Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Congratulations to Summer Myers! Summer gets to choose between two posters made by annilygreen*. Email us with your choice and contact information and we'll make sure you get your prize.
Thank you again (so so much) to everyone who sent in an essay. They were all beautiful in their own perfect way and we've enjoyed hearing from you.
*Don't forget, both of these posters are available in Annie's Etsy shop for purchase. You can buy one to hang on your very own wall! I certainly intend to do so.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The fight for suffrage in the United States began all the way back in 1848. For sixty years, amazing women attended conventions, picketed the White House, marched in protests and demonstrations, and went to jail in the pursuit of equal political rights.
On August 26, 1920, the amendment was finally made official. It's impossible to do justice to all the women who deserve recognition, but today I hope we can remember their sacrifices and honor them all.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Second of all, we have a top three for you Lovely Readers to vote on! Go democracy!
So, in no particular order, our top three essays:
Rachel Slough: Rachel Learns to Kill Vampires
Summer Myers: It's Still Okay
Julie W.: Comfortable
Check out the poll on the right side bar and vote for your favorite of the three. Voting will close in one week, August 31st. Happy voting!
Friday, August 20, 2010
It was January 2006 and my boyfriend of four years and I had traveled to Australia for six months with a couple of friends. We wanted to work, travel, experience the country - just have an amazing time.
About two weeks into our trip, my boyfriend's father was diagnosed with cancer. Stage four. We couldn't believe it and, I guess because we weren't exposed firsthand to what was happening, were perpetually hopeful that he was strong enough and that "everything's going to be fine." We spoke to him on the phone, shared our positive insights and did our best to cheer him up.
In the beginning of May, my boyfriend decided to go back. His mom had asked him to come home; his dad wasn't doing well.
I couldn't leave. I mean, my little sister had purchased a ticket for Australia and was going to be there in just a few weeks.
I couldn't leave. I knew I needed to support him, but I couldn't leave my family either... My sister was young and my mom was terrified of her being in the country on her own.
I couldn't leave. And what about the rent? We were renting with two friends and I couldn't just leave them hanging like that. They wouldn't be able to afford rent.
So he left May 9 and I stayed.
It was hard.
We broke up a month or so later because he simply couldn't really handle everything that was happening. He needed more support than I could give him over the phone. His father passed away on July 14. On July 16, my birthday, I was on a plane headed for Canada, desperate to make it to the funeral on the 17th.
I made it.
But he didn't want me there.
It was hard to accept. I had been there for the family for four years... but I wasn't there for them when they needed it most - I couldn't just show up when it was all over and offer support. I had let the entire family down, not just him. Worst of all, I never said goodbye to his dad and the last memory he would have had of me was that I had forsaken his son and his family. It was awful.
I still hurts now.
It still brings tears to my eyes to write this
Even though we got back together
Even though he forgave me
Even though we are now married and in love and happy.
In the end, the rent wasn't important. I could have kept paying my share even though I was gone. My sister would have been okay on her own - my friends would have made sure of that. I made the decision I did, because I was worried about disappointing other people. I was thinking with my head, about the logical thing to do, about everything that needed to be taken care of by me. I should have thought with my heart. If I had, I would have been on that plane with him.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
My son Elliot is sleeping in the room next to me with a mild fever, and I'm not worried about it. This is in contrast to the weeks following his birth when every fever, every vomit, and every sniffle warranted tears for me and an immediate doctor visit for him. He was sensitive to my milk when I ate chocolate. He had asymmetrical circulation that caused a red line down the center of his face when he cried. He had torticollis so severe that a lump formed on his neck and projected past his jaw over the course of a day. We took him to the Emergency Room at one o'clock that night; he was sixteen days old. And I sobbed because somebody somewhere mentioned the word "cancer."
None of these amounted to anything. The doctors would say, "It's just one of those things. He'll get over it." And he did. I made myself sick with worry about a bunch of red herrings. I fantasized about a book for new parents - an encyclopedia of every problem a child could ever have - and next to every entry the book would authoritatively state: "This is perfectly normal. It's okay. Don't worry about it." Then we new parents would all sigh and smile and clink our glasses of apple juice together.
