Monthly Archives: May 2014

E is for earrings. Earrings from Esther.

Getting my ears pierced was a huge deal to me. HUGE!

My mom took me to Meijer’s (and yes, I know it’s Meijer not Meijer’s, but I’m from Michigan and therefore allowed to make the names of stores arbitrarily possessive) on Carpenter Road to get it done. The woman we paid was Indian and she had a piercing in her nose— I remember being super impressed by that, but also very, very happy with my ears.

My mom and I timed the piercing so that I could take out the studs and put in my first pair of new, real deal earrings on the first day of kindergarten. We even ordered special gem stone earrings from Avon for the occasion– one pair deep green-turquoise and the other a deep yellowy-orange.  I think I wore the green ones on the first day of school, and man was I ever proud of them.

You know who else was proud of them? My Great Grandma V,  Esther Van der Voort.(although as far as I was concerned “Grandma” was her first name). She lived a few miles from us in Sumpter Township and we used to go there a lot to eat a bucket of KFC in the breakfast nook, look at old pictures, and snack on Windmill cookies. (Mmmm… I still get cravings for Windmill cookies.)

To my Grandma V (yes, she was my mom’s grandma, my great grandma, but we always just said “grandma” and I’m not going to belabor the “great” part at this point in my life) having my ears pierced was an awesome right of passage and something to be celebrated. Every time we came to her house after that, she would give me a little baggie full of earrings from her own collection– how I treasured those!

Truthfully, part of it may have been her participation in the taunting of my sister that I treasured so much… “You know, Abby, you could have earrings too if you would get your ears pierced.” I’m a real sucker for teasing my sister (so sorry, sweet darling, Shabsky Balu– you know I love you, ardently (look it up)).

I must have been in first or second grade when I started bugging my parents for a second piercing. It was obviously out of the question at the time, but they told me I could get one when I started 6th grade.

Ladies and gentlemen, an elephant never forgets.

The second 5th grade was over, I was back to begging. (Please note that this was around the time of the hair, so you can imagine it was relatively easy for them to give in to something that might make me just a bit more satisfied with my appearance.)

Ultimately, my mom and dad relented (good call, parental units), and by the time I was in 8th grade, I had three piercings in each ear and was jonesing for a cartilage piercing… which I got two of when I was in high school.*

Even now, at 30 years old, I still love, love, love my earrings. I feel completely naked without them. So naked that I pretty much just leave them in always and rarely ever change them. Three sterling silver hoops in each ear, one more in the cartilage on the right. It’s my look… my thing… what makes me feel comfortable.

On special occasions, I slip into the big, creamy pearl studs that Seth got me with two smaller pairs of chocolate pearls or two other pairs of diamond studs. Those always make me feel special, too.

Some people dye their hair, wear crazy make up, get their nails done regularly, get tattoos– most people, women especially, have a signature thing. My thing (besides this crazy curly mess on my head– raise the roots!, and this square-jawed robot head… my thing that I can control, anyway…) is most certainly my earrings. And likely always will be. Earrings never go out of style after all. And even if they did… like I would care!

Much thanks to my Grandma V. No matter how old and cranky, arthritic and drug-dependent (sadly), she became, there was no ruining my memory of her– her big cheeks, hearty laugh, multi-colored bingo markers, beautiful tea cup sets, and the earrings that slowly became mine.


*Later, my new-ish boyfriend Seth would literally rip both cartilage piercings out of my ear. It hurt. A lot. But I missed them. So I got one of them re-done with a gift certificate his parents got me for Christmas. Earrings 🙂


D is for my diggity dog!

Did you know that I have a dog?


This must be the first time we’ve met. Because I do have one. And I love her… so much that I talk about her constantly. Even more than Harry Potter, the Civil War, and dinosaurs combined.

(That’s a lot.)

My dog is a double doodle– her mom was a golden doodle (golden retriever plus poodle), her dad was a labradoodle (labrador retriever plus poodle). So, ultimately, our designer mutt is half poodle, one quarter lab, and one quarter golden. 100% perfection 🙂

Curly 4

We kind of stumbled across the double doodle breed accidentally. My sister has a golden doodle named Grizzly that Seth and I are absolutely in love with, but Seth has always really wanted a lab. A quick Google search after jokingly mentioning a triple mix (and my mom’s serious question– how would they even do that???) revealed that it wasn’t actually a joke at all and we got real serious about finding one of these sweet pups to bring into our home.

