Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I've kind of been dying a little over John Galliano's latest collection for Dior. Feast your eyes, people:


I've been a closet follower of the Haute Couture world for years. I used to sit in my room watching the runway shows every season online and I could rattle off the main designers for any of the major fashion houses if asked (I have far more important things to remember these days but I do still think Karl needs to retire).

I grew up in some pretty conservative circles in which fashion was looked upon as vain and clothes were meant simply to cover (as much as possible) your body so any amount of fabric in any color and in any (horrendous) style would do. All of this in the name of God, of course. It was this mentality that had me watching Ralph Lauren's spring collection behind closed doors and peeking at the September Issue of Vogue behind the magazine racks when no one was looking. I spent years clad in culottes, mid-calf khaki skirts and shapeless shirts. I still remember going into Saks 5th Avenue in NYC on a high school trip wearing a khaki shirt and windbreaker (de rigeur for my alma mater at the time) and being shadowed by salespeople who clearly thought I was going to try to sneak something in my crocheted Wal-Mart shoulder bag. It was torture. Even though I was expected to conform to these legalistic views on clothes, I could no more scoff at McQueen or Galliano than I could Monet.

I no longer feel the guilt or pressure that I once did and I now feel sorry for those who insist on living in such a bleak world and not appreciating couture for what it is: Art. Beauty. Sculpture. (The list goes on). Nature is full of color, line, abstract forms and outrageous design, all formed by the hands of God himself. Man and Woman were his ultimate creations, his masterpieces, yet for some reason, a small clatch of people insist on covering these works of art in crap (I really did try to come up with a better word...sorry). One wouldn't put a Rembrandt in a burlap bag before putting it out on display so why would we cover the creation of The Artist in dowdy shapeless garments.

I'm not advocating nudity or frivolity at all, but I like to think of clothing as that "frame" so to speak. A way of enhancing the beautiful creation that we are.

One of my favorite sites is The Sartorialist.  While I dearly love the artistry of the couture shows (the makeup! the shoes! the head-wear! the lighting design!), I am fascinated by the creativity displayed by the average people Schuman captures in his photographs: a bit of vintage lace here, a classic suit there, a jaunty hat on fresh, windswept hair. More than the clothes, I'm always captivated by the faces of his subjects. In a refreshing departure from most of the fashion world, Schuman finds real people with wrinkles and flaws yet enormous amounts of character (take this Milanese gentleman, for instance). The hat, the loosely tied scarf, the perfectly tailored coat and the wedding ring hanging onto aging fingers. I want to know his story.

All this being said, I don't claim to be any sort of fashionista myself. I try, but since my wardrobe currently revolves around my daughter's feeding needs, I tend to resort to some sort of loose or stretchy shirt and jeans.  I adore trips to Anthropologie, Banana Republic and J Crew as much as the next girl though (despite almost never buying anything) and I'm probably going to set an alarm reminding me when the Burberry accessories boutique opens on Rue La La tomorrow. I would probably pee my pants if I ever got a shot at owning a Burberry trench (the construction...the fabric...gah!).

Does this make me vain? No! I love beauty and I love art and the few nicer labels I own are always worn with a very deep appreciation for the craftmanship that went into each piece. So on that note, go treat yourself to a copy of Vogue then sit back and watch the latest Dior runway show. It'll do you more sensory good than that Kinkade on your wall ;).

All Dior images taken from The Daily Mail
Milanese Gentleman from The Sartorialist

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When the tough cookie crumbles (or something like that)

People have described me as tough. Strong.

Perhaps I am. I do have a bit of an independent streak in me and I am pretty good at making it through trying circumstances without falling apart. I've always been this way (ask my poor gray-haired mother about that independent streak sometime) and in fact, there was a time that my parents thought I didn't know how to cry (ask my friends how much that's changed. ha).

Let me let you in on a little secret though: I'm a big weenie.
  • I cry at any commercial remotely referencing the military.
  • I sleep with a light on.
  • I cry when other people's husband's come home.
  • I've eaten 3 bags of hershey kisses in the past week (don't tell my husband...)
  • I get a lump in my throat any time I drive past a sign that says "Redeployment Ceremony: this way"
  • I get mopey because I have to take the trash out.
  • I get frustrated because I couldn't get the carseat installed on my own.
  • I watch an inordinate amount of chick flicks.
  • I whine to my girlfriends
  • The list goes on....
So I guess "tough" is one way of putting it. I'm just good at not letting the vulnerable side of me show until it all sort of builds up and I just lose it for no reason and start blubbering in random public places over completely piddly things (not that I've done that any time recently...coughcough).

I would submit that most military wives deal with a rather schizophrenic set of emotions: one minute we're doing great, the next minute we're down, the next minute we're ok but just sort of 'meh', then we're mad, then we're happy again, then we just want to give the finger to Iraq and the Army simultaneously...

