Tuesday, November 4, 2014

life and death

A few weeks ago, at the height of autumn's orgy of brilliant color in Southern Indiana, I was at the wedding of a friend.  It was an outdoor wedding, and one of the most beautiful outdoor weddings I've been to at that. The height of the trees, the way our makeshift congregation was nestled up to their landscaped edge...I felt as if I was in Mother Nature's version of the Notre Dame. The trees, thick and towering, were vibrant with fiery reds, golden yellows, and deep purples. They almost seemed alive. But every time the wind blew, the leaves would gently, effortlessly fall to the ground with grace and in silence.

I don't know if it was witnessing the sacrament of marriage, or the unexpectedness of finding myself in that great outdoor cathedral, but I was overwhelmed with the sense that life and death were happening all at once, right in that moment. My friend was getting married, for which I was so happy for him and his new wife, but he was no longer going to be the same friend I had known up until that point. I wasn't sure if I wanted to smile or cry.

I grew up relatively privileged. And mostly sheltered from the realities the rest of the world encounters daily: illness, disability, poverty, loss, death. My life was mostly, and usually only, about Life. And then a few years ago I became pregnant...and then became a parent. My world was no longer controlled by me (whether or not it ever actually was is a musing for another time), and stories of life and death and loss and birth were the white noise of those days. Mother's who had almost died...their babies who miscarried or were born still...friends who caught babies at births that were already given to heaven. The birth of my daughter made me realize, as silly as this may sound, that I'm not going to live forever. I'm not going to be young forever. My parents aren't always going to be there and definitely, maybe sooner rather than later, will be less able-bodied than they are now. Her birth, and all the beautiful things that accompanied it, also became a timestamp for the inevitability of Death.

In the two-plus years that have passed since those very early days of becoming a parent, I've noticed this pattern:  that wherever there is Life, there is also Death. Always. The two are never uncoupled. The birth of a baby is the birth of a new person, of new parents, of new grandparents, of new siblings, of new friendships, of new patterns of family life. It is also the death of whatever was before...everything changes. Parts of old relationships die. Daily life as an un-childed person dies. Maybe some of our ambitions die. And, God bless all parents, sleeping-in certainly, certainly dies.

Sometimes the coupling presents itself subtly, almost without notice. Like the cooking of food...I pick a tomato from my garden, ending it's life.  Then I cook it, eat it, and have my own life sustained by it's nutrients. At other times the life-death duo smacks you in the face so damn hard you're not sure what just hit you. Two months ago I went to the funeral of a dear friend's father, who had died too young from cancer. He was the first of our friends' parents to die. After the funeral I was catching up with our close girlfriends when another friend and I announced to them that we were both pregnant. Life. On the way home from that gathering after the funeral, one of those friends actually witnessed and became first responder to a fatal single-car accident. She was with that young girl when she died. Death. Two deaths, two new lives, all within that one day. Death and Life are always together.

I go back and forth between feeling comforted or completely terrified by the pairing. What I do know is that I am lucky to have been given the gift of this lesson starting with the birth of my daughter. I try to not take this for granted. Many, if not most, know life as mostly just being about Death because that is what life has thrown at them. I, on the other hand, am being gently eased into knowing and embracing Death. To expect it, along with Life, instead of being surprised or unearthed by it. I think I am being taught this way because God knows (and I do too) that I am likely not sturdy enough to learn by jumping in the pool head first. I have such deep sympathy and respect for my friends who have, sometimes willingly, sometimes not.

We all have our cross to bear. Mine has been generally light and held up by others. I wonder, if I am given one that I believe I cannot bear...will I choose to not bear it? My hope rests in the possibility that when Death does come, the new Life that accompanies it is not only equal to, but maybe even greater than the Death itself.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What I read in 2013

Gone With the Wind
Team of Rivals
Lord of the Flies
The Botany of Desire
A Farewell to Arms
Moby Dick (unabridged...and unfinished)
I Know This Much is True (unfinished)

Friday, January 4, 2013


At the end of every year Will and I go through the Pitchfork list of top songs and top albums...it's become a ritual that is highly anticipated in our household. This is only something we've done in the last 4 or 5 years as our leisure time started dwindling and things like houses and jobs replaced hours on end of music-trolling. Not to mention Will playing in a local band on a local record label...regional music tended to overtake our stereo. So we might come in at the tail end of an album's hype, but we can at least pretend that we know something of what's going on in indie music culture even while The Owls play on repeat in our car.