The second we put an offer on a house, we applied for a puppy. We were ready!

Curly was born in southern Illinois on August 13, 2012 and came to live with us in October. I was in love with her from the very first picture the breeder sent. Her happy little face was just too much and I just love her more and more and more every day!

Curly 6

I used to think dogs were cool. That it would be nice to have one and that puppies sure were cute.

Now that I have one of my own, though? Dogs… are… everything!

Everything that is good and happy and sweet and fun and loving, and, and, and…

Curly 5

After the cat I grew up with (Callie) passed away, my parents got a dog. It was a total surprise and likely the result of my mom wandering off in a pet store and leaving my dad to his own devices. Oscar just showed up one day, completely out of the blue, and it was an absolute shock… but we were delighted.

(Side note: Oscar was not the name I would have chosen. So I call him Shobsky, because that’s what his name would have been if it had been my choice. But it wasn’t. So technically it’s Oscar, but he responds just as well to Shobsky if I use the right tone of voice.)

Unfortunately, Oscar didn’t come into our family until I was a junior in high school and I was very self-centered at the time and unable to really appreciate the doginess of our dog. I didn’t really get it.

Then we got Curly. And now I super get it.

Curly 3

My Curly girl is everything to me. I absolutely adore her and her sweet face. Everything she does is just so cute to me. She hangs with me when I’m depressed and gets excited with me when I’m happy. She’s such a trooper.

And Curly made me better at being around all dogs. I truly love them all now, even the grumpy old ones like my Oscar. I used to get nervous, I thought licking was super gross, and I was always a little bit uncomfortable. Not anymore!

Now, I can barely restrain myself from petting ALL the dogs. All of them. Every last one. And I thank puppies for licking me– “oh, so sweet! thank you for the kisses!! thank you!” And I’m much more comfortable with my dog than without. With any dog, though. I truly do love them all!

Believe it or not, Curly even made me love my husband MORE. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved him a whole heck of a lot since like 2002, but the way he interacts with my Curls leaves me absolutely enamored… all I can do is smile at those two. It’s like all of my heart is there before my eyes.

Curly and Seth

Life with my sweet, and somewhat troubled, dog has also shown me that I can handle anything– good times and bad, happiness and stress, the calm of uber-sedation and the cray cray of visitors. All of it. I can handle it. Because it’s totally worth it.

So as long as we’re hear, chatting about my Curly girl, how about a little update?

Curly 2

Seth and I took Curls to Madison for a follow-up last Monday. Granted, we’d had two visits to the emergency vet in the interim because the little punk can’t resist chewing on her cast, but those were relatively minor issues. On Monday, they removed the last bits of the fixator and now she’s just got a hard splint from toe to hip. She’s doing well, we’re feeling nervous. Her bone is essentially swiss cheese now that the pins are removed and we’ve lost our security blanket. Our next, and hopefully last, appointment is on June 11th. They anticipate removing everything at that point and we’re hoping to work out just some sort of temporary bracing situation for when she might need a little extra support (on walks, when people come over, when playing in the yard). So far so good and all signs suggest that things are going just about as well as they could possibly be going given the state of her knee when we started. It’s certainly not normal, but we’re on the right track. The best news is that even if this surgery fails completely, she’ll never be worse than she was before she started– in fact probably a little better considering they removed a bone chip that had come off of her patella and a wire that was just floating around in there doing nothing. So… win-win? A little?

Curly 1

C is for my long lost boyfriend, Joshua Chamberlain.

Quick: if you could bring back any Civil War hero as your boyfriend, who would it be?!

(You’ve got to answer quickly if you want to answer honestly!)


My Civil War boyfriend would be Joshua Chamberlain. Obviously.


I know what you’re thinking. But you’re wrong. I love him for way more than just his sweet ‘stache. That’s only part of it.

Joshua Chamberlain commanded the Union’s Twentieth Maine Regiment and defended his position at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. But rewind a little bit and you’ll find that this brilliant, brave, and selfless military man started off as a humble professor from the state of Maine who volunteered for the Union Army and then worked his way up to command his regiment, despite being offered command from the get-go– you see, it was more important to him that he learn the ropes and do things properly than it was to feed his ego and be in command. Swoon, right?

