The Things we Keep and the Things we Carry

It’s hot and muggy, we don’t have central air and there aren’t enough fans in this giant old house with it’s high ceilings and plaster walls. The stagnant heat makes us all a little cranky, that and everyone having consecutive days of various friends sleeping over. Everyone except me. I don’t get any friend sleepovers. (Sigh) The house is a mess, the kind of wild, uncontrollable mess that comes from six people being home all day. The piles are every where pressing in on me, mimicking the heat in their attempts to smother me.  Papers, laundry, shoes, dirty dishes, the debris of daily life in its natural state. Entropy in action. It’s surrounding me.

In the one small window of my dark bedroom there’s an air conditioner humming, the door stays shut to trap in the precious cooler air. It gives a momentary reprieve from the heat if not the mess. Here, too, the piles haunt me. Predominantly laundry that I haven’t found the time or space to put in its proper place. I’ve been lead to believe neither the “clean” basket nor the end of my bed is considered the proper spot, though my patterns of behavior especially of late beg to differ. Normally it doesn’t bother me but the heat and crabbiness of the day make me want this laundry to be somewhere other than the floor and furniture. In fact, I want all the mess to be somewhere else. I want it all gone. There’s just so much stuff. Why is there so much stuff?

A couple months ago I cleaned out part of my basement in the process of creating a work out area. My kids and I have been in this house for almost four years now, double the longest time we’ve lived anywhere else. As we were sorting through the stuff that had collected in the basement a theme emerged. Boxes. For some reason there were a lot of empty boxes in my basement, specifically the boxes that stuff came in. Packaging. There was so much empty packaging that I had held onto for some reason or another. There was a box from one of my daughter’s nicer dolls that was a birthday present when she was seven or eight, the packaging of a remote control helicopter I bought off Groupon three Christmases ago, even the box from my vacuum cleaner…and a few more. I have no idea why I kept them but there were So Many Empty Boxes. Occupying space with no known purpose.

I didn’t realize I was a collector of boxes until I saw it all compiled, it got me thinking: Why? Why did I keep all that empty packaging? Why bother storing it for years and years? Seriously, you could compose the history of my purchases with all the boxes thrown haphazardly in the corner of my dark, dank basement. It’s like I was never quite convinced that I wouldn’t be moving again soon. I might need to pack up all that stuff and transport it in a year or two like I had before. Or maybe I thought I’d be desperate at some point in the near future and have to sell stuff on Ebay, just to get by. I’ve done it before. Things are more valuable with their original packaging.

It wasn’t just the boxes that I was storing without awareness.

In the back of my closet there’s a dress. It’s a shorter black shirt style dress with bold, angry plaid trim and shiny metal loops and buckles reminiscent of punk rock fashions. Years ago I had a skirt that was similar, I’d wear it with a cut up t-shirt, ripped black tights, and my Doc Martens. But this dress, I’ve never even worn it. My former sister-in-law bought it for me at the salvation army maybe six or seven years ago. We used to be good friends and when she saw it she thought of me. Shortly after that the shit hit the fan and divorce ensued. We haven’t spoken in years, my once sister-in-law and I. I tried to reconnect with her after the dust settled but I guess blood really is thicker than water and she wanted nothing to do with rekindling our friendship. I still have the dress though. It’s survived many purges. I just can’t seem to let it go. I’m thirty-six now, it would be a little ridiculous for me to wear it but there it hangs in my closet.

There are other things too. Torn t-shirts and jeans with worn out knees that I meant to make into something useful and fun, a grocery bag of washed out tin cans that were supposed to become C3PO, my dad’s cross country jersey from college, a watercolor of me on my wedding day that was a gift from my ex husband on our first anniversary.

