Friday, August 30, 2013

New Routine

I am ruled by routine.  Throwing something new into the mix, like a class two days a week, has rocked my world a bit, but I’m starting to settle in.
I’m so glad that I chose to take a class on campus rather than online.  Partially because my limited technical skills are put to the test enough as it is, and I’m actually showing up for the “learning part” in person.  

Being on campus, even though it’s in my own city, is so different from anything else I’ve ever experienced here in Denver, I sometimes feel that I’m in a different country altogether.  As a white person, I’m in the minority.  It’s crowded with people.  The fragrance in the air is cigarette smoke and cherry chapstick.

One of my favorite scenes last week: I saw a guy walking to class.  He was wearing a flat-billed, oversized baseball cap, full-sleeved tattoos, a wife beater and oversized shorts.  He was pushing a stroller with a toddler in it.

The campus that I attend is shared by three different schools, two of them community colleges, so I’m not in the minority in terms of non-traditional students.  I don’t feel out of place, being 34 and a half and going to school for the first time.

I should say that I don’t feel like I look out of place, there are lots of people my age and older that are walking around, but it feels out of place in my own skin, I guess.  I constantly feel like I’m too old to be starting this.  It’s funny to talk about this class and have people say, “Oh, you’re going back to school?”  Nope.  I’m going to school.  First time (not going “back”).  I never did this before.  I went to beauty school.  

I wondered, as I walked to my class this week, how many of the other students had spent the beginning of their day, you know, as “class prep”, in therapy (because they’re widowed), then hassling with the contractors on their bathroom renovation, then making confirmation calls for their full-time job, then leaving a heated message with the bank because they still haven’t sent the checks for the business account that were ordered over a month ago, then loading their service dog onto the light rail and waltzing into class?  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chewing gum, Denim Threads and Ziploc baggies

August 24 is the hardest day of the year for me.  Harder than Christmas.  Harder than Thanksgiving.  Harder than Sawan’s birthday.  It’s the day that stole my husband from me.  It’s the day that ripped my dreams from my grasp.

The week leading up to it has taken me by surprise.  I know that I always brace myself for the difficulty of the day, but I had forgotten how rough the whole previous week was.  This is my fourth one.  You’d think it would start to feel familiar by now.

I can tell you in great detail what we did on the 21st, the 22nd, and the 23rd in 2009.  Now, in 2013, I subconsciously, unintentionally, do mental check-ins throughout the day.  Where were we?  What were we doing?  I hate it. 

I feel fragile.  Frayed.

You know those threads that hang off of cut-off jean shorts?  I feel like I’m held together by those and pieces of chewing gum.  But, when something is fragile, and you want to make sure none of the parts get lost, you stick them in an envelope, or a Ziploc baggie, and my friends and family are my envelope, keeping me encouraged, promising to just hang out near me on Saturday, texting me and emailing me encouraging words, remembering that it’s my hard day coming up.  It makes me feel surrounded, protected.  So that if the chewing gum doesn’t hold up, at least I won’t lose a piece forever, it’ll stay near by.

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Day of School

I have a clear memory from my childhood of playing beauty shop with my big sister. 
She must have wanted to be the client (as the older sister, it was her right to assign the rolls), which meant I got to be the stylist, and I was thrilled.  I remember it so well.  We set up one of our child-sized chairs from our kitchen set; I shook out a baby blanket and wrapped it around her neck for a cape.  I remember trying to rock the chair on its back legs like it was a hydraulic chair that I was trying to pump up.  I grabbed my safety scissors (remember when they were still made out of metal, not plastic, and they had the rounded, blunted end?) in one hand, and a hunk of the hair from the back of her head in the other.  I twisted the hunk of hair and was just about to put the scissors to it when my mom walked in.  We got in huge trouble.  I tell my mom all the time that this is actually a texturizing technique that we do as hairstylists, and really I was a child prodigy (She’ll reply, dryly, “Think how far you could have gone if you had had family support.”).

My point is this:  Even as a small child, it was obvious that I had watched carefully what went on at the beauty salon, what the stylists did, and I was dying to be one of them.  I pretty much always knew that I wanted to be a hairstylist.  As a result of this, I never went to college.  There was no need for it; it would be a waste of time and money.

As I think about my life now, though, and the fact that I wanted to be a wife and mom in addition to being a hairstylist, and those dreams were sort of ripped from me, beyond my control, what will life possibly look like in the next 20-30 years?  In the areas that I do have some control, what can I do to make a change?  I don’t want it to look exactly like it looks now.  I’m bored.

And so, I’ve decided that I should think about college.

I’m a little concerned about my brain, PTSD has done a number on my short-term memory, and I wonder if I maybe have a little ADD, as well, since I have so much difficulty concentrating. I’m trying to get to the bottom of these things, but I’m certainly not going to let them win, so I’ve decided to start with one class at a community college (creative non-fiction), just to see how it goes.

So, today is my first “first day of school” since my senior year of high school in 1996.  I’m excited and nervous.  Wish me luck.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A new outfit for the Pink House

When I was house shopping in 2011, I pulled up to what would soon be affectionately called the Pink House, saw it in all it’s pink glory, with its little white picket fence, and thought, for the first time out of all the properties I’d seen, “This might be my house.”

After walking through it, with its original hardwood floors and its gabled ceilings, I was convinced.  Eventually, it became mine.

After living in it, though, there were some things that really bugged me.  For one thing, it’s a classic Victorian, but with it’s trim painted two shades of turquoise and two shades of sandstone, it looked like a Victorian that was trying to be Southwestern.  Now, I love me some turquoise jewelry, I just didn’t love it for my house.  So, this summer, I decided to give her a new outfit.

