22 October 2013

I was on hiatus. But now I'm not.

So yeah. I've been on a break. Obviously. There have been no new posts in ages. Yes, I get that it's not like I am a super-duper regular post writer person in the first place.  I think that I want to schedule myself soon though. Maybe. I was in need of a day where I wasn't stressing about how to write a post, when to write a post, or what to write in a post, a day (or two or twelve more or so) to just be broken and beautiful, and a day to be successful in my mothering without trying to write about it. A day to be wife to my dear husband without trying to figure out how to tweet about it, or write about it. And many days to fail like crazy at everything all at once, definitely at the same time. Boy, am I bad at being a grown up. I've been fudging it for a long time and I'm trying to get it together -- whatever "it" is.

(also: by adding the above graphic, I feel like my "hiatus" was official or something. ha.)

A week or so ago, I teased about a post-in-progress on IG, Twitter, and FB -- I'd like to get it to you, and to get the rest of the words out of me. If you don't follow me on those, please do!  While I struggle with writing regularly here, I do, in fact, manage to squeak out pictures and a few words on occasion via other social media platforms. Click the little buttons to the right of this post (the ones that took me hours to put on the blog. Seriously, it took me a couple of hours to figure it out myself, but gosh darn it, I did!) They'll get you to where you need to go to follow or like or whatever. I look forward to you joining me in those places, too. 

I do hope that my words tonight find you well, and gosh, if they don't because you are struggling with life's stuff, know that you have my thoughts and prayers -- and know that even in the struggle, there's grace to be found.  Truly. 

blessings! and joy!
nicole marie

22 August 2013

Creating a Treat.Trinket.Gift

In July I went to a super.cool blogger event thingy at Ikea.  My friend, Natalie, is a pretty cool blogger lady who is awesome at what she does.  After attending a national blogger conference in the spring, she wanted to gather together bloggers who are in the Pittsburgh/Ohio Valley area. The Ohio Valley Blogger Meet & Greet was dreamed up, and 27 of us gathered.  It was a tremendous time. I won't get into the event details though, today I want to write about what I took with me to give to the others.

In one of the communications with us, she sweetly suggested that in addition to our business cards we should/could/might want to bring some sort of "extra" or "treat" to share, too. hmm. What? Business cards? Oh. Of course, it's a networking event. Established bloggers are attending. [Pep talk for me and now for you: Pretend to be "real" and established and you will be. Eventually. If you want it. Just dive in. Do it. You know, like Nike says.] Okay, well, yeah, I didn't have cards, or an idea for a treat. I started to wrack my brain for something original for both my cards and my treat.

Creating a Treat.Trinket.Gift 
I don't know about you, but I am always on the lookout while in craft stores for clearance items that can be made/crafted/transformed into something else. Isn't everybody? Oh. Not everyone is crazy. That's right. Ahem, well, prior to deciding to go to the Meet & Greet, I had spied Michael's clearance and they were practically giving away adorable little wooden trinkets (I think they were 3 in a package for 30 cents or less) and I wanted them. I wasn't exactly sure what I'd do with them at the time, but I knew that I wanted them for something.  Christmas presents for family? Crafting with the littles? I didn't know, but I bought some anyway because well, look at the photo, they are super cute.

Seriously, how cute are these?

As I was thinking about a treat, the trinkets came to mind but I wondered if it would be weird to give them to people -- do I make them an ornament? It was July, is that weird? I probably could do it, as long as they weren't too Christmas.y. Well, the kids and I stood in the spray paint aisle for too long as I tried to decide what colors to choose (you know, so they wouldn't be christmas.y) because I wanted them to be sweet and chic or some trendy word like that. My little girl almost sprayed her brothers orange while I tried to decide. I finally chose blue and yellow and we got the heck out of there. ha!

I hadn't used spray paint around the littles before and they had so many questions and really tried hard to be in the wrong place as I was spraying so they could breathe in the fumes (sigh), but after shoo-ing and many "back up, stay there, goodness, don't touch that" admonishments, the littles ultimately thought it was the coolest thing ever that I could spray the color on and it was done so quickly(ish).

Okay. Painted. Now what exactly? I needed to find something to fit into the tiny lattice holes if they were going to be not-so-christmas.y-ornaments. I had limited choices. I bought twine of different colors and double strung it. For packaging, I chose glassine bags that you would use to packages cookies and baked goods. They were super cheap (25 for $1.99, I think). The washi tape was on clearance. Woot! I bought four rolls for $3 (Oh! I also learned how to make my own. We'll chat about that in the future). I stamped the front and framed it with washi tape. The stamp was already in my collection, but it probably cost me $1 at Michael's. 

I love love love how you can see the contents through the bag -- it's just fun and sweet and whimsical (I hope! I think!) Put it this way, I know that I would have liked to receive this treat, I hope that the other girls felt the same way.

