Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sharing the love of art.

Saturday was one of the biggest days of the year for us: Magic City Art Connection. The best thing about this festival of art, dance, carnival food, and more art is that it’s free. Yes! That is the word in the English language that is often most dear to me: free. This time of year is when I dance and cavort among the masses in my smiles and sunglasses all around the little white tents. Mr. Husband skips beside me like a giant happy bear. We’ve been attending Art Connection in Linn Park (downtown Birmingham) since the third month of our dating courtship. It is a tradition. We love tradition. It is where we know we’ll be happy and see wonderful things to pique our interest and challenge our minds into motion. This is the place where Mr. Husband bought me the most expensive birthday gift I’d ever had—he did it without thinking twice. I was amazed and felt like everyone would judge me and say that I’m dating him for his money. Silly me! Back then, as poor as I was and trying to make it on my own, I thought that $180 was an exorbitant cost. Who would just drop $180 without thinking about it and doing the figures in his head about whether or not that would cut into a food budget or the electric bill? Back then, I didn’t have cable and used a dial-up modem for my $300 e-Machine that my parents bought me when I started grad school. $180 was my food budget for an entire month.

Mr. Husband seemed like a hero to me that day. It was late April, 2006. It had been raining all day at Art Connection, and we’d wandered around with Petar and Maja, looking at art and watching the kids fall on the wet wooden kid stage as they tried to dance an Irish Jig in the rain. We walked over to an artist’s tent with jewelry—pearls dropping from silver sculpted flower petals. Clear, subtle, and classic. Mr. Husband-then-Boyfriend encouraged me to look at a pair. I held them between my fingers and marveled at their simple beauty. Mr. Husband-then-Boyfriend asked if I liked them. I breathed, “yes.” He turned to the artist’s mother, who was manning the tent, and told her, “we’ll take them.” I gasped and protested, but he smiled and would not relent.

My first birthday gift ever from Mr. Husband are the earrings I wore on my wedding day.

Every year, we establish a budget of around $300 and take off for Art Connection. It is romantic for us and a day filled with art-hunting surprises. This year, our friends the McDermott’s joined us. They, too, love art and adventure. We headed downtown around 11:00 to sit in the blazing Alabama April sun, listening to bluegrass as we ate carnival food that is always greasy, smothered with something yummy, and washed down with cold beer from plastic cups.
This year, there were more artists’ tents than ever. We’ve enjoyed watching some artists we see year after year evolve and become more brilliant. We walk and stick our heads into every tent, pricing a smaller painting first to figure out if the artist is reasonable. These artists’s works are most likely not on the wall of the Louvre, so please—price your art in accordance with its being in a tiny little white tent in the middle of the Alabama sun. We understand it’s your job and your livelihood, but give us something to buy.

One year, we commissioned a print that had Thoreau running from the garden. We purchased half of the print in April and didn’t hear from the artist until August. That was scary. I hate how artists always have the excuse that they’re artists and can be late, unreliable, and unpredictable. Come to think of it—that’s a super game they’ve got going. Anyhow, we won’t do that again. There were so many emails not responded to—we were on pins and needles but incredibly pleased with the final result.

This year, we went into Linn Park, poking our head into artist’s tents with a firm purpose in mind. We wanted to purchase a Tracey Lewis print. Mr. Husband says that her work reminds him of Mario Bros. I agree. There’s something about the green and the buildings that takes one home to childhood. We’ve drooled over her work for two years. This year, we did it. We couldn’t afford a giant, framed print like we wanted, so we have to frame it ourselves. One day, it will grace our dining room wall. It made us very happy to find what we wanted. Staring at her work and getting lost in it gives us a feeling of calm.

We also bought a small, framed print from a Latvian artist named Marina Terauds. Her work is mythical, mystical, and a bit on the odd side. Perfect for our guest bath. We were looking at smaller $40 pieces, trying desperately to stay in budget, but we found this work to be not only in budget but also to connect to our very first date. The work is entitled “Theatre” and reminds us of how amazed Mr. Husband-not-quite-Boyfriend-then was to find someone else who liked Shakespeare and wanted to go to plays in town. It was a bond that was made that first night at Dave’s Pub that we carry with us every day. We share a love of art and celebrate that mutual love every spring at Art Connection.