Grad school was full of ups and downs (and valleys and trenches…), but for certain, one of the best parts of the whole 6 years was the weekend I had the opportunity to go to Gettysburg and stay a weekend at a local bed and breakfast with Seth and my parents. It was… heaven.

At the Keystone Inn in Gettsyburg, PA-- the location was perfect and the breakfast oh so good!
At the Keystone Inn in Gettsyburg, PA– the location was perfect and the breakfast oh so good!

Ok… it was heaven for me. I may have overdone it on the history cray cray by forcing mi familia  to listen to the entire guided CD as we drove our way through the historic battle grounds. I also made them stop at ev-er-y-thing. I couldn’t help it!

They humored me for most of the day, and really let me take my time when we finally made it to Little Round Top… and to the monument to the Twentieth Maine.

monument to 20th maine

The names of all of the brave men who defended that hill “at all hazard” were listed on the other side.

Including Joshua Chamberlain ;)
Including Joshua Chamberlain 😉

It was unreal to be there. To see the hill the men charged down with bayonets fixed after running out of ammunition. (They freaking ran out of ammunition and charged at the other guys with knives on a stick!) To imagine the chaos, the bravery, the courage, the fear, the utter insanity of that day.

Then, no joke, just to really hammer the point home, I felt a sharp pain in my foot and when I looked down there was a FREAKING BEE stuck in my toe by its stinger and I literally had to pull it out of my foot.

Ok, that was actually on Big Round Top overlooking Devil’s Den, but my mind was still on Chamberlain and Little Round Top all the while.

After my Chamberlain experience, my parents and Seth humored me once more through Devil’s Den, the orchard, and the wheat field before they’d really just had enough. We kind of skipped through to the fish hook at the end of the line and then headed back to the Keystone. I got to see Little Round Top– that was enough for me.

Joshua Chamberlain survived the war and went on to achieve great things, including serving as the governor of Maine for several years. And he had a wife named Fanny, but that was all whatevs.

(Kidding, I’m sure she was absolutely lovely.)

While I was reading the Shaara Civil War trilogy that I’ve told you all so much about, I pretty much talked about it non-stop (yes, even more than I’m talking about it here). It was actually my friend Tammy, who knows a lot about everything (literally everything, PhD-educated neuroscientist who has devoted her current life to the care of soldiers returning from war with traumatic brain injury, oh and she also installed the putting green at the White House and developed the science curriculum for her son’s middle school… everything) who actually pointed out that Joshua Chamberlain was totally my Civil War boyfriend. I had to acknowledge the truth in it. A crush on a historical figure? Weird. But I can get on board with that.

Despite all of that, my real live, present day boyfriend… the one who humored me not just through Gettysburg tour, but through all of grad school and beyond… was the real deal and still is to this day.

-- love --
— love —

That’s us together in Gettysburg– do you see him humoring me? So ridiculously much? He doesn’t necessarily get my passions (as usual, read: obsessions) and I don’t necessarily get his (but I’m cool with a 70″ xbox-devoted TV in my basement), but we certainly appreciate those things about each other. What’s life without some passion, after all?

In my life, I’ve had lots of celebrity crushes… no doubt, so have you. And I’m sure we can all agree on Colin Firth, amIright? But Joshua Chamberlain. He’s my weird one. And now you know.

So I bring it back to the original question:

Who’s your Civil War boyfriend???

B was for Beetlejuice, except it’s not. It’s for body image.

B has been a total B. Nagging at me. Not because I didn’t have a B thing to talk about– I wrote a whole post about the movie Beetlejuice! I had a hilarious story to tell about it and it’s a movie I love… but it just didn’t seem right. Beetlejuice is a great movie and everything, but it’s not exactly life changing like Love Actually or Sleepless in Seattle (me and Mindy, rom coms are where it’s at). My heart wasn’t really in it and I didn’t come up with the answer until this morning. Finally!

I spent the day today doing yard work. (After making Sethy some pancakes, of course– half chocolate chip, half blueberry. I’m such a good wife.) I started by mowing the lawn and I had a bit of an audience. Youths!

