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The Light Through the Cracks

I’m not a naturally optimistic person. My natural reaction is to think about the what-ifs and the worst case scenario. It takes a lot of work for me to look on the bright side of things — and it’s taken me a lot of practice.

I actually have Penelope Joy to thank for teaching me the most important lessons about optimism. I could have been destroyed by what happened to her — by what happened to us. I could have easily said: “See? I told you something bad would happen. I knew my what-if worries were reliable.”

Instead, though, I knew her life needed to matter. I knew that living in the negative parts of her story, of our story, would let too much dark in. It could have destroyed me, it could have destroyed my marriage. And, I’ll tell you what, looking at all of the wonderful about her short little life has made all the difference. It has allowed her light to shine on — breaking through any bit of darkness that makes its way in. Even when I get sad — which happens a lot this time of year — it’s a sadness haloed with light.

Penelope Joy

And that’s what keeps me working toward seeing the light in the darkness. It typically gets easier and easier — and, most of the time, I’m able to find the positive in a situation. Sometimes, like recently, though, things start to slide back to their natural resting state.

Usually, I don’t see it happening. It just … happens. This time Mr. B pointed it out, noting that my reactions to things have been more negative than positive, that I’m just not myself. My gut reaction was to be cranky about him saying that — but I realized it wasn’t judgy or mean-spirited. It was a loving husband noticing something very important about his wife: something was wrong.

What it was, I don’t know. I’m guessing it was a combination of a lot of things: Work is crazy-busy this time of year; I miss my Up North Family; Wink has been keeping me up, and I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a few weeks; it’s an emotional time of year; I don’t have (don’t make) a lot of me time … Like I said, probably a combination of things.

So, here I sit, in the middle of a reset. Resetting my mind. Resetting my focus. And rediscovering positivity — even when the easy option is to settle in with the reactions that come more naturally to me. After all, there are countless wonderful, positive things happening in my life — and they deserve the focus light and attention. They deserve the light.

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Does this mean that everything is going to make me happy? That I won’t have cranky days or get annoyed now and again? That I won’t ever have a negative reaction to something? That I won’t just need to have a big ol’ cry some day(s)? Absolutely not. Because I am a work in progress. And, mainly, because that’s not how life is. Life is meant to be lived and experienced — to its full emotional capacity.

But, taking a positive outlook on life in general and reacting positively to the people and things around me is going to go a lot further in making my world a better, more positive place. I also believe that what I put into the universe is what’s going to come back to me. Sometimes it just takes a little reminder and a slight nudge from someone who loves me to remind me of what I already know.

Plus, I think our world can use as many positive vibes as possible right now. So that’s what I’ll be sending trying to send out into the world whenever I can. Because there is light in the darkness. Because #lovewins.

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Being Grateful for the Ordinary

As you know, religion isn’t really my thing — at least not in the societal definition of it. But we’ve found a church — a community, really — where we feel as at home with our doubts and questions just as we do with our hope and our love. Still, though, Mr. B and I aren’t overtly religious people. And, we are most definitely new to this whole “practicing our faith” thing.

Since moving into our home, we’ve been making an effort to sit down to real dinners every night. Putting aside our phones, turning off the TV and just enjoying each other’s company (and the company of our wandering cats and our hopeful, under-the-table pup). Something wasn’t feeling quite right, though. Something was missing.

One day, I randomly asked Mr. B if we could pray before dinner. He wasn’t judgy or skeptical or turned off at all. In fact, he willingly said the prayer. For that, I was thankful. You see, I grew up in a Christian home — with a mother who was the epitome of a Christian woman, always opening her home and her arms, to those who needed something … anything. But we didn’t say prayers before dinner except at special occasions or holidays. And I didn’t say a bedtime prayer — at least not that I can remember. So I was — and still am, to some extent — uncomfortable with prayer. I mean, when you can’t see who you’re talking to, it’s weird — and, yes, I’m still confused/amazed/awed by “the telephone.”