There were two little things I wasn't worried about. Elliot was jaundiced. It was bad enough that we were ordered to come back to the hospital after two weeks to check up on it, but I knew jaundice was common and that it was likely to resolve itself. It did. Also, he didn't pass his newborn hearing test. No problem. This is common enough, especially for babies born by caesarean, and there's no history of hearing loss on either side of the family.
But he didn't pass the follow-up test, or the one after that, or the three after that. Elliot was a few months old when we faced the obvious conclusion: our son was deaf. Further testing would be required to determine the severity. My husband and I were heartbroken. We talked to him and sang to him into the evening, aching for him to hear our voices.
Elliot received his first pair of hearing aids at five months old. We had adequately adjusted to the idea by then, though the wound was still healing. We had to laugh at the stares and the questions from strangers around town; it's not every day that you see a little baby with chunky, ill-fitting machinery flopping out of his tiny ears, and a lot of people have a lot to say about it.
One evening, my husband was holding Elliot in an aisle in the grocery store when a little boy of undetermined age walked up and wordlessly hugged our son. He had hearing aids, too. In this one healing act the boy expressed empathy, fellowship, and acceptance to my son. He had hearing aids, too, and it was okay.
Now I fantasize about a different encyclopedia of baby problems - one which reads next to certain entries, "This is not normal. Everything is not perfect. And it's still okay." I am nearly nine months pregnant with our second child, and my husband and I still don't know the cause of Elliot's hearing loss. Our daughter may have hearing impairment, too, or maybe something more complicated. Maybe in the end we'll have a house full of half a dozen kids with twice as many hearing aids: small, expensive things to lose and find and break and replace. Maybe Elliot will struggle with some things in his life that I never will, and I will have to watch from the outside and feel the special heart-sickness of a mother who can't do anything about it.
And it's still okay.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
It's been almost 10 years since I came to the U.S. It feels like I have gone through many changes, trials, great happiness, and transformations in a very short time. I sometimes feel I am on a crazy ride and I need to get off for a bit so I don't get dizzy... Woo!
I was thinking about becoming lovely and for me, a wild, quite odd person who DOES NOT blend with the crowd, I feared my essay will be misunderstood. Which brings me to the lesson I have learned.
The fear of not being understood made me terrified and anxious communicating with people on deeper levels, human levels, bluntly-said levels. This fear made me try to talk and act in a way that I perceived to be "the right way."
Realizing I was acting out of fear, which is never a good thing, I went upon a learning journey to get to the root of the fear and yank it. What I learned is mostly awesome and somewhat sad but true.
When I am true to myself, respect my true core, and respect others' place in life, I am doing the right thing. With that said, being true and not always understood leads to the loss of "friends" or "loved ones."
Seeing life in a positive lovely way sometimes requires stepping in mud and having no one say, "Aw, you poor thing." The loneliness that comes with retrieving your real self is the "downside." The upside is that I have a true sense of who I am: complex, funny, silly, blunt, naive, loving to the point of puking, weird, unique and quite imaginative and dramatic.
Instead of letting that drama come out in my relationships, the drama is to be channeled into my art. Writing. Photography. Music.
The beautiful irony in that is that writing will lead to exposure of feelings and experiences that can make people, once again, not understand me. But the greatest lesson is that my truth and my art is ME.
Those who love me will stick with me, appreciate my sincere intentions and remember always that I love them in my odd, silly, sometimes overwhelming way.
I have released the need to be loved by everyone. How? I have learned that I love myself- and just like I would not give up on a person I love because they are not what I "decide" they should be, I have full confidence that I will not give up on myself, with all my weaknesses and oddness (which I now embrace).
Learning to have a positive outlook on yourself and others is a wonderful inner journey. As we know, we are our thoughts. Which is why repressing hard things can control me- so God gave me art!
