Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pavlov's Dogs


We have woken up to Jane's screams for the last five mornings in a row. I'm starting to feel like one of Pavlov's dogs. Every time my eyes open to greet the dawn I clench my teeth and flinch, waiting for the air around me to be filled with shrieks of two year old teething horror. But this morning Jane voluntarily relinquished her THREE pacifiers for a few minutes, so I'm hoping and praying relief is on the horizon. Until then we're single-handedly keeping the Infant Advil company afloat.

In two words: this sucks. Just ask Mabel, she'll tell you. She'll also tell you that we're way overdue giving her a haircut and she feels like a sheep dog. And she doesn't like it.

I'm so excited to have the new dining room light fixture hung. It's a welcome change from this.  I bought the fixture here. Be not deceived people. It is not gray. It is beige. We spray painted it to match the trim and built in china cabinet. The first night it was up I kept playing with the dimmer until I burned one of the bulbs out. That's how I know my crazy is showing. I blame all the crack of dawn screaming. Seriously, it's only a matter of time before my eye begins to permanently twitch.

Then again, it was only a matter of time anyway.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Teeth, Rain, Bloody Noses



This weekend was a mixed bag. We had a wonderful visit from my in-laws, who somehow always manage to work themselves to death when they come see us. I worry they won't want to come back. Next time it's all play and no work for you Linda and Stan! But on the upside, we have a new light fixture, a moth-free pantry (don't even get me started on that ordeal), and the old non-working gas grill (left behind by the previous owners) is capped off and on the curb.

Then it rained off and on for two days and our yard  turned into a jungle. A big, beautiful jungle. I'm so thankful.

Jane has been sick with the worst cold, and on top of that is teething to the max. As far as I can tell, it's her molars. Oh boy. She cries. She won't eat. She won't drink. She clings to me. She won't sleep. It just breaks my heart. Yesterday she didn't want to climb the stairs and I carried her up. I thought she was holding on tighter to my neck than she was, and when I got to the top hallway I accidentally dropped herface down on the carpet. Her nose started to bleed, and she screamed and cried, and I cried, and thank goodness my mother-in-law was there to keep a clear head and get a cold towel for Jane's nose. I have to tell you, I haven't ever felt so awful and guilty in my entire life. I couldn't stop crying. Even after Jane had recovered and asked to sit on the potty, and she was playing with her sound making Disney princess book, I just kept balling.

Matt walked in and Jane grinned, "Hi Daddy!" and pushed the magic wand button on her book.

I kept boo-hooing.

Matt patted my shoulder, "Are you girls ok?"

Jane pushed the bird button and tweets filled the air, "Hi Daddy! Mommy cwy."

"I'm nottt okkkkk..." I blubbered.

"She's fine Liz," Matt kissed the top of Jane's head.

"I knoowww, buttt I droppped herrrr..." I was not in good shape.

Jane started pushing the rabbit button repeatedly and bouncing sounds echoed off the bathroom walls and she bounced her own feet off the floor repeatedly. Her little right nostril was caked with a tiny bit of dried blood.

"Bunny wadddit!" she yelled, giggling at her own cleverness.

It was the Sunday night comic relief we all needed.

Especially Jane and me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Free Child Labor

Earlier this spring I began battling the pine cones and needles in our yard. I drug a basket around and raked and gathered and after about 30 minutes noticed Jane studying my every move.

Since that day, she's been an avid yard worker. She carries a cup, picking up pine needles and pine cones.

She's pretty meticulous.

It has crossed my mind that one day she'll start picking up Mabel's turds, but until that day comes I won't worry about it.

 She's very thorough.

Then she tromps back across the yard and pushes her pine needles and cones through the fence gate.

Whoops, dropped one.

Back to work.

She's such an expert now that she'll gladly tell you how to do it.

And tell you when you're slacking.

Free child labor. It does have its perks.

Shine On

Even after all this time 
The sun never says to the earth,
”You owe Me.”
Look what happens

with a love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Evening Patio Conversation and iPhones

Me: Isn't it beautiful out here?

Matt: Umhumm.

Me: Can you put your phone away please?

Matt: Just one SECOND babe. I've got to catch one last fish.

*Or something along those lines, but I probably got the details wrong. It could also have been "I've got to press a fish, eat a fish, or make a move on letterpress."

Me: I could throw that in the creek back there and let a fish eat it directly, if that will help you.

Matt, not looking up, hearing only some distant version of "burble burble burble" coming from my lips:

And that's when I realized my idea of decompressing is sitting and talking about paint colors and listening to the stream gurgle behind the house.

Matt's idea of decompressing is never, ever talking about paint colors and catching virtual fish on his iPhone.

