Thursday, November 29, 2012

Checking the Box on the Family Room

We finally finished our family room! There’s no story behind this space. It was yellow when we moved in. We painted it blue three months later and bought a couch, and then did practically nothing. The basement is finished, so we’ve been using that as our family room. Over Thanksgiving break, we decided enough was enough, so we knocked out the rest of the work. Thankfully, it wasn’t much.

This is the picture of the room from the realtor when we were looking at this house. The wall color is nice – the same as what’s in the kitchen and we kept it there – but it was a lot of yellow.

We snapped only two photos when the room was empty… 
and clearly didn’t do a great job with them.

After we painted and bought the couch, I focused on getting that end of the room presentable. There’s nothing fancy in this picture. The couch, rug, lamp, and little stepstool/table on the left are from Ikea. The end table, photo frame, yellow art, and pillows hail from Target. The frames on the wall (and the scrapbook paper in them) are from Michael’s, as are the flowers and vase. The moon on the left wall is from Crate+Barrel, and the basket holding blankets and pillows is from Bed Bath & Beyond.

The other end of the room is very plain; I don’t want a bunch of knickknacks taking up space. The dresser is Ikea, and that was actually the only thing we had to buy. The chair was my grandparents, we already had Christmas decorations and the tray table, and my dad gifted us with the plant a few weeks ago.

Just for fun – a panoramic shot. You can actually see part of our frame wall in this one : )

I really enjoy seeing our plans for these different rooms coming together. We’re not in a position to take on anything major right now, like the bathroom I dream of remodeling or the laundry room I envision us creating. But working from home this week was much more enjoyable is such a finished space. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

30 Days of Thankful

The “thing” to do this month on Facebook was to post something you’re thankful for each day. I know myself well enough to know I probably couldn’t sustain that kind of thing for 30 days.

Well, I could. I’m on Facebook all day – a perk of working in social media. But I’m honest, and I know that though I could, I wouldn’t.

But I can carve out a chunk of time on Thanksgiving morning, before we head out for brunch and golf and visiting and dinner, to write 30 things I’m thankful for.

