.

This ornament is five years old, its message short-lived, yet this is the only time I’ve wrestled with maybe not hanging it up. But, it’s our story. Our tree tells a story, and I’ve never thrown a single ornament away.

Waiting Ornament

I often forget that not everyone who reads this has known me as long as I’ve known myself. So, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint even where to begin with this story. Here goes it:

The biggest part of my life story thus far is that we were hopelessly infertile for the first thirteen years of our marriage. That’s a great big story on its own. We went through the ringer in testing and ultimately were left with the option of IVF or nothing at the end of 2011. We pursued that through May 2012, but a large ruptured ovarian cyst left us at a crossroad. I felt very strongly that my reproductive health was in jeopardy on its own and just couldn’t stomach the idea of adding hormones/ injections/ retrievals/ transfers into the mix. At the time, I was completely devoted to my physical health (I hope to get back to that point again soon) and it all felt counterintuitive and unnatural.

The night before Mother’s Day 2012, we decided to adopt from Russia.

That was the best Mother’s Day I could remember at that point. I was going to be a mom. I drove myself to Green Hills in Nashville and indulged in all the champagne and cupcakes they were offering to moms out solo-shopping. I opened my heart to what were ordinary treasures to regular moms: bedding at Pottery Barn Kids, sales at Gap Baby, puppets in a specialty store. We were finally on our way, and it felt oh-so-good to dream with a heart wide open.

The months that passed felt magical and special. I remember being in a state of absolute bliss. I felt like my heart could just explode sometimes. We went to classes and more classes and they told us lots of cautionary tales of foreign adoption but we felt strongly that we could overcome any obstacle because honestly, who really can predict the nature of parenthood beforehand?

We’d completed all of the necessary classes and designated my Christmas break as the time to start soliciting letters of recommendation. I remember the list of people we generated, and we were using the big guns in our life. We were still deciding on a fundraiser or three, but all of those details would be ironed out on Christmas break. I just had to make it to Christmas break. I was getting overwhelmed (we also decided to move across the state during this time) but…just make it to Christmas break.

I left school that first day of Christmas break. I was en route to our (required, ha!) staff Christmas party, donned in a festive red sweater and excited beyond belief to have this time. I remember the plans I had that afternoon clearly: I was going to grab some ornaments at Target for decorations around the house (remember, I don’t really buy them for our tree!) and then type some emails for requests regarding our adoption. I stopped to pump gas and that’s when everything changed.

I called B as I usually do when I leave work. I was standing at the pump, mindlessly clearing trash out of my car and telling him of my plans for the afternoon when he stopped me mid-sentence: “I wanted to not tell you this, but there’s a chance they are cutting off American adoptions in Russia. I didn’t think it would pass, but I think it might.”

I remember so clearly walking into that mandatory party and just sitting. So numb. It was the windiest day I can ever remember. That party was on the river and the cold chill begged to pierce my face, but I just walked on through it, feeling nothing but the chill that already resided in my bones.

I didn’t go to Target after that. I drove to Walgreens and rented that movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green from the Redbox.  I remember crying the whole way through, and then dropping to my knees when it was over and begging to the Lord Please let me be a mom. And then: If this is not Your will, please don’t let me suffer wondering. Tell me.

I said it, but I didn’t mean it. I didn’t want anything to be true. But with one deep breath, I got onto my computer and checked the news, and there it was: Russia banned U.S. Adoptions.  It was five days before Christmas. Such a stark contrast between the day before.

This was so much more to us than a headline. In our minds, we already had a daughter. We were going to name her Kerigan. Everyone in our life knew this to be true. It was devastating. Everything else is enough to fill a novel and rightfully should.

***

It’s actually hard to believe that was only five years ago. It feels like a lifetime ago, considering God did grant all of my wishes that night. We have our little Novella, and I pinch myself every day, but enough to leave a bruise during this magical season.

***

This was the first year I truly considered not adorning the tree, our tangible history, with this ornament. I can’t say for sure why. It’s hard to relive this story, sure. But it’s harder to explain it in simplistic terms.