It always made me uncomfortable, this painting of me standing there in my elaborate wedding gown and fancy hair, but I still have it more than two years after the divorce. Partially because I’m not sure what to do with it, throwing it away doesn’t seem right. Partially because I forget it’s there (out of sight, out of mind) until I stumble upon it again while searching for something else. Then all those  feelings come back, the awkwardness and discomfort I felt when it was given to me, not knowing how or whether I should let on that I didn’t love this painting of myself for fear it would be perceived as personal rejection and scorn by my brand new husband. Even in the early years of marriage I knew I had to tiptoe around his unpredictable feelings. I knew that having a reaction that was less than he expected would be construed as total rejection of him as a person; I couldn’t not love the gift and still love him, not in his mind. So I danced around what his reaction to my reaction was going to be and adapted as I saw fit. That tailoring and filtering, the inability to be authentic, I’ve tried to get rid of it, to throw it out, but remnants of it hang on. Scraps of it are woven into the fabric of my being, something I keep and carry whether I like it or not. And I don’t. It’s there though, as real as the mess in my sweltering home. It’s just one of the things that holds on, gathering dust in the corners until it finds an opportunity to remind me of its presence. There are things I carry, without even realizing, that do not have a place in my newer life, the one where I don’t dance unless I want to. The one where I’m the king of my own castle, albeit a mess of a castle. But I can’t seem to let them go. I have trouble discerning between the things I should keep, the useful stuff, and the things I carry. The stuff that weighs me down, the stuff that should have been let go of long ago.

 

On Castles and Capes

Did you know there are castles in Ohio? OHIO! Of all the places!

My kids and I took a trip to Dayton over Labor Day weekend to visit our friends there (well, my friends really but I’m working on making them my kids’ friends as well). A few weeks earlier my daughter had pointed out that we hadn’t really gone anywhere this summer and asked for a road trip. Any kind of road trip would do but she’d like to leave the state. So we made plans to trek south to the Not-as-great-as-Michigan state of Ohio. Shortly before our trip I made the serendipitousl discovery  of castles in Ohio (on Pinterest of all places). Granted some of them are more castle-esque manors than actual castles, at least one of them is a legit castle.

 

While definitely a castle this thing is relatively young. Some super smart dude who was very into architecture, like five degree into it, moved to Ohio after serving in World War I and started building The Loveland castle in 1930. He worked on it until his death in 1981.

castle-j-5He might have lived there and the place was and is open to Boy Scout groups camping on the grounds and also is the world headquarters for this order of knights the guy started. Now it seems to mostly function as a tourist attraction and wedding site. The inside of the castle is not very ornate but it’s done in tenth century Normandy style so that seems appropriate. The gardens are pretty cool though and it has an active bee hive area. That’s not open to visitors but my daughter claims to have snuck back there. In addition the castle is located on one of Ohio’s many rivers and a small county park with canoe access is right in front of the castle. So one could theoretically canoe to a castle. How cool is that?

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My daughter, always the explorer, found some hike-able terrain near the river bank.

On Labor Day, the day after we returned home, my family was having one of its massive birthday dinners. This time it was only for four people and I had gifts for three of the four with the fourth being my one-year-old niece. I figured I could whip something up in the hour of free time I had Monday morning but was having trouble (and wasting precious making time) deciding what. A series of random texts to my sister revealed that the birthday girl did not have use for bibs and was not need any clothing items. I thought about making an apron or some baby doll clothes but wasn’t thrilled with contributing to the socialization of little girls to be the cookers and cleaners-up of the world while ..I was slightly stumped until I remembered the cape I had made for my daughter when she was little and how much she loved it. I’ve made other capes as quick birthday gifts over the years and they’re always a hit. Plus they’re pretty quick to make. Bonus!

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The lavender material was left over from a fabric dying project in my daughter’s art class last spring. I butted the bottom of the cape up to the already hemmed edge to minimize mundane sewing and maximize construction efficiency. After doing a small rolled hem on the sides, I cut a two inch wide strip of fleece for the neckline. Rolling that over the top (which I roughly hemmed to prevent fraying and fabric degradation)made a nice soft neckline which was finished off by a couple of pieces of red ribbon.

