Friday, May 22, 2015

38 and Dreaming (or A Cake I Decorated and a Book I'm Writing)

The computer went kaput before I could share my birthday cake here a couple weeks ago.  I seem to be regressing regarding birthday cakes, getting more of a kick out of them--my own and others'--the older I get:  Deciding on flavors, decorations, candles, and tablecloths for my birthday is a small thing I look forward to every spring now, although I didn't seem to pay much attention even in my early thirties.  The past few years, it's become a fun and reflective time for me, just as setting the table for Christmas breakfast before I go to bed on Christmas Eve has. 




The high temperature on my birthday this year was a humid 84°, so I decided just to mix up some pink buttercream and frost a ready-made ice cream cake.  And after a few minutes of wandering the store with my why-did-I-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-case-before-I-finished-the-rest-of-my-shopping cake, I finally hit upon what I wanted to use as this year's cake topper:  A truffle decorated like a nesting doll.  Her dreamy expression and heart-shaped lips charmed me and seemed appropriate for this birthday. 
While the newly-frosted cake was refreezing, I used pink acrylic paint, a light coat of glue, and a sprinkling of white sanding sugar to doll up a couple grocery store candles.  I only keep candles in cakes long enough for the pictures anyway, so why not jazz them up for the few seconds they'll last.  I stuck toothpicks into the candles' bases to make it easier to poke them into the frozen buttercream.  
A few hours later. . .eating and wish-making with Mr. Mike.  Ohhh, I want to have driven a lot more before my next birthday, although without owning a car, the amount of driving practice depends on how often we rent one.   And I hope to remain in good health and get back into running shape in the next couple years.    My biggest goal and dream for the year ahead, though, is to have finished writing a full first draft of the memoir of my 1980s childhood that I've been working on rather sporadically the past few years.   Memories of my family, house, friends, street, neighbors, pets, and teachers from those years make me light up like nothing else.  The more I write, the more I remember, and while my family and I have many old photos, I've also kept all the diaries I've written since the fourth or fifth grade, and they are detailed treasure troves of memories:  TV show theme songs, conversations with my parents, class projects, Christmas and birthday wishlists, first-day-of-school outfits, board games played with my brothers, paperbacks ordered from the school book order flyers, the athletes that thrilled and inspired during the Olympics, the first cassette tapes I ever owned, even a drawing of the view from my bedroom window circa 1987.  It is time to put all my notes and paragraphs together and get a rough draft finished.  At least a few of you here are published writers, and I hope my own dream of getting the memoir published as book comes true before too long.  

My family moved out of my childhood home in late 1988, when I was eleven-and-a-half, and I feel drawn to it like a magnet lately.  I haven't visited it since the day we moved, and I've always dreamed of it almost abnormally often, but even more-so this past year.  The night of Mike's dad's funeral in March, while we were staying at his parents' house, I had what began as a beautiful dream that my dad and I had gone together to visit our former street.  Oh, how I loved our little street!  It was a short no-outlet hill of a street hosting only seven homes.  And our former house!  I have loved few things in my life the way I loved that house.  I was so excited that I was about to see it all again, and Dad was humoring me.  As we turned the car up the short little hill, I was horrified to see that the street now looked like London's after the Blitz.  There was just enough of each house still standing to make it clear which one was which.  "My God," Dad kept saying, and remembering his voice even now hurts my heart.  I told him I wanted to walk around what was left of the house, and he said he'd seen enough and would wait for me outside.  I made my way into what had been our kitchen, and the dream got worse from there and soon ended, one of the worst nightmares I've ever had.  I was shaking when I awoke, and I'd somehow woken Mike with my fitful sleep during the dream.  "Tonight of all nights," I asked him, "Why would I have to dream something so horrible?"  Because his dad had just died?  Because I was thinking of my own?  Because with the death of one parent, that 80s childhood seemed especially Long Ago and Far Away and finishing the memoir felt that much more urgent?  All of the above, I'm sure, but the timing was cruel.  It took a long time that night to shake the feeling that I really had just been on that ravaged, silent street with Dad.  Four days after the funeral and nightmare, I dreamed that a woman asked me if she could publish my memoir.  "Yes, PLEASE!" I practically shouted in response.  Yes, I'm paying attention, Universe, and I'm connecting the dots. 

While I was home a couple weeks ago, I told Mom how much I wanted to visit "our" street, but from the glimpse of the house visible in the distance as we passed the hill, we could see the current owner in the driveway, and that wasn't the visit I wanted.  I will explore it all on my next visit, home, though, Current Owner in the Driveway or not, because it feels more necessary all the time, like I'm being pushed or pulled there.  

