Worth: a melody is like a memory

Worth: a melody is like a memory

December 17, 2016…

“Go inside!” The sky shoots tiny knives of sleet at us. Keith runs to the back of my van to get my groceries out and carry them inside. 

“I can get some of these.” I start to reach for the bags. 

“No. I got it. Get the baby and get inside.” He’s not even wearing a coat. Will I go soft and forget how to take care of myself? I obey him. 

If you don’t know what it feels like to be an ordinary girl in sweatpants with your hair wadded on your head, and have a man fall over himself to treat you like you’re a celebrity beauty queen…I hope one day you get to know that feeling. 

Everyone deserves to feel that. Don’t settle for being treated like you are only ordinary…because someone will see your royalty.

________________________

January, February, March 2015 (right before I met keith, some of my old sad bastard Facebook statuses italicized)

Oh bills and laundry! You are so loyal and steadfast. You will never leave me. Always home waiting on me, no matter how much I neglect you and curse you. You are so true and dedicated to me. Forever.

__________________________

All vices are chains. And no person quite fits in the heart hole. So go ahead and trade one set of chains for another set, and choose to never see that. Stand still alone, breathe slowly, have the discipline to choose no excess, then every bullet will hit the force field and clink to the floor. It’s not a sad realization, it’s not angry, it’s not ignorance. I see it, and I do care. Always see, always hear, always care, probably too much. But no bullet can actually reach me or hurt me. Fill that hole with God, and that’s the only, only, only true freedom. Chains drop.

__________________________

Dear God…please help me keep my skin tough, heart soft, mind sharp, eyes open, spirit strong, and mouth shut.

____________________________

I’m having one of those days where you like…you think about the night before, and remember how you drank a huge bottle of wine and made some hilarious jokes that you don’t remember, and then you wake up and get to your step study Bible group at 8:30am. And you think about how many times you’ve drastically contradicted yourself in the past week, and then you feel the need to let the world know…yeah, I need to handle my shit. 


Don’t be hypocrites and act like you don’t all do this too. See you at church. See YOU at the club.

_____________________________

Dropping bombs in groundhog holes. I am the sun, no shadows for anyone. In good news–Full moon in Leo tonight. We run this. I can have fun in the cold.

______________________________

Cheers to you,Taylor Swift, lyrical genius, mind-reader, blaring you now. Push the clean laundry off the bed and onto the floor, eat Skittles for supper. I’m an adult. Buy cheap, one-ply toilet paper because I like it, put the silverware in the dishwasher handles up because I don’t want a fork to poke me, leave every light on, buy ungrated cheese because it tastes better, never lock doors, throw away every twist tie and every lid to everything because it makes life faster. My ways have always been better. 

#feelsawesome

____________________________

You are so lonely. Be honest. It’s eleven on a Saturday, and you’re scrolling through the newsfeed liking everything and smiling about every friend. You played a game where you had to post a picture of a baby animal. Who does that?

You looked up the setlist for Garth’s Tulsa concert and had your own little concert of one. But only played the gut-wrenching ones, no fast ones. You wiped snot on your jeans more than once. Admit it. 

Your toes are going numb. You should put socks on. But who cares? There is no one in this bed to be bothered by these cold feet.

You’re not the boss of God. And you can tell him exactly what he needs to make happen in your life, but he knows better than you what lessons you need. So accept them. Don’t wish today away. Embrace your now.

Or what? Trip over all the sad suitcases in your past? Hold hope for the future? If I just knew some of the keypoints, God, I could endure all this much better. How does it end up?

Someone needs you now. Most of them call you Mom. No, not you. Me.

I am lonely, but I’m not vulnerable. I hold a hand that no one sees. But you all do see. Take this paltry patchwork. It doesn’t have to make sense to you. It’s the scraps pieced together.

___________________________

“God doesn’t exist to help our lives turn out the way WE want. He exists to help US turn out the way HE wants.” (Celebrate Recovery last night) #WORKinPROGRESS #LIFEisMESSY #GODisGOOD

_____________________________

I need a man to take out the trash; I need a man who wants to talk to me all day long; I need a man who wants to wash my car; I need a man who makes me laugh; I need a man who mows my lawn; I need a man who is smart and keeps me on my toes; I need a man who is athletic with me. Annnnd it’s really probably best if all these guys don’t know about each other.

