My Starter Home

I would like to start off by giving a quick shout out to Compass a real estate startup based in New York that organized the Starter Stories project. I have been putting this off for a while because my house never seems put together enough to photograph, but tonight I decided to bite the bullet because, let’s be real, I don’t actually know if I will ever get the bamboo blinds that I want to replace the living room curtains or hang all the pictures, so I might as well document our current place now exactly how it is. Maybe that will give me more motivation to finish some projects, so I can follow up with a before and after post down the road.

We’ve been married 3 1/2 years and we are on house #5, but I am considering our current house our “starter” home because we have finally arrived at that magical place where we are no longer living paycheck to paycheck. When our lease here is up, we won’t be frantically searching for somewhere better/cheaper/more convenient/ bug free/ above ground etc. because this is the first lease we actually plan on resigning. (Gasp!)

I cannot wait to someday own a real home where I can plant a real garden and paint the walls without asking anyone’s permission, but I consider this our starter home because it’s not just a roof over our heads, it’s somewhere we actually want to stay for a few years. I guess we are just those kind of people now. The kind who own real furniture and have a 5 year plan.

I wish I had done a better job of photographing our previous homes, but here are some photos that have survived all the moves including a 48 hour cross country adventure.

These photos don’t show much of the actual house, but here are some photos of us inside the little white house on Ridge Avenue in Buena Vista, VA where we lived for our first year of marriage and junior year of college.

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When our lease was up, we decided to save a lot of money by moving into JJ’s sister’s basement in Lexington, VA where some of our rent was paid in babysitting our niece and nephews. We got to paint the walls and cupboards before moving in which made it feel more like ours, but we secretly dreamed of one day living above the ground again. We made some pretty great memories down inside that colorful cave full of hand me down furniture. I mod podged a pretty sweet coffee table that we had to leave behind when we loaded up what would fit in the Hyundai and trekked westward. We lived here our second year of marriage and senior year of college at Southern Virginia University.

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About a week before graduation, JJ got offered a summer internship with Deseret Digital Media in Salt Lake City. We were very short on time to find an apartment, so we went with a cheap short lease in Rose Park. It was an adventure complete with midnight ritualistic prayer chants drifting through our paper thin walls, homeless friends in the dumpster, and bed bugs. We came with basically nothing so all of our furniture was either given to us or found at yard sales. JJ’s internship went really well and they extended it through the end of the year, so when our lease was up in Rose Park, we left with some stories that may one day help us earn our street cred with future grand children. We lived here our first summer after college graduation.

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As our lease was coming to an end in Rose Park, we started frantically searching for the perfect place not actually knowing how long we would still be in Utah. We ended up settling for another basement apartment because sometimes you’ve just got to sacrifice natural sunlight for cheap rent and nice neighborhoods. We signed a year lease in hopes of a job offer for JJ and luckily in January, they hired him on as a full time writer and we counted our blessings in our 600 square ft Sugarhouse cave. However at the end of that year, we were both working full time and ready to move up in the world. We lived here through my first pregnancy with our angel daughter Abby.

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We really liked our ward in Sugarhouse and loved the neighborhood in general. I mentioned to a friend that we were looking for somewhere in the neighborhood and she referred me to a friend of hers who owns a condo that is basically a stone’s throw away from our basement apartment. The timing was perfect and we ended up moving in the day before my 24th birthday. We’ve been here a little over 6 months and I am still basking in all the storage space! It is a second story 2 bedroom 2 bathroom unit that is sandwiched in between two other units which keeps us nice and toasty in the Winter. We are still just renting, but it feels like home because for once we actually own every piece of furniture in here! Also, we have a small balcony, fireplace, dishwasher, and washer/dryer. We are a 5 minute walk from Fairmont Park, a movie theatre, Thai food, gourmet donuts, Chipotle, Whole Foods, and public transportation – which has saved us from having to get a second car since I now work in Park City. I have pretty big plans for this home and the most exciting part is, we plan on sticking around long enough to actually get some things done!

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When we first moved in, our TV wasn’t big enough to fit on the wall mount, so we got a new TV for Christmas. Also, someday I will actually put a photo in that white frame. It’s on my to do list.

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This is hanging in our tiny laundry closet. JJ promised me he would get up on a table at our wedding reception and sing Born to Run by Springsteen. It never happened, so I bought him this T-shirt our first Christmas as a joke. He has since outgrown the shirt, so I cut it up and framed it. Constant guilt trip. “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run”

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This is the spare room/ storage room/ JJ’s office. We still need to hang some pictures and buy some more book shelves, but it is serving its purpose for now.

