Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Writing Prompt: My Grandmothers' Stories

A Mama Kat writing prompt.
Your Grandma's story.

*NOTE* This post got really long. Feel free to skim. Some of the highlights are illegal 12-year-old immigrants, real, live atheist-commies, and 6-foot-tall grandmas.

I'm one of those people who loves genealogy. Like, paying money to use and going to Ellis Island to just "have the experience."

I am lucky enough to have had adults in my life who could tell me the stories of what it is like to be an immigrant or a child of an immigrant, to not have your first language be English, to be discriminated against because of your ethnicity. I say "lucky" (even though what happened was awful), because it gives me some sense of perspective and compassion for those are dealing with discrimination and injustice now.

My paternal grandmother, Henrietta, was one of those adults and it's her story and the stories of her mother and mother-in-law, that I want to share now.

I'll start with my great-grandmother, Rosalie Pietraszka (don't ask me to spell her maiden's filled with w's and z's and whatnot). She grew up in Lithuania, and when I say grew up, I mean she lived there until she was about 12, and then she left, stealing another girl's passport and sneaking aboard a ship, leaving for America, because her life, for lack of a better word, sucked, in Lithuania. Both of her parents were dead. She was dirt poor. There was nothing there for her. So, like many immigrants before and after her, she left for the States.

She came here illegally, by the way. Very, very illegally.

Once in the U.S., she made her way to Haverhill, Massachusetts and lived at a boarding house and babysat for a living. She also worked in a textile mill (either in Lowell or Haverhill). She married my great-grandfather when she was fifteen (but lied about her age, saying she was 18). And my great-grandfather, by the way, was another interesting case--he fled Russia because he didn't want to join the Russian army. Hmm. Wonder why...(It was basically a death sentence.)

Rosalie settled in Groveland, MA in the house I grew up in (until I was 10 and moved to Maine) with my great-grandfather and raised several children. Only a few made it to adulthood. One child died of a fever. Another literally burned to death.

When I think of Rosalie, part of me is amazed by her strength. She...I can't even put words to it. The gall and bravery it must have took to do what she did for herself astounds me. Another part of me, however, is so sad for her. She left Lithuania hoping for a better life and sometimes I wonder if her life really was any better here. Of course, if she hadn't come to America, my grandfather would never have been born (tragedy), nor would my father or aunt be here (another sad thing to contemplate), and neither would I (THE HORROR!). I am so thankful for everything Rosalie did, everything she put on the line, and I am proud that a small part of her is within me.

My other great-grandmother, my grandma's mom, is someone I know very little about, but I sense her within me.

I don't even remember her name, but I do remember her, or at least a picture of her that hung in my grandparents' upstairs hallway. She had dark hair and eyes and a pretty face. I had looked at this picture every time I had gone to my grandparents' house and if I close my eyes now I can see her looking at me. There is something of grace and composure and intelligence about her. I might be superimposing all this on her, due to what little I know, but maybe it really is there.

My great-grandma was a Bolshevik. At the turn of the 20th century, she and my great-grandfather (a musician) came to the U.S. I know only a little bit about their first time here and that's that they had two kids, my great-uncle Henry and my great-aunt Vera. Just as the revolution in Russia began, they went back to Russia to "help."

By all accounts, the trip back home was not good. While ideologically in line with what the Communists wanted to do, things weren't going quite the way my great-grandparents had planned (read Animal Farm, it was nuts over there). For one, they had been seperated from their two children (who had been shipped off to school, were forebidden from speaking English--and remember, they were American citizens--and had to have their heads shaved, due to lice), and for two, they were basically spending their time sleeping in barns, just trying to survive.

Eventually, they were able to get back to the States, but only because my aunt and uncle were citizens (anchor babies!).

My great-grandmother's experience, while very different from her counter-part, has me equally fascinated. To hear my grandma speak of her mother, you often heard a tone of admiration. She was well-read and seemed intelligent. She was very clear about her atheism, but made my grandmother go to the congregational church in their town, calling it "one of the lesser of the evils." That part always made me laugh.

I guess I have a very specific idea of her in my head, and though I have no idea if it actually fits her truly, but from the bits and pieces I know, I feel like she's very much like me--political, thoughtful, a bibliophile. Of all the relatives I've never had a chance to meet, I'd say she's tops on my list of "Dead People I'd Have Lunch With." She just seems so cool.

Lastly, there is my grandmother. I lost her about two years ago, and the loss still feels raw. She was such an amazing and interesting person, and such an incredibly strong prescence in our lives that it still feels strange to not have her here.

She led such an interesting life. She played basketball in college (Boston University), travelled the country and the world, could grow anything, sew anything, told the best stories, and, as she got older, was so open to anything. More than all that, she pushed me very hard to be good at what I did, to be a good student, writer, mother, person. She expected me to be the best, and I wanted to be that for her as well as for myself. Though she could be incredibly critical, I never doubted that she knew how high my worth was.

One of the defining moments of our relationship came at the very end of her life. I was in the midst of practicum, an intense 12 credit course that all education majors go through. It's like boot camp. A major portion of that class is the completion of our portfolios (yeah, we do a lot of portfolios). I had just finished mine and was so proud. I hadn't turned it yet, by my professor allowed me the chance to hang on to it for a few days to show to my grandma.

She had uterine cancer. And while she'd faced other cancers before and won (in addition to other ailments), this one was defeating her...though I hadn't realized how much.

She could barely move, hardly speak, barely a shadow of the strong, towering woman I so admired. I knew I wasn't going to be able to show her my portfolio, nevermind even have a conversation about it. But I did have it out...just in case.

And then, one day, mere days before she would pass, she asked me, barely audible, "Kirsten, what's that?" She was looking at the massive binder on one of the end tables in the living room, where she'd been sleeping. I told her it was my portfolio for practicum. "Let me see it," she said.