One of Pitchfork's top singles of the year was Japandroids' "The House That Heaven Built" (for whom our friend, Jimmy, recently drove while on tour). Here's what they had to say about the song:

"My favorite live moment of the year involved watching a crowd, not a band. It happened during the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. I was checking on something behind the stage during Japandroids' set and when I climbed up the stairs at stage right, I found myself staring at thousands of kids in their teens or early 20s who were singing along to this song's words like they were scripture: 'When they love you and they will/ Tell them all they'll love in my shadow/ And if they try to slow you down/ Tell them all to go to hell.' Watching that joyful connection brought to mind my original reaction to 'The House That Heaven Built'. At first, Japandroids reminded me of music and a sensibility from my youthful wanderings: basement shows, photocopied zines, couches you only saw once. But seeing that sing-along made me think about how punk spirit, however you define it, is something that can't be relegated to the past. There will always be rock kids who go to a show wanting to be saved. In 2012, this was their anthem." --Brandon Stosuy

With just 2 months left of my 20s and a new baby in tow, I naturally started thinking about my last decade and the gift that the music sub-culture we've been a part of has given us. Every show was a new opportunity to be saved, whether we needed saving or not. Every basement, no matter how disgusting (and there were some really sick ones), meant a chance for adventure and intimacy (no, not that kind of intimacy...at least not for me) with the closest of friends and the most random of strangers. We certainly had our own anthems...some were for all of us, some were just for Will and me, and some were just mine. You had never shouted so loud, arms emphatically above you, sometimes on the verge of tears that were either from emotion or just physical exertion or a little bit of both. These were the kinds of anthems that drove you (you=folks of the XY chromosome persuasion) to take your shirt off, jump on stage, and promptly hurl your sweaty body into a sea of hands willing to accept your sacrifice. Kind of sounds like a contemporary evangelical church service, I know. But for some of us it was our church, our scripture, our sacrament.

I don't think I have an anthem right now, and I'm wondering if I ever will again. Maybe you shouldn't after encountering so much of the real stuff of life: marriage, divorce, birth, death, disappoint, joy, betrayal, loyalty...and everything in between. The anthem wraps all of it up into one thing, one 2-5 minute song, and at this point I think I might know just enough about living to make it dangerous to compile it all together. I can't decide if that's something to mourn, or something to celebrate.

I just hope my daughter has her own anthem some day too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Born is the Bean of Sunset Hill

Yup, I'm typing this blog post while wearing a baby.

But, back to that in a second.

Yes, we did finish the parts of the house that we had hoped to before starting the whole parenthood thing. With lots of help from parents and friends, we were able to paint our new space, install floors, and move our bedroom and set up the nursery all with about 4 weeks to spare. 

hallway nursery space

new bedroom

first pieces of flooring installed


Now that we have that out of the way, on to more important things...

This little bean entered our world at 9:11am on Tuesday, September 18th. Noel Ivy Rose was 8 lbs, 1 ounce, and 20 inches long. She had a full head of dark hair, which momma was very happy about.  Noel and I were able to have an uncomplicated labor and delivery, thanks to the excellent support of our midwife, doula, and Will.

The last month has been a welcome crash course of Noel teaching us how to be parents. Obviously it's challenging (any parent who tells you otherwise is full of malarkey), but it's also something that's hard to put words to. It's worth it. 

So, here's what our last month with Noel has looked like...
Nana Rose in grandparent heaven.
Grammy O'Rourke...aka "Baby Whisperer"
Noel's first music lesson.

1st trip to the Farmer's Market.

Her and Dad's favorite book.

Family hike in Brown County State Park.

It's true that it takes a village to raise a child. I think we can attribute a positive first month of parenthood to all the help we've had from family, friends, care providers, and BABS.

Can't wait for what's in store...

Friday, July 20, 2012

We Fall Into Patterns Quickly

We've always loved the tile in the limestone farmhouse at Schact Farm. As soon as we started this project we knew that we wanted the same tile and pattern in our own house. Our thinking was that if the slate can handle the mess of an animal farm, then surely it can withstand our mess?

The slate was a deal at less than $2.50 sq ft. We ordered it from Penn Big Bed Slate Co. and had it shipped to Bender Lumber, who very kindly delivered it for free to our house (did I mention they didn't make a penny off of this transaction? Great business).

Here's what we were going for:

Clear natural cleft slate floor detail 

We really love this tile and pattern. Maybe as much as you can "love" something that doesn't live and breath .

Anyways, whatever you call our feelings towards this tile, it's good that we felt that way because boy was it about to test our commitment level.

First, this stuff is heavy. I mean, it's natural stone! Carrying it in from the pallet in the driveway was the first task. You can see there's about 6 different size tiles in the 10 sq. ft. pattern.

We thought we could just buy 1/8" spacers and call it a day. They didn't work.

Then we bought 3/16" and 1/4" spacers. Whaddya know, neither of those worked.

So we scoured Bloomington for 3/8" spacers. Found some, tried em', but they SUCKED. They don't make the kind specifically designed for offset patterns in that size, and the little cross-shaped ones just kept falling over. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I forgot to mention that Big Penn was closed for the weekend and that they don't send you any instructions with the tile (I had to call and have the pattern faxed to me). So, we turned to the only thing we knew that could help us in our time of need: Google. What were the two first answers to "slate tile and spacers"?

