Farewell, Cicero

It has been almost four months now since Cicero passed away. Talking about his death has come easier to me than writing about it. When talking I can make light of the experience – about how he gave us more time with him than we expected, and how he exited this world as gracefully as he lived in it. But the truth is that I miss him. I’m sad about it and even a little relieved. I feel guilty because I could never do enough for him and yet my heart aches because our time is gone.

Cancer took him quickly. But he let us know when it was time to go, and for that I will thank him endlessly. The doctors came to our home swiftly and gave him peace. The above photo was taken during his last months with us.

Cicero came to live with us six years ago. Since then, we’ve lived in numerous houses, but it’s always been the three of us. Just me and my boys. They have been the most consistent relationships in my adult life. He’s slept in bed with me, his head on my chest, and accepted my faults and imperfections. Over the years, we’ve laughed and cried together. He’s been my best friend, my confidant, and my child.

A perfect dog he was not. But despite his challenges, he still deserves credit for being surprisingly well-behaved from day one. He never destroyed a single thing in our house, he came potty trained, and never jumped on people. He was as solid as they come and a poster boy for why people should consider adopting mature, older dogs. They are not broken. They are not trash. Often times, just like Cicero, they are solid gold just waiting to be discovered.

Mourning a dog isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be. It’s a complex mix of emotions, every bit as complicated as the dog himself. In raising our dogs we put ourselves into them, so they reflect a part of us. It only makes sense that we feel the pain of losing a piece of ourselves when they go. But for all the pain they cause, they give us so much more: A greater example to live by. A joy unmatched. An innocence humanly unnatainable. A uniqueness all their own.

A sick dog. A healthy dog. A leash puller. A whiner. A comedian. A mail man chaser. An opportunist. A salesman. A mutt. A handsome beast. A snuggler. An egomaniac. A friend of mine. A friend to many. The best dog a family could hope for.

Farewell, Cicero. Thanks for all of the adventures and love.


Truth Telling

I think that honesty is the door through which lies every good thing. Health, help, connection, intimacy. Knowing our life's purpose. Honesty is the door through which lies every real thing.

If you want something true, you're going to have to walk through that door. The door of telling the whole truth.

It's terrible that honesty is also the hardest, scariest, most painful thing. I hate it. I hate that honesty leaves me exposed and raw and gritting my teeth, bracing for the fallout. I hate how it opens me up to judgment and ridicule and hurt.

But I love how it opens me up to my real self. And sleeping at night.

We tend to believe that honesty will isolate us - that if we tell the real, honest truth everyone will jump ship, lest they be marred by association with us. But that's fear talking. Honesty never isolates as much as lies do.

It's the lies that build the wall. It's the omissions that lay the bricks. It's the giving up's and the rationalizations and the self-preservation that walls us into solitary confinement. It's the hiding and the masks that chain us there, in the loneliness.

I hate this, but I believe it.

If you want to be healthy, tell the whole truth. If you want help, tell the whole truth. If you want friendship, tell the whole truth. If you want to discover your purpose, tell the whole truth.

Anything less might work okay, but it isn't real. If you have to hide things to be loved, YOU aren't loved, your image is loved. If YOU want love - to be seen and known and loved for WHO YOU ARE - you're going to have to tell the truth. You're going to have to let someone see you.

I'm trying to tell more truth to the tribe of people that I do life with. To have the courage to be true to myself. I want to be full of grace - yes - but also full of TRUH, even if it’s messy.

Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.


Choose the Mess

The best things in life are messy.

Real food.

It fills your sink with dishes; pots encrusted with various sauces, pans covered with grease. It covers your stovetop with oil and your table with crumbs. But if you want a meal dripping with deliciousness and homemade love you must accept the mess.

Real fireplaces.

I had one as a kid. They cover your floor with soot and ash and permeate the room with its scent. Gas fireplaces are cleaner, with flames that never pop and logs that never burn. But if you want the smell and the crackle of the fire you must accept the mess.

Entertaining friends is messy.
Passion is messy.
Telling the truth is messy.

Kids. (Or in our case, pets). God have mercy. They are messy. Slobber and sleepless nights and a thousand little dog hairs in the back of your brand new car - that's messy.

Marriage is messy. For better or worse, in sickness and in health is really freaking messy.

Don't imagine that because I write this I am accepting of the mess. I am not. I am possibly the least zen person I know. I handle stress by obsessively cleaning and barking orders at my husband.
(A lame attempt to reduce the noise of my outside world.) It's a shame it doesn't work that way.

So when I start to resent the mess - when the controlling monster inside of me rears its ugly head, here's what I need to remember:

Choose the mess.

Because with mess comes abundance. With dirty dishes comes nana's old fashioned recipe so rich and warm it can heal the soul. With dog hair and slobbery kisses comes love - a love so deep it cracks your world right down the middle and fills it with light.

Here is the annoying truth, my friends: a messy life is a full life.


Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Last week, Aaron and I traveled to Cabo, Mexico. Although we've taken many little trips as a couple, this is the first "real" vacation we've ever been on. (As you can imagine, it was long overdue.) We snorkeled, jet skied, drank too much liquor, and got swindled into a timeshare presentation. Basically, we were the quintessential tourists. See below for some of my favorite shots. 


It Must Have Been the Roses

I've got this one spirit that's laying roses on me. Roses, roses, can't get enough of those bloody roses. The rose is the most prominent image in the human brain, as to delicacy, beauty, short-livedness, thorniness. It's a whole. There is no better allegory for, dare I say it, life, than roses.
-Robert Hunter

I stood in the backyard and listened to the birds sing. It was a beautiful, sunny Monday. The red birds were out in full force. Red birds and red roses – the yard was full of them. It was one of the reasons I bought the house.