I gently held it in her lap, turned the pages, talked about the process, the lessons I'd planned, what was hard, what was easy. We went through all of it. At the end she told me she was proud of me and I said thanks.

My getting through college was a huge deal for my grandma. It was something she had really, really wanted for me, probably even more than I had wanted it. It kills me to think that she wasn't here for that moment last May (like, this is something that keeps me awake at night), but I am so, so glad she got to see my practicum portfolio and say those words to me.

Wow, this has turned into a hugely long post, far longer than it should have been, but it has been cathartic. I hope that those who read this have been equally blessed with amazing women in their families and cherish them with all their hearts.

My grandma in the middle, my dad to the left (as if you couldn't tell he's her son) and my mom's dad to the right (now there's a blog post--he's led a wicked amazing life).

P.S. This is not to say my maternal grandma is not the most incredible person in the world, but I don't know as many great stories about her as I do my paternal grandma. This is something I'll have to remedy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Food Crush

There is an episode of South Park that I'd love to post on here (along with a title change) that totally describes my love for food, cooking, and a particular celebrity chef, but it's completely inappropriate. So the following words will have to suffice.



Nigella Lawson.

I've gone through two of her cookbooks, used a few of her recipes, watched her on YouTube and I'm pretty much beyond infatuated impressed with both her presentation and her delicious food.

Her deal seems to be this: Cooking for others and yourself is one of the greatest, most nurturing things you can do. I tend to agree. I grew up in a household where meals were, if not prepared with a lot of care and love, at least had that essence of "I'm making this for my family and I love them." I know my mom would probably laugh at this, because she has been pretty frank in the past that she's not always thrilled to have the responsiblity of cooking dinner, but every meal she served us always had that dash of "I love you" in it.

Nigella Lawson fully and completely represents that sort of cooking.

I also love that her recipes, for the most part, are not these ridiculous and unattainable dishes (both in ability needed and checkbook needed). Many have just a few ingredients that you're likely to have kicking around or can pick up rather inexpensively at the grocery store or local market. And while she's a proponent of fresh and organic ingredients, her books are not obnoxious or preachy about it. I've followed other celeb chef/cook recipes before (example: I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my family last year using only Martha Stewart recipes--a expensive, though delicious, nightmare), and none compare to the taste and ease of what Nigella offers.

Plus, she makes cooking seem sexy:

And, in addition to all that, her cookbooks are actually really fun to read. Her literar voice is very strong and conversational, so you feel like you're reading more of a food diary or commentary rather than a super-informative text-booky kind of thing. It's like having a friend teach you how to cook something (and I really want to be Nigella's friend...).

Here are a few recipes I've tried and LOVED and have made again and again:
Toad in the Hole (WAY tastier than it sounds and no real toads, only tastey sausage)
Crustless Pizza (Two things here. One, you can totally use lower fat ingredients in this--it still tastes great. And two, really not a crustless pizza, but more like a sauceless one. Lizzie and I have started calling it Cheddar cheese pie after the favorite food of Angelina Ballerina.)
Chocolate Banana Muffins (SO good, even after they've been sitting around for a bit)
Apple and Cinnamon Muffins (Another really good one. I made these, the chocolate banana ones and some blueberry corn muffins--can't find the recipe for that one online--and could have eaten all of them by myself. The best.)

One of my goals on my "Ultimate To Do List" (see above) is to use a new recipe each week. While I haven't quite lived up to that goal quite yet, I've started to come closer by reading not only Nigella's cookbooks, but others as well (though hers are my favorite). Besides wanting to be more adventurous in the kitchen, reading her books and attempting to try something new more often has made me more aware of what I feed myself and my family. It's been hard these past few years to always give everyone wholesome meals. Sometimes I'm too tired or we lacked the funds to get the ingredients I really wanted, but things are changing. I'm hoping with out new job situation (i.e. me having one), I'll be able to cook up the good stuff more often (though, where I'll find the energy, I'm not sure!).

If anything, Nigella gets me salivating and gives me the ambition and creativity I need to get cooking (literally) when the moment calls, even if it's just plain old spaghetti.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Another New Addition

If you look to your right, you might notice something new. I made myself a little grab button for the blog. Please, please feel free to grab it!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another Vignette: The Cave

I'm writing a series of vignettes, each on based off songs by the band Mumford and Sons (my fave band). I'm not sure why I decided to do this, other than I just needed to do some fiction writing. Why am I choosing to share what I've written here? I don't know, really. I guess it gives me a wider sense of purpose if I post it somewhere, even if a large audience is not going to read it.

You can see my first vignette here, if you're interested.