Before I left this last time, the subject of my sixth-grade science fair project came up while I was talking with my dad, and he said again, as he did a couple years ago, "I think now that those were the best years.  All you kids were still little, and Mum and Dad were still alive, and we were going to Ocean City every summer. . . ."  And this time when he said it, just like the first time he'd said it, I choked up at his words, and I wished more than ever that I could whip a hardcover copy of my memoir out from under the picnic table and say, "I think those were the best years too.  Here's a book I wrote about it."  The memoir really is, after all, a love letter to my parents.  Thirty-eight begins, then, with not only dreaming, but also writing.  What else could have topped my cake this year but a dreaming brunette with love on her lips?!  Surely, things are unfolding just as they should here, with death, nightmare, dream, conversation, and cake topper each showing up as they did.  Surely, my dream too can come true.  By the time I share my next birthday cake, I hope to tell you that I have a finished piece I can start submitting--however-many submissions it takes--for publication.   And oh!  Please, please let me have my handing-Mom-and-Dad-their-copies-of-my-book moment. 





Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spring in My Parents' Yard

One of the joys of my last visit home two weeks ago was getting to see spring starting in my parents' yard.  My last evening there found me taking a break from watching Jurassic Park with Mom--actor Jeff Goldblum is one of our shared crushes--to try to take a few photos while it was still light out.  
Dad always shakes his head when he sees me admiring Dandelions, but I think they're beautiful. 
I keep arguing that he should think of Dandelions not as weeds but instead as a gift--free flowers!  and so many of them!--especially since we've enjoyed their greens in salads and he, at least, has liked dandelion wine, as well, but so far, we agree to disagree. 
The wind picked up while I was outside, but the rain held off until early morning.  The sound of rain falling against the roof of my parents' deck is one of my favorite sounds and something I miss from my four years living at that house with them. 
Ah, to see color outside again! 
Computer issues prevented me from writing again, post-visit, until now, and it has been interesting to me to feel myself missing this little space I carved out here back in January 2007 that I continue to use to share things I find beautiful and funny and wise and true and sweet. 
I still think it is worth it to make even such a small effort to share with others both life's "pretties" and its "pretty roughs."  I began this blog that winter as I emerged from a long period of depression, and I believe that even my coming up with its title was a bit of defiance that helped me focus and figure out how to stay strong and move forward. 
Exactly eight years ago today, it turns out--I posted this.  
The two weeks away from the blog this month clarified for me that maybe even more than the stories and the photos of the beautiful and the worthwhile that I share here, I love the determination to appreciate the beautiful and the worthwhile in the first place.  A sweet realization this spring. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~ Anais Nin

What a sweet past week!  I returned today from four days of visiting family--mine and Mike's--and had such a great time with everyone:  A late supper out with Mike's mom and sister Friday night, a Thanksgiving-dinner-in-May with my family Sunday, a drive out to my grandparents' cemetery with Mike Monday afternoon, the softball and Little League games of my oldest niece and nephew Monday evening--and both their teams won their games, and my nephew hit a home run that won his game, and seeing his PURE JOY as he ran into his teammates' arms after crossing home plate is one of my all-time favorite Dylan moments.  He was THRILLED, and the coaches let him keep the ball.  My parents, sister-in-law, and I were yelling our heads off in the bleachers, so happy for him--my nephew's first band concert Tuesday morning, what's become a traditonal tea party-ish stop for lemon meringue pie, fresh strawberries, a roll with jam, and tea for me and Mom yesterday afternoon, and a drive out to the cemetery with Dad later to place a bouquet and a photo of my driver's license cake at Sommer's headstone.  I'd been imagining myself doing just that at Som's headstone since before I got my license, so to get to leave my flowers and photo there finally was so sweet, one of those moments when I could look at myself and think, "Ah!  I have grown!  I have made progress!  I really did do something with this past year!"  Last May, I don't know if I would have believed that a year later, I'd be driving to my parents' house--I DROVE us home from my in-laws' Sunday, and I drove to the cemetery--and getting to visit Som's headstone as a licensed driver for the first time too.  Truly:  Progress!  This entire past five days was full of sweet moments, but finally seeing my simple bouquet and celebration cake at Som's stone just made the trip for me.  Let's hear it for personal growth!  :) 

Monday, April 27, 2015

In-Laws' Anniversary

(Lily, here again is the picture you liked.)  :) 
Today is my in-laws' wedding anniversary.  I had this portrait made into a pillow for my mother-in-law, and the postal tracking tells me the package arrived right on time this afternoon.  I hope today has not been horrible for her, her first anniversary-date since my father-in-law died last month, and in any event, I send her love and prayers. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Gift of Encouragement--

--for my mother-in-law last Saturday continues to make me smile. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

