Sister Walks

“The streets were ours that summer at least those two blocks.”

-Macklemore–Cowboy Boots

This lyric–in the words of my youngest sister–completely sums up this story.

Looking back on my childhood/adolescent years, I’m struck by the seemingly idyllic nature of it.

Three daughters, a beautiful house near the forest–I am incredibly blessed to have grown up the way I did.

From around 2006-2010ish, my sisters and I began to prioritize two things in our relationship to each other:

-Sister sleepovers every Friday night

-Biking/walking around the neighborhood during the evenings in the summer

This post is about the latter.

In the summer evenings, when the blazing, Alabama heat had somewhat calmed down; the sun had sunk beneath the trees thick with vibrant, emerald, green leaves. My sisters and I would venture from the coolness of the house with Elsie the dog and walk around the neighborhood. At first our walks started out as a venture to exercise–we attempted running, biking, even walking at a brisk pace. But eventually, our walks took on a slow leisurely pace where we’d laugh and talk and act like idiots together.

What we talked about wasn’t anything too important or exciting, but the kind of conversation that when looking back, you just remember feeling close to the people you were talking to. There was lots of gut-busting laughter where cars driving by would see us collapsed on the side of the road holding our sides from laughter. There were fights and tears. There were times where we got annoyed at each other. There was the house that looked like a vampire lived in it and we came up with a ritual when walking past it that way the vampire wouldn’t eat us at night. Sometimes we’d take our bikes and race each other down the streets; the warm, glowing, last rays of the sun painting long slanted shadows of us on the pavement.

You could hear our laughter echoing in the woods.

Sometimes there were moments where not much was said at all. One evening we took a walk after it had rained. The pavement was steaming and the air felt so thick with humidity you could have sliced it with a knife. Puddles collected in the dents on the pavement and our rain boots made sure to disrupt those puddles as much as possible. My dad was getting coffee with my now husband who wanted to date me. I was nervous and giddy, it was hard to keep my heart from pounding and a smile from gracing my lips. So we walked, and barely said a word to each other; but I felt so close and so loved by them.

One of the rare times it snowed in Alabama, all three of us decided it was prime time for walking. We put layers and layers of clothes on, played in the snow for hours and then began our walk. We didn’t make it very far, we went down our usual route and the wind picked up shooting icy flakes into our faces. Me and my middle sister huddled behind my youngest sister–her height was enough to shield us from the worst of it. (Yes, we are horrible older sisters for turning the baby into a human snow shield…) Before long, even she couldn’t stand it anymore and we turned around, fingers and toes numb, to the comfort of the fire our dad had waiting for us and the hot tea mom was surely going to offer us.

 

I think back to those times and I miss them. Before a boy stole me away; it was just us three against the world. We had so many hopes and grand schemes for our futures but the future wasn’t quite here. It was a quiet time of waiting to grow up–knowing it would get here soon but wasn’t quite here yet. And before we knew it, we’d grown older and life took us different places.

We will always have those walks in our memory though and for that I am so grateful.

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Stuck In My Room

When I was a little girl, we lived in a house (in a now really bad part of town!) that was old and had a historic charm to it. I think it was built sometime in the 30’s or 40’s. It was beautiful and creaky and quirky and we loved it.

One day, I go into my room in the morning to change out of my pajamas and get started on my schoolwork. I close the door to me and my sister’s room, change real fast and then open the door…except that the door didn’t budge. I jiggled the handle, I yanked on the door, I braced my leg up against the doorframe and pulled with all my strength.

Of course I’m panicking at this point! I start screaming for my mom who comes running and tries to get to me from the other side. She tries and tries to pry the door open but it doesn’t budge.

So there I am, stranded in my room, waiting to get out. My mom calls my dad and tells me he’ll be home as soon as he can to save me. At the tender age of seven, being stranded in my room for any amount of time was dreadful. I wasn’t in there for more than an hour, probably less, but it felt like an eternity. It felt like days, months, years had passed me by. My room was a cell and I was going crazy. I paced the room, I gazed longingly out the window; how long had I been there, how much longer would I be stuck. It was torture!

