A new anniversary

Over the last couple of weekends, Drew and I have been finishing the day and saying, “this was the best weekend we’ve ever had” or, “no, that was absolutely the perfect day. We’ve never had a more perfect day”. We haven’t been taming any lions or putting big red x’s through our mystical bucket list items, we’ve just been home. At the end of these days, our hands are dirty, we don’t smell especially good, and we’re both laid up on the couch by 9 p.m. exhausted and filled.

This time last year I was standing with my hand on a doorknob, ready to turn, about to cross the threshold into a new stage of my adulthood. I had no idea I was standing there (if only our future could be as loud as the approaching train that it can sometimes be) but I could sense the coming chaos without knowing that was the unknown feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were busy and full of work, but it was disjointed work: closing on a house, moving, renovating, company and family travel, and the personal struggles that come with those things. It was all a wonderful busyness to have, but I think we both felt like we couldn’t wrap our hands around the big picture and every single day was built around pushing against a series of arbitrary deadlines. And boxes. And paint cans. And a two year old.

Now, a year later, it’s so very different and so very good. We’re still insanely busy, but this feels like good, stout, manageable business. The only deadlines that we have are ones that we create and exist largely so that the house is clean enough for people not to be appalled when they walk in the door. We’re not trying to get anything done because ohmygodholyshit if it’s not done by this week we won’t have anywhere to live and then what is that the time better get a move on, we’re just trying to get things done because it’s nice to get things done. And if they don’t get done this weekend? Well, then next. That subtle difference is life changing. Who knew?

So all that being said, we are pushing against a bit of a (self-imposed) deadline this week, hoping that we will get a new floor installed in Asher’s bedroom before the end of next weekend when we will welcome Drew’s mom and aunt for a summer visit. It’s a little bit of a race, but even in the midst of it, I’m still surprised at how pleasant it is to know that wherever we land by Sunday afternoon, it’s going to be just fine. I know that this isn’t an earth-shattering revelation, but I feel like I would be remiss not to acknowledge what a difference a year can make, to put this little marker in the ground to look back on should I ever find myself swimming in the chaos again. We know that this too shall pass, but it’s nice when we can actually see that it’s passed.

Is this part of being a grown up? Accepting where we are? I get so very nostalgic for the various versions of my younger self some days, but then we have these weekends clumped together, where we work on our house, and lay around a little, and look at the trees, and eat dinner outside next to the grill, and even though it’s much more common than my younger self was probably wishing for, it feels so Divine. As in, otherworldly in its peace and wholeness. It makes me thankful that we don’t always get what we wish for when we’re 20. It makes me thankful to have been 20.

So that’s the news, team. Because I don’t want to break the rules of the Internet and post without any pictures, I leave you with this:

Our cat has decided to start taking walks with us, including short hikes in the woods behind our house. We’re quite a vision marching along: my big belly, a bustling 3-year-old, Louie the wonder yeti, long lean Drew, and a fat black cat bringing up the rear. It makes me feel like just maybe I found my gypsy band after all. All we need is a tambourine and Stevie Nicks.

Turn to dust with style

Last week was a bit of a study in contrast, which is always welcome. I traveled to New York for work and returned home in time to unpack my heels and take advantage of the warm weather to knock out some much needed and welcome yard work. I love brushing elbows with the city, with any new place really, but more and more I’m always chomping at the bit to return home to the quiet hills and my fellas.

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On Sunday it was gloriously warm (Old Man Winter must have known that we all needed a break) and Drew and I woke up reaching for our work clothes. We decided to tackle the compost bin that we’ve been wanting to build, despite the impractical nature of starting a compost pile in January. You hush. A friend had suggested that we wire pallets together for a quick (and free) bin, but Drew felt pretty strongly that since the bin will be in a pretty visible part of our yard, it needed to look a little more polished. Nothing like having something polished looking to let your banana peels turn to dirt in! So we combined the two ideas, building the majority of the body out of salvaged pallets, but Drew put his trim carpenter’s background to work to frame it out and put some ‘finished’ looking sides on it. He also built some pretty sassy doors for both bays so that we’ll be able to access the pile for turning/soil as it’s ready. This shows the pallet back (which will eventually butt up against the garden fence and won’t be visible) and the start of Drew’s frame work. It has two bays so that we can eventually have a pile going and one to grow on, quite literally. Gardening puns, anyone?

