"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from our Dog Bear (aka Super Bear)


Happy Halloween from Super Bear!

I am not usually one of those people that dresses up their dogs/animals. This was Bear's Halloween costume last year. He wore it for about 2 minutes, just long enough to snap this photo.

I think the costume is justified since this (below) is how Bear normally sleeps. I am not kidding. We think he is dreaming that he is flying.

Right now, he is in the kitchen, barking at some Halloween cookies I just made. This is his way of requesting a sample. 

With that cute face, he will probably get a bite or two.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Courage and Perspective: Emmanuel Kelly

The video above is from the show the X Factor in Australia. I don't watch the show in the US, although I have watched a few links here and there from friends shared on Facebook. I saw this one floating around recently, and ignored it until a really close friend posted it this morning.
I was brought to tears. Things like this help me keep my problems and worries in perspective, and also inspire me to remember that for some people, every day is a fight against judgment, overcoming obstacles that seem simple to others, and remembering what they DO have vs. what they don't. Just beautiful.


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Chicken at the Door: Monday Laughter from The Bloggess

The picture above has had me laughing most of the day today. I have been behind in reading all the other blogs I love, and that includes The Bloggess. I don't know how I missed this particular post of hers, but I am glad someone posted the link today on Facebook. This is hilarious, and unfortunately for my husband, something I can totally see myself doing. Who says marriage can't be fun?

Click the link and check out her post: And that's why you should learn to pick your battles and get ready to laugh.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Life, Letters, and the Loss of The US Postal Service

It seems that the US Postal Service is in trouble. Big trouble. Some articles and news outlets say that the entire system could shut down, with a large number of closings as early as the end of this year. While snail mail is certainly taking a hit because of our ability to email most of our communications, it seems unfathomable to me that we could lose the system altogether.

I have to believe that won’t happen. There will more than likely be huge cuts, and the USPS as we know it will never be the same again. One of the proposed cuts is to end Saturday mail delivery. While I would hate to see that happen, I am willing to lose one day of distribution in order to save the service as a whole.

I may be of a dying breed, but I love sending and receiving true mail—in my mailbox. Although I admit that I don’t write the long letters that I used to, I do love sending greeting cards. There is something special about getting a real greeting card on your birthday…there always has been. But now, it is even more special as we all shortcut and wish our friends a Happy Birthday via Facebook or by sending an e-card. Most of the time, I go to the mailbox expecting bills or junk mail, and sometimes get the surprise treat of a card. Even the bills I once received in the mail have become few and far between as electronic billing takes hold. That is a good thing. I am all for saving trees. But I can’t let myself believe that the day is coming when there won’t be a mailbox to go to each day.

I think back to all the years of letter writing I have behind me. At the end of my senior year in high school, I met my first real boyfriend. He was already in college in a city about an hour away. We were able to see each other on weekends, and began writing letters in between visits. There was something magical about seeing him on a Sunday, and the next day, coming home from school to a letter waiting for me, his handwriting recognizable to me immediately on the outside of the envelope. Even though I had just seen him, I had the words he had written the week before, expressing his feelings on a random college afternoon. I kept his letters in a shoebox, and added to the stack, carefully preserving the creases in the stationery each time.

Then, he went home for the summer, all the way to Maine, and the real letter writing began. We both ran up huge phone bills that summer, but the letters never stopped. Phone calls were fleeting and precious, but his letters were lasting and permanent, and carried the added value of being there for me to read again and again.

As happens with many first loves, ours didn’t last. But our letters did. For years, when I would come across them, I would start to throw them away, but I couldn’t part with them. Through other relationships and more letters and mementos, his letters stayed in the box—a little patchwork piece of time in my life, frozen in tattered envelopes with a New England postmark.

As the years passed, and through several moves to other states, and across the country, I kept what I called “the boyfriend box”. Filled with letters and keepsakes from my past relationships, it was like a time capsule of my life- the love and loss, the lessons and memories, the goodbyes and heartbreak. Sometimes I would be unpacking or organizing and I would come across the box and revisit times gone by. More often than not, I would laugh at my innocence, my mistakes, and my choices. But it was all bittersweet and lovely.