____________________________

If you’re married or in a serious relationship, be so proud of that. Hold onto her with all your might, only think of her good qualities and your faults; it’ll keep you thankful and humble. 

Post a profile pic of you two having a nice time; that means sooooo much to girls. Never private message another female; there’s rarely a reason a married or involved man ever needs one private word with a woman he’s not married or related to, be respectable.

 Never do or say one thing you wouldn’t if she was right with you, have integrity. Want to stand out as an awesome guy? Treat your woman like a queen, not many guys do. Praise publicly, pray privately for the changes you would love to see.

Be so, so careful with every thought and word and action. I’ve been on just about every road a person can be on. Adulterers are a dime a dozen. Loveless lust is cheap and common and nothing at all special. A man (or woman) with a pure heart and mind…that’s a rare treasure.

And single people, try your best not to behave as a stumbling block. When I trip up, which happens a lot, I have about 4-5 different friends who will text me and tell me that it looks like I’m seeking the wrong kind of attention. Sitcoms lie. Being single sucks. It’s boring and lonely. But it’s only right for all of us to behave respectably too.

And if someone saunters into your personal space, and you’re a taken man/woman…run away. You’re not special and she’s not either. Put your arms around your woman as tight as you can. 

It doesn’t matter how big your muscles are or how toned your legs are; if you wrap them around the wrong person, you aren’t special.

If you’re thinking or saying or doing something you know is wrong, just stop. That’s all. Just stop. 

I’m awfully bossy tonight. And every night. 

#beRARE #beingSINGLEisNOTglamorous #dontLOSEaDIAMONDchasingGLITTER #takeANhonestLOOKatYOURSELF #HUGyourSPOUSEforPUTTINGupWITHyou

__________________________

God sees your worth. 🙂

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked. “Who would like this $20 bill?”
Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you – but first, let me do this.” 

He proceeded to crumple the 20 dollar note up. He then asked. “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air.

“Well,” he replied, “what if I do this?” He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?”

Still the hands went into the air.
“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.”

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. 

Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you. The worth of our lives comes, not in what we do or who we know, but by …WHO WE ARE.

You are special – don’t ever forget it. 😉
_________________________

Shovel the ice from my driveway, shovel the ice off my heart. Oh, hm…too much too soon for you? Go away then. I’m feeling…not enough, not soon enough.

I am not filling a void. I filled that heart hole with the only thing that fits and fills it the right way–love for my God. So anything I have to offer is all overflow now. I am a whole, complete person, and I take each step with a careful wisdom that I’ve never known til now.

I didn’t know what I wanted or needed. I knew what I didn’t want or need. It is possible to have an Inception-esque, exponential level of connection and possible to cover 8 years of conversation topics in 2 weeks. That’s possible. That is happening. 

Buckle up. Hold on.





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Grocery Spin

Grocery Spin

“Don’t take it personally…holidays are the saddest time of the year for many people,” my brain could not, would not absorb this sentence.

Mom used her hands to iron the wrinkles of Mr. Gobbles’ construction paper feathers. Slow little exhales, burning nose, tight throat. Each feather had a letter of my name written neatly on the back.

Red feather-E, orange feather-M, yellow feather-I, green feather-L, blue feather-Y, purple feather…oh, no. At first I was a little sad that it didn’t work out evenly. Then aha…purple feather-K.

It was a good idea. You can call yourself “Emily K” if your name is Emily Knoll. This trick especially helps if the kindergarten class has 2 Emilys. You don’t have to say the whole name. My letters were very straight, all the same size…I forgot to show Mom the back, but I didn’t want to right now.

Why can’t I spin in the grocery store aisle with arms wide, faster and faster, listen to his feathers flutter, whoa…whoa, no one has EVER spun this fast, canned foods a blur, probably a world record-

“WATCH what you’re doing!” His hand was quick and precise. I know an accident, and I know on purpose. Grab, crunch.

He did not look like my grandpa, but he looked like he was SOMEone’s grandpa. All old people love all children. No. They don’t.