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While Drew was hammering away, I worked on cleaning out a long neglected flower bed and raked up a pretty hefty pile of leaves. As I ripped out the remnants of last summer from the flower bed I was surprised to see various bulbs making their way through the soil. Also, just to keep things real, I’ll tell you that I stayed with my family tradition of taking down Christmas for the New Year, but had left the tree on the porch because the woods seemed awfully far away the day that I was doing all of that. Compelled by the fear that it might really be Spring, I took a turn at the Highland Games and did my very best to haul it and then pitch it far into the woods. If you’re wondering if I looked graceful in this moment, the answer is a resounding no. No, I did not. But it was oddly cathartic to pitch the tree, and I did wish it well.

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Proof that it was a good day:

Rocket Man

Despite our deep love for Halloween, Drew and I took it a little easy this year and let Asher do the majority of the heavy Halloween lifting.

Asher’s school had a parade for the kids on Friday before Halloween, so here is Asher walking in the parade with Miss Betsy:

And here he is a couple of days later hanging out at a Halloween party with his buddy Austin:

Don’t you just wonder what they’re chatting about there?

My adorably wonderfully dear darling little sister Julie Claire and her charming boyfriend Joe took a weekend off from college life to visit and we rang in the Fall spirit with fires and pumpkins and chili and hot cider and board games. I keep trying to convince her that it’s not lame at all to move in with your sister and her family, but I think she sees through my scheme.

Here are the perfunctory pumpkin pictures:

(Asher believes that ALL letter A’s are for him, so I couldn’t resist making an A pumpkin for him. He and Drew (Drew) carved the silly face on the left)

Joe’s pumpkin was definitely the winner for details and thought, but of course I don’t have a picture of the completed pumpkin so here’s a process shot:

We weathered Hurricane Sandy just fine in these parts, although Drew and I definitely had our eyes, fingers, and toes crossed for all of the (remaining) trees on our property. Our efforts were rewarded with only one small tree snapping and a loose shutter. We’ll take it! Asher got to come to work with me one day, and then we taught him about the very best thing about lousy winter weather: blankets, a movie, and hot chocolate. He took to it like a champ.

Dark Again.

Last night Drew and I did the most remarkable thing. We sat outside in the dark and looked at the stars. Perhaps sitting outside and looking at the night sky is not such a remarkable thing, but after 7 years of city street light pollution, being able to sit in absolute darkness at home and see the sky was something that we both reveled in.

I grew up in two places, and in each one if the moon wasn’t full, you likely couldn’t see the end of your nose once the sun went down. It was the kind of darkness that the author types like to call inky and velvety and blanketed and complete. It was the kind of darkness that almost made you motion sick when the fireflies were out in the summer because their black backdrop was so complete that the landscape would be alive with an incomprehensible number of fireflies making their sexy blinks at one another and there was no way for your eyes to focus on the mayhem of movement in front of you. If the moon was full, it was dark enough that you weren’t just staring at the busty globe over your head, but marveling at all that you could actually see at your feet. We would have sleepovers in my friend Lisa’s yard and be able to see the stark lines of the barn by her house and the delicate silver reflection of the tin roof showing off for the moon and for us. When there is light in a place that days before had little to none, you take notice.

I have become increasingly afraid of the dark as I’ve gotten older. Too many crime dramas and books have filled my brain and made me suspicious of closed shower curtains and unlit hallways. I work constantly to undo this, especially now that Drew works nights, but it’s something of a losing battle. Last night, sitting in the yard in darkness, staring at the sky and talking so openly with each other (another benefit of not being able to see…it’s a total confession booth), I realized that I’m not really afraid of the dark, I’m anxious about being inside at night. Where my heart rate might rise at the thought of walking down a hallway with no light, walking across the yard in the same conditions just made me feel at home.

