Monday, September 28, 2015

Amber's hit parade

I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry ...

March 2008--My mom scheduled my bridal shower to coincide with a) my spring break and b) Leslie's spring break/birthday.  Perfect.  I had time to put everything away before I went back to school.  We got to work on a Sunday morning, and at one point we were dying laughing because we were trapped on opposite sides of the kitchen completely surrounded by boxes--some unpacked, some half empty--and everything that had come out of the boxes.  You literally could not take a step in any direction.  Well, Ron thought it was funny. I was panicking about where it would all go. We set the tripod on the kitchen table for this.

And then we realized that we couldn't see any of our new stuff, so we opened all of the cabinets.  God, I miss those recessed lights. CRAP, I forgot to pull those pictures off the cabinet doors--dammit, there's always something.

Whoever planned the landscaping in our neighborhood twenty years ago is a genius--all of these trees bloom pink or white in the spring; they turn this gorgeous red in the fall; they're full leafy green all summer long.

The light that had me at hello.

I was talking to Marcie--at night, after class.  I have no idea why I was talking to her in my then-unfinished basement or why I was down there long enough for the Fluffs to make themselves comfortable.  I also don't know what any of that crap is on the table.

First Christmas Eve, 2006. Ron's lip sticks out like that when he's on a mission.  Sometimes it means, "STAY AWAY" and other times it means, "Hang on a sec."

Christmas Eve, 2013

Christmas Eve, 2012

Maybe my favorite view inside the house--I'll miss this.

Post Fluff Christmas card photo, 2011

One of the most beautiful noises ever? Being startled awake at 4am when the snow removal team shows up to shovel everyone's sidewalk and to plow out the street. I will really REALLY miss that.


April--that day when you intentionally open the back door and leave it open for the first time since October.

Mother's Day

"Ron? Will you build me new cabinets? I hate how tiny ours are. And I want one with glass doors, too."

"Ok."  It crushes me that we can't take them.  I truly enjoyed them EVERYDAY that I used them.  Thank you, Ron.  And see that? When you lose the light on the front of the house, it comes around the back just as bright.  Always buy a house with southern exposure--ALWAYS.  When we house hunted this summer, I had Ron marching around with his compass at more than one house.

Note the time on the clock ...

"You know that your thumb was covering the flash, right?"  "No, it wasn't."  "Umm, yeah. It was."

I know. I know, I know, I know.

Every morning.

Such a small house, so much natural light! You can't beat it--what a gift.

And my gorgeous shelves.  Thank you, Ron.

That light--this window makes me cry every time I think of it! Every time.

That gorgeous deck.  Thank God we bought that awning. Best money we ever spent on the whole place.  I would've died without it that Summer of the Bunion Foot.  I literally just napped the whole month of July back there.  No wonder I recovered so well.  And while the fig over my shoulder there has since been planted at my mom's, at least I can plant my smaller one at the new place ...

And I would've sat out there until midnight every night during the summer if not for mosquitos.

The path that takes me up to the main road for my run, hot or cold, rain or shine (my only rule? No ice!).  Best way to start and end five miles.  It always made me happy--it always felt like a gift.

Only one direction to go in now ...

"And it’s crystal clear
That I don’t ever want it to end
If I had my way I would never leave
Keep building these random memories
Turning our days into melodies
But since I can’t stay:
I’ll just keep playing back
These fragments of time
Everywhere I go
These moments will shine

~  Daft Punk (ha! come on, that's funny)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

How we found her

Ten years ago--a whole decade!--I was one month into my first semester of grad school.  I was (am?) easily the dumbest person on earth, and there I was in grad school struggling through some of the worst work I had ever been assigned.  Somewhere halfway between Baltimore and DC, Ron was in grad school too--he was due to walk in May, and then he would be coming home to West Chester to get a job and move on with his life, ideally with me.

2005-2006 was hard.  It sucked.  Ron was dealing with a psycho prof in his attempt to finish his MS; we were on year #5 of a long distance relationship (not knowing that he and I were BUILT for the long distance relationship--we could totally do it again if need be); I nearly failed three different classes (keep in mind, fail = B minus. yeah. no grad credits for B minuses ... I guess it's good my program had standards, though); I had a crummy retail job to keep myself from going broke (God that SUCKED); I lived with my parents ... did I mention I was 22 at the time? (mom, I love you but UGHHHHHH); ... I don't know, a lot of stuff was in limbo. I didn't know what I was doing, where I was going, what I valued, what I wanted, what I needed. Nothing. I knew goddamn nothing.

