More Than Meets the Eye

I’ve been a brown-eyed girl my whole life.  It says so on my driver’s license.  I’ve danced and sung the words to Van Morrison’s Brown-Eyed Girl with great fervor at frat parties and bars too numerous to mention.  Yet, interestingly, I never truly believed that that was all there was to it.  In the right light, the right angle; wearing the right color, in the right mood, my eyes are more than just brown.  They are flecked with gold, with green, especially around the edge.  I know this to be true, as I’ve stared intently in the mirror at them numerous times in my life.
Yet when asked, I say my eyes are brown. 
Those who know me, and love me, will tell you my eyes are brown.
And so I say:  perception is an interesting thing.  It brings us around, often, to what we deem our reality – even when it isn’t truth.
I had an eye appointment earlier in the year.  I was back and forth a million times because of issues with my contact lenses, to see a new doctor in the practice.  She was always lovely and kind and one day, as she peered at me, she said, “You have the most lovely hazel-colored eyes.” 

There it was.  Truth, from one who looks into people’s eyes for a living.  I smiled inwardly and thanked her for the compliment.  And interestingly, this has stayed with me.  I’ve wondered why it is that no one seemed to notice this in all my years of life.  Did they just assume I knew?  That I believed?  Or were they simply not looking at me, at the real me?  It’s easier to categorize when you can be lumped in with a larger group than smaller; that becomes the default.  You’re brunette or blonde or a redhead.  You’re black, white, brown.  You’re tall or short; fat or thin.  But really, in everything, there is so much more than meets the eye.
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Book Review: Me Before You

I love to read.

My dad has always been an avid reader;  I truly cannot recall an evening he did not have a book in his hands at some point my entire life.  According to family lore, he tried to read me Moby Dick as a bedtime story when I was small and my mom worked nights.  I’m pretty sure that didn’t end well and I don’t believe I’ve read it to this day. I was much more of a Where The Wild Things Are type of child and remain so today.

Reading has always been a sort of refuge for me, and a strong connector to others.  If you know me in real life, you know that one thing I value over most everything is a great discussion – not a debate, not an argument, for I am most decidedly non-confrontational (unless adequately provoked and therefore on the defense.)  I’m always wildly interested in others viewpoints and ideas, and moreover how they came to have them based on their personal stories and experiences.  That, in itself, is truly what colors our world.  We have no opinions or thoughts or ideas that exist in a void.  They all harken back to some part of our story as a whole.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the greatest things I’ve done since the Big Move was to setup a book club. Through it, I’ve met some really wonderful people, many of whom I already consider dear friends.  The beauty of the book club, what has really resonated with me and hopefully with others, is simply the discussion.  Honestly, some months we discuss the given book more often than others.  But our one and only “rule” of book club is that all are welcome, whether they have read the book or not – because we always have wonderful conversations about books in general.  I cannot count how many times one or another or even several of us have pulled out our phones or notebooks to jot down the name of an author or book title after hearing it praised at book club.  My GoodReads certainly is always longer by the end of the night and for that, I’m always thankful.

I also participate in a little online book club with three of my girlfriends I grew up with.  They, along with my other voracious reader friends, are a wealth of knowledge on what to read and have given me opportunities to try books I’d never have considered on my own.

And so we finally come to the point of this post.  I’ve tossed around the idea of posting book reviews for some time now.  While the idea is appealing, I’ve gone back and forth on it (as I’m apt) more times than I can count.  But here is the bottom line:  I think there is value in it and so I shall.  There won’t be any rhyme or reason to how, when or what I post.  I can’t come up with any kind of fancy alliteration such as Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday or Whackadoodle Wednesday or some such, and so it shall just be so.  I’ll do my best to refrain from spoilers whenever able and merely provide the basics of the plot.  If it makes you try a new title or seek out an author you’ve never read;  if it makes you, even for a moment, escape out of your busy life into someone else’s; if it just makes you think about something you’d never really thought of before – then it is probably worth it.

