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A new challenge, entirely by accident

Between death, Thanksgiving, probate court, and Christmas, I have had more than enough challenges that I don’t feel particularly bad about not having done a challenge since November. But, it is almost 2011 and it is time for something new. I debated ideas. I brainstormed. And then I figured out that I was already doing something.  I am giving away stuff.

You see, we have  a lot of stuff crap.  A lot.

This is the crap we are currently not using:

Some of this is justified – we have to have a lot of crap.  Here are some of the various reasons:

1. My husband and I are both sentimental goons who can’t get rid of anything.

2. We live with a very small person who has tons of toys and clothes that she has either just outgrown (and need to be stored for the next rugrat) or that are just waiting for her to grow into.

3. We move every 15 minutes or so and we haul a bunch of furniture around so we can make each new hovel feel like a home. Seriously, we haven’t living in the same place for more than 24 months since we got married. We are moving for the third time in three years this summer. There is just a certain amount of stuff that you need to make sure that you can live comfortably in a variety of different houses.

4. My husband’s parents dropped a metric ton a shit off at our house a few years ago. One of the boxes was  full of wire hangers from my husband’s closet when he went to college. I am not joking. A giant box of wire hangars from 1993.  Every school paper he ever did. 15 or so pages of six year old Greg working on writing the letter “G”.  Boxes upon boxes.

5. We constantly think that we are going to change our essential nature and become better people. Thus, we have a buffet service for 12. Because our life is filled with formal dinner parties requiring platinum edged china. Right. If you come to our house, you are probably going to change a diaper while someone yells from the kitchen “hey, wanna beer?” Yet, we persist in moving around the china buffet service for the day when we become moral, upright people who have dinner parties. Until then, I will continue to have place settings for 12 people, but only enough chairs for five. The other 7 diners are just going to have to sit on the floor with the dog.

6. There is some stuff I am not getting rid of. My husband’s golf clubs are going – he hates golf. My scuba stuff and our four kayaks are not going anywhere. I love diving. I love the water. So what if right now I live in Central Virginia with no access to the ocean and a baby who can’t stand to be more than three feet from me. I am going diving again and I am going to need my gear.

I need to get rid of stuff.

Enter Freecycle. Freecycle is a loose association of local groups hosted through Yahoo. You can offer items for others to take, completely free of charge. You can also ask for items to be given to you. There is no exchange of money or goods – simply one person taking what another person no longer wants.

In the past, I have given away jars of screws, a bed frame, crap I found in the basement of a house, a bicycle, various kitchen items, baby bottles, and bunch of other detritus.  I have received winter scarves, baby toys, baby clothes, canning jars, and probably a ton of other stuff.  I love Freecycle.

So, for the next 29 days (starting from yesterday), I am going to give away something on Freecycle. I am going to make progress on this storage unit. I am going to reduce the amount of crap we are going to move in June.

And if anyone brings any more boxes to my house, you may be shot on sight (unless its another pair of boots. Boots are always welcome at my house.)

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I don’t know what day it is

The make-up challenge is officially concluded. I am way past 29 days at this point, but life has been such a mixed up pile of crap lately that I just kept wearing make-up to keep my days going.  A few observations:

1. Applying make-up, which for me has always involved lots of doubt and insecurity, can actually start to feel like an easy and natural part of your day.  This is one of the things I wanted to accomplish. I have friends who apply make-up everyday as easily as they brush their hair.  I can do this now.

2. Applying make-up, for me, has an avalanche effect. Each time I went to put on my usual attire (baggy jeans, tank top, flip flops), I ended up changing into something more stylish. I wore clothes that I haven’t worn since I started staying home with Charlotte.  I felt good! I went clothes shopping (which I normally hate). Each day when I left the house, I felt better about myself than I have in a long time.  Through what was a very painful two weeks earlier this month, this sense of self-worth made a huge difference. Yesterday I didn’t apply make-up and I ended up wearing yoga pats, a baseball hat, and an old dive club t-shirt. Oh, and my flip-flops. Not a good look.  Maybe I should have dipped into the bathroom for some mascara…

3. My skin looks like hell.  Turns out that if you take 35 year old skin that hasn’t seen many chemicals and coat it in foundation, powder, blush and other product it rebels. I have’t applied make-up for the last few days to give it a break. Today though, I need an ego boost so my sexy new boots and my make-up bag are calling to me.

I am in no way a make-up genius. I still can’t make the smoky eye look like anything other than my attempts to channel a raccoon. I am still befuddled by how to keep lipstick from making my lips all chappy and gross. I still have not braved the women at the M-A-C counter (although I did say hello to one when I was at Macy’s and she said hello back without a sneer, so there is hope).  This is an ongoing challenge for me, but 29 days gave me a good start.

