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Before all the mess that happened in December, I hadn’t been back to the town where I grew up since my wedding shower, almost seven years ago. I figured since we were there, it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to schedule in a few “fun” activities to give us a break from all the stress and sadness. One of the places at the top of the “to do” list was Bok Tower Gardens. Bok Tower has been around since 1929, a generous gift to the American people from immigrant Edward W. Bok as a token of appreciation for all of the wonderful opportunities he’d found in our country.
The original tower and surrounding gardens have been painstakingly maintained, but over the years the grounds have expanded to include a visitor center, additional gardens, a children’s area and now a gorgeous outdoor kitchen with nearby edible garden. I grew up running around the trails and feeding the lazy koi that live in the tower’s moat. We’ve been to Easter sunrise service, listened to orchestral concerts under the stars, and spent hours stretched out on a picnic blanket under their towering trees. This most recent trip, it was monarch season and we were lucky enough to see all stages of butterfly development, although the poor milkweed plants were considerably worse for the wear after playing host to hoards of voracious caterpillars.
When I was much younger, I was convinced that these giant lily pads were in fact, fairy stages. That the fairies waited until the gardens closed, and then hosted elaborate affairs atop these massive (easily 2-3 feet across) green boats. Fireflies would weave about over head, and the fairies who were tired of dancing could recline in the flowers and still enjoy the festivities. As the sun began to rise, they’d all return to their homes all over the garden and sleep soundly for the day while we humans explored their garden.
When I graduated high school, I was allowed to climb to the top of the tower and run my fingers across the carillon’s “keyboard”. The tower is not open to the public, and other than being a graduating senior, the only other way to see the inside it to purchase one of their top tier memberships. It’s a lot of stairs, but an amazing opportunity that many a local would turn green with jealousy over.
Even though we’ve been before, it was nice to share this place with Andy again. No matter now much is added and no matter how far the grounds expand, this place feels like home, and every time I visit I feel the desire to curl up on the grass and just listen to the breeze ruffling the leafy canopy overhead.
Someday I will own a fountain just like this one. Frogs, painted tiles, and all 🙂
It was a wonderful distraction, and one that I am hoping to indulge in again the next time we have to head down south for another round of cleanup.
Category: About Me
Hello, friends! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, things have been a bit sparse around here lately. A lot has been going on, and I haven’t been sure how or if it was something I wanted to get into here. I keep things pretty real in this space, but I also try to keep them light and somewhat pleasant. Anyway, I wanted to give you guys an update and let you know that I am going to try to get things back on track as soon as I can.
First of all, yours truly let her acupuncturist talk her into stepping down her meds finally. We tried this right after I first started seeing her, with a certain amount of success. I went from full dose of two meds to a half dose of a single. We’ve spent the last year getting my body calibrated, and for two or three months now, she has been encouraging me to do another step down. I’ve resisted, things have been so busy, but with the new year offering up a long weekend, I decided to give it a try. The last two weeks have been absolutely miserable. I assumed that this round would be exactly like the first, but I’ve had every bad reaction/withdrawal symptom possible. I’ve had to make emergency trips to the acupuncturist just to keep the constant dizziness to a level that allows me to function. FINALLY the last couple days have been almost bearable, and I’ve been able to get more done than stumble through work and curl up on the couch as soon as I get home.
To top it all off, I am still trying to unravel all of the convoluted mess that is left in the wake of losing my dad. He had no will, so no one will talk to me; I had to hire a lawyer to help me navigate the legal quagmire. Even still, things are daunting, and I feel like I am striding forward as quickly and purposefully as I can, only to look up and realized that somehow I’ve circled back to where I was before. Hours of work with nothing to show for it but frustration (and a few tears). All of the uncertainty and banging my head against the wall is really messing with the grieving process. I can’t move past where I am and I get mad at my dad for leaving me to figure everything out and then I feel guilty for getting mad. In the worst moments, I start worry about losing my mom and how I’ll be “alone” because all my immediate family will be gone. It’s crazy: I have Andy and loads of extended family not to mention all of his family, but I get in that place and sometimes chocolate can’t fix it.