Mr. B’s first prayer in our home was an awkward and simple prayer — as are ALL of our before-dinner prayers. But, it was beautiful. And it was exactly what our dinner table was missing. Every night, before we eat, we hold hands and say a prayer of thanksgiving. When we see special needs — in our friends and family facing a difficult time — we add those in, too. But, mostly, we say thanks.

We thank God for each other. And for our (most-of-the-time) delicious food, our new home and our silly pets. We thank God for family and friends, sunshine and stars, talents and dreams. Mostly, we thank God for loving us through another day and for being there for us through all the bad things life has thrown at us. And for giving us such beauty and love and hope. Sometimes, we even tell God to “have a nice day” — because, like I said, prayers are awkward and we never quite know how to end them. (Besides, as Mr. B says “God probably has people asking him for things all day long and no one takes the time to tell him to have a nice day.”)

It’s been an amazing experience in practicing gratitude. And it’s carried through in so many other areas of my life. Some of the things we thank God for are silly, simple things. Things that, on most days prior to our new dinnertime tradition, we would have overlooked and ignored. Because they weren’t special enough to notice. But they still are blessings that deserve recognition.

Blessings like:

  • wrinkles around our eyes — because it means we had something to smile about
  • our leaky basement — because it means we have a home
  • weeds in our garden — because it means we can have flowers
  • sadness — because if we can feel that, we can also feel happiness
  • our morning commutes — because it means we have jobs
  • grocery shopping — because it means we’ll have food on our table
  • muddy floors and dirty dishes — because they mean we have life in our home
  • missing Penelope Joy — because it means we had an amazing daughter who we had the pleasure to parent

You see, being grateful for your blessings shouldn’t be about only saying thanks when something takes your breath away. It should be about being thankful for every breath you take.

Even if you’re not religious, I believe that taking a few minutes each day to take note of the gifts you’ve been given — and the ones you’ve worked damn hard to earn — is important. My challenge to you: sit down tonight and write down five simple things that bless your life. Things you maybe haven’t taken time to appreciate before. Things that, on an ordinary day, are … well … ordinary. Because when you take time to give thanks for the small things, you realize you have a lot to be thankful for.

Sunset in Paradise

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An Experiment in Kitchen Experimenting

Mr. B and I love to cook. And we love to try new things. That being said, we tend to get into kitchen ruts: grilled chicken, grilled pork chops, grilled burgers, grilled fish, sautéed veggies, quinoa/pasta. So, basically: protein, vegetable, grain. Add a glass of wine/beer/milk/water, and you have our traditional dinner.

Now, I used to cook — a lot. All sorts of delicious things, trying new recipes all the time. But then Mr. B and I got married, and we worked opposite shifts. So I fell out of the habit. Because it was kind of a pain cooking two separate dinners — or making a dinner that tasted good at 5:30 and at 11:30.

Lately, though, we’ve been feeling antsy to get back in the cooking habit — especially now that we have an awesome new kitchen! And there are a lot of things we’ve been wanting to try. (Just recently, Mr. B even made beef bourguignon!) Being the super-fun person that I am, I wanted to add another level of excitement to our goal to cook more for each other.

Enter playing cards. I figure: 52 cards in a deck, 52 weeks in a year. It’s like a sign.

So, Mr. B and I each got a deck of cards, and we spent one evening writing on the back of each card either one ingredient we wanted to use, one recipe we wanted to make or one type of cuisine we wanted to cook. Then, each week we’d draw a card from the other person’s deck. That would give us two meals each week that we’d be “forced” to try something new.

Cards and Sharpies

Sharpies — of all colors — are a must for this project.

The first week, Mr. B drew my “Gwumpkie” card, and I drew his “goat milk” card. Now, Gwumpkie isn’t exactly a “new” recipe — we used to eat it all the time when I was growing up. But I can’t remember the last time I’ve had it. And Mr. B? Well, he’s never had it. And, goat’s milk? Well, I think we’ve only ever had the “cheesed” variety.