Ugh, I hate remembering that year.  I remember it so clearly, so crystal clearly.  I would give anything to erase it.  It was bad.

(How bad? When it was over and I had turned in my last of three papers--a paper for which the prof generously gave me a B even though I didn't deserve it--I came home and had no idea what to do with myself.  My angst was off the charts and I couldn't handle it.  So I filled a bucket and started scrubbing the bathroom floor.  I sobbed my eyes out.  Scrubbing and sobbing for--I don't know--an hour?  I was the only one home.  But I lost track of time and Leslie came home--she was a senior in high school--and she found me.  I'll never forget the look on her face.  She was searching for something to say ... and finally she landed on, "You need to calm down.  This is ridiculous. What would Croul [our kick ass high school English teacher] say?  You KNOW what she would say: 'IF YOU'RE UNHAPPY, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  NOBODY ELSE WILL.  TAKE CHARGE. STOP MESSING AROUND.' Right?" I remember it was way more eloquent and way more existential--who knows what Croul was making them read at the time.  I remember thinking that those were the easiest instructions in the world--SO EASY!--and yet I couldn't imagine being able to actually do it.  Do what? I didn't know.)

So I was pretty messed up.  But, there was one bright spot.

Summer was starting and I managed to snag the same summer job that I had enjoyed since my sophomore year (ie, not the retail job, although YAY!  I still had that going too).  The guy I worked for had moved to Wilmington and I was following him there.  I had no familiarity with this office, so rather than wing it and try to find it successfully on my first morning there (this is way before smart phones and GPS, people), Ron and I drove there on a Saturday just so I wouldn't be freaking out on my first day.  I hate highways, so Ron figured out a whole route that avoided them, and there we were on this gorgeous road that took us out the other side of West Chester down to Delaware.  It was Memorial Day weekend and the weather was beyond perfect.  I was still really rattled by how awful school had been (how could something I love so much--philosophy--make me feel so terrible? so not like myself? It was a terrible betrayal, one that would take me eight more years to sort through).  But, I distracted myself from all of that by thinking about how great it would be to shift back to a job I knew and loved in the meantime.

On the way back from Delaware, Ron was talking about where he would live now that he was done at school and had accepted a new job that had practically fallen into his lap.  (That's its own post--still can't get over that.)  He was living with his parents and wanted to get out of there fast (what almost-24 year old guy WANTS to live with his parents?).  On a whim (understatement--I can't emphasize enough what an understatement that is--we randomly just made this turn), he turned right into a neighborhood that we had passed on our way out of town.  The entrance was gorgeous--just a tree-lined road that eventually brought you to houses.

April, not May.  And it was completely sunny--totally blue skies--the first day we drove through.

I don't know, I can't explain it.  The further we drove into the neighborhood, I just knew with total certainty: "Yup. We're going to live here."  I knew it in my bones.  Every cell of my body knew it. Finally, I had complete certainty about something after months and months of nothing but question marks for everything else in my life.  It was bizarre.  And wonderful.

Ron and I couldn't articulate why exactly we pulled into this neighborhood.  And we understood even less why we thought it was so wonderful.  We just knew that we knew.

A few weeks later, we returned with a realtor.  We went through one house and then another. And then another.  They were ok.  One was super dirty and messy (I swear they had five kids living there--these are tiny houses).  Its crowning glory was the nasty hot tub in the darkest corner of its unfinished basement.  Not joking.

We got back in the car and drove down this street all the way at the back of the neighborhood--two more houses to see.  The first one had emerald green carpet throughout (brand new! yay!) and a bright yellow kitchen with white cabinets and electric blue countertops.  I remember I wanted to cry, it was so ugly.  It could've killed someone, that's how ugly it was.  It had a finished basement though ... but I remember I looked over at Ron and just shook my head.  No. This isn't it.  He didn't feel it either.  Only one more.

(Ugh, and there I go. Now I'm crying.  It's impossible to type and cry. And Penny's trying to shove my computer away to sit in my lap. What a mess.)

One more.

I remember the realtor pushing open the door.  It was early afternoon and it was so bright out--full sun.  I remember stepping inside and I couldn't see a thing because my eyes hadn't adjusted.  I could only make out the bright light coming through the front window.  And the smell--this house smelled good.  And I knew in a split second.