            Their parties were always lavish. The entire orchard was speckled with lights, tiny luminaries hanging from the delicate branches. A large white tent had sprung up amongst the fruit-laden trees, and underneath it were rows of wooden tables covered in white linen and set with fine white china and clear crystal glasses. In the distance, a small crowd of people, chattering and even singing merrily, made their way down a wide path lit by the glowing trees, to the tent.
            At the head of the crowd were Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Hampton, the hosts. Their good friends, Dr. and Mrs. Lawson, walked next to them. The ladies were in lovely white summer dresses, the kind that seemed both casual and perfectly formal at the same time. The gentlemen’s white suits complimented them perfectly. The other couples who trailed behind were dressed in the same fashion, for there always seemed to be an unspoken dress code for all the Hampton’s events.
            No one seemed out of place, not even Ben Lawson, the son of the good doctor and his wife, who had a habit of being very much out of the ordinary, though out of politeness most people tried to ignore it. He looked smart in his well-tailored white suit, his dark and unruly curls slicked back with the same pomade his father used. His lean face with its sharp features were not marred by the small scowl he wore—it simply enhanced his rakish persona, drawing the attention of a few ladies like the moths to the trees’ luminaries.
            Beside him walked his oldest friend (and rumored betrothed), Lorelei Hampton, the hosts’ daughter. She had taken Ben’s arm as they walked the tent, her slim figure fitting nicely against his taller, more robust frame. Lorelei had that well-practiced look of simpering happiness affixed to her lips, though it didn’t reach her eyes. It was as if Ben’s agitation was contagious.
            The all sat down to dinner. Three courses. Simple and lovely. The menu perfectly matched to the setting, all agreed. Very well planned out, many said to Mrs. Hampton, who glowed.
            Dinner was cleared away along with the tables and some chairs. A small bandstand had been erected and players had come under the tent. They played the popular tunes and some couples began to dance. Others mingled at the outskirts of the tent, chatting (which really meant gossiping).
            The largest crowd orbited around the Hampton and Lawson wives (their husbands had disappeared some time before). They delicately held glasses of champagne, laughed politely at poorly told jokes and dealt county news like a bar keep at a speakeasy. Finally, someone asked, “But Mrs. Hampton, are there wedding bells to be tolled for your Lorelei?” Mrs. Hampton looked to her friend and Mrs. Lawson giggled.
            Ben stood at the edge of the small crowd, and though he went unnoticed by his mother and her friend, and many of the others around him, he could still hear every word that was being spoke.
            “I suppose that all depends on a certain young man,” Mrs. Hampton replied, smiling at Mrs. Lawson.
“Well, Benjamin is due to complete his doctor’s training the spring after next and then he’ll take up practice with his father. I suppose once he’s established and found himself a home to settle down in he’ll need to take a wife. A man cannot live with a housekeeper alone,” Mrs. Lawson explained.
“Well, some men can’t,” someone muttered, glancing at Rodney Smith, the man who married his maid. She hadn’t been invited.
Ben listened to this, gritting his teeth. He knew his mother and Mrs. Hampton had designs on his future. And he had gone along with it all for many years now, growing comfortable with his future. But incessant niggling in the back of his mind, urging him to not completely settle, had yet to go away. Hearing this open declaration of what he was going to do with the rest of his life, without any direction confirmation from himself or Lorelei, seemed to intensify the niggling. He felt fidgety all of a sudden, becoming more uncomfortable with the awkward clothes and hair.
“In another years time we shall be planning a summer wedding,” Mrs. Hampton was saying.
“And in another year’s time, I should think, we’ll be discussing grandbabies,” Mrs. Lawson chimed in with ill-disguised glee.
It wasn’t as though Ben never planned on marrying and having children. It wasn’t as though he had decided his wife would not be Lorelei—he quite liked her, in fact, but he had thought, perhaps, he ought to have a choice in who he married, and Lorelei ought have a say, too, he thought. He knew she loved him, that she wanted him badly, but it didn’t seem right for her to choose him, for he’d really been the only boy she’d ever known.
He suddenly felt quite angry as he continued to listen to his mother and Mrs. Hampton and all their plans for his life. He was quite surprised they hadn’t planned his death and funeral, too.
“Damnit, Mother,” he heard himself say. Others heard him, too, and turned in his direction. He could not look away and pretend he had not spoken. “Damnit, why can’t you mind your own business? Who are you to announce all this when I haven’t even—” He didn’t know what else to say, except, “Damn you both!” He turned and walked off, leaving the tent for the darkness beyond, his mother yelling after him, “Benjamin! Benjamin!”
It was ten minutes later when he felt the soft palm on the back of his neck and soft lips on his cheek. The softness was Lorelei, coming to sit down beside him in the rocky sand of the river bank that was just beyond the orchard. Her long hair was loose about her shoulders and it felt cool against the side of his face as she leaned against him.
“I heard what you said,” she murmured. Ben didn’t say anything, he simply took her hand.
They were silent for a bit before Lorelei continued, “Do you remember that day the parson’s boy married us under the oak tree by your parents’ house? We were so little, maybe five or six, and you held my hands and kissed me at the right time and promised me that you’d love me forever. Do you remember?”
“I remember,” he said.
“You must have always known we would marry, Ben. What more needs to be said between us. You promised yourself to me.”
“I was five, Lorelei.” His voice was firm, but inside, he was disintegrating. Doubt filled him up as the anger from before seeped away. Somewhere within himself, he knew this was not where he was meant to be. It felt unfair and dishonest. But the touch of Lorelei was like a siren’s call, and he kissed her there in the dark, pushing her body deep into the river bank. She turned into the rocky soil of the bank and Ben knew that she was as much to blame as his mother and hers. But she didn’t know any better, he thought. She had always believed that Ben was hers—how could she know anything else?
His lips left hers and he stood. “I can’t, Lorelei,” he said quietly. His arm extended, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. She quickly brushed the sand and dirt away.
“It’s all right, we have plenty of time,” she said, misunderstanding.
Ben said nothing at all, only walked away, no plans of turning back. Lorelei let him, misunderstanding.

If You Look to Your Right...

I have added a Facebook button!

Now, this isn't a link to my personal Facebook account, but instead the page I created for this blog. Why did I create a page? Um...I'm not really sure. Maybe so I can constantly remind you of my existence? Though, I can only do that if you choose to "Like" This Domestic Life on Facebook.

No pressure; you don't have to, of course. would be kind of cool if you did.

Just sayin'.

Battening Down the Hatches

Irene is here!
Yesterday, DOH and I went out to celebrate our third wedding anniversary and you wouldn't have thought that anything like what is happening outside of my house right now was on its way.

While the crazy wind hasn't hit us yet (and it sounds like we won't get anything much over 45 MPH, which, of course, is still really fast, but it's not the 70-80 MPH that had originally forecasted), the rain is intense. In this part of Maine, you don't normally see these prolonged bouts of terenchal downpours.

