Monday, December 01, 2014

I've moved!

Hello, folks!

If you've been checking this blog for updates, you might notice that there haven't been many. That was because I got married and finished my school semester, but then I also switched websites. Now you can head on over to my new blog, www.claireasburylennox.com, which reflects my new name and this new time in my life. I hope you'll continue to read there - and always come back to this blog for my posts from 2002-2014!

Thanks for you support,
Claire

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Celebrating August and September.


Better (way) late than never (maybe?)... Hopefully this will be the last combined-month deal.

Engagement Parties. Generous folks have thrown us wonderful get-togethers (with great food!), and it's been lovely to see and celebrate with so many people. It has also been somewhat odd to be the center of attention, and I still maintain that every person, single or coupled, should be treated to a housewares shower when they move out of their parents' house. But overall it's been a great deal of fun, and I am grateful for all the people who care about us and have really supported us through this time.

We found a place to live! Hallelujah x 10000. It has every element that we wanted (including a nice kitchen), with friendly and attentive landlords to boot. The afternoon we moved in, our pastor came over to help us plan our wedding ceremony. It was super special to have her be the first guest at our table (we have a dining room table!), and to have her bless the house before she left.

New/old friends. Moving back to Atlanta has allowed me to connect with some ladies that I knew by sight when I would come home to visit, but now get to actually be friends with. It's been so much fun to hit it off and get together for meals.

Church dinners/Women's group. We've been going to church dinner most every week, and then I've been going to a women's Bible Study afterwards. Both have been lovely! (And the former has been yummy.) 

Jessica Smith TV. I think I mentioned this once before, but I have discovered Jessica Smith and I love her and her workouts (and her dogs). Her weight-lifting exercises have been especially helpful.

Recipes. We asked our wedding guests to either bring, mail or email us a favorite recipe, and we've gotten so many in the mail! Can't wait to try them out over the next year.

Birthday celebrations. Sean had a birthday in September so his mom cooked a wonderful meal, and our combined families all came over for dinner. I'm so thankful that our families like each other and that we feel comfortable and happy celebrating together. The next day (his actual birthday), we had a catering tasting for the wedding, and they had cake for him there as well.

Celebrating Coach Cooke. We went up to our beloved Davidson (still home) to celebrate Sean's baseball coach Dick Cooke and his 25 years at the school. It was inspirational, fun, and a reminder of why our alma mater is so wonderful. Answer: It's the people!

Here's to October! (Like, a week into it... Oops.)  

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Celebrating (finally) June and July.


Reporting (and rambling) on June and July a week after August starts... Yeah, that seems about right these days.

June:

Well, I had an interview and I got a job offer. There are so many emotions tangled up with life changes like that, as you just might have been able to tell from my recent blog posts... 

A few of my good friends from the year ahead of me came up for their five-year college reunion. It was a gorgeous weekend and I loved hanging out on campus with them. Can't wait for ours next year!

The marvelous May wedding I attended had a fun Part II when the newlyweds and their parents had a gathering downtown for family friends.

My favorite coworkers took me out to eat during my last week of work, which was bittersweet, delicious and lovely.

Sean's summer baseball games have been great, and one of the high school fields where he plays is near enough to the airport that planes come lower and lower through the sunset about every other minute.

I said goodbye to my wonderful job of 3 years. My coworkers had a goodbye party for me and I bawled my eyes out and it was really hard. But all I felt (besides exhaustion) when I cleaned out my office and took all of my pictures and papers down to my car for the last time was gratitude.

We found this delicious bakery in the last couple of weeks before I moved and it's been there all along - I want to say that's a good thing because it meant I didn't eat as many cupcakes, but really, I wish we had stumbled upon it three years ago.

I went to my second MFA residency up at Goddard College. It was infinitely better than the one in January, first and foremost because... well, it wasn't polar vortexing all over the place. But really, it was so nice to not be new and to know people and grow closer to these special friends and talk about books and writing and actually do some writing. I went for a week and it was a wonderful time to wind down and process within transition. Plus, Vermont summer is heavenly. 

