For this exercise, I’ll tell the stories of five photos over the course of five days.

In May 2005 a woman who was planning her wedding decided that she had enough. The wedding was shaping up to be a huge affair, with 14 bridesmaids and ushers and 600 guests. So, she did what I would do if faced with such a ridiculous situation: She ran away.

At first officials thought she was abducted, but then they found evidence that she took off on her own, so it was much less newsworthy…to me. She took a bus from Georgia to Las Vegas, spent the night, then took another bus to Mexico. That small Las Vegas connection was enough for the local and national media to anchor the story to the city. I didn’t even want to write about it (I was a crime reporter at the Las Vegas Sun at the time) because there wasn’t really anything to it. No crime was committed, she was an adult who just left, and she has the right to do that.

The cops said they were investigating, but there were no credible reported sightings of her. And frankly, I was busy with a bunch of other stuff and it seemed like a stupid story with such a tenuous connection to us.

So, I panicked when I received a call from Fox TV’s show, “On the Record” with Greta van Susteren, and they were looking for a Las Vegas police reporter to come on the show, talking head style,  to chat about this runaway bride. I didn’t want to do it because it was a dumb story and I hate TV news (and still do) and I hate Fox News (and still do) and tried to get out of it. But within a few hours I was sitting in an empty studio on the other side of town with a microphone on my shirt talking to Greta van Sustern on live national television.

I had been on television before, but just locally in Las Vegas, just like all of the other reporters at my paper. And then later I was the spokesperson for the Las Vegas chapter of the American Red Cross and speaking to all media was part of the job. But this was the first and only time I was on national TV.

It wasn’t so bad, and it only lasted maybe a minute. This runaway bride was said to have stayed at one of the resorts on The Strip, but she only had X amount of money on her at the time. So Greta asked me how much a room at this hotel would cost and I just made something up because I didn’t know, and a few other contextual questions like that.

The show didn’t air until 10 p.m. EST, so I told my sister in Philly to stay up and watch it. But the 10 p.m. show was the rebroadcast — it was shown live at 7 p.m. on the east coast. (In Las Vegas it was on after midnight.) So when I was answering her questions with the camera aimed at me, I didn’t realize I was on live TV right then. I’m not sure why that wasn’t explained to me but it’s probably better that I didn’t know. I might have vomited.

When I left the studio I was handed a VHS tape, which I still have somewhere (but no VCR). I took this photo of the TV as I played the tape later.  I broke a lot of cool crime stories and some did get picked up by the Associated Press, but it sort of sucks that this trashy story held more appeal.

Appearing as a talking head on "On the Record" with Greta van Sustern in May 2005
Appearing as a talking head on “On the Record” with Greta van Sustern in May 2005

 

 

For this exercise, I’ll tell the stories behind five photos over the course of five days.

The Wedding Industrial Complex. I have huge problems with it. My latest complaint is the wording of wedding invitations. So many of them refer to “starting our lives together,” as to invalidate the time that the couple spent together before the wedding. Case in point: Mike’s and my dear friends were together for 17 years before getting married 2 1/2 years ago.  Their lives together didn’t start with their wedding.

This brings me to today’s photo. Mike and I met Aug. 1, 2012, and a week later, he invited me to go to down the shore for the weekend with him and his friends and family. We went for a walk on the beach one morning, and I spotted him gazing at something in the distance. It took my breath away — he was the most handsome man I’d ever seen. I told him to hold still and took this photo.

Six months later, we were house hunting. As of this moment, we’ve been living in our lovely South Philly rowhouse for nearly two years.  And later this year, we’re getting married.

From day one, Mike and I were inseparable; there was no doubt that he was the one for me, and vice versa. That’s when we started our lives together. That beginning won’t be on our wedding day. And this photo symbolizes the start of “us” to me.

Mike in Ocean City, NJ on Aug. 11, 2012
Mike in Ocean City, NJ on Aug. 11, 2012

 

For this exercise, I’ll tell the stories behind five photos over the course of five days.

I adopted Cali in December 1996 from Morris Animal Refuge in Philly. Morris is a kill shelter, and a note on her cage indicated her time was running out. She was a 6-year-old morbidly obese calico, and she rubbed the side of her face on the bars of her cage when she saw me. I decided she was the one, and I signed the papers for her. She was the first cat I adopted on my own as an adult.

She was so heavy that I wasn’t able to take public transportation back home to West Philly, where I lived at the time, so I had to take a cab. The cab driver was worried that she’d pee, but I said she wouldn’t. Luckily, she didn’t.