The only thing that's really making me nervous?

We still need to hit up the local grocery store for some if-the-electricity-goes-out (which it probably will) supplies.

We're not awesome at preparing for emergencies, apparently.

The good news? I'm married to Mr. Survival, so he has, for one, lots of supplies for emergencies (besides the nonperishables, apparently, which, in my opinion, or sort of important)...somewhere (we're having some trouble finding our extra batteries, second lantern, and first aid stuff, BUT DOH did find a couple of his buck knives, for, you know, our defense in case there are mass riots post-hurrican). For two, I know he has a plan in place. Has he found the time to explain it to me? No. But is there a plan? I don't doubt it.

Now, I really don't expect anything drastic to happen, especially since the storm is tracking to the west of us (hitting more of New Hampshire and Vermont than Maine), but I am anticipating losing electricity since we live in the willywacks and any storm in Maine without losing electricity for a day or two would just feel wrong (Ice Storm of '98--we lived with my grandpa at the time on a dirt road and we lost electricity for eleven days).

If Mainers are anything, they're hardy. This storm, which seems as though it's going to end up being pretty mild in comparison to what was expected, isn't going to shake anyone. Instead, I think it'll just carve out a nice little Sunday for my family, where we watch movies, take our time prepping ourselves for the week, and hunker down with grilled cheese sandwhiches and soup for supper and something else warm and hearty for supper.

Come on in, Irene. wWe're ready for you.

Mostly because we don't have to be that ready.


For one, I've definitely learned my lesson on not reading something before hitting the publish button. Hoo-wee, that was bad.

Secondly, the worry that we weren't prepared for a potential electrical outtage was all for not. Other than the lights flickering a bit (and subsequently stopping a rousing game of Mortal Kombat between my husband and I while Lizzie napped), we didn't get much action.

I have a few friends who have lost electricity, or, in the case of one, has been blocked from going down his road all together, but for the most part, Irene has turned out to be a big dud.

Did I want horrifying destruction and mayhem?


But it would have been fun to hunker down for the night, to play card games by lantern light, to read an actual paper book rather than waste the battery on my Kindle or iPad. (Of course, we could still do all of this, and maybe we will, but it's always more fun when you have to.)

Oh, well. We have plenty of winter storms to look forward to.

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Kid In Class

I started my new job yesterday. When I woke up yesterday morning (early: 5 AM), I was all nerves. I shook while I showered. I could barely eat my breakfast. I broke down in my car after I dropped Lizzie off at daycare (she, of course, was fine). I don't know why I was so scared, this really wasn't that big of a deal.

But, then again, it was.

This is my first real job, my first gig right out of college. I was excited about it, about everything it could become (and I still am excited). I knew I had the job, but will I (I keep thinking) be able to keep it?

What's more, it's never easy being the new person.

I've been the new kid before. We moved to Maine when I was nine and then I covered my fear with a false bravado and an extra strong "Mass-hole" accent.

This time, I had nothing to cover my fear. I had to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

The beauty of working in education, however, is that you're often thrown into a room of women who, regardless of their age, want to mother you. It's like they smell vulnerability and instead of like sharks to blood, it's like mothers to their babies. They want to give you hugs and make sure you have everything you need and explain the same procedure twenty times, then say, "If you have any questions, just ask!"

I knew everything would be okay after yesterday morning. I was able to ease into things slowly. As I walked into the high school cafeteria, I spotted people I knew. My school's principal, the director of special education, who hired me, a teacher from another school I had subbed at who recognized me. When I went to go find a table to eat my fruit cup at (the district does a district-wide breakfast for all staff members at the beginning of the year), a friend of mine from student teaching found me. After a long and much needed hug, she ushered me to her table where she sat with another teacher and two bus drivers. We talked about music and expensive guitars.

I've been very lucky so far. Everyone seems kind and interested at making me feel at home and wanting my work to be important and effective. People are eager to make connections ("Do you know...?"). There are a couple of people from my neck of the woods, including a teacher who I went to high school and college with (though we never crossed paths, oddly enough). It's a comfort to know that we share some of the same people in our lives.

On Monday, assuming the school isn't blown away by Irene, the students arrive and the school year begins in earnest. There will be other new kids coming in, just as nervous as I was (am). They will show it (or not) in lots of different ways, but in the end, it will be the same for all of them. Deep down, they will be hoping for those connections, those new friends to help them through those first days. And I will be there, to help, to facilitate, to be the new kid again right along with them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Get Out the Vote

I've been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. I recall a pretty heated debate between my neighbor/early childhood best friend, Tim, over which presidential candidate was best: Bill Clinton or Bob Dole. I was for Clinton, all the way (after a brief entanglement with Ross Perot in our second grade classroom elections), and Tim was a Dole devotee. I'm pretty sure the argument went something like this:

Me: Well, my parents are voting for Bill Clinton, because he's the president!
Tim: Bob Dole's better!
Me: No he's not! Bill Clinton is better!
Tim: Bill Clinton has a big nose!

I'm sure you can all tell who won that argument.

My interest for all things poltical only grew from there, and eventually I stopped liking certain politicians just because my parents supported them (though I've always hung to the left of things, much like my parents). While next year's elections are, well, a year and more away, that hasn't stopped me (or the media) from thinking about who is running for president and who I'm going to vote for.

Like a lot of people, I've pretty much only looked at the candidates from the two major parties. While I love the idea of there actually being a third (or fourth or fifth or sixth, etc.) party out there, I haven't had much faith in the actual electability of a third party candidate. But my feelings are starting to change on that front. To me, elections are more than just voting for choice #1 or choice #2, it's a chance to really see what you believe in, where you want this country to go, and what you can do to be proactive.