While I was there I read two books that I really enjoyed: The Silkworm, which is the second mystery novel in Robert Galbraith's (a.k.a. my favorite storyteller Jo Rowling) Cormoran Strike series; and Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, which was witty and fun. It was also set in Seattle, which we visited last summer, so it was fun to be put back in that setting again. Now I'm back to MFA reading, but so far that's been really enriching too (see July).

Through the month I had to say so many goodbyes to the Queen City, which I've come to love so much. My gym, my doctors, my gas station, my grocery store, my favorite restaurants - not to mention dear friends. It all felt so surreal that I didn't really believe it until I moved out.

July:

And that's where July began, with moving out. Sean, my parents and I were helped immensely by two great friends who got pretty much everything packed into a truck in less than 24 hours. The night before I moved, we went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and saw family and friends there. Locking my wonderful little duplex for the last time was so... odd. It was the perfect place for me/us to spend these last 3 years. And saying goodbye to my fiance, albeit temporarily, was crappy. What can you say about experiences like this? I'm celebrating it in a sense, but it was/is also hard.

My first week back home I read The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal for school. It's a really fascinating read, and De Waal as a narrator was fun and authentic. Definitely recommend!

Mom took me out to dinner at one of our favorite Atlanta spots, The General Muir, the night before my first day of work. Their breakfasts are also delicious, but this was the first time I'd been for dinner and it was a win. It also helped me calm down in the midst of new-job nerves.

And that leads to... the new job! It's been a really good first month. I'm learning a lot and am good-busy during the day; always something different. Most of all, the folks are really nice. I'm enjoying my coworkers greatly. This summer we have had potluck lunches once a week to get to know each other, and three times a week we do a YouTube workout during lunch. (Jessica Smith will kick your butt, in a good way. My "abs" now hurt when I sneeze.)

Another great thing about moving home is how many friends I've gotten to connect and reconnect with. It's been wonderful to have meals with folks and catch up, and make new friends too. Being back at church makes me so glad. And it's been really special to be able to see my parents and brother on a regular basis.

You wouldn't think this would be something to celebrate, but I feel that it is. In our church community, we had two untimely deaths this summer. I was able to attend both memorial services and they were each lovely, moving and truth-filled in their own ways. The loved ones who spoke and sang took my breath away, and mingled grief with hope. I was humbled to be at both of them.

Sean came into town and we got to spend time with his parents, another reason that I'm excited to be back in the area (no, I'm not sucking up to future in-laws - they really are that great!). We ate a delicious breakfast on the porch while it rained, his mom and I went shopping and later all of us went to the Braves game and got to hear our favorite Timothy Miller sing "God Bless America." 

Ah, wedding stuff. One of my favorite things so far has been our invitations, which were calligraphied by one dear friend and illustrated by another dear friend. They came out just as I'd envisioned them and it was so fun to put them together. Now it's time for the little details that I've heard so much about, that I'll probably forget, but if I forget then maybe they weren't that important in the first place... Right? Whatever I forget, it's going to happen, and I can't wait.

Random technology fun: I'm working on a blog revamp that I'm planning to debut after the wedding (yes, mainly because it has my new name). It's been a lot of fun playing around with the design! And I finally got Instagram - yes, okay, I love it. Also, my dear friend Liz got herself a blog that's been a long time coming, and I love her and how it embodies her writing and her spirit.

What a thing to end on with all of this change, but goodness, the FRUIT has been so delicious this summer. Watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, mango, cantaloupe... I forget how much I love summer fruit until it arrives again.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Doubting days.


What do you do on the doubting days, when you shower and get dressed in your childhood home and go downstairs and make breakfast and tea and suddenly find yourself crying into your cantaloupe?

I'm sobbing about all sorts of things, but what I can discern the most is: once this was my only home and now it isn't, and I made and grew and found so much in other places, and now I've come back to this first place by choice. And it's that freedom of choice now coupled with commitment to this new thing (that I must do well, I must do well) that makes me sob heavier in the hard moments.