I remember very distinctly that my mom heated up some banana bread and slipped it on a plate underneath the crack of my bedroom door and talked with me from the other side. It was the best, damn, banana bread I’d ever had!

Finally, dad comes home. I spy him walking in the door from my bedroom window. He tries so hard to get the door open; I hear him fiddling from the other side. Finally, he speaks to me through the door and tells me to get away, to go sit on my bed as far away from the door as possible. Next thing I know, he fire-man kicks the door down and I am freed.

It was so beautiful!

That weekend I think his project was to replace the door or something like that.

 

Isn’t it funny how an hour spent in our room with a pile of books sounds so pleasant now? You could take a nap or read or just sit there listening to good music with your eyes closed–but as a kid, it was the worst thing in the world!

How times change.

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I’m A Superhero

Not really though.

 

So, my youngest sister has almost drowned–three times!!!!!

And I’m the one who has saved her, every time. 

 

Now I don’t want you to get confused and think it was this great, heroic gesture; it really wasn’t. Let me tell you how this shit went down:

 

1. The first time my sister almost drowned, we were at our friend’s house swimming to beat the Southern heat. My youngest sister hadn’t quite mastered the art of swimming yet. We’re playing pool games, I’m in the deep end and my sister was in the shallow end. She’s just having a blast, I turn around and when I turn back she’s not there anymore–I look down in the water and see her thrashing underneath. I grab her by the arm, pull her up and take her back to the shallow end and set her on the stairs. She’d slipped on the incline into the deep end and just sank to the bottom. She was okay, just a little spooked.

2. The second time was almost identical to the first time–except my mom was there. I’m playing in the deep end and my sister once again slipped on the incline to the deep end. She wasn’t underneath the water for long before I saw her, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her up to the surface. My mom was very, very worried but everything was okay and my sister was fine.

3. The third time was a little more eventful, and kind of funny because of who we were with. The first time I met my husband, I was 10 and he was 12; our families became friends and I grew up hanging out around him and his brother and sisters.

My mom and his mom planned a swimming day at their house; we spend almost the entire day there and swim until we’re exhausted. Because I was around 12ish, boys still had cooties and I was starting to get self-conscious about my body–stupid puberty! Normally, I’d swim until mom would drag us home…not this time, I didn’t want to be in my swimsuit around boys.

So at lunch time, when we were forced out of the pool to nourish ourselves, I decided to put my clothes back on and call it a day. So here I am, back in my clothes, eating lunch by the pool–all the kids were almost done eating. My youngest sister was all the way done eating and decided it was time to get back in the pool; so she just toddles over to the water while everyone keeps talking. She didn’t have her water wings on and was supposed to put them on before jumping in the pool; we hear a splash……..and she doesn’t surface.

The water wings are still on the side of the pool.

My mom can’t swim, so frantically she cries for me to save her and pushes me in the pool to get my sister out; I swim down to the bottom of the pool and bring her up to the surface. I hold my sister up to my mom who pulls her out of the pool to make sure she’s okay and I climb out, my clothes now soaking wet.

My sister is assessed as being fine, she’s short of breath and coughing but otherwise perfectly fine. She hadn’t been under for more than a minute. Then the attention is turned to me and my only change of clothes being unsuitable for me to drive home in.

Now at this point in time, I was too small to wear his mom’s clothes but too big to wear his younger sister’s clothes. Sooooooooooo…a pair of my now husband’s clothes was given to me to wear. Like I said before, I was in the awkward boy’s-are-gross-and-weird-and-scary stage, and I’ve got to wear this boy’s clothes!! And not just shorts and a t-shirt, NO, I had to wear a pair of his underwear!!!! It was so humiliating! Seriously, imagine yourself at 12 years old and you’ve been handed clothes from the opposite sex and you’re just supposed to wear it like everything is fine. I have never changed clothes faster then when I got home that day, I’ll tell you that much. Kind of funny now actually but at the time, I was absolutely mortified!