I emailed Mom for her Gwumpkie (casserole) recipe. So that was an easy one. Goat’s milk, though? The options were limitless! I knew I wanted it to be something savory, though — not a dessert. A Google search led me to many, many options. I clicked and scrolled around until I found a recipe that caught my eye: Savory Goat Cheese Soufflé.

I wish I could say I came up with the recipe, but I didn’t. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known where to start. And we didn’t take any liberties with the recipe, either, since neither of us had ever eaten a soufflé before, much less baked one.

Souffle ingredients

Everything’s ready for a soufflé experiment at Casa B!

Cooking with someone else is not always an easy thing to do — tripping over each other in the kitchen, getting in each other’s way, making a mess. But, Mr. B and I do alright. For the most part, we make a pretty good team. (Though, he’s learned not to get in my way when I’m stirring — that creates a … “situation.” Right, Rosebud?)

I’ve always put soufflés up on some sort of foodie pedestal — something I’d never be able to make. I mean, they’re so hard! But, to be honest, this recipe was pretty easy. Steps were easy to follow, with pictures! And we didn’t mess it up in the least! In fact, it came out looking pretty darn good — and smelling even better!

Finished Souffle

The finished product — looked, smelled and tasted delicious!

The recipe suggested serving the soufflé with turkey, fish or chicken. Or, even, by itself with a salad. Mr. B and I opted for shrimp, sautéed with a kale, leek, bell pepper and garlic. I’m really glad we served it with something rather than making it the main feature — it was just too light to be filling. But, it did taste absolutely delicious. And, it was super-duper fancy — especially for a rainy, boring Tuesday night.

Wine and Mr. B

Good food deserves good company and good wine.

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Paw Prints on our Hearts — and our Hardwood Floors

Mr. B and I have, obviously, had a very tumultuous year. Nothing pulls the rug out from under you like losing your child. And since then, also obviously, our hearts have been slowly healing — bit by bit. But there has always been a dark cloud hanging over any of our happiness. Because there was always something missing. There will always be something missing.

A couple weeks ago, we visited an animal rescue shelter. Knowing we had a lot of love to share — and so eager to give a home to a dog who needed one. We visited with a couple of dogs — neither really seemed “right.” But as soon as the staff member brought “Speckles” out to meet us, we started falling in love. We spent a little bit of time with her at the shelter. And as we were driving home, we both said we wanted to adopt her. That night we filled out the online application and anxiously waited to hear from them that our application had been accepted.

While we hadn’t yet heard from them by Friday evening, we already were making plans to visit “Speckles” again on Saturday. Even just for a few minutes. Even though we didn’t know for sure if we would get to be her family. We just wanted to see her again. Spending time with her made us happy — it made things feel … lighter.

 When we walked in Saturday and they said “Oh! You’re here to take Speckles home!” we were, admittedly, surprised — and a little unprepared. But we were ecstatic. First step, though, was to change her name: Piper Mae.

photo with Piper

Our first photo with Piper, courtesy Pound Buddies.

Like all changes, it has taken some adjustments — for Piper and for Mr. B and me. But, I can tell already that the gray cloud of grief is starting to lift. Piper is slowly starting to help us heal from the loss of Penelope Joy — and her smiley face and wagging tail (boy does it wag!) brings us such joy when we walk in the door after work. No longer are we falling in love with her — we love her. Even Moe Cat and Annie Cat are starting to come around!

Cats and dog

Every day they get a little closer to each other.

Piper is helping to make our new house a home — we thought we were going to give a dog a home, but she turned out to give us a home. We are so honored to be her family and so looking forward to getting to know her even better.

In a couple of weeks, we’re going to start obedience training with her — we’ve actually already had one private session to get some tips and tricks for leash training. I am so looking forward to enjoying a happy, playful spring/summer outdoors, taking walks and playing in the backyard!

collage of Piper pics

Just a few snapshots from our first couple of weeks with Piper.

