Celebrate the Simple Things

The first flowers my husband ever gave me were from a dead woman. Maybe I should explain.

When my husband and I were first married, we worked in a nursing home. One evening after work, he arrived home with a bouquet of flowers.

“Where did you get those?” I asked as he handed them to me. We weren’t exactly rolling in money, and I couldn’t imagine where he’d buy flowers at ten o’clock at night.

“Someone died. The flowers were sitting on the front desk.”

“You got them from a dead woman?”

“I guess.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be happy he brought me flowers, or a little creeped-out. But as it turns out, it was my husband’s first attempt at being romantic. It was a moment I would never forget.

The flowers were yellow and white, daisies and lilies, placed in a vase on our kitchen table, until the petals slipped away, and all that remained were long, thin stems.

It was a strange entrance into marriage, and the first time I realized what marriage was – accepting the other person for who they were, and celebrating every first together. Even flowers from a dead woman.

Marriage is a series of firsts.

Firsts make our lives special, they are the ones we remember the most. Click To Tweet

Here are some firsts from my marriage. Do you recognize any of these in your own?:

-Our first apartment had a kitchen so tiny, you could twirl from sink to stove to fridge without having to take a step.

-The first time my husband baked cookies for me, they were salt-laden chocolate chip cookies, which required a few glasses of water after.

-Our first Christmas tree was purchased in a drugstore, a tiny Norfolk pine in a plastic pot, wrapped in shiny red foil. So little, it wouldn’t hold an ornament.

-The first gift from my husband was a bracelet with an inscription on the back.

-Our first car arrived with our first loan, and turned out to be our first lemon. It was also our first lesson in begging a bank to repossess said lemon, and in learning what to do when they refused.

-We celebrated our first child together (and our second, too).

-We bought our first house, and together, made our first attempts at home repairs. For the first time, we learned how to remove twenty-year-old layers of wallpaper, how to rip-out carpet, how to tile floors, and what to do when a kitchen faucet exploded.

-Our first pet was a dog that nearly choked itself when it wrapped its chain around our lilacs. It was also the first time we had to give a pet away.

-We watched children win their first competitions, as if it were our first time as well. We also watched them lose.

-We saw children get married, and grandchildren born.

-We saw new family arrive, and some leave.

-We moved across the country for the first time.

-We visited new states together, rode on a plane, a ferry, and are taking our very first cruise.

Some of these events are small, almost insignificant, at least to an outsider. But they are my firsts, my celebrations of life. What makes me, me, and my marriage to my husband, mine.

I love every first, every special moment, no matter how small. The thrill of a first is a feeling never forgotten. Firsts cannot be repeated. Once gone, they are gone forever.

Work hard to remember your firsts. Place them in your head like snapshots in an album. Remember the details, no matter how small.

It is your life, your significant moments. It is what makes you, you.

Celebrate them all. And if your husband brings you flowers, celebrate those too. Even if they are from a dead woman.

What are some of your firsts?

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Clothing, the Drug of Choice

Clothing is a brain-numbing, mind-inducing drug. And I am hooked.

I am thrilled by the styles. Hippie, Bohemian, cowgirl. Relaxed, formal. Intoxicated by the colors, an artist’s palette, a dizzying array of washes and tints swirling around my feet.

I enter a store, and my mind goes blank, and I can no longer think, and I forget what I own. I sometimes even forget what I like.

In a trance, I try clothes on, buy them and bring them home. Place in a closet over-flowing with items I don’t need.
I am an addict.

Like an addict, when my head is clear, I regret the decisions I made. I know I didn’t need my recent purchases, and yet I can’t stop.

But clothing defines me, or so they say. It says I am good or bad, rich or poor, that I have a certain style, and a particular personality. Clothing is my label. I must buy more.

Recently, I threw six shirts away, and still have plenty to get through a summer, with shirts that will never see the sun, which makes me think I have too many, though I don’t know what that number is. I don’t want to count. I am afraid. Afraid of the truth.

I wish I could be like others with small closets. I wish I could own less clothing. I wondered if it was possible. Recently, I found out it was.

I was at my son and daughter-in-law’s house, and stepped into their bedroom. In the corner was a closet, a normal five-foot long closet (approximately), every piece of clothing neatly hung-up. I was shocked, amazed, impressed. I wanted a closet like that. In another corner sat their dresser.

I asked my daughter-in-law about their closet, and how many pieces of clothing they owned. This is what she told me:

They each have twelve bottoms, including work and casual pants, shorts, and work-out pants.

They each own twenty tops, including sweaters.

She has two skirts and seven dresses (my son has none – thankfully), plus she has a few scarves.

She has six pair of shoes, he has ten. (He may have received the shoe-gene from me.)

She said, “It feels like we have a lot sometimes because we both still have things we never wear, and sometimes it feels like we don’t have much because we have things we never wear.” I love that.

It’s amazing how I’ve never noticed them wearing the same thing twice, which just goes to show how unimportant clothing really is. It really doesn’t define us.