Anyway, that is where I’ve been and what has been going on. I am going to try to get things back to normal, but I sincerely appreciate how patient you guys have been with me.
Image from here.
Okay guys, I need to let you know about something that is going on with me right now. Two weeks ago, my mom and I drove down to Lake Wales to spend some time where we lived for so long. We got into town Wednesday afternoon, had an incredible afternoon tea, and then I started calling/texting my dad because we were supposed to be meeting for dinner. After not hearing back from him, I started to get annoyed, but frankly it wasn’t completely unexpected. My dad answers the phone when he is ready to answer the phone, and so to kill time, my mom and I headed out to do some Christmas shopping. All of a sudden my phone starts blowing up from my uncle and my aunt. It turns out there was a very good reason he wasn’t answering the phone. He was dead. Yeah, you read that right. I full on ugly cried right in the middle of TJ Maxx and made a panicked call to Andy; my mom got me out to the car and I managed to get it together to start making phone calls and piecing together what happened.
My dad has been battling a cold for a couple of months now. Turns out it was more than a cold, my uncle had taken him to hospital a couple of weeks ago where they’d given him fluids and meds. Then on Frida,y he’d been very sick at work, needing to sit and rest every half hour or so. Monday he called his boss to say he needed to go to the dentist to get a replacement for his dentures and that was the last anyone heard from him. After a day and a half of no call/no show, his coworkers started calling around to his usual haunts (since he had no “in case of emergency” contact) and realized no one had seen him. Finally the police were called and they went to his house. As far as we can tel,l he passed in his sleep sometime Monday afternoon/evening.
I am so angry right now. Angry at him for not taking care of himself. Angry at myself for not being a bigger pain in the ass about keeping in touch. Angry at the universe in general because he was only 64 and there is no way he should have been gone this soon. Saturday I met his friends at his favorite bar, and we had a last round in his honor. It was incredible connecting with these people I knew only from vague occasional reference. My dad kept everything so compartmentalized that I only was privy to a sliver of what his day to day world was like. I hugged the members of this second family, and I thanked them from the bottom of my heart for taking care of him when I couldn’t be there. He was so loved, and he was so much more complex than I knew. I hate that I didn’t push harder for a closer relationship, that I let myself be content with our couple times a month phone calls and semi-annual get together. As I sit here typing this, his ashes rest on my mantle, and his beloved cat is curled up on my couch. There is never a good time for something like this, but around the holidays is especially hard because this is when we would have been spending time together. So when I post gift guides and holiday fun, it’s because I am desperately in need of a way to step away from this for a bit. I hope you guys will indulge me and follow along, and I’ll do my best to be honest and open with you guys on this journey.
I have had “get a tattoo” on my yearly “to-do” for quite some time. At first, it was a “I want another tattoo!” and then after I lost my brother, it became part of what I felt I needed to do to cope with the situation. Tattoos have always been more than just a fashion statement to me. When I was younger, they were a way for me to finally start to love my body, something I’ve always struggled with, and over the years, they’ve become a way for me to document what is going on in my life. Now, that being said, not just anything goes. I got my last tattoo, the blue butterfly on my wrist, on my honeymoon, and it was to commemorate the new phase in my life and the loss of my maternal grandfather.