This morning I awoke to find that very same ornament on the floor. At first, I thought it to be a sign of removal.

But then, I spent the whole day with Novella doing all the stuff of dreams of yore. From start to finish, the day was like the movie I always imagined in my mind when I dared myself to imagine any part of motherhood at all: we cuddled in bed this morning, then she asked if we could go see the Christmas tree. We watched a Christmas movie, and she said: “This is so great! This is really great!” She managed to paint a whole cup of yogurt on her face, prompting her to take a bath. In the bath, she painted (with bath paints, a total lifesaver) a triangular blob and said, “Look mommy! It’s our family! That’s Daddy, that’s you, that’s me, and that’s Bruce!” He’s been gone 5 months but she still readily recognizes him as a member of our family. We got dressed for her pictures and when I presented her with a dollar necklace to wear she said, “Oh, I’m so ‘cited for today!” We went to the mall and got her pictures made, and she was a little superstar. She got a little play cookie set with money she’s been saving from her grandparents and great-grandparents and said, “I can’t wait to make cookies for you and Daddy!” We drove past Aldi and she said, “There’s Aldi! We need to call Griffin and tell him!” because we talked about Aldi yesterday and Griffin doesn’t believe in Aldi, apparently. We got home and played and made up a new game called Circle Ball.

Novella 2017 Christmas 1

Even with everything we’ve endured, it’s easy to take all of this for granted.

I don’t think the ornament on the floor was meant to say, “Throw this away and forget.” I think it was meant to say: “Keep this and don’t you ever forget.”

I’m a mom. Brandon’s a dad. That’s really something.

10/28 Coffee Date

coffee

 

Happy Saturday to you! This mid-afternoon coffee date comes to you from rainy Knoxville at the end of an insane week! Today, I’m drinking again from my French press (pictured above) and I added a little Frosted Sugar Cookie creamer. Novella and I were going to venture to Sam’s and Target today, but it’s rainy and cold and we are recovering from being sick, so I opted to use Instacart grocery delivery. In a little while, we are going to whip up some chili, homemade macaroni and cheese, and brownies. I’m quite excited for this because we’re going to wear our matching aprons my mom made us!

 

Novella apron
She insisted on wearing this all around the mall. I don’t blame her; it’s gorgeous!

 

 

B is out of town in Clarksville today for the second time this week which leads me to my first topic: we are selling our Clarksville home. It’s just time. We held onto it for a multitude of reasons, but we always said we would know when it’s the right time to let it go and that time is definitely now. I am hoping to make some changes to our life in the near future, and one of my stipulations is that we get that house sold. Just as I was starting to doubt myself and plans, our tenants messaged and asked if they could get out of their lease a little early. It felt like divine intervention (although I actually believe every little thing is just that). So, he’s there today making a list of all the necessary repairs, including the roof. Eeek.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little nervous about the whole process. I’ve never sold a house before, and we haven’t lived in this house for over four years. I have little to no emotional attachment to it, but I know it’s going to be expensive on the front end, and we’ve already sunk quite a bit of money into our current home.

Butttttt…our renovations are almost done. There of course are some cosmetic things that need to be done. I swear when it’s all done, I will outline the whole process. But, let me say this: if there were no drama in this reno stuff, HGTV shows would be like 5 minutes long. Tops.I’d say the biggest hiccup for us is that it has taken so.much.longer than I thought it would. To be fair to us, dude said it would be a week. Well, we are embarking on our second weekend without anything to sit on but our beds (and kitchen table) and although I’m an extremely patient person, I’ve lost it a few times.

 

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Mostly because we all got really sick this week. I guess it was a virus. I hate that word because there’s nothing you can do about it. I went down first. Then B. Then Novella at 1 am. It was especially disastrous because what could we really do to relax? We had workers in our home (and they were working in our room that day) and nowhere to lay our heads. I had to stay at my sister’s house for two days! I’m so thankful to have family here. Otherwise, we would’ve had to stay in a hotel during the day, and I would hate to fork over that money because, ya know, opportunity costs! That’s two new faucets!