When babies explode, we spend money.

We started off the week on Sunday going to a baby shower where we were the only couple without a kid to put on display. Sure, we had our friends’ kids to play with and act like they were our kids when the parents weren’t looking, but we didn’t have a kid of our own. All the couples stood around talking about first words, first steps, and various problems with spitting or pinching while we tried not to look awkward or make the other couples feel awkward for us. We don’t want to be that couple. It’s amazing how in the past four years, our friends have basically exploded with kids with many more on the way. We celebrate the explosion and love being around the multiplying kid masses. We are forever attending kid parties and baby showers. Maybe, at some point, all the kid juice will rub off on us and we’ll have something to show for our eagerness, willingness, and hard work in the bedroom.

On the way home from the shower, as we glided down Hwy 280 from the top of Double Oak Mountain past Eagle Point, Mr. Husband asked me what I was going to do with the rest of the day. I said, “I don’t know …what are you going to do?” He responded with the essential comeback, “I asked you first.” Ball’s in my court. It’s me time. I call the shots. Whatever I say goes. It’s Christmas all over the world and, right now, in our car. I carefully constructed my answer, providing ample data ahead of said motive so that it was easy to persuade my victim—my always willing-to-listen-to-logic husband who does love to see me smile. Earlier in the week, we’d divided up our left-over tax return money that was our bonus to spend with wild abandon after paying off our credit card debt. It all comes back to the house. We have debt because of the house, but we also got a super tax return because of the house.

Half of the surplus goes to savings—to improve our future. And the other half goes to life—improving our immediate right now.

Bring on the wild abandon! Can it still be called wild abandon if we detail meticulously by writing down how we plan to distribute our thousand-dollar untamed shopping spree? The written plan is simply a guideline. We decide how to dole out each hundred-dollar chunk and then stick to it or veer from it as chance strikes. We have a few things we really want to do: buy a new piece of furniture for the house from Southern Wicker—a bookshelf or side table. It’ll be something small in the $300 range. Mr. Husband wants to start making his own beer. With supplies and a class to teach him, that’ll cost $200. We know that Magic City Art Connection is coming, so we’d like to spend $300 there to improve our walls. So far, in our heads, we’ve spent $800. The other $200 was dedicated to this and that. It was up-in-the-air cash. Ideas were thrown out, but we decided to pad our first three ideas. Over-spending on any of the above was made possible by the not-in-concrete extra $200. Good plan.

So back to Sunday, driving home from the baby shower with our emptiness and our need to spend. I say we should visit Southern Wicker near the Galleria. Mr. Husband groans and wonders if we can find something closer. Mr. Husband says he really wants a table for eating that we can put on the upper porch. I balk. I want a bookshelf. Our horns lock, but when I think about it more—Mr. Husband is right. I weigh the happiness that might be obtained from the bookshelf or side table and then weigh the happiness that can be harnessed from a bistro table and chairs on the upper porch. Mr. Husband may have something there.

We visit Pier One first. Glass, iron, wicker, and rocking chairs. Not what we’re looking for. Next, we dash to World Market as the rain begins to pour down and cover us. We laugh and think of Scotland. The rain will forever make us think of our honeymoon where we learned that rain will not kill—an umbrella is not necessary. Let it rain. At World Market, we sit and try a variety of chairs and tables. Mr. Husband wants a bench for the upper porch because he wants to cuddle and snuggle with me under the stars. But the bench isn’t quite right. We try the $99 Adirondack chairs, but that’s not it. Not yet.