Sometimes if I close my eyes tightly, I can see pages in my reality scrapbook, and the days when more details were added. Pages that were once only a brightly colored paper plate turkey, that now also have a black and white photograph of a stranger–large glasses, a veiny nose tip, deep frown lines–“WATCH what you are doing!” Thanksgiving page.

“He was NOT SAD. He was MEAN.” I no longer felt like crying. He wasn’t on the aisle anymore, and I wasn’t tall enough to reach his face. But I was a good climber, and I also had a good imagination. Our paths could cross again on a different aisle. I could climb into the cart and slap him in the face with my turkey. Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap…I could probably get 5 or 6 whacks in before anyone could stop me.

“Sometimes sad people SEEM mean,” Mom interrupted my violent fantasy. And caught up in my own angry-sadness, the irony of her statement was lost on me, for many years. Hurt people hurt people. Adjectives and verbs and…I get it now.

“Why would a holiday be sad for someone, Mom?” We would collect cans at school for homeless people, and I knew what they looked like because I would see them at the library reading Western books on the worn, upholstered couches.
I knew a lot. He was not homeless. He was clean and dressed nice with a good haircut for an old man.

“There are lots of reasons people get sad on holidays…sometimes they are lonely. He might’ve lost his wife recently.” I knew that “lost” could mean she had died, and probably did not mean that he couldn’t find her.

People don’t like to hear the words “dead” and “died,” so sometimes we say…”my dog passed away.” Or “we lost my dog last night.” And most people will know this means died.

I thought of my own grandmas and great-grandmas. I did not want holidays without them. And that would be sad. Where would we go? My great grandma came to my grandma’s now. My grandma is her daughter.

“Well, why can’t he just be happy that he can have Thanksgiving with his kids and grandkids and other family? He’s not homeless.” THANKful. FULL of thanks. Reasons are everywhere. You have to teach yourself to see them and to say them and to feel the thanks. I had been practicing myself.

My neighbor had SEVEN Cabbage Patch dolls. I had only one Cabbage Patch doll–Lily Lynette. I did not name her. Her birth certificate came in the box. I called her “Lily the Net,” and I did not like her middle name, but my sister said I cannot change it.

I told mom that my friend had seven, and she told me to be thankful for my one. I never said I wanted seven. I was just telling her. And I did love Lily. We would swing together. I was full of thanks for her.

“Baby…you just never know. He may not have other family or…maybe they all live far away or…” Mom was scribbling out items on her grocery list.

He ended up in front of us at the checkout, just like I had hoped. I didn’t know what the word confrontation meant back then. Or intimidation. I only knew that I was not a pretender. He could pretend he doesn’t see me, and he did. But I was not a pretender. I would just stare.

Three bananas, a loaf of white bread, one roll of toilet paper, a package of bologna, a frozen Salisbury steak dinner, the smallest container of pecan ice cream. 

Ice cream with nuts:  that’s the dividing line between young and old. I had been trying my best to keep my parents away from old flavors, to keep them young. It was an exhausting fight that they didn’t comprehend. I didn’t even know you could buy only one roll of toilet paper. I did not want to think about him going to the bathroom, but I kept thinking it.

I don’t hate you anymore, old man. I really never did. I am so sorry about your wife. Life has a way of humbling us all.
My name was Emily K for exactly one month shy of 19 years. And then Emily S for exactly 2 months shy of 14 years. And then Emily B for exactly 2 years and 3 months. And today, it has been Emily C for 3 days shy of 1 year and 4 months.

Sometimes you stand in the front rows of church with your hands lifted, belting out joyful noises.

Sometimes you sit on the back row even though everyone else is standing, and you just listen with a repentant heart, thinking…I shouldn’t have spanked my daughter so hard this morning RIGHT before we left for church.

Sometimes you only make it to the parking lot, and you can’t bear to walk in, past all the people who love and hug you. So you just text a friend and ask her to please come sit outside in your minivan with you and let you cry while you tell her that he packed and left.

Sometimes you come back too soon, all alone. And the sermon series is called “Songs of Love” and all about things your heart isn’t ready to hear yet, so you have to make a brisk walk sobbing past the huggers, before the service is over, back to a minivan full of no one.

Sometimes you come alone during a holiday sermon, and a little girl inches closer and closer to you with the warmest smile, and she tells you that she wants a Christmas sweatshirt that lights up.