And, yes, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably should be prepared to be inundated with photos of Piper.

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Home is Where Your Heart Is

I’ve not written in a while about what’s going on in my life. It’s not because I don’t have anything to say. Because I do. It’s just that, well, we’ve been busy.

We bought a house!

We bought a house!

Mr. B and I didn’t set out to house hunt. Rather, we saw a house we liked and decided to take a look at it. And, while we were in the neighborhood, we figured we’d check out a couple of other houses. No sense wasting our real estate agent’s time. After a very crazy night of looking at four or five houses, we fell in love with this house — the one we’d both ranked as our least favorite, based on the pictures and Zillow description. But once we set foot in the house, we knew it was our home.

I was headed out of town for business, so Mr. B had to do all of the offer-making dirty work while I was gone. And, by the time I came home, we had a signed offer — and a long to-do list. Visits. Inspections. Surveys. Appointments.

I’m told the process went really quickly, but the next four weeks seemed to drag on and on. Soon, though, we were signing on the dotted line (times 1,000), and the house was ours.

It’s been a very strange experience. We weren’t in our apartment before this very long — we’d just moved in October, the weekend before Penelope died. So, it never really felt like home, and it was full of sad memories. It was a place of limbo, I think we both knew that. I don’t think either of us knew what was next. I certainly don’t think we planned to buy a house.

In fact, I’d never wanted a house. Before Mr. B — well, before Penelope, really — I would have been happy being a renter for the rest of my life. Home ownership never really appealed to me. I didn’t want the mess or fuss or stress that came with it. Mr. B, on the other hand, wanted a house — projects (especially) included.

And, had we never had a tiny taste — a fleeting glimmer, really — of having a family, Mr. B never would have even gotten me slightly interested in a home. I would have come to home ownership kicking and screaming.

But then, I got pregnant. And I wanted to have a home where my kids could grow and make memories. I wanted a “home” that was ours. Like I had, when I was growing up (we never moved when I was a kid, and my parents still live in that house).

After Penelope died, that became even more important to me.

I wanted a place that would be ours. Where sad memories could live in the past, assigned forever to that temporary home, and we could carry happy memories in our hearts.

And, so, a month later, Mr. B and I are still settling into our house — still not quite believing it’s really ours. It’s bittersweet, yes. Because Penelope Joy isn’t here with us. But, also, it’s refreshing to have a blank slate. Where we can make our home what we want; where we can create new memories — always carrying our darling daughter in our hearts.

The most important decorations in our house — and the first thing we did before we even unpacked.

The most important decorations in our house — and the first thing we did before we even unpacked.

 

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Happy Father’s Day to an Incredibly Special Dad

There are a lot of things I’d like to say about Father’s Day. It feels different this year. For a lot of reasons that I won’t go into. But, one thing’s for certain: Being born into this family and having this man for a father no doubt made me the person I am today. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Dad and Me

Dad and me — 1981

So, when it came time to pick out cards for our two dads (this is a new feeling) — not a single one felt quite right. Now, there are a few things you should know about me:

  • Picking out cards is important work. It’s key to find the exact right card with the exact right text and image.
  • I usually cry when I’m buying cards (or watching Hallmark commercials, for that matter).
  • I think cards are even more important than the gift.
  • I put a ton of thought into every single card I buy and send.
  • Every card I give includes a personal note beyond what the card designer wrote.

Within 42 seconds of shopping for the cards I found the perfect card for Dad B. The text was perfect — not too mushy, and it could be an “our” card easily — and the image was even better.

My dad on the other hand? Not so easy. Every card I picked up had an element I liked. But nothing was right, nothing perfect. I did end up finding one. It’s simple. It gets to the point: “Happy Father’s Day to my our incredibly special dad.”