In light of this, I've assembled a sound track to a typical day in my life. Enjoy:

  1. Pier Gynt: Morning We start out sort of relaxed and happy because it's really too soon after waking up for anything to have really affected our moods one way or the other. 
  2. Insert any obnoxious Nickelback song here: they're all annoying The baby starts screaming for no reason and I try to get her to either nap or stop screaming. She's gassy, teething or something. (I should note that I don't think my child's screaming has ever grated on me more than a Nickleback song, but it gets the point across)
  3. Enya The baby is down for her morning nap and I get some unbelievably precious few moments of silence
  4. Splish Splash Baby wakes up grinning and smiling. Yay! Happy music!
  5. Ella Fitzgerald: Senitmental Mood Baby plays quietly, I work on crafts or whatnot, thoughts tend to prey on me but not to the point of getting depressed.
  6. Moby: Everloving Still not depressed, but back to melancholy, especially if it happens to be a day that Jason doesn't get online until late.
  7. John Coltrane: My One and Only Love  Jason gets online and we get to chat but then I have to take the baby to the doctor....cue Ozzy:
  8. CRAZY TRAIN! Shots. Baby Freaks. Baby won't settle down. Mom forgets to grab tylenol from the pharmacy. Baby still screaming. Runs back in to get drugs and the pharmacy is closed. Mom starts bawling. (at this time, Moby's Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad starts playing simultaneously with Crazy Train)
  9. Lonestar: I'm Already There (You didn't seriously think you'd get away with no sappy country songs did you?) Driving home sobbing, all I can think about is how badly I want my husband home.
  10. Billy Joel: Lullabye  Sing the baby to sleep for the first of many times.
  11. Journey: Faithfully This song started playing when I started Jason's car the other day. Journey is one of his favorite bands and whenever I miss him a ton, this one plays in my head. Finally fall asleep after tossing, turning and trying to get a tired and cranky baby back to sleep.
  12. Helen Reddy: I Am Woman Amazing what a good night's sleep will do. I'm superwoman again and I even make a decent breakfast and do the dishes!
  13. Bob Marley: Three Little Birds Baby is happy (!!!!), I'm happy, life feels pretty dang good today. The sun's even shining!
  14. Sonicflood: I Want to Know You Meditating on God while I drive the 25 minutes into town. Realizing how much easier life becomes when I do lean on God and seek to know him more.
  15. Phillips, Craig and Dean: Revelation Song Further realizing that if indeed God is Holy and Almighty (which he is), he is capable of bringing me through trials like having my husband halfway around the world.
  16. The Afters: Light Up the Sky The events and chaos of the previous day finally seem a distant memory. Even at my lowest points, God will gently pick me and show me his glory and his grace and his love.
Pray for us wives as we continue on this adventure that God has placed us on. It's a series of highs and lows and though we may look like we have it together all the time, most of us don't. We put our happy strong faces on for our kids, our friends and even for ourselves but we miss our husbands dearly and we desperately need your prayers. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ad Vitam

I'm warning you ahead of time, this is one of those posts that will be long and heavy but joyful in conclusion so if you're up for it, grab a cocktail or a cup of coffee and join me as I engage in a little therapeutic blogging.

She stands with arms open in silent yet serene resignation, naked and vulnerable. She was, or rather, is the subject of a painting I did about 3 years ago. She is Suffering, Sadness and Longing, yet she is beautiful. She is Infertility. Those who are familiar with my "style" of painting know that this particular piece is a massive departure from the typically formal portraits and architectural studies of my college years. It is, to this day, one of only two paintings that have originated in the very depths of my soul as opposed to some sort of reference.

At the time of its creation, I was working full time on an Oncology unit as a Patient Care Technician while waiting to get accepted to nursing school. I adored my job more than any I have ever had, yet it carried huge amounts of heartache that still linger. I can still hear the Code alarm echoing through the halls, the wails of family members being informed of their loved ones' deaths, the sobs of a wife upon hearing her husband's terminal diagnosis. I can still see the pain-stricken face of the 30 year-old laboring to take her last breaths in the face of breast cancer and I can still see the grief overtaking the girl my age who lost her baby as a result of her cancer.

It was the latter set of of circumstances that gave way to thirty-six hours of sleepless, tear-filled painting. When the last stroke was finished, I didn't even want to look at her. I turned the painting towards the wall. I was exhilarated, having never painted with such passion or personal connection before, but I didn't want to see my own interpretation of the heartache and pain that I had observed and internalized.

After a few days, the turmoil gave way and I realized how cathartic the experience had been and went on to create another mixed media piece dealing with breast cancer. I nervously shared them online and was relieved at the responses I received. Still, the painting remained behind my door facing the wall and eventually, after packing it away, I forgot about it. Yesterday, an artist I follow on facebook posted a link to a collaboration of art by women that was accepting submissions. I decided to contribute my piece on infertility but I wasn't prepared for the emotional onslaught when I pulled the image up on my computer.

This is where things get intensely personal.

