George Joseph (Or it’s Not 1999)

It’s 2019 now. I realize this isn’t news to anyone — I’m merely pointing out that 1999 was 20 years ago.

Also?

Prince’s single (and album) by the same name will turn 37 this year.

Now that we’re all thoroughly depressed and feeling terribly old… want to hear what I did this NYE?

I rang in the New Year on my couch watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with both of my Boxers snoring on my legs.

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OK, maybe only Georgie was using my person as a pillow, but you get the idea.

I had planned to make myself a lovely filet mignon, but I was so tired by the time I got home from work that I settled for broccoli, champagne, and Trader Joe’s gouda mac and cheese. (I saved the steak for another night.)

We snuggled as the dogs watched their namesakes do battle with evil.

On the topic of namesakes, this is now going to be a terrible segue to the origin of Georgie’s name. (I did promise that story here after all….)

OBVIOUSLY, Albus was named for the greatest Headmaster of Hogwarts of all time, and I have frequently thought he should have a little Harry Potter as a buddy.

When I met the new nugget, I knew pretty quickly he wasn’t a Harry, however.

We spent 12 hours together before I dubbed him “George.”

After careful observation, his spunk and spirit reminded me of George Weasley. (George is one half of the Weasley Twin Duo who wreaked havoc at Hogwarts and went on to create their own joke shop.)

His middle name, Joseph, is a sadder story I’m afraid.

Shortly after rescuing George, I learned that my dad’s youngest brother James Joseph had passed away fairly unexpectedly.

His neighbor visited his home in hopes of borrowing a tool. The neighbor knocked on the door repeatedly and received no response. It had been snowing in their Northern Michigan town, and he observed there weren’t any footprints outside my Uncle Jim’s home.

When his persistent knocking proved fruitless, he contacted the local authorities. Officers arrived on the scene to find my dad’s youngest brother dead in his bead. He had died peacefully of natural causes.

While a peaceful death is always preferable to a painful or contracted one, death is still difficult for those left behind. I wanted to honor my Uncle Jim and felt that George should share the same middle name.

I don’t have human kids, after all so it seemed like the right thing to do. Plus my Uncle Jim was an animal lover.

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George Joseph means business.

I think my Uncle Jim would be proud to share a name with him.

 

I’m Not Afraid to Play (Or Fearless Creativity Forever)

This morning the dogs and I went on our old Hollywood Hills hike. It has been a long time since we set foot on those familiar trails, but it felt like time today. After our jaunt, we walked over to my favorite rock in the park. I’ve had many epiphanies while sitting in silence there, and it’s a comforting ritual.

While we sat listening to the rustling sounds of nature, a Native American man began singing tribal chants from a nearby hilltop. What his voice lacked in pure melodic beauty, he certainly made up for in fearlessness and passion, and that’s what drew me in.

Dogs on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Albus was super into the Native American singing. Woodley was super into her stick. #typical

I was a little lost in thought when our hiking buddy Bradley and his dog Romeo approached us.

“How are you?” I asked, finally looking over at them.

“Well, I’m not singing from a mountaintop this morning, but I’m alright,” he replied.

We both laughed for a moment before I said, “We probably should sing from mountaintops. I bet it would be good for us.”

“Probably,” Bradley said nodding in agreement.

We listened for a little longer before I let Albus off his leash so he could run around with Romeo. The boys took off after one another at breakneck speed, and we laughed again while we watched our pups run, punch, and play with joyous abandon. (Unaffected by it all, Woodley continued to covetously gnaw on her stick.)

After our friends went home, the dogs and I stayed longer to listen to the chanting. (Still, Woodley chewed.)

Stick Chewing Spaniel on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Get that stick, Woods. Just get it.

As the man sang, I thought about my late stepbrother, Noah. He had a deep and abiding love for Native American culture and attended many tribal gatherings over the years.

When we lose people we love, I think we look for signs they still exist somewhere else. We want to feel like they’re with us even though they’re not physically standing by our sides. I felt a little of that this morning as the man sang. I felt a little like Noah was out there somewhere, listening with me.