(On a side note, I wear his t-shirts all the time now which is cool. Getting married doubled my comfy clothes wardrobe and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made!)

 

My youngest sister is the coolest youngest sister in the world and she just turned 19 (like three days ago) and I love her so much.

I promise to write something about her that’s not so embarrassing another day.

But come on…what are oldest sister’s for anyway if not to embarrass their siblings?

Love you sister!

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Uummm…Awkward…

Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this…

Do you ever come home from a social gathering, you were trying so hard to fit in and be a grown-up with grown-up friends; and as you are thinking over the event and conversations that were had, do you ever find yourself physically cringing from something you said? Like, you’re just going about your business, happily washing the make-up off your face, humming a tune and then find your face mashed up in a grimace because you said something stupid?

And not only that, you find yourself obsessing over it for hours! You try to distract yourself, honestly and truly you try, but the memory creeps in and haunts everything.

“How could you do that?” you think, “You made the whole room uncomfortable, that was so stupid…”

And it doesn’t go away. It takes the whole day just for you to recover from the awkward embarrassment of putting yourself out there.

 

With me, I tend to obsess over the question, “Am I just too weird? Is that why I always stick my foot in my mouth like this?”

Does it ever end? Do we ever reach a point where we don’t say stupid, weird things that make people question your sanity?

 

Yes, I am being melodramatic, but I’m struggling here, someone help!

 

My name is Melanie, I’m socially awkward and can’t seem to forgive myself for it.

 

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Peace

One of the things I’m learning–like really learning–is the freedom that comes from not feeling responsible for other people and their feelings.

I’m a very empathetic person. I struggle watching shows like Arrested Development or The Office (both of which I LOVE) because those shows thrive on awkward situations. I feel like I’m right there experiencing that awkwardness and it’s almost too hard to sit through.

And then apply that to real life; if I sense that someone is tense or upset or sad, I internalize it and make it my sole responsibility to take that on and fix it. This can be a great thing in some respects, being empathetic has taught me to look out for people and to think twice about what I say to others. You never know the battles others are fighting. But it’s bad because I take on the pain and worries and fears of the crowd of people standing around me; then I get distressed when I can’t fix things and make those bad feelings go away.

There is a freedom in realizing that I am only responsible for me. It is not my job to make other people happy; I can certainly try and I think people who try to make the world a better place are people I want to emulate!

But I am not ‘Super Happy Girl’–taking on and curing the world’s sorrow one person at a time!!

I am learning that when I try to make people happy and make them feel validated, and they don’t get that feeling from me; I can be sorry that my attempts failed but their sorrow is their responsibility alone. You can only be happy if you are happy with yourself.

 

It makes the world seem a little smaller, a lot less daunting and the weight on my shoulders barely anything at all.

 

What have you been learning lately?

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Commence Pouting

Okay, confession: throughout this growing-a-human-baby-in-my-stomach-thing, I’ve tried really, really hard to not be “one of those women.”

You know the ones I’m talking about! The ones who can’t shut-up about being pregnant. It’s like, “Yes, we know that’s what your life revolves around right now but you are my friend and I want to hear about your life outside of growing a human!”

Whether I’ve prevailed or fallen completely on my face in this endeavor is up to you to decide.

 

That’s beside the point, basically, I’m just trying to say that I don’t want to flood your blog newsfeed with whiny, rambly stories of how beautiful and horrible being pregnant is. That’s not why you’re here and that’s not why I’m here.

But today, can I have a little grace? Is it okay for me to whine a little bit or will you think I’m being terribly bitchy?

 

So, when I went in at 18 weeks to get THE ultrasound, the one where you find out the gender and get to start picking out names and nursery stuff; the ultrasound tech, in response to a comment I had made about not having a bump said, “You have a very long torso, you’re not going to look as pregnant as you are. So don’t let anyone bully you or make you worry, okay?”

I really appreciated her telling me this because, much to my surprise, I was met with many more raised eyebrows than I anticipated.

The bump didn’t really start to make it’s appearance well into the halfway mark of being pregnant. It was right around 20 weeks that I noticed my jeans getting tighter.