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Our new record player. Also, check out that huge closet for storage!

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This is the first home where we’ve had enough space and money to actually buy a real matching bedroom set.

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Welcome to my half of the bedroom which I fondly refer to as my creative corner.

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We each get our own drawer and behind the mirror shelves. Plus this is OUR bathroom.. not to be confused with the guest bathroom. Luxury, I know.

Three years and five homes later, we are so happy to finally feel a little bit settled down, but not tied down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that where you wake up in the morning is not nearly as important as who you wake up with beside you. I’m lucky to have had a pretty cool guy beside me through the good, the bad, and the pee stained marijuana filled hallways of previous apartments. The days are getting longer, our lives are still mostly in front of us, and the beat goes on.

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An open letter to my former OB/GYN

Dear Dr. H,

Hi, it’s me Brittany Feinauer. You may not remember me, but let’s be real.. you probably do. I have been writing this letter in my head for the past 365 days and though you will likely never read these words, I have a few personal items of business to take care of. Exactly one year ago on January 24, 2014, I walked into your office for an 18 week routine pregnancy visit and was immediately referred to a high risk facility because of an alarmingly low fetal heart rate.

“You’re baby is very sick.”

“It is unlikely that she will live through this week.”

“You can choose to induce labor now or wait it out.”

Of course I don’t blame you for the ANA antibodies that attacked my baby’s heart. I don’t blame you for not catching it sooner or being able to intervene. I have certainly been blindsided by tsunami sized waves of anger while treading through the five so called stages of grief, but I am not writing these words out of anger today. I am writing them mostly out of a cathartic yearning for closure and validation, but also because from my current vantage point, I can more easily see what aspects of my doctor/ patient experience were sorely lacking. And even though I was not emotionally strong enough to advocate my own needs this time last year, hindsight is 20/20, so I suppose I am making up for lost time.

Although the traumatic details of my infant loss experience were statistically anomalous (probably not even worthy of the obligatory asterisk in a “things that could go wrong, but probably won’t” section of a pregnancy textbook) the sobering truth is that 1 in 4 women experience some form of infant loss. Unfortunately this is not a new or minor problem, but it can sometimes seem that way because of the social stigma associated with openly talking about stillbirth and other forms of loss. As the 1 in 4, I am speaking up now because I am still standing and I’m here to tell you the good and bad news regarding your chosen career path as a fairly new OBGYN. The bad news is that you will have future patients dealing with miscarriage and stillbirth. I was not an isolated once in a life time deal. The good news is, you have the opportunity to make a world of difference in those women’s lives and I’m here to tell you how.

First and foremost, you should have referred me to Angel Watch, Share Parents of Utah, or any number of other infant loss support groups. Anticipatory grief is a paralyzing task to navigate for the first time on your own. The fact that you claimed you had never heard of any of these organizations until 5 1/2 weeks after my baby’s fatal prognosis is frankly unacceptable. I was not in a position to leave my house most days let alone seek out help for myself. You could have made a huge difference by referring Angel Watch’s in home services and counseling to me as a preparation for my baby’s birth/death. Luckily an apologetic nurse asked me if I wanted her to give my name to Angel Watch after my first scheduled admittance to the hospital for advised induction only to be sent home 45 minutes later due to a paperwork mistake… which brings me to my next item of business.

Clearly you felt horrible about your oversight of the legal details of medically advised pregnancy termination in the state of Utah, but even before you had me blindly sign the outdated paperwork, the root problem was that I was completely unprepared for the reality of those legal documents at all. Two weeks prior when we had sat in your office and you explained to me why you were encouraging me to not carry the baby past 24 weeks gestation, you never once mentioned the word termination or abortion.

It’s all fine and good that my official medical record states that I was checked into the hospital for “termination of pregnancy secondary to fetal congenital complete heart block, incompatible with life and recommended termination by maternal fetal medicine,” but for the rest of my life I will have to live with the fact that I terminated a pregnancy. Even though my decision was largely based on your advice, it was my signature on that termination document – not yours. I trusted you to provide me with the information I needed to make an informed decision and felt completely betrayed when the nurse brought in those consent forms. The fact that you were unaware of the updated forms with a mandatory 72 hour waiting period was akin to sprinkling salt in my freshly cut wound. Unfortunately this minor detail you overlooked has complicated my grieving process ten fold and planted a deep seed of mistrust in every medical professional I have encountered since.

