Friday, November 27, 2015

About that nose ring

A few weeks back I got my nose pierced.

Yes, I'm aware I'm not 22.

And no, I'm not going through some late-quarter-life, early-mid-life crisis.

It's something I've been wanting to do for years. I've always seen other woman with nose piercings and thought they looked so beautiful and cool. 

I've never felt all that cool. Or, all that beautiful for that matter.

No, I'm not looking for reassurance. I'm not fishing for compliments. 


I'm guessing most of you reading this are women. And probably women with slightly less than overflowing self-esteem. For the record, you are beautiful. Full to the brim with warmth and joy and sweetness and strength. I know this. And I know you think I'm beautiful. Or, at least, not hideous.

We're in agreement about our feelings for each other. 

And I'm guessing, we'd probably be in agreement about our feelings for ourselves.

I hope we're not. But I'll assume we are.

So here we are. And here I am. 

With these cartoony eyes and deepening lines on my face and my ever-growing nose and eyebrows I always feel look a little cro-magnon mannish. I know, I know. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

And I'm not 22. Not even close. Almost 34 in fact. And wanting a nose ring for years. Because the person in the mirror isn't quite the person I feel like inside. 

But for years I told myself I could not be the person with the nose ring. Why? Because I'm a big 'ol dork is why. Because I'm normal (though in an obviously abnormal way). Because I follow the straight path from Point A to Point B. Because I always mean to do the right thing and never want to rock the boat. I care what people think.

And I always thought that if I got a nose piercing that people would think I was trying to be someone I'm not. Which is to say, the cool, edgy girl, when obviously ... not. Or, that it was an act of rebellion. Maybe if it were 1998 I could see a nose piercing being a sign of youthful rebellion. But come on. Body piercings are as ubiquitous as Starbucks now.

Maybe it's really an act of rebellion against the person I always thought I was. All those stories I've always told myself about the person I was and am and will be.

Maybe that's what a late-quarter-life, early-mid-life crisis is. 

In which case I revise my earlier statement. Maybe I am going through a late-quarter-life, early-mid-life crisis.

Crisis is such a loaded word, and I don't think it's really a crisis anyway. It's pretty great to re-evaluate my life and realize that my narrative is mine and can change based on the choices that I make. 

So a few weeks ago I chose to get a nose ring. And I love it. I look in the mirror and see myself and I like that person a little more. Not because of the stud on it's own. But because it means that the voice in my head that was telling me to be true to me was louder than all the voices outside telling me to conform to to the image of the almost-34-year-old wife and mother of two that I imagine the rest of the world has.

This is my one life. It's time to start owning it.

FAQs about my nose piercings

Did it hurt? 

Yes, a man poked a hole in my nostril with a large needle. It was hurt. But the pain didn't last long. 

Does stuff get caught on it?

If by stuff you mean boogers and snot, then yes, stuff gets caught on it. Just like stuff gets caught on your nostril walls. I was perpetually self-conscious about the state of my nose before I got the piercing. That hasn't changed. Luckily, someone invented facial tissue that can be used for debris removal.

How does it stay in?

There's not back on it, like an earring. The stud is a corkscrew shape (it looks like this). I learned this when it fell out the other day while I was taking a shower and couldn't figure out how to get it back in so then made my very patient, very kind husband put it back in. It's tricky!

What made you decide to get it?

See above.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What I learned from the Balloon Guy

Flip-Flop, Lily's new penguin.
Not pictured: Jovie's balloon animal Purpley Purple the Purple Pony.
Yesterday Brad and I took the girls to the York Pet & Reptile Expo for a little family bonding. We were promised dogs, cats, bunnies, birds and reptiles (in two show arenas!), plus it was free for kids 5 and under. Kind of a no-brainer in my mind. 

So we pay our admission and go in. The first thing Jovie spots is a kid carrying a rainbow-colored parrot made out of balloons. 

"I want balloons!" she said.

We told her we'd try to find some balloons for her, but first we were going to see if we could find any animals. 

"But I want balloons," she repeated.

I attempted redirection. 

"I heard there are pigs walking around on leashes here! Let's go see if we can find one!"