Cali was affectionate and loved people. Everyone in my  life loved her back. She was smart, too — she learned how to manipulate me as I’m sure she had done to others in the past. She had a loud, raspy meow and she was always, always hungry. I began to understand how she got to be so fat: She’d beg with that crazy, hoarse meow, standing on her back legs to get her face as close as possible to mine, until I fed her. Then she’d practically tremble with eagerness when I filled her dish, then dive into her food. When she was done, it would begin all over again. Eventually I had to put an end to this and although she never really lost much weight, she didn’t gain much either.

She lived with me at five different addresses in Philly, two addresses in Columbus, Ohio and one address in Las Vegas. Because she hated all other animals, I was never able to have other pets, and so she was the star of my life. I have so many photos of her and even VHS videos (not that I can watch them anymore). She had a lot of dog-like qualities — she’d run to greet me whenever I came home, she’d follow me around and she’d try to come with me whenever I left.

I was at my desk at the Las Vegas Sun one morning in April 2003 when my ex called to say Cali was dragging herself across the floor and appeared to have lost her ability to walk. He was rushing her to the vet. I was on deadline (it was an afternoon paper at the time) and I felt like I couldn’t leave, but one of the editors heard me crying at my desk and came over. I explained the situation she she told me to go.

The vet said she had a fatal blood clot and there was nothing he could do. She was 13 years old.

I didn’t feel like I could be there when she was euthanized. I feel horrible about this now. I understand why I made that choice back then, though — it seemed unfathomable to me to be there to see my special girl die. We petted her and cried and told her we loved her as she howled and meowed and looked at us with huge eyes and breathed through her mouth. She was taken into an exam room and I signed the papers. As I walked out into the parking lot, I could hear her raspy meow from all the way down the hall.

I went back to work and cried all day. I think my podmate must have thought I was crazy, but he didn’t understand. Losing a close friend is is profoundly devastating. She died on a Wednesday, and every Wednesday for the next two years I wore all black to work. And up until two years ago, I kept her urn in a place of honor in my home. Even now, a small framed photo of her is on a shelf to my left. I’d go on to love many more cats in my life, ones I adopted, fosters and ones I care for at the shelter where I volunteer. But Cali was the original cat who captured my heart and she’ll always be so special to me.

(A few months after Cali died, I adopted two new cats from the Nevada SPCA, Magilla and Callie. I’m sure it appeared odd that I chose a cat with the same name, but it wasn’t intentional. I grew to see it as a tribute to the original.)

That night at home, we both cried as we put away her cat dish (believe it or not, I still have it in my momento bin) and her other things. I didn’t have the heart to sweep up the stray pieces of cat food on the kitchen floor.

Cali
Cali

We looked through photos of her — this was back when photos were tangible. So many of the photos I have of her are close-up and blurry because she was always trying to get on my lap. Eventually we found the one I’m sharing. It was turned upside down, like it is here.

“It looks like she’s flying,” my ex said, and we both started laughing. “She’s flying to heaven!”

Despite my grief, it felt so good to laugh.

I didn’t really intend on this being a memorial to Cali, and I didn’t mean for it to be sad and I didn’t mean to go back to the “dead loved ones” theme that I seem to fall into in my blog. Once I started writing, though, that’s where it needed to go. I used the blog I kept back then to fill in the details.

I did something significant this week.

After being a lazy jerk for almost three months, I returned to the gym.

I stopped going right before Christmas because it was too cold — I know, it sounds ridiculous. The gym is just a few blocks away, less than a half mile, but Philly had so much snow and ice this winter and sometimes the temperature was below 10 degrees and the gym fees so far when it’s cold. The thought of going out in that even for something fun was daunting, but to go out and do something not fun? No.

I decided to take a break one morning in December when I slipped and fell on the ice while walking Sassy and I got a scrape on my hand and a bruise on my knee. No big deal, but I will look for any excuse to stay home from the gym. So my three-month excuse became the weather.

Meanwhile, Mike continued to go, even in the snow and ice.

Now that it’s getting warmer, and now that I have a new coat to shield me from the last cold days of the season, I realized I was running out of excuses.

Morning is when I’d go, because that’s when Mike goes. Getting up early is so hard, and I can’t just get out of bed and go. I would do my makeup as usual, which takes about a half hour, then go. Ridiculous, right?

I started thinking about going in the early evening after work instead, but that would be just as difficult, for different reasons. I toyed with the idea of just not working out at all.