So, one of the ways I'm learning more about myself as a voter and what's important to me as well as the many different candidates out there, Democrat, Republican, and otherwise, is through this non-profit site, Basically, you take a quiz on where you stand on particular issues and the site matches you with candidates who's views are similar (they've taken the quiz as well), in addition to quotes and voting records backing up those views.

In a word: Amazing.

Even if I don't end up voting for the candidate I most closely matched up with (Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, if you're wondering), it's awesome to know more about who is out there. The site also gives you other candidates you match up with, though maybe not as closely.

And for the record, I'm not being perked or something by this particular group--I just think they are really, really cool and am always looking for ways to expand my knowledge of who's out there and wants to run our country.

Writing Prompt: School's Out!

Top ten reasons why you're glad you're done with school.

For the first time in my living memory, I'm NOT going to school this year. At least not as a student (I am going back to school as the educator rather than the educatee). As much as I love school, love being a student, and, honestly, am a little sad that I'm not heading back to campus this Fall, there are lots of reasons for me to be happy that I'm done with school. Here are the top ten:

  1. I don't have to buy books! My last semester of actual classes (last Fall), my book bill was around $600 for four courses.
  2. Source
  3. Snotty professors/teachers. "I don't give As in this class." "I don't care what other courses you're taking, this is the most important course you'll take!" "A weekend is more than sufficient to read this book and write a ten page paper." "You're not very good at this, are you?" (From my 9th grade English teacher!)
  4. Source
  5. Having a class that ends at 1:00 and another that begins at 1:05...across campus.
  6. Source
  7. Cafeteria food. Bleck.
  8. Our troop of "mannies" (male nannies). Actually, they're DOH's friends, but they've all pulled babysitting duty at least once.
  9. Needing to have three different people to watch Lizzie so I could go to class at really random times.
  10. The school bus I wish I took to school. Source.
  11. Riding the bus. I even rode it my senior year of high school! Embarrassing!
  12. Source
  13. The DRAMA. Katie's not speaking to Zoe, because Zoe might have maybe kissed Rachel's boyfriend, Adam, and Rachel is Katie's best since first grade, except for that year in fifth grade when Rachel was a Jock and Katie doesn't hang out with Jocks, she's into the Emo group and...How on earth am I supposed to keep all this straight?! And it's all very important when you're in high school.
  14. Source
  15. Homework. Sometimes it was okay, but other times all it did was completely tear apart my confidence on a subject. Take physics and pre-calc, for example. I should take this time to thank my good friend Catherine for letting me copy her homework.
  16. Source
  17. Romeo and Juliet. I love Shakespeare and I actually really love this play, but I've had to read it about four times, starting at the beginning of high school all the way to the end of college. I get it now. And I'm done.
  18. Source
  19. The pressures of being a student and being a kid. Maybe I'm turning into one of those old people who glorifies their childhood, but I feel like I was not faced with the same complex and honestly frightening issues pre-teens/teens and young adults face now (and it's not like I'm that much older). I'm so glad I grew up in the times I did, with the parents I had, and made the friends I keep now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Overcome Your Fears

Yesterday we went back to one of our favorite summer spots, Old Orchard Beach.

We've been two other times this summer and both times, Lizzie has been less than impressed.

She doesn't like the waves.

There are lots of people.

I think it's really overwhelming for her.

And DOH and I find this very disappointing, because we love OOB and we wanted her to love it as much as we did. But it didn't seem as though she would...

...until she did.

"Mommy! I'm having so much fun! I LOVE it here!"

I am the queen of the rush. I rush, rush, rush through things, through life, through fun. But yesterday I stood and just watched (and not just because I didn't want my little girl to be carried off by the abnormally huge seagulls that make OOB their home). I watched my daughter have the time of her life and saw a memory for make itself right before my eyes. I knew that she was going to remember the day she learned to love the sun and surf here at one of her parents' favorite places. I knew she would remember the freedom of crashing through the waves, the smiles on her parents' faces, the idea in her mind that she's "really a brave girl."

Happy Anniversary!

I don't think I've been keeping an active blog at the same time my wedding anniversary has happened along, so I haven't had the chance to really share, publicly, anyway, the stories behind how my husband and I met, our wedding, and how we became a family.

(Note: For those not "in the know", DOH stands for Dear Old Husband.)

The Beginning:
3rd date at the drive-in
We met at the end of my April break, my senior year of high school. A friend of mine, who was really determined to prevent me from being single over the summer before I went to college. She set us up on a blind date, something I had NEVER done before and probably wouldn't have if it weren't for the fact that I was feeling pretty sorry for myself regarding the dating scene (which is sad, considring I was only 18) and figured it couldn't get any worse than it already was.

DOH pulled into my parents' driveway in a dark green mustang, in a black leather jacket, his short, dark hair styled. He was the complete opposite of every guy I had dated or dreamed of dated. I wanted him, then and there.

Our first date was very low key. We were going to go to the movies, but since it was a Sunday night and we live in the willywacks of Maine, the movie theater was closed. So, we wound up getting subs at Subway (high class, I know) and renting a movie to bring back to my house (Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon--coincidentally, our celebrity crushes).

Our relationship quickly developed from there. We were "official" only a day later and soon spent every waking moment together. With the exception of my Senior Prom (Worst. Prom. Ever.), we were unseperable. We spent the summer between my graduation from high school and the start of college driving all over Maine and New Hampshire, exploring beaches, hiking, nearly drowning at Frenchmen's Hole in Bethel (yes, I really did almost drown, though DOH thinks I'm exaggerating).

Frenchman's Hole--Yeah, weird name
The Engagement:

August came along and I was due to head off to college. DOH and I went out for a drive, destination unknown. Around sunset, we arrived at Sebago Lake State Park. It was quiet, the buzz of summer visitors had died down and we were practically the only people around. We wondered over to a picnic table and sat down to enjoy the sun setting over Sebago Lake. I put my hand on his leg, near the pockets and felt a lump (don't worry, this stays PG). Within seconds, I was patting him down.

