The Tweedles (Ty and Zoë) and I are leaving on our there-and-back-again road-trip today. Today, driving. Tomorrow and Monday? Omaha. And then? South Dakota. Montana. Seattle. Vancouver. The redwoods. Two weeks of vacation, solid days of driving. It's an adventure, all right.
And, as I'm already addicted to Instagram, you know where you can find me.
Earlier this month, Hans and I spent some time babysitting his family's house. We fed it, watered it, gave it a bath, read it a bedtime story, and eventually sang it to sleep before its parents came home a little late and a little drunk.
Okay, not really. But we did feed the turtles, fill the pool, and watch "Wilfred." (Or, rather, Hans watched "Wilfred" in the living room while I pecked away at my Historic Indianapolis article, sneaking glances via a reflection on the sliding glass door.) Other than having to stay up until 4:00 in the morning to finish writing (you know, because I'm a masochist), the weekend was relaxing, calming. We were away from the city, and away from responsibilities. (Other than feeding the turtles, of course.) Unlike the previous weekends, we didn't have to drive to a wedding, drive to Hannibal, drive to something else/do something else. We had a break, and it was lovely.
It was hot, too, and terribly humid. I always forget how terribly hot summer can be, and how horrifying the humidity can get. Each year, I forget I hate summer. I forget until I break from the daily grind and head outside, where the moist air slams into my face and lungs, a brick to the chest.
To escape summer's mocking, I spent some time by the pool. It was teal, blue, sparkling, cool.
This week will be a busy one. I'm finishing up my last week of work as a temporary hire. I'm sorting through my files and backing them up. Hans and I are cleaning the apartment, looking at houses, and shopping for food and the future. I'll also need to throw together at least two Historic Indianapolis articles. Why? Because, on Saturday, I and my two best friends (whom I collectively refer to as "the Tweedles") will be leaving for a two-week road trip! We plan to spend a couple of days around Omaha before heading north to South Dakota, Montana, and--eventually--Seattle and Vancouver. Most of the trip seems like a dream; unreal and unattainable. All I sense and all I know is that, in just a few days, I will see my mother again. (We're staying with her while we visit Omaha.)
Before I leave, though, I'd like to thank everyone for their support and friendship and readership. I've been absent for awhile, I know. Gone from blogging, gone from reading. I've been holding myself back, and I want thank you for sticking with me. For leaving comments. For sending emails. For talking and caring. Thank you. Thank you for more than four years of blogging friendships. And thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone. I recently received my 1,000th comment and, as a celebration of that little milestone and as a small thank you, I'm hosting an impromptu, pop-up giveaway.
The giveaway package includes: a blank journal (with lined pages), a postcard from Two Tone Press, two postcard-sized "mini posters" from Mile 44, a delicate "wishing bracelet" from Copper Roots Studio, a compact mirror from abbeychristine (check out her Bob Ross finger puppet!), a bar of artisan soap from Get Lathered Soap Company ("Sugared Lemons Eye Candy"-scented), and two vintage photographs taken from my own collection. I may throw a couple of small surprises in there, too.
The giveaway ends on Thursday, July 25, at 11:59 p.m. So make sure you enter before you slather yourself in sunscreen, throw on your shades, and head out to face the sun. And the heat. And the humidity. And the week.
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It was my cousin's wedding. My cousin Danie. I've 10 cousins, all on my mom's side, and prior to Danie's wedding, only one of them was married. We--my cousins, my brother, and I--consider ourselves the "Vorthmann kids," the twelve cousins who born so near in time to each other. The ones who grew up together, all living within a three-mile radius. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. We were all there, always together. We've gotten a tad more spread out over the years--to Indiana, to Florida, to Nebraska, to Michigan--but we all know each other with a nagging familiarity.
Seeing my family two weeks ago was ... I don't know what it was. Satisfying. Comforting. Hopeful. Happy. Invigorating. Fun. Perfect. Beautiful.
Sometimes, my homesickness is throbbing. It beats within my chest, wringing my heart and aching. Aching. Aching. Aching. My very bones long for Derek's sarcasm, Kristyn's goofy faces, Vanessa's hugs. God, I miss them sometimes. All within a few miles of each other. All so near. And I miss that at times. The not knowing, the not being included. It hurts, sometimes.
And then there are the other times, the times when we come together. In moments of sadness, in times of triumph. At the happiest of celebrations.
At a wedding.