For the last seven years, I have loved riding bikes downtown and being able to ‘just run out‘ and having friends around the corner. I liked having food delivered and trash picked up and a mailbox attached to my front door. I liked being able to walk to the store and the park and anywhere else that we might need to get in the event of needing to get somewhere. I realized though last night that I didn’t like any of that stuff nearly as much as I like sitting in the open air at night, having to raise our voices just a little to drown out those squeaky-wheel cicadas and having the sense of total aloneness.

We’re not nearly as far out in the country as the houses that I grew up in, but there’s enough land now to feel alone and see the sky and let our conversation be interrupted by the sudden arch of a shooting star that always startles you no matter how hard you’re looking for it. We’re far enough out that the night is dark again.

Settled

Well, not so much settled as settling. Here’s a funny story: Two weeks ago I wrote a post about what I have learned from the madness of this summer and then I read it over and it was just kind of gloomy. I wrapped it up by saying something along the lines of, we’ll get the moving truck this weekend and I will presumably be packing much more than just boxes and furniture into it, it looks like it’s carrying our future around too. Not a bad thought, but I didn’t publish the post because it felt incomplete and I just didn’t know if I could handle any more of my own drivel. 

Boy am I glad that I waited. I woke up the following Monday morning and couldn’t believe how amazing the sleep that I had just left was. I walked to the door and opened it for Louie to go out and left it open to absorb some of the quiet morning that was humming along in our back yard. I padded around the house looking at every window and taking in the way that our things look so different when they have new light easing over them. In a word, everything felt possible.

Our back yard in the morning fog

Pinterest gave this to me:

And it’s just so simple and true. I suspect that I am going to think a lot about this summer in the coming years because life handed us a lot and we just kind of pushed through. There are a couple of things that I know with enough certainty to say that they hold consistently true, and the first is that time happens. The days, no matter how ferocious they may seem, just keep coming and coming and coming. There is a certain sea-glass feel to the edges of sharp memories the further we get away from the point of contact, and in that way, it’s very true that time serves as its own balm.

The second thing that I feel that I know is that it’s always possible to make peace. Currently I’m making peace with some things I wouldn’t have asked for but can’t change. I have to sit down with it, wait for the mornings to keep coming, and at some point decide how I would like to proceed with these memories. When I look back at this summer, I hope that what I think about the most is not what I feel that we lost, but the lesson that I learned in making peace and finding joy. It’s such simple rhetoric, but hard business.

Asher’s first double rainbow. He kept shouting to everyone coming out of the grocery store to “WOOK UP! A WAINBOW!” And then they all looked and told him thank you. The trumpeter of beauty.

I’m turning 30 in August which is actually something that I’ve really been looking forward to. I feel really grateful (honored?) to be putting one foot in front of another and I love all that my 20s were to me. I don’t need more of that, I want what’s coming. I think part of it is that I have been surrounded by women my whole life that really do seem to just get better and better with age and so I’ve always felt a sense of anticipation about marking more years off. There are some aspects of aging that are a tough pill to swallow (yes, that would be you, Gravity) but there are other things about youth that I’m so thankful to be tucking away. Ultimately I don’t see the two spaces–youth and aging–as being mutually exclusive. Our past is always cohabitating with the present and our alluring hopes for the future, not to mock us with its absence, but to serve us with its voice. I bring this up because I think that I was a little too happy-go-lucky in my approach to a birthday that I very much want to be a milestone, and now after a summer of some wonderful highs and a few tender lows, I feel more thankful than ever to know that more days are coming.

Last night for the first time in what felt like months, I just existed in the kitchen, making food for the weekend, learning how to move in our new space, occupied by remembering where I’m keeping cutting boards now, and feeling my bangs curl away from the steam of the stove. People feel anxious about growing older because we wonder if we’ve done enough; after many months of doing so much, the feel of a wooden spoon in my hand and a cold cheap beer making its ring on the counter on a Thursday night brought such peace that I can only hope for as much time as I’m being offered to just stay in this space for a while. Peace be with me. And also with you.

Moving.