They are my inspiration, what I aspire to be. They don’t shop unless necessary, wear an item until its life is over, and don’t feel a need to fill their closet.

We have this illusion that closets must be full, and once they get there, they need to stay that way. We are told to stuff our lives, our homes, our closets, with shoes and boots, skirts and shirts, jeans, capris, shorts. And even when we have too much, we shop some more.

I’ve known people whose tags never come off the clothes they purchase. They hang in their closets like idols, rubbed like genies as they wish for more.

It’s an obsession. A drug.

Clothing hasn’t always been a big priority in our lives.

In 1930, the average woman owned nine outfits. Today, she owns thirty.

In 1950, there were four fashion seasons a year. In some stores, only two: Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter. Today, fast fashion gives us 52 seasons, one for every week of the year.

The U.S. fashion industry has become a 12-billion-dollar business, with eight billion new garments produced in a single year. It is a crazy, over-done, addictive habit, one we have to give-up. One I have to give-up.

There is a simple solution to this problem. We simply need to shop less. Buy only what we need. Use what we have. Mend and repair. Stop going to stores that tempt us, that pull us in and drug us, that captivate us with lies, telling us to buy more, that we need it, even though we don’t.

The truth is, clothes are merely pieces of cloth that serve a purpose. They are for function, to cover and protect. Maybe if we see them for what they are, we can stop this drug, before it stops us.

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Looking Back-How Fear Became My Friend

My gut twists with that kind of anticipation one gets when they know something horrible is about to happen. I breathe deeply and look at the calendar.

It is July 10, 2017, four days before the anniversary of my brain injury.

My inner clock reminds me of this day every year, just like it reminds me of my father’s death, and every major event I’ve ever encountered. It remembers without knowing.

A force clutches at my throat, so tight, I can barely breathe. I inhale the sticky summer air. Tremors crawl beneath my skin, a little earthquake inside me, invisible to others, more than real to me. It is the beginning of a small panic attack as I remember the reason I am in this state.

I live in fear of this day, a day I both remember and forget.

*****
July 14, 2010:
Red, yellow, and green hot-air balloons danced across the summer sky, in a world as blue as the ocean, on a day as hot as hell. In the distance, the Cascades rose, showcasing frosting-glazed tips.

My husband and I sat in our car, waiting to turn into a tiny fruit stand. A screech sounded, a noise so powerful, it sucked the air from my lungs, and arched my back into one solid mass of muscle.

My world went black, a darkness so deep I can only imagine it akin to death. A moment when time was erased, and crushing metal and flinging brains were neither heard nor felt.

Within days, I lost the ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend. My world, my life, was stolen.
******

You know the rest of the story, or pieces of it, anyway. You know I survived. But it wasn’t easy, and I’m not completely better. Though I can once again read, write, and comprehend, and I can talk faster than a storm, I live with a residual that never goes away.

I live in a state of fear.

We all have fears, but when one has suffered a trauma, fears can sink beneath our skin, living in our veins as if they are blood themselves.

As I am reminded of my anniversary, fear tightens its grip around my chest, trying to steal my life. Fear is my ticking time bomb.

There is a funny thing about fear. It can stop us from pursuing life, or push us into it.

Fear once stopped me from living. Even before the accident, I was often afraid. I lived in a little cocoon that became my tiny world. I didn’t want to go on anything high, for fear for I might fall off. I didn’t like camping, for fear of bugs. Fear was my enemy. But one day, I had to make fear into my friend.

After the accident, I needed new doctors. Fear squeezed my hand and choked my neck as I sought out help. When I enrolled in writing classes, fear was the pit in my stomach, the hug around my neck. Fear helped me meet people, and make new friends. Fear brought me to places I have never been.

Fear is my enemy, but often my friend. Without fear, I wouldn’t be where I am. In spite of fear, or maybe because of it, I move on.

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Live a Life You are Proud of, Live a Life of Passion

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I committed to four days of play and relaxation. No work allowed. A difficult feat for me, not because I am that much of a workaholic, but because, for the first time in my life, I love what I do. Some might say I have passion.

Passion is a funny word, an image pressed into our brains by those (that elite group we call ‘they’) who think we need to find it before we can be happy. I’ve heard it said that only the chosen few discover passion in their youth; the rest of us search our whole lives trying to find it, like a gem beneath a pile of dirt, a jewel beneath a stone.

But is passion that important? Is it the magic potion that leads to a blissful life? I don’t think so.

My life, like many, has been a series of mishaps. Deaths, moves, dramatic family moments, horrible (and sometimes embarrassing) jobs that never brought me passion.