But it makes me feel good. And when I do it in the morning, I’m guaranteed to have a better day than I would if I had spend an extra hour in bed. Plus, I want to be healthy, and it feels good to get my heart rate up and to challenge myself.

Thinking about all of this while still in bed Wednesday, I had an “a ha” moment. A few days earlier, a friend challenged me and some other people to post a photo of ourselves without makeup on Facebook. And I actually did it! In the photo I’m standing in the kitchen wearing a coral dress that had just arrived — I’m wearing it in my dear friend’s wedding this fall. I asked Mike to take my picture so I could send it to her.

I had just woken up and my hair is in a topknot and I am wearing smudged mascara from the night before (sometimes it’s too much trouble to remove all my eye makeup, but I always wash my face) but other than that, I’m makeup free. I was shocked at the positive reaction I received! Seriously, shocked.

Lying in bed, I remembered the likes and comments on my photo, and I realized that I don’t need to go to the gym in full makeup. That’s kind of weird anyway, right? Nobody else does that.  No one cares what I look like at the gym and I shouldn’t either. And, if I forgo putting on makeup, I could sleep in a little later AND still get to the gym before work.

So, I got up and didn’t bother with my makeup at all. It felt really good! But like an idiot I continued where I left off on the elliptical and nearly died — I could only do 26 minutes. At least I went, though. And I’m going to keep going back.

I’m proud of myself that I posted that photo — I put myself out there and let people see what I really look like, and in return I had the confidence go to the gym without primping. (Still, posting the photo on my blog feels scary for some reason…)

Like blogger Jessica Lawlor preaches, it’s important to get gutsy and push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. In this instance, I did that and it paid off in a really unexpected but amazing way. Insecurity has held me back in other ways throughout my life, and I know I’m not alone.  Can you relate?

A confession: I have not been back to the gym since Wednesday. It’s snowing in Philly now — yes, I’m pulling out the same old excuse. But when I do go back Monday, I will do so without caring about how I look.

 

 

My brother Doug stayed with me and Mike this weekend. Doug has Down Syndrome, and he’s been living with one of my sisters for the last two years. She was going away for the weekend and so I said Doug could stay with us in the city.

I was looking forward to it — I hadn’t seen Doug since around Christmas — and thought it would be a lot of fun! But, it turned out to be really stressful and exhausting. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I lived with Doug from Monday through Friday for two months after our dad had a stroke in the fall of 2012. It was a lot of work caring for Doug, but he was in his own home so it made it easier. This weekend, we planned stuff and keep him entertained, but I really feel like I failed.

Brother and sister on Saturday night with Magilla.
Brother and sister on Saturday night with Magilla.

Even though he’s in his 30s now, Doug is still very much like a child. In fact, he’s still into a lot of the stuff he liked as a kid, like The Muppets. It doesn’t take much to make him happy — Diet Coke, pizza and a movie or TV show he likes will get him excited.

I took the train out to the suburbs to meet him, then we rode the train to Philly together, and then jumped on the subway to my neighborhood. On the train we watched Muppets videos via You Tube on my phone, and he had a huge smile when we were walking down the sidewalk on my block and I pointed out our house. But within minutes, shit hit the fan.

My dog Sassy, who is 14, is really territorial but I thought she’d be okay with Doug. After all, she was with me when I stayed with Doug for those months and they would hang out together.

But she ran down the stairs directly to him and bit his ankle as he sat on the couch. It was a scratch, but it bled a little and he winced in pain when Mike applied peroxide and I put a Band-Aid on him. I felt really, really awful.

Then Mike and I couldn’t find her muzzle. We were both upset and I was being a brat and that fun weekend I’d expected became a stressful, nervewracking mess.

We brought Doug along on our usual Saturday errands, then I took him to see the Sponge Bob movie while Mike stayed home with Sassy so we could both decompress and he could let her out. I think Doug liked the movie. Then that night Mike made a nice meal for us — he and Doug had ahi tuna steaks and black beans and I had marinated tofu — and we watched “Annie” on Netflix.

Sunday, we planned to go bowling so we walked to the bowling alley, but it was closed. We had checked the website before leaving and we even called while standing on the sidewalk in front of the place, but there was no answer. It sucked because Doug seemed excited about bowling, and it was too late to do something else, like the zoo or the aquarium, because we had to catch the train at 3. We walked home and Doug reclaimed his spot on the couch and we watched “The Brady Bunch” until it was time to walk to the subway.