How did this become a hard moment? I just woke up and there it was. Well, and yesterday I woke up in a different place, in one of the homes that he and I have made our own and that we'll soon have to say goodbye to.

(and the "have to" is my doing, I went and turned our lives upside down) (this is my unfounded guilt, where my nature dwells too much - I hate change and when I cause change, and for more than just myself, well then...)

We ate at our favorite places and we walked on familiar streets and it didn't feel much different than what our life has been like the last three and a half years. Except then I got in my car and drove four hours without him to the place I knew long before him. And it wasn't the same place I knew then because I am not the same person I was.

And so you're dripping tears on your fruit and trying to chew peanut butter toast and starting to spurt out every little thing that is scaring you, aching in you, making you sad and angry and terrified in this particular moment and it's not even 7:30 on Monday morning.

I go upstairs and don't even bother washing my face and I put on my make up over my tear stains and go downstairs and go out the door (I lose both sets of car keys for ten agonizing minutes and that would have been the cherry-on-top of this peachy morning) and leave. Because it's Monday morning and I'm an adult.

During those first couple of hours in the office, I feel soft - like someone could push me over with their pinky - with this bubbling ache in my chest that travels up to my eyes. I try to speak like my head is clear and my heart is up, like I know what I'm doing and I've been here for years. I try to follow my words, create sentences that make sense, make sentences that create confidence. Everyone is kind, and I muddle through okay, though that's about all it feels like - muddling. I make a mistake, small but to me it feels huge, and I take deep breaths, send an e-mail, follow up in person, and then go do a YouTube video workout with two other staffers in an empty classroom.

Your arms are pumping and you're getting lost trying to count steps with the instructor and one of your new coworkers asks, interested, what it was like to live in your old city and suddenly you picture what you would be doing at this time in that city on a typical Monday. You can imagine every part of it - the drive to work, the farmer's market, the friendly faces at spin - and that softness comes back mixed with sweat, any second you might lose your balance, curl up in a ball and cry until you wake up and life is normal again.

But when will that be? And what will that look like? So many things are changing around us. Everyone I know, it seems, is going through some sort of shift. In the past week I heard news of change that took my breath away in horror and news of change that made me beam with joy. Both made me go to God for goodness. Because all of it is messy.

Driving 500 miles on the road this weekend, I would sing one song with gusto and the next through tears. I felt at home in two places, most deeply with one person. We have begun together many times, and we are waiting to begin again.

The pumping blood and deep breaths of the workout do you good - and the fellowship of people, slowly coming to know each other. That is the grace you feel, perhaps, the steady work of movement, the slowly (SLOWLY) coming to know - in everything.

You go to your second meeting of the day and speak clearly and ask questions and nod as you listen and affirm what you hear and you get nods and affirmations back. You gather your papers and take a deep breath - soft around the edges still, but perhaps a little more solid.

There is still doubt. There is still the ache of missing presence, missing place, there are still decisions made and unmade, the countless things we don't know. There is still the immense to-do list, there is still the haze on the horizon and the tomorrows that hold nothing knowable or doable for today. But the thing about doubting days, I find, is that sometimes they can turn even the slightest bit - with a smile, a word, a text, a few minutes in the sun. Hell, sometimes transferring a prescription from one pharmacy to another - simply waiting on hold on the phone - will feel like a massive victory.

You wind up at the same kitchen table after work, the table where you had your head in your hands this morning. You and your mother talk about writing and wedding and work, in between savored bites of mango. Tomorrow will come soon. Another doubting day when the alarm goes off? Maybe most days start out this way, especially in the throes of a transition. Maybe some will be worse than this one.

But I want to do my best to remember that doubt is messy and, well, doubtful enough to turn. I like to think that it can even begin to mold itself into a kind of hope.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The King and I, going home again.

Growth.

One of the millions of tweets about LeBron's return to the Cavaliers last Friday caught my eye specifically. It read:

By this logic, maybe in a few years we can read the headline "LeBron James Returning to Mother's Womb."