"I just want to find the balloons," she whimpered.

"OK, but first, let's find pigs."

She followed us into the show. Though with minimal enthusiasm. We saw kittens, bunnies, a pomeranian with a fuchsia mohawk and two pigs on leashes. There was a friendly blind husky and a pack of cocker spaniels and a sweet, scruffy dog named Ozzie who I think needs to come live with us. For serious. That face.

Photo courtesy of The Last Dog Rescue
And there were all the cutest puppies ever. 

Even through this abundance of adorable, fuzzy, squishy amazingness, Jovie was still pretty adamant about that balloon. A balloon, I might add, that would never cuddle up in her lap or gently lick her nose. 

Her requests for a balloon continued as we wandered into the second arena, i.e., the snakepit. 

I'd never been to a Pet and Reptile Expo before, so I really had not idea what to expect. I definitely didn't expect such an abundance of snakes. Like, enough snakes to populate the Amazon probably. All stacked in small, clear boxes (the larger ones were curled up in what appeared to be the containers used for the deli trays you get at the grocery store. Maybe I'll pick up the Boa Constrictor platter for my family's annual gingerbread house-making party. I'll garnish it with a few frozen mice, which were also available for purchase at the expo).

So yeah, a lot of snakes. And various lizards, frogs and the smallest turtles I'd ever seen. And baby mice. That was Lily's favorite part. The vat of baby mice. Pinkies were 50 cents, fuzzies were 10 cents more. These weren't intended to be pets (the guy selling them also sold snakes), but I couldn't bring myself to tell Lily that (just like I haven't brought myself to tell her what's really going to happen to the turkeys she's been visiting at the farm almost weekly since they were babies. "They're going to a new home next week," I told her. "They bite too much.") 

We'd wander the floor to look at more snakes or meet Dargo the police dog or see the coolest chameleon ever, but Lily kept gravitating back to that box of baby mice. Her eyes wide in wonder and adoration. 

It was a little unsettling. 

(You can check out some awesome pictures from the expo – including Lily's beloved pile-o-mice – here.)

Jovie, meanwhile, was still asking about that balloon. 

So we found the balloon guy, or as he refers to himself, The Balunguy. We waited in line watching Balunguy inflate and twist balloons in every color into Macaws and dinosaurs and swords and hats and snakes (obviously). 

I chatted with him as he twisted a penguin for Lily and a purple pony for Jovie.

"So how does one end up becoming a balloon artist?" I asked him. Because really, how does someone end up becoming a balloon artist?!

Unexpectedly, he said.

Fifteen years ago his wife gave birth to their baby at just 26 weeks. Their daughter weighed only 1 pound, 13 ounces and spent 74 days in the NICU. During that time, Balunguy (OK, his real name is Tony) and his wife met another couple whose child was in the NICU. As it turned out, the dad knew how to twist balloons. Tony asked if he could get a lesson. Obviously, the hobby took. 

Business is great. He does all the types of events you'd imagine a balloon artist (excuse me, a Professional Latex Manipulation Technician) might show up at. And some that you wouldn't – in a bittersweet twist of fate, he did balloons at the funeral of the man who'd introduced him to balloon artistry all those years ago. (Note to self: add "balloon artist at funeral" to my last and final wishes.)

I asked how his daughter was doing now.

"If you didn't know, you wouldn't know," he said showing me a picture of a beautiful young lady on his phone.

I love asking people how they got to where they are. It's a reminder to me that life meanders. It's rarely straightforward and often detours you to long, winding roads you assume are dead ends. And sometimes they are. And sometimes you go into the NICU filled with fear and anxiety and the weight of the world and leave with the power to bring smiles to people's faces and make the world a sillier place. 

And boy do we need that these days.

If there's something that depression has allowed me to appreciate, it's lightness. Those moments when your soul expands and you grasp, for a second, what it means to be here and to be human. I get this feeling most often when I stop and listen and observe life in realtime with an open heart. 

I don't think we'll ever find the grand anecdote to the world's ugliness in policy or air strikes or social media. It happens on a much, much smaller scale. It starts in your home and in your neighborhood and in your city. It starts with a smile and a simple question and the willingness to listen to the answer. 

