Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Three-Day Birthday.

Birthdays are so brief. I like to think of them as sort of sprinkling over a whole week. My twenty-seventh birthday was on Friday, June 15, and I thought it should at least last through the weekend. I shared Sunday with Josh: his first Father's Day. 

On Friday, Josh went into the living room while I cuddled and chattered with Oliver in our bedroom. I came out to find my fleecy polka dot robe over the back of the desk chair and the desk spread with chocolate chip banana walnut muffins on a pretty plate, apple juice in a pearly blue Cinderella cup, a handmade card, and stacks of new books (more about that later). 

After I perused my new volumes, I sat out on the balcony and soaked in the cool quiet with my moon fairy blanket around my legs. I wrote in my journal with a metallic forest green pen. Later, my mom called, singing.

We met Dad and James (my brother) for lunch at Panera. I wore a cheery, short-sleeved cardigan with bright pink and purple stripes. I savored my usual Italian combo and a Caesar salad. Those cheddary croutons are amazing. 

I gave Dad an early Father's gift: large prints and a book of some of Oliver's best photos. He and James gave me fun gifts (more about that later), and we each had a different dessert (carrot cake cupcake, cookie, chocolate chip muffin top). 

Josh, Oliver, and I went to the mall, where I gazed around the tiny Sephora in J.C. Penneys. In the Disney Store, Oliver reacted to a toy as he rarely does. We promptly bought the big plush Jacque from Lady and the Tramp. Oliver grinned, reached out, and giggled at the whisker tickles. I bought myself a dark blue Tinkerbell tee with Spellbinding in silver. Though I've packed away most of my princessy shirts in a just-in-case box for baby girl James, I still gravitate toward them and keep a few favorites in my closet. 

We went to Harris Teeter after Josh asked me what I would want for dinner. I picked out tiny toasts, sesame water crackers, somewhat fancy salami, and spreadable brie. I also got three boxes of broccoli and cheese couscous. We hadn't had that in so long, and it reminded me of happy times in our little  Monroe duplex.

Dinner was delicious. I could probably eat those dinner snacks every day, both for the flavor and for the happy associations (I'll try to write more about dinner snacks at some point!).

I wasn't too sad about the end of my birthday day because my mom was coming on Saturday. I liked my birthday outfit so much that I wore it again. We were sitting on the balcony when Mom and Shane arrived. 

They came in with gifts, luggage, and a giant cooler. Mom was wearing a beige top with wide, dark gold metallic stripes and a tiny diamond key necklace. Oliver was fascinated with the necklace. Soon, he was listening to Mom and holding her face in his dimpled hands.

When Oliver was ready to eat, Mom came with me to the bedroom and got right in bed to chat. She did that after my first surgery and after my miscarriage; both comforted me. The way she was so delighted over my recent blog post that mentioned her acceptance, I realized that we just don't always tell each other how special some moments, words, and memories are.

We went to two places I love: Ulta and Barnes. At Ulta, Oliver gazed at all the colors, and Shane opened candles for Oliver to smell. Buttercream was Oliver's favorite (of course). Mom and I worked our way around the store, painting our fingertips and the insides of our wrists with sparkle eye shadow, beauty balm, eye liner, and lip gloss. Mom also tried some self-tanner on her shins. We laughed like maniacs, teased each other, and gazed at the incredibly expensive Butter London nail polish.

Ulta and Sephora are like candy stores or toy stores--happy cravings, colors, and daydreams. I imagine, Would I feel pretty with this? Would I feel magical? Would this make getting ready or catching myself in a mirror more fun? 

I took advantage of the Buy 2, Get 1 Free deal and got Healthy Sexy Hair leave-in conditioner (I've been loving the bottle I bought a while ago, as much for the teal and chocolate bottle as for my hair's new shine and brushability), color care shampoo, and color care conditioning treatment. I've been wanting to try the shampoo and conditioner even though they're expensive, and I kept telling myself I would get them for my birthday. 

I got Too Faced Candlelight Glow Powder. The pressed chandelier is mesmerizing. Details like this are a big part of what I pay for (and gladly) with expensive makeup! I hoped it would be a slightly milder version of the very sparkly highlighting powder I wore early in my relationship with Josh (my face glitters in the photos of our first trip and first my-birthday together).

 I won't give up my glitter, but I will go more subtle than this (twenty-first birthday) least on the face. Eyes are a free-for-all. And I don't understand why people fuss about glitter fallout under the eyes. I love it. Anyway, the Candlelight Glow is exactly what I wanted it to be.