I fee handed a large block M from some other leftover fabric, attached mid-weight fusible interfacing, and used a zig-zag stitch around the edges to attach it to the center of the cape.

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Ba-da-bing, ba-daBang!

While it’s rather large for the one-year-old, it fit her big sister perfectly.

 

Methinks another cape might be in order next spring when this girl has a birthday. Different letter of course.

Some castle garden pics for the road…

 

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The actual birthday girl who will be swimming in her new cape for at least another year.

Why am I doing this?

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I keep asking myself this but I haven’t gotten an answer yet.

Today was my first day of classes for the new fall semester. I was slightly wary going into it, my class schedule is really not the greatest. Especially for me. I’ve got on-campus classes two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, one in the morning and one in the evening with four and a half hours between them. (And of course the evening class makes it so I’m not home during divorced-parent switch time. That raises the stress of my schedule exponentially.) I’m still not sure what to do with myself in those four and a half hours. I also don’t understand why that one last chemistry class I still need to graduate doesn’t fit nicely in that space. I mean, it would but the university either didn’t realize or completely missed the memo on that one.

Really I should have picked up some easy bullshit class to fill the time and ,in doing so, avoided fucking up my financial aid. Of course I didn’t realize the financial aid was effed up until two days after my overages were supposed to be deposited into my account so I could buy books. In case you missed it, they weren’t. I’m sans student loan money until mid-September. And even then it’ll probably be less than I actually need and have gotten before. I could look at my student account and see what the adjustment yielded but I’m a little afraid to see what I’m dealing with. Which brings me to the main point of this ramble…

As I walked out of my first class (which ended less than an hour after I got there) feeling a mix of excitement, relief, and trepidation I began to wonder why I’m doing this whole school thing. Later, sitting in the three hour biochemistry lab marveling at how much I forgot since May, that thought popped back into my head: Why am I doing this? Wouldn’t we all be better off if I just worked more at my job or picked up a second job?

Things have been a struggle lately, specifically financial things. They’re piling and piling and I’ve got no exit strategy. And here I am during perfectly good working hours sitting in class accumulating student loan debt. Why? It’s supposed to make life better but I’m not sure this whole college thing is doing that. I’m happier but only when I don’t try to fathom how I’m going to pay for this education I’m (according to some people) selfishly acquiring. And, really, am I making my kids lives better by not being there when they get home from school, by constantly scrambling to patch together rides home from school and cross country practice? I’d like to think, yes, that it does do something, that it is and will continue to make our quality of life better. Maybe I’m operating on sunk cost premises here and maybe this is my competing fears of both failure and success but I if I quit now ,like I’m occasionally so tempted to do, there is no gain. Nothing at all.

I’m  ninety-percent sure this is all self-doubt and beginning of the school year angst. Tomorrow I’ll review protein chemistry and be happy to be learning new things again. I’ll remember that I really do want to be a dentist and have for a long time. I’ll think about all the cool things I’ll do for my kids and others when I am. I’ll find a way to work a little more this term and still be awesome  acceptable at my studies. And I’ll, once again, convince myself that it’s part of the process. Eggs breaking and omelets and all that.

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My kids are super thrilled about the start of a new school year too.

Dessert on the Brain

Clearly around here we’ve had food on the brain, especially dessert. I guess that’s what happens when we have a little time on our hands. I’ve been enjoying Pinterest and ran across a recipe for Pecan Pie Cheesecake. I HAD to make it. I mean who can resist that!?! I hadn’t baked in quite some time and had plans to see a bunch of my family over the weekend. Perfect plan bake cheesecake and force-feed everyone around me so I don’t eat the whole thing myself.

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The crust is made of Nilla wafers. Then a sticky delightful pecan pie layer is added.

 

 

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A well baked cheesecake layer.