We all just want someone to hear us over the cacophony of all 7 billion of us. 

We all want to tell our story. But first, we need to listen. 

What we hear will probably be a greater gift than what we wanted to say. I'm certain of that. 

And if that doesn't quite do the trick, well, there's always puppies. And balloon animals.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Disgusting carpet gets magnificent sendoff

As regular readers of this site probably already know, I have a hate-hate relationship with my white living room carpet.  (See: the great butter vomit incident of 2013 and the rainbow regurge ... also of 2013. I guess 2013 wasn't a great year for the white living room carpet.)

The white living room carpet is not to be confused with the boring beige carpet in the kids'  room that received a makeover last spring courtesy of Lily and Jovie. Nor is it to be confused with my oft-abhorred kitchen floor, which has become much more manageable (and hopefully slightly less bacteria ridden) thanks to the steam mop I got last Christmas.

The white living room carpet's biggest offense is that it's white – something that I didn't consider a problem when we bought the house six years ago. Back then, I was just excited that the various area rugs conveyed with the house – they did such a nice job at covering up the careworn wood floors. 

But then we got the dog. 

And really, it's not the white living room carpet's fault we got a dog – a dog that has been known to use the carpet as both toilet paper and a convenient repository for his throw-up. 

Just like it's not really the white living room carpet's fault (or the fault of the boring beige carpet in the kids' room) that next, we had children. Milk spewing, juice-spilling, Play-Doh squishing, muddy footing children. Two of them. 

As it turns out, a perpetually shedding, occasionally vomiting beagle mix and a pair of perpetually careless, occasionally grubby little girls are a lethal combination to a white living room carpet.

Some might even say that it's the real victim here. 

But not me.  

I finally decided a few weeks back, while watching the dog casually drag his butt along one particularly foul corner of the white living room carpet, that it was time for it to go.

The aforementioned corner. The Bermuda Triangle of funk.
Brad and I have been on a bit of a home-improvement binge this month – painting our bedroom and the living room, and we decided we'd refinish the living room floor while we're at it. Seemed like the perfect time to bid adieu to a carpet that has spent the past six years being saturated in multi-species bodily goo, food debris, fur and I don't even care to speculate on what else. 

Of course, being me, I wanted to do something to mark the occasion. Really send it off to the landfill in style. So I decided to throw a messy carpet party. 

Originally, I'd planned to invite a bunch of the girl's friends over to really annihilate it during an afternoon of carpet debauchery. But life has been exhausting lately and moving at a pace I'm barely able to keep up with (how is it that I'm running with the 5-minute-mile people when I should be back with the 12-plusers?). Organizing a playdate, much less a play-extravaganza just felt overwhelming.

So then yesterday the girls are playing with a friend. And they're bickering about something or other. And I'm cranky and out of sorts and tired of refereeing. I decided we all needed redirection. And silliness.

"Girls," I said. "Want to have our messy carpet party?"

And they did. So we did.

I put out paint and glitter and muddy boots and Play-Doh and fluorescent-colored snack foods and instructed that all messes had to be confined to the carpet. And that this was a one-time deal. 

So the girls went to work.

They were a little tentative at first. Unsure about how far they could take their destruction. But I egged them on. Who's going to put on these boots to stomp around in? Let me get some more glitter and "fairy dust"! Are you out of paint? Allow me to grab another bottle!

We finished off the soiree with a little hot chocolate party (on the carpet, of course). They got to pour their own beverages. 

There was nary a napkin or paper towel to be found.

"Mom! My hands are messy," Jovie cried.

"Just wipe them on the carpet!"I told her.

When my friend walked in the house to pick up her daughter, she nearly had a heart attack (maybe I should've given her a heads up that this was sanctioned...). 

It was glorious.

With all the heaviness in my head these days, it felt good to be be a little reckless. To be the fun mom for an hour. To remind myself that things are just things and that my relationship with these kids will always be more fulfilling than my relationship with my furniture. To realize that making the mess is just as important as cleaning house. 

Our new area rug is smaller, darker, cheaper and shaggier. 

It doesn't know what's coming.