On the Shores of Lake Erie

Mike and I returned from our anniversary weekend away last night:  A day and night in Erie, PA and a day and night at his parents' home.  Perfect little getaway for us right now.  A month has passed since Mike's dad died, and the sounds of the seagulls and the tides were balms for the soul Friday. 
Ice-cold water--some snow was still mounded under the shade of trees--but restorative for us, nonetheless.
I didn't notice until I uploaded the photo below from my camera that the word "Hope" is clearly written in the sand here. 
Mike said he had noticed at the time that there was something drawn in the sand, but he hadn't paid any real attention to it.  Hope, I tell you!  That's at least as sweet as all my found hearts
The last time I'd visited Lake Erie, I was about thirteen years old.  The beach and woods bordering it are just as I remember. 
This time, though, instead of making the trip with my dad's older sisters, I was with my husband--
--and instead of spending a humid summer day giggling as my aunts teased me about having crushes on lifeguards, I was using my husband as a windbreak as I huddled for warmth against him on a log.  It was really too chilly for bare legs and bare feet, but that's what beaches are for, and the comfort of sand and waves against my skin was worth every second of mind-numbing FREEZING COLD.  :)
Ducks--Mike's favorite--and seagulls paddled before us, and to hear the gulls later outside our hotel room too was just bliss to me.  ♥  Although we were only staying for a night, we allowed ourselves the one-bedroom hotel suite that offered balconies and a rare-to-us bit of luxury.  I figured we deserved to treat ourselves a bit, and so we did.  
Saturday evening, we were greeted at my in-laws' home by their gorgeous-eyed cat--
--and equally striking spring flowers. 
A rock wall is a "must" for my dream home and Mike has known this for ages, but it didn't occur to him for the longest time to mention that oops, oh, that's right, his parents have one out in the corner of their backyard.  Methinks this is the same lack of attention to detail that made him oops, see that someone had written something in the sand in front of us but not care enough to read it.  Gah.  :)  My mother-in-law's flowers looked heavenly in front of the rocks, making it hard to decide if it was the shore or the cat or the wall that counted as Today's Charming Thing. 
The rock wall may have won. 
More beauty on my in-laws' back porch--
--and inside their home, an adorable picture of Mr. Mike from a less recent beach trip.  :)  My all-time favorite photo of him, I think. 
And yes, after Anniversary Cupcake Fail, Mike did, indeed, get his Krispy Kreme doughnuts over the weekend.  The bee-topped one was mine. 
A lovely getaway, and a couple more days off to get caught up here at home.  I'm redoing our bathroom and requesting permission from the landlord to paint our bedroom.  ("Dare to dream.")  And in the next few weeks, we will be visiting both Mike's family and mine, and I will get more interstate driving experience, so as sad as this past month has been, there is more to look forward to on the horizon.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Daffodil Cupcakes and Random Acts of Kindness

In the wee hours of the morning, I baked and decorated two fondant Daffodil-topped cupcakes--Daffodils were my bridal bouquet flower--so Mike and I could share from afar a belated anniversary dessert while I'm at work tonight.  Ooh ahh, I was quite pleased with these little cakes, and pride goeth before the fall, for they tipped over and into each other right before I took this picture.  Then after prying them away from each other and fixing the frosting and flowers as best I could--notice the careful placement of our wedding cake topper--I decided to try a bite of mine, since it was already looking the worse for wear, and Disappointment Number Two was that the new-to-me white cake recipe I used for these had produced cupcakes that tasted like Play-Doh--and had the same consistency.  Anniversary dessert FAIL!  We are going out this weekend, though, and there is a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop along the way, so maybe I will treat Mike to bakery-made anniversary doughnuts instead. 
A sweeter-than-smooshed-Play-Doh-cupcakes anniversary surprise came a couple years back while Mike and I were out for breakfast.  As we ate, the woman in another couple in the restaurant called over to us, "Will your meal cost at least [such-and-such amount]?"  I was wondering why someone would ask a stranger such a thing when she continued, "If  it will, we have a half-off coupon you can use."  And she brought it over to our table, and we four talked and laughed for a moment, and that kindness became one of the highlights of our anniversary and remains one of my favorite anniversary memories. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Four Years Ago Today

Four years ago today, Mr. Mike and I got married.  This anniversary reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder's The First Four Years, and while we have had our challenges, let us thank God that our own first four have not been quite as difficult as Laura and Almanzo's.  My dear and dearly-missed friend Jane, author of the blog Manorisms, wrote to me in a 2007 email, "[Bob's and my] life together has been a good one, but one of my bits of wedding advice is for a couple always to remember that some years are definitely better than others."  That continues to be one of the wisest and most helpful things I've heard regarding marriage.  It hasn't all been carefree sunny days and sweet strappy shoes and colorful sugar cookies, but the older I get, the more I appreciate all of life's carefree and sweet and colorful, so maybe it more than balances out.