Butterflies may seem a little, well, flighty, but for me, they are so much more than just whimsical and pretty. Butterflies are the end result of painful, life altering change. A process that takes something plain and a little gross and turns it into something weightless and free. When I lost my younger brother, it broke a part of me in a way that I am still working to understand. It changed me, and while I am still “me”, I’ll never again fully be the person I was before. This tattoo is just a visible symbol of that change. Now to the less cerebral part of this little adventure. This is my 6th tattoo and I will say by far the most painful. I have tattoos on either side of my ribs, on either side of my lower back, and on my wrist, and none of those were even close in terms of pain. By the time we were finishing with color, he was holding my foot steady while he was tattooing, and as soon as he let go, my foot would start involuntarily shaking. As painful as it was, it was one of the best tattooing experiences I’ve ever had. My artist Robert was fantastic; he worked quickly and efficiently, and he was really great about giving me breaks when I needed, making sure I was as comfortable as possible, talking through my design from size to placement to color, and never once making me feel like I was being annoying. I LOVED working with him, and I really hope I get the chance to do so again.If you are in the Tallahassee area and feel the need for some ink, be sure to check out Monument Tattoos. They have some incredible artists, and they’ll make sure to match you up with the best person who can best help you execute your vision.
As of 3:22 this morning (that’s right 3:22 on 3/22), I am 31 years old! Though I am warming to the idea of being securely in my 30’s, most days I still don’t feel like this new age group fits quite right. Today however, I am taking a break from the hand wringing and soul searching to simply enjoy all of the love and well wishes that have been coming my way; and to celebrate the journey to this point I am going to share some of my more interesting life moments with you.
- My role as “Mother Pig” in my preschool production of The Three Little Pigs. That’s what happens when you’re taller than all of the other kids in your class. My job was to kiss my piglets fondly on the cheek and send them off into the world. This much to the dismay of one of my cast mates younger sisters. As I gave her the farewell peck, her little sister angrily shouted from the audience “Julie kissed my Amanda!” Pretty much the highlight of the play.
- The tattoos and piercings that I decided on later in life should have been no surprise for my mother. When I was three, I desperately wanted my ears pierced. They figured I’d wimp out after the first earring went in, but (as my mom has told me countless times) though my eyes welled up and my little lower lip trembled, I defiantly turned my head to that they could pierce the other side. Also a foreshadowing of my tendency to dig in my heels when I want something.
- I went through a phase during middle school where I was obsessed with the Babysitters Club series. Specifically I was a huge fan of the artsy Claudia Kishi who, like me, favored funky accessories and had trouble with spelling. I had to wear a uniform to school, but I stockpiled quirky thrift store accessories and wore as many of them as I could at a time.
- I’d always loved fashion and I’d been sketching princess dresses for as long as I can remember, but it was my very first sewing class that I took in 10th grade that really solidified things for me. I made my homecoming dress that semester, and I knew from then on that I was destined for design school.
- One of the reasons my hair color changes so frequently is that I’ve had to dye it since I was 13. You see, the women in my family start going gray early, and that’s when my class mates started noticing so my mom let me (finally) do something about it. Trust me; you’d get bored with brown and blond after a few years, too.
- My senior year of high school I participated in a fashion show in which all the garments were constructed from toilet paper. It was sort of like the Project Runway “Unconventional Challenge”, but before Project Runway even existed.
- When Andy and I started planning our wedding, he was the one who insisted on the big 200 person affair. I wanted to elope or go to one of those all inclusive BnBs in Savannah that only accommodates 30 people total. Ultimately, we had the big ceremony because he told me I would have to be the one who told his mother if we went with my option. Andy was also the one who wanted to have the big cake (I’d suggested cupcakes), but he wanted something at least three tiers tall. And yes, I still mock him for every single bit of this 🙂
- My friends affectionately refer to my style as “sparkle fairy hippie”, and though most days I am completely confident in my choice of glitter sneakers and flower crown, occasionally I worry that other people just think that I am straight up weird. I mean, they’re not wrong, but still. When I was in Savannah last month, I had a hostess give me what was probably one of the nicest complements I’ve ever received. She told me she loved my flower crown and that I looked like a walking SnapChat filter. Completely made my day.
Obviously, there are many many more stories, some of them you guys have been around for, but I’ll stop here and just say that you guys mean the world to me and I am so grateful that I have gotten to share another year of my life’s journey with you. Happy Wednesday!!!