What I’m Thankful For:
  1. That my faith in God hasn’t completely left me. When my mom died, I fully expected to be pissed at God, and believe me, I was. I still am. But I haven’t been so blinded by grief that I can’t see all the beauty that remains in the world and all the other blessings I have in my life. And I believe he’s responsible for much of it.
  2. My husband, who is a perfect fit for me. We’re definitely capable of some knock-down drag-out fights, but for the most part, we get each other. For nearly eight years, he’s been just what I need when I need it, and everything I ever wanted. He’s a rare find, and I’m thankful for him every day.
  3. Being raised by parents who were just in love with each other as they were with us kids. I never feared that we’d become a divorced family because it was so obvious that my parents were soul mates. The love in their eyes when they’d talk or dance or put up the Christmas tree or go to the grocery was visible. Growing up and even now, I see families breaking, but remembering all that my parents had is a daily reminder that “until death do us part” is possible.
  4. Having a brother who I genuinely love and enjoy spending time with. I don’t call or text him because I have to. I do because I think he’s smart, funny, and kind, and I adore him. Not all siblings are lucky enough to have this, but I know that if I need something, he’s there. And if he needs something, I’m there.
  5. A little dog named Lu. I can’t describe the joy she brings to my life. She’s rotten sometimes and she doesn’t listen very well, but I don’t care. There’s something special about a dog’s unconditional love. T and I say she’s the best thing we’ve ever brought into this house. Her little stubby dachshund legs are adorable too.
  6. Living where we live. This neighborhood wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice. Though our street is beautiful, we live fairly close to a rough part of town. I feel safe here though, and our neighbors are some of the kindest people we know. Driving the rough streets every morning as we head to work is a reminder to be grateful for all we’ve been blessed with; there are many other s – living just half a mile away – with so much less.
  7. Two strong legs. They make me mad when I put on skinny jeans because my quad muscles stick out in a way I hate. But these strong legs are why I can run a 5K, why I can still dance, why I can take Lu for a walk, and those are all wonderful things.
  8. Shrimp, garlic, chocolate, pasta, dough pretzels from The Mainstay Rock Bar, T’s famous burritos, Max & Erma’s cookies, macaroni and cheese, and 100 other foods I dream about regularly… because much of my time is spent thinking of food.
  9. Two little boys named Logan and Nolan. Logan was born three weeks after my mom died in the same hospital where she’d been. I cried in the hospital lobby when we went up to meet him. I didn’t think I could do it. But with support from T and our friend Joe, I got in the elevator. And as soon as I saw our friends and held their little boy, I forgot my pain. This little guy became a tiny, 7-lb. light in a world that was feeling very dark. And one month ago tomorrow, he was joined by little brother Nolan. The love I feel for these little guys is frightening. They’re not mine, but I’d still do anything to keep them from feeling any kind of pain. The love I have for them makes me believe that I could someday be a mother myself, in spite of the emotional wreck I sometimes am.
  10. Friends. Friends who you talk to only a few times a year when they’re home in Cincinnati, but you trust with your life. Friends who make time to listen, even when they’re juggling two sons, a crazy (but wonderful) husband, a job, a house renovation, and two enormous dogs. Friends who hear your mom has passed away and show up at your door with four pints of ice cream because they know you well enough to know you need to drown your sorrows in Graeters. Friends you work with, friends you coach with, and friends you drink with. Any and all friends.
  11. Mistakes. Because I’ve learned something from all of them.
  12. Ugg boots. Not because I wear them for style, but because they make awesome slippers and dog-walking shoes in the winter.
  13. My Grandma’s ability to face anything that’s thrown at her. She had three kids, and miscarried the fourth. Her husband (my mom’s father) died when he was 48. Her daughter died at 52. Her second husband, who she married when I was a baby, has broken both hips, his pelvis, suffered a brain aneurism, a heart attack, and a small stroke in just the last seven years. And she handles it all with grace.
  14. The opportunity to coach a college dance team. I never in a million years thought I’d be given this chance, and I certainly never thought I’d be asked to do it for six seasons. It’s not always easy, but it’s been worth it.
  15. Pinterest. Epic time waster. Provider of mind-blowing crafts.
  16. A father who, in the face of extreme adversity, rises and exemplifies perseverance.
  17. The simplicity of evenings at home. We come home from work and one of us straightens up while the other cooks dinner. And after we eat, we head either to the “man cave” basement or the family room where we watch TV or play games, snuggle up on the couch with Lu and just talk. I look forward to these evenings.
  18. The power of a great song. On a cold, dreary day, Coldplay just feels right. When I’m writing (particularly on a deadline), anything classical works. James Taylor is always appropriate. Spotify is fabulous.
  19. The way Rachel Dratch shows up in a lot of random movies and shows and always makes me laugh.
  20. Any opportunity to have my three boys together. It doesn’t matter if it’s for dinner or yardwork.
  21. The beauty of a piece of freshly-Swiffered furniture.
  22. My memory. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  23. A tradition my mom, grandma, and I had for years. We went to see six plays or musicals a year at the Aronoff Center. My mom and I would stop at McDonald’s for a quick lunch on our way to Grandma’s. We’d pick her up and head downtown. Before the show started, we’d buy chocolate-covered Oreos or pretzels in the lobby. And then we’d settle in and enjoy the show.
  24. A trip to see Frankie Valli, also with my mom and grandma. We screamed like groupies because who doesn’t love Frankie Valli? 
  25. Sleep. Generic, yes, but a good night’s sleep can fix a multitude of problems.
  26. Having an iPhone to kill time when I’m awkwardly waiting for someone.
  27. A pair of leopard-print pajamas from Target. They’re not really pretty, but they’re unbelievably comfortable. Those pjs + clean sheet night = heaven.
  28. Facebook and Twitter. Phenomenal time drain, but incredible for keeping people in touch. I’ve managed to reconnect with a number of old friends and acquaintances.
  29. Garden gnomes. For whatever reason, they make TJ happy, and therefore, they make me happy.
  30. Twenty-five years with my mom. She was and is everything.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Letter to Mom #3

Dear Mom,

Modern Family was great last night, and I wished you were watching it with me so we could talk about how awesomely dense Phil is.