That was pretty much it. I feel bad that we didn’t do more with him. Making things even more complicated, Doug needs a lot of care — he needs coaching while showering and brushing his teeth, and he’s not that great at shaving his own face — but he doesn’t necessarily want to be helped doing these things, so he got grumpy, too. (At home with my sister, he does these things on his own, but he doesn’t really do a very good job; his showers last less than 30 seconds if nobody is there to tell him to wash everything.)

Proof that they used to be friends. This is from 2011.
Proof that they used to be friends. This is from 2011.

I’m not used to caring for another person, and I failed what’s probably the cardinal rule of mom-ing — always have tissues or napkins on you at all times when you’re out and about, because he’s not the best at blowing his nose.

Still, it felt good to be with him, kind of like slipping on a pair of old, familiar shoes. We grew up together, but I was still old enough to participate in his care when he was little. I used to get up early with him and I’d tie his bib on and situate him in his high chair and feed him.  Then I’d lay on my back in the living room and pull my knees back to my ears, and Doug would lay on my feet and I’d give him a ride, placing him in a pile of pillows as he giggled. We’d do that over and over. Sometimes I’d lay with him in bed and we’d hold our eyes very close and blink, tickling each others’ eyes with our eyelashes. And I used to love dressing him up and putting makeup on him. He didn’t like it but was a good sport.

My parents let me hold Doug on the way home from the hospital when he was born. I sat in the back seat of my dad’s VW and held this little baby, who would not stop crying (no seat belts or car seats either!) My mom began taking him to “school” when he was two weeks old and leaving me home alone as a second grader. Since I was a first-time big sister, I thought all babies went to school.

This was before he began hating dress-up.
This was before he began hating dress-up.

It seemed like everyone was always fussing over him in an overly concerned way, but I assumed it was because he was a baby. When he was about a year old, maybe less, one of my sisters told me Doug has Down Syndrome and explained the chromosomes. Suddenly it all made sense. I don’t know why my parents never told me. The “school” he was attending was an infant stimulation at the Montgomery County Association for Retarded Citizens, where he was working on his motor skills, and my mom was forming friendships with other parents of Downs kids.

My dad always credited my mom for advocating on Doug’s behalf and getting him the interventions he received when he was young. When Doug was a baby, as my dad described it, Doug’s Downs upset my dad so much that he wasn’t able to discuss it without crying.

I don’t see Doug very often anymore, since he began living with my sister. I’m estranged from her (long stupid story) and when I do see him, my communication with her regarding Doug has the whiff of two divorced parents who are discussing visitation arrangements.

I’d like a do-over, though. I want him to stay with me and not get bitten by my dog, participate in fun, active stuff rather than watching movies and television all weekend. And next time, I’ll make sure to have tissues or napkins on me at all times.

When you think of the concept of “home,” do you think of where you currently live, or does your mind jump to somewhere else?

Although I love my current home, I still yearn for the house where I grew up, 701 Concord Way in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. From where I’m sitting now in my house in Philadelphia, 701 Concord Way is technically only 25.1 miles away, but it’s worlds away in reality.

Although it still exists, it really doesn’t anymore. Not how I knew it, anyway.

On the front porch of the house.
On the front porch of the house.

I can’t go there anymore — my dad sold the house in the summer of 2013, after having owned it since the mid-70s.

My brother Doug and I grew up there. My dad knew the guts of the house like the back of his hand, and my mom could locate any object in it, as if she had the contents memorized. She also kept it extremely clean, earning her the nickname “Immaculate Mary.”

I knew every floorboard squeak — what kid doesn’t? Up until two years ago, the house was the only one Doug ever knew. The house was a part of all of us.

Although it’s not a living thing, I believe houses and places can have souls, of sorts. Just like New York was a treated as a character on “Sex and the City,” locations have their own life forces that hold secrets, tell stories, bring comfort and also remind us of pain. Just like I’m endlessly processing the deaths of my parents, I’m also grieving the loss of my childhood home.

It was 2,100 square feet with four bedrooms, two full baths and one powder room. My parents never did any wholesale rehabbing, just some stuff here and there, like the downstairs floors, the refrigerator and oven range.

The bathrooms were like 1970s time capsules with the goldenrod toilets and sinks. It never occurred to me that anything was wrong with that until my dad put it up for sale. Home buyers don’t appreciate vintage bathrooms.

ISh75o1z0jmt910000000000When we first moved in, I had my own bedroom because none of my four older sisters wanted to share with me. They doubled up, and by the time Doug was born, some of my sisters had moved out so Doug and I each had our own rooms across the hall from each other.