"You have something in your pockets!" I was saying, getting excited. We had talked about a ring, but I didn't think...
He pulled out a box.
"It's empty," he said. "I was just keeping it in my pocket to, you know, practice hiding it for when, you know..."
I bought it...but not completely.
"Aw, c'mon! Is it really empty?" DOH just smiled.
"Go ahead and look."
I opened the box.
At some point during my shrieks of joy and tears, DOH got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
Of course,  I said yes.

The In-Between Time:
While the time between our first date and engagement was short, the time between the engagement and our actual wedding was about four times as long.

At the very beginning of September I went off to college, an hour away from DOH, who was working security at a tampon factory. (I only mention this, because the BEST joke comes from that; his mom asked him one night how he got that job and he responds, "Oh, I had to pull a few strings." His mom totally didn't get it, but everyone else in the room died laughing. So funny.) In hindsight, I'm impressed our relationship made it through that year. While we saw each other a lot, we didn't see each other as much as we had been. College was a new experience for me and I wanted, to, well, experience it. More than that, I wanted to do well and was determined to focus on my school work. DOH hadn't gone to college and got most of his impressions of what it was like through the college parties that he'd crashed as a teenager. The trust level between the two of us was not at its strongest.

But since we made it through that first year of college, I know our relationship came out stronger, and we learned so much about each other and how our relationship needed to work. We came to trust one another more, to relax about things that really weren't worrying about, and that if you try to give someone a hickey on their eye it WILL look like a black eye (not cool, Husband, not cool).

After a school year and May term of living on campus, I decided I'd had enough (I'm not a person who should have to share space with another girl--they bug me way too much). DOH and I decided that we wanted to get an apartment together. It was becoming ridiculous, the driving back and forth, the gas and time wasted, the stress of conflicting schedules. We knew we wanted to be together, we were engaged, and damnit, I just had to do one more thing to tick my parents off (they really do love So, we moved in together, decided to bump up our wedding date for the following summer rather than the summer after I was due to graduate (so, to 2008 from 2010), and in July of that year (2007), found out I was pregnant with Lizzie.

Becoming a Family:
There are so many stories surrounding my pregnancy and the birth of my daughter, from the reactions of our families (or how DOH grandmother can practically sniff your and tell you if you're pregnant. I was maybe three weeks along--Does that even count?--and she called it), to how DOH did not believe me when I told him that I thought I was pregnant ("You're on birth control!"), to how utterly and completely unprepared we were to become parents...and how wonderful it has been. There is too much to say to really capture in one blog post (and to keep a reader's attention), so let me leave this part of our story with these pictures (and please note, that because we were completely unprepared for the arrival of our daughter, we TOTALLY FORGOT TO TAKE A FAMILY PICTURE OF BOTH OF US WITH HER!)

So, our daughter was born in April, 2008. Four months later, DOH and I tied the knot. While we could have gotten married before our daughter was born, we felt that we had planned for an August 2008 wedding and, damnit, we were going to have one. Besides, I really didn't want to have a wedding while I was pregnant. I felt like it sent the wrong message (like that we were getting married just because we were having a baby).

Our wedding, the day we're celebrating today, was the most amazing day ever. We got married at my parents' house on a gorgeous sunny day. I came to the wedding on a boat. Our colors were white and pink. We had tons of hydrangeas everywhere. My husband looked perfect. I felt great. The people who shaped our lives came and shared the day with us. The local Lions' club catered. It's event that both sides of our family are still talking about.

I still cannot think of a day that I fully enjoyed and loved more than that day. Obviously the day of our daughter's birth ranks really high, I was so drugged out of my mind (emergency c-section) that I couldn't fully enjoy the event. But on the day of our wedding, I was there completely and totally, and so was my daughter. So it's really like the best of both worlds, right?

And the theme from The Love Boat was TOTALLY playing.

Not much has changed over the last three years. Sure, locations, jobs, ages have all changed, but what is the most crucial has stayed the same. Our love for one another, our commitment to be the best parents we can possibly be, and our desire to constantly improve ourselves and our marriage. We make an interesting pair--it's sort of like a continuous episode of the odd couple.

Sometimes I wonder how this relationship can really work and other times I marvel at just how perfectly we fit together. Regardless of where we've been geographically or emotionally, I've always been excited to see what is around the next corner for us. And now, we're at a point where we've rounded the bend. We're settling down into our marriage. Sure, there are plenty of twists and turns ahead, but for now, there is a little stretch of road before us and I can see all the wonderful things that are heading our way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top...However Many I Come Up With: iPad Apps

I mentioned a few weeks ago (here) that I had acquired an iPad 2 (the mention of the "2" is really important). I think after nearly a month's worth of time qualifies me to talk about some super neat apps that I'm obsessed with really enjoying. If you have an iPad or even an iPhone or iPod Touch (because some of these have a version for both), I definitely recommend checking the following out.