The only thing people can say to me when I tell them how far along I am is, “No you’re not!” “You’re kidding!” “I was that big at 3 months!” “There’s no way you are that far along.” “You’re not that much bigger than when I last saw you…” “Are you sure?”

Now I know what you’re thinking over there, sitting behind your screen shaking your head. Of all the things to complain about? Right?

It’s not the comment itself, I’m actually quite flattered to know I look good for being as pregnant as I am. But it’s the comment made on my body by people who–to be honest–I don’t give a damn about. Just like those women who look like they’re about to burst only two months into their pregnancy, do you think they appreciate hearing how big they are?

After half the women at a social event tell me, “There’s just no way you are actually that pregnant.” and all the raised eyebrows I’m met with, guess what? I start second guessing myself! Is my baby healthy, is my doctor lying to me, am I supposed to be bigger, am I eating enough, what if I’m slowly killing off my baby, what if he comes out maimed and deformed…………………..

There are people in my life whose opinion matters to me, those people are more than welcome to make comments and talk to me because they know me and love me and care about me. Friends and family who are genuinely interested in me and how I’m feeling and how things are going.

Those people who are just making an open commentary on the way my body is growing a baby, please step to the side and shut your mouth because no one needs that kind of negativity here!

I think there’s a way to be polite about it, “Wow! You look great.” instead of “Wow! You look like you’re starving yourself and your baby.”

 

I’m tired of people thinking I want their opinion on my body….commence pouting and eating inordinate amounts of chocolate fudge poptarts. While we’re being honest here: I’ve consumed WAY too many poptarts in a 24 hour period. Like, I’m really ashamed to tell you how many calories I’ve stuffed into my face just by buying poptarts last night.

Should I tell you?

Hhhhmmmmm…..

Nope. I can’t. It’s too embarrassing.

Byyyyyeeeeeeeee!

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I Love Reading!

As a child, I had a voracious love of reading. My dad used to say that I went through books like a fish swims through water. I always had a huge stack of books on my nightstand and I went through them pretty quickly.

On the SAT tests, I was always at least two grades above my own grade in reading and comprehension.

As a teenager, I still devoured books as much as possible, but other distractions took over my time: t.v., friends, school reading, email chain letters, etc. The busier life got the harder it was for me to keep up with my reading. There was even a phase of life where I didn’t read much at all! *gasp*

 

But ever since starting this book club in the summer of 2013, I’ve got my reading mojo back! Now, don’t mistake me, I definitely don’t read as much as I did when I was a kid. Unfortunately, real life sometimes gets in the way of sitting around reading all day. But there is always a book that needs reading because of the book club reading list.

We try to read a 300 page (or less) book every two weeks. If it’s longer than 300 pages we might bump it out to 4 weeks. And last year, I got to read a lot of books. I keep up with all my books on GoodReads. (All my reading friends, go sign up, it’s awesome!)

At the beginning of 2015, GoodReads had a “look-back-on-your-year-in-books” kind of thing.

So without further ado, here is a list of the books I read last year and a brief synopsis of what I thought, I hope you enjoy!

1) Divergent – Veronica Roth: Yes, this book club is made up of mostly adult women and yes, we all have a soft spot for young adult fiction! Of course we had to read it! Especially with the approaching release of the movie. I definitely liked the book better than the movie. I really like how the whole story revolves around personality types. We talked a lot about Meyers-Briggs personality traits–ESFP’S for the win!!–and we took a test to see which faction we’d be in; I was Dauntless and proud!

2) Insurgent – Veronica Roth: I went and read the sequel separate from book club. It was okay, definitely a filler book in the series. I don’t know if I’ll fully know what I think about it until I’ve read the last one.

3) Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky: Those who know me well know that I am a hardcore fan of this book. I’ve read it several times! This one I read separate from book club because I finally got my own copy. It’s a beautiful, messy, coming of age story that makes me cry. And can we talk about the movie guys? Wow!