Our bathroom, dubbed “the big bathroom,” had double sinks and a long counter, where I’d spend hours playing with hair and makeup as an adolescent (my love for bathrooms has deep roots!) The lighting in there was amazing, and after I moved out for college, I lamented that I never lived anywhere that had such perfect lighting.

My parents were proud of the house — it was a typical suburban colonial, but they took great care of it. They sunk a lot into landscaping, plus my mom planted flowers, and my dad planted all of the trees that still stand on the property today.

In the mid-90s my parents installed a large wooden gazebo in the back yard, equipped with screened windows, a ceiling fan and cable TV, where my dad would watch baseball games at night during summer. At some point they got the siding redone, so the house went from being green to gray.

Lawsons in the yard sometime in the 90s.
Lawsons in the yard sometime in the 90s.

Even though it was just one box with a roof in a sea of boxes with roofs, we did feel a little special because the house was different from all the others around us.

It’s the first house in a development called Pelham Green, and there are four or five basic models that exist “in the back,” which is what we called the streets that snake deeper into the development.

But, ours was built by a completely different developer for some reason. It was completed first, we bought it and moved in, and within a year, the others were built and bought and occupied by the families who would become our neighbors and our lifelong family friends.

While our neighborhood was still a construction zone, our dog Sam, a German Shepherd/Collie mix, escaped and ran a few streets down, leaving dog prints in the sidewalk concrete. Sam’s dog prints are still there.

Over the years my sisters and I moved out, and only Doug and my parents were left. It’s still the place we all went home to for holidays and birthdays or just to visit. I lived in different parts of the country for almost a decade, and sometimes I’d go on Google Earth and look at my old familiar places in Philly as well the house, feeling a little homesick.

After a brief bout with brain cancer, my mom died in the house, on Dec. 13, 2006, in a hospital bed that we had set up in the dining room. After that, it was just my dad and Doug. My sisters and I helped as much as possible, but my dad felt the burden of trying to keep the house running. He had never cooked, cleaned or paid bills in his life.

Tumbleweeds of dust formed and the house became grimy. My dad came up with a laundry system that involved installing a makeshift line in the dining room where he hung clothes to dry. He never wanted anyone to come over anymore, but we did what we could, when we could. It was so sad because my mom was so meticulous about keeping everything clean at all times, but he couldn’t keep up. This is what he wrote in his memoirs about this time:

What was amazing was that for 50 years I had always thought that Mary should not have to go out and work for the family finances. That was my job. Mary’s job was to take care of the kids and the house. I thought that was the easier of the two major tasks. It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that I was wrong. Very wrong. When I pray I ask her to forgive me for minimizing the effort that it took to keep the family on the straight and narrow.

My dad had a stroke in his bed in October 2012. The morning that he was brought out of the house by paramedics was the last time he was ever inside 701 Concord Way. (We found out later it wasn’t a full-fledged stroke, but it was enough to make his left side weak, so he relied on a wheelchair most of the time until he died.)

Luckily, my workplace was just a few minutes away, so I packed some stuff and grabbed Sassy and began living at the house, taking care of Doug, during the week. From Friday night to Sunday afternoon I was back home in Philly hanging out with a cute guy named Mike.

My life felt scattered and bifurcated, and by Christmas we came up with a more permanent solution: Doug would move in with one of my sisters and she’d become his legal guardian. By January 2013, none of the Lawsons lived at 701 Concord Way anymore.

The kitchen table I grew up using is in the lower left corner of this real estate photo.
The kitchen table I grew up using is in the lower left corner of this real estate photo.

During those idle months in early 2013, before the house went on the market and before Mike and I bought our own house in April of that year, I’d sometimes still crash there. I worked at a newspaper and had an erratic schedule, 9-5 some days, 3-11 others, so it was convenient.

Sometimes, if I was in the immediate area, I’d even pop in and eat lunch there alone, sitting on the kitchen counter. It felt like I was visiting a friend.

When the real estate listing was posted online, I was struck by the fact that my family’s kitchen table was in the photo. It’s just a small thing, and I know it’s commonplace.

But still, it felt too personal somehow. That’s the only kitchen table I ever knew growing up, and if I had enough room or a place to put it, I would’ve taken it when the house was being cleaned out. As for where it is now, my guess is a thrift store (or maybe it’s been purchased by  now) or a landfill.

The house sold in August 2013 to a young family. I drove by exactly once after that, and some kids sports equipment was in the driveway. I immediately felt tears coming — this was real. There were strange cars in the garage and strange people in there. They were ripping up my parents’ landscaping and probably ripping up the inside. The key I’ve always had on my key chain wouldn’t work in the door locks anymore.