  1. Houzz. If you're totally into interior design and love virtually house crashing people's pads, this is a wicked cool app. They  have hundreds of thousands of photos of beautifully designed houses in tons of different styles. You're able to go through the photos, which are sorted by room and design style, and make notes on different rooms, and then save them to different folders called ideabooks. So, for example, I have folders for kids' rooms, bathrooms, ideas for our house, etc. You can also check out ideabooks by other designers and other users of the app. Free.
  2. Period Tracker. If you're like me and the mysteries of womanhood are still a bit mysterious to you, then this might be the app for you. This little app helps you track when your period is most likely to occur (even if you have a longer or shorter than usual cycle, like me), when you're most fertile, and allows you to quickly and easily document menstrual and even possible early pregnancy symptoms. If you feel a little out of sync with what happens with your body each month (and I am most definitely one of those people), this is a really great and convenient app. Free version.
  3. Evernote. This is a wicked neat app, especially if you write or blog, study, or need to take notes. I would have loved this app in my early years of college when I was still taking classes where I needed to memorize facts or take tons of notes. Anyhow, Evernot allows you to take and organize notes, take pertinent pictures to whatever your writing about, and record audio. You can sync all the information with your laptop and your smartphone or tablet. So, imagine you're a college student in a lecture hall. While you're taking notes, you can record the lecture. I would have killed for this app when I was taking biology my freshman year of college. And it's been enormously helpful in getting ideas down for my blog.
  4. Touch Pets: Dog. This app is a game and it is my Farmville. You adopt a puppy, you play with it, you earn coins and XP points, they try to get you to buy more coins with real money, and it's completely pointless--but in a fun kind of way.
  5. M.A.S.H. Okay, totally not related to the show from way back when (my parents used to force me to watch reruns), but instead, it's a throw-back to that old middle school game where you pick five guys you might want to marry, where you'll live, what car you'll drive, how many kids you'll have, etc. This game could keep me occupied for hours (okay, about 30 minutes, but still, it's really fun).
  6. Kindle. I love me some books and I love my Kindle (which is currently on the fritz, boo!), and I love the Kindle app for the iPad. While there is an e-reader app on the iPad, I am an Amazon devotee and I feel like there is a better selection of free e-books for the Kindle, so I downloaded this app. Anything you can do on the Kindle, you can do using the Kindle app on the iPad (except for the games, which stinks). The obvious disadvantage of the iPad vs. the actual Kindle, besides size difference, is screen glare, which does make a difference for those of us who are big beach readers (and is why I'm looking into getting my Kindle fixed A.S.A.P.).
  7. My Recipe Book. This is so cool! You can save recipes from your own collection (and I have tons that I've pulled from magazines), recipes you find online, and can search a huge database of recipes already available on the app. Plus, with the iPad 2, you can take pictures of whatever you've made and save it with the recipe. This is one of my favorite apps and is wicked useful!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Hairs

So, my hair was starting to get kinda funky. After I had Lizzie, I started highlighting my hair, because the color changed (I was pretty light to medium blond before and then I went to a more dull, dirty blond after I had Liz). It had been a while since I had last highlighed my hair (I think since December or January), so it really needed it. Plus, I wanted a cut. My hair had been the longest it's ever been since high school (down past the middle of my back), and while I love my long hair it's NOT accomodating with a little kid, a busy life style, and a husband who moves like he's tackling cattle or something in his sleep and my hair gets caught up.

Anyway, to get the point, I chopped off some hair and lightened it.

So, we went from this (I get that it doesn't really show the whole deal):
This is actually "put together" for me this summer. I couldn't do anything with my hair except throw it back in a ponytail or braid.

To this (really grainy webcam picture):

Don't ask what happened to my face--I look like I'm halfway between having a stroke and posing for an awkward professional photo, BUT doesn't my hair look rockin'?

Writing Prompt: Sigh No More

1.) Write a short story prompted by your favorite song.
One of my favorite bands in the whole wide world is Mumford and Sons. This short story is inspired by their song "Sigh No More". (Links to the lyrics and the music video.)


            The letter was in a crisp envelop, scented lightly with musk. She held it to her lips, her mouth searching for the warmth of his hands. The paper felt unnaturally cool. Gently, she slipped a finger under the sealed flap and broke the wax “B.” As if the single sheet of parchment contained inside might burst into flame at any moment, she pulled the letter out.
            The words scratched in haste on the paper showed bold and dark, like the man who wrote them. She was afraid to read it, knowing what it must say, since he was gone now, though no one had expected him to leave. A sigh fled from her mouth, equally heavy and light, all together resigned, as her eyes were drawn down to the letter’s opening salutation.

I find this hard to write. I want so badly to throw this pen across the room, dash the ink across the wall, toss the paper into the grate. But I owe you. You deserve a good-bye, an explanation. I am going to try to give you one as best I can, though I doubt anything I can say will truly give you want you want.
We have known each other for many years. We have listened to our mothers cluck over us, reminding us of summer swims in the river, naked as newborns, battles with rotten apples in your father’s orchards, and sledding parties over school breaks. They would tell us that we had, “Always been together. And wouldn’t it be nice if it stayed that way?”
Though I care for you a great deal, I want more than “nice” for my life. This is something you have always known, and I think it has frightened you, because “nice” was always part of your plan. I am not ready to settle, and I were, I’m not entirely sure it would be with you. That looks so cruel on paper, but know it is meant with the most sincere and caring intentions (I feel like such a cad for writing this—it makes me feel and look vile, but there is no help for it; you deserve honesty above all else, Lorelei).
Love is something that, perhaps, we have for one another, but it is not the kind of love, if fulfilled, that will lead to beauty and freedom between two people, but enslavement. Me, enslaved to your notions of what our lives ought to be (and I know you have notions on all that), and you, enslaved to the fact that I will never quite mold to what you expect me to be.
We are young. Too young for this sort of permanency. My spirit is far too flighty. I am leaving everything. I know this will break your heart, my parents, yours even, too, but I think it is the best arrangement for all. I have not seen much of this world, though I have spent nearly twenty years in it. I think, maybe, you could do the same, in your own way. We could, someday, find each other again, and maybe then things will be right between us, and if you can find love for me in your heart still, we can have one another (though, I suppose after this letter, you’d just as soon have me drowned in the sea than have to see me again—and I couldn’t blame you).
I wish for you everything. I hope that if I could not give you the life you had hoped for, that another man will (and do a much better job at it).
Do not think on me any longer.
And please, do not hate me too much.

It seemed before the letter could even finish it words it fluttered to the dusty ground, clouds of bronzy dirt puffing up around the quick steps of Lorelei as she rushed to the river.