I totally understand that you were young and inexperienced, but you probably should have referred me to a specific doctor I could have called or seen while you were on your honeymoon for 2 weeks during the scariest days of my life. Being told to “call the hospital” if I stopped feeling movement from the baby was probably the least comforting advice I could have received during those dark weeks of anxious waiting.

It was also extremely disconcerting having a random doctor call me and say, “Dr. H is out of town and asked me to call you to let you know that your blood work results are in and it looks like you have tested positive for lupus antibodies which explains the congenital heart block in your fetus…so at this point a postmortem autopsy is optional.”

Gee thanks, kind stranger.

After spending approximately 24 hours reading everything I could on Lupus (after naturally ruling out the concern that it was a magic Harry Potter spell instead of a human ailment) it was quite devastating to believe that in addition to my baby’s failing heart, I had lupus. This was actually 100% untrue and not explained to me until one week after my delivery when my rheumatologist informed me for the first time what was actually going on inside my body.

Just to further clarify for you (something that as the doctor you probably should have clarified for me): A positive ANA (auto nuclear antibody) blood test result does not correlate with a diagnosis of Lupus. As such, referring to the results as “lupus antibodies” is extremely misleading to a person who has never heard of any of these terms.  A quick scroll through Wikipedia’s Systematic Lupus Erthematosis (SLE) page assures the concerned and literate layperson (that would be me) that although Anti-dsDNA antibodies are highly specific to SLE and found in 70% of Lupus patients while appearing in only .5% of healthy individuals, simple ANA screening (which is what I had done) yields positive results in many connective tissue disorders and other autoimmune diseases, and here’s the kicker… MAY APPEAR IN NORMAL INDIVIDUALS (again, that would be me.)

Maybe you already knew all of this information. If so, you could have saved me a Titanic sized boat load of worry by sharing some of this with me before you left on your honeymoon. Just FYI. Also, the specific type of ANA I have is SS-A which in isolation often amounts to a heaping pile of asymptomatic nothingness, but predisposes me to a less severe autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome (which definitely rolls off the tongue more like a hip swedish band than a rare disease, but in this case is anything but melodic.) In layman’s terms, Sjögren’s is characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth.

In a strange way, I wish I was kidding about this.

For a month and a half I carried a baby who was incompatible with life. When I wasn’t completely consumed by this fact, I was mistakenly preparing for a new future of potentially fatal pregnancies, fever, malaise, joint pains, myalgias, fatigue, possible temporary loss of cognitive abilities, and a life sustained by immunosuppression drugs. That portion of my anxiety could have been prevented entirely by a doctor who took the time to explain the facts to me. (That would have been you.)

The truth is: the likelihood of an isolated SS-A blood result causing 3rd degree heart block in the 18th week of my first pregnancy was about 2%. (TWO PERCENT!!) In other words, it pretty much never happens. Only it did. To me. When you factor in the legal oversights and medical complications that occurred, it’s safe to say that my situation was a cruel and disgusting joke of  ill-timed fate. The rarity and randomness of my circumstance was not explained to me until one week after my delivery. At that time, I was also told that although I accidentally joined an exclusive 2% club, after one failed pregnancy the chances of stillbirth in a subsequent pregnancy jump to 15-20%. I am currently on a medication that is supposedly coaxing those numbers down a bit, but I’ve had to accept that the innocence and excitement of pregnancy will never be within my reach again.

Now, let’s talk about those 5 weeks leading up to my labor and delivery in which I had weekly appointments just to check for a heartbeat. You had to have understood that those visits were extremely difficult for me to come to. By this time I was showing and sitting in a waiting room with other excited expectant mothers. It was like nails on a chalkboard listening to their innocent banter. The least you could have done is explained my unique situation to your nursing staff who saw my baby bump and assumed that I was having a normal happy pregnancy like every other woman that strolled (or waddled) through that clinic on any given day. Innocent questions about whether I had picked out a name or if I was having weird cravings while getting my blood pressure checked were completely avoidable. The look on the nurse’s face when I finally told her what was actually going on was pure humiliation. You could have saved us both a lot of trouble and discomfort by communicating to her why I was coming in for those weekly appointments. I know you were busy, but it would have taken all of 45 seconds to explain.

Lastly, let’s talk about my 3 week post partum visit. First of all, bumping the standard 6 week visit up to 3 weeks is understandable because you were moving, but from where I’m standing now I am shocked and appalled that you didn’t refer me to a specific OBGYN to continue to follow up with after you left. It had only been three weeks since I had resentfully expelled my precious 2 lb baby along with about 25% of the blood in my body, so to ask “how I was doing” seemed a little flippant.