I’ve done some cooking and baking lately, and I haven’t been awful. Remember when you’d watch me trying to bake and you’d give me feedback, which I’d promptly reject and get frustrated by? I’d give anything to have you fussing at me in the kitchen again, telling me you know a better way.

We’re approaching serious holiday season, which means my emotional stability will be questionable in the coming weeks. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as last year, but I’m not optimistic.

Dad and Zach are coming over this weekend to chop down some big trees in our backyard. This kind of stuff makes me nervous, but in typical Dad fashion, he told me to pipe down or shut up or something like that.

I watched Parenthood the other night, and one of the characters is fighting breast cancer. She was upset because her mom didn’t come to take care of her. I found myself crying too, because it occurred to me that if someday I’m very sick, I won’t have you nearby. I’m so thankful to still have your mom around – she’s an amazing grandmother and she helped take such good care of you when you were sick.

I hung out at Jim & Angie’s yesterday and spent some time with their boys. Boys plural – there are two of them now! Though they’re not mine, I love them with a completeness that’s usually reserved for very few. It’s reassuring to feel this though; it makes me believe that maybe I do have enough love to have a child of my own someday.

TJ and I are finalizing plans for the next golf outing in your memory. We’re going to do it.

I hope you celebrated your birthday in heaven. I hope you spent it with your dad and Sue, eating pie and gabbing. I’m sure you have a lot to catch up on with both of them.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Face to Call Home

Little by little, inch by inch
We built a yard with a garden in the middle of it
It ain’t much but it’s a start
You got me swaying right along to the song in your heart
And a face to call home
A face to call home
You’ve got a face to call home

I’ve been an off-and-on John Mayer fan since I first heard him 10+ years ago, but consistently end up buying everything he puts out there. On his newest album, Born and Raised, I found the gem “A Face to Call Home.” It struck a chord for whatever reason, and I’ve had it on repeat for awhile.

It makes me think of T. The face I call home. I love our little house, but really I just want to be where T is. It doesn’t matter if we’re sitting on the couch in our family room, sitting somewhere else, walking for miles, driving for more. He is home.

Finding the face to call home is a blessing, and it’s not granted to everyone. I know I’m lucky, and I think I learned to appreciate this blessing by watching my parents over the course of their marriage. And then, yesterday, it hit me – what happens when you can no longer see the face you call home?

My heart cracked a little bit. Whether he ever thought about it consciously or not, I completely believe that my dad found his home in my mom’s blue eyes for 30 years. That’s a long time to call one face your home. How do you adjust when you can’t look into those blue eyes anymore? 

 Mom & Dad, feeling at home at the Biltmore Estate, July 2006
The matching shirts weren't intentional.

When the face you call home goes away, how do you avoid homelessness?

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Another birthday of hers has come and gone. On Thursday, Oct. 25, she should’ve turned 54.


Not very old.

My mom was 52 when she passed away. That means she was 26 at her mid-life. She was 26 when she had me. And I was just shy of 26 when she died. Sometimes I wonder if I should believe these numbers mean anything. Mostly I just hope and pray they don’t.

I’m still sometimes overwhelmed by the emptiness I feel without her. It hits without warning. I was kind of prepared for it Thursday though. Which was good, since it hit twice before 8:00 a.m.

I try to be as happy as possible. I try to think thoughts like, “I was lucky to have her for nearly 26 years.” But it’s not always possible, and sometimes I sway more towards, “We got screwed out of a lot of good years.”

After putting in my 8 hours at the office, I headed over to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, just up the street from our house. It was a gorgeous day, and I was able to sit at her grave in the Holy Family Garden for about 30 minutes before I remembered that a woman was attacked in a condo fairly close to the cemetery a few months ago and I became increasingly paranoid sitting in a big empty space alone. Ah, sad and paranoid – a winning combination.