By chance, I spotted a Lorac lip gloss and tried it on my wrist. I've almost never bought expensive lipstick or gloss, but this impressed me. Mom agreed that it was special, which usually seals the deal (she's less susceptible to my enabling siren song). I had some birthday money from my grandparents, so I went for it. At the register, I found these little polka dot palettes with lip glosses and glitter eye shadows. I never buy palettes that have both together--the eyeshadow dust gunks up the lip gloss. But these, wisely, had sturdy clear plastic lids that fit over each section. They were under $4 each.

We next went to Barnes and Noble. I'm not over the wonder of actually having a Barnes within fifteen minutes of our house. Mom held Oliver up to dance on the new release table (what better picture of joy than that exists?) and showed him Legos and puppets. I took cell phone photos of interesting books (it's easier than trying to scribble down titles and authors). Though I probably have more blank journals than I'll ever use (I don't want to admit that), I allow myself to buy truly special ones and to buy them on special occasions or while I'm traveling. When I remember, I write in the back cover how I got them. This art nouveau (my favorite art period) journal was in the bargain section, and this journal with the C. S. Lewis quotation was like a paper flutter of hope.

We went swimming later, and Mom got to see how wild and ecstatic Oliver is in the pool. After the boys had gone to bed, Mom and I stayed up past midnight talking like best middle school friends. It was awesome.

The next day was Father's Day. I gave Josh a funny book he'd requested. The rest of his gifts had an art theme; some were for him to enjoy alone, and some were for him to enjoy with Oliver: a giant coloring book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Knock Knock I'm an Artist drawing pad, 642 Things to Draw (prompts from everyday objects to ideas like dignity), and a One Sketch a Day journal. I try to encourage Josh to draw.

We went downtown to Pierro's. I had a Shirley Temple, of course. The restaurant had exposed brick, large lighting fixtures, and scattered art. We took turns playing with Oliver on the white vinyl benches in the lounge by the bar. He squealed in hoarse joy at the red glass tiles on the walls. Maybe red will be his favorite color.

After lunch, we walked, stopping at the fountain for Oliver to splash and at Linear park and the library. We went into Center City Books, full of used books, local art, gorgeous glittery birthday cards, and antique desks. Mom found this book. The description makes it seem a bit wild, so I'm not sure what I'll think. In any case, it looked beautiful in the gold starred and swirled bag.

Here are several beautiful photos Josh took as we walked.

I think this love on bricks one should be an album cover or something.

I wonder what these apartments are like.

These days full of fun and special details send light out into the difficulty that tends to come later. I try to hold that light close.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Lantern Lighter.

I can't believe my birthday was a month ago. I had a pretty major depression crash a couple of days ago--my library books were late because of the fire, and the car flood ruined two of the books. I had to pay dreadful fines. Library problems have always made me absurdly anxious. Josh tried to take care of it, but I ended up having to go. My dejection (and this was merely a nudge off the edge after everything else) was such that I thought I'd never go back to the library, and a wonderful part of living here was ruined. I felt (those big warning words!) hopeless and worthless. We ordered replacement living room furniture two weeks ago, and the order status was still "shipping soon." The unpacking was endless, and I was accomplishing little. I was (and still am) terribly behind with my classes. I hadn't really felt up to reading until that day; I started reading The Library at Night (which I keep accidentally calling "Silence in the Library" after my favorite Dr. Who episode) again and taking notes on it. Then, I figured I ought to take the book back (even though Josh had renewed it) and have a clean record.

I walked back from the library, still not speaking, one heel bleeding from the now too small flats I bought while I was pregnant. I sat on the floor at the foot of the bed. Oliver was asleep. Josh waited a bit and then sat with me.

"Are you feeling self-destructive at all? I sense that you are on the edge."

I tilted my head without looking at him. Eventually, I started mentioning my various miseries.

"I wish we had a living room. I have so much work to do and no drive to do it."

"You have to be yourself," he said. "I know it's hard, but we can't be good parents if we're not people. And you need to sit outside and read or write in your journal before you work. Then, you'll be ready."

"I took the book back." I still wouldn't look up.

"You didn't have to do that. Did you do that because you were feeling self-destructive?"


"That's what I would have done," he continued. "I would have said, 'Oh yeah, I'm enjoying this so much that I'll just take it back!'"

And I laughed. He somehow combined the gentle, the funny, the empathetic, and the true.

"You should just go back and check it out again," he said.

"I doubt I'll go back."

"Well, there's no reason for that. A lot of crap happened all at once. It wasn't your fault. I forbid you not to go back."