Question: Do you create for yourself? The way I seem to work is when I reach the point of being excited myself for whatever it is that I am making, I know that it's good enough -- perhaps, hopefully often, awesome enough -- to share with others. So yeah, I create for myself but for you. Does that make sense? Crafty people, do you know what I mean?

Also, what sorts of simple gifts do you like to get? To receive?  

 Yes, yes, you are. 

After the party, I realized that I hadn't taken a picture of the contents of the treat bag, so this one is a leftover bag that's kind of crinkled with a less than stellar stamp job, but you get the idea.

Inside I included two business cards -- one for my blog (I am excited to share my design with you, and how I picked it), and one for my Usborne Books & More business. I clipped them together with fun clips that were also on clearance -- 25 for 99 cents. Michael's was on fire for this project ;) I wrote my blog name and the website on the outside of the bag for a last personal touch and also because I LOVE to handwrite everything/anything all of the time (I really need to start up my etsy business nicolemarie arts with words, but again, that topic is for another day and time) OMG this post is so ADD. bahahahaha

So yeah, that, my dear friends, it what I took with me. My little treat seemed to be well received, and the treats I received from the others were simply SO cool!

If you take anything away from this post today, take this: You don't have to spend a lot of money on something that's special and cool for your friends. The materials that I actually used for this little project cost me less than $10, and now I've got lots and lots left over for other projects in the future.

simple. easy. fun. diy.

blessings! and so much joy!
nicole mArie

02 August 2013

he was my person

Two months ago, one of the best men that I have known passed from this world into the next.  My grandfather is gone, and my heart hurts to know that I can't stop by his house and talk with him, that my children will have such limited memories of him, that I won't have another opportunity to dance with him and sing "Sweet Caroline" like we did at my wedding (see below), or sing "No, Nay, Never" on Saint Patrick's Day, or at other various family gatherings.

Have you ever watched Grey's Anatomy?  He was my person. For as long as I can remember, we would talk. About everything. About anything. About my parents. About my boyfriends. About my brothers. About our crazy family. About his life. About his work. About our faith. About politics. About any possible thing. Before my husband, he was my person. He never judged me. He always had advice for me. He just genuinely loved me. And the rest of us. The whole bunch of us. We are crazy. We are overwhelming. We are beautiful. We are messy. We are family.

As I sit here and type this, I am fighting back tears because I know that if I start to cry, I'll never get this post up, and I really want you all to know about him. About how much I love him -- about how I knew he loved me. There was never ever a question in my mind. Ever. (and here I am eight days later still trying to get this post up...)

He taught me to drive, you know. When I was twenty. Yes, twenty. We would drive through the City of Pittsburgh and he would tell me stories about where he worked, and who lived in Morningside, and how he used to deliver bread to Allderdice high school, and then he'd shout, "Nicole, hug the yellow line! The yellow line is your friend!" or "Stop at the stop sign!" or "Nicole, there is a car trying to turn, SLOW DOWN!" and I would freak out, usually slam on the breaks, then we would laugh.  He would continue talking and tell me about how the streets had changed, that old businesses were gone, but about how much was still the same.  Those few months in the car with him really are some of my favorite memories.  We talked and laughed and just enjoyed being together.

No matter what I had decided to do in my short lifetime -- not to go to college right away, to work, then to go to college, not to work, then work again -- he always supported my decisions and respected that I did what I needed to do in my time and that I would be okay, and that I was already okay.  It was so good to have his support as I know that I threw my parents for a loop many times. He would stand firm and just support me. He loved me and I always always knew it.

The short of it is this: In February he had neck surgery, then two weeks later he had a heart attack, which lead to his needing open heart surgery two weeks later. Yikes.

The night before his heart surgery, we talked about how he was afraid of the surgery. About how he didn't want to go through the recovery, because he was afraid of how difficult it would be. He just wanted to be on the other side of it.  I am glad for his honesty and that he didn't pretend that it would all be, "okay". I liked that he was always real with me. Even still, I didn't let myself think anything besides his making it through recovery. How could I? I assured him that he could do it, that he would do it. "You can do this, Pap, you are stubborn. You are strong. In no time, we'll go out for the hamburger that you want and we'll have a drink together. And then you'll road trip to Florida when you can drive again. I know you. You'll get this done."

Yes, indeed, I discussed alcohol (a vodka/iced tea, his favorite) and hamburgers with a man going in for a quadruple bypass. What of it? ;) Gosh, I am so very thankful for my visit with him that night because he had surgery the next morning and a stroke twelve hours later.  Everything was different after that.

And then I smile to think that I baked banana bread and pumpkin bread for him during the week leading up to the heart surgery.  I wanted him to have a taste of home. The pumpkin bread I made is a family recipe -- gosh it's SO good, I should share it with you all sometime -- and I think it was one of the last things he ate when he was "okay" before the stroke. I am glad for that.