"Due to slight variations in tile size use of tile spacers is not recommended with slate tile." 

"Throw away your plastic tile spacers when laying slate."

(sigh). As soon as I read this, it reminded me of the same moment I had about 3 years ago when I Googled something like, "raising two puppies". The first responses that came up were "Absolutely avoid getting two puppies at once" and "Expert breeders are careful about placing two puppies together in one home, because they know how much work it is to raise both of them". Whoopsadaisy.

So, on to plan B. We ended up deciding to use chalk lines in the whole mudroom to make sure the pattern stayed straight and uniform, and then eyeballed laying out the tile. Our friend (and tile expert) Chris recommended laying out the whole room before officially buttering up the tile, so that's what Will and Guff spent a whole day doing:

Looks pretty good for no spacers, huh? 

The next job was to cut all the edge pieces, which Will did (I did my duty and asked him to wear safety goggles, but the most you can do is lead the horse to water...). The tile saw was loaned to us by Chris, who says that it is the "Cadillac" of saws and is envied by every tiler he knows. After using it, Will concurred about it's awesome-ness.

Once everything was cut and in place, Will and friends spent the next 3 days "back buttering" the tile after work. Thanks to Mandy, David, and Josh for the help!

Before sealing and grouting, we needed to clean it. Easy, right? WRONG. Two 300+ sq ft. scrub downs and some heavy acid cleaner spot checking later, we were finally ready to seal.

The most exciting part of the process was grouting, which we totally left up to the amazing grouting prowess of Mandy Corey (aka the most badass woman I know in Southern Indiana). Can you believe we finished in just 2.5 hours?

We cleaned and sealed it again (thanks Grandma and Grandpa Rose for the help!), and...VOILA! Check out our brand-spankin' new slate floors!!

 Joaquin especially likes it.

Sooooo glad to have this part of the project done. It was a grueling two weeks of work. Thank God we were finally able to move the washer and dryer out of the kitchen!

Now on to the upstairs...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dry Spell

We've got drywall folks.

Here's the loot, in all its glory.

 The boys spent a Saturday hanging it. This is the ceiling downstairs:

The most exciting part of drywalling for Will was finally being able to take the door off that separated the old part of the house from the new part of the house.

Remember this?

Sorry door, you are no more. It kinda looks dead the way it's just laying there.

Now we can see all the way through the house.  It was weird and exciting to have to start changing our mentality to thinking of the addition as part of our living space. It's just that it's been there sooooooo long, but has always been partitioned off.

 Here's the addition all drywalled:

And the stairwell:

The beanette's nursery hallway:

And our bedroom:

Drywalling is very tedious work, and yes, we are doing it ourselves (it's totally appropriate to call us crazy at this point). We managed to finish all the mudding and sanding in the mudroom, but are still trudging away upstairs. Thankfully though, we were able to paint the mudroom (Benjamin Moore HC-115 Georgian Green) last weekend with help from my dad and Travis and Ashlee:

Our next big task is tiling. Our friend Chris Elam (who drew up the plans for our house and also owns Sycamore Tile Works with his wife Emily...seriously, check them out and order some sweet house numbers as gifts for holidays and weddings!) lended his help and expertise to get us started. Will, Tim, and Chris were able to lay all the cement backerboard in just a few hours...an encouraging quick win after several weeks of drywalling with several more in sight:

Ummm, did I mention that neither of us have ever tiled before? Ever? 

This should be interesting...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


10 weeks and counting.

And that's if all goes as we hope.

I'm 30 weeks this week and things are getting REAL folks. For REAL. Like, I can see her punch through my belly real (not to be confused with this kind of punching).

I've resolved myself to the reality that we likely won't have a pinterest-worthy nursery (ahem, hallway) by the time our sweet babe comes. Or a bathroom that doesn't require traversing a set of stairs to get to. And who knows what else I'm not thinking about (trim? light fixtures? air vents?). I know, I know, it's so hard being middle-class!

But I've also heard that you really only need a few things when baby arrives: boobs, a bed, diapers, and clothes. I think we can manage that. And in a way,  the simplistic approach feels kind of liberating.

I'm hoping to help as much as I can these next few weeks before my big ole baby belly becomes a liability (images of smeared paint swim in my head from a belly that just doesn't leave enough room b/w it and a freshly painted wall).

Yes, pregnant ladies can help with home projects. And we can take walks, stand and not use a chair, garden...pretty much all the normal stuff. Maybe I won't be able to trim my toenails soon, and DO NOT get between me and the nearest bathroom. But mud and paint and tile, I can.

I think I can confidently say that we will have painted walls and finished floors by the time she arrives. And I'll eat those words if she decides to make a surprise early appearance.

To be honest, I'm looking forward to being able to tell my children one day about this crazy adventure in our lives. I guess it's our version of "I used to walk 5 miles in the snow to get to school every day..."