And so here we are.  I’ve had Me Before You by JoJo Meyers on my to-read list for some time but lately, I haven’t really been reading.  I’m not sure what that is about, likely a symptom of other things going on in my life.  There’s also been a degree to which I haven’t wanted to read because I’ve been very busy and I know that once I begin a good book, I don’t want to put it down and if I have to, I become somewhat petulant. Anyway, my friend made such a strong case for the book, I downloaded it over the weekend and began it last night around bedtime.  I ended up staying up until my Kindle’s battery went dead – yes, really – and finished the book this morning.  I was almost immediately caught up in the lives of the characters – their personalities, their foibles, their struggles, their authenticity.  Sometimes, characters on the periphery are made out to be simply one dimensional:  good or bad.  Throughout, even they were shown to be multi-faceted and that just added to my enjoyment of the depth of the main characters.

I won’t give much away in terms of plot but will suffice to say this:  it focuses on Louisa Clark, an unassuming girl from an unassuming family who loses her safe and very unassuming job at a cafe after six years.  In her effort to find something else quickly, she ends up being hired on as a companion for a young quadriplegic man for six months.  While they get off to a rocky start, as their relationship grows and develops, it changes both of their lives in unexpected ways.

There was a time in my life when I expected happy endings.  Now, I place more value on a story that is true, that is real, that is honest, regardless of the ultimate outcome.  When a happy ending is the outcome, I’m rarely saddened, don’t get me wrong, but I also know that that isn’t always the way of the world. You’ll have to read this one to see into which category it ultimately falls – and I can assure you, it will keep you guessing until the final pages.

Happy reading!

Over the Rainbow Bridge

My 18 year old cat, Ramona, went over the Rainbow Bridge on Thursday evening.  She had been failing for a long time;  every day was a struggle for her.  It was time.  But none of that makes it any easier.

I’ve always loved animals and Ramona was my first real pet as a “grown up”.  I remember going with a coworker to pick a kitten from her friend’s cat’s litter and just falling in love.  That night, my friend Liz came over and we laid on my living room rug playing with this little black and white ball of fur, trying to pick the perfect name for her.  We decided it should be literary…and ended up with Ramona of Beezus and Ramona fame.  It suit her perfectly.  
As a little kitten, she’d take a flying leap and hang from my patio screen.  She’d run around my small apartment at full speed, up and over furniture, onto the windowsills and around again.  In her quieter moments, she’d lay on my chest and purr her little heart out.  She would always lick my hand when I pet her and when I didn’t wake up in a timely fashion, she’d tap me on the cheek with her paw.  She loved her mama and her mama loved her.
She was with me the majority of my adult life.  She saw boyfriends and friends come and go, and the addition of two other kittens to our home.  She moved with me four times, the most recent to our current home five and  a half hours away from everything we had ever known.  I worried so much about moving the other two but not Ramona.  I knew she would just settle in for the ride, content in knowing that I would take good care of her. And I did as I tried my best to her whole life.  As she got older, we struggled through years of twice daily insulin injections (which I never thought I’d be able to do but I had to) and then twice daily medication for thyroid problems.  There were a few times when I thought I’d lose her but she always fought through.  She was a trooper, through and through, until the very end.  
To say I am sad would be an understatement.  It’s so hard to say goodbye.  I posted the pictures above on Facebook on Thursday evening and one comment stood out to me:  it simply said, “I’m sorry you lost your friend.”  That’s it in a nutshell.   
You are missed, sweet girl.  I love you. And I’ll see you on the other side.

Why I Don’t Give Anything Up for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the liturgical calendar.  Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that, in my estimation, was designed by the church to help prepare people’s hearts and spirits for Easter.  It is a time of reflection on the sacrifice of Jesus and a study of the last days of his ministry on earth.

Growing up in a non-churchgoing home, this was all a very foreign concept to me.  As a resident of a very Pennsylvania Dutch area, I understood the concept of Fat Tuesday and the beauty of the fasnacht.

