Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Ongoing Letter... A Beginning Beyond All Words

Days go by and I put off creating anything in homage to the source of inspiration I know I should be trying desperately to capture. I write about all of the changes going on inside of me save for the ones that may very well be the most precious... the transformation from woman into mother. A guilt hangs at the corners of my consciousness over my lack of desire to write about my beloved son. Shouldn't I be clamoring to fill every vacant space with words of admiration and love and infatuation over my offspring?

It's a place I don't go often, mostly because when I do think about it I become overwhelmed. How do I convey this love? I am not, generally speaking the mushy sort. Affectionate yes, but not one to gush... and how else can one write about their love for a child. There seems to be no other way.

Almost a year it has been since I first laid eyes on his face. And still I have not felt the desire to spew verse filled with rainbows and teddy bear hugs and fairy-tale-esque giggles... yet I need, for him, to at least attempt to put down in words that too-full feeling my heart gets when I witness his sun shattering smile. Too bright for this life.


As I looked forward into my future wondering, imagining, visualizing becoming  a mother I always assumed I would love my children. That it would be magical. They would be gifted and beautiful and kind. Full of wonder. But I never could have dreamt up you. There is no way I could have ever been optimistic enough to hope for someone so downright joyful to come from someone like me. It is to this day beyond my comprehension how a smile could carry in it such deep, pure love.

I could never have conjured up the intense feeling of hope and comfort and euphoria I feel when you hug me. You're little arms wrapped around my shoulders without my placing them there for you. It was something that had to be experienced before it could be believed. Something tells me that this right now is a tiny glimpse into what heaven will be like. I had faith before you were born that our bond would be special and the love we shared would be indescribable, but though I felt truth in those beliefs and a warm fondness, even at times elation at it's prospect, nothing could have prepared me.

You grow daily before my eyes and the awe I feel in each new moment, each new revelation of yours is both inspiring and gut-wrenching. I don't want to keep you where you are, but in the very same breath I don't want to go past this moment. How can you improve on what it already so perfect. But alas, I know the answer to that question before it is even asked. I know in my heart that things will get immeasurably better and immeasurably worse and one cannot happen without the other. Your life is meant to be lived and cannot be captured in a single moment... which is why, my dear sweet boy I am unable to sit down most days and put words on page. It seems both too right and too wrong. The words they betray in that they cannot come close to the potential you have inside of yourself. If I capture one of your qualities even in part I neglect another in so doing and that is a tragedy.

But I will try. I will attempt to put at least some of what I feel into a (hopefully) legible format so that looking back into this time through my archives you will know that all along you were what was at the tip of fingers as I sat down to write. You were always sitting there waiting to come out but too big to comprehend and therefore impossible to form into one of my creations of word or otherwise as they all can never add up to you. You are my son but not my creation. Only God could be responsible for someone as amazing as you.

Any closing statement I could dream up would fail to tie up neatly all the things I mean to say but can't. In light of these confessions all else seems trite. So simply know that you are not your father or I, you are not simply a baby or a child, boy or in reading this later, a man... you are a masterpiece chosen by the Creator of the universe and you are so very, very loved.

All my love,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paradigm Shift: Value in Tragedy?

I'm not sure when it started or even what it was in particular that made it change so suddenly but I've always viewed my life as a story, a novel that would someday be read, thought on deeply, discussed at length. Something inspiring, and no doubt dramatic. Something victorious in ways but mostly just beautifully tragic.

That association in my mind between beauty and tragedy is something I always assumed to be part of my internal hardwiring, present since birth and essential to my unique personality. I always felt it was the thing that made me artistic in nature, and for that reason I cherished it. Clung to it. Revered it as sacred, a piece of myself to be left untouched in my attempts to become the very best version of myself.

Recently however it has come to my attention by way of a slowly building momentum of personal progress finally picking up some speed, that this trait may not be what I always thought it to be. It may in fact be another of the many ways in which I have been programmed by the media. I realized it because a trend caught my attention... my generation as a whole romanticizes tragedy. Since I first came upon this thought I have been experiencing something akin to what happens to a woman who becomes pregnant, suddenly everywhere she looks she sees babies, and tons upon tons of other pregnant women. Where did they all come from? Had they been here all along? Why are so many people having babies all at the same time as me? Is this another baby boom? ... in reality there was no spike in procreation just in the woman's perception. Her personal worldview changed and suddenly she sees things that were around her all along that she had never noticed before. It now makes sense.

