Sunday, January 29, 2012
I have been in the process of organizing old digital photos to transfer to an image storage site (Flickr), and I have had fun looking through the past few years. A lot of smiles have come from Sophie's first year with us, when she was all round eyes and fluffy tail (she grew into them, let me tell you).
It was August 2006 when a surgeon told me that I was probably unable to have children. I latched onto "probably" quite desperately as I recovered from that series of surgeries. Probably meant there was still a chance.
That next year was dedicated to figuring out the nuances of everything that was wrong with me. Of course, being that I have a very rare genetic disorder sparks a lot of interest from various specialists. I bet that I didn't really need half of those appointments, and I did start to feel like I was a bit of a freak show for the medical community's entertainment.
It was through the course of those appointments that probably turned into a definite no…any slight chance that may have burned was promptly extinguished. Then came Sophie…and so begins the life of the most spoiled cat on the face of the planet.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Time is slippery: it's difficult to grasp and impossible to hold still…and I just can't believe that six years have passed since that sad day. I can close my eyes and remember the feel of her soft skin and the strength of her hug. I remember the sound of her friendly voice and the welcoming scent of lavender that she spread throughout our home. I wish I could forget those last few days of her life…those memories seem to collide and dominate my thoughts around this time of year. They are the nightmare that I can never quite escape.
This year, my grief is heightened. My father-in-law passed away suddenly on January 20th. I am caught between the ache of losing such a kind person and the empathy of losing a parent. Life can really hurt sometimes, but it's the empathy that's twisting the knife. It's taking me back to the rawness, back to the breathlessness, back to the panic in the face of learning to live without someone.
I went to her grave as I do every year on the anniversary. It's the only day I visit because the experience is too overwhelming. Away from there, I can remember her healthy, laughing, carefree…there, I am slapped with the unyielding reality that she's gone. The morning she died was sunny and unfairly pleasant, but January 26th has been gray and barren every year since.
I didn't expect Nick to go with me this year…he has his own heartache to work through. Even so, I was grateful when he made plans to do so. He wiped the snow away from her stone as I knelt on a blanket upon the frozen earth and wept. Feeling guilty, I apologized to him—this was his time…his sadness was fresher—but I couldn't stop the tears. He knelt beside me and told me to that January 26th will always be my day…oh how I wish to God that it wasn't…that nothing of importance had ever happened on this day.
I hope I can be as much of a comfort to him as he's been to me.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
When Nick shot this video Friday night, I admit that me and my cousin were embarrassed by the sound of our raucous laughter. Yet, I find myself sharing it here.
To set the stage for you, Michelle came over Friday night to help rice potatoes for a planned lefse day (which didn't work out). Nick asked hopefully if she would be staying for awhile…because then he could coerce the two of us into a board game…namely, Beatles Trivial Pursuit. We actually have a few versions of Trivial Pursuit between the two of us, but I'm afraid that we do not play board games all that often—which is a shame because some of the funniest conversations of my recollection have happened during this sort of play.
When Nick and I started seeing each other, we had a no-TV night every week. During this one sacred night, we participated in technology-free activities such as Yahtzee, Scrabble, and various trivia games. This, as with so many other good habits we used to have, fell by the wayside when I re-enrolled in my B.S. program (pun intended). I could not afford a technology free night when there was always something due—either for work or one of my classes.
Now that the novelty of sitting on the couch with absolutely nothing to do has worn thin, I am trying to make the effort to practice my social skills once more.
But the Beatles, ah. The Beatles. I have spent my life loving The Beatles. I dragged Michelle into the obsession somewhere in the early 90s, and she's been infected ever since. Being that Nick is painfully unappreciative and knowledgeable of THE GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME, his request to play that particular board game seemed all the more desperate. So, we played.
And how we laughed…and laughed, and laughed—mainly at Nick's answers because he seriously got the most difficult questions of the night. I wouldn't have known all that information on Brian Epstein either, but he made best of it and entertained us for hours. We were so amused that we laughed easily and boisterously at just about anything. And with that, I introduce the fuzziest player in our game:
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I prefer the quiet to the raucous. The quiet gives me the illusion of control and security. When everything is still, I feel like I have a handle on my environment…and I will be instantly aware of any changes. That I spook very easily probably has a bit to do with this preference.