First a note from Management:

I have never ever ever ever been pulled in as many directions or as busy in my adult life as I have been in the last two months. There’s not another way to say it. It’s been fine, just hectic, and there were a couple of days in there where I was having some trouble breathing, but by and large it’s just been a laundry list of this, and then that, uh oh! that too, oh! and also this…and if I’m being totally honest, I go to bed by about 10 every night (you know, just after I drink my prune juice and watch Matlock) so there’s that too. The blog got the busy shaft, and some day I’m going to be reading back and saying, ahhhhh yes. May and June of 2012…holy wow that was total insanity. Some things just don’t really need to be preserved.

One of the things that we’ve been doing involved a lot of faxing and phone calls and signing and drumming of fingernails and holding of breath because we bought a house. Wait, sorry, gimme a second shot on that. We bought a house!! After a 3 day closing we finally signed the dotted line and let our breaths out.

We bought this house and I can’t wrap my mind around it. It’s walls and a place to be but it’s also…

Roots.

And not just roots in the sense that we’re rooted per se, who knows what the future holds, but it’s roots in the sense that there’s a place to finally soak up everything that pours out of this family, and now we are in a space where we might be able to actually wring it all back out too. In the 5 days that this house has been ours, it has absorbed so much already. Most notably a lot of paint, but beyond that, it’s absorbed hugs from friends and gallons of our parent’s sweat, and the sound of Asher laughing maniacally as he runs across the yard. In just 120 hours, this house has ballooned out with ambition and ideas and what ifs and oh yes! and maybe this can go there? and bad radio that helps the paint brushes keep time, and let’s knock down that wall and look! raspberry bushes! It’s only taken 7200 minutes for this house to become a Walton.

In this way, it’s kind of like we’ve both developed a really big crush on the same person and now we’re all in the glow of young love all over again. Bear with me, but this has absolutely nothing to do with light fixtures and square footage and closet space, and everything to do with the feeling of making one more knot in the rope that binds our life together. Much like when Drew and I looked and Asher and then looked at each other and felt that little click of knowing that we were permanently bound to one another, we are now standing and staring at oak trees and thinking, click.

Boxes are getting packed, our ridiculously amazing parents are spending hours helping us turn a house into our home, windows are wide open, and in all of it, I just look around in awe at how much is pouring out and getting soaked up. The usual suspects of blood, sweat, and tears are there, but also…profound gratitude, relief, giddiness, anticipation, gratitude, excitement, gratitude–those are there too.

Maybe it’s that I’m finally cresting the wave and easing down its other side, but right now, I can breathe again. I am freaking out about watching new light wash over new leaves. When we stand in the yard we don’t hear other people and car radios and firetrucks, we just hear birds and wind. There’s a bear that wants our garbage and squeaky floor boards under the stairs. Asher begs Drew to lift him up so that he can put a basketball through the basketball net, and there isn’t a stick of furniture in the house, but the fridge is full. We are full. We are breathing.

I’m so thankful that I haven’t written about the last two months so that this entry might just be what I remember. There was a storm, and then the clouds broke, and then we could see all that was before us.

More Peace Making Walks

We walked in the snow last weekend. It wasn’t sticking so it was kind of like walking through really fancy rain, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

A note about Asher and train tracks:

Asher is the Safety Police in our family. He was very concerned, as he always is, about Drew and I walking on the train tracks. We have to stand at the side and look both ways about 10 times to determine that there is no train coming, and then he warns us repeatedly that a train might be coming. When it occurs to him, he is also this way about the street and we can generally (but not always) disuade him from doing things with the severe warning that It’s Not Safe or, You Might Bonk Your Head.

And now a note about my feelings about Asher and train tracks and other safety concerns:

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

That is all.

Scenes

Lately:

And my current favorite:

I’m feeling a little cabin fever despite the fact that we’ve been outside more this winter than any winter in recent history. I actually think it’s because of that–I’m so acutely aware of how cold it is all the time because we’re in it. Maybe there’s a little hint of delicious in that, but mostly it just makes me think about how badly I can’t wait to walk out the door barefoot and bare shouldered and relaxed. My zen exercise of the winter is trying not tense up when I open the door. Folks, I’m failing.