Now everywhere I look I see this stream of glamorized images of suffering, tragedy, even torture. We are being taught to revere struggle for struggles sake, instead of in an attempt to better ourselves, our communities, our society. I've known for some time that America has been guilty of putting mediocrity up on the pedestal as something to aspire to... but I was blind to just how strongly we are barraged by the message that tragedy is beautiful. Our suffering alone is what makes us valuable, regardless of whether we make something of ourselves as a result of the suffering. We've lost the value of the struggle when we take success out of the picture. Struggles have become the end and not the means to the end. So many of my peers have succumbed to the notion that going out in a tragic blaze of glory or squandering the blessings they were born with will make for a much better life story than struggling and then attaining greatness.

We've been sold this bill of goods that the American dream we used to strive for is tainted and not worth the price. We've been told that the price is our values and our sanity anyways so why not just dispel with those things from the get go and strive instead to make our lives into the most dramatic story we possibly can without ever really challenging ourselves. Lets board the wild pleasure-seeking roller coaster ride and endure any amount of hardship in the name of that goal.

Well, I tell you what, I don't want it. Suffering isn't beautiful. There is no meaning behind pain in the pursuit of pleasure. We struggle so that we can stretch our capacities enough to handle the success we seek, the struggles alone do not add value to us. It's the learning and growing that those struggles inspire. The hero of the horror movie is not more valuable in the final scene than in the opening credits simply because they survived... they are more valuable because they decided they had something to live for and the worked in attainment of that goal... if they then never devote the life they barely made it out with to that purpose that inspired them, the value they gained in surviving is quickly lost.

Getting through a struggle and coming out on the other end is not something to trivialize. Some don't even get that far and sometimes getting out at all is worthy of some serious acknowledgement... but no one need feel that their story should end there. This is life, not a neatly wrapped up song or movie or novel. We have no way of knowing when our personal end will come so let's not assume it's over and miss out on what could be. What makes a compelling tale doesn't always make for a well lived life.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Furnishing A Home On the Cheap

Moving from a one bedroom condo that family of three barely has room to move around in, to a two-story three bedroom home, while majorly exciting is also somewhat daunting. Most of the furniture we did our best to squeeze into our old place could all just about fit in one of these rooms. Also, with the move itself and the increase in monthly costs (though little compared to the value, is still felt) we didn't/don't have much expendable money for things like furniture and decor.

So we hit the streets... and the internet to scrounge up some pretty fantastic deals. We even lucked our way into some hand-me-downs. As they say, one man's junk...

Anyway, we managed to fill this place up in lightening speed, and though we are still without some things, overall we are making use of most of our rooms. Someday we'll have a porch swing, some patio furniture and a mudroom bench to sit by our back door and give home to all our stray shoes (our many, MANY pairs... like, seriously we have more shoes than all of the Kardashian's closets combined) but for now it's a major relief to have couches to sit on, a table to eat at and dressers to hold our clothes (insert second reference to celebrity closet capacities here).

I am often amazed at how much people pay for contemporary, poorly-crafted furniture and on the flip side how little you can spend on classic pieces that are in need of some minor tlc. It sounds cliche' to say "they just don't make 'em like they used to" ...especially as a 20 something who wasn't around back when they did... but it really is true. In many cases we've spent less on something that has already proven it's ability to outlast the lifespan of the particle-board junk they charge an arm and a leg for at most retailers. And the thing is they will in most circumstances last that long again on into the future years after the "new" piece has fallen apart.