The park across the street was infested with teenagers! (Infestation = 6ish, right?) Including two bitty little scantily clad girls sunning themselves on a picnic table. Even at the age of 30, nothing (nothing!) makes me more insecure than teenage girls. And this morning was no different.

As I wound my way back and forth and back and forth across the front yard, sweat dripping down my brow, I could have sworn these girls were looking at and laughing about me. One may have even taken a picture. And I found myself trying to figure out what I’d do if I ended up as the newest Internet meme– move over awkward penguin, here comes sweaty muffin-topped lawn mower! NOOOOOO!

Do me a favor and don’t repin that one, ok? No matter how clever or hilarious the saying… pretty please?

In addition, holy cow am I ever narcissistic. And insecure. And disturbingly focused on my body when there are so many other awesome things I could have been focused on– the gorgeous day, the smell of the fresh cut grass, the tulips and rhododendrons blooming, the invigorating exercise I was getting (I love the sneaky kind of exercise you don’t realize you’re doing), etc.

Over the past year or so, I have gained an awful lot of weight. And I’ve kind of been meaning to tell you about that for a while– another unpublished post that just didn’t seem quite right. But the truth is, body image is a big deal to me. And it’s bigness is two fold.

First, your body image is important to me. I truly want you to be happy in your own skin. I want you to know that you are beautiful. And it is crazy important to me that you know that whether you lose 47 pounds or gain 58, I will love you all the same. Your number, your appearance, your body… it’s just there to hold your soul.

Second, my body image is an absolute obsession. And I am not nice. I’m not nice to myself now, at my highest weight, and I was not nice to myself even at my lowest weight. My internal dialogue is so at odds with how I legitimately feel about others, it’s unreal.

I was mean today, but there was a point, a few months ago, when I made some important realizations about my own body… and now that we’re at the letter B, I think I’m ready to share:

Following the death of another friend’s iPhone and combined with our complete inability (read: laziness) to plug our phones in to a computer to back them up, Seth and I broke down and bought space on the iCloud. Automatic back-ups? Yes, please!

To accommodate the huge initial upload of files to the cloud, Seth asked me to spend some time going through my pictures and deleting ones I didn’t want to keep. Fair enough, we’d done a lot of comparison shopping by photo– makes a lot of sense when you need the information, but becomes quite cluttered once you don’t. So before even getting out of bed on one weekend morning, I spent an hour or so flipping through all of the nearly 2,000 pictures I had accumulated since I first got an iPhone in October of 2011.

I was somewhat floored scanning back through all that time by how many pounds I have lost, gained, fluctuated, upped and downed and back again… my weight. Dang. But here’s the thing: no matter how much or how little I weighed in any given picture, every single one of them represents a moment, a memory, something worth hanging on to. And in every single one, I am happy.

Several pounds over several years... but thousands of happy moments!
Several pounds over several years… but thousands of happy moments!

A couple years ago I read a great blog post from someone else (wish I could find it!) about why your weight should never prevent you from taking a picture… explaining that as your weight has nothing to do with your worth as a person, it also has nothing to do with your worthiness of being remembered as part of a moment in time. I think I recently proved that to myself.

Regardless of how I feel about my body, and no matter my pants size, neither my body nor my pants size defines me in any given moment. What defines me is my presence in the experience– with my puppy, with my niece, with my friends, with a donkey… whoever, whatever. It’s the experience that shines.

Honestly, I don’t care at all about what you or anyone else weighs. But I stress about my weight, my size, my appearance a LOT. My photo tour, however, was an hour long, 60 pound tour of why I should stop. Not a single one of those photos means any more or any less because of my size. Intellectually, logically, I know that. Fat, skinny, or just right, whatever that may be, I’ve got a fat heart… and that makes me perfect exactly as I am.

See? I can be nice even to myself on occasion! I can find a place of body image that brings me a sense of peace– and I need to keep flexing that muscle for the purpose of strengthening it, to turn this obsession into something considerably more positive.

B… is for body image.

But because B was also almost for Beetlejuice, I better share my little story, eh?