But these pictures remind me what treasures come from being cooped up and I think daily about how thankful I am for all the warmth that’s in our lives–I’m not kidding about that one. A down coat, a hot bath, thick walls, 15 kinds of tea, bourbon neat, friends to crowd in, anything at all bubbling on the stove, the fuzziest dog around to sit on my feet…who am I to complain about winter?

Please, please remind me of this. As the great state of Wisconsin so proudly declares: cold nose, warm heart.

Ribster

Have I mentioned on the ol blog that we’re having a bit of a raccoon issue at our house?

I grew up in the middle of nowhere.  Long gravel roads, lots of trees, lots of land, screens in the windows optional, just generally the middle of nowhere.  And do you know that in that time we never had a single raccoon come in the house?  Black snake? Perhaps. Neighbor’s dogs? Definitely.  But not one raccoon.

I now have a house key and a sidewalk and it appears that we have a raccoon.  Scratch that.  We HAVE a raccoon.  And he’s ballsy.  He (she?) comes in after dark, helps himself to the cat food, does some splishing and splashing in the water bowl until he feels that he has thoroughly cleaned behind both ears and, from what I gather, is taking measurements of our kitchen to send to his interior decorator, Diana, so that the space will be just so when he moves in full time.

At first the mere sight of us would send him waddling.  Then our dog Grace took over and she would chase him out and, apart from the small heart attack that I would have at 3am when Grace would suddenly bolt down the hall barking at full force, things seemed to be ok.  Then there was one night that Grace was at my parent’s and the raccoon quickly realized that it was just me and him and the cat food.  He looked at me with a great deal of misplaced smugness, turned his back on me and went to town on the cat food.  Do you know what I did?  I knocked him silly with a broom.  I did, I whacked the s*it out of him, and he took the hint and headed out the door.  That seemed to take care of the problem for a little while, but then Grace passed away, and the raccoon didn’t take long to wise up and start deciding which corner he wanted to set his cigar chair in again.

How is this raccoon getting in?  Well,  I drew you a picture:

Up until this past weekend, the raccoon was a nuisance, but not especially destructive.  I would even go so far as to say that I was not overwhelmingly concerned with his occasional intrusion.  Well. WELL. We spent the night with friends on Saturday night and all I can say is, if any of you got an invitation to the rodent rager that was hosted in our kitchen and didn’t post pictures to facebook because you didn’t want us to find out about it?  The jig is up.

Ya’ll, the raccoon(s???) went bonkers in our kitchen.  They ate taco shells, they broke wine glasses, they opened cabinet doors, they bathed their muddy little feet in the sink and then WALKED ALL OVER OUR COUNTERS, they took empty tupperware containers out and spread them around, they lounged on the stairs and snacked on gold fish crackers and discussed the underwhelming amenities of our kitchen, I’m sure.  In fact, as I spent all of Sunday afternoon scalding every square inch of our kitchen, I could almost hear their little raccoon laughter hanging in the air around me.  They appeared to have a better time we have had in years, and Drew and I are pretty awesome at having a good time.

But guess what, Raccoon?  We’ll see who gets the last laugh.

Consider yourself warned.

Gold

This is happening in our front yard right now.

It takes my breath away every time that we pull up to our house.

I can’t stop taking pictures of trees–this might be the only time that my phone picture gallery doesn’t like an exclusive tribute to Asher.  Everywhere we turn, more. gorgeous. trees.  I can’t help it, I feel ridiculously thankful to live in this part of the country this time of year, and as I’m getting older the feeling is just getting more and more intense.  This is the time of year that I get all googly eyed over sweaters and firewood and turning the oven on and calling people inside to bring in more light as the darkness of winter creeps closer and closer.  Where Spring finds us throwing open doors and longing for the smell of dirt and the open road, Fall turns us back to the nest, back to the home, back to something essential in the heart.  And I love that it’s fleeting and that it is to be cherished and that I don’t feel like too big of a dork stopping mid stride to snap a picture.  Really, there’s little not to love.  Happy Fall, Ya’ll!