You asked if I ever got outside or did anything productive and I now understand that those were probably standard questions you were trained to ask in trying to gage my overall emotional/psychological state, but let me tell you something. I was still in a state of total shock and hadn’t had time to process much of anything yet. My BMI was 17 and I couldn’t even walk around the block without having back spasms and bleeding.

I truthfully told you that I slept most days and jolted awake from PTSD like nightmares at night. Instead of casually suggesting that I seek out a grief counselor, you should have given me specific referrals and then followed up with me. I’m sure you meant well when you doubled the dosage of my off-brand Zoloft prescription and confidently said, “There, now that should take care of those pesky nightmares.” Guess what? It didn’t. You wished me luck and swiftly moved to Texas, but for the sake of any muted ability I had left to feel much of anything, you should have talked to me about the pros and cons of antidepressants. You should have explained to me the dangers of stopping cold turkey, who to call if I had questions, explained the possible side effects, and told me how to start the tapering process when I was ready.

It has been a long and bumpy year for me, but I eventually got the help I needed mostly on my own through trial and error. I’m very pleased to tell you that one year later, my weight and overall health is stable, I am medication free, I have a job that I love, and I’m very hopeful about the future. I hope things are going well for you in Texas.

Sincerely,

Brittany Feinauer

12 Books I read in 2014

Twelve months have come and gone.

It has been the strangest year of my life and while there are many things I could reflect on, I want to take a moment to remember all the books I consumed this past year. There is a lot to be said for the power of being present and living in the moment, but let’s be real. Sometimes, when the moment just plain sucks, it’s wildly refreshing to experience other peoples’ moments via reading. Shirley Jackson sums up my feelings on the tricky dichotomy of sanity and reality in one of the trippiest books I’ve ever read (see book number 8), when she states, “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”

Twelve months. Twelve books. And just a little bit of sanity to spare.


ONE: My Story by Elizabeth Smart

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I was interested in reading this book because I was about the same age as Elizabeth when she was taken in 2002 from her Salt Lake City bedroom. It was all over the news and instigated several nightmares of my own. She doesn’t sugar coat the horrible details of the inhumane ways she was treated while in captivity for nine months, but you won’t sleep if you stop in the middle, so keep reading. The only thing that kept me going was knowing this story had a rare and happy ending. Elizabeth Smart had every right to be angry and emotionally crippled for life, but she chose to forgive and go on living instead. She is an absolute inspiration and has since served an LDS mission, got married, and toured the country to instill hope in rape victims.

“When we are faced with a challenge, it is very easy to be mad or upset. But when we have passed our great test, we are then given opportunities to reach out to other people. We are able to effect change in a way that otherwise we would not be able to.”


 TWO: The Poison wood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

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I joined a book club this year and this was the first book we read. It is a pretty big book and at our first meeting, it just so happened that my friend Summer and I were the only ones who had actually read it. (Shout out: Summer Lillywhite!) There is way too much to try to fit into a tiny blog blurb, but rest assured, this book will keep you thinking for days. The Poisonwood Bible is the tale of a Southern baptist family from Georgia who move to the small village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo to do missionary work in 1959. The narrative voice alternates between the wife and four daughters of a bigoted white preacher man hell bent on saving the entirety of the Congo by dunking them in crocodile infested rivers. It ultimately reveals the larger universal story of mankind’s struggle for individual freedom coupled with an unfortunate hunger for power.

“I knew Rome was burning, but I had just enough water to scrub the floor, so I did what I could. My talents are different from those of the women who cleave and part from husbands nowadays–and my virtues probably unrecognizable. But look at old women and bear in mind we are another country… I was trying to wear the marks of the boot on my back as gracefully as the Congo wears hers.”


THREE: The Place of Knowing by Emma Lou Warner Thayne

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“Where Can I Turn for Peace” (also written by Emma Lou) is one of my favorite hymns, which is initially why I was interested in reading this spiritual memoir. Through reading, I found out that the church building Emma Lou attended growing up, is the same one that JJ and I are currently attending. She describes the sacred grove mural behind the pulpit, which I see every Sunday. I also had the opportunity earlier this year to hear her speak on a panel about Lowell Bennion at the University of Utah before she passed away a few months later. I feel a special kinship to her for these reasons, but would recommend this book to anyone. She tells her story of getting in a near fatal car accident and temporarily visiting “the place of knowing” before returning to earth to finish out her life. She was a mystic, a poet, a mother, a tennis player, and a saint. I’m thankful she told her story like she lived her life – with beauty and honesty imbued in everything she did.