I just finished having the exterior painted.  It was quite an undertaking for the painter, he told me he used twice as much paint as he normally uses for a house this size, partially because of the detail and partially because it was so torn up and needed so much love.  I chose colors that make it look like a dollhouse.  I told my mom recently that I never had a dollhouse growing up (I did have the My Little Pony stable, it’s not like I didn’t have any cool toys) so I have to have one now.  It now looks like a Victorian trying to be a Victorian.  The body has a cooler shade of pink, as in less warm, more of a bluish pink, less of a yellowish pink, and the trim is now a darker shade of pink, plus two shades of taupe, and a classic white to top it off.  There’s also just a hint of that old green (the color that chips off of every old window frame on any old house that you ever see) under the eave.  It’s beautiful.

I didn't get a good "before" photo, because we had painted big spots of the new colors on it before I got a chance.  Here's one with Samuel in front of it, but you can definitely see the ugly trim.

After.  My little dollhouse.

I’m also three weeks into a remodel of my upstairs bathroom.  Since they said it would take two and a half weeks, and they’re nowhere near done, it feels like they’ll be done…well, never.  It’s not like my story is different from any you’ve ever heard, but it’s taking longer than expected, the contractors don’t always show up, when they do they’re smelly and they use my downstairs bathroom in a manner that makes me have to clean it before I can use it, everything is covered in an inch of plaster dust, and I’m so over it.  I complain about it regularly, but it makes me feel like one of the cast of Bravo’s Real Housewives, a show I can’t stand because they are constantly complaining about their First World Problems.  I put the back of my hand to my forehead and say, “My house is covered in plaster dust because they’re giving me the bathroom of my dreams!”  So, overall, I know it will be done eventually and I’m so lucky to be getting to do it.  I’ll post bathroom photos if it ever gets done.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Family Photos

About a year ago, I started thinking about the fact that I hadn’t had any professional pictures taken since my wedding in 2007.  As a single person, you just don’t see much of that.  I have no family with kids growing that I need to show off.  But, as I was thinking about it, I decided that I wanted to have some done.  I wanted photos of Arthur and I.  I felt that I had finally started to live, and I wanted to show people, “See, look, we’re ‘OK’, in some ways, we’re even thriving.”

I had processed these thoughts with my friend and client Rachel, who also happens to be one of the most talented photographers I’ve ever seen.  I’ve gotten to hang out with her every five weeks for the last 12 years, and she’s one of my favorite people on the planet.  I look forward to the day that she comes down from Ft. Collins, because I never feel like I’m working, I feel like I get to just have girl time hanging out with my friend.  She took my engagement photos and my photos for the wedding reception we had in town (the wedding was in Mexico).  Her talent leaves me speechless (she’s been featured in The Knot several times!).

So, we decided to do family photos with Arthur and I.  There are so many good ones that I don’t know how I’m ever going to choose.  I’m so excited!

Rachel, thanks for taking such good care of Arthur and I, for making me feel beautiful, and for somehow finding a way to get an image that communicates all of the complex things that this little animal does for me.  His personality totally came across!  I couldn’t be happier.

To see her blog posting on Arthur and I, with a few more photos, go here.

And, just for fun, here's one of the engagement photos that she did a million years ago:

Friday, August 2, 2013

Celebrating Sawan's Birthday

No matter how much I brace myself for days like today, they still take me by surprise.  It’s often so much harder than I expect it to be, even though I’ve been dreading it.  Even though it’s still hard, it’s also easier than it used to be in some ways, which is it’s own brand of hard.  It’s like I feel guilty that it’s easier or something.

I woke up this morning with him on my mind.  Today would have been his 44th birthday (I did the math wrong and thought that he was 44 last year, but he was born in 1969, that makes this year the 44th).  I wondered, as I sometimes do, what we would be doing today if he were alive.  I can no longer say.  This is helpful in some ways, and hard in others.  The details of our life before are fuzzily slipping away, I can’t quite grab them, like when you wake from a sweet dream but can no longer remember exactly why it was so sweet.  That’s super hard.  It’s good, though; that I can’t obsess about what life would be like, and grieve that it’s not the same.  I’m doing less inventing things to grieve; I grieve less about what would have been.

I mostly just miss him.   There are so many things I want to tell him about.  It still happens, about once a month, that I see something and I think, “I have to call Sawan and tell him!”  The most recent was when the little bistro closed on Pearl St, where the salon is. We always speculated that it was a front for the mafia; it never had customers but remained open.  But there’s more.  I want to tell him that I’m going to school, want to share that decision with him.  I want him to know that I’m so healthy and skinny these days.  He’d love my body.  I want to tell him all about Arthur and how he’s doing.  I want to have him help me make the decisions about the house, and yet, I know that the decisions I’ve made would not necessarily have been possible with him alive (I just repainted the exterior pink, he never would have gone for that!).

Some people use the anniversary of the death to celebrate the life of their loved one, but for me, I always feel that that’s the day that took him away from me.  I choose his birthday to celebrate him and his life.  Today is the day that gave him to me.  I am sad today, but I’m focusing on the amazing man that he was, on the wonderful things that I learned from him, on the beautiful life that we had together.  I choose to celebrate him today and focus on the happiness that he brought me as much as I possibly can.

I miss him daily, still, but cry about it less frequently than I used to.  Still, on days like today, my face just leaks all day.

Happy Birthday, my sweet love.  I wish you were here.