And then sometimes you make it back on the front rows, and not everyone knows about the back row days or the parking lot…but you will never, never forget them. Life’s scrapbook pages are so full of clippings of every sort.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV)

Family holidays and gatherings change so much over the years. I am thankful for the memories of big holiday gatherings with lots of food and a roomful of family members. Memories of paper plate turkeys.

And I am thankful for holiday alone times too, years when I don’t have my daughters with me, thankful for quiet morning times with God, thankful for all the other people who love my girls, thankful for the good food and laughs they will share in the homes where I no longer go, thankful that I can relax and not cook. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, so I won’t lie and say I don’t miss them. I am thankful that I miss them, thankful they will be back. 

Much love to all my family and friends. I hope your day is lovely. And lots of love and prayers to those friends who are going through hard times, friends who can’t be with their family today, friends who are deployed, friends in prison, friends who are eating Salisbury steak and pecan ice cream alone, friends who lost a loved one recently…or not recently, friends who don’t see their blessings, friends who do see theirs, friends who have to work, friends of broken and blended families, friends struggling with addictions, friends who are sick or in the hospital. 

Love to my friends who are laughing today, and especially to my friends who are crying. May God bless each of you in special ways.

In everything, give thanks. Somehow find it, feel it, give it. Thankful. 

Walk

Walk

It’s not the casserole. 

I am an audience member of my once-life. It’s that. Watching someone else play me. That. 

I don’t remember how to ride in the backseat. I know how to get out of a car at a stoplight. And I know how to walk. 

I know how to walk in painful shoes and not wince. I know how to step on a rock, twist my ankle, crumble to the ground in the middle of a busy road. I know how to get back up and keep walking. And keep walking. 

I know how to walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. 

Ask him. 

I don’t know how to hurt in socially acceptable ways. I don’t know how. 

Don’t expect me to ride along. I know how to walk.

I know how to drive myself. I know how to get away when I need to. I know how to walk away. That. 

I know how to feel invisible. I know how to feel invincible. That. 

Don’t look around, unless you can handle seeing that I’m here. And I’ll be here. And I’ll be there too. 

It’s not the casserole.

It’s the backseat. 

Taste words before spitting them out.

Taste words before spitting them out.

It is a love story. 

It’s a work story. It’s a story of pain, of bitter resentment. Love isn’t a hole for fallers. It’s a decision. Tick, tick…every second. It is grime and crying babies and unbrushed teeth. 

Put your head down, put your blinders on, and plow. Love isn’t a life of naps. 

If you can’t do that, if you won’t do it…if you are too proud for low horses. If you can’t get on the horse…and back on…back on. If you can’t be the workhorse…

If you want to watch a love story, if you want to invent one in your head, if you want a lusty affair, if you’re looking for a plateau, you’re wrapped up in the wrong life. That’s not love. 

Never trust a snapshot. A lie worth a thousand words. Trust an empty closet rod. Trust an eviction notice. Trust a full trunk.

Careful who you talk to. Don’t say it outloud. Not yet. 

Every choice you made. Every choice you didn’t make. All adds up to now. You chose this. 

Ripple

Ripple

Even a pebble makes ripples, Dad says.  But I didn’t drop a pebble in the pond, did I, Dad? It wasn’t a pebble. 

It was a boulder, wasn’t it? It was two boulders, maybe. It was…a landslide. And the water may never be still again. 

Our life was a series of pedestals, and we tiptoed around on them. I guess I never did belong up there, trying hard to balance precariously alongside people who proudly live on pedestals, who look down at people below who never deserved to be up there. 

Who is a good person? Who? Who has a good heart? The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? Only God. Not any person on any worldly pedestal. 

We were kids, 17 and 16. I remember well. Funny, smart, hardworking kids. Making bagels. Scrimping. Making plans. Listening to Radiohead. Thought we had the bull by the horns, maybe we did for a while, but no. I guess we caught the tiger by the tail instead.

People like wrapping loss up in little justification packages–

The problem is…I married an asshole. The problem is…she turned out to be crazy. We just, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into…

Bullshit. 

You know it is, and I know it is. 

There was love. There was more than one betrayal from both of us. There was forgiveness. There were hurts. There was a lot of interference from people who didn’t belong between us. People I let in; people you let in.  There was apathy. There was triumph. There were so many laughs. There were cries. Sure. 