A few years ago, I was in an antique shop, sorting through old photos and I came across a crumpled brown paper bag. In it was a stack of letters, yellowed with age, addressed in a lacy, fountain pen’s scrawl. I gingerly opened the first one, and after reading the first few lines, I almost turned away. The words seemed too personal, too intimate to be read by a stranger. The subject matter was not lewd or even inappropriate, it was just expressions of love, longing, and shared memories. All of the letters were from a young man in the military, obviously stationed away from his love. He wrote to her of missing her sweet smile, and holding her hand. He wrote of wanting to finish what they had started, to come back to her whole and healthy, and pick up where they left off.

Although the grammar and spelling were imperfect, to me the letters were beautiful. I asked the store clerk about the price, which seemed shockingly low to me-- mere pennies for pieces of someone’s history. I purchased them, and as I left the store, the clerk asked what I was going to do with them-- she assumed decoupage. I told her she had guessed correctly. But, really, I just couldn’t stand to leave them there. I came home and put them in my "boyfriend box", with all the other letters that were too treasured to become trash.

I still have the boyfriend box, although if I had to locate it, it might take an hour or two. The box is somewhere in another box in our garage, packed up with things that aren’t necessary to unpack, but that I still keep. 

I think about all the letters we have from one historical figure to another, or to their spouses. I think of all the precious war letters that have survived the various battles throughout the world, the letters people still cherish in their own boxes somewhere, tied with ribbon in a faded stack. Nothing can evoke an emotional reaction from me like hearing that an elderly person has kept every letter he or she wrote and received from their spouse through the years of a long marriage. All those words and memories to revisit. The choice of the stationery and the stamp. The postmarks from a well-traveled life. It can’t be replaced or recreated in electronic form.

I know the future holds a lot of changes in the way we communicate, and I am thankful for the quick exchanges of email most every day. But I will miss letters. I will miss the waiting (that I used to hate and complain about), and the race to the mailbox for the next installment with someone I care about, maybe from across the world. In a way, it is already gone. I hope we can keep some part of it going, and I am sure the nearly 600,000 employees of the United States Postal Service hope the same thing.

For that reason, though, I can’t part with the letters I have. Maybe someday, years and years and years from now, someone will be rummaging through an antique store and come across my old letters and take them home for safekeeping--for just the same reasons I did. No personal relation, no real attachment. Just to preserve a little bit of history and save the words and paper that once meant so much to someone out there.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Waste of Worry

"Yes, I worry about the craziest things, but better me than someone less qualified." -Robert Brault 
If you have been reading my blog for more than a year, you know full well that I have been through some stressful times. The last two years have been a delightful break in all that—first finding love, then getting married, and finally setting up house. We weren’t worry-free, but so many of my dreams came true that it all seemed a little bit magical.
The past few months have been a little more stressful. Just life stress. Money, job changes/layoffs, family difficulties. But hey, I survived a lot of stress over the years, a lot worse things than we are facing now, right? I have faced and conquered life-altering stress. I have stared down my demons, admitted all of my past pain to a complete stranger (therapist). I endured hours and hours of therapy that at times felt like some torturous prison camp as my scars and old wounds were torn open, baring everything I had ever feared or lost. All this while being out of work, pretty much broke, and trying to recover from a huge betrayal/ break-up.