The house was old; built sometime in the 1950s. You know, narrow hallways. Creaky hardwood floors.

I knew this day was coming. I had known it for almost a year now. But when I stood in the yard and listened to the birds I stared to weep. I couldn't believe we were leaving our little town. It's cozy streets and Romanesque courthouse. The comfort of familiar faces on our street.

Hardly a year had passed since Aaron carried me over the threshold. I had been ecstatic. Our very own home. I could hardly believe it. We'd painted and sanded and resurrected our little old house one project at a time.

They say you can never go home again, and I suppose it must be true. Sure, the roses will probably still be there, but I will be different. And home? The home I knew will be a memory of the past.


I was still crying when Aaron stopped to pick a rose from a bush in the backyard. He pressed the flower and his hands into mine. In that moment – in that few seconds where our hearts were all laid on the table – I realized that this is the essence of life. The fragile and beautiful nature of the thing. Heartbreak and disappointment. Wrong turns and dead ends. Love and friendship.

Saying goodbye.

And so we left our little town. Just like that. We walked, hand and hand, through the front doorway and into our new life.


Kitchen Renovation

When we first moved into our house, the kitchen cabinets had already been painted. It was the worst paint job ever. EVAH. There were heavy brush strokes all over and the spray painted hinges and hardware were rusty and gross. (Not to mention the random green chalk cabinet. Ick!)

So what's a girl to do? I completely ignored the cabinets for the next eight months while we worked on other projects, like refinishing the floors. Then, when Aaron and I were feeling brave again, we decided to tackle the kitchen. We started by pricing new cabinets at Lowes and Home Depot, but in the end, agreed that refinishing them was the most economical route. Of all the projects we've done, this was definitely the most difficult and time consuming. The cabinets are almost seventy years old, and needed a lot of love.

We read a lot of home improvement blogs and watched a dozen tutorials. Next, we gathered supplies. There are a lot of tutorials that recommend fancy equipment, but if you're just normal folks like us then the following supplies should do:

1. Wood filler and caulk
2. Mini foam roller
3. Hinges and hardware
4. Primer (This one has great adhesion)
5. Semi-gloss paint (We chose Sherwin Williams in Software)
7. Orbital Sander (Aaron bought this for me as a Christmas gift)
8. Sand Paper in 80 and 100 grit (Home Depot sells multipacks)
9. Back splash (We chose subway tile from Home Depot)
10. Counter top (Since we're converting the house to a rental property, we went with Laminate in this color)

The next (and probably easiest) part of the project was tearing apart the kitchen. We took off and numbered all of the doors and drawers, broke the counter top apart, and took the plumbing out.

Before sanding we cleaned the cabinet surfaces with TSP to remove the dirt and grease. Next, we set up a work station in the garage with two saw horses to lay the cabinet doors on. The hardest part of the project was sanding, which we did non-stop, eight hours a day for five days. We ending up having to sand through three layers of old paint to reach the original wood on both the doors and the frame. Be warned: you will get sand everywhere no matter how hard you try to contain it. Plastic drop cloths can only do so much!

If you’re the kind of do-it-yourselfer who never says die, then wood filler is your best friend when it comes to patching and repairing. Caulk is also a magical substance. I used it all over the place on these junky old cabinets. Before you paint, be sure to caulk and fill every gap you can find to give the cabinets a seamless look.

Once we finished rehabbing the cabinets, we started working on the "cosmetics". First, we primed and painted, working in small sections with a foam roller. Next, we installed the counter top (with the help of a contractor), and finally, the hardware and back splash. Here is the finished product:

I'm certain I've missed some pertinent information, but hopefully this is a good start for any of y'all considering a cabinet makeover. Take the time to do the proper prep work and research and you'll thank yourself later. Having a handy husband also helps making those Pinterest dreams come to life!


When Your Gut Says Stop

"How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives."

- Annie Dillard

I am your classic people pleaser.

I will spend an exhausting amount of time doing things I don't want to be doing, dwelling on how I'm doing those things, worrying about what others think of how I'm doing those things, and finally end up so frustrated and empty and angry that I take it out on others. (Namely, my spouse.)

Also, you can add to my people-pleasing thing: I will not ask for help.

It's this stupid self pride thing I have going on (I'm not going to ask him to fold that load of laundry because I would rather him offer), and the fact that I'd rather "do it myself anyway" because let's face it, he's just going to eff that shit up. So that which is really the problem (hello, I'm exhausted and have hit my limit) presents itself in me screaming and yelling until everyone is tip-toeing around.

I know, I know. That shit ain't right and I've got to stop.

You see, there are days that I don't want to be doing what I'm doing. But it's necessary. We have a mortgage. Student loans. Life is expensive, and without my paycheck, we would be sunk. Most days, my desk is buried in paperwork. My Outlook is overflowing, and I come home feeling guilty and cheated because I've neglected my spouse. I've neglected myself. I've neglected my home.

I guess, mostly, I feel like I'm going to disappoint someone. But who? Not my husband. He's always supported me. Not my boss. He could find a replacement for me tomorrow.

I think it's me.

I think it's me watching my every move under a microscope and giving myself absolutely no grace.

How silly.

Because really, in the end, it's okay to be human. The truth is, I only can do as much as I can do. And the rest? I have to let go.