I brought over some pink carnations, which were her favorite flower. I could tell my dad had already visited because of the crazy daisies in the vase. I also brought a small pumpkin at TJ’s suggestion. Because why not?

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We Have a Room Dedicated to Dining

That's right; you read it here first. We have a room specifically for dining. And because we inherited a full suite of furniture from my dad's house, it was the easiest room to finish next.

So this is the room we had to work with, viewed from the corner near the steps upstairs. It's a great size with beautiful parquet floors, lovely windows, and a very dated but useable chandelier.

Here's a better view from over near the windows. The colors were nice enough in theory, but not our taste. And the colors showed every scuff on the walls.

We painted the top half of the walls a deep red, and after three coats, managed to cover the sea green with a light ivory. Then my awesome father came over to teach TJ and me how to use the miter saw. (Ok, TJ learned. I took photos.)

With the miter saw, we made our chair rail. 
And by "we" I obviously mean those two.

And here's the end result for the walls.

And here's the total end result! All the furniture is, again, courtesy of my father who saw no need for a formal dining room. (In truth, I think we only used it three times when my mom was alive.) The bowl on the table is from Target, and the orbs inside it are from Target and Ikea. The drapes are also from Target, but my grandmother made the valances.

Here's another view from the steps upstairs/entrance to the kitchen. The pictures on the wall are also from my parents house.

And finally, this view. The closed door hides the steps and their dirty green carpet. (We'll get to that eventually!) But this view is special to me. I played the piano as a child, and my mom always told me I'd want this piano in my home someday. She was right. And the picture above it was painted by my dad in 1980. He's not only incredibly handy around the house, but a fantastic artist too.

Here's a better view of the art, and the knicknacks on top of the piano. The candle on the left is Febreze, as is the air freshener inside the backless shadowbox. The brown mosaic candleholder is from Michael's. The topiary is from Target.

Dinner is much more enjoyable in a completed room. Surrounded by such rich colors, I can almost forget that the rest of the house is still scattered with boxes from our move nine months ago!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What Not to Say

Over the 16 months my mom was sick, and in the 18 since she passed away, I’ve encountered many people who “want to help.” Some of these people were close friends; others were nearly strangers. All were appreciated.

But through those interactions, I identified two things people often resort to saying that are no help, and in my opinion, make it hurt a little more. I don’t believe anyone ever said these things to me with the intention of being hurtful. I think people just don’t know what to say.

Thing 1: “I know how you feel.”

Honest, direct thoughts on Thing 1: This sentence made me want to respond with, “Oh really? Your mom was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at age 51 and died at 52, leaving you confused, sometimes bitter, and scared out of your mind?” I never responded that way. I usually just let the moment pass. But unless you’ve been through an identical situation, there’s a good chance you don’t know how it feels.

I certainly appreciate someone’s attempt to empathize, but uttering these words to someone losing a parent can quickly put them on the defensive. Most of the time, I wasn’t looking for someone to tell me stories of how they know what it feels like because 12 years ago he lost his 90-year old great aunt to cancer. At the risk of sounding like a witch, I didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s stuff unless they truly needed someone to be there for them. A lot of times, the person wasn’t looking for that; they were looking for a way to show how they cared – “See, cancer affected me too!” Again, the intent was always kind, but it made me angry that people thought they understood when they clearly couldn’t.

Thing 2: “Everything happens for a reason.”

Honest, direct thoughts on Thing 2: This one makes my blood boil still. I don’t care if you believe this is true or not – don’t say it to someone whose parent is dying, or anyone going through a seemingly pointless tragedy. My response to this in my mind was typically along the lines of, “Ok, please, tell me what you think the reason for this would be?”

I get that death is a part of living, and that we all inevitably face it. But why was my mom made to face it at age 52? How come my family is trying to figure out how we keep living without her? The truth is that my mom was a genuinely good person. And the other truth is that my family never took her for granted. We really had it all – our home was full of love, respect, and all the things a family prays to have. So why her? Don’t tell me she’s sick for a reason. She did nothing to deserve that.