Over near the bookshelves and soap, we find a drop-leaf table with curved back dining chairs in a natural-like wood. Interesting. Mr. Husband has a seat. Mr. Husband sees it in his head. Mr. Husband walks away thinking. I stay, looking down at the table with evening dinners on the upper porch dancing in my head. It will fit. It will be cozy. We do it. We first run home to print off a 25% off coupon for a friends and family sale that’s happening that very day—score! We over spend by $100. Good thing we planned for the up-in-the-air cash. Yes.

In one week, we’ve eaten dinner out there five times. We’ve had two dinner gatherings—one smashing party last night with the McDermott’s and many bottles of wine. In the past week, we’ve said to each other at least a dozen times, “this is the best decision we’ve ever made.” While it may not be the best ever, it is the best right now. It’s ever so rewarding to spend money wisely on something that brings us ever so much closer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The greener grass.

It is a lazy Saturday in Stewartville. The cats trip about at our feet, making sure no calf goes uncozied in this house and no ear is without a symphony of meows. Both Mr. Husband and I sit up in the red library, door to the upper porch open as we drink our morning coffee. We’ve got various They Might Be Giants songs making us smile from Mr. Husband’s computer speakers. This is exactly where we want to be. Later today, our subdivision will erupt in super block party where we’ll all fall into the street in front of our house and all the other similarly shaped houses on Werewolf Lane. Did we prepare? You betcha! Last night, with a glass of red wine and my ever faithful kitty companion, Bonita, at my feet and trying ever to steal off the front porch, I kept up with the Joneses.

We live in an awesome neighborhood. Most houses are filled with vibrant young families that are full of smiles and cheer. There is a ladies group where we get together on the last Tuesday in the month to chat and sometimes learn something. Angelia, who is definitely one of the Joneses, taught us last month about how to put pots of flowers together for dramatic front porch effect. She went to several nurseries to find just the right plants to pile into a pot for super punch. I didn’t do such a good job—we went to one nursery. That simply had to do on short notice and with very little time (we never have enough time). I’ve got a serious thing for blooms. Those are flowers with flowers on them. Go figure. All my blooms will probably die in our full-on-sun front porch, but for today—for the block party—they are perky, perfect, and I am proud.

Mr. Husband and I used to make a concerted effort to get out and take advantage of what Birmingham has to offer. This meant that we’d visit the Botanical Gardens often, strolling about on her paths and visiting her different areas like the Japanese garden and the hothouse for free. FREE. We’d walk hand-in-hand and let conversation flow naturally about the trees, bushes, and flowers. Our daily lives are consumed by jobs that we love probably a little too much, so on the weekends—we try to live outside of work. It’s perhaps a little disturbing that we have to work to turn work off in our heads, but, then, this is what also helps to find ourselves at the Botanical Gardens or the zoo on the weekends. We are on an adventure from work.

One weekend, we went to the Botanical Garden to bathe in pensive thoughts as we tried sitting and being still and calm in various different spots in the garden. We’d enjoy one bench after another, one view after another. We finally found ourselves laying on a little bit of lawn just outside the Japanese garden. A perfect lawn with soft grass that was sprightly green and inviting. We splayed our body parts across the greeny-green surface, staring up into the cloud littered sky, saying to one another how perfect just now this moment is. We lay still. Quiet. Calm. And then the itching began. It was slow. It didn’t burn immediately, but the itching was like a nagging—like a little piece of thread hanging off the end of a blazer sleeve. Not really annoying but enough of a discomfort that it fills your thoughts every time you see it, “I should cut that off. Where are the scissors?”

We wiggled a little. Slight movement. Still staring at the sky. The itching grew and spread. Turning and repositioning didn’t restore the calm we had just three minutes ago. Oh, no! The grass! The grass is killing us! The grass is so perfect and beautiful and green and suspiciously stout and hearty because it is filled with fertilizers and God knows what else—the grass is attacking us! The grass! It’s filled with people—the grass didn’t want us there. We jumped up, itching and rubbing all exposed body parts. We leapt from the wonderful grass and found the brick path that is meant for humans. While we were laughing and glaring at the stupid grass that tried to kill us, we realized that there is most likely no calm for us. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can be content with the calm. We are alive and ready. Together, Mr. Husband and I are itching for a great big life. It’s coming. It is.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Travel makes the heart grow fonderish.