5. The bride and groom with my aunt, uncle and respective grandparents. Seated on the left is my maternal grandmother, known here as "hoarding grandma." 6. My cousin Kristyn, my cousin Vanessa, and I manning one of the card/guest book tables. Two other cousins, Nicole and Morgan, also helped pass out water and fans. 7. My brother. The weevil, the lover of Phil Collins, the counselor, the romantic, the role model.
The ceremony, held on the banks of the Missouri, was sweet and personal. As Danie--flanked by her parents--walked down the aisle, I watched his face. Alex's. His nose immediately scrunched, his eyes pinched together. The most painfully beautiful crying I've ever seen. As for my mother? "I was watching [my sister]," she said. "And I lost it when I saw her face, when she was walking down with Danie." The bride and groom washed each other's feet, to symbolize service. And they spoke about companionship. And they wrote their own vows, promising to always change. To change for the better. To listen. To be patient. To love one another in spite of cynicism, sarcasm, and doubt.
Their words were brought to me on the breeze, on a swirl of air and blessings. Thank you for loving me in spite of my cynicism. I promise to be faithful to you, to be the best wife I can be. I promise to kept myself from doubt, from doubting myself and us.
All things I wish I could say to Hans. Things I wish I could promise. Things I wish I were capable of. Thank you for loving me in spite of my cynicism.
Even before Hans and I started our marriage counseling, and even before we called our wedding off, I had a very cynical view of marriage. I had not grown up with a close, positive example. My parents were separated before I was even born. My dad was twice divorced, actually. Growing up in a nuclear family was a foreign concept to me. A lot of peers' parents had been divorced, remarried, redivorced. Single. Divorce was an "easy" solution for those who fought. For those who struggled. For those who didn't want to fight. And I realized that, like them, I viewed divorce as an option. Sadly, I was already thinking of ways to leave my marriage before I even committed to it. I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't committed to anything, not even myself. And, even more depressingly, I'm still not. I still don't know who I am, what I want, who I want, what I need, what would make me happy. Floundering, swimming, lost. So completely and utterly confused.
Thank you for loving me in spite of my cynicism.
Yes. Oh God, yes. I needed that. Because in spite of everything we've been through and everything I've put him through, Hans loves me. In spite of my cynicism. In spite of my anger. In spite of ... in spite of everything.
And as I watched Danie and Alex exchange words, tears, and rings, I knew I wanted that. I wanted what they had. I wanted what my brother and his wife have. I want happiness and joy and equality. And love. So much love. Too much that it leaks from my eyes and my heart. That all I can do is hug others, kiss others, help others, serve others. I want that. I want it so, so very much.
But damn. It's going to be hard. And I have a hunch that two things are missing: myself and God. There is no religion in my life right now, and there is no "me," either. I've been absent for so long. Practically a year.
I don't want to be that anymore.
... it was easier to be more present, to be more loving and happy when I was surrounded by family. When my brother and I could laugh and talk and swap "horror" stories concerning our parents. When I could hug Vanessa, joke with Kristyn, shake my head at Derek. When I got to see how beautiful Danie was in her dress. When my sister-law could carefully and quickly arrange my hair into a side pony. When my mom could happily gimp around the wedding, conversing and helping clean up. When all of us--any of us cousins who were available--picked up and carried off and stowed away decorations. The flowers. The chairs. The doors used as props. The bench on which they washed their feet. Anything and everything we needed to do.
When the D.J. played Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," I remember seeing my brother and sister-in-law playing air guitar out of the corner of my eye. I remember him picking her up and twirling her around at the end of the tune. Love. Pure love. And then "Shout." The family song, if we have one. When all of us--cousins and aunts and uncles--came out and shouted and threw our hands up. When we danced to the floor and jumped up and down and sang and swung and laughed and pointed at each other across the circle.
When "Margaritaville" began playing, when Vanessa screamed out, "WHERE'S MY DAD?" An impromptu dance floor was made near my uncle, who stood--one arm in a sling and the other reaching around his wife for support. And they danced, carefully and slightly off balance, they danced. It broke my heart in the most wonderful of ways. It cracked with happiness and spontaneity, seeing my uncle--survivor of multiple strokes--be ... be what? Enjoying himself? Be happy? I don't even know. I just know there was a stirring inside, something that kept me back in the shadows with mom and Hans, watching. I didn't want to miss it. Stand back and breathe. Watch and smile and love.