The thing is, I can get into my head very easily; I can get in and shut out everything else. It makes me rather efficient at work because concentration is never a problem, but I have lost count how many times I have hissed swear words when a coworker sneaks up on me. I hate that moment when my heart feels like a ricocheting rubber ball inside my chest.
Our treadmill faces the partial windows in the basement instead of the stairs. Have you ever run on a treadmill? Dude, it's loud…but it's rhythmic and becomes a sort of white noise to me; I stop registering the sound. The noise may not irritate me, but it definitely impairs one of my senses when I've already compromised another. Suddenly, I can neither see nor hear someone's approach.
For this reason, I don't like anyone to be in the basement while I am running. This should be easy enough to achieve as the basement doesn't see a whole lot of traffic. However, I seem to be interrupted regularly. My response to this is to stop the treadmill, step off the belt, and wait until the intruder leaves. My intruder—and Sophie doesn't count—seems to find reasons to come down during one of my runs.
If I was looking at this situation from the outside, I would find this kind of charming. He likes to spend time with me, he likes talking with me. Maybe he even likes watching my…erm…assets while I run. But the point is that I'm not looking at this from the outside. I'm looking at this from the perspective of the person who loses years off her life every time he sneaks up on her.
One thing I've learned about Nick is that I should never tell him how to avoid irritating me. "Why not?" you ask. Well, that's a valid question. It would only make sense to let him know these things up front so that he knows how to stop my inner fire monster from making an appearance. Another thing I've learned about Nick is that he doesn't make sense: he loves irritating people, particularly when you tell him specific behaviors to avoid.
He sat on the stairs and talked to me tonight while I ran. My responses were clipped, urging him to scram. He eventually rose, acting affronted and put out—predictable. I would have gloried in my success, but I was busy trying to put out my blazing breath.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Nick and I were out of town for a few days last week. Since Sophie is fed daily, we need to impose on a family and friends to take care of her whenever we are gone. We have a backup caretaker, and a backup backup caretaker—but both were also out of town last weekend. My friend Becky, who lives in the same town, offered to stop in and take care of her. She recently rescued a cat of her own, and she's got a little kitty fever going on. (Of course, it may just be allergies.)
Becky has been in my home before, several times actually. Unfortunately, she has never stayed long enough for Sophie to decide whether or not she's safe. Our cat yearns to be social—sometimes aggressively loving—but she still has a knee-jerk (paw-jerk?) reaction of fear with new people. You just need to sit down for awhile, keep your voice soft, and pay her absolutely no attention at all. I guarantee you that she'll be drawn to you within minutes.
I warned Becky of this so that she wouldn't take it personally if my cat got one look of her and bolted. When new people so much as look at Sophie, she flattens her ears and sprints toward a hiding place as if the very devil is on her tail. (And I thought that I didn't like attention!)
We arrived back in Madison Tuesday night. I talked with Becky the next day when I picked up my key. As I suspected, Sophie didn't let her near. She said that Sophie took "evasive action" when she so much as breathed in her direction. I keep snickering at the phrase "evasive action" as applied to my fuzzy, pampered house cat…but basically, Sophie spent the weekend completely alone.
I suppose that explains why she almost took me to the ground in her excited vigor when I first walked through the door. Oh, Sophie. If only you would be so capriciously cute for everyone who stopped by…
Saturday, January 7, 2012
I haven't always been one to make decisions. In fact, I would say that I've spent most of my life being completely and utterly wishy-washy. It was never about having opinions…it was about the abject fear that I would make the wrong choice.
My behavior changed sometime during my late 20s. I couldn't tell you the catalyst for sure, as the second half of my last decade was like a remodeling project that just wouldn't end. I'm hardly even the same person!
But irony strikes again: I married a waffler.
I am suddenly in the position where I want to violently shake him until a decision falls out. How quickly I forget that I used to be THAT person. Instead, total frustration blinds me.I am not talking about big decisions, obviously. You should spend considerable time deciding on a new life direction, but you can probably flip a coin between Ruffles and Lays without the world ending.
Time is weighted differently in my new perception of life. I would much rather live with a decision that could have been better than waste months trying to figure out what to do. I guarantee that your guest doesn't spend time thinking of the Lays while he stuffs his face with the Ruffles, but those long moments of uncertainty in the snack food aisle are lost to you forever.