Speaking of…

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Since people have been in the house and I want to keep her away from the actual construction site that is our home, I’ve been taking Novella out in the afternoons either walking or shopping, or sometimes both. Well, the other day we went to a salvage place and I was in awe of some of the prices, so I started snapping some pictures. As I took a picture of the sink, I turned around to find my little darling bare-bottomed and attempting to use one of these potties.

 

This really has been such an adventurous week! I am not a big change-monger, yet here I am! For me, starting is the difficult part. I’ve learned a lot about myself and our little family over this last week. Maybe it’s something I’ve always known, but we are so much better when we’re working together- when we have clear visions and goals, but must adapt and change along the way. I named this blog “C is for curveball” because it’s the one thing I know to be sure about this life- it will always throw you curveballs.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween weekend!

 

 

halloween
One of my shelves, before we started demo. Ha!

 

Coffee Date, 10/15

Are we really mid-October?

I’m a day late on this coffee date.

Last night, I sat down to type a few things out, but as I did my middle school BFF, honorary sister, and one the keepers of my heart texted me and I just love talking to her.

The older we get, the more we need the people we knew when we were young.

Danielle has been my family for, no lie, 25 years. I cannot believe I am old enough to say that I have kept a treasure of my heart for that long, but here we are. I met her in the weirdest of ways- when my family moved to Clarksville, Tennessee in 1992, we moved into her old house. We were in fourth grade. It’s a long story, obviously a lot of twists and turns that go into navigating elementary, middle (!), high, college, early adulthood, actual adulthood…I just cannot imagine a world in which we don’t have each other.

But the point is, we hadn’t talked in two weeks, and sometimes nothing happens in two weeks, and sometimes everything happens in two weeks.

Sometimes that everything is nothing to most people, like when your kids get sick. Sometimes it just means that someone like Tom Petty died.

Tom Petty was so much to Danielle and me.

And so we texted about our sick kids, and all the frustration and humor that goes along with that, when she said, “I have been meaning to ask you, you know about Tom Petty, right? You and I used to wear him out!”

You know, last year my parents moved away to their hometown, on land previously inhabited by my dad’s family. It’s amazing to dwell in your own history; Danielle and I… we feel our history slipping away daily. We don’t know who lives in that house on Dewitt Drive. I know that I could flip to “Just As I Am” on page 307 of the Baptist Hymnal, but our beloved church is gone. Our high school is hardly recognizable.

Tom Petty was home for us. He was a zip tie to our parents in those cliche teenage years.

Danielle’s sweet Mama died 15 years ago.

Here is a list, non-comprehensive, of our Tom Petty songs. There are some that extend beyond our friendship, but this is what Tom Petty meant to us:

“Last Dance With Mary Jane” OK, so…I remember very vividly when this album came out, and I played this album on repeat for at least a decade afterward, but I have to tell a (now) funny story about this song. We were maybe in 8th grade when this album dropped (of course no one said “dropped” back then, ha!) My sweet mom won tickets from the radio station to this show. As I said, Tom Petty was life to my family. But we were all very active in our church; our church was also life to us back then. In hindsight, it makes my heart so smile to think about my parents indulging in a night out in Nashville, listening to Tom Petty sans kids, and having fun. Wellllll, it was apparently the scandal of the century at our church. Who knows how anyone even knew they “attended” this concert, but since this was the flagship song of this (*AMAZING*) album, my parents caught so much heat for this concert.

“I Won’t Back Down” (Note: this is Jason Aldean’s performance on SNL after the Las Vegas tragedy; he was the performer when those 59 lives were lost; I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute to turmoil). Don’t let that previous anecdote fool you. If there was a song that could ever represent one person, this song would represent my dad. As a teen, of course, I did not always love this. But the minute I eased into adulthood and took notice its dynamic nature, I truly appreciate anyone that can stick to their beliefs, no matter how unpopular they are.