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Topped with pecans and a tasty cinnamon, sugar, butter and pecan mix. It was a sicky tasty cheesecake. I think it may be one of my favorites. It was an involved process but not exceptionally difficult. I recommend giving it a shot.

On a side note progress is actually being made onthe guest room!! Walls are painted. The closet and trim still needs to be completed. Less than a week until school starts again so wish me luck!

Let Them Eat Pie

Because avoidance is my go-to coping mechanism when life is getting crazy (which of course just makes it even more insane), I keep thinking about ways to prepare for the start of the school year, or as I’ve taken to calling it, the Oncoming Storm, but I haven’t actually done anything yet. My daughter did convince me to take her to the nearby outlet mall last week for some new school clothes but all the other things, school supplies, much needed socks and underwear, pre-prepped freezer meals, groceries beyond microwavable foods and ice cream…those are all still in the theoretical stage. I did, however, make some pies. Because that’ll be super helpful when we’re getting home from school and practices at seven o’clock when everyone is tired, hungry, and stressed out from being awake, functional, and around people all day. (In our household of six, only one of us is an extrovert.)

Come to think of it, a stock pile of pies on my freezer might be useful after all.

First there was strawberry rhubarb…

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..which got eaten within the week. Then there was summer fruit, blueberry, and a bastardization of the two…

I got the fruit ingredients for a summer fruit pie (peaches, nectarines, plums, strawberries, and cherries) and blueberries early in the week but didn’t get around to making these pies until the fruit was on the brink of going bad. When I’m looking ahead at the week it always looks like it’ll be relaxed and there will be time for some baking and making but something happens, time gets all wibbly-wobbly, and suddenly it’s Thursday and I’ve barely maintained for the week. And before you know it, BAM!, it’s September.

So there I was Wednesday night with fruit that was getting mushy and a week that was running out (my weeks end on Thursday, not Saturday or Sunday like most people’s). The only thing to do was mass produce. This was going to be a three pie night.

I used my favorite pie crust recipe. It’s basic, only flour, salt, shortening, and very cold water, but always turns out good. It helps that it’s a lot less dry than many crust recipes and that lends itself to easier rolling and shaping especially when using the wax paper roll out method. (okay, I just made that name up but it does describe the process pretty well).

After mixing the dough and pressing it into a ball (and separating it into two if you’re doing double crust pie), wrap the ball in wax paper and press it down into a disk that’s roughly an inch thick. No need to be precise though. Stack your disks in the refrigerator for however long the recipe says to (in this case twenty minutes or so…again, we’re not being precise here).  If they’re super stiff afterwards, let the wrapped disks of dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling them. Gradually roll each disk of dough between two sheets of wax paper until it’s nice and thin and big enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pie pan with some overhang.

 

pie empty shells

Once the crusts are all rolled out you just remove one layer of wax paper and flip the crust into the pie pan. This eliminates some of the breaking dough and frustration of trying to keep your crust in tact while putting the pie together. After the shells are filled, roll the top crust out the same way and place it on top. Pinch the excess dough from both bottom and top crusts together in whatever pattern or shape you want, cut a few slits in the top,and you have a pie. Or three.

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I used the dough that was trimmed from all the edges to give this pie a sun/star type thing. Yeah, it’s a little messy but by that time it was two int he morning and I was rocking a two-beer buzz while making pies and watching Orphan Black. (I’m pretty sure that right there is  adulting done right!)

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Ta-da! Three pies…

pies wrapped and waiting

…wrapped and ready to freeze so that when the chaos of back to school is in full swing we’ll be able to enjoy a little taste of summer.

Riding the Struggle Bus

As you may (or may not) remember, I signed up to do the Detroit half marathon this year. It happened in a brief moment of impulsiveness when my judgement was clouded by post-race endorphins… but even then there was a small voice niggling at the back of my brain saying something about that maybe not being such a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, with three half marathons under my belt I’m starting to grow fond of the 13.1 distance and I’ve really enjoyed preparing for these races the past couple of years. But this fall is looking like it’s going to be a crazy one. My class schedule is less than ideal, my oldest is a senior in high school which means college stuff, and it’s cross country season. Did I mention my insane class schedule?