This was written exactly one month ago, during the middle of June. At the time, my mind was racing--actually, I'm not sure if it ever sleeps--and so I thought it best to put myself to the keyboard. Type. Type. Type. Call this a stream if consciousness, a journal entry, an inner monologue, a rambling train. Whatever. I just know it was brought on by the macaroons. It's their fault. I should also note that I no longer reside in the "moldy apartment" I allude to toward the end of this post. We moved just a few days after I wrote this. Our new place is smaller, but without the mold and cockroaches. So that's a plus.
I tried macaroons for the first time. I bought them from a food truck in Indianapolis, a truck that specializes in Slow Food. The truck is called “Duos,” but I’m not entirely sure why. I feel stupid for not knowing. And then, since I don’t know and because I feel stupid, I blame the business. It’s their fault for making me feel uneducated and unable to connect the dots between their “Slow Food Fast” slogan and their absolutely delicious, but still-a-bit-too-spicy-for-me ham sandwich with chips and jalapeno dressing and leaves and I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT ELSE BECAUSE I JUST WANT TO GO BACK TO THE REFRIDGERATOR HERE AT MY OFFICE AND EAT IT. Stand there, with the door thrown wide, the cool air rushing onto me and sending me shivers, and EAT. Scarf it down. Stuff myself, with dressing smeared across my lips and cheeks, my tongue burning. More.
I want more.
That’s typically how society works nowadays, isn’t it? We’re all consumerists. We consume food. We consume beverages. We purchase clothes and cars. We accessorize ourselves, our cars, our pets, our homes, our phones, and other inanimate objects. Why have a plain-old phone when you can have one with a decorative case or charm? Why wouldn’t you cover your car’s steering wheel with an animal print cover? And who, really, wants to jangle around an unadorned keychain?
My keychain isn’t special. It’s a lanyard that I bought during my first visit to Purdue, back when I was even more pretentious and had nothing but contempt for my hometown. The white “Purdue University” lettering has nearly faded over the years. But, happily, it still holds my keys and my member cards—one to Kroger, one to the Central Library. As for my keys, there are four. One, two, three, four. Four is nearly the number of weeks it has been since my car was stolen. May 24, that was. I just canceled my car insurance yesterday. I still had some hope. Maybe. Not really. I knew it was gone. I was just in denial.
I don’t want a new car. I don’t want a different car. I want my car. My poor, beat-up old car.
I was looking at pictures on my phone last night. I was scrolling through and saw pictures of cats, of comics, of amusing things at work. But I gasped, I honestly gasped, when I stumbled across three photos of my car. I had taken the images in amusement, because I had parked the car out back, under one of the trees. That was the time of year when all the evil crows from the nine circles of hell gathered in a three-block radius. Around our house, up and down Talbott, on Delaware, around the school. CAW CAW CAW.
Anyway, those crows decided to shit on my car. Lots of shit. And I had to laugh, really, because it looked like my car had the pox. And so I drove that rusted-out, pock-marked car to work with PRIDE.
Take that, birds. CAW.
There was even a time when Hans and I left the house to go somewhere, and as we walked down the front steps, we heard a strange rustling. A flap, a fap, a rustle, a flutter. We looked up.
A HUNDRED FUCKING BIRDS. Sitting there. Watching us. Watching and plotting.
I laughed and cackled, bending over to contain my hysteria. It was funny, oh so funny, that these birds were plotting to kill us. Just hovering over us, waiting for the moment that I finally collapse on the ground, rolling with tears of laughter. And then? And then they would dive and peck and kill and mutilate, and no one would tell my screams from the fluttering of wings.
I think that is everyone’s dream, really. To die in the most spectacular of ways. To be remembered for something, even if it is for your own death. Sometimes, when I’m in the car, I imagine being in an accident. I imagine my frail body smashing into the dashboard. My forehead through the window. I imagine whiplash and broken bones and the irreversible and unrecognizable twisting of metal, flesh, bones.
What would it be like, to be an unintentional martyr?
I wrote something about that back when I was in high school. I would share the story here, if I wasn’t ashamed of it. If I wasn’t afraid.
I used to think I could write. Or maybe I was just in denial about that, too. I never really could write. But I still found it easier than talking. I wish I were a better freelancer. A better thinker. A more coherent talker. I wish I lot of things.
But I don’t daydream anymore.
Mostly because I don’t know what to dream of.