“Free Fallin'” Did you know this song is exactly the same four chords over and over? I once played guitar and can play all the Tom Petty hits and “Someone Like You” by Rod Stewart, ha! This song is the anthem of our youth, but I have a distinct memory of listening to this song with Danielle’s mom (Mama J, as I called her partly as a joke that just…stuck) driving down Memorial Drive in that Ford Ranger. It was a rough day at Richview Middle…but we played some air drums, air guitar, and vocals. All was well for roughly three minutes. (WHY DO WE NOT MAKE VIDEOS LIKE THIS ANYMORE?!?)

“Into the Great Wide Open” This whole album was quintessential for our middle school years, but what I remember most is that our friend Kylie’s brother Heath thought this song said “A pebble without a tune.” !!!! I will never forget this!!!! (side note: hearing Tom Petty’s voice on this chills me.) ((Side, side note: oh heeey Johnny Depp!!!))

“Time to Move On” Oh My Gah. Talk about history. When we were seniors in high school, I made the hardest decision of my life and decided not to go to college with the rest of our core group. There were so many factors: my (then) 11-year-old brother was battling leukemia. I had decided to get married, a decision that catapulted me into adulthood in a way I couldn’t quite grasp then, and truthfully don’t always grasp even 16 years later. This was before you could burn CDs or make playlists on all the platforms we can now…I will never forget the sadness of sending my friends off from Danielle’s driveway, and we made a pact to listen to this song and “Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac all day that day. I listened to “Time To Move On” probably 100 times that day.

Broken skyline

which way to love land

which way to something better

which way to forgiveness

which way do I go?

It’s amazing that roughly seventeen years later, when everything is different, everything feels the same.

 

Coffee Date, 10/08

We haven’t had a coffee date in a month! I’m very much on a French press kick right now. I am 35 and honestly had no idea what it was or how to use it until this very month. It’s life-changing. Like, if there’s a coffee shop in Heaven (*crosses fingers) this is what it would taste like. I’m in love.

So, lately things in my life have gotten very interesting. I can’t say much about much, but I am looking to really broaden my horizons, especially in exercising creativity. Our renovations have reached a lull, but Novella is going to my parents next week for fall break, so we’re hoping to pick up some momentum. I really envy people that have the forethought to take pictures of these types of things. I would make a terrible home blogger. I’m already a terrible just-because blogger. Ha!

OK, so if we were having coffee, I’d insist that you try my new boo, the French Press at my scattered home. I’m trying to give off a hygge vibe, so you can imagine…it will look and smell like I robbed a Bath and Body Works. And in the background, we’ll be listening to Tom Petty because that’s what I’ve been listening to nonstop. Here’s what I’d probably talk to you about:

I know it’s silly to be this sad about a celebrity dying. I know it. But I am. Monday was rough. I had like a fever dream and woke up early to notifications on my phone about the Las Vegas shooting. It felt very much like a bad dream. I tried to go back to sleep, but my stomach kept churning and I got physically ill. The whole day felt incredibly off. It’s also just impossible to teach seventh graders empathy in these situations; they are desensitized to these things. I don’t remember being that way. The Oklahoma City bombing happened when I was also in seventh grade, and I distinctly remember a lingering sadness. (Maybe in great part to the musical montages they would play on the radio.) But, Tom Petty dying is something exclusive from Vegas, yet it feels like I have to explain why I am so impacted by this loss. Tom Petty wrote the soundtrack to my life. Growing up, he was the one thing my entire family could agree on. Never once did we all collectively moan, “Nooooo, Dad…not Tom Petty again.” Instead, we wanted to hear him over and over and over again. On rewind, no less.

I am having a rough school year. There’s no way we’d have coffee and that wouldn’t come up. It’s not impossible to pinpoint the root of the problem, but today I swear I turned a corner. No small feat on the Friday before a weeklong break, but I am at peace for the first time in nine weeks. It’s not because of the break; it’s because I finally see the results of some serious blood, sweat, and a whole whole lot of tears. At one point, I considered ducking into the large closet in my room and crying. Luckily, I’ve never lost my sense of humor or vivid imagination. And so, I started fancying the idea of residing in said closet and acting like the Wizardess of C. Middle with exclusive and impossible accessibility.