Many of you were aware of the complications I had following the birth of our daughter. In short, I almost died a few hours after her delivery and though the doctor had a decent guess at what might have caused the problems, we still don't have a definite reason why it happened. In light of this uncertainty, we made the difficult decision to surgically end our chances at having another child. I didn't think much of it for the first few months in all the chaos of having a new baby in the house, but the reality of never having another child lingered in the back of my mind and began to weigh very heavily upon me. At first I would try to make myself feel better by telling myself all the things we'd be able to let our daughter experience (camps! sports! travel!) that we wouldn't be able to afford with another child. I'd tell myself it was better to only have one with all the traveling we do in the Army. And then a friend would say the dreaded words "well, when you have your second child...." or "when are you guys going to try again?" and my paper walls would shred and the ugly reality lurking behind them would be glaring me in the face again.

It was during this very dark period that I suddenly began noticing the word "adoption" showing up on my facebook mini-feed a lot more than it used to. A former teacher here, some friends picking up their new sons in Russia there, another friend waiting for her daughter in China and my two friends in Africa waiting for their foster babies to get their forever family. I ignored it at first, dismissing it as a coincidence but it soon became very apparent that I wasn't going to escape the "A" word any time soon. I've never been against adoption, but like most healthy young females, I had a plan that involved two or three biological children exactly two years apart. I wasn't supposed to be the one rendered infertile by a freak accident on the delivery bed.

I reluctantly began considering adoption and was fairly shocked to discover my own selfishness. I found myself wondering how I could ever love a child that I hadn't carried for nine months. I balked at the thought of bringing another child into our home who might take some of our financial resources away from our "own" daughter. My list of concerns was endless, each reason more ridiculous than the one before it. I found myself sharing these with my brother in law's girlfriend one day and she wisely recommended the book Adopted for Life. I hadn't read two pages before I was in tears.

The fact was, I wanted to want to adopt. When I pictured children in orphanages all around the world, I couldn't bear the thought of one of them growing up forgotten when I had the resources to rescue from that and give them a family. In my heart I was hanging on to something that would never be and was wallowing in my grief rather than opening my eyes and my arms to a child desperately in need of a mom and a dad and a sister. I poured through the first chapter of that book with tears streaming down my face. I grieved openly for the first time since May and I told God I was ready to do what I knew he wanted me to do.

I felt like a new person but there was still one potential issue: my husband. One of the very few things we had never discussed was adoption and I had absolutely no idea how he would feel about the idea. I had also never really discussed my inner struggle over the events following our daughter's birth and I didn't want to bring all of this up over Skype with him halfway around the world. So again, I prayed. I prayed that if we were supposed to pursue adoption, God would work in my husband's heart completely apart from me saying anything. I decided to wait and see what happened. I admit that I had several "oh ye of little faith" moments, figuring that he wouldn't want to even consider the idea and feeling rather certain that he would never bring it up on his own, especially before he came home.

Never underestimate God.

We were chatting one day on Skype when he asked me completely out of the blue, "do you want to adopt?". I was floored. I tentatively responded that I was "thinking about it" and was completely unprepared for his extremely positive response. He had been thinking about it for a while himself and informed me that the Army would actually contribute to the cost of the adoption process. In that moment, I felt like the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. We continued talking and he suggested we consider China since he speaks the language and we may end up living there one day, another answer to prayer as I had really felt God laying China on my heart in the days prior.

I was euphoric that night after hanging up. I felt closure, like I could finally stop grieving. I went out and bought a giant pink Rubbermaid container and for the first time was able to pack my daughter's outgrown clothes away without my heart breaking, knowing that the next time I see them I'll have my second daughter in my arms.

Three years ago, the woman in the painting was the visage of grief, of resignation to a fate unfairly placed upon her. She embodied what I saw rather than what I felt. Today she is Strength. She lifts her eyes to the one who carries her through the valley, and though her womb is empty, she opens her arms to those who need her. She is me.

So where does this leave us? Waiting. Which is completely fine as we have a big year ahead of us career-wise and also a gorgeous little girl who is already growing up too fast. China requires both of us to be thirty before we can even apply to adopt so we're looking at three years before we can even begin the process and it will be anyone's guess how long we will wait once it's begun. In the meantime, I'm reading everything I can on the subject and enjoying my little family and feeling very blessed to have Life!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'm still here!

Highlights of the last week:
  • baby that won't sleep at night
  • flights home
  • came home to a house that appeared to have vomited all of my earthly goods all over itself
  • baby that is completely confused as to where she is (note to self: month.5 long trips with a child may not end so great)
  • lots of grocery shopping
  • cooking every meal at home and NOT eating out (yay!)
  • cleaning the everliving daylights out of my house
  • crib training. 'Nuff said
  • Iraq sucks.
  • freezing cold weather
  • I bought an easel!
Aside from the baby's sleep issues, the past week has gone really well. I've been cooking completely healthy meals, I've kept my dishes washed and my kitchen clean, I've read to the baby and I've gotten 6 months worth of mail and bank statements filed.

Tomorrow was supposed to be the start of my running schedule but I may get thwarted by the weather. We shall see.

More updates to come once I really get settled into a routine.