But, I’m comforted by the fact that 701 Concord Way is helping and watching another family grow. The kids attend my elementary school, AM Kulp.

So, it’s like the cycle of life is starting all over again for the old house. Even though the house has moved on, and I have too — after all, I haven’t lived there for 20 years — 701 Concord Way will always be my home in my heart.

If the current owners of the house ever read this, please email me or leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

 

Doug blowing out birthday candles at the kitchen table.
Doug blowing out birthday candles at the kitchen table.

 

Me blowing out birthday candles on the kitchen table. I love how my dad is behind me being protective.
Me blowing out birthday candles on the kitchen table. I love how my dad is behind me being protective.

 

 

 

I met my family for dinner last night and the walk to the restaurant wasn't so bad because of my new coat.
I met my family for dinner last night and the walk to the restaurant wasn’t so bad because of my new coat.

Sometimes it just takes one small change to make a huge difference. In my case, it was buying a warm winter coat.

I used to live in Las Vegas, and though I’ve been back in Philly for more than five years now, I never bought a coat suitable for brutal East Coast weather.  I was still trying to make do with a couple of cute but light/medium weight coats from H&M. I had just gotten used to being cold and miserable, and I tried to avoid going out when it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Although people would comment that I look cold and that coat looks awfully thin, I just brushed it off. I always lose my gloves, too, so a few years ago I just stopped buying them. I was freezing all the freaking time. It just never occurred to me to do anything about it — it’s like I just accepted that this is how it is.

I started working from home last year, so some days the only times I go outside are in the morning and evening to walk Sassy. I go to my volunteer gig on Tuesday nights, and I bring my laptop and work from the coffee shop down the street one morning a week. So since I’ve barely gone outside last winter and this winter, the thought of buying a new coat was even further from my mind.

That’s no way to live!

Mike recently got a new coat, and a light bulb appeared above my head. Hey! I could get a new coat! I don’t have to suffer like this anymore. Mike told me that I should, that it’s important to stay warm. That’s such a basic drive, isn’t it, to stay warm? Why didn’t I think it was applicable to me?

So, I got a coat.

I actually ended up buying two online and returning them, then finding the right one in Macy’s in Delaware. I got it at the right time — it was 40 percent off (I saved $110!) and we’re still in for a lot of rough weather this season. It was one degree in Philly this morning and it’s going down into single digits later this week.

It’s lovely — it’s gray and it’s down-filled and it has a big hood and warm, fuzzy fabric inside the pockets and I can zip it all the way up and it covers the lower part of my face. It has a belt thing so I don’t look like a shapeless blob in it. Even though it’s really warm, it’s pretty thin, which is pretty amazing. It’s also not too hot — I can wear it in the grocery store and not break out in a sweat. It’s pretty much perfect.

It’s made dog walks more pleasant and less stressful. Rather than hurrying Sassy along, I’m perfectly content to let her sniff and linger and do her thing. I don’t dread going outside anymore.

My new coat has made me realize a few things. First, Mike always has the best ideas. He suggested I buy a new coat, and it was also his idea that I buy quality snow boots a few months ago, so I did, rather than wearing my old, leaky, cracked Target boots for another year. I bought a pair of Sorels and I’m sure they’ll last me 10 years at least. So, I should continue listening to him when he points out things that should be obvious to me, but aren’t, for some reason.

Second, if you’re dealing with a wretchedly miserable situation, don’t just suffer through it and hope for the best. Find a way to fix it. I’ve been guilty of this many times in my past, as I’m sure many people have — remaining in an unhappy relationship for too long, remaining in a miserable job for too long. It’s hard to see a way out sometimes, and maybe it never even occurs to you to do something about it. You just exist and accept it when you can take steps to change it instead.

As strange and silly as it sounds, my coat situation has been a good reminder that the driving force in life, what we all strive for, is happiness, and we shouldn’t bring unnecessary suffering upon ourselves.

So, even though I’m now warm and snug in my coat, my hands are still bare when I go outside. My next step is to buy a pair of gloves. And make sure I don’t lose them.

Have you ever been in a situation where something that should’ve been so obvious was so hard for you to see?