4) It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – Ned Vizzini: The book was more potent to read in light of the author’s recent suicide. The story follows a severely depressed/anxiety-ridden boy who almost commits suicide and checks himself into the hospital. He spends a week in a psych ward and it follows the friendships he makes with others there and the lessons he learns while he’s there.

5) Looking For Alaska – John Green: Oh John Green, how can I even begin? I love his writing, although this is probably my least favorite of his. It does take place right here in Alabama, at a school. It follows the story of a kid who falls in love with a girl named Alaska at his new school. The first half of the book is his life before her death; the second half deals with the aftermath. Was it suicide? Was it an accident? You decide….

6) Great Expectations – Charles Dickens: A just-for-fun read of mine. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, especially since there was a movie with, like, half the Harry Potter cast in it!!!!!!!!!! So I swore, before the movie, I HAD to read the book. I forgot how hard it was to read classic literature after your brain gets used to modern language! But I enjoyed it. Miss Havisham fascinated and completely captured my attention. Such a compelling character!

7) Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple: Uuumm, can we just talk about how this woman helped write the script for Arrested Development? (Any fans of that show?) This book was hilarious! Bee’s hermit of a mother (Bernadette) just up and disappears one day…no note, no nothing. Young Bee is left to pick up the pieces and find out where her mother is. Riotously funny, written with such wit, a very clever story!

8) Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter: An Italian man, living in a secluded, island town, has a young movie star show up at the hotel his family runs. She’s sick and he falls madly in love. And as an old man, he’s trying to find her again and tell her what he wishes he had told her way back when. It was a beautiful read.

9) The Book Of Lost Things – John Connolly: The fairy tales are darker than we thought they were. A boy finds himself in a magical kingdom after the death of his mother. He’s desperately trying to get out and to make sense of everything.

10) And The Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini: A beautiful story about family and growing up. If you are a fan of The Kite Runner, you will absolutely love this book!

11) Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan: A young man looking for a job, a bookstore with shelves so tall they disappear into darkness and the mysterious owner who is almost wizard-like. The bookstore has a mind of its own and words are more powerful than we think. What’s with this place?

12) Rebecca’s Tale – Sally Beauman: Non-book club reading here; a fan-made sequel to the infamous Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier. It gives us a more in-depth look at the dreadfully captivating Rebecca and her mysterious death.

13) The Wednesday Sisters – Meg Waite Clayton: This story follows the lives of 5 women during the uncertainty of the 60’s. It deals with life, death, friendship, and everything in between. It made such an impact on our book club that we have named our book club the Tuesday Sisters.

14) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling: Amazing. Funny. Almost as good as Bossypants by Tina Fey. It was the perfect beach-read and now I want to be best friends with Mindy.

15) The Time Keeper – Mitch Albom: The first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time. A girl who doesn’t want anymore time in her life. A dying man who wants more. A very poignant and powerful read. It will leave you thinking for weeks.

16) The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wecker: A wicked rabbi, dabbling in dark arts, creates a Golem out of clay as a bride for a man traveling to America. A Jinni, captured in a lamp found by a man in Little Syria in New York. These two creatures, earth and fire, unlikely friends, try to make sense of their differences from the rest of humanity and try to lay low in New York City. A fascinating read!

17) Joyland – Stephen King: A just for fun read that a friend gave me. A young man works in a theme park one summer and tries to investigate the murder that took place in the haunted house years ago.

18) The Giver – Lois Lowry: I had never read this book before and I loved it. I don’t know what else to say except it was a fascinating study on humanity. I’m not even going to talk about what a disgrace the movie is……

19) Yes Please – Amy Poehler: Can I just talk about how much I love Amy? She’s so funny. I miss the days when she was on SNL. This was a wonderful book and the section she wrote about her boys is what I aspire to be as a mother.

20) Inferno – Dan Brown: I loved reading The Da Vinci Code and this was no different! From the beginning, it’s a page turner. Professor Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Italy and has no recollection of the previous two days. Addressing issues like global over-population and such, it’s intense and captivating.

 

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any good books you read last year? Do you have a reading goal this year?

Tell me below in the comments, I’d love to hear!

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