There was a time when this would have sent me over the edge. I would have gotten sarcastic. Or sulled up. We would have had it out. I still get super staunch about no phones during dinner, but I also realized that while I might not have his undivided attention, he was sitting there with me. He wasn't watching tv inside. He wasn't hiding in the garage. He was choosing to sit with me on the patio, despite the fact that pollen renders him a snotty mess, because he likes me. It just so happens he likes virtual fish too.

There are a lot worse things.

And I kept talking about paint colors, just to give things a little balance.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy In My Shoes: Be Still

This past Saturday I went shopping in an antique mall. The air smelled like coffee candles and the overhead speakers were piping in Stevie Nicks, and as I exited into the bright sunlight with a new dress for Jane (only $6) and another aqua planter I don't need, I thought to myself, “This is the LIFE.”

And that’s when I ran into a very unhappy couple.

A blonde middle aged woman was loading something into the trunk of her car. She was obviously struggling with the weight of it. Her husband was walking away from her, and toward me, when she called out, “Are you going to help me or not?”

He turned on his heels right in front of me and muttered, “You bitch, you’re ruining my day.”

My first thought was, “Whoa!”

My second thought was, “You better run sucker.”

And then I was reminded of Angela.

For those of you who haven’t been reading my blog very long, Angela was one of my best friends. She passed away from cancer a few years ago. I wrote a book about my friendship with her. She was a wise, wise fox. I miss her every single day, without fail.

We worked together and managed lots of office issues over several departments. I had carefully printed out a sign for my desk that read: “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” But sadly, it did. That was just the nature of our jobs. One day, a certain man I worked with pulled a stunt that created a lot of extra paperwork for me. It was poor planning on his part, and I was reaping the bad work rewards.

“I just hate that guy! He ruins my day!” I grumbled as I plopped down in the chair in front of her desk.

“He’s not ruining your day,” she responded calmly, still typing.

“What?” I asked.

“He’s not ruining your day, you are,” she glanced over and smiling slyly at me.

I’m not sure whether it was just her calm, centered personality, or the peaceful lull of her desktop fountain, but instead of reacting like I normally would have (which probably would have entailed flipping said desk top fountain into the floor), I took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know what you mean.”

She handed me a piece of chocolate from her top drawer stash and said, “He’s a jerk. But if your day is ruined, it’s because you let it get ruined. You at least have control over that.”

We went on to discuss how she’d been in therapy and had studied and read a lot about the idea that we are ultimately responsible for our emotions and actions. I think the reason Angela shared a lot of these things was because she saw a lot of herself, as she had been in years past, in me. I’m very thankful for that. She changed the way I thought about oh so many things. The funny thing is, she’s gone now, but she still changes the way I think about things to this day.

And there I was, years later, in an antique mall parking lot, looking at a man who was a living, breathing, walking definition of that very idea.

His wife may well have been a *bad word that men use because they’re too lazy to search for a better adjective* but his foul mood and his temper and his choice to go to the antique mall with a woman that obviously drove him crazy were the reasons behind his bad day, and he and he alone was responsible for it. 

This is one of those lessons we have to learn over and over. We are captains of our own emotional ships, but we forget. We blame. We look over the edge of the boat and say, “I can’t possibly be happy with all these choppy waves, I’m getting seasick.”

Sometimes it’s time to take a Dramamine and distract ourselves.

The excuses are endless.

“They made me yell.”

“I can’t help it, I just get so sad sometimes.”

“When she acts like that it ruins the whole trip.”

“I come home from work angry every day because of him.”

Jane is in the midst of emotional turmoil these days. She's frustrated that her words aren’t enough, that things don’t go as quickly as she’d prefer, that I don’t always react the way she wants me to react. She arches her back and her face goes red and then the fit comes.

The other day I sat down in the floor in front of her and said, “You have to tell me what you want. You don’t have to yell or cry. Just tell me.”

She stuck her lower lip out, took a deep breath, and crawled into my lap. She got very, very still, pulled her pacifier out and said, “Wawa, no milk.”

 “OK, you want water in your sippy cup and not milk?”

She began to giggle and nod her head.


I thanked her for being a big girl and not screaming. She skipped off into the living room with her water.
What made me the happiest was that she chose not to throw a fit. She chose not to do what came so easily to her. Oh sure, there will be many more fits in her future. But on that day, at that moment, she chose to sit very still and decide her next move. She controlled her reaction. She chose not to ruin her own day. If she learns nothing else from me, I hope she learns that. I hope she learns that as she grows up, she controls her mood, her temper, her actions, and ultimately her day.