“We are our stories – dozens, hundreds, thousands of them – sprayed across our memories, embedded in our identity. Calling them up for others or for ourselves or for God, can enlighten, crush, amuse, trap, or free us, depending on how we pay attention.”


FOUR: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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So once upon a time, I decided I was going to write an in depth review of all the books I was reading (along with a long list of sketch book challenges, yoga classes, DIY projects, etc etc You know how life can be…) Well, that didn’t really pan out but this book is the only one that I actually took the time to write about, so feel free to check out my thoughts, here.

“I had strange dreams in that house, that night. I woke myself in the darkness, and I know only that a dream had scared me so badly that I had to wake up or die, and yet, try as I might, I could not remember what I had dreamed. The dream was haunting me: standing behind me, present and yet invisible, like the back of my head, simultaneously there and not there.”


FIVE: Education for a New World by Maria Montessori

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This book is a super short, but fabulous introduction to the Montessori method for anyone interested in learning more about it. From what I can gather, it’s basically a more accessible and condensed version of “The Absorbent Mind” which is on my reading list for 2015. It mainly deals with early childhood (ages 3-6) which is the age group I teach, so it was extremely fascinating for me. After a brief history of the development of the Montessori system, it explores topics such as: period and nature of the absorbent mind, embryology, behaviorism, language, the importance of movement in education, imitative action and cycles of activity, the importance of observation and a prepared learning environment, and what a Montessori teacher should be.

“Education in the first years of life must be alike for all, and must be dictated by nature herself, who has infused certain needs into the growing being. It is true that differences afterwards arise in individuals, but we neither cause those differences nor are we even able to provoke them. There is an inner individuality, an ego, which develops spontaneously, independently of us, and we can only help the child who is potentially a genius, a general or an artist, to realize himself, and remove obstacles in his path of growth towards realization.”


SIX: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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Sometimes you read a book and walk away with a really cool story. Other times, you read a book and walk away with a deepened sense of the importance of storytelling itself. This was one of those books. It is a series of true short stories about O’Brien’s time serving in the Vietnam war. The book acts as a sort of catalog of experiences and things that the men in his company carried with them throughout the war. Fear, disillusionment, guilt, m&m’s, morphine, and photographs of college crushes are among some of the burdens and tangible objects described. It is definitely not G rated, but will probably change your life and expand your views on the importance of factual truth vs. emotional truth and the delicate balance between the two.

By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others. You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain.


SEVEN: The Fortunate Fall by Daniel K Judd

fortunateMy mom bought me this book when she came out in March and I have enjoyed thumbing through it.  I didn’t read it in order, but just read whatever sections caught my interest in whatever order I wanted and gained some valuable insights into pain and suffering. My favorite idea from this book is that instead of teaching our children that having enough faith means that everything will always work out, we should teach them that faith means accepting the outcome even when your prayers are unanswered.

The circumstances of each person’s experience with adversity are unique, but some aspects of successfully dealing with such experiences are similar. In a statement generally attributed to Viktor Frankl, we find one of the most important commonalities expressed as follows: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.'”


EIGHT: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

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This book was not what I expected at all, but it was definitely worth my time. It is a very quick read, but makes you stop and think after pretty much every page. It deals with the possibility of global destruction and Dr. Felix Hoenikker,one of the founding fathers of the atomic bomb. It is the funny, satirical, bitter tale of his three eccentric children, his lethal invention of “ice-nine”, a quirky Caribbean dictator, and a made up Religion that makes people happy. It really makes you think about the power of truth, the destructive potential of science, the placating effects of religious beliefs, and how all these things fit together in a fictional post-apocalyptic world .

“Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.”


NINE: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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My book club decided to read a scary book for Halloween this year. Supposedly it’s a classic, but I had never heard of it before. It is about an old mansion that was built without any right angles to mess with people’s minds. Dr. John Montague is an investigator who is conducting studies on supernatural phenomenon and the effects it has on people’s minds/ sanity. He invites some guests who have past experiences with paranormal events and then the house slowly plays tricks on everyone resulting in confusion (and also death.) Yep. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. It was interesting, but weird.. and not in a “supernatural horror story” kind of weird, but in a “1960’s I can’t really tell if there’s even a plot or if one of the main characters is lesbian” kind of weird.

“Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”


TEN: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

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“I don’t want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.”

malalaThis book was absolutely life changing and I would highly recommend it. It is the true story of Malala Yousafzai who is from the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. The Taliban has tried to ban girls’ educations many times and Malala was brave enough to be an outspoken advocate for educational rights for all children. In 2012, she was shot in the face by members of the Taliban who were specifically targeting her. She was life flighted out of the country and miraculously lived to continue to promote peace and fight for the cause. This last October, at age 17, she was named the youngest ever recipient of the nobel peace prize.

 “I think that the best way to solve problems and to fight is through dialogue, is through peaceful way, but for me the best way to fight against terrorism and extremism is just simple thing: educate the next generation. “


ELEVEN: Boy Alone by Karl Taro Greenfeld

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This book is not a happy “rise above” kind of memoir about a brotherly love in spite of a crippling disorder. It is a very raw, heartbreaking, honest snapshot of a family who was defined by and torn apart by their autistic son and a lack of credible information in the medical community of the 1970’s. It is difficult to discuss the power of this book without revealing some big spoilers, so I will leave it at this. Definitely worth it to read all the way to the end, because you will probably feel like quitting several times. I gained a lot of insight into a frustrating world from which many people choose to avert their eyes.

“The harsh truth of every relationship, even between those who love each other, like fathers and sons and daughters, or husbands and wives, is that the love is always unequal.”


TWELVE: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

This book was amazing, depressing, beautiful, and… depressing. It is a large book with a lot to take in and I feel like I won’t even have fully formed opinions on it until it all mulls over in my brain for a few more weeks. It starts off with the story of a boy who lost his mother in a tragic freak accident that he miraculously survived with guilt in his heart and a rare painting in his hands. The next 700 pages or so, is the boy growing into a man and trying to shape his past into a cohesive narrative while slimly avoiding his own death via drug overdose and other fun shenanigans.  It is full of twists and turns that will infuriate you and occasionally satisfy you. The power of art is a prominent theme. The idea that objects and art connect us all to a larger beauty across time and space is prevalent and moving throughout the book. I’m still trying to sort out the good guys from the bad guys, but I was profoundly moved by the tragic beauty of the words contained in this (literally) heavy book.

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”

I would love to hear any of your thoughts who have read some of these books. I am also wide open to suggestions for 2015.

And the beat goes on.

I’d Eat That

I hate grocery shopping. And I am not exaggerating when I use the word hate.

If I were a character in Dante’s Inferno, I am quite certain that my own personal circle of Hell would be an endless aisle in the Walmart on 300 West in Salt Lake City in which I was damned to an eternity of pushing a shopping cart with one wobbly wheel while strangers breathed down my neck and stepped on my heels trying to pass me in the aisle only big enough for one shopping cart. (Newt Gingrich and Thom Yorke would probably be among the hellish strangers.. just FYI)

The only tasks less appealing than cooking and grocery shopping are cooking without a plan and grocery shopping without a list. Shortly before starting my new job, I compiled 25 of my favorite recipes into a digital cook book that I designed.  After browsing my neatly organized and elegantly designed cook book, you may no longer believe me that I hate cooking. Why would I put so much effort into something I hate? Well, my dear Watson.. because I have found that the more effort I put into planning and organizing, the easier cooking and grocery shopping become. And the less I hate them.

(And hey, I’m pretty sure we could all use a little less hate in this world.)

I am the girl whose college room mates will never let her forget a frustrating incident sophomore year in which I tried to boil a pot of water over medium heat for 45 minutes because I “didn’t want it to get too hot.” Facepalm. I have come a long way since then and have even learned to enjoy cooking on occasion. I cannot foresee the day when I actually enjoy grocery shopping, but we haven’t starved yet (in fact, JJ seems to be doing the exact opposite of starving) so I guess I’m doing something right.

Before my Grandma Karrie passed away the first summer I was married, she made me a color coded recipe card book that was organized by type of meal and days of the week. I have grown to love several recipes from that book and have also gathered new favorites from all over the place. I shared my digital files with my mom and sister a few months ago and Jessi has since asked me if I would post a printable version, so she could share it with some friends. I don’t claim to own any sort of copyrights to these recipes, but the layout is all my original work. If you want to print out these pages and stick them in a binder for your own personal use, I would be tickled to death. But if you want to share any of these files digitally on the internet, I would only ask that you link back to my blog.