But it’s not exactly what I wanted to tell my dad this year. What I wanted to say probably wouldn’t have fit on a card anyway …

Dad,

I don’t know if I could count high enough to tell you how many ways you’ve made my life better. Being born your daughter has been the biggest gift I’ve ever received — ever could receive. You have always been my rock and my strength. You are an example of what every person should be: loving, kind, hard-working, strong, dedicated, supportive and generous. You hold yourself and those around you to high standards and you expect the best — because you know it’s in there. You have taught me that being strong doesn’t mean you never hurt or cry or question; being strong means you stay true to yourself and you do what’s right. In every situation. You showed me how giving people the benefit of the doubt is always the right thing. And you are always there with your hand extended — ready to welcome anyone into your arms who needed them. And I needed them a lot.

Things may be a bit different now. Yet, so much remains the same. You are the same strong, kind and amazing man who raised me and taught me to have faith in myself and faith in others. You are the same man whose opinion means more to me than most anything else. You are the one I turn to for advice and laughter and hugs. And I still need your arms. Your arms continue to be a comfort to me — on good days and bad. And no matter where I am or what I’m doing, when someone says “You must be G’s daughter,” I can’t help but beam with pride and love. If I can ever be half the person you are, I will consider my life a success. 

You are — always and forever — my father, my dad, my friend. And I cherish every second we’ve had together and every second to come. Every memory we’ve made and every memory waiting to be made.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that time is precious. Love is precious. And being able to call you “Dad” is the most precious of all.

I love you. More than I could possibly say.

Love,

Kimi

Happy Father’s Day to my incredibly special dad.

Me and Dad

Me and Dad — 2011

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Home Is Where My Happy Is

I’m a lucky, if not confusing, girl. You see, I believe that home is where my happy is. And I am lucky to have lots of homes.

Let’s start at the very beginning — a very fine place to start …

This is the home I grew up in, was raised in. We never moved, and I know this house on the darkest of nights. This is the home I learned to walk in, learned to laugh in, learned to read in. Most importantly, this is the home where I learned what love is.

Home

Home sweet home

But when I say “I’m going home” it’s not about the house. It’s about the love. It’s about these people:

My family

My family, my friends

These are the people who make me so happy I could cry — and do. These are the people who make me so angry I could scream — and do. These are the people who’ve seen me at my worst and who’ve seen me at my best. They’re the ones who make me laugh and help me cry. We’ve shared joys and sorrows, pride and pain. And we are always there for each other — even when we don’t agree. Because that’s what family is, that’s what home is.

But when I leave them, I also say “I’m going home.” To some, it’s “just an apartment.” But to me? It’s home.

apartment

So much more than "just" an apartment.

It’s where I lay my head at night. It’s where I do my thinking, where I do my reading, where I do my living. It’s where I’ve spent the last eight years of my life, growing, changing, becoming the woman I am today. A lot of amazing things have happened in this home — things that were sad, things that were life-changing, things that brought me more joy than I’d ever experienced. I fell in love here. I had my heart broken here. I (literally) earned my master’s degree here. I became a marthoner here.

So, yeah, it’s “just” an apartment — but it’s more than that, too. It is warmth and comfort after a long day. It’s where I surround myself with the things I love — cozy blankets, warm candles, shelves full of books, pictures of my family. There is a lot of happy in this place. And, of course, it’s where the silly cats are.

Annie Cat

Home is where the cat is.

And recently, I’ve found a new home. Somewhere safe. And warm. And open. And oh-so very happy. Somewhere I can always be myself and not be afraid of saying what I think and meaning what I say. Somewhere I’m loved for me — faults and all. So when I say “It’s good to be home” when I find myself in Mr. B’s arms, I mean it. Because that is a happy place — that is my home.

Mr. B and me

Mr. B and me — a hug is home.

Yes, it’s true, Pumbaa, “Home is where your rump rests.” But more than that, home is where your spirit soars and hopes grow. It’s where your fears fade and your heart warms. Most importantly, home is where your happy is.

“Peace — that was the other name for home.” ~Kathleen Norris

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