I laughed again (that tight plaster of submission to shadow crackling with my slight movements).

"I'm not really good at anything--working, writing, being a mom, making a home..."

Instead of chortling, he seemed to get what I meant--that thin spread of self. He pointed out specific changes he loved in the house and specific evidences of Oliver's joy.

Then, he bandaged my heel, got my sage green robe out of the dryer, and brought  my two of those peanut butter chocolate cookies and a tiny Dr. Pepper--all this without my asking (I wasn't well enough to ask or imagine). By then, I'd ordered my own copy of The Library at Night (I love it, and I think Josh will love it), picked up Madeleine L'Engle's A Circle of Quiet, and began reading. Then, I could ask Josh to call about the furniture. It will come on August 6--a long time, but I feel better knowing.

Josh couldn't have helped me in a better way. I went from utter, paralyzed despair to feeling just fine, to being able to move, speak, and try. I am grateful.

On Beauty.

"...once a child starts to think of himself this way, it's almost impossible for the 'image'--I think that's the right word here--to be changed." ~Madeleine L'Engle

Reading this in A Circle of Quiet made me think of my own skewed self-image. I don't remember thinking much about my looks when I was little. Beauty came from the bag full of dress-up clothes my grandmother had made for my mother. I could be a green and gold sparkle belly dancer or a Shakespearean enchantress in a yellow silky nightdress.

But at some point, maybe when I was eight or so, I came to the conclusion that I was not pretty and that I probably never would be. I do remember one girl at a gymnastics class lock-in telling me that I was ugly, but I think that was the only time anything like that happened. Maybe that was enough. But the belief probably came from the fact that I looked nothing like and really was nothing like my best friend: long, blonde hair; blue eyes; quick and proportional development; eyelashy charm; and confidence. She looked incredible no matter what she was wearing or doing. I don't remember her ever having a blemish. Boys literally congregated around her. I remember her showing me a little gold and pink ring she wore on her little finger--a gift from her boyfriend.

I do fall into either-or thinking sometimes. The other person who represented beauty (grown-up beauty) for me was my mother, and I wasn't much like her either (blonde hair, brown eyes, fashion sense, poise, ease with people, skill and grace with just about anything from making paper dolls and Amish friendship bread to planting a garden). I could believe that two kinds of beauty existed: youthful and adult. But if these were pretty, and I wasn't these, what did that leave?

I wasn't conscious of this, of course. I pulled confidence from acting, from having an established circle of four friends, from being smart and writerly. But a few years ago, I was looking at a massive collection of photos my dad had sort of bequeathed to me on an external hard drive. I found photos of myself around age ten, photos I'd probably seen before but hadn't studied. I knew what I was, how I looked.

But I didn't. I think I actually gasped and said to Josh, "But I was such a pretty little girl!"

Like most people (except those sirens), I had the awful years of eleven to thirteen. But when I turned fourteen, Accutane had done battle with my monstrous acne, and my face had lost some of that pained stretched-yet-shrunken quality. I was pretty enough, at least, to kiss or hold hands with half the boys in my grade (okay, there were nine or ten of them total). Still, I thought of myself as a plain girl who had pretty moments. Though I had moved away and didn't have the constant comparison with my best friend, I still didn't think I could qualify.

By age the middle of eleventh grade, I didn't think much about appearances. I was living in mind, imagination, and paper. But I did learn that magnetism, as I saw it in my best friend, isn't just from looks. When I was wholly absorbed in being myself and enjoying that, people did notice me, even though I was attending a huge school by then. I didn't take notice then, but I remember it now. Somehow, people knew who I was--that smart girl. They sometimes watched me. One very popular and very kind girl stared at me once while I was writing in a journal, and she said, "I've never met anyone like you. I will never forget you as long as I live." I was dumbfounded.

A series of unfortunate relationships broke some of this, and one directly assured me that I was quite, quite unattractive physically and otherwise. This has gotten better. I have a husband who tells me daily that he thinks I am beautiful, and the adoration on his face shows it. If he thinks I'm beautiful, what else matters?

Well, what I think matters. I've noticed that calling anyone pretty or beautiful is not really proper for adults (apparently) unless we link it to a change or object: "You look so pretty in that jacket!" for example. I think I do collect these: one person saying I look great in glasses, one person astonished and impressed when seeing me with my hair in a ponytail for the first time, one person repeatedly complimented my hair when I curled it, people saying I dress well (that's new). Do we really look at people? I, for one, would probably not say, "You're really beautiful" because, well, don't beautiful people know they're beautiful?