So here are some of the deals we scored:

Couch and Loveseat $300 - Craigslist


1930's 7 Piece Dining Set (Buffet, table & Chairs) $250 - Garage

Vintage Framed and Matted Coca-Cola Print $20 - Garage Sale

 Vintage end Table $25 - Craigslist

Chairs $20 per chair (ottoman thrown in at no cost) - Craigslist

 Wood & Metal Baby gate that retails for $79.99 ( for $10 - Garage Sale

Magazine Rack $10 / Free-standing cabinet FREE (hand-me-down)

 Sewing Desk: FREE (Hand-me-down) / Chair: IKEA $24.99 / Bookshelf: Craigslist $30

Futon Frame: FREE / Floor and Desk lamps $30 Garage Sale
(Bought new futon mattress from WalMart and slipcover from Amazon)

More home furnishings, room before and after photos and DIY posts to come.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I Strive

     I have been writing quite a bit on personal development lately and I realize the topic may seem cliche' to some but honestly it has become a way of life for me and has always been one of the few things that inspire me to write on a constant basis. Personal development is one of the few subjects that I feel compelled to write on over and over again and I write with the purpose of developing myself so it's constantly an underlying theme. There are topics I get swept up in and enjoy creating pieces on... but don't revisit them frequently and there are those things I do entirely for fun such as my outfit posts but I am not the type of blogger who keeps an online event journal or posts life updates regularly (which is not a bad thing, some of my favorite bloggers do this, and in a very compelling way) but I am on a life journey to learn and grow as a person, to be ever-evolving and improving, to grow my capacity as a human being. That is in essence one of the reasons I began this blog, to force myself to make consistent use of my love of and still-developing talent for writing.

     So I want to say this here and now... I am happy. I am excited and enthusiastic about not only my future, but my personal potential. Despite my musings on my most recent discovery of yet another mental stumbling block, brick wall, or flat out self-deception... I am thrilled to be uncovering these things tucked away within my self and am in no means beating myself up by writing them out and offering them up publicly to whomever chooses to read them. I admit, I have tendencies toward self-destruction, but those tendencies have always leaned in the direction of shutting people out, holing up alone in my brain to stew over my many neuroses. So this is me getting out of my comfort zone. And nothing new can be accomplished in one's life without first doing that, seeing as comfort zones are inherently made up of those things to which we are already familiar... that which we have already accomplished. It is a place I do not wish to dwell.

Photo C/O xJasonRogersx

In light of that information and in the sake of full disclosure, ...and accountability I would like to provide a progress report on some of my passed proposals/commitments/proclamations:

  • I am just as sarcastic as ever. I made some progress in the first few days after this post but have seriously fallen off the wagon. However...
  • My checklists have been working out extremely well so far, though it has only been a week and a half, and that is having quite the positive effect on my attitude which has lessened the frequency with which I am burdened by the impulse to snark it up.
  • I have still been struggling now and again in showing my enthusiasm in public, and at times even private situations depending on the environment but have stretched my legs on a few occasions recently outside of Unity Tour and have gotten only positive reception for my efforts.
  • I have also done pretty well in taking control back of my own calendar... the checklists have helped tremendously with that one as well, seeing as my main priorities are all covered in my daily to-do leaving my head clear to figure out the rest in a more sane fashion.

Amidst all of these small revelations I've had and the baby steps I have been taking forward I also happened to stumble my way into a major paradigm shift a few weeks ago that has inspired much of my recent progress. It is however a topic for another time as my mind is still readjusting to this new lens through which I see the world.

What have you discovered about yourself lately?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Elephant Sized Belief

After days full of dancing and cleaning... unpacking and chasing around an increasingly mobile (and cute) little monster, taking extra time for working out is not always on the forefront of my mind. It's easy to dismiss exercise when I feel like I've been on my feet all day anyways. But bodies need constant maintenance just like cars, and lawns.

So do our minds.

I've instituted daily checklists for myself in the past to make sure that I remember to get my priorities taken care of each day before time gets away from me and I've wasted my day on tasks that have nothing to do with accomplishing my goals or living the type of life that I want to live. They were extremely helpful, when I did them consistently, but we all know how easy it is to fall off the wagon so to speak. What I didn't realize was that falling off the wagon had more side effects than forgetting to do things now and again. When I made my lists and committed to completing them each day, in essence my conscious mind made a promise. I said that I was going to do something... then I didn't. Not consistently, so over time my subconscious mind learned not to believe my conscious mind when it said it was going to do something.

This can be very detrimental to someone like me who has some pretty mountain-sized dreams and has spent a decent amount of time working on instilling visuals in my subconscious of those dreams as a reality.

I should take a step back here.