You’ll notice that there are 5 recipes for each day of the week. AKA: your meal planning is done for the next 5 weeks! The ingredients column makes grocery shopping almost bearable and you can write in your own ideas in the bottom section for side dishes or modifications. You’ll also notice that my week excludes Sundays. This is because I am sufficiently spoiled and have always had a mom or an Aunt Shelley close by to feed me on most Sundays of my life. (You can always repeat a Wednesday meal for Sunday. Who can go wrong with classic meat and potatoes.. am I right?)

All of these recipes are 100% tried and true by a genuine cooking noob. Nothing gourmet here. Just recipes compiled over the last three years that have caught my eye and caused me to shake my head in the affirmative while thinking, “I’d eat that.”

Afterthought: Kindly excuse the misspelling of a few words including but not limited to potatoes and chili. Whew! Glad that’s out of the way.

Enjoy!

I'd Eat That

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1 lb 15 oz

While I was experiencing the weeks leading up to Abby’s tragic birth, I couldn’t imagine a sadder way to pass the time than feeling the kicks of a baby whose heart was failing. In the weeks following her birth and death, I soon realized that the only thing worse than feeling those kicks was feeling absolutely nothing. No movement. No hope. No sadness. No emotion at all.

I have come to realize that a world full of sadness is ever so slightly more bearable than a world void of any emotion. Some people go through tragedies and can’t turn off the tears. Others experience the same level of tragedy and suddenly forget how to cry. I am of the latter of these two categories. I was discharged from the hospital on a Thursday, picked out my baby’s urn on a Friday, dropped off my mom at the airport on Sunday, and my husband went back to work on Monday. Since then I can count on one hand the number of times I have cried. I don’t say this to make myself seem tough. Many times I wish I could cry, but my emotional infrastructure is currently being rebuilt and I guess the tear ducts are out of order.

When I found a grief counselor that I actually liked, I felt overwhelmed with the task of adequately explaining my endless layers of grief and anxiety to her. When I finally finished, she said, “All the problems you’re describing are extremely normal reactions to a very abnormal experience. If you were totally fine after all that, I’d be much more worried about you.”

This statement that was meant to comfort and reassure me has paradoxically caused me a bit of stress. “Being fine” after a horrific event is worrisome, yet the standard answer I give when people ask me how I’m doing is, “fine.”March and April were probably the scariest months of my life, but somehow in May I started climbing again. I have had many people with nothing but good intentions tell me how amazing and strong I am, which occasionally tips the scales of cognitive dissonance in my mind since I have never felt more weak in my life. When people don’t know what I’ve been through, I’m always hesitant to bring it up because everything is still so recent and yet I seem so on top of things.

September 4th marked Abby’s half birthday and for almost two months I’ve had several boxes of baby shoes tucked away in the back of my closet. Donated by friends in honor of Abby. Photographing baby shoes was much easier when I was safely inside the shell that I lived in for roughly 4 months. I am now beginning to feel again and it is exhilarating and unspeakably painful. I haven’t blogged in a while, but tonight I feel a connection with other women going through this same struggle and it makes me want to be more honest about my grieving process.

Because it is Pregnancy + Infant Loss Awareness Day, I am going to share a journal entry from the first time I tried to go grocery shopping after losing Abby. This is not meant to make people feel sorry for me, but to paint a picture of the crippling effects grief can have on individuals. This is for all my Angel Watch sisters who have ever felt trapped or scared of facing the real world. Because yes there is hope, healing, God, and goodness in the world. But every once in a while, it is important to mention the injustice, sadness, and fear just to validate the people going through it who feel they are not allowed to talk about it.

April 2014

There are days where I go with the general flow of my surroundings and other days where I stand paralyzed and immovable amidst a shifty and oblivious world. Rotating on its axis. Revolving around the sun ever ablaze in an expanding universe that doesn’t even know my name.

I am invisible. I am thin and frail and often wonder if I’m taking up space or if space is taking up me.

I float through the grocery store with a hastily scribbled list of items. Individual pieces of larger meals I am planning to concoct. But that’s all they are is just plans. Nothing concrete. Nothing certain. Just a thought. A hope. An expectation of things or events that may never actually blossom into fruition. As I’m aimlessly wandering through the grocery store, the lyrics to a death cab song come to mind.

The coast disappeared when the sea drowned the sun
And I knew no words to share with anyone
The boundaries of language I quietly cursed
And all the different names for the same thing

It doesn’t matter which food items I buy. They’re all different names for the same thing. The same meal. Pasta, eggs, stir fry, pizza. They all taste the same when your appetite is broken and your senses are dulled past the point of recognition.