This is in no way bragging or self-congratulatory, but it needs to be said: teachers, don’t underestimate your value and impact. I’ve went back and forth on whether or not to mention this, but transparency always wins in my book. I’ve always prided myself in the connections I have with my kids. I had a lull a few years ago, but other than that, I can honestly say the relationships I develop with my kids are far more relevant to me than any test scores. I think I may have already said this, but I have been straight up grieving the loss of the day-to-day relationships with my “last year’s kids.”

Well, I guess I kind of forgot that those relationships didn’t happen overnight. So, I had my “this year’s” students do a quick write to let me know how this school year is going, and the responses floored me. You just cannot imagine what you mean as a teacher to kids. Their responses are personal, and I won’t share them, but they will propel me through May. It won’t always be easy, but I can do it.

It’s really hard to be a working mom. And that’s been a huge culprit in my current state. I simply cannot be the mom I want to be and the teacher that I want to be. I’ve been really wrestling with this lately, and I know something will always suffer in some form or fashion. These conversations are always jarring. I straddle the fence as a teacher because I am home a lot. For me (and this is just me!), life is easier when I’m home. For everyone. This article drove home what I’ve been articulating to my closest friends. I am the keeper at home, and then I’m the keeper for the 90 students I see daily, and (often times) their parents too.

I’ve also been thinking about this gem as well. Again, I want to exercise my creative muscles far more than I have, oh since the invention of the internet? I am always, always, longing for simpler times in my soul, and for me, it begins with creativity.

I guess that’s a lot for me to talk about, and it would take hours for me to go through this whole dialogue! I am excited for this Fall Break! What would you talk to me about on our coffee date? What are you drinking?

 

 

Coffee Date, 9/01

If we got coffee this week, I assure you I’d get a Pumpkin Spiced Latte. I got zero problems admitting that. And suffice to say that will probably be true until Thanksgiving. Ahhhh, I can just feel fall coming, and I cannot freaking wait! I know I’m a walking stereotype (in leggings nonetheless), but I cannot care! So, here’s what I would probably talk to you about this week:

Well, first off, I’d probably tell you that I feel like I’m cheating on my husband by drinking said PSL. Because we’re doing the whole low-carb/ keto thing. I’m truly doing it because that’s what he wants to do, and we eat from the same grocery cart. I’m pretty over diets in general. As I mentioned before, I’ve done all the diets. And I mean allllll the diets. Keto freaks me out. Not so much the “no carb” aspect, but I have to make a conscious effort to get in veggies. The first week went pretty well (other than I for real did have Starbucks today). Energy is okay-ish. I guess if I had to offer any advice, it would be: keep it super simple the first week. I made a big ole pot of green beans on Sunday, shredded a buncha chicken, portioned out salads, got some broccoli ready, and decided this is not the week to brush up on my culinary skills. We had a lot of those green beans and some pre-made meatballs pretty much every night. The first week is all about getting into the swing of things. In the upcoming week, I will branch out a little more. Also, I miss pizza.

I hate potty training. I don’t even know if you can call what we’re doing “potty training.” I know there are so many methods to this, none of which I can fully grasp. We’re basically in a practice holding pattern. It was all good until my sweet little girl messed all over the only 5×8 rug in our house. I had the good sense to not take a picture, haha. It was freaking terrible. And also kind of hilarious because she’s in an intense bossy phase, so as I am literally biting my lip, she’s saying, “Hey! Mommy! Clean up my poop!” Um, heck nah. I’m hesitant to recount this- I’m super modest in my public persona (whatever that means), but more people need to talk about the fact that this crap (literally) cuz when you’re in this boat…you need to know this is a very real and disgusting possibility!

About a month ago, in the midst of the dog days of teacher summer, I embarked on a very important goal: to watch every single episode of The Real Housewives of New York City available on HuluI’m proud to report that I am almost there, guys. But also, I need to know…how can I access the seasons not available? I need to see Lu and Tom and more Bethenny! I know there’s gotta be a loophole to get me there without paying for cable. (I am not opposed to stealing your mama’s login to Bravo. I have no shame in this mission.) I really want to thank my close group of “work friends” for respecting this sacred time in my life and of course my husband for watching this mess with me and then even “catching up” after I went to bed. That’s love, y’all.