 

11

One of the things I love about blogging is reading other blogs and getting to know people from all over the world. One such person is Jillian (How to be Myself) who has only been blogging for two months but has amassed a pretty huge following already! I think that’s a testament to how relatable she is, and how much of an interest she takes in people. So, Jillian picked me to list and answer some stuff, so here we go…

11 Things About Me

  1. My original career goal was to be a cop or work in the criminal justice system somehow. I ended up getting a degree in journalism with a minor in criminal justice, and I worked as a newspaper reporter, covering crime, instead. I was on the crime beat in Las Vegas for five years and it was so much fun. Over the years I covered other beats, but crime was always my favorite.

  2. I don’t have a middle name. Neither does my dad or my brother. I never got a straight answer as to why, other than “we couldn’t think of anything.”

  3. I’m a landlord! I bought a house in 2010, then after knowing Mike for seven months, we bought a house together in 2013 (a much nicer one, I might add.) My tenants have been in my house for almost two years now — thank god — it’s been a pretty easy experience.

  4. I don’t plan on changing my name when I get married.

  5. The first type of meat I gave up was red meat,  21 years ago. It took me four years to transition to vegetarian, and the last thing I gave up was crab, 17 years ago.

  6. Every Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. I’m at the South Philly Petsmart taking care of the nine cats from the Philaldelphia Animal Welfare Society that are up for adoption there. I’m the site leader so I coordinate the volunteer coverage, approve or deny cat adoption applications, and lots of other stuff. I probably spend 10 or more hours a week on PAWS volunteer stuff in addition to my Tuesday night shift. I’ve been doing this for almost seven years and I love it.

  7. My favorite book is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

  8. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 18, and it took me five tries before I passed. I couldn’t get anyone to go on practice drives with me besides my equally as clueless teenage girl friends.

  9. I find it difficult to read the written word on paper, which is sad. I’m hopelessly screen-addicted. I’m working on reprogramming my brain, though, by reading reading regular, paper books at night.

  10. I bought my wedding dress online and it’s gray (silver?) Also, it only cost $49.99, plus $12 shipping. Luckily, it fits! I’m trying to avoid the usual wedding practices and just do what I like to do/want to do. White isn’t a color I’d really pick for a dress so I didn’t see a reason to wear one!

  11. I’m not really much of a cook, but that’s okay because Mike is, and he loves cooking for me. I’m a lucky girl.

 

And now I’m going to answer the question Jillian posed to me…

  1. Do you want kids? If you already have them, did you always know you wanted them?
    I love kids but I’ve never wanted to be a mother myself. I’m not sure why.
  2. How did you choose your blog name?
    SimpleWhen I was a reporter “By Jen Lawson” was on all of my stories! It was easy to come up with it because, well, it’s all written by me, and I’ve used it in other capacities over the years (work Facebook account, Twitter when I had Twitter, etc.)
  3. Do you have any pets?
    Yes! I have four: A 14-year-old mutt named Sassy; a 14-year-old black cat named Magilla; a five-year-old orange and white cat named Kevin; and a five-year-old black cat named Willow.
  4. Do you think it’s smart to blog on a set schedule?
    I think it’s smart to have a loose schedule, like striving to post 2-3 times a week, for example. But if you were to hold yourself to a strict schedule of posting every day or almost every day, it might be tough to find the time and to think of good things to write about.
  5. What do you think your best feature is (yes, you have to be positive and pick one)?
    I think, my hair. It’s auburn and it’s pretty thick and I don’t have to do anything to it. I just wash and condition it, then comb it out and let it air dry. I don’t use styling products, usually.
  6. How do you feel about iPhones?
    I resisted getting one for a long time because it seemed so conformist, but I abandoned the Android ship about a year ago and I really and truly love my iPhone.
  7. Do you have a recurring dream?
    I seem to have anxiety dreams a lot, like messing something up and everyone’s mad at me, forgetting to do something and disaster ensues, and stuff like that.
  8. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
    Delivering the eulogy at my dad’s funeral.
  9. What’s your favorite television show?
    I’m not a big TV person so I can’t say I have a favorite, but some shows I like to watch are Seinfeld reruns, Sex and the City reruns, Top Chef (and pretty much any cooking competition show), Girls, Portlandia, and Orange is the New Black.
  10. Do you work out?
    Yes, I do, but I’m on a workout hiatus because it’s been too cold to walk the five blocks to the gym first thing in the morning. I’m a total wuss, I know. But, I just bought a new super warm down coat (40% off!) so I’m going to wear the crap out of it and get my ass back on the elliptical. I feel so much better when I’m active and I miss it. (It’s been like a month since I’ve gone.)
  11. Do you believe in astrology?
    I’m a skeptic but I do fit into many, if not most, characteristics of a Taurus, except for the physical ones. And I’ve found that Mercury retrograde tends to make things all wacky.

