Aug 24, 2015

An Open Door

"Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don't even remember leaving open." 
— Rose Wilder Lane

They would haunt me nearly every night.

No matter how happy the day, the sun would set, the moon would rise, and all that has happened before would rush into the room. A weight would settle on me, pinning me down to grief. I could hear his breaths from the pillow next to mine, and instead of feeling gratefulness, I felt bitter that I was forced to relive the unhappiness night after night. His dreams were peaceful, but mine would not let me forget, and I woke up crying so many times. How could I let go when something bigger than myself had taken hold of me that strongly? Those nights were lonely, set on fire with old rage, and left me battle weary.

And then, last night, I had a new dream. I dreamt that he and I renewed our vows. Happy music was playing, we were in love, and we danced and danced. I was wearing some sort of lovely dress, and he looked handsome. The evening was sweet and purple and warm, There were strings of white lights over our heads, and our hearts were so full. The people who gathered around watched us as if we were newlyweds. I felt the kind of pure elation that I hadn't felt in so long- not like a familiar, old friend returning, but a new friend that appeared out of the blue.

It's strange how those unconscious thoughts, and those that slip quietly into the empty spaces of the day, can shape a life. I no more chose the happiness than I chose the sadness, but both found me. Some days, the raw memories were all I could think of, while other days went by without them, but they would always find me in the nighttime. Maybe my body is tired of being sad, or maybe there has been enough life gone by that my thoughts have grown wings again. I don't know how it works, gaining a little hope back at a time, but I gasp for that air as much as I can now. I had forgotten how to take a whole breath. Is this how hearts heal and minds rest? I hope so.

There is an open door in the evening. He steps through it after a day at work, closes it behind him, and hugs the ones who are waiting for him in the hall. He rounds the corner. I am happy.

I have not felt that for so long.

Aug 16, 2015

Take a Taste

 "Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious."  — Ruth Reichl

Millie has been asking me for a year now.

An entire 365 days of, "Can we go eat at the festival?" "The Taste of Champaign?" I ask. "Yeah!" she exclaims. It only comes once a year, but it's seared into her memory as a highlight of summertime. Maybe it's because we've been going long before she was even born. Central Illinois is rich with special events, but this is one we never miss.

The Taste of Champaign-Urbana has always been a favorite in our family. It's become a summer weekend-long tradition full of crafts booths, pony rides, inflatables, concerts and fun acts, activities for kids, and most importantly, a smorgasbord of some of the best restaurants in Chambana.

I like to map out my stops ahead of time, and I can already tell you I'll be stopping at the Minneci's booth for some bruschetta, the Pop Stop for a fun popsicle, Manolo's for a dessert empanada, Millie will drag me to the Kona Ice truck for some shaved ice, and Walter will beg for some popcorn from the Champaign County Historical Museum booth.

But though some parts of the weekend are for fulfilling those traditions, I love that it's a fun way for families to try something new. Millie had her first pony ride last year, and was beside herself with excitement. We watched a kids' concert that my dad, in an overzealous display of hand waving, volunteered me for as a guest on stage. I tried my first sip of Thai tea, and it was heaven. And it was Walter's first time to run through giant bubbles and ride on our shoulders through West Side Park. 
I'm sure that Sky, Millie, and Walter would all have a different part of the Taste of C-U that they like best. Mine is that we get to have a weekend of entertainment and delicious food that isn't forgotten like a typical restaurant meal would be. Instead, we make memories that last us until the next summer.

The Champaign Park District was kind enough to provide $25 in Taste tickets for the winner of this giveaway! The tickets can be picked up at the festival. Just enter below for a chance to win! And either way, make sure to visit this year's Taste of C-U. I'll say hi- but only after dinner, of course.

August 21 from 5-11pm, and August 22 from 11am-11pm. 
It's held in West Side Park,
 steps from downtown Champaign, Illinois.
Post your photos to Instgram using the #TasteCU hashtag- I'll be doing the same!

Disclosure: I was provided with Taste tickets from The Champaign Park District in exchange for this blog post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Aug 4, 2015


"Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. 
It is hard to see what we are." 

If I could sum up this summer in one word, it would be just that- uneasy. Or uncomfortable. The kind of nervous, slightly sad feeling in the pit of your stomach when something- or in this case, many things- just seems off. Like the summer cold we all seem to have, I'm bundled up in bed in my sweatshirt even though I should be chasing Millie and Walter at a park. It isn't supposed to be like this.

There has been good in these June, July, and now August days. Everyone in the family has had a birthday (except me), and it is always fun to share cake and see the joy over presents and balloons. Millie had a milestone birthday, turning 5, and a 5th birthday is its own sort of magic. She and I will start her kindergarten year in September, and we're busy preparing for it. Sky and I have been doing noticeably better, and it's a relief to feel that again. And though Walter has had a few moments of definite two year old actions, he's still as cuddly and sweet as ever.

But circumstances beyond my control have made my heart a little weary, a little unsure. It's like the tornado sirens the city tested this morning; the day is cool and sunny, quite perfect for July, but that ominous sound is hard to shake. It feels wrong.

The most glaringly obvious disruption to our lives has been, of all things, my beloved Illinois. The politics in this state are much less beloved, however, and the state government has been shut down since the end of June. While I won't bore you with pages of my thoughts on the matter, it boils down to a lot of hardship on a lot of people, the poorest people who most need help. And because Sky is a state employee of sorts (also too complicated to explain), we've been left wondering every two weeks whether his paycheck will arrive. After being told to stay home for a whole week, he is back working, but the budget crisis is far from over. I've been spending my nights writing to representatives, no doubt in vain.

A friend moved away this morning. She posted a photo of a Champaign country road, cracked and probably lined with dots of white Queen Anne's Lace and blue chicory, and now she's gone. We've known each other for years but only developed a closer friendship over the last year or so, and that alone makes me sad, because we could have had more time. I shared a lot of common interests with her, more than I have with someone in a long time, and while she's moving on with her life in necessary ways, it's still hard to say goodbye.

And, maybe laughably to some, it's been hard to say goodbye to another friend. Sidnie, one of the few blog friends I have who truly gets me, surprised me with Go Set a Watchman a couple weeks back. I won't spoil the book for anyone, but most people know that Maycomb has changed, Atticus has changed, and even Scout has changed. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites, and it took root in my own childhood, reading it for school, and then again on a family camping trip. I vividly remember being caught up in Tom Robinson's trial as I sat on a dusty chair by a fire pit in the woods. The new book shakes up what I thought I knew about that Alabama town, and left me unsettled. Harper Lee must have known what my summer would be like when she wrote it, and it matched my mood perfectly.

Earlier, I said that I wanted to write when life had smoothed over into calm again, and I could tell the story from the other side. But like most stories, as some parts resolve, others swiftly change, and so it's best to write as it happens. The unease of the summer of 2015 will melt into sweeter autumn, crisp caramel apples, pencil cases and notebooks, and my favorite part of the year. I am ready to trade the sticky, worried days of August for the promise of golden leaves and lighter hearts.
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