The movie Beetlejuice came out when I was in preschool. My cousins were in town one weekend and we went to the movie theater to see it. (Trusty old Showcase Cinemas Ann Arbor… how I love(d) thee.) Fortunately for my parents, The Fox and The Hound was also in theaters, so my cousin Spruce and I were taken to that while the big kids got to go see Beetlejuice. Fortunately for me, my cousins all talked about Beetlejuice on the ride home and I got a pretty good sense of what it was about.

My mom got a phone call home from preschool about the appropriateness of the movies she and my dad were allowing me to see the next week. My mom was somewhat surprised– The Fox and The Hound had some difficult material, yes, but it was rated G and she didn’t really feel it was inappropriate. Except I had told everyone at school that I saw Beetlejuice and told them all about it. Because I was a liar. And I really wanted to see Beetlejuice.

(Sorry, mom… and sorry, Mrs. King.)

I didn’t see the actual Beetlejuice movie until many, many years later, but I was absolutely in love with the cartoon version. When I finally saw the movie– omg, it was a revelation! Just brilliant! And I’m still in love with it to this day. In fact, Harry Belafonte’s Jump in the Line (aka shake, shake, shake, senora) is my second favorite* song of all time.



*Second only to Dancing in the Moonlight (everybody!). I don’t know what it is about that song, but I just groove to it every time it comes on because it’s the best. BEST!

A is for Appomattox Court House

You know the scene in Love Actually when Mark confesses his love to Juliet? The Juliet that is married to his best friend? He silently tells Juliet with hand-written signs that to him, she is perfect, and that he will love her for always. And then he walks away. And he says, “Enough. Enough now.” And my heart breaks– every time. Unrequited love, sigh. But at least it was over. Mark said what he needed to say and it was over. Because it’s a movie and not real, what happens after that truly does not matter, but it is my sincere hope that he found another true love; someone who loved him back in the same exact way.


But that’s not my point. Resolution is.

Oh my… how is she ever going to get to Appomattox?

I will. Don’t worry.


I got really into the Civil War for a while. I mean, I still think it’s completely fascinating, but for a while there I was like really far gone. (I don’t have interests per se, I have obsessions.)

My cousin Spruce recommended the Jeff and Michael Shaara father-son Civil War trilogy to me one time. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. Then I couldn’t get it out of my head. Then I went to Gettysburg and was just floored. Absolutely in awe of what that time, that place, that horrific war must have been like. I can’t even imagine… but I try. And scenes tumble around in my brain pretty frequently.

One of the most striking things about my obsession was my complete 180 regarding General Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the confederate forces. Let me explain.

Twice upon a time, long before graduate school, I visited Arlington National Cemetery and learned about the yellow-ish house on the hill that had belonged to Robert E. Lee and his family before the Civil War. I knew little about Lee at the time, except that he’d commanded the Confederate Army, and in my black and white world, that was enough.


Robert E. Lee was a bad man and he deserved to have his land taken away. Better yet, he deserved to have it stand as a symbol of the horrors he wrought– I thought of Arlington National Cemetery as a sort of personal punishment for Lee as a result of his involvement with the Confederacy.

Oy, not so. Not so at all.

Granted, the Shaara trilogy is technically historical fiction, so many of the scenes are imagined, but it’s all based as much as possible in fact, and I learned that Lee was not nearly as one-dimensional, and definitely not as evil, as I had always pictured.

Lee was sick and tired before the war even started. Literally sick (cardiac issues, I believe) and tired of fighting in war after war. He was offered command of the Union Army first, but declined on account of his familial roots in the south and later took up command of the Confederate Army.

The battle details get somewhat fuzzy for me, I’m not good with the names and the dates and the details, but the feelings really stuck with me– the struggle, the futility, the exhaustion. Lee was absolutely sad. He did not like killing and he did not like ordering his men to their death. Yet, he was brilliant at it. And he did it all out of a sense of duty and honor and commitment, the likes of which was unparalleled. I think Lincoln even knew that, and I truly don’t think he held it against Lee personally.

As time wore on and on and the Confederate Army became more and more desperate for resources of every type, including and perhaps most importantly able-bodied men, surrender became inevitable. From what I understand, surrender was inevitable for a while and I can only imagine how painful it must have been for Lee to carry on knowing that every death past that point was for naught. So that brings us to my favorite scene: The surrender of General Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Army, at the Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

Can you even imagine the relief? To know that it’s finally, truly, really over. I have to believe that even though it was surrender and not victory, it was probably past the point of even mattering. All that mattered was that it was over.