So, anything now should be a cake walk. It should. But as my husband and I both face a tough job market, big decisions, and dealing with some hurtful and tense family issues, I am wondering if I have learned anything from all I have gotten through. Why do I worry myself into panic attacks and extra helpings of migraines? Why do I lay awake at night fretting about things I can’t change until I am sweating, counting the hours passing on the clock on the nightstand—the glowing numbers seeming to fly by at breakneck speed?
I know that this does absolutely no good. Worrying won’t help any of it. It also doesn’t help me be a better person, a better worker, or a better wife. What it usually does is leaves me sleep-deprived, grouchy, and less apt to find the solutions to what is going on than I would be if I got some sleep and gave the worrying a rest.
It’s different now that I am married. Before, I worried for just myself, and it was a huge weight dealing with everything alone. But now, I worry for my husband—for both of us. I want to be the best wife I can, I want to help us build a future together, I want to make the right choices about jobs, where we live, and what to cook for dinner. I am under no pressure from my husband, who believes I am gifted at all of these things. And sometimes I even worry about THAT.
We have both been under pressure as money has been tight, and sometimes it seems like an accumulation of little things going wrong turns into an avalanche. At one point last week, a lot had happened and it seemed like our house was running under Murphy’s Law 24/7. One thing seemed to stack on top of another. There was a quiet tense moment, and then… we laughed. We had to. It all seemed almost absurd. It was a good moment, and helped us to remember that we are in this together, and we are so good for each other.
It is 12:18am as I am writing this, and the last hour has been devoted to worrying about my dreams of being a writer—and how I can ever fit that into everything we are trying to do. I don’t want to lose that, I want to make it happen. Then it hit me that I was worrying instead of writing. So here I am. It’s one small step to slow down the wheels turning in my head, to try and take away one piece of the never-ending puzzle that is this need to fret.
I am sure by 1:00am, something else will inhabit my thoughts…seriously low bank statements, pain that I wish I could take away for my husband, the 100 things I need to do for work before 11:00am tomorrow…but for now, for the next 42 minutes or so, I am going to try to give it a rest. To breathe. In and out. Slowly. And maybe, just maybe, get some sleep.
Artwork by Georgiana Chitac. View more of her beautiful work here.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Autumn Changes

I have always had a love-hate relationship with fall. The ushering in of cool temperatures after so many southern sun-soaked, humidity-filled days was always a relief. But the impending holidays were a dark cloud hanging overhead, so I couldn’t fully breathe after the last days of August.

Now that holidays are something to look forward to, I can wholly appreciate and ignite my love affair with autumn. Even though it surely happens gradually, it always seems to me that there is one night when fall arrives. All of the sudden, there is a chill in the air and the thermostat gets adjusted from full blown AC to somewhere between “off” and “heat”. I immediately want to go shopping for school clothes even though I am no longer a student and don’t have kids. My thoughts turn to apple picking, bonfires, and hot cider.  I haven’t been apple picking in over a decade, and can’t remember my last bonfire or cup of cider, but the fact that all those things are happening just makes me happy. It all means fall-- cooler temperatures, sweatshirts, pumpkin patches, stained glass colored leaves, and Halloween candy.

I always want to head to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina in late October and walk through crunchy piles of leaves around The Grove Park Inn and settle into one of their beautiful, old fashioned rocking chairs out on the huge back porch, drinking hot chocolate while taking in the view. I think of countless falls before, making the trek almost solely for the purpose of sitting in the lobby in front of one of the two biggest fireplaces I have ever seen. All of it means something to me: autumn perfection. I have been to Asheville during other times of the year, but nothing beats walking the grounds of The Biltmore Estate when the air is cool, and strolling around the shops and art galleries, and taking time for long breakfasts and lunches, almost forgoing the need for dinner at all.

When I was young, I remember that every year around this time, I held out hope before school began that things would be different this year—better than the last; that this was somehow a new beginning. Even more than New Year’s Day, this time of year seemed the start of things. For the many years I was in elementary, middle and high schools—then on to college—that makes more sense. But even now, I feel like this is the starting line.

This year it may very well be. Living in a beautiful location by the sea is as wonderful as it sounds. We are less than a mile from the beach, and every corner and hot dog stand holds some of the best memories of our childhoods and growing up over the years vacationing here. But, the job market is as bleak as the sunny, salty days are wonderful. We are facing some tough choices, and some possible huge changes in our lives that could bring about amazing things. It will not be easy, and the unknown keeps me up at night with worry.

But, the possibilities and the excitement also keep me up at night. Knowing we are this close to making some dreams happen, and thinking about sharing this adventure together is as thrilling as it is stressful. For now, I have to try and stay focused, learn to meditate or try some yoga, and hope for the best. And as I unpack my fall sweaters and my Halloween decorations, I am doing just that..and also giving thanks that my favorite time of year has finally arrived.



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