I weigh 94 pounds. And even though I’m ashamed at how thin I am, I’m also paradoxically embarrassed to even take up that much space. My subconscious goal is to literally disappear. And I am slowly succeeding at the expense of my physical well being.

I pass an array of apples so vast and organized that it triggers something inside me akin to emotion, but without any real substance. Like myself, the feeling is present yet lacking any weight or significance. I craved apples while I was first pregnant with Abby almost 9 months ago. My mother craved apples while she was pregnant with me almost 24 years ago.

In a another life, I might have paused and effortlessly tapped into these thoughts and their accompanying emotions, but I was living with a disconnect between point A and point B. With those neural pathways temporarily out of service, I had no choice, but to stay the course on my numb sertraline induced detour. A path that smartly circumvented pain by inevitably avoiding any hint of strong emotion or flashy feelings.

Frail and emotionally unaffected, I grabbed 3 small shiny gala apples and placed them on the scale to see how much they would cost. In a relentless effort to chip away at my protective shell, the Universe showed it’s face on that scale in the form of digital numbers.

1 lb 15 oz.

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When you instinctively know you need to acknowledge and release a buildup of emotion, but are hindered by a selectively permeable chemical shell, you end up feeling the only emotion that shell will allow through it’s mighty barrier: fear. You panic. You feel anxious and you don’t actually know why. You wonder if everyone in the entire grocery store is staring at the numbers on the scale and if they are hurriedly shuffling past because they know. The only thing scarier than living in a world where people look right through you as if you’re too young to know anything about real life or pain, is being thrust into an irrational world where every passing stranger is glancing at you in their peripheral because they somehow know your secret.

They know that you are the mother of a dead baby. That you willfully signed the paper work that induced the birth of a baby who was deemed “incompatible with life.” They look at you as though you are now incompatible with life.

And sometimes you well may be, but this is all just paranoia rippling out from a stone that sunk into the fabric of time on a cold night in March when you held a cold baby girl in your shaky arms and wondered how you could possibly go on living in your body from which she was forcefully removed.

1 lb. 15 oz.

You decide not to buy anything else. You walk away from the self check out line with a bag of apples in your arms. You feel comfort from the weight of them and promise you will never let them go.

You place them delicately on the counter and go on living.

Weeks later, you think back on the experience and wonder where the apples have gone. You probably ate them in a moment of thoughtlessness or physical yearnings roughly translated into hunger pangs.

You wonder if you should feel sadness or remorse. You wish you could release some of the uneasiness through tears or despair, but you fall back on the one emotion that never fails you. Anxiety.

Sometimes life is measured in heartbeats. Sometimes length, weight, or compatibility level with life.

Sometimes, life is measured in apples.

And sometimes those apples are suddenly gone. And you can’t even remember how or why it happened.

Day 2 Challenge: Drawing The Line

Today’s challenge was to produce a total of four continuous line drawings, one for each of the following four subjects. A smiling face, a hand holding a soda bottle, a man riding a unicycle, and a running dog. A line drawing is produced by not lifting the pen from the paper until the drawing is completely finished, thus creating one continuous line.

This was my warm up page:

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Running Dog:

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Man on a unicycle:

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smiling face:

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hand holding a soda bottle:

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I am still 2 days behind…but I am drawing.

And the beat goes on.

 

 

Day 1 Challenge: The Cat’s Meow

I have recently set some goals to rekindle the artist within. I bought a beautiful new prismacolor colored pencil set and I am participating in the 21-Day Drawing Challenge with Von Glitschka. For more info or if you want to participate check out:

http://www.lynda.com/Design-Illustration-tutorials/21-Day-Drawing-Challenge/164144-2.html

Mr. Glitschka’s videos are quite possibly boring enough to drive you to tears and I may have turned my nose up at today’s challenge (Actually it’s Day 3, but I am starting 2 days late. Hopefully I’ll get caught up tomorrow), but the point is to draw something every day for 21 days.

Today’s challenge is to draw a cat.

Gross. I hate cats. Aside from being allergic to them, I’m fairly certain all felines have aspergers syndrome or are at least “on the spectrum” for cats. And yes, there is a “spectrum” for cats.

So when Mr. Glitschka revealed the challenge for Day #1, my first reaction was to toss my nose in the air and decide I no longer accepted the silly challenge.

nose upBut then I thought about it for approximately 45 seconds, contorted my face into that of an irritated lion, and decided “Hey. I’ll just draw a lion.”

this faceAnd I did.

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