Sometimes, just seeing something out, getting to the end, is enough, no matter the outcome.

Both Lee and Grant handled surrender, defeat, and victory incredibly gracefully, in my opinion. I can only imagine the relief they both must have felt at that moment, just to know that the endless fighting could stop.

Have you seen the movie Lincoln? You should– it’s really good. It’s not actually about the Civil War, but rather about Lincoln’s efforts to get the 13th Amendment through Congress. Even though that’s the case, it’s practically impossible to not show the surrender of General Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse before showing the assassination of Lincoln (a mere 5 days later) and that is another respect in which the movie truly does not disappoint– it’s my favorite scene of the whole movie, even though it’s minor. I thought they did such a nice job of capturing the simplicity of the end and the relief felt by everyone.


Really, I’m not trying to relate anything in my life to that moment at Appomattox. And the parallel between the final moments of the Civil War and that scene in Love Actually is weak. But A is actually for Appomattox, and I got there, like I said.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Letter A.

Radio Silence

Remember that time, a couple weeks ago, when I was all “ha ha ha! I made up a funny song about winter and I love the Muppets and Lambchop and stuff…” Remember? To be perfectly honest with you, that was kind of like a desperate attempt at keeping my head above water.

One last gasp before I went down.

And down I went. Into depression, like quicksand.

Too many metaphors, Cho (that’s what my brother used to call me, pacifier hanging out of his mouth, and sometimes I call myself that in my head). Water, sand, sinking, it’s all too much. But none of it’s clear to me either. Because depression is like that.

Suddenly, or perhaps not so suddenly, but eventually, I was unable to muster up the energy necessary to do even basic daily things… forget about writing (for fun– I didn’t want to get fired after all, but even writing at work was hard). I mostly just sat around, laid around, moped around. For quite a while.

Things are back on the up and up, the sun is shining a bit more often, some of my flowers are blooming (some— it is Wisconsin, after all), and I feel like my mood is making some progress.

Crocuses are done… now I’ve got blooming hyacinth, but only one daffodil so far. Enough rain, need more sun!

I had a therapy appointment today and it was pretty good. He helped me to realize that it wasn’t an all of the sudden thing, but rather a series of relatively big stressors in rapid succession (as an example, I had to cancel my last therapy appointment because I had to go to the dermatologist to have my crazy hands taken care of and I had to take Curls to the vet because her pin sites were oozing… so there’s that) and I have a plan for continuing forward (you know, time spent outdoors, learning to (gulp) meditate, and blogging).

Ultimately, I know that my life is a good life and I have a million and four reasons to be really, really happy. But I also know that sometimes my neurons don’t fire quite right and even getting out of bed in the morning (or off the couch or floor in the afternoon or evening) is unreasonably difficult. I don’t know why it happens, but I know that it will probably always happen, off and on. So I have to baby step my way out of it.

What then, pray tell, ought my bloggy baby steps be?

Amazing things, that’s what. Things worthy of my obsessive attention, anyway. Amazing is relative, after all.

I posted some tough stuff recently and I broke my soul or something. (Also, I’m crazy over-dramatic.) So for now, a little bit of positive. I started a list of A to Z amazing things that I’m super (read: overly) into in a way that was totally inspired by my friend Lara’s April A to Z Challenge… but very, very late. Because now it’s May and I feel like I can move my fingers again.

I can’t make promises regarding frequency or consistency, but I will do my best. So join me, will you? And soon we can discuss everything from General Lee’s surrender at the Appamatox Courthouse (also The Alligator and apple butter) to the deliciously hilarious Derrick Zoolander (what is this?! a center for ants?!!).


Most importantly, thanks for hanging around despite my recent silence. Either people still check in every once in a while or I have a LOT of bot traffic. Because I can’t tell the difference, it totally makes me feel good. So thanks, whoever you are, bot or not-bot, you’re awesome to me and I appreciate it! (For the bots out there, that’s: beep-boop-beep-beep-boop.)

Curly doesn’t seem to mind all the moping 🙂