Grieving for My Not-Father

My father-in-law is dying.  Not in the “we are all on a long journey that ends in the same destination” sort of way. Rather, it is in the “some day in the next week or two, this titan of the family will cease to be” sort of way.  This will be the first time that death and I are formally introduced. I have had the remote brushes with the hereafter that most of us experience from time to time. Three of my grandparents have died, but those were the three that I knew only passingly.  My grandmother who I am close too is still going strong at 83.  A classmate in middle school committed suicide.  A friend’s roommate died in a helicopter crash and I made shrimp dip.  These are not encounters with death.  Death and I have never been close.

Like the guy you see coming at you from across the bar, this is a meeting I wish I could avoid.  There is no ducking into the bathroom or co-opting a bystander to play your boyfriend this time around.  I look to the people who have become my family both through my marriage to Greg and through their unfailing generosity, love, and determination that I would be welcome and I have no idea how to help them with this.

Raymond is the closest thing to a true father I have ever had. My dad, for as much as he loves me, can’t love me very much.  He has been a sick old man since I can remember.  The toll of mental illness, health problems, and pure selfishness made it impossible for us to have the type of relationship that most people have with their fathers. I have never told my father a secret. I have never asked him for advice. I have never called him for the joy of talking to him.

Yet, with my husband’s father I have done all of these things. Through two long years when Greg was deployed in Kuwait and Iraq, I talked to Raymond regularly. He would call me to say hello. He calls me “babe” and in that word comes all of the love he has for me and all the hopes he has for my marriage.  I love this man and I feel the looming lack that will come with his death like a gaping black pit. And yet, I can’t tell anyone in the family about how much I dread his death. You see, for as much as I love this man, he is not my father.  For all of the grief that consumes me, aching with every breath, the pain I feel can only be a fraction of what my mother-in-law, Greg, and his brother must feel. And I can’t even imagine how painful it must be.  So I grieve in silence and try to help out where I can.  But I can’t help, and I can’t grieve.

So what do you do when your heart is breaking, your partner is emotionally absent due to his own pain, and you can’t help anyone, including yourself.  Today, I ticked Charlotte a lot so I could hear her giggle.  When her giggles light up her face, I see Raymond’s bright blue eyes sparking up at me and everything feels better for a few minutes.

Day 26 – The One Wear I Look Like an Indigo Racoon

So I tried the purple smoky eye.  It did not go well.  The problem was, I really thought it went well when I left the house.  I used some beautiful Lancome shadow, kohl eyeliner in smoke, and lots of mascara.  I thought it looked great. I even went back upstairs and applied a bit more purple before I left the house. I should have taken a picture, but I was rushed to get to storytime at the library.
When I went to pick up my friend Jenn for coffee, one of her first comments was “so, still doing the make-up bloggy thing, eh?”  By the time I looked in the mirror, I realized that the problem with smudgy, smoky eye-makeup is that it migrates and makes your eyes look even smudgier and smokier as the day goes on. This is probably not a bad thing in a crowded bar listening to a great band. While reading Peek-A-Moo at the local library, on the other hand, it is not a great look.

Two things made it better:

1. My husband telling me not to worry about dinner, we should go out.  I wasn’t worrying about dinner. It was going to be tomato soup and sandwiches, but still a nice treat.

2. Figuring out that our waitress had even less skill with smoky eyeshadow than I do.

It may be the first time I have ever looked at someone’s make-up and thought “eh, I could do better.”  Not that I needed something else to feel superior about or anything.

Day 25 – A fit of temper

As I was writing the previous post, I got a phone call from my husband about our absurd car situation.  Not having a vehicle at my disposal, coupled with all of the other crap that is piling up (exams, death, laundry, you know…) I was just pissed off. I figured that  quick workout would help. Except I can’t get to the gym. Because I don’t have a car. Right.

So, I teed Jillian Michaels up on the DVR and did 30 minutes of push ups, jumping jacks, and other assorted torture. Charlotte watched and laughed the whole time. She occasionally clapped, which made me feel really good about my push up form.

After that, I showered and put on make-up.  Mindful of my less than adventurous efforts of late, I went with liquid kohl liner and lots of gray and silver eyeshadow. It wasn’t my favorite look I have ever done, but I felt pretty good about it. But I was still pissed.