Monday, August 15, 2011

For Me: Staying at Home vs. Working

Since I had my daughter, I've been a student. This meant, during the school year, I'd attend class, go home, do work for those classes, and then maybe muster the time and energy to clean, cook, and actually enjoy my family. During the summers, however (and the blessedly long winter breaks), I was at home all day, every day. I could devote myself completely to all the things that had been neglected during the school year.

When I graduated this past spring, there was very little question over whether or not I'd go to work. For one, it would be nice to have the extra income. In college, I recieved a really excellent scholarship that covered my tuition, which meant any aid recieved from the government or my university went towards living expenses. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to manage rent, electric, and some groceries. But we couldn't afford a lot of extras, which, to be honest, are kind of nice to have. For two, I did just spend five years of my life working towards the moment where I could leave college and actually put my knowledge to work.

That said...I love being at home. I guess, because I had never really had the fully stay-at-home-mom experience (there was always school looming just on the horizon), I sort of glorified the idea. What would it be like to have all that time to do all that stuff? Of course, when you're actually in the thick of being at home, using all that time to do all that stuff, it doesn't feel like you have quite enough of the first and too much of the second. For me, when I'm home during the summers, somehow all that extra time goes the way of the missing socks in the laundry. I suppose it wouldn't be that different if I were home all year round.

Though, even when I could acknowledge that aspect of staying at home, I couldn't help still feeling like I really should be staying home. I'd like to think it was some sort of weird maternal instinct thing, like mother animals knowing what their babies smell like, or something. But, in reality, I'm a 23-year-old with a kid, who hasn't had a kid before, and is constantly looking for input. I'm impressionable. A few people (ranging from people I actually know, to mom bloggers, to "experts") telling me that I need to stay home with my daughter or else she'll grow up to be an extremely damaged human being is enough to make me feel horrible for not doing just that.

Plus, I like the kid, so it's nice to stay home with her (even though she's suddenly become a horrible napper).

But, I guess I'm going to have to let go of all that and trust that if she hasn't been majorly screwed up by things over the past three years, she's likely to be okay, because...I got a job.

And I'm really excited about it.

I want to work, and I'm not ashamed of that fact (much...some feelings are hard to let go of). And the plus of being in education is that I still get to have the time off that I'd enjoyed previously (when I'm not taking courses to help maintain my certification and earn my Master's).

I'm pumped about whole "having a job in a tanking (or tanked) economy" thing. It'll be great to have the extra money. And I'm really excited about being able to put my recently earned degree to use. But, those aren't the best things about this whole "job" thingy.

This is a job I'm passionate about. And, it's the perfect for me and for my family. Which, in the end, is what's important.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Movin' on Up!

Quite some time ago, when we first purchased this house, I showed you these picture of our upstairs:
Left side.

More left side.

Right side.

More right side.
That was waaaaaay back early last spring (April?). Since then, my AH-mazing dad (seen in "More left side") has taken this big open space and created TWO bedrooms. You see, the house was listed as a two-bedroomer, but one bedroom was in the basement (which is now our den) and the second was the massive upstairs bedroom, shown above (when we first looked at it there were a few beds set up sort of dormitory style). With a little one, this just wasn't going to work, so my dad sat down, created a new floor plan, and set to work. (I've recently informed my father he NEEDS to start a blog to showcase all the awesome stuff he's done in our house and his own, and maybe try some how-tos. He's got mad skillz when it comes to this stuff.)

Anywho, this is what where we're living now:
Left side, our bedroom.

Just had to show these off--they're pillows I made!

Other side of our bedroom.

Right side, Lizzie's bedroom.

I know, her window is crazy big (and beautiful, my dad and DOH installed this new one). Currently, there is a heavy bookshelf in front of this window prevent any little people from tumbling out.

Her closet and the chimney (which she thinks is so cool; she asks if Santa is going to leave her presents in her room ALL the time).

More chimney! What Lizzie's room lacks in width is made up by height. She has an awesome vaulted ceiling and when we get the ladder back down and she's a bit older, she'll have access to the loft that's just above our room.

The beams that go over her room. She now has a beautiful light-up paper star hanging from there as her bedroom light.

While anything was better than living in our old apartment, it was really nice to move ourselves to the upstairs bedrooms after a couple of weeks of all of us sharing a bedroom (and bed, most nights). It felt so good to be able to spread out and have our own rooms again! And, on top of it, they are such beautiful spaces. The last time I got to pick the color of any room, let alone two (and, of course, we've chosen colors for other rooms, too, but they're waiting to be painted), I was ten, so it was lots of fun deciding what we were going to do (seen in this post here).

A lot of things have changed since I last posted a "tour" of the house, so I might have to do that again, soon, or at least post the rooms that have changed. A lot still needs to be done both inside and out (the garden is INTENSE here--I ought to post some pictures of that, too), but slowly and surely we're getting there. My hope is that everything basic that we want to get done inside will be done by Christmas, if not sooner. Here's a short list of what we (and when I say "we", it's a combo of me, DOH, and my dad) need to complete:
  • Repair the ceiling over the dining area (there was some water damage).
  • Install the new side door.
  • Paint the new stair treads and banister.
  • Paint the upstairs bathroom and tub.
  • Paint, stencil, or wallpaper the sections of the main floor that are currently covered in the hideous grandma wallpaper.
It's really not that much to get done, for which I'm thankful, considering I grew up in two houses that had to have MAJOR renovations done (like, entire sections of houses needing to be rebuilt and rewired). Also, a little more decorating needs to happen, so I'm looking forward to slowly but surely picking up a few pieces to add some character to the rooms in this house.

But regardless of what does get done and when, I'm eternally thankful to have this house, beautiful lot, and my family living in it. It doesn't get much better than that.

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