Does this mean we won't have bad days? Or run into people that drive us crazy? Uh. No. Because we're on earth and we have a pulse. But it will mean that we learn to push back from our desks and take a walk when work becomes overwhelming. It will mean that we understand those people who drive us crazy aren't as important as our reactions. It's so easy to fall into the comforting embrace of a bad attitude, or curse words, or fit throwing. They welcome us with open arms, promising relief, promising to make us feel better, hugging us close and whispering, "Aw, you can't help it. They made you do it." But that's a big fat lie. And we all know it. 

I’ve been taking a cue from Jane lately. I’ve been sitting very still, breathing deeply, and saying a prayer. I’ve been reminding myself that while other people can affect me, I have a choice over the level their actions take hold. I’ve been reminding myself that Matt and Jane are the most important things in my world, and they deserve all the best of me. They deserve a wife and mother who can be still and who can choose what kind of day she will have.

We all deserve this. We can all do this.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Morning Walk: Stop Shoulding Yourself

"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day."
-Henry David Thoreau

When I walk I write. In my head. I come up with book ideas, characters, story plots. If I'm not taking regular walks, you can bet I'm not writing either. 

I also use that time to think about blogging and the things I want to do, and sometimes the things I want to change. It's like a creative board meeting with the birds and foggy spring air. 

Six years ago last month I started Mabel's House. It looked so different then. The photos weren't great. The writing was stiff. I read other blogs constantly looking for what I should be doing in life, most of which contained pictures of people's homes decorated primarily from Hobby Lobby. No bueno.

And then the pressure increased. I felt the need to read every blog of every person reading mine. I felt the need to return every single comment. I kept up with traffic statistics. I read and studied "big" blogs to see what they were doing differently, doing better. I thought I needed to do a decorating project every week to be interesting. Then one late night a couple of years ago I realized I was working 20 to 30 hours a week (in addition to my full time job) and Mabel's House had become an un-fun burden. I came very close to hitting delete on this whole shebang.

I wasn't blogging because I could, I was blogging because I should. 

I was "shoulding" myself into a really exhausting place. 

In the past I've shrugged off a lot of "should's." I stopped tanning (no wrinkles + no cancer = win/win). I cut off my hair and I don't care if men like it better long. I wear pantyhose to work functions during the summertime because it's professional and I don't care what Stacy and Clinton say. I only clean my bathrooms every two weeks because WHO HAS THE TIME? And since I was able to reject these "should's" why was blogging be any different?

That's when the changes came. I reduced my blog reader list from over 300 to my favorite 20. I turned off the comment section on the blog. I decorated my house only when I felt like it and only when I had the money. I stopped checking traffic statistics. I gave myself permission to stop carrying my camera around constantly. And you know what? I rediscovered that I really love blogging. 

I love it this way, not the way it used to be. I'm telling you all of this because, if I were a betting woman, I'd be willing to place cash on the table that someone today is reading this post and feeling the same way. Uninspired. Overwhelmed. Confused. And to you I say, "Do what you want." If that means reducing your reader feed and my blog is one that gets the axe... go for it. If that means you don't post every day... go for it. 

After all, aren't we here for the fun of it? We don't have a boss who will get mad at our attendance record, or teachers who will grade us on originality and spelling (actually, there are plenty of people who will grade/judge you on spelling and grammar but just ignore them and keep writing).

 I want to encourage you to blog because you can, and you enjoy it... not because you should.

Also, take an early morning walk every now and then. It really is the best mental medicine.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Living Room Tour and a Defense for the Big Brown Leather Sectional

A couple of weeks ago we finally painted the living room, or as we like to call it, the bowling alley.

It's long and narrow, a veritable rubik's cube for furniture arrangement.

Below is a picture of the room as it was listed online when the house was for sale. Fine, but not my style. And the brown walls. Have I mentioned I couldn't take them? And have I mentioned that they're EVERYWHERE upstairs?


Ok. I'll stop talking now and let you look.

Someday I'd love to have a desk area by the window near the Weasley China Cabinet.  And there's still a little work to do on the tv console wall (which is why I didn't show that area). But, overall I'm really happy with the way it's turning out.

I do, of course, expect some of you to be horrified by our big brown leather sectional because there once was a day when I myself would have been horrified. Obviously sleek mid-century sofas are more stylish, and fluffy, white slip-covered couches are more cottagey. And I love both of those things. But I've come to learn that those mid-century sofas don't feel so great when you're trying to take a nap on them. And the fluffy, white slip-covered couches get stained, and yes you can bleach them. And you will. Every. Single. Week. So that's my argument for the big brown couch. It's stain proof. It's smell proof. And I can get comfy on it when I have the flu.


Adulthood has seriously altered my decorating perimeters.