Every marriage is two sinners who buckle down and refuse to give up on each other, against whatever odds they have both brought to the table. And we did that. For 15 years, we did that. 

I cannot tell you how many inaccurate, blatantly ignorant comments have been made to me over the years by so-called friends regarding my first marriage. 

“I think maybe you just never loved him.” “I didn’t know your marriage was a facade.” “Don’t say hi to me in public, Emily, because I’m not ready for that; I know what’s really going on.”

Oh do you? You all knew the intimate intricacies of my own marriage better than I did? Interesting. 

Where were you when we decorated our first apartment? Where were you when we took care of each other when we were sick? Where were you when I cried about his betrayals? Where were you when we held hands as I pushed our daughters into the world? Where were you when he forgave me for my betrayals? Because I don’t remember any of you being there for any of it. So you go ahead and believe your shallow lies. 

We became the ending only.

If every marriage is a refusal to give up, then every divorce is…giving up on each other. We did that, too. And none of you were a part of any of it. 

 “I will kill every feeling I have for you. You will mean nothing to me. Nothing.” You said it. And you meant it. And you live it. Fifteen years of mostly good memories, but none of it will matter. 

Used to was: I could do no wrong in your eyes, even at times when I knew I was so wrong.

“Emily, I’ve always been on your side. Even when no one else was. It was me. I was. You know that’s true. Even when we separated, people would tell me how it looked, what you were probably up to…and that’s never how I saw it. Not my Emily. No. ” He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. Choked it back. Not one to cry.

But now. It seems I can’t do anything right. Every way that I handle things, you have a judgment, a criticism, a remark, a request. You see me through crap-tinted glasses. Everything about me is shit now. Okay.

I became the ending. The fleeting backstage deceit made the spotlight years a lie to you. My name becomes a knell that few dare to toll in your presence. Or maybe a joke…Yeah, probably a joke. 

I did do lots of wrong. And I’m sorry. Do you even know that I’m so sorry? I’ve said it, but you aren’t one to acknowledge any emotion. I remember your brother sobbing at your grandfather’s funeral. And you leaned over to him, “You don’t have to think about anything sad, and then you won’t cry.” Your solutions. 

Would it make me a better person to pretend my heart never loved you before? I don’t really trust people who do that. To turn every speck of love into loathing? Erase every photo. Block every memory. Never happened.

Should I pretend we don’t know each other? Maybe we don’t anymore. But we did. 

Tell it however you want to. No, you will choose to say nothing. You do that. I will keep the photos and memories and stories.

If I die first, don’t worry, no one expects you to cry. But when you die, I will quietly sit on a back row at your funeral. And I will cry. I’ll remember the full story. And I will cry.

Two minutes with a Toddler: Chocolate Milk, Anatomy of a Tantrum (with video)

Two minutes with a Toddler: Chocolate Milk, Anatomy of a Tantrum (with video)

She’s sweet, she’s sour. This is the full tantrum (video at bottom of blog). She’s gotten faster at getting back on track. She’s even had a few that were much faster than this one. And she has DEFINITELY had longer tantrums. 

Toddler wants chocolate milk: let’s break it down. Every tantrum, every fight at our house can be divided into these same parts–unacceptable behavior, gentle chance, a firm and predictable punishment, an apology, forgiveness, makeup. 

That’s it. It can be over that easily. You know…in theory. 

Part one–Unacceptable Behavior I didn’t get it all on video. She just woke from a nap and demanded chocolate milk in the her whiniest voice ever. No. Not a chance that I will reward that. 

Part two–Gentle Chance I explain how she’s acting and give her a chance to change her mind quickly. Sometimes it’s over RIGHT then, and we skip part three. Other times, part three is the longest step…her choice. 

Part three–Clear Punishment (or Consequences) If she chooses not to change her behavior, she will be punished–go sit on the couch. She tested me because I was filming, and she will usually test me if someone else is here as her audience…or if we are in public. 

Ideally, and theoretically, she gets ONE chance to obey. And if her mouth or body language “tell me no,” then I will go pick her up and put her on the couch. That’s “yes.” 