It felt nice.

I think it’s good to focus on those comforting feelings and not just the feelings of loss. Sometimes, though, I’m like Woodley and I get so intent on my stick (read: accomplishing goals/crossing items off my to-do list) that I fail to notice the joy around me. I get so wrapped up in perfection or what’s missing that I don’t see the good in my life. This sort of focus on lack makes me more fearful, less open, and less loving.

Losing Noah has somehow unlocked something in me that makes me want to shed the tyranny of fear. It makes me want to seek love.

It makes me want to dwell less on what I’ve lost and more on the joy that love brings instead.

I mean, just look at Noah and Grandpa:

Noah and Bumpa on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I want to dwell on the joy they brought while they were here. Also? I like to imagine them drag racing angels in some treelined corner of heaven ‘cuz that image makes me happy.

So anyway, what all of this has led me to believe is this: People really need to let go of fear and just love more, play more, and create more.

And by people, I mean adults.

As kids we loved more easily, played more freely, and we created without fear.

Like the playful pups and the man this morning with the less than perfect pitch, we were unfraid. We didn’t care if our art was bad. We made it anyway. Even if it was only a macaroni necklace for our mom, we proudly presented it like it was a Paloma Picasso. Somewhere along the way, though, we started to believe our art didn’t measure up. We started to believe WE didn’t measure up. We got fearful about our creations, about our feelings, about ourselves, and about life.

Everyone has their own story, but the underlying, unifying truth is that many of us lost our carefree creativity and our playfulness somewhere along the way. Maybe it happened at puberty when everything got tangled up and confusing — when all of our “creative” energy was directed at fighting the urge to make babies instead of art. Maybe it happened long before. It doesn’t matter when it happened. It doesn’t matter why. It just matters that we get it back.

So today I’m creating… without judgment, without fear… and with Legos.

See?

Legos and the Importance of Playing: Dogs Dishes and Decor

A large dog may have gone Godzilla on this situation once or twice today, but I’m not mad about it.

That’s my today: Legos. I’ll get to “I love you,” later.

May my creativity (and yours) come from a fearless place forevermore. And may my life (and yours) be lived lovingly and fearlessly… forevermore.

There’s no fear in love, folks.

None.

John Lennon said so… and so did that one Apostle guy.

#love

Blast the Billy Ocean and Create (Or Carrot Cupcakes for Noah)

Guys, it’s time for my Billy Ocean Pandora station. I can’t wallow anymore. I’m no good to anyone — particularly myself — if I’m wallowing.

Sure it’s important to feel your feelings. And yeah we need to acknowledge loss and embrace the sadness, but we also have to pick ourselves up and do our damn dishes… get off our couches and dance in our kitchens.

Tuesday and Wednesday seriously sucked. I’m not going to lie. I cried. So much. I still made myself go to yoga, church, business meetings and whatnot. But between those things? I cried. So much, in fact, that I could hardly wear my contacts because I screwed up the ph of my eyes. So I decided to start Thursday by hiking with my long lost Suzie who is finally back from Iran. Determined to stay in a good place, I’m now blasting Billy Ocean and blogging.

See, Billy Ocean makes me smile — and Suzie inspired me to create. Because she’s brilliant, she pointed out the importance of creating instead of consuming. (Creating has transformative potential for our souls and stuff.) So I’m doing that. I’m creating… this blog post.

Ta da!

And in this blog post? I’m giving you the inspiration to create carrot cupcakes. I made them for Noah’s memorial because my mom couldn’t find cupcakes she liked anywhere in East Lansing.

People loved them and stuff.

Carrot cupcakes from Dogs Dishes and Decor #carrot #cupcakes #fall

Oh, and for further inspiration, here’s the Billy Ocean song that’s making me smile today.

Crank it up and bake yourself some carrot cupcakes. Put frosting all over the pain and then give it all away. And by “all” I mean the pain and the baked goods; there’s no sense in getting fat because bad things are happening.