So there was some crazy sadness in me that just wouldn’t go away. Stupid miscarriage. And Mr. Husband and I tried so hard to focus and focus and not let it get in the way. But it did. There was anger and the unattainable unknown. There were doctors appointments, a slew of them. Question after question went unanswered. In the end, all we got was that there was no answer. There was no reason. Test after test reveals that we are normal. So far as the first level of doctors can see. It’s common, they say. And so we go on. Waiting.

But the waiting doesn’t allow for the super closeness that we needed. There is a one-month probation. We were on probation, restricted and constrained from jumping right back into the game. That’s tough, not being able to touch and enjoy life as we want to at that very moment. And so I went to Germany. Dive into work and forget my troubles. Drink the wonder of the Fatherland—enjoy beer at beer’s finest.

Where did that leave Mr. Husband? Where did that leave me? It left us on different continents. It left us both in a kind of limbo. How do we get back to where we once belong? It was one thing after another. There was no time to stop and think, but we did. It seems like we did a lot of that, but it was never enough. We kept to ourselves, watching Netflix and killing zombies via our trusty Xbox. But a void was ever-present. We needed to reconnect. A bigger loss was necessary. A loss that was felt by distance.

I buried myself in work, relishing the fortune I had to be able to travel and stretch my work legs. I went to Berlin on a trip that took 24 hours to get there, going through sunny Paris where I got to spend three hours in the corner of gate D24, drinking warm Heinekens and trying to stomach a chewy baguette. Finally getting to Berlin, I found my luggage lost to me and still in New York City. The Berlin baggage handler gave me a lengthy lecture on being a “Klusendorf” and not speaking German before he told me that my luggage simply didn’t make it. Quick wardrobe change in the Berlin airport and 300 Euros later, I was ready for Monday morning’s meeting. Picking up my luggage back in Berlin, ready for the flight to Heidelberg, I was glad to see the Heidelberg Marriott where everything seemed to fall into place. All the while, my boss’s Blackberry doesn’t work, so I have no clear and direct communication with Mr. Husband. He is lost to me.

Yet, when I finally get to my room in the Marriott, room number 118, and open up my luggage, tiny little love notes float out from between my not-so-carefully folded clothes. Tiny little love notes that remind me that back home and forever there is someone who is rooting for me. I laugh as I look at a scarily cut square that has a note scrawled upon it about what a good job I’m surely doing. Later, I borrow a phone from another co-worker and mention the silly-looking square. Mr. Husband smiles through the phone and informs me, “that’s a trapezoid.”
Of course it is. How silly of me not to know. Nothing but the ever unusual and wonderful from Mr. Husband. On Wednesday morning, I find a trapezoid love note tucked in my favorite pink argyle socks that mentions how one day we will be parents once we get past all of this … this.

All the sudden, I’m home again.

Yet, coming home was still hard. Facing the disappointment all over again. I pride myself on being resilient. Ok, so, maybe miscarriage with the one I love is not something I can wake up the next day and bounce back from—who knew. I didn’t. The love was always there, despite how distant and hurt the both of us were and are. We remain. We are strong. At least we're putting up a damn good front of it now.

Yesterday, I felt real again. It was me speaking through the phone. I wasn’t pretending. Not like I was pretending before, because I didn’t know. I was masking. Now I’m real. Now we’re ready? We did a lot of making up in these last two days. It’s not that we were fighting, it’s that we just were not right. Ah, look at the struggle. Is this preparation? I can only hope. Like we had to jump through hoops to make us appreciate? I can only say this now looking forward to hope.

This marriage, this life, this love is such an amazing ever-turning thing. May I always turn over to see my Mr. Husband. Sure, his morning breath could be better, but I’d miss it if it didn’t curl my eyelashes in just the exact-eye-opening way it does now.