I embrace imperfection- It's PERFECT and lovely and I love unconditionally. Peace.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
As a teenager, I remember several older people at church who would ask me about all the details of my life: my favorite school subjects, crushes on boys, my life goals, etc. These mentors would also tell me that I could take my talents and interests and use them to reach my goals. Their confidence made feel confident that I would be a Broadway singer, a heart surgeon, a famous novelist. I invited my mentors to my high school plays, and they came. After I sang a solo in church, they always made sure to tell me how well I had sung. They encouraged me in my desire to live a Christ-like life by praising me for the good decisions I made. Above all, their interest in my life made me feel insanely fascinating and exciting. I felt good about myself and my abilities when I was with them.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I love teaching and get a thrill from the surprises and constant variety, and the energy when students make new connections. While teaching one-on-one has always been fun, teaching a full classroom was absolutely terrifying for a long time. All of those eyes on me, the expectation that I keep a room of people engaged and learning; everyone silently, or not so silently, judging my words and actions. I had nightmares about all the horrible things that could happen in a classroom, yet I couldn’t shake this gut-level feeling that teaching would be worth any of these challenges. I knew that I’d have to get over this fear of teaching full classes, so I forced myself to teach as often and in as many settings as I could throughout high school and undergrad. I asked people I trusted for suggestions, I read books, I had others critique my teaching, I learned yoga and breathing techniques. I even spent a year abroad on a teaching grant, which allowed me 30-40 hours of teaching each week and seminars each month related to education and the art of teaching.
But the terror remained and, no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop the rising panic that started every time I began a class and the rushed pace and frantic atmosphere that resulted—exactly the opposite of the safe, comfortable learning environment that I wanted to establish for my students. After all this effort, I still loved teaching, but I was beginning to doubt if I was really doing myself, or anyone else, any good by keeping this up. Maybe it was time to accept, move on, and find something else that I’m better suited to do.Stubborn as I am, I gave myself a mental deadline of just one more semester of effort and kept asking experts for ideas. My graduate supervisor suggested a zen-like approach of just accepting, ok, I get panicky when I teach. That’s just what it feels like. Accept, embrace, go with it. While this helped somewhat, it wasn’t enough to help me slow down or eliminate the panic. I asked another friend, who advised me to Just Kill Those Vampires, explaining that the song “Die Vampire, Die” from Title of Show says it all (warning that there is explicit language).
Friday, August 13, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Contest entry #5 by another of our favorite contributors, Julie.
I had a hard time feeling comfortable in my skin. Literally. I had a tremendous case of acne from 6th to 11th grade. I grew to my height before the boys grew. I really was uncomfortable with myself. In college I tried to keep up with the fads, and once married I tried to keep my home decorated like the neighbors and my hedges pruned. I had happiness. To a certain level.
Finally by the ripe old age of 27 I was able to completely let down my guard. I could see the whole picture. My lesson was learned. Happiness came from what I determined it was. This is simple and obvious. But seriously, it felt like forever until I no longer cared if others were judging me. Or looking at my huge zit. I am what I am. No apologies. This changed the color of my world. This lesson has had the biggest impact on my self esteem and self worth. It is wonderful to feel and know this. I look forward to continuing to grow every year.
Last month I came out of a church restroom with my skirt tucked up in the back of my waistband. Yes, my rear was there full view for any and all to see. You may not see this as drastic, but I am 8 months pregnant and about 30 pounds sexier at the moment. Luckily, there was only one man there to gawk at me, and 2 very kind ladies who scurried over to untuck the fabric. I should have been mortified and then run to hide. Somehow I was not. I was grateful to the ladies, and confident that the male observer took pity and humor on the big fat pregnant lady carrying her 18 month old son. This reaffirms my lesson; I am fine being me, even in my most embarrassing state!
Monday, August 9, 2010
In my childhood, I longed to leave my small hometown, lovingly christened a “bubble.” One morning I decided to “run away” to the tree house in my front yard, returning home minutes later at my mother’s panicked calls. Apparently, Breakfast at Tiffany’s had too much of an influence on me, because if Holly Golightly could run away from her small town and become a socialite in New York, why couldn’t I?
Adulthood hit in the midst of a deteriorating relationship, an unfulfilling job, and a myriad of opportunities to leave everything behind. Instead of becoming a morally-questionable socialite in New York City sometime in the 1940’s, I found myself praying to have more faith. I prayed until I no longer found it an issue. And then I remained in my physical surroundings while emotionally and spiritually moving on.