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It sounded like a good idea at the time.

There is not much time in my fall for training for a big race and that was before I got the middle school cross country coaching position at my kids’ school.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited about coaching. As my eleven year old pointed out, I get paid (a very little bit) to share my love of running with others. And so far it’s been a fun experience. It does cut into my own personal running time. In fact, I did not even log fifty miles in July. WTF?!?!

Part of that can be blamed on the whole dental school application/completing shadowing hours thing too (yeah, I’m totally milking that for all it’s worth) but no matter what you blame it on, here I am barely a month and a half pre-race and I haven’t run more than six miles in…months? So much for just maintaining my level of conditioning from the last half marathon. It was a nice idea while it lasted.

Really my mileage for August doesn’t look too bad, I’ll probably hit 75 and a lot of those came from doing two runs on the same day. One at practice with the kids (usually at a pace slower than my not-all-that-fast norm) and one a few hours later when I’d pound out a quick three miler in the dark just so I can say I got my miles in. So last night I decided it was time to get back on the horse and log some double digit runs.

My goal was to get up early (for me, probably late for most adults) and head to the park to run the ten mile loop. It sounded like a great plan right after cross country practice where I had run four miles in a nice, light rain and then got poured on as the team stretched and did a little core. In the morning after staying up way too late making pies and drinking beer while watching Orphan Black (my new tv obsession), ten miles did not have the same appeal. I procrastinated and whined a little before changing my plans and mapping out a ten miler around town.

Around 11am I finally headed out to run. It was terrible.

I hadn’t realized how muggy it was. My first mile was decent but then I started to feel tired, my legs felt heavy and my lungs incompetent. I slogged on but found myself really wanting to walk around the two mile mark. You know it’s going to be a bad long run when you are tempted to walk before even finishing three miles. I tried to motivate myself by thinking of all the crap  motivational things I say to the middle school runners to keep them running when they want to walk. I reminded myself that if eleven to thirteen year-olds can push themselves to run so can I. It wasn’t really working though.

Clearly this run was just going to suck. Some do.

After seven miles I decided to throw in the towel and call the game  run. It was time to head home. All total today’s long run was nine miles. Nine long, arduous miles of self-inflicted torture. And a very good reminder that it’s time to get my shit together and plan some long run times. One ride on the struggle bus was enough for me, I do not want to spend thirteen miles running in front of other people if it feels like that!

So, the new goal is to figure out when and what my training schedule is going to be so as to not embarrass myself in Detroit in October. Also, I wouldn’t mind another half marathon PR…if it’s not too much to ask for.

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I ask myself this ALL the time!

 

The emails are coming

I’m a little less than half way through my much needed break from school. I’ve barely had a chance to enjoy it yet. After finals there was a work filled weekend and then a summer cold took me down!! It’s like my body knew I was on break and everything relaxed including my immune system. summer-vacation-chart-sick

I’ve basically recovered now and just getting ready to enjoy my time when the emails started flowing in. First from my psychiatric clinical instructor, then the nursing school itself and then my med/surg instructor. They all listed things due at random times during break! Ugh! No!

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There’s paperwork for next semester’s hospitals, computerized evaluation tests to retake (yes! retake!), and textbooks to order. Don’t they all know, I’M ON VACATION. Is nothing sacred?

Even with things due I’m significantly less busy than normal. I’m trying to take this opportunity to finally finish my guest room. I  started it back in September 2015 before I started nursing school and it has been is disrepair since then. I’ve been too busy to have guests….ok, actually, I’ve just made my only guest stay in the basement. Hopefully after this week it will be complete.

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On that note, I need to go do some sanding!