Y’all our house looks totally different! I cannot wait to really show everyone the progress. It’s incredible. Since my last post, B pulled up all of the giant hedges and even a dead tree. (A la Paul Bunyon, so don’t revoke his man card in watching RHONY with me.) We were hoping to paint the door and cedar siding tomorrow, but if you’re paying any attention, you know it’s raining a lot in these parts.

Speaking of, I cannot stop thinking about this piece. I’ve followed her blog for as long as I can remember. I don’t know that I knew she lives in Houston, but either way…she’s already gained a lot of national attention for her writing, but I’m truly praying that everyone reads this. It’s so easy to lose perspective in such disasters. We are so desensitized from information overload that we can no longer discern what’s important and what’s not- we’re slowly losing that human element, the thing that connects us the most. Seriously…please read this. It was such a game-changer for me.

I am pretty jazzed about this weekend, other than the aforementioned potty training. Novella requested a trip to the library, Ima surprise her with a trip to her best friend’s house…y’all I really want a date night. Either way, tell me what you would tell me on a coffee date!

Coffee Date 8/26

Happy Saturday! I actually had to hold off on coffee this week. Last night, I did the responsible thing and went to bed at a decent hour. It was all in preparation for battle, as I knew this weekend would be a little taxing. More on that below. So, if we were going to coffee today, I would probably insist on you coming to my house and drinking hot tea. It’s unfortunate that I was on the way to becoming a tea-aficionado right in time for Teavana to announce its departure. I am borderline obsessed with their Lavender Cream blend, and now I’m faced with a potentially-life-altering-decision: Do I spend $2,000 and buy out their entire supply, or do I just move on?

Either way, I still have roughly two ounces on hand, and I would love for you to come over and sample some! Here’s what I would gab about for this week:

Life is supa crazy around here. Last week I told you that we were on the way to fixing thangs around here. At the time, we didn’t even have a quote. Well, now we’ve officially started renovations and there was no fooling around! We ripped the front deck out, moved the front door to the other side of the living room, creating the need for new shingles, new drywall, and a new porch. All of those have been completed over the course of this week! And when I say “we” I mean we paid someone to do this. It’s not completed yet; I will share those details and befores and afters once the whole thing is completed. So, we’ve been living in a construction site for the last few days which is an adventure on its own, but we also have that little two-year-old to manage.

We are potty training. No Macarthur Genius Grants coming this way. Who decides to potty train in such living conditions? Well, her teacher told me she’s been acting “ready,” and since she spends way more time with Novella than I do, I trust her judgment. She said we could wait until Monday and then start, but I guess I wanted to be part of the process. Around 10 this morning, I had regrets about this decision. But when she got like a milliliter of pee in the potty,  I was thrilled to celebrate with her. So, we’re having a weekend exclusively at home- playing games, giving pedis, watching movies, and going to the potty every 30 minutes. My bladder has never been so empty.

I was kind of underwhelmed by the eclipse. OK, it was kinda cool. But considering how much people talked about the eclipse leading up to the eclipse, the eclipse itself was like maybe 2 minutes here and we didn’t have totality so we were like, “Is that it?” I feel bad saying that because so many people were flabbergasted by it. The biggest “WOW” factor for me was the cicadas. Oh, and the whole town was like a ghost town. I know this because we took advantage of the day off by running errands. My dad gave a great review of the whole ordeal.

I am so obsessed with Richard Rohr. I first heard him on a podcast in June, and now I just can’t get enough of him. He’s a Franciscan priest, it’s kind of hard to sum him up. His theology closely matches my own, and he says things I’ve intuitively felt but couldn’t quite articulate. I’ve been listening to his book Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Second Half of Life. But I would suggest not listening to the book, but instead reading it the old fashioned way so you can highlight and flag it.