Or I thought I had moved on, but some of those opportunities still lingered around, waiting for me to be willing, waiting for me to say it’s alright to come back and present themselves.
A friend offering her experience wrote: “For me, it was a huge leap of faith… and finally, I just decided I needed to push forward.” Her words to me resonated. I was scared, she knew it, and she had been, too. But this woman, she had strength and grace, something that I admired deeply and could never imagine attaining myself.
The comfort kept coming throughout the week. At the close of a yoga class, the instructor quietly said: “Make decisions based on truth and love, and ask for peace.”
Between the mat below and the air above, my heart shook at this statement. I did not want to leave Savasana. I wanted to lay there forever, eyes closed, feeling that peace.
So I will run away, but do so with truth, love, and faith. I won’t run to a tree house or swindle old men out of their riches (unless dictated to do so by truth, love, and faith, but I doubt such values would lead me to a tree house or gold digger future). I will move forward by these precepts, and hopefully someday call it a lesson learned.
Since we know there are a few of you out there with essay ideas in the works (and since we want to read more), the contest deadline has been extended one week, to August 14th.
We can't wait to read more essays from you and, in the mean time, we will be posting more entries throughout this week. Enjoy!
P.S. In case you forgot the awesome prize you could win, check it out again over at annilygreen. Here and Here.
Friday, August 6, 2010
If I could sum up the majority of my thoughts from the past three or four days I think that the above statement would probably be the winner. “It’s not fair. This is not fair. Not fair, not fair not fair!” Apparently I revert back to my ten-year-old state when under duress, but no matter, because to be honest, this really hasn’t been fair.
Coming from a family of all girls, we were overly obsessed with the concept of fairness. We were instantly aware of any occasion where one sister got more than the rest of us. Desserts were painstakingly measured and cut so we all got equal portions. Christmas presents were counted and recounted to be sure that we all got the same number. Closets were compared to see if perhaps a sister was luckier in her clothing selections than the others were. The words, “not fair” were uttered so much by us that in time they started melding together until a sort of “nofeair” sound was recognized by us all as to mean, “That’s not fair!”
We drove my parents crazy. So much so that my Dad created a mantra that continues to dominate our family life today: “Life’s not fair.” As soon as the little girl, high-pitched whine of, “but that’s not fair!” was heard, we knew that quickly on its heels would come the deep, fatherly-voiced reply of, “well, life’s not fair.”
Strangely enough, I think this concept of my dad's really started to sink it at some point. I’m not sure at what point it was- whenever it was, it look a long, long time, but standing where I am in my life now- today- I find myself saying, when the occasion calls for it, “well, Jill- life’s just not fair.”
So I guess this is what I have learned: Yes, at times I wish things in my life were different. But it'll be okay I suppose because, really- life just isn’t fair...
I did my best. I did what I could. Sure, I didn’t get what I wanted in the end, but at least I know it wasn’t from lack of trying on my part. I may not have gotten what I feel I deserved, but no worries. I’ll simply wait for the day to come when I get something far more than I deserve. Because let’s not forget- there are two sides to every coin. You see, sometimes this whole “life’s not fair” thing can really work out in our favor…
This has been an original essay by one Jill Berrett, copyright pending...
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Then I grew up.
I got married, got a job, graduated from college, had a baby…and pretty soon I was pretty well settled in my new found comfort zone. You know—the one where you don’t take overnight trips to foreign countries just for the stamp in your passport or go repelling off a cliff just to impress some cute guy. It is the zone where you see 9 PM flashing on your clock radio and think “Bed time already…Woohoo!”
This summer I took a trip with my daughter up to Island Park Idaho where I spent the better part of my summers as a youth (proof that I’m old…I’m using the word youth). Most of the cousins I spent my time with as a kid were off being adults, so I had the privilege of getting to know some “youthier” cousins and my sister who are all in the 15-19 year range. For some reason this brought out a side of me that I thought had vanished.
Several of my cousins decided it would be fun to go bridge jumping. I do not like heights, falling, or becoming paralyzed so I decided against it. Unfortunately for me, as I stood there watching my cousins hurl themselves off the bridge into the water I began to get that "old" sinking feeling in the depths of my bowels.