It was incredibly difficult to see a man who had been so strong and so very strong willed become more and more sick. It was difficult to watch him suffer, to see his body become more and more weak. Often when I prayed for him, I wouldn't necessarily pray for his bodily healing though, I just couldn't pray for that miracle. I often would pray for grace and healing for our whole family. Families are messy business, you know? I would often ask that his suffering be used redemptively, that his sufferings be used for his purification and for that of our family. I think that I've even seen fruits of this grace and this healing in small ways for all of us even so soon after his death. I don't think it makes me bad not to pray for the miracle, but I hope that I can say that I prayed for what I think we needed, what I think he would want for the rest of us.  Grace is a pretty awesome gift, I think that he would be okay with that.

The night after I ran walked my second half marathon, I had a great evening with him.  My aunt was talking to him about bringing CDs to the hospital so that he could listen to his music.  Well, I had some of his music on my phone -- he taught me well -- so we listened to "Sweet Caroline" and he smiled and he sang with us, and he even moved his hand to the song (kind of like you see Italians do when they talk, but we're not Italian...so yeah), that's the best sort of dancing he could muster. We listened to Dean Martin and some other wonderful songs, his songs. He enjoyed this, it was good for him. It was good for us. I remember being tearful because I felt inside that it was going to be the last time we spent this sort of time together. I was right. He was moved to ICU the next night. What a gift I had been given, to spend this time with him!

On the day he died, I was able to spend a few minutes with him. I was out running errands early in the morning and on a whim (prompt of grace?), I decided run into the hospital and visit him because I didn't know what that day was going to bring.  My mother was with him when I got there. We chatted for a few minutes, she and I, about how he was doing, but we both knew that he just wasn't okay. I just cried in a way that I hadn't before while in his room. I almost couldn't look at him, he just wasn't fine. Not that I thought he was, it's just, it was just different this time. When I left, I told him that I loved him, and he glanced in my direction.  I think he knew I was there. A few hours later he was gone. 

At the funeral we raised (small) glasses in his honor of vodka and iced tea (this is something he and I talked about at the funeral of his brother-in-law where we toasted with Baileys and Jameson ;),  and I promised him that we'd toast him with his drink of choice when the day would come and he laughed but liked the idea as we would be celebrating his life and not mourning our loss in the moment), we shared Ruffles potato chips because they were his favorite, and we all laughed and talked about his kindness to so many.  We talked about the way he would stand in a corner of a room and look on -- he would take it all in, he would smile, he would just watch. In recent years when I caught him standing on the edge of our crowd, I would wander over to him and watch with him. I would see the very small people, and the middle sized ones, and the grown ups all just being together. When I would stand with him, I would see his life's work. Sure, he retired from Schwebel's. He was a humble bread man, who worked hard.  But we, his family, were his work, we are his legacy. We are what he's left behind, we are his. How cool. How wonderful, what an honor.  It's up to us, his messy and beautiful family, to be together and to love. We are what was most important to him, we are who he watched, we are who he loved, and dare I say it, still loves. I hope that we can honor his life's work. I hope that we can be messy and beautiful for years and years and years to come. 

Yikes. So yeah, I realize that this may not be the sort of blog post that you hope to read when you come to my blog, if that is the case, I am sorry. Remember though, that my blog is about finding the beautiful in the messy, and that I really attempt to keep my blog honest and real.  This is my life. This happened. This is real. It was messy, and really, it still is. Grief kinda sucks. There was beauty though in these last several months, so here I write and share with you, the messy and the beautiful.  In doing so, I am finding healing, too.

If this is disjointed (and I think it is, but don't have it in me to rework this post today, it's taken a million hours to write it -- maybe not a million, but practically a million), please don't tell me...or if you do, tell me nicely. I can handle nice criticism. Actually, think of this post as a series of little stories about one of my favorite humans. I just wanted to write a little about me and my pap. I love him, and I miss him. Maybe I'll rework it another day. Or maybe not.

This weekend, much of our family is getting together to celebrate the birthdays of three of his grandchildren!  In celebrating these beautiful beings, we will be celebrating our grandfather, too. I think he'll be with us in spirit.  Yes, he will, indeed. 

blessings! and joy!
nicole mArie

25 July 2013

Remembering the moments with pictures

Today, I remember my dear grandfather. He passed from this world on May 25, 2013. It's been two months and it feels like forever ago and like it was just yesterday all at the same time. I want to tell you about him, but it's hard to fight the tears today, so the words I am trying to write for him will probably come tomorrow. Instead, I'll post some of my favorite pictures of us. I am so grateful that these moments were captured!

Eternal rest grant unto him, oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Blessings! and Joy!
nicole mArie