This is probably the whiniest post I’ve written, although my motivation wasn’t a need to whine or vent. These are things I genuinely want other people to know. Even though I’ve experienced some of the craptastic things other people have or will have to go through (cancer, death of a parent, learning to live after cancer causes the death of a parent), I still don’t always know what to say when others go through it. All I know is what did and didn’t help me. Those two sentences didn’t help me. And soon I’ll write about what did.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Letter to Mom #2

Dear Mom,

The Emmys were this past weekend, and watching them was bittersweet. I love awards shows (read: fashion at awards shows) as much as I ever have, but I missed talking about dresses with you during the show and watching Fashion Police together the next night. I don’t think these feelings will ever go away.

Zach has made a potentially life-changing decision. I’m behind him 100% on this one. He’s really starting to think about his future, and though he’s had a few missteps in the last couple of months, I’m so proud of him.

Dad ripped down the wallpaper in the hallways and stairwells at home this past week. I had no idea the walls were that pink color underneath. He woke up one day and just felt that it was time to start taking steps forward. I’m proud of him too.

I cried today while sitting at the doctor’s. As I sat on that table – waiting – I could feel you in the room. And I know you spent time in the room when you were alive too. Imagining you sitting on the same table, feeling scared and uncertain, was nearly too much for me to handle. Dr. K said my reaction was normal. I hope to someday have a happy reason to go to the doctor and to feel happy while I’m there… but today was not the day.

I had bangs cut into my hair last month, but I’m pretty sure I’m letting them grow out now.

I got a new job last week, and I think I’m starting there next week. I’d tell you all about it, except I don’t know much about it. What I do know is that this is exciting, career-altering work, and I haven’t been this excited to go to the office every day in awhile.

TJ is sitting on the couch next to me, watching Top Gear. Some people might say that our evenings of being bums on the couch, talking, watching TV and playing with Lu are boring, but I just don’t care. There’s nothing I look forward to more than being home with him, hearing about his day, and listening to him laugh.

I’m going to go fold laundry now. The laundry will inevitably smell like your favorite fresh cotton lotion, and so I’ll think of you.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Déjà Vu

Yesterday, I found myself reliving an old, uncomfortable routine.

In the middle of the work day, I packed up my computer, grabbed my purse, and walked quickly out of my office with my head down.

I stopped by the café in my building for a quick snack.

I hurriedly walked to my car, threw my bags in the backseat, and left.

I headed north on Gilbert Avenue, immediately cursing myself for taking the same route as always, forgetting (as always) there are quicker ways to go.

I slowly made my way east to west across Clifton.

I pulled into the parking garage at Good Sam, cursing the crappy old structure where I once had to get snappy with an old man who almost killed me in his Cadillac.

I took the elevator down from the garage, entered the hospital, and took the north elevator to the sixth floor.

I made a left, then a right, then two lefts, and found myself in the surgical waiting room. And I sat and waited.

It was a different person in surgery today, a different time of year, a modified group of people waiting for an outcome. But even now, the routine itself opens old wounds.

In the middle of the work day, I packed up my computer, grabbed my purse, and walked quickly out of my office with my head down. Because it’s too hard to explain to the curious faces the reason for my rush.

I stopped by the café in my building for a quick snack. Because I have no idea how long I’ll be waiting, or when I’ll feel like eating again.

I hurriedly walked to my car, threw my bags in the backseat, and left. Because I’m needed more elsewhere.

I headed north on Gilbert Avenue, immediately cursing myself for taking the same route as always, forgetting (as always) there are quicker ways to go. Because time is of the essence.

I slowly made my way east to west across Clifton. Because it’s where all the hospitals are.

I pulled into the parking garage at Good Sam, cursing the crappy old structure where I once had to get snappy with an old man who almost killed me in his Cadillac. Because he was delaying me from getting to her.

I took the elevator down from the garage, entered the hospital, and took the north elevator to the sixth floor. Because I don’t need to be told where surgery happens in this building.. I remember.

I made a left, then a right, then two lefts, and found myself in the surgical waiting room. And I sat and waited. Because it’s all I can do.