I remember hearing about The Decision four summers ago. It was three months before I would hop on Twitter, so maybe I found out on Facebook? and I watched a replay on ESPN and cringed at the "taking my talents" line that kind of found its way into our lexicon for a little awhile after that. I remember the sound of all the cameras clicking furiously after "The King" uttered that line.

I was sitting on the bed in my little room in my first Charlotte home, upstairs at my best friend's parents' house. They'd been generous enough to take me in for the summer since I was earning enough to buy gas and groceries, but nowhere near enough to pay rent. It was hot and I had the fan going, and heat lightning most likely lit up the skylight above the bed. While LeBron took his talents to South Beach, I sat, feeling stagnant in the midst of transition. I knew I wanted to try out this city but I wasn't sure why, or for how long, or what was coming next.

It turned into four years of growth, challenge, frustration, joy, satisfaction, and a true crafting of a home from the ground up. I'm not talking NBA championships, but relationships, a city map in my head, a way to give myself a roof and a bed, extracurriculars that challenged my body and my mind, and a sweet, sweet man to talk it all over with when the day is done.

When LeBron announced his New Decision on Friday, his return, I couldn't help but chuckle. I was in the throes of my second day at my new job, just a block from the church and neighborhood where I spent my growing-up years. I moved back to my hometown less than a week ago, back into my parents' house for a quick three-month stint before my wedding. My fiance and I, both from this area, made the decision that we ultimately want to be close to family and community here. So when this job opportunity came up, I took it. Not without trepidation, not without sadness, but with the comfort of a support system and the hope that it will work out.

And as hilarious as it sounds, I couldn't help but feel that LeBron and I now have a little bit more in common besides the night we both watched Steph Curry rule the court against Wisconsin. We're both coming home, and we'll have to learn and experiment and discover who we are after a formative time away.

Back to the tweet, the "mother's womb" comment that caught my eye. "By this logic," it read, and I certainly take it with an air of humor and facetiousness - but I'm going to use it for my own growth in this moment in my life.

I've struggled a lot with the idea that coming back to my hometown to live is a giving up of sorts. (It's really funny, because I felt similarly when I only moved 30 miles from my college town after graduation instead of teaching English abroad or something.) For the life of me I can't figure out who exactly put this idea into my head. I typically chalk it up to media and society and globalization and ongoing Manifest Destiny, the many people who do move away from home and never return permanently. "Going home" is for when something bad happens, when you hit a bump in the road and have nowhere else to turn, when it doesn't work out, when you feel stuck.

Talking with a new friend the other night, she noted that too often the world frames going home as going back. Going backwards. Like I'm automatically going to become my 17-year-old self again. And when this transition is hard and frustrating I hear myself start to ask: Did I give up on my independent life away? Did I give up on what I worked so hard to build, should I have kept it longer, seen what else came? Am I moving backwards? Because I now am surrounded by people who have known me since I was born, does that make my life less... self-sufficient? rewarding? independent? Am I returning to my mother's womb?

In short: Did I fail somehow?

These questions arise out of stress, and out of being unable to see through the stagnant and yet fully-moving, fully-charged, haze of transition. I know that. I know that I am entering a time in my life that is truly different than any other, and would be no matter where we landed location-wise. Marriage. A new job. Huge responsibilities within both.

I will never be who I was as a teenager, or as a child. What I've kept from those years - lessons, memories, inside jokes, appreciation - I would keep anywhere. What LeBron said about Miami, I'll say about Charlotte: It is my second home. My years there enriched me immensely and I don't think I would have looked at home the same way - would have been able to go home - without that time, that place, those people.

I don't want to go back to the womb, to the very beginning. I want to start this new beginning with the people I love. I don't need my mother's womb; I need her embrace, and those of others, for courage and growth as we go forward in this familiar unfamiliar place. I want to experience the next beginnings.

And so I simply have to remind myself: there is no going backwards. Each new day, new experience, new person, new insight, assures us of that.

(I imagine King James would agree.)