I’m supposed to come up with 11 questions and pick 11 bloggers to answer them, but I don’t even think I read 11 blogs at this point yet! So I think I’ll put that part on hold for the time being!  I’m sorry for not fully completing this, Jillian!

 

If someone says their favorite room is the bathroom, chances are it’s because of some special design element, like maybe they did the mosaic tile floor by hand themselves, or they had a custom vanity created.

My bathroom is nice, but I wouldn’t describe it as especially cool or unique in any way.

So, why is my bathroom my favorite room?

Bathroom
My favorite room in the house is tiny and has a pocket door.

That question took a little thought. I’ve always loved bathrooms, starting with the 1970s marigold one with the double sinks and eight-foot long mirror that I grew up using in my parents’ suburban house. I would sit on the counter with my feet resting in the sink and read books and magazines, listening to the radio.

When Mike and I were house hunting two years ago, a must-have for both of us was separate bathrooms. We found this great house that allows us to have our own full bath — the one Mike uses is part of the master suite, and the one I use is in the upstairs hall. (We also have a powder room downstairs.)

I spend a lot of time here, at least an hour each day and even longer on weekends. Why?

  1. It’s a place where I can be alone. It’s a solo hangout spot — it’s pretty cozy, so there’s not enough room for anyone else, and who hangs out and socializes in the bathroom anyway? I really enjoy being alone, and if I want to listen to a podcast or write in my blog or eat lunch or read by myself, I can sit on the edge of the tub and do it there, whether I’m home alone or not. If someone knocks on the door, I can choose whether I want to open it or not. After all, being in the bathroom is a pretty good excuse for not coming to the door.
Eating leftover pizza in the bathroom while Sassy looks on.
Eating pizza in the bathroom while Sassy looks on.

2. It’s a place I share with my puppy. My 15-year-old mutt Sassy loves the bathroom as much as I do, and she spends way more time in there than me, napping on the bath mat while I’m downstairs working all day. We make it work — I just have to step over and around her, although I do drop mascara and hairbrushes and other things on her all the time.

  1. 3. It’s a place that I can decorate however I want. I love pink and butterflies and pinup girls and woodland creatures, and I didn’t hold back when it came to decorating my bathroom. It’s like a pretty pink explosion and it makes me happy every time I walk in. I have two pieces of embroidery that I created, an owl stitched into a piece of magenta corduroy taken from a pair of pants I wore during college and a tea towel with some birds and cats on it. The most recent addition is a cart, where I store my makeup and other stuff.
How I usually have to stand while in front of the sink.
How I usually have to stand while in front of the sink.

4. It’s a place where I’m surrounded by beauty products. I’m not a makeup or beauty product hoarder — I do have a lot of lipsticks, and I enjoy trying new stuff, but I tend to hold onto my holy grail products and use them until they get discontinued. I’m insecure, so it makes me feel better knowing that a variety of products are literally at my fingertips whenever I’m in the bathroom. It also has great lighting — there’s a window plus a nice big mirror and decent lights. Great lighting is important.

5. It’s a place that welcomes routine. I’m really routine-oriented. I love the predictability of a good, solid routine; I find it comforting. And what other place allows for that than the bathroom? When I wake up, I go through certain steps in a certain order, and I have a different routine before bed. There’s nothing foreign about it, unlike the living room, which has four or five remote controls for various electronics and appliances and a whole bank of light switches that I still haven’t mastered. I know what I’m doing in the bathroom.

A few weeks ago I added a tagline to my blog: “Just something to read while you pee.” In fact, I have optimized my blog to make the bathroom the best place to enjoy it. Just so you know. 🙂

Do you have a favorite room? If so, what is it and why?

The owl I embroidered.
The owl I embroidered.
Sink and vanity.
Sink and vanity.
My new cart.
My new cart.

 

My pinup girls.
My pinup girls.
The view from the window. No one can see in -- it looks out onto the rear of some businesses that face East Passyunk, so someone would have to climb onto our roof to see in.
The view from the window. No one can see in — it looks out onto the rear of some businesses that face East Passyunk, so someone would have to climb onto our roof to see in.
It's hard to photograph a shower, but this is a nice one, with cool tile and stuff.
It’s hard to photograph a shower, but this is a nice one, with cool tile and stuff.
My butterflies.
My butterflies.
Sassy pacing in the hall, waiting for me to finish taking photos so she can go back to relaxing on the bath mat.
Sassy pacing in the hall, waiting for me to finish taking photos so she can go back to relaxing on the bath mat.