(But to be honest, I don’t always get up when she doesn’t obey the first time…as you see in the video. But if I’m making eye contact and I’ve told her TWICE, and she disobeys a second time…I will get up. Trust me. 

I have had to place her on the couch many times. I’ve had to catch her trying to run off as many as 12…possibly 20 times in a row, and I sit her back down, and back down, and back down…until she stays. 

Part four–An Apology She knows when she can get up. All she has to do is say, “I’m sorry.” This particular time, she chose to say it quickly. Cool. Fine by me. 

I have done things like set a timer for 5 minutes and ignore her until it goes off, and then give her the opportunity to apologize or sit longer. 

Clara is 2 years and 9 months now. She doesn’t usually need a full 5 minutes to change her behavior. Sometimes she chooses to take that long, but not often anymore. 

I learned a long time ago with toddlers–give them a choice, and make sure YOU are fine with either option. Example–Get yourself dressed in the next 5 minutes…or wear your pajamas to the store. It won’t embarrass me. 

Apologize…or sit there. Either way, I’m fine. 

Part five–Forgiveness I have a long list of personal habits that I hope my daughters don’t remember or learn. If they only remember one thing about growing up with me, I hope they remember my capacity to forgive. 

For practice with my toddlers and children, this is an unskippable step. And under my rule, unforgiveness will often get a punishment. 

Definitely at least a lecture–unforgiveness is your biggest character flaw, _______ (insert name). You need to learn not to do that, especially to your sisters. 

Part five–Makeup Remember it enough to learn from it, forget it enough to move on.  Making up usually looks like a hug at my house.

Forgiveness can be that quick with adults, too, but usually isn’t. 

As adults, we often get hurt by grudges, judgment, moral superiority, scoffs, repeated mistakes, jabs, criticism, gossip. But to be hurt, we have to consent to allow any of those reactions to hurt us, which has been an incredibly liberating realization for me. We don’t have to be hurt. 

Probably why I get along better with kids, and probably always will. I prefer their simplicity. 

Hoard

Hoard

My garage. It was the grossest space in this old house, and that was a hard trophy to win. 

All cabinets were seafoam green, with work surfaces of grimy retro linoleum peeling up in every countertop corner. 

There was dust crusted onto everything, not dry and loose–crusted, 40 years thick. Not “flutter the feather duster over it  in my maid costume” dust, but “powerwash it, scrub with bristley brushes, ruin your jeans, ruin your hair; find out what you’re made of” dust. That kind. 

My dryer vented into the garage, regularly keeping the air steamy, and I imagine…remoistening new dust layers day after day after month after year after decade. Dust, moistened dust, dried dust, new layer dust, moisten, crust over…

I don’t know the exact nuances of making a 40-year thick crusting of dust. I only know the state of my garage when  I moved in. I only know how much scrubbing and scraping it took. 

The rickety garage door, also seafoam green, was not well insulated, was not properly sealed at the bottom. It was freezing in there unless the dryer was steaming it up, or the tiny hazardous gas heater was on. Flames shot out of it several inches high, more than once I saw dry leaves meet their demise to that fiery little beast. 

This is probably dangerous, I would think as I rubbed my cold, bony fingers together in front of flames. When did my knuckles get so wrinkly? I can pinch the skin of a cold knuckle and it will stay pinched…then slooowly, lazily melt back into place. 

The weather-stripping on the bottom of the garage door was flapping off and severely gapping in many spots. They say to build your house on a hill, to sit there majestic and wise. People can lean back and look up to admire it. A shining example on display, make it glass even. What’s there to hide?

My house was built at the bottom of a hill. My driveway serves as a slide for rainwater, nothing to slow its flow toward the busted weather-stripping. 

Muddy rainwater never flooded the garage the 4 years I’ve owned the house, but it would seep in and settle…dry slowly, leaving behind only the dirt residue. Charm…adds a bit of charm, an optimist might say. Dirt is character? Yes. Sometimes. 

I walk into the garage. I feel the weight of this project grip me, pull me under water. 

I need this crusty garage to be usable space. Dear God…where do I start…I look around for a welcoming place. I don’t find one. 

November is too cold. I was born in Wisconsin, lived there til I was 4. No, Arkansas November isn’t as bad as Wisconsin. Think positive, brain, and stop singing “November Rain” by Guns N Roses. 