Just saying…

Noah’s Carrot Cupcakes

2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 C crushed pineapple, drained
2 C finely grated carrots
1 C shredded coconut
1 C chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside. Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture. Fold in the pineapple, carrots, coconut, and walnuts. Stir in the vanilla.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely and top them with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 C confectioners’ sugar (or to desired consistency)

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

The recipe makes about 24 cupcakes, so you’ll have a lot to give away.

Keep Swinging, Cupcake (Or I’m Coping)

I leave for Michigan in three days. During the seven days I’ll spend with my family we’ll say goodbye to my 31-year old stepbrother and celebrate my grandmother’s 87th.

I’m making cupcakes for both occasions. Carrot for Noah’s memorial. And lemon for my grandma’s birthday.

I have to admit it took me a long time to pick out the appropriate cupcake liners this morning. After basically swapping life stories with sweet Ben at Sur la Table, I selected these for Noah.

Fall cupcake liners from Sur la Table on Dogs Dishes and Decor

They seemed right somehow.

Then I did the thing I’ve been saying I’d do.

One way to cope with grief. Dogs Dishes and Decor

I went to the batting cages. By myself.

And I absolutely ripped about 60 softballs all over the Burbank Bat Cade. I can’t bring Noah back. I can’t ask for one more day so I’d have a chance to tell him I loved him. But I can keep swinging at life.

I can bake him cupcakes and hope he’s looking down from heaven smiling his big smile as he watches us eat them.

And maybe when I’m back? I’ll take up boxing…

‘cuz I’m gonna go one more round.

#love

Radio Silence Repeat (Or Another Loss Almost Knocks Me Down)

I have been absent for a month. I know. I know….

I have had some lovely adventures with people I adore. And I have so much happiness to share with you: About tailgates. And babies. And blue cheese potato salad.

But today?

I’m reeling. Again.

My stepbrother passed away on Sunday. And I’m bracing myself for another trip home with a black dress in my bag. The deaths in my mother’s family have been swift and vicious — and almost without warning.

Even so?

There is beauty in loss. There is hope. There is a silver lining. And I will share all of that in time. I promise.

But right now?

I give you this.

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Noah’s smile.

The world is so much dimmer now without it.

As I struggle to find my footing, as I look for inspiration and humor, I find comfort in unlikely places. Like signs on sidewalks…

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The author of Winnie the Pooh says things. Profound things.

And also in the obvious place I go when all else is lost (and even when it’s not)….

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

I’ve felt God’s presence in this grief, and he’s only starting to reveal himself… and his healing. More on that another time.

(I don’t mean to preach, by the way. We all have our ways of coping. I respect yours. This is mine.)

I Just Can’t Talk About Elephants (Or I Admit I’m Sad)

Right now I want to talk to you about this.

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It’s the elephant themed baby shower I threw for one of my closest friends.

And I kind of want to talk to you about this whole situation.

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Both the meaning of what’s on my wall and the massive home “to do” list next to it… but right now?

I just can’t.

Instead, I want to talk to you vulnerability. Yuck, I know. Totally monstrous. But hear me out.

About two weeks ago, I got into a car accident on my way to a nail appointment. I was all lost in my head about 14 different things (per usual), running late (always) and particularly stressed out about the being late part. See, the mani/pedi was a gift from my aunt and it was with her manicurist of 20 years. I am BY FAR the most disorganized, air headed person in my entire family, and I feel like I’m always letting them down with my general tardiness and scatterbrainity. (I should mention I was also three months overdue in scheduling said appointment.)

So anyway, I was checking my phone to see how far away I was when I crashed into the back of a Lexus. So that sucked. I had been planning to call the manicurist to tell her I was going to be 5-10 minutes late. Instead I had to call her and admit I’d just crashed into an LS 400 and was going to be more like 30 minutes late. None of this was awesome… and it’s only the beginning of my story.