I had to jump.
Yes it was hard, yes it took me about ten minutes of standing on the very edge picturing my dead body floating in the river while making others jump before me (including my daredevil 6 year old cousin), but I closed my eyes and jumped into what seemed an eternity until I hit the frigged water of the Snake river and came up feeling awesome. When I emerged from the water my grandpa said, "There is the mother of the year!"
Why didn't I want to take the chance in the first place? Why would I think that becoming an adult would exclude me from such ridiculousness? I was using adulthood as an excuse to prohibit myself rather than a jumping point (no pun intended) to reach my full potential.
This is why three days later I found myself standing on a rock in Yellowstone National Park absolutely naked.
Bridge jumping renewed my desired to go beyond my comfort zone and be spontaneous. My sister and cousins invited me to Mystic falls to go skinny dipping. I'll spare you the details but know that I absolutely did it and I have never felt better doing something illegal in my whole life. Sure, I was afraid I would get swept up in the currant and my naked body would go over the waterfall, sure I was afraid that someone would steal my clothes, or I would get partially eaten by a bear-- then be found naked, but I learned that you are never beyond challenging yourself, you are never beyond adventure.
Life is meant to be lived. For some people it means ignoring your diet to indulge in your favorite dessert, for others it is jumping out of a plane. I learned that you should never limit your choices based on the stereotype you have categorized yourself in. Sure I am an adult. I’m a mom…but I am also Melissa Turney, and she likes a little adventure now and again.
Monday, August 2, 2010
"The kind of hugs you give during times of grief are those when you can’t tell which person is the one holding the other up. They are the kind where you are holding so tightly that one could go limp with sorrow and neither would fall. They are the kind where you are trying to convey that, somehow, the world will go on and that you can rely on your friends to be there and understand that your heart is broken and they won’t try to fix it but, rather, just be there with you as you relearn how to navigate the world.”
I wrote those words three days after he died. Let me back up. Over the July 4th weekend a close friend of mine from college got married. Less than twelve hours later one of her closest friends, an usher at her wedding, died unexpectedly at the age of thirty. He left behind a wife, a three-month-old daughter, a father, and friends who loved him like a brother.
I got the call at 1:57 a.m. from the bride, Beth, saying something had happened to Jeremy; she didn’t know the extent of it all but she wanted to let someone else in the wedding party know where she was and what little she knew, and that she’d call back when she knew more. The next call came at 2:09 a.m. Beth managed to get out three words before she couldn’t speak anymore. Before her voice became overwhelmed with grief for the friend she considered a brother. “Jeremy didn’t make it...” she said. The “it” trailed away into sobs. She managed to find a few more words, getting them out through the cries and gasps for air; the message was something along the lines that she didn’t know what to do and she needed someone who could think straight to come to the hospital right away.
I have never been in this kind of situation, so close to the actual moment of death. My heart ached, and continues to ache, for Jeremy’s wife, for Beth and her partner on their wedding night...I couldn’t imagine what they were going through...what they continue to go through.
And yet, I had a different perspective. Though I was greatly saddened by the loss of Jeremy, more of the grief and sadness I felt was that for those who have lost their shared future with Jeremy. I’m not married, but I can’t imagine losing my (someday) husband and never again seeing his smile, the one I would expect to see on the pillow next to me every morning for the rest of my life...to lose the plans we might make to go visit friends next week...to lose the conversations about how to raise our children... to lose the times when the pile of dishes in the sink would be too much and I might wash and he might dry...to lose the idea of growing old together...to lose the shared laughter...to lose the times when we might just sit and be, together...
That night I told myself I never wanted to fall in love so I would never have to face the kind of pain Jeremy’s wife was feeling, the despair and grief. Even now I keep going back and forth...But I have faith that there is so much more to love than just the now. That, somehow, the memory of the love that was shared along with the love and support of friends and family would help me continue, to face each day as it comes. Nothing would be “better;” nothing would be “alright.” It would be a different life than I or anyone else could have envisioned...one that I might not want to face. But it would still have love. As long as there is at least a little bit of love I could still have hope. Though it scares me, I won’t (and can’t) give up on love.