So I pull everything out of it and onto the driveway. Every cabinet, every rusty paint can, every gritty ziploc bag filled with every jingle of unorganized nail and bolt and crazy unknown bits of metal. Keep these? I should keep all these, right…? I will need these old nails one day…

I try not to think of the old man who lived here before me. He and his wife were the only owners, from 1972 when the house was built until 2012 when I bought it. 

I know he was 86 when he passed. I found his obituary. His daughter gave me the keys to the house at the closing; the keychain has some small, clear plastic prism hanging from a short, beaded metal chain with a cylinder clasp. I don’t know what you call it. You place the last bead of the chain into the opening on the cylinder and press. I should keep this keychain in his honor. 

I shiver. November chill? Or thoughts of which room did he die in? Was it in here? A hospital? What’s with all the plant hooks on the ceilings? Why did one have a thin leather dog collar hanging on it? What is this blackish-brown smear on the textured paint of the wall right next to the basement toilet…? 

I enlist help to clean the garage–to power wash, to scrub, to paint. My nephew and my three oldest daughters spend hours on it with me. I buy wafer board and have it cut to size for new countertops. My dad screws them onto the old wobbly cabinets for me. 

And I don’t care how the paint job looks, anything will be an improvement. I do not care, just get it covered. We use the leftover paint that I already have.  

I have my girls slop espresso-bean colored paint on every cabinet and countertop. The cabinets are sitting on visqueen in my driveway. The paint glues the plastic to the bottom of the cabinets. I have to hold the visqueen down with my old cheerleading Asics and lift to peel the cabinets free. Obviously, I never got rid of these Asics from twenty years ago because obviously I am going to be working on my toe-touches and herkies some day soon. Any day now. 

My nephew and I paint all walls gray–two dark gray and one light gray. Maybe it looks artistically chosen. Ah, my accent wall…yes. And here we have one set of 2×4 shelves nailed together shoddily, we chose to paint these a bright Caribbean blue. It’s beautiful…it was meticulously planned and designed. It was…what we had. 

Nick (nephew) brought his music, and I bumped that shit. I made up my own lyrics and would not be dissuaded. I forget the band name; it was a bunch of letters, like SKBRTKB…you should get their album. I especially enjoyed their song that goes–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud! My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!” 

Now, Nick who could barely breathe during his explanation, he wanted me to believe they said–“My girl’s got a city to run!” But shhh, shh…shush, Nick. Don’t ruin my moment. I dropped it low and sang along. Me in my old Asics, dropping my ass into piles of dust around the garage–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!”

I still got it. Maybe I can do a toe-touch in these jeggings? Hang on. Kick this leg up, then kick that leg up. Okay, they wouldn’t bust. Hop a little…eh…it’s too slanted out here. Otherwise, I’d kill it. 

I leave all the cabinets and crap on my driveway overnight. You don’t really have to be in a hurry to move stuff until you get a notice from the city. Shockingly, no one stole any of it over the two nights it sat out there. 

It was November 2014, and I didn’t sleep a lot most nights since the end of September, when Demetrius left. Might as well get up super early and buy garage floor paint. I got a midnight blue, and some paint flecks to sprinkle on top like Christmas cookies–a variety of grays. 

Nothing like good honest work to occupy a mind in the middle of a divorce, to tire an already tired body and soul. The high-gloss topcoat is moodier than I am. It only wants certain temperatures. But…I don’t have time to wait til Spring. And I suppose this is why it dried cloudy. Good enough. Better than it was. The clouds add some depth, an unexplored galaxy of paint specks. What new adventures are in store for the garage’s next 40 years…

I order a $2700 new garage door. It is so ridiculously out of place on this house. I don’t give a crap. To my credit, I have great credit. If I say I will pay you, you will be paid. I don’t care if my choices make no sense to someone.

A jewel in a pig’s snout: my lovely new well-insulated garage door, I will pay it off before the accrued interest ever hits. There are worse choices to be made in life. I’ve made plenty of them before, and now I’ll leave those worse ones for someone else. 

I put everything back into the garage very neatly. I had a lot of extra furniture, a big tv, all our bikes, bookshelves and books and books and books, sports equipment, lawn mower and crap, paint and hardware. 