And there it is again—my cynicism. The trait that shines through so well these days. I’m just as pessimistic as I was in high school. I doubt myself, I doubt other people. I want to remove myself from everything. Want to huddle and curl and wrap myself up in a cocoon and stay there, sleeping.
It’s hard to get up these days. So very hard.
Especially when you get to wake up to piles of boxes, a moldy floor. A moldy mattress. Gnats in your closet. Mold in your shower. The shower that doesn’t drain and leaks all over the floor. The cockroach you’re too lazy pick up and kick out of the house, even though it has turtled, legs in the air, dying slowly. The smell, the sight, the stress. You can’t wait to be out. You can’t wait to escape. A week, three days, two days. It’s not soon enough. You just want to escape from your lease, from the house, from everything and everyone.
And maybe eat.
Maybe. Even though you’re not hungry.
But you should, anyway.
So I talk to myself, tell myself what I should do. I do this each day, all day. I tell myself, “Okay, Dawn. You have to get out of bed now. You have to get up.” When, half an hour later, that doesn’t work, I say to myself, “Dawn, you have to leave for work in 20 minutes. Push back the covers NOW.” And I do. I shove them off me, greeting the morning with a gruff attitude and a cloud of doubt. “Dawn, put your feet on the floor. Grab your water, your phone, and your ChapStick, and leave the bedroom."
“Brush your teeth, now.”
“Put on your clothes.”
“I know you’re tired, but you can’t sit down. Don’t lie down, either. You can’t fall asleep. You have to go to work, remember?”
“Pack a lunch, even though you may not eat it. Go along with it. Do what you think you have to do.”
“Just do it. I know you don’t want to. Try. Come on.”
So I finish trying to piece words and thoughts together, because nothing is eloquent and cohesive anyway. And I get up, and walk to the fridge. Open it up and steal away the other half of my sandwich, the sandwich that’s just a bit too spicy.
There are no more macaroons, though. I ate those outside, on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Under the sun. Where people were staring at me, the girl with the camera and the ID badge clipped to her belt. There were two macaroons. Toasted or something. With powdered sugar. They weren’t the fancy kind that everyone is losing their panties over. But they looked okay and tasted fine and I didn’t hate them.
Two and a half weeks ago, Hans and I buckled our seat belts and drove to Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown of southern author Mark Twain. We spent the weekend there, and rendezvoused with my dad, who had driven down from Iowa. My dad graciously paid for everything, and even set Hans and I up in a fabulous bed and breakfast. (We'd like to re-visit said bed and breakfast someday.) The trip was short, but relaxing and exploratory. We drove around the small-ish town, photographing historic buildings and marveling at the low selling costs of such constructions. We drove down to the river, up to the lighthouse, around the steeply-winding streets. It was quaint, in one way; touristy, of course, in the other. You could tell there were two parts of town: the historic part, the entrapped part, the part where the ice cream stores are named after Becky Thatcher and the hotels are named after the legendary author and the antique stores are named after Huck Finn. And then there's the other parts of town, the forgotten parts: the empty historic buildings, the shaken sidewalks, the parts that encouraged a local to describe Hannibal as "a dirty little town." But, dirty or not, we wanted to see the city. We wanted to know what it it was like; we wanted to explore more than what the average tourist experiences. And so, we strolled the streets, hit up a dive bar, purchased local cheese and local beer. And, of course, we mapped out places to go and people to see and things to do the next time we visit. Because there will be a next time. But, until then, I've these Instagram photos to remember it by.
the Mark Twain boyhood home
Hans, my dad, and I went to see "Mark Twain himself." The theater at which he performed was empty ... save for the three of us. Even though no one else showed that evening (the stormy weather may have drive the other reservations away), the impersonator took the stage and performed and talked to just the three of us, who sat, enamored, in the front row. Witty fellow, he was.
Reagan's Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast
I now know why the woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" went crazy.
details in the entryway of the bed and breakfast
downtown Hannibal, during a thunderstorm (which we got caught in)
Flowers and sunlight in the room across the hall from us. While we were there, a British couple was staying in the room.
decorations in our room, which was named the "Victorian Rose" room, if I recall
The Rockcliffe Mansion was actually abandoned for forty years! You can now take tours of the inside, and some of it is a bed and breakfast as well. However, the exterior still needs some work; it's been in need of money and rehabilitation for decades. The 13,500-square foot mansion was built between 1898 and 1900 by John Cruikshank, Jr., whose fortune was based in lumber.