A little over a year ago I read a book that changed my life, The Ant and the Elephant by Vince Poscente. I've read quite a few leadership/self-improvement books but this one really stuck out since it fed my deep fascination with psychology, while feeling like a light read. The book makes the really powerful illustration of the difference in size, power and functionality between the conscious and subconscious parts of the human mind as being an ant and an elephant. It was groundbreaking for me despite having read a bit on the subject. And so since reading the book (which I highly suggest reading if you have not yet) I have gone back and forth between actively attempting to apply the principles it teaches, and avoiding it because the changes it caused in me, though positive were painful... I couldn't figure out the piece I was missing. I wound up frustrated. It took someone saying the same thing I am sure I read in different words for me to get it. I was undermining the mental work I had been doing by not being consistent with the little, seemingly insignificant things in my day to day life. So in simplest terms my subconscious just didn't buy it.

Now I've decided that instead of trying to bite off more than I can chew, as per my usual, I am going to start small, using daily checklists again but this time with a different purpose... the purpose of building a foundation of consistency so that when I say I am going to do something, I believe myself. I trust based on the examples I've seen lived out before my very eyes that over time that self-trust will translate into a subconscious that works for me when presented with a challenge. Unconscious competence.

One more check on today's list and I will have 5 whole days under my belt!

Wish me luck! ...Er, self-discipline.

Friday, July 15, 2011

On the Mic and Off the Air

As if things hadn't been going well enough for me already, I got a call Wednesday afternoon from one of my very best friends Leanne with some really awesome news... she had gotten a free ticket to the 2011 Unity Tour with Sublime and 311 for each of us through her brother's work (more on that part later). After jumping for joy and screaming to each other back and forth over the phone for a little while we both agreed we'd figure out the rest of the details the next morning and from there I tried to go on with my evening as normal, but lets just say I had a difficult time getting to sleep.

So after a few minor mishaps yesterday morning I made my way out to my hometown so we could take the train into Chicago together. There is something about hoping on a train and walking around downtown that feels so, I don't know... adult, to me. Maybe it's because when I was younger I couldn't be trusted to do such things and so when most of my peers were collecting ticket stubs I was staying closer to home. Or it could be because I'm navigationally challenged and on the whole the train system is intimidating to me, something you have to be an insider to understand. There never seem to be any signs posted and yet everyone but me seems to know inherently which side of the platform to wait on, which train their supposed to get on, where the darn bathroom is. But all of that is an aside from my story....

View from from doors of the Merchandise Mart

The show itself was awesome. Sublime played well and it took me back to some of the more pleasant memories I have of my teenage years, something about their music manages to put a positive spin on a negative time in my life for me so it was a very welcome dose of nostalgia. Really though, I was blown away by 311's performance. They have so much energy live and yet manage to sound so polished and practiced... flawless really, yet not that overproduced sound I'm getting so tired of from the stuff passing as music lately. They were absolutely real and raw and all of those great things that make music an experience instead of just entertainment. One of the few bands I've seen that sound just as good, if not better live than they do in their studio recordings.

Waiting for Unity Tour 2011 to start

Letting loose like that with such a close friend was so very awesome, and the whole concert on it's own was a great experience to be able to tuck away in my memory banks, but honestly my favorite part about the show wasn't something about the show at all... it was watching some of the people there enjoying themselves. One guy in particular who had a spot near where we were standing for the entire duration, and I could not stop myself from looking over and just smiling. At first I thought it was funny... in a "look at that crazy guy over there, doesn't he care that everybody is staring at him?" kind of way, but my initial reaction quickly changed. I realized that he wasn't, like some of the other people there, acting out under the influence, trying to escape from something or get attention or anything other than share the happiness he had, something I sensed was completely sincere and genuine. Refreshing. So I took his lead... and for the rest of the night I let myself express my happiness, and excitement without worrying about those who may think it was silly or awkward. I figured that maybe some, or even a lot of people would think I was crazy but maybe a few would look at me and find themselves smiling like I did when I looked to my left and saw this guy, slightly older than the majority of the crowd, dancing and singing by himself while those around him nodded their heads and pumped their fists now and again... all with a huge smile of his own spread across his face... or maybe it was just his spirit I felt smiling.