I stood in that family room and just felt a buzz.  Like listening to a thousand people talk at once.  I can't explain it.  I couldn't even see the place--it was still dark to me. And I knew.  I looked at Ron and I said in disbelief, "This is it. This is it.  This is it."  I could tell he wasn't convinced--we had barely walked through the door.  I was just walking a circle in the family room.  "This is it!"  Ron (or maybe Harold) said, "Don't you want to see upstairs first?"  I remember thinking, "Who cares? I already know it's perfect."  Nothing about the place disappointed me.  Yes, it was tiny.  Yes, it only had two bedrooms (not good for resale).  Yes, it had hardly been upgraded.  And yes, it was the most expensive house for sale in the neighborhood (in a pre-recession world ... this is 2006, remember? OUCH).

But, there was so much I loved!  A white kitchen and hardwood floors; two full bathrooms upstairs so I would never have to share with Ron (Amalie is laughing, but it's true, I've never shared a bathroom with Ron. Never will, either); a big deck out back; recessed lighting and dimmers EVERYWHERE because an electrician owned the place; southern exposure on the front of the house, and all those front windows--five of them.  All that bright light all day and then all afternoon when the sun was going down. It would never be dark in this house.  I could have a million plants and take a million pictures, and it would never be too dark.  I had to have it.  I cannot explain this part fully.  It went beyond all of this.  To me the house was constantly talking, and I could hear her loud and clear.  She just chattered away to me the whole time we were there, talking talking talking.  No way was I letting her go.  Ron and I were finally going to start our lives here with her.

Buying Amber was hard--she was at the top of Ron's price range and since she had only been on the market for a day or two (we were the first people to walk through), the owners didn't have any major motivation to wiggle on price for us.  I remember Ron called me to tell me that he was going to let it go--too expensive and there would be something else.  I remember I cried and said Ok--he was buying the house on his own (I had hardly any savings and no salary to speak of), I wasn't married to him or even engaged to him at the time ... I didn't really have a right to make decisions in this process. But I was crushed.  Really crushed.

I honestly don't remember what happened next--I think Ron was taken aback when I cried? don't know--but something shifted in Ron's mind, and a day later he decided, "Screw it--I'll take their counter offer.  If you have to come home to the same place day after day, it better be something you love." It was early June at the time.  Settlement was schedule for early August.  I was THRILLED.  Beyond ecstatic.  I knew that we would never regret it. KNEW.


She was all ours, and I had no doubt that she was perfect.  And all because I had myself a little job in Wilmington, Delaware to make myself feel better about how awful school had become.  Can you believe that? I still can't.

Still can't.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

We moved

I have been writing and writing and rewriting this post since the beginning of June ... in my head, that is.  I can't organize it, so much is going on--or went on, anyway--and I still can't believe it happened and that we did it--or that I did it ... Ron can pretty much do anything.  So I think I'll organize the chapters like this:
  1. How we even chose our old house anyway--I never wrote about that because a part of me always assumed I would just live there.
  2. How I procrastinated on moving for two years.
  3. How I decided in less than five seconds that this would be the summer it would happen.
  4. How it happened.
  5. My resulting state of panic and disbelief that it happened.
I have no idea why I took this crummy photo, but it's one of my most treasured things right now.  A week ago this would have reduced me to tears.  Now I'm relieved to feel pretty numb.

I have so much to say, but I don't know where to begin.  I know I want to write it all down.  I want to remember it all and forget it all--complete amnesia--at the same time.  I can't tell if I'll feel more or less tortured by combing through it bit by bit one last time.

I need to just sit down, go through my pictures, and get it all recorded, because my memory is pretty good but stuff fades anyway just like everyone else.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ama's getting married

The best way to spend the morning of your birthday? At your best friend's bridal shower--it's like a party for you without all the pressure of being center of attention.  And there was cake! So really, just a like a party for me, only not.  Pretty perfect.

(Also, these images are enormous and I just don't feel like fixing it.  Now I know what to do next time!)

I put my key on a necklace.

Beautiful morning at People's Light

Naturally, there was the game where Amalie had to guess Nick's answers to a bunch of random questions ...

Some questions are harder than others ...

She did really well, though ; )

Like, really hard.

I like watching the moms at these events.

And nothing makes me happier than a frenzy of presents--NOTHING.  Especially when I'm not the one being stared at while they're being opened.

Lexie is a bridesmaid ... she is basically due the day of the wedding.  HA!  We should start placing bets on birthdays.

Ama's little sister made this--Ama and Nick are both ChemEs ... get it?

The bridesmaids

The PSU friends (note: the bold colors)

The K-12 friends ... today, the five of us are in the same room together maybe twice a year.  A long time ago, it used to be everyday. (Note: the muted colors--what is that about?? hahaha!)

What a beautiful day--I'm so happy for you, Ama.  October will be here in the blink of an eye. Enjoy it.

Much love,