The next morning I had to have this conversation with a guy that I was simply dreading, but I knew running away from it was a far worse option, so I made myself call. After leaving a message for him, I talked to my mother and she started telling me things that are going on with my family in Michigan that made me simultaneously devastated and relieved that I live 2500 miles away. (I will not get into it here because they are not my stories to tell. Suffice it to say, you would not wish any of it on your worst enemy.) She also said I should call my grandmother because her sister in Canada had just suffered a massive stroke. While this would be devastating news in and of itself, it’s only a fraction of what my grandmother is actually enduring. See, when Greta passes away, she will be grandmother’s third sister to die in two years. In those two years my grandmother has buried her husband of 67 years and her 25 year-old grandson.

I cannot even begin to fathom this sometimes.

I usually call my grandma on Sundays to chat but called her immediately to cheer her up. The guy called me back as I was wrapping up with my grandma, and I had the conversation I was afraid to have. By the end of it all, I felt like I had just gone 15 rounds with Ivan Drago hitting me in the face. And the thing is?

There was nothing I could do about any of it. Nothing at all.

So I blasted Macklemore, made some soup, and danced in my kitchen. See, that’s usually how I deal with life. I dance. I do nice things for other people instead of asking them to help me. I cover shit with glitter, making it look all cute and fancy. I throw elaborate dinner parties where I flit around like a cheerful little bird in high heels.

And usually?

I smile when I want to scream.

Part of the reason I’ve been so absent from my blog is not just that I was working on a huge project for the Oscars that was taking all of my time. It was also because my usual I’m-happy-everything’s-fine routine has been feeling really false since my cousin committed suicide in November.

Most of the time I’m the dependable drone who puts her head down and gets the job done no matter what it costs her. Whether it means sacrificing sleep, my social life, or my sanity, I just do it. I’m the kind of person you want around in a crisis. I’m focused. I’m in command. And I’m moving 100 miles an hour. The problem for me is when the crisis ends. Or worse yet, when there isn’t a resolution for it at all.

What then?

I used to go the batting cages and absolutely beat the ever loving shit out of balls flying at my face when I was upset. It was a way I could deal with the rage I felt about the things I couldn’t fix. And today I’m close to picking up a bat and swinging at balls until I can’t lift my arms again. The problem with this option is that the guy who used to take me is 2800 miles away, married with two kids, and prepping for a huge trial. And I could go alone, but right now going to the batting cages without him might just be another reminder of everything in my life that is gone.

I was in Costco this morning (again with low blood sugar – WHY do I do this to myself?!?) and I was close to having a screaming fit because I couldn’t find the peanut butter or the V-8. I wanted to scream “WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU PUT THE FUCKING SKIPPY, YOU ASSHOLES? I’M STARVING AND I WANT TO PUT ALL OF THE FUCKING PEANUT BUTTER IN NORTH AMERICA INTO MY FUCKING CART AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!”

But I didn’t do that. My WASP roots prevailed and instead I silently, stoically, and methodically went up and down the aisles suppressing my rage until I found the Skippy stash. I did this when I wanted to go absolutely postal.

See, it’s easier to really let go and scream about the things that don’t matter like 32 pounds of peanut butter. It somehow hurts less to get upset about Skippy than the things that are really tearing you apart. It’s easier to scream “Where’s the stupid Skippy?” when you really want to scream, “Why was I up so late working that I missed my chance to say goodbye to one of the most important men in my life?” “Why did my cousin have to hang himself over a couple of bad grades?” and “Why does every company or project have to fold, get sold, or come to an end when I’m finally getting back on my feet?”

Why?

And the truth is, it doesn’t matter. Finding an answer to all the “whys” doesn’t solve anything anyway. Sitting with the pain does. Leaning into the pain instead of running from it — that’s the work. Telling someone how bad it really feels? That’s what matters. So I’m starting here. I’m admitting it here.

I’ve spent most of my life being strong. For myself. For others. And I think maybe what I’m learning is that in life…

You have to be strong enough to break.

Because that’s where the real healing starts.

Now you should totally watch this TED talk because it’s all kinds of amazing, and Brene Brown is much smarter than I am.

I’m off to blast Rebecca Black’s Friday because I can’t sit with the pain for too long. I need to dance in my kitchen. And maybe? I also need to channel some Ivan Drago and take up boxing… because no matter how hard it gets, I’m never going to stop swinging.