There were probably plenty of others like him, but it only took one person to inspire me to open up. I tend to guard myself quite a bit in terms of how much I show of my excitement. Not usually disappointment or upset. I tend to be most uncomfortable sharing my happiness with people, like if I am bubbly and enthusiastic my authenticity will come under question. I feel most awkward in those situations, the ones where I'm really enjoying myself but don't know how it will be received if I show it, and that my friends is a sad state of affairs. Luckily one that can, and will be corrected. Not starting now either; starting yesterday.

311 at Charter One Pavilion

By the end of the concert my legs felt like noodles from jumping and my head was pounding but God did it feel good to just expend all the energy I had into a complete head to toe physical expression of joy. And my night was not even over...

From the concert Leanne and I were invited to stop by her brother's place of work to run up, grab his bag and look around real quick. What made that such a treat (albiet a somewhat bittersweet one) is that he works, or I guess now the appropriate term is worked, for Q101 and when we arrived they were in the process broadcasting for the very last time over the radio waves. It was sad, and awesome and momentous. We had roughly 40 people all crammed in the studio with Chris Payne at the mic. Everyone cheering, clapping, laughing, making toasts, cracking jokes... trying not to get too sentimental, but often failing. It would have been impossible not to get somewhat mushy here and again though, I am not a member of the Q101 family and I felt myself getting teary-eyed! You could just sense the camaraderie and love in the room. It was amazing to see; to get a glimpse into the heart of something like that. This strong sense of community, and not just between those in the studio, it was a feeling of connection with this huge family of people that were listening in that moment and also those who had built an emotional connection with the radio station at different points throughout it's nearly 2 decade run.

Q101 Last few minutes broadcasting

How do you put experiences like these into words? Because, seriously... I'm out of them and yet what I've written above does not even come close.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

A new home is something I had been dreaming of for a long time... Not my dream home, although I have spent an continue to spend plenty of thought time on that as well, but what I was aching for these past months (years even) has been something with more than one bedroom. The ability to do laundry in my own place of residence without the aid of a roll of quarters. A garage.

I cannot even begin to explain how blessed I am. As I type this I am looking around me at the walls and ceilings, windows and doors of something that is so, so much more than I could have hoped for in a first real home (a condo will always just be a condo no matter how cute). It's funny too how these things happen. It had been several weeks since the listing for our condo went live and not a single person had been by to see the place. I was honestly beginning to put the idea of a move out of the forefront of my daily thoughts. If for no other reason than to ease my disappointment.

I had finally let my mind stray for a moment, though my prayers remained the same. And as happens more often than I tend to realize things fell into place. Funny how that happens.

Two showings were booked and a day after the second one our friends and families were suddenly barraged with "WE HAVE RENTERS!!!" text messages, phone calls... I think even a few carrier pigeons went out!! We were excited to say the least, but there was also a whole new set of nerves being hit. We had two weeks to find a place to live! And so our search began...

My Father-in-Law clued us in to a listing on a place that happens to be a couple blocks down from where I'm sitting right now, and though it was a nice house (quite a bit more modern than is my preference) we decided to keep looking around before we made any decisions. We might as well cruise around town for a few minutes while we were already there, see if we came across anything. Not much stuck out to us and there wasn't much town to see so we were heading back to the main road when from behind a large pine we noticed a cute old home peeking out at us as we approached the last stop sign before the desired intersection. Gray with black shutters, a sizable front porch and a walk lined in rose bushes... "That's a pretty house!" we said practically in unison. As we spoke together my mind immediately chimed in "I bet it's not available"... but quickly shut up when, again, we both yelled out "And, there's a sign!". My Debbie Downer mind quickly regained her footing and retorted with a "it's gotta be a sale sign, there is no way this house is for rent!". And again, foot to the proverbial mouth... it WAS  a rent sign... and as we both took in that detail out-loud (there seems to be a theme here) from the back yard walked another young couple, child in tow speaking with a real estate agent.

We debated back and forth with our doubting minds and with each other as to whether this couple looked like they were about to snatch the place up before we could even stop the car and get our seat belts unfastened... then about whether we should attempt to impose on the agent standing in the yard by asking if we could check it out while she was there anyway... and well, you all know how this story turned out! So why don't you sit back and take a gander at some of the few photos we have of our humble abode. (detailed room posts to come, sometime, in the future... hows that for a vague advert?)