I don't know. This little girl didn't think she was beautiful. I wish I could tell her that she was.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Professional Fairy Attire: Royal and Gray.

This was another cold day in the spring semester, but the sun flooded our living room.

I found this cardigan at Target. The ribbon and ruffles around the buttons made me ignore that voice that so often says, "You don't need another single cardigan!"

Tardis blue earrings!

This was supposed to capture the nail polish that is my pink (I finally found it!): Cassanova Loves Me from Sephora by OPI. It looks soft rose like this indoors and brighter outside. The pants are my only piece of Banana Republic clothing, and they are warm, stretchy, and pinstriped. Perfect.

Mom gave me these boots when I started teaching. We call them the Star Trek boots.

I wear this forest green velvet quilted jacket when the weather is cold but not enough to justify the long wool coat. I found this jacket at Loft on ridiculous sale a couple of years ago. I didn't mind the little revisit of winter much.

Top: The Limited
Pants: Banana Republic
Cardigan: Target
Earrings: Boutique in Charleston
Jacket: Ann Taylor Loft
Boots: Franco Sarto

Professional Fairy Attire: Wuthering on the Moors.

I wore this to work in the spring when that crazy cold spell came. It's hard to believe that memory now when North Carolina is boiling. Seasons are always a shock and wonder to me. Does the sun really set after 8? Did it really set at 4? Do I really wear tank tops? Did I really wear a purple wool coat? Do the trees really bloom and leaf and turn amber? Do the views change so much? Maybe the seasons exist to keep us from getting bored and to keep us noticing.

This outfit makes me think of The Secret Garden, listening to moaning winds (or something else) and skipping rope in woody walled gardens.

The skirt is warm and full. I've found that full or flared is my favorite cut. When I began teaching, my mom told me that I needed knee-high boots. I didn't believe her but found some anyway. She was quite right. These are stretchy and actually fit over my giant calves leftover from Irish step dancing. The gray jacket with the gray net "petticoat" peeking out is one of my favorites. 

Hints of green cheered the dark clothes and reminded me that it was spring. I love these bracelets.

This headband is one from my Christmas stocking from mom. I need to wear these delicate headbands more often before my hair gets too long and heavy. But even then, I can wear them with a ponytail. I'm still crazy about these glasses. As I have to learn over and over, spending money on items I use everyday and taking time to find ones I really love is completely worthwhile. I don't think I've ever regretted it.

Tank Top: Target
Jacket: Ann Taylor Loft
Skirt: The Limited
Boots: Belk
Bracelets: Versona
Headband: Versona

Living Here: To the Festival.

In the interest of really living where we live, Josh and I set out a couple of months ago to explore downtown Fayetteville. We just happened to drive right into the Dogwood Festival.

I love this speckled brick building. Downtown Fayetteville (which I usually just call Fay--the fairy relation is pleasant) has cute little side streets like this.

I couldn't believe the number of tents and vendors, but more than that, I was amazed at how charming and interesting downtown Fay is.

This Italian restaurant is so pretty on the outside, and I more recently found out how pretty it is on the inside.

Cameo is a tiny movie theater. I'm glad we have one because I love the Manor Theater near downtown Charlotte (Josh and I went there to see Jane Eyre last year). I hope we will get to visit Cameo soon, but since we still can't bear to leave Oliver, we'll probably have to wait until he can handle going with us!

All of these restaurants and lounges looked so interesting. I actually took most of these photos since Josh was carrying Oliver. Josh is a much better photographer than I, but these are okay.

We never ended up visiting the Blue Moon Cafe in Monroe. I wonder if this is the same.

Just Desserts never seems to be open when I want it to be, but the name certainly catches my attention.

Isn't this a beautiful church?

That's my shadow over a plaque by this pretty little fountain. Josh always stops to read historic plaques and markers.

A band of preteen or teen boys played classic rock.

Another pretty fountain and the big main branch library...we'll be seeing these again.

We walked over this bridge to get to Linear Park.

Josh took over the camera and noticed this tiny flower between tree roots.

I love the design of this house. It makes me think of the style of 101 Dalmatians.

A little bookstore? Oh yes. Oliver was quite done with the heat and walking, but we made plans to come back later.

I love sidewalk signs like this.

I snapped this photo because Josh loves art deco.

Oh my! All these posters from Cape Fear Regional Theater productions memorized me. I hope that Oliver will be ready for plays early.

And this was a souvenir from our outing and a symbol of our commitment to enjoying our new home as long as we are here (and I hope that will be a long time). The seahorse necklace filled the car with dancing sparkles.