So, I guess that’s it for this lovely Saturday! Since we are trapped inside, I’ve got a fresh plate of pumpkin muffins out of the oven and chicken for tacos in the crockpot. Don’t tell me it’s not fall yet!

Coffee Date, 8/19

Full Confession: I am writing this on 8/18 with the notion that you’ll read this on 8/19.

A couple of weeks ago, my parents were here rescuing us from yet another child care crisis, and my mom asked me: “Do you still have a blog?” Yes, I do. I envy those who post on the daily. I just don’t always have that much to say.

So, last (school) year I did “Links That Think” and I want to get back in that habit. But I also really like this idea that I see on a few sites: a hypothetical coffee date. What would I say to you if we had like 2-3 hours (what a dream!) to grab a coffee and catch up? What are the highlights of my life, and (more importantly) what are yours? I had a sentence or two typed out blaming the need for this conversation in print on modern times, but really…it’s like being a pen pal or having a notebook in which you passed notes to a select few friends in seventh grade.

If we had coffee, I’d sit in the back corner and listen to music until you got there. It’s August 19 and hot as Hades, but I’m longing for fall days. So, I’d try to order a #basicB PSL and then opt for a Skinny Vanilla because I am never not obsessing over calories. You sit down with a ______________ and ask me what’s new, and this is what I would tell you:

Our Dog Bruce died. I’m just so sad about it. I don’t know how to explain it. I keep meaning to write about it, but everytime I start, I go back to those moments. I have been through so much ish in my life, and I really can’t remember a moment of absolute sadness like that one. The grief is confusing. B is sadder than me. Six weeks have passed, and life just went on. That’s the saddest part. Well, that and the gut-wrenching notion that it’s just over. When you have a dog, you know they will die. German Shepherds’ life expectancy is 11-13 years. Bruce was 11.5, so he was right on track. We thought he’d be here for at least 5 more years. I have a horrible habit of thinking that rules don’t apply to me.

It’s time that I cannot reconcile. How is it over? How did 11.5 years just slip by us? I know how crazy it sounds, but I swear it was just yesterday…

I am so obsessed with this songC’mon. I don’t listen to the radio, have no idea if this song is a top 40. I don’t care. We all have that person. Her vocals. The soul. It’s almost too much.

I made a Command Center. Out of Peg Board. And I love that ish so much. I need as much organization in my life as possible. In the basket below it,  I have notebooks upon notebooks, and yes I use them all for different things. It works for me. Yeah, I have a spreadsheet or two…but pen to paper is where it’s at for me. So, I buy good pens and pretty notebooks. I would love to source them all, but they come from random places like Sam’s clearance aisle (actually my best find) and Hobby Lobby’s like Dollar Spot. I don’t know what it’s called, but they have unusually cute things, including a 3 pack notebook bundle for $3.  I am actually most in love with the calendar I got at Target. I guess erbody loved it cuz I don’t see it on the website, but here’s the same one-ish in a different pattern. Here’s my Command Center:

Command Center

We finnin’ ta fix thangs So, we were going to venture to Brooklyn over Fall Break, but we decided to invest that money into our humble abode. We have so many projects to do around here that it often feels impossible. Well, we broke thangs down and it’s completely manageable re: time and money. So, we are hoping to start phase 1 over Fall Break! I’m pretty stoked about it…I actually read in Better Homes & Gardens (my second Bible) that three years is the best time frame to live in a house before changing things up, so I guess we’re right on track.

I don’t know what to call this, but I love it. I’ve been cataloging images from magazines via Elmer’s Glue Sticks into my favorite notebook…I guess it’s like Pinterest in retrospect. It’s an oddly satisfying way to spend my free time, but it makes me crazy happy.

I love this phase in Novella’s life. I suppose every parent who’s ever been here could say the same, but what an amazing time! She says the funniest, most innocent, and insanely insightful things. Like, when we say prayers every night, she says “amen” in unison and then turns to me and says, “Thank you Mommy for the deeeeeener.” The best nights are when she says every item on her plate.

I hate to end our coffee date here, but such is life!