Source:  http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/21/happy-fasnacht-day/

I knew that this time kicked off something called Lent and that many of my friends would be giving things up for a 40 day period…things like watching their favorite TV show, soda, chocolate, candy and various other things.  I also knew that some friends couldn’t eat meat on Fridays throughout Lent.  But all of that wrapped up on Good Friday (which I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why it was called that when Jesus died that day…but that’s a post for about 38 days from now!) and then we’d all get a visit from the Easter bunny and eat lots of candy and have a big dinner with our families.

When I started attending a non-denominational church in my late 20s, Lent was still a bit of a foreign concept.  We focused our attention Sundays on studying Jesus’ last days and often were given supplemental readings to do throughout the period. Some larger local non-denoms offered a Good Friday service, so I’d sometimes attend.  While I came to understand the fasting or giving up component of Lent a bit better, I didn’t feel like that was the right way for me to approach it.  While I understand that giving up something I love, like chocolate, is difficult, I couldn’t get it to align with a true sacrifice in my mind.

That said, I still wanted to do something that would reflect the solemnity of the time period and allow me to focus on something other than my usual selfish self.  In doing some reading and talking with respected friends who share my faith, I decided that adding something rather than taking away something would be a good way for me to center myself during the 40 days of Lent.  This year will be no different.  As in the past, I’ve chosen to exercise each of the 40 days.  To some, this may not seem like a big deal, nor may it seem to fit with the Lenten plans of others.  But for me, this is a challenge for many reasons.  I am too easily able to justify not making my own healthy and well-being a priority.  I fall prey too often to taking care of others and other things before myself.  And frankly, I don’t LIKE exercise. I’d much rather lie on the couch eating bon bons (whatever those are but they sound wildly delicious.  And chocolaty.)  And so my focus becomes about focus.  It becomes about sacrificing that which might not be the best for me to something better.  It becomes about respecting the body that I was given and remembering that it is entrusted to me for this time.  It becomes about something more than simple exercise, and gives me yet another small reason to stop and give thanks for all that has been given to me.

Why Can’t Every Day Be a Snow Day?

The term “snow day” took on a whole different meaning when I was a kid.  For the most part, it meant fun, friends, sledding, snowman building and hot chocolate.  It might mean daytime tv and reading, too.

I had my third snow day of this season today and it meant work.  What a bummer that realization was and always is.  Being a “grown up” stinks sometimes!  On the bright side, between today and a few hours I was in the office on Saturday in anticipation of today’s wintry mix, I’m in a much better place workload-wise than I’d be otherwise.  The laundry is done and I had time to make a real breakfast and a healthy lunch for myself.  And I guess there is something to be said for that.  I’d much rather have been relaxing and/or having fun, don’t get me wrong – but the peace I’m feeling right now is worth it…and I have the whole evening ahead of me to do whatever I’d like.

It’s days like this that I wonder why it’s so hard to incorporate some of my “snow day” into my every day.  I’m not as busy here as I was in my previous life (by any stretch) but I still find myself rushed a lot of time, with tasks piling up and threatening to overwhelm me.  I try to jam errands and cleaning and the like into the weekend, along with any fun I try to mandate for my life and sometimes it is just…a lot.

Yet the bottom line is this:  we all get the same 24 hours in a day, nothing more and nothing less – snow day or not.  It matters what we do with it, how we use it, and sometimes even more importantly, how we don’t. What if, instead of running around crazily all weekend, I tried to spread my errands out throughout the week?  What if instead of doing marathon laundry on a Sunday night when I should instead be preparing for the week ahead, I did a load of wash every night?  What if I turned off the tv and did a quick “swish & swipe” (thank you, Flylady!) in the kitchen on a Monday night after HIMYM?  What if I pledged to myself that I would make breakfast a sacred time, at least a few days a week?  Or decided that 9 PM was the witching hour for electronics each night?

What if, what if.  It’s all a balancing act, to see what works and what doesn’t but as with anything – isn’t it worth a try?