These are a few of my former jobs (feel free to laugh, moan, or be embarrassed with me):

Babysitting, waitressing, phoning property owners to coerce them into developing on recently purchased swamp land (Scam? Yup. I was young, didn’t know any better, but thankfully quickly figured it out), washing dishes, assisting the elderly (bathing, brushing teeth, and some really gross things), cashiering, stuffing envelopes, doing assembly work, filing, entering data on disks, telemarketing magazines, and completing miscellaneous duties in a medical office. As an adult, I pushed papers in an insurance company and trained others to do the same, audited, became a licensed real estate agent, managed a home day care, and taught preschoolers.

Of all these jobs, the closest I came to feeling even a tiny bit of passion was when I owned my own daycare. Even then, I didn’t truly love my job. Yet, the work was fulfilling, and in the process, I found joy.

Joy, like passion, is hard to find. They are decisions we must make. Long ago, I chose both.

As a teenager, I thought my life was falling apart. I’d lost the only support I’d ever known, and my family didn’t understand. One day, while everyone was out, I placed a steel blade against my wrist, felt the sharp edge on my skin, and thought about life. My life, how horrible it was. How sad, and scary. I wondered what it would be like to leave it all behind.

In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to leave. I still liked pieces of my life. Like my little brothers. And my dog. I knew then, all I wanted was to be happy.

I made two decisions that day: I would be filled with joy. I would live a life filled with passion. Not passion for one certain thing, but for life itself.

Passion is a zest for life. Joy is knowing that life is worth your passion. Click To Tweet

 

Tears streamed down my face as I placed the knife back in the drawer. That knife, that incident, remained a secret, until today.

Life isn’t always happy, and if you are seeking continuous joy, you will never find it. Passion, well, it doesn’t really exist, not in the tangible way that ‘they’ tells us it does.

Passion keeps us going, enjoying life. Joy tells us that life is exactly as it should be. Click To Tweet

My life hasn’t always been easy, and I can’t say I’ve always had joy. Yet somehow, joy always returns, like that long-lost friend that never goes away.

Joy was with me:
*When my father passed away. As I reminisced of moments together, laughter and tears, and tiny regrets.

*When friends moved.

*When family matters got tough.

*When I received a brain injury, joy struggled, like me, to survive. But it did. We did. I did.

Joy kept me alive. Passion kept me going.

Isn’t that what life is about? It’s not career, where we live, what we own, what we do, or even about others. Passion, joy, they are decisions, to live a fulfilling life, a life that makes us happy.

Life a life you are proud of. A life filled with joy. Live a life of passion.

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Living an Authentic Life

I am sitting in my favorite armchair, a purchase recently made after the recliner in our home (finally) started to show its age. (I thought that thing would never die.)

I love my Pottery Barn chair, the cool leather against my skin, the little brass tacks placed in even arrangement around the arms. I love the way it looks in my home – simple, rustic, with just a touch of class.

I know, materialistic. Consumeristic. Completely un-simple-hippie-like. But honestly, I don’t care. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned about minimalism, it is this – it isn’t about what I don’t own, it’s about what I do. It’s about what makes me happy.

And this chair, it makes me so very happy. As does my lamp, my side tables, and my candle holder. My chipped white candle holder. Just thinking about that stubby little holder makes me smile.

These items are a symbol of who I am. Simple and rustic. A bit of a lost era, a time I wish I’d known. The life I long for, everything I strive to be.

But it wasn’t always that way. My life hasn’t always been this authentic.

I once bought into a lie, the lie many of us are fed, the lie that says that to be an adult one must fill their home with adult furniture, expensive pieces from expensive stores.

When my husband and I had our first grown-up jobs and moved into our first grown-up apartment, we did what the lie told us. We bought furniture, furniture that shouldn’t be used, especially with two little boys. A gray sofa with a matching loveseat, a table, a lamp, and a few pictures. Beautiful pictures. Pricey pictures. Too pricey for me. Too ornate. Too sophisticated. Pictures that shouldn’t have been on our walls.

Not long after those purchases, we bought a house. A simple house. We filled it with sturdy furniture meant for children, but kept the sophisticated pieces as well.

But corners remained empty, and well-meaning people brought us pieces, like clocks, curios, chairs with slender legs. More pictures.

My home became a scattered array of furniture, from French to country, contemporary to traditional, with a few Southwestern pieces mixed in. A mish-mash. A mess.

I was living a lie. A façade. A life someone else had made-up for me.

Thirteen years later, our home was sold, nearly all our furniture (except for a few pieces my husband couldn’t part with) was gone.

Many miles away, in a brand-new place, we began again. Bought furniture. Decorated. But this time, we bought only what we needed, and only what we loved. Casual. Relaxed. Simple.

I am finally in a home that I am comfortable in. A place I love to be. A place that represents me. That represents my family.

When you enter our home, you will hear a whisper, walls that tell the story of a family with somewhat rustic ways. A quiet family. Simple. Serene.

It took me years to figure out who I was, but I have no regrets. The destination was well worth the journey. It brought me to the place I was always meant to be.

Many of the pieces first bought when we moved to the Pacific Northwest are gone, worn by time, graced with age. Time takes away our favorites. But what remains is their memory, and how they helped me, find me.

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