Demetrius messages me some days later that he’s going to bring over the last of my boxes. What’s even left of mine there? A truckload. What’s in the boxes, I can’t even imagine or care. He piles them into my newly cleaned, freshly painted, just organized garage. 

Holiday decorations, photo albums, candles, picture frames, the weird platters and dishes, electrical chargers and cords that go to…who knows what… 

Piles and piles of crap. And my irrational attachment to them. NO! I’m going to use that one day! Won’t I? Does this have a good sentimental value to me? 

I can’t do this yet. I can’t look through it.  I just leave it all in there. I know I will hang on to things I need to get rid of. Unopened boxes of memory in my garage, in my heart. I thought I cleaned this place…

______________________

“Emily?? What’s wrong? What is it?” Keith approaches me in my garage. It is March 2015. We just met February 16. 

“This shit is breaking me. I don’t know what to keep, what to burn, what to sell, what to do with any of it.” It is too early in our relationship for a breakdown, but I am who I am, and I feel what I feel. 

He wraps his arms around me, pinning my arms to my sides with an upward, lifting force. I sink onto him. 

“I had to do this, too. It’s hard to go through everything, but you will be glad when it’s all done.” He rubs my back. We don’t hide from each other. 

“I don’t want you to see me like this, but I can’t go through all this stuff and not cry. I know I won’t be able to.” Phony is not my forte, maybe at times in my past, it was. But not now. 

“Well…do you want to be alone while you go through it all? I can go somewhere.” He releases his hold and backs away some to see my face. 

“No. I don’t want do this alone. I need help deciding what I should keep. But I will need you to be understanding, too. I will explain exactly what’s going on in my head or heart, and I will need you to understand and not be upset.” I look at him. My eyes say–I don’t want to go through it alone. And also…I don’t want to go through it alone. 

“Okay. I can do that.” Keith takes me back into his hug. 

He is going to keep me off the show Hoarders when my kids move out. He is better at explaining what needs to go. I trust him. I don’t always listen, but he is right. 

I watch episodes of that show Hoarders, and yeah, these people are extreme cases, but their words don’t always sound crazy to me. Most people who watch are probably like–whoa, they’re insane!

But I have to admit that…their logic often makes sense to me. And when people go through so much emotional trauma in their lives, I can understand that they might revolt in these sad, severe ways. 

We watched an episode recently of this old guy living in his yard instead of his house. He had piles of clothes; he slept on a pile of blankets with a tarp covering him. He was a tough veteran, and I could see myself getting along fine with him over a cup of coffee…in some place other than his home. 

Prideful, stubborn, unconventional, thrifty, resourceful, unconcerned with pleasing society, lovers of personal freedom. I do relate to some personality traits of some of these people on SOME levels. I’m not saying these feelings are all GOOD; I’m just saying I can empathize. 

Bugs, rodents, unworking plumbing, no livable spaces, room upon room of no walking room …now I can’t get on board with any of THAT

My dad always said to us–the order of your bedroom is a reflection of the order of your mind. I think about that a lot, especially when I am holding something, looking at it, deciding if I should get rid of it. 

Keith rallies for me to let go of things. He’s right. Will I ever watch these VHS movies? I mean seriously. 

Keith arrived in my life during a transition period. I guess I could’ve pretended that I had been healed for months, but that’s not how I am. 

A wound doesn’t heal completely when you keep ripping it open together. And that’s exactly what Demetrius and I did September through January, kept it all ripped open. 

Ripped open through his cheating, through my obsessing, through the separation, through the sleepless nights, through the move, through him pushing me away, through me pushing him away, through him clinging o me…trying to keep hold of some part of me, through me clinging to him…trying to keep hold of some part of him. 

Hard to heal with that much overlap of big life events; it takes a lot of honesty. 

February wasn’t long after all of this. I had been slowly facing the truth, but that doesn’t mean Keith entered my life when I was healed. 

I wasn’t entirely healed, but I wasn’t a broken half-person, desperately looking for someone to fill a void either. I was a complete person in my relationship with God, but still a very hurt person. 

I needed a strong man, who has a kind and understanding heart. Someone I could be completely honest with. 

Someone who could help me understand what to hold onto in my life, and what to let go.