When Greg finally came home, I grabbed the daughter and the car keys and took off. I had a $10 gift card at Lane Bryant (I don’t fit in their  clothes, but I figured I could find something) so we headed to the mall.  Two pants for the girl child (wicked cheap at Baby Gap), two scarves for me (thanks Lane Bryant for the free stuff), and a Pumpkin Spice Latte later I was in a much more pleasant mood.  I wandered into Sephora to pick up some cuticle cream.  Normally, Sephora is a daunting endeavor for me. I have friends who can breeze in, chat up the cashiers, and drop a few hundred bucks on eye cream.  I have never had the confidence, the knowledge, or the cash to do this. Instead, I am more likely to dash in, pick up some of their amazing cuticle cream and the root beer colored eyeliner I love and dash out.  Make-up stores and counters are the kryptonite to my normal fearlessness.  When going through department store, I normally skirt the cosmetic counter.  I am alternately terrified that they will attack me with make-up brushes, while also secretly hoping that someone will approach me and magically transform me into a beautiful swan with the flit of a mascara wand.  I have been a hot shot litigator making boatloads of cash, but this one area of normal feminine life has always scared the crap out of me.

Today was different. Today, I dabbled with metallic green eyeshadow. Seriously, this stuff is what the hot alien chicks will be wearing when the planet gets overrun. This green eyeshadow is incredible. I have no idea what I would do with it, but I love it.  I also perused lipsticks, discussed eye primer with the sales clerk, picked up some Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer, and some fabulous new mascara.  I have never felt this confident about entering such a bastion of femininity.  I also got a great idea for a smoky purple eye. I dabbled with it tonight and I think it looks a lot better than the grey smoky eye, which does not look very good on me.

Evidently liquid eyeliner and pumpkin spice lattes will improve your day (as long as you can get your hands on the damned car keys).

Day 25 – What day is it?

I feel like I have cheated by not blogging for the last 13 days. I actually have, despite all of the other shit that has been going on, still being keeping to the rules of the challenge.  I am somewhat amazed by this, but there were some days that putting on make-up actually made me feel better about the absolute crap that was going to happen the rest of the day.  The short story is that my father-in-law is dying. After driving ten hours, we spent the last week in Kentucky. Charlotte acted as the cheering section (she learned to clap and now claps whenever she is amused) and I acted as the legal advisor, making sure that paperwork is in order.  We stayed at a very swanky condo guest sweet courtesy of a very nice relative of Greg’s, so it was an odd dichotomy between waking in silk sheets, drinking espresso, and carefully applying make-up each morning and then helping with dirty laundry and life insurance policies for the rest of the day.  It felt incredibly surreal, each and every day.

I didn’t try out any new and daring make-up maneuvers while we were in Kentucky. It would have felt entirely too strange to arrive at the medical facility that used to be my mother-in-law’s living room wearing smoky eyeliner or bright green eyeshadow.  Most days, I went with very simple eye make-up, mineral blush, and easy-going mascara.  The only day that was marginal was the day we drove back from Kentucky. I choose to spend an extra ten minutes snuggling with Charlotte and we were late hitting the road to say good-bye to my father-in-law (maybe a final goodbye, so it was important we were there on time).  I rushed through the process, found I was one product short of the mandatory five and determined on the fly that my tinted eye cream was a product. It sparkles a bit in the light, it is a product. Once again, my rules.  Plus, how much make-up can you wear on a ten-hour road trip, dressed in yoga pants and a dive club t-shirt and not feel overdressed?

Day 25 – it is noon and I am still in my sweats. My husband is near heartbreak and I can’t help him.  The laundry monster is eating our upstairs hallway. Despite offering (not being asked, offering!), our neighbors failed to take out the trash last week.  My Frye boots that I ordered as retail therapy have not arrived.  W e are still a one car family. In fact, my husband just called and told me that if I want the car today, I need to wake Charlotte up from her nap (which just started after many tears) and drive him back to work. Yeah, I would like the fucking car. But no, I am not going to wake my daughter up just because I need to get out of the damned house.  Things are a bit tense around here, if you hadn’t noticed.  I am not sure if liquid eyeliner is going to help, but I am going to find out. Just as soon as I get out of my sweats. Promise.

Day 12 – Signing off for a bit

The next week is going to be a challenge. The husband and I are headed to Kentucky tomorrow. His father has taken a turn for the worse and we are headed home to put him into a hospice. Kind of makes you want to say fuck-it-all to the make-up challenge. I plan on continuing, but there is very little ability internet access at my in-laws so I will only be able to post sporadically.  I still haven’t bought waterproof mascara, so there may be a lot of emergency repair in the coming weeks.

I was on the phone with my niece last night. She was talking about how great her year was going – good friends, good grades, good boyfriend, etc… I tried to provide a reality check for her. I told her that when things are bad, they always get better if you wait long enough.  The flip-side, of course, is that when things are good they always get worse.  It looks like we are on the downswing of the curve.  I hate the downswing.