Front view
Back entrance (off the kitchen)

My guys on the back deck


Looking from the formal living room through the office into the laundry room... yes, Laundry Room!!

View from formal living room into family room, dining room and stairway to second floor

Upstairs Bathroom and Bastian's new room... all to himself! Thank the Lord!! 

Master Bedroom

And same room from opposite angle

COMING SOON! Posts containing pictures that aren't over a month old (and therefore contain furniture!)!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Schizophrenic Style: Rouge, Blanc & Bleu

 Across the nation grills were aflame and as the sun sunk soon following it, so was the sky itself

Light shows timed out perfectly to the Star Spangled Banner

children everywhere in awe, sparklers, magic in their very own hands

Family and friends reunited briefly, bonding over patriotic festivities 

picnics, parades and prayers... thank yous to those who made this way of life true

we are all aware, even on the day of our independence that we are hopelessly imperfect

privileged far beyond our collective earnings, yet at the same time lacking in so much 

 But she is ours. 
Worth fixing, worth protecting and keeping.
Worth restoring and revamping

That is why, every year on the 4th we wear our red, white and blue

"The citizens of the U.S. are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society" - James Madison

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Joy and the Pitfalls of Chasing Pleasure

Summer, in addition to the heat and hot dogs brings with it the inevitability of an overflowing schedule. The last few years I spent 99% of my summers cooped up in an office building breathing in more than my fair share of recirculated air, leaving home as the sun rose and only occasionally clocking out in time to catch the last few hours before it fell in the sky. Summer is busy season for those publishing company employees who process orders and are front line in communicating with customers in the education field. School's out = book buying booms! This year however I don't have to turn down every event invitation extended my way in light of my 60 + hour a week schedule. Mandatory overtime.

I never realized just how quickly ones schedule can be filled up when someone else isn't deciding it for you... or rather, when you have the time but didn't ever learn to structure a manageable schedule for yourself. One that leaves even an ounce of breathing room.

A few short months ago I believe I was writing on my inability to leave the house more than once a week or so... now, in my house or not I can't seem to sit still for more than 15 minutes. Except when Gilmore Girls and coffee is involved of course... or Firefly and a glass of wine. I won't lie and say that either is an uncommon occurrence, but I will say that in some sense they don't count. Yes, I do relax here and again. But my mind doesn't shut off, wind-down, tune out or more importantly focus, restore or create.

I've been putting off writing, creating, reading, and honestly thinking lately until I just get this next thing done. Until just after this weekend jam packed with events. After I get this house furnished. After the room is painted and the pumpkins have been planted. Sure an ice cream trip to the Dairy Joy is a good quick fix when one is too physically tired to exert any of that mental energy that has been steadily accumulating over these past weeks... but long term it wont help. It won't cultivate a sense of awakeness of spirit. That feeling of really being here in the present. Of fully knowing where I am in a given moment and where I truly want to be, not just what I need to do. All it will really do is give me a sugar buzz and leave me feeling more hungry an hour later than I would have been without it.

I am often asked if I am enjoying being a stay at home mom. Specifically if I like being at home. If I like not working a job.

I do. I enjoy not having a boss write my schedule. But something tells me I'm not enjoying it as much as I should, as much as I thought I would. In this moment I realized why. It's because I am still not taking charge of my own calendar. I am letting it fill itself, I am expecting the lack of a boss to give me the feeling of freedom that I now estimate I will only be achieved by wielding that pen myself. Governing my own agenda. Being the director instead of just an actor in my own life.

Not having a boss is a pleasure. Holding the reigns and living day to day based on my priorities I suspect will bring what I'm really searching for, which is joy. Pleasure is fleeting, joy is enduring. Joy is purpose, and fulfillment of that purpose. Pleasure can be found here and there in laziness, or in business but it almost always is haphazard. It's the result of indulgence. Something which is gone in an instant and leaves in its wake guilt or longing. It is a novelty. Joy... joy requires a plan, and action upon that plan. It requires a destination, a dream, something essential to our very being.

And it requires work.

It requires that we are good. That we sacrifice for others, for our craft, for our priorities. It requires an investment in who we wish to become.

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