Nick has been looking for a new pair of winter boots for months. He has found several that fit the bill, but he has yet to buy any of them. It's like those brides who try on too many dresses and suddenly none of them look right: he's in winter boot overload. He has been asking my opinion on this pair or that as he conducts his extensive online research. I gave him decent feedback in the beginning.
I say decent because I really don't have any sort of opinion on what he puts on his feet. Yet, I gave him my thoughts as if I would be given the credit or blame for his foot wardrobe. Heading into month two of the research, I started giving him a simple thumbs up or thumbs down depending on which one I gave him for the last product he showed me. I threatened him a few hours ago that one day I would just come home with a pair of boots and HE WILL WEAR THEM—even if they're the wrong size…that's just the price you have to pay for not making your own decisions.
This all boiled to the surface today over a series of text messages with my cousin. She sends me a picture of a bare spot in her apartment and asks what she should buy to make that space feel complete. I tell her a bench with storage would be aesthetically pleasing and practical: two birds, one stone. She loves the idea of a bench. Where can she buy an inexpensive bench with storage she wants to know. I confer with Google, and we find the perfect seller.
Upon sending a picture from bench-people's website, she falls head over heels in love with one of their products. I mean, it's almost indecent how much passion she has for this bench. She thinks it's perfect, just perfect. Even better: it's within budget! She confesses that she wasn't thinking of a bench, but now she sees only THAT bench in her empty space. Michelle and the bench sitting in a tree…K-I-S-S-I-N-G…
"Good deal. Are you shopping today? Do you want company?" I question in reply. She does want company, but…only…is this the right choice? She reneges, backtracks. Maybe there is something better out there…maybe…maybe…maybe…
"Oh no," I thought sadly. Et tu Brute?
Reading my silence correctly, she writes, "I need help making decisions. You're THE DECIDER! We're so lucky to have you!" She's just lucky that in my Laura 2.0 revamp I haven't shaken my weakness to flattery. Watch out for 3.0 though—you're not going to want to mess with her.
Meanwhile, I may decide to use "The Decider" as my wrestling stage name: "Meek and Moody" isn't putting the fear in anyone's eyes.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
I started the year marrying a man with the most beautiful heart I have ever seen.
I have learned a new life with him over the past six years. Oh, he can irritate me to tears…but he is also selfless. He moves Heaven and Earth to make me smile, even when I'm determined not to. He often comes through the door with shopping bags from one of his excursions saying, "How much does Nick love Laura!?" It's just how he thinks. He wants me to feel special…loved, always loved. I am fortunate that he was right there waiting for me when I least expected to find anyone there.
He helped me live out a fantasy in June when we went to Las Vegas to see Paul McCartney in concert. Even though we were two tourists having fun together, I know we went there because he knew that it would make me absurdly happy to see my favorite musician of all time perform live. (And it most certainly did!)
I grew close to my cousin again this year. We were best friends as children, but we grew apart. I think we're finally in the same phase of our lives at the same time, and it has been a salve to my heart to have that connection back. I was particularly glad to have her around when I found out that I needed a hysterectomy.
Every time it made me emotional, I scolded myself—almost cruelly. Snap out of it. It's not like I can have children anyway, so what's my problem? Stop being weak, Laura. Just STOP IT: somebody is going to see if you don't. Then I would put the mask back on and appear catatonic to life as it happened around me. She saw straight through my smokescreen and validated my darkest feelings…giving me a safe place to acknowledge them…making me acknowledge them.
I spent July recovering from surgery. My medical leave gave both my body and my mind time to heal. I started blogging more regularly again during that time because I finally recognized how I needed writing to help me connect the dots when answers aren't obvious. I feel more like myself than I have in years.
I will forget that I had to use my first sick day since 2006 because Nick gave me an awful cold after we returned from Florida in January. I will forget that the last installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise came to theaters. I will forget how I nearly died when I cut my thumb with that apple slicer. I will forget turning the spare bedroom into a closet. I will probably even forget that I turned 30 years old in 2011.
What I will always remember is the joy I had in finding parts of myself that I thought were lost. The year was golden, and I am happy to greet the next as a good friend who will surprise me, make me laugh, make me cry, and help me love.
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